This Sunday, August 5, 2012, churches all across the country will turn their prayers, and hopefully their hands, toward homelessness and the need for affordable housing. The situation is dire:
- 750,000 to 1 million people sleep on the streets every night.
- Many of these people are veterans, families with children, and youth and young adults.
- Record numbers of veterans of our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking housing assistance within months of leaving the military.
- In 2002, families comprised 41% of urban homelessness, and in rural areas, families, single mothers, and children make up the largest group of people who are homeless. Nationally, approximately 39% of persons experiencing homelessness are children.
- Youth are particularly vulnerable, with over 1 million experiencing homelessness each year. Many homeless youth have been kicked out or escaped their “homes” because of domestic violence, their sexual or gender identities, and mental illness.
The credit crisis of 2008, the subprime mortgage market, and rampant home foreclosures have only exacerbated what was already a crippling situation for a growing not-so-invisible class of Americans. As Christians, we are called into a covenantal community that welcomes and cares for all members, especially those most vulnerable. In this community, worship and justice cannot be separated:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house? (Isa. 58:6?7)
So on this Sunday, let us offer God the fast God chooses. May these resources serve you as you worship God, pray for those in need, and go forward to do God’s will in the world.
The Presbyterian Hunger Program and the Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness (PNTEH), a national organization of Presbyterians focusing on how they can alleviate homelessness, have created a handbook to aid congregations in celebrating Homelessness and Affordable Housing Sunday, but also to stimulate ideas leading to action to aid the homeless and encourage communities to create more housing.
Includes worship ideas, sample liturgies, scripture and sermon ideas, hymns, stories of hope, and ideas for local mission and action.
Download the full packet here.[/wpcol_2third_end]
A Prayer for Justice and for the Homeless
2007 Mission Yearbook
By Rev. Dr. Jean Kim, retired associate for homelessness issues, Women’s Ministries and Presbyterian Hunger Program
Minute for Mission
2012 Mission Yearbook
By Rev. Douglas Mitchell, associate pastor for Faith in Action, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota
“Church”, a painting by Jonathan Burstein.[/wpcol_2third_end]
“Religious Action for Affordable Housing: Creating Community” by Nile Harper
This essay summarizes the position held by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) on the issue of homelessness. It discusses what the church is doing on a national level as well as what individual congregations can do in their own communities to help bring an end to homelessness.
“Church Homeless” photo by Scott Gawne.[/wpcol_2third_end]
This report reaffirms the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s historical witness that universal access to safe, descent, accessible, affordable, and permanent housing is a measure and a sign of the coming Reign of God. This 218th General Assembly (2008) approved report urges Christians to work in partnership with governmental and private sectors to change or reform housing practices that contribute to persons being homeless or at risk of homelessness. Many of the statistics above came from this report.
Includes an analysis of homelessness, a theological-ethical framework, strategies for change, models of faithful ministry, advocacy tactics, and resources.
Download the full report here.[/wpcol_2third_end]
Further Resources and Ways to Get Involved
Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness
A network charged with affirming, challenging, educating, and empowering local churches, and the Church as a whole, in the struggle to end homelessness. Offering resources, tools for advocacy, and stories of hope, PNEH invites you to join their network and get involved today.
National Alliance to End Homelessness
A leading voice on issues of homelessness, the alliance analyzes policy and develops pragmatic, cost-effective policy solutions. They work collaboratively with public, private, and nonprofit sectors to build state and local capacity, leading to stronger programs and policies to help communities end homelessness. They also provide data and research to policymakers in order to inform the debate and educate both the public and opinion makers. Their document “A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in Ten Years” sparked a major movement toward a coordinated, service-based approach and the development of Ten Year Plans in communities throughout the nation.
Center on Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP)
One of the nation’s premier policy organizations, CBPP works at both federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect families and individuals with low- and moderate income. They conduct research and provide analysis to inform public debate on proposed budget- and tax related matters to ensure that the needs of persons with lower income are considered. They also develop policy options as alternatives to existing or proposed policies.
National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative
The goal of the Poverty Initiative is to empower and mobilize the faith community to lend its powerful moral and public voice to the ongoing and urgent debate around poverty. Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. November 8-12, 2012, the Fighting Poverty with Faith mobilization will focus on affordable housing. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ)
The IWJ is a network of people of faith that strives to educate, organize, and mobilize the religious community in the U.S. on issues and campaigns that will improve wages, benefits and conditions for workers and give voice to workers, especially those of low income.