Faith Communities Rise in Support of Housing for the Homeless: Talking points for religious leaders

Already, a number of pastors and churches around the US and the UK have decided to conduct “Resistance Bible Studies” based on last week’s “Musings“. Here is the “new and improved” version, with assigned readings. All I ask is attribution – and feedback! Let me know your experience in leading or participating in this study.

(I wrote this in my role with the campaign in Los Angeles to get neighborhood acceptance for permanent supportive housing projects, now funded by our recent successful campaign for City Measure HHH, which provides $1.2 billion for construction of thousands of units. It was one thing to convince voters to pass this ambitious proposal; it is quite another to convince citizens to support the construction of such units in their neighborhoods. We are mounting a sub-campaign to enlist religious leaders and communities to help lead this effort. These talking points also may be useful in other cities which are struggling to address the crisis of homelessness.)

“… Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

“‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’’ Matthew 25: 37-40

Now is our moment! As members of religious communities in Los Angeles, we have a remarkable opportunity to put our faith to work in making history in our City.

When we are faced with people who suffer, our faith requires us to act. Not just Hollywood acting – just looking like we care. Our faith calls us to act effectively, making real, positive differences in the lives of the most vulnerable people among us.

On November 8, 2016, we acted faithfully, voting overwhelmingly for Measure HHH to provide $1.2 billion for building permanent housing for homeless people in the City of Los Angeles. Marking the ballot was not heavy lifting for any one of us, but collectively we made possible a lot of heavy construction…. but only if we go the distance to make Measure HHH effective in housing the tens of thousands of homeless people suffering on our streets.

And our faith communities have what it takes to relieve their misery. We have people-power with moral authority.

We are leaders among our neighbors. We are crucial voting blocs in our City Council districts. When HHH projects are proposed in our neighborhoods, it is our spiritual calling to support them, mobilizing our congregations to talk to neighbors, show up and speak at planning meetings, and pack the seats at City Council meetings. Because if we do not visibly and actively support of this housing, the opponents will dominate the discourse. Already, HHH projects have been stalled or denied because of neighborhood opposition. Unless we act, the $1.2 billion will never get spent. The homeless will be left sleeping on our sidewalks for years to come.

We are called to be pro-active, even before specific projects are proposed. We are called to let our City Council members know that we want these HHH projects in our neighborhoods, where we live and worship. When one church or temple or mosque asks another to show up at City Hall to support a project, we are called to come to their aid. When one City Council member opposes an HHH project in her or his district, he or she – and the rest of the Council – must be inundated with calls from our faith community members.

Let’s flex our spiritual muscles and get this job done. We’re the ones to do it, and now is the time.

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About the Author

Rev. Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life, USC
Website: MINDFULCHRISTIANITY.ORG Weblog: MUSINGS Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo
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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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