Saturday, February 15, 2014

America magazine speaks out on the homeless

America magazine, The National Catholic Weekly published by the Jesuits, posted an editorial (Dec. 23, 2013) and follow up comment (Feb. 24, 2014) that I have to bring to your attention.

The editorial (to read, click here) begins with:

Wend your way through the streets of any large city, teeming with Christmas shoppers, where store windows glisten with expensive watches and handbags, and it is all too easy to avert your eyes from those dehumanized shapes in doorways or sprawled on the steps or stretched out in the pews of open churches. Swathed in blankets, they peer out with blank eyes from between scarves and wool hats as they display their cardboard manifestos: House burned down. Wounded Vet. Hungry. Pregnant. Jobless. Help. The message is sobering: We are helpless, abandoned and dependent on your seasonal generosity...

Their follow up can be read here. It is the third article in "Current Comment."

Some major cities have responded by arresting the victims or requiring religious groups to pay for a permit in order to feed the homeless in public parks. Utah, in contrast, under Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman, started a program in 2005 called Housing First that identified the chronically homeless and designed strategies to supply permanent or transitional housing to meet their needs. The state calculated that the costs of emergency services and incarceration amount to $16,670 each year for a chronically homeless person but found that it could supply each person with an apartment and case management services for $11,000.

As a result of the program, the number of chronically homeless people in Utah has dropped from 1,900 in 2005 to fewer than 500 today. How did this happen? 

Assisting the poor and homeless has gotten a new advocate with the election of Pope Francis, but it is not only a Catholic concern. Providing aid to the poor is a basic tenet of Islam, and some of the homeless most active supporters are from the Jewish community. They and non-religious people alike who see poverty and homelessness as social justice issues  have contributed so much time and effort to eliminate this indictment of our society.

There are opportunities for you to help: local government agencies, community service groups, religious organizations, and support organizations.  Need to find one? Know of one that is looking for volunteers? Let me know.

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