~Still No Room~
411 is the number for information: phone number information.
911 is the number for emergencies: health, fire, criminal.
211 is the number for social services: available shelters, food banks, etc.
Core Team members met with current and former residents of Our House, the emergency shelter on our campus. Tom and Elaine Reed, Bob Benza, Mike Fronk and I shared dinner with 8 adults and 9 children. After dinner we sat in a circle in the Fellowship Hall and listened to our guests reflect on three things:
- What are the impediments to finding adequate/permanent shelter?
- What made it possible to find adequate/permanent shelter?
- What would you change about your experience? What needs to be done to better help people who cannot get adequate/permanent housing?
The conversation that ensued was lively and enlightening. It exceeded my expectations. This meeting is one of the steps our Core Team is taking to better understand the challenges faced as we collectively try to effectively address homelessness in our communities.
On the way home, Mike and I reflected how 211 is a resource for people to help them find shelter and help, but for the most part, those who call report, “You just get the run around. There is never any available space. I had to call over and over until I finally found that Our House even existed.” There was no room.
“There is no room at the inn” is a phrase we rehearse every year at this time. We remember that even for the Christ child, there was no room to even be born. Accommodations were made in a less than adequate shelter.
I’d always assumed that 211 was a helpful resource to tell people about, but it’s not so helpful when there isn’t any room available to which people can be referred. It is odd to me that at this time of year, people want to help people down on their luck so to speak, but when it comes to adequately funding social services all year round, there is great resistance.
The people who gathered with us courageously shared their stories, all of them very different. They privileged us with their vulnerability. They found inspiration and motivation in sharing their stories and hearing the stories of others. Together we were building power, the kind of power Jesus demonstrated – relational power.
Church is a place of gathering people together. Our building is a blessing and a blessed space for gathering. There was room in our Fellowship Hall that night and I pray the light of Christ in our community of faith will help make more room in our communities for people who need a roof over their heads.