The Common Good
January 2008

Church Parking Lot is Safe Haven

by Rose Marie Berger, June G. Vajda | January 2008

In response to a police crackdown on people living on the streets, First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas opened its parking lot as a safe space for homeless people to sleep—even ...

In response to a police crackdown on people living on the streets, First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas opened its parking lot as a safe space for homeless people to sleep—even providing a security guard. When city officials passed laws that banned panhandling, restricted shopping carts on city streets, and limited where and when food could be distributed to the hungry, churches fought back. “Home­lessness is not a criminal issue, it is a social issue,” First Pres­by­­terian’s senior pastor Joe Clif­ford told Sojour­ners. “We are working with the mayor and the city to offer a better response to the challenge than police action.”

According to a recent census, Dallas has more than 5,000 homeless people and only 1,300 available beds in shelters. “[First Presby­terian is] doing what churches are supposed to do, to help the poor and stand up for the poor,” Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, told the Associ­ated Press. “It’s a legal thing to do, a moral thing to do, and the church has the right to allow the rich or poor to stay on their property.”

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