Not Your Average Book Tour

The last city on my recent Faith Works book tour was Milwaukee. There I visited an "overflow shelter" run by the Red Cross and the Milwaukee Interfaith Conference, the sponsor of the "Faith Works Forum" here. At about 1:30 p.m., the makeshift gymnasium was still empty and quiet.

By 7 p.m. it would become a very noisy place, as 50 bunk beds would be filled with homeless women and their children.

On many of those beds I saw little stuffed animals and toys marking the places of the homeless kids who sleep there every night. They looked like my son Luke's animals and toys. By this time I should be used to poverty, but now I'm a dad and I felt like crying.

The Red Cross often runs shelters such as this after natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. What was the natural disaster in Milwaukee and the other 16 cities we visited in the last six weeks? Virtually every city had overflowing shelters and food banks and soup kitchens stretched beyond capacity. This disaster is called prosperity. It's a prosperity that has left far too many people behind, then made things worse for them - such as housing costs that have risen so steeply that even poor working families can't find a place to live. To put it in the plainest moral terms, this just isn't right. In a record-breaking economy, one out of five children in America are still poor. Something is terribly wrong with this picture.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2000
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