Tens of thousands of Americans lost food stamps on March 1, as the provisions of the 1996 welfare legislation began to go into effect. Hundreds of thousands more were cut off on April 1. Although some states have sought waivers from the cuts, large numbers of people are still affected.
On March 5, some 300 Washington, D.C.-area homeless people and their advocates, led by the Call to Renewal, gathered on the U.S. Capitol lawn for a soup and sandwich meal, press conference, and prayer service. Our message to Congress and the religious community was that those people who are now being discarded by society cannot be allowed simply to disappear. As Christians and as members of society, we are obliged both to serve and to witness for justice.
Jim Wallis of Call to Renewal and Sojourners, David Beckmann of Bread for the World, Rev. Wallace Charles Smith of D.C.s Shiloh Baptist Church, and Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio) spoke to the press. "This is the first round of cut-offs, with more to come," said Wallis. "These are real people with real needs. We do not intend to let them go quietly into the night. Scripture offers a clear mandate about all our responsibilities to poor people, and it holds government responsible as well."
Hall noted that he has written to every member of Congress, urging them to "leave their office for a few hours every month" to volunteer at a local shelter or soup kitchen to learn whats really going on in America.
Meanwhile, volunteers from Sojourners and Shiloh Baptist Church served sandwiches and bowls of hot soup to people from several nearby shelters. Following the meal, a group of local pastors led a prayer service asking God to bless our efforts and to move the hearts of our political leaders.