homeless families

How to Truly Help the Homeless

Photo via Mount Vernon Place UMC / RNS

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., seen during the spring. Photo via Mount Vernon Place UMC / RNS

St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco is getting bad press this week over a sprinkler system it installed to keep homeless people from sleeping on church grounds.

People are outraged that a church would treat the poor so callously. But St. Mary’s isn’t alone. Many houses of worship all over the country face the question of how to keep safe, welcoming grounds while being compassionate to homeless neighbors sleeping on porches and in doorways.

Here’s what we tried at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.

A couple of months ago, we started a dialogue around how to move people off the porches of the church and assist them in moving on. Over the years, the protected and secluded porches had become sleeping quarters for a dozen or so folks, and it was now out of hand. People were using the grounds as bathroom facilities; others were leaving their belongings in plastic-covered 4-foot high mounds.

The conversation, held in a church committee meeting in January, was contentious.

Homeless Rate Remains Steady

The Huffington Post reports:

A vigorous effort to house the homeless has been countered somewhat by a sluggish economy.

The federal government and local communities have greatly increased the number of beds available to the homeless over the last four years, either through emergency shelters or through government-subsidized apartments and houses. But the struggling economy contributed to the number of homeless people in the United States remaining stable between January 2011 and January 2012.

Read more here.