Not In My Neighborhood

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A neighbor said, “ I know this sounds like a cliché, but why do they have to be in our neighborhood?”

Um, yeah. That is a cliché. And there’s two reasons it’s a cliché: one, it is often repeated; and two, it shows an unthinking response.

The thing is, no one who is in a housed community wants the homeless in their neighborhood. The businesses don’t want them in their community, the suburbs don’t want them, downtown doesn’t want them, residence areas don’t want them, industrial areas don’t want them, and even if the homeless find unused wooded areas, they are often found and then moved out of there.

The point is, no one wants them anywhere near their area.

But they have to be SOMEWHERE. Homeless people exist. They can’t just disappear and take up no space at all. It has been tried to make homeless people illegal. But if you make them illegal, you just fine people who can’t pay the fines. You make it illegal for certain people to exist. That doesn’t work. And if we think about that for a second, we know it doesn’t work.

So, how about this. Instead of telling the homeless to disappear, why don’t we give them places where they can exist. Places that will keep an eye on them and help them. Places that will care for them and treat them with respect. Places that will encourage them to use resources that will (eventually) help them to get themselves off the street. Places that will work with the community and work to make peace between the homeless and the community.

We call that place a church. Not just any kind of church, obviously, but a church that does what Jesus did when he was on earth—feeding the poor, welcoming the outcast and making peace. Really, that’s what churches are supposed to do.

  1. July 27, 2012

    Jared Rutledge

    that’s the wrong attitude. homelessness does not have to exist – Homeward Bound of Asheville has an 89% retention rate of folks they help house, and they have permanently housed 392 people in asheville. we don’t have to patronize them by “keeping an eye on them,” nor do we need to proselytize them or mistake the building for the church. we simply need to, as a community, support non-profits that put folks in housing.

  2. July 27, 2012

    Steve Kimes

    That’s fine for smaller communities, if they are committed to helping all the homeless. Portland has the largest per capita homeless population in the U.S. Although there is a housing program which the city gives a million dollars a year to, it only scratches the surface. We are a medium sized city with more than 6000 homeless people. Our homeless is in survival mode, and it is the responsibility of the church to help them survive. This isn’t about proselytizing, it is about love. Until you’ve seen the problem and tried to solve it, you shouldn’t assume it’s easy. Of course, if the banks released all the empty houses they’ve foreclosed on and gave it to those of us working with the homeless, then the situation would be different.

  3. July 27, 2012

    Steve Kimes

    BTW, since you assume we are patronizing and proselytizing, it makes me wonder about some of your other “evidence”.

  4. July 28, 2012

    Jared Rutledge

    portland’s metro area is about 10x the size of asheville, and you have about the same % of people experience homeless (i think the point in time count here was around 500 or something). yet 75%!!! of asheville’s chronically homeless population has been housed in the past 5-6 years. you can wonder about the evidence all you want, but the model works. more at

  5. July 28, 2012

    Steve Kimes

    What’s funny is that if you leave homeless people alone, just with the basic safety net in the U.S. in general, then 70 percent of the homeless find permanent housing. For most of the homeless, it is just a short phase, less than six months– for most of the homeless with families it is much less than that. The homeless “problem” is the chronic homeless, the 25 percent who have been homeless for two years or more. This is who we work with almost exclusively. And just finding that 25 percent housing isn’t enough. Note that your stats show that 21 percent of the people lose their housing. That’s the folks we want to see helped. That’s who we work with.

  6. July 28, 2012

    Steve Kimes

    Yeah. Too tired last night.


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