Great and Holy Friday

It is not lost on us that the ban on outdoor serving of hot, nutritious meals to homeless and other poor people in Philadelphia goes into effect on April 13, Great and Holy Friday. The whole community was given very little warning.  The proposals came out during Lent. There is at least a one month gap where there is no legal provision for outdoor serving and no adequate indoor venues for serving of food. If  all were to comply, what does the city expect this to look like? Let’s see. Hundreds of hungry, desperate people loose on the streets, with nothing but their dignity and freedom left to lose. Dumpster diving is sure to go up. Panhandling is sure to go up. Mugging is likely to go up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the restaurants and convenience stores in center city weren’t mobbed and stripped of some of their food.

How does this improve the health or safety of anybody? My recommendation to anybody would be to stay away from Philadelphia until the city grows a heart and stops this violation of human rights and curtailment religious freedom. It is not going to be a particularly pretty or safe place.

The goal of the city’s plan is to bring all organizations firmly under the city’s control. When that happens, it effectively makes them all city programs. They all become secular. They will be viewed by the poor and homeless as part of the monolith and no longer to be trusted. Their approach betrays a basic misunderstanding, on the part of the city, of the psyche of homeless people. Homeless people are the people who did not respond well to institutions or bureaucracy. The one universal that can be stated about the homeless is that they don’t fit in. It should come as no surprise to the city, yet somehow it did, that those of us who have been serving them for years or decades are a bit like them. I have been telling mayors for decades that the city can have all sorts of great ideas, but there is never going to be one good idea. It will take thousands of good ideas to help the thousands of homeless and poor people we serve. We need multiple approaches.

More important than any approach or any idea is relationship. And all of the city agencies and bureaucracies and shelters and programs are all designed to nip those in the bud.  All of the orientations warn against personal relationships and teach you to keep a professional distance. This is their fatal flaw. Let the professionals do what they do, but what people need more than that is family and community. Among the myriad of volunteers serving on the street, people can find someone with whom they can connect. This relationship can continue regardless of their housing status. People need alternatives, friends, dignity, freedom, family and love.

 “This is just another example that shows that our country is being taken over by control freaks. There seems to be this idea out there that it is the job of the government to take care of everyone and that nobody else should even try.
“But do we really want to have a nation where you have to get the permission of the government before you do good to your fellow man?
“It isn’t as if the government has “rescued” these homeless people. Homeless shelters all over the nation are turning people away each night because they have no more room. There are many homeless people that are lucky just to make it through each night alive during the winter.”   – Hawaii News Daily, March 21, 2012

Pray for us. We intend to continue serving the poor. We also intend to continue to fight these anti-christian mayoral decrees.