I often hear the complaints of housed people toward the homeless. The refrain goes like this: "I live a responsible life, I sacrifice, I set priorities, and boundaries, I plan ahead, I take care of myself and my own, why can't they?" Such animosity turns the housed against the homeless, and indeed if the homeless are only takers who are always mooching a handout, then I think such feelings are justified.
But I don't think the homeless always need a handout. Rather, I think the homeless, like the housed, need friendship. It is through friendship that transformation occurs. It is through friendship that stereotypes are discarded, and real life begins. It is through friendship that the housed can meet the homeless as equal partners mutually created in the image of God.
This is at the heart of why I feel so strongly that every faith community should be housing somebody who is homeless. I think faith communities have the relational capacity, and most certainly they have the sacred summons, to move into transformational friendships that bring authentic hope, healing, and new possibility into the lives of both the housed and the homeless.
Anyone who hangs around homeless folk for any length of time knows that the problems they encounter, from the mundane like where to go the bathroom, where to keep warm, where to sleep, to the more complex, how to sustain and repair relationships, how to keep a job, how to remain healthy, any one of these daily trials can overwhelm not only the homeless but those who are their friends.
That's why it takes a community of friends. When homeless Joe is out on the streets he is merely a statistic and an object for charity. But when my friend Joe is out on the street then I don't sleep as well in my warm bed. When my friend Joe needs a helping hand, and I know I have limited resources, that's when I become politically active. When my friend Joe suffers, so do I, and when my friend Joe triumphs I too am fulfilled.
But just like in my marriage and in my parenting I need a community of support, so too with Joe. We are not created to be lone wolves. We are created to be part of each other, a mutual interdependence whose radiance glows brighter as we knit together tighter. Faith communities know this. They talk about it all the time. But the time for talk is long past. The only message worth hearing is the living example of application.
If you are a member of a faith community, then start making noise, start agitating your leadership. Help your community live its light, don't stop until your house of healing has at least one who is wounded living inside it. In other words, become worthy of your housing, become worthy of your blessings.