Ministering to the Homeless 3

Church defies city prosecutor,

helps homeless

This article is about a church in Long Beach California that was being cited by the city for allowing the homeless to sleep in their doorways, stairwells and on the grounds.   The church refused under a penality of $1000 per day fine.    Find this story at it’s original news source.

Article Launched: 01/29/2007 09:56:55 PM PST

The First Congregational Church, a downtown Long Beach (California) landmark, is defying the city prosecutor’s office by allowing the homeless to sleep on its grounds. The pastor, the Rev. Jerald Stinson, affirmed the church’s stand earlier this month in a sermon that brought standing applause from his socially conscious flock.

“Each person who seeks warmth and safety within those railings is a beloved child of God,” he said. “There is a spark of the divine within each of them. If you do not believe that, if you just write them off as worthless, what do you do with everything Jesus said and did?

Corletto and Michael Bryant, 32, are two of many local homeless people
who have accepted the church’s offer of a place to sleep on its grounds.
(Photo by Kevin Chang / Press-Telegram)

The church has a long record of involvement with helping the homeless in Long Beach. For example, the church’s Drop-In Center opens its doors on Sunday when most other agencies are closed. From 12:30 to 4 p.m., the homeless can eat lunch, talk with each other, and use computers. Founded in 1888, First Congregational has a notable record of social concern. While other churches look to the heavens, however properly, the church at Third and Cedar looks across the street and far beyond.

$1,000 a day?

Each night 15 to 20 people sleep on the steps and grounds of the church. Claiming it has received anonymous complaints, the prosecutor’s office says the practice must stop and has threatened a fine of $1,000 a day if it does not. On Sundays, when many social agencies are closed, the church’s Drop-In Center opens its doors from 12:30 to 4 p.m. so street people can eat lunch, read, see movies, play games and chat with each other and with volunteers. According to the church’s Web site, some homeless use the opportunity to check e-mail and write resumes.

“Many who sleep outside the church struggle with mental illness. One gentle, really nice man who has been here for years is convinced Jesus gave him this church, and he regularly asks me for the keys. Another man thinks he is a king and the church is his castle. There is a woman who believes she is the wife of deceased billionaire Howard Hughes, that he is on his way from Las Vegas to take her home. None of those folks, without a great deal of help, will ever be able to find and keep a place of their own.”

Oldtimer’s comment.  I looked and could not find out what became of this situation except that there have been meetings held at the church between the police and the homeless to help define and mediate the tension between the two forces.   I suspect that the church escaped the fines and continues to allow the homeless to sleep on their grounds.   A bulletin asking for volunteers (printed below) indicates the church has not lost its desire to help the homeless.

Homeless Drop In Center call for volunteers:

“The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: What are you going through?” Simone Well

On Sunday afternoons, the First Congregational Church of of Long Beach operates a Homeless Drop-In Center on their church premises. They open their doors & their hearts to over 300 + homeless brothers & sisters in the Long Beach area.

It enables them to eat, read, rest, & socialize. Many write job applications & resumes in their computer lab. It is also haven for people to go on the day of the week when many agencies which serve the homeless are closed.

This is run entirely by rotating volunteers, so they need our help!

Oftentimes, the homeless are so ostracized, yet they long to interact with the very pedestrians who pass them by on the street. As such, the Drop-In Center mostly serves as a way of connecting people, homeless or otherwise, to create a sense of community.

They need about 15-20 of us to help serve food, set-up, clean-up & mostly reach out to the many homeless who seek shelter there.

This is what ministering to the homeless means

Oldtimer

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