124. Faith Based Charities and Other Nonprofits Catch Hell


Dear Readers and Wanderingvets.

As I am reading the news and statistics on homeless nationally and locally here in Seattle and King County, Washington there is definitely one thing that clearly keeps sticking out . The governments to include Social Services, HUD, Veterans Administration, States and Cities all rely heavily on Faith Based and other Nonprofit Charities to assist the homeless.

Whether it is San Luis Obispo, CA; Durham, NC; Marietta, GA; Seattle, WA; or numerous other cities and towns the homeless are constantly under attack.  Whether it is through restrictive permitting in feeding the homeless as in what Swords to Plowshares faces at times, or the Battle of Marietta, Georgia that my friend Oldtimer and the Cobb Faith Partnership has had some success with in recent days.

There has been a closure of over 3400 emergency shelters for the homeless in the last ten years. A lot of these shelters were municipally operated shelters. Cities and counties just decided one day that homelessness was not their bag. Recently in White Plains, New York the county closed the homeless shelter they used to run near the city hall because the businesses complained and the mayor of White Plains, NY was tired of being a humanitarian so the commissioners caved in to the city leaders pressuring.

I still think, looking back in history, that when these municipal leaders have their “Legacies” revealed it should also be said “He or She did take the Tents and Food of those that had so little to begin with and left them with less.” Or “Left the homeless colder than then they could have imagined”. Dead is also how they have left the homeless quite a few times as well.

I read in various news stories about mayoral, city council or county commissioner worries about the crime waves of the homeless. I fail to see how the homeless, are a crime wave versus the waves of gang activity polluting these cities. Or even that the majority of crime perpetrated inside the limits of every city is committed by those renting and owning homes. I see zero response from the leaders of cities and counties to the mandates on reducing homelessness from congress or response to the 10 year plans as mandated. I am assuming that the majority of these cities are filing for and receiving grant monies from HUD and other federal agencies.

On the other hand,  these federal mandates  are probably scaring the hell out of these municipalities. So, in complying with reducing homelessness, they have to drive the homeless into someone else’s town, off cliffs or into the sea. Then these cities can say they reduced homelessness and put a check mark silently on a piece of paper, never announcing it to the public of what they have done in their constituent’s names. Silently  the constituents do know what is happening, and turning a blind eye or turning off their conscience it seems.

In the meantime, the faith based organizations are understaffed, under funded, under propertied, basically down to old mats, donated sleeping bags and holed blankets. Regulated by fire marshals, and the needs of the poor, mentally ill, children and families, their task is overwhelming to say the least.

Protested because of their service and what little property they have by every developer, business, entrepreneur, and recent homebuyer that purchases near them they are the pariah of everyone no matter how long they have been in the community. Even if it has been 50 years or more, who is getting the rawest of deals here? Naturally only those people with compassion that are helping those in need.

There are various tent cities throughout the United States that open and close at the whims of individuals who complain about their safety, or basically just the fact that they do not like being around the homeless. There is a large difference between visible and invisible homelessness.

There are a lot of families that are broken up with their children living among family members while the adults have to live elsewhere not because of drugs or alcohol. It is because of space, personal differences, and other reasons. Homelessness takes on  a lot of different forms and various stresses. It is not all criminal intent, alcohol and drugs. In the most recent study of homelessness, 15% of the homeless had been homeowners and renters in the previous 90 days before going inside an emergency shelter. That is over 104,000 individuals. Not your typical drug and mentally ill it seems.

We as a nation prefer invisible homelessness. Actually some of the invisible homeless are the “Car” homeless or “auto-dwellers”. As cities could not leave them alone , there are signs against parking between certain hours popping up everywhere. These people’s co-workers would never know they were homeless. There are ministries for these people as well. I noticed that Point in Time counting did not include these homeless people . The HUD data stands so erroneous again. Also the volunteers in Seattle and King County did not count those that live in their vehicles.

The fact that when the cities and states expect the faith based initiative to cure the problem without any assistance in permits or other assistance just shows how asinine these elected and at times appointed officials are. The fact that one complaint against the homeless, and that the complaintaint does not have to be identified is suspect as far as being discriminatory. It does not have to be proved as valid in the majority of jurisdictions. The complaint just has to be voiced. The fact that this is allowed is discriminatory practice. This was set up as a relief valve for politicians to keep their seats and give plausible deniability. This is common practice in citation and arrest / detainment practice against the homeless as well. This practice is also being used to deny permits to churches and other groups in sheltering and feeding homeless. One complaint and no permit will be issued.

The politicians are giving their housed constituents every measure to use to beat on the homeless, including allowing the use of law enforcement and a municipal soft shoulder to use. It also allows the politicians to have an excuse to carry out their own agendas as well by using prejudicial members of the public.

In all jurisdictions nationally, homeless workers pay federal, state, county, city, and other types of local taxes.  Imagine that when you are denied any fair representation and your tent is ripped up and all your possessions seized by police. Sometimes it makes me wonder, if our own governments do not cause our citizens problems both physically and mentally at times.

The churches and nonprofits as well as their clients are catching it in the back from the municipalities at every turn. The homeless as a whole no matter good, bad or indifferent are not being treated as a citizen or being afforded their inalienable rights as given by the Constitution.  When a municipality hands out a leaflet listing a charity or nonprofit as a resource, option or hope from one of their city, county or state offices because they have either no funds or any other recourse or service, then that charity is acting for the agency for that citizen and deserves better treatment from that municipality.

When someone’s political legacy includes their children interpreting that they allowed people to be imprisoned, starved, and frozen, as the famous pizza maker says… is that what you want on your Tombstone?



2 Responses to “124. Faith Based Charities and Other Nonprofits Catch Hell”

  1. March 3, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Great article. You might find this story interesting. We’re documenting the story of a Vietnam Vet friend who is traveling across America on a bicycle to raise money and awareness for Vietnam Vets. Check it out.


    We appreciate what you are doing to spread the word and raise awareness.

  2. March 4, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Call me simple, but it seems to me when any municipality prohibits a faith based organization from providing food, clothing or any other type of solice to the homeless, there is a violation of the Constitutional Right to freedom of Religion – especially when you consider that helping the less fortunate is part of a person’s religious obligations.

    If those who believe in Heaven and/or Hell are correct in their beliefs, it might be well true that they are “recieving” hell from local governments, but those same governments will be the first ones in line to get into Hell.

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