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Still Struggling 6: “Not about just the homeless”

September 24, 2010

Here is another email from another Outreach Committee member who shares the passion, concern, and commitment to justice for the homeless that the Committee member quoted earlier has. However, he comes to a different conclusion:

First some notes about me:  I come from a family with HUGE experience in reaching out and servicing the disabled, disadvantaged, the disenfranchised.  My oldest brother is 68, a profoundly handicapped man, that is nonverbal, has never spoken a word is in his, has never buttoned a button is his life, operates at about a 2 year old level mentally, is totally dependent on others for his existence.  His mother and father were VERY involved at the state level in Ohio in the 60’s and 70’s in getting homes, schools and sheltered works put together for this population.  I am a 65 year old gay man, in a relationship for 30 years, both of us with successful lives and careers.  We are familiar with discrimination in the world.  I share this just to give you an idea that I AM a compassionate man, given to some level of exposure to the issues involved here.

There is no doubt in my mind, that this decision by the chapter was very, very difficult.  I met with a board member of the Metropolitan Community Church on 5th Ave N.  They, too, have been struggling with this very same issue, with outdoor sheltered space.  They struggled long and hard.   They are a GAY church of 400 members–they know something about discrimination.  But they arrived at the same difficult decision as our own chapter.  I met with a member of that board Friday to get a sense of the issues raised.  I look forward to sharing his feedback with you regarding their journery and process.

In the final analysis,this is NOT about JUST the homeless.  If it were, difficult as it is, it WOULD be simpler.  This is also about the protection and promulgation of an institution, insuring that it can CONTINUE to do the wonderful outreach that it has done for so very long.  To this I would enumerate the following points:

1)  All resources are limited: time, effort, money and concern.  All must be spent to the highest and best use.

2)  Cost for the constant cleanup and repair of the impacted area drains resources.  It’s about protecting resources for more effective use.

3)  Leaning back on my days of corporate public liability, turning a blind eye to the “use” of the space constitutes tacit approval of such use.  Along with approval then follows liability for wellbeing/safety….for both the homeless using the space and for parishioners coming and going.  If there is a battery, a rape, trip and fall, a parishioner falling over a person, the cathedral can be held liable.  If’s about protecting the institution.

4)  There is a fiduciary responsibility to the parishioners, all of them,  who “invest” in the church, to protect the church for current and future use.  It’s about protecting assets.

5)  To the future growth of the church, there is the public relations issue of public presentation.  If people new to the area are “shopping” around the area for a new “family” home,  will they come back, if the public presentation presents “challenges”  ?? It’s about protecting growth.

Unfortunately, in hindsight, this was a flaw in the design of the building; we INVITED this problem to our doorstep, literally and figuratively speaking and now we must deal with it, painful as it, to the greatest benefit to the parish, its congregants, the institution and the homeless, which we serve gladly and willingly.  It’s about protecting that service.

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