I have been reminded recently, in discussions I’ve had with people about the appointment of the newest Pope, that there truly are two sides to everything. It was fascinating to watch how some people were quick to cast dispersions on the new Pope, as well as the whole of the Catholic Church. Sadly, their criticisms were not without merit. Still, I have seen the good side of the Catholic Church and its members. Some say that the harm the Catholic Church has caused, including most recently the abuse of children and the subsequent denial and cover up. Still, all across this country, the poor and the homeless are receiving food and shelter and clothing, and opportunities for a better life, from the very same church.
Every day I read about yet another city that has decided to go with the “harass the homeless to get them to leave” approach. After a short period of time the streets of the city have fewer homeless people on them. Citizens praise the city leaders for the “improvement”. On the other side, all that has happened is that the homeless have adapted and made themselves less visible, they have gone into deeper hiding, none of have actually left the city. In the minds of many, it is believed that such harassment of the homeless would motivate them to get jobs and end their homelessness, what has actually happened is that the city has now made it even more difficult for homeless people to improve their situation. An often used tactic against the homeless is the use certain laws and city policies to shut down or at least curtail the feeding of homeless people. Again, the belief is that by making life difficult for homeless people, the homeless people will be motivated to end their homelessness. The results of this tactic is a population of homeless people who are starving. If the hope is for homeless people to “get a job”, how can a person do his/her job adequately if they haven’t eaten recently.
Here in Nashville, the building of a new, and very large, convention center is almost complete. It is located just one block away from the Nashville Rescue Mission, which happens to be the largest mission in the state. Already, developers and city officials are talking about the difficulties of developing the area with so many homeless people nearby. The reality is that this mission and its guests have, for the most part, proven themselves to being good neighbors. The mission moved into its current location over 10 years ago, and the many businesses in the area are thriving. Still some people are suggesting that the mission be moved. Advocates for the homeless say that such a move would be problematic for the homeless. On the other hand, the mission building is poorly designed, and if the mission were to move, they could incorporate a great many improvements to its design that would benefit the homeless, (that is if the mission administration decided to design a new mission without the look and feel of a prison.) On the other side, if the mission stayed near the convention center, the homeless could make good use of the employment opportunities that the convention center would bring.