WEATHERING THE STORM
2% of local churches opened doors for homeless during cold snap
Does a house of worship have a moral obligation to help the needy when their lives are on the line?
That is the question many are asking following news that just four churches in Washington’s second-largest city opened their doors to shelter the unhoused. This was out of a pool of over 200 churches that were asked to provide aid to those seeking shelter from subzero temperatures.
The Pacific Northwest has been experiencing an extremely dangerous cold snap, with much of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia buried under mountains of snow. Tack on freezing rain and arctic winds, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Spokane, Washington mayor Lisa Brown – who was sworn in at the beginning of the year – has long criticized the city’s apparent lack of winter planning in years past, arguing the city was woefully unprepared to keep their homeless population warm during the winter.
Her idea? Open
church doors to the homeless. After all, churches are designed for dozens or even hundreds of congregants to gather.
They’re empty at night, when the unhoused need shelter from the elements most. And they exist to worship Jesus, a guy who was pretty famously charitable and kind.
Turns out, getting local churches on board is easier said than done.
227 local churches were contacted. With temperatures
dipping into the negatives overnight, just four agreed to open their doors.
Volunteers who contacted the churches reported a number of responses. Most reportedly wanted to, but feared everything from property damage to injury liability to local community revolt. Volunteers reassured them that they’d
only have 20-25 individuals in each church, the homeless wouldn’t be allowed to leave after coming in, and there would be staff on site to keep watch.
Julie Garcia, director of a local nonprofit which assists the homeless, says she was disappointed in the response from the local religious community. "In
talking with some of these churches, I think people forget who Jesus was," she stated. "We've gotten away from 'What would Jesus do...Read More