More ‘us,’ less ‘them’ can help find shelter for all

Ric Rose is a board member for Homeward Bound, a homeless advocacy group in Puyallup.
Ric Rose is a board member for Homeward Bound, a homeless advocacy group in Puyallup.

The New Hope Resource Center was the subject of a recent op-ed in The News Tribune by Jim Kastama, a longtime Puyallup resident and former state legislator.

New Hope connects people who are homeless in Puyallup with daytime resources needed to find their way out of homelessness. Freezing Nights Ministry plays a partner role by providing overnight shelter during the cold weather months, November through March each year, in the greater Puyallup area.

Both New Hope and Freezing Nights depend heavily on the faith, hope and love practiced by the body of Christian believers in and around Puyallup.

I don’t know how many times Mr. Kastama used the word “them” when referring to people without a home in Puyallup, but it is indicative of an “us” vs. “them” mentality that is frankly plaguing this election cycle. Such false dichotomies, however, do highlight the distinctive competency of faith-based ministries when addressing social problems like homelessness.

Jesus taught his followers not to use labels but rather to see the person who has a face, a name and a story, just like you and me. It is indeed the churches and faith-based communities that help all of us see people as individuals, as they are, and not as some label, like so many folks these days seem intent on doing, to the detriment of all our cherished freedoms.

Unfortunately, New Hope is facing yet-to-be-determined city requirements that very well could put it out of the not-for-profit business of helping homeless people. The city has shown very little if any interest to date in assisting New Hope with relocating to a different area of the city, something the center is not opposed to.

My question to Mr. Kastama and to his "Clean Up Puyallup" supporters, as well as to the leaders of this fine city, is this: Is there any place for altruism to be shown to those without a home in Puyallup?

Twenty-one pastors from Puyallup wrote about such altruism in a letter addressed to the Puyallup City Council in June. In part, it read:

“As people of faith we have a calling to care for the poor and to advocate on behalf of the less fortunate in the world. Our congregations are made up of people who desire to live faithfully and to create a community in which all individuals may live safely and thrive as God intends. We have long recognized and are greatly concerned about the growing problem of homelessness in Puyallup.

“Our community’s experience is not unique, but tragically mirrors increases in homelessness in Pierce County and across our region….Through various means, ministries, and organizations the people we lead in our churches have been helping those we can. Both Protestants and Catholics, mainline and evangelical congregations are invested in this issue.

“We are convinced it will take conversation, coordination and partnership among the faith community, various levels of government, nonprofits, social service providers and businesses to address homelessness and its impacts….We desire for everyone to have a safe and secure place to call home.”

The founding fathers of this great country recognized that religious liberty is essential for the health and proper functioning of a civil society.

Accordingly, the Constitution protects religious exercise as a fundamental right so that the spirit of faith, hope and love can act to heal the brokenness and false divisions that periodically arise, given our human condition, and which appear so evident in our communities and nation today.

The Good Samaritan in the parable of Jesus calls the believer to reach out to the homeless individual on the street who is in need of shelter. People of faith in Puyallup will not look the other way and ignore our homeless problem.

I strongly encourage Jim Kastama and former Mayor Kathy Turner to use their leadership skills and be part of real solutions. They can help the city live up to its name of being "generous and welcoming to all people."

Ric Rose is a board member of Homeward Bound in Puyallup. He is an attorney who practices Social Security disability law.