Letters to the Editor

Homeless: Churches a great asset, but be patient

Re: “Give churches leeway to help homeless,” (TNT editorial, 4/10).

I wholehearted agree with the TNT editorial board.

As the City of Tacoma moves to lessen barriers and facilitate the participation of congregations in providing temporary emergency shelter, I encourage focusing on a church’s assets: available facilities, willing volunteers and compassionate hearts.

What faith communities may not be equipped for is raising significant finances, or working effectively with individuals who have challenges such as criminal records.

Their annual planning cycle should also be kept in mind. Congregations make long-term commitments to programs that cannot easily be changed mid-stream; they are not first responders, able to react to all urgent needs.

So even with the city’s new ordinance, expectations should be tempered about how quickly faith communities can change course to begin hosting shelters.

It grieves me when churches, which are deeply committed to serving those in need, are inappropriately labeled as not caring when they don’t immediately respond to an opportunity such as this.

However, based on the momentum we see at Associated Ministries, I’m confident more congregations will step up to participate in emergency sheltering in the months and years to come.

And that will be a great gift to all of us.

(Yoder is executive director of Associated Ministries Tacoma Pierce County.)