There are lots of consequences … both intended and unintended not only to homelessness but to our efforts to help eliminate it. Again -- it's not simple. It's complex and systemic.
We tend to put people into artificial categories of those who care about the homeless and those who don’t, with those who don’t usually being tagged as uncaring business owners and residents. Problem is, that isn’t my experience of the people who live and work downtown. There are some who are like that … some who just want to push homeless people somewhere else where they will be out of sight, but most people I know who live and work downtown really want to help people who are homeless. But, they also have legitimate concerns about public health and safety, and also about what services will really help move people out of homelessness and what services are just creating a culture of dependency.
As I said. It’s not simple. It’s complex and systemic and there are many different perspectives.
So that's why we're teaming up with winter outreach tomorrow evening (Tuesday, Sept. 17) at 7 pm in the Cathedral Nave for a Downtown Hall Meeting which we’re calling "Homelessness in St. Louis: Perspectives and Solutions," because we want a chance for people from a broad variety of perspectives to share their vantage point on homelessness … what they see the issues are, what their concerns are, and where we might look together for solutions. A diverse group of panelists (see the list below) will each speak for no more than 3 minutes apiece and then most of the evening will be spent in diverse small groups where we will search for solutions that cut across the traditional battle lines.
We have intentionally planned this a week before the public hearing over NLEC because we want to have people go into that hearing with a strong experience that we are partners in this work of ending homelessness, not enemies. And hopefully with some sense of common ground that will have us fighting one another less and working together more.
Our hosting this meeting is a part of what I believe Cathedrals should be ... which is a gathering place where everyone is invited into the room and we ask the questions we think Jesus would ask. That's what's going to happen tomorrow evening.
I hope you will be at Christ Church Cathedral tomorrow night and listen deeply and speak plainly. And be a part of trying something new to end homelessness in our city.
Tomorrow night's panelists will include:
-Residents and those who work in downtown St. Louis
-Amanda Andrus, owner of Gelateria Tavolini
-Megan Heeney, outreach worker and Places for People service provider
-Brad Waldrop, downtown developer
-Sarah “Jonesey” Johnson, staff member of Left Bank Books
-Lewis Reed, President of the Board of Aldermen
-Chris Rice, Pastor of New Life Evangelistic Center
I will co-moderate the event with Jean Allman, professor at Washington University.