Presbyterians Today

AUG-SEP 2018

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30 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay homelessness," said Quigley. "When we include our (homeless) friends into our communities, it creates a sense of belonging. And when they live in their true identity as beloved, they have courage to take steps toward restoring their lives." While steps are being taken to address the root causes of homeless- ness, there is still more to do, and Wilcox summons the church to see its power, potential and responsibility in this moment. "The faith voice carries tremen- dous weight in each of the 88 cities in L.A. County, both within the community and with our elected officials. The church must be strong, visible and knowledgeable advocates for those living on the fringes of our society to push housing solutions in every part of L.A. County." Dunn challenges the church to a deeper missional identity in Christ. "Being missional isn't just the next church trend to discuss in staff meetings," he said. "It is learning the issues your city is faced with and saying how we can bring the light of Christ into that darkness." For people like Mark, that light is the light of life. Heidi Worthen Gamble is the mission catalyst for the Presbytery of the Pacific. to seize this moment." Wilcox agrees. "Homelessness is such a complex problem that it is easy to get over- whelmed with any aspect of it. The growing list of programs with the unprecedented funding here in L.A., while welcomed, is also daunting to understand. By having task force members who can help make sense of it all and keep us focused is invalu- able. Collectively, we can hear about and be inspired by the groundbreak- ing work being done at Hollywood Presbyterian, which is the faith model for the entire county," she said. The Presbytery of the Pacific consists of 53 churches in the metro area of Los Angeles and Hawaii, and they all have daily encounters with the reality of homelessness. The task force includes church administra- tors, mission team leaders, deacons, clergy — anyone who is on the front lines of homeless ministries in their church. The group has been gather- ing monthly for the past six months at the presbytery office to share best practices and frustrations; learn how to navigate social services; strategize, set goals and celebrate successes; and pray for one another. Each call is unique "Finding the call God has placed on your heart and for your church" is what Quigley teaches in task force meetings. "Every church is in a different place and it's exciting to see how God is moving each church in its own unique way," she said. "We increase our capacity to serve our neighbors when we share resources and best practices, in addition to praying together." Quigley also advises churches to do their research. "We want to create a 'balanced ecosystem' of social services in our part of the county. We want to share resources. Make sure the ministry you want to do isn't already being done down the street on the same day," she said. Research also includes attending homeless coalition meetings, connect- ing with outreach workers, meeting with local police and service provid- ers. And then listening to what is said. "If this problem were easy to fix, we would have already done it by now," Dunn said. "There are many factors that may cause individuals or families to be living on the street. The solutions we offer need to consider the very real, very serious, problems that people are strug- gling with. The best way to begin is to find people with experience and learn from them. Some of our best guides are people who were formerly homeless who have now decided to turn around and help the next person in line." With housing as the focus, churches are getting creative and considering the use of church parking lots and vacant property to build permanent supportive housing units. Others are considering opening their parking lots for campers. Churches with food ministries are learning how to offer more than a meal, and to connect people with local service providers and housing. "We are learning that the church can play a vital role in ending HOW YOU CAN HELP Amie Quigley, director of urban outreach at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, offers these tips for helping the homeless: » Foster authentic, caring relationships with people sleeping on church property or other areas of the community. » Connect with local service providers and homeless coalitions to learn how to be effective and find the gaps in your community. » Create a resource guide for homeless guests who visit your church. » Develop a short list of outreach workers and service providers for office staff, deacons and/or other church volunteers to call on for help.

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