Shelter News 6
As we approach the midway point of the Phinney Ridge Winter Men’s Shelter I feel a need to give my “We don’t need no stinking badges” news report. (That quote might be obscure to some. Bogart movie, The Treasure of Sierra Madre. ) The Mexican outlaw who says this is expressing his independence from all governmental and institutional authority. At the PRWMS we are as free from government control as one can get and still live in the city because we don’t take government money. Governments at the city, county, state, and federal levels are there to do good for the people. That is the theory. And it often works that way, but not without strings attached. Something happens when we rely too much on government, when we rely on the institution to take care of us. We become dependent on something which cannot solve our problem. That may sound very close to the way the addict thinks when they shoot up to just to feel a little better. It won’t solve the problem. “It’s not what goes into a person that makes him good or bad, but what comes out of him.” It’s the decision to use that must be understood and dealt with.
But the problem is so big, homelessness, don’t we need the big government to do it. We need big organization to get the big plan so we can solve this problem and not just be putting band aids on the problem. Well, the plan doesn’t fix the problem. (Or as we use to say in the world of auto repair, “the manual doesn’t fix the car.”)The absolutely necessary part of the plan, the answer, to the problem of homelessness, and of life, is the personal involvement of one human being with another. Or as God puts it, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
Oh it does take some planning. It takes a lot more planning if you start taking government money. The three main groups which provide the resources for the shelter are Emmanuel Church, Mosaic Church, and the Union Gospel Mission. None of these people take money from any government in order to help run any of their ministries. Emmanuel Church is owned by a small group of Christians who decided a few years back that God wanted them to open some of the space God put them in charge of to house homeless men during the winter. There are some restrictions as to what this group of Christians can do with this property because of the regulations regarding religious non-profit organizations. We can’t do for-profit, “retail”, things on the property without hurting our tax exempt status. (I’m a little surprised that the world has not asked the question of why churches should be tax exempt at all. The answer may not be as obvious as it used to be. The ministries of a church are supposed to be helpful to society. But just about any group can be a church now days. You don’t have to do anything particularly good for society. You can just serve yourself and talk about “spiritual” things.) And we have to obey the building and zoning laws which all residents of the city need to obey. But other than these things we can do what we like, or religiously put, we can do what we feel God wants us to do. We can follow Jesus.
See you soon, at the Men’s Shelter, on Phinney Ridge. No badge required.