Bravo for your article! As a local pastor who serves the homeless, one of my greatest concern is their access to services and transportation. I am thouroughly disgusted with the NIMBY attitude of the elitists in this city.
As a small church our congregation spends much time on the streets downtown with the homeless who are drug addicted, alcoholics, and mentally ill. I can honestly ask those who are afraid to come downtown because of the homeless, "What are you afraid of?" We generally bring our kids with us downtown as we minister on the streets and we have never had a problem. As a matter of fact our kids (usually numbering around 5 to 10 of them ranging in age from 3 to 15 years old) have a great sense of compassion for the needs of those who are less fortunate, or who are struggling in life. The homeless actually enjoy having the kids around because in some way it brings a sense of normalcy into their lives.
What I find profoundly amazing is that this city seems to want to sweep under the rug those who are the most vulnerable in our society instead of looking for real solutions to the problems of homelessness. For example, there are many "mega churches" in this city that have the resources available to have a serious impact on homelessness, but to their shame don't see these people through the eyes of the One whom they profess to follow. They don't see any reason to get involved because it would cost them something and the homeless don't give into the Church. Yet the Christ whom they follow paid the ultimate price for them so that they could walk free of the things that bind them. Many are so rapped-up in their prosperity messages that they fail to actually see themselves in the homeless and say, "except for the grace of God, there go I". Yes, there are churches in Tulsa trying to have an impact, but much, much more could be done.
And to the "powers that be" in Tulsa, when are you going to follow the lead of successful cities that have centralized services for the homeless, and begin to provide real solutions to the problem instead of trying to shuffle them around the city like spreading the peas out on your plate that you didn't want to eat so it that looks like you did? These are real human beings, not peas! Many have been forced to live on the streets because they have been kicked out of mental health services due to lack of funding. Many are out there because of bad choices in their lives. (Let those who have not sinned cast the first stone!) Many are living under bridges or on the streets because of a bad string of events in their lives due to sickness or some other unfortunate event. No matter what the reason, these are PEOPLE! They have the same desires and dreams as the rest of us. You are holding the homeless of Tulsa in bondage to your whims and your political asperations. All I want to say is, just like Moses said to Pharoh, "Let my people go!"
Might I also take this time to suggest to Mayor Kathy Taylor that instead of alienating the faith community in Tulsa as you have, that you begin to work with us in helping provide the services needed for the homeless to get off the downward spiral they are on. Our little church has a vision to help provide basic services for the homeless, like a free laundry for them to go wash and dry their clothes, instead of wearing the same old dirty clothes everyday until they have to go to the Salvation Army for something clean to wear. How about a decent place to take a real shower, a place where they don't have feel degraded or worry about all their belongings getting stolen while they are in the shower. These are fudamental and basic human needs that are not available to Tulsa's homeless.
And while you are at it Mayor Taylor, please stop using the TPD as a private security force to uproot the homeless from under bridges and tearing down their homes in the tent city on the river just north of downtown. It is illegal in my book to take their belongings away from them and throw them in the trash without a warrant or some type of due process. What you are throwing away is all they have in this world, and they feel violated and raped by your gestapo tactics. Again, these are real people living tragic lives who have real emotions and suffer real losses because of your policies.
Instead of kicking the homeless when they are down, let’s all work together to help bring them some dignity and assistance in getting the help they need to break free from the cycle of despair. Basic human services and health care in a more centralized environment would be a good place to start. For those of us in the faith community, we must love our homeless neighbors as ourselves and begin to lay our lives down for our brothers and sisters living on the streets. The ministry of Jesus was summed-up in Luke 4:18 when He said: ”The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Aren't we supposed to be more like Him?
Rev. Richard L. Jones, pastor