[Hpn] New York, NY - CHURCH STEPS' UP FOR HOMELESS - New York Post - July 4, 2002

Editor Editor <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Sat, 06 Jul 2002 12:37:46 -0500

City shelters do not have enough beds for the many people who sleep on the
streets each night

by Thomas K. Tewell - New York Post - July 4, 2002

July 4, 2002 -- Congregations in New York City respond to the needs of the
city's poor as best we can.

For our church, that means housing 10 homeless men every night in a shelter in
our church house.

It also means responding in a caring way to the men and women who move onto the
church steps at night to get a good night's sleep ("Bums Rush In," Opinion, Tony
Coles, June 26).

Sure, we could tell them to get off our steps and go somewhere else.

And they would go - to an alley, Penn Station or someone else's steps. People
like Coles claim that the homeless would go to city shelters if we closed our
steps to them.

But the city shelters do not have enough beds for the many people who sleep on
the streets each night.

Even if there was room for them, some of the homeless have had experiences in
the shelters that lead them to stay away - including robberies and assaults.

In an alley somewhere, the homeless would remain anonymous.

But on our front steps, our church is able to minister to their needs. We learn
who they are - individuals, each with a name and a unique history.

If their problems are simple, we may help them find a quick solution. If their
problems are more complex, the simple act of befriending them is often the first
step in leading them off our stairs and into a better situation.

That could mean finding housing for them, sitting with them through the shelter
system's frustrating intake process or getting them into an appropriate
treatment program.

We know our way of helping takes time. But often it works.

To Coles and other politicians, who attack when they can offer no solution to
public problems, the church's approach seems like "screwy thinking."

We think it is the compassion of Christ in New York City.

The Rev. Dr. Thomas K. Tewell, Senior Pastor
The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church


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