October 14, 2009

Containment, Compassion and the Church

As many of you have probably heard we are working double-time visiting with faith leaders, engaging folks in the aisles and working to forge purposeful and meaningful partnerships with North County churches around a new communitywide plan to solve family homelessness. We are reaching out to every sector of the community (civic, business, church, education and government) and including everyone who wants to solve family homelessness for kids and communities. The church is uniquely positioned to take a lead role in the efforts around solving family homelessness. It’s been much tougher than I imagined, but we are making headway.

It seems that our society has largely conditioned itself around a “containment” approach, reacting to the urgent surface needs of our homeless neighbors by managing the symptoms of homelessness. Slinging soup bowls, shelter beds, case managers and hugs at an opponent as tricky and difficult as this enemy is, is in my opinion, a sad recipe for massive failure not to mention showing an unintended disservice to the homeless person themselves. Demonstrating mercy requires that we deliver the attitude, the action and the accountability of compassion. Yet how often do we leave out that essential and very necessary third critical piece...the accountability of compassion? Without all three it seems that compassion is nothing more than a transaction for the benefit of the giver. The Good Samaritan did all three; the attitude, the action and the accountability of compassion. And as we can see in the parable, it wasn’t easy for him to do yet he did it anyway because he wanted his involvement to be significant. After he picked the hurt man up on the side of the road, cleaned his wounds and rode him to town he gave two silver pieces to the inn keeper and said that he would return. This would indicate his intention to follow-through.

It’s easy to give someone a bowl of soup or 5 bucks on a freeway off ramp. Giving a bowl of soup is 100x easier than getting shoulder to shoulder with a person, opening a conversation around change, building trust and engaging the person to see that change is necessary, developing a partnership with clear goals and objectives, executing the change, making adjustments along the way and then solving the underlying issues that caused the person to be hungry, cold, lonely and lost to begin with. This is what Solutions for Change stands for. Working with families in crisis on a gut level and solving homelessness in a partnership with them is what we strive to accomplish with each of the 60 homeless families in our Solutions University. And this is why I am passionate about engaging the church because the church can be involved in something much deeper and more significant when it comes to its impact in the community. And they don’t have to start from scratch because we’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting already by building and acquiring the homes for 60 homeless families to live, learn and grow within the Solutions University programs.

Solutions for Change is looking to forge strategic community partnerships with churches (and with other sectors…which we will share about in a future blog) who want to move from success to significance when it comes to their involvement in community issues like family homelessness. So far we’ve found some big visionaries in the church sector like New Life Pres in Escondido, Calvary Chapel Oceanside, and Vista Hope Church to join the initiative. Many more are seeing the difference between the containment system and the compassion model and looking to join the North County Community Initiative to Solve Family Homelessness.

Whether it is with a homeless family at Solutions for Change or the neighbor down the street, true acts of mercy are about going all the way, way beyond that bowl of soup or a drive by volunteer opportunity. It's not about compassion transactions but about relationships around solving tough community problems. It begins with seeing the difference between the containment system and the compassion model. Once we recognize the difference, then implementing the solutions are simple. When that happens, watch and see how our North County community defeats family homelessness with amazing ease.

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