In the effort to fight the homeless problem, Long Beach, CA, authorities have gone after a Congregational minister for trying to . . . fight the homeless problem:
Inviting a confrontation with city officials, the senior pastor at a venerable Long Beach church vowed Friday to defy a prosecutor's order that he block homeless people from sleeping on the steps and grounds of his church.
Failure to disperse the 15 to 20 people who camp between the sidewalk and the First Congregational Church of Long Beach's walls may result in a fine of $1,000 a day, Deputy City Prosecutor Sayge Castillo warned in a recent letter.
Leaning back in a couch in his church office Friday, Senior Pastor Jerald Stinson shook his head and said, "The city's threats are ludicrous. We're not going to do what they want us to do. Allowing these people to sleep on our property is, for us, a religious act."
First Congregational Church of Long Beach, United Church of Christ, is a community of seekers, covenanting to support and care for each other as we explore what it means to be people of faith. We embrace a liberal theology and we are deeply committed to social justice - working to bring about God's realm of peace, love and goodwill to our world.
Understanding of cause and effect is in short supply today, especially in politics. Right wingers, who are coming around to viewing the Iraq war as a disaster, blame liberals, especially bloggers, for the failure of what was solely GWBush's undertaking. We didn't cause it, we just predicted what would happen, but had no effect on the outcome.
And this is also true about the homeless problem, certainly here in California. And what many seem to have forgotten was how Ronald Reagan was in large part responsible for the current homeless situation in California:
Before Reagan, people sleeping in the street were so rare that, outside of skid rows, they were almost a curiosity. After eight years of Reaganomics - - and the slashes in low-income housing and social welfare programs that went along with it -- they were seemingly everywhere. And America had a new household term: "The homeless."
. . .the single most powerful thing Reagan did to create homelessness was to cut the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by three-quarters, from $32.2 billion in 1981 to $7.5 billion by 1988. The department was the main governmental supporter of subsidized housing for the poor and, combined with the administration's overhaul of tax codes to reduce incentives for private developers to create low-income homes, the nation took a hit to its stock of affordable housing from which it has yet to recover, they contend.
During the same period, the average family income of the poorest fifth of the American population dropped by 6.1 percent, and rose 11.1 percent for the top fifth, according to "Sleepwalking Through History," the best-selling assessment of the Reagan years by Haynes Johnson. The number of people living beneath the federal poverty line rose from 24.5 million in 1978 to 32.5 million in 1988.
And the number of homeless people went from something so little it wasn't even written about widely in the late 1970s to more than 2 million when Reagan left office.
"His HUD cuts were the main factor in creating homelessness, and we said that throughout the 1980s, but Reagan and his people never listened," said Stoops. "Reagan, very similar to Herbert Hoover, did not believe the federal government had a role in addressing poverty, so he resisted any legislation or programs that did that.
"Besides, how could he help the poor when he didn't even know who they were?"
Reagan promoted the dismantling of the public psychiatric hospital system, proposing that community-based housing and treatment replace involuntary hospitalization, which he saw as a violation of civil liberties issue. The community replacement facilities have never been adequately funded, either by Reagan or his successors.
Cause and effect. We're now dealing with the latter.
Rev. Jerald Stinson knows who the poor are. If you want to contact the church, to offer any support, here's the email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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