No one would argue that homelessness is a problem, but can the problem be resolved? Jesus said, "the poor you will have with you always," so there is the theological argument the problem will never cease to exist completely. But how many of us in Oklahoma City are willing to take the leap of faith and meet that need?
According to research conducted by the Homeless Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in Oklahoma City, there were an average of 1,930 people who were homeless in Oklahoma City. This is not a significant number when contrasted with the number of cars on the Broadway Extension Monday mornings, yet the number has increased over the past three years and is most assuredly cause for alarm.
Sure, we've all seen the chronically transient, the men and women with their preprinted signs asking for donations because they may or may not be a disabled veteran, pregnant, out of gas, a victim of a hurricane or former Wall Street trader " but homelessness in Oklahoma City is still a reality and our approach should be nonpartisan and, dare I say it, is not a problem the government can (or should) solve.
The Trinity Foundation, based in Dallas, conducted a study on the issue of affordable housing and homelessness. The conclusion of that study, called the Dallas Project, found for every homeless person or family (excluding the chronically transient), there is in this nation a mosque, synagogue or church. Imagine for a moment what would happen if each one of those faith communities took in a homeless person here in Oklahoma City, provided transportation, a place to live, medical care, job training or assistance and food: Homelessness in Oklahoma City would be eliminated as we know it.
The government can't solve all our problems and neither was it ever designed to do so. There are certain aspects of the human existence that only faith communities are equipped to handle; homelessness is but one of them. Oklahoma City is home to some of the biggest, wealthiest and most active faith communities in the nation. If we could only get the pastorate to stop using the pulpit for political propaganda and start using the pulpit to call their congregants to meet need, we could be a beacon of hope for the rest of the state.
Of course, it's much more sexy to use the pulpit to talk about how bad George Bush is or how great John McCain is, right?
Homelessness is not a Republican or Democratic issue, but rather an invitation to truly accomplish something miraculous. When need is met, when we empty of ourselves and reach out to those who are in need, the mystery of the cross is revealed. Many say that we are a Christian nation and that Oklahoma City is one of the most conservative and religious communities in the nation.
Well, I say prove it.
Black is a consultant living in Edmond and founder of Wild Oklahoma TV & Radio.