Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Model Homeless Ministry

Running a non-profit must be a hard business. It must specialize in the art of "friend-raising" and a heart of compassion. I ran across this WORLD magazine article on a Manhattan rescue mission and Ed Morgan, its leader. As someone who witnesses homelessness and disenfranchised people on a daily and more stark basis (say, than suburbia or rural America) and who has tried to get closer to them, I am intrigued by organizations who wear the name Christian and are able to keep the Gospel front and center while not tail-spinning into just mere do-gooder"ness".

Ed Morgan runs his organization like a business so that donors will be attracted to it not just pity it. "Most charities measure process--how many meals are served and how many beds they have, but we measure permanent results. We are outcome-focused."
As an example of that he lists 5 things necessary for the homeless in his mission to graduate from the Bowery Mission recovery program:
  1. Connected to Christ.
  2. Connected to family.
  3. Clean and sober.
  4. Employed with a place to live.
  5. Have a plan for the future.
It is this kind of commitment to people (note I didn't say poverty) that will avoid either the token, occasional drop of a few coins in a bucket or the relentless giving to the poor thus confirming or sinking them deeper in their poverty. I pray that all of us would grow in our understanding of the Gospel and its radical claim on our time and assets. Not that we are all called to run a homeless shelter, but we are commanded to do good to all men and women. God help us.

"You don't change lives through social services. That's called behavioral modification. Recovery from homelessness is an affair of the heart," Morgan says.

An explanation about the picture:
This is Larry Purnell. I knew him for over a year as we employed him at our office to do so some menial chores (like cleaning the sidewalk around the clinic). We eventually had to let Larry go because he was just not doing the job or even showing up. It was sad for me to see that happen. In this picture, Larry is about 51. I'm not even sure if he is alive today. One of interesting things I got to help Larry with was taking him to a center where people who get arrested get to reclaim their stuff. Larry had been stuck in the clink for a few days and needed to get his effects back. Larry had been in and out of jail and was dependent on his mother. Until she died just a few short years before. This is one of several men I have befriended. I wonder how Kenny, Willie and Mark are doing.

No comments: