June 28 - July 4, 2004
Nowhere to hang their hat
A continuing wave of homeless continues to wash into the nation’s streets and shelters, with no end in site. Shelter workers report that increasingly the clients tend to be families with kids, with one or both of the parents working.
The problem? Their wages can’t afford to buy adequate housing.
Experts cite many reasons for this – low-interest mortgages are fueling a buying frenzy that’s rocketing prices, the resurgence of cities is gentrifying many neighborhoods – but they all point to a larger and harsher reality: Incomes for the poorest working citizens have not kept pace with costs.
As stewards of God’s world and servants of God’s people, Christians are concerned whenever the least among us is hungry, naked or homeless. When these people are also employed in the richest society the world and history has ever known, we have to question what’s out of whack and how to fix it.
The articles in this week’s Gleanings focus on homelessness and income disparity. The facts are illuminating. While home prices are skyrocketing, especially on the coasts, incomes for working people have remained level – at best. One report notes that from 1983-2001, financial wealth for the richest 1 percent grew by 109 percent, while the wealth for the bottom 40 percent dropped by 46 percent.
An article in The New York Times puts the issue in a housing context, noting that while housing costs in New York City have tripled since 1979, real pay for the bottom 10 percent of workers increased by only 1 percent.
It’s income disparity that drives the cost of housing through the roof, reports The San Diego Union Tribune. Soaring housing costs at the top cause a “cascade effect” through the real estate market. Families of all income groups are squeezed into smaller but more costly and marginal housing. So a middle-class family that might have bought in the suburbs 15 years ago now looks to a blighted urban neighborhood, increasing the costs of housing that had in the past been for lower-income families. It goes down the income chain, with the lowest income groups squeezed out entirely.
Christians, and especially American Christians, correctly value hard work and self-sufficiency. But when market forces erode the value of hard work and jeopardize self-sufficiency, we should question why. We work hard in our congregations to support the poor through food banks, Habitat for Humanity, mentoring and training programs, etc., but we can also ask our government officials to craft public policies that can help assure living wages, fair and available health insurance and good schooling for all.
And this election year presents a good opportunity for asking tough questions. After all, every member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a third of the U.S. Senate and the Chief Executive is up for re-election.
--Rob Blezard, Webmaster and editor
New This Week: June 28 - July 4
Really Give What Is Not Ours
"Our goal as steward leaders is to help people understand that it really is easy to give back what is not ours in the first place. We give back what we have been given. We are failing at our job if we let money sit in all our pockets so long that we start thinking it is ours and we have other plans for it. That is when it gets hard to ask people to give." In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.
"To be free of stuff, and the desire for more stuff, has a certain appeal. Do you agree? Even to be released from the chains of keeping up with society, its fads, and its styles would be a great gift. If we could become "completely non-materialistic," what would that mean? Would we live happier lives? Would we be stress free? Would we become more effective in our work? Would our sense of values improve? Could it simplify and improve our lifestyle?" By Glenn Holmquist, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
Five wonderful sermons on a varity of stewardship issues are available for free from the The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. The sermons are just part of a package of stewardship resources the Canadian church is making available for free on the web. All are in PDF (Portable Document Format) that requires Adobe Acrobat reader. Click here to get a free Acrobat Reader.
Because God Is Generous
"The foundation of all giving is love and goodness. One special emphasis of the New Testament concept of agape love is that it is not primarily self-fulfilling, but is oriented toward giving oneself for the good of others." MOODYMagazine.com.