Smile Politely

Open Challenge to Churches in C-U

There are only a handful of places in Champaign-Urbana that house the homeless. There’s the Times Center on East Washington Street, the Salvation Army’s Stepping Stone shelter on North Market, the Women’s Emergency Shelter on East Church, St. Jude’s Catholic Worker House on South Randolph, and during the colder months (mid-October through mid-April) there’s the Men’s Winter Emergency Shelter at McKinley Church and Foundation on South Fifth Street.

There are a couple other places that provide shelter for women who are victims of domestic abuse and runaway teenagers, but for the most part, the above facilities are the only places that house the homeless in our community.

It is also good to see that some of these facilities are actually run by churches. If you’ve ever been to the Salvation Army church on North Prospect, you’d find a pretty small congregation there. The few times that I’ve visited, there have been less than fifty people. Yet, this tiny little church is mighty in works. It runs the Stepping Stone shelter, social services, food pantry, and maintains a thrift store that supports all of these ministries.

Then there are some huge churches in our community that do nothing for the homeless. Oh, they have plenty of money to build fancy new churches with big auditoriums, stage lights and sound boards. They have money to pay their pastors well enough to afford half-million dollar houses. They can afford to take their youth groups to play paintball and have huge pizza parties.

But they can’t seem to find any money for another homeless shelter.

That’s sad. Or maybe corrupt. Or maybe just hypocritical. But it’s the homeless who suffer. In spite of the few facilities we have, there are more homeless than they can house.

So I’d like to throw down the glove to some of you “big” churches. I challenge you to open three new homeless shelters over the next year or two that can house a combined total of one hundred people.

Prove to our community that you’re not just big in membership and resources, but big in heart too.

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