The Church & Homelessness
Why is homelessness on the rise across America?
Without identifying the underlying cause of an issue, we cannot create any effective solutions and the problem continues to grow. This is the heart of the homelessness pandemic - most cities have yet to identify the root cause of homelessness in their communities. Believing that the issue of homelessness is a lack of housing, many attempt to solve the problem with apartments, houses, or material things. But this mindset only perpetuates the problem.
What then is the main cause of homelessness?
Thousands of stories have unveiled the true cause of homelessness as the breakdown
of a healthy, nuclear family. From this breakdown ensues a loss of relationships,
work, home, basic life skills, and an onslaught of mental illnesses laced with
drugs. They are desperate for a relationship which brings light to displace
the darkness of their catastrophic experiences. Most of us grew up with at least
baseline common-sense decision making within somewhat functional families. We
struggle to imagine ourselves being born into the chaos of family without a basic
framework of healthy relationships.
For over a decade, Shasta Thrive has gathered stories from the over 800 individuals in homelessness within Redding who wake up in tents or under tarps in scattered homeless camps. These stories quickly silence the degrading words of disgust against the homeless from those ignorant of their experiences.
See the footnote below for a brief introduction to the research on the breakdown on families, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their contribution to homelessness.
Why Shasta Thrive?
Many drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs also provide counseling and therapy resources to connect the recovering to the necessary clinical help. And many non-profit organizations and state-based programs provide critical and invaluable services to the homeless which we value and partner with as crucial to the lives of these homeless. But once these programs end, they often have no healthy community to solidify their growth. They face segregation rather than integration.
Shasta Thrive seeks to confront the relationship-based cause of homelessness by offering meaningful, healing relationships in partnership with a growing network among the over 60 churches within the Redding area.
As the old adage goes, “Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.” When a homeless individual graduates from a rehabilitation program but lacks healthy friendships to lean on once sober, the influence of a poor community will draw them back into homelessness and addiction.
What's the Missing Link?
“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.’”
The missing link in current "solutions" is the Church. The church exists to be the new friends, community, and home to the
homeless. If Jesus did not intend His followers to be the solution, then who is? These verses in
Matthew 25:31-46 both identify us as His answer as well as provide indicators that
validate our faith.
Where the Church creates community with their homeless neighbors, homelessness
decreases. As those called to pick up our cross and follow Him, our security and
comfort are not of more importance to Jesus than the homeless and in need.
Shasta Thrive in partnership with church home groups offers the homeless loving, committed communities where they are deeply valued and truly belong.
How is Shasta Thrive making this work?
We offer training for church volunteers and home-group members to keep both the homeless and the volunteers safe. Those befriending the complex homeless community need to be equipped, prepared, and in community themselves.
Together we build trust with and befriend the homeless in the camps and give them the promise of friendship.
We maintain friendship with these homeless friends through the six- to nine-month addiction rehabilitation journey.
We provide a safe place to learn healthy relationship and life skills to and teach them to build their own healthy communities during an 18 month transitional housing program.
These new friends co-discover their Future Story in life and work while finding purpose and a permanent home in the context of a caring community.
We journey with them upward, from isolation on the streets to community in a home:
Why join Shasta Thrive and its network of Churches?
Relationship-based solutions to homelessness work. In unity with each other, we want to rejoice with heaven when even one is restored. How do we make Jesus’ passion for the homeless our own? And how do we do it in a safe and truly impactful way?
We have tried and true ways to share in Jesus’ passion for the homeless and invite them safely into healing and wholeness.
This relationship-focused approach we are pioneering in Redding is growing. Stories like Alfred, David, Michael, and Ardis are offering other homeless friends hope and an example to follow them from brokenness and isolation to wholeness and new community. It’s time for change.
We invite you into partnership with us. We want to hear Jesus say, “Enter into My joy. I was homeless, and you invited me in,” (Matthew 25:35).
For more information or to get involved, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research has shown that increased Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), including exposure to, abuse, violence, and neglect in childhood, correlates significantly with increased homelessness. The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness performed a study which demonstrated that those who have experienced 0 ACEs had only a 1.3% risk of homelessness, while those that have experienced 5 ACEs at 17% risk, and those with 8 or more at a 33.3% chance of homelessness. ACEs further correlated to a significantly increased risk of substance abuse, clinical depression, and other mental health disorders - factors which feed and perpetuate homelessness. Children who are raised in homelessness are exposed to exponentially higher numbers of ACEs, therefore exponentially increasing their risk to stay homeless and perpetuating the cycle. (To read more about the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness’ study, see here. Visit the National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s study here).
"A significant take away for me was being able to hear so many stories from people and also how they're planning and moving forward with their lives. I liked being able to connect with people and do something practical to help this community."