Despite the best efforts of communities and churches in our country, more than 636,000 people are homeless on any night in America.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is currently engaged in two efforts to address homelessness.
For years the PC(USA) has designated the first Sunday in August ― Aug. 5 this year ― as Homeless and Affordable Housing Sunday to highlight homelessness and the need and opportunity to create more affordable housing.
The Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness (PNTEH) ― a national organization of Presbyterians focusing on how they can alleviate homelessness ― has created a handbook to aid congregations in observing Homelessness and Affordable Housing Sunday and to stimulate ideas leading to action to aid the homeless and encourage communities to create more housing.
The handbook includes many best practices across the country and organizations dedicated to these issues along with contact information for them. The handbook is available on both the PNTEH and Presbyterian Hunger Program Web sites.
In 2010 the PNTEH surveyed 1,958 Presbyterian congregations about how they addressed homelessness. The survey found that both PC(USA) presbyteries and congregations are heavily engaged in ecumenical and/or interfaith efforts to address homelessness within their region ― including grants to local partners.
At least 75% of responding presbyteries and congregations have “seen an increase in homelessness in the past year” within their region. While presbytery response to the PNTEH survey was limited, more than 25 percent of congregations responding. In addition, the responses included many “excited” comments.
The 2008 General Assembly approved a resolution produced by a committee of homeless leaders across the county in partnership with PNTEH, “From Homelessness to Hope: Constructing Just, Sustainable Communities for all God's People.”
General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons wrote about the resolution: “Holistic responses are in the resolution, along with practical guidance, examples and many resources for caring and effective action.”
The report is available from the Presbyterian Marketplace (PDS#02-052-09-002 ).
Ruth Farrell, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and the Rev. Trey Hammond, the PC(USA)’s consultant on congregational-based community organizing, wrote in their letter which accompanies the handbook, “Thousands of prayers, liturgies, sermons and activities will happen on August 5, 2012. As we face an election year in which creative solutions to issues like homelessness seem to be forgotten, let us claim boldly that God does not forget even one person. God sees, God hears and God calls each of us to open our hearts and homes to one another.”
For more information about PNTEH or homeless and affordable Housing Sunday, contact Pat Plant by phone at 408-279-0220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.