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Long-Form Draft of Transformational Housing Plan

The following is a long-form draft of our transformational housing program. It is a working draft!!


“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5.5
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with action and truth.” 1 John 3.17-18.

Goal: Discipleship

Create a small-scale campus for willing individuals who want a mid- to long-term housing solution with the goal of providing a stable “foundation” from which an individual can move forward in body, mind, and spirit.


Rationale

Small Scale

There are pros and cons to creating large-scale housing solutions for homeless and at-risk populations. Nevertheless, numerous studies have shown that individuals living in areas of “concentrated poverty” experience higher crime rates, poorer physical and mental health, lower educational achievement, and much higher levels of financial insecurity.[1] This partially indicates that creating large-scale communities of this kind will have “built-in” shortcomings. It is also unfortunately the case that individuals seeking to make significant changes in their lives (e.g. living drug free, achieving financial responsibility) need to have space away from communities that are characterized by certain problems.


In order to avoid or mitigate these problems we are focusing on housing small numbers of at-risk individuals


The smaller scale has added benefits:

First, it allows us to relationally invest in the same person over time. This shifts the focus away from merely transactional, physical interactions (e.g. ‘blankets’ are needed, therefore ‘blankets’ are provided). These types of interactions are part of a lasting solution but they are not the lasting solution. The primary focus is always the fostering of healthy relationships.


Second, we work with individuals rather than taking on an overwhelming issue. The goal is help each individual, as an individual, rather “solve” a major societal problem (e.g. “homelessness”).


Third, at the right scale, individuals can be welcomed in a functional, healthy, caring community. Our community can be the network that is a source of life-changing opportunities. We want to take seriously the truth that God is at work in the world through His covenant community.


Mid- to Long-Term

There is a gulf in services between aid-based emergency/crisis services focused on specific issues (food banks, drop-in centers, shelters, rehab, etc.) and sustainable human flourishing.

Many people, especially the chronically homeless, are stuck on the crisis side of this gap. In order to move forward they need options. This mid- to long-term option aims to bridge the gap between the crisis and lasting health.


Moving Forward

We do not want to make the ongoing experience of homelessness easier; we want to make it easier to stop being homeless. Program participants will develop a road map forward in context of a healthy community. This map will lay out achievable, practical, healthy goals for all areas of life.


To this end, healthy spirituality is essential. Jesus teaches us that even in abundance a person’s life does not consist of the things that they possess (Luke 12.15). Rather, the abundant life can only be experienced by those that have embarked on the Narrow Way of discipleship (John 10.10). We do not believe that a healthy “spiritual” life is an appendage that can be added onto an otherwise healthy life, nor can it be the means to that end. Also, we affirm the full humanity of each individual: this must include the fact that they are moral and spiritual creatures. Our choices may not be the only, or even primary, reason we experience hardship, but our moral choices have a profound impact on how we deal with hardship and how we move on. In other words, we take responsibility seriously.


We take seriously the path of discipleship laid out in 2 Peter 1.5-7:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

This path describes a lifetime of growth that develops far beyond the a “mere believe-ism” that may permeate some ideas of Christianity. Each stage is important, but for our purposes here we can emphasize “moral excellence” as the next step that builds upon the foundation of “faith.” “Moral excellence” translates “arete,” also be rendered “virtue,” and is the core term of ancient virtue theory within which the cultivation of the virtues is, by definition, the flourishing, or excellent, human life. Truly biblical salvation, as Peter describes it, must carry us higher than mere belief, because the depravity from which we are saved is so severe. We believe that the fundamental problem faced by the homeless and at-risk is that common to man: vice and sin – viciousness has pervaded our lives. This problem is not ultimately the lack of material goods (though see below) but rather the failure to foster a life of virtue – courage, temperance, fortitude, and prudence, as well as Christian faith, hope, and love. The pursuit of this life of virtue is therefore not just an appendage to “helping the homeless” it is the cure.


Recognizing this, we also recognize that our love for our each other must be expressed in material care, rather than mere words. This care is not adjacent or independent of spiritual, emotional, and physical transformation, transformation of both ourselves and the ones we seek to help.


Program Strategy

The driving strategy relies on people working within healthy, lasting, positive relationships. To that end, individuals must from the outset understand that they are the primary agent in reaching their goal. All other services must be nested inside that understanding. These conditions are designed and maintained to move willing individuals towards permanent, stable, living. All services are geared towards achieved this goal. The program will not provide long-term, indiscriminate, unconditional accommodation. Other things can be added in, but these are the bare-minimum requirements:


1. Screening and case-management resources from first-contact

2. Financial accountability

3. Standards of living

4. Community support

5. Prioritizing reconciliation: to God, to ourselves, to others, and to His creation


1. Intake Interview and Case-Management

From the outset, prospects must be willing to undergo an intake interview to determine their exact situation and why our community will be beneficial to them.


Accepted participants will partner with us in making a long-term plan. This means working with a case manager to create a realistic, manageable, concrete set of goals. These goals are all geared towards long-term stability, and will be tailor-made for the individual. Once established, this plan is the condition on which continued participation is based. If such individuals later fail to follow through, they need to be aware that housing cannot be provided indefinitely. Services are not being provided unconditionally in this sense. In the case of repeated failure, alternatives should be explored (i.e. rehab, other transitional programs, etc.)


Every personal plan must have three components: spiritual (discipleship, healing, personal growth, education); physical (long-term housing, material stability, health); economic (job training, financial management).


2. Financial Accountability

Financial responsibility and accountability is essential to long-term stability. It is therefore not optional. Every participant needs to be the active agent of bringing about change in their situation and this requires hard work. When services come with a cost the individual must decide what they really value. There are few permanent housing solutions available that do not cost significant money. To this end, program participants will be charged a regular program fee, determined on an individual basis. Those who are able to work will be expected to find suitable employment, as determined in partnership with a case-manager.

As much as we might want to help a person “for free” (a false notion!) such aid does not help them move forward if it does not take seriously God’s good design for fruitful flourishing; there is great joy to be had in providing for oneself and having enough to be generous towards others. Work and self-provision by those capable are a fundamental aspect of lasting health.


Additionally, by charging fees we will help participants to creating a type of “savings account.” A participant’s current financial situation will be determined through the initial interview and, if possible, proven with documentation. Participants will pay an agreed-upon rate per week/month. If someone cannot pay initially then an immediate plan needs to be developed to make payment possible.


Participants are also required to budget and obtain their own food and clothing. This can be supplemented by donations and outside benefits (e.g. EBT, other charities, etc.), but the goal is to move towards self-provision and generosity (cf. Eph. 4).


3. Standards of Living

We cannot live together for long without standards. All communities, from homeless camps to suburban neighborhoods, have them. Rules are necessary to create a baseline set of expectations and boundaries within which people can experience health and peace. A lack of healthy standards of living is in large part why impoverished living situations become unbearable.


Housing space is set up primarily for overnight stay (e.g. 6pm-8am). It is not primarily a place to spend the majority of one’s time, in lieu of working, volunteering, learning, etc. We will provide the necessary physical resources for an individual to get a good night’s sleep, and to be able to begin and end each day in peace. Our project is not necessarily a permanent housing solution, but it is designed to facilitate establishing one. The provision of this housing is not an end in itself, but rather is designed to provide the physical space within which an individual can achieve their goals. Housing at the early stages of a person’s journey is essential to meeting and maintaining healthy goals. Nevertheless, it is not mere “housing” (i.e. the proximity of a body to physical shelter) that is necessary, but rather housing in the context of a healthy community.


Each participant must agree to an extended covenant with this community also includes an understanding that 1. All criminal laws are obeyed. 2. No behavior which detracts from the overall purpose of the community will be tolerated. 3. Basic Christian morality will be observed on site (i.e. no racism, illicit sex, disrespectful speech, etc.).


4. Community Support

The primary agent of change for each participant is the participant, and we need to avoid creating unnecessary dependencies. That being said, is it impossible to be healthy and successful alone. We need each other in many, many ways.

Each participant will need to have at minimum a primary caseworker and a counselor. The caseworker focuses on the practical details and goals of moving forward. The counselor will provide counseling and therapy as needed.

It is our explicit goal that each participant become a full member of the life and community of our program during their time with us. Other members need to understand the risks of this ministry but not allow those risks to blockade possible friendships.


5. Reconciliation

Every human being, regardless of economic circumstances, needs reconciliation.

We need to be reconciled to God – the one against whom we have rebelled, and whose good world we have corrupted.


We need to be reconciled to ourselves – the one whose bad decisions in the past have contributed our present hardships.


We need to be reconciled to others – those who have hurt us and those we have hurt.


We need to be reconciled to God’s creation – the spaces where we have had unhealthy relationships to material things.


Without this reconciliation the most fundamental healing cannot take place. We must take our own brokenness seriously. As Steve Corbett and Brian Finkkert write,

At its core, poverty alleviation is the process of broken people in a broken world being restored to the hope and dignity God intends for human beings as His image-bearers. And the people who are broken – the people who need restoration – are both the low-income people and those who are seeking to help. Both parties are broken, and both need to be transformed.[2]

This perspective is one of the surest guards against pride. We are not helping from a position of a self-acquired excess that can be doled out to the “lesser-thans.” We are helping out of the excess of God’s grace which we too must receive as well.

Therefore, program participants must be willing to pursue reconciliation in each of the above areas.


Physical Property

It is necessary to describe the general specifications and layout of the proposed site in order to begin looking for a suitable location. Nevertheless, this proposed plan must be modified to fit existing availabilities. An ideal site would be one available at minimal cost with maximal existing infrastructure (buildings, utilities access, etc.) and in proximity to other necessary resources (bus stops, grocery stores, etc.). At this time, the program will be piloted at the 620, adjacent to the Rescue Shop


Ideally, the site is designed to give people sufficient personal space as well as make communal interactions essential.

The physical location should space for the following:


1-2 single occupancy “units.” (These may be tiny houses, rooms, trailers, etc.) These will serve as the primary dwelling space for participants. These units could be approximately 150sqft, the standard size of a 20ft shipping container. This space should include sleeping and living accommodations, but not plumbing or kitchen amenities. It should also be sufficiently powered to allow for lightening, outlets, and air conditioning.


Central “hub” structure(s), containing toilet, bath, laundry and kitchen amenities for all residents.


Common areas for gardening, outdoor eating, fire pit, etc.


Suitable parking for site. These could also include sufficient parking space for individuals who are living in vehicles who need a safe, healthy place to park overnight. These individuals would also be able to make use of shared amenities as appropriate.

[1] Cf. https://www.brookings.edu/research/u-s-concentrated-poverty-in-the-wake-of-the-great-recession/ for a links to relevant studies [2] Corbett and Fikkert, Helping without Hurting in Church Benevolence. pg. 9.

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