Homeless Camps Ordinance Reconsidered by Assembly: Faith Community Largely Absent

Last night the Anchorage Assembly received testimony on it’s recently passed ordinance concerning clearing out homeless camps, and possible amendments to address a contentious 5-day notice provision to a fairer 10-day timeframe. (Click here for relevant Assembly Documents)

It was sad to observe so few from the faith community were in attendance. Only three individuals provided testimony regarding this ordinance last night: the ACLU, Rev. Michael Burke, Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and a community member. Less than ten faith community representatives were present in the audience.

Rev. Burke provided an effective statement as to why the timeframe needs to be extended. He suggested that the additional time would provide intervention time for social services and faith community HEART teams to make meaningful contact with camp people to assist them with transition. Based on this testimony, the Assembly agreed to postpone action on these amendments until June 8.

According to scripture, helping the homeless is not an option. As faith community members the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, provides many admonitions and warnings as to our responsibilities with regard to our duty to the homeless. This issue can be addressed if the faith community links arms and pursues meaningful solutions.

“If any of your Israelite relatives fall into poverty and cannot support themselves, support them as you would a resident foreigner and allow them to live with you. Do not demand an advance or charge interest on the money you lend them. Instead, show your fear of God by letting them live with you as your relatives” (Leviticus 25:35-36 ).

“No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind” (Isaiah 58:6-8).

“Then the King will say to those on the right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:34-40)

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