#SeaHomeless | A Day of Focused Coverage

How much do we know about homelessness? Why do we see more people experiencing homelessness when it seems like we’re doing more now than ever to address the crisis? What are others in our neighborhoods, cities, Washington State and along the West Coast doing to move people into safe, affordable housing? Where can we find hope?

Local media will try to find answers to these questions – and more – through a day of focused reporting on the topic of homelessness. 

The idea for June 29th focused day of coverage was sparked in San Francisco where more than 70 news outlets signed on do an “all out blitz” on the topic of homelessness. The idea was quickly adopted by other regions, including some in the Pacific Northwest. Locally, at least 17 news outlets* have joined Crosscut’s Homeless in Seattle  project.

The hashtag #SEAHomeless will connect all the stories, offering us a way to see the wide range of viewpoints, approaches and solutions that come out of today’s coverage. 

All the effort won’t matter unless we begin tomorrow with new energies, ideas and commitments to make homelessness rare, brief and a one-time occurrence. To help move us towards solutions, we are supporting today’s coverage with a series of three #SEAHomeless To Do   lists to convert today’s coverage into action.

Join us! We will be posting a morning, noon and afternoon #SEAHomeless To Do lists along with links to some of the great coverage we’re finding throughout the day on  Facebook  and Twitter  @lisagustaveson  and @hhunthausen.

Copy of #SEAHomeless.png

*Participating news outlets include: 

Crosscut

KCTS9.org

The Seattle Times

KING 5

Q13FOX

International Examiner

YES! Magazine

Real Change

KUOW

Seattle Weekly

Geekwire

Seattlish

PubliCola at Seattle Met

ParentMap

South Seattle Emerald

Seattle Channel

Seattle Globalist

State of Reform

The C is for Crank

Outside City Hall

Animal News Northwest

Seattle’s Child

Action Advocacy Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness

Making Change through Community: An Organizer’s Story

Our guest blogger Julia Moen, an organizer for The Sound Alliance, is working to inform the community about King County’s Proposition 1 or “Best Starts for Kids”  which aims to improve the health and well-being of children, youth, families, and communities in King County by investing in prevention and early intervention.

Julia shares how her personal experience of supportive communities led her to become a community organizer and speaks to the importance of building relational trust and uniting across our various institutional and social divisions to call out for change. 

Contact Julia with any questions about Best Starts for Kids:

Julia Moen
Organizer, Sound Alliance
julia@soundorganizing.org
940-595-1931


Making Change through Community

 By Julia Moen

Throughout my life the communities I have been a part of offered me support, challenged me to grow, and shaped my identity.

17585334183_74a145c884_oWhen I was about nine years old, my mom got really sick and no one could figure out what was wrong. It turned out that something inside her ear was upsetting her balance. She ended up hospitalized for almost a month and spent about six months after recovering with a walker. Two of my aunts flew to Texas to support us, but because we lived far away from extended family, it was our church community that offered the most day-to-day support. During the months of my mom’s recovery, the small group of women from my mom’s spirituality group provided my family material support, bringing food and carting me around to school and various activities.

As I grew up, our church community also offered me the safe space I needed to grow and question. For most of my childhood I attended my mom’s Wednesday night spirituality group, often bringing toys and books and playing quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) in the corner. At the same time I was empowered to think deeply about my own faith identity, to ask questions, and to make my own decisions about what living out my Catholic faith would mean.

During high school, I became even more involved in my church and began participating in a yearly retreat that created a tight-knit group of teens. High school was a vulnerable time for many of us and we supported one another through mundane drama and teenage angst as well as heavy personal experiences and challenges. Some of my best friends and deepest relationships came from this group.

These are just some of the communities I have been blessed to have been a part of. Other communities in my life have also supported me emotionally and materially and allowed me to be in communion with people who knew to hold and encourage me when I needed. My communities have challenged to be my best self.

Having a deep respect for community building, and having learned what people can accomplish when they work together drove me to my current work as an organizer with the Sound Alliance. The Sound Alliance serves as a vehicle for 30 faith, labor, education, and community organizations to act together in the public arena for the Common Good. Through this work, I have reflected on the relationships and trust I experienced in various communities in my life and have seen how that “relational trust” can be cultivated across diverse institutions. It is rewarding to build relationships and a sense of community on a broad level where we are also building power to take action. I have learned that when people come together, bringing their own unique experiences and institutional values and sharing with one another, every-day people can create meaningful change.

The Alliance is non-partisan and multi-issue and the issues we take on come from the stories, experiences, and concerns of our members. As an Alliance, we work on issues that cut across our institutions. When we did a listening campaign in January—holding conversations after church, in cottage meetings held in peoples’ homes, union halls, and classrooms—we heard issues around mental health, homelessness, barriers to kids’ ability to learn and reach their full potential in classrooms, and access to health care.

When we are isolated in our own communities, and especially when isolated outside of community, it can be difficult to imagine changing these immense problems. As an Alliance, our leaders come together to research and take action in concrete and winnable ways. Together we have immense power, and together we can encourage one another to have hope.

Our listening and research led to our current work around Best Starts for Kids. University students, faith leaders, school teachers, and union members are teaming up to have conversations in churches, schools, and unions about the powerful impact we believe this levy can have. It has been inspiring to hear so many peoples’ stories about how they have been touched by the challenges that this levy will put money toward preventing and alleviating, such as household mental illness and substance abuse, chronic disease, incarceration and homelessness.

Our members come together in their own communities—churches, unions, community organizations—and then build community across these institutions. By building this power, member institutions can work to change the issues they care deeply about.  

If you are interested in learning more about the Sound Alliance, or in hosting a briefing about Best Starts for Kids, contact me!

Photo/Art Credit (Blog Header): Mia Smith

Action Advocacy Faith and Family Homelessness Faith-based Advocacy

Holding the Paradox: The Band-Aid and the Long Haul

Margeby Margie Quinn

Margie is a native of Nashville, Tennessee and  graduate of the University of Georgia. After graduating with a Women’s Studies/French degree, Margie moved to Seattle to begin a one-year “Justice Leadership Program” through the United Church of Christ (UCC) church.

Margie made many happy when she decided to stay with us in the Pacific Northwest after completing her program. She is now the Program Manager for Facing Homelessness, a national effort to build a new awareness about our relationship with homelessness. She also manages Homeless in Seattle, a local effort to raise awareness for those living without shelter and other basic needs through the sharing of photos and personal stories that highlight their beauty.

This is Margie’s second post for our blog. Her first, The Power of Interruption: A Call for Advocacy  remains one of the most popular posts on our site.


1140x400px-6-26-15-Facing-Homelessness-(Margie)-blog-header-v3

We are a verb-heavy generation. Helping, doing, serving, saving. “We are not human beings, we are human doings!” we shout, determined to accomplish it all. So naturally when I took a job at Facing Homelessness in the fall, I prepared for an active role, one that would allow me to help people in need every day and see them benefit from our work.

Our organization began from a Facebook project, Homeless in Seattle. While we have reached outside of this community to do other projects, we still use our Facebook page as our main awareness-raising and people-helping machine.

Here is how our Facebook page works. Every week, we post photographs and stories of people in need with the intention of showing the beauty of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle. We then invite our community of over 17,000 people to help these individuals by providing them with a tent, a pair of boots, or even a month’s rent to get them through a rough spot.

It is a rewarding feeling to post about someone in need and, within two hours, see that need filled by a number of caring people. The phrases that ring through my head are, “Instant gratification!” “Wow, that was fast!” “We did it! One down, 3,771 to go!” While I want to honor how quickly our community comes forward with compassion, I have to admit that my “fix-it” mentality is a slippery slope.

It’s tricky, this fix-it game. I can become so overjoyed when we help someone that I close the book on their story, assuming that they are now on an upward trajectory toward healing and hope. I know, I know. Total Millennial. But it takes a lot to fight against that part of me that longs for the happy ending, every time.

I met a man in the fall who changed the way I see homelessness. Let’s call him Jim. Jim would come to our office almost every day and help me sort donations or hand out socks to people on the street. Despite being homeless himself, Jim was diligent about doing street outreach with us in his spare time. We made a post about Jim a few months into knowing him, just announcing what a beautiful person he is. He’s a got a big heart.

A few months ago, Jim called our office and told us that he had gotten into housing. He would be moving from his shelter that weekend and couldn’t wait. He was elated and so were we.

I can’t explain the joy I felt the day Jim got housing. Enthusiasm, relief, victory. Jim had become a close friend of ours and his success felt personal in a new way for me.

What I couldn’t have known at the time is that Jim’s mental illness and psychological issues would not go away as soon as he got housing. In fact, as Jim transitioned into a single room in a big building, I started to hear from him less and less. He would send emails sporadically, saying that he was going out of town for a few weeks or that he couldn’t come by the office. Clearly, Jim was going through something and I couldn’t help him.

Here is what I am trying to say: I want the happy ending. I want to know that Jim gets better and stays better. I want to know that Jim is a happier man now. And so do many of our Facebook friends. When people drop off donations in our office, they ask about many of the people with whom we post. “How is she doing? Did she make it to that recovery appointment?” “How is he doing? Is he back on his feet yet?” I love it when my answer is a positive one, and it often is. But in the times when I have to say, “I don’t know, we haven’t seen him in a while,” or “He is back on the street,” I feel heartbreak.

Craig-3xWe talk about local minister Craig Rennebohm (pictured left) a lot in our office. Craig did street ministry in Seattle for a number of years and introduced a new way of helping people, in which you recognize that you yourself need help, too. He calls it Companioning. (read our 2012 post about Craig’s work here and  learn more about the Mental Health Chaplaincy here.

Companioning is not fixing. It is walking with someone through their suffering. Companioning is not telling someone what to do. It’s listening deeply to their wants and needs.

Companioning is not giving someone a dollar and wishing them luck. It’s showing up in someone’s life, time and time again, to bear witness to their existence and humanity.

This is the paradox, isn’t it? It’s finding how to celebrate the small victories and the acts of kindness pouring forth without forgetting the slow work of God. Because sometimes, God’s work is slow. Real slow.

Lately I’m trying to hold the paradox: The beautiful, quick fixes that our community provides for people in need with the slower, deeper process of walking with someone experiencing homelessness. There is no right or wrong here. Both the Band-Aid and the friendship are necessary in changing someone. But more importantly, both are necessary in changing ourselves.

♥ To join the Homeless in Seattle community visit their Facebook page.

♥ Want to start a movement in your community? Learn more at Facing Homelessness.

Action Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness Seattle U Social Justice

A Student Perspective: Homeless are Setting up Camp in Seattle

Seattle University sits in the center of the fifth fastest growing city in the country. We are also third in the nation for the number of people experiencing homelessness. Sadly, this gives our students plenty of opportunities to explore the crisis. Recently, we accompanied one student on a tour of Nickelsville to learn how encampments work, and if they are a solution.

(Originally posted in Seattle University’s student paper – The Spectator

By Lena Beck

Down on South Dearborn Street, a sign and pink picket fence marks the entrance into one of Seattle’s overlooked communities. Nickelsville is an encampment of tents and individual shelters packed onto a steep hill, a transitory home to homeless people and families in the area.

Last week, Seattle City Council, backed by Mayor Ed Murray, voted unanimously to allow three new tent encampments across Seattle. Each encampment is predicted to hold up to 100 people.



“The legislation passed unanimously,” wrote Councilmember Sally Clark in an email to the Spectator. “There was debate about studying potential locations in single family zones, but otherwise, all 9 members supported passage of the bill.”

City Council also passed two more measures which will allocate a total of $375,000 toward the improvement of certain resources for the homeless community. The funds should last a year.

According to Lisa Gustaveson, Program Manager of Seattle University’s Faith & Family Homelessness Project, it’s significant that the Seattle government is making these moves, because it shows acknowledgment of a problem that Seattle has been struggling to solve. But she is clear that installing new tent encampments is not a permanent solution.

The One Night Count this year found 3,772 people sleeping outside or in their cars—providing shelter for 300 of those people at any one time is not going to solve the problem, Gustaveson said.

Gustaveson added that these encampments should be considered a temporary solution—a transitory place where people can get the resources they need to move into real housing.

In other words, this should not be an attempt to solve Seattle’s homelessness problem by pushing the entire homeless population into one corner of the city.

“Warehousing people isn’t the way to solve homelessness; it’s affordable housing and services,” said Gustaveson.

“And so [tent encampments] can’t be a stand-alone solution.”

Right inside the pink picket fence of Nickelsville is a booth with an attendant. Once you sign in, you can walk between the wooden shelters and through to the outdoor cooking area. Those who ascend the steep hill can climb up to the top where the tent residents live.

One of Nickelsville’s longer-time residents is a man named Lee, who has been living there since July of last year. He said he was pleased with City Council’s decision to add more tent cities.

“I think it’s great because this place…it saves lives,” Lee said. “A lot of people that were on the street or don’t know how to handle themselves out there, a lot of them die.”

Lee has been saving money from his job at an IHOP in Aurora. He recently thought he was going to move into real housing but after filling out all of the paperwork, he was told that he didn’t actually qualify for the housing option because he made too much money. So he remains in Nickelsville.

A variety of people make up his neighbors, and they stay there for varying lengths of time.

“We have a couple of families; I live across the way from one,” Lee said. “Some people stay for a week or two, some people a month or two. Some people never leave.”

What he would like to see from future tent encampments is a multiplicity of available resources and improvements that will help to make these tent encampments the transitory spaces that they should be.

The next step, Gustaveson said, will be figuring out the budget.

“There’s no extra money laying around,” Gustaveson said. “Part of what they’re trying to do is divert some funds to help this, but that could possibly hurt somebody on the other end.”

According to Gustaveson, although this is not a permanent solution, it’s a big step forward. She said that it was public will that made this happen, and that people should continue to let their voices and desires be heard by Seattle’s government.

And it’s true that City Council and Mayor Murray are moving in a different direction than their predecessors. “Nickelsville” is not named in honor of pocket change, but rather it is a grim mockery of Seattle’s former Mayor, Greg Nickels, and reflects disdain of the ways he addressed the issue of homelessness.

Lena can be reached at lbeck@su-spectator.com

Lena Beck

Lena Beck is a freshman Humanities for Leadership major. She does best with ample access to coffee, and enjoys people-watching from the top of parking garages.

Action Encampments Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness Homelessness

Domestic Violence, Homelessness and the Church

By Lani Kallstrom, founder of Christian Coalition for Safe Families

Christian Coalition for Safe Families (CCSF) formed in early 2011, bringing together advocates, therapists, professionals in the criminal justice system, survivors of violence, pastors, and interested parties who are committed to the goal of raising awareness about Domestic Abuse in the Body of Christ.

In her post below, Lani reminds us, as people of faith, we are often the first responders to the crisis of domestic violence. She gives us concrete steps we should take to be ready to serve when violence strikes a family in our congregation.

The faith community – that is, the church – can do a great deal to help families avoid the all-too-common consequences of domestic violence: destruction of the family unit, housing instability and homelessness.

For families in domestic violence crisis, the faith community needs to be a place of safety, understanding, support, guidance, and resources that will help heal the problem, and certainly not add condemnation, judgment or poor advice to an already devastating situation.

To adequately respond to the needs of their congregation, faith community members and leaders should question and reflect on how they deal with domestic violence situations, asking questions of their community such as:

  • When a family in crisis brings their brokenness into the church leader’s office asking for help, is the church leader prepared to respond appropriately?
  • Is the church leader afraid to deal with the messiness of relationships?
  • Does the church leader have knowledge of community resources for the many needs that may present (shelter, food, clothing, bills, healthcare, counseling, DV advocates, support groups)?
  • Does the church leader understand the wisdom that when a couple is suspected to be in a domestic abuse situation, that church leader should never counsel the adults together?
  • Is the leader confident and wise enough to encourage separation, if necessary, to allow for safety and a period of healing?

Or does the church leader pull out the partial scripture “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16) or “Wives, submit to your husbands” (Ephesians 5:22) and send the couple home with an admonishment to work harder on their marriage?  (Can you imagine how damaging it is to be sent home feeling like you are the problem, guessing that there must be a secret formula that will end the abuse, without having been given any insight or clarity about what is actually going on?)

And the children don’t miss a beat. 

They see it all; they hear it all. Even if the children aren’t home or are “asleep,” they know.  So they often become disillusioned by the church that won’t help, the church that didn’t help.  Or they may wonder, who is this God who is supposed to be their “father in heaven”?  Do all fathers act like their earthly father – even their heavenly father?  And why would God allow the abuse to continue? Why would their pastor allow it to continue?

So, how can the church help to strengthen the family? Church leaders and all members of the congregation need to take some important steps:

1)     As a church staff, learn about domestic abuse – what it is, in all its nuances, and what it is not. Visit http://ccsfhope.org/resources/ to find out more.

2)      Learn what resources are available in your community; keep a list of resources on hand. Download the King County Domestic Violence Handbook, “Why does she stay?,” “Symptoms of Abuse,” “Responding to Domestic Violence,” and other resources at http://ccsfhope.org/resources/. Visit the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website at http://wscadv2.org/ to find resources as a survivor, advocate or someone currently in crisis.

I will commit to using my voice to advocate (hand from NCSO)

3)    Take a stand against domestic abuse and advocate! Talk to your neighbors, friends and family, members of your faith community, and use social media and take part in awareness campaigns to advocate. The Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website is a great place to get ideas and start supporting survivors and those experiencing abuse right now.

4)    Address the issue of domestic abuse with confidence and authority from the pulpit. The church pulpit is often the place where society’s struggles are addressed, and most churches talk about God, His values, His character, and His desires for His people.  God absolutely does not want & never condones abuse in families. However, very few sermons directly address the issue of domestic violence. And when family relationships start to deteriorate, many churches don’t know what to say or do to help the families.

When a church leader addresses DV from the pulpit, several things happen.  When the abuser hears the message, the abuser begins to understand that he cannot use scripture or hide behind scripture to abuse.  He hears that the church leadership is wise to his tactics of abuse and that the church DOES know how to respond to the abuse.  When the victim hears the message, the victim hears that the church is a safe place to seek help, that she or he will be believed and that there are resources to help her or him.  This gives the victim HOPE.

Most importantly, the faith community can respond with wisdom, compassion and resources to families in domestic abuse situations.  This may sound like a straightforward fix, and yet it may take generations to heal the wounds and trauma of abuse. Even still, by addressing domestic violence openly, by providing a safe space and support to families before they break apart in crisis and become homeless, and by supporting those survivors who have lost their homes with counseling and financial support, the church can go a long way to help heal the problem of homelessness.

Action Domestic Violence Faith and Family Homelessness Faith-based Advocacy Women

End homelessness? For me, it’s personal.

By Lisa Gustaveson, Faith & Family Homelessness Program Manager

553830_10200650804746093_599565699_n[1]In the spring of 2002 I was offered a six-month contract to manage the development of a local plan to end homelessness. I quickly accepted – I love project management and come on, the goal was to end homelessness!

Eighteen months and a ton of gray hairs later, I proudly stood by as the planning committee adopted a 57-page plan, A Roof Over Every Bed: Our Community’s Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County.

Many people don’t know or remember that the 10 Year Plan represents countless hours of research, meetings and then, more meetings. A broad coalition of people from local government, service providers, faith communities, advocacy organizations and people experiencing homelessness created the first Committee to End Homelessness (CEH) and the Staff Circle. Throughout the project hundreds of people offered ideas and suggestions at community meetings. At times it was easy for the committee to agree, but more than once tough compromises were made to move the plan forward. Draft versions of the plan circulated between committee members; each word was carefully chosen to clearly convey our intentions. The final plan represents our collective vision; using the resources we had available at that time.

I tell you all this to explain why it’s hard for me to hear people say the plan has failed. You see, ending homelessness is PERSONAL to me – and many others in the community. When I hear about a family who finally finds housing I feel great. When the numbers of people experiencing homelessness go up… and up, I feel responsible, and take it personally. It’s personal when a family tells me they’ve been living in their car while waiting for a space in a shelter. It’s personal when I drive by a makeshift shelter on the side of the road knowing a person who was, or is someone’s child calls it home.

It’s not like we don’t know the problem exists. Show me a city in the region where you don’t see homelessness in plain sight. The topic of homelessness is all over social media and local news stories.  Recent coverage includes Jon Stewart’s tongue in cheek “The Homeless Homed.” The Dean of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, Mark Markuly, contributes through his February 19th Seattle Times Op-Ed, “Seattle can solve the homeless puzzle by learning from other cities,” and the Seattle Times followed closely behind with their February 25th straightforward message from the Editorial Board, “Cities should use the Golden Rule when dealing with homelessness.” Just this week our local radio station, KUOW, probes deep into the issue through their well researched six part series, “Seattle’s Homeless: No End in Sight.”

So, what to do? Throw up our hands in despair? Or, do we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and start again?

We are tough Seattleites – we don’t give up that easily. This year CEH is working hard to migrate from the 10 Year Plan to a community-wide Strategic Plan. The Plan will guide policymakers, service providers, advocates and the greater community as we recommit to our goal of making homelessness rare, brief and one-time. The Plan’s strategies build upon local success and national best practices, and offer clear guidance to the organizations and individuals who make up the Homeless Services System.

The Downtown Emergency Service Center’s Emergency Shelter Program serves more than 4,000 men and women each year, providing safe, secure shelter, meals and a day-time safe haven from the streets. DESC’s outreach efforts help people stabilize their lives, and ultimately get permanent housing. Photo by Gabriel Rozycki.

Photo by Gabriel Rozycki.

What is new – and in my opinion game changing – is the acknowledgment that success will continue to elude us until the crisis of homelessness is made personal to each King County resident. I think we are closer than ever before; when the new plan is adopted CEH plans to offer specific actions for people of faith to take to be part of the movement

That said; you don’t have to wait for the new plan! You can make a difference today by taking one step… just one. I’m making it easy for you – look at the list below, pick one thing to do, and see where that leads you.

Then, let me know when solving homelessness becomes personal for you.

  1. Volunteer for, or donate to, an organization that helps people who are living in poverty. In addition to the speakers you heard today; check out United Way of King County’s great volunteer database uwkc.org/ways-to-volunteer/
  1. Gather a group and watch SU’s American Refugees: four short films on family homelessness, especially “The Smiths”. Download the discussion guides and reflect on ways you can get involved americanrefugess.org
  1. Use the power of the Internet to advocate for affordable housing and an end to poverty and homelessness. Stay up to date on what’s happening in Olympia through Action Alerts on social service policy and budget issues:
  1. Join Firesteel, the statewide platform for social change led by Washington YWCAs. Sign up at firesteelwa.org
  1. Learn about the policies that affect poverty, housing and homelessness by reading a blog such as “Schmudget.” budgetandpolicy.org/schmudget
  1. Make sure your local school has appointed a homeless education liaison who can help get children connected with the services they are entitled to. Contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for more information: k12.wa.us/HomelessEd/default.aspx  
  1. Support low income and homeless newspaper sellers by buying a copy of Real Change from an authorized vendor. Find your local vendor: realchangenews.org/index.php/site/vendor-map
  1. Participate in a Poverty Simulation to learn experientially about the incredible stresses and challenges faced by those living in poverty and experiencing homelessness. (Check out our “Upcoming Events” feed to find the next one in your area.)
  1. If you’re one of the thousands of board members of Washington state social service nonprofits, get involved with advocacy to end poverty and homelessness. standforyourmission.org
  1. Write letters to your elected officials, newspaper Letters to the Editor pages and others about the causes of poverty.
  1. Spend time reflecting on the impact of poverty on people in our community. How do their struggles affect the greater community? What responsibilities do I have to address the causes of poverty in my community and nation?
Action Citizen Committee to End Homelessness Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness
Keeping Perspective - Children playing at UMC Riverton in Tukwila

Keeping Perspective: The Super Bowl’s Lessons for Our Community

As Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day comes to a close in Olympia, we’d like to share some words of wisdom from Rev. Jan Bolerjack. Jan draws a great parallel between a team suffering a sudden, disastrous loss in football and individuals encountering unexpected hardships in life. Just as Seattle fans have stuck behind the Seahawks after their Super Bowl loss, Jan urges us to continue to support those in our community who find themselves suddenly homeless and without a support system. One way you can show your support is by attending Interfaith Advocacy Day this Thursday, February 19th, in Olympia (register here), or if you can’t make it, call or write to your legislators about the issues that matter to you and make your voice heard! Find your legislative district and legislators here and call the legislative hotline to leave a brief message: 800.562.6000. Read on!


Rev. Jan Bolerjack. Photo creidit: Joshua Trujillo, Seattle PI

Rev. Jan Bolerjack. Photo creidit: Joshua Trujillo, Seattle PI

By Rev. Jan Bolerjack, originally posted 2/16/15 on the UMC’s Pacific Northwest Conference site

Wasn’t that Super Bowl a heartbreaker? We had such hope and it seemed to be falling into place and then… a simple play, a pass, into the wrong hands. And it was over. We lost. We went silent. Baffled by one coaches call. You could almost hear a gasp from the whole Pacific Northwest –WHAT was that? How could things go so wrong so quickly?

But it was just a game.

And yet this is a common experience in life. You get everything in order but something unexpected comes along and interrupts the flow. In life, it may be a sudden illness, or loss of job, or relationship breakup, or an unexpected expense and kaboom life turns into turmoil.

This is the story I hear over and over from families that become suddenly homeless.

  • A carefully prepared for move across the country for a promised job but upon arrival – no job = homeless.
  • Or a broken down car for a family already just getting by financially and suddenly no way to get to work = fired = homeless.
  • Or the middle class home in the suburbs suddenly filled with water as the nearby water main breaks – no flood insurance – house is lost = homeless.
  • Or a woman decides to leave an abusive marriage, children in tow, no money, no home, no support system = homeless.

Sometimes it is the fault of someone – like a bad play being called – but a fault that usually wouldn’t cause much disruption. And now it has lead to a big (and public) loss. Sometimes no finger of fault can be pointed and yet disaster has struck.

Maybe there is something to be learned here. We saw the fans still show up to support the Seahawks. There was still a crowd to greet them when they arrived home. The 12th Man (and woman and child) could see beyond the bad call to the sensational season, to the many good calls, to the humanity of the players and their hard work. We can follow the personal stories to see the good to the community that can come from their fame and their pride.

In the same way as a community we need to continue to rally behind those who have “lost” in our world. Those who have lost homes, families, friends, livelihood, purpose, faith,…  locally and globally. We need to listen to their stories, honor their lives and work to give them dignity and hope.

Life is not a game but maybe we can learn from the one that was played large on February 1st.


Rev. Jan Bolerjack serve as the pastor of the Riverton Park United Methodist Church in Tukwila, Washington.

Action Advocacy Faith and Family Homelessness Social Justice