Turning Churches into Homeless Shelters

July 5, 2007 by

I stumbled on this satirical and presumably fictional piece last month. The fact that it quotes big-name mega-church pastors in the Twin Cities gives it an eerie feeling of authenticity. But what if it were true?

A network of large Christian churches in Minnesota’s Twin Cities has announced a multi-point plan to fight homelessness. The announcement of the “Twin Cities Open Door Campaign” comes in response to what leaders are calling a “crisis of conscience” and contains many bold measures, most notably, plans to make church building spaces available to overnight guests that will be bussed to and from city centers.

“There are thousands on the street in this town and we’ve got these big, beautiful buildings just sitting here most nights,” said Leith Anderson, Pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie. Anderson, who also heads the National Association of Evangelicals, acknowledged skepticism, “Oh, we know people will think this is a joke, but we’re quite serious. We hope we can provide a brand new model of how something like this might work for churches in other cities where shelters are overcrowded.” …

Some shudder to call this marketing, but as many have said before–doing what you’re meant to do is the best form of marketing (which is why everyone is so excited about the iPhone).

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Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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15 Responses to “Turning Churches into Homeless Shelters”

  • A.B. Dada
    July 5, 2007

    I know on pastor (AaronMonts.com) who did something similar after a huge weather problem in Illinois, taking in hundreds of (temporarily) homeless into congregations. It does peeve me regularly to see some really awesome campuses empty during the week.
    I think the biggest issue we face today is that the “church” is becoming powerless against the growing State that tries to be the moral and ethical (and impossible) provider for the downtrodden. In my own mind, I prefer to teach a man to fish, but if the man needs to eat, I’ll feed him the fish I have. On the other hand, there are many organizations that would rather feed than teach, and the problem not only never gets solved, but new generations grow into the same problem in greater numbers.
    Sad aside: many of the homeless people I “deal with” here in Illinois are people who were given promises by “the great provider” that were later broken and ignored, and yet many Christians want to make this “great provider” even greater in all of our lives. That is even more sad than the empty rooms of the campuses nationwide.


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  • Jason McCoy
    July 5, 2007

    Wait, wait, wait…what makes you think this is satirical?? And what is the point you are trying to make- I can’t tell if you are saying:
    1. it is silly to be serving the homeless, or if you are saying that
    2.the Western Church/ Evangelical culture would never do this? (thus, it is satirical)
    Either way- the end is still not a good one, right??
    If you’re saying 1. then it seems that we have utterly failed at doing what Jesus would do on the earth (serving the poor/broken/marginalized)
    and if you’re saying 2….wouldn’t it still be the same…that we have failed?
    Help…please clarify…


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  • clayton luckie
    July 5, 2007

    My church is a part of something very similar. http://www.nihn.org/
    We just got through hosting a few families in our facilities for 2 weeks. Food, sleeping accommodations, transportation to/from career center, etc is all provided.
    Oh, and we even have the word “Evangelical” in our church name! *gasp*
    cl


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    • Dave
      January 16, 2013

      Clayton,
      Our church is investigating participating with Family Promise, but due to a recent fire inspection, we are concerned that we cannot support this effort without some very costly modifications (additional smoke detectors and alarms, egress to outside from each sleeping room and possibly sprinklers). Did you have any of these issues or is your building already set up for sleeping accomodation?


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  • ChristophR
    July 5, 2007

    Place of Hope Ministry in St Cloud, MN has depended on the added housing provided by the Church of the Week program. Congregations house anywhere from a 10 to 45 homeless people who were unable to get a space in the more traditional shelters. The congregations also provide a meal at the Place of Hope Ministry Center before picking up the clients who will stay at the church. It is a huge project, but if the churches of St Cloud can do it there is no reason the megachurches of the Twin Cities can’t make it happen!
    It seems I heard something about this somewhere before this post, which has me thinking it might be true.


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  • indie
    July 5, 2007

    Many churches in Nashville (of all theological stripes) do this. The program here is called Room in the Inn. I don’t get why this is presumed to be satirical.


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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    July 5, 2007

    It’s satirical because most mega-churches don’t throw open their doors every evening to the homeless.
    Certainly many churches do serve the poor and I don’t mean to minimize that. My own church houses the overflow from the local shelters every June.
    But the extend that this article tries to “solve” homelessness–with major players like John Piper and Leith Anderson diving into it–that doesn’t happen. I wish it did.
    And Jason McCoy, if my above response wasn’t clear enough, I’d go for 2: our churches never do this and thus, we’ve utterly failed. (it is important to note that some churches do try, as the many comments have shown–though I don’t know of many who open their church to the homeless every night and band together with other churches to “solve” the homelessness problem)


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  • Dave
    July 5, 2007

    We do a weekly street outreach and have really found that the feeding thing is really best used as a “meeting the felt needs” of these folks and use it as an open door to meeting their most important need.
    With resource of the mega-church… much could be done with some fore thought


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  • Rob Childs
    July 6, 2007

    Talking of meeting needs, how about rural post offices… http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hereford/worcs/6272602.stm
    In the UK


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  • Kyle DeHoff
    July 12, 2007

    the church i’m interning at does that. we house about 40 women every night in the basement, and have one “fellowship meal” every monday. but we are an urban church in chicago with one of the highest densities of homelessness in the city.
    i came to this church because of their focus on the marginalized–i’m just hoping to help transplant that into whatever church i go to from here, since it does seem to be so lacking in the Church at large.


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  • Sara
    July 17, 2007

    Yes, this is satire. This is a viral letter that has been circulating around in eSpace nearly as long as the needles found in Coke cans. First saw it years ago in The Wittenburg Door (misspelling intentional). It’s funny and sad, bittersweet as satire should be, since we’re more concerned with people’s souls more so than their growling stomachs, unless we can stuff them with hot dogs or other junk foods that pass as a meal, and where they lay their heads for what could be their last night on earth.
    Thy kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven.
    Complicated subject, yes, homelessness and poverty. Especially when it rears its ugly head in our insulated societies in cushy suburbia where we feed our cash cows and largely ignore our neighbors.
    Read more satire. Then you will be able to recognize it more when you see it. And it will be able to motivate you to action instead of mere reaction.


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  • kerry
    May 15, 2008

    This is being done in Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, and port moody B.C. Canada. There was much uproarby the residents. It is a temporary situation we are told. Bussing people in to primarily residential areas ,near schools parks, daycares and green spaces.
    Because of the uproar, Coquitlam council is making the initial steps towards a permanent shelter in the Tri cities (to be not in a primarily residential area near schools, daycares, parks and green spaces).
    The problem is this could take many years, leaving us with a band aid program that has the likely outcome of changing these residential areas (in a detrimental way) forever. As the outrage of the community subsides council feels safer taking the easy way out and not following through with the building of a well connected permanent shelter with wrap around services.
    I feel that they are trying to ignore the residents, when in many instances they are showing their ignorance and bad attitude towards the homeless. The Mayor and council marginalize residents, who want a real meaningful program, that would give people in need maximum opportunity to improve their situation. The tri cities are suburbs of Vancouver and are unlike Vancouvers inner city environment.


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  • kerry
    May 15, 2008

    This is being done in Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, and port moody B.C. Canada. There was much uproarby the residents. It is a temporary situation we are told. Bussing people in to primarily residential areas ,near schools parks, daycares and green spaces.
    Because of the uproar, Coquitlam council is making the initial steps towards a permanent shelter in the Tri cities (to be not in a primarily residential area near schools, daycares, parks and green spaces).
    The problem is this could take many years, leaving us with a band aid program that has the likely outcome of changing these residential areas (in a detrimental way) forever. As the outrage of the community subsides council feels safer taking the easy way out and not following through with the building of a well connected permanent shelter with wrap around services.
    I feel that they are trying to ignore the residents, when in many instances they are showing their ignorance and bad attitude towards the homeless. The Mayor and council marginalize residents, who want a real meaningful program, that would give people in need maximum opportunity to improve their situation. The tri cities are suburbs of Vancouver and are unlike Vancouvers inner city environment.


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  • kerrytoby
    May 15, 2008

    Look up cccpsc.org this is a website started by the residents of the tri cities. see previous posting about Coquitlam.Port Coquitlam, port Moody.


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  • kerry
    September 27, 2008

    My previous letter was submitted May 15/2008
    Iam happy to report changes.
    The most recent events in the tri cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port moody in BC. Canada have the City of Coquitlam forwarding the eventual building of a shelter.
    The residents who were trying to say “lets take things a few steps further” that we need a permanent 24/7 shelter as soon as possible – no more talk without progress it seems have now been heard. Their voices have lent more taxpayer support to the people who have been making ongoing efforts to achieve progress in having more resources available. People such as the churches parishioners, who have supported the churches efforts.
    A 24/7 permanent shelter (not in a primarily residential area and not adjacent to schools, daycares,parks and green belts) can adress needs more effectively. The homeless have needs and the community has needs. To recognize one need and to ignore the residents is just not as desirable for all. We still have a church program for 2009 in the tri cities and probably for 2010 as well until the shelter is built. The residents are watching and are mostly in support of a permanent shelter. I for one have been made so much more aware of homelessness and have had to adjust my feelings towards the issue. The help being given is the most important fact. The right facility in the right location is highly desirable. The programs that are made available now and the increased availability of good programs is crucial. I think we will continue to see a growing understanding in the tri cities.
    please go to tchss.org to see more


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