Tag Archives: ending homelessness

A Churches Role in Preventing & Ending Homelessness

14 Oct

I really love the work Lake Avenue Church is doing to prevent and end homelessness in Pasadena. The idea of ending homelessness is powerful and possible. All too often our Churches are involved in simply managing homelessness by limiting their capabilities to feeding and clothing ministries, not realizing God can multiply our efforts if we learn and partner with an aim to actually end homelessness. We need to take that next step of building relationships with those homeless sleeping at our Church doorsteps. We need to build relationships with our local city and county programs that are working with the Housing First model, a model proven with clear nationwide evidence based research.

By holding hands with our homeless friends and Housing Frist programs, we can realize what the early Church did in Acts 4 when they ended poverty. Let us do the same. Mark out a manageable geographic of a few blocks around our Churches or a part of town where the most vulnerable stay and decide to end poverty in that area. We can’t do it alone. We need partnerships. We need other Churches, city staff and officials. Once we have done our homework, we may be in a position to educate our city staff and support them in what must be done. We need to help our planning departments initiate a homeless count so they become aware of local needs. With hard data our local cities can apply for the necessary resources.

Some Churches are seeking to prevent homelessness before it ever transpires, an even more affordable and sustainable approach. Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena has begun a program that helps prevent homelessness by helping those facing evictions. I thank God for Lake Avenue Church and the Lake Avenue Community Foundation, which is taking seriously the example of the early Church by focusing intensely on a manageable geographic and seeking to break the cycles of poverty through their outreach programs.

Lake Avenue Church: Crisis, Advocacy, and Prevention

“LAC provides crisis intervention and preventative assistance and support for those who are at-risk of eviction or are currently homeless. Our task is to “bridge the gap” for persons who are in a short-term crisis. LAC also works closely with the comprehensive range of resources available in the local community by providing prayer, guidance, mentoring, accountability, and advocacy.”

Beacon Interfaith: Empowering Churches to Build Affordable Housing, Part 3

2 Mar

Part One of this series introduced Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative’s mission to end homelessness through affordable housing. In Part Two, congregational organizer Allison Johnson described how Beacon and its partners gain the needed support. Part Three shows how the commitment gained through organizing has produced homes for hundreds.

Lorenzo, a resident of American House

After battling homelessness and addiction for 25 years, Lorenzo has a place of his own at American House.

A crucial organizing step is the call to action, both inside and outside the congregation. A good example is a recent breakfast held by Beacon and a partner church. Approximately 80 leaders attended, including congregants, local community leaders, and supporters, who heard from a panel of experts on homelessness and a state senator.

Attendees were then asked to endorse the housing project and state why it was important. While not binding, Allison says, the action was a concrete step that helped seal commitment to and support for the project. “It also provides a solid base of individuals who can act when needed.”

Much of the organizing takes place before the actual work of developing housing, yet is essential in laying the ground for success. Using the process to galvanize support and resources, Beacon and its partner congregations have created or preserved affordable, safe homes for hundreds of people.


American House is home to 69 residents and includes supportive services on site.

Among the many success stories are Nicollet Square, which provides housing for youth; Creekside Commons, a family housing development with a waiting list of several hundred; and American House, a 69-unit complex for single adults.

For Lorenzo, having a home has meant much more than just a place to sleep. After he battled homelessness and addiction for 25 years, the American House resident has found the stability, support, and community needed to turn his life around.

“They hand you the keys to your room; it’s like keys to a Rolls Royce,’’ he said. (Read more about Lorenzo’s journey at MinnPost.com.)

Beacon’s model forms a “powerful public-private partnership” that taps public funders and congregational resources to create affordable developments, notes Kris Berggren, the agency’s communications specialist. The result is a win-win: Creating housing is transformational not only for residents, but also for congregation members.

As Kris puts it, “Beacon is a catalyst – tapping into people who never dreamed they could help accomplish such things.”

Photos courtesy of Beacon.


Beacon Interfaith is featured on pages 179–181 of Making Housing Happen – read an excerpt here. You can find more info and purchase the book at the Wipf and Stock website.

Beacon Interfaith: Empowering Churches to Build Affordable Housing, Part 2

2 Mar

Part One of this series introduced Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. Beacon organizes and partners with faith congregations who have a vision to end homelessness and create affordable housing. Part Two walks through the congregational organizing process.

Allison Johnson, Beacon Interfaith congregational organizer

Allison Johnson

Along with her colleague Deb Rodgers, congregational organizer Allison Johnson helps congregations prepare themselves to engage in the full process of housing development through education and empowerment:

  • Education: Assisting faith leaders in training members on housing challenges, demographics, and job information, and become equipped to share their learning with others;
  • Empowerment: Enabling congregants to develop skills and tools to translate their passion into action – whether engaging their neighborhoods to take part, advocating at the state legislature for more funding, or attending city meetings to build support.

How does the organizing process work?

To launch the process, congregational organizers spend time with top leadership in a faith community, asking questions and exploring the level of commitment to ending homelessness. A big factor is whether or not a congregation is ready to lead publicly on a controversial issue, Allison notes – because creating new affordable housing is almost always controversial at some stage.

Prior Crossing, future apartment building for unhoused youth

Beacon is currently partnering with The House of Hope Presbyterian Church to develop Prior Crossing, which will offer 44 apartments for homeless youth.

The congregation leaders sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Beacon, and recruit a housing task force. Invitations are extended to other leaders (lay and ordained); professionals working in real estate, architecture, construction, social services; and any congregant who’s passionate about ending homelessness through affordable housing.

Once the task force is in place, members team up with Allison to raise awareness about homelessness and affordable housing. They also work with Beacon’s housing development staff to set the project vision and answer critical questions.

Who needs affordable housing the most? What community resources are available at the state/local/city level to meet those needs? What type of housing might gain traction within the community?

“Once a congregation sets parameters around a vision for housing, it has essentially ‘bought in’ for the long haul,” Allison says. “The project is no longer Beacon’s – it’s their own.”

Coming soon: Part Three looks at a crucial organizing step, and how hundreds of people have found new homes as a result of Beacon’s partnerships with congregations.

Photos courtesy of Beacon.


Beacon Interfaith’s story appears on pages 179–181 of Making Housing Happen. You can read an excerpt here, and find more info or purchase the book at the Wipf and Stock website.

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