Local businesses claim that the program is bad for business and tourism. Courts have twice upheld Abbott’s right to continue his ministry. City officials want to move such homeless programs into houses of worship or private property. But Love Thy Neighbor wants to continue feeding the homeless near the beach.
Clearly, a third option is needed.
City officials want to move homeless programs into houses of worship or private property to avoid offending beach-going tourists and inconveniencing businesses. But what if neighbors of the church or private property object? How many objectors constitute valid opposition—a hundred? One? And why should everyone be able to enjoy the beach except those who are hungry and homeless?
Now the other side: despite objections from businesses and tourists, should an organization be able to feed the homeless on a beach so long as it claims religious motives? If tourism and business suffer, will the city no longer have revenues to maintain the beach? Will everyone lose?
City officials don’t need the wisdom of Solomon—a beach is not a baby. The feeding program has been working for 13 years; they can find a way to make it work again.
We need similar answers here.
According to The Dallas Morning News, the number of chronically homeless in Dallas rose nearly 40 percent last year, while the number of homeless veterans rose from 550 to more than 700. Confucius noted: “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” Which are we?
We want to avoid what Marvin Olasky calls “the tragedy of American compassion,” hurting people by helping them without changing the conditions that hurt them. Benjamin Franklin: “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion about the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”
While we should work to change the conditions that create homelessness, we must also care about those we intend to help. Mother Teresa was right, as usual: “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.”
Jesus came “to proclaim good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). Will we join him?