Board should reconsider lack of support for homeless
By Rebecca J. Boggs
"Not in Our Back Yard" was the cover story featured in Walworth County Sunday published on October 1, 2006.
Linda Akins' cover story about the Walworth County Emergency Homeless Shelter, which has been a collaborative effort of area churches, included some wonderful comments from County Administrator, David Bretl, who indicated that the Walworth County Board had earmarked funds in their 2007 budget to target the issue of homelessness in our community.
How sad that before this paper even arrived on the doorsteps of homes across our community, members of the County Board Finance Committee voted to remove this item from our county budget simply because it was not mandated.
The details were made available in Mike Heine's article "Budget moves without a thumbs up" in The Week, October 1, 2006. I extend my thanks to both writers for their work in keeping this important issue in the front of the public.
My home church, Delavan United Church of Christ, has been part of the shelter rotation since it began and I have volunteered and participated in each rotation.
As a person of faith, I am called to respond to the needs of those in my community.
And as I pursue my theological education as a student at Chicago Theological Seminary, I am called to question the moral and ethical questions raised by the removal of these funds from the County budget, based on the lack of mandate.
While we may not be "mandated" to provide food and shelter to the hungry and homeless, don't we have a moral obligation to do so?
Jesus said that the poor would always be among us. By opening our wallets and our churches, we are able to respond faithfully as we care for those in need. But we simply cannot stop by meeting only the needs of the poor. We must also look to the systems that have failed them. While housing the homeless and feeding the hungry, we tend to the symptoms. We must also look to the disease.
I respectfully ask that the members of the Walworth County Board Finance Committee reconsider their decision. Before making budget cuts simply because they are not mandated, please consider the actions unfolding in the communities you have been elected to serve. While the mandate to house the homeless may not technically exist, you might consider the "thumbs up" response of those in our community as a moral mandate.
The author lives in Williams Bay and is the youth ministry coordinator at the Delavan United Church of Christ. She is an emergency homeless shelter volunteer.