How Are the Poor?

How Are the Poor?

By the Rev. Pam Gossard, Deacon at Christ Church, Eureka

"It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of airtime. You know, the only time Jesus Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor. 'As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.' " (From Bono's speech at the 54th National Prayer Breakfast in America)

Homelessness is not new, but in Humboldt County we are seeing new efforts in collaboration between churches, community organizations, and caring individuals that are making a difference. Since last year, over 800 people have been housed. 

In addition, nearly 300 people have taken advantage of the TAP (Transportation Assistance Program) where they receive help to relocate to places where they have family and/or a support group. 

One of those who recently took advantage of this program is a young man named Jesse. He attended Christ Church on Easter Sunday and engaged with many of our parishioners in conversation. Later that day we helped him connect with Betty Chinn, founder of the Betty Kwan Chinn Foundation for the Homeless. He stayed at her Blue Angel Village that evening and then the next day got on a bus to Arizona where family and a job opportunity awaited him.

The Christ Church community in Eureka has been privileged to support Blue Angel Village, featuring retrofitted ocean containers that are currently housing over 30 formerly homeless people.

The Chinn Foundation’s newly opened Family Shelter is another example. In partnership with a local hospital, the lower level contains a Respite Center to give recently released medical patients a safe and secure place to heal and regain strength. The upper level of the shelter houses up to 40 mothers, fathers, and children.

Photo: Betty Chinn, in pink, watches as police recover some of the items stolen from her warehouse. Photo from Lost Coast Outpost.

These steps forward do not happen without challenges and setbacks, sometimes very personal ones. A storage unit Chinn uses to house many of the donated and purchased supplies targeted for those transitioning into housing was recently broken into and vandalized twice in rapid succession. When she found out that the perpetrators were members of the very population she tries to help, it was devastating ­- as it brought back terrifyingly powerful memories of her own experience of being a homeless, Christian child in Maoist China.

Just after the break-in the Rev. Lesley McCloghrie, interim rector at Christ Church, and senior warden Lyn Klay, contacted Betty about the possible donation of furniture from Transfiguration House. The timing could not have been better. The same week that Betty received news of destruction she also received an overwhelming spirit of encouragement from the faith community.

Toward the end of his address, Bono said that a wise person once told him,

"Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing -- because it’s already blessed.”

Betty Chinn is an example of someone who is involved in what God is doing. God is always with the poor. That's what God is doing. That's what He’s calling us to do.

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