Approved at the 203rd Annual Meeting, June 7-8, 2002
The Bible is filled with invitations, calls and commands "to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God". (Micah 6:8) We are exhorted to "turn our swords into plowshares and to provide each person with their own vine and fig tree". (Micah 4:3-4) Jesus reminds us that God commands us "to love our neighbors as ourselves" (Luke 10:27) and to create a just and loving society for all of God's beloved.
WHEREAS, The Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ has recently passed resolutions on the just Stewardship of Wealth (98-AM-13) and on Welfare Reform (99-AM-7), and has demonstrated over its 202 year history a commitment to advocating for the poor and oppressed; and
WHEREAS, Homelessness is increasing in the Commonwealth with over 338 families living in motels often without access to food, cooking facilities, public transportation, continuity for their children's schooling and employment*;and
WHEREAS, Over 65% of applicants were denied assistance by the Department of Transitional Housing and continue to live on the streets, in cars or unsafe living conditions*; and
WHEREAS, The number of homeless individuals on the streets has increased 30% and shelters are operating at more than 120% of capacity and much higher in the winter months; and
WHEREAS, Many communities across the Commonwealth have few if any units of affordable housing and generally do not welcome low income or homeless residents; and
WHEREAS, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Faith In Action Together, and the Campaign to End Homelessness can provide individuals and churches with practical solutions to assist those who are homeless through direct advocacy and to use the political process to advocate with the state legislature to end homelessness in the Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, Faith communities from many traditions have joined this coalition, and working together have an unprecedented opportunity to end all homelessness in the next five years; and
WHEREAS, numerous of our Massachusetts Conference churches house and operate shelters in their buildings (Crombie Street United church of Christ in Salem, First Congregational Church in Cambridge and Pilgrim Dorchester) and many others support services for homeless people in their communities.
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the 203rd Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ calls upon local churches, associations, and the commissions of the Conference to join together with faith based and other coalitions across the Commonwealth to end family homelessness by offering direct services to homeless people while simultaneously participating in legislative advocacy to end homelessness. We further call upon churches to work actively to advocate for and support affordable housing options in their communities and support use of state and church land for affordable housing.
* Statistics from "The Road to Nowhere: Barriers Facing Families in Search of Shelter", Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, December 20, 2001