Homelessness is a chronic problem. Apparently the west valley has seen the highest rise in homelessness in Maricopa County. Lakeview is considering joining an innovative homeless ministry, I-HELP (Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program). I-HELP provides shelter for 12 homeless persons each night in local congregations that provide space where the homeless can eat and sleep. The ministry is based on a model from California and launched here in Arizona in 2006. It is used in Tempe, Mesa, Chandler and the Northwest Valley. Our local I-HELP is coordinated by Lutheran Social Services (LSS) of the Southwest. This safe, proven ministry screens homeless men and women each day who will be staying overnight (participants must be sober, not have serious mental illness or be a sex offender). The host churches provide an evening meal and sleeping cots or mats and a breakfast. The homeless guests are allowed to stay in I-HELP for three months and receive case management services from LSS. They get help with employment, health care, transportation and permanent housing so they are able to get on their feet. I’ve seen I-HELP build relationships of support and care between the homeless and the faith community. This ministry is a way to live into Jesus’ words: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’’ (Mt. 25: 40). Our Board of Trustees and the Administrative Council is looking into participating in this ministry and helping to reduce homelessness in our community.
On another note, Kim and I are looking forward to participating in some get acquainted gatherings starting in January. We will be meeting with several of our neighborhood groups in the church to have some time for conversation and getting to know each other. If you have a chance to participate in one of these gatherings, I hope that you will join us.
In faith, Pastor Dave