A home for our prodigal sons and daughters

For ten years, discussions between the Inter-Faith Council, the Town of Chapel Hill, and the University of North Carolina have been underway to relocate the men’s shelter and community kitchen.  Many factors were considered during the deliberations, and with great generosity a site along Martin Luther King jr. Blvd. was donated by the University.  So an ideal site found but so was a new obstacle; fear.


A recent public hearing intended for a review of the shelter‘s concept plan mutated into a forum on the homeless and unwarranted fears of homeless men.   Much of the fear expressed was based on poor statistics and weak inductive reasoning.  More information needs to be shared and conversation held to alleviate any fears concerning the homeless and the shelter. To quote JP Lovecraft, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” 


I got to thinking, “What would it take for me to become homeless?”  First, I’d have to lose my ability to be employed, maybe due to some health issue that prevented me from working. I’d have to be without any savings or retirement. I would not have close friends who could take me in. I also would have to be separated from or absent any family to rely on.  In short, I’d have to be seriously disenfranchised and alienated from society, friends and family.  I would essentially be alone in the world, with no where else to turn other than the kindness of strangers.


Having been alienated once in my life, I can easily imagine the questions that might run through my mind. How do I return to my life? Who is there to help me? Should I be warehoused away from the rest of society? Where do I eat? Will you feed me at your table? Where to I sleep? Will you give me your bed? Who will I talk to? Will you invite me for coffee and some conversation?  Where can I live? Will you be my neighbor?



Like the prodigal son, it is easy to question how an errant son should be treated when returning from his wasteland.  But the lesson to be learned is that we should celebrate the son’s return, not shun or keep him at arm’s distance. Chapel Hill has a big enough heart to open its arms to those who are lost and alienated and help return them to life.  I encourage us all to support the location of the new men’s shelter as proposed so that we can help to return our neighbor into our lives.


Every time I see a homeless person, I think how thin the line is separating my life from his/hers.

There, but for the grace of several credit card companies, go I...

There, thanks to several credit card companies, go many.

"Grace" probably isn't the right word for my relationship with Bank of America. ;-)


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