The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for me. Making a life-changing decision certainly has its impact. So many people have reached out to me and with such kind and thoughtful comments. Many are curious, some confused, some relieved, but all expecting more. So, as I sat with my husband and his family at a private Mass through our cousin, Father Bob, as I listened to his words about the poor and the disenfranchised and our responsibility to them, I knew what I would write about this week.
My decision is to partner with Pastor Jim Moon and transition the shelter over the next few months to his care and to the care of Park Memorial Church. The partnership comes into play with the joining of our mutual talents.
The last year has been extremely eye-opening. I would never have believed we could have successfully housed and assisted 158 people into permanent housing in a few short weeks with few issues, before we actually did it. The Homeless Prevention Task Force was unified, diverse and focused. It was refreshing and invigorating to see what could happen when people work well together. My mind began to wander and as I watched the resources evolve locally, I knew we needed to do more and we needed to stay together.
Speaking for the poor and championing their cause is difficult and unwelcome. As I listened to the message from Father Bob, I couldn’t help but be struck by the words in Isaiah concerning the poor. “Truth is missing, and whosoever turns from evil makes himself prey. The Lord looked and was offended that there was no justice.” Isaiah 59:15. Wow, it is 2019 and truth is still missing. We turn a blind eye to justice issues. The poor clean the floors and the bathrooms in our public facilities, they prepare food at all the fast food restaurants, they serve food at full service restaurants, they clerk in Walmart (while the owners are some of the wealthiest people on earth), they fry our chicken, flip our burgers, and do extremely hard labor in jobs none of us would want to do. It is time to help organize and assemble them to speak for themselves.
It isn’t just about that, either. We kicked off a series of forums through the League of Women Voters this week in Charlestown. Over 75 people gathered in the square to hear from the candidates. Five of those running for office came. The people who came wanted to hear from all the candidates. They were satisfied and felt they had open dialogue with those who attended. They wanted me to promise to try to do another one so they could have access to those who did not attend. It is important to those citizens, so I will try. Watching the process in action with direct participation from candidate to voter was to watch democracy in action and it was interesting and exciting to behold.
So, the direction of my life will be to challenge, to channel, to assemble, and to question. It will be to use the wonderful respect my community has given to me to provide voice for those whose voices have not been heard, to guide those who need to listen to the tales of the poor, and to walk beside those in need in their journey to move forward. It will anger some because advocacy often does, but through advocacy we change systems and improve lives.
The next few months will be a transition for me, for the shelter residents, for Park Memorial and Pastor Moon. It will be a transition for the community as well. The church will need much to run the shelter, so we will be asking for your support jointly. Please help them as you have helped me through the years. Let all of us do as is asked of us in Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do right, seek justice, correct the oppressors, defend the fatherless, and plead for the widow.” It is our calling if we are indeed a Christian nation.
Some of those agenda items that will be at the top of the list for me: Improving the flow of resources from Indianapolis and Washington to Southern Indiana; advocating for individual rights; helping to convene likeminded people from across the state who want change to occur for the most vulnerable in our communities; and identifying resources locally, in our region, in our state, and in our country. I will need your support, your participation, and your voices to speak with mine and with those I serve in partnership with Park Memorial, Pastor Moon, the Homeless Prevention Task Force, and with those wishing to truly end this thing called homelessness as we address the root causes, poverty and neglect.
“He took up the cause of the poor and needy, and, so it went well. Is this not what it means to know Me? Declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 22:16.
— Barbara Anderson, Jeffersonville, is executive director of Haven House Services Inc. Reach her by email firstname.lastname@example.org.