On Friday night, May 15th, hundreds of area youth are expected to sleep outside at Grace Community Church on Lee Street to raise awareness of homelessness, in an event sponsored by New Jerusalem Cathedral (see video). They will sleep in safety, protected by Greensboro police officers, on the same grounds that church leaders voted to post with “no trespassing” signs last year, in response to large numbers of homeless people sleeping on the property. Irony. (Grace also housed dozens of women inside this year, in a winter emergency shelter.)
Thoughts from a friend:
“Usually the cop would do the opposite of that. They wouldn’t stand there and watch you and make sure you’re alright. They’d run you away… [The youth are] gonna be there with all their friends, in one spot. They’re in a fenced-in area. That ain’t nothing like being homeless… I understand what they’re trying to do and instill in their minds, but that’s not how it is.”
So, to recap: Youth groups are sleeping outside at the church on Friday night to raise awareness of homelessness, but if actual homeless people try to sleep there on any night, they can be charged with trespassing. Isn’t that… well, kind of wrong, somehow?? (OK, I’m trying not to get stuck in “justice mode”… moving on… )
The great part: While these young people probably won’t have their own authentic experience of homelessness on Friday night, they will have a unique opportunity to focus their time, their energy, their thoughts and their hearts on some of the realities that our homeless brothers and sisters face every day. This could be a life-changing event for the participants. I’m praying for all: for eyes to see and ears to hear, and for God to grow in them His own heart for the poor. Go and be a blessing to the homeless in Greensboro and around the world!
Update: This event was planned to take place in a park, but when the location didn’t work out, New Jerusalem asked Grace if they could do it there. Grace said yes and their youth were also invited. I posted about this because I found irony in doing a homeless simulation in which people did things that homeless people actually can’t do. But I very much appreciate their desire to raise awareness of homelessness.
People I know at New Jerusalem are very involved in local homeless efforts, including the day center, housing for chronically homeless people, the homeless coalition and the partnership to end homelessness, and they’ve told me that homelessness is a priority for their church, as well. Grace has focused on serving the homeless for many years, and current ministries include: Grace currently provides a weekly meal for 200+ people; a HUD voucher program that houses the homeless; and winter shelter for