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How a UMC church kept the homeless off church porches – without sprinklers

How a UMC church kept the homeless off church porches – without sprinklers

Our item on a Catholic cathedral’s use of sprinklers to deter the homeless from sleeping in its doorways received attention here at the blog and on our Facebook page.

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. took a different approach.

A couple of months ago, we started a dialogue around how to move people off the porches of the church and assist them in moving on. Over the years, the protected and secluded porches had become sleeping quarters for a dozen or so folks, and it was now out of hand. People were using the grounds as bathroom facilities; others were leaving their belongings in plastic-covered 4-foot high mounds.

The conversation, held in a church committee meeting in January, was contentious. Some felt we had an obligation to offer a place to stay if our neighbors were homeless; others felt it was time to reclaim the building as a place that was clean and safe.

It took us hours to arrive at a decision, but we did. On March 1, no one would be allowed to stay on the porches or use the grounds for storage. We would hire security to help us enforce this decision. And here is what made our decision different: We would meet weekly with anyone who had lived on the porches to help them make the transition.

We’d like to hear from Episcopal churches. Do you have a policy towards the homeless sleeping in your doorways, using your grounds for their personal needs, or stashing their belongings? If you faced situations with the homeless such have been described at MVPUMC and St. Mary’s Cathedral, what would you do?


Posted by John B. Chilton


Photo credit: MVPUMC Facebook page

 

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