California’s housing crisis is national and even at times international news.
With housing costs trending upward and out of reach of even middle-class folks, more and more families and individuals are finding themselves stressed financially. According to a 2017 Public Policy Institute of California Statewide Survey, 47 percent of Californians—including 61 percent of renters—say housing costs are a financial strain.
A quarter of the nation’s unhoused population lives in California. Between 2016 and 2017 the number of unhoused people in California increased by 14 percent. About 32 percent of unhoused Californians are in shelters or other residential programs—the lowest share in the nation.
Secure shelter is a critical component of the foundation of the human person, the absence of which can contribute to hunger and challenges in healthcare, education, job prospects and more.
We use the word ‘unhoused’ to shift away from cultural stereotypes of people who, for one reason or another, lack stable, adequate housing. The connotations of the word homelessness bring to mind a monolithic image of individual culpability. In reality, the causes and faces of homelessness are diverse. Homelessness also implies a lack of home, denying the ways in which people are resilient in making home & community even when they are without shelter. By contrast, unhoused emphasizes a lack of adequate shelter and draws attention to the lack of affordable housing supply.
What do Lutherans have to say?
The social message “Homelessness: A Renewal of Commitment” notes that homelessness persists as a reality for hundreds of thousands of people in the United States, despite its immense wealth and resources. The message states that housing is a fundamental right even though policies and practices of government and economic institutions are not adequately responding. It reminds us that in the Bible, God heard the cries of the homeless and that working for justice with and for homeless people is doing God’s will and work in the world.
Christian love does not provide ready-made, one-size-fits-all solutions to the crisis, but the message calls Christians to walk with the homeless in their struggles and provides guidance as together we pursue just, appropriate and sustainable solutions that uphold human dignity.
What are our churches doing?
Around the state, Lutheran churches are actively involved in ministries for housing-unstable community members. A lot of these ministries meet immediate needs for food, clothing, hygiene, and human connection. Some churches donate to or run their own short or long-term housing and wrap-around services.