We’ve grown used to stories of churches pitted against civic leaders in local communities and of religious liberty battles in the larger political arena. What is not so common today is the convergence of faith communities and local governments to tackle issues all sides see as vital.
But that’s just what is happening in Riverside, California, through the efforts of Grove Community Church and Mayor Rusty Bailey.
The Burden of a Mayor and a Church’s Response
Mayor Bailey wanted to do something to alleviate the plight of homeless people in his city. The Love Your Neighbor initiative partners the government with churches, synagogues, and nonprofits. The Grove, as Grove Community Church is known, eagerly volunteered to participate.
Mayor Bailey believed the way to get rid of homelessness was to provide a home. He asked churches to consider putting a home for the homeless on their property. The Grove was the first to jump on the opportunity.
They built four small 600-square foot “tiny homes” on the church property, naming it The Grove Village. Some in the neighborhood pushed back, but overall there was a great spirit of unity on the project.
The city helped by waiving significant fees for the effort. Current pastor Daniel Bishop credited his predecessor, Tom Lance, with initiating the work. President of Tilden Coil Construction, Brian Jaramillo, who attends The Grove, reached out to various contractors and suppliers to make this project go from a dream to a reality.
Building Homes for the Homeless
Many began donating resources, time, and money to the effort. Someone donated all the framing, and another the plumbing, Bishop said, adding:
Some were believers, some were not believers, but they believed in what was going on. And we built four homes. The homes cost over $700,000 and The Grove contributed just under a hundred thousand. The rest were given by donation.
The Grove partnered with Path of Life Ministries, a homeless shelter in town, to help with placing people for the homes. The church developed an application process for a homeless person or family who wanted to get out of their situation. Bishop explained:
[We]have typically three interviews with them to try to figure out, “Okay, how did you become homeless?” We find out what their debt is. We find out their story. There’s references that we can call it just to confirm that they’re not lying to us on who they are and what’s going on, because we really want to help those that are really in need.
We even have them meet with our counseling center. We have a counseling center with 45 counselors that will interview them and just see if there’s anything psychological going on that we need to know about. We do a drug test. We figure out their whole story. By the time they move in, we know who they are, and they know us.
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Source: Christianity Today