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John W. Eyster: Kudos to Neil Johnson for update on homeless in Janesville

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John W. Eyster
July 8, 2014

Commendation and thanks to NEIL JOHNSON for his outstanding feature article, “Janesville's homeless see gap in services in summer” featured on front page of yesterday's Gazette! Commendation and thanks too to Gazette editors for the prominence given to this very significant feature article! I urge YOU to read this informative feature article!

Neil grabbed my attention with the opening of his article, “It was a bright Saturday morning at Janesville's downtown farmers market. As families bustled among the dozens of produce stands along North Main Street, Bernie Baldwin, a homeless man, sat in a chair at a plastic bistro table and watched the crowds.”

He further informed me about Baldwin writing, “Baldwin is among a group of chronically homeless men in Janesville whose lives are set on a seasonal toggle switch.”

Neil reported:

From October through April, Baldwin and about two-dozen other homeless men spend their nights at church-hosted shelters run through Janesville-based GIFTS, a nonprofit group that serves homeless men.

But in the spring, GIFTS' overnight services close. For the next six months, some of the men who use the shelter hit the streets, the woods or—if they're lucky—a friend's couch.

Officials acknowledge there is a gap in services for the city's male homeless population, despite charity groups' attempts to close it.

'It's a challenge. When you think about homeless men in the city, we don't really have a facility for them,' City Building and Development Services Manager Gale Price said.

Price said City Manager Mark Freitag has identified a gap in services for the homeless as part of a city needs assessment.

'It's a shortfall of the community right now,' Price said. 'What do we do with these guys? How can you facilitate their having some place to go?'

I confess that while I've been attuned to the need for shelter for homeless persons during the COLD WEATHER in Janesville, I had not thought about the need for shelter even through the summer. Have YOU?

I have been grateful for and supported the ministry of the GOD IS FAITHFUL TEMPORARY SHELTER, GIFTS, a homeless shelter that rotates from church to church, one week at a time, in Janesville, WI. GIFTS is supported by 31 churches in the Janesville area. You will find information about GIFTS using the link above. I prize GIFTS' slogan, “I'd rather see a sermon than hear one!” which is a quote from Edgar A. Guest's practical and challenging poem, “I'd Rather See A Sermon.” He clearly articulates the need to go beyond talk-talk to WALK-THE-TALK!

I confess that my first reaction to the summer shelter need is to ask whether GIFTS would be able to make the shelter ministry available year-round, 12-months? I KNOW that GIFTS is dependent on a wide-range of volunteers and that summertime it can be very difficult to get volunteers. At the same time, there is the NEED!

The article grabbed my attention unusually directly since I had shared a message entitled, “Christian Hospitality” as Guest Pastor at GOOD SHEPHERD LUTHERAN CHURCH on Sunday, June 29. That message featured the news about the new sculpture by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz entitled, “Homeless Jesus,” as an illustration to complement the Gospel Lesson from Matthew 10:40-42 with Jesus' teaching about giving a cup of cold water to “little ones.” I tied that Gospel lesson with Matthew 25:31-45 which outlines the teaching of Jesus that his followers are to meet the practical needs, e.g., food for the hungry, clothing for the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. Again, “I'd rather see a sermon than hear one.”

If you want to learn more about the controversy surrounding the “Homeless Jesus” statue, I urge you to watch TheLipTV report on YouTube, “Homeless Jesus Statue Scares Rich People, Gets Pope's Blessing.” I got one of the miniatures of the “Homeless Jesus” statue which I shared with the Good Shepherd congregation. If you are interested in the sculptures by Timothy Schmalz use this link. He has done a wide-range of sculptures with Christian themes. Many of them are suitable for home display.

Having been alerted to the SUMMERTIME need for SHELTER for the HOMELESS, I trust that the Christians in the Janesville area will provide SHELTER in response to Jesus' teaching. I trust the HOMELESS in Janesville will SEE a sermon as Christians WALK THE TALK!



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