Homelessness in Franklin

Below is the text of an editorial I recently sent to my local newspaper. It should be published early next week, but you can read it first here.

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It is time for the city of Franklin to come together and provide a shelter for those who have fallen through the cracks of our great town.

For the past three years, my church has provided emergency shelter for the guys living in our city who have no home. These are the guys that quietly walk the streets all day, yet are invisible to most people. These guys are my friends. The vast majority of these men (my guess would be 95%) are lifelong Franklin residents. They were born here, raised here, and graduated from our schools. They are not transients. They are not panhandlers. For many of them, their family has been in Franklin for generations. This is as much their hometown as it is mine.

While the total number of homeless in the county is probably between 700 and 1,000 (no one knows for sure), the number of guys our church ministers to is less than two-dozen. Some nights we house as few as 2 or 3. Other nights we house as many as 7 or 8. Over the course of a winter, we house 20 or more different individuals. For various reasons, right now, we can only house single men. There is no emergency shelter in our city for women who are homeless, single moms who are homeless, couples who are homeless, or families living in their vehicles. THIS MUST CHANGE! As our city grows, this issue will not go away, it will only get worse!

As a pastor, I believe the primary responsibility to take care of these beautiful people rests with our churches. If we, as pastors in this city, would come together, we could solve this problem. However, while churches should carry the bulk of this burden, it cannot be done without the city and county governments helping as well. We need city leaders to step up and speak to this issue and fight, if necessary, to place a shelter near the downtown area. Third, we need the help and support of each individual citizen. We live in a great city with extremely compassionate people. If we would all work together, we could be an example to other cities around the country. Instead, we have chosen to do nothing and hope the homeless will move down the road to the next city.

Two huge mountains need to be climbed in order for a shelter to become a reality. Both mountains are attitudes that need to change. The first mountain is the attitude, “If we build it they will come.” In reality, the homeless are already here. They are already our neighbors. There is a real need right now.

The second mountain is the attitude, “Not in my back yard” (NIMBY). Two main concerns associated with NIMBY are an increase in crime and a decrease in property values. However, studies consistently show that any increase in crimes around a shelter are “statistically insignificant” to the increase in crime in areas without a shelter. Many homeless have mental problems. As such, a homeless person is more likely to be a victim of a crime than a perpetrator of a crime. (See http://citylimits.org/2015/02/25/after-the-shouting-do-shelters-and-supportive-housing-harm-neighborhoods/ )

Furthermore, a study by NYU’s Furman Center found that after five years, property values around “supportive housing” (including shelters), not only increases property value, but increases property value at a higher rate than in areas without supportive housing. (See, https://shnny.org/research/supportive-housing-and-property-values-the-landmark-study/ and http://citylimits.org/2015/02/25/after-the-shouting-do-shelters-and-supportive-housing-harm-neighborhoods/, and http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/writers/pat_schneider/study-says-homeless-facilities-may-increase-the-value-of-nearby/article_659eecae-5b7b-11e2-9585-001a4bcf887a.html )

Both of these attitudes are contrary to the teachings of Jesus (see Matthew 25:31-46 as one of many examples). In a city like ours, with a church on every corner, these two mountains should be easy to climb and these two attitudes should be easy to change.

It is time for the city of Franklin to come together and provide a shelter for those who have fallen through the cracks of our great town.

 

Rev. Kevin Riggs, DPhil.

Senior Pastor

Franklin Community Church

(615) 440-7553

kevin@franklincommunitychurch.org

http://www.franklincommunitychurch.org

 

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About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider...in that order.
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