Here’s an interesting confluence of people and places from my life: a former colleague from the Daily News writing a profile of my church for the Christian magazine I write for. In other words, Troy Anderson has a piece in Christianity Today about Bel Air Presbyterian’s efforts to help the homeless in Los Angeles:
On any given night, 73,000 people in LA are homeless—1 in 10 of the 744,000 homeless people nationwide. Living amid such extremes of wealth and poverty, [the Rev. Mark] Brewer talked to his elders—many of whom remembered former President Reagan’s heart and generosity for the homeless on skid row—about what the church could do to engage and bless the community.
“How can you have the wealth that you have here and have this situation?” Brewer asks.
Describing Los Angeles as a 21st-century Babylon, Brewer draws on the prophet Jeremiah telling the exiled Israelites to seek the “peace and prosperity” of the pagan city. In 2006, believing the Lord was calling him to help these homeless families, Brewer founded Imagine LA, whose goal is to mobilize the faith community to sponsor and mentor homeless families to get into long-term housing and become self-sufficient.
Since the pilot program launched in late 2007, three churches and two synagogues have sponsored five homeless families. But dozens of major churches and synagogues are now coming on board, and Brewer expects the number of family sponsorships to grow to 30 by the end of this year, and to 200 by 2011. The program is attracting national interest because it seeks to address some of the root causes of homelessness—primarily unemployment, domestic violence, and substance abuse—and provide “a solution, not a Band-Aid,” says Jill Govan Bauman, executive director of Imagine LA.