This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 27, 2002 10:53 PM. The previous post in this blog was And I think to myself, "This blows". The next post in this blog is Lesson learned. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, October 27, 2002

Soup kitchen redux

Last week in this space I mentioned the controversy in a Southeast Portland neighborhood over a homeless dining service operated by a local Catholic parish. The neighbors have once again become fed up with the crime that lingers at the church-owned park next door to the dining hall long after the food service workers have cleaned up the plates and gone home. So bad has the atmosphere become that the city has declared the soup kitchen a chronic nuisance property under an ordinance designed to make it easier for the police to shut down crack houses.

I noted that the pastor of a nearby church had written some thoughtful comments in his own parish bulletin about the dispute. He noted that the real problem was the lack of an adequate government response to homelessness, although I mused that he had no real answer for the neighbors' legitimate concerns.

Tonight I heard him speak on the subject, and I must say his words were stunning. Of course, he reminded us all, consistent with the gospel of the day, that the commandment to love one's neighbors is not limited to those neighbors who are easy to love. What sort of commandment would that be?

But then came a remarkable addendum. He acknowledged that the City of Portland was pushing high-impact social problems and social services into Southeast Portland. No homeless dining operation, he said, is going to open in the West Hills or elsewhere on the west side, nor even in Northeast Portland, where the city is building its precious Convention Center expansion and looking to lure tourist dollars (see below). In addition to feeding the poor, the pastor said, the commandment to love one's neighbor should lead residents of Southeast Portland to point out the injustice in the districting of social problems and biased siting of social services by the city.

This was only part of a talk whose overall message was clearly to tolerate. But the true, true words and call to action were there.

Best homily I've heard in decades.

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