Four year ago, Align Mpls
(formerly Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness) facilitated the development of Street Voices of Change
(SVoC)—a supportive and self-empowering advocacy community for persons experiencing homelessness. SVoC grew to hold sessions in four congregations, including The Basilica on Tuesday mornings (pre-COVID). Their agenda includes supporting one another and raising issues that might end their homelessness or save lives. Within 2 years they responded to harsh and unjust stories of living in the Minneapolis homeless shelter system by developing a Shelter Resident’s Bill of Rights (SRBOR).
The SRBOR states that people in shelters should have a safe and dignified experience while staying at shelters. The rights they claim are simple: They assert every shelter resident has the right to be treated with respect and dignity. Shelters should have adequate space, be clean and safe. Case management should work to help exit shelter. Staff should be trained, compassionate, and create a safe welcoming environment. Shelters should provide secure property storage.
With Align Mpls’s support, Street Voices of Change connected with Hennepin County Commissioners and Shelter Providers. As a result of their advocacy, Hennepin County now requires implementation of the tenets of the SVoC Shelter Resident’s Bill of Rights in county shelters. Cognizant of the need for SRBOR’s implementation and enforcement across the entire state, SVoC has successfully secured the support of Homes for All Coalition
, and tenets of the SRBOR are now included in their MN State Legislative Agenda for 2021
One of the dreams of creating Street Voices of Change was for our congregations to empower those who experience homelessness to advocate and work to support themselves—with the real possibility of bringing the tens of thousands of people in our combined congregations behind them—in support of them. They, more than anyone else, know what is needed. If they can name it and work toward it, we—as partner congregations—can use our voices to support them.
It is very exciting to see this dream come to fruition, with SVoC’s Shelter Resident’s Bill of Rights. They have done the work. Now it is time for our congregations to support the changes that are possible.
We ask everyone in The Basilica community to engage in advocacy to move components of the Shelter Residents Bill of Rights through the legislative process. We need your voice to make this happen!
Currently the MN House is moving a bill forward that would create a taskforce over the upcoming year to study state wide possibilities for shelter residents’ rights and shelter provider practices. A report will be generated and funds appropriated. Bill HF900
is gaining momentum. The MN Senate is moving Bill SF1120
Contact your elected officials and offer your support for these bills. To find your elected officials, go to https://www.leg.mn.gov/
Let them know:
• Everyone deserves a safe and dignified place to rest their head at night.
• 60% of unsheltered folks choose to be outside, on the train, or somewhere unfit for habitation because they do not feel safe in shelters.
• 30% of people in single adult shelters are under 18 or over 55 years old.
• Shelters should be regulated to protect the people they are charged with like every other sector.
Together we can support our brothers and sisters who are homeless and create a safe and dignified shelter system.
In his Lenten message of 2013, the last of his pontificate, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote about the priority of faith and the primacy of charity. On the one hand he praised a deepening of our prayer life and strengthening of our faith as good and worthy Lenten disciplines. In addition, he challenged us to witness to our faith by extending charity to others and to allow our prayer life to drive our charity. This, according to Benedict XVI is the key to a fruitful Lent and the essence of our Christian life.
As we embark on the Third Week of Lent we invite you to consider the following suggestions for the three Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer and charity. These can either be in addition to our previous suggestions or you can start anew.
Fasting from putting ourselves first
• Putting ourselves first as an individual and even as a nation is quite popular these days. Individualism and nationalism are celebrated by many, even by Christians despite the fact that both are antithetical to Christianity.
• Christianity is rooted in Jesus’ willingness to give his life for others. He embraced death so we might live, all of us. This is as far removed from individualism and nationalism as one can possibly imagine. Followers of Jesus are called to do the same. In the words of St. Francis: “…it is in giving that we receive…and in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
• Lent is the perfect time to practice fasting from putting ourselves first by putting the needs of others before our own. The way we do that is by starting with small things such as checking in on a elderly neighbor. The ultimate goal is that we embody in our own lives the sacrificial life of Jesus.
Prayer: Vision Divina on the Passion of Christ
• As we try to live out our Christian calling it might be good to meditate on the Passion of Jesus. One way of doing that is through Visio Divina or Divine Seeing which is an intentional and prayerful contemplation of an image of the crucifixion. The objective is to allow God to speak through the art in a most profound way.
• As you prepare for Visio Divina chose an image of the crucifixion and select a Passion Narrative as found in one of the Gospels.
1. Lectio: take you time to slowly read through part of one of the Passion Narratives. Be attentive to any words that speak to you and feel free to write those down.
2. Visio: after reminding yourself of the textual description of the Passion of Christ now spend some time contemplating the art you selected. What is it you see? If you are using a figurative representation ask yourself who and what is represented in the image. If non-figurative, consider the shapes, the forms, and the colors. Feel free to write down any words that come to mind.
3. Meditatio: Now let your imagination dialogue with what you see. There is always more to an image than what the eyes behold. Is a deeper story forming in your imagination? Are you experiencing any specific feelings or emotions? Again, feel free to write down any words that come to mind.
4. Oratio: Once you are content that the image has fully spoken to you it is now time to formulate a prayer response. This can be a prayer of gratitude or it might be a prayer of intercessions. Feel free to use the words you have written down in step 1 or 2.
5. Contemplatio: After praying with words it is now time to let go of all words and to quietly rest in prayer. Give yourself over to God who will mold you in prayer to be more like God.
6. What do you take away from this experience. What might you do differently in your life, inspired by the Passion of Christ?
• As you fast from putting yourself first we invite you to engage in small acts of kindness, thus putting others before you. St. Thérèse de Lisieux noted that not all of us are called to live heroic Christian lives. Most of us are called to engage in many small acts of kindness done with great love.
• Simply select a few smalls acts of kindness you will commit yourself to in the next week and beyond. This may be opening a door for someone; allowing someone to go first in line; checking in on an elderly neighbor; providing food for someone in need; offering support to someone who is struggling with loss; shoveling snow should we still get some; etc.
• There are many, many small acts of kindness we can engage in on a daily basis. As we do that we will train ourselves in the very ways of thinking and acting God asks of us as followers of Jesus Christ.
And as I mentioned the last two weeks, please remember to be patient with yourself and others. Lent is neither an endurance test nor a time to prove our Christian heroism. Rather, Lent is a time to slow down and ponder what is essential to our faith and thus to our life as Christians. So please pace yourselves. Give yourself and others the necessary space. And above all be patient with yourself and others.
Art That Surrounds Us