The current economic recession has had a huge impact on many Americans. Yet whole regions of the country are virtually untouched, leaving some with little sense of the magnitude of the problem. When I was in Dallas, March 25-30, I realized that there was some evidence of the economic downturn yet much of suburban Dallas seems unfazed by what is going on across the nation. Clearly, people are still spending money and I found many Texans to be critical about the problems of other states, and their bad management of economic resources (which is often true). These are not seen, in some cases, as their problems. Besides threatening our sense of national unity this type of response forced me to think even more about the real impact of these times.
The New York Times reported on March 11 that the more jobs vanish in our national economy the more entire families find that the only place they can afford to live is in low-cost motels. This story gnawed at me then and does so even more today. As banks foreclose on home owners in southern California, and south Florida, families are forced to rent. They cannot afford homes or apartments so they move into low budget motels and rent one room for their entire family, sometimes with as many as four, five or six people.
The people living in these conditions are not just the ordinary homeless poor. These are hard working people who simply lost their jobs. Sometimes this came about through health problems, the loss of insurance, etc. The security deposit needed for a place of their own is unaffordable and the rent is just too much. So the motel is their only choice.
In Denver this is happening big time, where hundreds of families live this way. It is also happening in diverse places like Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Portland, Oregon, places where anything like this has not reached such magnitude in the past. I have to wonder how many churches realize this need even exists in their own area. If they miss the opportunity to love their neighbor in the process what a tragic loss of mission. Some are responding, as I have noted in earlier blogs. Some are oblivious, especially where they are enjoying relative prosperity. We should all wake up to the call of Christ to love and care for those in need.