By Rev. Robert Sandham
The three articles in the Homeless Grapevine Issue #52 understandably caught our attention. (Actually, one letter, one editorial, and one commentary.) We were intrigued by several aspects of the writer’s perception of our ministry, for the homeless we serve at The City Mission. First, we paid careful attention to the negative critiques of our services, and we will take them seriously. We are always doing self-evaluation at The City Mission, looking to improve our care for the hurting people we serve, so any new ideas or challenges to our present way of doing things are always welcome. We will review the criticisms, and change where we deem necessary.
Second, we were saddened by the numerous, gross inaccuracies relating to our services reported in the articles. For example, one writer states we only help drug addicts and alcoholics. The truth is we serve a broad spectrum of people’s needs, and we do so in a way that preserves each person’s dignity: homeless men, men who desire recovery programs, women in crisis along with their children, women who lead families and need clothing and fellowship, children who want to grow academically and spiritually, and those in the justice system, both at the county and state levels. The articles also claim we use our clients to do work of the City Mission. The truth is we have wonderful and highly qualified staff, and choose to enter our long-term resident recovery program understand they will have work responsibilities as one component of the program. The work opportunities help them build self-esteem, learn teamwork, and develop an honest work ethic that employers value highly. The articles additional suggest we force Christian organization, and everything we do has its origin in biblical and Christian principles, which have always been the foundation of all we do at The City Mission. We serve people regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of them, without any discriminations of any kind. A simple phone call could have clarified these other reported misperceptions in the articles, but it is apparent to us that no interviews with City Mission representatives or research was done to prepare the articles, thus many inaccuracies were passed off a truth.
Third, the total distortion of our Christian faith and its important to all of our programming saddened us the most. We want to be clear: for all of our ninety-two year history we have served the poor of Cleveland because we believe God has called us to do so. We have depended on God to provide all the resources we need to serve those who are precious in His sight, and His providence has sustained us. Jesus commands us to care for the needy and the poor, for their physical and emotional and spiritual needs. It is option; we must do it. Jesus also urges every person to believe in His Father, and also in Him, therefore we encourage people to believe. So we do both, we give people food along with the Bread of Life. We fulfill their earthly thirst, and at the same time we give them the Living Water. We give coats and clothing to those who have need, and share the good news of Jesus so they can clothe themselves with Christ. The physical life and the spiritual life can never be separated. God wants us to care for the whole person all the time, and so we do. We will always be faithful to this calling of Jesus: to care for the needy, the poor, and those who feel they have no hope. We will always do all we can for their important earthly needs, but we will never neglect their even more important spiritual needs. To do so would be disobedience to our Father in Heaven, who loves and cares for us all.
Director of Ministry Programs The City Mission
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May-June 2002 Cleveland, Ohio