We came across this eloquent note posted on Nextdoor.com by a local pastor discussing a neighbor’s concerns that housing for homeless people jeopardizes children’s safety. We thought it was a valuable perspective on the vulnerable people we serve and how they are sometimes viewed, and worth resharing. What do you think?
We received a flyer proclaiming “Protect children’s safe routes!” and urging opposition to Project Homekey. There is nothing on the flyer indicating who it is from nor does the petition mentioned in the flyer say who it is from. There is no way to know if the people behind the flyer and petition even live anywhere near So. Elisio.
Supportive housing is a complicated issue. I respect those who are opposed to project, but I do not respect anonymous public opposition promoting fear of those who are experiencing homelessness from people too afraid to put their own names on their opposition. The statement “protect children’s safe routes!” implies that anyone who is experiencing homelessness is an inherent risk to children. I find that both offensive and unfounded. People who are experiencing homelessness are not homeless because of some character flaw that makes them dangerous.
I have served as an Episcopal priest for 25 years, 18 of them at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ross (I am speaking only for myself here and not on behalf of St. John’s). I live in Kentfield 1.5 miles from the proposed Project Homekey site. Over 25 years of parish ministry, every case of child abuse or misconduct I’ve been privy to has involved someone the child already knew. In my work with those experiencing homelessness in Marin I have meet people who went the same schools my children did (Bacich, Kent and Redwood) as well as Marin Catholic and Branson.
Some people need more to get the same.
— Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools
Many of our homeless grew up in our communities. I’ve always been struck by how many of those who are homeless in Marin are veterans. If we want to support our veterans this is a tangible way to do it. When St. John’s tried to host the Rotating Emergency Shelter from 6pm to 6am one day a week in the winter one of the most vocal opponents, who expressed grave concern over the safety of children, has since been convicted in the college admission cheating scandal. Who is a greater risk to our children, someone who needs help getting their life on track or someone who will commit a crime to advantage their own child and take away college admissions from a more deserving student?
The most common objection I hear is that Marin needs something like Project Homekey but the Ross Valley is the wrong place for it. Given the realities of housing in Marin this, in effect, means that projects like this should be closer to low income and non-white residents and children than to our children. Episcopal Community Services, who would run Project Homekey, has a proven record in providing supportive housing, which surrounds people experiencing homelessness with the services they need and provides a place to live — which honestly means they are not longer homeless. This is not just a shelter, there is whole process for becoming and continuing as a resident.
In my work I have learned that there is plenty of mental illness and addiction among the housed residents of Marin. We just have the resources to address it or the capacity to hide it in a way that those who are homeless do not. I firmly believe we can do more good for our community by supporting efforts like Project Homekey. Mary Jane Burke, our Superintendent of Schools, says “some people need more to get the same.” I think that is true for those who would be helped by Project Homekey. I hope you will join me in saying, Yes in our back yard.
St. John’s Episcopal Church