The suburban homeless are largely hidden. They're more apt to sleep in cars or double up with friends than push grocery carts downtown. And the few existing programs to help them are severely limited. For instance, shelters serving domestic violence or sexual assault victims deny aid to hundreds each year due to lack of space, and families needing Section 8 housing assistance are put on a two-year waiting list.What's most interesting to me is the denial on the part of suburban civic leaders regarding the issue. One suburban mayor claims, "There is no homelessness in Katy -- none whatsoever." Another says that his city does not need a homeless shelter or public transit. (Naturally, they don't want anything to detract from their images of suburban affluence. It would be bad for business and investment.) The reporter continues:
Social workers in Fort Bend tell a different story, of extended families crammed into trailers with no running water. And school social workers say they are overwhelmed by rising numbers of teenagers from even the most upscale communities camping out on sidewalks, park benches and school campuses.
So often the kids get sent on to Houston, where there's generally a waiting list and no room.
If we are to seek the welfare of the suburbs, Christians and churches need to partner with the nonprofit social sector and help local governments recognize the reality of the issues. What's encouraging is that churches have taken the lead when local municipalities have focused their resources elsewhere. May God raise up Christians who will be active in churches and in public service to minister to the suburban homeless, orphan and widow.