March 14 – According to stories from benefactors, this one is a keeper: Chattanooga-area church opens cafe with no crosses, no symbols, no proselytizing, no pressure to join or join the church. After a few years, he makes a profit of $34,000 and returns the money to help other local ministries – ministries that help fix leaky roofs, ministries that build homes, ministries that help children and teenagers and many more.
This is the story of Silverdale Baptist Church’s Oaks Cafe, which many don’t even know is connected to the church, and that’s intentional. Selling things, helping people.
And those who were helped — actually seven other local ministries that take turns helping people — were Adult & Teen Challenge MidSouth, the Bethlehem Center, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga Area, Hope for the Inner City, Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home, as well as Mission Augmentation Chattanooga and Unidos in Compassion through the Generosity Trust.
Yeah. It’s a heartwarming example of humans using their common sense to help more humans.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Tennessee and Georgia, mostly Republicans, appear to be on a completely opposite path — a path that appears to be anything but a helpful, straight, and narrow path.
It’s not about helping the needy – or even other people who help the needy. In fact, both general assemblies of these states seem determined to withdraw, if not ban, such aid.
Take the Georgian Senate, for example, which is considering a bill that would ban local governments from using federal dollars to build permanent housing – read here about shelters and more – for the homeless, but at the same time penalize more financially cities that have a higher income than -average homeless population. And that would make it a crime for a homeless person to take/create shelter on state property – like a park or right of way or under an overpass.
Not only would the bill criminalize being homeless, but it would also make it nearly impossible for cities to help, even at a time when more and more people are homeless due to the loss of jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Georgia would pull federal funds from cities — especially Atlanta — if city leaders tried to use US bailout relief funds, some of which were earmarked for that specific purpose.
Supporters of Georgia’s Reducing Street Homelessness Act say the bill aims to reduce the number of homeless people on Georgia’s streets by pressuring local governments to take more action.
How? ‘Or’ What? With higher property taxes? Higher sales taxes?
Pull the string a little on it.
Isn’t the solution to homelessness to house people – truly housed, not just moved from tent to shelter to shelter to tent? Of course it is. And doing that isn’t about arresting a homeless man sleeping in a right of way or, as Ringgold tried to do a few years ago, about banning donated or carried stoves and tents by homeless people. And homelessness will certainly not be eliminated by cutting resources available to cities trying to help.
If Chattanooga were in Georgia, a city council vote in October to spend nearly $3 million to buy the Airport Inn on Lee Highway with plans to turn it into low-income housing and a support center could not happen if this Peach State bill passes. Chattanooga is purchasing the 74-room hotel with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
That’s not to say Chattanooga doesn’t have other efforts in play. The city will allocate $100,000 — unspent money from its current homeless budget — as incentives for wary homeowners who might not want to rent to homeless people. The money will be sort of an insurance program to help pay for repairs or cover the cost of damages up to $7,500 per claim, if a homeless person the city places in Section 8 or other rental units with the help of its accommodation navigators. .
But Georgia’s obstruction of fairness and common-sense good deeds didn’t stop at the state line. Our volunteer state legislators are always busy building their own roadblocks for neighbors to help neighbors. They attempted a similar effort last year to criminalize poverty with a bill to make it a crime to “camp” on any public property, including that owned by local governments. Remember that there are already trespass laws that apply to private property. The effect would therefore be to criminalize a sleeping homeless person. Period. The bill failed. Until there.
But now Tennessee lawmakers want to target an equity measure that has nothing to do with homelessness — but with minority businesses. They would ban minority contracting programs in state and local governments, school boards, public universities, and similar government organizations statewide.
A study by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations found that black businesses received only about 3.3% of state procurement contract money in 2016-2020, and that was an increase from a few years earlier: in 2003-2007, it was only 0.4%.
Seemingly, helping – and even trying to be fair – is spiraling out of control.
Shame on our state governments. May they take a lesson from Silverdale Baptist Church.