While the Catholic Archbishop of Indianapolis wastes time bullying Catholic schools into firing gay teachers, (bravely resisted by the Jesuit Brebeuf high school) it’s heartening to read of Episcopal churches responding to the housing crisis and building affordable units on their properties. While the crunch in the Bay Area is one of or perhaps the worst in the country, most areas face a terrible shortage, hence aggravating the situation for many homeless people.
To several congregations, it seemed like an obvious way to help. Every movement needs its slogan so this is “YIGBY,” “Yes in God’s Backyard” contrasted with “NIMBY” for “not in my backyard.” St. Paul’s in Walnut Creek, CA is finishing construction of 44 affordable apartments, and has already received over 5,000 applications. It’s rare to combine a community eager to help with property zoned for residential development. Sometimes it takes a long slog through local ordinances, and many efforts to ease legal restrictions.
But as Senior Pastor Gerald Agee in West Oakland said, “we felt we didn’t need a lightning bolt from heaven to let us know what the direction should be” (reported in the EAST BAY TIMES, 6/16/19, p. 1). Some church property, bought decades ago, is valuable real estate, but attendance is declining because members can no longer afford to live in the area. Half-empty sanctuaries and parking lots could become homes for children who’ve known nothing but shelters their whole lives. As Father Bruce Bramlett, serving as priest assistant of St. Jude’s Episcopal Church, Cupertino, CA says, “it’s the wave of the future.”
Anyone listening out there? Any parish got some unused land, some courage and creativity?