Friday, December 08, 2006

City Council

I shared with our city council in Modesto this past Teusday. It was alrighht. They listened. They have to! There is a section of thier meetings called "Oral Communications" and any citizen can go and speak for 3 minutes about anything he wants. So this is what I cause I was so nervous.

"My name is Chris Whitler working for Youth With A Mission, Modesto at 4204 Dale Rd. I have lived and worked in the Modesto area for 5 years now. I came here to develop ministry in Modesto mostly to our poor. I have worked with various local church communities and organizations to help people in need. Mostly, I have walked the parks and South 9th St with a small team to make friends, bring food and help folks as best we can.

I'vecome here today to finally speak to you on behalf of the poor here in our area. I am grateful for your willingness to serve our community. I appreciate the initiative to get a winter shelter for single men and women. It is a good start. And I am thrilled to see Agenda item 5 in tonight's meeting. The need is overwhelming in our community and if we do not start talking about simple, sufficient, cost effective housing for our poor things are only going to get worse and they will not go away. To give our whole city over to the commuter house developer and the big stores the people in those houses crave is to sell away the heart of our community. The target worker cannot afford to live in the community target serves...this is not a dead statistic to me...this is Diana and Stella who care for kids and grandkids.

It will be you and the bi-laws you implement that make way for the opportunity for all of Modesto's citizens to have what all people in all communities deserve - the dignity to make a way for themselves in this world. The poor continually face discouragement, rejection and difficulty. It is leadership's responsibility to make a way for the poor IN provide a way for them to exist in the community you serve. This council cannot impose long term change on an individual, you can only make ways for our city to change to accomodate individuals in their process. A good friend was recently evicted from his home by our city bi-laws. He was staying in his sister's backyard in a camper. The camper area was clean, he took care of the yard, he maintained sobriety and lived quietly. The house got a letter stating the set up was illegal and my friend had to move out. The city of Modesto prefers him homeless.

Our society does not want homeless people sleeping hidden in the parks or on city property and yet this happened. We've got to do better and think more creatively. I ask that you start by letting families help out their own by allowing back yard campers to have people in them...and of course by-law enforcement would be implemented in any situation where a yard is unsightly or neighbors act unruly. Let's start to talk about a legal camping area, a non-profit, co-operative trailer park or a safe parking area for people that sleep in their car.

For thousands of years, many different people groups have made a way for themselves with dignity living in tents. Shelters are temporary and do nothhing for families with kids or the mentally ill who cannot bring themselves to sleep in a room full of strangers. Our team wants to work with you and others in our city. What's is happening in our city toward these ends? Are there things of which I am unaware? What can we do to help?"

After I read this the Mayor said, "Thank you" and that was that. I sat down with Aaron and then the Parks director came up to us and requested a meeting. So we're going to get together. Then a police officer approached us and asked to talk out in the hall. He is an outreach officer who committed to helping us however he can. All in all, it was good. I an really grateful to live in a place where, even if my view aren't shared, that I can be heard.

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