Mary’s Place has been in the news quite a bit over the last few weeks. In case you have missed all of the Facebook updates, you can check out the following links in order to catch up. Long story short – for over a decade, Mary’s Place was housed in the basement of First United Methodist Church in downtown Seattle. It was a great location, and the organization had a great relationship with the pastor. Fast forward to 2006/7, FUMC got a new pastor, who, while claiming to be a homeless advocate, decided to take the church in a different direction. The church sold their prime downtown property to a developer (for a high rise office building to go in its place), and bought property in the posh Queen Anne district. While the church was under construction, Mary’s Place found a temporary location, having been told that when the new FUMC was completed, Mary’s Place would have a place in their new building. The temporary location is now being placed on the market for developing as well. Fast forward to March 2009, when FUMC told Mary’s Place that if they wanted to return to FUMC they would have to give up their 501(c) and become a part of the church’s ministry. This was something that Mary’s Place absolutely could not do. They have spent the last 18 years building up trust in their donors and supporters, they have established themselves as a ministry that is open to women of all or no faith, and pride themselves on the numerous denominations and churches that support Mary’s Place. There were some dirty church politics that occurred as a result of FUMC’s decision and that severely effected the ministry of Mary’s Place, yet we have tried to move past this and focus on what is important. (Even though in my head I keep singing, “I’m not ready to make nice. I’m not ready to back down. I’m still mad as hell and I don’t have time to go round and round. ‘Cause I’m mad as hell and can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should.” Guess that is why I don’t make the decisions around here – anger isn’t going to get us anywhere we need to be.) The fact remains that, regardless of how we ended up in this dire situation, by as early as February, Mary’s Place could become homeless. Without that promise of a place to move into, we have been suddenly forced into a desperate search for permanent housing and funding for the move. Both things that, if we had known 2 years ago when we were preparing to move into this temporary location, we could have been building up towards. But searching for affordable housing and money for a move and possible renovations in this economy is well, harsh.
Okay, so maybe long story long. I’m getting to my point, I really am.
The decision was made to reach out to the media, to tell them of our story in hopes that someone out there could help us in our search for a home, or help with funding, or just help in whatever way they could. But the problem with reaching out to the media is, its not a story unless there’s drama involved. And the drama of hundreds of women and children losing the only day home they know and trust just isn’t drama enough. So while it was never the intention to bash FUMC, the media needed that spin. And there is something to be said for letting people know exactly why we are in the situation we are in. We have been mostly pleased with most of the coverage so far – it has focused more on our need than the FUMC drama, and we have gotten mostly positive feedback. But the place where we have not gotten positive, or even really relevant, feedback, is the comment sections. In today’s media market, where every one has an opinion and a username, comment sections are the place to be. As I read through the comment sections on each media piece, I was amazed at how quickly things can spin out of control. While the article focused on the need for a home, the comment sections became a religion/Jesus bashing session.
And then I read this:
“Why are these women homeless? Why don’t women stay in families, build multi-generational extended households and care for each other from cradle to grave?
Oh, I forgot…they are strong, independent and capable! They don’t want to share a home, car, t.v., kitchen or a man’s income. You’ve come a long baby!”
And not only did I want to scream at the computer screen (which I did), and throw things (which I didn’t), but I wanted to weep. The fact that someone could seriously think that the cause of homeless in women and children is due to the fact that they are not dependent on their husbands anymore is nothing short of absurd. It is just beyond my comprehension that the mindset of keeping a woman “barefoot and pregnant” still exists. Not only that it still exists, but that the deviation from the idea is the “cause” of homelessness in women. I wanted to scream, “But what about the woman who was being abused for years by her husband. The woman who fled in order to protect the lives of her children? What about the woman who never had a husband to depend on? The woman who was abandoned as soon as the pregnancy test showed positive. What about the woman who was dumped by her family because of her mental illness, or the woman who knew nothing of drugs until her boyfriend introduced her? What of these women?”
It makes me think of the passage in the Bible, where Jesus enters the Temple and sees the merchants dishonoring a holy space with greed. When Jesus over turns the tables, we sense his anger, not at their greed, but at their defilement of something sacred. And it it makes me think. While the anger in me boils over the ignorant and sexist comments such as those in the comment sections, the root of my anger is really over the lack of compassion. The defilement of something as sacred as the provision of basic needs of all human beings. When compassion is lost, what hope do we have left?