Special to Valley News
A few years ago I went to get my driver’s license renewed. It was my day off, so I might have looked kind of grubby or like a homeless person, because the woman behind the counter asked me questions I’d never been asked before when getting my license renewed.
“Do you have hallucinations? Do you hear voices?” she said.
I chuckled and said, “No. But I do see visions. But I think I’m supposed to because I’m a minister.”
She laughed and said to the woman next to her, “This one says he sees visions, but it’s OK because he’s a minister.”
She laughed too. They did renew my license.
I really do see visions, though. I see a vision for the city of Menifee where there are no homeless people. Instead they’re in low-cost housing with a case worker getting them job training, mental health help or drug addiction assistance. In my vision, the city of Menifee pays for all this help, because, as Willie Sutton said when he was asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is.”
I thought city council members saw the same vision when they set up a Homeless Task Force about a year ago and their mantra was, “Housing First.” In other words, they would fund housing for the homeless first, then get them help.
But next the council passed an ordinance prohibiting “aggressive panhandling,” which wasn’t “Housing First,” but was “Punishment First.” It’s understandable though, because they don’t want a homeless person asking for money from people at the ATM.
Next, the council hired two park rangers who roused homeless people out of parks, parking lots, etc., sending them on their way to someplace else. This action was still not “Housing First;” it’s more like, “Shuffle-them-off-to-Buffalo First.” Again, it’s understandable, because homeless people are not wanted in parks, parking lots, etc.
By this point, I was willing to accept that we weren’t going to have “Housing First,” we were going to have “Housing Last.”
But at a recent Homeless Task Force meeting, I was told by a city council member that there was not going to be any city funds to pay for a case worker or for housing for homeless people. So, now it’s not “Housing First” or even, “Housing Last,” but it’s “Housing Never.”
Again, I suppose it’s understandable. From what I’ve seen in more than three years of living in Menifee, people don’t want the homeless here. And the city council must believe no one wants their hard-earned tax dollars to pay for helping and housing homeless people. So where are the homeless supposed to go? To the next town? But the next town will just send their homeless people back to Menifee.
I’ve come to realize that just as there is homophobia or a fear of gay people, there is “homelessophobia” or a fear of homeless people. But as the Bible said in I John 4:8, “Perfect love casts out fear.” So what the city of Menifee needs is perfect love to cast out the fear of homeless people.
The Rev. Bill Freeman is the senior minister at Menifee United Church of Christ, which meets 11 a.m. Sundays at 26701 McCall Blvd. in Menifee.