A man-made dis­as­ter

San Francisco Chronicle - - OPIN­ION - By Cecil Wil­liams The Rev. Cecil Wil­liams is the co-founder and min­is­ter of lib­er­a­tion of Glide Me­mo­rial United Methodist Church in San Fran­cisco.

We San Fran­cis­cans are no strangers to tremors. We live in earthquake coun­try. We’ve weath­ered some ma­jor ones, and we con­tinue to pre­pare for the Big One we all know is coming someday. But let’s ask our­selves: Is the ground not al­ready shak­ing? Home­less­ness is a man-made earthquake, a painful and de­struc­tive rift in the so­cial con­tract, and ad­dress­ing it re­quires a ma­jor re­lief ef­fort on the part of us all.

Those of us who are now liv­ing on the street feel the ground trem­bling be­neath us. We are left per­ma­nently un­set­tled, fac­ing con­tin­ual re­lo­ca­tion, con­stant up­heaval and in­se­cu­rity — like refugees in our own city.

At Glide, we have di­rected our­selves to the suf­fer­ing of the poor and marginal­ized, in­clud­ing those with­out shel­ter, for more than 50 years. For us, it be­gins with un­con­di­tional love, ac­cep­tance of all peo­ple as they are, wher­ever they may be in their lives. In this spirit, we seek to form a rad­i­cally in­clu­sive, just and lov­ing com­mu­nity mo­bi­lized to al­le­vi­ate suf­fer­ing and break the cy­cles of poverty and marginal­iza­tion.

If we have learned one thing from our ex­pe­ri­ence, it is that so­lu­tions take a com­mu­ni­ty­wide ef­fort — and that in­cludes the voices and agency of those most af­fected. This prin­ci­ple re­mains at the heart of Glide’s ar­ray of di­rect ser­vices: daily free meals, child care and early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams, re­cov­ery and harm-re­duc­tion pro­grams, work­force de­vel­op­ment and more.

It is also the soul of Glide’s new So­cial Jus­tice Cen­ter, whose fo­cus on ser­vice learn­ing, civic ad­vo­cacy and com­mu­nity mo­bi­liza­tion builds on a 50-plus-year com­mit­ment to shap­ing a so­ci­ety that val­ues eq­uity and par­tic­i­pa­tion among all peo­ple.

We are all vul­ner­a­ble to ac­ci­dent and tragedy in this life. We San Fran­cis­cans should know this bet­ter than most. Let us re­mem­ber, as we con­front hon­estly the dire is­sue of home­less­ness, that in earthquake coun­try we rely on each other to be there in times of emer­gency. We sur­vive not just by brac­ing our­selves for the in­evitable but by har­ness­ing a spirit of co­op­er­a­tion, co­or­di­nat­ing with one another and our civic in­sti­tu­tions to en­sure shel­ter and sup­port for all.

There are ex­cel­lent cost­ben­e­fit ar­gu­ments for do­ing so, to be sure.

There are pub­lic safety ar­gu­ments and lifestyle ar­gu­ments, too — no one wants to see suf­fer­ing and des­per­a­tion on their walk to work or school.

But with a healthy re­gard for the un­pre­dictabil­ity of life and the rest­less­ness of Mother Earth, we first of all come to­gether as a com­mu­nity. This sol­i­dar­ity breeds com­pas­sion, re­mind­ing us that we are, af­ter all, not so dif­fer­ent from one another, each of us is some­body’s child, each of us ca­pa­ble of los­ing our foot­ing on this shift­ing ground. In earthquake coun­try it is this deep sense of com­mu­nity that is our terra firma.

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