Secularists Versus Faith-Based Homeless Shelters

Am I alone in finding the attitude expressed towards the Providence Rescue Mission expressed by “some members of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless” in Linda Borg‘s Saturday Projo article to be outrageous…

Last night, Sean Carew greeted his guests the way he always does, with a firm handshake and a warm smile.
Carew is the executive director of the Providence Rescue Mission, which expanded its Cranston Street shelter and opened its doors to 40 more men yesterday. Although twice as many visitors were expected, only 15 men took advantage of the new wing for men. Perhaps, Carew says, the spring weather persuaded some to sleep outside, but he wonders if others were put off by the mission’s Christian affiliation. The non-denominational mission is supported by a network of area churches….
Some members of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless are concerned that a faith-based mission will foist its religious views on people who have nowhere else to go, but Carew said the shelter does not push religion on anyone, although it does ask its guests to attend a short daily chapel service.
A corresponding report from WJAR-TV (NBC 10) suggests that it is not just the “foisting of religious views” that is of concern to the Coalition, but the fact that charities that provide relief to the homeless within a religious context exist at all…
[Homeless advocates] question whether a faith-based shelter is the best place for homeless people who might come from diverse religious backgrounds.
“It’s easy for us to assume that they will be grateful,” said Jim Ryczek, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. “But homeless people have so many options taken away from them. Any choice that they can make that is solely their own is meaningful.”
Sean Carew, the executive director of the Providence Rescue Mission, said all visitors will be treated well regardless of religious affiliation.
“We treat people like they are a guest,” he said. “We have chapel at 5 p.m. and we ask that you attend. It’s all about dignity. We don’t ask what people believe in. We never ask if they are Christian. These folks have had a tough day. They need someone to give them a little affection, a handshake, a welcome. Most folks we work with are glad to go to chapel. They’re glad to have someone to listen to them.”
The shelter is a non-denominational Christian mission supported by 30 local churches.
Faith based charities need to be homogenized, so that the homeless can feel like they have more choices? That doesn’t make sense. Different options have to exist in order for a choice to be possible. I don’t think that Mr. Ryczek is doing a very good job of expressing what it is that bothers him about faith-based homeless shelters.
For the sake of truth in advertising, the Coalition for the Homeless should consider changing its name to the Coalition for Imposing a Particular View of the Role of Religion in Society and Dictating to Faith-Based Charities How They Should Be Allowed to Carry Out Their Mission and Once Done With That, Getting Around to Helping the Homeless.

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17 years ago

Don’t they have a choice not to go to the shelter?
I suppose they could go to the ACLU shelter, or the East Side Liberal shelter . . . oh, wait, those folks don’t have shelters . . . only the churches do.

17 years ago

Jim Ryzcek – the former Rhode Island College professor who told a student, “we are a perspective school, we teach that perspective. If you are goig to lobby on a bill, you will lobby in our persepective.”
How’s that for choices?

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