Christian Ethics Final Moral Question Project

Statement of Question

When speaking about housing, the majority of the general population imagines a building where people live. They do not consider the fact that it is more than just a set of bricks and mortar[1]. Actually, it is a basic human need, of which many individuals are deprived today. Some may consider that it is enough to have any kind of residence but homeless shelters, for example, can be hardly called people’s homes, as they cannot give the expected sense of security and change one’s status. As a result, the homeless are treated with disgust by the general public for many years. They do not have an opportunity to get a job and return to their previous life. Individuals who have no home and do not feel support from society tend to estrange themselves. Then live in unsafe environments, suffer from various diseases, start abusing substances, and commit crimes. Still, spirituals and churchmen are those who sympathy the homeless and are willing to help.

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The majority of the general population and representatives of the local churches realize that homelessness is a major problem in Atlanta. They take various measures to combat this issue and help people who have no place to live. Still, the churches mainly refer to mere charitable giving, which cannot solve the problem of homelessness in the city even though it improves the quality of life to some degree, as the homeless can get clothes and food they lack. In order to make a step forward towards a better life, the churches should develop plans to help the homeless access affordable and secure housing. In this way, it is critical to consider what obligations local churches in Atlanta have to call for institutional reform (rather than mere charitable giving) in order to combat homelessness.

Churches are those establishments that extend faith and promote sympathy to others. Still, their power is not limited to this; they are also rather influential and are able to cooperate with volunteer organizations, demanding from the government particular actions. In this way, they can induce it to develop programs aimed at ending homelessness, which would be beneficial for the whole society as the city will become safer and the quality of life will improve. Even though local Churches in Atlanta provide charitable giving in order to combat homelessness, they also have to call for institutional reform because having an appropriate and secure home is a basic human need from the moral and ethical points of view that are supported by Scripture and promoted by professionals. Robert McNamara, Homelessness in America (Westport: Praeger, 2008).

Assessment of What is Going on

Homelessness is known as “the condition of not having a permanent place to live”1. The problem of homelessness is on the front burner for many cities in the United States, which explains why this issue is so significant and requires additional attention2. It was even estimated that almost half a million of people from the whole population do not have their own residences3. Such data supports the previous affirmation. Professionals believe that all these individuals can be divided into five groups that unite them according to different types of the homeless and reasons they lost their homes. These are people who are addicted to substances, mentally ill people, the poor, low-income earners, and single parent women. The problem of homelessness attracted attention the government and private establishments such as churches, but the working solution was not found, and the number of homeless individuals increases even today. The National Alliance to End Homelessness considered this issue in the national perspective. It was concluded that about 3 million of people experience homelessness at least for several days every year4. Such statistics discloses the real situation in the country and supports the necessity of this research.

Among all the cities in the United States, Atlanta is claimed to be the one with the highest rate of homelessness. This information is proved by the census reports, which assures its credibility. It was estimated that no less than 10,000 representatives of the general public have no residence to stay in each night. 40% of this population are women and children, which prove them to be more vulnerable than males. At the same time, more than 20% of all American homeless individuals comprise veterans5. This data allows to deepen into the subject and find out the best solution for the vulnerable population.

Such tendencies concerned local churches in Atlanta and programs were designed with the attempt to assist the homeless and provide them with decent houses during the past several years. Mainly, they were focused on charitable giving as a tool for providing homeless population with the most essential products and goods. The project focused on such amenities as nourishment, clothes, and toiletries6. So it can be seen that homelessness is considered to be a critical issue in Atlanta and initiatives to cope with it were implemented. Still, as it turned out, such initiatives are not very helpful. They make better the quality of life of the homelessness but fail to combat it. Taking into consideration such outcome, it can be concluded that the local churches should be engaged in another attempt and to call for institutional reforms.

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Thus, research proved that mere charitable giving is not enough to cope with homelessness. The program implemented previously only helps people who are living on the street to get basic commodities, including clothes and nourishment but is not effective in helping them to obtain new houses and getting off the streets. Troxell presupposes that in order to reduce the rate of homelessness in the city, local churches of should initiate reforms that can help this population to get access affordable and secure residences7. In addition, the church should develop programs that give people different skills that they can use to make a living. Troxell’s ideas correlate with those promoted by this paper, which proves that they are likely to be helpful.

It would be rather helpful if local churches of Atlanta encouraged the homeless to seek assistance in the help programs developed and maintained by both governmental and non-governmental organizations. For example, they could promote the Street to Home Plan. It is meant for chronically homeless individuals and is focused on the provision of a wide range of supportive services. Such program was proved to be effective. Atlanta Homeless census reports state that 80% of veterans who live on the street found this plan to be advantageous. Unfortunately, only a little bit more than 30% of them registered for the support service8. It proves that new initiatives of such kind should be implemented, and local churches can call for them.

Normative Reflection

Taking into consideration the fact that homelessness is a critical issue that requires reforms initiated by local churches of Atlanta, obligations that make them burst into action require attention. It should be noticed that churches, as religious facilities, operate under moral and ethical norms.

Churches are expected to assist with housing reforms because they follow Scripture, according to which having a home as a residence is a basic human need. It is claimed that normally all people regardless of their gender, age, position in the society and other biases deserve an appropriate home where they can feel safe and calm. As it is stated in Bible, a home also presupposes a community that accepts all people and cares for them. It is an ethical norm that urges churches and the general public to assist the homeless and give them opportunities to have a decent home. Moreover, obligations to initiate institutional reform aimed at controlling homelessness are declared by Luke. It is said that home is one’s family, it is a group of people who live within a particular territory, which also presupposes church community. Similar explanations are also given in such theological source as Psalm. According to it, home is a place of belonging and security. It can be even considered as a county or native land that plays a vital role in the life of a person and cherishes the memories of positive events. Home presupposes social justice and equality. In ethical perspective, it is really so but no legislation that can make the general public or the government provide people who live on the street with homes. Still, it is treated as a moral obligation in the nature of God by many spiritual individuals.

With the help of these norms, the situation that currently exists in Atlanta can be assessed. First of all, it should be mentioned that many individuals who live in this city do not have any residence. While having a home as a place of living is a norm according to Scripture, many people spend their lives on the street being in the conditions that are not appropriate9. They become extremely vulnerable, as there is no place where they can be safe in a case of harass. Thus, local churches should call for reforms that can make shelters accessible for the homeless.

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The research conducted in the sphere of social studies show that contemporary society is structured. People are divided, and the homeless become strangers to the general public even though they were initially a part of one society. Thus, churches should ensure that people take their previous place in the community10. Sometimes it happens that the authorities abuse their power and dishouse people if they want to use the territory11. In this case, one may be left without not only a residence but also can be expatriated with no permission to return to the native land. Such actions cannot be left unnoticed because an opportunity to live in the home of previous generations that holds history is critical for everyone according to Luke. Moreover, such belief is spread by the government, as it initiates programs that emphasize the equality of the rights of various populations and create a caring community with common views and beliefs12.

Passing to the moral reflection, the consequences turn out to represent deontology. Ethical and moral norms that deal with housing in various perspectives are to be applied in the operation of local churches in Atlanta, which will lead to the initiation of institutional reforms that are expected to provide better access to residences. Except for that, the concept of virtue should be taken into consideration, as churches are also expected to alter the whole community. People should be encouraged and taught to sympathize and support each other. They are expected to create a Kingdom Community that is described in Scripture. People cooperate, avoid stigmatism and develop spiritual unity13. For example, Copeland discusses solidarity as an integral part of the Kingdom Community14. People should share sufferings so that they will realize that their assistance is critical. Love and compassion can lead the society to the positive changes and prevent the expansion of homelessness. Unfortunately, for now the Kingdom Community cannot be approached. Many people tend to ignore the principle of the human heart and pay more attention to their personal wishes and beliefs. Except for that, the city has high rates of homelessness, which proves that the population is divided and does not support each other as it is expected. Only few people really care about others and try to support those who are vulnerable. People should learn how to act morally right instead of looking for personal benefits.

The discussed moral convictions can be assessed according to the levels identified by Stassen and Gushee. For example, the claim according to which it is morally wrong that all homeless individuals are treated with disgrace while they need sympathy refers to the judgment level. Principles of love and solidarity towards others are used to develop rules, which state that the homeless should receive assistance with access to decent residences. On the basic-conviction level, the Kingdom Community is discussed as well as notions of home15.

Final Statement

Considering everything mentioned above, it can be claimed that Atlanta local churches should be obliged to call for institutional reforms aimed at dealing with the problem of homelessness. This affirmation has deontological and virtue reasoning because it has direct imperatives needed to apply a broad principle and aims to develop the character of the community. According to the Scripture, all human beings require appropriate homes for them to feel protected and supported. It is the greatest good for the community that should be promoted by local churches that call for reforms aimed at making the government and society cope with homelessness. As the highest moral institutions guided by God’s words and ethical beliefs, Atlanta local churches should do their best to alter the current situation and improve it. Resistance to call for changes will prevent the creation of the Kingdom society and will not stop the expansion of the homelessness. Of course, some people can be found guilty of the adverse situation they are in, but God speaks about indiscriminate forgiveness and assistance to the afflicted16.

Atlanta local churches should encourage the creation of such programs as the Street to Home Plan to bring about the Kingdom Community and solve the problem of homelessness. Of course, such changes cannot be maintained in the twinkling of an eye. Still, the whole society can benefit from such reforms. The hierarchy of the society will be reduced by the demolition of homelessness, which will result in the improved quality of life. The previously vulnerable population will become more confident, having enough strength to apply for work and join currently middle-class population. All citizens will feel safer and will become friendlier. Thus, Churches should educate the general public, encourage it to practice moral actions, and call for reforms.

Bibliography

Copeland, Shawn. Enfleshing freedom: Body, Race, and Being. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

Furness, Sheila, and Philip Gilligan. Religion, Belief, and Social Work: Making a Difference. Bristol: Policy Press, 2010.

Holden, Samuel, and Dominic Snider. Homelessness in America: National Assessments. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2012.

Johnson, Eric. “More than 500,000 people homeless in the United State: Report.” Reuters.com. Web.

Keefe, Thomas, and Ron Roberts. “Homelessness: Residual, Institutional and Communal Solutions.” The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare 13, no. 2 (2015): 400-417.

Lagasse, Paul. Columbia Encyclopedia. New York: The Columbia University Press, 2000.

McNamara, Robert. Homelessness in America. Westport: Praeger, 2008.

Miller, Swenson, Georgiana Herzberg, and Sharon Ray. Homelessness in America: Perspectives, Characterizations, and Considerations for Occupational Therapy. New York: Haworth Press, 2006.

Stassen, Glen, and David Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

The Community. “Understanding Kingdom Community.” Word Press. Last modified 2016. Web.

Troxell, Richard. “Prevent Homelessness at its Core: The Universal Living Wage.” House the Homeless, Inc. Web.

Footnotes

  1. Paul Lagasse, Columbia Encyclopedia (New York: The Columbia University Press, 2000).
  2. Kathleen Miller, ‎Georgiana Herzberg and ‎Sharon Ray, Homelessness in America: Perspectives, Characterizations, and Considerations for Occupational Therapy (New York: Haworth Press, 2006).
  3. Eric Johnson, “More than 500,000 People Homeless in the United State: Report,” Reuters.com, Web.
  4. Samuel Holden and Dominic Snider. Homelessness in America: National Assessments (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2012).
  5. Thomas Keefe and Ron Roberts, “Homelessness: Residual, Institutional and Communal Solutions,” The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare 13, no. 2 (2015): 400-417.
  6. Sheila Furness and Philip Gilligan, Religion, Belief, and Social Work: Making a Difference (Bristol: Policy Press, 2010).
  7. Richard Troxell, “Prevent Homelessness at its Core: The Universal Living Wage,” House the Homeless, Inc., Web.
  8. Samuel Holden and Dominic Snider, Homelessness in America: National Assessments (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2012).
  9. Swenson Miller, Georgiana Herzberg and Sharon Ray, Homelessness in America: Perspectives, Characterizations, and Considerations for Occupational Therapy (New York: Haworth Press, 2006).
  10. Thomas Keefe and Ron Roberts, “Homelessness: Residual, Institutional and Communal Solutions,” The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare 13, no. 2 (2015): 400-417.
  11. Richard Troxell, “Prevent Homelessness at its Core: The Universal Living Wage,” House the Homeless, Inc., Web.
  12. Robert McNamara, Homelessness in America (Westport: Praeger, 2008).
  13. The Community, “Understanding Kingdom Community,” ncd-uk, Web.
  14. Shawn Copeland, Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010).
  15. Glen Stassen and David Gushee, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003).
  16. Richard Troxell, “Prevent Homelessness at its Core: The Universal Living Wage,” House the Homeless, Inc., Web.
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