Everyone deserves a safe place to call home and adequate food and nutrition. As people of faith, we believe in an Oregon where we reach out and help families and neighbors in times of crisis. Those hurt by economic recession and turbulence should be protected from the worst of its impacts. We believe that stable housing and food security are essential if children are to succeed in school and in life. We believe in an Oregon where we pull together as a community during hard times and whenever our neighbors suffer economic distress.
However, the number of homeless children in Oregon public schools has more than doubled over the past seven years. In the 2009-10 school year, more than 19,000 children in Oregon public schools were homeless for part or all of the school year. And despite years of work to reduce hunger in Oregon, we still have one of the highest rates in the nation for percentage of households experiencing very high food insecurity (or hunger)–in annual data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Congregations and religious organizations can live out our mission and offer hope to those in distress by responding to the immediate needs of those who are homeless or hungry, as many already do. But we can also be a voice for public policies that help to prevent hunger and homelessness and that create the programs necessary to end hunger and homelessness in our time. By combining direct service with advocacy, we can lift up those in need today, even as we create the foundations for a more just and compassionate community tomorrow.
There are many ways to respond to the hunger and homelessness in our midst, and each person, congregation or religious organization must find the ways that are best for them. You can link from here to several sections that explore ways faith communities can best respond.
Advocacy: A companion Web page focuses on interfaith advocacy to end hunger and homelessness. On that page you will find:
- Religious Statements and Resources on Hunger, Homelessness and Poverty.
- Government Links and National Organizations.
- Information on policies and programs to prevent and end homelessness and hunger.
If there are additional resources you would like to see listed on our website, please send an email to Jan Elfers, Public Policy Advocacy Associate, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our work to end hunger and homelessness takes many forms and includes direct service through our community ministry programs, as well as educational workshops and forums on topics related to ending hunger, homelessness and poverty. In addition, we are actively involved in advocacy at the state and federal levels for public policies that will prevent, reduce, and ultimately end hunger and homelessness in our state.
To receive updates, action alerts and event invitations, please send an email to email@example.com with your name, complete mailing address, and your congregational or organizational affiliation. Please also include the email address where you would like to receive the announcements, especially if different from the one you are sending the email from. You can also call Jan Elfers, Public Policy Advocacy Associate, at (503) 221-1054, ext. 204.
Neighborhood Partnerships is a statewide organization offering communications tools to groups wanting to build community engagement in support of policy or systems change. Neighborhood Partnerships has expertise in asset building and helps to administer the Oregon Individual Development Account program. They also work to end homelessness and create thriving communities, through advocacy, the Bridges to Housing program, and more. Learn more about Neighborhood Partnerships.
Oregon Department of Housing and Community Services (OHCS). The mission of OHCS is to “provide leadership that enables Oregonians to gain housing, become self-sufficient and achieve prosperity.” Their programs include efforts to end homelessness, address hunger, construct and preserve affordable housing, provide low-income weatherization assistance and more. Their site includes information on local Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness and the state’s Ending Homelessness Advisory Council (EHAC). Learn more about OHCS. Download Oregon’s own ten-year plan to end homelessness, “A Home for Hope.”
Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon (PHFO) works in conjunction with the Oregon Hunger Task Force (OHTF) to end hunger in Oregon. Actually, their tag-line is “Ending hunger before it begins.” Find out more.
Oregon Food Bank (OFB) distributes food to agencies that feed people who are hungry throughout Oregon and Clark County, Wash. We also work to address the root causes of hunger through public policy advocacy and education programs. Learn more about OFB.
Oregon Housing Alliance is the primary statewide advocacy coalition that is working for funding and policies that create and preserve low-income housing and prevent and end homelessness. Find out more about the Oregon Housing Alliance.
The Oregon Coalition on Housing and Homelessness(OCHH) sponsors an annual statewide conference, which brings together homeless service providers and activists from around the state. OCHH describes itself as “a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations working together as a Force of Change to end homelessness and increase affordable housing options in Oregon.” Find out more.
Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger (OFRAH) joins together representatives of different faith traditions and denominations in a common effort to address the root causes of hunger in Oregon. Learn more.
Local or statewide multi-purpose religious coalitions on hunger and homelessness are another approach that can be taken to step up the religious response to those in need. The Interfaith Committee on Homelessness (ICH) of Washington County, Oregon, is a good example of this approach. The ICH arose in response to a possible loss of funding for homelessness programs in Washington County, Ore., and in support of a local-option levy that would provide continuing and increased funding for homeless shelters. The coalition has sponsored and supported many activities. They engage many congregations and people of faith in Washington County in direct service, public education and public policy advocacy. Read a brief essay on the history of the Interfaith Committee on Homelessness.
Interfaith Hospitality Networks (IHN) typically involve several local congregations in providing shelter to homeless families on a rotating basis. They usually need some central staffing to provide coordination, recruit volunteers, provide transportation for homeless families and do initial screenings. To learn more about Interfaith Hospitality Networks (IHNs), visit the website of Family Promise, or one of Oregon’s several IHNs.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is our state’s and our nation’s most important anti-hunger program. Previously known as the food stamp program, SNAP benefits are the right of any American in need.
The Oregon Hunger Task Force has developed a five-year plan to end hunger in Oregon. Download the plan, “Ending Hunger Before it Begins.”
The New City Initiative at JOIN. The insight at the heart of an innovative program called the New City Initiative is that relationships matter. When one looks at why one poor family or individual ends up homeless while another one doesn’t often has to do with what kind of relationships and support network they have available. Congregations can help build and be part of that support network by working in carefully structured ways to build relationships with individuals and families who are struggling with homelessness, hunger and other challenges.
To learn more about this program, contact Paul Schroeder, the coordinator of Faith-based Outreach at JOIN. Learn more about JOIN.
To not just respond to hunger and homelessness in our communities, but actually end it, we will also need public policy advocacy. Our Interfaith Advocacy to End Hunger and Homelessness Web page provides resources for interfaith advocacy, including religious statements on hunger, homelessness and poverty, more government links, and links to national organizations working to address hunger, homelessness and poverty. Go to the Advocacy page.