“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the ETERNAL am your God.” (Leviticus 23:22)

This passage from Leviticus is a powerful window of how I see the world. What we have is not really ours. It is that simple. Our possessions, our accounts, our homes are all lent to us. If we subscribe to Psalm 24:1, “The Earth is the ETERNAL’s,” then we ought to be thankful for what we have because we do not know for sure how long we are going to have it. The natural next step is to acknowledge that if we have enough…then we have to do our part to help someone else.

The text above instructs us to leave some of the harvest from our “own” property and leave it for someone else who is down on their luck. They don’t even have to ask for it. The don’t have to worry about the humiliation that might come with asking for a handout. God’s vision here is that if you need a hand, some of our land will be reserved for you. Go with your dignity and take enough to care for yourself and your family.

If that vision of our society would be fulfilled, our world would be far less broken.

How do we respond to that vision?

If one of your neighbors is in need in any community of yours, you must not harden your heart nor close your hand against your neighbor in need…. (Deuteronomy 15.7)

I am thrilled to be one part of a group of clergy and faith leaders to support the work of the North Fulton Housing & Homeless Continuum of Care. In this small city of Roswell, North Fulton’s most significant agencies are here and ready to help the most vulberable in our community.

Despite what most people think about the “homeless,” these are individuals, parents, teenagers, and families who have been our neighbors. Many have jobs. Many have gone to college. Many had nice homes at different stages in their lives.

All have found themselves in vulnerable positions because they have no safety net or they went through their savings or they were a couple of car payments behind and lost their cars… so they lost their jobs. We can go on and on and on.

This Continuum of Care is organized to have different agencies collaborate and offer the widest continuum of care possible. But it is no surprise to learn that these organizations face many challenges.

As I see it, the challenges isn’t simply the large number of people coming to them. To be perfectly honest, the challenges are that there aren’t enough people looking around and saying, “how can I help?” If the people of our faith communities – each and every household – would say: I am going to give from “the corner of my fields” – some of my precious resources – we could end hunger and homelessness in our community.

These organizations that are a part of this Continuum do such a good job of keeping people in housing (some temporary, others long term), our neighbors don’t even realize there is a problem!

But there is.

And while these programs are amazing, truly awesome, they are all at capacity. None of them have spaces waiting to be filled.

And there are still gaps! For example, there is no emergency shelter in North Fulton. When I get a call for someone who needs a bed that night, I have to see who will let him/her into their home, where to put them up at an extended stay motel, or send them into the City of Atlanta.  North Fulton doesn’t even have an emergency shelter for youth (and their are many homeless teens in our schools!). Nor is there sufficient affordable housing for seniors (senior living facilities at market rates are very expensive; to get affordable senior housing, you need to be on a weightlist).

I am writing this post because I think our community needs to learn more about these amazing resources.

Emergency assistance and family enrichment classes are being offered by North Fulton Community Charities. I am proud to be a part of their Board of Trustees and I have to say, it has opened my eyes about this community and its real needs.

Transitional Housing to women and children is offered by The Drake House. Drake provides short-term crisis housing, support, education, and empowerment to homeless mothers and their children.

HomeStretch  provides long-term assistance for homeless families. They offer transitional, supportive housing and educational skill building for low-income families who have nowhere else to turn.

Find A Way Home advocates for affordable housing within North Fulton. They also offer affordable housing for workforce families that don’t qualify for traditional housing programs because their income is too high, yet they can’t qualify for a mortgage or pay rent at a market value.

The newest addition to this Contiuum is a group our own synagogue is beginning to work with: Family Promise of North Fulton. As I have written before, our congregation is joining other houses of worship to host four homeless families for a week, four different times over the course of the year. I wrote about how our community can get involved in an earlier post. To learn more and volunteer at TBT, click here.

The Roswell Housing Authority is another great resource, but they don’t have enough units to care for all who need it. Of their 103 units of public housing, 61 are for the elderly and people with disabilities, and 42 are designated for families.

And while our Roswell agencies work with Habitat for Humanity – North Central GA chapter, our congregation has joined an Interfatih Coalition in Cobb County with Habitat’s NW Metro Atlanta Chapter. (If you read this far…good for you! Here’s a pitch: TBT is building on Sundays, July 15 & 22, 2012 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. To sign-up or to contribute please contact Jeff Willard at pursuejustice@comcast.net.)

Whew!

That was a lot. But I needed to get it all out to you.

We can make a difference if we just shared the corners of our own harvest. We are not instructed to give everything away. But can we ask… what’s the corner of your field? What would that represent?

What can you do? How can WE help as a community? Can you be a mentor to a family? Do you have apartments that you are renting that you can offer through a Housing Choice Voucher Program? Can you make an act of tzedakah? All of these websites have ways that you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

We are reinvigorating our own synagogue’s social action committee for the members of this shul. If you want to play a part, let me know. I’ll be glad to connect you to our chairs, Jeff and Rodney.

Wishing we go from strength to strength as we try to heal our fragmented world and return it to wholeness through acts of tzedakah and chesed (kindness).

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