Sunset Boulevard. Homelessness. For most people, these two images clash like erroneous notes in a symphony. Yet, it remains a fact that poverty-afflicted members of humanity crowd the streets of Hollywood. On Monday, Oct. 22, students from Providence Christian College visited a local organization in Hollywood called Hope Again, which seeks to relieve poverty by bringing in the homeless and helping them build a better life.
This Avodah excursion focused on understanding the causes of poverty in Los Angeles and how Christians are called to participate in alleviation efforts.
Kyle Bleeker, cousin of Providence faculty member, Justin Bleeker, explained how Hope Again exercises this calling. Consisting of an office and three houses all within a two- or three- block radius, Hope Again admits individuals to its program by a detailed interview process. Each potential resident approaches Hope Again of their own volition, and must personally converse with a chaplain before being permitted to stay. Individuals who lack seriousness about improving their situation are restricted from the program. Also, mothers with sons between the ages of 12-18 face a difficult choice, since boys can only live at the house for mothers and children until age 12. Another qualification for admittance is a drug test, which proves that individuals are committed to overcoming any addictions.
What role does Christianity perform in the ministry of Hope Again? Although the goal is to introduce residents to Jesus Christ, and official policy requires them to attend religious services, the leaders of Hope Again refrain from treating Christian residents in a preferential manner. They desire instead that individuals accept Christianity from a genuine belief in the gospel.
Hollywood is regarded as a place of success and the fulfillment of long-cherished hopes. However, a wide chasm extends between this utopian ideal and reality. Causes of poverty include loss of employment, financially devastating medical conditions, and mental health issues. While poverty alleviation should always be accompanied by the preaching of the gospel, Christians must also avoid the tendency to ignore homelessness altogether. Jesus not only preached the gospel, but ministered to the poor as a sign of the spiritual salvation he could provide.