Imagine with me a small town in the middle of America.
A cursory glance through this small town’s phone book reveals over 25 churches: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Episcopalian, nondenominational, big churches, small churches, this town’s got it covered. Imagine, too, that this town is home to a small, Christian liberal arts college. In fact, it would be safe to imagine that thousands of self-professing Christians call this town home. They probably don’t agree on a lot of things, but imagine–just for a moment–that they agree on one thing: they believe Jesus when he said that loving your neighbor as yourself is one of the greatest commandments, second only to loving the Lord your God with your whole heart.
If you can, imagine that this town has a quaint Main Street, complete with coffee shops, boutiques, antique stores, maybe even a high-end children’s clothing store. It’s such a lovely little town, this imaginary place, that someone could live here for years and have no idea of its seedy underbelly. Of the debilitating poverty that keeps bellies empty, food far from the tables where it is needed, and children home from school. Of the crippling effects of job loss, home foreclosures, and health insurance expenses. Someone might think that homelessness doesn’t happen here because it doesn’t manifest itself in folks standing on the corner holding cardboard signs. But imagine with me that it does happen here, that it tends to look more like people sharing homes, couch-surfing, multi-generational living, and yes, some people sleeping outside, in the park, under the underpasses, hidden from Main Street. Yes, it does happen here, in myriad forms. A lot.