Century Marks

Century Marks

Housing first

The state of Utah has decreased the number of its chronically homeless by 91 percent since 2005 and could erase the figure by the end of this year. The state has a simple approach that is saving money: if a person is chronically homeless, give that person a home. Some argue that this overlooks the social, economic, and personal issues that contribute to homelessness. Utah says it is better able to address these issues once a person’s basic housing need is met. The housing-first approach works if there is enough affordable housing to meet the need (The Christian Science Monitor, May 4).

Prayer service

Since 2006 Joan Cheever has been feeding the homeless in San Antonio, Texas, out of a food truck, for which she has a permit. But recently the city council outlawed feeding the homeless in the streets, and police gave her a citation. When Cheever protested that the police were infringing on her right to practice her religion, they told her that if she wanted to practice her religion she should go to a church and pray. “This is how I pray,” she told them. “I pray when I cook. I pray when I serve.” The National Coalition for the Home­less reported last October that 71 cities have passed or attempted to pass laws restricting food sharing (Washington Post, April 20).

Divested

The Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions Board said they have divested 12 million pounds ($18.42 million) from their investments in thermal coal and tar sands companies as part of an initiative aimed at promoting transition to a low-carbon economy. No investments will be made in any company in which more than 10 percent of its revenues are derived from the extraction of thermal coal or the production of oil from oil sands. The Church of England, mother church of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, holds total investments worth about 8 billion pounds ($13 billion), which are used to pay clergy pensions and fund the church’s work (Reuters).

Root causes

Pittsburgh Public Schools has announced that 23 schools in its system will adopt a “restorative practices” program as an alternative to school suspensions. With funding from the Justice Department, teachers and administrators will be trained to help get at the root causes of student misbehavior. The hope is to enable unruly students to cooperate and participate in the classroom rather than subject them to punitive discipline. One technique includes having students sit in circles to talk over the issues leading to student disruption. One out of five students received out-of-school suspensions last year in Pittsburgh schools (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 22).

Intolerable

Former president Jimmy Carter, on a visit to the West Bank, said that after eight months of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, conditions in the Gaza Strip are “intolerable.” He lamented that not one destroyed house in Gaza has been rebuilt. In a press conference with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Carter called for the Palestinians to hold an election. (No elections have been held in Gaza or the West Bank in nearly a decade.) Carter and his delegation called off a planned trip to Gaza without giving an explanation (Haaretz, May 2).