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Letter: Will you cast first stone …?

I have been following the recent controversy over the plan to build affordable housing in Moorhead with amazement and disgust. The two congregations I serve have been members of Churches United for the Homeless for about 10 years. My congregations graciously allowed me to serve as a volunteer chaplain at the shelter on their dime. This was before the chaplain’s office and the chapel were needed for overflow housing of families coming to the shelter.

One of the questions asked at one of the recent meetings was “Where are all these homeless people coming from?” Those currently at the shelter have a right to privacy, and a right to tell their own stories, but let me share a story from my days as chaplain.

The family in question came from a small town in outstate North Dakota. They were married, both parents worked, and they owned their own home when one of their children became ill. They needed to come to Fargo to obtain treatment for their child at what was then MeritCare. The mother came to Fargo with the children, and the father remained at home, working.

Eventually they needed to sell their home to pay the medical bills, so the father quit his job and moved to Fargo, where they lived in the Ronald McDonald House while their child received treatment. The father obtained a part-time job to make ends meet, but when their child was released from treatment, they had to move out of the Ronald McDonald House and they had no place to go. They ended up at the shelter, where they stayed until the father found full-time employment and they were able to save up enough to pay the deposit on an apartment.

This story does not, of course, speak for all the families who come to Churches United for help. Some of them are victims of circumstance, but some of them have made bad decisions in their lives. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us have also made bad decisions in our lives. That is why Jesus told the crowd that the first stone should only be cast by someone who was without sin. None of us should be casting stones.

Statistics say that a great many wage earners are only about three paychecks away from homelessness. I am fairly certain that there are at least a few folks in the housing developments around the proposed building site who fall into that category, yet none of their neighbors seem to object to their living there.

Monteith is pastor, Faith United Presbyterian Parish (First Presbyterian, Hunter, N.D.; Presbyterian Church of Grandin, N.D.)