First, the good news.
On Tuesday of this week, the Raleigh City Council met, and they voted unanimously to approve the recommendations of the Food Distribution Alternatives Task Force.
In the short-term, the City will provide a building – across the street from the park we were distributing food illegally – for us to distribute food legally. A building with a roof, bathrooms, hand-washing facilities, and tables and chairs. A building where people can eat with dignity and laugh and feel human.
In the long term, the Task Force continues to provide long-term solutions to the city, with the goal being a one-stop solution.
This is, to say the least, amazing.
Three and a half months ago, the City was trying to arrest us for sharing food with people. Now they are providing a building not 200 feet from where they tried to arrest us and people like us. And now we no longer have to stand in the rain, no longer have to shiver in the wintertime, no longer have to worry if the police will try to stop us.
More importantly, the City has committed itself to the population of its citizens experiencing homelessness, and to that population remaining downtown. For once, the City of Raleigh is doing something regarding people without a home that does not resort to hobophobia or scare tactics.
In the almost seven years I have lived in Raleigh, I have never been more proud of my adopted city.
Cities all over the country are attempting to criminalize homelessness. Raleigh is one of the few victories for our side. Usually, those who are experiencing homelessness are the victims, getting pushed farther and farther into the margins.
It has been a wild ride, and the end result is that because of a long line of actions that started with a tweet and then a blog post, we helped change the world. Or, at least, our little corner of it. Because of the attention driven by social media and the thousands and thousands of emails, phone calls and letters all of you sent, the city had no choice but to work with us to develop a solution.
This is your victory, too.
The last 100 days or so have been both exhilarating and exhausting. The excitement of being interviewed by Fox News or NPR, the long, never ending meetings with politicians and City staff. The touching stories of others who have shared food and had their lives changed, and the frustration of being lied to.
It could be addicting, all the attention. After six and a half years of being in the background, grinding away, focusing on faithfulness and not success, to be validated in the national media is gratifying and attractive. To receive emails from around the country, asking for our help in their own versions of Biscuitgate is an ego boost for sure, especially when your little ministry barely has a working vacuum.
None of that is ours to do.
Because as gratifying as the attention is, and as happy as we are with the end result of making life suck a little less for our friends who live outside, and as grateful as we are for the friendships we have formed as a result of this campaign, we remember that it is all just a side effect of our work. It is not our work.
Our primary work is not changing the City, or policy, or the laws. Our work is to build a community of folks, some housed and some not, who are trying to learn how to love each other. Our work is to be with those who have no hope. Our work is to bear witness to the goodness of God in a world that has legitimate reasons to doubt that goodness.
That the world changes for the better is just a benefit.
So, there is no danger of me getting a media consultant, or of us developing a policy arm or me running for office (all of which have been seriously suggested by well-meaning folks). There is just the work, and us trying – and often failing – to be faithful to it.by