Churches answer the call to help the homeless.

Four congregations in the South Milwaukee suburb of Cudahy have begun to hold all-night prayer services this week as the pre-Christmas temperatures have plunged to dangerous lows.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
reports that St. Mark Lutheran Church, Nativity of the Lord Catholic Church, Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church (all of Cudahy) and Unity Church of Bay View had been planning to open the God is Faithful Temporary Shelter to serve the growing homeless population of the South Shore suburbs, however their plans were put on hold in October. The Cudahy Plan Commission rejected the proposed shelter claiming that it was “inconsistent with its zoning code.” The Commission felt that the needs of Cudahy’s homeless could be better served in Milwaukee.
The leaders of the congregations which had committed to host the proposed shelter simply could not turn their back on their fellow man in his time of need, so in the best Christian tradition they have opened their church doors to host all-night prayer services. Church leaders like Rev. Karen Hagen of Tippecanoe Presbyterian have been searching the area to locate and invite their homeless neighbors into the warmth of their sanctuaries. Pastor Mark Thompson of St. Mark Lutheran Church said “sometimes you just have to act,” adding that “It wouldn’t be the first time people fell asleep in church.”
Whether or not the Cudahy Plan Commission will take exception to the good works of their local congregations remains to be seen. Assistant Milwaukee City Attorney Jay Unora said he is unaware of any ordinance which could be used to prohibit a church from offering sanctuary unless the facilities were considered unsafe.
“We’re about keeping people alive,” he said. “I know of inspectors so heartless they’d turn their mother in. But I don’t know of anybody, in these temperatures, who would tell a facility or church to turn people away.”
Among the faithful servants of God who fanned out across the area to spread the word this week, was Jim Liedtke of Unity Church in nearby Bay View. Mr. Liedtke has opened his small apartment to host four guests during the recent cold snap and has brought a unique perspective to the search for the homeless, “When it gets this cold, people really dig in. They find a spot where they’re comfortable and they don’t come out,” he said.  Jim Liedtke knows all too well about the hardships of the homeless because there was a time not so long ago when he was living on the streets.
God Bless the good shepherds of Cudahy, Wisconsin and all those who are about the Lord’s work in these troubled times.
December 16, 2010