Reflections on a Town Hall Meeting

by Jeannie Alexander

It has been just over 24 hours since I left last night’s town hall meeting at Living Word Community Church in Antioch. As I sat on the stage for three hours with Doug Sanders my friend and brother in Christ, I found myself struck dumb at times by the words of anger, outrage, and fear that I heard echoed almost continuously for the entire period of community comments, which lasted for two hours. I am still trying to process what occurred as I write this post. For the crime of moving homeless displaced victims of the flood onto 2 acres of land in the middle of an unused 120-acre tract of land in Antioch, we received the following rebukes and accusations from the angry crowd:

“I’ve known homeless people and they chose to be homeless because that’s where the liquor was.”

“We can’t help what’s going on in the world—this isn’t our problem. You’ve forced charity on us and shoved it down our throats!” (In truth we never asked for charity from the community, only that our friends be allowed to stay temporarily in peace on private property that they have permission to occupy.)

“How many of you have heard ‘Hickory Harlem’ and that the area is trash and dirty? We are trying to bring businesses and schools to Antioch. It’s Antioch together to unite around a common purpose… No more bringing anything to Antioch that is not positive! No more bringing anything to Antioch! The gates of Antioch’s charity are closed!” (These comments were made by Pastor Rodney Beard of Living Word Community Church.)

“I work in a service station and these people steal ice. They don’t buy food; they buy junk and candy… Nashville has a bad reputation for being soft on the homeless. My community is in danger. We don’t want them here…if you want them, you take them!”

“I’m not offended because people are homeless, I am offended because you did not ask us to help but shoved it down our throats. Why is it our issue to be solved instead of yours?”

“I take it personal when you come in here self-righteous and have an attitude about how to care for the homeless… You’re dumping on the people here. For 13 years I’ve watched this neighborhood go down. You pick on Antioch… Now you have Tent City behind Target and if they stay any amount of time Target may move out and then Home Depot.”

“What made you think you had the right to violate codes and sneak in here under the cover of night and dump this on us? What made you think you could dump this on us without permission?”

“And you—that reverend lady with your ‘Jesus Was Homeless’ t-shirt. Jesus was not homeless, he had a mission, his father made him a kingdom… the dome of the sky.” (Our people, too, sleep under the dome of the sky.)

“Jesus was not homeless, he had 12 disciples and a treasurer so he wasn’t poor either.” (Birds have nests and foxes have dens but the son of man has no where to lay his head.)

“I know that you have said temporary, temporary, temporary, but can you assure us that once you move them off you will not rezone and then move them back?”

“You’re trying to play on my compassionate side… When the news reported that they had been flooded out, you (Councilman Coleman) should have been on pins and needles expecting them to land here!”

Over and over again we heard echoes of words spoken on the evening news a few nights before: “Now they’re here on I-24 advertising: come to the dumping ground!” “We’ve been dumped on.” “This problem has been dumped on us!” “We are not a dumping ground!” As if garbage had been brought to Antioch after the flood instead of beautiful wounded human creatures created in the image of God seeking temporary sanctuary—a sanctuary out of sight so they would not offend. Because oh how they have learned that the sight of their poverty offends. But the good people of Antioch (and this could have been any community in the Metro area) have taught us something new, and that is that the very thought of homeless people is offensive whether they be seen or unseen. The majority of the people of Antioch who attended last night’s meeting made it clear that they simply cannot countenance the very existence of such people in their community. They choked on the very thought.

The language of last night’s meeting was the language of hate, fear, and segregation—segregation every bit as vile as the segregation the civil rights movement sought to defeat. Here lies Dr. King’s dream, broken and shattered. And now, as then, pathetic attempts are made to cloak racism (now classism) in the terminology of “codes violations,” “city ordinances,” “property values,” and “bad for business.”  We have lived this sin before; we have heard the lies and the fear; simply substitute the term ‘black’ or ‘Negro’ for ‘homeless’ and your hypocrisy and shame lies bare.

Perhaps most heartbreaking of all was a pastor claiming that he was “for the homeless” and then whipping the crowd into a clapping and shouting frenzy as he yelled, “No more bringing anything to Antioch! The gates of Antioch’s charity are closed!” And why are the gates of charity closed? Because as the pastor informs us, “We are about bringing business to Antioch…and property value.” I do not know the value of your property, but I do know the value of a human life. And while I may not know all of your zoning laws and codes, I know that God hears the cries of the poor. I may not know how many businesses have opened or closed in your community, but I know the difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ that tells us everyone is invited to the table and that we are to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, house the homeless, visit the prisoner, nurse the sick, and the gospel of counterfeit Christianity which substitutes the good news of Jesus Christ (good news to the poor) for the false idols of capitalism and American nationalism. I know apostasy when I hear it and I know what the love of mammon over the love of God looks like, and I know it afresh today because of what I experienced last night.

While the dominant tone of the evening was that of fear and anger, there were also a few voices of love, compassion, and even joy over the opportunity to serve.  I pray that you will heed the words of a young man who spoke eloquently and told you, “If you knew the heart of God, you would know the heart of God is in these homeless people and that they can change your life. This is a great opportunity to serve and know the heart of God… You have 30 days to know the heart of God, you are wasting your chance to know the heart of God.”

You cannot hide an ideology of fear, intolerance, and hate behind the words “I am a Christian.” Such words ring hollow and are rendered meaningless when the actions that proceed and follow such words betray your true meaning. You are not “for the poor,” you are not “for the homeless,” you are for profit and the sense of false security that such profit provides. So yes, Antioch, we will go, we will be gone in 30 days, for we are a people of faith following a God of liberation, citizens of a beloved community preaching an offensive gospel. But be wary of the path you tread: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom; she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49, 50). We shake the dust from our feet and leave you with the kingdom of man.

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21 comments

  1. This is very sad. I have to admit, that before I started “The Bridge Bunch” under the Jefferson Street Bridge to feed the homeless, I made those kinds of statements as well. Education is an amazing thing. My understanding of the plight of the homeless has really changed. And honestly, I have met some of my best friends under the bridge. There have been many times when they have encouraged me when I needed encouragement. During these difficult economic times, we need to understand that almost EVERYONE is a paycheck away from being homeless. The only thing that separates “us” from “them” is family. Most of these people don’t have family to take them in when bad times hit. Shame on us for not having compassion.

    Jesus asked us to have compassion – without judgment. That is the message of Matthew 25:35-40 … “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

    Lord, give us YOUR compassion for these dear people. Ours is too full of judgment and condemnation!

  2. Dear Jeannie,
    Let me begin by saying that I believe that God has a special place for the poor, and that Christ’s calling to all compels us to offer a cup of cold water in his name to the least of these. Matthew’s story of Jesus is clear that judgement in biblical terms is connected to our ability to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and visit the sick and imprisoned. There is little doubt that American Christianity has been held captive by cultural norms affirming prosperity and self reliance, an individualistic narrative that looks down on those who fail to rise above their circumstances and conform to the media driven, consumeristic ideal. Yes, these values were in full flower on Thursday night, a garden of misunderstanding and mistrust that has been years in the making, and doesn’t always match the reality of life among the poor.
    Having said this, I must also share that it is often much easier to assume a prophetic stance, filled with righteous anger than it is to love those who are difficult to love, be they poor or rich. Was the speech last night laced with classist assumptions that fail to conform to Christ’s call to love? Absolutely. At the same time, we must ask ourselves if we are willing to humble ourselves before all and love them in the face of their failure to understand. In this I am guided by Jesus, who in the midst of confronting the rich young ruler still loved (agapao) him. I remember that Jesus when faced by a mob selfishly looking for his healing touch had compassion on the crowd and offered love in the face of their selfishness. Yes, Jesus confronted religious leaders with the truth of their misunderstanding, often speaking harshly at their apostasy, and yet I am convinced that even this speech was couched in the call to love others as we want to be loved.
    No, the neighbors of my community are not living out this love to it’s fullest measure, and have far to go in their recognizing the presence of God in the stranger. And yet, this community is the most diverse community in Nashville, a place where people of multiple national and racial backgrounds work together to make their community a better place. This is a place where I have seen middle to upper class persons of privilege spend countless hours in a mobile home park among poor, undocumented Hispanic folks, removing wet insulation from under a mobile home with flood waters dripping in their faces as they attempt to demonstrate the love of Christ to people who likewise need to received a cup of cold water given in Christ’s name. I have sat among people who were in the room on Thursday who give up time and money to cook and provide for homeless folks through Room in the Inn, and who give of their time and energy to serve meals at Community Care Fellowship. I have talked with several who have experienced the presence of Christ in their interactions with the least of these through a shared meal in a church fellowship hall, or a shared blanket on a church gym floor. Have these people embraced the radical call to walk among the poor that your community has assumed? Nope, and in all likelihood they probably won’t ever move that far, but they are making steps to understand, steps to love, steps to feed and clothe and visit, and these steps in the face of the culture we live in cannot be minimized.
    Yes, I walk and serve among these people, and I love them with all their faults and warts, which is, I think, the way of Christ. Of course I may be a cultural captive as well, blinded by the need for security (and the security of my children . . . something that most activists will tell you changes perspective quickly!), and yet my calling is not to be a prophet but a reconciler, called to the ministry of reconciliation. I am guided by Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, a letter of reconciliation which reminds us to view “no one” (rich or poor, black or white, Jew or Gentile, etc.) from “a worldly point of view,” compelling us to the ministry of reconciliation, Christ’s ambassadors, with God making his appeal through us.
    Yes, there is a place for righteous anger and prophetic speech, but I am not convinced that this ever removes from us the responsibility to love all well, which brings me to the point of this message. With humility as one who is frail and broken, always in need of God’s grace, where is the place of grace and love for those who are culturally captive, failing to fully understand the radical call of Christ? It could be that their privilege may make them “unworthy,” and yet Christ clearly states that we are to be in prayer for our “enemies,” not calling down fire and brimstone but humbling ourselves and likewise judging not lest we be judged. Is there a place in your heart for you to offer love to those who are poor in spirit as well as those who are poor in circumstance?
    I have little doubt that there will be those who read this as an attempt to justify the speech of my neighbors this past Thursday night. It isn’t, for there were moments when I banged my head against the wall over the insensitivity of some of the things said. My caution is that those who attempt to walk in the way of Jesus don’t fall into the trap of entering into battle, be it with clubs or words, falling prey to the same cultural insensitivity and lack of love from our side that we experience from the other. When we do, the powers and principalities have indeed won, and God weeps.

    1. Jay,

      Thanks for the comments, and thanks for reading. My friend you speak much truth and I suspect we agree on quite a lot. I agree without reservation that we are called to love the poor in spirit just as we are called to love those who are poor in a penury sense.

      Scripture tells us to speak boldly and to act with compassion. Multiple times during the town hall meeting I said to the crowd “I know that you are good people, I do not doubt that and I hear that you are afraid.” At the meeting I also stated clearly that what I hoped for and prayed for was reconciliation. But reconciliation in the biblical sense absolutely does not call us to compromise the radical scandalous message of the gospel so that it becomes more palatable to the masses. Being a good citizen, a good person, or a good businessman (while not mutually exclusive thereto) does not equate to being a good Christian. Jesus loved every Pharisee and scribe to whom he referred as a liar, hypocrite, and serpent; and it is because he loved him that he dared to name the sin and call the good and upstanding leaders of the community to accountability.

      My reflections were written in response and limited to what I heard during the town hall meeting, and it is the words of the participants that convict them, not my reflections upon those words. If my language sounded harsh perhaps it is only because as someone who has loved and stood by many friends on the margins for years I simply cannot abide the slow death they face any longer, and I cannot be complicit with policies, laws, ignorance, intolerance, or apathy that leads to one more child lying dead in my arms, one more friend dead due to a lack of necessary medication, one more friend burned alive, one more friend beaten to a pulp by the police, and not one more friend forced off of land they temporarily occupy despite the fact that they have permission to be on that land and despite the fact that they are hidden away from the larger community.

      If my words seem harsh imagine how harsh the words coming from the crowd sounded to the ears of those who live in Tent City, those who were equated with garbage.

      You cite to the story of Jesus and the rich young man and I think it is most appropriate. The rich young man had kept all of the commandments, he took care of his family and followed all of the laws in attempting to lead a good and reputable life. When he asked what he still lacked in order to follow Jesus, Jesus told him to “go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” The young man simply could not do it and so he walked away sad, knowing that although he kept all of the laws he could not be a follower of Jesus. We did not ask the good community of Antioch to sell their possessions and give what they have to the poor; we simply asked to be left in peace for 90 days hidden away in the middle of 124 acres. The refusal to allow this may make one a responsible citizen, a good businessman, and a protective parent, but it also makes one a lousy Christian. Peace.
      Jeannie

  3. I attended the meeting at Living Word Church on Thursday June 3rd. My observation was that Jeannie Alexander displays a total lack of the ability to be a peacemaker. She is so self righteous, she can’t see there are other ways to look at life. She and Pastor Sanders (and many others) totally discount that many in our American citizenry are not Christian and do not view the world from a Christian view.

    We are a country/state/county/city… of laws and she is showing her total and utter disregard for those laws. She never mentions that Mr. Beaman, nor Pastor Doug Sanders bothered to find out what is the law for land use in Davidson County, let alone try to comply with it. There are very good reasons for having laws to assure the rights of all citizens. Yet, she doesn’t seem to understand that. She is young and will have many experiences in life when she begins to have an “aha” moment and realize the importance of a law abiding society.

    I have lived in this community for nine years and after having lived in four states and many communities, I have never before lived in such a diverse community among more caring and compassionate people than I have found in Antioch. We are people who deserve to be treated with respect and she and Pastor Sanders and Lee Beaman failed to do that and are now trying to claim that the citizens here are somehow at fault. Take a look in the mirror. Blaming the victim(s) just doesn’t work.

    Alma Sanford, J.D.

      1. 1. Alma you are blaming the victim.

        2. Who said that the people we help have to be Christian?

        3. I want to apoligze to God because we got it wrong again.

    1. “She is young and will have many experiences in life when she begins to have an “aha” moment and realize the importance of a law abiding society.”

      I find this statement a little unsettling as a citizen of the Unidted States of America. This whole issue is supposed to be resolved by the Fouth of July. Hmmm that date rings a (liberty) bell.

      OH, The Declaration of Independence, adopted by congress July the fouth, 1776… which reads

      “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. ”

      Get it? These men had decided that laws of man (political bands which have connected them with another) were subordinate to the Laws of God ( laws of nature and of nature’s God ). They knew that what they did that day carried a sentence of death under the laws as they existed on that day, BUT they “support(ed) of this (that) declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence”.

      Sometimes you have to put your trust in God, and not laws.

  4. I don’t know you, Jeannie. I am friends with Doug, Lindsey, and Andrew. Reading about what happened on Thursday night on the blog and the channel 5 website made me feel angry. I should not be surprised. Anyone familiar with scripture should know that love for the other is not popular. God’s people have a habit of failing in their vocation; thus the need for an Amos or Jesus or Francis. The love of God is not always in people. And even when confronted with teachings like the parable of the banquet, people’s hearts toward the poor remain hard. So the message of the gospel remains scandalous. There are few who can discern it, and when they do, they often find it offensive, as you witnessed the other night. Good religious folks killed Jesus, so of course they spewed hate your way when you stood with the undesireables. None of us should be surprised.

    It still makes me angry though. And then the anger gives way to gut-wrenching sorrow. The older I get and the more of the world and the church I experience, the more I understand why Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the city of God. These folks don’t know the way of peace, of shalom. They may go to church. They may pastor a church. But they know not the taste of our Lord’s good kingdom of justice and blessings for the poor. What a damn shame.

  5. Housing is a human right.

    When people lose it, they understand.

    For me, not a christian, it has nothing to do with the scripture.

    It is basic human compassion.

    The only way to believe people deserve to live and die outside is to be in denial, ignorance, or in the dark.

    This is why the community wants to ignore this issue. It is not about property values, it’s about living with themselves.

    People are homeless because of a lack of a functional and caring community.

    The community likes to pretend people aren’t homeless, as if pushing them somewhere else solves the problem.

    **

    Jeannie is a hundred precent right for calling people out here.

    The people of Antioch who are making this stand have cut themselves off from their compassionate nature. It is embarassing how ignorance can promote such vile hatred for our fellow human beings.

    Pastor Rodney Beard of Living Word Community Church is a disgrace to the church and Jesus Christ, who certainly valued people more than property values.

    Ben Griffith

  6. Yes Alma,
    we know that Antioch is a caring and compassionate community, because one of your esteemed spiritual leaders has been to the mountain and returned with the message, “The gates of Antioch’s charity are closed!”

    When the word “charity” was first coined, in meant “love for fellow man”.

    I am not American, but I have heard the message of the modern American Christian Church, “Come to Jesus and be like us…”.

    And then, I have cared for an American war vet as he died alone under a bridge, clothed your naked, fed your hungry, and visited some in prison, and decided, having seen the results of your churches up close and personal, that I don’t want to be like you, and I don’t want to know your Jesus, if he is anything like you.

    Alma, homelessness is not the problem – it’s the symptom!

    Pastor Rodney Beard of Living Word Community Church, and by extension, his followers, have borne out the truth of G.K.Chesterton’s thought that “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and not tried.

    If, Alma, as you say, you have never lived among more caring and compassionate people than you have found in Antioch, you must have lived in some cold holes.

  7. if you claim to care for the people, do something to help them besides leaving them in tents. help them find housing, work, or the medical attention they need.

    many of the homeless have mental illnesses and need to be in hospitals. go after the medical establishment to make sure that these people are properly cared for.

    many of the homeless have lost jobs and homes. help them find work (teach a man to fish…). there are opportunities out there. just look outside tent city. trash needs to be picked up and landscaping needs tending. enlist the help of the chamber to find these people work. many of the homeless received vouchers for homes from fema. help them find shelter that will protect them from the elements.

    many of these homeless have alcohol problems or other drug addictions. get them into rehab programs so they can become productive.

    many of these homeless prefer to be homeless and to take instead of purchase. they prefer to beg than to work. move them for they do not deserve your help.

    1. (Lindsey here.) Sherri, thanks for your thoughts. All of us at Amos House have been involved in homeless outreach for years which means that we actively work to meet immediate needs like food, clothing, shelter, and basic physical and mental healthcare, but we also work to provide a “hand-up” to these individuals by assisting them with housing, employment options, rehab, case management, and connections to local churches and other faith-groups who provide them with community, love, and support. Many of us also work or have worked with mental health providers in Nashville and are very aware of the mental health and substance abuse issues many of our friends struggle with. We are connected to just about every homeless service provider in Nashville and have housed over 65 individuals since October of 2009. In addition, we help our friends who are able to work with employment opportunities and we help those who can’t work and have a mental or physical disability obtain SSI/SSDI benefits.

      As for housing vouchers, those came from MDHA (not FEMA) and we are working closely with the Homelessness Commission and these individuals to secure permanent housing. Until permanent housing is obtained for our homeless friends (who sometimes can’t go to the Mission for various reasons), it is difficult to transition from the streets to housing without a safe place (like the camp we’ve helped create) where they can store their belongings, have access to outreach assistance and vital services, and not be arrested for trespassing. I recommend that you and many others visit the camp and ask the residents if they would rather camp in tents until they obtain housing or crouch and hide in a filthy, rat-infested alley or underpass.

      As for whether or not our homeless friends “deserve our help,” I would offer that they deserve much more than that. They, the impoverished children of God who are beautiful and broken like you and me, deserve to have their basic needs met; they deserve affordable and accessible housing and healthcare; they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect; they deserve to be seen as human beings (brothers and sisters) who are offered grace, mercy, and forgiveness—blessings that we are all undeserving of.

  8. the statistics that you quote are wonderful, and quite frankly, i am glad that some group is working hard to help those down on their luck to get back on top.

    but if all is as good as you say, then why did the church in brentwood (which i heard is one of your “sponsors) not allow them to stay on their vast amount of land? it is because the resident’s of brentwood do not want them in their backyard?

    did someone feel that they would just fit in unnoticed in antioch? the rumor going around, and reported, is that tent city was set up without consultation in the dark of night.

    while realizing that many of the homeless are good people, there are a percentage that are causing problems. my place of employment has heard many complaints, including that the beggars are hounding patrons of local businesses for handouts. this is very scary to them. this is scary to their children. many are nervous that there may be sex offenders among the citizens of tent city and they fear for themselves and their children. while this may not be the case, it seems as though a town meeting before locating tent city near such a large residential area may have been a wise thing to do.

    perhaps your organization could hold a meeting of it’s own to address the concerns of the citizens and business owners in antioch. this may prove to be helpful in bridging an understanding and the formulation of a plan that will be beneficial to all.

    you must understand that antioch is trying hard to shed a reputation as a crime filled community. businesses suffer from the preconceived idea that crime in rampant in the area. the local business owners are trying to come up with plans to put a positive light on the area and to have tent city set up without prior communication only adds to the problem that hard working people are already facing.

    it also doesn’t help that you post such negative blogs about the people in the area. it is not conducive to problem solving.

    1. Sherri,

      (Andrew here)

      Thanks for continuing to try to get to the bottom of some of this. But it appears there are still more clarifications in order…

      My response is somewhat long, and I’ve taken some time with it, so I’d encourage you to read all the way through, where I hope you’ll find your concerns, if not alleviated, then at least addressed as thoroughly as possible.

      1) The property on the edge of the church in Brentwood, Otter Creek, is zoned residentially, which means camping isn’t allowed. There are houses that literally back up to it. (The Antioch property is zoned for business/shopping, so we’ve been told). In addition, the Antioch land is 124 acres, with residents camping in the middle 2 or so acres. The Brentwood land, on the other hand, is 2 acres–altogether. In addition, that property is not on a bus line, whereas the Antioch property is. A bus line is important because people’s livelihoods (work, social services, etc.) are sustained in downtown Nashville. We tried (and tried and tried) to look for land downtown, but found no options. We are still looking. And, as Lee Beaman, the landowner in Antioch said, if he had land in Brentwood, he would have given it to us. And yes, the people of Brentwood would also not welcome it. But I’m not sure how helpful it is to make it an Antioch vs. Brentwood issue, when everyone should be showing more hospitality than we are.

      2) Otter Creek does not “sponsor” Amos House. Otter Creek partners with Amos House. Not one above another, but two separate bodies working together.

      3) I get the impression, Sherri, that you weren’t present at the town hall meeting. I say this because most of these things were addressed there. But I have no problem clarifying these issues. Please let me know if I’m mistaken.

      4) It’s telling that we’re going off of “rumor” here concerning how we moved our homeless friends onto that private property we were given permission to use. The truth is, yes, no one asked any board member or resident or landowner or pastor of Antioch if it was OK to move our friends onto Lee Beaman’s land. But follow this thought if you will… If I were to move into Antioch, would I be required to inform the area residents first? The answer is No. And the reason is that I’m not poor or homeless. And so the uproar in response to this failure to “ask for permission” is very telling in that it reveals a posture toward “those people” that is anything but generous. Next, did we do so “under the cover of night”? If by that you mean that we did so without asking permission, then yes (but again, refer to what I just said). But if by that you mean that we did so with a conniving, secretive spirit, then no. We did so because we had no other options, because it was a life and death situation.

      5) I need to call attention once again to the “they” language. Have you been down to the camp? If not, I’d encourage you to do so. As it turns out, these are actually decent, complex, loving, hospitable, beloved men and women. NOT, as you claim, a group consisting paritally of trouble-makers and “beggars”. First, I would respectfully ask that you refrain from using such language here as I feel it is offered in a painfully disrespectful and misguided spirit. Secondly, we can make associations between “those people in the camp” and the “beggars” and “trouble makers” at local businesses and in local crime, but until legitimate proof is made (and I wouldn’t wait on it), it’s all hearsay, and it’s all hearsay grounded in a sense of what appears to be fear of being intruded upon by people whose lives are different from ours. I promise you, there is so much blessing, so much spirit, so much God when we interact with “those” people. That’s why I am saddened by these particular points of argument.

      6) We know of one sex offender that we’re working with–and he happens to be an individual who is spending a great deal of time and energy on making a new life for himself (you can only do so within a community; alienation only exacerbates). As it happens, though, there are over 60 non-homeless sex offenders within a 3-mile radius of the land on which Tent City is located. You can view the registry yourself. This is another stigma we would do well to shed. Because we’re all broken, some more than others, but we’ll stay broken if we don’t help one another repair the wounds and move on. It takes a community.

      7) I understand and respect your concerns about Antioch shedding its old reputation. That is absolutely legitimate. But, if I were you, I would be wary about following the example set my many in Antioch of employing these metaphors of us “dumping” people on Antioch. Because, once again, that presupposes an understanding of “these people” as garbage. And to be perfectly honest, when we moved the residents to Antioch, no one thought, “Oh, it’s Antioch, these people will fit in perfectly here!” Because 1) We have more respect for our homeless friends than to view them in such a light, and 2) We have more respect for Antioch than to presume that it’s a dumping ground! The thought never crossed our minds! Any such accusation is purely and entirely a projection.

      8 ) We have apologized (at the meeting) and elsewhere, in private, for not consulting anyone first. But at the same time, we’re somewhat baffled, 1) By the firestorm itself, which seems to reveal that the actual apology isn’t what matters, and that 2) At the meeting, the apologies seemed to go unnoticed, with accusations of our self-righteousness filling the space that could have otherwise been used for respectful dialogue.

      9) The space of the town hall meeting, especially when Jeannie and Doug spoke, served as what you suggest: a gathering of business and church leaders and other residents to address the concerns. But it seems that wasn’t enough. Lindsey also met with a group of about 15 or so Antioch leaders in the week prior to the town hall meeting, and explained our side of the story. So, in essence, we’ve already tried that. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure it’s the best format, as it mostly resulted in unhelpful, accusatory, name-calling, personal, fear-based rhetoric. It still amazes me that Jeannie was accused of self-righteousness. She spoke with such a calm, though stern, spirit, while so many who came up to the microphone spoke with anything but humility.

      10) I understand where you’re coming from when you say that we’re posting negative things. But if you want to talk about negative words and speech conducive to problem-solving, then let’s start with the town hall meeting, where the accusations were not only misguided, but the language was at times hate-filled, vitriolic, and downright frightening. Jeannie has written words that come from deep experience and a passion for justice and truth in the situation. We understand if it sounds negative, but it’s somewhat par for the course, as that’s what we’ve been handed by so many in Antioch–negative speech not conducive to problem solving. But I’d also encourage you to read my post on this blog (posted a day or two after Jeannie’s), where I try to flesh out some of your concerns about negativity and problem solving.

      Thanks again for engaging us. I hope these things are clear. If they aren’t, please dont’ hesitate to ask for clarification and we’ll do the best we can.

      Blessings and peace,
      Andrew

  9. •To reach out to our fellow man by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, educating the ignorant and housing the homeless.

    The above is item six of the Living Word Community Church’s mission statement on their website. Guess they need to “rethink” either their mission statement or their Pastor selection.

  10. you are correct that i did not attend the town hall meeting to which we are discussing. the information to which i have been engaging you about comes to me second-hand from people who did attend the meeting.
    and, this point, should show that more discussion between amos house and the community is needed. if i am indeed as misinformed as you claim, then you did not communicate the reasons for your actions clearly enough. i say this because of the claim you make of my lack of information versus the information that is being shared by people who were there.
    this is not, and i apologize for making it appear so, a brentwood versus antioch issue. it is the issue that virtually any community does not want the homeless located nearby. i can understand that would make your mission more difficult, but still, prior communication with the community could have gone a long way in making the homeless more accepted. if you did so indeed discuss the moving of tent city prior with leaders of antioch, the message did not get out to the everyday citizens and it should have.
    regardless of the moral fiber of the citizens of tent city, people in the area are relaying stories of more beggars hanging out in front of local businesses such as target and home depot , the mapco…therefore they (the citizens of antioch not residing in tent city) are taking there business to other retail outlets. i myself have noticed more beggars soliciting the intersections of bell road asking for handouts while i drive to work. i even contributed to one while waiting for the light to change. however, it can make me and others uncomfortable when there is a person staring at you and asking for a handout while you are waiting for the light to change. i do agree with you on the fear factor involved. homelessness can make many uneasy because, in my opinion, most are only one emergency away from homelessness. we don’t want to see what could eventually be our own fate. my use of “they” and other pronouns were in no way meant to be derogatory.
    i understand your argument that one is not normally required to ask permission to live at a particular place. but, again, you also have to try to see things from a variety of positions. there are many apartment communities close to tent city. the residents at those communities are normally screened by an agreed criminal background check before they are allowed to move onto the property. therefore the people living in the immediate area feel some comfort in this. because the residents of tent city are not given a criminal background check (and if they are; the knowledge of a criminal background does not stop a person from living at tent city) the surrounding members of the area are left to assume , sometimes correctly as you admit of at least one sex-offender in the group, that there is now a criminal element living close by.
    it is a shame that name-calling, yelling, and derogatory statements are the result of the gathering of people to solve problems and find solutions. and, i appreciate your comments regarding my questions. i have found it very helpful. i also hope that my comments have been helpful to you. i think that you will find that my comments are not a bashing of you, your work, or the people you are trying to help, but a view of what i am hearing in the community. i have chosen to share that with you in an attempt to make communication easier between you and the community; and so that amos house and the city leaders can find a peaceful resolution.

    sherri

  11. Hey Andrew, Lindsey and Jeannie,

    Just wanted to express my deep thanks to you all and the others for your amazing work. I know that we don’t say that enough to you. But I, as well as many others, respect you so much for your work in the community. I know that you don’t do this for the thanks and you even shy away from it, but, still, you deserve it. Countless times you’ve explained the Tent City situation. To me. And to many, many others. I know you may feel like a broken record at times, but your educating the public is hugely beneficial to us all. Know that the conversation itself brings light to the situation. [Sometimes] in the marketing business we say, even bad publicity can be good publicity. I say this because even if people were angry at the town hall meeting, at least we’ve got them talking! And that’s better than pretending they’re not there at all.

    Thanks again and hope to see y’all soon,

    Ben

  12. I think the way Jeannie Alexander writes is great. The title and article are quite well thought out compared to a lot of bloggers out there. In my opinion it would really be a bit better if emotions hadn’t overrun the story and turned it into the docu-drama instead of a we-can-make-the-world-a-better-place piece. I stumbled across through a blog, and will have to check in to see if there are other articles worth a read!

  13. This is, sadly, not merely a problem in your area. In my area (far northern California, very small town, unincorporated) we face many of the same attitudes and same challenges. We have no shelters here. In the very rainy winter season people sleep under tarps or in tents, under freeway overpasses, where they can. There is an informal network of helpers, of which I am a small part (I have a small used bookstore; my partner and I have long been street advocates, starting back when our shop was across the street from a church where the pastor was never available, and people came looking for help.). All the equations you are hearing there about property values, about people as less-than, as garbage…all this, the fear, the anger–is happening here as well.
    Recently a small park was closed to use because “too many of THEM” were using it–getting beneath the trees during the day to escape the 100 degree summer temperatures. We are trying to get some sense of public space and mutual understanding, but it is hard.
    I send you my good energy and admiration; this is going on all over our country, if not all over the world. Kathy

  14. Hello Jeannie,
    My husband and I just moved to Nashville and we are Christians. We also live in the Antioch area. I have read about the town meeting we were not here at that time. However we would like to help the homeless. I would like to know more about the ministry you serve in. So I hope you will send me a reply at my email. I know what its like to be working for Christ and have people who are part of the body come against you. dont be discouraged. Be vigilant as I can tell you are.
    I hope to hear from you
    thanks Jane

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