One may say that bad publicity is better than no publicity at all, but I wonder if that is true. The article on Christian Outreach Appeal (Times, Sept. 21), was misleading and had several inaccuracies.
First of all, there is no clash over our program for the homeless between "neighbors and activists", nor is there a standoff or controversy as reported. COA had received a few calls from one neighbor, but that was resolved to our knowledge without further problem. However, we don't have time to scout the neighborhood to take a poll. We are too busy helping needy and homeless people, with our very limited funding resources.
The article infers that there is a mystery petition being circulated to oust the homeless center, yet no one interviewed had seen such a petition. It could be that there is no such petition. Many of our neighbors are cooperating with us and helping us by donating volunteer hours, food and clothing for those needy people. They realize that they may be only two paychecks or one catastrophic illness away from homelessness.
Long Beach Mayor Ernie Kell and the representative of the Police Department, Mary Jensen, gave COA accolades as to the effectiveness of what we are doing, yet their credibility was questioned.
We do not "attract vagrants," we simply minister to needy and homeless people who are already in the downtown area. They do not block the sidewalks as the article suggests. Since Sept. 8, when we opened our new multipurpose center, they sit in the patio, off the street, and use new handicapped-access restrooms, shower and laundry facilities as they wait for meals.
Attendance at religious services is completely voluntary. There is no coercion whatsoever to make attendance mandatory. However, we feel that the total person, body, soul and spirit, must be changed to make any significant progress toward self-sufficiency. We feel that only God has the power to change one's life, so we share the way to find peace and strength to combat addictions through seeking God's help.
I am the resource manager for Christian Outreach Appeal, pictured as offering to help a homeless mother and children find lodging. Actually, I was merely asking a mother for permission to allow her children to paint a children's mural at the Long Beach Art Assn.'s Homeless Exhibit.
I personally resent the inflammatory and negative words such as "activists," "sanctuary standoff," "ruined," "vagrants," "invaded," "complaints," "disperse lest they offend the sensibilities of a passing resident," "oust," "ineffective," "uncomfortable truce" and others used in the article.
In the View section of the same edition, Garry Abrams wrote an objective article on drug orphans. Our ministry endeavors to reach these parents before they either abandon their children or to rescue the children so they do not perpetuate the drug cycle. But we need help with our ministry, not condemnation.
Maybe after the mud has dried, it will fall off. I pray that is so. Until then, we will, with the Lord's help, continue to minister unto the least of His brethren.
MARILYN M. HAMMER
Christian Outreach Appeal