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July 20, 2017

By Joel Bergeland

The following article originally appeared on the blog of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Plymouth on July 14.

A booklet has sat on my desk for several months called “Home is…” It was given to me by a staff member of Beacon Interfaith Housing, the parent organization of Families Moving Forward (FMF), which hosted 3 families experiencing homelessness at Mount Olivet this past Spring. In this book, both families sheltered by FMF and FMF volunteers were asked to answer the question “what is home?” The answers range from the philosophical to the concrete:

“Home is where I can count on feeling safe in familiar surroundings. It’s where I can breathe easily and feel grounded in the world.”

“Home is where my life unfolds”

“Home is Christmas lights on the bushes, a cat rubbing against my feet, a cookie late at night.”

At Mount Olivet, we feel called to work toward a world where every person has a home filled with experiences like these. Our Scriptures tell us that our home is with God, and God’s home is with us: “See, the home of God is among mortals! God will dwell with them, and they will be God’s people” (Revelation 21:3). And even though we know our eternal home is found with God, God calls us to provide shelter for those in need right now. The prophet Isaiah tells us that rather than fasting from food, God would have us fast from injustice, including “bringing the homeless poor into your house” (Isaiah 58:7).

We have long partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build homes locally and abroad for families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford one. We are pleased to announce that we are beginning a partnership with Beacon Interfaith Housing as well.

Beacon is a local coalition made up of 90 congregations of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. They are committed to ending homelessness in Minnesota in three ways: advocating for policies that expand housing opportunities for low income people, building affordable housing developments, and providing emergency shelter through the Families Moving Forward program. As we walk more deeply into God’s call for our congregation to provide quality affordable housing and emergency shelter to those who need it, these three distinct approaches will help us understand the different facets of the housing crisis in Minnesota and be able to take action in informed and compassionate ways.

We are already familiar with providing shelter to families experiencing homelessness through FMF, but Beacon has another local opportunity for us to get involved in: the proposed Cranberry Ridge affordable housing development in Plymouth. Right now much affordable housing is concentrated in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and first ring suburbs; there’s little of it in the Western suburbs, even though many people who work here would benefit from it (bank tellers, nursing aides, etc). A coalition of churches, including Wayzata Community Church and St. Barnabas Lutheran, has been working for months to identify a site and map out a blueprint for a new place for low income families to live, and now the plans have gotten pretty concrete.

We are proud to add our name to the list of congregations who support this venture. Cranberry Ridge will provide housing to 45 families earning between $16,000 and $45,000 per year, including up to 10 families transitioning from homelessness. The large 3 bedroom apartments will have plenty of space for families to make a home for themselves, and Interfaith Outreach Community Services will have staff onsite to help the families connect to other services they may need (transportation, financial counseling, etc). The proposed site is on Highway 55 near Old Rockford Rd in west Plymouth.

Please let Pastor Joel know if you’re interested in getting involved in walking Cranberry Ridge through the approval process with the City of Plymouth, or sign up directly through Beacon’s website. The next time Cranberry Ridge will be on the city council’s agenda likely will be in September, and residents of Plymouth who support this development are strongly encouraged to show up.

We are excited to continue finding what God is doing out in the world through our community partners, which now includes Beacon Interfaith Housing. We hope that you will engage with Beacon as we live into God’s call to seek a world where all can have the safety and peace that having a home brings.

Joel Bergeland
Joel Bergeland is the Associate Pastor at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Plymouth, MN.