Suburbia and Homelessness
Center City and Main Line Philadelphia are viewed as a continuous community, yet the reality is there is a sharp contrast between the two geographic regions. While many who work in Center City are able to go back and live comfortable lives on the Main Line, nearly 1,000 individuals are forced to live on the streets of Center City Philadelphia. The tension of ministering in Philadelphia is finding a way to speak to those who seem to have so much and to those who seem to have so little.
I find myself more naturally drawn to the Main Line community. I tend to think of myself as one of the “haves”, the educated, the well-off. I come from suburban South Jersey. That world feels familiar. I spend most of my time on the Main Line rather than in Center City. It’s where I eat, shop, and stay. Yet as someone who has to raise my own support, I’m sure I have more in common with the homeless than I think. I have to honestly pray daily for my bread. There is a level of uncertainty in how I live that should help me translate the experiences of those I minister to.
As I look between these two extremely different worlds, the ways my own experiences shapes how I view them, and my emotional response to them both, I am struck by Psalm 35 and how it might help me better pray for the homeless I minister to. Could words such as “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me,” and “Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help” help me voice what it means to live in a system set against them, and leaves them without an advocate? I am new to ministering to this demographic and have yet to understand the complex circumstances that lead to homelessness. Could Psalm 35 speak to issues of mental illness and addiction? Could such issues take the place of the pronouns in the prayer that says, “Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life”? It seems to me that a prayer such as Psalm 35 might help me better pray for those I minister to and allow me to begin to empathize with their plight.