As I was researching local and regional news articles about the unsheltered homeless, I stumbled upon a few articles from December 2016 about Patapsco United Methodist Church. This small church in Dundalk, Baltimore County made the news because they were being fined for allowing homeless people to sleep on their grounds at night. When interviewed, the Rev. Katie Grover defended this policy because “by allowing the homeless onto church grounds, she’s merely carrying out her duty to care for the “the last, the least and the lost,” as Jesus commanded.”
“The last, the least, and the lost” is an amalgam of three verses in the book of Matthew in the New Testament of the Bible:
- The Last: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” Matthew 20:16 NIV
- The Least: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:40 NIV
- The Lost: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” Matthew 18:11 NIV
When I started researching and writing on unsheltered homelessness, I was looking strictly for secular, humanitarian solutions since I was trying to give recommendations for city planners and officials. Little did I realize that writing this paper would become a holy, religious experience where in my quest to help others I would act as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to help “the last, the least, and the lost.” It seems so obvious in hindsight – Jesus, after all, was homeless during the time of his ministry. “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20 NIV). Rather than spend his time with the wealthy nobility, he spent his time with the “last, least, and lost” of his society, including tax collectors, prostitutes, and the poor. If he were alive today, I have no doubt he would spend much of his time making community and eating meals with Baltimore’s unsheltered homeless population. This blog is an opportunity to continue following Jesus’ example beyond my thesis/capstone project.
Fortunately, the story of Patapsco United Methodist Church has a happy ending: Baltimore County dropped the $12,000 fine with the agreement that the church would guide its homeless visitors to programs that can help them. They are now working closer with Baltimore County to house the unsheltered. They acknowledge that their work is ongoing but encourages visitors to support efforts in their own communities.
I may be one person, but if I can help at least one person, it is all worth it.