The following is part of a transcript from “Speaking of Faith” on Public Radio where Shane Claiborne talks about what he was involved in when a church tried to evict homeless persons who were seeking refuge in a church. It is a dialogue with Krista Tippett, the host of the program.
Kensington Welfare Rights Union, which was just a group of mostly homeless women and children that had gotten together. And they did something really courageous. In the midst of the ruins of North Philadelphia where there’s, you know, over 20,000 abandoned houses and 700 abandoned factories, they found an abandoned Catholic church building, and they moved into it.Yeah. Yeah. Well, my first encounter with Kensington in North Philly was when there was a group of poor and homeless families with the
And we read about that in college. And the newspaper article that we read said that these families had resurrected the church, you know? And that they had also, ironically, been given an ultimatum eviction notice — that within 48 hours, if they weren’t out, they could face arrest for trespassing on church property. So that really stirred all kinds of deep questions in us. And a group of us from the college got involved and, basically, put our lives alongside theirs and said to the city, ‘If you come to evict them, then you got to take us, too.’ And over 100 students…
…eventually got involved in this. And that made a big difference. Because the media became very involved and now…
…you know, we were all facing arrest as well. And they made it look like the church was kicking homeless people out. And that’s because the church was kicking homeless people out, you know?
And so, it just lasted not for 48 hours, but for weeks and weeks and weeks that we were there.
And, I mean, it had a happy ending, didn’t it? They didn’t get evicted. And is it right that those homeless families had, for the most part, found a place to live by the time you all left?
It was incredible, what happened. Folks saw it on the news. And they bought houses or donated houses. Some Section 8 and low-income housing vouchers were released. And there were hard stories, but there were also beautiful stories. And those families have been our theologians. You know, they’ve been our teachers…
…and sociologists, and the folks that have really opened our eyes up to the world.