Published by Herald Press on August 9, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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On any given night, more than half a million Americans and Canadians find themselves sleeping on the streets, in shelters, cars, and other places not meant for human habitation. Yet as this crisis continues to grow, it remains one of the least talked about—especially in churches. Even where compassion and empathy exist, the complexities around homelessness can make us feel stuck, overwhelmed, or numb to the existence of unhoused people in our cities and neighborhoods.
Reporting back from his work in homeless services, minister and advocate Kevin Nye introduces readers to the Christ he’s met in tents, shelters, and drop-in centers. He demystifies homelessness by journeying into complex issues like affordable housing, mental illness, addiction, and more, while reimagining our theological approach to these matters and educating us on how they intersect with homelessness.
This thorough and intimate book shows us that from the margins, Jesus has something to teach us all about grace—something that could change the landscape of homelessness entirely if we’re ready to hear it.
I saw a photo the other day of a police officer writing a person experiencing homelessness a citation for experiencing homelessness while the tagline “SERVE AND PROTECT” was prominently emblazoned on the police cruiser in the background. And I wondered, “Who is this serving? Who is this protecting?” I flashed back to a short stint I spent in Philadelphia, where I was part of a protest that broke into an abandoned church with the goal of setting it up as a homeless shelter. We protested. We had a church service. We invited in the homeless. And the police arrested everyone and cleared out the facility in the middle of the night. Americans, in particular, seem to believe that criminalizing activities will stop them—or at least show that they are being “taken care” of. Homelessness is often seen as something incapable of being solved within the nation’s capitalistic economic system. (A belief that ignores that the governmental cost of providing a home is less than the amount spent on provides services to control homelessness.) But we can do better. In Grace Can Lead Us Home, activist Kevin Nye invites us into a firsthand account of homeless advocacy and makes the case—in terms of faith, economics, healthcare, justice, and more—that we can and should end homelessness.
Grace Can Lead Us Home is memoir/call to action. Relying on Nye’s personal story and movement into being a homeless services activist, the book offers a personal and intimate look into how we can work against the forces causing homelessness. Along the way, he humanizes the homeless by sharing their stories
The practical hear of Nye’s thesis is that homelessness is caused by a lack of affordable housing. Simple as that. Homelessness is an economic concern. There are subsidiary causes—lack of jobs that pay a living wage, for example, or the inability of the poor to access services—but Grace Can Lead Us Home pinpoints the theological need for affordable housing. I love that Nye presents this is a theological problem. Rising house prices and rents have priced many people out of the market. The economy is increasingly tilting to place wealth in the hands of the already wealthy, leaving the poor little opportunity to do much more than survive. Nye presents our economy as standing in opposition to our theology and says clearly that our faith requires us to do something about it.
Second, Grace Can Lead Us Home highlights mental illness is a primary contributing risk factor to homelessness and examines how poverty/homelessness can lead to addiction and other factors that make obtaining housing more difficult. This is also important, because some of the unhelpful narratives of homelessness are that they are homeless because they are drunks/addicts/mentally ill. In fact, the reverse might be true. Give someone the stability of a home and they may never slip into addiction or have a stabilizing base from which to fight their addiction.
Nye doesn’t portray the fight against homelessness as easy, but insists it is necessary. Work must be done in the present to combat homelessness as it is while work must be done into the future change the systems that help cause the experience of homelessness. Grace Can Lead Us Home calls readers into the work to resist the systems that create homelessness while caring for those experiencing it. The picture Nye paints is dire and urgent, but colored with hopefulness.