By Jimmy Dorrell
With the previously rumored and publicly unannounced closing of the Oak Lodge Motel, based on a desire “to make our city better,” those who live on the edges are about to lose even more access to affordable housing and will likely move into worse conditions. While I realize it is hard to defend this old, challenging motel complex (and other substandard hotels) due to its history, petty drugs, and crime, at this time in Waco there are almost no other choices for housing for hundreds of these “invisible homeless,” including some families with children. Some of those tenants are members of Church Under the Bridge, who attend weekly.
I know our city leaders and some community members care about the poor and may even acknowledge the growing lack of affordable housing in Waco for them. The lack of living wages at work in Waco contributes to their inability to rent housing. Most likely these discussions will not produce any viable answers for years that address the current and growing glut of options for Waco’s most vulnerable.
It is a crisis, not just a problem. It will only get worse for them in the months ahead.
While Church Under the Bridge has recently initiated a new ministry to focus more on that very population, we also have few housing resources to help. Our first ministry goal is to build deeper relationships with the families and individuals and walk with them through their current plight, yet we are realistic to know there are fewer resources that really address the bigger issues of housing them in Waco. It is a community problem that demands increased attention and even interim answers.
I challenge the churches and caring community to make every effort at your disposal to save these and create new housing options before they are evicted onto our streets. I also encourage you to discourage the removal of these who will be displaced until each of them has adequate housing.
Mohandas Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its weakest members.” That goes for cities, as well.
We commit to pray for our leaders and local churches as you struggle with these challenging issues and for the poor!
Here are some articles that may help highlight the challenge in our community:
“The People Staying and Living In America’s Hotels” https://www.newyorker.com/culture/photo-booth/the-people-staying-and-living-in-americas-motels
“America’s Hidden Homeless”: https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2016/7/30/americas-hidden-homeless-life-in-the-starlight-motel
Jimmy Dorrell is pastor of Church Under the Bridge in Waco and founder of Mission Waco.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].