Affordable housing should not face bad ‘Christian’ attitudes

By: 
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Many folks reading this today probably are doing so with Christian faith, and a good chunk of readers are probably looking at this column while comfortably having a roof over their heads. My hope is that a majority of readers perusing this piece are willing to help folks who are down and out, but my expectation is there will be some who look at poor people and think, “Oh, those unhappy souls — keep them out of my neighborhood.”

That seems to be a noticeable attitude these days, from the United States Supreme Court down to communities in northeast Wisconsin. Many proclaim the United States is a Christian nation, but it’s shocking how many of those “good Christians” are unwilling to provide help to those in need, in spite of the Bible commanding that those who have means lend a helping hand to those who don’t.

A clear example of that attitude can be found in northcentral Shawano County, where the county’s planning, development and zoning committee voted last week against a zoning change that would have turned the empty White Pines Lodge in the Town of Red Springs into low- and moderate-income housing. For good measure, the committee also denied a conditional use permit that would allow for the building to be used as apartments, just in case the Shawano County Board of Supervisors’ collective heart grows three sizes, and the members decide to help those in need.

Red Springs Chairman Lonnie Schreiber has argued that losing the $8,500 in annual taxes from the site is scary, which would be understandable if Newcap officials hadn’t offered to negotiate with the town to provide payments in lieu of taxes to cover what would be lost from its tax-exempt status. Schreiber claims that the area is not fit for such a facility.

He wasn’t alone, though, as others urged the committee to agree with the town board, claiming noise, traffic, potential vandalism and other issues are possible with Newcap’s proposal. It appears they prefer the building remain an empty eyesore, not to mention a money pit for the current owners.

Finding affordable housing is a problem all over the country, and this area is no exception. It’s interesting that people will flock to help someone with cancer or some other debilitating disease, but poverty is the line they draw. As someone who has taken people in when they’re down and out, while there have been some hardships, I still felt good providing a helping hand.

Maybe it’s just me.

While the county’s decision is disappointing, it’s not surprising in light of the Supreme Court’s decision that allows the homeless to be criminally punished if they’re sleeping outside and can’t afford a home or hotel room. It assumes everybody will have somebody to take them in during hard times.

Sorry, folks. Real life isn’t a Hallmark movie, and it’s disturbing just how many people are one paycheck away from losing their homes and being left on the streets to die. Putting the homeless in jail with actual criminals is not a solution, despite the court’s attitude, and making it harder to provide housing for the lower-income people who work long and hard in our restaurants and other service facilities does not solve any problems, either.

Isaiah 58:7 says, “Isn’t it to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your home, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

Newcap isn’t even asking people to take the poor into their own homes; they’re only asking to provide affordable housing so that those on the verge of homelessness have a chance to avoid that unpleasant situation.

If we’re going to move forward as Christians, we need to help projects like Newcap’s become a reality. If we’re not willing to provide a simple yes to affordable housing, those so-called faithful need to stuff a sock in it when they proclaim we’re a Christian nation.

Lee Pulaski is the city editor for NEW Media. Readers can contact him at lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com.