Caring Bureaucrats and the Homeless

Rabbi Bachman gives his usual smarts to the homeless services meeting he attended recently:

We began with a teaching from the morning blessings in our Siddur–”Praised be the Eternal God who clothes the naked; who lifts up the fallen; who frees the captive.” In our daily prayers, we fortify ourselves with the knowledge that caring for those who can’t fully care for themselves is our sacred responsibility.

And then the Deputy Commissioner spoke. He told us that under Mayor Bloomberg, the DHS has the perspective that if there’s a problem with homeless people, it’s their fault–they’re not getting the information to those who need it. And he proceeded to educate us so thoroughly and with such inspiration that within 90 minutes we had coalesced around a strategy for responding to the problem and challenge of the chronic homeless who sleep and relieve themselves on the steps of Old First.

We agreed on 4 basic principles.

1. Acknowledge with dignity those who are homeless. Look at them. Greet them.
2. Work for their dignity and safety.
3. Connect them to the variety of homeless services in the city.
4. Support the provision of services to these people.

Makes me think — how do governmental leaders create better functioning bureaucracy and what would politics look like if we didn’t curse government services? How can civic leaders, especially congregations, best work with government service providers without confusing the relationship between the two?

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