future-of-cities

On June 13, I attended the Mayor’s Forum, “The Future of Cities,” sponsored by the Los Angeles Headquarters Association at the California Club in Downtown L.A. The speaker’s panel consisted of three mayors from the greater Los Angeles area—Gleam Davis of Santa Monica, Terry Tornek of Pasadena, and Meghan Sahli-Wells of Culver City. In attendance were builders and developers who came to hear the mayors’ visions for their respective cities. The mayors of these three relatively affluent cities shared several issues in common, including the need to create affordable housing and address homelessness.

Davis shared a particularly compelling vision, in which she said that Santa Monica is working toward becoming a “sustainable city of well-being.” For Davis and the other mayors, this vision of a city of well-being is a livable, sustainable environment in which people of all walks of life can thrive. While this was a secular event, her statement brought Jeremiah 29:7 to mind, “Seek the welfare of the city…” Hearing the tangible needs of these cities gave me pause to consider how churches in the greater L.A. area can work together towards the well-being of the city.

One of the recurring issues that all three mayors are facing is homelessness. Meghan Sahli-Wells, mayor of Culver City, characterized homelessness as a “humanitarian crisis.” In an affluent city, Wells argued, it was not fair to build wealth for a few while leaving others behind. In Pasadena, Mayor Terry Tornek took an informal door-to-door poll of his constituents and the most important issue was homelessness. While the mayors brought the issue of homelessness to light, they seemed to offer few tangible solutions to helping these most impoverished people in their cities. More recently, in the Los Angeles Times, there was an article discussing how local officials are planning on using a $1.2-billion bond measure to combat homelessness, along with extra monies from the state government. Among the plans for the funds include the construction of affordable housing units and conservatorships for mentally ill homeless persons.

Even as I walked back to the Metro Station, I was made very aware of the reality of the growing homeless population in downtown L.A. It made me wonder how we as the church might partner with our cities in addressing the needs of the homeless among us. Are our churches turning a blind eye to those in our community who have the greatest need? Or are we encouraging our congregations to volunteer at a local shelter, or to operate a soup kitchen in our own facilities? Some things to prayerfully consider.

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