Blanket Project Quilt Squares Return to Capitol with Invitations to Visit Ministries
Red-white-and-blue quilt patches were tucked inside cards and hand-delivered to members of Congress the day after Valentine’s Day, urging them to act in love for our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness.
The patches had been part of the first-ever Homeless Remembrance Blanket Project on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, held on Dec. 21, 2022, the longest night of the year. In an art installation not far from the Capitol Christmas tree, more than 1,000 handmade blankets and quilts were spread as a memorial to those who died outside in 2022, and a reminder of those who are still living outside in America.
Staff of ELCA Witness in Society delivered the cards, along with a Living Lutheran article about the event, fact sheets on housing and homelessness, and invitations to visit ministries with neighbors struggling to find or keep a safe place to lay their heads. The Welcome Church in Philadelphia and Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community in Pittsburgh were two of the Pennsylvania ministries extending invitations.
“The high cost of housing, volatility in the wider market, and lack of infrastructure investments are becoming some of the lead drivers of homelessness in our communities,” said Andrew Fuller, ELCA Program Director for Housing and Human Needs. “In many neighborhoods, our congregations and service ministries are struggling to meet demand as housing insecurity stretches their capacity to serve those of us in the greatest need. Lawmakers in Congress need to experience what our ministries are witnessing first-hand to better understand the root drivers of homelessness and the structural policy solutions that can help us meet this crisis.”
Fuller said site visits can deepen understanding, particularly for lawmakers who often do not know the full scale or emotional impact of the issues our communities are experiencing.
“As a form of witness and ministry, I could not more highly recommend inviting your own lawmakers to visit your volunteer services,” Fuller said. (Is your congregation engaged in ministry with those who have experienced homelessness or housing insecurity? To extend a site visit invitation, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
“This is an opportunity for lawmakers to take abstract arguments and put them into real context,” said the Rev. Matthew Best, LAMPa Policy Council chair and an organizer of December’s Homeless Remembrance Blanket Project. “In a theological sense, it’s an opportunity to see how these issues are embodied in the lives of actual people, our neighbors. These invitations are opportunities for lawmakers to encounter people who are unhoused, to meet them, to hear their stories and struggles, and then to take those back with them to the halls of power where they can do something to improve these people’s lives. That’s one way we can love our neighbor.”
ELCA state public policy offices around the country, including LAMPa, encouraged affiliated ministries in their states to extend an invitation to their member of Congress. “It was a great opportunity to work as a team on an issue that affects all of our communities,” said LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale.
“It was good for us to be part of these nationwide invitations to Washington state members of Congress,” said Elise DeGooyer, Executive Director of Faith Action Network there. “We know that homelessness and lack of affordable housing is a crisis across our nation that calls for new policy solutions. Faith communities have been caring for our unsheltered neighbors at their doorsteps for a long time. Faith Action Network is grateful for the chance to join ELCA Advocacy and Lutheran churches in lifting up our beloved neighbors’ experiences to inform the policies that impact them. As constituents actively addressing housing-insecurity, we welcome our Congress members to our churches to witness the experiences of our neighbors most in need and to discuss effective strategies to help address this growing crisis.”
Solveig Muus, Director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Arizona, was especially eager to participate, as someone actively engaged in her own congregation’s ministry with those experiencing homelessness.
“We were pleased that the Homeless Remembrance Blanket Project last December brought much needed attention to the plight of our neighbors experiencing homelessness in our nation, and Lord willing, the Washington Post’s coverage of the event reached our leaders in Washington,” said Muus. “The need for low cost housing continues to be an issue nearly every city talks about, but not many are able to affect systemic change. They say talk is cheap, right? It’s time for action! That’s why I was delighted that the ELCA participated in the blanket project, and invited our synods to get involved. Four of our congregations in the Grand Canyon Synod extended invitations ~ hand delivered by our ELCA staff! ~ to three Arizona congressmen to visit their ministries serving folks on the streets. I expect they’re busy, but I really hope they come to talk with us, and see the good work, because change happens through relationships and mutual understanding.”