Recently, thanks to the blogsphere, it has come to my attention that the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is planning to "reassess" the restaurant license of Sharing and Caring Hands. Minneapolis has also, abruptly, decided to start cracking down on some other "problems" around the property. "Problems" they've known about for some time, but just now decided, are urgent needs that they need to resolve. Problems being: loitering, drug sales and use. I'm not saying these can't be problems but for crying out loud I can drive out to the Mall of America and, without much effort, spot loiterers, drug buyers and users. The only difference is one group is considered affluent and respectable and the other isn't. One group has a home to go to, the other one doesn't.
Frankly, I've driven past the shelter many times and I've never seen anything untoward going on. Nothing more than a couple guys outside. For all I know, they could be security staff that the Copelands long-ago hired to make the shelter a safe place. In other words, I wonder if these "problems" are not being overstated to suit some nefarious purpose.
Sharing and Caring Hands, as well as the adjacent residence, Mary's Place, were both founded by Mary Jo Copeland. Mary's Place provides housing for low-income, homeless people, battered women, families-basically anyone who is in serious trouble and may not be in a position to afford to live elsewhere. Sharing and Caring Hands is for want of a better term a "soup kitchen" but it is more than that. It provides a day stop for the homeless, free meals, showers and some very basic medical care. In this climate, anything that keeps people from freezing to death under the 394 overpasses is a good thing. In any climate, any place that gives shelter and sustinance to the needy is a good thing.
I still continue to be astounded at how bad zoning and licensing laws usually are. Sharing and Caring Hands has a RESTAURANT LICENSE? It's not like you walk in and order off a menu, pay for it, and tip the server. There should be a seperate category of licenses and zoning for charitable business like this. There are rumors that the city may want the shelters to move or close. Move where? Eagan? Where Mrs. Copeland still can't get full permission or raise enough money to build the orphanage she wants on the land she owns? Who else is going to step up and serve the homeless if she's gone? Catholic Charities, other organizations, and St. Olaf Catholic Church in DT Minneapolis have some kitchens, shelters and temporary residences around but not enough for demand.
Scuttlebutt is that Minneapolis is suddenly deciding that Sharing and Caring Hands and Mary's Place are problems because of the new Twins stadium going in across the street. The timing does seem odd. Also, the Twin Cities will be hosting a major political convention this Fall-coincidence? Sure, the convention will be in DT St. Paul but I would bet many of the conventioneers will be in the Minneapolis Warehouse District (the trendy neighborhood that adjoins the shelters) with it's bars and restaurants. Futhermore, Target Center is right there too.
Western society has a ignominious history of temporarily moving and relocating the homeless when a convention or major event bringing out of towners is arriving: Salt Lake City, Atlanta, New York City etc. etc. There is talk that Denver, which is hosting the Democratic convention this year, may be doing the same. Does anyone seriously think that any visitor believes that there are no homeless people in your city? No. But, there is a prevailing belief that you can know about them but you should not have to SEE them or, even worse, INTERACT with them in any way. Apparently, it's hospitality to remove the "eyesores" when the visitors come, but "reality" to keep them in place for your citizens after the company leaves.
St. Paul (especially downtown) does not really have much of a nightlife; so for all the hysterics of Councilman David Thune who imagines, with horror, barfing Republicans on West 7th, I don't think he needs to worry that much. My guess is most of the folks looking for a serious party will be across the river or, like almost every other visitor, be out at the Mall of America buying drugs (kidding-they'll be shopping at DSW and then buying drugs! LOL!). In any case, it amuses me up that people who think Republicans have such a stick up their butt that they don't know how to crack a smile suddenly envision rampaging hordes of men in power suits burning and pillaging thru the bars. Gosh, if the Republican party is truly the party of Christ, as some seriously or sarcastically claim, I would think they'd be in their hotel rooms reading Scripture or in church somewhere. *meow*
It's not a stretch to say that the press in this town barely tolerates Mrs. Copeland. Honestly, I don't think it's a stretch to say that a lot of Christians, even Catholics, in this town barely tolerate her either. Contrary to popular belief, Mary's Place is not named after Mrs. Copeland herself. It's named for Our Lady, whom Mrs. Copeland has a strong devotion too. Yes, Mrs. Copeland is a Catholic. Not a Catholic in Name Only (CINO) either. Not a social justice doctrine, but nothing else the Church teaches Catholic. She's usually wearing a crucifix, she's usually praying in her shelters in front of the residents and visitors, she peppers her speech with Scriptural and Saintly references, she's a daily, if not nearly daily, Communicant. In other words, she's authentic in her Catholicism.
She's been accused of having a Messiah complex. She's been derisively called a "Mother Theresa". She's been accused of using her shelters for proselytizing and evangelization. She washes the feet of the poor and some imagine she sees herself as Jesus. The Holy Father sends shoes for the homeless in her shelters and she is accused of being a Papal puppet.
Regardless of what anyone may think of Mrs. Copeland herself, I would think that the potential for having 2 major shelters closed, or told they have to relocate to a suburban setting that the homeless don't currently have summer residences in, would be an issue that would unite all those who claim to be Catholic, or Christians of any denomination, in mutual outrage. This would seem to me an issue that ALL of us could get behind. Unfortunately, many are too busy worrying about the Latin Mass, if priests should be married, women's ordination, permits for protesting the Republican Convention, if our new Archbishop is going to interfere with your personal life in some way, to get behind this issue.
If it is the fact that she's such a passionate Catholic that bothers you and you want her out of business for that, are YOU, then prepared to take up her work on the scale and with the same zeal she has? How many of us even have the fire to do that? I know I don't. I'm in awe of her. I can only think that it is the Fire of Christ's Heart and the encouragement of Our Lady that keeps her going.
For many of us, it doesn't matter if we actually see or know any homeless, it doesn't matter if they are forcibly relocated temporarily or permanently, we only care if it personally effects us. A friend said that with this current economic climate maybe we should ALL care because one day soon we may need the services these shelters provide. I don't know about you, but as a Catholic, the first place I'd want to go would be a shelter led by someone who is openly living the Faith she professes.If you can and want to help, you need to contact Mayor R.T. Rybak's policy aide: Erica Prosser 612-673-2133 or email@example.com BEFORE April 25th!!!
Also, my friend, Terry has been very passionate and outraged about this issue. I recommend you check his Abbey-Roads
blog for the latest developments.