“No one has ever become poor by giving.” -Anne Frank
Contributed by Jenna Harline
On September 27, 2018, civic, faith, and community leaders joined together for Mayor Elaine Gennawey’s Breakfast of Compassion hosted by the Laguna Niguel Interfaith Council. The morning focused on the rising problem of homelessness in Orange County and how we can join together to lift and care for those in need. Rick Lamprecht, an interfaith representative from The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared, “My lasting impression from attending the Laguna Niguel Interfaith breakfast was not so much a specific thought or message, but an overall feeling of a commitment to faith and doing good by all in attendance. I felt the spirit uniting us in a common good, as we spoke about God, in whatever form, and helping and serving our neighbor in need.” Prayers and reflections were offered by Rabbi Heather Miller of Temple Beth El, Chaplain Andrew Hoyle of the United States Marine Core, President Brian Neff of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Mayor Elaine Gennawey, Senator Pat Bates, Family Assistance Ministries, South County Outreach, Iman Taraq Ata from the O.C. Islamic Foundation, Niloufar Gibson from the Baha’i of Laguna Niguel, and Pastor Jim Szeyller from Laguna Niguel Presbyterian. Beth Garlock, President of the Laguna Niguel Stake Women’s organization commented, “I thought it was wonderful to look around the room and see all of the many faith groups represented: Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, and Christian. We were all there to support one another and to unite our efforts in caring for those in need.”
Among the many highlights of the morning included the story of one mother’s escape from domestic violence and her plight of homelessness with three children. Desperate and afraid, she exhausted every avenue available in the county until Family Assistance Ministries was able to provide shelter, food, and basic necessities for her family. Working with F.A.M., she now hopefully walks the long journey toward self-reliance. Her story was disheartening and sobering for many in attendance, but sadly not new to the civic leaders and clergy present. The Federal Housing and Urban Development Department estimates the number of homeless statewide at 130,000 on any given night. That’s 25 percent of the entire nation’s homeless population. Since 2016, California experienced a larger increase in homelessness than any other state. Faced with the growing number of homeless in our local communities, countless cities and churches have scrambled to provide solutions and a positive way forward.
Many citizens in the community struggle with compassion towards the displaced men and women camped on street corners. Pastor Jim Szeyller from Laguna Niguel Presbyterian concluded the morning by challenging those in attendance to have more than just compassion, to demonstrate “Courageous Compassion.” The way forward requires courage. It requires us to look beyond the dirty, ragged appearance, and sometimes course mannerisms and speech of our disparate traveling neighbors. It requires us to reach out and help regardless of fear, ignorance, or judgment, and put aside our preconceived notions about how, or why our fellow human beings arrived in their present condition. We must find “Courageous Compassion” within ourselves to move forward because thousands of lives literally depend upon it.
Please visit the following websites to find ways that you can help the displaced and homeless in our communities:
South County Outreach
Family Assistance Ministries