Pastoral Response to Seattle Times Article

Dear Members and Friends:

Many of you have read the article about the three brick houses on our property published in the Seattle Times on Wednesday.  It may be helpful to remember the longer story about our changing mission and the conversations that informed our decision to raze the houses as part of our strategic building plan.

Our congregation has been sensitive to the pressing need for housing for vulnerable populations for many decades.  We can and should be proud of our track record in improving the lives of many hundreds of people over the years.  The decision to raze the houses was made after lengthy and careful deliberation.  It would be out of character for us to have done otherwise.

Our Board of Trustees looked at the use of our properties for rental housing several times over the past decade.  They consulted with people who are knowledgeable about affordable housing in Seattle, and heard repeatedly that using single-family homes as a solution is harder and harder to sustain financially.  Multi-unit housing is the model, and housing affordability in our urban setting is going to happen through density.  These three brick houses represent an approach to affordable housing that is already considered outdated and unsustainable.

As times change, churches need to be able to make adjustments in their mission.  Realigning mission focus requires wise use of resources to respond to changing circumstances.  One learning from our strategic planning conversations was that we are better equipped today to focus our efforts in addressing justice issues on a systemic level.  We are at our best when we are working to correct root causes of injustice, rather than providing direct services to vulnerable communities – services that our non-profit partner organizations deliver much more effectively.

I can only imagine how traumatic it must be for any person who was once homeless, then found temporary housing, but later had to worry about where they might have to move next. Such a person deserves our compassion and support.  Not all of the persons who have lived in our brick houses have been homeless.  None of the current residents will become homeless as a result of our decision to raze the houses.

For twenty-five years we have had an excellent working relationship with Community Psychiatric Clinic, the agency who leases the brick houses and places residents in them.  When we made the decision to raze the houses we gave CPC fourteen months’ notice about our decision.  It was very important to us that they have the time necessary to find new housing for their clients.  We could not have moved forward with our plan in good conscience without this reassurance.  CPC has informed us that all of these residents will move into properties they operate by June 2018.  We will continue to work with CPC in assuring this smooth transition.

Paying attention to the issues that challenge our larger community through compassion, deep reflection and action has always been a central feature of living our values as Unitarian Universalists.  Recognizing when our vision and strategies need to change in response to our world and in discernment of our capacities is a critical responsibility of being a Unitarian Universalist congregation.   The work changes, but is never done.

I am grateful for your ongoing support and commitment to our congregation. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns.

 

Respectfully,

Rev. Jon M. Luopa