Food & Shelter: Our Modern Daily Bread

“She takes the night shift on Fridays, to make up for the work she missed.
For basketball and tumble class and spelling bees. To make three happy kids...
She weighs the cost and makes the choice. It is the chicken or the rent …
One day there won’t be a this or a that.
Poor people rising up, we’re fighting back.
Mama don’t you worry because this tide is turning.
Pretty soon, we’re gonna get the chicken and the rent.”
(Original lyrics by Paisha Thomas)

This is a story about a mother who supports her entire family as the sole income earner in her home. She often needs to sacrifice time at work in order to tend to her children’s needs. But her job is their livelihood so she must sometimes leave them unattended to make up for time missed at work. She does this so that she can afford the high cost of rent where she lives. When asked, what do you do when you have to choose between rent and food. “I choose food.” She replied. “You have to eat. You can worry about rent later.”  Working a full time job, having a bachelor’s degree and working on a masters degree, this family was still eventually evicted. Getting public assistance to mitigate that situation was not easy. Where does this cycle end?

Too many people are forced to choose between rent and food. Offsetting the high cost of housing may help families avoid the trade-off between food and shelter, as well as among other basic needs like transportation and health care.

Advocates and people of faith are also asking the government to protect resources for families who are struggling to get by. As we saw during the shut down, many were worried about whether or not they would be able to provide food because SNAP benefits would not be distributed. A prolonged shutdown would also affect local public housing agencies to operate normal business hours since they receive a great deal of funding from federal sources which supports operations.

Jeremiah 1:10 tells a story of how God set a regular man over great masses in order to destroy sinful systems and to rebuild new ones based on righteous principles.

“See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."

As people of faith, we aspire to this calling. We must continue to use our power to change policies that perpetuate the cycle of hunger and need. We need to fight for the families who work just to have housing and in those homes there is a shortage of food. We need policies that are built on principles of right relationship. As a letter in I Corinthians 13 reminds us, we can have enough faith to move mountains and many other great gifts. But if we do not show love to humanity, we have nothing. Love does not allow wrongdoing. It is wrong to withhold basic needs from others in a land where there is more than enough to go around. In love we must use our voices and our strength to advocate and work toward policies that ensure that all people have a place to live and food to eat.