September once again has brought beautiful autumn weather our way, and the change in seasons has also brought a few property incidents as well.
Earlier this month, we had a homeless woman start a small campfire on the front porch of the church early one morning to which fire and police responded immediately. The building was not damaged. The woman refused services at that time, and we’ve since learned from Tacoma Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team that she’s been refusing services for a while. Her behavior during her overnight stay on the porch and the fire incident response was at times aggressive and threatening toward others on our property. She has moved on from our property and has not returned.
As your sabbatical minister, I prioritize safety at any congregation I serve. As a church home, we covenant to not tolerate harassment, violence, or destruction by anyone visiting our home, regardless of their situation. We are a compassionate spiritual home for all souls, and from time to time the realities of our neighborhood require us to firmly prioritize our covenants of personal and property safety so we can honor the safety of all who have entered into covenants about how our property can and cannot be used. As a faith community, we do well to compassionately hold transient folx who visit our property to our covenant of no trespassing. This healthy boundary is an important one for any church, and TUUC’s particular location and foot traffic day and night especially warrants it.
With all of this in mind, and for added safety, I made the decision last week to contract for regular security patrols by the private security company that responds to our building’s alarm system. We on staff, the Board of Trustees, and TUUC Subcommittee on Housing Insecurity lay leaders working on Safe Parking hope the patrol services will only be needed temporarily to lend additional building security. So far it’s proven to be a deterrent to trespassers. Also, several of us do remain in touch with Tacoma Police Department’s Homeless Outreach officers who have responded with compassionate assistance in the past, when needed.
While it can be a challenge to extend safe compassionate space as a church home, I remain convinced that firmly upholding our congregation’s safe boundaries is formational faith and justice work.
Beloveds, please feel free to contact me anytime if you have any concerns or questions. I welcome them. And I’m sending gratitude to our amazing volunteers and Safe Parkers for their devotion to our covenants, to our fire responders, and Homeless Outreach officers for their rapid responses and on-street relationships, and to each of you for your understanding.