Stephen Eide is a Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow and the author of a new book. It is titled Homelessness in America: The History and Tragedy of an Intractable Social Problem. He called me the other day at the urging of some mutual friends. He wanted to learn more about Citygate Network and get my perspective on some things for an upcoming article.
Not far into the conversation, Stephen mentioned the homelessness situation in Southern California and brought up the name Andy Bales, president and CEO of Union Rescue Mission (URM) of Los Angeles. If you don’t know Andy, he is arguably the most widely recognized voice speaking out on the manmade catastrophe that is now consuming Los Angeles. Andy is scorned by most progressives in that city (as well as up in Sacramento) for unceasingly pointing out the government’s ongoing failures in its approach to fixing the problem. He has been on numerous committees and has advised multiple task forces — including the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, which successfully sued the City of Los Angeles — and I doubt if a week goes by that he is not being interviewed for an article, newscast, documentary, podcast, or something that will undoubtedly cause more gnashing of teeth in a federal building somewhere.
In Citygate Network circles, Andy Bales is something of an enigma. While many of our members consider him to be the poster child for rescue mission leaders, he has faced his share of criticism for his arrangement of priorities and approach to the problem. Even so, he has garnered enormous respect during his 36 years at the helm of URM.
Stephen Eide asked me if I knew Andy. I told him yes, that we talk or text quite regularly and that Andy just finished a three-year term on Citygate Network’s board. I told him we’ve disagreed on a few issues, but I consider him to be a good friend.
Eide stopped talking for a minute, long enough for me to say, “Hello,” to make sure we were still connected. He eventually responded with this statement, as if he were talking to himself and not me: “Andy Bales is a lion.”
He paused again and then asked, “How many other lions are there in your network?”
Nobody had ever asked me that.
Eide went on: “I’m not talking about those who are just excellent serving on the front lines, but those who are excellent speaking on the front page.”
I assured him that there were many people within Citygate Network who could do both of those tasks well, but I conceded to myself that advocacy has never been a priority for a lot of our leaders. We are the absolute best at providing Christlike care to guest, clients, and staff. But few of our CEOs have been hired because they are zealous about changing laws to protect those they serve … or speaking out about disasters when politicians ignore or minimize the problems … or building coalitions for change. We must remember that those things are also Christlike responses.
We are in a day when faith-based positions will be scrutinized and rejected simply because they are rooted in God’s Word. If we are more sheeplike than lionlike, we will be trampled. We need to be educated on the issues. And we must be kind, gracious, but relentless.
There is plenty of room in the arena for some more lions.