Monday, December 21, 2020

Housing our Unhoused Neighbors During this Winter of Pandemic



Am I Invisible?  


By Jacob Folger

(January 26, 2018)

People pass me by
I must not be here
Sitting alone, down and out
No one will come near.

No gaze from another
No concern for me
I am completely by myself
On this cold street.

In the Morning I wake
From my Homeless sheets
Where I slept the night before
Should I even call it sleep?

Homeless I am
Forgotten by the world
Am I invisible?

Am I invisible?

During our Quaker Holiday Talent Show, I felt led to share this moving poem by a homeless man and also mentioned that Pasadena’s Weather Shelter will not be open this winter. The Bad Weather Shelter was started in the 1980s when a homeless person died of hyperthermia here in our city. For the last 30 years it has provided shelter for those living on the streets whenever the temperature drops below 40 or it is raining. Due to COVID, the Bad Weather Shelter will be closed and Union Station is operating at one third capacity. The reason for this is that congregate sheltering is unsafe for staff and volunteers as well as for those needing shelter. To prevent spread of disease, it is considered best practice to provide individual housing in motels

It is of course more costly to place people in motels. Funds are therefore being used to place mainly high-acuity homeless people in motels, but these funds are limited. We advocates are pressuring the City Council to allocate extra funds to meet the need--70 of us spoke out during the last Council session---and the Council heard us and said it plans to increase funding to ensure that "everyone who wants a motel voucher will receive one." We plan to hold them accountable to that promise. But more than just city funds will be needed. My advice to those who care about our homeless neighbors is to give as generously as you can to Friends Indeed. Friends Indeed is not only handling the motel placement program, it is also providing food, clothing and other necessities to those in need. See

It will also help to write to our city officials to urge them to approve emergency measures, such as sheltering in the FEMA trailers the city received from the State or other city-owned properties, allowing shelter in tents, and suspending ordinances that prohibit sleeping in vehicles overnight and sleeping overnight on city-owned property.  as my friend Sonja Berndt wrote in an op ed piece that appeared in the Dec 21 issue of Pasadena Now:  


“To ensure that our unsheltered residents receive the shelter they need this winter, concerned residents can email City Manager Mermell at, your Councilmember (if known) and Mayor Gordo at and request that the Council approve all funding needed to meet the demand for sheltering our residents this winter.”

For more info, see

I also read the following poem reflecting on Christmas by Jacob Folger.

Questions For You and Me

By Jacob Folger

Christmas Eve, 2011

Stuffed and overflowing stockings hanging by the fireside

Pretty plastic candlelights glowing in the night

Sticky candy canes hanging from pine tree boughs

This all presents questions, I will in this poem pose.

When a little kid with Christmas time coming round

The joyful music, it seemed was the only sound

But really, I wonder now what it all means to me

Is it all about that perfectly shaped and lighted Christmas tree?

Little, sweet baby Jesus sleeping in some straw

It seems to me that someone might notice a little flaw

What is the difference between that dirty man without a home

And the King of Kings that almost all of us must have known?

And tell me what was that message that He gave to you and me

Before His life was ended on that old and lonely tree?

Was it all about just taking care of little, selfish me?

Or is there more here, more for all of us to see?

I asked a lot of questions in this poem this Christmas Eve

I guess this time of year, the cold, and the suffering that I see

Fills my head and heart with old and sad memories

I am hoping that maybe from it all we will not always flee.

Little, sweet baby Jesus sleeping in some straw

It seems to me that someone might notice a little flaw

What is the difference between that dirty man without a home

And the King of Kings that almost all of us must have known?

What does the Beloved Community mean to Quakers?

 “Within Friends’ spiritual community, the collective search for truth, undertaken in the Meeting for Worship, is the foundation for the beloved community to which Friends aspire.”

When I was asked by the editor of our Quaker newsletter to write about the Beloved Community, the first thing that came to my mind was the work that Jill and I are doing in the city of Pasadena to promote housing justice—a decent, safe and affordable home for everyone, especially those who are unhoused. Using a faith-rooted approach similar to that of FCNL, our nonprofit Making Housing and Community Happen (MHCH) started in the office of the American Friends Committee in the mid 1990s. It has since grown into a powerful coalition of churches, homeless service providers, former city officials, experts on affordable housing, and concerned citizens. Our efforts have significantly influenced our elected officials and made real progress. While the homeless count has increased throughout LA County, it has decreased by 54% in the last decade here in Pasadena,  in part because of our advocacy. The City Council has approved nearly 250 units of affordable housing in the last two years, increased the affordable housing set aside for all new market rate developments from 15% to 20%, and is on track to allow churches to build affordable housing on their underutilized land. During the pandemic we have lobbied for an eviction moratorium and for emergency housing for the unhoused. We are one of the most racially and ethnically diverse groups in our city, committed to loving kindness and respect for each other and everyone we encounter. We seek to work and live in the spirit that inspired Dr. King.

According to the King Center, “Dr. Martin Luther King popularized the notion of the “Beloved Community”…. as a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and of one’s fellow human beings.”

"It is also a society where economic justice prevails: “Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”

When I think of the Beloved Community, I also think of the work of our Quaker organizations, AFSC and FCNL. I have worked with both organizations and have seen first-hand how they embody the values espoused by Dr. King. For the past decade I have served on the General Board of FCNL and am deeply impressed with how FCNL uses Quaker process to achieve goals worthy of Dr. King: “We seek a world free of war and the threat of war. We seek a society with equity and justice for all. We seek a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled. We seek an earth restored.”

At FCNL we meet together in Quaker worship and seek input from and work with Quakers across the theological spectrum: Evangelical, pastoral, unprogrammed, universalist. We also work in coalition with other faith-based advocacy groups. We are inclusive and non-partisan.

The Beloved Community is bigger than the Quaker community,  just as God is too big to fit into one denomination or religion. I also have experienced the Beloved Community in the interfaith peace and justice work that I have been called to do, and which I have written about in my book, Quakers and the Interfaith Movement (Quaker Universalist Fellowship, 2013).

Over the fifteen years I have been involved with groups like Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) and the Parliament of the World’s Religions.  ICUJP started in Los Angeles right after 9/11 when Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious leaders came together and decided to form an organization devoted to peace and justice, with the slogan: “Religious communities must stop blessing war and violence.” We meet every Friday morning to listen to peace and justice activists, we organize educational forums and vigils, and from time to time, we engage in civil disobedience. One of the high points of my life was getting arrested and going to jail at a demonstration sponsored by ICUJP. (I have also been arrested at demonstrations sponsored by Quakers.) Civil disobedience is one of the nonviolent methods used by the Beloved Community.

The Beloved Community is not only local, but world-wide, as I discovered when I became part of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Started in 1the 1990s, the Parliament organizes world-wide gatherings of 5,000-10,000 religious leaders from around the world, dedicated to building understanding and promoting peace and justice. I attended the Parliament in Melbourne, Australia (and used that opportunity to visit Quaker meetings and attend Australia YM). I also attended the Parliament in Salt Lake City, where I had the opportunity to hear Rev. William Barber, whom many consider the spiritual heir of Dr. King.

A pastor from North Carolina, Barber is committed to the Beloved Community and organized religious leaders to demonstrate every Monday at the state capitol (we followed his example and organized “moral Mondays” here in Pasadena to advocate for affordable housing at the Civic Center). Barber also revitalized the “Poor People’s Campaign,” which was started by Dr. King to advocate for economic justice.

Barber is a powerful preacher and his message about doing justice in the spirit of Jesus touched my heart. I heard him preach in Salt Lake City with two of my dearest activist Quaker friends: David Hartsough and Eisha Mason. David is a life-long Quaker activist and marched with Dr. King when he was a teenager. Eisha Mason, who is African American, is a former regional director of the AFSC and one of the most deeply spiritual people I know. At one point, Rev. Barber did an “altar call for justice,” and invited us to recommit our lives to the Beloved Community. Deeply moved, David, Eisha and I along with many others walked up to the podium as he prayed over us and we felt the spirit that inspired Dr. King stirring in our hearts. Looking in the eyes of my friends, I felt God’s presence among us.

It was more than just a feeling. A few months later, I found myself in Sacramento at a demonstration organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, and there was David Hartsough among those being arrested. Since then, I have learned that David has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness but that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he can for peace and justice. As an old Jewish saying goes,  "It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either "(Rabbi Tarfon, Pirke Avot 2:21).

How do we do the work of embodying the Beloved Community in Orange Grove Meeting? It starts with honoring each other gifts and callings and showing loving kindness and respect towards one another.  In our Meeting we have doctors, nurses, therapists, writers, artists, actors, teachers, academics, lawyers, gardeners, parents, grand parents, children, and much more. Each of us has different gifts:  for hospitality, for clerking, for teaching, for organizing, for compassionate listening.  Some of us have gifts we aren’t even aware of. We become the Beloved Community when we use our gifts to benefit not only our Meeting community, but the world around us.

Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice reminds us that we have a responsibility to the larger community. “Living by faith is not a private matter. It calls us outward to the needs of the community at large.” We are also called to a higher purpose: “Following the Spirit’s leadings together, we hope to overcome the causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, and the neglect or disrespect of children, the poor, and the socially marginalized, in the world and in ourselves.”

At Orange Grove Meeting, we have done much to advance and embody the Beloved Community. We’ve not only approved minutes on social justice and peace, some of us have also signed petitions, gone to City Council meetings and met with elected officials, taken part in protests, volunteered to serve those in need, put solar panels on our buildings and on our homes, reduced our consumption of fossil fuel, practiced vegetarianism and veganism. And much more!

Creating the Beloved Community is not only a noble aspiration, it is also a labor of love. I thank God that we are part of this loving and beloved community.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Relive MHCH"s "There's No Place Like Home" celebration!

Despite COVID, Making Housing and Community Happen (MHCH) has been thriving and has had significant successes. This year on Dec. 4-6 MHCH celebrated its annual event “There’s No Place Like Home” online with music, stories and presentations about our housing justice work. Nearly 200 people showed up for these events--people of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds, united by a common concern for ending homelessness and housing insecurity. You can see the videos of each night, edited by our talented assistant Morgan Tucker:

FRIDAY: "Affordable/Supportive Housing and Building Affordable Housing on Congregational Land."  Emcee, Anthony Manousos.

SATURDAY: "Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) and Community Land Trust (CLT)." Emcee, Bert Newton.

SUNDAY: "Safe Parking and North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative." Emcee, Jill Shook.

You can also see individual video presentations by scrolling down.

We're seeking to raise $25,000 to support our housing justice work in 2021, and we're now three quarters of the way to our goal. Please consider making a contribution, especially on a recurring basis. That's what provides our organization with financial stability. 

Click here to donate

Links to individual videos:

"There's No Place Like Home"(Animation with music by Elvis)
Affordable/Supportive Housing Advocates (ASHA) Team
Mythbuster on Affordable Housing - Teresa Eilers
Congregational Land Subcommittee
Andre White's Housing Story/Spoken Word "Breathe"
Areta Crowell (Pasadena Presbyterian Church)
Bert Newton's Housing Story
Award - Council member Margaret McAustin
Music Video by John York and Barry McGuire - "California Dreamin' "/"Tramp on the Street"
Heather Rim
There's No Place Like Home (Animation) - Opening
ADU Video
Anne Marie's Housing Story
Brita Pinkston Video
Community Land Trust (CLT) Subcommittee
John Deron Johnson Video
Award - John Kennedy
Award - Allison Henry
Music Video John York and Barry McGuire- "Day for a Daydream"/"One Step from Homeless"
Heather Rim
There's No Place Like Home (Animation) - Opening
Safe Parking Video
Methodist UMC
North Fair Oaks - Thanks, David!
Gilbert Walton Video
Music Video # 3 - Bob Dylan/Tramp on the Street
Cynthia Kirby Housing Story
Heather Rim

Click here to donate

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Joys in a Time of COVID: Personal Highlights of 2020


We don’t need to tell you that 2020 has been a hard year, with a devastating pandemic and a hard-fought election. But Christmas is a season of hope,  a light that shines in the darkness, a time to celebrate new possibilities. The birth of a child, even in the most dire circumstances, is a time of joy. So we want to share our joy with you so that “our joy will be complete” (John 15:11).

Here are 13 things that gave us hope and joy in 2020.

1. The birth of Riley Jeremiah Heirendt (premature and only 3 lbs.) to our nephew Michael and his wife Emma on February 6. Today he is healthy and “radiates joy.”

2. Trips to visit our dear Mamacita (Jill’s Mom who turned 90 this year). Even though she has late stage

Alzheimer’s, she is always overjoyed to see us and we always have a blast spending time with her, despite her limitations.

3. News of three family members getting engaged during the

pandemic: Peter, Cody, and Joey.

4. Our housing justice nonprofit is thriving and making a difference, with 197 people attending our annual gathering, 34 churches interested in having affordable housing on underutilized land, 902 affordable housing units in the city’s pipeline, with nearly 250 units of these units approved in the last two years (145 of which are permanent supportive housing, which ends chronic homelessness). 112 units of affordable housing were approved right next to City Hall—an historic victory!

5. Our mid-week Bible study/relaxing/check in/lunch time with Mark (shown here with  “Mamacita), our weekly

Methodist Bible study with Pastor Sandy Olewine, and our monthly Quaker bible study fill our souls with joy.

6. Our discovery of “Rumicub,” a tile game we found in a drawer, and which Anthony figured out how to play (and which Jill wins at least half the time!).

7. Our garden is thriving, with citrus,  bananas, grapes, peaches, plums, pluots, avocadoes, tomatoes, pomegranates, loquats, kumquats, sapote, figs, and much more.

8. Camping trip to Cachuma Lake and  riding around the Santa Fe Recreational area and also our neighborhood

with our electric bikes.

9.The rescue of our cat Rosie who was lost for a month and then found in a neighbor’s yard, emaciated but
alive. She is now fat and happy. Praise God!

10. Time spent with friends (socially distanced) at our home under the grape arbor at the “El Greco Café” and also through Zoom dinners.

11. Learning more of a rhythm, with Jill loving to do detailed cleaning, Anthony cooking and vacuuming, Mark fixing stuff that needs repair.

12. Zoom birthday parties which enabled people from around the country and the world to be together and


13.  Anthony letting his hair grow until he gets vaccinated, and Jill keeping him from looking too shaggy.  


With love and hope for the new year…. Jill and Anthony

PS We’e aware that this year many have suffered loss of jobs, family members and friends. Our hearts are with you. We have also experienced loss and grief, with Jill breaking her ankle,  team members dying of COVID and other sicknesses, and an African American neighbor named Anthony McClain shot and killed by police. Let’s stay connected with each other and God during the upcoming and hopefully healing year!

Anthony and Jill







 It’s a universal story. It concerns a man and his pregnant wife. After a long journey they arrive at last at the man’s hometown, only to find there’s no place to lay their heads. Tired and discouraged, they come at last to a crowded inn and there’s no room so they ask if they can find shelter in the stable. Thus, was the prince of peace born.”

Rick Cole, former mayor of Pasadena and a member of MHCH, shared these words during our Dec 4th online gathering “There’s no place like home.” He went on to say,

“MHCH is all about making sure that everyone has a place they can afford, a place to call home. Our successes are making a large difference in the lives of our neighbors. Support us so we can find room in our community for all who need it.” (To donate, click here.)

During our online celebration Cynthia Kirby shared her story about living for 10 years on the street and how housing and the love of Christ changed her life. Members of our six committees told why they were moved to give their time and hearts to housing justice: Congregational Land Committee (CLC), Safe Parking, Affordable/Supportive Advocates (ASHA), Community Land Trust (CLT), Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and the North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative.  At a time of growing racial inequities, we thank God for the diversity on our teams and among the 23 churches in our network.  We heard religious and community leaders give testimonials about why they support MHCH.  We heard Elvis sing our theme song “There’s no place like home” and “Tramp on the Street” a moving music video by John York  (of the Byrds) about our homeless neighbors. Nearly two hundred people from across the nation and across the political spectrum joined together, united by the ancient biblical vision that “everyone will live under their own vine and fig tree, at peace and unafraid” (Micah 4:4).

Like the birth of Jesus, our celebration was all about hope in a time of darkness. About churches and our city coming together as a beloved community. About seeing Pasadena’s homeless count decline 54% in the last decade while the count in most of LA County increased. We celebrate hope because this fall the Pasadena City Council approved 112 units of affordable housing, right smack in the heart of our city, next to City hall, with 10% of these units for homeless seniors! We celebrate because 902 affordable housing units are in our city’s pipeline. We celebrate because 34 churches are interested in partnering with our Congregational land team; this could produce 1,000s of affordable units.  (112 people showed up at a city workshop to support a zone change to make this possible!)

None of this would have happened without advocacy, careful research and organizing. That’s why at our celebration we honored Allison Henry, organizer for Everyone In, along with our church liaison coordinator Bert Newton and two City Council members who are champions of affordable housing.

Margaret McAustin
, a City Council woman whom we honored for championing Marv’s Place, which provides homes for 19 formerly unhoused families, praised MHCH: “As an organization, MHCH has grown so much. It has become an organization that researches and studies best practices that help inform city policies on affordable housing. That’s how affordable housing becomes more a part of our city in everything that we do.”

John Kennedy,
another Council member we honored, is counting on us to support his bold vision: to see 1,000 units of affordable housing built in the next three years. He says: “I want to see the city do more than just adopt a policy directive to house low, very low and extremely low income residents. These categories are the hardest to produce. But if the city partners with developers to produce this housing, we as a community can get this done.”

At the celebration Anne Marie Molina,

mother of five and chair of our Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Committee, shared her moving story about being a homeless teenager and how her life was transformed when she was sheltered by the Salvation Army. She has become a proud mother, banker and advocate for affordable housing. She says: “Homelessness is not the result of drug use or any other single cause. It’s a kaleidoscope of reasons that people become homeless. MHCH understands that so well. Their work for housing justice makes our whole community better. Everyone should support their work.”


Peter Havholm, a retired English professor, helps our volunteers write their housing stories of hope. Andre White also told his story about leaving his job as a trader on Wall Street to return to Hilton Head Island to help his African American community save their land from large resorts.  

During this holiday season we want to wish you all a blessed time, despite the COVID crisis and all its challenges. As we celebrate a child who was born in stable, please remember those who are without a home or housing insecure and consider how you can hope. There is much we can do!


If you are in the Pasadena area, we have openings in our ASHA, ADU and CLT teams. Please consider encouraging your church or faith community to become part of our network of congregations. You can also take part in a campaign or make a recurring donation.

When we work together, we can create what Dr. King called the “beloved community” where there is room for everyone!

With hope and joy,

Jill and Anthony

"No Place Like Home" Celebration Videos