Coming Together in Spirit: (CHAM) Community Homeless Alliance Ministry

POOR correspondent - Posted on 06 July 2010

Tony Robles/PNN
Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Jesus was a revolutionary"
--Bill Sorro

The preacher and the poet are similar. Both are passionate and use words to illustrate that passion. Both use actions to back up the words and both are afflicted with shortcomings and contradictions. As a revolutionary I ask, is God a part of our revolution? If not, do we have room for him (or her)? Does an empty belly have room for food? How would you answer this question?

I met 2 spiritual revolutionaries from the Bay Area on a recent trip to Chicago - from a San Jose based organization called CHAM--Community Homeless Alliance Ministry Pastors Sandy Perry and Muliaga Togotogo were attending a national conference, along with POOR Magazine, on housing and homelessness. Sandy and Togo was an unlikely pair - Sandy a bespectacled man who looked like an accountant or engineer and Togo, who looked like the offensive lineman of an NFL football team. The 2 are a pair of beautiful brothers in the lord, dedicated to ending poverty and homelessness.

CHAM started in 1990 as SHA (Student Homeless Alliance) at San Jose State University by Pastor Scott Wagers who was a sociology student. Sandy Perry joined as a volunteer in 1991. Since then CHAM has grown into a powerful organization working in tandem with community and other faith-based groups advocating for increased affordable housing, the decriminalization of poverty, and decent, accessible healthcare.

Perry says, "Housing is a human right. We try to organize people to reclaim housing as a right. This is a justice issue, not charity. Charity is what they use to cover up injustice".

CHAM's work includes operating a shelter to house homeless families. The resources of the shelter are the residents themselves. They handle the cooking and the cleaning. "In our view it's entirely communal. 5 families currently stay there" says Perry. "The normal stay is 3 months".

Recently CHAM representatives were in Chowchilla on a "Journey for Justice". The event included panels and speakers addressing the increase in the numbers of prisons and the increased numbers of houseless people in Fresno. Because of CHAM and the work of their allies, the city of Fresno was found guilty of violating the civil rights of houseless people by law enforcement's practice of throwing away their property. The city was forced to pay monetary compensation to those it violated. "When people come together in spirit, we can find the solutions to these problems" says Pastor Togo.

On Saturday October 25th, CHAM will host a forum at their church called, "Reclaiming the Right to Housing". The forum will call for full funding of the National Affordable housing trust fund, a half-million new section 8 vouchers and an immediate moratorium on all foreclosures. The forum will be held at First Christian Church, 80 S. Fifth Street in San Jose, 930 a.m. to 1pm.

Was Jesus a revolutionary, I asked Pastor Sandy. "Absolutely", his voice sang out. Jesus said "blessed are the poor and woe to the rich. Those who are first shall be last and those who are last shall be first". That's the definition of a revolutionary...someone who wants to turn things upside down".


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