The Reform Jewish Movement has repeatedly called attention to the need for increasing the availability of affordable housing and helping provide the means for people experiencing homelessness to make the transition from shelters and streets to stable homes. The prophets themselves exhorted us to follow a long-standing tradition of hospitality among the Jewish people.
According to onemidrash, Abraham is judged to be greater than Job because while the latter "opened his doors to the road" (Job 31:32), Abraham left his tent to seek guests among the passers-by (Genesis 18:1-8). Furthermore, Abraham "got busy and built spacious mansions along the highways, and stocked them with food and drink, so that whoever entered ate, drank, and blessed Heaven" (Avot 1:5; Avot d'Rabbi Natan 7). More recent Jewish history, with its exiles and expulsions, is a powerful reminder of our special obligation to provide for those with no shelter.
The Reform Movement has been calling for increased housing resources for the past fifty years. In 1948, the CCAR passed a resolution calling attention to the, "grievous need for low-cost housing among people in low-income categories" and urging Congress to, "enact legislation for Federal subsidies to remedy this national disgrace." In 1983 and 1984 respectively, the Union and the CCAR adopted resolutions which called for an increase in aid to the homeless. The Reform Jewish community quickly responded, establishing shelters (some within synagogue buildings), providing volunteer staff for these shelters on an ongoing basis, and forming interfaith coalitions aimed at pressuring the federal, state, and local governments to contribute their fair share to solving the problem.
In a 1989 resolution, the Union outlined a plan for contemporary commitment to increasing the availability of affordable housing and to helping provide the means for homeless people to make the transition from shelters and the street to permanent homes. The resolution suggested concrete steps for ensuring that all people are able to secure decent, affordable housing. These include:
These four steps-advocacy, education, involvement, and support-are guidelines not only for Reform congregations, but for all who are working to improve the quality and availability of housing for low-income and impoverished families.