Minneapolis should dispose the archaic religious requirement

With the number of homeless residents high, any measure to help should be welcome by city.

Jasper Johnson

Minneapolis is considering a legislative change that would no longer require homeless shelters to be located in places of worship. The push is supported by City Councilmembers Cam Gordon and Lisa Bender, as well as several homeless shelters.

The rationale for the change is quite obvious. There is absolutely no reason why homeless shelters should be required to have ties to religious institutions. My opinion is that the current law utterly fails any Lemon test. It could be deemed unconstitutional.

Additionally, requiring that homeless shelters be located in places of worship ensures that there will never be an appropriate housing space. It’s far better to have a specifically designed space to house the homeless as opposed to some converted area of a church.

Stephen Horsfield, executive director of Simpson Housing Services, supports the change, telling the Star Tribune, “I’d like to be able to [have beds] in buildings that are meant for human habitation, which are, by definition, not church basements.”

Given that the number of homeless residents in Hennepin County is historically high, the law needs to be reformed so shelters can accommodate more people. In 2012, the number of homeless residents was at the highest in over a decade.

Reform is clearly needed, and it’s key that religious requirements be disentangled from homeless shelters.

This will allow us to better serve more homeless residents and improve the quality of the services offered. The current law is anachronistic and infringes on the separation of church and state. It should be dissolved as soon as possible.