The rhetoric about people experiencing homelessness in Portland these days is appalling, especially to me, as a Christian faith leader.

In an Aug. 8 Portland Press Herald article about a new city project to “clean up” West Bayside, one man said (partly paraphrased) that the problem is ” ‘the regulars’ and the people who are content to hang out on street corners all day drinking alcohol and causing a ruckus.”

In an Aug. 11 article, a developer was quoted as saying: “It should be a big improvement up there. There are some homeless people living up there in the brush and vegetation. So we will clean that up.”

These articles suggest that human beings are “problems” in need of being “cleaned up.” I can understand the desire to figure out ways to alleviate homelessness in our city. But “cleaning” people up off the street or out of the brush and vegetation is offensive.

Equally upsetting to me is the expectation that readers, such as myself, will empathize with these ideas. People say offensive and bigoted comments only when they think they can get away with it.

As Christians, we know that Jesus isn’t into the polished facades we show the world – Jesus identifies himself with the marginalized and is hanging on the street corners with the people who are “causing a ruckus.” Jesus is found with each and every one of us in our time of deepest and darkest need.

In a city that is rapidly gentrifying – putting more and more people on the streets and then hiring police officers to keep them in line – bold actions are needed to ensure our city leaders uphold the value of every person who lives here. It is time for Christians to take a stand against the derogatory and offensive rhetoric in our city about our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

The Rev. Maria Anderson

pastor, St. Ansgar Lutheran Church

Portland