Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Wrong Kind of Christmas Present

Four days ago, a young pregnant woman was evicted from the Tabernacle of Faith Church Outreach Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, along with her three children. Four days before Christmas, in the cold of winter, she was made homeless again by the very shelter that took her in.

The reason given for this eviction by the center is, superficially, a valid rule stemming from sexual taboos. Female residents of the center are not allowed to have male visitors in their rooms. That seems logical, rational... one would not wish to promote a pregnant homeless woman having further children in her situation, or even resorting to prostitution while on the center's grounds, right? Only, there are apparently no exceptions to the rule. Not even when it is patently ridiculous to apply it.

Valan Garland and her three boys were evicted from this homeless shelter, not for entertaining strange men in her room, but for daring to allow the boy's paternal uncle to visit them in her room, along with their paternal aunt. This person, whom the shelter apparently sees only in terms of gender, was family to her and her boys. Indeed, as Garland tells it, she did not even consciously realize there was a man in her room at first, and when she realized that she was violating one of the center rules in that manner she asked them to continue their visit outside, which they did. None of this, apparently, matters to the center however.

"We have to have order," said the Rev. Oliver S. Robinson, director of the Tabernacle of Faith Church Outreach Center. "She herself created this situation. She is a young woman who does not want to listen to anybody. And it don't matter what time of year it is, winter time, Christmas time, cold time or whatever."

This is, of course, not a condemnation of faith based initiatives in all their forms... but it is a sobering look at how such organizations may treat those who do not conform immediately to their standards, even when clearly the action they were doing was not immoral in any sense and a valid exception to the standing rule could easily have been made.

Robinson said his shelter is a credit to the community.

"These people need tough love," Robinson said. "I don't feel comfortable with it. God don't get no pleasure punishing us. But he does it. Jesus would have done the same thing."

Garland and her boys have said they plan to stay with Garland's mother in a one-room apartment in Edenton, NC, at least until today, which means she'll have to commute to take her oldest child to kindergarten.

Posted by Jarandhel Dreamsinger at December 25, 2004 11:14 AM