Newark diocese’s leaders rally with advocates for homeless people as Supreme Court hears case outlawing camping on public property

By ENS Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2024

Diocese of Newark archdeacon the Ven. Diane Riley (left) and Bishop Carlye J. Hughes were among the speakers at an April 22 rally of advocates for homeless people that took place in Newark, New Jersey’s Harriet Tubman Park. Photo: Nina Nicholson

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Newark’s bishop and archdeacon rallied alongside other advocates for homeless people on April 22 in the city’s Harriet Tubman Square.

Every faith tradition has something like the Golden Rule, noted Newark Bishop Carlye J. Hughes, addressing the crowd. “That simple basic belief of treating others well, treating others the way you want to be treated, is one that makes life human, fair and equitable,” she said. Respecting people’s inherent dignity contrasts with those who “see homelessness and say, just get rid of it, make it go away.”

The rally coincided with the first day of arguments before the U. S. Supreme Court concerning an Oregon case about laws that ban camping on public property when there aren’t enough available beds in homeless shelters.

Also speaking at the rally was the Ven. Diane Riley, the diocese’s archdeacon for mission and service and co-leader of the diocese’s Commission for Justice and Peace. She also is executive director of the Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey, which she said has been providing supportive services plus affordable housing for 40 years.

“You take the services someone needs, you give them an affordable place, a safe place to live, and they respond by becoming healthier,” Riley said. “They start to thrive. They become active in their community, and they live their best lives, just like we all want to do.”

To highlight the sometimes-invisible nature of homelessness, Hughes described meeting a cashier at a local Whole Foods store during a recent shopping trip who, after exchanging pleasantries, told her, “I work for the richest man in the world. And nobody in this place, nobody that I’ve worked with, knows I’ve been without a home for five years.”

In closing, Hughes also offered a prayer, in which she asked “God who created all beings and loves all creation” to pour out a spirit of compassion on the Supreme Court. She closed by praying, “And in this great nation, full of so much, plenteous resources, we ask that you open all our hearts so that when we see a person in need of a home, rather than judge, we look at them the way you would look at them and ask, ‘How can I help’? Amen.”