The Wesley Village affordable housing project in Garden Grove was recently opened on Garden Grove United Methodist Church’s land. The concept of using church land to host affordable housing has been used nationally, but this is one of the first implementations in the Southern California region. The Orange County Register interviewed CRCC Director of Research and Evaluation Richard Flory about the potential of this use of land to become a common trend in Southern California:
While churches long have initiated social engagement for the poor that might include running soup kitchens, holding clothing drives or offering limited shelter to the downtrodden, Wesley Village may well represent the beginning of an emerging response to a growing need to address homelessness and the region’s lack of affordable housing, said sociologist Richard Flory, senior director of research and evaluation at USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this kind of thing starts happening more,” said Flory, whose recently deceased father was a pastor at small churches in Los Angeles and taught for decades at Biola University, the Evangelical faith-based institution in La Mirada.
But, he said, congregations considering a project like Wesley Village face challenges.
“Churches tend to want to sort of proselytize,” Flory said of faith-based outreach that might focus more on spreading the faith and growing membership than serving the general needs of people in their communities. What’s key is “getting them to figure out that if that stuff comes, great. But if not, they are still a presence in the community.”