Marvin Olasky

I sat down with four key figures at Wheeler Mission Ministries, a longtime Christian homeless shelter in Indianapolis, and saw there as well a lack of enthusiasm:

• Rick Alvis, chief executive officer: "We thought the federal government was going to come alongside us. Then we started hearing, 'Can you change your program and take out the spiritual angle?'"

• Larry Wright, chief operating officer: "We said, 'Hold on, this is not what it was supposed to be.' And with government funding you always have to be aware that it's 'here today, gone tomorrow.' You don't want to get hooked on it."

• Cal Nelson, chief program officer: "The game is set up by government. You play their game or you don't get in. . . . Much better to have vouchers, free and clear. . . . Put the decision in the hands of people rather than a bureaucrat getting his ego stroked."

• Steve Kerr, chief development officer: "The reporting process was so encumbering to us. We would have had to hire a person just to do it."

Alvis also noted that it's "expensive to go after grants." He cited one lobbying group that wanted $10,000 to $12,000 a month for a retainer and cautioned that Wheeler might have to wait two years to see a grant forthcoming. Alvis mused, "Maybe we should have hired them. Another rescue mission retained that company and received a $1 million grant."

I also spoke with the head of an Indianapolis evangelical program that received a "capacity-building grant" of $750,000 over three years, with funds to be used not for programs but to improve fundraising and technology, and to pay for consultants. Much of the federal effort has emphasized building capacity in the suites to apply for the next grant. Too little has affected lives on the streets.

The tee-ball games that TeamBush had for kids on the White House lawn were a sweet element of the departing administration. The sad part is that Bush staffers have teed up the ball perfectly for the new administration to send taxpayer dollars to Obama supporters at liberal religious groups that swing votes but don't change lives.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of the national news magazine World. For additional commentary by Marvin Olasky, visit
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