During the social upheaval of the 1970s and early 1980s, American churches began putting a much higher priority on fighting homelessness. Nearly 40 years later, these food, shelter, and outreach ministries continue. Philip Mangano, a manager in the 1970s with the late Larry Norman's Solid Rock Records, owner of Street Level Artists Agency, and a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, was among the pioneers in Christian rock and the fight against homelessness.
Since 2002, Mangano has served as executive director of the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness. He has been shaking up the world of homeless outreach by saying that rapid re-housing will abolish chronic homelessness. Recently, David Neff, editor in chief of Christianity Today, spoke with Mangano about this new economic approach and how well it might work during our current recession.
What prompted your interest in homelessness?
It was the direct result of going to a movie, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, about Francis of Assisi. I went into that movie theater thinking one way about my life, and I came out thinking a completely different way. When I left the music industry in 1980, I determined that I would move back to Boston and involve myself with the poorest of the poor. I began going to St. Anthony Shrine in Boston. They had created a breadline because they had so many people coming to the rectory. I knew immediately that's exactly what I wanted to do. [After years of working at city and state levels], I got a fateful call. President George W. Bush was looking for a person to lead this agency called the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. I moved to Washington in 2002.1