Category Archives: homelessness

Housewarming for Al

Housewarming! 

For Al !!

Al Jordan, our homeless veteran friend moved into veteran’s transitional housing on April 1, 2008.  He is still excited.   Pat Shankle of Georgia Home Staging with the help of husband Scott and friends staged his new apartment.  That means she selected the furnishings from the warehouse of MUST Ministries, added other stuff such as pictures, decorations, pillows, kitchen and dining room stuff and then professionally decorated the entire apartment – living room, bedroom, kitchen and dining room.   Pat does this for a living, normally staging houses for sale in order to make them more attractive, leading to quicker sale.   She also staged a home for our last Habitat homeowner, Joi.  Pat has said she is negotiating with MUST to stage a number of additional apartments as part of her homeless ministry.  Admire her work in the following pictures.

Als Apartment entry

Entry to Al’s new apartment.

Some of Als friends from our church gave him a housewarming dinner last night (April 3).   It was a great event for Al and his new housemate, Danny.  

Danny, Pat, Al

Danny McDaniel, Pat Shankle, Al Jordan

The food was catered by our Wednesday night dinner food experts.  It was GREAT eating.

Shrimp!  Chicken was also avialable

Shrimp!  Bacon and green beans.  Chicken was also available.  Desert consisted of ice cream with hot fudge.

Here are a few pictures of Als apartment taken while he gave us the grand tour:

Als Bedroom

Als Bedroom

Car tag

Prized car tag in window! for when he can afford a car.  Link to Macland Presbyterian

Bedroom

Another view of Al’s bedroom. 

Kitchen

Kitchen.  The fridge is opposite the stove.  Yes that is a coffee grinder in the far left corner and bags of Starbucks (gifts) on the shelf.

Dining room

Dining nook and lighting

Now to the gifts and people.  Al’s guests came with gifts ranging from DVD players to $50 gift cards and more than a few misty moments as Al opened them and read the cards.   Here are a few photos:

Ladies and Al

As ususal, all the ladies sat on one side of the room and the gents on the other.  And yes, Al is working with a hankie at the moment.

Cross

Admiring the Cross

Al with Pastor Ray Jones III

Our Pastor, Ray Jones III with Al. 

Towels

More gifts, in this case towels and other bathroom supplies

Scott Shankle

Pat’s husband Scott.

Jeff Staka

Jeff Straka.   You may remember him from our meeting with the Police Chief in an earlier blog.

I think we were all as pleased as Jeff appears to be in this photo with the outcome of our first venture into the homeless world.    Al and Danny seemed pleased too.   Although there are not many pictures of Danny here, he was not left out of the festivities and joined in our meal and prayers as well as shared in the joy of the moment for Al.

Danny and Al seem to be very comfortable house mates and will get along well together.  Danny, also a veteran in the program, has a car and has offered to drive Al to our Wednesday night dinner and to Church.  Looks like we have made a new friend there as well.  Danny’s is a different story where he once was married to the daughter of one of the biggest landowners in this area and now struggling to climb out of homelessness.

We also met a bear of a man, Jon who came in to check the refrigerator.  He is also a veteran, lives on the property and maintains/repairs anything that needs fixing.  This is a 20 unit complex entirely devoted to transitional housing for homeless veterans.   With two men to a unit, 40 veterans are served.  Jon said he is enrolled in the STEP program.   Nether Danny nor Al are enrolled in treatment programs, though they are required to find and keep jobs and eventually work their way out of the housing.

Part of the challange is this:  The entire complex is surrounded by woods habitated by other homeless men, somewhat envious of their neighbors.   The area is a high crime area including drugs.   Part of Jon’s job is to keep the area clear of anyone not residents of the complex.   It seems to be working.  I found the complex clean and nicely kept. 

I was well pleased with the housing situation.   This complex is funded by HUD and run by MUST ministries with grants from HUD.   Something just feels right about this situation.

Slide Show

Here is a slideshow with includes all of the pictures taken by me at the dinner, 47 in all.  Enjoy

Oldtimer

Marietta Homeless Steve Talks About Mark

Steve is one of the recently evicted Homeless.  Below is a video of him talking about Mark, the mentally ill homeless man behind the mound of dirt (see the earlier account about Mark here). The conversation took place in a dinner meeting at Macland Presbyterian Church along with two other homeless evictees and members of the church.  The video was made Wednesday, January 30, 2008.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR7UnZ-LYX8] 

(video by Oldtimer – which explains the quality)

Here is a fairly close transcript in case you have some trouble hearing it.  Comments in (_) are mine:

Steve:

Mark…. you know… Mark.  Mark’s a good guy. Mark’s an educated guy.  Mark is a guy that is losing his mind.  His wife brought him over on 41 (nearby highway), dropped him off about four, four and a half years ago.  And he’s still sitting there, waiting on her and his kids to come back and pick him up.   Mark goes months and months and months without a shower.  Mark’s a good guy… you know? 

Well they made him move off that, his mound where he’d stayed four and a half months, you know right there by the fence by MUST.  Well, he had no where to go, so he moved down the walkway (by EMC?).  Today, he had a bed and bunch of blankets, pillows and everything, and he was just laying there just waiting on his wife to come back and get him.

Today the Marietta City and I don’t know who else it was, came and left him there and took all his blankets and left him there with no no warmth at all.  

So, if something doesn’t happen to him tonight, it might be the night of the next Dominic, you know.  He don’t have nothing except a coat and toboggan for cover.

A few minutes later Steve was saying he was going by there later that night and take him something (inaudible) to help him.  As I mentioned in the earlier post, other homeless people had been bringing Mark blankets, clothes and sack lunches and leaving them for him.   The compassion of the homeless is infinitely greater than that of the city that proudly touts “The All-American City” Award in 2006 from the National Civic League, and a “City of Excellence” in 2002 among others in vaious years.

Way to go!  Take the blankets right off a mentally ill man and just leave him there to possibly freeze to death!

The Notice

The trespass notice from the Marietta Police. 

Eviction Notice by MPD

Actually, Marietta has no local law regarding trespassing.   There is a state law (cited above) that reads as follows:

Trespass – O.C.G.A. 16-7-21

A person commits criminal trespass when he does one of five things: 1) intentionally causes damage to the property of another without his consent and the damage is less than $500.00; 2) knowingly and maliciously interferes with possession or use of the property of another; 3) enters upon the property of another person for any unlawful purpose; 4) enters upon the property of another person after receiving notice from the owner that such entry is forbidden; or 5) remains upon the property of another person after receiving notice from the owner to depart.

Punishment: Misdemeanor, with up to 12 months to serve.

I’m certain that the property owner has the right to forbid entry to anyone and to demand that they leave at any time if already there.  That is as it should be.  Owners putting up trespass signs is also normal practice.   Trash removal is not part of the trespass law.  Who can say who put the trash there over a period of years?

But I don’t understand.  The owner was never present and the first 3 don’t seem to apply.  I would like to see one of these owner/police agreements to see whether the police were made agents of the owner and also know if any of the owners ever saw the notice or understood how the agreement would be used.   I know that refusal to obey a direct order to a policeman will get you in a heap of trouble, but this?  

I think I remember once signing such an agreement many years ago because there were hoods selling CDs in my parking lot that would leave only after I asked them to, then would come back.  The police would not do anything in my absence without the agreement.  I would never in this world approve it being used to evict the homeless.

City of Marietta Response

I had planned, indeed promised the Mayor, to post the city of Marietta’s response to the problems related to the homeless camps which I finally received yesterday.  I had also promised to critique it. 

However, I found so many holes in that response that in all decency, I’m asking the Mayor to withdraw it.  I’ll send him a private copy detailing the many errors and let him decide if he wants me to publish it.   I take no joy in such a critique.  It is after 3 AM here so he will have to give me a few hours rest before I send it.

The problems with the response are leagon and obvious to the casual observer. 

Oldtimer

My Rights

My Rights

by Jim Tabb

I have a right to work

    But I have no ID,
    No phone,
    No residence,
    No transportation,
    No references,
    No clean clothes,
    No place to wash or shave
    And if I do find work,
    I can’t cash my check.

I have a right to sleep

But no shelter is available,
and the city took my bedding.

I have a right to eat

    But I have no food or money.

I have a right to rest

    But not in public places.

I have a right to use a bathroom

    But no public toilets are available.

I have a right to vote

    But I can’t register without an address.

I have a right to sing

    But when I do I’m cited for public disturbance.

I have a right to use a library

    But I can’t get a card,
    Can’t check out a book,
    Can’t go on the Internet,
    Without an ID and Address.

I have a right to live

But not in Marietta.

I’m Homeless

    At least I still have that Right!

They are still out there

 

 

(updated from a June post)

City routinely breaks own laws, but no exceptions for homeless

The City That Doesn’t Care (aka Marietta, Georgia) routinely breaks or does not enforce many of its own laws.  Laws that have often been highly publicized but still selectively enforced, if enforced at all.   Homelessness is not one of them.  That crime is enforced.  

I grew up in this city.  I’ve lived here since 1945.  I’ve always loved it here.  Presently I live in the county outside, but own property within the city.   My wife graduated with the Mayor, one of the councilmen once worked for me at Lockheed, I’ve known others for decades.  My children and grandchildren went to school with some of theirs. 

I respect them all, but Marietta, we have a problem.  This was once a city that cared, it was once a city of respect, it was once a “gem” city.  Now it is a disgrace on many fronts.   Particularly with regards to the homeless.  Also with regards to enforcing the laws on themselves.  I know the city has won many awards.  I also know what the city did not tell the award committees.  Will you tell them about the death of Dominic? Continue reading

They are still out there

They Are Still Out There

Original by Jim Tabb/Oldtimer

It’s just past midnight in January, it’s well below 20 degrees and they are still out there.

Under the bridges on South Cobb at Atlanta Road,

up in the steel under the noisy tracks,

around the perimeter of Larry Bell Park,

in the woods off Manget,

along the creek south of Gramling,

all around the Elizebeth area,

in the wooded areas west of the Hospital,

across and behind the bus station on the South Loop,

in the woods between Franklin and I-85,

along rottonwood creek wherever it goes,

and in all the wooded areas along Powder Springs Road

whereever there is a secluded place out of sight,

individuals, groups, families with children and it is so very cold.

They are still out there.

Are you warm tonight? Count your blessings.

Grace and Peace,

Copyright 2007/2008 by James A. Tabb

(May be reproduced freely with credits.  The areas mentioned are in Marietta, Georgia)  

Ministering to the Homeless 7

This is the seventh article in a series on ministering to the homeless.   This one is special.  It is about a ministry by Steve Brigham that has touched my heart to the extent that I’ve included his ministry twice.  The first article on his minstry dates back to February of 2007.    I thought it was time for an update because the compassion and love and sacrifice required for this ministry is just enormous.  The article below is reproduced only in snippets to give you a flavor of what the good Reverand does for the homeless.  Please read the Tri-Town News story for the rest of it.

 Rev.’s appointed rounds are off the beaten path

 Steve Brigham continues outreach to homeless population

BY TOYNETT HALL Staff Writer Tri-Town News January 10, 2008

On a regular basis the Rev. Steve Brigham of the Lakewood Outreach Ministry wakes at the crack of dawn to visit 11 campsites in Ocean County.   These are not the type of campsites where families go to spend a weekend enjoying nature.

Brigham walks along railroad tracks and trudges through the muddy forest floor bearing gifts for the homeless people who live in these campsites and who have become his friends.   One of his goals is to make sure that the people who live in tent encampments throughout the county have enough propane gas to run the heaters that keep them warm through the cold winter nights.

As he reaches a group of tents in what is identifiable as a Mexican encampment, Brigham offers blankets to the people living at the site and tells his amigos where tortillas are being cooked and that he will bring them a big tent the next time he comes.

A short time later Brigham is driving his bus – a motel on wheels – to a site called Shanty Town. At this campsite some of the dwellings are made with wood that came from a lumber yard. Other people live in tents that have been provided by Brigham and anonymous donors.

(…) 

The last site of the day was also in Toms River. At that spot Brigham pitched tents for Gloria, 65, and Richard A. Mazzella Jr., 33. Both individuals said they ended up here as a result of financial hardships.

(…) 

Another resident of the camp, Robert Wayne Pisano, said he has been homeless since he was 16. He is now in his 40s. Pisano said if it were not for Brigham’s kindness, he does not know where he would be. He said Brigham offers people like him a measure of hope.

“I have never seen a man take time out of his life like this. This guy cares who you are and where you are. He treats us like we are his own kids. Every piece of clothing I have on right now is because of Steve,” Pisano said.

As tears welled up in his eyes, Pisano said, “We have nothing. Yes, we are homeless, but we want to be treated like everyone else. Please recognize us.”

(…) 

According to statistics from the New Jersey Corporation for Supportive Housing, a national nonprofit, as of Jan. 25, 2007, there were 14,939 homeless people in New Jersey. Of that number, 12,397 were adults and 2,542 were children.

In Ocean County, 366 adults were found to be homeless. In Monmouth County, 590 adults were found to homeless, according to information provided by the Corporation for Supportive Housing. These numbers may be under-reported, according to the agency.

Anyone who would like to assist the Rev. Steve Brigham may call (732) 364- 0340 or (732) 814-5537. Brigham may also be reached at Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church, P.O. Box 326, Lakewood, NJ 08701.

THIS is what ministering to the homeless means!

Winter is Here, It is already cold,

It is Cold to the Bone

Please volunteer somewhere!

Oldtimer

Vigil honors homeless who died

Vigil honors homeless who died

Last night was the longest night of the year.  It was also Homeless Memorial Day corresponding to the first day of winter.    All across the country there were candlelight memorial services to honor the homeless that died in 2007.   Many died unknown, others had touched lives while living and had many friends that cared.  Sadly, some are still out there in the woods somewhere covered in leaves or snow where they fell.

Most died without any particular notice or ceremony despite having been born into loving families, having brothers and sisters and other loved ones somewhere, most not knowing of the passing.   Some never loved and always negelected, some mentally ill to the point that no one was allowed near in lifetime, often refusing help.  So sad.  The following story was printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper today.   I’m proud that someone took the time to record this service for the passing homeless.

By GAYLE WHITE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 12/21/07

As the longest night of the year fell on Atlanta, about 100 people gathered on the edge of downtown Friday to light candles honoring the homeless dead.   In the chill of the evening, with MARTA trains rumbling by, they paid tribute to people most never knew.

 

Photo by Allen Sullivan/AJC   People gather during a vigil at Saint Joseph’s Mercy Care Services on Friday for homeless people who have died this year in Atlanta. Candles were lit for 55 people that died on the streets or in shelters.
 

Photo by Allen Sullivan/AJC    Sonja Mason (right) and others gather during a vigil at Saint Joseph’s Mercy Care Services on Friday.

“When homeless folks die, they just die,” said Robert Mason, director of community relations for St. Joseph’s Mercy Care Services, sponsor of the vigil, which took place outside its Decatur Street headquarters. “We want to bring attention to those folks who have passed in a quiet death and call their names.”

They sounded out 65 names in all- men and women who lived on the streets and in shelters, who were mentally ill, drug-addicted or just down on their luck.

Stacey Fortner

On a brutally cold day last winter, Fortner climbed a fence to huddle outside Central Presbyterian Church, where she often found friendship, doughnuts and hot coffee.

In her 40s, she was a “sweet lady” who was developmentally disabled, mentally ill and had abused drugs, said the Rev. Andy Gans, then director of the church’s outreach center. She was frequently robbed of the money from her disability check, he said, so she survived by prostitution.

Early one morning, Gans said, she told him she was tired of selling herself and tired of doing drugs. For hours he and his co-workers tried to find a rehabilitation program for her, to no avail. That evening, she stayed, as she always did, under an interstate overpass.

That cold day last winter, workers called 911 and sent her to Grady Memorial Hospital. Gans was with her when she died the next night.

Tim Green

Green was living with a girlfriend earlier this year after five years on the streets.   From 2002 until early 2007, he had stayed at shelters and had eaten in soup kitchens.

He had once abused drugs, said Al Wright, director of communications and security at Crossroads Community Ministries, Atlanta, but lately he was clean and sober.

On Oct. 17, Green came to Crossroads to spend time with Wright, who had known him for more than 10 years-from a time when Green had a job and a home.

“He sat here with me all day and we just talked and laughed and talked about old times,” said Wright, who added he believed Green was 43.  The next morning, Green was cooking breakfast when he dropped to the floor, the victim of an apparent heart attack. Efforts to revive him failed.

(…)  There are other stories and other related articles at the AJC. 

Next year maybe there will be more candlelight vigils.  I know there will be more homeless to honor – there always are.

Oldtimer

Ministering to the Homeless 5

Redmond church risks big fines

as it hosts homeless camp

 Another in the Ministering to the Homeless series.  This story is about a church that agreed to host one of the tent cities of Seattle for 90 days in defiance of huge fines if they do so.   Tent cities are groups of homeless that have come together, formed their own government and operate out of tent cities, originally constructed wherever they could find room, often at the horror of their housed neighbors and landowners, sometimes started on city park land or vacant lots.  

These groups set up tents and have collectively organized kitchens, toilet and shower areas, sanitation disposal and have established strict bylaws and rules of conduct.   To get in, the current residents must approve newcomers before they can set up a tent.   Jobs, such as security, food preparation, sanitation disposal, cleanup, and government are usually rotated among the residents.  Some of the tent cities have Internet sites, formal applications and posted rules. 

Some local governments have written laws banning the tent cities and have actively removed some of them (St Petersburg for example).  The bans are limited to government property, parks, road right of ways, etc. and those on private property are subject to zoning rules and ordnances crafted to keep them out.   They have been careful not to ban camping and thus the homeless have had a loophole to slip into.   

Homeless activists have arranged to have various churches and private organizations to allow the tent cities to use their private property.  The common tactic for the governments have been to limit the time that a private property can be used for camping to some period, such as 90 days.  Permits are required for each campsite, some of the permits only for a few days, others longer, some must be renewed weekly.     There is a sort of round robin of encampment movement from site to site every 90 days in this case.

Tent cities have been established in St. Petersburg Fla. (later dismantled by the city), Seattle, Kings County WashingtonToronto and Portland . 

Read the original Seattle Times story here

By Sanjay Bhatt
Seattle Times staff reporter

PHOTO BY GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Tent City 4 residents, St. Jude parishioners and people who live nearby pitch in to help build Tent City 4 on Saturday on St. Jude property in Redmond. Here, they lay down wood pallets to keep the dampness away.

Defying an order from the city of Redmond, St. Jude Catholic Church welcomed Tent City 4, the Eastside’s traveling homeless encampment, to its grounds Saturday.

The city – which initially granted, then voided a permit for the encampment – answered the action with a threat to fine the church as much as $500 a day, five times what a senior city official had proposed last week. The church’s plan to host the homeless group for 90 days could now cost it more than $37,000.

Yet the mood outside the church was upbeat. Homeless people and church members alike unloaded wooden pallets and plywood from trucks, and set up tents. Campers’ belongings arrived in black trash bags labeled with silver duct tape. Volunteers drove Tent City residents to the church from their former site at another Catholic church, St. John Vianney, near Kirkland.

“These folks need a place to stay,” said the Rev. David Rogerson of St. Jude. “We’re not going to pull the rug out from under them at the last minute.”

If the fines are upheld, the church will pay them from donations rather than from parish funds, he said.

THIS is what ministering to the homeless means!

Oldtimer

Homeless Veteran Kicked out of Starbucks

This is an extra edition of an earlier post on the same subject.   I did not realize in my first post that the homeless man that was tossed out of his local Starbucks was in fact a homeless veteran.  One of the approximately 200,000 homeless veterans living in the streets, woods and under bridges of our country today.

But since the earlier story mentioned that he was a blogger,  I thought I might be able to google him.  I found this earlier story about him in a different newspaper:  

Homeless man makes a living on downtown Bethesda streets


Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006
Stephanie Siegel
Staff Writer, The Gazette

Photo by Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Al Szekely Sr., a homeless man, came to Bethesda from Georgia after he was injured at his auto body shop. The accident caused him to have to sell his business.  Szekely holds a list of rights he is entitled to while living on the street.

(…) fill in the blanks by going to the link above

Al Szekely has a laptop computer, cell phone and e-mail account. It’s a roof over his head and four walls to call his own that he’s lacking.

For about two years, Szekely, 59, has been homeless. Most recently he has taken up residence on the streets of downtown Bethesda, sleeping in a parking garage stairwell.

Despite losing almost everything he had, being beaten, robbed and generally ignored, Szekely still has hope.

‘‘One thing I do is keep my faith strong with God,” said the graying and bearded man. ‘‘The more adversity people face, they’re going to gain faith or lose it. My faith is stronger. I can still smile, tell a joke, make someone laugh, make their day better.

Szekely wasn’t always this way. He used to have a home and a business. A former mechanic, he came to the Washington, D.C., area two years ago from Dublin, Ga., to fight for disability benefits, following an on-the-job accident that left him in a wheelchair and eventually drained his savings. He had no health insurance.

‘‘I’m still the same human being I’ve always been,” he said. ‘‘I have a heart, I have feelings just like you.”

Szekely made his way to Bethesda because he heard it was quiet and there weren’t many homeless people. Since settling in, he’s found ways to get by.

‘‘If you manage what little you got, you can make do,” he said.

He often checks his e-mail at a Bethesda computer store. He gets his coffee from a local coffee shop just up the block, where he said he buys one cup and the second one is free. The guys who sell Italian ices from carts on the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues hook him up with cool treats on hot days. And other employees from area shops generally keep an eye out for him. However, employees at downtown businesses would not comment on helping homeless people.

‘‘There are a bunch of good kids that watch over me and make sure I’m alright,” Szekely said.

That’s why he prefers the streets to shelters, where he said he’s been robbed. He spent a total of a week in shelters in and around Washington, D.C., including a night at the county’s men’s shelter on Gude Drive in Rockville, which left him with ‘‘a fair impression.”

There need to be more shelters, he said. But not of the kind most people think about.

‘‘Shelters are no more than warehouses …,” he said. ‘‘I’m not talking about handouts. Give me an opportunity to go to school. Give me an opportunity for honest work.”

Homeless residents need educational resources, job placement and training and ‘‘some form of counseling to get you back into society,” he said.

(..).

Kirk said that many homeless people do whatever they can to begin working and find stability in their lives. But others just aren’t ready, for a variety of reasons.  (…) Kirk said Szekely does not come to Bethesda Cares or use any of the organization’s services.

(…) 

Szekely said he is waiting to receive a Social Security check, which he expects by the end of the month or early September. Then he plans to go back to Georgia, where he said he’ll be able to afford to rent an apartment. Szekely said he believes that people get what they give in the world and said he’s working the best he can to improve his situation.

Oldtimer’s Comment.   This is the same man that was kicked out of Starbucks because they did not want the homeless in their store, despite the fact that, (according to the news article quoted earlier)  he was a regular customer, drinking coffee with another regular customer who was not homeless.   Once put out, he was not even allowed to send someone in to purchase a fresh cup and bring it back out.   A homeless hero treated poorly by a business with a heart for money but no heart for the needy human, customer or not!

Starbucks – What were you thinking? 

 I know you offered to give more money and coffee donations to a nearby shelter after your poor citizenship was held up to the light, but what is needed is a clearer understanding by your corporate as well as franchise staff as to how to meet the needs of those less fortunate in the community that you serve coffee to and how that will work going forward.   There needs to be a human side, a compassionate side, a caring side of your business.   Its not all about money!  

You have used up your goodwill pass for this year.  Time for damage control, but this will not go away until you show a true heart and compassion for the needy, a will to help the homeless, and a genuine respect for our veterans, homeless or not!   Shame on you!

Update! Update! (added since first issued) 

If any reader thinks this is an isolated incident, then check out this news item found by my friend, a  homeless veteran, Wanderingvet:

Starbucks: Customers can’t talk to homeless people either!   Homeless people that buy coffee have to leave the store, customer who talked to one also kicked out!

Oldtimer

         

Ministering to the Homeless 3

Church defies city prosecutor,

helps homeless

This article is about a church in Long Beach California that was being cited by the city for allowing the homeless to sleep in their doorways, stairwells and on the grounds.   The church refused under a penality of $1000 per day fine.    Find this story at it’s original news source.

Article Launched: 01/29/2007 09:56:55 PM PST

The First Congregational Church, a downtown Long Beach (California) landmark, is defying the city prosecutor’s office by allowing the homeless to sleep on its grounds. The pastor, the Rev. Jerald Stinson, affirmed the church’s stand earlier this month in a sermon that brought standing applause from his socially conscious flock.

“Each person who seeks warmth and safety within those railings is a beloved child of God,” he said. “There is a spark of the divine within each of them. If you do not believe that, if you just write them off as worthless, what do you do with everything Jesus said and did?

Corletto and Michael Bryant, 32, are two of many local homeless people
who have accepted the church’s offer of a place to sleep on its grounds.
(Photo by Kevin Chang / Press-Telegram)

The church has a long record of involvement with helping the homeless in Long Beach. For example, the church’s Drop-In Center opens its doors on Sunday when most other agencies are closed. From 12:30 to 4 p.m., the homeless can eat lunch, talk with each other, and use computers. Founded in 1888, First Congregational has a notable record of social concern. While other churches look to the heavens, however properly, the church at Third and Cedar looks across the street and far beyond.

$1,000 a day?

Each night 15 to 20 people sleep on the steps and grounds of the church. Claiming it has received anonymous complaints, the prosecutor’s office says the practice must stop and has threatened a fine of $1,000 a day if it does not. On Sundays, when many social agencies are closed, the church’s Drop-In Center opens its doors from 12:30 to 4 p.m. so street people can eat lunch, read, see movies, play games and chat with each other and with volunteers. According to the church’s Web site, some homeless use the opportunity to check e-mail and write resumes.

“Many who sleep outside the church struggle with mental illness. One gentle, really nice man who has been here for years is convinced Jesus gave him this church, and he regularly asks me for the keys. Another man thinks he is a king and the church is his castle. There is a woman who believes she is the wife of deceased billionaire Howard Hughes, that he is on his way from Las Vegas to take her home. None of those folks, without a great deal of help, will ever be able to find and keep a place of their own.”

Oldtimer’s comment.  I looked and could not find out what became of this situation except that there have been meetings held at the church between the police and the homeless to help define and mediate the tension between the two forces.   I suspect that the church escaped the fines and continues to allow the homeless to sleep on their grounds.   A bulletin asking for volunteers (printed below) indicates the church has not lost its desire to help the homeless.

Homeless Drop In Center call for volunteers:

“The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: What are you going through?” Simone Well

On Sunday afternoons, the First Congregational Church of of Long Beach operates a Homeless Drop-In Center on their church premises. They open their doors & their hearts to over 300 + homeless brothers & sisters in the Long Beach area.

It enables them to eat, read, rest, & socialize. Many write job applications & resumes in their computer lab. It is also haven for people to go on the day of the week when many agencies which serve the homeless are closed.

This is run entirely by rotating volunteers, so they need our help!

Oftentimes, the homeless are so ostracized, yet they long to interact with the very pedestrians who pass them by on the street. As such, the Drop-In Center mostly serves as a way of connecting people, homeless or otherwise, to create a sense of community.

They need about 15-20 of us to help serve food, set-up, clean-up & mostly reach out to the many homeless who seek shelter there.

This is what ministering to the homeless means

Oldtimer

Cold to the Bone

I wrote this last January 29, 2007.  I didn’t want to wait until it got that cold to publish it again. There are too many men, women and children in the woods as I write this.  Too many of the adults are veterans – Heroes, but the cold doesn’t care.  Everyone hurts.  All need help. 

 I hope that this helps inspire someone to help at least one homeless person find shelter, find warmth and find a way out of the mess they find themselves in before it gets unbearably cold again. 

——————————————————————————-

It was 16 degrees F. when I got up this morning, 67 inside.

Cold to the bone

What was it like around the campfire…

When the embers went out?

What was it like under the train trestle…

Where no fire could be built?

What was it like in the bushes…

When the old man had to go?

What was it like in the tent…

When it was really just a box?

What was it like to be outside…

Where it is… Cold to the Bone?

Were you warm last night? ,,,,,  Count your blessings.

They are still out there

Grace and Peace,
by Jim Tabb/Oldtimer

Won’t you volunteer somewhere today?

Ministering to the Homeless 2

A Ministry in the Cold, With a Gospel of Propane
Find and read the rest of this very moving story here:

Jose Adrian Tenahua is in an encampment of homeless people in Ocean County, N.J.;  A minister has been visiting several sites a week to supply the residents with propane. Photo by Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Written By KAREEM FAHIM

 LAKEWOOD, N.J., Feb. 8 — The minister pulled his large blue bus into a parking lot a half-mile from Exit 82 on the Garden State Parkway, behind a Boater’s World and a McDonald’s. Stepping out, he plunged into the frozen backwoods, where he came upon several tents zipped up tight against the frigid wind. In the back of the bus, the minister carried bulging gray metal cans filled with gallons of relief. For the homeless who have settled here, by mucky streams or in thickets of scrub pine, in sight of cellphone towers and gas stations but on the edges of survival, his gift of propane is all that prevents them from falling off.The propane is little salve for most of their problems, like the loneliness and the boredom, the mental disorders and the substance abuse. Yet when the minister, Steven A. Brigham, called out, “Are you home?” a tent flap quickly unzipped to reveal a man with a teardrop tattoo next to one eye.“I need propane,” said the man, Brett Bartholomew, after they caught up for a minute. “I’m down to my last two tanks. I’m using them now.”

It is a ritual Mr. Brigham performs several times a week — more when the temperature drops — in a kind of propane ministry he has built since 2003 that now serves 44 homeless men and women scattered in nine encampments in the Ocean County communities of Lakewood and two neighboring towns on the Jersey Shore.

Mr. Brigham, who started working with the homeless six years ago, gave the Mexicans a communal tent, where they sit together and eat meals they make in a giant turkey cooker. A dozen yards away, through littered undergrowth, there is a shantytown of black residents, who have lived in the wilderness for years.

The four people who live under the power lines are white. Ronnie Banks, who is black, used to live there, but after being taunted with a racial epithet, he moved to Mr. Bartholomew’s camp.

Mr. Banks, a recovering addict, said he had served time in prison for dealing drugs. His tent is, in the ramshackle, patchwork world of the camps, nearly spotless. There are teddy bears on his bed and pink carnations next to it. He said he was close with his 13 children; one daughter works just down the road. His tent sits alone, at the opposite end of a rise that allows him and Mr. Bartholomew to watch over the path that leads to their homes.

The woods around them are filled with trash. Residents of the homes nearby complain about their presence. “This is the safest place for me right now,” Mr. Banks said.

(…)

THIS is what ministering to the homeless means!

Winter is coming, It is already cold,

Soon to be Cold to the Bone.

Please volunteer somewhere!

Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans

New Report –

Vital Mission:

Ending Homelessness

Among Veterans

Homeless Veteran

Photo by  |Shrued (creative commons licensed)  Find it Here

This 36 page report released by the National Alliance to End Homelessness details the following highlights:

In 2006, approximately 195,827 veterans were homeless on a given night-an increase of 0.8 percent from 194,254 in 2005. More veterans experience homeless over the course of the year.  They  estimate that 336,627 were homeless in 2006.

Veterans make up a disproportionate share of homeless people. They represent roughly 26 percent of homeless people, but only 11 percent of the civilian population 18 years and older.  (Please see Oldtimer’s comment on these numbers below before you repeat them.) This is true despite the fact that veterans are better educated, more likely to be employed, and have a lower poverty rate than the general population.

A number of states, including Louisiana and California, had high rates of homeless veterans. In addition, the District of Columbia had a high rate of homelessness among veterans with approximately 7.5 percent of veterans experiencing homelessness.

They estimate that in 2005 approximately 44,000 to 64,000 veterans were chronically homeless (i.e., homeless for long periods or repeatedly and with a disability).

Oldtimer’s comment on the numbers:  My own studies show that  the real numbers are more like 43% of the male homeless are veterans. Here is an interesting footnote to the numbers reported above:

This estimate was calculated with 2005 veterans data from the CHALENG data set and 2005 tabulations of Continuum of Care (CoC) point-in-time counts.The CoC counts do not differentiate between adults and children, so in the number provided here-percent of homeless people who are veterans-the denominator includes some people under 18. If children were taken out of the 744,313 total, veterans would make up a larger percentage of the homeless population. This suggests that 26 percent is a conservative estimate. Either way, this estimate falls within the bounds of past research.Rosenheck (1994) reviewed research studies and found that between 29 and 49 percent of homeless men are veterans. HUD’s recent Annual Homelessness Assessment report (2007) puts the percentage of homeless veterans at 18 percent; however, 35 percent of the cases in this data source were missing, making the estimate highly unreliable.

The Rosenheck estimate  range includes the 43% that I had independently found.  The basis data for my findings are here.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness has an interactive map that show veteran homelessness by state.  Click on the map to activate it, then your cursor will bring up data for each state as you hover over it.

It is interesting to note that Washington DC has the highest percentage of veterans that are homeless, more than double the rate of any other state at a whopping 7.51%.  Other high percentage states are Louisiana, California, Oregon, Nevada, Connecticut and  North Dakota in that order.   The highest number of homeless veterans are in California with more than 49,000 homeless, followed by New York, Florida and Texas in that order.

The following comes directly from the report:

Lack of affordable housing is the primary driver of homelessness. The 23.4 million U.S. veterans generally do not have trouble affording housing costs; veterans have high rates of home ownership and appear generally well housed. However, there is a subset of veterans who have severe housing cost burden.

■ We estimate that nearly half a million (467,877) veterans were severely rent burdened and were paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent.


■ More than half (55 percent) of veterans with severe housing cost burden fell below the poverty level and 43 percent were receiving foods stamps.

4■ Rhode Island, California, Nevada, and Hawaii were the states with the highest percentage of veterans with severe housing cost burden. The District of Columbia had the highest rate, with 6.4 percent of veterans paying more than 50 percent of their income toward rent.

■ Female veterans, those with a disability, and unmarried or separated veterans were more likely to experience severe housing cost burden. There are also differences by period of service, with those serving during the Korean War and WWII more likely to have severe housing cost burden.

■ We estimate that approximately 89,553 to 467,877 veterans were at risk of homelessness.  At risk is defined as being below the poverty level and paying more than 50 percent of household income on rent. It also includes households with a member who has a disability, a person living alone, and those who are not in the labor force.

However, the report body shows a laundry list of causes:

Lack of Income: Veterans who experience homelessness, like most homeless people, typically have very low incomes, and research suggests that extreme poverty predisposes veterans to homelessness. For this reason, veterans who joined the service after 1973 through the all-volunteer force are more likely to come from poverty and have lower rates of educational attainment.  (…) The unemployment rate for veterans aged 20 to 24 is 15 percent,

Physical Health and Disability: One out of 10 veterans is disabled and many suffer from physical disabilities, oftentimes caused by injuries in combat. (…)  The number of disabled veterans is increasing with more than 20,000 veterans suffering from wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mental Health and Disability: Mental health issues are also prevalent among veterans. The VA reports that 45 percent of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness, including many who report high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  (…)

Substance Abuse: According to the Department of Veterans Affairs,  approximately 70 percent of homeless veterans suffer from substance abuse problems (…)

Weak Social Networks: (…) Veterans have low marriage rates and high divorce rates and, currently, one in five veterans is living alone.  (…) Social networks are particularly important forthose who have a crisis or need temporary help. Without this assistance, they are at high risk for homelessness.

Lack of Services to Meet Current Need: The VA has over 19,000 transitional housing beds for homeless veterans (10,000 through partnerships with local community agencies) with 460 FTEE in homeless program staffing.  (Oldtimer’s comment:  19,000 beds to serve over 300,000 veterans that are homeless during at least part of the year of which 44,000 to 64,000 are chronically homeless and 195,000 are homeless on any one night!)

I hope you can sleep well tonight after reading these statistics and findings. I know that I won’t.  I also know the homeless heroes sleeping in the bushes, alleys, behind dumpsters, in doorways, and in the woods or on mountain sides are not going to sleep as well as they could if we could only get our government to respect and support our troops when they come home.

Our Heroes

are out there tonight

and it is so very cold!

Oldtimer