Tag Archives: homeless vets

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

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Good News – Ask the right question!

Ask the right question. 

 Al was frustrated.  We were frustrated, even his case manager at MUST was frustrated.  The new transitional housing program was due to start April 1 but to get in, Al needed to prove his eligibility and he needed his DD-14.  The deadline was just a few days away.   It was already March 26.   He had his application in for months.  He had his request for his DD-14 copy in for months.  Nothing was happening.  His case manager had even faxed in a copy of the application papers.   No response.   It looked pretty bleak as nothing was happening at the VA.

No DD-14 on the way and no good reason why.  I don’t know the details other than this:  Al said he had been conferencing with his case manager on Wednesday and they were both lamenting that nothing seemed to be working.  Then Al happened to mention that he has a birthday coming up in a few months and he “needed to get his VA drivers license renewed”.   Just a simple off-the-wall comment to pass the time.

The case manager said something like:  “WHAT did you just say?!!!… You have a VA drivers license?… Let me see it!”  “This is all you need for proof… you are in!”.

It turns out that no one had asked the right question.  

You don’t get a veterans driver’s license without a DD-14  and it requires a certificate of eligibility from the VA to get the licence.  The existence of the driver’s license was all that has been needed all along.  Now Al is going into transitional housing on April 1.  It was an alert case manager that finally saved the day.  It would have been easy to not notice the remark.  None of us trying to help him knew.  No one at the VA asked whether he had a veterans driver’s license.   Al didn’t know it would suffice.   Only the alert case manager caught the significance.   Thank you Michael Laird of MUST ministries.  

Al once had his separation papers and has since lost them.  That happens to homeless veterans a lot.    He qualified for his veteran’s drivers license some time ago and has maintained it current.    

So much trouble and so much delay for lack of the right question.  So if any of you veterans are having trouble getting a copy of your separation papers and you have a veterans drivers license, pull it out!   You may have a shortcut!

We have something special planned for Al, but don’t go hinting, as it is a surprise.

Oldtimer

PS:  This is what the GA DMV says:

Veterans

Veterans receive a free license until they reach the age of 65. Then they must renew their licenses every five years and are required to pass a vision test each renewal period.

You’ll need to provide a copy of your separation papers, showing your honorable discharge, to your county’s Department of Veterans Service to receive your certificate of eligibility. Present this certificate to your local driver’s license office to receive your free license.”

  

Good News, Good News!

Good News Today

There was particularly good news to report today.    Our homeless friends Al J. and Steve W. have both been assigned a place to live, but we are not talking just a shelter here!  They are excited, I mean really excited.  So is the group at our church that has been working with them so very long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Al, surprised by the flash.

Al is a homeless veteran.  He had been living in the woods for quite some time.  When our small group first met him he was resistant to the idea of moving out of the woods.   He was heavily bearded with wild long hair and looked pretty ragged.   “I like it here,” he said.    Of course, it was not true.  Later he admitted that he was resigned to living in the woods and never expected to get out.   “I like it here” was just a way of coping.

That was before several families in our Church began to develop real relationships with the homeless they were feeding breakfast to on Sunday mornings.    By relationships, I mean friendships, and true bonds.   This extended beyond just providing food and supplies, beyond inviting them to Church, Sunday School and Wednesday night dinners.   It included true friendships and love for fellow man. 

When Al complained that “I smell,” and said he was uncomfortable in church looking like a tramp, Scott and Pat took him to their home where he showered and put on newly cleaned clothes.   Scott then took him to his son’s hair salon where he was treated like royalty and given a full shampoo, shave and haircut to the astonishment of other customers.    How do you want your hair today, Sir?  Does that look ok, Sir?   

Al looked like and felt like a new man.  Transformed, ready at last to come out of the woods, ready to not be homeless any more.    Somehow he has managed to maintain his neat appearnce despite continuous living in the deep woods.   The homeless ministry team followed through and helped Al get his VA papers.  He said he did not even know he was elgible for help through the VA.   The ministry team managed to get him signed up for the new veteran’s transitional housing program at MUST.   The papers, however, were a long time coming.  Far too long.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two pictures of Steve.

 

 

 

Steve turns out to be an energetic worker, jack of all trades, experienced in all sorts of construction work.  I know.  He has worked for several families in our church and for me.  

I found that he is an excellent carpenter and never slows down.   When he runs out of a job, he picks up a broom or rake, or starts the next phase.   He is also very dependable and has an excellent outlook on life.   I found out that he is experienced in renovation of old houses and had once owned a house just two blocks from the one my wife grew up in.  He gave it up to his wife and began a long downward spiral from there to homelessness. 

When we first met Steve, he lived in a tarp in a pine thicket between two buildings.  After the police raids in the area and Dominic froze to death, he applied to MUST Ministries for entry into their resident’s progam and was eventually accepted.   He said he “did not want to end up like Dominic”.   Steve is the one in the video talking about Dominic that I posted a few weeks ago.    He and Al have attended Sunday School, Church services and Wednesday night dinners almost every week.  That is a bible he is carrying in the left picture above.

Members of our church sponsored Steve and Al to a family church retreat over a recent weekend.  Al said it was the “most fun I’ve had since I was a child”.  Steve said it was a “wonderful experience”.

 Well, the good news came from both of them today.  Al has been accepted into a veteran’s transitional housing program and Steve into a supportive housing program.  Both through MUST Ministries.    Both start April 1.    Our homeless ministry team is planning to have a dinner for them in celebration.  It will be quite a celebration and with many thanks to God for His Grace.

It has turned out to be a great day.  God is good!  

 

 

 

 

Pictures of Homeless Friends

Some of our homeless friends, most of whom have been mentioned in  previous posts, agreed to have their pictures posted in this space.   It was a great leap for Mark, who had come out to have breakfast with Scott and Carolyn this morning.   Someone had woke him up and he was a bit annoyed about “being bossed around” but ate ravenously of the food offered.  Every time he finished something, Scott was shoving another bowl or cup of coffee into his hand. Eggs, grits, muffins, coffee.  

Mark turns out to be a very good conversationalist once he gets to know you, but a lot of things turn out to be “a long story” that he won’t go into.  Mark is still a little nervous and has not given me permission to share anything but general information, but we talked for almost two hours.   If he had not been pushed into getting breakfast with us, “important people might have come by and taken him home”, but he really was ravenous.  He was a bit afraid he would miss them.   He doesn’t like people telling him what to do, has a couple of “angels” from the Church of God that regularly visit him trying to get him to seek help.   Mark said he has been homeless maybe 1 or 2 years.  I don’t really think he knows.

He says the police have made him move three times in the past week.  They’ve taken his stuff but left him behind, or when he was out of stuff, simply told him to go somewhere else.   So he moves around, but always nearby.   Some of the other homeless affectionately call him “Moses” but they all help look after him.  Mark wears a short ponytail in his beard and says he another in the back, but he did not show it.

Mark does not understand why those that don’t bother anybody can’t just be left alone, but he claims Scott as a friend who has “known me a long time,” and seems to be coming out of his shell with the extra attention.

Below are some pictures.  There were other homeless there, but some don’t want to be pictured.  One said he didn’t want his family to know.  “I’m not supposed to be here” meaning homeless.  They think he is working somewhere else, I believe. 

Scott            Steve              Guy             Mark              Steve W.

Scott provided the food and shirts (hanging on fence).  The gentleman on the far right is the same Steve that was featured in the video in my last post, “Marietta Homeless Steve Talks about Mark,”  the same Mark standing next to him.   Everything Mark is wearing is recently donated. 

Guy has been homeless only 3 weeks.   I liked him immediately.   Actually I liked them all immediately!   The sign says “This walkway is provided by Cobb EMC for access to the MUST/Urban Action Facilities.  (Travel at own risk)”  The sidewalk is not on the road right-of-way, but the homeless get rousted out anyway.

I was asked by Steve (with the cup) to thank Cobb EMC for the use of the paved walkway and for the access they have granted.  He recognizes the public service Cobb EMC has done here.   Steve has a 2 year and a 4 year education in N.C. and often gives legal advice.  He is writing a “coffee table” book and has written several letters to the local news editor, none published.

Major

Major was in the earlier video also, but was seen only briefly. The bible in his pocket goes wherever he goes.

Guy with Elizabeth

Both are homeless.  Elizabeth was named after Elizabeth Inn.  Mark calls her his cat, but in truth, I think she is loved by all the homeless in the area.

 

Al, our Poet

Al is a homeless veteran, still waiting for his papers, but they are in route.  The donated cap is Navy, but he was actually Army.   This picture was taken last week at our church.

Oldtimer

 

A Host of Friends by a Homeless Friend

A Poem by a Homeless Friend 

You have heard of me speaking of “Al”, one of our homeless friends, a veteran and a fine man, one of those evicted by Marietta on the eve of the coldest night of the year.  Held at gunpoint while receiving the eviction notice.  Despite the donated hat, he is an army veteran and loves his country.   Al turns out to be quite a poet.  He wrote one for our  missional team. 

Al Jorden, A homeless friend
Al Jordan, our homeless friend

“A HOST OF FRIENDS”

Friends are like an undying breed of loving hearts and caring needs
Hope of giving and sharing things
that only faith in each other brings
A friend is there night and day
to help chase your doubts away
So in my heart I know God is with me till the end.
So that is why I have a Host of Friends. — Al
 

Our fight for the homeless, some stories

This is a long post, and  in it I will tell some interesting stories about the homeless we’ve met and love as friends.  But I need to say something up front about our city leaders.  In my last post I listed the names and email addresses of City officials.  The intent was not to harass these individuals, but to express only our outrage at the actions of a City That Doesn’t Care, or to express support if that is your desire, over the death of Dominic.

All of these City Council men and women, the City Manager, and the Mayor are good and honorable people and should be treated with dignity for the office they hold and as caring people.  Keep in mind that Mayor Dunaway has no voting power except in a tie, even though he wields enormous power in other ways within the city, as any mayor does.

Our fight is with the collective body that  makes up the whole, the Council and leadership of a city that would not listen to the cries that warned them that great harm and deaths would occur if they sent these people away from their homes in the dead of winter.  Some of our homeless did die, frozen to death.  The city leaders read our request beforehand and the Mayor phoned me that they would go forward with their evictions even though snow and freezing temperatures was forcast.  Representatives of the city attended a meeting at a local shelter and said the same thing.  And Dominic is dead, and it appears there are others.

So express outrage yes, but call them names, no, threats, no.   Express your own feelings either way on the subject, but stay calm.   It is the city itself to blame, not the individuals who might have raised a voice but was voted down or failed to raise a voice when it would have meant something, perhaps not realizing the impact on the lives of hundreds of people, perhaps thinking the warning of possible harm or death was an overstatement when it was not.      

Having said that, let me give you a few little stories on some of these men and women that we have learned how to be friends with.  Now here is a disclaimer: I am a member of this church we call Macland Presbyterian, an elder, now on  the session and a 3 year member of the Mission team.   But I don’t have any first hand, hands-on experience with the particular homeless we are talking about other than meeting them as they came to our church and sitting down to talk with them.  Whenever I say “we” I mean our team that has been working with them.

Missional team

Several families doing missional outreach have been doing all the cooking, serving, bible study and outreach for our church.  They have paid for food out of their own pockets, taken winter clothing and other things for the homeless, brought them back to church and taken them to restaurants, had coffee and broken bread with them, brought them to Church in their own cars, stored their belongings when displaced, done bible study with them.   I’ve only supplied a little support here and there.  They have been doing the work.  I’m relating what they have told me about our friends.

Having said that too, let me tell you something about what I know from Pat and Scott and Jeff, and Jason about their encounters with the friends they have been serving.  I just want you to know that this is not first hand knowledge, but it has struck my heart and I will be much more closely involved from now on.  I know some of these names are not the real names.  But the stories are real, the men are real, the hardships and problems they illustrate are real.

Perry and his gold coin offering

One of these men, a homeless veteran is Perry.  Perry has been described by Pat as “having an entourage of people swirling around him in his head always talking to him.”   Perry came to our church among the first two to accept our invitation to visit.  Pat and Scott picked him up.  During one sermon our Pastor  was talking about the woman who gave all she had, a penny, and what a wonderful thing that was. 

Perry got up in the middle of the sermon and started for the pulpit.  Scott caught up with him and asked what his intentions were.  “I’m going to make an offering”.  “But wait, there is a time for that later”, said Scott.  “But I want to give now!”  So Perry took his Chucky Cheese gold token to the alter and placed it on the corner of the choir railing, and returned to his seat just beaming!  Grinning from ear to ear.  Gave all he had, real gold to him.

I don’t know what happened to Perry when the evictions came.   I think that he had dissappeared.  We know of one death, Dominic, and we know that there is likely more – I learned today that the medical examiner sent a homeless person to a funeral home near our church who was apparently found in the same lot we were serving, but Dominic had been found somewhere else.

Mark and his mound of dirt, compassion among the homeless 

There is another victim that we have recently identified as Mark.   Mark was first found by our little missional team some weeks ago.   Mark was laying behind a large mound of dirt, flat on the ground with piles of donated clothing, blankets, tarps and other stuff on each side of him.  Much of it donated by other homeless in the camps.  

Mark clearly wanted to die but somehow was not successful.  He was on the ground with his thin shirt unbuttoned, no jacket, no shoes, no covering and was unresponsive.  Our group called 911 and an emergency van showed up, prodded his foot, asked him a couple of questions, determined he was alive and that he did not want to go with them.  The crew left with these words:  “We can’t make someone go that doesn’t want to go.” 

Other homeless were bringing Mark sack lunches and most of the time the lunches were just left there uneaten the next day.  He would take neigther food nor drink from us.   He was never seen to move from that spot by any of our team over a period of weeks, and he never changed clothes.   We have since learned that Mark survived the cold, but this past week, our homeless friend Steve told us that the police and others came back Wednesday of last week and took his bedding, blankes and other things.   See my video where Steve talks about Mark, how he became homeless and why he was staying right where he was.    He was not aware he was being subjected to eviction.  He would not have been responsive to the police or anyone that approached him.  He was unable.  (Updated on February 2, 2008 to insert new information).

The aloof man and his broken trust

There is another I’ll call “Aloof” who showed up when they first started feeding breakfast.  We noticed a man standing like a statue with his back to the breakfast line about a block away.   Although invited, he did not move while we were there.  The following week, he had turned around and was facing the other men and women enjoying a breakfast feast, but still did not approach, still a block away.    (Since MUST feeds a lunch to the unsheltered homeless 5 days a week, our team chose to go on Sunday mornings to fill in).

The   third week he moved half way to the chow line.  The fourth, half way again, always standing like a post during the entire time our team was on site.  The fifth he had moved up to where he was just outside the line but could see the food clearly. 

Finally he began joining the line.  We had gained his trust.   Then the city came the next week and destroyed the little life support that he had.  His hidden camp taken away and all trust dragged to the dump in a garbage truck with his belongings.

Some of the others 

Then there are Steve and Don who lived under a nearby bridge.  And a different Al than ours that had a girlfriend.   And “our” Al who is indeed a veteran who has been working almost from the beginning to get his life back in order to get off the streets.

What I’m trying to say is that although our Al and Steve and Dave/Don have been mentioned in earlier posts a number of times, this story is not just about them, nor is it just about veterans, nor is it any way about us! 

What this all about 

It is about a city leadership that never took the time to learn that these are real, actual human beings in their care who have issues to be sure, but most are honest, decent citizens that have fallen on the hard times that, but for the grace of God, go I.  It is about a city that paints all homeless men in one brush.  If one did a crime, then paint them all guilty.  They are faceless, nameless, scum to be run out of the city.  They are trash to be swept away.

It is about a City That Doesn’t Care that decided that, with the homeless count coming up that they just did not want the world to know that they did not have a place to put them.  The goal was to run them out of town to reduce the numbers, achieve a goal of homeless reduction.  The goal was to let the secretary that saw what looked like a homeless man down the block know that the city was protecting her.   To let the business man that had a female worker nervous because she saw a homeless man standing under a bridge on the way to her office know that she would not have to look the other way any more – he would be gone.   To let the voters know the city was removing all the homeless because 1 or 2 were thought to be part of a crime wave in another part of the city.  To let the voters know that all laws will be strictly enforced – unless it was convenient to look the other way.  But for homeless, strictly enforced.

It is about a city that chose to evict the homeless from the only home they have had for years on the eave of the two coldest nights of the year – driven out in fear, leaving even their glasses, shoes, sleeping bags and tents behind to be thrown into garbage trucks by a City That Doesn’t Care.   A city that supplies no support services other than law enforcement.  A city that relies on the county morgue to front the $400 to pay for the burial of victims of their lack of concern for the welfare of another human being.

It is about human dignity when down and out.  About trust when trust is vital but not allowed.  About compassion, love and hope in a world that seems to have none. 

It is about our Lord who told us to serve our neighbor, who said in the parable of the sheep and goats:

Matthew 25:44-46   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’   45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

What did Paul say about the Apostles? 

1 Corinthians 4:11  To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.

I wonder how many angels were present among the homeless to test us?  Who is marked as a sheep and whom a goat?  Who among us will our Lord not know?

 Oldtimer

Meet the Mayor and Council of the City That Doesn’t Care

Mayor and Council of Marietta Georgia 

City That Doesn’t Care

Mayor Dunaway is the one in the red tie.  He is one of the good ol’ boys of the community.

Left to Right in top picture with email addresses at popular request:

Holly Marie Walquist – Ward 3  hwalquist@mariettaga.gov

Irvan Alan Pearlberg – Ward 4  ipearlberg@mariettaga.gov

Rev. Anthony Coleman – Ward 5 acoleman@mariettaga.gov

Mayor Bill Dunaway  BDunaway@mariettaga.gov

Griffin Chalfant – Ward 2 gchalfant@mariettaga.gov

Annette Lewis – Ward 1 alewis@mariettaga.gov

Jim King – Ward 6 jimking@mariettaga.gov

Philip M. Goldstein-Ward 7 pgoldstein@mariettaga.gov

Ward 1 includes the site featured in the AJC article today “Marietta police clear out homeless” written by Yolanda Rodriguez  There you can find a gallery of pictures.

Ward 5 includes the site featured in most of my articles. It includes the area our homeless veteran friend Al and the recently deceased Dominic lived.

Oldtimer