In our worship, people are allowed to speak up in the middle of the sermons. I had just made a statement, “As opposed to the misconceptions of many who are housed, homeless people do not choose homelessness as a lifestyle.”
As is typical, Theo speaks up, “I did.”
“Really? Because if you did, you’d be one of the few.”
Jeff, another homeless man spoke up, “You mean that you sat down one day and thought, ‘You know what? I’d really like to be homeless.”
Theo laughed, “Well, not exactly in those words. I raised fifteen kids for twenty years. All those years I worked, paid rent and paid bills. Frankly, I was tired of it. I’m happy with my life right now.”
Jeff replied, “But didn’t you tell me that you were forced to be homeless after being released from jail? That you had lost your place and your job and you couldn’t get them back, even if you tried?”
“Well, that’s true.”
I chimed in again. After all, it was supposed to be my sermon. “So did you really want to be homeless? Or did you find homelessness to be the best option after the other options were exhausted?”
“I didn’t start thinking that being homeless was a great idea, if that’s what you mean. But I came to that, eventually. And I’m happy. With how things turned out.”
Most people, when they make the statement, “Most of the homeless want to be homeless,” haven’t actually spoken to many homeless people, or checked in depth what they actually want. It is true that there is a percentage of homeless people who are content with their life and they don’t want to give it up. There is another group that find the idea of an apartment confining, or even triggers anxiety being locked in a box, surrounded by other people they don’t know.
But that is different than saying that homeless people chose homelessness. When a person begins their journey in homelessness, they are frightened, and it is the last choice they would want to make. Most homeless folks admit that they never thought they would be homeless. Some even feel that homelessness was a judgment on them because they looked down on the poorest themselves. Being homeless themselves was the last thing on their mind.
Although there may be a few exceptions, it can be said that no one chose homelessness, at least at first. It isn’t a lifestyle that anyone desires, especially women, although some grow used to it and learn to appreciate the freedom it gives.
Mark is an organized, clean young man. He also happens to be houseless. He created a large tent area with a BBQ grill, a separate space for friends to stay over, and decorated his area with flowers and ribbons. Really nice. Until someone burned it down.
He saw the smoke from a distance and as he got closer he realized that it was his camp. He called 911 and the fire department immediately came over. When they saw the distance it was from the road, the fire department turned around and left Mark to watch his living space and all his possessions go up in flames. In the next few days, he combed through the space and found pretty much nothing to preserve.
He got another tent from a local pastor and a sleeping bag. Then he began working on his space.
He cleaned it off, created space for a new tent. He built a legal campfire. And once all the basics were in place, he created a home. A garden came together from the ashes, hidden from the world, a secret space for Mark and his friends. One of the most beautiful camps I’ve ever seen.
Is Mark homeless? Not at all. He cared for his space so much that he cleaned it and preserved it and beautified it. When he leaves a place, he tells us that he’s “going home.” He has a home, a space that he loves and is loved.
Is he houseless? Not exactly. He has a tent he calls his house and he has some comforts. He isn’t contained in a box, but he has as much a home as any Bedouin as lived in a tent.
But Mark is still vulnerable. The property is not owned by him. As soon as a city council member with a desire to move homeless out gets a whim, Matt will have to move and he will have twenty-four hours. When we speak of “homeless folks” or “houseless people”, we are not speaking of people who lack the comforts we call home. They lack the security that they can remain.
Every couch surfer called “homeless” might lose their piece of fabric at any moment.
Every person who lives in an RV on the street is homeless because they are not permitted to park overnight anywhere.
Every teenager who is thrown out of his house by his parents and can’t go home is vulnerable in this way.
Every woman and her children who are on the run from domestic abuse and has nowhere to stay is the same.
Every person who has to park in front of a friend’s garage because they were evicted from their apartment are the same way.
Most people haven’t been homeless as long as Mark. But they all are in the same category. They are all threatened.
A little girl of about 5 years old asked if she can sit next to me on the bench. Without waiting for answer climbs up.
A few minutes pass and she tells me her name is Angela. “That’s a pretty name,” I said.
Then Angela takes my hand looks me straight in the eye and says in a matter of fact voice, “My mom is in jail for selling and doing drugs. My dad is dead. He died in some war in the Middle East I live with my Grandma but my Grandpa is dead. Grandma is really old and is sick, if she dies I will have no one, would you be my daddy?”
About that time a woman on a scooter with oxygen tanks rolls up. In a gruff almost angry voice asked if she has been bothering me?
“Nope not at all.” She gives the little girl a nasty grimace “You see I am a Pastor, and she was just sharing a prayer request for the desire of her heart. And I am going to have a little chat with God and see if we can’t make her prayer come true.”
Grandma scrunches up her face and spits out her words, saying, “I don’t believe in God.”
“Well that’s too bad, but ya know what? Your unbelief doesn’t count, this is between Angela and Me and God.”
Angela’s face was grinning ear to ear and I got a hug. Then Granny croaked, “Come, it is time to leave.” And with a wink and a wave they left.
At that time my number was called and the service manager comes up and says, “You really a Pastor?”
“Yup,” I said.
“Think God was listening?”
“He was standing in the room taking notes the whole time.”
The service manager chuckles and says, “So how can I help you?”
This post was written on May 27. Jeff and Yvan leave for Coos Bay permanently today. They have been our friends, co-workers and supporters for almost a decade. They have helped some of the most needy in society. They have been accomplished artists, both visually and verbally on this website and elsewhere. When I really needed someone to unburden on, they were always there. We will miss them deeply. -Pastor Steve
Down to 76 hours. Tomorrow we transport the last of the studio to Coos Bay and leave the the truck at the R V Park……sigh,
First time I left friends and family was when I entered into the Military. But there was the thought of coming back. The second time was when I was going to war and the thought of Never coming back was on my front burners always, BUT I did come back.
Then the family moved to Oregon and I was left behind. Now I back to leaving friends and family again, and starting over in a town and part of the state that I know no one, have no contacts, no one to reach out to except the Lord.
Once upon a time I was in a jail cell with Randy Alcorn and Ron Rohman and about 15 other men. A jailer walked into the cell and says,”Awk! a bunch of Christians! Too bad they won’t let us take them out and just shoot them.” I looked at Randy and said, “Well, the apostles have nothing on us.” And we laughed and then burst into song of praise. I share that because this is how the brothers and sisters of the first church were thinking and feeling, being forced to move to a place where they only have each other, and have to start over again. It is also how the refugees must feel.
I find it amazing how the Lord is teaching Yvan and I things we may never had thought about……We need your prayers more than ever now……..
And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Acts 8:1
A woman driving a brand new $54,000 Truck walks up and drops a few coins into a container and walks over to her truck which is decorated with the cross and shadows kneeling before it, gets in drives away.
She is followed by a man wearing a large silver cross and he drops a few coins into the woman’s can and walked over to a 2016 Mercedes Roadster, with a big Christian Gold Fish that had the word “Pastor” in the middle, gets in drives off.
Several others come read the sign and walk away.
I was so ashamed and I got out reached for the billed fold pulled out some bills and put her in her hand……….
And we wonder why the nation is under judgment.