Pastor Steve’s Full Blog Posts
You have a work history, but something went terribly wrong. Perhaps it’s nothing physical, but you are no longer able to function. You do all you can to fix it, but you end up on the street anyway. You hear from someone to apply for disability. You apply. You are denied.
Then someone tells you that everyone is denied disability at first, so you appeal. You get a lawyer– if they take your case it’s likely you will win your appeal. They put you through a psych evaluation, they gather up witnesses, the look at your work history. After three years, you get your day in court.
The judge is kind, but he has his business to do. He listens to your supporters, perhaps a friend or two. They all say the same thing: “Can’t function” “Can’t work with others” “Can’t be on time”… Failure, failure, failure. You hold your head high, not listening, not believing, because you can’t accept that this is you.
But the judge believes the reports, the testimony. He approves your disability. After the trial, when you are alone, you weep, because now it is legally proved what you had heard from those who never believed in you: you are worthless.
After a number of months you get the money. You get an apartment. You escape some of the dreadful, deadening stress. And you realize you can do something with your life. You volunteer, you do something positive in your life. You spend the rest of your life disproving what was spoken about in that room.
I note that there are many, many people who fear the homeless. This is because they don’t recognize that the homeless are their neighbors. Sure, we have some irritating neighbors, even bad ones, but as long as we are polite to our neighbors, they will be polite to us. If we are kind to them, they will be kind to us. Here’s some ideas to be a neighbor to the homeless:
- If you see a new homeless person in your neighborhood, offer them a cup of coffee
- Ask them how they are doing each time you see them
- Talk about neighborhood issues—traffic, local news, new buildings, etc.
- If they look unhappy, ask them why
- If you have an issue with them (trash, perhaps), go and talk to them. Don’t force the police to mediate for you.
- Once you get to know them, and are comfortable, invite them to dinner. It’s fun!
- If they offer you food or help, please take it. It gives them respect, and you might very well need the help.
Marcine grew up abused by her father. She left home early, got a job and worked hard. Someone had lied about her and so she lost that job. The stress of her life was too overwhelming, so she sat in her apartment, unable to seek another job. “They won’t hire me because I was fired from my last job.” Soon she was evicted. She wouldn’t go home to her father, so she was homeless.
She went to a local church and obtained a tent, a sleeping bag and a tarp. A homeless man showed her a safe place to stay. She didn’t feel safe, so she got a boyfriend who would protect her. After a while, when his trauma showed through, he would beat her. She left him with her tent and sleeping bag, leaving her only with a blanket.
She slept in a park, under a bench. She stayed there all day except when there was a meal going on. She had no energy to do anything. A neighbor found her and said, “You are so lazy! Look at the trash under the bench! Get up and find a job!” She rolled over and stayed under the table.
The first neighbor told a second that there was a homeless person under the park table. The second said, “But there are children that play in that park! Homeless people use drugs! And are thieves! This person is dangerous!” And they called the police.
The police came over and looked at her under the table. There wasn’t much trash there, just a small pile. There were no needles, and one empty beer can. But she couldn’t stay there. “This is a park. You aren’t allowed to stay here.” She was so exhausted, she ignored him. “Ma’am, you will have to leave. Now.” She just laid there. “If you don’t get up, I’ll have no choice but to arrest you.” In the end, that’s what he did. Arrested her for trespassing on city property. As he was driving her in, he said, “I hope this teaches you a lesson. You are a good girl. You just need some tough love.”
Ninety-five percent of all homeless men have experienced trauma and PTSD. One hundred percent of all homeless women have experienced trauma. The homeless have experienced enough tough love. They need solutions.
Marcine isn’t a real person, but all that happened to her really happened to homeless people I know.
Tim was an alcoholic, but through support and a job he stopped drinking. He lost his job and ended up on the street, but he determined that he wouldn’t go back to alcohol as a “solution” to his problems. His friends all drank, and constantly offered him some, but he refused.
One day, he was in a park and he saw his sister with her children playing by the swings. He walked away from his homeless friends and waved at her, giving her his sweet smile. She saw Tim, immediately gathered up his niece and nephew, and walked quickly to her car, leaving before he could catch up to them. Tim walked back to his alcoholic friend, pointed at his bottle of vodka and said, “Here, give me that,” and drank it all down.
As Tim drank for years after that, his health deteriorated severely. His blood pressure was so high that doctors were stunned that he was still alive. He would spend a week at a time in the hospital. To save his life, a pastor friend of his asked him to stay in his house. Tim wasn’t sure that he wanted to, because he knew that to live in the pastor’s house was to stop drinking and he wasn’t sure he was ready to. But his homeless friends encouraged him, even demanded that he stay in the house. No one wanted him to die on the streets.
Tim agreed. He moved in, traded his beer for Mountain Dew, and he regained his health. He volunteered at the church and encouraged his friends. He relapsed a few times, but he remained sober until he died three years later of his heart giving out.
Life is a balancing act. Some are acrobats and can balance on their own. Most of us need friends and supporters to hold our hands in order to keep our balance.