There is Hope

49 Overdoses of heroin, causing five deaths in lower Bucks County, PA, just since January 1, 2016! The drug epidemic affects everyone, including homeowners and the homeless who are not drug addicts. Many of the druggies join the homeless population, making it harder for the homeless to find shelter by shear numbers and by contributing to stereotypes that result in hobophobia, the irrational fear of all homeless people. In some cases the druggies caused everyone at an encampment to get booted.

Today the drug problem in Bucks County is similar to the alcohol abuse problem when Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was formed. Our nation realized that prohibition, banning booze for everyone, didn’t work. The gross amount of money waging this war, prohibition, wasted money, so much that it crippled the economy, contributing to the depression. As is the case today, many people became homeless just because of the economy.

Today the war on drugs rages, wasting taxpayer money. We wouldn’t have to wage this war if there wasn’t a market for drugs. As was the case when AA was formed, the problem is individual problems, the root of which is sin.

A forerunner of AA, Dr. Franklin Nathaniel Daniel Buchman, a minister, started a movement called “A First Century Christian Fellowship”, later called “The Oxford Group”.  It’s philosophy to treat alcoholism:

  • All people are sinners
  • All sinners can be changed
  • Confession is a prerequisite to change
  • The change can access God directly
  • Miracles are again possible
  • The change must change others

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Alcoholics_Anonymous

The Oxford Group advocated principles from the Sermon on The Mount,  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5-7&version=NIV 

where Jesus taught people the right way to live. The group boiled down these principles:

  • Absolute-Honesty
  • Absolute-Purity
  • Absolute-Unselfishness
  • Absolute-Love

A business executive tried to resolve his alcohol addiction by going to psychiatrist Carl Jung but it didn’t work. Shortly after a year long treatment with Dr. Jung,  he returned to his drinking. When he went back for treatment, Dr. Jung told the man that his case was nearly hopeless and the only hope was for a spiritual conversion with a religious group.

There is a belief that alcoholics can overcome their addiction. Although AA and The Oxford Group agreed that drunks are powerless over their addiction, AA saw the problem as a disease that cannot be cured. The Oxford Group argued that it’s possible that addicts can have complete victory over their sin.

The methods the Oxford Group advocated can apply to any kind of addiction, or other problems rooted in human character flaws, a result of sin.

Homelessness, although not always the fault of the person who has become homeless, is a struggle. Christian counsel can help the homeless too. We all have problems; it’s just a matter of degree. Carl Jung wrote of an experience at an insane asylum he visited with what he called “an intelligent layman,” who remarked that the inmates had problems like the average person, only they were greatly magnified. Dr. Jung was right about that.

Today in southeastern Pennsylvania, where addictions and other problems run rampant, churches are stepping up to the plate to counsel addicts. At the church luncheon after the funeral for our dear sister Martha, who was a member of the homeless community in lower Bucks County PA, the pastor and a church member told me they were seriously considering starting a program for addicts. After I gave them my two cents, they decided to move forward with the program.

In lower Bucks County, two churches host the 12 Step Journey program, where scripture is heavily used in conjunction with the 12 steps model to help people deal with drug and alcohol addictions and other problems that plague them. People with different problems mesh well together and people have made great progress in having victory over their sin-caused problems.  http://www.12stepjourney.com/ 

Heroin addiction stands out, but there are other problems, and this is just the tip of the iceberg above the underlying cause. Several decades ago, writer E.B. White wrote that New York “is a cancer as yet undetected.” Well, the heroin problem is a manifestation of a social cancer, the underlying cause of which people don’t see, maybe because they don’t want to.

Where there is God, there is hope. Hope for the sinner. It’s not too late. God will lift you out of the pit, as he did King David.

 

Levittown We Have A Problem!

Drug addictions run rampant today, especially in Bucks County, PA, contributing to crime as well as ruining lives of individuals, their families and other loved ones. Alcohol abuse creates similar problems. Places to treat these problems are mushrooming.

There are other problems – road rage and other forms of anger, depression, anxiety, violence. People today are hurting. There is even an organization called No More Pain. http://www.nomorepaininc.org/ 

There is a common root to all problems, largely character flaws.  I regularly attend the 12 Steps Journey program where participants learn to deal with character flaws, such as anxiety, depression, and pent up anger and drug and alcohol addictions. http://www.12stepjourney.com/ Drug addiction is just one problem, which in places like lower Bucks County is now in the limelight.

There is a way out, if you are willing to make the effort, pursue healing, and submit to God.

I consider myself a recovering romantic.  If I had a theme song, it would be Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love. “You’re gonna have to face it
You’re gonna have to face that you’re addicted to love

You might as well face it, you’re addicted to love”

And I’ve learned to admit to this and other problems and with God’s help, I shall overcome.

Addictions are described by Wikipedia as “a medical condition that is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences…”  I’m not sure how much of the problem is biological, but it does entail flighty, compulsive behavior. Romantics are attracted to a person or an ideal, a fleeting feeling, which like a French Impressionist painting, immediately strikes your fancy but does not lead to further inquiry, as a Dutch 17th century landscape painting would do.

As a college professor told my class, Romanticism is an example of “the supremacy of emotion over intellect.”   The professor also said that the romantic would rather be there than here and in a different time.  Romantics tend to daydream.

William Wordsworth, one of the poets who helped launch the Romantic period in English literature in the late 18th and early 19th century, wrote “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”

Romanticism was a rebellion against the machine age, materialism and the intellectualism of The Enlightenment. Romantics were against rigid rules. They went the other extreme and rejected rules in general.

Another professor said the Romantics were a prototype of the Flower Children of the 60’s, which led to adverse consequences. A documentary on the hippies illustrated how communal living, where everyone and everything was held in common, including partners. There were no families. The kids belonged to everyone. But, as the documentary showed, as this free love mentality played out, people got jealous of other’s temporary partners.

There is no power in the flower.

Recently, I met a woman said she was deeply hurt after a guy played her. She said that she may end up going back to him, as “I am a hopeless romantic.”  The problem is that emotion is the driving force, and not the intellect. Learning more about one another and working through the vicissitudes of life together and learning to respect and care for one another is the right stuff for a successful relationship.

20th century writer and critic T.S. Eliot rejects the romantic notion of Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquility.”  and argues that emotion and intellect should be synthesized, with the intellect driving emotion.  http://www.literary-articles.com/2010/02/how-eliot-refutes-wordsworths-concept.html

Emotion can’t stand on its own. In Mel Brook’s Robin Hood Men in Tights a young lad approaches Robin and his men screaming his head off. The Merry Men wonder why; nobody was chasing the kid, nothing was wrong.

In my blogs, I have knocked modern psychology. But cognitive behavioral therapy, as the word “cognitive” suggests, has some merit. It requires people to think, rather than rely on fuzzy romantic emotions and effervescent feelings. This psychotherapeutic treatment helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behavior.  Emotion is driven by intellect, knowledge.

The key to healing, being right is knowing that God is working for your good. God knows what’s best for us, and the way to be in your right mind is found in scripture. The power of positive thinking, just feeling good about yourself needs a basis. Knowing God loves us and He knows what’s best for us is the key to getting straight, whether the problem be addictions or other problems that get us out of whack.

The first step in the 12 Step program is “We admitted we were powerless over the effects of our separation from GOD-that our lives had become unmanageable.” This is a step in the right direction. I’ve witnessed people who follow this path straighten out their lives.

In God, there is hope, including for the homeless.

Wossamatta U Evangelicals and The Homeless

Donald Trump is a window on what our culture, and on what some evangelical Christians who support him, has become. Trump was raised in a feel-good church, Marble Collegiate, home of Norman Vincent Peale who wrote the infamous The Power of Positive Thinking. The books ideas, which spread like manure, combined psychobabble with Christianity.

The term “self esteem” is ubiquitous. It basically tells people to feel good about themselves. The problem is not that we shouldn’t be positive, and not hang our heads down low, but the basis for feeling good about yourself.

Humans have a way of rationalizing behavior. Modern psychologists and others make excuses for bad behavior, and tell people “it’s OK” and that it wasn’t their fault. So they feel good about themselves, raise their self esteem without resolving human character flaws, which simply comes down to sin.

We have no good in ourselves.   “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” –John 15:5.

The chair yoga class I take at the public library in Levittown, PA offers great exercises for your health, but I laugh off the religious aspect of the class.  “Let the sunshine shine through you, the love surround you…”  The teacher also prompts the class to “bow to the teacher within.”  This says that we are basically good. As a sinner saved by grace, I disagree.

Left to our own devices, our human flaws, we don’t know how to treat others and love them unconditionally. For me, when God is my captain and follow his rules I can feel good about myself. When we bond with God, we can show people the love God gives.

“And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” –Luke 10:27

Trump can bully a widow who doesn’t want to move from her dwelling and still feel good about himself. After all, he trumps how he gives people money and pays lip service to  feel good clergy such as Joel Osteen, who praises Trump as “a friend of our ministry” and “a good man.” Yet Osteen and other pseudo-evangelicals don’t tell us why.

The homeless in lower Bucks County, PA are marginalized, even considered as a group a persona non grata.  The surface, feel good, commercialized, culture of Bucks County where, like Engulf and Devour in Mel Brook’s Silent Movie, the almighty dollar is worshipped, has no room in the Inn for the homeless. As I mentioned in the previous blog, a worldly representative from the Salvation Army thinks the Levittown librarian is doing a community service by trying to rid the library of homeless people.

Mixing worldly views in the church is the problem today, as it’s always been. This is the affiliations Donald Trump has.

During the early church, the apostle Paul and his guys toured the early church to encourage them to practice fidelity to scriptures.  In my Sunday school class, we looked at a map that showed the apostle’s journey. I noticed that they were moving away from Cypress and remarked that the guys were running away from the Cyclops.  “Too much Greek mythology, Jeff,” a brother remarked.

That, of course, was a joke. But it’s no joke that churches have been mixing worldly views with Christianity.

A Westminster Seminary student once told me that the traditional, orthodox Protestant churches have more in common with the Roman Catholic churches that they do with their liberal Protestant counterparts, even in their own denomination! He called these churches “apostates”, which means that God isn’t even in the picture. My Mom used to call these feel good churches “social clubs”.

This is why Westminster Seminary was formed.

http://www.wts.edu/about/history.html

As I discussed in earlier blogs, it’s mostly the true believers who accept the homeless unconditionally and help them and expect nothing in return. They certainly are acting in a godly manner.

Family Promise of Lower Bucks County, which will hold it’s grand opening on Saturday, April 2 at 10 a.m., practices God’s grace by sheltering and feeding homeless families and taking them to the day center, where they can better themselves.

Resourceful and tricky as he is, if it was to his advantage, Donald Trump could probably find a way to recycle homeless people and turn them into Soylent Green, wafers people could eat. Maybe they could be used for communion in the churches that back Trump. And they would feel good about themselves! Instead of saying that the wafer represents Christ’s body that was broken for you when pastors administer communion, they can say “this is for your self esteem.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green

Trump and the phony evangelicals are a modern manifestation of P.T. Barnum.  As Ted Cruz says, “people like PT Barnum” but that “it is time to put away the clowns, the acrobats, and the dancing bears.” This also applies to Shrillery Clinton, who also lacks the fruits of the spirit. Although more straight forward that Trump and Clinton, Bernie Sanders is also a joke and advocates socialism, which is anti-Christian and very destructive.

“There’s a sucker born every minute”, to quote P.T. Barnum.

A large part of our country’s problems is a result of the church not having more influence on society. Church goers, read your Bibles and learn truth for yourself!  “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  –John 8:32

Wossamotta U Versus Church

In the last blog I praised the churches in lower Bucks County, PA for countering judgmentalism and apathy towards the homeless taught at Wossamotta U. and showing respect and empathy for them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wossamotta_U

“Don’t talk about us; talk with us” the slogan some homeless people created is a reality in lower Bucks County.  A large part of hobophobia, the irrational fear of the homeless, is a result of just not knowing them.  So people talk about them without knowing who they really are.

Intermittently, the homeless have been harassed at the Veteran’s Memorial in Levittown, but now, except for a rare rogue, their rights have been respected and the harassment has eased off.

Initially, the new guard at the nearby municipal building, fed by misinformation, tried to shoo the homeless from the Veteran’s Memorial. But once he got to know them he lightened up. Just today one of the homeless guys who was at the memorial said the guard has been “cool”.  When I first met the new guard I told him “we have to break you in.” Taken aback he spouted “I don’t need to be broken in” — and informed me that he was a trained law enforcement officer…  After he mentioned enforcing rules, we realized we were on the same page, but that my concern was that the rules be enforced even handedly.

The harassment at the memorial was driven by false witness by those who hate the homeless, including the WIC office in the municipal building, which faces towards the memorial. A woman with COPD who went into the WIC office to get warm one winter during business hours was booted just because she was homeless.

Harassment against the homeless has been the case at the Levittown public library for the past two years. Lately, it got so out of hand that I filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The problem is Pat, the head librarian and her sidekick. The other librarians, however, have been not been only respectful of the homeless but have gotten friendly with them. They even gave me a card to bring with me when I visited a homeless person in the hospital.

In an attempt to shoo the homeless from the library, they have been hassled various ways, in some cases thrown out for the day or longer for minor problems. In one case, the homeless woman who was  thrown out of WIC was reading when the librarian told her she needed to do something to stay in the library. The latest case was when the head librarian, Pat, out of the blue, told a homeless man he had been talking loud all week and threw him out, although other people, especially bratty kids, consistently talk much louder.

Many of the churches and individual Christians have reached out to the homeless in lower Bucks County, showing them respect, understanding and empathy.

There are some, however, who must have taken night classes at Wossamatta U.

“The Countess of Carlisle”,  the community relations and development director at the Salvation Army Levittown Community Center told me that people don’t like the homeless in the library when they visit because they are dirty, spread food out all over the tables, etc. I asked her if she witnessed that (she didn’t)  and told her that I do go there and found this isn’t the case. I added that if someone breaks a rule about eating in the library, simply tell them to stop. This Salvation Army official didn’t want to know the truth, and just kowtows to the worldly, judgmental views of the community.

“Queen Latifah”, another elitist at the Salvation Army, treats the homeless like criminals and children when she hosts the community meals.

In the homeless community itself, false witness has created problems. Rumors were spread about someone I didn’t know in this community, but once I got to know him, I found that I was told lies.

Lies were also told about a guy who visits the community meals, but was not homeless, but in need. This fostered fights, which sometimes started to get physical. There was an incident at the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Penndel, PA where someone came to the meal drunk and screamed at the victim of false witness, physically threatened him, and had to be restrained.

Yet the perpetrator was let off the hook. One of the advocates from the Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) twisted what happened  and the victim, who did a rope-a-dope, was blamed. The next time  the victim went to Redeemer Lutheran for the meal, he was told he was banned, because, a church representative said, he was saying negative things about the homeless.

I respect the homeless, and don’t take the stance that, because they are homeless, they are not responsible for their behavior. The victim and I pushed the issue and got the perpetrator temporarily banned from the bus. After this time out, he didn’t cause any more problems.

Recently, another homeless man, on more than one occasion, caused a ruckus at a community meal. Since the last ruckus, he hasn’t been at the meals. We must have set a precedent.

A  non-homeless person who visits the meals said she was told to use caution when going to the meals. She was afraid someone might come at her with a weapon and that someone told her not even to look at the homeless people there. I allayed her fears and explained that my experience is that the worst thing that happens is occasional quarrels, usually alcohol driven. Normally the meals are a pleasant experience, where there is great fellowship.

Most churches have been gracious towards the homeless. They not only feed them, but sit at their tables at community meals and have developed relationships with them and mentored them.

This is the way it should be.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

–2 Corinthians 5:20

Don’t Talk About Us; Talk With Us

Family Promise of Lower Bucks County, the organization that will provide temporary shelter for families will debut on April 2 at 10 a.m. at it’s day center location at 578 Main Street, Tullytown, PA. Churches will take turns hosting families each week in the 30 day program to help get families back on their feet. http://www.fplb.org/

In the 30 day program, families will stay at the church in the evening and overnight. They will be taken to day centers each day, where they do their daily routines, look for jobs, get job training, and go to school or work.

The program is designed for people who have undergone hardship and are serious about returning to normal. For the safety and well being of all guests, people will be screened before entering the program and there will be strict rules.

At a recent Family Promise meeting, the speaker encouraged volunteers to interact with quests and act as a mentor.

This is the spirit that needs to blossom towards the homeless community.

It’s good to know that the churches in lower Bucks County are continuing to reach out and help those in need. That’s part of the job God gave the church. Physical, emotional and spiritual needs are something the church, empowered by God, can and should help people with.

One venue where the church is doing God’s work is at the community meals. The hosts sit down with their guest and let them know they care about them, develop relationships and listen to their concerns.

The churches in lower Bucks County are really needed to counter the  judgmental  school of thought towards the homeless, which must have come out of Wottsamatta U., certainly unchristian.

“As the homeless-run organization Picture the Homeless proclaims, ‘Don’t Talk About Us—Talk With Us!’ The homeless must be recognized as people worthy of empathy and respect,” wrote Joanna Laine in NYU Review of Law and Social Change. Right on!

One concern I found among the homeless people I started hanging out with two years ago is that people don’t want to socialize with them but keep them at a distance. Not all people do this. Interesting, it’s  mostly the churches and people of faith who have been showing empathy and respect towards the homeless.

Just as during  the civil rights movement, it’s the true church that will allow the homeless to overcome.

During the civil rights movement, there was a silent majority of whites that didn’t like the way blacks were treated. Dr. Martin Luther King appealed to these righteous people and woke them up, and demonstrated to the world that the status quo had to change. At the same time, he admonished his oppressed brothers and sisters to peacefully protest against the man, and to not, as is the case today, become an unruly, vindictive mob. MLK used the Bible as the argument for his cause. He challenged America to live up to it’s principles.

Likewise, homeless advocates can wake up the community by challenging people, pricking their consciences with scripture. I for one challenge the establishment to live up to it’s standards and show more empathy and respect towards the homeless.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”, wrote Edmund Burke, and Irish statesman, whose writings influenced the Revolutionary War.

Family Promise is an example of the church shining God’s light on the world.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

— 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Getting Through the Slough of Despond

Life is a journey. So is homelessness.

Before I started hanging out with the homeless in lower Bucks County, PA two years ago, I had no idea there was homelessness in Bucks County. I also had no idea of what homelessness was like.

The image I had of homelessness was of people lying on storm grates in Philadelphia. One day, as my daughter and I walked to a school in the city where she was in a play, we had to navigate around people sleeping on storm grates. Even though we were in Philadelphia, I was still was somewhat taken aback by seeing homeless people out in the open like that.

In Bucks County I witnessed judgmentalism against the homeless. There is a group of area residents and some nearby public office employees who just don’t like homeless people in the library or at the nearby Veteran’s memorial. People scheme to constructively shoo them away. On one occasion, one cold winter morning, a woman with COPD, after coming from Code Blue, wanted to keep warm in the WIC building before the library opened. She couldn’t walk far and just needed to stay warm. She entered the public building, which was open.

She was run out for no other reason (after you cut through the BS they gave her) than that she was homeless.

Local establishments push the homeless away, such as McDonald’s, Subway and Burger King, especially Burger King. The exceptions in the Levittown vicinity are Wendy’s and Denny’s, who judge people by the content of their character and treat people based on their behavior when they visit.

Being homeless is tough. I lived in my car for a few months. I ended up getting cramps and my feet and legs swelled up. Some people live in tents. Things are tough during inclement weather. The worst time is just above freezing rainy, windy weather. Tents leak, the ground gets flooded. The woman at the WIC ended up lying in standing water and had to be taken to the hospital.

Some homeless people live on walkways, using pads and blankets, and have to pick up every morning.

Some homeless people have addictions and other mental issues.

Whether they brought it on themselves or, as Curly from The Three Stooges would say, are “a victim of circumstances”, the homeless are hurting.

Like all of us, the homeless need God. He never promised us a rose garden, but he guides the Christian’s path, and for those who walk in his ways, he brings good. There is no quick fix, but God has our backs and in the long run comforts us.

Life is a journey, and although there are rough times, challenges along the way, for the Christian, life has meaning and is good. God will get you through the rough times, which, by the way, he allows to happen for our benefit.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  –Jeremiah 29:11

The journey to a bright future is dramatized in John Bunyan’s allegory of the soul, The Pilgrim’s Progress. The story takes you along Christian’s journey from Graceless to the Celestial City, a tale of hope. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pilgrim%27s_Progress

I read Pilgrim’s Progress many years ago. I was despondent after a girl I had a romantic interest in blew me off. My mother noticed my state and had me read John Bunyan’s book. I highly recommend it. It can be found in the Levittown public library and maybe in other branches of the Bucks County Free Library System. It’s one way the homeless can spend their time productively and be comforted and inspired.

There is a way out of the Slough of Despond.

If You Prick Us

“This guy could have been mentally ill, he could have imprinted on you, raped you, killed you, or any number of other bad things.” –Comment on a Facebook page to a friend who talked with a homeless man, as related by Joanna Laine in a piece in NYU Review of Law and Social Change.

http://socialchangenyu.com/the-harbinger/from-criminalization-to-humanization-ending-discrimination-against-the-homeless/ 

Today at a grocery store checkout in far NE Philadelphia I got into a conversation about the homeless. The cashier and the lady behind me said that the cops harass the homeless – confront them for no reason. One of them said that a woman, who causes no problem and had medical problems was harassed. A woman they both knew about said that the woman’s caretaker died and she ended up on the street.

Yesterday a homeless man was rudely run off of the Veteran’s memorial in Levittown. He was following the rules when a Bucks County guard from the nearby municipal building abruptly demanded “what are you doing here?” He replied that he was just having a snack. The guard brusquely told him he was being disrespectful and told him to leave. I don’t think the guard literally wanted to know what the homeless guy was doing but “what are you doing here?” was code for “you don’t belong here!”

Most nuisance laws directed against the homeless are unconstitutional. Advocates have challenged many of these rules in court and have won.

Here in lower Bucks County, PA, the official advocates for the homeless don’t stick up for them. On one occasion, the head librarian at the Levittown public library ordered the locks that fastened bicycles to the back rack cut because homeless people had abandoned their bikes. Some of the bikes whose locks were cut were parked and locked legally for the day.

An advocate from the Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) talked with the librarian, who claimed she had made an announcement in the library about cutting the locks so that those there for the day would not have their locks cut. A reliable source told me he was in the library at the time and would have heard if an announcement was made, but no announcement was made.

Last week this Levittown librarian kicked a homeless man out of the library. Why? She said that he had been loud all week. Other people, especially bratty kids who come to the library regularly scream and run around the library as if they were at a playground and they get a free pass.

Much of the reason for the arbitrary, unconstitutional, ad hoc laws directed against homeless people is a result of hobophobia, the irrational fear and misunderstanding of homeless people. As Ms. Laine writes:

“To truly address the criminalization of homelessness, however, it is necessary to challenge not only laws but also biases that pervade our society. Fear and discomfort around homeless people is the driving force behind anti-homeless laws, and such fears are irrational and unnecessary. As the homeless-run organization Picture the Homeless proclaims, ‘Don’t Talk About Us—Talk With Us!’ The homeless must be recognized as people worthy of empathy and respect. To end the criminalization of homelessness, we must begin the humanization of homelessness.”

Stereotyping, the one-size-fits all mentality contributes to hobophobia. As is the case in other communities, there are trouble makers. On Monday night at a community dinner one particular homeless individual raised Cain (he was probably raised by wolves).  I didn’t see him at last night’s dinner; maybe he was banned from the bus.

Well, most homeless people are not raised by wolves. Many of them are just like you and I, people who are just trying to get their lives together.

Consider the lines from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice:

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show

After a season of drama free community meals for the homeless and needy in Bucks County, PA, lately, one particular guest at the meals has been acting up. At one meal he was asked to leave and at last night’s meal, the monkey was told to settle down after snapping out, yelling at two different people.

Up until recently, the meals have been peaceful, mainly because some guests insisted that the perpetrators be disciplined, and they were. As the saying goes, evil triumphs because good people do nothing.

The community meals have not been just a place where needy people don’t just get a free meal, but a place where friends get together and socialize, sometimes having intelligent discussions on various topics and a way for the guests to bond together. It’s a place where people meet and make friends.

Although the problem people, the persona non grata disrupt the meal, the show must go on. I for one plan to continue to go to the meals.

Just because people are homeless, they don’t have to act like animals. Last night a homeless guy implied that someone from the table where I was sitting was bashing the homeless. Not true. He demanded “where do you live, a hotel, a house, a tent…?” Dwelling in self pity, basing his outrage on false information, he chided an undefined recipient of his rage not to say things about the homeless when they haven’t experienced homelessness.

False witness was the catalyst for the guy’s vehement diatribe.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

-Ephesians 4:29

It’s because of idiots like this that the community doesn’t want to help the homeless, but develops hobophobia, an irrational fear of the homeless and harasses them. Most homeless people are not like this but are just like everyone else and have become homeless because of the economy, for instance.

As The Animals sang, “one monkey don’t stop no show.”

The homeless community  needs to act civilly and show the community that they are just like everyone else. One reason Saint Patrick’s Day was created was to show the world that the Irish were not a bunch of shiftless, no good drunks but people with potential for good.

To show the community that the homeless are generally decent people and are just like you and me, we should have a homeless day parade in Bucks County. Just as was the case with civil rights for blacks during Jim Crow, the homeless need to stop making themselves a victim of circumstances and do positive things to, as The Animals also sang “get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do. We’ve got to get out of this place” and “make a better life for me and you.”

 

Churches Open Doors to Homeless

Family Promise is stepping up to the plate in lower Bucks County, PA to provide housing, meals, and services to help homeless families get back on their feet. Churches will open their doors to provide overnight shelter and meals for the families, with opening ceremonies starting April 2. Similar to Code Blue, which houses the homeless during the winter, churches participating in this program will welcome people year round.

Each morning, families are transported to a day center, where they can take care of hygiene, wash clothes, look for jobs and training, and get kids off to school. The center also offers job interview training, helps people arrange day care and helps families link up to other services, such as healthcare. Here job applicants can have a mailing address.

Although Family Promise of Lower Bucks is just housing families, including single moms, this should help others by freeing  up space in the Bucks County Emergency Shelter in Levittown, which is overflowing, with families, which get priority, taking up much of the space.

The goal of Family Promise is to help families become self sufficient, with an 80 percent success rate nationally.

To ensure the safety of the all the guests, participants are screened for substance abuse, criminal background, and mental health issues, as are strict rules.

A good part of the Family Promise program is mentoring people and making the guest feel at home. The volunteers are encouraged to mingle with the guests, while giving them their space, their privacy.

This is the atmosphere I’ve found at the community meals for the homeless and needy in lower Bucks County. As Paul Revere & The Raiders sang, it’s a good thing. http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/p/paul_revere_the_raiders/good_thing.html 

I was greatly encouraged to learn of this private organization that helps fill the great need for shelter for the homeless in lower Bucks County. In the tradition of President Grover Cleveland, who vetoed a government bailout for Texas farmers and relied on Americans to help their neighbors, the private sector is coming to the aid of it’s homeless neighbors. In the case of the Texas farmers, Americans donated more funds to help fellow Americans than was proposed in the government bailout.

The local churches are doing God’s work by reaching out to needy people. I’m honored to have signed up as an advocate and for public relations with Family Promise of Lower Bucks.

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”

–Deuteronomy 15:11

For more information: http://www.fplb.org/ 

Or, for those in the homeless community in lower Bucks County, see me, Jeff. They know me from the Navy Yard to the Boulevard. Actually, I can be found in the Levittown branch of the Bucks County Free Library and at the community meals for the homeless and needy.

Hope for the Homeless

In the past month, two homeless people in lower Bucks County, PA were laid to rest. At both services to honor their lives the pastors admonished attendees to reflect on what’s important in life and said that the funeral was a celebration of the person’s life.

Drawing from the 23rd Psalm, the pastor at Martha’s funeral spoke of how the Lord uses his children to witness to the world of God’s love and how He reaches down and pulls us out of the pit and restores us to his glory.

The pastor at the service  for Eddie said that we all have a mission, a purpose in life. The most important thing is life is Jesus and reflecting Jesus in our relationship with others.

Christians bring light to the world by showing the fruits of the spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

–Galatians 5:22-23

One thing that started happening after the funerals is that the brothers and sisters in the homeless community began to realize they need to come together. One homeless brother told me someone he had been at odds with reached out to make peace.

But all is not well. Wednesday night, on the heels of the last funeral service, someone stole a cell phone at a community meal.

The victim of the theft was angry, rightly so,  and demanded that everyone who was there be searched. Some people refused because it violates their right of privacy and probable cause. I pray that the cell phone will be returned to its rightful owner and the thief be punished.

The homeless community needs not just a place to live, but moral support. They, like King David, need to be lifted out of the pit. The establishment in Bucks County treats the homeless the way blacks were treated during the Jim Crow south.

The homeless need to be encouraged, and, as Martin Luther King preached, not hate the enemy but fight for what’s right in love. “Be angry but do not sin”, the Bible says. When people treat you rotten, it’s hard not to harbor resentment and lash out at them or shun them. I struggle with this myself. Only God can empower you to deal with problems while showing the fruits of the spirit.

When I had a problem with a public official years ago, I lamented about how I had been wronged to a counselor. The counselor said that there will be A-holes in your life, but I shouldn’t let them bring me down. I should just leave them on the ash heap of history and move on. Good advice!

Unlike Curly of The Three Stooges, who joked “I’m a victim of circumstances”, you don’t have to be a victim of circumstances. There is more to life than what you may be going through at a particular time. As the pastor at Martha’s funeral pointed out, God is there for you during the vicissitudes, the ups and downs of life. God is always there.

In the homeless community we need to be there for each other.

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth for he hath not another to help him up.

Again, if two lie together, they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

–Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 4:12