Please, Sir, I Want More!

In Charles Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist is a victim of slow starvation.  A homeless rescue, he is given only three small bowls of oatmeal per day, an onion twice a week and a roll on Sunday. One day, Oliver dares to ask “Please, sir, I want some more.”  https://www.enotes.com/topics/oliver-twist/quotes/please-sir-want-some-more 

Today at the shared meals in Bucks County, PA, some of the homeless and needy, who are well fed, between food stamps, food banks and other sources don’t ask “Please sir, I want more.”  They scarf up seconds and sometimes thirds before others haven’t even been fed yet! Unlike Oliver Twist, they are not starving and some of them are getting fat. In some cases they bum rush the grub and pig out before others are fed. Some subscribe to the entitlement mentality and some have PMS (poor me syndrome). 

The problem in some cases is that the hosts don’t monitor the meals. You would think that guests would be more mindful of others who are in the same situation they are in.  Some hosts are very good about sharing in the shared meals. When the hosts served their guests at a shared meal I went to recently they unequivocally said there are no seconds. The meals are not only very tasty, but certainly enough to sustain the guests. Other hosts make sure everyone was fed before offering seconds and wait partway through the meals to offer seconds in the event some people come late (for legitimate reasons). 

Gluttony, which is sometimes the case, just leads to problems and makes poor people complacent. It’s like feeding waterfowl bread. When birds are given welfare, they don’t want to fly south for the winter. They are unable to get themselves off the ground.  Likewise, there are some who become chronic, professional homeless people. Some are trapped for decades. Besides PMS, the money wasted on cigarettes keeps the homeless and needy in poverty, not to mention more sickly and unproductive. 

Some organizations want to keep the homeless in poverty. Like welfare, it keeps their programs funded. One in particular often doesn’t keep its website updated. On days there were actually shared meals, the site read there are no events today. Lately, they were up to date and read “no meal today.” They should be more diligent, but then they would have to come off their Ivory Tower and care and serve those struggling, rather than be self-serving. 

One extreme example of fostering gluttony is a caseworker from Penndel Mental Health who brought a grossly overweight client (she weighed 300 pounds), junk food. 

To help the homeless and needy, we need to give them a hand up to help them become productive members of society, and not hand-outs to keep them trapped. 

I discuss these sorts of things in my book:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/172865209X/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_.iX9BbZXM6842?fbclid=IwAR14Y8jAxc462oqzltCCdZGq4BCLQg-HW8VEoAdpkGjog9Q78PqGh6zTTIA 

Money Well Spent?

Fundraising for the 7th Annual Conquering Grounds Music Fest & Relapse Prevention event in September is inching along. The event is being funded by private organizations where people just want to help people conquer the voluntary slavery of addiction and are doing it without pay. Bob Sofronski's photo.

On the contrary, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick wants to soak the taxpayers $25 billion to fund programs that don’t work. http://levittownnow.com/2019/05/29/bill-introduced-by-congressman-would-create-25-billion-opioid-epidemic-response-fund/ 

The group of folks who have organized, as grass-roots citizens have something that works, and has been working for years. Take the Conquering Life Prison & Recovery Ministries (CLPRM) for example.  http://www.clprm.org/ 

In participating in various CLPRM ministries since August, 2018, I have discovered the right way to fight the opioid crisis. I have heard testimony after testimony, talk after talk, got to know redeemed addicts through CLPRM. And there is a network where I learned of Christian events where I was enriched. The problem of addiction has the same root the rest of us with problems: sin.  Unlike the government initiatives, which call addiction a disease and claim it is not a moral failing, these programs really help people. The money the government wants to take from citizens leaves us with less money we could use to voluntarily fund programs that are much more effective in curbing the opioid crisis, which is really a symptom of a spiritually bankrupt society.  

One thing everyone could agree on is that there is a drug abuse epidemic, and something needs to be done about it.  The latest statistics posted on the board in front of the Levittown-Fairless Hills Rescue Squad, posted by the squad on June 27, 2019: 

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The politicians and the government had their chance. It’s about time we the people decide the best way to help people conquer their voluntary slavery of addiction.  Abusing drugs is a choice (why do you think they call it dope?). How to best help addicts should also be a choice. We need more accountability for anti-drug programs as well as for the addicts. If, as the modern mantra goes, which politicians like to spout, drug addiction is a disease, then they can’t help themselves. Well, we can help them help themselves! 

Another Homeless Hurdle

In my last blog, I wrote about building in front of the Bucks County Government Center at the edge of New Falls Road in Levittown, PA.  One project actually started construction, on the side of the Levittown-Fairless Hills Rescue Squad towards the Bucks County Technical School.   A project to build affordable housing on the opposite side of the rescue squad, between the squad and the district justice building, is in the works, meeting resistance. The rescue squad owns the property.  http://levittownnow.com/2019/06/24/58-unit-affordable-housing-project-proposed-for-2-7-acre-levittown-property/  Yesterday I had good conversations at the Bucks County Mutual Aid event held in the parking lot of the government center. Bucks County Mutual Aid is a grass-roots, volunteer organization where private citizens make donations to give clothing, food and water to needy people.  The volunteers have the gatherings once a month.   The event was not just a matter of giving people things, but a place where people can discuss any matters they wish. It was informal; no programming, spontaneous. I discussed the reasons for homelessness, who the homeless are, obstacles, and possible solutions. Included in my talks with people was the affordable homeless project.   One thing I brought out was that in some cases, individual homeless people create obstacles. People outside the community become prejudice based on the actions of some individuals, which is wrongheaded thinking!  One thing I agreed on with the Bucks County Mutual Aid leaders is the role of community, neighbor helping neighbor, and getting to know the homeless as individuals. As the slogan, coined by some homeless people, goes: “Don’t talk about us; talk with us.”  I learned about the Bucks Mutual Aid event though a friend, who is one of the real-life characters in my book, which provides a realistic look at the homeless, based on my years of hanging with the homeless in Bucks County: “There Are Homeless in Bucks County; A Journey With The Homeless.”  My friend gave copies of my book to people associated with Bucks Mutual Aid.  At last month’s event, he told people there that the author may be there. I didn’t make it last time but I was part of the group yesterday.  In my book, I offer constructive criticism and try to speak the truth in love. Both the homeless and the establishment need to change some of their ways. At the gathering, I was reminded of an obstacle to escaping homelessness: Smoking.  There were many chain-smoking fiends there, who sometimes smoked in close quarters to non-smokers. One person at the event smoked while getting food at the table!    The homeless should be given an opportunity to work their way out of homelessness. It takes both the community and the individual homeless to have the right attitude and do the right thing.  These are some of the things I address in the book: https://www.amazon.com/There-Are-Homeless-Buck-County/dp/172865209X/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=there%20are%20homeless%20in%20bucks%20county&qid=1555953133&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&fbclid=IwAR3rVqO3lBAN-7f-EyYXkEWjQhEr_reZi1CHsXICDyQtHGIgxX92Dn4Dp4E  This blog site was originally a result of a failed, nascent non-profit to provide housing for the homeless a friend and I started. We couldn’t get it off the ground. We found that those who had more resources than we had couldn’t create homeless housing either. Proposed projects were stonewalled. Realizing the main problem was prejudice against the homeless, we started the blogs to try to change the hearts and minds of the community, somewhat like Dr. Martin Luther King’s campaign.    We shall overcome! 

Where Will All The Homeless Go?

Finding housing in Bucks County, PA is the biggest problem facing the homeless. At the shared meals, the hosts have been very generous in feeding the homeless and giving them clothes, toiletries and other items. But housing availability is stingy. 

From the Levittown library you can see a building under construction just before New Falls Road, between the Levittown-Fairless Hills Rescue Squad and the Bucks County Technical School, abutting the rescue squad. What’s in the works is an affordable housing project.  Housing Visions, which is associated with Interfaith Housing, whose mission is to create affordable housing in lower Bucks County is fighting to accomplish the project.  http://levittownnow.com/2019/06/24/58-unit-affordable-housing-project-proposed-for-2-7-acre-levittown-property/ 

Interfaith Housing has teamed up with church groups, communities and businesses to create housing for the poor.  http://interfaithhousingvisions.org/site/about-us/ 

Although there is more vacant property than there are homeless in Bucks County, it’s been a struggle to create housing for the homeless.  Prejudice against the homeless is a major obstacle for this quest.  When Interfaith Housing proposed to purchase the closed Maple Shade Elementary School in Bristol Township to develop a multi-phase housing development for those 55 and up and later add housing for veterans and a community center was stonewalled. Stopping the annual Stand Down for homeless and needy veterans that was held behind the Levittown Library for three days and two nights is evidence of an attitude in Bucks County towards the homeless and veterans. 

A few years back a homeless person (now not homeless) told me that a Bristol Borough businessman tried to proceed with plans to create housing for the homeless. As soon as the establishment discovered the plan was for the homeless, the project was stonewalled! 

Affordable housing is much needed in Bucks County, where the homeless problem is growing. As I wrote in my book “There Are Homeless in Bucks County; A Journey With The Homeless”, Bucks County doesn’t want the homeless at large, but it has no viable plan to house the homeless. 

https://www.amazon.com/There-Are-Homeless-Buck-County/dp/172865209X/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=there+are+homeless+in+bucks+county&qid=1555953133&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull 

Staying On The King’s Highway

Ever since the first century church, there has been times when church practices and doctrine don’t match what Jesus taught. Even people who start out on the King’s Highway (a reference to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress) start going down the wrong road. 

The Salvation Army Levittown PA Community Center is an example of getting off track.  

After having fallen financially and spiritually early 2014, I entered the Salvation Army Community Center to get food from the food pantry. I was puzzled at the brusque manner in which the woman who ran the pantry treated the customers.  Her demeanor didn’t seem to reflect the image I had of Salvation Army people.   

Despite this experience, shortly thereafter I started worshipping at this center.  The church seemed to be theologically sound, putting the emphasis on scripture. I was going through a rough time. Broken, the church helped me put the pieces back together.   

But in time, I found the behavior of some of the folks there were not Christian, and the one in charge, whom I nicknamed Caspar Milquetoast, didn’t resolve problems when I was victimized when I volunteered in the food pantry.  The employee who ran the food pantry, whom one of my fellow volunteers called Queen Latifah, bullied me and other volunteers. On one occasion, when a young camp counselor spoke briefly on his way to get with the camp kids, the queen got in the kid’s face, saying something like “where you supposed to be; you best get their now!”, making street-like motions. She treated us three volunteers as if we were mannequins. But when it came to a counselor of her race, the youth helper had free run of the pantry; she didn’t inform us that the camp counselor had permission to go into a restricted area. 

Interesting, at a recent meal for the homeless and needy (not the homeless and greedy), one of the guests at my table said the food pantry head, who also hosts the meals, is “racist.” Many of the guests who attend the meals won’t go to the Salvation Army meals. Some poor, desperate souls have to go to the Salvation Army meal, and occasionally have to put up with abuse, condescension.  

On one occasion the queen told me that I wouldn’t listen to her because she is black. I responded “People have a problem with you because you talk down to people!” 

Another Salvation Army official, who is in charge of community relations and development, whom I’ve nicknamed The Countess of Carlisle, used her position to block an offer from someone I met at the center from regional to write for the Salvation Army.  During a conversation I had with another volunteer, where I said that I had a problem with the way the local library constructively aims to keep the homeless out of the library just because they are homeless, the Countess said the library should keep the homeless out of the library, simply because there are people who don’t like them there.  

This is not the historic Salvation Army that went to bat for the down and out and were attacked by those who didn’t agree with them helping drunks but they stood their ground for what is right. In contrast, today’s Salvation Army tends to kowtow to the politically correct! 

Recently, there was another church that hosted the shared meals that I found a big, conspicuous problem with. As my girlfriend and I were waiting to be let into the shared meal, she noticed different flags flying, but not the American flag. I noticed a “Black Lives Matter” sign, and then the homo promo rainbow flag. All lives matter! And scripture is clearly against homosexuality. We are all sinners but the church needs to set people on the right road, and preach what is right! As the preacher said at my father’s memorial service, God comes to us sinners and makes us saints! Evidently, this church is not Biblical. The hosts, however, were very gracious. 

Churches, like the people who visit them, need to act like Jesus, and should listen to their brothers and sisters when they (it is hoped), point out gently their error. I’ve been reading about this in the Recovery Devotional, which not only applies to addicts but to the rest of us, including me! 

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 

We need to remember this, and hold one another accountable to this standard!

To learn more about the homeless, focusing on Bucks County, PA, read: https://www.amazon.com/There-Are-Homeless-Buck-County/dp/172865209X/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=there%20are%20homeless%20in%20bucks%20county&qid=1555953133&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&fbclid=IwAR2qT8c-IdV5tS_lDCYj3RGXcKvtvKBLfS2dJbPw857-W2fURTjVivU5UW8