One Way or Another

One way or another I’m gonna find ya
I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha…

-Lyrics from Blondie’s One Way or Another

Well, the authorities found Tyrannosaurus Rex, the homeless drunk who had been on the run for weeks after having knocked another guest to the ground in an unprovoked attack at a community meal for the homeless and those in need. He now is contained in the jail in Bucks County, PA.

For some strange reason, not everyone is happy about the capture of T-Rex. They evidently don’t want to close down Jurassic Park, but still  ask, in the words of Rodney King, “why can’t we all just get along?”

When one of the victims of T-Rex’s attacks came to a community meal after T-Rex was rounded up, he was greeted with dirty looks.

Despite T-Rex running rampant, lunging at other guests at community meals, disturbing their dinner and risking harm, which actually happened, some people still think that dinosaurs and people can peacefully coexist.

Who will tame the savage beast? 

I’m a great believer that people, no matter have far they’ve fallen, can be redeemed. After my behavior was on a downward spiral, having fallen into a black hole, I finally hit the ground and turned around. God rescued me and pulled me out of the pit of despair, and has been directing my paths. I sometimes stray and sometimes forget who I am and have to be reminded and have God set me straight.

A counselor at an inpatient treatment center, where I visited a friend with an alcohol abuse problem, told the guests visiting their loved ones to establish rules, set boundaries, but to never condemn them.

We all have a beast inside us. Christians are sinners saved by grace – that is that we are forgiven by God and made right through Jesus’ death on the cross. The concept of The Noble Savage, where the restraints of civilization are removed, creates chaos, which we’ve witnessed in barbaric protests from savages who don’t like the results of the recent election. People are not inherently good.

There is something inside us that tells us to not just do what we feel like doing, that something is wrong. This comes from God.

T Rex and his sidekick, as word in the homeless community has it, harassed a disabled person, who was defenseless. Sometime after that, someone took the poles out of the sidekick’s, who is still at large, tent, flattened it and took the poles.

People in the homeless community, who don’t like snitches, are starting to see T-Rex and his sidekick for the monsters they are. They are having second thoughts about keeping Jurassic Park open.

An aid for The Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) who didn’t really know T-Rex, and AHTN  are finally starting to see T-Rex for what he is.

People can change, if they are willing to. Maybe with his extended time out, T-Rex will have a chance to think about what he’s been doing. The victim wants to see T-Rex straighten out – to get help. Help is out there, but you have to want to help yourself. The first step is to admit you have a problem and that you need help.

Recognizing your problem takes longer for some people than others. A guy with a drug problem who used to go to the community meals, as a relative told me, finally started to get his act together. Awhile back, one of the hosts ministered to the man, who was out of sorts. During the meal, he occasionally stuttered that he needs to get treatment. He got it. The rehab is going well. He has a job.

When I was visiting the friend at a treatment center in Bucks County, I ran into this guy. He said that he understood the seriousness of his problem then and followed through on committing himself to getting straight.

This is an example of people that can be worked with. The only thing that can done for incorrigible people such as T-Rex, who is repeatedly drunk and disorderly, is to have them arrested. Maybe someday T-Rex and others with chronic social problems will come around.

A Song of degrees. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

-Psalm 121:1

They Are Weak But…

In a conversation at our table at a recent community meal for the homeless and needy, we talked about a guy who came to an earlier meal drunk and disorderly and was consequently banned from the bus temporarily. Someone remarked that we have to realize that people have weaknesses.

For sure, we all have weaknesses. It’s just a matter of what kind and to what degree.

We need to reach out to help people who become slaves to alcohol or other substances, to food, material things, romantic relationships and so on. Throughout history, humans have worshipped false gods, idols. A woman said of her then boyfriend that he thinks he can find the answer to problems in the bottle.

Today, drug abuse has become an epidemic! In lower Bucks County, PA, I know more than a dozen people who have a drug problem. And a few who abuse alcohol.

Why? “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” -2nd Corinthians 4:4

I remember an interview years ago with a minister who reached out to gangs and troubled youths  to try to resolve problems. The interviewer asked him what he would do before he could help them change – if a group of thugs closed in on him in an alley. “Then I would put on my P.F. Flyers and run,” he quipped.

The point is that when people engage in destructive, anti-social behavior, the only recourse is to restrain that behavior. Actions have consequences, and when other people are offended or hurt by someone’s behavior, justice demands that they answer for their actions.

But offenders need to have an opportunity to help themselves and work on resolving their problems, overcoming their weaknesses. A victim of someone with a weakness told me that if he were ever going to file a complaint, he would insist to the authorities that the offender be offered treatment in lieu of a fine or other punishment.

I once had a difference of opinion with a law enforcement ranger at a Pennsylvania State Park where I worked about crime. The ranger’s take was that once someone got into the criminal system, he automatically became a career criminal. That someone who enters the criminal system is a hopeless case, trapped in a pattern of sin and criminality was a prevailing view held in the prison system more than 150 years ago, and to some extent today. To counter that view, I cited the case of the short story writer known as O. Henry, who was sentenced to five years in jail for embezzlement. In jail, O. Henry spent his time doing constructive things, including writing. He was released after three years for good behavior and then continued to be a productive, law abiding member of society.

“He was being punished!”, the ranger snapped. He then Augustly said that my view doesn’t agree with the state of Pennsylvania. That didn’t convince me. I don’t subscribe to the view that just because the state decrees something, like King Ozymandias, it doesn’t mean it’s so. The state is not infallible. It is not God!

I believe that people can be restored, their weaknesses overcome. The Bible abounds with examples of people God strengthened, made right. You should read it sometime. The problem with our culture today is that we took God out of the picture.

People can change. But they have to be willing to work on their weaknesses. We should at least offer help. As Lord Alfred Hayes used to say on World Federation Wrestling when he promoted an aftershave that women like men to wear, “the rest is up to you.”

No matter how far you’ve fallen, God can restore you.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.” -Joel 2:25

Down But Not Out

Rick Proudfoot was an electrician. Because of the economy, he couldn’t find work and became homeless. He ended up sleeping in city parks; the penalty for which is $300 or 30 days in jail.

But this was only for a season. Somehow he found his way to Dignity Village, an official homeless community in Portland, Oregon. For two years now, he’s been CEO of the self-funded, self managed, and self governed community.

Lisa Larson was on the street for two years, camping on sidewalks and sleeping in abandoned buildings. While serving time in jail with her husband for chronically violating the ban against homeless camping in Milwaukie, Oregon, another homeless person told her about Dignity Village. Today she’s the village’s chief executive officer and the official spokesperson for Dignity Village.

Unlike Curly of The Three Stooges, you don’t have to be a victim of circumstances. You can get out of that place, if it’s the last thing you ever do and make a better life.

The moral of the story is not to write off people who are down and out. Homeless people have the potential to improve their lot.

People in Bucks County, PA should learn a lesson from these success stories. Here in Bucks, the homeless are often written off a never-do-wells, and the establishment just wants to keep them down. The conventional wisdom is that the average homeless person is a mental case, druggie or drunk. People who frequent the library want them removed without cause. On one occasion a county official said that people were not comfortable visiting the nearby Veterans Memorial when the homeless are there.

There certainly are some mental cases in the group. I’ve gathered that at least two of them who attend the community meals are complete nutcases. And there are a few drunks and druggies. The druggies are generally refugees from the local recovery houses that the feds have pushed on the community in lower Bucks County. There are about 100 of them just in Levittown, PA. The biggest thing the homeless are hooked on is tobacco.

The homeless in Bucks County are fair game for the mental health industry, whose hustlers aggressively canvas the homeless community to sign them up for their services and use taxpayer funds. When I was on a quest for housing, Alan Johnson, now with Bucks County Family Services, said he’d find housing for me if I was willing to write myself off as being so messed up mentally I could not work the rest of my life. He’s made that offer to others.

Alan once told me that he doesn’t subscribe to housing first. He said that people have to get straight before they move into a residence. This presupposes that all homeless people are dysfunctional. I vehemently disagree!

Many of the homeless in lower Bucks County work, some sporadically, some somewhat regularly. One guy, for example, one of the “library people” is a professional homeless person. He quit jobs because he doesn’t want to work but just wants handouts and to play video games in the library all day. Many of the homeless, however, are serious about working. At one of the community meals I overheard a conversation between two homeless guys who have been working sporadically. They agreed that they want to get into a work routine.

Some homeless people have gotten good jobs and are living like everyone else.

If they are willing, homeless people can change their circumstances, given the opportunity. Even those who abuse drugs and alcohol can change. It’s good that churches in the area are reaching out to the homeless and not just helping them with physical needs; they help them with their problems. At one community meal, one of the hosts ministered to a guy with a drug problem, one on one. Sometime after that, I saw him at a temporary treatment center. He realized the seriousness of the problem and told me he is determined to persevere with treatment. I believe he moved on to a longer term treatment center.

Another guy recently returned to the community and got clean. At one of the community meals a host announced that he was going to give his testimony.

Ultimately, it’s God who can deliver people, no matter what the problem, if you let Him.

“The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”

–Nahum 1:7