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