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.

The Noble Savage

I try to look at the good at the Levittown branch of the Bucks County Free Library System in Levittown, PA, but the unwarranted singling out of homeless people is a dark secret Bucks County is trying to hide.

The Good:

The chair yoga program is tops.  I’ve been able to breathe better and loosen up.  After one class, I felt like the Tin Man after getting a gallon of lubricant while feeling strong. I’ve even been able to clear my lungs and throat somewhat as my breathing was a little labored because of a cough and runny nose, possibly early signs of bronchitis. The computers, from which you can print, are good. Most of the staff is friendly and very helpful.

There is also a drop in program so people can get help with their laptops.

But…

Since I’ve been exposing the library’s dark secret, the librarian has been backing off the homeless, but it’s still there.

In the past, problem people, who happen to be homeless, have been punished, except for two pets of Christine from the Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN), who were caught having sex at the old homeless bus stop. The library punished the whole group by removing the bus stop, leaving the concrete strip with a sign “Emergency Assembly Area”, and the homeless have to catch the bus in the middle of the parking lot.

Yesterday, a few people at the computers were talking quietly for a few minutes and a rude, loud mouth started screaming at people, starting with something like “shut up; this is a library.”  When someone asked him to be more polite about it, he went ballistic, and started using the F-word frequently. One guy walked over and told him to knock it off, especially because there are children around. The conversation got heated between Loud Mouth and others. One guy asked loud mouth to go outside, a few times, and the security guy asked him stop and let him handle it.

A lady approached the fowl loud mouth and told him he shouldn’t be cursing around her kids.

The guy who asked Loud Mouth repeatedly to go  outside was banned from the library for a week.   When I walked in with him to talk to Pat, the head librarian, she confirmed the ban, and she mentioned that he had cursed before. I told her that he was not cursing yesterday; Loud Mouth was the only one cursing. I may just as well have been talking to the wall.  It’s hard to have an intelligent, two way discussion with a robot. Pat just needed an excuse to oppress a homeless person.

The security guy said the problem was that the guy did not adhere to him telling him repeatedly to back off. He said that Loud Mouth was banned for a much longer time than the guy who confronted him.

I understand that when a library patron doesn’t comply with security’s orders that the problem can escalate, and that the guy had cursed before and that this was cumulative, but I still think the punishment was too much. The guy should have backed off right away, but he did back off. Loud Mouth was really out of control and he was aggravating everybody, and the guy who confronted him did cool down.

I believe the librarian’s prejudice against the homeless and her liberal punish everyone group think mentality influenced her decision.

Soccer moms bring kids who incessantly scream in the library and this disturbs other library patrons much more than the guy who confronted Loud Mouth, yet she says nothing to them.

There is a double standard at the library:

  • On several occasions Pat walked past some screaming kids and then went by them five minutes later. They were still screaming and she didn’t even say anything to them. Completely oblivious.
  • There are two brothers who regularly visit the Levittown library who can be heard, loudly, literally throughout the library, almost non stop. They also get a free pass.
  • Some time ago, when I briefly and quietly talked with a homeless man, Pat stormed out of the office and stammered “this conversation is getting heated, you better…”  I confronted her. After she walked away, I muttered “she’s an A-hole.”  One of the librarians smugly said “are you leaving?”  “No”, I replied. I went over to the computer to look up directions for a community dinner I was about to take a frail, homeless woman to. Pat said I had to leave after I looked up the directions. When I went to the area where the woman and other homeless people sat, a librarian Augustly said “are you leaving?”  I explained I was waiting for my friend, who is slow to get up. “You have to leave now,” Pat demanded.  “Excuse me”, I said, “I don’t say ‘how high?’ when you say ‘jump.'” I confronted her about harassing the homeless and the double standard with the bratty kids. She must think that denial is a river in Egypt. She threatened to call the police. As we exited stage left, Pat held the phone to her ear, eyeballing us until we went out the door, to intimidate us.

There are problems at the library and the surrounding area, including the woods by the library where until recently the homeless stayed. As has been the case at the Veteran’s Memorial, it’s mainly the druggies who get kicked out of local recovery houses and end up homeless who cause problems at the library.  Recently, a druggie was found in the men’s room doing drugs, and, rightly so, was held accountable for his actions.

It was the druggies who precipitated the recent raid on the homeless in the woods. The Chief Bucks County Ranger told me there were complaints of drug use, with syringes as evidence, and there were warrants against people believed to be in the woods by the Levittown library

About a year and 1/2 ago, a druggie who lived in the woods by the library was brought to justice for stealing items from the library and for other crimes.

There were some incidents of certain members of the homeless community who engaged in altercations with one another, fighting, and being drunk and disorderly. But that was readily taken care of.

Several months ago, a friend overheard someone at a library meeting say something to the effect “What are we going to do about the question people have about the homeless making the library their hangout?”

“Pat’s (head librarian) taking care of that,” the speaker replied.

To Pat’s credit, she has been backing off, but this recent event hints of the Empire Striking Back. Treating the homeless with more respect is due to holding the library accountable, education about the homeless, and the realization that there are homeless who visit the library who use it property. Some of them read books, look for jobs and do other productive things.  

The Levittown Public Library is a microcosm of today’s society. There is much anger, which often gets out of control, anxiety, depression, and, as evidenced especially in the last two presidential elections, delusional disorders. People today don’t discipline their kids. The preschool my daughter attended taught the children the difference between an indoor voice and an outdoor voice. Many of the brats who enter the library don’t subscribe to this philosophy. The parents evidently instill in them the Noble Savage philosophy, where you just let it all hang out without the restraints of civilization, which they must have learned at Woodstock.

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_savage 

It’s not civilization that corrupts. On the contrary, it’s our “natural” sinful nature that causes us to erupt in anger, as was the case at the library yesterday. I for one, have gone to God with whom I submitted to have him mold me to be a more civilized person.

To stop the drama at places such as the Levittown public library, we need to change people from the inside, including myself.

Galatians 5:22-23:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.