Don’t Talk About Us – Talk With Us!

Up until about three years ago, the only real life image I had of the homeless was when my daughter and I were walking in Philadelphia and had to navigate around several homeless people who were sleeping on heated grates.  As Neil Young sang “There’s more to the picture than meets the eye. Hey, hey, my, my…”

I keep hearing stories where caring people plan to provide housing for the homeless but are thwarted by the establishment, even when the projects will be privately funded. I’ve found this to be the case in Bucks County, PA and in Burlington County, New Jersey, an area infested with liberal Democrats, if you will excuse the redundancy.  The biggest obstacle to creating housing for the homeless is hobophobia, the irrational fear of the homeless.  Many people are prejudice against the homeless, driven my homeless myths: http://citizensservingthehomeless.org/myths.html

Discrimination against the homeless is much like racial prejudice in the Jim Crow south. Although there are not blatant segregationist bans against the homeless, like separate bathrooms, motels, laundry mats and seating on buses, there is a de facto segregationist mentality against the homeless. Some fast food restaurants find excuses to keep the homeless from staying long. In one case, in Bristol, PA the general manager of the Burger King at Beaver Dam Road and Bristol Pike has a policy to ban the homeless because she assumes that they all panhandle.

Just as during Jim Crow people were judged by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character, today the homeless are judged by their housing status. Society has blacklisted communities for the homeless. Although there are anti-discrimination laws, the homeless are nonetheless discriminated against; the same laws that apply to others don’t apply to the homeless.

In her piece on the NYU Review of Law and Social Change, Joanna Laine explains why the homeless are treated like criminals:

“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.”

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

In the three years I’ve hung out with the homeless, I’ve learned that they are not just a bunch of people who sleep on heated grates. As I discovered doing a research project on the Anasazi Indians of the American Southwest, the ancient ones, the ancestors of modern tribes, that they are not a homogeneous group, I found in real life that the homeless are not all the same, just as is the case with people who are not homeless.

It’s about time that our society treats the homeless as human beings, as Americans who deserve equal standing.  As was the case with the civil rights movement, we need to treat the homeless by the content of their character and stop the discrimination that keeps them from being treated like the rest of us.

Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.” -Psalm 82:4

We’re All The Same

Two Burger Kings, a McDonalds and a Subway in lower Bucks County, PA doesn’t like the homeless in their establishment, and try to get rid of them ASAP. So does the Levittown public library and surrounding area.

Yet, we read all the time about people who are not homeless committing crimes. The latest was from a 19 year old druggie, who pawned his girlfriend’s watch and laptop. He also pawned a Playstation 4 from his parent’s house! This, he told police, was to support his drug habit. http://levittownnow.com/2016/12/27/cops-man-pawns-girlfriends-property/

Unlike Burger King, McDonalds and Subway, Denny’s in Penndel and Wendy’s in Levittown welcomes everybody – treats them the same. Their policy is based on the content of the character and not their living arrangements.

Denny’s manager told me that my friend and I, homeless at the time, were welcome to stay as long as we like as long as it isn’t crowded. Likewise did a manager at Wendy’s. This manager told me a story about a time someone invited a homeless man in for a meal into a Burger King where he worked. A customer nervously approached the counter and frantically told the staff that a homeless guy came in.

“So?”, the storyteller remarked. The Wendy’s manager said that he thought this was silly – to get worked up about the homeless entering the establishment.

The rundown on Burger King, McDonald’s and Subway:

  • Burger King: At the one in Bristol @Beaverdam Road and Bristol Pike, one morning a homeless woman went to the counter for her free refill. The general manager snapped that she wasn’t allowed to hang out there all day. One night, after this rude behavior, when we entered, the shift manager told us my sick homeless friend was not allowed there. When I pressed her for a reason, she said the manager doesn’t want homeless people there because they panhandle.
  • Burger King: Near the Oxford Valley Mall: One day, as my friend was getting more food, the general manager demanded my friend leave immediately before he calls the police. My sick friend was able to stay at the next door Boston Market, who graciously allowed her to stay until I picked her up.
  • McDonald’s Fairless Hills, in the Giant Parking Lot: The manager, whom I call “Twenty Minutes”, booted my friend because she was there 20 minutes, tossed the sick woman out into cold, rainy windy weather. When I came to pick her up, I asked Ms. Minutes where my friend was. She said she was waiting for the bus. When I told her my friend was not there, she sarcastically said my friend was not her responsibility. I reminded Ms. Minutes that she threw my sick friend out into the inclement weather. I called her a low life and said I would no longer spend a penny there and would tell everyone not to patronize McDonalds.
  • Subway near the old Walmart: After staying a short while, my friend was booted. The rationale: She was smoking in the ladies room. I doubt that. It was about 70 degrees out with little to no wind. When I spoke with the manager and just said some homeless just need a place to linger after they eat, he Augustly said that the restaurant is not for the homeless. At night, some homeless friends and I used to hang out and had friendly conversations with the hostess on duty.

The homeless are simply people, whom for one reason or another, don’t have a dwelling. Other than that, they are simply a microcosm of society.

At a recent homeless and needy community meal, a friend who had been working couldn’t move into a room because he got laid off. But he told me he would keep trying and had faith that he’d find a place in time. I have faith in general but in particular after the recent election that businesses will again flourish. By cutting taxes and asinine, onerous regulations, the economy improves and there are more jobs and less homelessness. I believe that under progressive rule (progressing to socialism), there is more homelessness. I entitled a blog about this “Fight Homelessness; Don’t Vote for Progressives.”

Another homeless friend recently told me that she had been saving money by working, and thought she’d have a place by September. Consequently, she gave the hand and foot warmers I gave her ages ago to another homeless person. She expects to find a place soon.

There are other former homeless people who “have made it.”

As is the case with other populations, there are problem people. One homeless man who came to a dinner drunk on several occasions, the last time knocking a man down, cutting the back of his head, is now in the Bucks County jail.

Because caring people stepped up and did something about this wrongdoing, the community meals are now peaceful – a joyful place to go where people can go to find solace among friends and the hosts. Being homeless doesn’t excuse bad behavior. Contributions to homeless stereotypes are not tax deductible!

US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once said on C-Span that blacks should not be excused for bad behavior because of past wrongs against them. Doing this, the judge said, would lower them to being animals, where they can’t make moral choices of right and wrong. Ditto for the homeless.

Reporting a homeless man committing a crime shows that there are people who treat the homeless like human beings and not animals, expecting civil behavior. This has sent a message through the homeless community that bad behavior will not be tolerated and will have consequences. This is the way to give peace a chance.

“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.”

Acts 10:34

Wossamatta U Homeless?

“Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.  See how great a forest a little fire kindles!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.  The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”

–James 3:5,6.

Like other communities today, there are problems in the homeless community. Although in places such as Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the homeless are considered undesirable by some people, unfortunately by some who have influence, and they have gotten an unfair shake, some problems are caused by members of the homeless community themselves.

Bucks County tends to use the one-size-fits-all approach to the homeless and stereotypes them. One stereotype is that all homeless have mental problems. One dubious report stated that 95 percent of the homeless are mental.

The county has been capitalizing of this myth by actively seeking homeless people to sign them up for their taxpayer funded mental health centers, often offering them housing if the climb aboard the Disoriented Express, using their public funds.

Fraud by the county is not the only problem. The problem is that, like all of us, we have fallen away from God’s ways and as a result have unresolved conflicts. According to pastor and Christian counselor Dr. Jay Adams, except for “organic malfunctions affecting the brain that are caused by brain damage, tumors, gene inheritance, glandular or chemical disorders” most cases of people labeled “mentally ill” are wrong.

Because of false witness, which the Bible clearly speaks against — “A false witness [that] speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”– there has been altercations, some physical in the homeless community in lower Bucks County. A spark of lies has created a wildfire across this community.

Last night I, and others who were eating at a community meal for the homeless and those in need were sickened by the gossip spewed out by a members at the table where I was sitting.   Someone lamented that a guy, who was falsely accused of “ratting out” the locations of homeless camps, being a pervert, exploiting women, etc. was still going to the community meals. Because she, and others who fell in lockstep said so, he should not still be going to the meals.

One of the Kool-aide drinkers said that it’s good the guy hasn’t been riding the free bus run by the Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) to the meals because he “ran his mouth”. Another judgmental person reveled in the memory of the guy getting “tuned up” in the parking lot. One idiot quipped that he should have been tuned up more and that the job should have been finished.

So much anger! Such much hate! So little evidence!

To discover the truth, I did some research. I looked on Megan’s List, which included photos of perpetrators, and did not find him. As to the “ratting out” of where the homeless were staying, I learned that after the group Warming Hearts visited two camps bearing gifts, like The Trojan Horse, the next day or so these camps were raided. I had also heard from a credible source that this group didn’t deliver on a promise to bring gifts to members of “The Memorial Mob”, who hung out in the vicinity of the public library in Levittown.

There were articles in LevittownNow.com about one camp, where it was reported the occupants were given a camper, which could be seen from Route 13. A representative from Warming Hearts was quoted in the article. The article mentioned that, although the landowner let the homeless camp on his property, there were complaints from neighbors. About a year after this article was published, a local district justice ordered the homeless to leave the property. The case was appealed and they were given a stay, but eventually the homeless had to leave.

The homeless who camped in Queen Anne Woods, starting behind the Levittown public library, were ordered to leave. Bucks County Rangers collapsed tents, told the homeless in person and left eviction notices. In an email, Steve Long, Chief Bucks County Ranger told me that the raid was a result of drug use and people with warrants living in the Queen Anne Woods. Steve told me there were complaints about syringes in the woods. I learned that the Rangers had to go into the woods to take someone who overdosed to the ER.

In some cases certain irresponsible individuals in the homeless community  cause everybody the whole encampment to have to leave.  I believe that the guy who has been the object of scorn in the homeless community was overheard offering constructive criticism to this affect.

It’s mostly the druggies, most if not all refugees from the local recovery houses the feds have been pushing down our throats, who have been causing problems for all the homeless.

A close homeless friend told me that everyone was booted from a homeless camp where she stayed because some people abused the privilege the property owner gave them. They were allowed to charge cell phones, but some of them started plugging in TVs and using more electricity than they were allowed.  My friend also said that people (probably druggies) were stealing copper.

I understand that homelessness is tough, and that people are angry and frustrated at their situation. I lived in my car for a few months. My feet and my legs swelled up. The problem is that in this case the anger in the homeless community is misdirected and they made someone a scapegoat.

There have been small victories. A guy who was misinformed that I had ratted him out and who was after me and the scapegoat ended up sitting with us at a community meal, because there was nowhere else to sit. We reasoned together and made peace, all three of us.

Even when there are legitimate gripes, where the homeless are harassed at the Levittown public library, the Veteran’s Memorial, the WIC building, and at fast food restaurants such as Subway, McDonalds, and especially at Burger Kings, they still need to be as cool as possible. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr told blacks, who were harassed during the Jim Crow South, to keep their cool under pressure and act responsibly. They did, and they overcame.

The lower Bucks County homeless community needs to heed the eighth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” as well the other commandments.

The homeless community, like the rest of us, especially myself, needs to listen to God and trust and obey Him. This is the way to peace.

We Shall Overcome

“Judge a man by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin,” preached Dr. Martin Luther King. In places like Bucks County, PA, judging by the content of one’s character doesn’t apply to the homeless.

Awhile back, I posted about Burger King’s discrimination against a homeless friend in Langhorne and Bristol, PA.  The Langhorne Burger King is near the Oxford Valley Mall and the other is at Bristol Pike and Beaver Dam Road.

At the Langhorne Burger King, I had left my homeless friend, who has cancer and is very thin and looks sickly, there while I took handicapped people to the doctor. My friend bought food, and as she was went to get her free coffee refill, the manager demanded she leave before he called the cops. She called me and I told her to stand her ground. But she was intimidated and went to the nearby Boston Market, where she was allowed to wait for me to pick her up, without having to order anything. It was cold and rainy out, and the creep-manager, a foreigner, didn’t care.

At the Bristol Burger King, I had dropped off my homeless friend, where she ordered a meal.  Again, I had to take someone else somewhere. After I was done, I picked her up. The next time we went to this Burger King together, the shift manager relayed a message from the general manager to tell my friend she wasn’t allowed there. I had to press her for the reason. She said that the general manager, Rene, doesn’t want homeless people there because they panhandle.

My friend never panhandled or caused any problems. The floor manager confessed that she never had a problem with either of us.

I just read a comment on Facebook by  toadies of the manager of the Burger King at Beaver Dam and Bristol Pike in Bristol, PA, where posters offer a lame defense of this callous discrimination:

Desirae Hall I’m quite sure that she is not discriminating against your friend. She is only doing her job. Where else can you go to and sit all day and drink a cup of coffee. At that establishment there is a real problem with the homeless people panhandling as you are dining in. Thank you Renee for respecting the paying customers.

Like · Reply · 1 · December 17, 2015 at 4:54pm

Jakeria Martin She defy ain’t she’s sweet n kind hearted

These hobophobic comments are examples of narrow minded, judgmental people. For you hobophobes, here is a definition:  “(n) a person that is afraid of hobos. (adj.)hobophobic – to be afraid of hobos.

John is a really big hobophobe. Anytime he sees a homeless person walking on the street, he freaks out.”

Both at Denny’s and Wendy’s you can hang out “all day” after ordering food. The manager at Denny’s in Langhorne told us we cannot hang out “all day” just on weekends, when it gets crowded, and was apologetic. Unlike the manager at the Langhorne Burger King, who chased my friend out because her looks may offend the yuppie clientele, the staff at Denny’s ask how my friend is doing, and are concerned about her.

At Wendy’s in Levittown, we became a fixture. One night when we left about an hour before closing time, an employee remarked “are you leaving already?”

One guy, Mike, I believe a manager or the manager at Wendy’s, realized our situation. He said that he doesn’t have a problem with us hanging out at this Wendy’s and told us that we clean up after ourselves, are quiet and don’t bother anybody — that my friend does her puzzle books and I’m on my laptop. He also related a story about a Burger King where he used to work: Someone invited a homeless guy out of the cold and bought him a meal. A customer freaked out and exclaimed that a homeless person was in the restaurant and beseeched them to call the police. To this Mike  said “so?”  We’ve had some friendly conversations with Mike.

Not all homeless people are drunken bums. Some are and have caused problems in the community. Of the alcoholics, some had that problem before they became homeless, others use booze as an escape from their problem after becoming homeless. Druggies often end up homeless after they get kicked out of a recovery house, which is often the case in lower Bucks County, PA.

I think it is legitimate to profile druggies. Homeless people, if they are responsible, which many are, have their food and clothing needs met, thanks to gracious people who help them, and to the taxpayers for food stamps. Druggies steal, panhandle and wheedle money out of people so they can support their expensive addiction.

Unlike the average homeless person, druggies are a risk for problems, and if identified as such should be kept out of places.  What’s interesting about the Bristol Burger King is that, on one occasion it looked like someone was dealing drugs with one of the employees.

Rene and her toady argue the potential of homeless people panhandling and disrupting other customers. There were occasions where people disturbed us and other customers:

  • An “adult” brought in a little boy who bounced a basketball inside. He was so wild that I was afraid the ball might crash into my laptop. Yet nothing was said about that.
  • Some teenagers/young “adults” where paying their “music” , talking loud and blocked people’s way as they were dancing all over the place. They also got a pass.

The question is, how do people in charge of these establishments determine who is homeless and that they are a potential problem?  Hummmmmmm…

The Bristol Burger King has changed since I used to frequent it about a decade ago. Especially on weekends, it has taken on a gangsta rap atmosphere. The floor manager, whom a homeless person said was fired because she gave homeless people food in exchange for work, told me that loud altercations would break out and people threatened to damage cars, etc.

Yet a homeless person is banned because she might panhandle!

The Bristol Burger King has become a den for lowlifes. Rene seems to be OK with that, evidently because like her, they are the quintessential Noble Savage. To borrow a phrase from Tom Wolf, they  “like pimps, are a member of a spurious aristocracy,” as is that general manager.

Many homeless people come to the public library in Levittown PA and read books, use the computers to look for jobs and educate themselves. Some of them, as a result of their dogged search, have landed jobs and have moved on up. I’ve heard homeless people discussing Shakespeare and have joined them in other intelligent conversations.

Like Selma Alabama before civil rights, the white cracker establishment ruled tyrannically over blacks. As Anne Coulter pointed out in Mugged, most of the folks running the show during Jim Crow were descendants of the barbarian Celts. Today in places such as the Bristol Burger King, barbarians are running the show. The only difference is the color of the tyrants.

But, as writers and protesters shamed America and brought about positive change, I will do the same for the homeless.

We shall overcome!

Walking the Path of the Homeless

“Just spending one night on the street” a homeless woman told me,  “does not  give you the experience of being homeless.”  She made this comment after I had spent a night sleeping in the street with a homeless guy and two others after he challenged me to do this because “you’re writing about us, Jeff.”

The woman was right.  Since then I have become homeless, living in my car with a friend who has lung cancer.  I am now walking the path of the homeless, and am experiencing the same struggles.  My goal is to use my God given writing talent to call attention to the homeless and help them overcome.

On my first sample of life on the street, I had no foam padding and improvised by fishing some cardboard out of a dumpster, which added to the blankets I used cushioning. It took awhile to get used the street noises, such as car engines, radios, and occasional shouts of passersby. I slept just a little that night.

It’s no wonder homeless people occasionally nod off in the public library in Levittown, PA, where I’ve gotten to know many of the homeless folks in the area.

SLEEPING CAN BE DIFFICULT in a car. One thing I do to help me sleep is drink Kava tea, which relaxes not only my mind, but my muscles.

I’ve been sleeping in a car for more than four months. There are people who have been doing this much longer than I have. There are people who have been in tents for years, and have had to move several times over periods of time.  People who set up in walkways have to pack up everyday!

Things you take for granted, such as having cabinets for food and clothes, a chair of sofa to relax in, a nearby shower, a bookshelf, and other amenities are missing.  A big problem with living out of your car is the lack of space for things.  Organization is much harder than in normal life.  There is little room for storing food so you end up eating out a lot.  There are free community meals hosted by local churches, which help a lot.  There are free showers at the local YMCA.  The homeless are allowed to take showers during certain times.

There is a stigma attached to being homeless.  Some places, including the Levittown Public Library, are hostile to the homeless.  They consider a homeless person a persona non grata.  Some of the fast food restaurants also don’t like the homeless.  Some of subtly, others openly hostile to the homeless, even arbitrarily kicking them out.  Two Burger Kings in lower Bucks County, PA have discriminated against the homeless, booting my homeless friend when I left her there a couple hours, even though it wasn’t crowded.

Burger King I found to be the most hostile to the homeless.  The McDonald’s in Fairless Hills also made my homeless friend leave when it wasn’t crowded, because she was there 20 minutes.  As was the case with Burger King, she was not allowed to wait for a ride, but was thrown out to meet nasty weather, even though she is sickly.  A Subway near this McDonald’s also booted my friend.  The manager said he doesn’t want the homeless hanging out there, even to get warm a short while, even if they nurse a cup of coffee.

Denny’s in Langhorne, PA and Wendy’s in Levittown, PA has been hospitable to the homeless.  They judge them by the content of their character.

There are other people out there who are gracious.  The hosts at the community meals for the homeless and those in need have been reaching out to the homeless and have been getting to known them and try to help them.  The former Advocate for “The Library People”, the homeless that frequent the Levittown Public Library, help meet the needs of the homeless, both materially and morally, whom she considers her friends.  She ministered, and still ministers through Facebook and phone, to her friends.

Since associating with the homeless, I’ve gotten a different perspective of them.  As is the case with the general population, there are some who don’t want to help themselves and continue destructive behavior.

I can understand the anger, disappointment, frustration, defeatism, even nihilism of the homeless.  I’ve experienced, and still experience this.  Although I’m in rebellion, I realize that God has put me in this place to walk in the homeless shoes and be his ambassador and lead by example, which I’m finding is easier said than done.  Still, in the tradition of Snuffy Smith, I keep on truckin’.

To help meet the great need for shelter for the homeless, Gimmee Shelter, a nascent non profit, was created.  http://www.timespub.com/2015/04/30/working-for-a-place-to-stay/

A Homeless Guide to Dining in Lower Bucks County PA

This guide to homeless dining in Lower Bucks County, PA is based on first hand reports from homeless people who visited several eating establishments in lower Bucks County.  There were different results from different establishments to the same homeless people who dressed and acted the same way.

The homeless who visited various places in this review came unannounced and visited these establishments the way anyone else would.  The main person in the study, a homeless woman with lung cancer who has been undergoing chemotherapy, appears weak and thin, but relatively clean and dressed not much different than those in casual attire who visited the same places.  We’ve also included some commentary from restaurant staff.

So here is an account of the good, the bad and the ugly at different restaurants in lower Bucks County we visited.

The Good

Denny’s in Langhorne, PA:  Very homeless friendly.  At Denny’s, everybody is made to feel at home, regardless of their status in society and what they look like.  In fact, instead of being turned off by my friend looking tired and sick, they showed compassion.  The know my friend and I by name and ask how my friend is doing, sincerely.  Because of the chemo, my friend gets tired often and she’s allowed to curl up and sleep.  On one occasion, when our waitress noticed my friend nodding off, she told her she could lay down in an unoccupied, large lounge seat.

When the Denny’s staff sees us coming, they automatically pour our coffee and put creamer out for us.  We have a special area in the back (we love it; it’s not a Rosa Parks deal) which, when not crowded, automatically head back to and sit down, plug in my laptop and charge cell phones.  Senior waiters and waitresses told us we can stay as long as we want, as long as we occasionally buy something to eat.  The exception is weekends.  The manager took me aside and apologetically asked that on weekends, when it’s crowded, we not hang out “all day,” and explained that waitresses and waiters would lose money if we tied up a table too long.

Waitresses and waiters told me that they don’t understand why other places would boot the homeless when it’s not crowded.

Wendy’s in Levittown, PA.  Also very homeless friendly.  We’ve gone to this Wendy’s, ordered food and have hung out for hours. We’ve gone over the dinner hour and have stayed until closing.  On one occasion, when we left an hour before closing, one of the workers remarked that we were leaving early that night.

On one occasion, a customer talked to a guy there whom I think is the manager.  They both knew the score.  I overheard the manager say “you might embarrass him.”  The customer, however, approached me and offered me money.  I thanked him and declined the offer and explained that we had some funds and weren’t that bad off.

On another occasion the manager officially told me he doesn’t have a problem with us hanging out for long periods at this Wendy’s.  He mentioned that we sit quietly in a corner, don’t bother anybody, clean up after ourselves, I’m on my laptop and my friend occupies herself with various quiet activities.  The guy told me a story about and incident when he worked at another fast food place.  Someone had invited an homeless man out of the cold and bought him a meal.  One of the customers panicked and alerted the staff that “a homeless person came in.”

“So,” the guy relating the story said, as he shrugged his shoulders, and said that they explained to the frantic customer that the homeless person was invited in for a meal.  He also doesn’t understand why people have a problem with the homeless when they visit an establishment and are following the rules.

The Bad and the Ugly

Two Burger Kings in the area booted my friend from the restaurant.  One of them booted her permanently, just because she was homeless.

The Burger King in Bristol, PA, the day after when I left my friend there for part of the afternoon, snapped at her and said that she can’t hang out there all day as she was getting her free coffee refill.  One evening, as I was talking to a guy I befriended at the restaurant, the shift manager approached me and informed me that my friend wasn’t allowed at this Burger King.  When I pressed her for an answer, she said the general manager said my friend couldn’t come to this Burger King simply because she was homeless, because the homeless panhandle (although my friend did not ever do this).

The Burger King near the Oxford Valley Mall in Langhorne, PA threw my cancer stricken friend out arbitrarily after I dropped her off, with severe weather threatening!  She had just finished her lunch, and as she went to get her free coffee refill, the manager swooped down on her and demanded she leave or else he’d call the police.  There was no discussion even.  To get out of the elements, she walked over to the Boston Market, where the people there were much more hospitable to her, and I picked her up.

When I confronted this Burger King Manager about him arbitrarily throwing my friend out, he said that after someone eats and is alone, there is nobody to talk to so he/she should leave.  When I mentioned she had cancer, as if he couldn’t at least tell she was non contagious sickly (and that’s why he booted her out), he made the excuse “I didn’t know she had cancer.”  It wasn’t until after I showed him how irrational and wrong he was did he hint at the restaurant being crowded.  It wasn’t.

We had visited this Burger King a few times.  On one occasion this manager started staring at us after we had spent most of the day there, having had ordered breakfast and lunch.  “Are you waiting for a ride?”, he asked.  When we said “no”, he mentioned us being there awhile.  “Is that a problem?”, my friend replied.

“You’ve been here since this morning”, the manager quipped.  “So…”, I replied, and he walked away.

On another occasion, the manager at this Burger King told us, about 10:35 p.m., “you better start packing up, we’re closing in ten minutes.”

I mentioned that the restaurant closes at 11 p.m.

“We have to clean up…”

We packed up and left

The McDonald’s in Fairless Hills is another eating establishment hostile to the homeless.   The manager, whom I refer to as “Twenty Minutes” kicked my homeless friend out.  She told the manager that she was waiting for a ride as she nursed her coffee, but that didn’t matter to Ms. Minutes.  I couldn’t find my friend when I went to pick her up.  The manager was cryptic and snippety when I asked about my friend.  It was cold and raining, and my friend found the shelter of a nearby office building, where I picked her up.

This was the second time Ms. Minutes booted my friend.  The first time Ms. Minutes made my friend leave, my friend called me and I picked her up, as she got in touch with me before the 20 minute warning was up.    After this first McDonald’s booting, as I was eating with my friend, this manager did a California stop, turned and quickly glanced at my friend, as if she were a dog, and uttered “remember, 20 minutes”, and walked away.

The Subway in Fairless Hills kicked my friend out shortly after I dropped her off.  They falsely accused her of smoking in the restroom.  It was about 70 degrees out, with a light wind, and sunny.  There would be no reason not to smoke outside anyway.

When I pressed the manager over the phone about why my friend was booted, and explained the homeless sometimes just want to find a place to hang out awhile to take a load off and questioned why that would be a problem when it wasn’t crowded, he responded flatly that the Subway wasn’t a place for the homeless.

You’ve read about the good, bad and the ugly in regards to homeless dining in lower Bucks County.  I hope this gives you a heads up about how these establishments treat people.

Who Are You?

“Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?…

–Lyrics from Who Are You, by The Who

Some people think they know who the homeless are, but often fall short of reality.

I’ve been hanging out with the homeless in Levittown, PA for a little more than a year.  I soon became part of the group in spirit, but now I am homeless, literally now one of them.  During this time, I’ve gotten first hand experience about who the homeless really are.

They are people like you and I who have had the misfortune of losing their homes, through job loss, fire (in an uninsured house) or for other reasons — in some cases a result of their own irresponsibility and sometimes as a result of a combination of causes beyond their control and irresponsibility.

In the public library, in Levittown, PA, where many of them go to exchange information, they read books and use the resources to look for jobs.  Some, however, just play all day.

A hangout for the homeless, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial just outside the library, is where many of the homeless who frequently congregate.  They have discussed Shakespeare and have other intelligent conversations.  Sometimes not.

Sometimes at the memorial, the homeless discuss their situations and problems. On one occasion, a guy exclaimed “this is a therapy session” and walked away.

Some of the homeless people have found jobs, some regular and some intermittent.  At one of the community meals for the homeless and needy, two homeless guys talked about their recent jobs.  These guys, who want to work, longed for having a routine.  One of them now has a routine, substituting as a bus driver, with the possibility of a full time job.

Although some of the people are not in tent cities but scattered in various places, they band together in their challenging situation, like the characters in John Steinbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH.

People in the homeless community pass information by word of mouth — they have an oral tradition like the ancient Greeks, who passed along the epic poem The Odyssey this way.  And to many people outside the homeless community, the life of the homeless is Greek to them.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey

Back at the memorial, there have been problems, such as brawls fueled by alcohol.  Recently, the perpetrators have been punished, so far banned from the memorial and the library, where they have also been creating problems.  Law and order is the norm now at the memorial, and it continues to be a special place where the homeless can peaceably assemble and talk politics, literature, science –  whatever suits their fancy.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the memorial is a special place where they can go, as reflected in the old Beatles song There’s a Place.  http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/theresaplace.html

Things we take for granted, such as being able to bathe and go to the bathroom (the homeless don’t have their own bathrooms), having a refrigerator, being able to take a nap in your own castle, cooking your own food, etc., is not an integral part of the life of the homeless.

It’s 6 a.m., and time to start packing up their sleeping gear in front of a government building.  The office will start it’s business day and the homeless have to skedaddle.

This is one example of what people who don’t have a home to go home to have to do.

As far as personal hygiene, in the cold weather they find restrooms or other places where they can discreetly brush their teeth and generally clean up.  The public library in Levittown PA put signs up “no brushing teeth, no shaving…” in the rest rooms.

The homeless have a haven at the local YMCA, where they can shower and clean up.  The Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) set them up for this.  There is limited transportation to get there.  Many of the homeless in Levittown walk to the Y.  That is, those who can walk.

Another way the homeless in lower Bucks County spend the night is in cars.  There are a few places in the area that are homeless friendly.  A major retailer allows people to sleep in their cars in their parking lot.  The local police not only know about it, but they get to know who the homeless are who spend the night in their cars and look after them, especially the homeless females.  They have even approached homeless women to make sure they are OK.

ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE HOMELESS

Not every business is homeless friendly.  McDonalds regularly kicks the homeless out of their restaurant, even when it isn’t crowded and when they are obeying the rules.  A local Subway also kicks out the homeless.  I talked with the manager of this Subway who said that people have complained about certain people hanging around (although they weren’t panhandling or pestering anyone in anyway) and that his establishment doesn’t want the homeless to find a temporary refuge there.

Burger King is the most hostile to the homeless in lower Bucks County.  The shift manager relayed as message to a homeless woman when she entered a Burger King in Bristol that she was not allowed there, and when pressed for the reason, she said the general manager doesn’t want homeless people in the restaurant, because they panhandle.  Holy you’re innocent until proven guilty, Batman!  At the Burger King just below the Oxford Valley Mall in Langhorne, this same woman was ordered out of the Burger King when she was getting her free coffee refill.  Without even a conversation, the manager threatened to call the police if she didn’t leave immediately.

By contrast, Denny’s in Langhorne has been very hospitable to the homeless.  When it’s not crowded, homeless people can spend hours after eating reading a book and can even take a nap!  Unlike other establishments, the folks at Denny’s don’t judge people by their appearances.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  Hebrews 13:2

HOW DID THEY GET THIS WAY?

In some cases, homeless people became that way as a result of addictions.  Some of them have turned to drugs or alcohol as an escape from their situation.  Like the rest of us, they are imperfect creatures with character defects.  I’m a great believer in restoring people.  Of course they have to want to be restored.

Who are the homeless?  They are people who don’t have a home. This is why Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless was created.  http://www.timespub.com/2015/04/30/working-for-a-place-to-stay/#more-45529

 

We Shall Overcome

Like blacks during the civil rights movement, the homeless have to overcome discrimination.

In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the homeless are looked down upon, considered an eyesore, and are treated like second class citizens.  There is prejudice against the homeless and there are obstacles, but, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “we shall overcome.”

And the homeless can.

There are stereotypes of the homeless — that they are demented, chronic panhandlers, drunks, druggies, criminals, and incapable of managing their own affairs.  Certainly there are some homeless who are that way, but one size doesn’t fit all.

The management of a Burger King in Bristol, PA, actually admitted that a homeless woman was banned simply because, as a shift manager told me “the general manager doesn’t want homeless people” there, “because they panhandle.”

Another Burger King, just down the road from Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA, kicked this same woman, who looks weak, sickly because she has lung cancer, out of the restaurant as she was getting a refill.  Without even a debate, the manager threatened to call the police if she did not leave immediately. And it was cold, rainy, with a severe thunderstorm threatening.

When I discussed the matter with the manager, he said that he called the police because he “didn’t want any problems.”  The rest of his arguments are so lame they aren’t even worth repeating.

I learned in my 12 Steps Journey program I’m in  http://12stepjourney.com/ that you can’t always change the way others behave, but you are responsible for your reaction to it and can control your behavior.

The worst thing for the homeless is that they become victims and that they, like animals, don’t have to be responsible for their behavior because they are victims. The best thing the homeless can do is to not live up to the label their detractors have given them, but become responsible, productive people, even under the circumstances they are in.

In the mid 60’s, in the town where I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, blacks started migrating from the city and other places.  There was not prejudice per se; people were just not used to having people with a different look attending schools and living in their neighborhood.  Truth is that the vast majority of blacks who moved into my school district were responsible, decent people who wanted to work and play by the rules.   And they were accepted, without government coercion.

Likewise, to be accepted, and for their own self respect, the homeless need to act responsibly, decently, and play by the rules.  Telling them to get a job is easier said than done.  It’s tough out there with the economy.  Nonetheless, some homeless people I know in lower Bucks County, PA have gotten a regular jobs and have moved on up. Some work sporadically, seasonally.

Years ago, when I was unemployed and despondent, and had had a problem with someone in authority, a counselor told me that there always are going to be A-holes, but you just don’t let them get in your way  — just go around the obstacle.

There are plenty of A-holes in Bucks County, PA who hate the homeless.  They shouldn’t allow them to get them down.

There are also many people in Bucks County who help the homeless.  Churches in lower Bucks County take turns providing free meals to the homeless community.  Some of them have food banks and free clothing.  They, and volunteers from places such as Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need  (AHTN)  http://www.ahtn.org/    have been developing relationships with the homeless and have gotten to know many of them on a first name basis.

Lack of shelter for the homeless is the biggest problem in Bucks County.  There is more vacant property than homeless people in Bucks.  A local leader from the Salvation Army said that concerned people in Bucks County have been bringing this up and have proposed to use the property to house the homeless, but have been stonewalled by the Bucks County establishment.  The establishment here is an obstacle we at Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless have to get around.  http://www.timespub.com/2015/04/30/working-for-a-place-to-stay/#more-45529

In Ontario, California, land was set aside for the local homeless to live.  Like any other neighborhood, the camp is governed for healthy, sanitary conditions.  Plumbing was brought in so people can take showers, etc.       http://wikimapia.org/6813327/Tent-City-Ontario

We at the nascent Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless need to overcome the Bucks County establishment’s stonewalling.  Why can’t all communities help their homeless with shelter the way Ontario, California does?   In Bucks County, help the homeless with shelter instead of throwing money and effort down the rat hole for mental health treatment and moving a rain/sun shelter at the library to keep the homeless as far away as possible.

Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

-Lines from Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind.  http://www.bing.com/search?q=blowin+in+the+wind+lyrics&form=IE10TR&src=IE10TR&pc=CPNTDFJS

We shall overcome. We shall overcome.

No Dogs Allowed

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There’s a Charlie Brown episode in the Charles Schultz series where everywhere a dog wandered, he was not wanted.  Each time, the sign “No Dogs Allowed” appeared.

In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the homeless find there are not wanted in many establishments, just because they are homeless.   If the ones who clandestinely are prejudice against the homeless were honest, they would post signs “No Homeless Allowed.”  The way things are going, this may be the case soon.

First it was the McDonald’s in Fairless Hills, PA, where a manager, whom I refer to as “Twenty Minutes” kicked my homeless friend out.  She told the manager that she was waiting for a ride as she nursed her coffee, but that didn’t matter to Ms. Minutes.  I couldn’t find my friend when I went to pick her up.  This manager was cryptic and snippety with me when I asked about my friend.

This was the second time Ms. Minutes booted my friend.  The first time Ms. Minutes made my friend leave, my friend called me and I picked her up, as she got in touch with me before the 20 minute warning was up.    After this first McDonald’s booting, as I was eating with my friend, this manager did a California stop, turned and quickly glanced at my friend, as if she were a Dog, and uttered “remember, 20 minutes”, and walked away.  McDonald’s never addressed my complaints; they just sent a form reply.

Next it was Subway in Fairless Hills, who threw my friend out.  She had to call me for a ride.

Burger King was the next “no dogs allowed”.  On one occasion, a shift manager at the Burger King in Bristol, PA relayed a message from the general manager that she’s no longer allowed in the restaurant.  When I pressed for an answer why, the shift manager admitted that the general manager doesn’t want homeless people at this particular Burger King because they have the potential of panhandling.

Hummm…  I guess with that kind of reasoning, because some black people have committed crimes, they should be kept out of restaurants because they may rob somebody.  Imagine the outcry if that happened?  Well, it’s happening with the homeless.

A cook in Houston, Texas was cited and fined for feeding the homeless.  Fortunately, she’s fighting it.

Why stop with arbitrarily booting the homeless out of establishments?  Why not have a separate water fountain for the homeless?  Why not make them sit in the back of the bus?

We need a Rosa Parks for the homeless.  Through my blogs, I try to emulate her.  The laptop is mightier than the sword!  I don’t accept the homeless being told to take a back seat — to be treated as second class citizens.

Not all establishments virtually post “No Dogs Allowed” signs for the homeless.  Denny’s, on Business Route 1 between Langhorne and Penndel, PA,  knows some of their patrons are homeless, and treats them like other customers.  They allow them to hang out and linger (some establishments call this loitering) after buying a meal.

The Burger King near the Oxford Valley Mall started out somewhat homeless friendly, except for two occasions when two different managers were out of line.  My friend and I have lingered there a few times.  On one occasion, one rude manager started staring at us after we had spent most of the day there, having had ordered breakfast and lunch.  “Are you waiting for a ride?”, he asked.  When we said “no”, he mentioned us being there awhile.  “Is that a problem?”, my friend replied.

“You’ve been here since this morning”, the manager quipped.  “So…”, I replied, and he walked away.

Another manager at this Burger King told us, about 10:35 p.m., “you better start packing up, we’re closing in ten minutes.”

I mentioned that the restaurant closes at 11 p.m.

“We have to clean up…”

We packed up and left.

But today, while I was taking two handicapped people to their doctor’s appointments, my friend called me and said the manager demanded she leave.  She told him she was waiting for a ride, but he got nasty and threatened to call the police.  We had breakfast together and I gave her money for lunch, shortly after which she was booted.

Before I picked my homeless friend up, who had to stand, which was hard for her in her ill health, in the lobby at Boston Market across the parking lot, I had some words with this manager.  He said someone alone is not supposed to stay by oneself after eating.  When I questioned why, he said it was crowded and implied that’s why my homeless friend had to leave.  I looked him in the eye and said “you’re a bold faced liar!”

After I picked my friend up, I returned to this Burger King to tell some friends I know from the community meals for the homeless and those in need that I found my friend, whom they know.  As I was leaving, the manager scooted quickly towards his hole.  “You better run, you little weasel”, I said.

Consequently, I am not only boycotting this Burger King, but I am starting a campaign against Burger King, starting with Facebook.  I posted on the Burger King Oxford Valley’s own FB page, which goes to the general Burger King FB page.

There are a few establishments, when a time comes when they are required to post their homeless policy, like the ingredients in their food, will not post “No Dogs Allowed” signs.  It’s my dream that “No Dogs Allowed” — I mean “No Homeless Allowed” signs will not be posted anywhere.

We shall overcome!

One immediate problem with homelessness is the lack of shelter for the homeless.  One way you can help is by donating to Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless, which aims to provide shelter for the homeless by acquiring land and empowering the homeless by supplying them with the tools to homestead land they can call their castle.

If you want to supply the homeless with tools to help themselves, please go to  http://www.gofundme.com/lq6sfc   You may skip the ad after a short wait.