Give Me That Old Time Religion

“If I did drugs, I could find a place. If I was an alcoholic, I could find a place. If you’re just on hard times, there’s nowhere to go.” said a homeless man about to be evicted from an encampment.

In the words of W.C. Fields “Ah yes, seems we’ve been here before.”

I’ve heard this lament more than once since I started hanging out with the homeless in lower Bucks County, PA about 1 and ½ years ago. Here, it’s getting harder for people who lost their jobs and became homeless  to find a place to stay. For various reasons, homeless people have to pack up and leave places they call home.

The mental health industry is capitalizing on the homeless problem.

Interestingly, Allen Johnston from the Bucks County Department of Mental Health was nosing around the tent city, soon to have no vacancies, trying to see how much business for the local mental health centers he can drum up.

“I want to see how many people are interested”, he said. Allen mentioned Penndel and Lenape Valley Mental Health Centers. There was no mention of places for these poor people to go, as the man said, “if you’re just on hard times…”

Since the early meet and greet expeditions to homeless camps in Bucks County, at least one representative from Penndel Mental Health Center tagged along. People from this organization frequently hawk their business at Code Blue, the overnight emergency shelters during cold nights and at other venues.

Recently, I talked with Allen  about finding much needed shelter for the homeless in Bucks County. As was the case in 2012, there is a long waiting list for the local shelter. When I started to discuss this need, he said that there is a problem with housing first, and he explained that people need to solve their addiction problems first. Allen completely evaded discussing the problem of people who simply need a place to stay, who have no need of mental health or similar assistance.

I understand that Allen is working for an industry that has a government monopoly in Bucks County, and he must follow its agenda and be the industry’s conduit, unlike myself. As an independent blogger, I’m free to speak my mind. I have called out politicians, a librarian, some homeless advocates, the Salvation Army, the mental health industry, and even individual homeless people and try to expose problems and offer constructive criticism. I also praise things I see as good.

I try to tell it like it is.

And my call in this blog is the local health industry’s tactics smacks of crony capitalism. For those of you in Doylestown, this means that politicians give their friends an unfair advantage over any competition by using their office. This is also an example of economic protectionism.

In Germany, Kava, often drunk as Kava tea, was banned based on a study which was later found to be flawed. Here the government protected the pharmaceutical industry from competition. Kava is an herbal, natural relaxer of the mind and muscles.  I’ve found that it works well.

If you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you’ll know that I’m a free market guy, who believes that individuals, not bureaucracies, should make choices for people.

I’m all for school choice, where, instead of our tax money going straight to the school district which assigns a school, parents get to pick the best school for their children. This works much like food stamps.

For the homeless in Bucks County, Penndel Mental Health Center is just about the only game around. They try to attract customers by offering housing.

I was bamboozled into using the services of Penndel Mental Health after I was devastated and fell into an emotional pit, suffering from chronic anxiety and depression after I lost my job and my dog and having engaged in destructive behavior. I was about to lose my house.

After intake at Penndel, a doctor prescribed Paxil to help calm me down. Instead of being my deliverance, it had a strange resemblance to a cat named Frankenstein (to adapt some lines from Sam Cook’s old popular song).  My hands started shaking a lot. The doctor told and another so-called mental health care professional told me there’s a break in period. This went on for months. I had the doctor cut the dose in half, but there were still problems. I decided to stop using Paxil and not try any other drugs.

I did some research and found that dark chocolate has the same stuff as Paxil, serotonin, that fights anxiety and depression and other maladies. There is no withdraw from dark chocolate, although it can be addicting. I actually suffered withdraw from Paxil when I decided to go cold turkey and ended up in the emergency ward.

I started seeing a therapist at Penndel Mental Health Center. He used cognitive therapy, where the patient learns to control his thoughts in order to control behavior. I wasn’t told what to believe, but found the cognitive therapy was just a methodology to resolve problems.

Shortly before I understood the cognitive therapy techniques and didn’t need to continue “therapy”, I stopped seeing the doctor, who mainly prescribed drugs. When I told the therapist I wished to end the sessions, he told me that I wasn’t supposed to do therapy unless I was on drugs — that is drugs legally prescribed by the doctor.

I moved on after my experience with Penndel Mental Health Center.  Actually, I continued my relationship with God, fellowshipping with other believers, reading the Bible, praying, etc.  In the free market of ideas, I found that, as others have shared, my ultimate hope for healing is the Lord.

The homeless community has problems, other than not finding a “permanent” home. Some of the people, like people outside the homeless community, need someone to talk to. A homeless advocate, who recently moved to Arizona with her family, tirelessly ministered to the homeless. She relentless counseled those with alcohol and other problems. On one occasion, a woman was crying in the Levittown library. The advocate counseled her and helped her resolve her problem.

This advocate still helps the homeless in lower Bucks County from afar.

Other caring people have talked with the homeless, in the Levittown library area and at the community meals that local churches graciously host. The hosts have been sitting down at the dinners with troubled people and have been informally counseling them. On one occasion, one of the volunteer hosts sat and talked one on one with a homeless person.

Counseling people is a mission, not a business. 

About 1970, pastor and counselor Jay Adams started a revolution in the church.  Dr. Adams championed the idea that the church should not relegate it’s mission to help people with problems to the secular mental health industry. If the problems are deep, he explained, it’s all the more reason for the church to handle them.

The only basic difference between homeless people and people who have a dwelling is that they don’t have a home.  Period.

There are, however, some practical problems for people without walls. People are evicted because the property owner builds something on that space, sometimes because neighbors get nervous, and on some occasions because the homeless create problems and attract attention.

Recently, a guy who is getting to know the homeless recommended that the community clean up its act, including cleaning up all the trash some people left. In areas of lower Bucks County, most of the problems are created by druggies, many who have been thrown out of recovery houses.

Like other members of the homeless community, these people need help.

Some friends and I are trying to find more shelter for the homeless in Bucks County. One of them suggested that we create an office and direct homeless people where they need to go. This is an excellent idea.

One place I’d recommend for people with any addiction problem, who don’t need immediate detox, is the 12 Steps Journey Program I’ve been attending. Attendance waxes and wanes, but yesterday we could barely fit everyone at the table. Praise the Lord!

If more people start coming to the meetings, we’ll just add another table to the circle we sit around. We will make sure the circle is unbroken.

Given the choice between secular psychology and Christian faith, I pick Jesus.