And Now for Something Completely Different

In a Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit, executives talked about sports while labor guys talked about things like Shakespeare, art, and classical music. They reversed the stereotypes. In real life, homeless people sat around the Veterans Memorial in Levittown, PA discussing Shakespeare.

So much for stereotypes!

When I once mentioned the homeless discussing Shakespeare, someone thought, as says the Monty Python logo, it was something completely different.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGK8IC-bGnU

Stereotypes for the homeless say that they are drunks, violent, thieves, and generally criminals, panhandlers, lazy, druggies, and generally mentally disturbed. When the general manager of the Burger King at Beaver Dam Road and Bristol Pike in Bristol, PA discovered a woman who frequented this Burger King was homeless, she was told she was banned from the establishment, although she hadn’t caused any problems, as some of the other patrons did, who were not homeless. The general manager’s rationale was that homeless people panhandle, so she wanted to nip the problem in the bud.

Out of about 50 homeless people, I only knew firsthand of one, from the tribe I hung around with, known as The Memorial Mob, who actively panhandled. On one occasion he bragged “I’m the King of the Panhandlers!” This druggie used to make signs and ran around the McDonald’s in Fairless Hills advertising his panhandling. He once asked me if he could take the sickly looking woman I was with to the TD Bank to help him panhandle. A while ago the druggie left the neighborhood.

I’ve appreciated the guy’s truth in advertising. He used to run around wearing a shirt that conspicuously displayed the warning “Monster.” Not all homeless people are like that and not all homeless are druggies or drunks. The druggies have infiltrated the homeless population the past few years as a result of the inordinate number of recovery houses in lower Bucks County.

If you went to a community meal for the homeless and needy in lower Bucks County, PA, if you didn’t know it was a homeless meal you would not know the people were homeless. The guests act civilly and engage in friendly, intelligent conversation. Your station in life doesn’t define you.

Like the rest of society, one or more miscreants can spoil things for everyone else. This is  the problem in the inner city public schools, where a few problem kids can ruin education for the rest of the class.

Image result for bible verse dead flies ruin perfume

This used to be the problem at the homeless and needy community meals. On numerous occasions, a guy came to the meals drunk and verbally abused and physically threatened other guests, and on one occasion, knocked someone down. He’s now in jail awaiting justice. Consequently, the meals have been more peaceful and enjoyable for everyone. Potential trouble makers now think twice, as they know there are consequences for bad behavior.

You can’t always count on official organizations to do the right thing, especially in Bucks County, PA. The Advocates for The Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) mollycoddle problem homeless people. They don’t do anything about harassment, particularly of women on the homeless bus. They just slapped the chronic problem drunk on the wrists, occasionally just banning him from the bus for two weeks. On one occasion, at the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Penndel, PA, they let him off Scot free after he came to the meal drunk and screamed obscenities at people and physically threatened one guest.

The Pax Romana https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pax_Romana  at the meals is a result of individual quests taking action – calling the police, beseeching individual AHTN members to take action, writing blogs (which resulted in the drunk cursing at the blogger at a meal and causing AHTN to take the problem more seriously, although just a little.) The problem man is in jail as a result of someone calling the police when he knocked someone down and someone else calling the police when he spotted him when he was on the lamb.

The message is out there that if anybody causes problems, like the fly in the ointment, there will be consequences for bad behavior.

Some people in the homeless world have been showing concern and compassion for one another, encouraging others when they are down and with their faith, helping one another to find jobs and housing…  The only way people can deal with their problems is to face them, lean on their brothers and sisters, and ultimately, God.

Contrary to the liberal rhetoric, the government and even some non-profits are not going to help you. As was the case in The Wizard of Oz, individuals must take responsibility to make things better. Oz gave nothing to the Tin Man, that he didn’t, didn’t already have… But God can! Actually, God made us in his image; he just restores us from our sinful nature. We just have to submit to Him and do the right things.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

-Psalm 40:2

 

 

Another Brick in The Wall

One of the myths about the homeless is that they are all mentally ill. Another myth is the way people are labeled as “mentally ill.”

Some experts don’t think “mentally ill”  is an accurate term. They don’t think that people with mental problems should be labeled as being ill.  For them, “illness”, such as the flu, is caused by a virus. They ask what is the source that causes mental illness?

At the community meals for the homeless and those in need in Bucks County, PA, there are a few guests who act in a bizarre manner. Some observers have postulated that they have mental problems. Are these people “mentally ill”, and not responsible for their behavior, the way a cold makes you sneeze? Well, we are more than just a connected series of organs, nerve endings, etc., that respond to stimuli. We are a special creation. We can reason and tell the difference between right and wrong.

There are some people who can’t, or won’t distinguish between right and wrong. One character, known as “Birdman”, goes from table to table at community meals, as people are finishing up their meal and asks them if they want various items that were set out for their table, as he reaches for the items. Last night at every table he tried to get ice tea, people turned him down.  A defeated predator, he slinked away and whined  “everyone has to keep it for themselves.”

At one meal, we told him we wanted what was on our table. I added that this is for our table; “go to your own table, leave us alone, you are annoying.”

At a meal after that, as I approached him at the back of the room as I was getting my drink, he asked “Am I annoying you?” I said he wasn’t. He then asked me how he annoys me. I responded “I’ll treat that as a rhetorical question.”

Birdman doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. Is he “mentally ill?” No. He just has bad manners and doesn’t have borders. He evidently subscribes to the concept of “The Noble Savage”, where one ignores the restraints of civilization and just follows one’s animal instincts. This concept most recently became vogue at Woodstock, where unruly spoiled brats invaded the farm country at all hours with their revelry, disturbing people in the community.

When I was in elementary school years ago, when the Bible was read in the classroom, at recess we had “out of bounds”. This was an area marked off where we were not allowed to go. We weren’t just afraid that a safety or even our peers would catch us. It was just somewhere we did not dare go. Like the ladies room in the Star Trek Enterprise, a place where no man has gone before, it’s a place kids were reluctant to enter.

Birdman is oblivious to the concept of out of bounds.

There’s another nut – I use the term just to identify bizarre behavior – who goes to the community meals who also selfishly thinks she is a special privileged character who, not content with what the hosts graciously prepared for everyone else, demands a custom meal. I call her “Queen Nora.” At one meal the Queen asked “Do you have anything with beef?”

Both Birdman and Queen Nora think that anyone with a car is obligated to be their chauffeur, simply because they have a car and they do not.

While I’m on a roll, he’s another anecdote about another nut who has gone to the community meals. I don’t have a name for her yet. This one doesn’t like anyone to touch her or even walk behind her, especially when she sits at the table. On one occasion, as we were finishing a meal, another busload of guests came. The hosts were rolling a desert tray down the aisle.  Wanting to leave before the other people entered, she chirped “I’m finished my dinner; just give me my cupcake and I’ll go.” Nobody complied. “Does anyone speak English?”, she stammered. She held up her hand and repeatedly demanded “give me my cupcake!”

Even the few examples, whom some people on casual observation may conclude are people with mental problems, are not representative of homeless people.

The homeless are just a microcosm of society. And they are not all alike.

Today, society has become Godless. The Bible was taken out of the public schools. Pink Floyd got it right when they sang:

“We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”

Indeed, in our society you are just another brick in the wall. This is the case with the mental health industry in Bucks County. It’s representatives canvas the homeless community like Jehovah’s Witnesses and shanghai the homeless. Their bate is housing. One representative told me that he doesn’t believe in “housing first” because the homeless have to get straightened out first. This presupposes that they all have such big drug, alcohol or mental problems that they need “professional” help before getting housing. Wrong!

The Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) also treats the homeless as if they are just another brick in the wall. Unlike others who hold the homeless accountable for their behavior, they’ve been known to give unruly homeless people a free pass, evidently reasoning that it is the way homeless people are supposed to act. This mentality fosters negative stereotypes about the homeless and contributes to hobophobia, the irrational fear of the homeless, which, incidentally, is not tax deductible.

Hummmmmm…

But not with God. He made us in his image and has taught us right from wrong. There are absolutes!

“Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have taken my instruction to heart: Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals or be terrified by their insults.” – Isaiah 51:7

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

Wossamotta U Versus Church

In the last blog I praised the churches in lower Bucks County, PA for countering judgmentalism and apathy towards the homeless taught at Wossamotta U. and showing respect and empathy for them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wossamotta_U

“Don’t talk about us; talk with us” the slogan some homeless people created is a reality in lower Bucks County.  A large part of hobophobia, the irrational fear of the homeless, is a result of just not knowing them.  So people talk about them without knowing who they really are.

Intermittently, the homeless have been harassed at the Veteran’s Memorial in Levittown, but now, except for a rare rogue, their rights have been respected and the harassment has eased off.

Initially, the new guard at the nearby municipal building, fed by misinformation, tried to shoo the homeless from the Veteran’s Memorial. But once he got to know them he lightened up. Just today one of the homeless guys who was at the memorial said the guard has been “cool”.  When I first met the new guard I told him “we have to break you in.” Taken aback he spouted “I don’t need to be broken in” — and informed me that he was a trained law enforcement officer…  After he mentioned enforcing rules, we realized we were on the same page, but that my concern was that the rules be enforced even handedly.

The harassment at the memorial was driven by false witness by those who hate the homeless, including the WIC office in the municipal building, which faces towards the memorial. A woman with COPD who went into the WIC office to get warm one winter during business hours was booted just because she was homeless.

Harassment against the homeless has been the case at the Levittown public library for the past two years. Lately, it got so out of hand that I filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The problem is Pat, the head librarian and her sidekick. The other librarians, however, have been not been only respectful of the homeless but have gotten friendly with them. They even gave me a card to bring with me when I visited a homeless person in the hospital.

In an attempt to shoo the homeless from the library, they have been hassled various ways, in some cases thrown out for the day or longer for minor problems. In one case, the homeless woman who was  thrown out of WIC was reading when the librarian told her she needed to do something to stay in the library. The latest case was when the head librarian, Pat, out of the blue, told a homeless man he had been talking loud all week and threw him out, although other people, especially bratty kids, consistently talk much louder.

Many of the churches and individual Christians have reached out to the homeless in lower Bucks County, showing them respect, understanding and empathy.

There are some, however, who must have taken night classes at Wossamatta U.

“The Countess of Carlisle”,  the community relations and development director at the Salvation Army Levittown Community Center told me that people don’t like the homeless in the library when they visit because they are dirty, spread food out all over the tables, etc. I asked her if she witnessed that (she didn’t)  and told her that I do go there and found this isn’t the case. I added that if someone breaks a rule about eating in the library, simply tell them to stop. This Salvation Army official didn’t want to know the truth, and just kowtows to the worldly, judgmental views of the community.

“Queen Latifah”, another elitist at the Salvation Army, treats the homeless like criminals and children when she hosts the community meals.

In the homeless community itself, false witness has created problems. Rumors were spread about someone I didn’t know in this community, but once I got to know him, I found that I was told lies.

Lies were also told about a guy who visits the community meals, but was not homeless, but in need. This fostered fights, which sometimes started to get physical. There was an incident at the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Penndel, PA where someone came to the meal drunk and screamed at the victim of false witness, physically threatened him, and had to be restrained.

Yet the perpetrator was let off the hook. One of the advocates from the Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) twisted what happened  and the victim, who did a rope-a-dope, was blamed. The next time  the victim went to Redeemer Lutheran for the meal, he was told he was banned, because, a church representative said, he was saying negative things about the homeless.

I respect the homeless, and don’t take the stance that, because they are homeless, they are not responsible for their behavior. The victim and I pushed the issue and got the perpetrator temporarily banned from the bus. After this time out, he didn’t cause any more problems.

Recently, another homeless man, on more than one occasion, caused a ruckus at a community meal. Since the last ruckus, he hasn’t been at the meals. We must have set a precedent.

A  non-homeless person who visits the meals said she was told to use caution when going to the meals. She was afraid someone might come at her with a weapon and that someone told her not even to look at the homeless people there. I allayed her fears and explained that my experience is that the worst thing that happens is occasional quarrels, usually alcohol driven. Normally the meals are a pleasant experience, where there is great fellowship.

Most churches have been gracious towards the homeless. They not only feed them, but sit at their tables at community meals and have developed relationships with them and mentored them.

This is the way it should be.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

–2 Corinthians 5:20

Industry Not Pest Control

Instead of writing the homeless off as useless bums, encourage them and help them to better themselves.

Unfortunately, some members of the homeless community make a bad name for the homeless, and the public puts a one size fits all label on them.

For sure, there are problem people among the homeless – the druggies, the drunks, people with mental problems.  Recently, I experienced an example of people who have the gimmees. This reflects an attitude in this country, as particularly exemplified in Bernie Sanders, et al, that people are entitled to what others have.

I picked up a formerly homeless friend at a bus stop and a woman who had just become homeless who was talking to him, waiting for the bus. I dropped the man off at Walmart and took her to the Oxford Valley Mall. She wanted to stop at the nearby Salvation Clothing Store, so I waited for her at the mall while I ate lunch. She also wanted to stop at a church and gave me the impression she was going there for help with her homeless problem. Instead, it was a quixotic quest. At one point, she got on the phone and told a friend that I would drive her to his place, which was on the other side of town.

I refused (she hadn’t even asked me).

I told the woman that she could get clothes free at some of the community dinners. “I don’t like what they have,” she quipped. When she got her change when she checked out at the Salvation Army, she asked the clerk what date was on a penny. I preempted the woman as the clerk went for her reading glasses, telling her we have to get going in order to take her to the bus that will take her to a free meal.

She begged me to drive her to the meal because “I want to be there when the doors open.” I firmly told her that I would take her to the free bus. I did. When we got there I pointed out where people pick up the bus, as we drove by waiting people. She said she wanted to go into the nearby library.

I reminded her about the bus stop.

I met the guy I dropped off at Walmart at the library and took him to the meal. I left the woman on the ash heap of history.

Other homeless people, however, don’t think they are entitled to the services of others, including the guy I dropped off at Walmart. When it snowed this winter, some homeless people found work shoveling snow.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city worker has been offering homeless people work cleaning up the city and offered food, shelter, and other services for their efforts.

This is the kind of thing we need in Bucks County, PA.

Given the opportunity, homeless people will work. I overheard a conversation at a community meal between two homeless people about working. They both were working sporadically. One of them said he wants to get into a routine.

Some homeless people have done volunteer work and go to the library to further their education. I’ve seen homeless people reading books outside of the library. On a few occasions, they were discussing Shakespeare.

Since I started hanging around the homeless two years ago, some of them have found work and have moved on. Recently, a homeless friend got a job in another state.

There are other ways the homeless can help themselves. The public library in Levittown, PA offers a chair yoga class. After having lived in my car a few months, I started stiffening up. My feet swelled. The yoga class helped me get the knots out, helped me relax, and even helped keep internal organs healthy. Kava tea also helped relax my muscles.

In Bucks County, finding shelter is the biggest problem. The “emergency” shelter has a months long waiting list, and it takes a year or two to get county assisted housing.

By offering homeless people work, they can save up for housing. Still, some people have a hard time getting the money for housing and they could use some help.

Housing first is a good idea. Yesterday I read a piece on Facebook where an advocate championed housing first. The only part of the advocate’s plan I question is the idea of putting people with addictions and other mental health problems in housing first. The advocate’s plan is to provide housing for all homeless people and link them with the services they require.

Some problems don’t require institutionalization. It’s a matter of degree. The druggies from the recovery houses in Levittown, however,  should be sequestered in a place as is the case of insane asylums. The 12 Steps program talks about addictions as “insanity.” The druggies are unleashed on the community during the day where they create problems. A security guard was added to the library as a result.

Refugees from the recovery houses join the ranks of the homeless in lower Bucks County and end up in the woods and the emergency shelter. Between them and the drunks who go through the revolving door at the shelter, there is overcrowding.

Some homeless, even those who need extra help should get into housing first and get the services they need. Besides getting regular work, they can get into programs to help them. As the guy I picked up at the bus stop says “we all have baggage.”

Churches and church related have stepped up to the plate. The hosts at the community meals have been developing relationship with their guest and mentor them. The 12 Steps Journey program is offered at two different churches in Bucks County, one on Tuesday nights and one on Thursday nights.

http://www.12stepjourney.com/ 

In many areas, such as Bucks County, the homeless are unwanted and are harassed. They are humans made in the image of God, yet people treat them like pestilence. As I illustrated in previous blogs, they are discriminated against in places such as the public library in Levittown. One several occasions, the Bucks County guard from the municipal building has tried to shoo homeless people from the Veteran’s Memorial, although they were following the rules.

On one occasion, the guard said that some people who wanted to visit the memorial “feel uncomfortable” going to the memorial with the homeless people there. A standard ploy he has used is that the county commissioners are coming and they need to skedaddle. Really?

Another guy and I came up with the idea of having the homeless fix up and manage vacant property in Bucks County, in the spirit of the Homestead Act of 1862.  http://www.timespub.com/2015/04/30/working-for-a-place-to-stay/ 

A homeless friend who expressed interest in this project suggested that we filter people who need shelter. We would direct people with addictions and other major problems to the proper place, and direct other people to a place that simply provides shelter. I like the idea.

This is a compromise between the view of the advocate who doesn’t want any filtering for housing and the view of an official who is with the Bucks County Health Department. This official flatly said that housing first is a bad idea. He thinks that every homeless person should go to a place to get straight before getting housing. This presupposes that all homeless people have such serious issues that they are not fit for a residence.

The official offered me housing in exchange for me allowing myself to be labeled incurable, that I was so messed up mentally, disabled, that I was unable to work the rest of my life. I turned him down and told him that this would be fraud.

The advocate ignores the fact that there are some homeless people who need to be institutionalized before getting housing. No housing first for them.

One size doesn’t fit all. We need to give the homeless an opportunity to help themselves.

 

 

 

Hugs Not Drugs

There is a growing homeless problem in Bucks County, PA. People become homeless for different reasons. Some of them are refugees of recovery houses who end up living in the woods and other places. Others are homeless because of other addictions and attitudes where they ended up losing their jobs.

Some, however, have just succumbed to tough economic times, like, for instance, a single baby boomer who lost her job, then lost her apartment and ended up on the street. She scrambled from place to place, where she encountered bad people, one of which told strangers lies about her and even threatened to urinate on her.

Caring, helpful people also came into her life, and they helped her with her physical and emotional needs, mostly fellow homeless people. People took her in and gave her shelter. At one point, during a cold rain, her tent leaked and she ended up in cold standing water. Another homeless person took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with pneumonia.

She left the hospital and was soon out on the street, and moved to another location in lower Bucks County. Code Blue, where churches take turns providing overnight shelter during very cold weather, started. During the day she sought places to stay warm. She had COPD and couldn’t walk very far, and it was tough finding places to keep warm. On one occasion after Code Blue, she found the county WIC office opened and went in to keep warm. She was kicked out with the bogus explanation that because other clients are not there, she can’t stay!

The sick woman had to wait in the cold until the public library opened.

Along the way, she met more caring people who took her under their wing. Besides her homeless friends, advocates for the homeless helped her along. One in particular ministered to “the library people”, the homeless who frequent the public library in Levittown, PA. Not only did the woman, who was from a local church  help with physical needs; she mentored the library people.

The advocate, now in Arizona with her family, regularly visited the library area and showed up at many of the community meals. She counseled a man with a drinking problem, a woman who was upset after being robbed at the emergency shelter next door, and many others with problems. The library people knew they were accepted and loved unconditionally.

Since I started associating with the homeless at the library two years ago, there were officials from the Bucks County Health Department, the same entity that runs the WIC office, who also offered help for the homeless. Unlike the advocate and the churches that hosted community meals, Bucks ​​County’s interest is public funding.

One official in particular from the Bucks County Health Department offered, in pork barrel fashion, housing in exchange for agreeing to be a patient at their taxpayer funded mental health clinic, mainly Penndel Mental Health Center.

The Bucks County officials hustled their business all over the place – at homeless camp meet and greets, homeless camp evictions, the Salvation Army, the Veteran’s Memorial, as well as the Levittown public library. I once saw one of them running around at a community meal, clipboard in hand!

Prescription drugis Penndel Mental Health Center’s raison d’être.

A psychiatrist I encountered at the local Salvation Army offered to get me into Penndel Mental Health Center, as I was going through difficult times and experiencing anxiety and depression. One of the first things he asked me is if I was willing to take medication.

I took the guy up on his offer, and after intake, I was prescribed Paxil, which made my anxiety worse. The doctor and someone from the Salvation Army who worked in the mental health industry and was well versed in psychobabble, told me to be patient, as there was a break in period.

Months later I stopped taking Paxil and decided to go drug free. Meanwhile, I was seeing a therapist at Penndel Mental Health Center. My meetings with the psychiatrist were mainly about how the drugs were working. The therapist told me that I could not meet with him unless I took drugs. Then it was “na na na na, na na na na, yeh hay-hey, goo-od bye”.

There is an unholy alliance in some cases between psychiatry and big pharm. This may be the case at Penndel Mental Health Center.

http://counterthink.com/Psychiatry_and_Big_Pharma.asp 

http://blogs.plos.org/speakingofmedicine/2013/12/18/book-review-the-drugs-dont-work-antipsychotics-big-pharma-and-psychiatry/ 

In my associations in the homeless community over the past two years, I’ve learned of people who were ministered by church sources and some who were patients at Penndel Mental Health Center. The people who followed the Lord seemed to be getting better while the people who used the services of Penndel Mental Health remained unchanged or got even worse!

After leaving Penndel Mental Health Center and it’s drugs on the ash heap of history and continuing to follow the Lord and fellowshipping with believers, I’ve changed for the better.

People at the church community meals, who sit with their guests and develop relationships with them, as do individuals who come to the homeless to minister to them are genuinely concerned about the homeless and have no agenda, except to serve God. I can’t say the same for the mental health industry.

There is a need for mentors in the homeless community. The homeless are going through a hard time just by being homeless and some people look down on them. Morris, from No More Pain, Inc., who has been coming out to see the Library People is the closest thing to the advocate who moved.

Morris, and also Steve, from Pro-Act are looking for caring people who want to serve others as mentors. They held a joint meeting on February 23 in Bristol:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1725614617672452/ 

Reach out and touch someone. Hugs are better than drugs. Drugs are an epidemic in our country, especially in Bucks County, PA. So are other problems, for which people could use a helping hand.

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
-Proverbs 27:17

 

For Whom The Bell Tolls

“Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee” — John Donne

A tragedy struck at a homeless camp early Sunday morning in Bristol Township, PA when a fire broke out in a motorhome at the camp, killing a 63 year old man. http://levittownnow.com/2016/02/21/homeless-man-killed-in-rv-fire/ 

The motorhome was donated to the residents of the homeless camp fall of 2014. About this time neighbors of the camp made complaints and the homeless campers were under threat of eviction. About a year later, the local district court ordered people out of the camp by early November, 2015. Concerned parties have filed an appeal.

The sword of Damocles is still hanging over their head.

Places for homeless people to go are constantly shrinking in lower Bucks County, PA. Even the emergency shelter in Levittown has a waiting list. I, like many others, were originally surprised to learn this.

It took me almost two years to figure out the main reason why shelter for the homeless is so hard to get. The main contributor is the local recovery houses, which number about 100! Druggies are piled in like cattle and they head out through the revolving door and end up in the emergency shelter, causing a waiting list and bringing crime and harassment of people who just need a place to stay.

Because the shelter is brimming with druggies, and to a lesser extent, drunks, people who fell on hard times who just need a place to stay end up on the street, scrounging to find a place to live. As in the popular musical, the hills may be alive with the sound of music, but the woods, shelters and streets are alive with the occupation of druggies, along with people who have become homeless not because of addictions or other social problems.

Druggies caused an eviction in the woods by the Levittown public library. Steve Long, Chief Bucks County Ranger, told me that this was a result of complaints about drug use and people with warrants. Syringes were found in the woods.

The Rangers circulated eviction notice fliers which included contacts for assistance, housing opportunities. Well, it takes a year or two to get aboard county assisted housing. The “assistance” offered no viable alternative to the woods.

The only other alternative is the nuthouse. Representatives from the Bucks County Health Department have been aggressively chasing homeless people to sign them up for mental health services, whether they need it or not, not to mention not having a choice where they go. I recently learned that some time ago, someone from the Bucks Health Department tried to bribe a homeless man to tell him where the homeless camps were located so he can Shanghai them.

I wouldn’t be surprised if these ambulance chasers from the health department show up at the homeless camp where Sunday morning’s fire occurred. This is the same department that wouldn’t let a homeless woman with COPD sit in the WIC building in Levittown during business hours to get warm until the library opened.

All the State’s Horses and all the state’s men will not put homeless lives back together again. When I say “state”, I mean the government. As President Ronald Reagan said  “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

As a result of the federal government pushing and protecting recovery houses in lower Bucks County, PA, crime has gone up with the release of the Frankenstein-Druggie monsters on the community. Lately, the PA government is trying to find ways to clean up the abuses of the recovery houses. http://levittownnow.com/2016/02/16/head-of-pa-department-of-drug-and-alcohol-programs-speaks-about-certified-recovery-houses/ 

We’ll see how well this works. It’s a good idea to look into fixing the recovery houses, but I am skeptical, even if the problem of stuffing people into rooms like a flop house, poorly trained counselors and other problems  are resolved, this may not be the best solution, even if a voluntary certification program is put into place. Voluntary certification is a step in the right direction, however.

The problem is who certifies.

Homeless people with addictions or mental issues, like homeless people without addictions or mental problems, should have a choice, and not just be tossed into the official place and the official time for help. The recovery houses have just resulted in monsters being released into the community, and people who have just become homeless are put on hold for a year or two to get housing.

Penndel Mental Health Center is becoming, by fiat, the official treatment center for mental health in lower Bucks County, PA, whether people need their services or not. For drug addicts, the only thing that will change at the center is the legality of their drug use. Legal drugs is the sine qua non at Penndel Mental Health Center. They use drugs to control behavior. Isn’t that what druggies do on the street? They take drugs to feel better?

About two years ago I was a mess with anxiety and depression. I was introduced to someone from Penndel Mental Health who asked, first off, if I would be willing to take prescription drugs. I ended up as an outpatient at Penndel and was prescribed Paxil, which made my anxiety worse. I also started seeing a therapist at the same time. At one point, I stopped taking the Paxil, and the therapist told me I’m not supposed to get therapy without taking drugs.

Soon after, I also stopped the therapy with Penndel Mental Health and cut all ties with the institution.

The Cognitive Therapy used at Penndel, however, was a good model, a methodology for sorting out problems. The patient just has to fill in the blanks. In a nutshell, cognitive therapy tries to get the patient to think the right things in order to control behavior. The behavior that results from an idea is evaluated and then the patient thinks about how he can change his thinking to improve his life.

I’ve had to learn to do the right things by doing the wrong things. Now, I use God as a guide to control my thinking and behavior. After returning to God, I still had to reevaluate my thinking based on behavior. There was a homeless woman I spent time with whom I got very close to — even thought I was in love with. Someone thought I could help her with her drinking problem because I don’t have a drug or alcohol addiction and that we were both educated. She would get me to read books which we’d discuss and we’d have interesting conversations about literature, art, and other matters.

Like Robert Palmer, I was addicted to love. I’m still in recovery.

But the woman, like a dog returns to its vomit, returned to her drinking. She went to the dark side, being insulting, rude, and even tried to steal my cell phone. She also stole from others, almost everywhere she went. I kept thinking she would turn around and that our relationship would flourish. Wrong! Trying to steal my cell phone was the final straw.

There were two other woman I had a romantic interest in. They both seemed to have a negative outlook on life – certainly not the Christian view — were manipulative and harbored anger, resentment. One of them misused prescription drugs and the other street drugs. I’ve started to get my anger/resentment under control, thanks be to my faith in God. Getting into a close relationship with either of them would spell disaster; I’d be dragged down with them.

One of them kept asking me to be her errand boy and I’ve just kept my distance from the other. Whenever the latter sees me, she talks sweet to me and hugs and kisses me and we hold hands. Like Odysseus, I then steer away from the Siren to prevent disaster.

There are alternatives to the recovery houses and Penndel Mental Health Center. Gaudenzia treatment center, one of which is in lower Bucks County, is one option. It is faith based and the patients’ loved ones are part of the treatment. On visiting days, loved ones meet with staff to discuss problems. People I know have gone there for short term treatment. Gaudenzia has the sense to send the patients far away for long term treatment.

http://www.gaudenzia.org/ 

The recovery houses in lower Bucks County, PA have a revolving door, where the druggies are in and out of the homes, back on the street in an area where they know where they can find drugs. Originally, the druggies have come from different parts of the country and, by fiat, use the recovery houses as a way station on route to continue their addictions.

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”

John Donne

There are many hurting homeless people out on the street, struggling just to find a place to live. They need caring people to help them in different ways. Finding more shelter for them is a long term goal, a tough one for me and others to achieve. Meanwhile, we can feed their bodies and their souls.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, individuals and churches have reached out to the homeless. At the community meals, the hosts sit down with their guests and develop relationships. At one of the meals, a host talked one on one with a guy with an addiction problem who ended up at Gaudenzia. When I saw him there he told me he realizes that he needs to take treatment for his addiction seriously and needs to stay the course.

I told the guy who talked with the man who ministered to the man at a community meal about this. This was good news for him, as he didn’t know what he was doing since he saw him last.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

–Hebrews 13:2

The Parable of The Cockroach

I feel like Gregor in Kafka’s parable of the cockroach, Metamorphosis, where Gregor struggles to get out of his bed in the morning because he turns into a cockroach. His mother keeps calling him to get up, he finally rolls to the floor. His boss is on the other side of the door.  Gregor manages to open the door, scares everybody, chases his boss, but his dad chases him back into the room and he goes to sleep.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Metamorphosis

When we studied Metamorphosis in my psychology in literature class, a fellow student remarked that the character in Kafka’s story just didn’t want to face the world.

That’s me lately.

More and more homeless people come drifting into Levittown, PA, some of them from far away. William F. Buckley once said “Mr. Clinton has a tendency to appoint people who have problems”. Lower Bucks County, PA has become a magnet for the homeless, many of them with problems.

I’ve been hearing people with problems calling me, and like Gregor, I feel just as much the cockroach trying to get out of bed as he did. In many cases, they have gotten themselves into a jam, and want someone to bail them out. Some members of this community compound the problem but acting irresponsibly. In some cases they are looking for a scapegoat, as they want someone to blame their problems on, and make things up.

The most recent false witness was about me. When I walked into a community lunch, I was told that someone accused me of informing Bucks County Rangers as to where someone with a warrant can be found. Lie! The Kafkaesque reasoning is that this is so because I talk to the rangers. Holy non sequitur, Batman!

Yes, I do talk to rangers. I’ve contacted the chief Bucks County ranger to try to resolve problems in the homeless community. I addressed concerns for people’s property during the recent raid on the homeless in the woods by the Levittown public library. Steve (the chief) told me that there had been complaints about drug use. Syringes were found all over the woods. There were people living in the woods who had outstanding warrants, he wrote.

The last time I talked with a ranger was to keep him updated about a mutual friend whom he helped get into a treatment center for alcoholism.

Since then, our friend stormed out of treatment, and is, in the words of Bob Dylan:

“…on your own

No direction home

Like a rolling stone”

He’s been drifting from place to place, after having problems, alcohol induced.

The ranger also asked me if I had seen a certain person who had a warrant. I had not for some time. The ranger asked me to pass on the message that it’s to the guy’s advantage to turn himself in, before the rangers bring him in.

I have no idea what the warrant is for. I can only surmise that it’s for something between jaywalking and murder. It could be the equivalent of killing a deer in the King’s woods. The guy may have put up a structure without the permission of the county, although it’s OK to put up shelters for homeless cats, in an area designated for passive recreation.  Sometimes, as Charles Dickens wrote “the law is an ass.”

For sure, criminals, especially thieves — many of them druggies — muggers, and murderers need to be brought to justice. This element hurts the homeless community; it reflects badly on them. Unfortunately, most people can’t distinguish between who is naughty and who is nice when they look at homeless people. When members of the homeless community act stupid, people, even I, morph into Kafka’s cockroach when we hear cries for help.

The chief ranger also asked me to convince the homeless to take advantage of the “assistance” opportunities listed on the eviction notices the rangers left throughout the woods. I emailed a Bucks County Commissioner and an electronic carbon copy to  Steve and explained that these opportunities are not viable. Based on my own knowledge, comments from the homeless, and common knowledge, I found this is no solution. There is a one to two year wait for housing in Bucks County! One even has to wait for months to get into the temporary shelter!

The commissioner never replied to my email.

When I first started hanging out with the homeless about 1 1/2 years ago, a mentor advised me to use discernment about the people with whom I associate. I found there are wolves (like the Pennsylvania governor) in sheep’s clothing.

There’s a young druggie who acts much like Shakespeare’s King Lear’s daughters, Regan and Goneril.  http://shakespeare.about.com/od/kinglear/a/Regan-And-Gonerill-From-King-Lear-Character-Profile.htm

She, like Lear’s daughters, flatter and talk sweet to people, especially guys, only to get what she wants from them and dismisses them. She cons money from people she befriends, and when they are of no use to her, she may as well throw them in the trash. And she steals.

Tis the season, and she may have the opportunity to be an ornament on the back of a motorcycle, an object of affection.

Some concerned citizens and I have been trying to come up with a plan to create shelter for the homeless. We’ve been kicking around ideas. One homeless guy pitched the idea of having an office where the organization can filter people — direct people who need treatment for addictions to treatment centers and send people who just need a place to stay where that’s all it is. I think this is a good idea.

Lately I’ve noticed homeless people trying to help one another and build one another up and engaging in intelligent, sometimes humorous conversation. The community meals have been mostly drama free lately and have been a real blessing, with a sense of camaraderie.

When I’m overloaded with all the drama with people around me, I realize I shouldn’t crawl up like a cockroach, but rather seek the shelter God provides.  At least temporarily, I’m in a better place than the homeless, as Nehemiah was then “those who survived the exile” when the wall of Jerusalem was “broken down and its gates have been burned with fire.”  Nehemiah left his zone of comfort to help rebuild the city.

After resting with God and regrouping, I’ll see about helping the homeless, of course, using discernment.

I’ll be at Home on Christmas

The true spirit of Christmas shone bright at the Christmas dinner put on by the Marrazzo Family in Penndel, PA. People who would otherwise have no place to go could meet in a family like atmosphere.

The hosts treated the guests like family, visiting them at their tables, asking them if they wanted anything, making them feel at home on Christmas and they were genuinely glad everyone came.

Like the regular community meals for the homeless and needy in lower Bucks County, this was a venue where friends can get together and be at ease to share the latest news and freely speak what’s on their minds. It’s where people can make new friends and band together and know they are not alone in their plight.

As the Three Dog Night sang “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do”. The community meals are an antidote to facing a challenging world alone. One, however,  can even be lonely in a crowd.  But not at the Christmas dinner!

Not only do the guests interact with each other, the hosts at the community meals talk with them. On more than one occasion, one of the hosts sat down, one on one with a man with an addiction problem, trying to help him along. Showing concern for others has been happening a lot at community meals.

The spirit of Christmas extends beyond the season. Christmas is just a reminder of life not being about material gain and self-aggrandizing fame but helping others — doing the right thing. Peace and goodwill to men nested here.

It is a lost world out there. Before I went to the Christmas dinner, a guy was panhandling at a Wawa. Also, someone approached a very thin, weak looking, somewhat pale woman and asked her if she wanted to sell heroine. The hustler may have thought the woman was an addict and may be interested in making money to support her habit.

Indeed, it was a peaceful dinner.  People with different faiths could find common ground and encourage and edify one another.  There was no drama, as in the case of the story (made up) of a protestant who walked away from his Christmas caroling group and got into an altercation with a catholic and threatened to hit him.  Someone in the group said “come on, let’s go; strike the harp and join the chorus!”

It’s good I’m able to joke about this, using my sometimes strange, occasionally irreverent sense of humor.

Encouraging and building one another up is what Christmas reminds us of.  It should not stop at Christmas. It should not be like the Christmas seize fire when I was in Vietnam, in the Tonkin Gulf.  During Christmas, not a creature was stirring, not even a water snake.  It was a silent night.

But the nanosecond the ceasefire was over, the whole Tonkin Gulf erupted with gunfire, making the shootout at the OK corral seem like kids having a cap gun fight.

Christmas day at the dinner was an oasis in the wasteland of our sinful world — a taste of heaven (and the food was good).  People left with full stomachs and warm hearts.

Who Put The Bomp?

“Who put the bomp
In the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
Who put the ram
In the rama lama ding dong?
Who put the bop
In the bop shoo bop shoo bop? “

In the song, Barry Mann asks “Who is that man?”, and adds

“I’d like to shake his hand…”

I, like the author of the song, don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know who put the “community” in the community meals. And I’d like to shake their hands. They made me baby think more positively! Yeah!

The community meals for the homeless and those in need in lower Bucks County, PA have been a blessing. Churches in the area take turns serving the homeless and the needy, providing prepared, sit down meals.

As I’ve said, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, these meals are not hosted by Jeff Dunham’s Walter, who said that if he was a Walmart greeter, when people walked in he’d say “welcome to Walmart; get your sh** and get out!”

Like the pubs in Ireland, which are not just a place to get a drink, especially in rural areas, the community meals are a social center, where homeless and needy people congregate and engage in pleasant conversation, at times scholarly. The hosts seamlessly join in.

At a recent meal, one of the hosts sat down at the table with the guests. We didn’t know she was one of the hosts until after we talked with her for about ten minutes. Reminds me of the joke about mosquitos in Vietnam.

“How big are the mosquitoes in Vietnam?”

“They are so big that when they’d land at the airfield, we’d refuel them and let them take off before we realize they were mosquitoes.”

At the Restoration Church meal, one of the hosts always says “I see you’re smiling.” By nature, I tend to worry — I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression most of my life. It’s good to have someone notice that I can, as James Taylor sung, have my cares drift into space. Actually, it’s the Lord who comforts me.

God sends people to help and comfort others.

It’s the hosts who reach out to their guests and the guest who respond to them and break bread with each other that puts the “community” in community meals.

I’m still trying to figure out

“Who put the dip
In the dip da dip da dip?”

But in the scheme of things, that’s not really that important. As a Christian brother used to tell me, “that’s that liberal arts stuff taking up space in your head.”

When I was in the Navy, I got the nickname “Drifty Drinnan”. Although I sometimes drift off course, like a ship’s helmsman, I correct my course, with God as my Captain at the con.

References: http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/barry_mann/who_put_the_bomp_in_the_bomp_bomp_bomp.html