Overcoming Obstacles

Funding Woes Hurt Homeless reads a newspaper headline I referenced in recent blogs and argued that the cuts to Bucks County’s useless Mental Health Hustler programs is not what hurts the homeless.

Hobophobia, the irrational fear of the homeless is the main reason there is not sufficient housing for the homeless in Bucks County, PA. Because of attitude towards the homeless, not only will the county government not adequately provide homeless housing, but it interferes with private efforts to provide homeless housing.

Bucks County should follow the example of Pedro Opeka, who encouraged impoverished people in Madagascar to build good communities from  a dump, where once he taught them, they became educated and also built their own community. They didn’t build their city on rock and roll but by motivation and hard work.

A formerly homeless guy in Bucks County told me he spoke with a businessman who had planned to create housing for the homeless. When the establishment found out the project was for the homeless, it was nixed! I’ve heard from other sources that, although there is more property in Bucks County than homeless people, when caring people tried to make plans to use it for the homeless, they got shut down faster than The Little Old Lady from Pasadena shuts down anyone who races her.

Awhile back, when I asked Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia to consider a plan to create homeless housing on county land, she poo-pooed the idea and said that it would jeopardize county assisted housing opportunities. There is a one to two year wait. My idea, like Priest Pedro’s, is to let the homeless build and maintain the community, as is the case with Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon.

https://dignityvillage.org/

In Bucks County, the consensus is that people, especially the homeless, are not able to do what the villagers did in Madagascar. And as I’ve argued, Bucks County just uses the homeless so it can keep them out of public view as much as possible and put them out to pasture and tap into public funds.

Even the local Salvation Army, the organization which historically has gone against the grain in order to help restore down and out people, goes along with the establishment in order to get along. People’s actions there show that they are hobophobic. The boss, Major (Casper) Milquetoast will not lay down the law. Likewise, for The (alleged) Advocates for The Homeless and Those in need (AHTN),  rules are no rules.

Two homeless people, whom I believe were drunk and I believe took the AHTN bus, went to a recent community meal. They were both loud, especially one of them. When a host on the serving line asked me how I was doing, I responded, “OK. I’m a caregiver and it’s nice to get out once in awhile.” One of them slurred “are you in a tent or a home?” I ignored him. Louder, he repeated the question. “What does it matter?,” I replied. He said that I was in a home and added that he doesn’t like it when someone with a home says he’s going to go out. That whine was totally irrational and uncalled for. Smacks of jealousy and PMS (poor me syndrome). He later got into a loud argument with another guest.

If the jealous tent dweller would get off the bottle, change his attitude and do something more constructive he may get out of his tent. I know of a few homeless people who did! They got a good attitude, didn’t engage in or listen to malicious gossip, went out of their way to find work, and moved on up!

Problem homeless people contribute to homophobia. Unfortunately, people judge all homeless people based on a few rotten apples.

Just as blacks overcame discrimination, oppression during the Jim Crow south, the homeless can overcome prejudice against the homeless and other obstacles.

Excuse making and blame shifting are major reasons the drug abuse epidemic is getting worse. When you see it for what it is, it’s as comical as an episode on the sit com Good Times, when JJ got busted for having a wild party. When confronted, he explained that some people broke into the family apartment “and forced us to party with them.”

“Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next.”
Ben Carson, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

The doc has the right prescription for overcoming obstacles!

Birmingham and Levittown

In his letter from the Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr urged leaders of the white “moderate”, lukewarm churches to stand for justice against the oppression of blacks in the Jim Crow south. This is the case with the homeless in Bucks County, PA, where some churches, instead of standing up for the homeless, go along with the Bucks County establishment and view the homeless as second class citizens. In both cases, churches have taken the stance to go along in order to get along.

The church needs to stand on Biblical principles and influence the culture – be the salt in society.

In Bucks County, as was the case with blacks during the Jim Crow south, which by the way was under the influence of Democrats, the rights of the homeless are not respected. At the Levittown public library, there’s been a campaign to constructively remove the homeless from the library. Instead of standing up for the disadvantaged, as the Salvation Army did back in the day, the Salvation Army Levittown Community Center tacitly endorses this attitude. When the center’s public relations gal, The Countess of Carlisle butted into a conversation I was having with another volunteer about the harassment of the homeless, she Augustly stated that some people who visit the library don’t like the homeless being there and that the librarian is right for obliging her fellow elitists.

I disagreed. Consequently, the countess used her position to block an offer I had to write for the Salvation Army.

Between a member of The Advocates for The Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) and the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Penndel, PA, an injustice was committed when a guest came to the church’s community meal drunk. He verbally assaulted and physically threatened another guest and anyone who seemed to have a problem with his behavior, cursing up a storm. He was restrained by a few men in the church.

The police were called. Two members of AHTN walked with the attacker to the other end of the large room. When the police came, they told the victim to leave, at the host’s request. The next time the victim came to the meal, he was told he had to leave. The host reluctantly said it was because he was saying bad things about the homeless.

There was false witness going around about the victim, that he ratted out homeless campsites and was a pervert, a sexual predator. I don’t know what any member from AHTN told the host when they walked out of hearing range of the victim, but it’s bizarre that the victim, who showed total restraint under attack, was banned from the church. I believe that AHTN repeated lies about the victim and maybe embellished the false witness, making up more lies. The attacker must have heard what was said.

Interestingly, the authorities did not bring the drunk and disorderly attacker to the district court where the victim filed a lawsuit against Redeemer Lutheran Church and members of AHTN. He may have shed the light of truth on what was said to cause Redeemer to ban the victim from the meals. The court entered a default judgment against him but dismissed the case against Redeemer and AHTN.

AHTN protected the perpetrator out of self interest. They view the homeless as miscreants whom they don’t hold accountable, which keeps their non profit in business.

On one occasion, the Levittown librarian ordered the locks of bikes parked legally in the bike rack in the library cut because some homeless people had abandoned their bikes there. All the locks were cut, including those who had their bikes parked there during their stay at the library. Christine, one of the AHTN members who talked with the hosts at Redeemer Lutheran Church, met with the librarian. She reported to the homeless that Pat, the librarian, made an announcement for those with bikes parked there to come out so they wouldn’t have their locks cut. I learned from a reliable source that Pat never made an announcement, as the guy who told me was in the library the whole time.

In his letter, Dr King wrote of being in the middle of two different forces in the black community. One is complacent and just goes along with the status quo. The other force is bitter and hateful and breeds violence. These black nationalist groups are the forerunners of today’s militant groups, such as Black Lives Matter. Dr. King writes “It is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incurable devil.”

Some hold the same view in the homeless community. A homeless and a formerly homeless guy told me that because the homeless are oppressed and because of their situation, they have a reason to act like savages. I disagree.

MLK explained in his letter that the purpose of non violent protest is to call attention to injustice and bring people to the negotiating table. This is what a true advocate for the homeless did in Portland, Oregon. Consequently, Dignity Village, a community of tiny houses where some formerly homeless have administrative positions, was created.

What Bucks County needs is to call more attention to the homeless problem, and instead of pushing the homeless away, like the Democrats did the American Indian, respect the rights of the homeless and don’t quash even private efforts to house the homeless just because of a few bad apples. This is discrimination.

Some churches in Bucks County have been gracious to the homeless, feeding them, providing clothes, accepting, listening to and mentoring them. They need to do more of it!

We shall overcome!

Dr. King’s letter is lengthy, but, to borrow a phrase from a high school English teacher, it’s worth its weight in gold:

https://swap.stanford.edu/20141218230016/http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/kingweb/popular_requests/frequentdocs/birmingham.pdf

Go Your Own Way Not!

To resolve problems, people need to compromise. This is what a pastor and a homeless advocate is not doing in the saga of the conflict with neighbors and authorities over the homeless in Dover Delaware who have been staying on church grounds and want to build tiny houses there.

http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Delaware-Dover-Church-Tiny-House-Neighbors-Controversy–392662151.html

Unlike the authorities in Bucks County, PA,, Kent County Delaware has offered the homeless a viable option. When a Kent County zoning official told the church pastor and an advocate about a site that had utilities set up and, unlike the church property, would be a legal homeless site, the pastor and the advocate cursed the woman out and insisted the homeless build the tiny houses on the church property.

http://delawarestatenews.net/opinion/letter-editor-not-fast-dovers-tiny-houses/

The homeless at the Delaware church don’t know how good they have it. When the authorities in Bucks County boot the homeless from an encampment, other than working to get a few of them in the so-called emergency homeless shelter in Levittown, PA, as was the case with a recent homeless eviction, Bucks County offers the evicted homeless nothing. Nothing! Alleged advocates from The Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) in Bucks also did nothing. When the press came and the homeless met with veterans from a local vets group on the eve of the “Veteran’s Memorial” eviction, AHTN didn’t get involved. At all!

In Portland, Oregon, after exposing the get-out-of-Dodge; we don’t care if you have nowhere to go policy (a term I just made up), through shopping cart parade protests, the authorities offered the homeless a compromise. Unlike the rabid pastor (probably a leftist) and the homeless advocate in Delaware, the Oregon homeless went with the offer. What was a relatively small group of homeless people sleeping under bridges, etc., became a homeless community with Tiny Houses. And the formerly homeless manage the place. Some of them have administrative positions in Dignity Village. The whole time they were moving on up from Dignity Camp, and now had the housing like the rest of us.

https://dignityvillage.org/

In Kent County, the homeless advocates give the homeless a free pass and do not hold them accountable for their behavior. In the summer, the police had to come to the church more than once because of noise, fighting, and other problems. As I said in my last blog, the pastor should evict the problem homeless from the property.

Likewise, homeless “advocates” in Bucks County have been lax in dealing with homeless people who act up, such as coming the community meals drunk and creating problems on the AHTN bus. It’s only because one of the guests who attends the community meals took action and at least one other advised the advocates to stop minimizing the problems, and also circumstance, that the problem is starting to be taken more seriously.

Bucks County has the get-out-of-Dodge; we don’t care if you have nowhere to go policy towards homeless encampments when they evict them.

A problem contributing to homeless housing is hobophobia, the irrational fear and distain for the homeless. Unfortunately, the Bucks County establishment doesn’t get to know, nor wants to know, the homeless as individuals. Consequently, they take a “one-size-fits-all” approach. People in the municipal building in the government complex in Levittown, PA bullied a county officer to rid the nearby veterans’ Memorial of the homeless because they feel uncomfortable visiting the memorial with homeless present.

The hobophobia carries over to getting housing for the homeless. A local businessman, for example, tried to acquire property to house the homeless. When the establishment discovered this was for the homeless, it stonewalled the project.

Some of the homeless likewise contribute to hobophobia, which, incidentally, is not tax deductible.

The Delaware pastor and the advocate, as well as some people here in Bucks County, are not helping the homeless by giving certain individuals a pass for bad behavior. For sure, some people have weaknesses and flaws, but the resulting behavior should not be overlooked.

We all have baggage. Those of us without sin should throw the first stone. None of us are, in Jesus’s day or today. Doing what’s right does not come naturally. We need God’s help to do what’s right. I realize I have a few things to work on in my life.

People need to want to be helped, as is the case with the homeless at the Delaware church. Not only do helpers need to set a good example and expect the same good behavior from the homeless as they do from everyone else, not writing them off as hopeless, but show God’s love towards them and gently, like an atomizer, get them on the right track, the Godly track, the train bound for glory.

“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.” -2nd Corinthians 5:20

From Exile to Homecoming

“Evicting encampments without providing adequate alternatives is essentially lazy policymaking: you may feel like you are doing something about the problem, but you are really just wasting taxpayer money, without results to show for it,” said Eric Tars, Senior Attorney with the Law Center. “Elected officials should follow Indianapolis’ example and take positive steps to end homelessness, rather than using precious community resources on sweeps of encampments that only make things worse.”

The attorney from the law center that advocates for the homeless is talking about a new law in Indiana that requires the homeless be provided housing before they are evicted.

https://www.nlchp.org/press_releases/3.2.2016_Indianapolis

If Indiana, where Mike Pence is governor, can do it, we can in Bucks County, PA. It’s hard, however, to get a good idea, that helps all concerned, past the thick ideological skulls of progressives, who care more about image, rules and regulations and their own self interests than about people, especially the poor and downtrodden. We need to convince the powers that be the way the film, Under The Bridge: The Criminalization of Homelessness did to help create the new Illinois law.

Convincing people to help the homeless with shelter, the biggest need for the homeless in Bucks County, is my mission.

The biggest problem with getting the law on the side of the homeless is to reach the minds and hearts of people by letting them know who the homeless really are and offering viable solutions. Once minds are changed, favorable rules and pro homeless policy will follow.

“Don’t talk about us; talk with us.” –slogan coined by a group of homeless people. In Levittown, PA, people from the municipal building don’t want to go to the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial when they believe homeless people are there. They told the municipal building guard that, and he tried to shew the homeless away from the memorial, but they stood their ground. At the time, nobody was causing any problems. Maybe if they’d venture out and get to know the homeless, they’d have a different opinion.

In Portland, Oregon, after having standoffs with police and being forced to move from homeless camps, a group of homeless people were able to create Dignity Village, a self-governed community of tiny houses, with amenities such as water for bathing and cooking, just like other communities, run by the homeless themselves. Other localities are modeling homeless communities after Dignity Village.

As is the case in Bucks County, the bureaucracy was unable to resolve its homeless problem. It was the initiative of homeless people and volunteers who helped make a dent in the homeless problem in Portland.

Rather than just running people off of homeless encampments, Portland has been working with Dignity Village.

Dignity Village, now transitional housing, has plans to create a permanent community.

http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/-in-a-tiny-house-village-portlands-homeless-find-dignity-20160128

This is how they did it.

The group of homeless people, calling themselves Camp Dignity, through an advocate, challenged the municipality on constitutional grounds over being chased out of public land, as they were considered illegal squatters.

But it was civil disobedience and favorable press for their case that paved the way for the homeless to create and maintain a decent community.   One way of winning in the court of public opinion was the shopping cart parades, which homeless advocate Jack Tafari publicized and got the media to cover. One such parade was held on Martin Luther King Day, 2001. Handicapped people in wheelchairs, a grand marshal and two others led a march of 35 shopping carts along the road as they were herded out from homeless camps by armed policemen. This got a lot of press.

To sway the court of public opinion, the homeless themselves have to maintain their dignity and show exemplary behavior. This is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr encouraged in his mission for equal rights. This is how you earn R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

“You will earn the trust and respect of others if you work for good; if you work for evil, you are making a mistake.” -Proverbs 14:22

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

No More Monkeying Around

Society must have rules of civility to avoid chaos. This includes the homeless community.

We cannot have the rule of the jungle, where we are trapped, like the caged monkey in the cage in the photo. To maintain order in the world, the nation, or the homeless community, there needs to be absolute, ironclad principles for living.

These principles were handed down to us from God, found in the 10 commandments, such as thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not make false witness, thou shalt not covet. It’s no wonder that the government wants to take down 10 commandment plaques on public property. People running our country don’t believe or practice these principles Consequently, society is suffering.

One of the most frequent sins that hurt a homeless community are false witness and stealing.

Overcoming these wrongs is a positive step for the homeless to improve their situation.

For the good of the community, official, organized homeless communities have rules that everyone has to follow. These places self governed, much like American Indian pueblos, which has their own leaders and security.

Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon is a model for housing the homeless. It came about as a result of activists and advocates prevailing in their efforts to lift the public camping ban based on constitutional issues and cooperation from politicians. In time, The Portland City Council sanctioned a “tiny house village” designated for “persons who lack permanent shelter and cannot be placed in other low income housing.”

http://dignityvillage.org/

To stay in Dignity Village, people needing shelter have to abide by the rules. The village is self-governed by a counsel. Dignity Village residents can get thrown out if they don’t follow the rules.

http://dignityvillage.org/governance/bylaws/

Bucks County, PA should follow the example of Dignity Village to help resolve its homeless problem. In lower Bucks County, we are at the stage this village was initially, with evictions and confrontations with authorities. As is often the case in lower Bucks County, the evicted homeless people load shopping cards and move to a new location.

http://dignityvillage.org/history/origins/

Tomorrow, November 20, 2015, a confrontation is expected at an encampment near the public library in Levittown.

In Bucks County, we need community activists, advocates, politicians, agencies, and the community to help the homeless take the steps to resolve the problem the way it was done in Portland Oregon.

Given the opportunity, responsible homeless people can overcome the current rut they are in with the community, scavenging like animals to skelter for shelter.

If we work together and acting civilly in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., we shall overcome.

Talk is Cheap

Talk is cheap.

Back last November,  Bristol businessman Joe Nocito, of Warming Hearts, said he was going to try to find people in a homeless camp in Bristol to “get them out of the cold and into shelters or apartments.”

Now, about a year later, homeless people feel as though the Sword of Damocles is hanging over their heads.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damocles

A funny, modern application of the old anecdote appeared in a Three Stooges short, but in this case it’s not funny.

In the Stooges short, a professor who bet another professor that environment determines behavior tried to turn the Stooges into gentlemen, by integrating them into high society.  In one scene,  Moe threw a pie up in the air that stuck on the ceiling, which started coming loose, ready to drop.

A high society lady collared Moe to ask him all about his “metamorphosis into…”.   The camera shows the pie about to fall, and Moe nervously excuses himself.  “Young man, you act as though the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head,” the lady exclaims.

In this case, the “sword” drops on the lady, and starts a pie fight among the upper class after she throws the pieces of pie and hits someone.

Like Moe, many homeless people are nervous about the hanging sword. Rumors about who is responsible for people possibly soon being evicted from the site have been running through the homeless community like wildfire.

As reported last year in Levittown.now.com  http://levittownnow.com/2014/11/27/homeless-struggle-in-camp-behind-businesses/,  local advocates for the homeless said that as a result of complaints from neighbors, the homeless may be forced to move out.

About that time, Warming Hearts helped people who were evicted from camps move after they were evicted. There was talk that the day after Warming Hearts visited two homeless camps, the next day the tenants of the camps were evicted.   http://levittownnow.com/2014/11/11/homeless-getting-evicted-from-woods-in-bristol-levittown/ 

Warming Hearts helped the people evicted move to a new place. Word is that these places were not that good a place. The trick to find a suitable place to live is where it is dry, the surface level and relatively soft, away from thorns, and somewhat protected from wild animals and bugs.

Often the case is that the homeless find a place only to have to pack up and move.

In the words of Clarence “Frogman” Thomas

“Ain’t got no home
And no place to roam
Ain’t got no home
And no place to roam
I’m a lonely boy
I ain’t got a home…

Ooh ooh ooh
Ooh ooh ooh
Ooh ooh ooh…

I ain’t got a mother
I ain’t got a father
I ain’t got a sister
Not even a brother
I’m a lonely frog
I ain’t got a home

Oh, what you say to me?
Please say to me
Oh, what you say to me?
Please say to me
I’m a lonely frog
I ain’t got a home “

Ooh Ohh… is right.

The sword of Damocles is hanging over the homeless.

Bucks County has recognized the homeless problem since the late 80’s.  Last year, officials counted almost 500 people out on the streets.  Instead of constantly pushing the homeless out of places, we need to work together to really find suitable housing for them.

Part of the problem are some members of the homeless population.  A person I’m close to told me that the property owner where she camped booted her and others out of an area because they abused the privileges the owner graciously gave them.  Not just permission to stay there, but limited use of the services.  But some of the inhabitants helped themselves to too much and ruined it for everyone.

Homeless areas have been raided when the authorities are called in because they were after a criminal or created problems with the community.

In the case of the latest homeless community where people may be evicted, I noticed there is a good buffer from the neighborhood.  Rumors have been circulating among the homeless community like wildfire about who is to blame for a possible eviction.  An organization of interest is the Warming Hearts.  Also, the homeless may have done something to attract attention to themselves.

If the community accommodates responsible members of the homeless community, it can make things better for those without walls.  One example of this working is Dignity Village, which started as Dignity Camp, in Oregon.  Advocates started by getting the camping ban lifted, then worked with authorities to find a suitable place, and then a community for people who need a place to live, with amenities, was created.

Why can’t we do this in Bucks County?