From Lemons Make Lemonade

Today in Bucks County, PA, the homeless have been suffering the slings and arrows from intolerant, judgmental people. Because there are some individuals in the homeless community who cause problems, the homeless have been stereotyped.

As a result of hobophobia, shelter for the homeless is scarce, despite there being more vacant property than homeless people in Bucks County. Recently, a former homeless guy told me that a businessman tried to acquire property for the homeless, but as soon as the establishment learned it was for the homeless, they stonewalled the project.

What are we to do?

Under these circumstances, one could develop PMS (poor me syndrome). Or we could refuse to be, in the words of Curly of The Three Stooges, a “victim of soy cum stances.”

In the 19th century, Biddy Mason, who was born a slave, rose up and became and nurse and a successful business woman, earning a small fortune. She used her fame and fortune to help the needy. 16 years after having been freed from slavery, Ms. Mason financed the first African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Los Angeles. We could all learn a lesson from Biddy Mason.

The AME church is one of the places where the homeless in Bucks County  are graciously fed. When I first went to a meal at an AME church, I thought it may be afro-centric. But then I learned why the AME was formed. Back then, blacks were rarely allowed to preach, worshippers were segregated by race, and blacks were marginalized. So they started their own church.

Recently, a guest preacher remarked in his sermon, tongue in cheek, that he was mistaken in thinking that AME meant “African Methodist Episcopal”. He said it really means “All May Enter”.  And they do.

This is the attitude we need to take. We are all creatures made in the image of God, including the homeless. “All may enter” public places such as the Levittown library should be our motto.

God put Christians on earth to do Christ’s work, sacrificing our own selfish desires and serving others, as Jesus did.

At a recent community meal at the St Mark AME Zion Church in Newtown, people at my table remarked how they appreciate the trouble the church goes to give them a good meal and the hospitality, as the hosts intermingle with their guests and show genuine Christian concern. Unlike the Salvation Army, which doesn’t let the homeless into the meals until the dot of 6 p.m., when the meals start, and can’t wait to get rid of them after doing their duty, guests of St Mark drift in an hour before the meal starts, and chat with the hosts as they are setting up.

We all have trials and tribulations in life. They happen for a reason. Instead of being bitter, we should learn from the experience and be gracious to others. In their circumstances, the homeless should not be bitter and be at enmity towards one another but should encourage and edify one another.

I recently had a trial. A friend with lung cancer and I got booted from two motels in two weeks. The Neshaminy Sin, aka the Neshaminy Inn and The Red Roof Inn reflected not only the judgmentalism and intolerance prevalent in Bucks County, but disingenuousness.

The general manager of the Red Roof Inn told me that when I was out, my friend was wandering around, disoriented and unable to find the room. He said he helped her find her way back, and emphasized that he didn’t mind doing that. But when it came time to renew the rent, he had left a message that we could no longer stay there.

When I questioned the manager, he said that my friend belongs in a nursing home, just as I was told at the Neshaminy Sin. After we left, he emailed me and said that he had told me during our conversation that if my friend wanders alone again we can’t stay there. He never said that!

After I experienced the turmoil of moving in the high heat and humidity, we found a much better place, which costs less than the Neshaminy Sin, without the drama of drunks, druggies, prostitutes and other miscreants.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” -2nd Corinthians 4:8-12

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”  -Jeremiah 29:11

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.

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.

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

The Homeless Versus The Government

Homelessness in the United States started before The Great Depression, but it became much more common by 1929, the official start of The Great Depression.

During President Herbert Hoover’s reign, shanty towns, known as Hoovervilles, built by the homeless in his name mushroomed. Soon there were hundreds of them across the US in the 1930s, as the progressive policies continued under President FDR. Clustered close to soup kitchens, Hoovervilles were a collection of tents and small shacks on empty land.

Hoovervilles were not officially recognized by the authorities, and people were booted from private land. But as the homeless problem started getting out of hand, authorities looked the other way out of necessity.

In Bucks County, PA, the homeless problem was officially recognized in the late 80s.

As the homeless problem in Bucks rose to near epidemic proportions authorities sometimes looked the other way when people camped out on private and public land. But in the past year, they started clamping down on unofficial camping.  The latest major raid was at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Levittown, PA.

Part of the problem is the homeless themselves. Sometimes they create problems. For instance, there was a homeless encampment outside a Walmart, where a property owner let the homeless use electrical outlets just to charge their cell phones. But some of them abused the privilege. Some of them even ripped off copper tubing, most likely the druggies in the group. Consequently, they were booted.

The homeless are a microcosm of society, where some of them reflect the bad behavior of today’s society. As such, individuals in the homeless community should at least be given a chance.

Many of the homeless in Bucks County work and are decent people who play by the rules and many of them work, but don’t have enough money for a place or just can’t find one. The only time they break them, is when they have nowhere else to go and camp on private and public land. Public land, by the way, belongs to all of us.

My appeals to use public or vacant property in Bucks County, which is sufficient to accommodate the homeless, fell on deaf ears. When I proposed to a county commissioner an idea to use county land to set up official encampments, in the tradition of the homestead act of 1862, where the homeless would build and maintain the encampment, she poo-pooed it and said that this would jeopardize their chances of getting into government assisted housing, which takes between one to two years to get into.

Back in the Great Depression, some men who lived in Hoovervilles who had construction skills built their houses out of stone.  Given some land, today’s homeless can do the same thing. One homeless friend excitedly told me his idea to build a wooden shelter that would house a few tents, with a  the wood burning stove in the middle and a vent for the stove. This never materialized, as the heat was on the homeless in the woods where he wanted to build it.

During the depression, the government set up shelters for the homeless, but they soon got filled up, especially in California, where they were hard to find. The Joads, the characters in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, illustrated this. The Joads briefly settled in a Hooverville (not quite a Holiday Inn) in California. The government shelters in Bucks County, PA likewise can’t keep up with the flow of the homeless, in large part to the explosion of recovery houses, some 100 of them in Levittown.

The economic causes of homelessness in modern America started in the late 19th century. Progressivism started as a spark in the late 1890s, when federal expenditures increased. Between Presidents Woodrow Wilson and FDR, the Republicans were progressives and the Democrats were conservatives. During that time, congress had more say that did the Presidents. The Republican party laid the intellectual groundwork for the growth of government in the 20th century.

The Republicans passed the Baton to the Democrats, and except when we had a reprieve with Truman and Kennedy, the Democrats have carried the progressive torch, burning the whole country.

The homeless are the canary in the mine. For those of you in Doylestown, this means that, as a canary is an advance warning for methane or carbon in a coal mine because the canary would die before the levels of the poisonous gases are hazardous to humans, homelessness is an early indicator of an unhealthy economy.

As I’ve said in a previous blog, a nation’s prosperity and its morality are intricately linked.

One of the obstacles for creating more shelter for the homeless is hobophobia. Even though the homeless are just a reflection of today’s society, the bad behavior of some homeless members prompts some people to think twice before helping them. The efforts concerned people who want to create more shelter for the homeless are stonewalled by the Bucks County government, fueled by intolerant, judgmental people.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

For further reading (quite lengthy)

And of course, the Bible.

No More Back of The Bus

In Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, it was a crime for a black person not to give up her seat in the back of a bus for a white person. In Bucks County, PA in 2016, it’s a crime for a homeless person who has nowhere to go to sleep on public property.

Both cases are an example of discrimination. Like blacks under Jim Crow, the homeless are treated like second class citizens.

Today’s homeless should learn a lesson on how to best handle hate driven discrimination from Rosa Parks, et al.  Mrs. Parks didn’t burn the bus, but just refused to comply with an outrageous rule. Consequently, she was arrested.

As a result of the arrest, blacks boycotted the buses until the bus company got rid of this discriminatory rule. It was tough; blacks had to walk very far to get where they were going. But it was worth it. It gave the black community hope that they could change the way things were.

And they did!

The homeless in Bucks County have to give up their freedom of choice if they want a place to live. They are constantly driven off of public land, with no place to go. There is a waiting list for the alleged emergency shelters and for housing assistance.

The best chance to get housing is through Bucks County’s Mental Health Hustlers. In exchange for signing up for mental health services and signing off their freedom of choice, like scalpers at a baseball game, the homeless are sold tickets for the Disoriented Express, vouchers paid for by the taxpayers. The cost, at first hidden, is high.

Like the Kanamits in the Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man, who offered earthlings peace and prosperity, only to use them for food, the mental health hustlers offer the homeless a solution to their problem only to exploit them for their own purposes, destroying them with dope and psychobabble. It’s all about the health hustlers.

The massive evictions of homeless people, only to be Shanghaied and taken aboard The Ship of Fools must stop.  The homeless should boycott the mental health industry in Bucks County. Maybe then the county will stop falsely labeling the homeless as nutcases and addicts and will offer them housing first.

Another way to fight discrimination is to behave in an exemplary manner. Much of the discrimination against the homeless is driven by hobophobia, the irrational fear of the homeless. Drunken brawls and evidence of drug use and other erratic behavior at the Veteran’s Memorial in Levittown, PA, for example, draws negative attention to the homeless. Much of the problem is created by dopers from the local recovery houses, but the homeless are considered guilty by association, even when the drunks and the dopers visit the memorial at different times than do civil people, who happen to be homeless.

Rather than have narrow minded people from the nearby municipal building and vicinity stereotype the homeless when a few individuals act up, the homeless need to show them who they really are. This happened recently when the Delaware Valley Vietnam Veterans met with the homeless and got a better understanding of who they are.

Instead of telling the authorities they are uncomfortable in coming to the memorial because the homeless are there and want the homeless chased away, people should talk with the homeless and decide for themselves who they really are. As a homeless saying goes, “don’t talk about us; talk with us.”

Take a lesson from Rosa Parks. Don’t lash out in anger, act civilly but stand up for your rights and let the world know who you really are.

“She sat down in order that we all might stand up.”

Churches Open Doors to Homeless

Family Promise is stepping up to the plate in lower Bucks County, PA to provide housing, meals, and services to help homeless families get back on their feet. Churches will open their doors to provide overnight shelter and meals for the families, with opening ceremonies starting April 2. Similar to Code Blue, which houses the homeless during the winter, churches participating in this program will welcome people year round.

Each morning, families are transported to a day center, where they can take care of hygiene, wash clothes, look for jobs and training, and get kids off to school. The center also offers job interview training, helps people arrange day care and helps families link up to other services, such as healthcare. Here job applicants can have a mailing address.

Although Family Promise of Lower Bucks is just housing families, including single moms, this should help others by freeing  up space in the Bucks County Emergency Shelter in Levittown, which is overflowing, with families, which get priority, taking up much of the space.

The goal of Family Promise is to help families become self sufficient, with an 80 percent success rate nationally.

To ensure the safety of the all the guests, participants are screened for substance abuse, criminal background, and mental health issues, as are strict rules.

A good part of the Family Promise program is mentoring people and making the guest feel at home. The volunteers are encouraged to mingle with the guests, while giving them their space, their privacy.

This is the atmosphere I’ve found at the community meals for the homeless and needy in lower Bucks County. As Paul Revere & The Raiders sang, it’s a good thing. 

I was greatly encouraged to learn of this private organization that helps fill the great need for shelter for the homeless in lower Bucks County. In the tradition of President Grover Cleveland, who vetoed a government bailout for Texas farmers and relied on Americans to help their neighbors, the private sector is coming to the aid of it’s homeless neighbors. In the case of the Texas farmers, Americans donated more funds to help fellow Americans than was proposed in the government bailout.

The local churches are doing God’s work by reaching out to needy people. I’m honored to have signed up as an advocate and for public relations with Family Promise of Lower Bucks.

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”

–Deuteronomy 15:11

For more information: 

Or, for those in the homeless community in lower Bucks County, see me, Jeff. They know me from the Navy Yard to the Boulevard. Actually, I can be found in the Levittown branch of the Bucks County Free Library and at the community meals for the homeless and needy.

Who do You Think You Are Mr Bigstuff?

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”

-Herman Melville

Hobophobia is a prejudice that is counterproductive to resolving the homeless problem.

For those of you in Doylestown:

Hobophobia: The extreme and utter fear of hobos, or the homeless. This is usually caused by the lack of exposure to the homeless throughout the world. A dose of homelessness is an easy cure to hobophobia.

“Ah! I have hobophobia!”

by Ian D. Rehn May 27, 2008  From the Urban Dictionary

There is a force in Lower Bucks County, PA that sees the homeless as a public nuisance.  Consequently, they’ve influenced the Levittown public Librarian to make the homeless feel uncomfortable by nit picking and finding any excuse, such as nodding off momentarily, to kick them out of the library.  In many cases the homeless are just harassed.

On one occasion, a homeless woman was harassed when she was reading a book.  She had just set it down a moment when the librarian told her she had to do something when she visited the library.

My partner in our nascent non-profit, Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless, overheard an official at a meeting at the library ask the group about how do they answer the question people have about the homeless turning the library into their hangout.

“Pat’s (head librarian) is taking care of that.”   When people in the group saw my partner, they greeted him with a smirky smile.

The biggest problem, driven by hobophobia, is the lack of shelter for people in Lower Bucks County.

The emergency shelter in Levittown has a waiting list.  There’s also an up to two year wait for public housing through the Bucks County Housing Authority.

Many people just don’t have anywhere to go.  They sleep in their cars, in tents in the woods, and on concrete in the open or by buildings.

In Bucks County, PA, there is more vacant property than homeless people.  Concerned citizens have tried to put the two together but have been stonewalled by the establishment.  Among the excuses is the liability and security.

When I asked the local Advocates for the Homeless in Those in Need (AHTN) about its efforts on getting more shelter for the homeless, and for tips on  how the organization for which I am publicist can proceed, I was told that it was impossible — that for one thing we’d need security 24/7.  I replied that we don’t plan to run a babysitting service.  The president of AHTN told me it just tried this for one day and she was dismissive.

There are solutions to the homeless problem. As reported in, eight homeless people started Camp Dignity in order to create a safe, sanitary, self governed place for the homeless to live.  Like lower Bucks County, the shelters in Portland,Oregon were overfilled. There were only 600 beds for 3,500 homeless people.  And like Bucks County, where people are banned from camping on public land, there was an anti-camping ban.  As a result of homeless advocates, the ban was lifted.

The homeless were free to resolve their problems.  Only the hobophobic would believe they could not. Camp Dignity later was called Dignity Village.  The original homeless founded tent city grew into a community of wooden shelters to protect residents from the elements where they have access to basic amenities and basic services.

But that wasn’t accomplished without being hassled by the man and through compromising.


One of the obstacles the homeless have to overcome is some members of the group creating problems. This, unfortunately, reflects on the rest of the homeless population.

People need shelter now.  A tent city is just a way to meet immediate needs before movin’ on up.

“Tent Cities are American’s de facto waiting room for affordable and accessible housing. The idea of someone living in a tent (or other encampment) in this country says little about the decisions made by those who dwell within and so much more about our nation’s inability to adequately respond to those in need.”

-Neil Donovan Executive Director National Coalition for the Homeless

Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless has begun its mission in Bucks County to fight for the homeless.  As publicist, I have begun firing the opening salvos to pave the way to create places for the homeless to live.  We have just begun to fight! 

There are many compassionate people in Bucks County to band together to help the homeless, in the tradition of President Grover Cleveland, who nixed a government bailout to help farmers in Texas who suffered drought but instead relied on Americans helping their fellow Americans.

Proverbs 14:31 “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

You Won’t Like Me Like That

One of the local homeless guys in Bucks County, PA I associate with who has a drinking problem is starting to get drunk more regularly again.  A few days in a row he’s been hanging out with the rest of the gang and although he didn’t provoke an altercation, he started losing self control when three other people started arguing over something stupid and has been getting into trouble.

He’s been on the verge of getting to the point where he instigates a fight.  One clue that he is drunk is when he addresses me as “Kevorkian”, aka Dr. Death, who was known for doctor assisted suicide.

A drunk who has left my homeless neighborhood started that nickname, which he also called me when he was drunk. When this guy is sober, he calls me “Jeff.”

Last night, I noticed his speech slightly slurred and starting to act a little erratic.  When he was getting ready to leave he said “I’ll see you Kevorkian.  I mean Jeff.”  I told him he was in transition.  He laughed, and said “Yeah, I’m in transition.”

He was in transition to that monster he becomes when intoxicated, much like the Incredible Hulk.  As the Incredible Hulk has said when he starts to become angry and ready to change to that Green Monster, “you won’t like me like that,”  I don’t like this guy when he transforms into a drunk monster.  He gets mouthy, intolerant, pushy, impertinent, and violent!  The difference between him and the Hulk is that, in his drunken state, he trips over his own two feet, and would not be much of a match for most sober people. Another difference is the Hulk only goes after the bad guys; this guy goes after anybody!

When this man is drunk there still can be damage.  His drunken state reflects poorly on the rest of the homeless people and there is a potential for injury if he gets into a fight with other drunks.

When he calls me Kevorkian, this is my cue to exit, stage right.

The past few days, members of the “library people”, who hang out in and around the public library in Levittown, PA, have been drinking more heavily and consequently getting into more altercations with each other, some of them very loud and on the verge of physical violence.  The most physical violence occurred when a drunken woman kicked a guy who was trying to break up a fight between her, her husband and another guy in the shins.  A very stocky homeless woman got between them and kept them away from each other.  In the nick of time, the bus to the community meals came.

On the bus ride, there was a détente.  But after the gang got back…   Let the rumble begin!

I don’t like any of my homeless friends drunk, miserable, and hopeless.  They are all in a challenging situation, and they need to get back to helping and encouraging one another, like the characters in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.  

I don’t like myself when I become angry, uptight and become bitter and vengeful to those in the homeless community who have used me as a scapegoat and have wronged me, although I have made peace with the few I’ve been at odds with, but not all.

I’ve been working with the homeless for about a year.  Besides the obvious that people are homeless, there are lots of problems in the local community — tobacco addiction, booze, and drugs, in that order.

Like the rest of the population, the homeless are not homogeneous.  The only thing all they have strictly in common is that they, in the words of Clarence “Frogman” Henry, “ain’t got no home.”

When I was in Army ROTC, we learned that a good officer leads by example and that respect is earned.  That officers bar will only carry you so far, we were told.

The rules of a good officer applies to my work with the homeless.

There is anger, resentment, defeatism, nihilism, and hopelessness in this community.  The homeless need help, encouragement, and acceptance.  And they need to be able to trust people.  Their trust has been betrayed by some people who said they were going to help them.

I have earned the trust, respect, and admiration of the local homeless community.  But setting a good example is a challenge.  One thing is not to return wrong for wrong.  I have been used as a scapegoat by some members of this community.  Someone I cared for (actually thought I was in love with), helped, and admired betrayed my trust by trying to flimflam me out of my cell phone.  Although I was able to get it back without incident, there were hard feelings.

After the homeless woman, whom I helped enormously, kept playing games with me and wouldn’t return my cell phone, I lost my temper and said some bad things, including “I hope who drink yourself to death.”  This was wrong.   Jesus would not do this.  I repented to God and tried to ask the woman for forgiveness, but every time I went to ask her, she ignored me.

For no reason, another homeless person with a problem with alcohol got nasty with me.  When I asked where the door is to drop off my homeless friend for Code Blue, a temporary place where the homeless can stay on extremely cold nights, the guy said something like “what do you think, dumb a**?  Don’t you see people standing by the door? ”  After hearing this salty talk awhile, I returned this wrong with wrong.  At one point I called him a loser.  This was wrong.

The next day, as I was talking to a homeless friend while waiting to pick up my homeless friend at Code Blue, this guy confronted me.  He called me a loser, said that nobody in the homeless community wants me around, and threatened physical violence, to which I replied “Go ahead, punk, make my day”.

To help the homeless, I realize that I have to get my act together and be a good example.

Another thing I learned in officer training is to put your men first.  The Bible says to consider others better than yourselves.  I try to put the interests of the homeless first, but sometimes it’s hard.

I regrouped and continued to tap into God, as I am a work in progress, and try to emulate Jesus better.

To help me do this, I’ve been attending a 12 Steps program, which uses Biblical principles to get me more on track with God and to better love my neighbor as myself.

Another way to help the homeless is to give them the opportunity to have a home.  To this end, Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless is raising funds through a crowdfunding site.  You can skip the ad after a few second but please do not skip out on this noble mission to give the homeless and opportunity to become productive members of society.