I was at a community meeting last night run by a local church. The minister is incredibly supportive of our work with the homeless. So much so that he often delivers leftover food to us from his events.
The meeting was wrapping up. As I was walking out I overhead an older lady complaining to one of the police officers that came to the event.
“What can you do about the homeless behind my apartment?”
“The yard is filled with tents! No one wants to live near the homeless. No one wants to look at that!”
He knows all about our facility. He works with us. He recommended we designate security people and get them security shirts. We did that.
The homeless security volunteers take their positions very seriously. They’ve set up security cameras. They monitor the facility constantly. And they work with law enforcement all the time. If you do anything illegal on our property you will be caught and prosecuted. Their focus is: We are here to help the homeless that want help. If you don’t want help and don’t want to move to the next stage of your life you can’t be here.
If anything, by having the homeless in one place under close supervision and security, we are making the community safer. Otherwise they’d be in the woods or under bridges completely alone and unsupervised.
But it’s not about that. That’s not what she was upset about.
It’s about the homeless themselves. They are an inconvenient truth.
It is very obvious that no one wants to look at homeless people. We had to build a fence so our neighbor in his $16,000 rundown home doesn’t have to look at the homeless. He wants us to buy his house so he can get away as soon as possible.
And it’s not that this woman is afraid that the homeless are going to break into her secure apartment building. We are separated by a 10 foot wall and a large chain-link fence on top of that. If anything, the people in the facility are more of a danger to us than we are to them. We once had a kid throw a rock over the fence at the homeless.
I’m not totally sure what it is exactly.
– Long hair
– Lack of teeth
It can’t be that though. There are plenty of homeless that are well kept. Short hair and fine looking teeth.
In fact, we have a couple women that are just plain beautiful. And Paul, our director, he looks like Hugh Jackman in the movie Logan.
So being ugly isn’t it.
People are afraid of the homeless.
They aren’t behaving the way people are “supposed” to behave.
“Just get a job. Get an apartment. And be like us.”
That’s the problem. They can’t be like us.
We’re working with a woman who has a young child. We recently helped get her out of a shelter and into an apartment.
The only work she has ever done is fast food. And she’d love to go do that again.
But she can’t. She has carpel tunnel and recently had surgery. She would need to wear wrist braces. But it’s a safety hazard. They won’t hire her.
So we’re brainstorming work ideas for her.
Our facility is filled with people with stories like this.
You might not believe me. But please try. There are people who can’t get work. There are people who have zero income, zero services. They have nothing.
These are the extreme cases of homelessness that we specialize in.
All they want is a slight bit of stability and a sliver of dignity. They just want a place to quietly live in peace.
We work with people that are quitting drinking, quitting drugs, dealing with mental health. We work with people that are ready to take their lives to the next level.
We have 25 people and 10 tents of people like this. If you aren’t here to better yourself you are out. We will help you setup a tent in the woods and you can come use our laundry, food and shower any time you are sober. But you can’t stay with us if you aren’t trying to better yourself.
And we have a waiting list. We have a man who is coming from Pittsburgh to be part of our tent community.
We are a positive force in our community.
But our neighbors hate us. No one wants to live next to the homeless no matter how put together they are.
I know hate is a strong word. But the fear is extreme and it leads to hate. It’s just nothing other than hate.
And while we can all sit back and judge them, you probably wouldn’t like it if I brought my tent city to your neighbor’s backyard either.
Homelessness is a problem that people acknowledge but don’t want to deal with. “Not in my backyard” is a real issue in working with the homeless.
And the funny thing is we are in one of the absolute shittiest parts of Akron. Houses sell for less than $20,000. There are prostitutes, drug dealers and abandoned homes everywhere. I couldn’t find a more bombed out slum if I tried.
And we’ve secluded them incredibly well. There is no street you can drive down where you will see our homeless living. Our fence hides them from the one home that can see them. All we have is an apartment building that if you look down your back window you will see 10 tents.
If not here then where?
We joked about digging a hole and putting them underground. If I had the money I’d probably try it.
Believe it or not, there is a point to all of this.
In a country where 70% of the adult population identifies as Christian we are talking about burying the homeless.
I understand that there are debatable topics in Christianity.
- Does God hate fags?
- Should we ban Muslims from coming into America?
These are topics debated in Christian circles. I’d call those topics intermediate-level Christianity challenges.
But I have never once heard a Christian ever say the words: God hates the homeless.
On top of that, most of the people we work with are Christian. I bet I hear “have a blessed day” or “I’m blessed” a dozen times a day.
And if you are a little uncomfortable about minorities the vast majority of people are white men. The next major group are white women. There are only a couple African Americans that even stop by our facility. Oh! There is one Ukrainian. He has an accent. But still. He’s very, very white.
It’s as if God is playing a game with us.
The game is called: “How Christian are you?”
He is making the game as easy as possible. It’s like playing on Novice mode in a video game. It couldn’t be easier.
White men (some of which are veterans) and women who have fallen through all the safety nets of society. They are standing looking at you. And God says: “It’s your turn. What’s your move?”
Be honest. How would you feel if 20 homeless people were camped out in your neighbor’s backyard?
This isn’t about judging people. This isn’t some sort of reverse condemnation. Your feelings don’t make you bad or evil.
God is simply offering you a chance to grow. He’s asking you to consider your faith and decide what being a Christian means to you.
The homeless of America are giving you more than you could ever give them. They are giving you the opportunity to find the love Jesus asked you 2000 years ago to try and find.
Most people haven’t learned that love playing the game for 2000 years. Maybe 2017 is the year people finally learn what Jesus was saying and make it part of their lives.