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Horrigan: You Stole Their Fallback

One of the reasons I’ve been exploring my own personal spirituality is to help keep my anger from welling up. I’m always looking for the faith, love and hope path.

But as we get closer to you closing down our shelter it becomes more and more difficult to keep my anger and frustration tamped down. It is beginning to boil over.

Let me tell you about the phone call I just had:

One of our former residents is getting evicted from his apartment.

He is getting evicted because, unlike what the isolated powerful like to proclaim: No one WANTS to be homeless. If anything they are STUCK in homelessness.

He was secretly sheltering a friend who just got out of rehab. She was freezing and he offered her a place to stay while she was getting back on her feet.

That’s another dirty little secret you may not know: the newly housed and extremely poor often illegally shelter their friends who are still stranded on the street. They do this even though they know the act is a great risk and at their own peril. Most housing programs make it completely illegal to shelter their friends. It’s called “doubling up.” You will be thrown out of your house for doing it. This is what happened to my friend this week.

(That seems to be the recurring thread of this story: It is at your own peril if you dare to care for the homeless.)

His case worker found out she was staying with him. Now he has a 3 day eviction notice. He is going to be homeless tomorrow.

As he was talking he said to me: “I always had in the back of my mind that if something went wrong, I could always go back to tent village.”

He is going to lose all his things. He is now asking around which abandoned properties I’ve heard of that are safe and not normally raided by the police.

He will be on the run. Hiding from the police. Hiding from danger.

You stole his fall back plan. You are culpable for the stranding of your homeless population. This is on you.

When all you do is destroy and not offer alternatives you are part of the problem. You become the problem.

Our day center is still open… unless you’d like to close that too. He will be coming here for survival gear as he heads back out into the wilderness.

Happy Thanksgiving, mayor.

Sage

8 thoughts on “Horrigan: You Stole Their Fallback

  1. Sage, while I appreciate your passion for helping the homeless I find it ridiculous that you blame Mayor Horrigan in any way for the perils of your friend. He knew the rules. He chose to break them. He alone is responsible for once again facing homelessness. Every community has rules to live by, take zoning or traffic laws for example. We all know the consequences of breaking the rules. If you are caught speeding, you pay a fine. If you can’t afford the fine, don’t speed. If you want to help these people find ways to work within the rules. Work to change them if you want, but don’t blame the Mayor or shelter providers for enforcing the rules that already exist while giving the rule breaker a free pass.

    1. As the director of a homeless resource center in Glen Burnie MD (Emmaus Center), I find the same situation here as Sage describes in this blog. And we receive the identical response as Keeven has offered here. “Obey the rules/laws and you won’t get in trouble.” It’s hard to argue that position from the outside. But if you have ever been homeless, your perspective may change. My experience is that the “homeless community” is a tight group of people who live with one another and literally depend upon each other to survive. They are truly the most generous people I have ever met in my 72 years of living. Might I suggest that we look at it from their perspective before we judge them in absence of compassion? Yes, many have shot themselves in the foot when they were told several times that the gun was loaded….and they did it anyway. Once the gun has been fired does their pain change (does YOUR pain differ) whether you knew he gun was loaded or not? And that’s merely the first step in dealing with the problem of homelessness. We have to be mostly absent of compassion to only insist that the rules not be broken. The second step, may I suggest, is to wonder why they broke the rules in the first place…..knowing the gun was loaded?!?!? Not everyone who breaks the rules is either dumb or evil…quite the contrary. So, maybe we should be curious about this very strange behavior before we shrug them off as dumb or evil. And then, as Sage suggests, let’s look at OUR actions or inaction. Dare we ask ourselves, “Are we a part of the problem or the solution?” It’s easy to judge and condemn and we don’t have to do a damn thing. Just pronounce our judgement. For the love of God, let’s ask ourselves that question and be willing to be wrong about our assumptions. We never become better people stuck in our own righteousness. We become BETTER when we say “I was wrong” and change.

      Fr. Ed Jansen, Glen Burnie MD

  2. We take people because we don’t want anyone to experience homelessness we once did but then people penalize us. We are truly caring people who try keep it together. Landlords just don’t know what it like for those who been homeless yet they put our people thru hoop after hoop to get housing then hoop after hoop to keep housing. We don’t get warnings they simply throw us out.
    What is happening in Akron is disgrace… yet the mayor does not understand poverty or homelessness or even stability and the hoops we jump thru to keep housing we have the jumping of hoops often requires us to eat the pain or push it down because when we seek supports when they push us out anyway. When we speak up for our rights they push us out.. it sad it really is.

  3. First, I will say Sage Lewis you represent the attributes of Christ … Who by the way was homeless all of his adult life. You take care of the orphans, the widows, the addicted, the poor, the homeless you love unconditionally just as He did. As a born again christian myself I hope to be more like you each day.

    Next, The problem as I see it is people on Akron city council and the mayor have no clue what they are “trying” to accomplish here. Housing the chronically homeless or shelter resistant folks we love from tent city is really not the answer. The answer is community what the “authorities” are doing is basically imposing a divorce they want to take this family unit and separate it . The residents of tent city need to know they have each other .

    The model in Austin Texas is the answer people. Community First Village started by a man very similar to Sage Lewis named Allen Graham. My idea is to take action, form a committee of Homeless Charity supporters and attend one of Allen Grahams quarterly symposiums and bring a plan to the city .
    We need to work together to acquire the land and build a community for the homeless.

    If anyone is interested in forming this type of committee please contact me through e-mail geomirg@yahoo.com

  4. I still find it hard to believe that someone in his position would show nothing but hate for the homeless. That is the bottom line. When you don’t care and you don’t take care of ALL the people in your city, you are hateful, greedy and just not a Christian in anyway. You got your butt spanked by Sage and you just can’t stand it. He has done more for the city than you every will. You can put in new roads, tear down parks and sell the property to pocket money , you can beautify the city with new lights, etc but you don’t give a damn about the homeless. All I can say is God help you when it is your time. He will judge you and every other person that does not help those in need.

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