Why the blog?

I write as the Spirit moves me. I have prayed about what I'm supposed to do with my life a lot. A lot. Writing. Writing is what I believe God is leading me to do. Whether or not He wants me to write for anyone to read is His business. Much of my writing has been therapy for me so maybe I'm the only one who is supposed to read it. So, why the Blog? As a sounding board, a note pad, a place to keep my ideas and thoughts. A place to share and promote my books, and photography. Written prayers, a place to vent. Possibly, even a place for the unknown reader to learn about the love of Jesus.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Homeless Interviews #13

Today's interview is with a volunteer, Robin:



ROBIN:
1.  What is your first/earliest thought when you heard the word "homeless".  What do you think now?
Unfortunately, probably the word that used to come to mind was "scary".  Now . . . when I hear the word "homeless", I think "compassion" or "unfortunate circumstances."

2. How did you get involved with ministering to the homeless and why?  
In the summer of 2008, I started reading "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne. It really started to change my view of Christianity and how I was living my life. The one quote that really stuck with me was: "God comforts the disturbed, and disturbs the comfortable."

That completely changed the way I started to think about my life, and I needed to get outside my comfort zone.  Inside the comfort zone . . . I don't really need to trust God and rely on the Spirit to get me through.  

Just before reading that book, I had felt the need to do some research on the internet regarding some homeless ministries. Nothing had come out of it - I researched for one night, then got busy with other things. After reading that quote in the book, I remembered a friend of mine talking about going on Thursday nights with her church family to feed the homeless in downtown Orlando. The next day, I called her to see if she was going that Thursday, and she was. So, I met her there, befriended a homeless woman I met, and thus began my journey of getting to know the homeless.  :) 

3. Describe how you felt when you first came to KNOW a homeless person.
My initial feeling was that I wanted to help provide for her needs, and FIX EVERYTHING.  I didn't say too much, but I wanted to at least provide for immediate physical needs, knowing that would not help long-term, but would show love in the present.  I felt very humbled and also felt a great deal of responsibility and accountability for what God has blessed me with and put in my possession to manage . . . HIS money and resources.

4. What has been the most difficult part of working with the homeless?  Easiest?
I think the most difficult thing is wanting to "change them" or make their life how we think it should be.  I think the easiest part is just being able to be "real" with them, and not have to sift through whether they are pretending to be something they are not, like we tend to do in the church - acting like we've got it all together, when things at home or with our family may be falling apart.  They are pretty transparent, which is actually quite refreshing.
5. What is the one thing that the typical homeless person who comes to MH want?
I haven't gotten to do much with Matthew's Hope other than helping as an Overnight Monitor with the Freeze Warning, and a few events here and there, but I'd say probably they want help, even if it's just temporary, immediate needs.  They want food, clothing, services . . . (and know that it's free, too.)  I think deep down, though - they just want to know that someone cares about them.

6. Do they want to know Jesus? Do they think their life will be "normal" if they become a Christian?
Most of my experience has been that they don't care too much about Jesus at first.  Many already "know of" him, but feel like that hasn't gotten them anywhere.  They have to "see him", before they want to know him.  I don't think they are under the impression that things magically change when you become a Christian, though, and some have a pretty poor image of Christians in their head -- that they are hypocritical and judgmental and unwilling to help those in need . . .due to fear.

7. Tell me the most encouraging story you personally have been a part of.
Scott would be able to share in better detail the stories I am thinking of. One night, at the Freeze Warning, guys started going around the room, saying how many days they had been "dry", and how their lives had been changing.  One guy has been dry for 71 days . .. after being (in his words) drunk for 40 years!  Another guy was on day 40, another day 11 from smoking, etc.  They were encouraging each other just by their example of living differently.  Scott occasionally emails stories of "M.H. guest" being reunited with their families, getting jobs and off the streets, etc.  Good stuff!!

8. What has been the most discouraging?
The first homeless woman I met (that night downtown on a Thursday with my friend), I befriended and tried to help out for about a year and a half.  I began helping her financially until I got to know her enough to know she was not interested in "getting back on her feet" and that she had been lying to me.  I still continued to have her over for dinner, and bring her places, but no longer helped her financially, other than getting groceries for her sometimes.  She has had such a traumatic childhood, and still, a very difficult adult life, and was even beaten and raped in the time I was getting to know her.  What was discouraging, though, was that it was always just "take" "take" "take", and she almost never even asked how I was doing, anything about my life or my family.  She was not really interested in a friendship, and she always acted like she knew everything, and didn't need any advice.  I tried to "teach her to fish" instead of giving her a fish . . . we did professional resumes, I showed her how to get online and look for jobs - using Craigslist and other resources, we set goals, etc. but the desire was just not there for her to follow-through.

It was just really sad, because she wasn't that way intentionally, but she had not had any other example her whole life, and she'd lived in "survival mode" for 40 years - - only looking out for herself. 

9. If you could tell the world one thing about being homeless/helping the homeless what would it be?
They are people just like you and me.  God created them with talents and gifts and they have a very important purpose and place in his kingdom.  They need to be treated as equals and with compassion and love.

10. Have you talked to any homeless children? What are your impressions?
I have talked to a few, but not at any length - just small talk.  I really have not had much experience with the children.

11. How have you dealt with: those who are drunk, high, diseased/ill, prostitutes, wanted by police. In other words, what do you do when you feel in danger? I haven't really been in a situation like that.  I've felt uncomfortable a few times with comments men have made toward me, but I was able to just walk away.

12. How do you say no to someone in need?  I am just honest with them about what I'm able to do and how I'm able to help.  I have to also be honest with myself, about if I'm able to help them . . . if it's a matter of if I "want" to, or has to do with my own comfort and judgments.

13. In your experience, do the typical (what is typical???) homeless want a "quick fix" or do they want a permanent change?  How do you minister to each?
There are some that only want immediate needs met, and are perfectly happy living in the woods or wherever they are.  I've met a few who are quite proud of their resourceful-ness, and wouldn't have it any other way - - "off the grid" is how they like it.  But, they still need food and will gladly accept whatever you have to offer.  They still need friendships, and to know that they have value to others.  But, there are many that do want a permanent change and just feel very hopeless and don't know where to start.  It is helpful to just to get to know them, try to find their strengths and help them see how they do have hope, and break it down to taking baby steps, and how they can view the situation as not something that insurmountable. 

14. How many homeless that you have encountered are so because they want to be "off the grid"? Probably 3-4 that I've personally met, who are homeless by choice, and enjoy it that way.  One guy has a really good set-up - - a 16X16 tent with a king-size bed . . . makes regular stops to the grocery store dumpsters, knowing what time they throw out all of their good food, so it hasn't been in the dumpster very long.  He cooks steak, chicken, etc. and eats like a king sometimes . . . and boasts that he hasn't paid for food or shelter in 5 years and likes it that way.  :)

15. Any personal story you would like to share.

Again, Scott would be able to tell this in much better detail, but I will never forget the very first night of the Freeze Warning Ministry.  It was quickly thrown together, and I got a call that day, to see if I would be willing to come sleep at the building.  I went, and got to meet several people I didn't know - from various churches in the area.  So cool to see the body of Christ come together to meet a need.  Things just flourished and snow-balled from there, and the Spirit led one opportunity after another.  I remember when someone brought in a guitar, and a few of the guys just started playing here and there.  We would be sitting around, playing cards and singing along to classics.  Out of that came the "Boys in the Woods", who got to perform several concerts . . . received a donated car, place to stay temporarily . . . and eventually jobs, as both of them are now off the street. 

It's been amazing to see how one things leads to another, when you just surrender to what God says in his word, even and especially when you're uncomfortable.  That night when I went to Lake Eola with my friend let to many experiences with this homeless woman.  It led to a different perspective, and made God's word come to life.  I also met others at Lake Eola, and started bringing my Cornhole set there on Saturdays to play with them, and pass out sandwiches and water.  A friend of mine heard about that, and that is what ended up leading up to the phone call to come help with the Freeze Warning . . . knowing I was not intimidated by the homeless and would be willing to help. 

I never realized how much God's word speaks about the poor and needy.  It's EVERYWHERE!  In Matthew 25, it's actually quite clear that even our own judgment depends on how we treated the poor and those in need when we encountered them. That's pretty serious stuff, and something we take very lightly as a whole in America.

I've learned that in most cases . . . if you feel a tug to do something that is not only "uncomfortable", but also "inconvenient" . . . it's almost always something from the Spirit!  :)

Again, I feel like God's word speaks SO MUCH about this, but here are a few that come to mind quite a bit with me. 

Luke 6: 28-38
“If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

1 Timothy 6: 6-8, 17-19
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

1 Samuel 16:7
"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."


A few other quotes from "The Irresistible Revolution" that stood out to me:

"Preach the Gospel always. And when necessary, use words."

"We are trying to shout the Gospel with our lives."

"It is a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a mission project but become genuine friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream and struggle. John 15:15 says I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you. Servanthood is a fine place to begin but gradually we move toward mutual love, genuine“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

1 Timothy 6: 6-8, 17-19
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

1 Samuel 16:7
"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."


A few other quotes from "The Irresistible Revolution" that stood out to me:

"Preach the Gospel always. And when necessary, use words."

"We are trying to shout the Gospel with our lives."

"It is a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a mission project but become genuine friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream and struggle. John 15:15 says I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you. Servanthood is a fine place to begin but gradually we move toward mutual love, genuine “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

1 Timothy 6: 6-8, 17-19
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

1 Samuel 16:7
"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."


A few other quotes from "The Irresistible Revolution" that stood out to me:

"Preach the Gospel always. And when necessary, use words."

"We are trying to shout the Gospel with our lives."

"It is a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a mission project but become genuine friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream and struggle. John 15:15 says I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you. Servanthood is a fine place to begin but gradually we move toward mutual love, genuine relationships."

"If our lives are easy, we must be doing something wrong. Following Jesus is simple, but not easy. Love until it hurts, then love more."

"Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer. That love is not sentimental but heart-wrenching, the most difficult and the most beautiful thing in the world."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Homeless Interviews #12

Do you know where your mother lives?  Have you been to her house recently? What would you do if you found out she was homeless?  Would you rush to find her, bring her into your home? Even if you disliked her husband?  This next interview is with "Ellen", age 45



*** Tell me about your childhood?

I was born and raised in ___ Florida.  I grew up in ____.   I became homeless probably about 9-10 months ago.  I lived with my mom and dad.  Me and (two other people) have known each for years.  Me and ___ got involved with each other.  We are now married.  My family does not accept him, does not like him.  Does not even know that we are married.  I have two beautiful children.  Fixing to become a grandmother.  My kids do not know that I am homeless.  I would never let them find out. 

*** How did you become homeless?

I lost my job in 2009.  Couldn’t afford to pay my bills.  So, I have been living on the streets ever since.

*** Why wouldn’t you tell you children?

I have given my children everything that they need and I still do if I can.  I wouldn’t want to hurt them like that.

*** You don’t think they would want to help?

My son just turned 19, my daughter just turned 24 years old, fixin to have her second child.  I don’t want to stress my kids out any more than they are.  My son has a (medical problem), is happily engaged. 

*** You feel like you are protecting them?

I am protecting them and I will.  I do a lot of work through the labor pool. They send me to work every now and then.  So the money that I make I use to put gas in the car, buy what I need.  I still keep in touch with my kids.  So, they think that I’m okay. 

*** They do not know where you are living?

No.  My son is in college, in ____.  My daughter lives in ____.  (This shocked me.  I know the small town very well.)  With her wonderful husband.  They just bought a house. So in order to protect my children I prefer them to not know anything. 

*** What is your educational background?

I have gone through 12th grade and I’ve been to college for nursing.

*** Do you want to go back?

Yes.  I will once I can come up with some money to.  I dropped out in my second year. 

*** What brought you here? (to the shelter)

I have been coming to (the shelter)  probably for months now and wonderful people.  They help us out a lot.  I really thank the Lord for them.

*** How soon do you think you’ll get back to nursing school?

Well, if everything goes right hopefully in about 3 months.  If everything goes right as I plan, 3 to 4 months I’ll go back. 

*** Do you ever think you’ll tell your children?

Eventually.  My kids will know but I want to make sure before they find out anything that I’m in my own home and I will invite them over to a wonderful dinner and I will sit down and tell them.  It’s hard. 

*** What would you have done differently? Do you think you could have prevented this?

I could have prevented this.  When I fell in love with ___ and we all lived together, um, all of us were unemployed.  I should have been more responsible and continued to try to work instead of following my heart and following him.  (Her children nor her parents accepted her husband).  I should have done what I needed to do.  Nobody liked him.  Nobody knows about him but me.

*** Do you attend church anywhere?

Yes. (a local church)

*** They help?  They know that you are homeless?

Yes.  Well, no, they do not know I am homeless but they are wonderful people.

*** Tell me about a typical day.

Well, I get up in the morning and I make my coffee.  I sit down and have a cup of coffee, sweep, take care of the animals.  Clean up around the camp. Sit back and think about things that we could do, look for work. Find fire wood to burn in the pit.  Just an ordinary day.  Make lunch, dinner, go to bed at night, start all over again the next day. 

*** Who is your community?

Right now we are on the East side. Wherever we can find a place to lay our heads to keep from getting run out of camp. We move from camp to camp, stay in the car.

*** Do you know others where you can help each other out?

We don’t socialize with very many people. We are quiet people.  Stay to ourselves.  But like I said we come here every week and we will continue to do that as long as the good Lord will provide us to.

*** Do you blame anybody?

No.  If I had anyone to blame to be homeless it would have been myself because I could have prevented it.  So, nobody is at fault but myself.

*** Do you see a lot of mental health, drugs, alcohol, that sort of thing on the street?

From being homeless? Yeah, there is a lot of it out there.  I choose not to do it.  I don’t do it. 

*** Do you feel safe?

Yeah.

*** Just because you have a man around...

Only the good Lord gets me through from day to day.  He will always be my protector.  No sense in stressing over something.

  ***  Any additional comments?

I can tell you this.  If you can prevent from doing, preventing the mistakes we have made, think about it.  Because there are a lot of hard things out there.  You wish you could have a shower every day, you wish you could do this, and everything is taken away from you when you become homeless and it hurts.

(She is not angry even though it’s been hard. She says once she gets out of the woods she would turn around and help those still in the woods.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Homeless Interviews #11

Today's post is a continuation of Debi's interview:


*** Do you have a job now?
No.  I lost my job 6 months ago.  I was housecleaning.  They had to let some people go and I was one of the ones let go.  


*** Do you have goals?  Things you would like to do?
Right now I'm just trying to get a better education, learn how to read better.  My reading is only a 5th grade level and get my math.  I have to get my math up really.  


*** So you need help to learn to read.
Yes.


*** My next question is looking back what would you do differently? 
I probably would've stayed in school.  It probably would have made things more easier for me.  They have programs in the shelter to help you get a GED for free.  They have like this on-line programs to have college on line, to help you out with school and stuff like that.  I just found that out yesterday.  So I'm looking onto that.  


*** Tell me about a typical day in the life of you.
Um....Basically trying to look for work. Try to keep and find a place to sleep.  They don't allow you to sleep out in the streets.  Abandoned houses sometimes, go behind buildings and hope the cops don't come by.  The hardest thing to do in the streets is stay asleep because they have programs to feed you but its just finding somewhere to rest and wash up and stuff like that.  That's the hardest thing to do out here.


*** Do you have a group of people that you know that you can be with?
The key to being homeless, don't hang out with a group.  That's it.  If a group do something then you are going down with them. If somebody in your group is wanted, just by being associated with them you are going to jail.  Guilty by association.  It's kinda like hard because being a female out here being by yourself you gotta worry that somebody might attack you.  You think that by being in a group it would be safe because you are a female but you find out that is worse.  So you just gotta pray to God that nothing happens to you.  And have faith and stick to yourself.  There is a lot of people out there.  There is not just a category of people that is homeless.  A lot of people think, you been in jail is the homeless.  There are all types of homeless people. A lot of reasons why people are homeless.  Not just one reason.  You got people who families got kicked out of their house, or loss of jobs, or people on drugs. You know there are so many reasons out there.  The cops if you are homeless are not your friends.   They feel like if you are not paying taxes or live in a special neighborhood then they do not like have to protect you, you are not part of a community.  So, they, you are going to find some cops out there that are butt-holes.  I'm not saying I hate the police, that's not what I'm saying. But you got some of them out there that will harass you just because you are homeless.  


(Debi tells me a story where a man attacked her and she went to the police.  She says the policeman was very helpful until she told him she was homeless and then she says she was taken to the station and given a big 'runaround'.  She also tells of instances where she was on the city bus with a backpack on and the bus driver called the police and instances of being treated differently in stores just because she was carrying a backpack.) 


It messes with you (mentally) but you have to be strong. Keep the faith and try to get off the streets.  It's not a joke out there.  It is not a game.   (She tells of seeing homeless women and children being kidnapped for drug-trafficking.) I've seen it.  I've been lucky enough to recognize the signs.  (to not get approached)


*** Do you see a lot of women who are homeless turn to prostitution?
Yes.  A lot.  Especially the ones on drugs. A lot.  


*** Do you consider your situation your fault, society's fault, do you lay blame somewhere?
When I was younger I used to blame the world.  But as I got older I got wiser.  Spiritually, it is the devil's fault.  So, no.  I mean, yes, the devil, not the world.  


*** Do you have any plans, things you want to accomplish?
Yes, after I learn how to read better, get a little more knowledge I want to be a message therapist.  Something that's not so mentally challenging. When it comes to books I'm not that strong.   Get an education.  Take it one day a time.  


*** Is there anything you would like to add?  Anything you would like people to know?
Not all homeless people are bad.  Not all people are homeless because they did something wrong.  Raise your kids right.  Foster kids, a lot of people are homeless because they were not raised right or was not taught right.  They was not taught values.  America has gotten away from their values.  They took Bibles, took Christianity out of school which is why America is falling now.  So raise your kids right. Right now you got kids raising kids. That's not knowledge.  The Bible tells you knowledge is power.  Without knowledge you have no power. So raise your kids right and you don't have to be afraid of homelessness or homeless people.  Or you don't have to be afraid of the government.  It starts in the womb.    God is the answer. 




(A lot of wisdom from a "homeless" person, don't you think?) 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Homeless Interviews #10

When I was younger, I always thought the homeless were men. Alcohol and drug-addicted men. Women who were homeless were 'prostitutes'.  That is so far from the truth that I am ashamed I thought that way.  There are many homeless women who are in very similar predicaments as the men. The ones I met were mothers, wives, orphans. Today's interview is with "Debi", a 29-year-old young black woman.  (keep in mind the opinions expressed here are hers based on her experiences)

*** Debi, tell me about where you were born and about your parents.
I grew up in foster homes.  I was born in Jamaica, Queens (New York). My mother was a drug addict.  She had me when she was 15 years old.  I got 12 sisters and brothers.  They ended up all in foster care.  I bounced from home to home in the system for a long while.  When I turned 18 there was no help, they offered me no help.  So that's how I ended up on the streets.  So when I turned 27 I came to Florida.  

*** What brought you to Florida?
The weather.  Just the weather.  I had jobs off and on but I have no real education.  

*** What school did you go to?
Public school, PS 176.  

*** Did you graduate from high school?
No.

*** How far did you get?
To like maybe 10th grade.  Like, I had no problems getting jobs.  Luckily I have no criminal record, but when you do get jobs they do not keep you long.  So you are kind of like living paycheck to paycheck. 

*** So, not having a high school diploma has held you back from getting a steady job?
Exactly.

*** Do you have any contact with your brothers or sisters?
No. I seen them like maybe 2 Christmases ago.  

*** Did you make any connections with any of the foster families you were living with?
No.  Most of the foster homes...it's like foster homes...if you are lucky enough to end up in a foster home with someone who wants to adopt you or care that is rare because a lot of people there it is like a business.  They are in it for the money.  They get paid to keep you in their house.  Sometimes you get lucky.  Sometimes you get... find a family who wants to help you and sometimes you don't.  Everything is for a reason.  I'm not bitter.  I'm not sad.  I'm not making up excuses.  I could have got a better education but I didn't.  You know I learned that life is something that you make.  

*** When you were in school were you with a family the whole time?
Growing up I was very bitter, angry. Even though I knew I should stay in school, being angry I was mad at the world, you know.  I didn't get the attention that I needed or wanted.  I wasn't loved like I wanted to be loved.  So I grew up...the streets became my life, being around the wrong people.   The streets showed me love more than the foster care system did so I paid more attention to the streets than what the social workers or the foster parents are telling me.  You know, I started hanging out with gang activities, selling weed off and on.  You know, just to survive or whatever and things like that.  Luckily I never ended up in jail.  

*** Did any of the foster families take you to church?
Um,... I grew up...not much Christian energy there.  When I did get in a Christianity home....by the time I got into a Christianity home it was like I didn't even want to be there, I didn't care.  So, no.  I could go to church but I said no.  But a lot of them they just didn't care.  

*** How did you first find out about (the shelter here).
Uh, I don't know.  I was walking one day and I seen a sign  on a ditch and an arrow was pointed to it and I started walking that way and  I came and I heard people talking about this was a program to help the homeless and take a shower.   And I said, a shower! I need a shower.  That's how I found out, so it was by accident that I found out.

(I've said it before and I'll say it again.  God does nothing by accident!)

I'm not on drugs. I'm not a crack head.  I never did drugs.  I sold weed, but drugs is never my thing.  I don't have no alcoholic problem.  Not everybody on the streets is on drugs.  You know, but you do get those that do the crack head and whatever and they make it seem like every homeless person gotta be this bad person or they on the streets because they do drugs and they rob and steal. Certain circumstances make you end up like on the streets.  It was really hard for me because all the programs, they have programs out there that can help you but they help the ones on drugs, or some type of abuse problems, but you don't have no type of abuse problems you are kinda like by yourself.  You try to do it like on your own.  




(STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF DEBI)

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Homeless Interviews #9

Part 2 of “Carl’s” story:

Carl: I heard that will kill you, antifreeze.  So, I said that’s what I’m going to do.  I don’t have any reason to go on.  I mean I don’t have anything left.  Everything that I have been building since 1979. 

***(Carl then went to a coffee shop where a man started talking to him.  The man figured out what Carl was about to do.)

Carl: I told him my story and he says well okay but before you do that come go with me I want you to see something before you do that. I said well okay I’ve got nothing else to do.  So he brought me here.  His name was Ray.  That was a very good thing he did.  He brought me here.  I come up here.  I was filthy.  I had not had a bath in a week.  My clothes was filthy.  I mean I was a mess.  I was a bad mess.  I was in a bad spot.  That’s my story.

*** Where do you live now?

Carl:  I live in the woods. 

*** I asked Carl about work.  He says the owner a company in the area wants to meet with him.  His work documentation is on .pdf files but he has no way at the moment to get to them. 

Carl:  I guess the first step is finding a job.  I’m a lot better off than most of these folks.  Simply because of the fact that I’m not hooked on alcohol.  I’m not hooked on drugs. I have a good driving record.  I have no criminal background.  I am a complete result of the recession that started in 2008.  There are several of us out here.  There are more out here.  I have had friends that have sit in their offices and killed themselves.  I am not going out like that.  I aint quittin.  I can come back.  It’ll take a while and it’s hard.  I have found a lot of people in the position (to hire), I tell them and they think, my God, that can happen to me.  That could very well  be me in the future.  We are in an economy that is not, I don’t care what Washington tells you.  It has not rebounded yet.  We are still in an economy that is very tough.  I do not have any doubt that I’ll make it.  I think I’ll do things different. 

*** How? Do you think you did you not plan well enough?

Carl:  No.  I think that when I leave my office to go home (prior to this event) I leave my office because I had a dinner engagement at the country club.  I would go by the homeless guy at the off ramp.  I would see him but never did see him.  I was thrown into his world overnight.  Now I am seeing and learning a world that I did not even know existed.  This really taught me how to be a receiver.  I don’t have all the answers.  I got more questions than answers.

*** I asked Carl about church.

Carl:  I come from a church-going background.  But, in the last 5 to 10 years I was too busy worrying about making money.  Money was my God. I love to work, but on top of everything else.  The hardest thing for me right now is my heart is still broke over me and my little boy.  I thought I had the type of marriage that would last through everything.  It turned out the pressure was more than she could stand.  It’s only something that time can take care of.   I was her world as long as I had money.  I don’t want my heart broken again.    


*** Carl and I chatted for a while more about family and his future.  He has little to no hope of ever reuniting with his wife, her true character came out. He would turn her down if she called him and invited him back.  He misses his little boy, who does not understand where Daddy is, terribly.  He has been able to call him a few times. Carl is determined to get back on his feet and to never forget those still in the woods.  Carl says he will be one of the employers who goes out in the morning in a pick-up truck to pick them up and put them to work.  “Let me let you work today so you can eat”.  I invited Carl to church.  He came for a while.  He ended up in the hospital due to high blood pressure. Carl was given a pre-paid cell phone and then a lap top by complete strangers.  I pray that he is getting his life back together. Like all the others. I pray for them all.  He says he will never get too big for his britches again. 

*** What do you think politically?  Do you think the government put you here?

Carl: I think that would be unfair to say that.  I think that what happened the first 6-8 months of the Obama administration was going to happen anyway.  It was something that was already in effect.  I'm not going to say I agree.  I don't agree but again I'm not a liberal person.  I'm a very conservative person.  I'm going to blame it on the fact that Carl needed to be taught something and even though the Good Lord may have picked a real hard way to do it I don't think this has happened for no reason.  But Lord, I sure hope it's about to end because it's about to kill me.  There was an old boy in the Bible called Jeremiah and God told Jeremiah one time, I want you to go into Isreal and preach and prophesy to them because they are building statues worshiping false gods and they are a mess and I'm going to send you in there.... but the thing that caught my attention was he says but before I send you in there I want you to walk into camp and sit there for 7 days and don't say nothing and it came to me, you know, God, when Jeremiah did finally prophesy to Isreal I guarantee you he had a different message because he went for 7 days, he sat where those people sat.  He seen what their world was.  That had a significant meaning to me.  I cannot come out here and walk in the woods a year ago, but now I know how to approach them.   If I don't learn nothing else out of this, I learned there is a world out here that needs help. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Homeless Interviews #8

Think homelessness is something that happens to bad people? Abusers? Poor people? Could never happen to you because you have a steady income, an education, money in the bank? Stop and think for a minute. If you lost your income today, how long could you live on what you have in the bank? Where would you go? Who do you have for help? Could you simply get a job tomorrow and pick up where you left off? 

My next interview hit home hard.  "Carl" is a big man, over 6 feet tall with a deep voice and very sad eyes. I could tell he was hurting the first time we met just by looking at his face. He was dressed in clean jeans, work boots and a clean plaid shirt. He was unshaven, but not your "typical" homeless person.  His story knocked the reality square in my face. 

***Carl, tell me about your childhood.

I was born in XXX, Florida.  Grew up in XXX, Florida.  All my life.  My parents were chicken farmers. Not ordinary chicken farmers. I mean, we had like 150,000 at a time. And that’s were I grew up at.

***What were your parents like?

They were okay, strict but good. My dad was a good father, he was an education freak and but all in all it... I had a good childhood. I went to xxx Elementary, xxx Middle School, and xxx High School.  I graduated there.  I went to University of Florida.  I received a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering.  I am a licensed civil engineer now.  I am also a licensed contractor.  I probably won’t go any further than that.  I am 50.  I thought at one time, back you know, back when the living was good about maybe trying to do a PHD. I could teach with a Master’s but I this thing that happened to me, honestly, it really knocked the wind out of me. 

*** Tell me what happened?

I owned a company.  We did all commercial work.  Worked over the whole state of FL.  In 2008 when the economy headed down I had three major developers file bankruptcy on me.  It cost my company about 4.5 million dollars to get out of it.  Whenever I did that and it was that kind of a blow and we were in an economy that I could not gain work to recover because there was no work and we were also in a situation with the bank where they had closed the door to small business people. They did not want to talk about it.  It started a downward spiral there in 2008.  I tried to hang on.  I cut my crews back.  I was working 15-18 hours a day, 7 days a week. I did it until it liked to kill me.  I was working all those hours and worrying and trying to hold on to keep the door open.  In 2009 I was sitting in my office and I thought I had heartburn.  I went to the doctor.  The doctor rushed me to the ER, and when I was in the ER I had a massive heart attack.  I was in a coma for 36 days.  While I was in the coma they opened it up and did 6 bypasses.  When I woke up out of the coma, it was a Monday morning.  On Wednesday I had one of my employees pick me up in a truck and I went back to work and I tried to hold on.  I was doing everything I could to hold on and it was about to kill me.  It just kept going down and down and like I said before we were just in an economy where you just could not recovery.  And so I had 3 homes.  I lost them. I had a business.  I lost it.  Vehicles.  I had 26 trucks.  I lost them.  I lost EVERYTHING I had.  I lost everything I had.  It just cost me everything I could scrape to get out.  I had a 25k$ retainer attorney and the only thing they could tell me was these people are protected under federal law.  You cannot even ask for your money.  It is gone.  There is no getting it back.  Normally the bank will back you up.  Normally, you pick up jobs and you slowly recover.  From 2008 to now the banks do not want to hear from you if you are a small business and there is no work out there.  So, there is no recovery right now.  Or- there is recovery but not that kind.  So, I lost everything I had.  I lost it down to everything.  I lost everything.  When I got through, I was walking the street in Jacksonville. I had 40$ in my pocket.  I was by the bus station.  I got a ticket to Orlando.  Got off at the bus station (in Orlando).  Walked down the road at XXX( a really bad part of town) and I walked down the road and I was thinking oh my God if this is Orlando they need to shut Orlando down.  I was in a bad neighborhood.  I stayed on (that road) for 4 days underneath the overpass in the bushes with the crack heads.

I have a wife and a 4-year-old little boy.  Whenever the Lexus went and the unlimited credit cards went, she went with them.  So on top of everything else, now I’m heartbroken.    I never drank. I’ve never done drugs.  I’ve only been smoking for about 3 weeks.  I’m trying to get used to it.  You know, I stayed on (that road) for them days.  You kind of had to try to maybe sleep in a restaurant during the day because at night out there...  People do not realize it but when you lay down in the bushes at night you have to stay awake because the rats get on you.  So, I did that for 4 days and I finally got to the point where I said, well, what I am going to do is, I am going to go across here, I got about 5$ in my pocket.  I am going to go across to this auto parts store, and I am going to get me a gallon of antifreeze and I am going to sit out in the bushes tonight and I am going to drink it.   


*** more with Carl next post.


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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Homeless Interviews #7

Today we are back to Scott, the director.  Did you know that Jesus was homeless?  Luke 9:58 "Jesus replied, Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."



*** What is the one thing a typical homeless person wants, and you said socks and underwear.
Socks and underwear.  You mean I tell you what, if that was all we did I think they would be happy, not now because of all the other stuff we do.

*** Do they want to know Jesus?
Many of them do.  Some of them are very angry at God.  Some of them were brought up in Christian homes that were over zealous and beat on them with the Bible.  Used it very improperly, misquoted it, manipulated them with it.  And so we are trying to build that trust. We’ve got people who get upset with us because they do not see us all carrying around Bibles, sitting down with scriptures all day,  trying to get them to understand that look, they do not want to know how much you know until they see how much you care.  Okay, so we have taken a very different approach to it. Believe me, hang around here enough you are going to hear God all the time in this place. We are starting a new program using the Recovery Bible.  We are setting up a recovery group right here that meets on Tuesdays for those people who will not go into a program but it is like AA except for the fact that instead of a ‘higher power’ we tell them about Jesus Christ.  We do not soften the edges of it.

*** Do you find that once they find Jesus they think their life will become normal?
No, becuase the first thing we tell them is, I cannot tell you if you are ever getting out of the woods and I will personally take someone to the woodshed who tells them otherwise.  It is real important to say to them, look, I do not know why God has allowed this. I am one who believes God has ordained or allowed everything.  So if he has allowed it all I can see is step back and ask what is he trying to get us to learn?  How is He using this.  This has been true throughout biblical times so why should that change now?  Why would God ask me to walk away from a 6-figure income after I had been homeless?  I have been at both ends and because he wanted me to know both.

*** So why do those volunteers come who want nothing to do with the homeless?
Guilt.  I think often, guilt.  The other is, most are people who do not have much themselves, on the verge of homelessness themselves.  They really get it.  They understand they are a couple of paychecks away. 

***They want to help but they do not want to have anything to do with the actual person?
Well, no they do.  I’m saying there are 2 different groups.  There are those that want nothing to do with homelessness but all of a sudden it is like ‘oh my gosh’ these are just real people with various strugges, but real people.  They are really just a reflection of society.  It drives me crazy when the news says a homeless guy killed somebody.  If he was stockbrocker would you say a stockbrocker killed somebody?  No.  No, he did not kill somebody because he is homeless.  He killed somebody because he is a murderer who happened to live in the woods.  that just makes me crazy.  So we’ve got the people who you know have a preconcieved idea, a lot of preconcieved ideas and then you have people who are just so close themselves.  They have had illness in their family, they have lost jobs, they have seen careers go down the toilet.  They have seen all of these things and so I think they are drawn to be a part of the change. If you came in here and see them you go, okay, alright, yeah, I know they are struggling.  Those are also the people that are our money people, too.  The people who give the most have the least.  It is crazy. It is absolutely crazy. I mean we have had some fairly substantial donations.  Our largest two donators, one owns 4 McDonalds and the other is homeless.  Is this a crazy world we live in?  They both gave us 5,000$. 




***Tell me the most encouraging story about a specific person.
Probably someone like Kevin C.  KC is a war veteran, decorated soldier who could not deal with the world when he came out of it.  He basically just became...he did drugs and alcohol, but alcohol became his thing.  He basically stayed pretty fickle for abut 40 years.  We just loved on him.  He was mean and nasty and gruff.  He was an SOB most of the time.  You know, you sit there and part of you just says, why am I even bothering. As we got to know him and he got to know us and we got to know his story the door opened and God just opened some really neat doors to minister to him and then Frank G. Frank is here every Tuesday now from about 1 to 4 and Frankie has a street ministry and Matthew’s Hope gave him a chance to touch these people at least twice a week every Tuesday and every Saturday night.  He is a former alcholic and drug addict and he is not afraid to go anywhere. He is a lot like I am. God placed Frankie here at a critical time because I could not stretch any further.  Frankie came to me and I kind of knew him. I had spoken at a men’s recovery group a couple of years earlier, he remembered me and he contacted me and he just wanted to come and I kind of pushed him off a little bit.  I said Frankie I want you see what we are doing first.  So he came out, he and his wife, Cindy, she is former marine, former alcoholic as well.  They are a mess. They are in the process of loosing their own home.  He has been very instrumental in helping getting a place with various programs and he kind of took Kevin under his wing, took it a step further and Kevin, he had veteran’s benefits.  We were able to help him to get those and get him into a veteran’s program and he is clean now and now he fell off this last week.  100 days and he fell off.  He was so ashamed, but you know what, that’s what happens.  He made it 100 days.  So you got to kind of look at it that way and if you meet him he looks nothing like he did when he started.  He could barely walk.  Even well after he quit drinking because his system was so screwed up his equilibrium was like all over the place and we had a hard time because of the weakness of his body to get him in various programs.  We finally got him into a VA program and now he is getting ready to go into his next step which I think will be another program, disability.  He is living in an RV and he’s got his retirement and he came by here the other day and helped build a desk.  In fact he stuck his number inside my desk and he said, you know, anytime you need me just call and so we have had some really neat success stories and there are more and but those are some of the coolest. Every week there is a different cool one and it is different levels and now I have even seen some children and women.

*Most discouraging?
One of the most discouraging stories is Diane.  Diane was a crack head when we got ahold of her and we got her clean and got her working at McD’s helped her to get a little RV she was renting.  Got her away from her homeless husband, not real husband.  Got all of her teeth pulled.  Her teeth were just rotten from the meth, got her medical and dental care.  Got her all cleaned up.  Got her a new set of dentures. She realized she really needed to get out of the area to take her life to the next level and so she had a way to go to I think N.C.  Got hold of a McD up there, she said I’m a current employee, they would hire her before she ever came up so at least had her job.  She gets up there and lasts a month and she shows up back here with the guy again. When she came back we did not fall all over her.  We did it on purpose.  We would do it again but they have to make that decision.  Much like any other alcholic, drug addict, whatever you are dealing with.  Homelessness is almost an addiction, it really is in a weird way. Some of this is real heartbreaking, and then when she was leaving she bit the hands off a lot of people that helped her and even the hands of people here. It was hurtful but it was one of those things that there were people who would say, you know, what the hell.  I understand why and what we need to do is say, okay God, this is... once again we need to trust in God’s timing and purpose.

Colleen Wait Edits

Colleen Wait Edits

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This YouTube channel was created to add video to my blog.  Read it here:  www.colleenwaitwrites.blogspot.com.  I write about my life, my books, my family, my cats and kids, and of course travel.