Friday, January 13, 2006

Homeless

Young men with nothing better to do have taken baseball bats and attacked homeless men in the area. At 1 AM, 2 AM and 4 AM, this small group picked out men whom they thought would not or could not fight back.

One is now dead.

I have no clue why people would do this, but I do often sense people's anger toward the homeless. There is resentment toward them. There is fear of homeless people.

Annette came into my office one day. She was well dressed and well mannered. She was obviously well educated. She and her 5th grade son were homeless. Her husband had beaten her one too many times, so she took a few belongings and she and her son drove away. They lived in their car. It is hard to find a homeless shelter or a battered-women's shelter to take in a woman with a 10 year old boy.

We finally found a shelter she didn't mind staying in. We helped her get interviews and eventually she found a job. It's been a long time since they had to sleep in the car.

Bonnie and her husband Chuck were living in an apartment when I first met them. They were both struggling with drug addiction -- especially Chuck. By the time I baptized their child, they were homeless. Bonnie sometimes earned extra money through prostitution. The last time I saw Chuck was on a Sunday morning. We had a guest preacher and during the sermon I watched him stumble into the Sanctuary and sit on the back pew. When the preacher asked a rhetorical question, Chuck got up and shouted out an answer, "The meek shall inherit the earth." It was a nice Bible verse, but had nothing to do with the question.

The preacher continued his sermon and Chuck decided it was time to leave. He walked to the narthex and came to a sudden stop. I knew what was going through his mind. There were double doors and I think he was just sober enough to understand he was just drunk enough that he might be seeing double. So instead of walking through one of the two doors, he headed for the middle where he hit a wall and collapsed on the floor.

The ushers quietly helped him out the door, while the only ones in the Sanctuary who could see this were me, the choir, and the guest preacher.

I still see Bonnie from time to time.

Danny is not on drugs and rarely drinks. He does not work. He sleeps at the church behind a storage building. He'll show up for a few days, then disappear for weeks, then reappear. He sometimes comes to the early worship service after eating the breakfast we serve on Sunday mornings. For the past several years he has been here every Christmas Eve, attending the services at 7 PM, 9 PM and 11 PM. He doesn't like shelters -- "People there are crazy, and they steal all my stuff." He likes the way he lives and he doesn't want to change it.

Evelyn was homeless for over a year. She was finally able to move into a cheap apartment and the youth and I went over to help her repair some windows. It was an easy task and one of the kids asked why her neighbors wouldn't help. She gave an evasive answer, but the truth is that the neighbors would then expect sexual favors from Evelyn. She was a prostitute and desperately wanted out of that life. She went to school to study legitimate massage therapy, was certified and employed. I guess that was employment that was too close to her previous work. She was arrested and the last I saw of her was when she came to the church to do community service. It's hard to get a better life -- it looks easy when we look from the outside, but it's not.

Mario lived on the streets seeking to stay below everyone's radar. He paid for a boat ride to America, arriving illegally from Haiti. I've been to Haiti and it is a terrible place. Living on the streets in Miami is better than living in the average Haitian home. Eventually INS caught up with him and he was sent back to Haiti. Had he been from Cuba, the moment his foot touched dry land he would have been allowed entry into this country. Being Haitian, he was sent back.

Yolanda writes or calls me from time to time to tell me how grateful she is for what the church and I did for her. She was homeless and definitely did not want to stay that way. At one point she was living in a small, but upscale apartment, with 12 other people. They were all from Colombia and were all well-educated. But they had come to this country for a new start. Yolanda eventually found it.

The only one who prompted a call to the police was a nameless man who came to the church looking for food. My secretary and I went into the food bank and filled up a bag for him. He started hitting on me, grabbing at my crotch. I was able to fend him off, but the guy was so high on drugs there was no way to reason with him. I told the secretary to call the police and they came and drove him away -- no charges were filed and I haven't seen him since. It is the kind of thing that invites jokes, but I never found it funny and the secretary never made light of it.

Some homeless are dangerous.

Some are not.

Some homeless are drug addicts.

Some are not.

Some are drunks.

Some are not.

Some are prostitutes.

Some are not.

In the area, a few young people took baseball bats and beat homeless men. Their attacks were at 1 AM, 2 AM and 4 AM.

One man died.

Homeless people are many things, but they are first and foremost people.

One homeless person might stink.

One homeless person might be a bit crazy.

One homeless person might be drunk.

One homeless person might reject help.

But none of them deserved to be beaten by a stranger to the point of death.

5 Comments:

Blogger ~**Dawn**~ said...

you've visited my blog enough to probably know that i "think in song lyrics" quite often. this snippet from "Don't Laugh at Me" by Mark Wills came to mind immediately, before i even finished what you wrote:

I'm the cripple on the corner
You've passed me on the street
And I wouldn't be out here beggin'
If I had enough to eat
And don't think I don't notice
That our eyes never meet

I lost my wife and little boy
When someone cross that yellow line
The day we laid them in the ground
Is the day I lost my mind
And right now I'm down to holdin'
This little cardboard sign...so

Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me

I'm fat, I'm thin, I'm short, I'm tall
I'm deaf, I'm blind, hey, aren't we all...


sad when we feel we can boost ourselves up by beating down those who have less than we do--in any sense.

11:03 AM  
Blogger see-through faith said...

Lord have mercy

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Wonderful post. I saw the video on CNN -- wondered if it was in your area -- and if you would post about it. Thanks for the post -- and what you are doing.

9:29 AM  
Blogger HeyJules said...

Thank you for this reminder. Some are drug addicts, some prostitutes, some alcholics, and some are not. But all of them - ALL of them - are people.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Canticles said...

How terrible! I don't understand how people can have such utter disregard for others.

This hits home, because my friend who passed away last week had been homeless for a while. If my best friend hadn't taken her in, she might have remained that way.

From another perspective... The perpetrators of these crimes need prayer as well... that their hearts would be softened and that they would allow God to change them...

11:22 PM  

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