Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Simplicity of a Thin Mint

Homeless Monday: "Simplicity of a Thin Mint"
Thanks to Stacy Dokos, from NHPC, she donated 30 cases of Girl Scout cookies to the Homeless Feeding Program at 2nd Presbyterian on Monday's.
The cookies were a "Hot Ticket Item" because there are no cookies to give to the homeless from the food bank.(keep that in mind when donating to feeding programs. Although we know we love to donate tuna, beans and peanut butter, the guys and women of the homeless program yesterday went "BONKERS" over three thin mints each. Plus, I swore to my colleagues, I couldn't give them away free or I'd be breaking the "NO FREE BOXES OUT RULE" to anyone. So in compliance, it made the day so beautiful. I'm not really sure if it was to THIN MINTS, or the LOVE that was in the room, but the two equaled a really happy day at 2nd yesterday. For the last four weeks we have all been going (Myself, Robert Morrison, Lena Robinson, and yesterday we added the love of Loretta Wallace), it was like have the dynamic duo plus two with me yesterday. We laughed and we cried, there is really very little the four of us can accomplish alone, but you add Love by listening, and perhaps throw in a cookie and spirits were higher yesterday. I'm so thankful for the trust in given to me to make sure the cookies go "where I say they will go", there is something magic about being honest and authentic with everyone we come in contact with. The homeless pour theirguts out to us, most times its such a harsh story that a hug is the only offer we have, but we give them one. One man said to me, "I haven't been touched in years, I appreciate that my smell doesn't offend you!" ME: "Are you kidding, what is more important than giving away love, that you just have laying around in your heart?"


Meet "Barbara" she is homeless and sleeping behind the convention center, with "men that are creepy". Barbara is so broken, sick, and really at the end of her rope. Barbara is 52, with a 4th grade education, she states she has brought her reading up to a 5th grade level, she says that with pride. After I lifted my mouth off the table i said..."How does this happen?" We are the same age, she walked out of the 4th grade and NO ONE ran after her. She said my parents were druggies and drunks, there was no one who cared. Lena states:' She took care of herself." Barbara agrees. Her problems are so big, i don't even know what to say or do. Lena(I Love Lena, she has a beautiful way with EVERYONE!) puts on her red cape and begins with: "Darlin' you just sit right down here with me, everything is going to be alright." I listen, knowing, it's not. Wondering how Lena can make this OK.
We brought her over to our table, she does get SSI(for most of us that is disability, usually $776.00 to last a month).
Every question Lena Robinson asked her she had tried, she told Lena "I do everything I am told, still no place to live." Her thoughtful sister tore up her BC(Birth Certificate), cut her EBT card and her SSI card up. (like a MasterCard, that her SSI money goes straight onto every first of the month)
You wonder HOW these people do not jump into an oncoming train, their lives are so messed up. Their families are equally messed up, or have "QUIT" on them. Many have stories and long histories of drug usage, Barbara admitted to being a cocaine user in her day, admittedly has HIV, but then there comes a time you wake up in a fog and ask yourself "How did I get here, and How do I get out?" If we believe in what God tells us, that every life matters, and that there is a plan for all of us, do you think this was HIS plan? I try to think not. Is it that Jesus wants US to take the "little tiny Barbara's by the hand" and love them anyway. I know for sure, I have been unlovable, but it didn't look so painful, and my story never got me HERE. By the time Lena & I and Robert (we made her feel like she was in a crisis intervention) were done with her, she had a new pair of glasses($1.00) she had found her phone, (she had lost it with all her contacts) and Lena had made a few calls, but truly, nothing was different. But if you look closely at the before and after photos, Barbara's face has changed, there is new light. She has a little more energy, and a little more hope, even though, nothing really got her out of living behind the convention center, I thought of her last night, as I laid in my AC home, under my crisp cotton sheets. Wondering, "How is Barbara tonight?" I did ask God, 'what is my part in this whole debacle of homelessness? How can we let this happen in Richmond, Va? What is the answer today for Barbara. If only We could get a few philanthropic folks to throw money our way, we could give Barbara a bed, a toliet and a hot plate, her life would FEEL like mine. Precious.

Update on Miss Barbara: Who last night slept behind the Richmond Convention Center
Today Lena Called me(5 pm/ish) and said she heard from "Barbara" and she has been housed in "Section 8" housing, she was given a two bedroom home with help. She will no longer sleep on the streets, she called Lena crying today...and "Thankful for giving her HOPE to get through another night!"
Loving Barbara through. If you are interested: Barbara will need household items: I will give her a bed(double), dresser, a small amount of 'used' furniture...She will need towels, sheets, household cleaners, trash bags, you know..a starter kit. Please, if you can only afford ONE item, make it a new item. One new towel. One new sheet set. No junk please. No Nick Nacks, Just one thing.
God is good!
Thanks for all your encouragement and prayers! Listen & Love!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

When is it time to QUIT?

We have turned a really hard and rigid corner, we have done the very best we could and we still are not qualified, capable enough to do what we "Dreamed" we could do. I dreamed of putting homeless into housing, mostly men; poor men who depend on housing from women, working poor men, men from prison, men from rehab, men with disabilities, men who were kicked out of thier family home. Why? Because so many men are so hurt and broken from a very early age, men are not aloud or taught to share hurt, at the very start of preschool, then puberty, by now, they know....something hurts but they are unable to articulate the pain, and No ONE ASKS. So many MEN were left as "Babies" and "Boys", "man up son....go out and play." Those were the answers they heard, "No Crying!"
I am a mother of three boys, and there is not a moment I wouldn't hesitate to hold them so tight they couldn't breathe I love them so much, unfortunately, boys/men don't always get the love they need, girls too, but my interest was(is) men. In this city, a poor mother with children gets benefits and attention, the more children, the faster they are housed, men get nothing in comparison. They need to go WORK!
You see it everywhere in the streets of the poor, boys raised without loving fathers, absent fathers, WHO IS MY FATHER?
It always comes down to one basic concept: LOVE. Can you Love me enough to get me through life? Is there ANYONE left who loves me? Most of the men I work with have been through everything, abandonment, beatings, ignored, failures in school, suspensions, kicked out, joined gangs, began to find value in "things", and the last step to the beautiful journey of what "unfathered boys and broken homes of men have gone through" we then send them to Prison.
I often say, we want "pro-life", but we don't want to LOVE these Babies THROUGH LIFE! Let them be born, into the worst of scenerios, but forget the most important concept that without love, we die, at least we die inside. LOVING hurt and broken people is not easy, and it is a full time job. Never forget, we are all broken and hurt in some way, it's your support network and Faith that saves most.

Just giving someone: a nice home, private bedroom, clean place, new bed, cable, internet, washer and dryer, fresh linens, new everything, as we discovered....just wasn't enough. HUM has two homes that were prepared for 8 men (total), we started in 2011, and we are OFFCIALLY DONE with that adventure, and many nights and days, it was more than an adventure we were willing or capable of dealing with.

Calls like: "I need a comb. I can't figure out the internet, I don't know how to work the computer, I need a tutor, Jimbob won't clean the bathroom, Billy, won't clean the stove, Jimbob left pee on the seat, Jimbob is trying to kill me, he has hidden a Butcher knife in the Trix box, calls to the police, changed locks everytime someone left mad(12 times), someone is using my soap, someone is stealing my food, someones is using my butter, Jeff is using Heroin, drug testing the whole house(often and expensive), Jerry is having prostitutes in the house, Mark is having his homeless friend spend the nights on our couch, no one will cut the grass, I did it last time, I can't pay this time, I only have enough for my methodone dose, I need a ride, My bike was stolen, I don't want to put books into our little library. Why can't we smoke in the house? Who is supposed to buy cleaning products and trash can bags? At Christmas, my roommate won't let my family come over, can you come help? Jerald is back in jail for shoplifting, can I have his stuff?" Can we have pets, can we eat in our rooms, we have mice now, Mike flooded the Washer & Dryer, John yelled at me, now I'm not speaking to him, he is not the manager.....the house is cold the house is hot, I need AC in my room...NOW. Exhausting.

After 5 years of a lot of drama, more drama that we could possibly handle as two people, we have decided to close both homes and sell to homeowners we have relationships with. Two families have transitioned to homeownership(HUM is the micro-lender), and HUM could not be happier, July 1st we will once again start over with a new model: we will rent only to families interested in home ownership, accountability, respect for thier own home, and want a different life, a better life, a chance at owning a home regarless of criminal background, regardless of credit HISTORY. We all have a history, but who is willing to try hard for the American dream?

You must hear me, it hasn't all been difficult, we have shared great moments of love and success: first cars, first boats, gone fishing, taken a first vacation, getting out of debt, paying fines, learning the computer, learning blackboard, learning how to print a document, back to college, first apartments without roommates. Some were very appreciative, many were entitled, many forgot we were just people, trying to make a difference. Many learned to open up a bank account, buy car insurance, pay off debts, pay child support, cut thier first CD, finish a project for the first time EVER in thier lives, pay rent on time, buy clothes for the first time, get all their affairs in order, call thier families for the first time since getting out of prison. Driving to Wilson N.C. to see a person's mother, since prison, for the first time clean(drugfree). Tearful moments, heartfelt moments, but as the end draws near, we want a Non Profit that can focus on those who WANT success, and there are real people who want that. We are finding them daily, we just cannot buy homes fast enough to place those deserving families, singles, couples into those homes that are needed.

In July we will purchase our 4th home into the non profit, after we once again, re-gut a home that the tenants decided wasn't worth thier time to take care of. That is what we are done with: disrespect, entitlement, freebies, no accountability, no ownership.

Pray for us. We really believe we have THE best life ever, we are NOT Done until God closes the door, we are not DONE with what God has called us to. We have done nothing but learn from our mistakes, our failures and our successes.
We have learned more about the City of Richmond than we ever knew, and it's not all good, far from what is needed. We have learned that the systems are over loaded, broken, taxed, workers have too big of case loads, many hate thier jobs, most are a little jaded with people. Many of the big non profits pay a lot of money out in salaries and get all the grants....We are not done yet.

With every failure or mistake we grow wiser and we just keep adjusting our methods. At many times it feels a little like a cat and mouse game, or "Survivor"..."Out Wit, Out Last, Out Play!"
We have a model that works, now we find those people interested in real life changes, and can take on the accountability and responsibilty of homeownership, which is not easy. If you have never owned a home, it's scary, if you don't have a savings, it's scary, you live in fear something will break. Many in poverty live in Crisis, we, HUM, are digging in until we succeed! We are not exactly sure what that looks like, but I think in time, we will be able to "FEEL" it!

Thanks to so many who continue to support our dreams and visions, we are determinded to make a difference in our lifetime. We know, we have a sustainable model, we intend to succeed. We feel called.

What can you see?

The first day I worked in the feeding program, I learned MOST Homeless over 50 cannot read. Not because they are illiterate, because the need simple reading glasses.
Purchased 25($25) pairs from the DOLLAR store, quietly asked people to read for me from a devotional book, to not cause an UPRISING..simple method.
If you cannot read, you cannot fill out applications, forms, read what you are signing..etc Reading helps you dream you can make it! I bought every level but 1.0, most are past that.

Can You give 5 mins of your time?

I met a mother & son, Donna(age 60) & Jeffrey(45), I sat down and asked how we could serve them bettter. Mother replies, "We are happy for the free meal". Asking if they are homeless the mother replies "No, we are both on SSI(disability) and live in a dowtown hotel, that takes most of our money to live, by the end of the month, we have very little left, so we are thankful to this church for serving lunch(2nd Pres)." They cannot afford regular housing, thier only options are cheap hotels, they tell me it's clean, and they get thier sheets changed once a week. I look at the son, who I later find out is my sisters age, b/c he gave me his birthdate. I tell him he looks sad, "are you OK?" He replies, "I'm Bipolar, I haven't had meds for one year." Me, "that must be tough, is there a reason you went off of them?" "I lost my medicaid card, we've moved so much, they told me it was sent a year ago, but it never came."
I offered to call for him, at first he was reluctant to give me his info, I got as far as I could with medicaid, they wouldn't give me his info. I did call them at thier hotel, and tell them what needed to be done, They told me "We'll see you next Monday, the hotel charges us for being on the phone!" The were tickled to get the Medicaid NUMBER (Toll Free), Donna needed reading glasses, to them, thier world was better.
BTW: There is Disability housing in Richmond, the application is 65 pages long, its available. I don't know enough about it. It's more prorated for thier income. I will find out more about it, but this couple tells me they are moving to OHIO at the end of the month, going to move where family is.