How y’all doing today? We are well. The following is a post on a harsher subject but one I feel I need to share, it’s about people that are my family…
Matthew 25:34-40 says, “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
If you lost your home, job, family or all three where would you end up?
Pastor Kidd: In August of 2008 I went to stay with some very fine men. On the outside they were rough, though on the inside, mostly, they had a heart for the Lord and the above Scripture was a Favorite of Pastor Kidd. One true to life old time preacher. He was unusually gentle with people, a kindness I have yet to see matched in the tens years now since I first met him. He ended up on the streets when after he had been retired a number of years he fell on hard times. His wife passed away, the church he was being supported by in his retirement closed their doors and he was without his pension, and finally he lost his home. He had told me that he only made enough to support him and his wife. When he was working in his pastorate he stayed in the parsonage and upon retirement, him and the missus got an apartment. After his wife passed away he had more funeral costs than he had money so alas he paid off the debt to the funeral home and the cemetery and turned to the streets of Lansing Michigan as his new home. After a number of months and a bit of help from those of us at the shelter he returned to work as a part-time pastor until he himself passed away due to an illness he had acquired while on the streets.
Butch: This man was a very unique person, he would on a rare occasion can-dog for can, most of the time he would make his rounds to do yard work for various residents of the Eastside neighborhood of Lansing. The first time I had met him Sweets and I were introduced to the Badger Brothers. Many many times the Badger Brothers would be seen scrounging around Butch’s site and he would just chase them off and a few minutes later they would be back. Well, Sweets and I had the opportunity to share a meal with everyone in Sanctuary one even and we each sat around the Campfire TV and shared how we ended up out there. Well, when it got to be Butch’s turn this is what he said. “It was Christmas eve of 2005 and it was a cold one, so I thought I would stay at the local shelter down the street and around the corner and wake up to a nice cup of coffee for Christmas morning. I get down to them and I am told there is no room at the inn.” He went on after a pause of people not believing their ears. “So I go over to the other shelter just up the street a ways from here and I am told the same thing. So I went and got my gear out of the hiding stop I had for, walked down here and set up camp. And I have been here ever since.” (I later checked with the two shelters he was talking about and I did find out he was telling the truth.)
Cain: A young man that claimed to be a direct descendant of Benjamin of the tribe of Benjamin and a very unusual man he was. He had not had it easy. He had been the caregiver of both of his folks before they passed away and when they passed, he just simply walked out the front door of the funeral home and never went home again. I had met his sister my first Christmas on the streets and she had asked him to come for Christmas dinner. He was the happiest man around the shelter, alas he had Christmas dinner with us. He had spent Christmas Eve and Day with his sister and her family. As his sister later told me her little girl had become scared of a shadow she had seen in the front window and Dean thought he had caused the scare. And not wanting to cause any more harm to such a young girl, he simply put on his coat to step outside. Those in the house thought he was stepping out to join those outside smoking. Later, it was discovered he had walked the fifteen miles back to the shelter on Christmas day so that he would no longer scare his newly met niece.
Gnome: Gnome was a unique person. He had showed up back to Michigan after being gone for more than fifteen years. He was divorced from his wife. She had taken up with another man. Feeling he had no place particular to be just started walking. He bummed around America for the first five years seeing the Dakotas, Virginia, California, Alaska and traveling by foot, bicycle, or hitching. He worked here and there along the way, he ended up in Port Fourchon Louisiana for ten years until he heard that his five year old granddaughter was going to open heart surgery. That was when he collected his pay and headed back to Michigan, the return trip was only a little under twelve hundred miles whereas the trip that took him to Louisiana was considerable longer, much closer to 15,000 miles. His Creole accent was so thick when he returned to Michigan that for the first three weeks of being home in Lansing Michigan I had to be his interpreter. I got about half of the word he spoke translated properly the rest I just guesses at. It the end of September of 2008 when he returned to Michigan, I think it was just about Christmas of that same year that other people were finally able to understand him enough. His granddaughter just loved the way he spoke. One of his proudest moments working down in the Gulf of Mexico was assisting with the clean up efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Gnome was able to get off the streets and basically return to retirement. The difference was he was in an apartment and no longer on the streets.
Eagle: I first met Eagle in Ann Arbor back in the early 1990’s. He and his buddy Jack were inseparable. They had rented rooms, worked construction job, traveled together all around Michigan for quite some time. They would do the grunt clean up work at construction sites and move on when the job was done. They would sleep in boarding houses or boarded up houses wherever they traveled. Neither of them had a solid place to call home until the Summer of 2009 when they came across the encampment known to the locals as Wild West. I didn’t hear about them again until 2009 when they were burned alive by a neighbor in the encampment because they would share their booze with her. After the news reports died down and life returned to normal, a small shrine was built in their honor. Three years after the incident the arsonist came forth and that was all that was mentioned of it until now.
Calamity: Michi and Calamity came to our encampment after a Summer of love between the two of them. I can’t say what they were running from I can only guess. They seemed young to Sweets and I, so we kept an eye on them the best we could. When the police officers would come by for a visit those two became scarce. One evening after they had joined us for supper, she took off with some friends and he stayed behind. And we got more information out of him. Later when the Captain showed up to check on us I informed her I knew where “so and so” were. She said her folks had stopped in to filled out a missing persons report and since it had not been enough time the police could do nothing for forty-eight hours. Three days had passed and her folk never came back. So we kept an eye on them as best as we could. The only time I reported to the police about the where-about of the homeless that I knew, was when I found out they were younger than eighteen. They eventually moved on to where I believe I will never know. We had a bad falling out. I still pray for them when they come to mind.
I know that this post is going out early as Homeless Awareness Month is not until November and it’s only the first of October. I feel it is necessary to bring it up now as it will raise awareness earlier that the month of November. November is national awareness month for many different events not just in America but around the world. I am going to use Lansing Michigan as an example for statistical reasons only. Lansing afterall was one of the many places I once called home. In 2009 there were eight register homeless shelter with only three hundred (300) beds between them and the homeless population at that time was over four thousand (4000+) men, women, and children. Now of the number of homeless sites and encampments I knew of at the time were more than thirty (30). The encampment we called home, on any given night, we would have anywhere from three (3) to almost forty (40). And nearly every other encampment was like ours. Many of the encampments even after ten years still exist, I returned recently and discovered they still exist as do some of the same people that were there ten years ago.
Yes, you can say that homelessness is a disease but not everyone living on the streets was forced onto the streets. Some people went there willingly. I did on more than three occasions. It was a better option than staying where I was. Earlier I ask you a question, “If you lost your home, job, family or all three where would you end up?” Sometimes it is easier to become homefree; be it a nomad, vagabond, or wanderer than it is to end up homeless. And regardless of what those that live on the streets call themselves or for what reasons that they live on the streets, they are all counted if they can be found, which most of them are not. The homeless in America are counted once a year in January by public officials, nonprofits and their members, volunteers, and the police. The numbers are calculated from a variety of sources though the most telling statistics are those numbers that are counted that live out door. The count takes place each January and and each year volunteers are needed to help. Now I say that most are not counted based on my experiences from the last time Sweets and I were counted. Of the average of 30 people in our encampment we were the only two counted. That evening we had fresh snow falling, the count had begun in our area shortly after the snow stopped falling. The next morning because of the amount of snow we had received Buzzy and I went to the neighboring encampment to make sure everyone was holding up to the snow and the cold. Encampment after encampment that we went to we found out that no one had counted them the night before; the evidence was in the still undisturbed snow and from the mouths of the people we spoke with. So after all the effort that was put forth for the Point In Time Count; two people from one encampment were counted out of ten encampments.
Please, I ask that you consider joining the next Point In Time count. The numbers of homeless found correlate to the amount of funds awarded to nonprofits, cities, and states to help end homelessness.
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Yours faithfully, Elroy