Please Know...

As I come to know the men and women of Kensington, specifically the homeless and addicted, their stories become increasingly sensitive and personal. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist in regard to these fine people. Names are rarely their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Does this seem right to you?

The opening sentence of this article from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania makes it clear that drug addiction, in the eyes of our state is seen as a disease.

The Wolf Administration today awarded $1 million grants to four organizations to build medication-assisted treatment programs for Pennsylvanians suffering from the disease of addiction.

After twenty years of service in two different hospitals, Riddle Memorial Hospital in Media Pa and Wood County Hospital in Bowling Green Ohio, I’ve come to really understand that people with diseases are treated by doctors upon being diagnosed.  Depending on the circumstances of those diseases, these people are treated as inpatients (admitted to a hospital) or as outpatients (remaining at home with medical care overseen by medical professionals.)

In the disease of addiction, the procedures are a bit different.  Upon diagnosis by family and friends, the person with the disease is often told to leave their family, move under a bridge, beg at street corners, shoplift, and/or rent out their bodies through prostitution to support life and to avoid dope sickness.  They risk further disease through sexual transmission, risk jail time, risk death from overdose and the dangers of simply being on the street and more.

If that’s not enough, of their own accord, these human beings with a recognized disease of drug addiction have, by default, organized themselves into communities that live under bridges or in secluded fields as a way of supporting each other in their time of need since the larger society cannot or will not provide the needed services to get them back to health. 

But it doesn’t stop there…

These days, every two weeks or so, the powers that be within the City of Philadelphia (“the City of Brotherly Love”) come along with police officers[1] and sanitation workers with trash trucks to evict these human beings with a recognized disease of drug addiction from their self-created communities.  They tell them to leave their self-created community without giving them an honorable alternative such as a hospital bed that would be given to anyone with any other form of recognized disease.  

Whatever these humans with a recognized disease can’t physically carry away with them in this moment is picked up by sanitation workers who deposit their personal property into the back of trash trucks and crunch it never to be useable or seen again.

Within minutes or hours of the police and sanitation workers leaving the area of this self-created community, the residents move back because they have no place else to go.

Does this seem right to you?

[1] Who, in general, do not want to be doing this

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I want you to know...

I want you to know the real names of every man and woman I’ve come to know and love under the Emerald Street Bridge!  But I won't tell you.

I want to post the true image of every man and woman I admire for what they’ve survived as they continue to navigate homeless and addicted life under the Emerald Street Bridge!  But you'll never see them.

I want you to know that the older bearded man hunched over on the sidewalk in a heroin stupor once pastored a church and explained to me in a depth of Godly understanding that would startle any priest the spiritual nature of what I’m doing under that bridge as I sit on the sidewalk.

I want you to know about the other older man[1] who held my hand in a ten-minute handshake as he explained the depth of pain felt by the men and women of this community of under-the-bridge residents.

I want you to know of the tears cried when a young woman knows it’s time to prepare to walk the streets as her only income to support the purchase of “medicine” to keep from getting dope sick.

I want you to know of the sorrow felt when a Dad or Mom tells me of how they’ve not seen their children in years due to their addiction.[2]

I want you to know of the insights shared with me by men and women with little to no formal education and those with advanced college degrees who can explain to you the exact reasons for the current drug pandemic and offer real and practical solutions to it.

I want you to know that homelessness and addiction in reality of circumstance does not rule out elegance in how one chooses to dress – even under a bridge.

I want you to know that a homeless and addicted woman can have a giant caring heart in spite of her tortured childhood.

I want you to know that a man can beg for money on a street corner to support his addiction and his wife and read from the writings of Aristotle.

I want you to know that NONE of these people planned to be addicted and homeless.  

I want you to know they want help and far too often can’t get it due to the hoops that must be jumped.

I want you to know that the City of Brotherly Love will be evicting these human beings again Friday morning.  

I want you to know that I’ve not yet met a Philadelphia Police officer who likes to evict these people from their bridge community.

There are so many other things I want you to know about these people.

I want you to know. 

[1] Who I affectionately refer to as “the mayor of Emerald City”
[2] Dad and Mom OF the addicted person AND Dad and Mom AS the addicted person

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I hugged a beautiful young woman tonight...

I had seen her as I have other times when I've visited Emerald City[1] sitting on a blanket casually dressed in jeans and a reasonable shirt for the current temperature.  After distributing waters and chatting with several men and women, I circled back to the beginning of the row of about forty people. She was now dressed as if ready for a semi-formal night out or a church service in some mainline high society church. 

Under the bridge, such dress does not mean fancy dinners or formal worship.  It’s the invariable sign that this young lady is about to go looking for dates for the rest of the night, possibly until the sun rises tomorrow – which means she’s out there right now as I type.

We’ve chatted enough over these weeks that I felt that I could ask her if I could give her a hug.  She said yes and as I did hug her, I told her to “Be safe out there.”  She said “Thank you.  I’ll try.” And then she asked me if I had a coat she could have since it’s getting chilly.  With ten bags of clothes in my car, I figured that I had something. 

We went to my car which was parked in its typical place just above the bridge.  We went through the bags in search of something that would work for her.  This was my opportunity to lightheartedly point out God’s love for her as I piled coats on her that clearly covered more than she wanted to be covered for the night.  “I’m just being fatherly,” I said.  She seemed to appreciate that.

We found a couple of coats and after a bit; she said: “Well, it’s time for me to do what I need to do.”  She asked for another hug.  As I hugged her, I simply said: “I care about you because Jesus loves you.”  She said, “Thank you.” And off she went to rent out her body not because she wants to nor because she enjoys it but rather to provide the funding needed to avoid dope sickness.

Some people might say that I shouldn’t hug a “prostitute.”  Before she was doing what she’s doing, she was AND IS a daughter.  She’s also a mother and a wife in a marriage that’s trying to find its way back to health.  And so there I was, hugging a hurting soul searching for the path back to her husband, son, and parents and in the moment of doing so simply saying “I care about you because Jesus loves you.”

Planting seeds...

This video can explain it in a way that I can’t.


[1] The nickname was given to the community of people who live under the Emerald Street Bridge.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

This may be one of my harder blogs to write...

Dear Reader,

This may be one of my harder blogs to write because I'm writing about what I need from you, your family, friends, and co-workers who may feel inspired to help me in this ministry.

My ministry to the homeless and addicted sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews of Kensington occupies much of my time when I am at my home.  As I write this, my washer and dryer are doing their thing on bags of clothes, blankets and more that have been donated.  Here are a few pictures:

I wash the clothes to be sure they are clean, to inspect them for holes and permanent stains, to give them a fresh from home scent and to pray for whoever will be wearing them.

Addicted people are people just as much as you and me.  Like us, they long for "normal."  Clean clothes with a scent of freshness often reminds them of better days.  These reminders are like seeds planted in their soul, seeds that may one day sprout a desire to be healed from their current issues.

Another part of my days at home in this ministry involve talking and texting with a few relatives of those who are on the street.  It is a privilege to do and say what I can to serve these hurting, concerned and frightened family members. This image was texted to me by a Dad who adores his addicted daughter.

Each time I visit Kensington, I bring at least two cases of water on ice and occasionally fruit.  As I distribute these items, I chat with these men and women.  I tell them about my church, Urban Hope, and all it has to offer them.  I provide a couple of printouts with Urban Hope's schedule of weekly activities and another paper with selected song lyrics on it.  One of the songs is "Clean" by Natalie Grant.  So far, three different people from the streets have gone to church with me.  A fourth visited Urban Hope with me during the week.

Almost every month, I attend the "Conquering Grounds Cafe in Bensalem Pa for further inspiration and networking with others who minister in their various groups and those who come for support in their own journey into deeper recovery through Christ.

While all of these efforts continue, I anticipate new ministry opportunities with specific others who have a passion for this vital work.  I will be sharing these goals in the near future.

In the meantime, I need your prayerful support financially and/or through providing needed supplies to make this all happen.  Here's a partial list of supplies that I need:

  • HD laundry detergent
  • Nature's Miracle (Normally an odor remover for cat issues in a house, this is helpful when I do someone's laundry and give it back to them all in the name of providing a "normal" moment in their life.)
  • Splash-Less Clorox (Scented)
  • 66 quart or larger CLEAR plastic tubs to carry the clothes to the streets
  • Acme Gift Cards for water, ice, fruit and first aid purchases
Actual financial support is needed for the following:
  • Buying the supplies mentioned above
  • $30.50 per ID for a man or woman who wants to go to detox NOW and won't be admitted because he/she has lost theirs or had it stolen.
  • Meals at Applebees with certain people who I sense are really searching for "normal."  (Imagine a grown man or woman tearing up as they enter a restaurant for the first time in months or years.  I do this all in the name of planting seeds of "normal.")
  • Paper and computer ink cartridges for printing the handouts I mentioned above.
  • My own meals and random expenses while I am there.
  • My car-related expenses.
  • My electric bill for the extra power used with the washer and dryer

So far, I have not mentioned my own income.  For the past 21 years, I have had a service business called "Your Helpful Neighbor."  You can click on this link to learn more about it.  If you live in my general area, you can support my ministry by having me help you around your home and/or telling your local friends and neighbors about me.  Be sure to read about my referral reward.

If you would like to financially provide for my income, as a point of reference, a full day of appointments with "Your Helpful Neighbor" would provide $250 to $300 in income.

If you would like to financially contribute, please do so through the GoFundMe link in the upper right or send a check or gift card to me at PO Box 21, Chester Heights, Pa. 19017.

Above all else, I need your prayers.  God knows the needs far more than we do.  God will provide what's needed when it's needed.

Thanks for reading.

Chris Battin

Friday, October 13, 2017

There is a baby bird under a bridge who is not supposed to be there tonight.

There’s only one way for me to explain what I mean and it’s through a parable that I do so.

Imagine, if you will, an open field of grass.  It’s not a freshly mowed field.  The grass has some height to it.  As you look over this field, you notice a cluster of forty to sixty dots making their way through the grass from one direction to the other.  You realize they are a flock of birds that are making their way on foot across the field in search of worms, seeds, berries, and water: any food to get them through the day.

With systematic precision and a sense of community that seems impossible for a flock of birds, you watch in amazement as they make their way across the field.

Although you’ve heard stories of the great cat that loves to pounce on these birds, this time it catches you by surprise as it suddenly lands in the middle of this flock of birds and scatters them in flight instantaneously.  None are captured by the cat but one is terrified by what this disruption may cause to her plans on this day. 

You see, this one baby bird got herself in some trouble with the cat family a few days ago.  She’s tired of getting in trouble and wants help to stop doing what she’s doing that is constantly causing problems in her life.  She has a meeting with one of the cats, her parole officer, later today.  There’s a Momma Bird, of sorts, who just entered her life and told her that she’d be her guide and fight for her as she does what she needs to do to make a better life.

This big cat landing in the middle of this baby bird’s day has just confused all of her fragile plans.  She was to meet Momma Bird at a specific time and place but instead, she flies to safety from the unexpected cat.  She spends hours trying to find Momma Bird and Momma Bird spends hours trying to find her.  When they do find each other, it’s far too late to go through with any aspect of her plan.

There is a baby bird under a bridge who is not supposed to be there tonight. 


The baby bird is a 25+- year old petite woman who I’ll call Cassandra.  She was just released from jail at 2:00 am earlier this same day and is beyond sick of her homeless and addicted life that brings with it income requirements that go beyond the scope of this humble blog.[1]  She’s sick of doing what she does and reached out to me during yesterday’s visit with her dream of wanting something better.  I referred her to a woman who is actually a distant relative of mine and was with me this day, twenty-four hours prior to this writing.  The two of us have recently started ministering together.  Cassandra and Anna developed a plan that was to be carried out earlier today, a plan that would have made detox and rehab a very distinct possiblity.

The cat is the city of Philadelphia who routinely jumps into this community of human beings who live under the Emerald Street Bridge and causes them to scatter.  Philadelphia does so with the belief that if it does so enough, the birds (people) will no longer cluster in this field (under this bridge) and will simply vanish. 

The temporary scattering of the birds may have worked for a few moments but within short order, they are back under the relative safety of the bridge.  This particular baby bird, in the absence of being able to fulfill her plans, is now at risk of being in violation of her parole requirements and in jeopardy of further jail time.

There is a baby bird under a bridge who is not supposed to be there tonight. 

Now let’s walk backward through this situation to see the absurdity of the cat jumping into this community.

Since the cat pounced on her community earlier today, Cassandra is now facing additional jail time for violating her probation requirements for committing a crime that she never wanted to commit to support avoidance of dope sickness and addiction that she never wanted to have and is trapped in because she can’t get the help from the city that has now pounced on her for being addicted and living under the bridge.   I could keep typing and show you the incredible absurdity that makes up this issue that manages to circle back on itself in its unnecessary complexity.

There is a baby bird under a bridge who is not supposed to be there tonight.  

[1] May the reader understand…

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Dying From Anticipation

As I begin to type this, I am 15 minutes into a 24 hour fast. Feelings of near starvation and it's accompanying grumpiness are already setting in. My mouth is begging for a sip of water.  Food of nearly any nationality sounds great with the exception of the deep fried soft shell crab that stared back at me through its batter dipping at the Thai Restaurant on Route 202 two years ago...

And so here I sit anticipating the onset of dietary misery all in the name of having a routine exam to prove to my loving/nagging sister that I'm healthy in the realm of this exam and won't need another one of its invasive nature for the recommended number of years plus whatever number of years I can wrongfully delay it...

Anticipating misery before the event is actually here... How many of us do that?

It happened to a young man I know who was anticipating days of misery as his body detoxed from years of heroin consumption.  His anticipation of this misery was based on stories he had heard from others who had gone through it.  His anticipation of the misery kept him hooked on heroin so as not to be sick and kept him at risk of dying from any individual injection that carried with it too much elephant tranquilizer or other "additives."

Life as a homeless addicted person brings with it the ever-present possibility of being locked up in jail.  It happened to this man.  Much to his chagrin, he detoxed in jail.  After a few days of misery, he came through it and was somewhat astonished that it was not as bad as he had anticipated.  It was truly miserable but not as much as he had anticipated.  Yes. I did repeat that point for emphasis!

What can we learn from this?  Is it possible that the process of getting clean from heroin, for as miserable as it is to go through the detox process, might not be as bad as what the mind has anticipated it to be?

What a shame it would be for any son or daughter, father or mother, aunt or uncle to lose their battle with drug addiction by dying from anticipation.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Born Again Addict

Please note as you read this that all of the numbered points and bullet points below represent actual conversations that I have had with men and women in homeless addiction over the past several months...

As I type this and as you read this, less than an hour's drive from your seat and mine there is a woman who
  1. barely understands that the sequential lines on a page represent letters of her name because she was never in any school or she does read but
  2. never graduated from high school or
  3. never saw college or
  4. graduated from college with a 4.0 in history or nursing or
  5. graduated with her Master of Social Work degree and saw her own clients until four years ago or
  6. was a partner in a law firm or 
  7. was on her way to becoming a plastic surgeon or
  8. as a heart surgeon, saved your life five years ago when she inserted that stint.
As I type and as you read, she is
  • in a pickup truck down by the waterfront or
  • in a dark and secluded back ally or
  • in a sleazy hotel or
  • in a high-class center city hotel.
She is with a male who 
  1. barely understands the sequential lines on a page represent letters of his name because he was never in any school or he does read but
  2. never graduated from high school or
  3. never saw college or
  4. graduated from college with a 4.0 in history or nursing or
  5. graduated with his Master of Social Work degree and saw his most recent client at 4pm or
  6. who recently guided you through that legal issue as your attorney or
  7. is on his way to becoming a plastic surgeon or
  8. as a heart surgeon, saved your life last week when he inserted that stint.

Don't be fooled by those two seemingly equal 1 to 8 lists.
In this world, wherever she is on her 1 - 8 list, 
she freely intermixes within his 1 - 8 list
as she funds her need to avoid dope sickness 
and as he rents her for his sex addiction.

She is fearful that he will 
  • overpower her and throw her into that water or
  • knife her in that alley or
  • beat her or
  • leave her tied to the bed when he leaves that hotel.
As she performs sex acts on her "date,"
  • tears of self-humiliation roll down her cheeks as
  • fever and chills and fear of vomiting and uncontrolled defecation brought on by advancing dope sickness overwhelm her.
She shuts off her intellect as best as she can as she fulfills the requirements of her income: her "date."

How did she get to this point in her life?  Was it the time 
  • she slid into third base in the girl's high school baseball game and broke her leg so severely that she was prescribed heavy and severely addicting painkillers?
  • her uncle "played" with her as a child and gave her a quarter not to tell her mother?
  • she found opioid pain pills in her family home and wondered how they would make her feel?
Regardless of how she got to this point, deep within her soul, she knows this is not what her life is to be about.  She reaches out for help and is told that because she does not have a piece of plastic that shows her name and photograph, hospitals will not help her find healing.  And so she continues all of the above because she can't gather the needed $30.50 for a new ID.  Even with insurance, the hospital manages to find some reason why they can't admit her for her desperately desired medical intervention.

In desperation to get off the streets and regain normalcy, she calls the police and tells them that she will be soliciting as a prostitute at a specific intersection and exact time and to please come arrest her.  She does and they do.

She is put in a jail cell where, with no medical intervention, she endures suffering through days of detox which includes vomiting, diarrhea, severe head cold type symptoms and occasional seizures.  

After several days in the jail cell, days which actually brought her through detox and back to being "clean," she is told that she will be released the following day.  She informs her family so that proper plans can be made for a somewhat smooth transition back into some degree of normal life and rehabilitation.

At 11:00pm, the night before her expected release, she is dismissed from jail.  Due to the late hour, her family can't be reached and so this young lady returns to the only area she knows and for as much as she did not want to do so, she slips right back into her addiction.

And that's how Philadelphia Pennsylvania gave birth to The Born Again Addict.