Wednesday, August 30, 2017
After five days of no one seeing our mutual friend (now eight days as of this writing), the young lady dancing in front of me was suddenly worried. The possibilities for where she may be are painful and hopeful. Too many people are found dead from their drug habits in abandoned houses where no one sees them overdosing and in plain sight where no one bothers to check on them as they lay there hour after hour.
As a missing woman, the possibilities and fears take on additional worry of her having been attacked. I've heard countless women say that this fear is why they don't sleep well at night in addition to the typical unpleasantries of trying to sleep homeless.
My dancing friend and I agreed that given the possibilities, we were hopeful that she was locked up and safe. At least, in jail, she would be away from harm on the streets and in a forced detox.
What sad options to choose from....
I asked two of the more senior members of this community about contacting her family to tell them that we've not seen their sister/daughter in several days. Their answer was insightful and painful:
"We have caused so much pain in the lives of our families that most of them don't want to hear from us. To contact her family would only cause unwanted worry. We recommend not contacting them."
Reader of this blog: What would you do? Would you risk it and reach out to her family? If you are a family member of an addicted person on the street, even if you feel that the bridge has been burned, would you want someone who is concerned for their whereabouts to reach out to you with their concern?
After some time of searching, my dancing friend excused herself saying that she had to get ready for work. Maybe half an hour later, I saw a clean, well groomed and elegantly dressed woman walking down the sidewalk under the bridge. She was out of place for her surroundings. I quickly realized that this was the same young lady who had been using my phone and that her "work" was an upcoming parade of "dates" for the rest of the night.
I'm thankful to this young lady, the two senior members I spoke with and the many other men and women who reside under this bridge for allowing me into their lives. I hope and pray that I'm able to show them that they are cared for and loved by God regardless of what's happening in their lives.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Welcome to my Blog Series. If you have recently seen the above banner and wondered what this website is, thank you for your curiosity. I have directed that web address to this particular entry in my blog series about the true stories of addiction and homelessness in Kensington, a section of Philadelphia.
There are many misconceptions regarding these issues. This blog series is meant to help clarify the real issues for those of us who have never walked in those shoes. These stories are real with all names and occasionally gender of the people in the stories being changed to preserve privacy.
Again, welcome and thank you for visiting. I hope you find these stories helpful.
I Need My Medicine.
"How are you?" is a typical and a rather sterile question that everyone asks everyone else when we first see each other each day. It's come to mean not much of anything. Do we really care how the other person is?
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
I think this is going to be a short blog. We'll see.
I spent several hours under the railroad bridge today but the highlight of the day came at the very end after having been given a stack of magazine styled Bibles by Ed Lewis the national director of CE National the parent Ministry of Urban Hope.
I distributed the magazines to people who I knew would be interested and or expressed interest in the moment. A couple of people said that they would not be interested in looking at it and I respected their openness and we had good conversations in spite of their lack of interest in what I had to share.
Two or three people received it joyfully and set it aside.
There was one young man in his mid-twenties who gladly accepted it and opened it and started to read it and continued to read it during the rest of my time under the railroad bridge with these 30 or 40 people who are gathered there on this rainy night.
What an incredible Joy it is to be part of a church like Urban Hope that believes in putting Jesus Christ first and is not at all afraid to provide reading materials to human beings who are too often considered forgotten and not worthy and smelly and distasteful and what other inappropriate description society has tossed at them.
This is God's intent for church. Let us never forget it. If you are reading this and your "church" has pushed to one side the image and message of the Victorious and Resurrected Christ you should reconsider your mission and put into place people who will guide you back into being a church as God intended.
I thank God for this young man who was actively reading so much so that he did not even hear me say goodbye when I said goodbye to him as I was leaving two hours ago. What an incredible Joy it is to be part of this community of struggling human beings who want nothing more than to be cleaned by the love of God.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
As I write this, there are two 13 day old kittens being lovingly mothered by a man who lives within his addictions and still finds time, energy and interest to assure that these animal infants receive the needed nutrition that their adolescent Mom chose not to give. He permitted me to take this picture which I have cropped WAY down to show just the basics of his use of a clean heroin syringe (otherwise used to provide insulin to a diabetic patient) being used to provide nutrition to one of the two kittens.
This is just one of many examples of how the ordinary exists within these communities of homeless addiction.
Friday, August 18, 2017
UPDATE: This blog has a second chapter, so to speak. I invite you to click here for it.
Monday, August 14, 2017
During that time of foot washing where I poured water over her feet and ankles while she did the washing, I was sure to explain to her that I was doing so because I care about her and, more importantly, Jesus loves her.
I asked her how she got to this point of being homeless and addicted and relying on "dates" to provide her with a basic income. She willingly shared with me as I was pouring water over her ankles and feet that she had been in the early stages of working toward a medical degree specializing in plastic surgery when "legal problems" hit her life.
If you're reading this and that last sentence bothers you just a little bit... please sponsor this young woman out of her homeless, addicted and "date" funded life. Pray for her and provide for her! God knows her name. I know where she lives.
Personal Pause in this Blog...
This is the first blog that I will have posted to Facebook where some of my Facebook friends ARE the homeless and addicted people of Kensington (some of whom are unhappily relying on "dates" for financial survival). As you have shared your lives with me... As you have slept in my van... As I have sat with you while you inject or as you have hidden your drugs from me as I have approached you, I want you to know what an incredible privilege it is to have your trust. These blogs are my attempt to help other readers know that you are a fine person who is made in the image of God and worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love.
Back to My Blog...
As I do each time that I visit these fine people under the bridge, I bring two cases of bottled water on ice. At the request of the young lady mentioned above, I've started bringing fruit.
There's a slight tension in me as I hand the bottles of water to my friends. Within a few minutes, I will be sitting on the sidewalk with some of these men and women who will be preparing their next hit of heroin by sticking their syringe through the opening into the bottle that I have just given them and using the bottle cap to mix the water and the drug to create the injection that may kill them right in front of my eyes. (I do carry Narcan.)
Is it wrong of me to provide water?
Expanding this conversation: Is it wrong of me to allow a woman to use the side window of my van as a mirror to catch her reflection so she can apply her makeup in preparation for her evening of "dates?"
The answer is easy and the answer is NO! The injections and the date nights would happen if I was not there.
No one under that bridge wants to be there. Virtually every man and woman wants to be clean. By being there, I willingly come alongside you, my blog reader who lives under that bridge to love you in the Name of Jesus and to encourage you and to walk with you as you make your way to clean.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Monday, August 7, 2017
Christ’s lordship in my life,
Hold that bold thought for a moment and go to the following video (the link in the next sentence) from Urban Hope and listen for a nearly identical statement by Ed Lewis, the CEO of CE National, the parent ministry of Urban Hope.
At the 3:42 point, Ed says "They're not just a project, they become friends."
In this new ministry that God involved me in, if I had to reduce these human beings to the role of a project to work with or a client to serve, I don't know that I'd be willing to sit on the sidewalk under a bridge while clients around me smoke crack or projects inject heroin. I don't think I'd be willing to cross an exit ramp off of I-95 by foot with my cooler in tow so as to find a project in a hidden area under another bridge. I wouldn't be able to walk "The Tracks" to see where my "clients" live. I'd be too frightened to pray with my project on a sidewalk next to those same tracks. I would never treat my client to dinner, start a clothing exchange, wash their laundry or allow them to sleep in my car for hours on end when they've not slept in days due to fear of the streets.
But for a friend, I would gladly provide fresh clothes, bowl, soap, water and towels for a homeless and addicted and wasted prostitute just off of her night of providing services to "men" so that she can wash her blackened flip-flopped feet before she walks to the abandoned house that she calls home. For a friend, I would gladly hold for safe keeping a welding helmet while this man works on getting life put back together. For a friend, I would post fliers, talk to police and homeless folks, store managers and guards to find them when they are missing and in so doing discovering how much they are cared for by these people. For a friend, I would tell them I love them in the Name of Jesus. For a friend, I would beg them not to die from the two C Cs of heroin unknowingly mixed with elephant tranquilizer and self injected into an available vein. For a friend, I would not notice their stench of body odor but would offer them a bottle of water or eat ice cream.
Am I being unprofessional? Some might say so.
Am I being biblical? I say so. John 15:13 tells me this:
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Last night, I was under a bridge giving away waters and chatting with any man or woman who wanted to talk. There were about forty people gathered, some smoking crack, others injecting heroin, another sweeping the open areas between mattresses and one playing with the resident (pregnant) cat. Some were playing cards and others were sitting around just talking the way anyone gathered in a small group of friends would do.
And then there were the younger women... not all of them mind you but enough that I noticed. Clothing and jewelry were a notch fancier than they had been in my earlier visit and purses were larger. Some were catching one last smoke of crack or injection of heroin before they left for their first customer. Each one, someone's daughter or sister or aunt or mother...
One of these women - although to be fair, I'm not sure she is prostituting her self - selected several pieces of clothing from my supply and asked if I could hold them until this morning. When I arrived at this community about an hour before church at Urban Hope today, to give these clothes to this young lady who was considering going to church with me, one of her girlfriends was just coming back from her night "at work." She was exhausted and wasted on drugs and/or alcohol.
To protect her anonymity, I've changed this young lady's name. I had not seen her the night before and she introduced herself as the first letter of her name (which, by the way, is also changed).
Actually, I was with several prostitutes tonight and it was a lot like visiting friends in the servant's courtiers of Downton Abbey.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
In the following very real story I am doing everything possible to maintain total anonymity of the person involved. For that reason I am avoiding the he-she pronoun. The end result for those of you who believe in perfect English is that some of the sentences are a tiny bit awkward. Bear with me and try to read the story.
It is an incredible privilege to come alongside a human being who has been made in the image of God and who has come to the realization that their life is broken and in need of repair. Such was my privilege earlier today under a bridge in Kensington as I looked into the eyes of this human being and as I heard this human being's voice as they expressed how sick they are of being sick.
This person explained to me how a prescription for Percocet over a year ago led to an addiction to heroin and how they are now thoroughly disgusted with their own life.
This person asked if they could borrow my cell phone to call their father to tell their dad of the agony that they felt in their soul. This fine person who is made in the image of God sat in my car in the air conditioning and spoke to their dad. At times it was a shouting match. At times it was tears rolling down cheeks and a nose running in my car and probably in some house I will never see as Dad tried to grasp the agony in the soul of their child on the other end of the phone.
When this person finally hung up the phone I asked if they wanted to go to recovery right now. They said "no because tomorrow is my 27th birthday and I don't want to be going through withdrawal on my birthday." And so we will wait 48 hours and go to recovery on Thursday and begin a new life.
I asked this fine and intelligent person how they were going to get through these next 48 hours. Will you be doing any drugs? I asked. They explained that they would stretch the drugs as far as they possibly could so as not to go into withdrawal prior to getting to the hospital. I looked into this person's eyes and I said well between now and then please do not die. They looked at me and they said they would be okay. This person should know because this person has been living on the streets for about 1 year doing exactly this day in and day out.
Please do pray that all of the pieces come together and that this fine human being made in the image of God will hold to their conviction to reclaim the life that they know they can have in the absence of drugs.