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, December 16, 2017

The opportunities within this ministry are growing almost exponentially.

Today alone I visited two fine young women at Riverside Correctional Facility.

One of the men from Emerald City is at Presbyterian Hospital and is recovering from his situation. I try to keep up with his situation daily by phone or visit.

It is increasingly becoming the norm that I am in communication with family members of homeless and addicted people.

All of this is an absolute privilege to do and does require funding. Please consider supporting my efforts by making a contribution through GoFundMe today. The link on the right. 

Thank you very much.

Philadelphia's daughters are routinely discharged from jail in the middle of the night!

I had a conversation this morning with two women who have been living on the streets in the City of Brotherly Love.  They explained to me that women are routinely released from the local women's prison in the middle of the night and are not given their ID or their money or their cell phone back and must come back another day to receive these items.

When they leave the grounds of the Philadelphia women's prison there is typically a line of men in cars looking to pick them up for "dates". Some of these women, because they desperately need money and have not been given their money back by the prison from which they were just released, will involve themselves in that date for money.

According to these women, it's not unusual to have some  these men be undercover policeman waiting to arrest these women for prostitution. They end up being arrested and put back in jail for that crime.

Dear Philadelphia prison system,

Please stop releasing your Daughters of the City of the American Revolution in the middle of the night. Also, please give them their ID and cell phone, money and all possessions that they came in with back to them immediately upon their discharge from your facilities. Do not make it a requirement that they come back another day.

Thank you.

PS... Dear readers of this blog, if you are reading this on Facebook and if this bothers you in any way and you feel something should be done, please don't just like it or put an angry face or something to that effect. Please share this on your Facebook page for your friends and public to see so that perhaps the right people will see this and changes will be made that will benefit the daughters of Philadelphia.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

On The Outside Looking In: The Mystery of Addiction

I was recently asked if safe injection sites promote heroin use.   Expanding the question a bit…

Does providing food, water and clothing, fresh needles and showers at local agencies promote heroin use?

After this year of hearing the stories that I’ve heard directly from the people living in their addiction, I’ve come to this conclusion:

Nothing promotes heroin use more than the lack of a system in place to fully and humanely deal with this current pandemic!

No one decides to become addicted. 

No one wants to stay addicted. 

For those of us on the outside looking in on this issue, that is to say, for those of us who have never personally dealt with addiction within our own being, there is a mystery that we simply cannot fully understand.  The strength of a drug addiction is outrageously powerful. 

Perhaps these two illustrations will help us understand:

1. In a conversation with one man, a long time resident of Emerald City, I asked him if what I've heard is true about the sense of having a demon inside of them in their addiction.  "Absolutely!  This demon makes me do things that I would never otherwise do to support my habit that I would never otherwise have.  I am not the person who does these things.  The demon is doing them and I feel powerless to stop it."[1]

2. I introduced myself to a new resident of Emerald City, a woman in her 20s.  I mentioned my church affiliation.  She promptly shared with me her deep love for our LORD.  With a sparkle in her eyes, she explained that as a devout Roman Catholic, she tries to attend Mass every day and loves it as her expression of her love for her LORD. 

She paused.

The sparkles in her eyes started to run down her cheeks as tears.  She looked at me and said, "I'm sorry. I have to leave now.  It's time for me to go humiliate myself."   She wiped away her melted sparkles, turned and left for her evening of “dates.”

If those of us on the outside of addiction looking in can just accept the fact that there is a mystery there that we cannot and will never fully understand, then there is a chance that we can more readily accept the addicted person as being fully human and worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love.




[1] There are many ways to interpret what the ‘demon’ is.  Some will say that it is Satan.  Others will say that the drug is the ‘demon.’  However you may interpret this, suffice it to say that it is a power seemingly beyond one’s self.

Monday, December 11, 2017

I was recently asked why I support community living in places like Emerald City.

Communities such as Emerald City have become, by default, safe injection sites.  Do they meet the official criteria of a safe injection site?  Probably not. But they are, none the less.  Of the three overdoses requiring Narcan that I have witnessed in Emerald City, all were saved by other homeless addicted people who live there and carry Narcan.[1]  They look out for each other in this regard.

In the case of Emerald City, The City of Brotherly Love visits with police and sanitation workers to "clean out" the community once each week, currently on Friday mornings.  The 40 to 60 residents MUST pack up all of their belongings and haul them up the street one block before the officer in charge decides that time is up.  The sanitation workers then gather anything that was left behind and crushes it in their trash trucks.  This includes perfectly good personal belongings of these men and women.  If any man or woman happens to not be there at this time, the likelihood that they will lose ALL of their possessions is very high.

Scattering the residents of these communities by systematically removing them from their community living area leads some of them to living in solitude in abandoned buildings.  And that just makes sense.  Think about it.  If I am required by Philadelphia to move all of my possessions one block up the street each week, why shouldn't I move into an abandoned building and set up my own home where I won't have to move?  These men and women move in and will continue to use their drugs (their 'medicine' as they call it[2]).  They will run the much higher risk of overdosing where no one else will see them doing so.  The end result is one more dead daughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father, niece or nephew.

When these human communities of high school drop outs[3], college graduates with their bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees and skilled labor have no funds for housing, they do what they can to create protection from the elements.  The result is blanket and sheet, cardboard and plywood homes on sidewalks.  If the sight of these homes for our sons and daughters in the City of the American Revolution bothers you, don't call city hall and complain.  Visit them.  Knock on their front sheet.  Sit with them.  Invite them to tell you their story and tell them you care.



[1] All three were within two weeks just recently.  The first two were in a ten minute period and these two men were saved by one woman, a resident of Emerald City.  She knew what to do and I, with my (former) EMT training and 20 years of hospital work assisted her. I was in awe of her knowledge and skill as she did what she knew needed to be done to save these men.  Two families have this woman to thank for not losing their son and/or father that day.  The third overdose was a woman who relapsed after being drug free for four months.  She thanked me yesterday for saving her life a couple weeks ago.  I clarified with her that I only monitored her pulse and respirations while a woman in the community did the saving.  Ever since this day, whenever I see this latter woman, I give her a hug and say "Good morning/afternoon Life Saver!"   She smiles and says "Thank you."
[3] Many have dropped out due to their addiction.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

I am so broken.

In my visits to Emerald City, I’ve been accepted by many men and women and ignored by some.  There is one woman, "Sally", who told me early on that I was annoying.  I chose to love her in the name of Jesus and respect all boundaries that she seemed to prefer.  She has slowly warmed up to me.  Today, she gave me a hug, looked at me and said: “Chris, I am so broken.”

“Tell me how to respond LORD.” I prayed.

“Sally, in Japan, when a valuable piece of china breaks, it is repaired by piecing the broken parts back together with gold.  The end result is that the piece of fine china is even more beautiful than it was before it broke.  You are that fine piece of china and God wants to put your broken parts back together with pure gold if you will let Him.”

She pondered.

Please Pray.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Public Communal Homeless Addiction Living Saves Lives

Sometimes It's better to Vlog than to Blog...


The Addicted, Homeless, Hero

Last night I saw the woman who helped save another woman who was overdosing on Tuesday night. I congratulated her for doing such a good job and saving the other woman's life. She thanked me and shrugged her shoulders and said: "I've had two more since then."
That's my definition of a hero, someone who casually does the extremely good thing and shrugs it off as the routine stuff of life.
A couple of minutes after this conversation, I saw this same woman injecting heroin into her own arm and beginning to slump. I went over to her and spoke to her and with her approval held her hands and we talked and prayed. When I was done praying I thought that we were done praying. Although still in her slump, she looked at me and she said: "We're not done praying. I have to pray." The power of the Holy Spirit came over her and pulled her out of her drug-induced slump as she prayed a glorious prayer for her own healing and the healing of everyone in the Emerald City. She concluded this prayer with the words "in Jesus Name" and she blessed herself as a good Roman Catholic would do. She thanked me for the opportunity to pray. And with that, she slumped back into her drug-induced stupor. I stayed with her long enough to make sure that she was not seriously overdosing.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Sidewalk Garden

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for the privilege of having personal stories shared with me by addicted and homeless men and women as many of them bear witness to their Christian Faith.  Here is one example which I share with you as a parable:


The sidewalk garden had been tended by its loving gardener.  This gardener took care of the garden’s every need.  One day, an uninvited gardener turned the soil of this beautiful garden and planted a seed.  The garden and its loving gardener were saddened by this violation.  Within a short time, the garden realized that the seed was starting to grow.  The garden told its loving gardener who continued to care for and love the garden.  The garden then told some of the other sidewalk gardens.  Most said, “Remove that sprouted seed before it has a chance to bloom.” 

This garden said “I believe that my creator would not want me to do that.  The unauthorized gardener and the sprouted seed in my soil are two distinct beings.  I will allow this flower to grow and to bloom.  When the time has come for this flower to bloom, I will allow another more established and healthier garden to raise my flower as its own.  My creator will guide my heart and give me the strength that I need during this time.”

And so the sidewalk garden continues on this Thanksgiving Day to tend to the needs of this sprouted seed and the loving gardener continues to tend to the needs of its beautiful sidewalk garden as they await the blooming of this flower in a couple of months.

An Update:

In Mid December 2017, the flower bloomed, that is to say, Nicola's son was born and was named after two men of the Bible. He was placed in the legal custody of her parents. Nicola and her boyfriend continued to live on the streets of Kensington.  In March 2018, they were sponsored to go to detox and rehab.  Once life gets straightened out, they plan to be married.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

And She Slept

As I go about doing what I do in Emerald City for the community of 40 to 60 people under the Emerald Street Bridge, there are certain people who catch me off guard and throw my understanding of what it means to be a homeless and addicted person into a bit of confusion.

I’ve told you about a man who is an ordained pastor and knows the spiritual battle he’s in from the personal and professional side like no one I’ve ever met.  I’ve told you about a woman who has her MSW and explained homeless addiction from the personal and professional side like no person I’ve ever met.

Today, I want to tell you about a young woman in her mid-20s.  "Diane's" spirit shines bright with the inner light of her Christ who I know lives in her heart as she worships Him almost daily in Mass at the local Roman Catholic Church.   On Sundays, she occasionally attends a contemporary worship service at another church and invited me to join her there some Sunday.  She does what she can to stay physically clean and well dressed.  She always has a smile and an extra hug to give away.

To num the emotional pain of her childhood and through no fault of her own, addiction found its way into her life.  Having been cut off from her family, she financially supports her life by walking the streets looking for dates.  As she prepares to do so, she looks at me and says “It’s time to go humiliate myself.”  A tear, perhaps God’s tear from deep inside her soul, spills out and down her cheek even before she can complete that short sentence.
                       
The mental anguish of self-humiliation and long hours with no sleep bring with them absolute exhaustion.  Upon returning to the bridge, "Diane" curled up on a piece of cardboard and covered herself with a nearby sheet.  As the cold dampness of this late fall overcame her, she began to shiver with no immediate solution to the problem.

Enter the Quit…

Barely an hour before this, a neighbor in Glen Mills gave me a queen sized quilt that had been sitting somewhere in their house unused and not really needed.  She gave it to me to give to someone in Emerald City.  When I saw Diane asleep and shivering just outside the cover of the bridge, I grabbed that quilt and wrapped her in it as snuggly as I could.  She awoke enough to say “Thank you.” as her teeth chattered. 


I knelt in close to her and said softly, “Jesus loves you just as you are.”  She nodded her head as one who knows such a fact as fact would do so.  

And she slept.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Transpose

I've been writing these blogs all year as my attempt to explain the real story of being addicted and homeless to anyone who chooses to read them.  I hope and pray that I've never overstepped a boundary in the balance between sharing stories and breaking confidentiality and the privacy of the men and women I've come to know and love on the streets of Kensington.

This video which has nothing to do with addiction provides a wonderful insight into the life of the man and woman who is living on the street addicted and homeless.  Please take the next 3 minutes and 6 seconds to watch it.


Transpose in your mind's imagination this little girl for any of the following:
  • high school drop out
  • high school honor's student
  • College graduate with a B.A, B.S., Master's or Doctoral Degree
  • A man or woman with highly coveted skilled labor certifications in plumbing, welding, carpentry, electrical work and more
  • Nurses, Doctors, Pastors, Lawyers
  • And the List goes on indefinitely...
  • Some may be on the lower end of the educational ladder but had every very real intent of becoming/fulfilling one of these higher level education jobs, proffesions, and vocations.
The next time you're uncomfortable around that homeless person, remember this little girl and transpose.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Night In Emerald City

Instead of my usual distribution of water and bananas, I swapped out the bananas for Hershey Kisses.  How cool it was to hand out something so whimsical to a community of about 60 people tonight.

Whimsical candy in the midst of tragedy and outrageous governmental policy...

As I was distributing the water and kisses and doing everything possible to make sure I didn't say to the ladies "May I give you a kiss?"  I was well aware of two of those ladies who should not be there tonight.

Both had been arrested and detoxed in jail. 

One of them was released from jail in the middle of the night.  With no place else to go since she could not reach a family member to give her a ride to a safer place, she ended up right back under the bridge where her addiction got a kickstart.  And so there she was, sitting on her mat, drinking my delivered water, unwrapping the kisses and preparing her next injection.

The second, upon discharge, part of her legal obligation was to get into rehab within one week.  Two weeks later, she's still trying to navigate an outrageously broken system and getting high again.

______________________________

Dear Philadelphia,

What do you think you could have done differently for each of these women so that they would not have been on the street tonight?

                                                   ______________________________

A third lady and her brother were preparing to meet with an undertaker to discuss her adult son's funeral.

An older man was celebrating his birthday and asked me to have Urban Hope's Family Night gathering pray for him by name for his recently developing health issues which are not related to his addiction.


If you were looking for some deep meaning in tonight's blog, I can't say that I have one in mind.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Be the Tea…

When I think of the level of suffering as written about in this blog or as I witness any other incredibly sad and frustrating happenings in the world of homeless drug addicted people, I used to catch myself wondering why they don’t just stop and move on with life to something healthy.  I hear other non-addicted people around me asking these kinds of questions all the time.

Having never been addicted, nor having ever used drugs, I don’t know firsthand what it’s like.  I can observe people’s behavior.  I can watch them go from not high to high, conscious to unconscious, comfortable to vomiting.  I can see them shaking and sweating and hear them apologizing in advance for their possible/probable onset of sudden uncontrollable dope sick diarrhea but I won’t understand why they don’t “just stop” living this way.

This may help:

While you’re sitting there, explain to me how water becomes ice.  You’ll say “Water freezes when it reaches the cold temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius.”   You are correct but you’ve answered when water becomes ice.  You’ve not answered how.“ 

For a full explanation on how ice forms, please spend the next hour watching this video presented by a physics professor with an outrageous English[1] accent.

To be candid, I didn’t get past the second minute of this video.  Just the length of the video by this English accented physics professor, I took as evidence enough that the “How do’s” of ice formation go beyond my understanding and always will.

And that’s how I see the men and women I’ve come to know and love as they deal with their addiction.  It’s enough for me to know as a non-addict and non-drug user that there’s a mystery there that goes beyond my understanding and always will.

It is a mystery to me but not to them.  This not-understood-to-me element of addiction freezes them in their addiction. 

Is there something to be learned from this comparison of addiction to ice formation?  There may be…

I don’t get frustrated or angry with the ice in my tea when I stop to realize it is not tea.  Ice in my tea can’t and won’t be tea until it has melted and is no longer ice.   Ice won’t melt until it has warmed to above 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius.  Although the tea is above 32 and 0, it doesn’t force itself on the ice.  It sits there next to the ice and maybe splashes a tiny bit.  It sits there next to the ice just being true to itself, being tea, warmer than the ice.

Is your loved one frozen in their addiction?  

Be the Tea…






[1] I think but am not sure

Selfless Suffering

When I rounded the corner onto Emerald Street from Lehigh Avenue, I knew instantly that the population of “Emerald City” was pushing or exceeding 60 men and women.  With my window down, I said hello to a few people who saw me as I pulled up to my usual parking area at the far end of the bridge.  I got out of my Uplander and walked to the back hatch to pull out my cooler of two cases of water on ice.  Two men, both of whom I know, walked toward me and asked if I had water.  A well dressed and obviously exhausted woman who I also know was returning from a night of “dates.”  She asked me for the same.  They all explained how thirsty they were.  “Sure I do,” I stated and gave them each a bottle before lifting the cooler out of the van.

I navigated that aging wheeled cooler with its extendable handle onto the cracked sidewalk and walked down the 20 feet or so to the first people, most awake, some asleep, just under the protection of this old bridge and out of the rain of the day.  The two men and four women in that first cluster of people all greeted me and accepted water.  

Tina looked up at me from her plastic mat with a saddened look on her face.  “Hi, Chris. My brother has something he needs to tell you.”  Looking over at her brother who was sitting on a chair and drawing a poster with an inspirational statement, Tina said: “Sam, please tell Chris what’s going on.”

I knelt down next to Sam and said “Hi. What’s happening?”  Sam kept drawing, didn’t look at me and said: “Tina’s son shot himself in the head two days ago and died.”  I tried to gather my thoughts.  I asked a few questions to get my bearings on how old he was – only in his 20s – and if he was local or distant – local.

Walking on my knees, I stepped over to Tina where she was still seated on her mat and knelt in front of her.  “I can’t talk about this Chris.”  “That’s fine, Tina.  We don’t need to talk.  May I give you a hug?”  She nodded her head in a quick fashion as if doing so would somehow keep her tears stuffed inside.  I knelt in front of her and reached out to hug Tina as she reached out to be hugged.  I held her for probably ten or fifteen seconds and she held on tight for the same.  To the best of my recall, I don’t think we said anything in those seconds.  What can anyone say to a woman who has just lost a son?

But wait…

The agony for Tina does not begin with the loss of her son.  As I was kneeling in front of Tina in this moment, I was thinking of a conversation with her about ten days earlier.  On that day, Tina looked at me as we chatted in a small group while sitting on the sidewalk and said, “Chris, I don’t know that I’ve told you yet but I was just diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and have eight to twelve months to live.”  When she shared that with me, I tried to offer some comforting words but what words are there when one knows their end is near?  I tried to assure her of God’s love but to a hurting person who has never been taught things of God; it’s too bizarre a topic in such a tragic moment.

But wait…

The agony for Tina does not start with her diagnosis of terminal cancer.  As I was sitting with Tina in that small group of people on the sidewalk, I could not help but think of a long one on one conversation that I had with Tina about ten days earlier.  On that day, Tina MSW (Master of Social Work) explained in amazing professional detail the life situation faced by homeless addicted people.  She explained the trauma faced within the person’s family and friends and the devastation to careers.  She cited her own professional days of having her own clients who she counseled and how she now lives under a bridge.  She compared and contrasted the differences in policies and procedures regarding drug addicted people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.[1]

During the conversation of her diagnosis, Tina told me that she has written a professional paper of these topics and will be giving it to me for appropriate distribution.  She added: “I won’t be around to benefit from the changes that may come about from this paper but my friends will.  I want to do whatever I can to make life better for them.”  I’ve not yet seen this paper but even as Tina is facing her own health issues and the funeral of her son, she told me yesterday that she’s going to get it to me soon.


Selfless Suffering


[1] It goes beyond this current blog entry to get into that discussion. Suffice it to say that, from what I’ve learned from Tina, Pennsylvania could learn a lot from New Jersey.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sitting and Standing… The Beginnings of Two Endings

On a Sunday in August 2007, Dad sat down.
On a Sunday in October 2017, Dan stood up.

Each movement by Dad and Dan told me that the beginning of the end had arrived.

On the weekend of Sunday, August 19th, 2007, I visited my sister Kim in Chambersburg Pa. to celebrate her birthday which had been the day before on August 18th.  We were sitting in church with Dad between us at Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church in Shippensburg, Pa.  Dad was, at this point in his life, a retired Episcopal priest who had served one church from ordination to retirement and did so with dignity and honor and respect and love and humility and integrity.

Dad was always a very proper, mildly formal, man who always stood for hymns and prayers in church when it was customary to do so.  The moment came during the singing of a hymn.  Dad sat down.  I knew in my heart that this was the beginning of his final loss of strength and eventual departure from this world.  And it was. On January 7, 2008, Dad went home.

On the weekend of Sunday, October 22, 2017, my sister Kim visited me in Concordville, Pa. to celebrate my birthday which had been the day before on October 21st.  We were sitting in church with Dan between us at Urban Hope Grace Brethren Church in Kensington, Pa.  Dan was, at this point in his life, a former pastor who had served a church until heroin addiction grabbed hold of his soul.  He departed ministry with humility and broken integrity.

In spite of his addiction, I've always found Dan to be a very proper man who treats others with dignity and honor and respect and love.  On this day, 24 hours prior to this writing, Dan approached me as Kim and I were walking toward my car after visiting the community in Emerald City.  With a fresh glow of detox on his face and a spring of the same in his step,[1] he asked if we were going to church this morning and if so, could he go with us.  "Yes." and "ABSOLUTELY!" were my responses.

We arrived in the sanctuary just at the beginning of the opening song led by a wonderful worship band.  Kim and I stood and joined in the singing.  Dan sat in his seat, closed his eyes and was noticeably praying.  The song ended.  

Following announcements and community prayer time, the band presented three or four worship songs in succession.  Dan remained sitting.  The moment came during the singing of the second song.  Dan stood up.  I know in my hopeful heart that this is the beginning of his final loss of addiction and his eventual departure from his world of homeless living.

I looked at Dan as he stood between Kim and me and as he sang and gently clapped his hands to the beat of the worship songs.  I saw the sparkle of hope in his reborn eyes and I remembered Dad, looking down to him as he sat for a song and looked up through his tired eyes.

Sitting and Standing… The Beginnings of Two Endings 



[1] Dan had been in a hospital for a few days for an issue not related to his addiction and detoxed during that time.

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. 

Explanation:        

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.







Saturday, September 23, 2017

Was this really necessary?

Every once in awhile I do a video instead of typing something up. This is one of those moments.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Tomato Tomoto Connive Survive

Connive
  1. Synonyms: Scheme, Conspire, Plot
  2. to plan secretly to do something, usually something wrong or illegal
  3. to pretend not to know about or do nothing to stop a wrongful or illegal act, thus showing encouragement of or consent to the act


Survive
  1. Synonyms: Stay Alive, Live to Tell the Tale, Continue To Exist
  2. intransitive verb to remain alive or in existence or able to live or function, especially succeed in staying alive when faced with a life-threatening danger
  3. transitive verb to come through a life-threatening experience or a period of difficulty and remain alive, in existence, or in a previous position or life



Since starting this ministry of serving homeless and addicted men and women, I’ve been connived a few times.  In blissful ignorance, I have found myself in some interesting situations of which I’m not going to discuss details other than to say Lisa Ling of CNN would probably give me a high-five and ask me to do a guest appearance on her next show.  Enough said…

The more innocent side of homeless addicted conniving includes taking more clothes than any one person personally needs from donations from people like me and selling those clothes that they’ve just been given for a dollar or two each, selling lucies (individual cigarettes for much more than their per pack price) and more.

It’s not until I merged the words connive and survive that I found peace in knowing that no matter what I do, I will be connived by a few men and women who are desperately trying to survive the hellish trap of homeless drug addiction.

Living Example:

I carry my cell phone at all times.  Sue and Brad, two individuals, have asked me if they can borrow my phone to call a family member.  They each call to say hi to Mom or Dad and just let their loved one know they are sort of ok.

And then there is Brenda who connived me to let her use my cell phone.  I didn’t know that she used my phone to text a “man” and ask him to call her back quickly while she had access to my phone.  A few days later, this man called my phone and asked for Brenda.  I referenced my involvement with Urban Hope so he would not say anything for which he may feel embarrassed in the following moments.  Realizing that I was a “church guy”, he opened up to me and shared his story of recently stopping his out of control drinking.  I praised him for that.

He continued…

“I’ve stopped drinking but I’m still dealing with my sex addiction.  I love a good whore.  Is Brenda there?”

For a brief moment, I forgot I was a church guy and that it’s virtually impossible to put my fist through my cell phone and connect it to this “man’s” face.  Instead, I wrapped up that phone call as quickly as I could think to do so.


Brenda is doing whatever she can do to survive her current life of homeless addiction.  She needs her medicine to keep from getting outrageously sick.  She may or may not be interested at this time in detox and recovery.  As I’ve already mentioned, the system for helping her get into detox is so broken that even if she wants it, renting her body to men such as this is the only way she knows to stay “not sick.”

When I merge in my own head Brenda’s conniving use of my cell phone for an inappropriate cause with her need to keep surviving, I can look at her and not be upset that my phone was used to try to arrange a “date.”  Instead, I can sit on the sidewalk and look at Brenda as I have several times.  This time, I can remind her or tell her for the first time ever heard by her ears that she is a child of God[1], made in the image of God[2], loved and adored by God[3] and worthy of dignity, honor, respect and love by every man and every woman.


Conniving            Surviving              Tomato                Tomoto






[1] Galatians 3:26 New Living Translation (NLT)  For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.                      

[2] Genesis 1:27 New Living Translation (NLT)  So God created human beings in his own image.
    In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

[3] John 3:16 New Living Translation (NLT)  “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.