As I come to know these fine people, they share with me more of their personal and sensitive stories. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist. "Blog names" have occasionally been given to me by the person whose story I am telling. Names are never their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Friday, July 28, 2017
I just hope she's safe.
The search for Mickey yesterday took a fascinating and wonderful path as I visited with Anna Batten (Yes, she is an outrageously distant relative.) of "Never Give Up - Heaven Can Wait" two areas I had not yet seen up close. (Click here for a wonderful Facebook hosted video.) One of the places we visited is nicknamed "Emerald City" because it's on Emerald Street under a long railroad bridge.
Imagine if you will located right here a sidewalk lined with
- worn out discarded mattresses
- personal belongings,
- 30 to 40 men and women and one fetal child due to be born in September
- food and filth
- tables and chairs
- needles and heroin and crack cocaine
- an active card game
- a man in a wheel chair
- sleeping or unconscious humans
- A woman thinking nothing of changing clothes out in the open
- A couple intertwined
- A man "knighting me" because I visited with iced Gatoraid
- A woman turning from me so I would not see her light her rock of Crack Cocaine.
- She was embarrassed by her behavior because she was doing what her body called her to do as is the case with any addiction. Her embarrassment was increased by what we had learned about each other during our chatting over the past few minutes when we realized that we were from neighboring communities in Delaware County.
there the last time I saw her. Anna and I said our goodbyes and drove to that apartment after making one very sobering visit to the area
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
In these past several days, I've been texted and called by caring strangers who have seen Mickey and described behaviors that I know to be hers. This morning's call was different. A woman called to say that she had seen Mickey near the Arby's on Aramingo which is reasonable. That's her typical path.
And so we sit on the sidelines and wait... and pray...
Mickey has a black eye and a bruised face! She's somewhere in the vicinity of Aramingo and Huntington, Lehigh, B Street and The Tracks. Her path may be widening and so keep looking.
Don't look for a pathetic panhandler! Don't look for an addict! Don't look for a loser! Look for Mickey (or Kim)! Look for that young woman who could be your daughter, granddaughter, niece or neighbor!
When you find her, remember, she's a feral kitten who needs to be gently guided to a safer life. And please call me...
Monday, July 24, 2017
Saturday, July 22, 2017
This is my first attempt at voice texting a Blog. I hope the words on the screen will be the words that I said. I will do my best to review the written content.
I went into Philadelphia today and up to my now favorite Wawa store on Aramingo Avenue. Almost immediately I found Mike. Mike is approximately my age, maybe a little bit older. As I've already told you he's a professional welder and according to his own testimony rather skilled in various forms of home and building construction. We started chatting for a while in my car and he volunteered some interesting information. Prior to being homeless he was living with his adult daughter and her family in Garnet Valley Pennsylvania.
For those of you who don't know, the town and zip code of Garnet Valley is a fairly new phenomenon. I won't bore you with the details other than to point out that Garnet Valley is basically where I live. And so, this man who I have been getting to know for the past 5 weeks or so was fairly recently, let's say 6 weeks and earlier, more or less, my neighbor. He went so far as to give me his daughter's home address and her name.
Now let's stop to think about this a little bit. Of all the people I could be getting to know as I am involved in this homeless Ministry, one person who I'm getting to know has lived extremely close to me until becoming homeless. I'm not sure where this particular storyline is going to go but I find it interesting. As much as is appropriate and without breaking confidences, I will share the story with you.
After visiting with Mike for about an hour as he sat in my car and enjoyed the air conditioning on this extremely hot day, I set out to find Mickey. Four hours later with some Bible reading and driving around her normal path I returned home having not seen her so much as one time. This is reason for concern because that is not her pattern at all. She has been one of the more easy people to find hence all the stories that I have about her. So if you are reading this through the night prior to me getting up there in the morning to keep looking for her, I'd greatly appreciate it if you would say a prayer or two or three or even four for her and my search to find her. I do pray that she is safe.
There was one moment in my search for Mickey that I thought I had found her. It was when I rounded the corner onto the bridge on B Street. This is the bridge that goes over the tracks section of Kensington. As I've mentioned in earlier blogs, "the tracks" are the most devastating region in and Kensington for the current drug pandemic.
As I rounded the corner I saw who I thought was Mickey standing on a Ledge about 3 ft above the sidewalk and dangling there, not in a hanging from the neck kind of way but in a leaning very far forward extremely wasted kind of way. I pulled up to her and called "Mickey Mickey it's Chris get down please." She was completely incoherent and so I pulled the car over to the curb on the bridge and got out. And so here I was directly above the tracks getting out to help Mickey who turned out not to be Mickey but another woman approximately the same size and approximately the same if not more malnourished than Mickey completely wasted and incoherent but standing. As I said, she was standing on the three foot tall ledge that separates the road from the sidewalk on that bridge. I tried to get her attention to guide her down but was unsuccessful. At that same moment a young couple was walking across the bridge and they helped to guide this young woman, a child of God, to relative safety on the sidewalk where she continued her stand and incoherence.
I've seen this same pose before on different people in the few months that I have been doing this. They just stand there and some of them are leaning way over without actually falling to the ground. For some odd reason we knew that she would be essentially safe as long as she stayed on the sidewalk. The young couple and I went our own way.
About an hour later I made my rounds again as I was trying to find Mickey and I wondered what I would find when I rounded that corner up onto the bridge again. And there was the woman very responsive and walking across the crosswalk of the road just north of the bridge.
A man standing on the Street corner gave me a very suspicious look which told me this should probably be my last pass on that road for the day. I would certainly never want to Typecast anyone but men standing on Corners in that area are typically drug dealers.
I made my way back to the area of the Wawa store and just parked for a while in hopes that Mickey would find her way to me rather than me trying to find her. I never did find her. As I said before, this is very unusual and it is reason for concern. I will do all I can to find her in the morning and if I cannot, I will start asking people who may know. If I am not successful, I will probably file a missing persons report. It needs to be understood at this point that as far as I know Mickey has virtually no one really looking out for her on a day-to-day basis. While I would never hope this to be true, in theory she could be one of those people who disappears never ever to be seen or heard from again.
Please do pray.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Monday, July 10, 2017
Sunday, July 9, 2017
I think I can do it in one sentence and follow that up with some explanation...
Here's the sentence:
"Ashley gave her lunch."
Here's the story...
At some point in Mickey's past, she dared to visit a church and was yelled at according to her own testimony. She vowed never to go back to any church ever again and has made it clear to me that she will never go to any of my church activities.
Out of total boredom with her day on Saturday, she said she would go with me to Urban Hope so I could drop off ten bags of donated women's clothes for their homeless ministry distribution. She was coherent and communicative on our way there. When we arrived, she said she'd like to catch a quick smoke before going over to meet people. I agreed and she stepped to one side of my van while I organized those ten bags. A couple minutes later, I looked at Mickey through the window of my van and realized she was not smoking a cigarette...
With a sense of paranoia on her face and struggling to navigate the ground under her feet, she stepped to the back of my van. I had to take her hand and guide her to sit on my back bumper where she composed herself enough to walk one block to meet people at the church as they set up for a block party. We walked down the sidewalk toward the church. We walked arm in arm due to her recent onset of instability. The first person to meet us at the corner of A and East Tioga was Jason Holt, the senior pastor (although they don't use that term). Ashley and others greeted Mickey with the warmth of Christ's unconditional love. Having never met Mickey before, they might not have picked up on her current condition.
And you know what... It would not have mattered if they had. Urban Hope is such a place that anyone could enter in any state of insobriety and that person would be accepted and loved in the name of Jesus. But that is a blog for another day...
Without getting bogged down in the details of the next half hour or so, shortly after these introductions, Mickey sat stoned in my van waiting for me to move those ten bags to their storage area. I had discretely told Ashely what Mickey had smoked just prior to walking with me to the church. Did anyone yell at Mickey? No! In response to Mickey's condition,
Ashley gave her lunch.
This morning, when I saw Mickey at the Wawa on Aramingo, among other things that we talked about, I asked her what she thought of Urban Hope. Even though stoned in the moment, she knew what had happened.
"Ashley gave me lunch."
"Yes. Ashley gave you lunch."
Friday, July 7, 2017
That leaves Mickey and it is from her that I'm learning a great deal. I went to Kensington early Thursday afternoon, arriving at about 2:30 pm. This left 4.5 hours until the Faith Based Recovery meeting to which I hope to take a person or two.
I drove around for a bit as I looked for anyone I knew or others with whom to chat. After one pass between the Wawa on Aramingo and the Tracks, Mickey almost magically appeared at the back of the Wawa. She told me that she'd barely eaten since I saw her four days earlier. I asked where she'd like to go and she mentioned Popeye's Chicken. And so off we went, up Aramingo...
Unlike other times when I've taken Mickey to get something to eat, this time we went inside, ordered from the counter, received our order, went to a table and had dinner together. She had a two piece chicken dinner with macaroni and cheese plus a Cajun rice with added brown gravy. I had a three-piece chicken strip dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy. My drink was a vanilla Bark's Root Beer and Mickey's was an iced tea. She sat directly across from me at a table designed for four people.
Why did I just explain all that detail to you? Here's why....
I want you to understand that this dining experience could have been had by you and your child, date, spouse, platonic friend, your sports buddy or any socially accepted combination of two people. In our case, it was between a typically socially unacceptable combination of me and a triple addicted homeless 29-year-old woman who has been living on the street for four years. We had a reasonable conversation and equally enjoyed moments of silence just as any combination of two people would have during a regular meal together.
Afterward, we went to Walmart where Mickey found a nice pink-faced watch, a six-pack of women's rings and some smell good spray for her hair plus some cream for her aching feet. The total bill was not even $20.00. Mickey showed great restraint and courtesy in not spending more than what was needed for a few nice items that helped her feel better about herself.
And that's the point of this blog.
Mickey, just like every person you see on a street corner or at a store "panhandling" for money, is a human being who very much wants life to be "normal." This was made even more evident in Mickey's expressions of joy and the life in her eyes as we wrestled to unbind her new watch from its casing and the rings from their cardboard prison. Once that was done, she primped herself up with her new spray as she straightened her short hair while looking into the mirror that is attached to the passenger side sun visor of my van.
Again, I share these details with you to help you see that all of these activities are such that anyone would do if they were there to do them. There's nothing abnormal in any of it.
I was so taken by the normality of Mickey's actions and the joy in her eyes and expression that I commented to her. "I don't understand why you're living on the street." Everything you're doing is totally normal and reasonable. You have life in your eyes unlike some homeless and addicted people I've come to know." She smiled and said, "Thank you."
Between each of these places, we parked in the corresponding parking lot and listened to the radio and chatted for a short time. Mickey seemed to greatly appreciate the opportunity to just be herself and not the frightened homeless person that she is as she wanders alone from store to store in hopes of being tossed a quarter.
And that's another thing about Mickey. On two occasions as we entered or exited stores, SHE WAS ASKED BY A HOMELESS PERSON standing outside the store and who she did not know if she had some change. In both cases, she approached that person and placed her own quarter directly into their hand being sure to close that person's fingers around that quarter. I was stunned by her gentle and caring thoughtfulness. As I type this, I can't help but be reminded that we often minister to others most successfully out of our own brokenness. Mickey knows what it is like to have change thrown at her and hit her in the face. I've seen it happen to her. Mickey is not about to have that happen to any homeless person for whom she can provide a coin.
Toward the end of our time together, we pulled into a large shopping center parking lot and parked off to one side. Mickey looked through the selection of clothes that I had available for her and she changed into them in my van while I took a short walk. She felt respected and trusted; respected that I didn't stay in the van and trusted that I allowed her to be in my running van alone. Again, while a bit unusual - OK... a lot unusual to use my van as a changing room - this moment gave Mickey dignity as compared to the guard at Wawa following her through the store each time she dares to walk in.
Four hours after this time with Mickey started, I invited her to come to the recovery meeting at 7 pm. She declined with a smile and a hint that some other day might work and so off I went. The meeting turned out to be a Memorial service for one of the founding members of the group who had overdosed earlier in the week. I was shaken by that.
On my way out of town, I stopped to see if Mickey or any of my regulars were at the Wawa. Mickey was in the back parking lot, standing there and looking lost and alone. I asked her if she needed anything to eat and she said no but asked for a sweet tea. I got it and an ice cream for myself. I love my evening ice cream. I came out and told her about the memorial service and how sad it was. I told her not to die from her drugs and that I'd be sad if she overdosed. She looked at me with a sense of - well - I'm not sure. It was as if she'd never thought that anyone could care enough to say such a thing to her.
All of the natural and normal behaviors within our interactions of that day as I have just described were counterbalanced by the most unnatural behavior of all for that day. It was that moment when I said goodnight and left Mickey standing alone in the relative darkness and dampness of that night in the back parking lot knowing that she would have no indoors to call her own.
Thursday, July 6, 2017
- David and Autumn, for example, have been on the streets so long that to call them homeless, I'm not sure is correct. The streets are their home. They have a system for sleeping behind this dumpster or that bush. They go to work on this street corner or that avenue intersection depending on their knowledge of the flow of traffic for that particular hour. They are known by locals and get food, clothes, and money from passers-by and some who stop to converse.
- There are others, too many to count and name, who offer a service such as the doorman at Wawa or the window washer who circulates among several shopping center parking lots.
- There are others who stroll about with a shopping cart or wagon and collect metal things to take to the metal thing place (shows how much I know) for redemption into cash for their life and habit.
- And then there is Mickey.
You see whole
I see broken
But You see beautiful
And You're helping me to believe
You're restoring me piece by piece
You wash me in mercy
I am clean
There's nothing too dirty that You can't make worthy
You wash me in mercy
I am clean
My heart's beating, beating inside my chest
Oh I'm coming alive with joy and destiny
Cause You're restoring me piece by piece
You wash me in mercy
I am clean
There's nothing too dirty that You can't make worthy
You wash me in mercy
I am clean
Your blood flowed red and made me white
My dirty rags are purified
I am clean
- I’ve come to know and care about several homeless addicted people.
- I’ve walked the tracks and prayed with a man and woman who I had just watched shoot up with heroin.
- I’ve walked right through active drug transactions and been very properly greeted by dealers and buyers alike as they paused their transaction out of respect for Urban Hope’s green shirt that I wear with humble pride.
- I’ve given away countless granola bars and Urban Hope schedules as a way to start conversations with homeless and addicted people I meet on the street.
- I’ve distributed sandwiches from my car with a cocaine, heroin and alcohol addicted woman who sat in the passenger seat and called out to her homeless friends “I have sandwiches!”
- I took that same woman a week later to Episcopal Hospital as she was experiencing a touch of overdose from her last hit of heroin.
- I’ve seen the chin quiver and the tears flow from that same woman who watched Rick’s video and heard me explain God’s love for her.
- I listened to a grown man cry like a baby when his Mom visited him on the streets and reamed him out for wasting his life as a homeless addict.
- I was greeted by that same man who recognized me from the granola bar I handed him a month later and broke out with the greatest smile as he told me he was starting work the next Monday.
- I saw that same man a couple weeks after that happily riding a bicycle presumably heading to or from work.
- I’ve had a great laugh with a Lady Philadelphia Police Sergeant and an addicted woman when the woman put the sergeant’s bra (pulled from a bag of the sergeant’s donated clothes) on her head like an Easter bonnet.
- I was scolded by another Philadelphia Police officer who thought I was supporting an addict’s habit. When I explained what I was actually doing, the officer apologized to me. He went on to express his thanks for my efforts and his care and concern for this addicted person with whom I was about to have lunch.
- I’ve attended a Faith Based recovery group and heard the otherwise unknown and private stories of absolute heartbreak and how those true stories led these individuals to their drug of choice and ultimately to how our LORD redeemed them.
- I’ve held the hands of broken men and women with the intent of praying for them and having the tables turned when they began to pray for me.
- I’ve started carrying Narcan and almost used it three times in my first week of having it.
- I’ve handed donated clothes to some of these people and seen the relief on their face as they’ve changed out of their clothes worn literally non-stop for a week or more.
- I’ve seen horrendously blistered feet and eaten pepperoni pizza, cheese burgers and ice cream and shared God in the stench of unchecked body odor.
- I’ve boldly explained to two store managers that when a particular homeless person is with me in that store, he or she will be welcome in that store. The managers have never argued the point.
- further developing an understanding of our LORD's calling for me
- for guidance, discernment, wisdom and safety,
- material resources such as clothes, shoes, socks and personal products for men and women
- networking with others who are doing this....
- You can ask me to serve you through my service business, Your Helpful Neighbor. After all, the more income I have coming in through it, the more ministry I can do.
- You can mail a check to me at PO Box 21, Chester Heights, Pa. 19017.
- If you would like to financially contribute through a 501c3 for the tax deduction I hope to have something set up soon. Please let me know of your interest along those lines.
My contact information in on my web site.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
This past Thursday, I picked up three luggage style bags of items from Dolly before heading to Kensington as I do every Thursday. I go to the Christian based recovery meeting at Urban Hope with the hope that I can find an interested homeless addicted person to go with me. (It's always someone with whom I've had some degree of previous contact.)
On my way, I stopped at the Wawa on Aramingo Avenue. There was something different this time. There were less homeless folks than normal. In fact, I didn't see any.
I saw a security guard and knew things were changing. I drove around the store and when I got between the Wawa and the Rite Aid, there was Mickey sitting on the curb out of authority range of the guard. I sat on the curb with her for a bit and asked if she was hungry. She said that she'd not eaten all day and had no money. "Let's go in and get something," I suggested. We did. The guard walked around behind us never taking his eyes off of Mickey's actions. I turned to him and said politely. "She's with me."
Mickey ordered from the deli and picked out some other decent food as did I and we went to the register. The whole time, she (or we) were under direct surveillance. We went to my car where we ate dinner together in its air conditioning. It was a hot day and Mickey appreciated the moment to sit in some cool air and eat. I hear the words "Thank you." from Mickey a lot.
Whenever I'm with Mickey or any of the other people on the streets I'm getting to know, I do what I can to bring our LORD into the conversation. Mickey is very resistant to this. She told me that at some point, she went to a church and they yelled at her. She has never gone back to any church since that. I brought God into our dinner there in the front seat by simply saying, "Thank You, LORD, for our food." and left it at that.
As we ate, Mickey shared briefly that she's frightened and alone. She wants to go back to Atlantic City where she has friends (or family). "Would they welcome you back?" I asked. She wasn't sure. I suggested that we call the people to get their thoughts on her coming to them. She didn't have phone numbers and would not tell me names to look up. I suggested that she come with me to the recovery meeting that I was heading to in a few minutes. Someone there could give her ideas on how to appropriately contact these friends in Atlantic City. She wasn't interested because the meeting is at a church.
As we continued to eat dinner in my car, she mentioned she really needed boots and socks for all the walking she does. I told her about the items that I had just received from Dolly and that I didn't really know what was in the three large bags that I'd just picked up from her. We finished dinner and went to the back of my Chevy Uplander. I opened the back hatch and pulled out the three bags. Mickey sat on the left side of the bumper while I sat on the right. "Let's see if there are any boots and socks in here," I said. I unzipped the bag and guess what I found immediately....
BOOTS in Mickey's size and SOCKS!
I was so shocked that I called Dolly right away. When she answered the phone, I explained what had just happened. Mickey expressed her appreciation directly to Dolly through tears as she reiterated how frightened and alone she feels. The three of us talked for a couple minutes. Dolly was great with her unconditional love for Mickey and called her "Kiddo" a couple of times which Mickey seemed to like. Mickey thanked Dolly several times during that brief call. I did my best to convey to Mickey that she's loved by God and the provision of these boots and socks as she'd requested before WE knew they were there is evidence of that love. "Really?" she asked. "Yes. really." Again, I left it at that.
Thinking that this experience might have softened Mickey's heart, I invited her one more time to come to the recovery meeting. She wasn't interested. We said goodbye and I made my way there. I arrived a bit late and slipped in as unnoticed as I could while Brenda was gloriously singing. Rick provided a powerful message for the evening.
I don't normally speak at these meetings but this time I did as I shared with the group very briefly what I've just written at more length above. Brenda and others agreed that this was a God moment for Mickey whether she saw it as such or not. "Keep pouring yourself into her." was my encouragement from the group.
I'm making it a point to see as many of these homeless people with whom I have some degree of ministry going about every two days. With the Fourth of July Schedule rearranging my typical pattern, I decided to go up Friday and see who I could see. The "doorman" at Wawa and the man who washes car windows for a dollar are gone from Wawa now that there's a guard. David and Autumn were working at a local intersection and too busy to talk. Gina is in Rehab (I think.). Ian is now working.
But there was Mickey - on the curb out of authority range of the guard. She looked exhausted. I sat down next to her and she said she'd barely slept since I saw her the evening before. Nor had she eaten anything significant.
I'll write more about the details of this evening later. Here's a summary. She sat in my passenger seat as we went to Wendy's at her request for a burger. Before we got there, she was sound asleep. I sensed this was the sleep of any human being that had not slept well in the past 24 or more hours. I pulled into the Rite Aid Parking Lot and parked near a security camera (as I always try to do) across from Wendy's and let Mickey sleep for about an hour while I read my Bible and prayed for her and my ministry efforts.
We made our way to Wendy's where we each had a burger, fries and iced tea. Our conversation included her thoughts on Atlantic City, being frightened, alone and tired of this lifestyle and not liking church.... Sprinkled throughout were my attempts at pointing Mickey toward an understanding that God loves her. "I'm doing these things for you, Mickey, because I care and Jesus loves and adores you." I even tried to sing "Jesus Love Me." Mickey turned up the radio... I laughed.
Now jump ahead two days... Sunday morning... Again, there are more details than this but this blog is already too long...
I saw Mickey after I had been at Urban Hope. She looked at me and asked, "Are you going to church tonight?" "I've already been. Would you go with me if I was going tonight?" Her answer from this child of God who doesn't like church because she was yelled at is why I keep doing what I'm doing...