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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Human Beings Nearing Eviction...

So many thoughts are flying through my mind from my visit to Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities this past Sunday.

Demetrius was asking me about my move to my new apartment from the house that my apparently-soon-to-be-former wife and I rented together about eight years ago.  He was asking me if I saw this transition as the end of my marriage.  We talked in depth about this and about related issues as we sat at the entrance of his tent on the sidewalk in Emerald City.

Shortly thereafter, I made my way over to Frankford Avenue.  As I pulled over to the curb, I waved to Melanie who was standing there, a bit wobbly from her recent 'medicine' dose but fully aware of her surroundings.  She returned my wave with a smile and said "Hi Chris." as I got out of my Uplander.  She did so with all of the normalcy that one neighbor would greet another.  We talked as neighbors would, not about drugs nor homelessness nor anything else of obvious relevance to our immediate surroundings.  We simultaneously and naturally reached out to each other for a hug, the hug of friendship between two souls who have not seen each other in days.

Further down the sidewalk, I met a long time friend from this community who has relapsed.  He seemed saddened and embarrassed to be "caught" by me as he injected, albeit unintentionally, in front of me.  I gave him a hug and we conversed a bit about the stuff of his life not otherwise associated with bridge life.

Still further down the sidewalk, as I was calling out "Banana Man is here." a tiny voice belonging to a  tiny and delightful pigtailed young lady who I need to get on my knees to hug popped out of her tent.  Like the others before her on this visit, we conversed about the stuff of life and not so much about the stuff of addicted/homeless life.

Why do I share these short stories with you?

I'd like you to know that these addicted and homeless men and women were men and women before they were addicted and homeless.

It breaks my heart to know that some of them, the ones I've specifically mentioned here and/or others who I know, are at such life risk by the City of Brotherly Love if they don't comply with eviction: the City's solution to their medical/psychological/spiritual situation.

These are human beings worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love.  When will we begin to understand this?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dear Daughter's Dad,

Dear Daughter's Dad,

May I ask you a question?  I really would like to know if you don't mind sharing your answer.  If you'd rather not tell me, that's fine too…  I'm asking you because I'd like to know what it's like…  I don't have nor will I ever have a daughter (or son) to call my own.  For the record, I do have one wonderful emotionally adopted daughter.  I'll never know the joy of looking into a child's eyes and knowing she's part me.

It may seem like an odd question but it's on my heart and mind. 

What went through your heart and mind the first time you ever saw 'Dad's Daughter' as a little girl try to put on makeup? 

You may have laughed a bit when you saw lipstick on her chin and forehead and not on her lips or blush in her ears and not on her cheeks.  I'm guessing that you wished she'd not grow up so fast.  Maybe you jumped ahead in your mind to her young adult years when she would know how to do this and be doing so for wonder filled reasons.

'Daughter's Dad', I saw 'Dad's Daughter' today. 
                                                                               
It was mid-afternoon.  She was standing next to and facing the side of my Chevy Uplander.  She was leaning in toward the passenger side back tinted window and gazing intently at her own reflection as she applied her makeup with the skill of any woman about to go on a date with her Prince Charming. 

It wasn't hard to spot a tear welling up in her eye that I could see from my vantage point.  There was no joy of anticipating a nice night.  This was a tear of sadness, self-condemnation, and fear.

I gently approached her and inquired…  "I see a tear 'Dad's Daughter.'  May I ask?...  Why are you crying?"

Without looking at me, she continued her task so as not to be delayed in meeting her first 'date' for the day.  "I have to go humiliate myself," she says with a tone of self-disgust and disbelief that her life has moved in this direction. 

She tries to convince herself and me that there's an understandable and justifiable reason for her afternoon plans in which she finds no delight.  "I need my medicine."  To further convince herself, she adds: "I'm already getting sick."

A few days before this, 'Daughter's Dad', as she and I sat at her home on the sidewalk under the railroad overpass, 'Dad's Daughter' told me how much she really loves you and her whole family.  She shed tears of love on that day, not tears of fear as on this day.

She's told me on several occasions how much she loves you and her whole family.  She's asked me to assure you of her love even though she is not talking to you right now due to the shame she feels in her soul, the very soul you brought to this earth in the moment of her conception.[1]

I do what I can to help 'Dad's Daughter' know of her goodness and her worthiness to be treated with dignity, honor, respect, and love.  I try to gently share the news of our Loving LORD but my words fall short of what's needed to convey God's never absent love.  I can't even find the needed words to convey to 'Dad's Daughter' your love kept mutually alienated by that burnt bridge between you.

Thank you, LORD for giving Steven Curtis Chapman the words he needed for his life story that so aptly fit the needs of our life story with and our love and care for 'Dad's Daughter.' 

Daughter's Dad:  As you read the following, read it from your perspective and then read it as if from God's perspective.

Dad's Daughter:  As you read the following, read it from your Dad's perspective and then read it as if from God's perspective.  Finally, try to read this a third time as if you have just written it to yourself.


Only One and Only You
        
I caught you looking in the window at your reflection and
I could see you were unimpressed
I watch you wither like a willow at what you think are imperfections
When you compare you to all the rest
And I wish I could find a way to make you see you the way I do
So I wrote this song for you

You’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know
There’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you

There is music in your laughter the world has never heard before
You came and brought a melody
The way you say it the way you see it
When you’re sad and glad and so much more
All these gifts only you can bring
I know that right now everything that you feel says it’s just not true
So I’ll keep reminding you that

You’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know there’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you

Wonderfully, carefully woven together by God’s own hand
And you’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know there’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you
You are the only one and only you[2]



 Dear Daughter's Dad and Dad's Daughter,

You are Dad and Daughter just as much today as you were when blush was being cleaned out of ears.  Tear down that burnt bridge. Build a masterpiece of a new bridge of relationship so as to once again hear the symphony of Dad and Daughter Love between you.

Daughter's Dad, What went through your heart and mind the first time you ever saw 'Dad's Daughter' as a little girl try to put on makeup?  I'd really like to know.


May 19, 2018



[1] or brought into your world in the moment of her adoption
[2] Songwriters: Steven Curtis Chapman: Only One and Only You lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mona Lisa...

From time to time, as I sit on the sidewalk chatting with Demetrius and Cecelia or others in Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities, I glance toward my Chevy Uplander[1].  A Mom and Dad's daughter is leaning in toward my tinted windows, using them as her makeup mirror.  She is holding back self-condemning tears and "fixing" her God created beautiful face in preparation for her hours of walking Kensington Avenue in search of that male high school dropout or that influential New Jersey Attorney[2] who is in apparent need of a blow job in exchange for a few dollars so that she can buy her next doses of medicine.

I'm in her home.  I can't stop her.

I observe her and cry in my spirit[3] as I realize that I'm in her territory under the Conrail overpass that she's called home since the earliest days of her homeless addiction.  I think of her Mom and Dad and aunt and honorable uncle, as well as her sons and daughters who ache for her health, safety and return to their family.  My heart quivers in the knowledge that she longs for the same but can't grasp it due to the strength of the arm wrestling battle between her addiction and her heart.

Dear LORD!  Where are the words to convey my heart's message to these ladies who think all is lost?

Thank you, Steven Curtis Chapman!!!!!

I caught you looking in the window at your reflection and
I could see you were unimpressed
I watch you wither like a willow at what you think are imperfections
When you compare you to all the rest
And I wish I could find a way to make you see you the way I do
So I wrote this song for you

You’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know
There’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you

There is music in your laughter the world has never heard before
You came and brought a melody
The way you say it the way you see it
When you’re sad and glad and so much more
All these gifts only you can bring
Still, I know that right now everything that you feel says it’s just not true
So I’ll keep reminding you that

You’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know there’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you

Wonderfully, carefully woven together by God’s own hand
And you’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know there’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you
You are the only one and only you[4]





[1] With its 178 thousand miles
[2] And perhaps one right after the other in either order…
[3] And at my home once there
[4] Songwriters: Steven Curtis Chapman
Only One and Only You lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Thursday, May 10, 2018

You're Evicted!

Evictions happen in expected and surprising ways.

There are the expected types of evictions by a landlord or a bank when the tenant can't pay the rent or the mortgage owner can't pay the mortgage.

There are other types of evictions such as in a marriage when one evicts the other or themselves from the real or perceived circumstances of their situation.  This may help that.

And then there are those once in a lifetime forms of eviction when a city known for its "brotherly love" decides to rearrange its tenants so as to "clean up" its streets.

In the case of the renting tenant and the mortgage owner and the marriage partner, they will sadly move on to some other setting completely separate and devoid of their original landlord or bank or spouse.

In the case of the city of brotherly love, it's not even slightly a separation.  Except for the few "tenants" of Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities who may choose to find detox and rehab through this eviction process, many will remain "tenants" of the city and take up residence in their "landlord's" abandoned buildings.  They will continue to take their medicine and some of these daughters and sons will overdose and die in the absence of their "housemates".

This past Sunday, as I visited the men and women of Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities, I made one request as I sat on the sidewalk with those who I know and love:
                                                                                                                                                        
"At the end of this eviction process, in the event that you choose not to go to detox or some other setting for healing and rather decide to continue to take your "medicine" in abandoned buildings, please promise me that you will never inject alone." 

I did not need to explain my rationale.  Each man and woman understood my thought.  All promised and that's great.  When the reality of the "landlord" and "tenant" relationship shifts from the bridges to the 'abandos,'[1] will the promise be maintained or will the City of Brotherly Love bear the burden of knowing they could have done better by keeping this addicted "family" together where they could look out for each other while real solutions are found.

Our loved ones in Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities are being evicted because our society does not fully understand that they have an addiction that is recognized as follows in the DSM-5:

DSM 5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorder
Opioid Use Disorder Criteria:
A minimum of 2-3 criteria is required for a mild substance use disorder diagnosis, while 4-5 is moderate, and 6-7 is severe (APA, 2013). Opioid Use Disorder is specified instead of Substance Use Disorder, if opioids are the drug of abuse. Note: A printable checklist version is linked below
1.     Taking the opioid in larger amounts and for longer than intended
2.     Wanting to cut down or quit but not being able to do it
3.     Spending a lot of time obtaining the opioid
4.     Craving or a strong desire to use opioids
5.     Repeatedly unable to carry out major obligations at work, school, or home due to opioid use
6.     Continued use despite persistent or recurring social or interpersonal problems caused or made worse by opioid use
7.     Stopping or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities due to opioid use
8.     Recurrent use of opioids in physically hazardous situations
9.     Consistent use of opioids despite acknowledgment of persistent or recurrent physical or psychological difficulties from using opioids
10.   *Tolerance as defined by either a need for markedly increased amounts to achieve intoxication or desired effect or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount. (Does not apply for diminished effect when used appropriately under medical supervision)
11.   *Withdrawal manifesting as either characteristic syndrome or the substance is used to avoid withdrawal (Does not apply when used appropriately under medical supervision)
*This criterion is not considered to be met for those individuals taking opioids solely under appropriate medical supervision.[2]


You're Evicted and it may cost you your life! 




[1] That's the word for abandoned house or building.
[2] https://www.buppractice.com/node/12351               

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Addiction and Homelessness Knows the Suburban Intersection of Concord and Cheyney Roads in Glen Mills. Pa.

This past Sunday I sat on the sidewalk under the Frankford Avenue Bridge.  I sat there with four women and one man.  One of the women was unconscious, breathing well and with a good color tone so we knew she was not in danger.  She was going to be in pain though after waking up from her one leg and opposite arm laying under her in the most unnatural of positions. 

One of these women, Melanie, is my neighbor from Aston, Pa.  Once I realized that a few weeks ago, I've made it a point to check in with her every visit to be sure she's OK.[1]  On this visit, we had a chance to talk more than ever.  We talked about Concord Road, the main road that connects her Aston with my Glen Mills.  I asked her if she was familiar with the intersection of Concord Road and Cheyney Road.  She knew it well.

I asked her if she recalled the church up on the hill near that intersection.  She knew it well as well.  I told her that I grew up at that church, not simply as a member but that my Dad had been the priest there.  I could see in her eyes that her Roman Catholic orientation to Christian life was a bit confused to hear that "My Dad was the priest there."  I explained that this was an Episcopal Church.  She smiled.

This church has been known as Saint John's for over 300 years.  I think I'm right in saying that this community of Christian believers was 75 years old when George Washington and Troupes marched past it on the way to Chadds Ford.

Those of us who live in the suburbs have a bad habit of thinking that the issue of addiction and homelessness in Kensington is a Kensington issue and not a suburban issue.  Melanie provides all of us with a clear example of how wrong that thinking is and urges us to consider how we, the churches of the suburbs, should respond.

As the City of Brotherly love prepares to evict our suburban sons and daughters from the relative safety of these bridge communities, I would hope and pray that at least a few suburban churches would step forward and do what needs to be done to let Melanie and her street Family know they are loved in the Name of Jesus. 

Does Anybody Hear Her

She is running
A hundred miles an hour
In the wrong direction
She is trying
But the canyons ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart
So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She's another two years older and she's three more steps behind

Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?

She is yearning
For shelter and affection
That she never found at home
She is searching
For a hero to ride in,
To ride in and save the day
And then walks in her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
A momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away

Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Who can't see past her scarlet letter
And we never even met her
If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Who can't see past her scarlet letter
And we never even met her

Never even met her
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?

Or does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?

He is running a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction[2]  




[1] If I can find her that is…
[2] Songwriters: John Mark Hall
Does Anybody Hear Her lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Essential Music Publishing, Capitol Christian Music Group