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.

Monday, November 19, 2018

An Entity Named "Addict"

Throughout this blog series, I have not used actual names of people whose stories I've told.  Some names have been given to me to use as a blog name by the actual person I'm writing about.  Occasionally, I've changed the gender of the person in the story so as to add anonymity.  When I see an opportunity to do so and to further add anonymity, I will blend similar stories that bear a common theme.

Like nearly every rule and procedure in life, there is the occasional needed exception.  Today, I want to tell you the true story of an entity actually named "Addict."

The entity named Addict lives in an incredible number of people.  Addict's life goal is to destroy its host, the person within whom it resides. 

Addict itself is genderless and takes on the gender of its host. 

Addict easily takes on the traits, skills, abilities and educational level of its host.  Addict can reside in a human who performed the most delicate of surgeries or reshaped a city skyline through architectural design or pastured a church just as easily as the human who never saw the inside of a school.
I've met Addict residing in an architect, a pastor, a poet, a musician, a social worker, a professional counselor, men and women of various trades, a lawyer, a business owner, an almost neurosurgeon, a nurse and so many more.  I've met Addict residing in men and women whose celebrity relatives are people who I know you would know.

Addict sets up its residence in each of these people and determines to destroy them from the inside.

One of Addict's first goals upon moving in is to isolate its host from their family and close friends.  It does so by taking this otherwise rational, intelligent, kind and thoughtful friend and family member and turning them into someone no one who loves them would have ever anticipated, including its unwitting host themselves.  Through words and deeds, the bridges that connect this unwitting host of Addict to friends and family members are eroded and often collapse.  Addict celebrates these moments of connection destruction because, now, it will be much easier to further destroy its host.

With bridges broken, Addict's next goal is to further destroy any remaining thoughts of self-worth that its host may hold.  Joblessness and Homelessness are often a result.  Steal and be stolen from becomes the new norm.  Theft by deception becomes commonplace.  Otherwise reasonable people connive to survive.
In time, and not much time at all, the man, a self-respecting architect, becomes in his mind, a "worthless hobo."  The deeply committed Christian lady becomes, in her mind, "an ugly hooker who can only attract men who like to hurt ugly white girls like me."

If there's anything I've come to understand about Addict and its life mission of destroying its host, it is this:  Addict can be evicted from its host!  Hosts of Addict scream for help all the time in obvious ways that can be summed up with this now removed S.O.S. sign that was painted on the Frankford Avenue Conrail overpass wall above the tent homes of men and women who lived there until last week when they were evicted by the City…

It is beyond the role of this blog to tell you, as family, friend, church or religious community, or City of Brotherly Love how to love the person and people hosting Addict.  Your answer can be found by you in these words from First Corinthians:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 

Find a way to fulfill this scripture and this sign which, as of yesterday, could still be found on the opposite side of the bridge from the above S.O.S. sign...

Evict Addict Through Love.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Living Room Floor

With eviction notices having gone up on Frankford Avenue on October 15th, the process of finding housing for anyone who was "eligible" and "ready" was put into high gear. 

Before I get to the part of this story involving a particular living room floor, you need to understand that for many people who find themselves living on the streets, the sidewalk around and under their tent becomes their home.  The residents of neighboring tents become their neighbors.  Some people living in these situations seemingly forget that there is another way to live.

I've shared with you from time to time about how I've sat outside of a tent and chatted with a person or group of people in the same manner and with the same level of comfort that you do so in your living room with your friends who have come to visit you in your home.  Your living room has walls hold paintings.  It contains a sofa and chairs on which to sit and tables with table lamps providing light.  These under-the-Conrail-overpass living rooms have a wall, heavy posts that hold up the bridge, loud cars and motorcycles and occasional passersby who shout various vulgarities at the residents who they don't care to know as humans.  This is their living room.

Most of the people I've written about in this blog series are now in housing.  Some of the men and women I've come to know and love moved into their new homes throughout the city before I knew they were leaving.  I can only hope to visit them sometime soon, this time, in their apartment homes. 

This past Saturday was the exception to that.  This past Saturday, I helped a friend move some of their belongings to the new home of a mutual friend who had just been granted her new apartment.  With pride and relief in her words and tone, she gave me the grand tour of her home.  It's a one bedroom apartment with a large walk in closet, open kitchen and spacious living room.

The Living Room

In her living room containing a sofa and two side tables topped off by table lamps, "Allie" started unpacking boxes.  This was her moment to savor.  I wasn't about to "help."  The first box was filled with small decorative items, some of which were from her previous residence under the overpass.  Allie reviewed each item, occasionally shared a story with me about it and placed it on her bookshelf next to her apartment entry door.  As she did so, I sat on her living room floor and savored every second.  At one point, I even laid down and said "Allie, do you understand how happy I am for you and to be here and laying on your living room floor!?"  She smiled and kept unpacking her items, placing them, arranging them with pride, on her shelves next to her door in her apartment.

There are a couple new ingredients in Allie's battle with addiction.  Dignity and pride have joined forces with Allie's already existent hope and determination in ending her ongoing battle with the disease of addiction.  Yes.  That's right.  In case you thought otherwise, let me clarify an important point.  This receipt of housing for Allie and the others I've come to know and love, was not contingent upon being "clean" of drug consumption.  Allie has shared with me her dignity and pride bolstered plan to put her need for medicine behind her.  With dignity, pride, hope and determination which live inside her and with the support and prayers of people who love her, Allie will succeed in her journey toward achieving her drug free life and her lifelong goals

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I want my heart to be broken by the things that break the heart of Jesus.

This statement which I have personalized is taken from the writings and preaching of Dr. Tony Campolo who I came to know, at least a bit, while I was a student at Eastern University.[1]

None of us can take on all the needs of this world.  We cannot, nor should we, allow ourselves to have Jesus' broken heart for every category of crisis that exists on this planet.  But we can choose one of those categories of crisis and allow our hearts to bleed with the Blood of Jesus and make a difference in that realm.

To that end, for the past couple of years, I have been visiting the people on the streets of Kensington, a section of Philadelphia considered to be the east coast bullseye of our nation's current heroin epidemic.[2]

I've discovered addicted and homeless human beings who are worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love. 

I've sat with these people as they have stuck needles in the veins of their legs, arms, neck, and face in an attempt to self-administer their required "Medicine." 

I've chatted with them casually one on one and in groups in various settings from the sidewalk to Applebees. 

I've distributed bananas, water, pizza, clothes, blankets, and song lyrics.

I've visited them in hospitals and in jail. 

I've provided first aid items for wounds of abscess, ice for black eyes following "dates" that ended in violence and aspirin for toothaches.

I've assisted with four overdoses that needed Narcan.

I've given hugs to ladies as they leave for and return from their "dates."

I've come to know relatives who ache for the day when their adult child, niece, nephew, Mom or Dad will find their way out of their addiction and back to their family dinner table.

To date, of the deaths of which I know specifics, I've lost two to overdose, two to rape and murder, one to pneumonia, and a couple others to medical situations related to addiction.  I lost one who I knew a tiny bit just a week or so ago when she was killed by an out of control car who ran over her as she slept on her mattress on the sidewalk. 

Did you catch the message in that last paragraph?  I've lost more people to non-overdose addiction-related death than I have to overdose itself!

I want my heart to be broken by the things that break the heart of Jesus.

Throughout the preceding paragraphs, I've referred to these efforts as being my own efforts.  The truth is that chickenhearted Chris Battin would never do this stuff.  In my own strength, I would never have the nerve to casually walk under the bridges of Emerald Street and Frankford Avenue or down Kensington Avenue.  Through the suburban teachings of my youth, I would not ever have engaged in conversation with "those kinds of people," "those unfortunates," "those hookers/whores/prostitutes[3]," "those drug dealers." 

This is not me doing this.  It is not even me who found this outreach/ministry opportunity.  The storylines in my life that led me to this life changing experience are too long to share here and now.  Suffice it to say that God did what God did and here I am.

I wouldn't trade this for the world.  I just wish I could do more of it.

I want my heart to be broken by the things that break the heart of Jesus.            

What breaks your heart? 

[1] "Eastern College" in my day
[2] There are many individuals and organizations doing similar things.
[3] Forgive me for using those words in my writings.  I despise those words.  I try to never use them but from time to time, I need to so as to make my point.  Each one of you who may feel that these words are your title is worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Just Imagine…

My heart is breaking for a health care system that does not treat addicted people when they are "ready" to be treated.
In physical trauma, "readiness" is determined by the incident. Something happens and you need to get patched up.
With addiction, it is not quite that obvious but the need is just as great. The lack of medical care when the person is "ready" to receive it means that x number of bags of dope must be injected and x number of dates must be done so as to financially support the purchase of x number of bags. The end result of people not getting care when they are ready is: more people, made in the image of God, on the street, doing "tricks" occasionally getting their necks slashed, being raped at gunpoint or being crushed by an out of control car as they sleep on the sidewalk - all because the medical system that created and didn't control opioid use can't bring itself to correct their own gross error, acknowledge their mistake and take steps to save the lives of those people who they have all but destroyed.
When a human being suffering from addiction decides they are "ready," they should know that they can go to any medical facility and say "I'm ready." That House of Hippocrates should say "Welcome. Let's get started."
Imagine how many
• overdoses would never happen,
• slashed throats, black eyes, and rapes on "dates" would have been prevented,
• people would not die of pneumonia, drug-related heart and other organ issues,
• people would not be crushed by cars,
• arrests would not happen,
• how empty our jails would be and
• parents would be reunited with their children.
Just Imagine…