What is Faith?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cause He Just Keeps Rollin Along

video

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Ol' man river.
That ol' man river.
He don't say nothin'
But he must know somethin'
Cause he just keeps rollin along

This past weekend we had the most incredible experience standing in a small stream, the headwaters in the heart of Shasta, California. It may not be a well known tourist attraction but with many of the locals, standing in this stream is not only an every day occurrence, but an every day ritual.

Graelle was on a spiritual mission. She stood on the rocks at the head of this stream and sang a song. She sang quietly so the words were not clear, but the look on her face was the same I wear when singing praise songs to Christ on Sundays. I knew her words were heartfelt even without hearing them. She ended the song by scooping up a few handfuls of water and sprinkling different parts of her anatomy. When she completed this ritual she smiled and waved at us.

"Good morning," I said. "May I ask what you were doing?"

"Sure! I was thanking the mountain for giving us these tears of joys she sheds and wishing the tears to touch the lives of others in her journey."

In doing my research, it seems this is a Native American tradition. One that many spiritualists, Native American or not have found beautiful and adapted them to their own way of life. Graelle continued to explain that these waters have changed her life and so to give back to the mountain, she fills water bottles for those passing through.

As she took our bottles and filled them, my mind began to race. I had never thought about the life of a river but here I was standing in this tiny pool of water, and through the journey of these tears of joy, I knew I was supposed to be here at this moment to hear of this ritual and how it correlates to this journey of mine.

This is where it begins. With something small. Something so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. As the water trickles down and sets out on its passage, it gathers strength in those tributaries it meets along the way.

A trickle.
A trickle that meets with other trickles that helps it to become a stream.
A stream meets with other trickles that have become streams themselves.
Those other streams help it to become a creek.
A creek that meets with other trickles that have become streams that have become creeks themselves.
Those other creeks help it to become a river.
A river that meets with other trickles that have become streams that have become creeks that have become rivers themselves.
This river that met with other trickles, that became streams, that became creeks, that became rivers has now become a sign of hope for all those who partake of its powers.
This river that was once a creek, that was once a stream that began as a trickle is now known as the Sacramento River.

Twelve inches. That's all it is. An opening only twelve inches wide brings forth such power, such might, such ambition, such dreams.

I knew within the first month of my journey that it would not end when I cross into Mexico. There is such a need out there. Much more than I never knew was possible. I set out to be a change in the world. Instead the world has been a change in me.

When I speak to the directors of shelters, transitional housings, and food banks, I hear the same thing. No matter what state, what city, what type of foundation I am at, this is what I hear and the order I hear it in.

"Listen. When you listen it shows you care."
"Spread the word. If more people thought of the homeless as a neighbor down on their luck and not someone who, drunk or high, or is lazy and just needs to get a job then we would have less of a homeless problem."
"Donate. Even if you only have 50 cents, that 50 cents could buy a pair of socks for someone who has none."

Notice money is always last. It isn't that it isn't important because it always is. But a kind look, a kind touch, a kind thought means more than all the money in the world.

I am only one person. I can not do this alone. They all need your help. In order for this journey to work, it needs to go viral. In order for it to go viral, I need your help. If I share the purpose of this journey with 10 people, and those 10 people share it with 10 other people and those 10 people share it with 10 other people. Well the possibilities are endless.

1 person
1 person shares with 10 other people
1 person shares with 10 other people, who share it with 10 more people = 100
1 person shares with 10 other people, who share it with 10 other people, who share it with 10 more people = 1000
1 person shares with 10 other people, who share it with 10 other people, who share it with 10 other people, who share it with 10 more people = 10,000
1 person shares with 10 other people, who share it with 10 other people, who share it with 10 other people, who share it with 10 other people, who share it with 10 more people = 100,000
1 person shares with 10 other people, who share it with 10 other people, who share it with 10 other people, who share it with 10 other people, who share it with 10 other people, who share with 10 more people = 1,000,000

I am one voice and with your help as the streams and creeks and rivers join in this journey, we could become the chorus that ends homelessness. Be a tributary. Pass this blog, video and website to everyone you know. Be the change.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHCXjBZKmMM

http://www.change-for-life.org/

http://www.walking4change.blogspot.com/

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And the Winner Is



I cannot tell you how my sisters raised their children. I don't know if it was with an iron fist as my parents raised us or like me, did they go in the opposite direction and rarely discipline. When I did punish however it was harsh, but rarely and I do mean rarely, physically. I think I can count on one hand the amount of times I struck my children.

At some point in my life, I cannot remember when, I wondered what had happened to my parents in their childhoods that had made them the way they were. What horrible things were done to them to make them punish us with such cruelty. Someone once told me 'It's your parent's fault you are the way you are. It's your fault if you stay that way.' I don't know if that is true, but I do believe we all have the ability to change. For some, all it takes is a chance.

First Place Family Development Center is that chance. Here, people who are in transition due to homelessness, job loss, health issues or other critical problems, can receive assistance as well as the tools to promote self-sufficiency. It is here, they find a sanctuary, a respite from the storm of life that has rained upon them.

At first glance, I did not see a commanding nor powerful presence. His stature is not great in size but his affection is colossal. His energy seems limitless, his dreams avant-garde, and his methods extraordinary. He lives up to his name in every way shape and form. Wise.

With a dream in place, William Wise set out to be part of the change and he has done that and more. When given the opportunity to change everything about Eugene's family day shelter First Place, William ran with the chance. He fired the entire crew because, although good people, they did not exude hope. He spent weeks searching and interviewing person after person, until he had a crew that shared his same line of thinking. It's a little unorthodox, but it shouldn't be. Let me see if I can do him justice.

We all do the best we are able to do in life. Everyone. Always. If we abuse our children, it isn't that we are truly mean or cruel. It is the best we can do, because it was the best of our parents that was passed on to us. More than likely we emulate those who raised us. For many of us whose childhoods were filled with anger and physical discipline, we too act accordingly. Hopefully, we act with less severity than was done to us.

We all have within us the ability to do more than the best we can, and here at First Place, children and adults alike are taught there is a better, much kinder way than what they may know.

Kids aged 2.5 to 5 are taught through love and therapeutic teaching methods that teach better ways to solve problems than with your fists or temper melt-downs. At the state certified preschool First Place Children's Center, children are never told no. Instead they are given options. As Jake Spavins, the director of the kids center explains...

"If a child is standing on the table, we do not say 'No you can't do that. Get down.' Instead, we help them to decide what better choices can be made. 'Johnny, is standing on the table the right thing to do? Can you think of a better way to jump up and down than on the table?'

This way of teaching, allows them the opportunity to make choices for themselves. They are already living in a chaotic world and by teaching them and allowing them to make these choices for themselves, gives them a bit of self worth. It teaches them they are valuable and what they think matters. What's more important, it teaches them that they matter."

"When most people come here, they are in fight, flight or freeze mode. At First Place, we take them as they are. We love them as they are.," says William.

First Place offers so much to their clients. It is here they can choose, without judgment what to do with their lives. They can choose to be more self-sufficient and look for jobs, take parenting classes, even a group therapy type session. Once in, they are usually hooked and the success rate is high.

One of the many things I found interesting was the Interfaith Emergency Shelter System in place at First Place. The shelter is small and cannot house the families they see during the day, but they are not left to fend for themselves. The IESS is a consortium of more than 30 faith communities offering night shelter, food, recreational activities and comfort throughout the school year. Congregational hosts sign up for one to two weeks each year. More than 1,500 volunteers make this outreach possible.

Open 365 days per year from 8-5 p.m., in First Place you find hope. Hope that someone cares. Hope that there is help. Hope that you will find a way home. Hope that your life will get better. One such young man is single dad Nathan. I won't tell you about Nathan. I will let you tell his story himself. Just click on Nathan's name.

In closing, let me tell you that there is a sign at the front desk that frightens me terribly. "Only 4 weeks remaining in Night Shelter. What are you going to do?"

William said to me "We have night shelter facilities from all types of faith communities. Churches, synagogues, temples. But the shelters only go through the school year. There are no shelters for these folks during the summer months. They are on their own again. What I don't understand is why more churches aren't involved. "

That's the question isn't it? I don't wonder why more churches aren't involved. I wonder why ALL of the churches aren't involved. After all, isn't that what Christ called us to do?

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:37-40

Watch Nathan's story here. NATHAN

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good News! It's a Wonderful Life!


Forty six years ago, a pastor took a step in faith. After a message from God came through in an unorthodox fashion, the first rescue mission was started in the Redding area.

This past year Good News Gospel Mission served 237,343 meals to those in need as well as more than 11,000 bags of groceries. I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. With a first Corinthian approach to recovery, hope, faith and love were given freely. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. Those without beds received 76,000 nights of shelter, no questions asked. I was a stranger and you invited me in.

People had trusted George Bailey to do the right thing with their hard earned money. Through no fault of his, the money was no longer there. Feeling as if he had failed his friends, he wished he had never been born. George was given the rare opportunity to live life over again.
With the wingless angel Clarence by his side, he went through town running into people who he had known his whole life. He was a humble and simple man who loved all who crossed his path. He accepted these people just the way they were, no questions asked. A handshake was all that was needed to ensure the trust of George Bailey, and now because his wish had been granted, no one knew him at all.
Oh how he missed his old life. The one where friends would have loved him even if all he had ever offered was his heart. By the end of one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time, It's a Wonderful Life, of course we all know that those people whose lives had been touched by his selfless generosity, came forward to help him in his hour of need and to herald the event, a bell rung brightly as George's angel got his wings.

This is that hour folks. The Good News Rescue Mission is in trouble. They need funding to be able to do the good work begun in the small home in Redding so many years ago, and they need it now. Monday is the end of their fiscal year and they are in a deficit of close to $100,000. A miracle is needed.

All it takes is one person to make a difference in a little portion of the world. Please make a difference in yours. Be that miracle. Help the Good News keep the wings it has earned over these past decades. Ring that bell. Call today with your pledge. 530-242-5920

Good News Videos!

Good News Message!

www.change-for-life.org

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Animal House


Almost everyone knows of the movie Animal House. A group of madcap boys trying to be worthy of "THE" fraternity, wreak havoc trying to fit in. Short of burning the house down (although if memory serves me correctly, they almost did) they did just about everything, to prove they were worthy of being part of this elite club.

Here in Eugene, the 'Animal House' house, went on to become the first home for the clients of ShelterCare, the biggest difference being, the men and women who choose to be part of this program will discover they don't have to do anything to prove themselves worthy. They are accepted just the way they are. There is no judgment, no criticism, just shelter, care and hope for those who suffer from mental illness and for families in crisis.

Many of the ShelterCare clients have known a life of rejection. With the Carter Administration's Mental Health Systems Act of 1980, the shift from inpatient services to outpatient was meant to help coordinate many services provided by community mental health systems such as halfway houses, and family and group homes. For a while it did. This act allowed those with mental illnesses to remain in their home communities with minimal hospitalization.

The system failed with the lack of support from the Regan Administration which left the funding in the hands of the individual states, and for decades caused concern with good reason. The hospitals of yesterday have become today's shelters, train stations, rest stops and more. What Regan neglected to take realistically into consideration was where would the funding come from? Not the financially struggling states. Where would they go once released back into society?

More than 300,000 mentally ill are being housed and treated in jail instead of hospitals. I find that ironic since back in 1842, Dorothea Dix founded the first mental health institution because she was sickened by the dehumanizing treatment of the mentally ill in prisons. So we have come full circle and are right back to the beginning. Many of the mentally ill are either homeless (the third largest cause of homelessness is mental illness) or in jail.

As I pass through Washington and Oregon and am about to enter California, one of the things I hear the most when I ask a shelter or service provider such as ShelterCare, "What can I do for you? What message would you like me to get out there?" I hear the same answer time after time.

"Look at them. Smile at them. Listen to them. They want to know that they are not worthless. They want to know that they have value because in their minds they have none."

ShelterCare may not be the end to homelessness for the mentally ill in Eugene, but they certainly are a huge part of the solution.

www.change-for-life.org

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Master Artist


Today's blog is short & sweet. As we travel through the Siskiyou mountains, I find daily, confirmation that the master knew what He was doing in those 6 days. He had a plan that leaves me in awe each time the sun rises.

Stunning to look at, with snow capped hills reaching to capture a cloud; the air, crisp with winter frost filled with the scent of purity; the robins and sparrows sing sweetly in the orchestra of spring, with geese returning home to herald the coming of a new season. A new adventure uncovering the sweet smelling mysteries mother nature has to offer.

As the mystery of our travels unfold, we must forewarn you that over this next week, the mountain may insist I take a break from blogging, by not allowing our signals to get through. I will try daily although I am finding the closer we get to California, the less signal I can find. So if it seems I stopped in mid blog, I probably di

www.change-for-life.org

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Little Whine Goes A Long Way


It was 37 degrees this morning. It was cold. Whine. What little blankets we had weren't warm enough. Whine. I reached over and turned on the heat. I looked at the clock. It was 5:05 in the morning. Whine. We hadn't gone to sleep until way after midnight. Less than 5 hours sleep for the fourth day in a row. Whine.

My back hurt, my feet were swollen, I ached from shivering. Whine. there was too much traffic that kept going by all night. Whine. The lights at this rest stop are too bright. Whine. I can't sleep unless it's dark. Whine.

I don't see the little pink buds bursting through the frost. I don't see the deer grazing in the meadow along side the river nearby. I only see my sorrows as they begin to overflow.

I am out of money before I am out of month. Whine. I have food, but not what I really like to have for breakfast. Whine. I miss my kitchen where I can brew a fresh pot of coffee. Whine. I miss the fragrance of freshly baked bread wafting from the oven. Whine.

I have a lot to do today. Guess I had better get going. I put on my shoes, unwrap myself from my cocoon of blankets and brave the cold. Whine. I grab my change of clothing and while dressing I think of the cereal and banana I will have instead of hot oatmeal and fresh fruit I want. Whine.

I rush. The sooner I get back to the car, the sooner I can get warm. It starts to drizzle. Whine. No wait, it's a mix of rain & snow. Oh this cannot be happening. Whine.

That's when I see him. Huddled in a corner, wearing a torn army jacket is a man. He is dirty, but I don't really see that. All I see is blue.

Piercing blue eyes that seem empty and sad. Blue lips, that conceal chattering teeth. Blue fingers that curl into a fist to pound on anything nearby to get the blood circulating again.

He has a sign, but he doesn't ask. Instead he smiles, nods, and goes back to his corner . I wonder how I can help. I have no money; no room in the van. I can feed him but I have so little to offer.

I give him a choice. "Egg salad sandwich would do me just fine. Thank you ma am."

I bring him his sandwich; a bag of trail mix, a dozen boiled eggs, peanut butter, bread, and breakfast bars. His eyes glisten as they fill with water. He hadn't eaten in three days. He was ever so grateful.

His hands are shaking so badly from the cold he cannot hold his sandwich. Quickly, I wrap our thickest blanket around him and kiss his cheek.

"Good luck sweetie and may God bless you." I turn quickly so he won't see the tears. "Dear God," I pray. "No more whine. I've had enough."

Through his own tears, I hear him cry out, "He already has ma am. He already has."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dino Was a Hit Today


Last year at this time, 96 degree weather prevailed. Not today! It surely wasn't something we were expecting on the 22nd of May. It wasn't even something we were prepared for. In fact we had given away our down filled comforter almost 10 days ago, so when we woke to cold noses, frozen toes, and morning breath that was seen before it was smelt, we knew our actions had probably been premature.

We had been thinking that with the 70 plus degree we had been in while in Portland, and our upcoming trip south, the heavy bedding would no longer be needed. We were wrong. To the surprise of many of us today, plans were changed, reservations cancelled and the best was made of a "sticky" situation. With eyebrows raised, we donned sweaters, bathrobes and extra socks to frolic in the newly fallen white blanket of snow.

A bit too old and to creaky to make snow angels, we explored trails and pathways that led us to a North Pole here in southern Oregon. Breathing in crisp clean air with the scent of ice had us reminiscing of childhoods past and for the first time in a while we had belly laughs of fun.

With the heater turned on full blast, and hot chocolate warm in our tummy's, we drove away from our late spring wonderland with smiles on our faces, pictures in the camera and the immortal words of Dean Martin embedded in our minds.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Eugene's Rabbit Hole




Have you ever met a child who didn't wonder what it would be like to go through the looking glass? I wonder if they realize that Alice's life was not all magical singing flowers, talking rabbits and purple cats that faded, leaving nothing behind but a smile.

Mad hatters celebrated birthdays that didn't exist; you could shrink and blend into a world where no one could see you, or you can grow so large that you are scarier than every other person you know.

There are kids in the Eugene area who have a Looking Glass they can go to and know that they will be safe. There will be no Queens shouting off with their heads. There will be no dark and scary places, for at the Looking Glass in Eugene it is a safe haven especially for them. There are no mommy's on meth, no daddy's that use their fists. No brothers, uncles, step parents that molest. No families that leave them behind or throw them away.

The only adults at Looking Glass Station 7 are the few staff members who take them under their protective wing, love and nurture them back to health and teach them to fly. The Looking Glass, takes their tattered chaotic lives and give them stability, self-esteem and most importantly love.

"Runaway and homeless youth exposed to perilous situations on the "streets" find safety and assistance through crisis counseling and emergency shelter. These services help youth get their lives back on track and provide the chance to reunite with their families. Older homeless youth without families can prepare to live on their own. Services offered include housing assistance, education and basic life skills training."

More than one million six hundred thousand children under the age of 18 are homeless in any given year. That is triple the population of the capital of our great country itself. Of those 784,000 have been physically abused and 275,000 have been sexually abused. Of those, more than one third find themselves without beds because shelter space is limited.

The Looking Glass can only do so much, and they need help to perform the miracles they do. To find out more, please click on any "Looking Glass" word and help make a better wonderland for child who has fallen into a hole he or she can not get out of.

For more information on runaway and "throw away" youth please click on the word youth.

I Am a Recovering Pharisee




Judge not and ye shall not be judged; condemn and ye shall not be condemned; forgive and ye shall be forgiven. ~ Luke 6:37

In my 22 year walk with God by my side, I realize that more often that not I try to "fix" things. I have a strong sense of justice which so many of us do. My sense though may not be all that common.

My appetite to right the world of its wrongs, heal every wound, point out every injustice, has at times, gotten me into trouble; once in a blue moon caused great physical harm; and upon occasion cost me a friend.

Once upon a time in my youth, I would think nothing of coming between a woman and a crow bar wielding angry man; a Rottweiler and a mini poodle; a son and his fist brandishing father. Being much older, heavier and wiser (?) I may no longer run after the villains of the world, but I do still take them on. Poverty is the marauder I fight today.

I am discovering on this journey nonetheless, that in my zealousness to set the world right, I am powerless to do so. In my arrogance, I thought I had all of the answers. I was wrong.

I remember well what it was like to have someone look down on you and to be accused of a falsehood. It felt horrible and me fee that much more alone. that much more worthless.

I am out here on this walk to do the right thing for the homeless, yet I have made a grievous error. I was informed yesterday that something I thought was a lie and wrote about in Wednesday's blog, turned out to be the truth. I spent a sleepless night last evening, for my spirit would not allow me to rest until I corrected this wrong, that I have committed.

As the conversation of three nights past turned to the macabre, I turned to judgment. For this I must apologize and beg forgiveness. To the horrific discovery of family and friends, someone did in fact take his life at the rest stop I had been staying. So as was pointed out so graciously by another total stranger but one who I must believe, the "creepy guy" may not have been so creepy at all.

It is my sincere hopes that I run into this man again, for although I have already deleted the blog in which I judged him openly and harshly, I do believe apologies must be given face to face. In the mean time, I hope those of you who read this blog faithfully will continue to do so. This trip is a learning experience for all and I would hate to think that my insensitive actions have caused any of you harm.

After 22 years, I am thankful that I have a God who loves me enough to teach me through the gentle admonishment of others that I am still a recovering Pharisee.

Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. ~ John 8:7

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

If It's Tuesday It Must Be Eugene


Oh. Wait. It's Thursday isn't it? Hmmm. My days are obviously blending together. Let's see what have I done for the past two days? Oh yes! Believe me I may forget what day it is, but I will NEVER forget the last 72 hours in Eugene. Let me just say that the mayor of Eugene should be very proud. Kitty, I hope you read this. There is so much to tell that I will do this in two or three blogs so I do hope you will all read on.

Our days started with a grand tour from Patrick's friend Bob. Although he had not been to any of the locations I had on my extensive list, he was a trooper and drove, walked, jogged right along with us from place to place. He made sure we were well fueled with our daily stimulant from the local jolly green giant; well rested by offering a place to lay our heads (although you know if you read yesterday's blog that I did not partake of that very nice offer) and well fed, by cooking us a marvelous meal of salmon, blackened chicken Alfredo, potatoes and broccoli. Believe me we were stuffed.

Our first stop on this magical mystery tour was Food for Lane County. All I can say is WOW, and believe you me, that does not begin to cover it. The words in italics are direct quotes from either the Food for Lane County website and their newsletter.

FFLC may be second only to the Oregon Food Bank in Portland in size, but their compassion and selfless acts of love make them #1 to tens of thousands of families that are blessed by their efforts each year. One of the most amazing things to me was the fact that 66,000 volunteers are needed annually and they come ready to roll up their sleeves and get cooking. Literally.

Next through extensive efforts and smooth communication between FFLC and its many donors, more than 7.1 million pounds of food are collected annually. Through the efforts of the hard working volunteers and few employees, over 3000 hot meals are made and distributed daily throughout Lane County which ranges from Florence to McKenzie Bridge with a population of 351,109; 6.5 million pounds of food are distributed throughout the county yearly; 200 - 485 families are given hots meal daily.

FFLC operates many different venues for emergency food services such as:
a) Food Distribution Network
b) Cereal for Youth
c) Children's Weekend Snack Packs
d) Emergency Food Pantry System
e) Extra Helping
f) Family Dinner Program
g) Food Rescue Express
h) Community Gardens
i) Rural Delivery
j) Summer Food Program

Hopefully I did not forget anything. I cannot begin to tell you all the things they are able to do. I can tell you however that they can do what others can not, and even then they go above and beyond. If there is food that is spoiled it goes into their worm farm. From there, the soil is distributed to the three large community gardens throughout the city of Eugene which provides families with not only fresh from the earth produce but even teaches them to garden and supply their own produce when possible. So nothing and I mean nothing goes to waste at FFLC, even the waste.

Now down to numbers and how you can help.

FFLC works on a small budget of $3,000,000 per year plus in-kind donations. Last year the United States Post Office in Lane County collected and delivered 150,000 pounds of food from one day's collection. Lane County Walmart's donate more than 44,000 pounds of produce; 658,000 pounds of food are collected from grocery stores; I can not give you the numbers on what is provided by the government but it's a lot. It's just not enough. Not nearly enough.

With an increase of 4% last year of people who needed to partake of these offerings and an increase of 11% of people entering the poverty level, the donations they receive are minimal compared to what is truly needed. So many people run out of money before they run out of month. You never know who those people are. It could be your next door neighbor. A family member who is too ashamed to say anything. you could be the next person that needs the help. Please help. To donate to Food for Lane County just click on the word donations.

Below is a list of just a few other ways you can help FFLC or other food banks in your area.
Plant a garden
Donate food
Tell your elected officials about hunger
Share a meal with some one
Teach your children about hunger
Organize a food drive
Donate food from your garden
Donate services. Volunteers are always needed
Support summer food programs
Start a community garden or participate in one
Thank you Dawn for taking the time to meet with us at the last minute; taking almost 2 hours of your day to show us what wonderful, amazing things are going on at FFLC and for caring so much about the people you and your organization care for.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Battle Scars







Today was shower day. We tried to plan showering on Monday's and Friday's, but it doesn't always happen the way we want it to. The local YMCA is always willing to lend a hand and waived the $2-$5 charge for the use if hot water.

We have discovered there are a lot less people in the morning's. Those that go in the morning seem to have the same middle aged spread that I have, compared to the taught, jiggle free bodies of the evening work out fanatics so you can more than likely determine for yourself which time we choose to bare our all. For those of you who know us, that is probably not the picture you want embedded in your mind right now. Sorry.

Although I quite fit in with the sea of sagging breasts, and droopy buttocks of the over the hill club, I still feel very much ill at ease undressing in front of anyone. I've got the same spare tire and set of love handles as the rest of the club members, but I still keep under wraps as much, and as long as possible.

It's not the extra weight I carry with me, but the baggage I come with that has me being mortifyingly shy when it comes to my body. It's the emotional scars that keep me from revealing the physical ones. There are some scars I bear proudly; those of motherhood three times over. There are some from birth defect corrections; I was born with a cleft palate, which took 11 surgeries I believe to give me the jaw line I have now. There are even a couple from work related injuries and automobile accidents.

The scars I hide behind three quarter length sleeves, and long pants, no matter how hot it is, are those given by others. Those who proposed to have loved me. Many have faded from visibility, but none of them have faded from my memory. Log on to the following link to read a bit more about what led me to the streets. Finding My Way Home.

What's the saying? Love never hurts. We all hurt our loved ones once in a while, but with anger, words, actions or lack thereof. Love should NEVER, NEVER hurt physically. If it does, please, tell someone. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or log on to http://www.ndvh.org/ . There is help out there for you.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Shoulda, Would, Coulda


I had been able to blog fairly consistently over these past few weeks. Up til now. I would have thought it would have been easier to find a place to plug in my modem in a town as big as Salem, but alas, for we foreigners from Portland,'tis not the case.

I got spoiled with the Haggen chains along the way. In Bellingham and Marysville our Haggen markets had fireplaces to sit and relax in front of while blogging madly. Haggen does
not exist South of Tualatin. Not being a fan of the jolly green giant, we stopped @ nearly every fast food there was to see if there was an outlet to connect to. Nary a one did we find. Obviously that has changed at the time of this writing.

I discovered some time ago that I could actually blog through my phone. It is quite inconvenient trying to type three, four or five paragraphs with a 3 inch pen on an even smaller screen. I have however done so. Just a heads up if you find more type-o's than usual, I have probably blogged on the inconvenient mobile system however, it does not offer spell check. So forgive me in advance.

Sometimes there is no blog simply because I am pooped. Not always physically however. Listening to stories; to bigotry; to pleas for help is a different kind of tiring. The past two days however it is because I wasn't really sure how much I should say. After two days of careful consideration and prayer I have decided that I must say what is on my heart. Even if it's hard.

So I begin with this. My biggest fear over these last 30 years has been that I will end up being homeless yet again. For all intents and purposes, that is exactly what I am. I had been hoping to get a sponsor, but sadly because I am an individual and not a non-profit, did not. Although some generous donations were made, my traveling companion and I are living frugally on roughly $300 per month, therefore sleeping in a tent in a campground is not possible. I wimped out to sleeping on the side of the road in a tent. The two of us are sleeping at rest stops, cramped in the small accommodations of Patrick's mini-van. Already having a bad back, this is adding to the discomfort. My feet are always swollen, more often than not to twice their size because I can not elevate them.

We are showering in YMCA's twice a week if we're lucky but never more than that. Usually I try to wash in the sink at the rest stop, but they are not always clean and rarely have hot water. Survival mode kicks into gear and humiliation is something you learn to live with pretty quickly, although you never get used to the snide remarks.

We eat whatever we can, whenever we can. Mostly we eat sandwiches twice a day and cereal once a day. Protein is a luxury that we cannot often afford. We are taking daily vitamins so that should help to dispel any of the effects of improper nourishment.

So yes I am uncomfortable, but that discomfort is tolerable, and as I mentioned a few days ago, I have an advantage over others. At the end of this journey, I get to go home to a bed, and family and friends. The people I meet with every day, do not. By these things happening to me now, voluntarily, it gives me a fresher perspective on what the homeless go through every day.
The final level of discomfort comes from reliving my past. There is not a day on this trip that I have not thought of my past. Sometimes that will come through loud and clear. Sometimes it won't, but my past will be shared, in it's entirety albeit the Reader's Digest Condensed version.
Years ago, I belonged to a 12 step program. I had shared my story and afterwards this tiny little woman came up to me in tears and said it was the most horrific story she had ever heard. The following week she shared her story and I went to her and through my tears told her my story was nothing compared to hers.

She was born is Auschwitz. Her father was what the Nazi's had called a trash collector. He was the one who took the bodies they didn't burn out of the compound. He did this by way of horse and cart. My friend and her brother were smuggled out under the dead bodies. Her father and mother who had remained behind were killed for the effort. She and her brother were then hidden in an apple cellar. She was almost four years old the first time she was able to play outside in the sun.

My point to telling you the above mentioned is simple. Many of us at some point think that our stories are the worst ever. And they are because they happened to us. Our pasts are what have shaped our lives, good, bad or indifferent. Our stories can be difficult to tell. They can be more difficult for people to hear.

We hear about the people who have lost everything including family members to earthquakes of extreme magnitude; tsunami's of such intensity that 100,000's of thousands of lives are lost, let alone homes. We hear about entire cities dying due to famine. We listen to those stories and they touch our hearts, and we help without question. We would never think about judging them for the tragedy that has befallen. We help unconditionally, and that is exactly what we should do, for that is what God has called us to do. Help our neighbor.

The stories I tell on these pages are the stories that you don't hear about. They are the stories of the ones you don't see on the street corner holding up signs. Stories of the architect that designed your house; the teacher that educated your children; the executive on Wall Street. These are the stories of the grandmother who always baked cookies for the neighborhood children; the teen that helped you change a tire on a cold and snowy day; the family that sits next to you in church. These are the voices crying out in the night reminding you, it only takes a blink of an eye. They are you.

These are stories that must be told if we are to fully understand the tragedy of homelessness, beginning with mine, someone you know. Someone you have come to trust and love.

So I confess to you, that the hesitancy in writing is not because my any real hardship to me. I lived through this once and survived. I will survive the telling of it. The hesitancy is a mixture of things. Fear, first and foremost, but I know I must put those fears aside, for this is my testimony and I have heard loud and clear that after 30 years of only telling bits and pieces here and there, it's time to break the silence completely.

Secondly, I am a natural protector and when I hear just as I did years ago from my Auschwitz friend that my story made her cry, I want to protect you from the pain. But if I keep silent, then that one person who needs to know that there is hope, may miss out. My story may be what someone else needs to hear in order to take that first step to freedom. and if by my baring my soul will change the way the public sees the homeless, then I have done what God has asked me to do.

So I urge you to read all of them with an open mind. Although I believe that these tragedy's should not be kept from anyone, what happened to me and to others will be graphic at times so please use discretion when allowing your under aged children to read some of them.

Even in the telling of my story however, it's not really about me at all, but about the miracles and glory of a God who loved me unconditionally every step of the way.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name






Homelessness wasn't talked about when I was a kid. It didn't exist as far as we knew in Connecticut. But then we were the sheltered wealthy where dirty little secrets like poverty couldn't touch us. Even in the streets of New York where we spent almost as much time, Homelessness wasn't something that was visible in the streets of New York that my parents traveled on just as frequently as in Connecticut. What we knew about homelessness was what we saw in the movies or on television, therefore it was make believe.

The Tom Joad's dust bowl of Oklahoma I had pictured in my mind was hot and sticky with various shades of gray. I imagined seeing a dust storm or perhaps even a twister coming, with barely enough time to head for cover. The Grapes of Wrath men would be in overalls with some type of well worn hat, chewing on a piece of straw. The women would all be large buxom grandmotherly types, and all, wiping their hands on their aprons after having just taken some wonderful hot buttered delicacy from a roaring campfire.

Charlie Chaplin's famous tramp gave poverty a comedic turn as did Freddie the Freeloader of the 60's. Street car jumping Humphrey Bogart or Jimmy Cagney romanticized poverty in the 40's and 50's. Even though the Gypsy's of the B-movie thrillers, saved the local townspeople with their knowledge of the happenings of the full moon, they were considered just as monstrous as the fearsome Lon Chaney Jr. werewolf himself.

Hobo; tramp; bag lady; vagabond; gypsy; gutterpup; nomad; stumblebum. No matter how you say it, it still means homeless, penniless, poverty stricken. No matter how you label it, there is still the connotation that makes a negative impact. While the public may still think of living in a shelter as being a horrible way to live, here in Portland, as in many places we have been to date, having a place to turn your life around is not.

Here in the city of roses, the Portland Rescue Mission accomplishes just that. With their 12-18 month recovery residential program, it gives men and women a place to start over; a place to become clean and sober; a place where dignity, respect and self-esteem can again become a part of their vocabulary.

But the Portland Rescue Mission is more than just a place to lay your head and get sober. In the last 12 months, more than 250,000 nutritious meals were served; over 59,000 nights of shelter were provided and more than 764,000 pounds of food, clothing and toiletries were disbursed.

More than $8,000,000 annually is needed to give hope to those that lost theirs long ago. 84% of all monies are acquired by donations from people like you and I. So heed the words of the Portland Rescue Mission. Give more than a bed. Give more than a meal. GIVE HOPE.

The real cost of giving hope? Priceless.

What can the price of a cup of coffee buy these days? Click here to find out.

P.S. I want to thank the Portland Rescue Mission and all those who joined me this past Tuesday for making it an incredibly memorable day. To find out more please click on the following links.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's Personal To Me


What would you do if you won the lottery? That was the question my daughter and I talked about. My tastes are simple so there isn't much I'd want.

I love black jelly beans, watching old black and white movies, popcorn with real butter. My home is decorated with all natural products. Seashells, pine cones and birds nests. Very little is spent financially on material possessions simply because nothing beats mother nature for me.

There are things I want. Material things that don't really matter other than they are dreams of what I don't have. For me, I want a small farm with a small cottage. It's just me so I don't need much. 500 maybe 600 square feet would suit me just fine. A view would be nice but not mandatory. I have a bit of a green thumb so I can create my own view. Being a chef means fresh is important to me so I'd like to grow my own vegetables and herbs.

I'd like a horse, an Australian Sheep dog and a mouser or two. I've been single for 30 years now and feel more comfortable living with four legged companions than two legged. Maybe someday God will put someone in my life who will change that, but for now, it's what I want.

For my family, I'd like to take them all to Florida. Disney world, Epcot Center and now the new Hogwarts theme park at Universal Studios. They deserve to go. They are great kids and no mother could ask for better even with all the flaws, scars and habits.

I want to live long enough to be a problem to those children as well. That probably sounds silly, but it means I should be around for a good long time to enjoy them, perhaps see my grand kids marry even hold my great grand children.

The truth is though, there are so many things I want to do that I need two or three lifetimes to accomplish them all. Maybe someday I will share them with you, but for now, I want them to remain my dreams.

Today, while on this journey, I dream of feet that don't hurt at the end of the day. I dream of a good night's sleep and not waking with an aching back. I dream of a shower on a daily basis, not once a week; a bathroom that isn't 100 yards away; the ability to cook a simple meal on my own stove in my own kitchen.

Mostly I dream of what more I can do. Even this walk no longer seems enough to me. I am not only seeing, but experiencing what it means to be homeless. I sleep in the front seat of a mini-van, so I am never comfortable. When you're homeless, if you haven't got a carr and there's no room at the inn, where do you go? Where do you sleep? Where do you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? Where do you take a hot shower every day? Where do you eat? Where do you get attention for the swollen feet, the aching back, the rotting teeth?

So dreams change along the way. The dreams of yesterday aren't nearly as important as the dreams of today. Today, right this moment what I would spend that lottery money on is different.

Today, I dream of a Double Decker bus. The upstairs has been turned into a dental office; the downstairs a medical office. It is driven from city to city, where doctors and dentists volunteer their time to provide the medical services the homeless would not receive otherwise.

Today, after the bus, I would disburse the remainder of that money to the shelters that need it the most. After all, even if I gave away every thing I owned, and I have given away most of it, I still have my dreams. I may not be able to hold them in my hand, but I have them just the same.

More importantly, I still have what matters most. I still have what many people do not. I have family and friends who love me, a home to go back to, and I have a God who loves me more than anything.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Calling All Angels







I talk stats til my voice is gone. Every day, four, five and six times a day, I tell people that in America there are 3,500,000 people without homes, that we know of. The numbers are probably much higher.
My throat burns because ten times a day, I tell people that 39% of that staggering number are children under the age of 18. Can you imagine your child or grandchild living in the back of a car or on a park bench. What about a 13 year old prostituting herself so she can have her first meal in days. It happens every day. You may not see it but it does.

There are 200,000 plus men and women who put their life on the line to protect their country, that are sleeping in tents, in the woods, under bridges. I talk about domestic violence; drug addiction, alcoholism. I talk about the faces that have names; that have stories that will rip at your heart; I talk about the hope that can only come from someone reaching out a hand to those who need it most.

During these last 278 miles, I walk with shoulders slumped at the end of each day, wondering if I really believe this walk of mine will make a difference. Am I doing any good. I begin to think I am crazy for taking one more step. I talk about how I hope to change the lives of others. So I call on God and trust that there will be angels taking care us

I was interviewed this morning on KOIN news here in Portland. It was at 5:40 in the morning and most of the people I knew were not up that early in the morning, but it's all good. (watch it here) When they post it on line we can post it on the website or here on the blog. I was to be back at 6:40 for a second live interview. I thought about what I didn't say on the first interview that I knew I had to say the second time around.

I never got the chance. There was breaking news and I was bumped. Again, it's all good. Disappointing, but when they post it so can I. I go the place where I am to meet a few of the men from the Portland Rescue Mission. They want to walk with me and show their support. I expected a car full at most. There were 15 men. I think I smiled the whole way, taking time to talk to as many men as I possibly can, mesmerized by their stories.

We walk 3.2 miles and at the Rose Garden we are met by about another 25 people from the mission, my family and a few friends. So now we are roughly 50 strong. We cross over the steel bridge and take a break at the Rescue Mission. There I am blessed by an almost standing ovation from about 100 people, a prayer is said in my honor and I and my family are treated to lunch. I cry, for in these faces of recovery I find my angels.

There is a bit of commotion out the window of the dining hall and we wonder what is going on. What is this all about, but it's time to go. We leave the mission for the second part of the days walk. Down the stairs, under the Burnside bridge, towards the waterfront. As we get closer there is a sea of colorful wings, gaily decorated antennae, painted faces and smiles everywhere.

The earlier commotion is now a sea of wings in brightly colored glitter and jewels, gaily colored antannae, painted faces and smiles everywhere. One by one these new angels hug me tightly and thank me for all I am doing. I thank them for all they have done for me, which is more than they will ever know. I look closely at their brilliant faces and think of all the time and effort that went into this incredible surprise. Painted on their handmade wings are the words change for life; homeless awareness; walk for change.

My call for angels became 100 strong and with these winged gifts from God by my side, we walk for homes for all.
I cannot tell you if I am making a difference in any ones life with this walk, but I can tell you everyone is making a difference in mine.

"but if you could...do you think you would trade it in?
all the pain and suffering?
ah, but then you'd miss
the beauty of the light upon this earth
and the sweetness of the leaving."
Jane Silberry

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Lights On Broadway


They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.
They say there's always magic in the air.
But when you're walkin down the street
And you ain't had enough to eat
The glitter rubs right off and you're no where.

With many of the country songs that have been hits over the years, you often hear about marriages that are falling apart, people who are down and out, someone shot someone else's dog. The list could go on, but if you notice, we sing along with them, tap our feet and dance. They bring us pleasure where if you really analyzed the song, they should make us cry.

They say the women treat you fine on Broadway,
But lookin' at them just gives me the blues.
'Cause how ya gonna make some time
When all you got is one thin dime
And one thin dime won't even shine your shoes.

When I think of George Benson's tune, I remember it to be happy and upbeat, one that I looked forward to hearing when it came on the radio. One that I could sing along with while wearing a smile. It's a song filled with sadness, disillusionment, despair. So why do we sing it? Why are we able to hum the tune in our sleep?

They say that I won't last too long on Broadway.
I'll catch a Grey Hound bus for home they all say.
But they're dead wrong, I know they are
'Cause I can play this here guitar
And I won't quit til I'm a star on Broadway.

We love it because in the end, it brings us words filled with hope. It shouts from the roof tops, "I may be down now but I am not going to stay this way."

Has there ever been a city that does not have a street named Broadway? Maybe, but I haven't seen one yet. Kelso Washington is no different. What was different however is that it took a bit of doing to find what I was looking for there. The Internet had no listed shelters for the Kelso/Longview area. Did they not have homeless? I doubted that. Maybe they have just turned a blind eye.

It took a bit of searching, but I did in fact find Kelso/Longview's one bright light of hope for it's citizens who are down on their luck. Did you catch the key words there? One. In an area with a population of over 113,000 plus, there is only one transitional housing center and they face the possibility of closing. If there are others, the one we found does not know about them.

How many families do you have here? On any given night, between 12 - 20 families are housed.
How many singles? 30 or more.
What are the conditions in being able to stay here? You have to be clean and sober. We don't allow drugs or drinking.
What happens to those who are not clean and sober? Our responsibility is to the people here. The people who want to turn their life around. We have a half way house or two for those who aren't willing to live by the rules.
How do you get your funding? Well. We did get grants but we have families here with kids. We wanted it to be a safe environment, so because we won't allow somebody who's still drinking or on drugs, we don't qualify for grants anymore. So we rely strictly on donations.
How long can a family stay? Normally they can stay for a while but, we may be shutting down soon.
Why is that? Nobody can afford to give anymore. We don't have nearly the funding we used to.
So what happens to all the families and singles that are staying here? Wish I could say they could stay with me, but if we close, I'll be in the same boat as them. Homeless with no place to go.

What is happening to the Community House on Broadway, is happening to shelters all over the country. Donations are dropping everywhere. Shelters are closing and more and more people find themselves sleeping on couches of families and friends, sometimes complete strangers who were nice enough to allow them to stay a night or two, but many are found under bridges, in alleyways, sometimes just the alcove of a building will do.

I guess the question that keeps running through my mind is why? This is the richest nation in the world even with the recession. Why do we have so many people that don't have homes. Perhaps more importantly than "no child left behind" we should think about "no child without a roof of his or her own."

If you live in Kelso/Longview, please take the time to really consider helping this much needed housing center. For contact information or to make a donation please:

Call: 360-425-8679
Write: PO Box 403, Longview, WA 98632
Visit: 1105 Broadway, Longview, WA 9832


Friday, May 7, 2010

My Purple Year


I have gone through the Bible, time & time again over my 22 year journey with God. In the beginning of my new found Christianity, I just held onto the book, clinging to it as if it were a life line, which it is, but it really could not have done much good since I never let go of it to actually read it.

I then phased into only reading scripture that caught my attention during a Bible study or from a pastors sermon. My best friend Sharon, is a pastor, and she was always there with answers to my oft asked question, "Isn't there someplace in the Bible where it says....?"

We moved to Oregon in 1997, because I wanted a better life for my kids (all grown by then, but being the ever enabling mother, I still felt it was my job to take care of them) and my soon to be first grandchild. Being away from my aging father whom I adored, and two best friends, this overwhelming loneliness sent in. I alienated myself and with that isolation, came the never ending mind games that I played with myself.

I could never seem to turn off my brain, and I allowed the loneliness, and depression that accompanies that loneliness to take over. Despite the fact that I was born again, and at one time believed that my transgressions were washed away, I stopped going to church. I no longer believed, and all the shame and humiliation of my past, the guilt of who I was and what I did all came flooding back. For seven years, I stumbled and fell, and the pit I fell into kept getting deeper and deeper.

I found the church I have been going to since 2004 quite by accident. My pastor friend had recommended this Sonrise back in 1997. One day while driving the same street I had driven down time and time again, I saw the blue sign that pointed me in the right direction of what was to become my second salvation . I joined a recovery group at the church called Abundant Life. It was for anyone with hurts hang-ups and habits. Boy did I qualify. They dove into the Bible frequently and I thought I better get my act together, so I began reading.

I began highlighting passages that jumped out at me in pink that first year. In January I would choose a color that I would solely use throughout that year. This year is My Purple Year. The only color in the rainbow I hadn't used yet. When I look back through my bible and read the passages in pink during those first years at Sonrise, I realize how far I have come. I was so needy back then. I gave many people in the church the impression that I was someone who needed to be handled with kid gloves, and I suppose looking back I was. I can only imagine what they would have thought if they had met me when I first became born again. The mess I was back then, was ten-fold compared to the mess I was in 2004. Sharon can attest to that.

But god placed in my life women like my dear friends, Paulie, Diane, Bonnie and of course Sharon who never gave up on me, and many many others who loved me back to health. I think occasionally the people who knew me then are a little leery of the person who is now a strong woman of God but it's all good. In time they will not only see the changes but believe in them as well, for through the grace of God I now am healthy enough to teach Bible studies; I run ministries such as the Yetzer Ha-Tov Foundation and am able to do this walk that I am on; and I can actually give back to those who gave so freely to me. Am I perfect? Not by a long shot, but each year I get a little stronge and with that strength comes the ability to share my story with others.

I don't tell you this to toot my own horn. I don't even tell you this to toot God's horn, although I certainly could. I tell you this to say, that if someone who was a strong believer in a glorious God for 11 years can fall away and back into old behavior patterns, then think of the people on the streets who have no one to love them back to health. That's all it took for me. Just someone to show they cared and accepted me just the way I was, battle scars and all. A smile. A touch. An open mind. That's what matters in the army of God.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reality Check 2

A few days ago I posted a story that got a bit of attention from my friends. They were worried. The blog was titled Reality Check.

First I want to say thank you for all those who are out there worrying and praying for me. It gives me great comfort knowing you ARE out there. Second, I assure you I am fine. There is a certain amount of discomfort involved and yes my feet are always swollen these days, but the story was written as a fictitious character.

My life is far from being a nightmare. Come the end of august I get to go back to family and friends who care enough to never allow me to be homeless. 99% of the folks out on the streets don't have that luxury.

I have cried many times on this trip but mostly I have cried because I am so overwhelmed by how the homeless are treating us. They are so grateful that someone is out there fighting for them that these people who have nothing are giving us their last nickels and dimes, and are not taking no for an answer.

I cried when I saw the art therapy room at the Nativity House. There is so much wasted talent in those art pieces. Wasted in the sense that we as a society don't see the value in these beautiful but hurting individuals.

Last night however, I cried because I was, for the first time on this trip, reminded VERY clearly what it was like to be shunned as a human being because of their own misperception. We do have a mini van filled with blankets, camping equipment, etc. so it is rather evident that we are living out of it.

Up until now, when we have stayed at a rest stop, we have not been the only ones sleeping there. some people have stayed there several nights in a row. Last night was different. The other rest stops were in more populated areas. The one we are currently at is not. We were the only ones staying overnight. This particular stop had six tiny sinks and no counters. I did our dishes by washing them in one sink, rinsing them in another, and drying them on a towel I had placed on the floor.

The first women who came through the door were mother and daughter. They were laughing and having a good time until they saw me. They instantly went silent and the mom steered her daughter as far away from me as she could. The second was a woman who just looked, rolled her eyes in disgust and thought better of using this rest stop. The third incident happened with two young women may twenty or so. They smiled, did what they came in there to do, washed their hands and as soon as they left I herd one of them say, 'OMG did you see that? How pathetic.' The last person was an elderly woman who patted my hand, told me things would get better and placed a dollar in one of the now clean cups.

Now that folks is a reality check.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Eliminate the Negative


I have always been one to fight for a worthy cause. Had I been old enough to march along side Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I would have done so. As a matter of fact, I tried. I ran away from home to join his march but was caught only 60 miles away from my family home in Connecticut. Sadly just a few short months later the world lost this great man.

When the native Americans had a sit down at Alcatraz I did what I thought my part should be as a 14 year old girl. I had horses, so I rode bareback, wore my long hair in braids, complete with feathers and beads. I wore moccasins, suede fringe anything, and even became blood brothers, or sister with a native American friend.

Homelessness is something else that I feel strongly about. Now I am old enough to do something and am obviously following through with my convictions. Should politics be involved here? No but sadly it is. Whole communities fight over whether or not there should be soup kitchens near the more affluent parts of town. Should the mental health facility that has been there for more than years than most people can remember, be shut down because new ostentatious condos for the snobbishly loaded have been built next door? This apparently was a real issue.

Bus therapy: A new term to me, but apparently not new in implementation. In New York, Florida, even Hawaii, it goes somewhat like this. We don't want you here. You are an inconvenience, and we would like to be rid of you, therefore, we will buy you a one way ticket to wherever you want to go. Anywhere in the world. Really. Just don't come back.

Gee. I can make myself look homeless. I've always wanted to live in Italy. Let's do it! Don't believe me? Here are some links you can check out for yourself.

http://www.cdnn.info/industry/i030117/i030117.html
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?
http://epath.org/toknowus/inthenews/newsarticles.php?article=293

I have heard several times over the last few weeks words like, "They're all just lazy. Let em get a job." or "Their problem is not the lack of housing. They lack housing because they are all alkies, drug addicts, nut cases, general screw ups." "Make them all get a minimum wage job. It's better than nothing." "They're out there cuz they don't know how to handle their money."

Seriously folks. There are many homeless people about there who do have jobs. And yet they are still sleeping on someones couch or whole families crammed into a studio which most apartment managers can't or won't overlook because it is illegal for them to allow it.

But let's talk about that minimum wage job for a minute. Is it really bad money management? My son worked as an HVAC installer for years. He was laid off over 20 months ago. His unemployment ran out long ago. Because he's not one to take it lying down, he took a job making minimum wage as a deli clerk. They promised him 40 hours. Now even the grocery store is cutting back and he gets less than 20 hours. His wife is working as well and between the two of them, they take home less than $2000 per month and they have 3 little girls to feed. It was too much to qualify for assistance.
They moved from a house into a small more affordable apartment so my granddaughters ranging from 3 years to 13 all share one room. There's no money left at the end of the month for a pack of gum let alone anything for the birthdays of these girls all of which have been in the last 10 days. How do you explain to a 3 year old that you had to choose between food and a birthday present, or the 13 year old who wants desperately to take art lessons but can't because there isn't any money, or the 9 year old that you can no longer afford the family pet so it has to go.
In Oregon, the minimum wage is $8.40 per hour. Let's do the math, then decide if it's really bad money management.

$8.40 hour working a 40 hours = $1448 per month.
Less taxes for a family of 4 = $1155
Less average rent of $799 = $356
Less Electricity = $261
Less phone = $202
Less water & garbage = $150

Now remember that the budget did not allow for transportation to and from work. It does not allow for clothing, medical, auto insurance, nor does it allow for child care.

Lets do Washington

$8.55 per hour working 40 hours per week = $1470
Less taxes for a family of 4 = $1323
Less average rent of $981 = $342
Less Electricity = $232
Less phone = $173
Less water & garbage = $113

Now I don't want to leave California out
$8.00 per hour working 40 hours per week = 1376
Less taxes for a family of 4 = $1100
Less average rent of $1445 leaves you in the hole $345

So what happens to the non essentials like electricity, food, child care and transportation?

Bad money management? Gee. Perhaps on the part of the Government?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Words of Encouragement


Good morning Lynn,

I am the main architect of our plans to end homelessness in Tacoma/Pierce County. We are making great strides and still facing new challenges in our region. I am inspired by your work and have forwarded your e-mail to our Coalition to End Homelessness membership. I would like to walk beside you for a while when you are in Tacoma this weekend. Raising awareness is a constant battle, and we would like to take advantage of this opportunity.

All my best,

Troy Christensen
Mental Health Manager
Pierce County Human Services
Mental Health and Homeless Initiaives

Lynn,

Bless you for your courageous journey - if more people were as dedicated and passionate as you we would not have a homeless population. I will pass your message on to the people to help you in your goal of reaching 25,000.
Cindy McNabb
Deputy Director
Nativity House

Lynn,

It was terrific to meet you and Patrick! Raising awareness about people in need in our communities is a wonderful project, and I very much envy your walk - it's a singular way to very much appreciate the beauty that surrounds us every day.

Bill Schmidt
Noel House
Seattle, Washington

Hi Lynn,

What you are doing has so touched my heart. I do hope you will come by and talk to my residents. It will give them some great hope and encouragement.

Linda Maples,
Case manager
A Clean and Sober Place
Tacoma, Washington

Hi Lynn,

Great idea! I am happy to support this. Keep us updated and let us know how to join you as you walk through Oregon!

Annie
Family Bridge
Portland, Oregon

Lynn,

Of course I will walk with you --- much longer than the mile or two you are asking. Keep me posted when you will be in the LA area. Walk on!

Valerie McCaffrey
Casting Director
Los Angeles, CA

Lynn,

Thank you so much for your time and for telling me your story. I think this is a story needing to be told, and I think this will change the lives of many people who have misconceptions of the homeless. Good luck on your journey!

Nick Newman
Online Content manager/reporter
Mormon Times

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Most Excellent Adventure




This has been one of the most amazing week I have had in years. We met with a bit of hostility in Seattle our first day. Skepticism our second day. By the third day however, we had our socks knocked off.

Thursday, we took a tour of the temporary location of the Noel House which I wrote about the other day. Even as an interim setting it was evident a lot of care and planning went into it. Housing first is a concept that this writer feels should be in place everywhere, and frankly I am thrilled it is in place here.

Friday, we were interviewed by King5 TV and the camera man was just as nice as can be. Gary, you were great and made this first time TV interview and awesome experience. Next came Cydney an incredible reporter for the award winning newspaper RealChange. The woman does not believe in tape recorders, so she typed word for word and never skipped a beat. But that's not why she was incredible. She totally understood what we were trying to achieve with this walk and her article is going to exude necessity for community action. Thank you Cydney.

Yesterday, our minds were blown away, first by a personal tour of Tacoma's rescue missions and food banks by one of Tacoma's city officials troy and his nephew Trenton. This man and his nephew, were friendly, informative and didn't even huff or puff at the top of Tacoma's 75 degree angled hills! There was so much incredible information that he promised to send it to me so I can write about it in a day or two. With a 77% decrease in the homeless population, Tacoma is definitely doing something right and we could definitely learn from them.

If that wasn't exciting enough, we had the wonderful experience at the family transitional housing center ran by the magnificent Linda. To top that all off, these marvelous residents gave us gifts. Bill entertained us all evening of stories from the streets that were uplifting and hope filled. Clyde shyly presented me with a Hawaiian traveling lucky charm, which I will proudly wear each day of our trip and last but not least Robert, gave Linda his last 50 cents to give to me. He too was a bit shy, but when Linda told me who it was from and that it was the last of his money, I tried to give it back. His shyness miraculously disappeared when he looked me in the eye and said "I won't take it back. I've been homeless too long and know what it feels like to need the help, so you'll take it." As word got around the center of what we were doing, before we left we were given an envelope filled with their hard earned nickels and dimes. I can not tell you how touched I was that these people who have nothing to speak of to their name took up a collection for us!

Today, as if we weren't blessed enough, we were privileged to serve breakfast to over 100 people at the community breakfast hosted at Tacoma's Urban Grace the Downtown Church. Willie, who has been overseer of these meals since they began in 1995, showed us the ropes and gave us a bit of history behind the meals and the people they serve.

Most are homeless, or very low income families and being served meals such as as scrambled egg with sausage, freshly buttered grits and toast with jam, orange juice and coffee is uplifting and gives all including the servers a sense of community. The guests come from all walks of life and some of whom we met today were former teachers, carpenters, housewives and at the end of the meal we were even blessed by a pianist whose music brought tears to my eyes.

Then there was Sugar Ray who has been a member of Urban Grace since 1923 was given the nickname because of his weekly sugaring of the buttered grits. He does this with smiles for everyone and energy that would make him a prime candidate to run the Tacoma marathon which began this morning from the front doors of the church.

Pastor Tad Monroe has such a heart for the down on their luck that although the seats in the sanctuary were not filled with more than 100 people, it was surely spirit filled for this man has been blessed with the gift of compassion that comes through loud and clear not only in his words but in his actions as well.

It is these organizations that I am fighting for. The ones who make a huge difference in their community because they care. The ones who don't judge; who accept people just as they are and although struggling themselves and desperately needing donations, they keep on going. Please, help these, and others like them, who help others unconditionally and make the world a better place, beginning in your own back yard.