Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Using Police as a Strategy


-When six police officers came to my church, handcuffed and seated ten people in the parking lot and threatened them verbally. Ten more officers came, with their lieutenant, who asked me, “Are you the pastor? Does your congregation want people like this here?” I pointed at all the people they had handcuffed and said, “They ARE my congregation.” The lieutenant turned to his officers and said, “We aren’t wanted here, let’s go” and they all released the folks and left. But not before the officer who started it all screamed at my face for “enabling these criminals.”

-The time an officer came to my church, harassing someone on my property. I calmly informed him that people who threaten others aren’t allowed on the property and he would have to stop or leave. He turned on me and said, “Sanctuary, what kind of a name is that”? I said, “It means a place that is safe for people to honor God.” “You mean safe from the authorities?” “Safe from anyone who threatens their well-being.” He huffed off.

-The time a group of officers came to move someone off of our property and they handcuffed and threatened the person in question. I told them not to threaten or harm him. An officer replied to me, “If you really want to help him, you’d send him to jail.” I replied, “Jail isn’t what he needs. He needs the freedom and opportunity to choose mercy and kindness. Jail takes away all choices, not allowing for any real change to happen.”

-An officer comes to our property during a winter shelter and asks if there are any problems. “No problems,” I say, “We work things out ourselves here.” “Well, if you need any help,” he says, “Be sure to call us. We are here to help you workers, not these people,” he points to houseless folk smoking beside the church.

* * *
Some politicians think the solution to homelessness is more police, better police, even arrests.  However, poverty is never reduced by police work, no matter how good. The very nature of a police officer is the threat they carry to force one to do their will.  What homeless folks need, more than anything, is space to make their own positive decisions. They can’t make positive decisions unless they have the freedom to make decisions.  Jail, the justice system, police accusations, arrests take away decisions from those who have too few choices to begin with.

When you are looking for a group to be the frontline for solving a city’s homeless issues, the police is the last group to use.  There is no reason to take the group that accuse families and the struggling of being criminals and make them the face of the city to the homeless.  This approach only increases a person’s stay on the street.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

All the Things

The mayor of Portland took one look at a village, an opportunity for people on the street to get some stability and a path off the street and he said, "No effing way," and sent his police to clear us all out. We can shake our heads or cry out against him for his rejection of a positive way of providing real help for houseless folks.
But any advocate who rejects the plans of the county or of business people or of neighborhoods to do what they can, how are they any better? Sure, administration is imperfect, placement is imperfect, it doesn't work for everyone on the street, but I've heard very few plans that doesn't help enough people on the street to make the effort worthwhile. As for the imperfections, rather than rejecting the effort, let's work with people to improve their work.
We are in an emergency. We can't afford to reject efforts. We need them all.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How Do Houseless Folks Obtain State ID?

It is frequent that houseless folks lose their ID.  Wallets are stolen, misplaced, taken by officials sweeping their camp.  In obtaining a new ID, there could be a number of issues: finances, proof of identification, and having an address to put on an ID.

1. Birth certificates are the main form of proof.  If one doesn't have this, they must obtain it from the county of their birth.  This is easiest to get if one has an immediate family member obtain it for them.  To get it otherwise, one has to have other kinds of proof, such as an affidavit from a person who knows who they are, signed before a notary public.  Other kinds of proof could  be military records or jail/prison records.

2. Generally a person proves their address by giving a piece of mail from an address.  But what address?  P.O. Boxes aren't accepted. In most cities there are churches or non-profit organizations who will act as an address for people who live on the street.

3. Many cities have organizations that provide finances to obtain state ID.  Check a local shelter or day shelter if they have any information about help in this area.

There is also a possibility that if a person is still in the system, a copy of their ID might be provided with a minimum proof, as they have a picture and signature of the individual in their system.  Check with your state DMV for more information on this. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

How do Houseless Folks Affect the Economy?

Houseless folks add to the economy in many ways. Forty percent of houseless folks have jobs, others are active in recycling, and all of them participate in paying sales tax.
The real economic drain comes in health expenses. Many houseless have no health insurance, and emergency room visits are a huge expense. Living in the rough is unhealthy and most the average year of death of houseless folks is 48, before that end, many have expensive procedures.
It is considerably cheaper for a society to provide housing than to treat people who live on the street. The economy would improve, and we would have more citizens involved in our community, if all who wanted to be housed could be.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Why are so many Homeless Addicted?

Homeless Resource Network
It is often assumed that houseless folks become homeless due to drugs and alcohol, which is why there are so many people we see using such items on the street.
However, it has been shown that approximately fourteen percent of those on the street lost their housing due to substance abuse. As a person is on the street longer, the more likely it is that they will be addicted to a drug. Chronic houseless individuals are much more likely to be addicted than a person on the street for a year or less.
This is because drugs or alcohol are being used as a way to ease the pain of living on the street, especially if they are regularly harassed and abused. Up to 80 percent of homeless youth use substances to deal with the trauma they experience every day.
I have found again and again that many houseless individuals or couples find it a fair exchange to drop their substance abuse for stability and opportunities for a new life. This isn’t true of everyone, as the street is also the only reliable depot of those our society considers unacceptable. But we need to stop considering substance abuse as a personal failure and instead see it as a health issue in our society.

Reference: National Coalition on the Homeless,

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why Hasn't Poverty Been Eliminated?

  1. Poverty is personal. There are many factors that are the causes of poverty: war, disease, lack of clean water, inadequate housing, insufficient land. We don’t actually have enough information on most poor households to know what makes them poor to create a plan which accurately will eliminate poverty. Ending poverty begins with listening to the poor and then dealing with their issues.
  2. Poverty is social. Many people will figure out a way to live with what resources they have, but people who see them bring them down. There are people in slums or people who are homeless who are content with their lives. But others see them as disgusting or living in squalor, and that brings them down.
  3. Lack of will and organization. There would have to be a determined, coordinated effort by tens of thousands of organizations to make the end of poverty happen. This requires a surrender of organization’s personal goals to make it happen. No one really wants to do that. They’d rather see their ideals happen.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What Should I Do About Homeless In My Neighborhood?

Tim, nicest guy ever
When someone sees a group of homeless folks in the local park or a couple living in a van on their street, people are trying to figure out how to get rid of them.  Because, they figure, they don't belong there.  

Perhaps that's true.  Or maybe it's not.  Folks on the street are, more often than not, citizens of our town, of our neighborhood.  They just don't have a place they own.  So local public property is the only place they have.

What if we don't like them in our neighborhood?  We need to deal with them, and ourselves. But calling the police is a bad idea.  First, because we should really be calling the police for criminal activity, that is what they are trained for.  Also because it puts them in the uncomfortable situation of being someone else's babysitter.  If someone is trespassing on your personal property, then you can call the police.  But no matter how much I wish I could, it's not right for me to call someone for parking on the street in front of my house.  Even so, no one should be calling the police because homeless folks are on public property.

Here are some things that I did about the homeless in my neighborhood.
  1. I invited homeless folks to my house, to eat dinner with my family. I listened to them to understand their perspective and their lives. While some disturbed me, others became my friends.
  2. Talking to the city about giving space for them to be. Perhaps I don’t want some of these folks sleeping in my neighborhood (if they were noisy at night or whatever), but they have molecules so they have to be somewhere. So I spoke to city hall and the mayor and worked with them to create a piece of unused property that they could stay, even if only temporarily. I helped a homeless camp organize and establish rules for their camp. They were able to live peacefully for months there.
  3. Some of the folks, after I got to know them well and could trust them, I invited into my house to live with me and my family. I established rules and work for them to do and they lived with us for a while until they could get another place set up. This option isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t for every person who lives on the street, but if one gets the right “match” it can work out well.