Thursday, July 7, 2011

Answering a Phone Call

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a nervous neighbor.  She was polite enough, "I'm glad that someone is helping these people," she said, meaning the street folks.  However... yes, when we get a call from the neighbors there's always a "however".  She saw some folks pushing each other out in the street, cussing up a storm.  For herself, she might have been irritated, but her young daughter was there "and she could have been watching through the slits in the fence".  And she certainly heard the language.

Investigating the situation, it turns out that there was a person who was not a regular who was drinking in the church.  He was also lightly groping a couple of the girls.  Because he refused to desist, he was asked to leave. He also refused to do this.  So they had to work with him, getting him out, and this led to the front of the church, next to the street, where I guess it devolved into a pushing and cussing match, where at least one person was almost pushed into traffic.

Not good.  We need to do something about it, and we must. And I told the neighbor this.

But she was not satisfied.  She said, "Why can't these people act better when they are at the church?  Are they receiving this help for free or do they have to work for it?  My daughter said that she saw a drunk person vomiting on the church grounds while she was at the park a couple years ago?  Are people sleeping there? How many people do you have there, anyway?"  No matter what I said, I couldn't ease her upset about the fact that she is in a community that has an unwanted population that our church is pulling in.

What I couldn't say is that if we weren't creating a place for folks that has rules and food and people to watch over, then they'd be out in the community, without rules, hungry and with no one they trusted to suggest they act differently.  They'd be in someone's front yard or street-- if not yours then someone else's.

Instead, with the day shelter, they are in a safe place-- safe for themselves and safe for others.  They have a place to cook their own food, to connect in a non-violent place.  They can be respected and so not find any reason to be violent or dangerous in any way.  Sure, a few of the people will occasionally act out, but the community as a whole teaches them that such behavior isn't welcome.

Very rarely we have situations like yesterday when those who are helping snap and act in a way that in not in accord with the church atmosphere.  But that's rare, very rare.  The fact is, without the day shelters, the community would be in a worse state.

I want to keep everyone safe, and I'd like to have the neighbors be content with our work.  I am hoping that we will all be working together to create a unified community of peace and everyone working together.  I heard today that the police are directing the homeless to the day shelters to keep them out of the community at large.  That's fine with everyone.  Praise God there's a place for everyone to go.  It is our hope that our folks will eventually work for these neighbors who have problems with them now.  Maybe even to be paid.

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