The Story That's Too Hard To Tell

The Real Story of Being Homeless in Orlando

Homelessness is not only a social problem, it’s a spiritual one as well

Jesus said in Matthew, ” “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Least of these

The least of these? He’s talking about the poor and destitute. Those who are without. It’s interesting to note here that, he didn’t make any judgement reservations about how  “the least of these” came to be in their circumstances. He simply identified himself with them, put His self in their place. What He’s saying here is, the way we treat the unfortunate is not hidden from him.

We all want to think we are good people. How many of us have walked past a homeless person on the street and turned our heads so we wouldn’t have to acknowledge them? Or, how about when the panhandler approaches you for some spare change, we have all told that little white lie. You know the one, “Sorry, I dont have any  money.” When, what you really meant was, “I don’t have any money for you.”

If we are faced with this “social” problem often enough we begin to develop justifications to ease our burdening conscience. Things like,“he’s just going to take the money and buy beer and alcohol.”  We convince ourselves we are actually doing the poor soul a favor by denying him a few dollars that he “says” will be used to by a sandwich or what not.

We get to be real good at making ourselves feel better about our wrongdoing. Yes, I said it again, wrongdoing. If we claim to be Christians we cannot pick and choose which of His words we are going to accept and which we are not. We can’t water down the example He gave for us. If we deny the poor, we are wrong. If we overlook the poor, we are wrong.

 The Apostle John wrote in his gospel, “The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

one paycheck awayThree times, three times! Jesus repeated the question to Simon Peter, “Do you love me?” Each and every time Peter answered in the affirmative,”Yes Lord” Then, after each of Peter’s affirmations the Lord told Him, “Feed my sheep.” Here again, we Christians have that tendency to re-interpret His words to ameliorate our guilt. “Oh no,” we say, “He’s talking about feeding them spiritually.”

Let me ask you something. Have you ever gone to church on a Sunday morning after missing breakfast? It can be pretty hard to be satisfied spiritually with an empty stomach. Now, imagine if you were really starving. That you have not had anything to eat in days. Which interpretation of “feed my sheep” are you going to be interested in?

In my recent times of need, I have gone to different churches for help. Everyone that I approached informed me that they refer all of their benevolence request to community agencies. The reason given, every time, “the church can’t afford it.” Believe me, I understand that times are hard and there are record numbers of poor needing assistance. If the church can’t afford to take care of the poor then how do they keep the doors open? I don’t recall anywhere in scripture where Jesus told any of His disciples to refer the poor to The United Way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to put down the Church. I just want to get us all to thinking in the right way. Jesus said in Luke,

 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:38 NIV

Give 638

He meant for each of us to have faith in Him, not in the money in our pocket. If we put Him first and do as He says, He will not only replace what we give, he’ll multiply it. Sounds like a good deal to me. If Jesus appeared to you, like He did the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, I imagine you would pretty much do anything he told you to with a quick, “sir, yes sir!

Unfortunately, that would remove the element of faith and that is what our entire belief system is based on.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 NIV

What is faith? I answered that question in my last issue but, it bears repeating.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 NIV

 

I know you may find this hard to believe, but I do have some who believe I am out for myself and just trying to line my own pockets. It makes me sad when I hear comments like that. Yes, I do have to survive. I don’t want to be homeless forever. If I could work, I would be. If I could find a paying job that I could do from a hospital bed I would be all over it. I believe, that means I live by faith and not by sight. I know that God will provide all your needs (and mine) according to His riches in glory. One of the ways we glorify God is by doing what he tells us and He has told us time and again to take care of those in need.

chrachterThose of you who support me and provide for my needs are not only helping one person, you are also making it possible for me to help others. That is the soul focus (pun intended) of Mariposa Ministries, to provide for the needs of others. Along the way, my needs will be met too. So, here I am, the least of these. I need your help to help others. I’m starting a brand new ministry. I revealed some of the vision for this in my last issue. I will be revealing more next week.

I am praying that not only my words, but God’s words as well, reach your heart and motivate you to give. Not only of your finances but your prayers and your time as well. There is much work to be done. The government says there are over 670,000 U.S. Citizens that are homeless and one-third of those here in Florida. Mariposa is going to make a way for the homeless to regain their place in society. Won’t you join me in rescuing, “the least of these?”

Well, that’s all the Bible study for this week. It will interesting to see the statistics on this issue. We are provided information, in detail, about those that read these blogs. Everything except your name and email address. If you choose to leave those in comments, I will see to it you have the opportunity to get involved. So far, you have all preferred the “foxhole” stories. Don’t worry, there are plenty more of those to come. “The Story That’s Too Hard To Tell” is a long way from ending. It’s an ongoing story for as long as there are those who are left behind in life, there will be stories to tell.

My next issue will speak to the spiritual side of homelessness from the other direction. I’ll attempt to show how a relationship with God is the only way to survive the streets. “The Story That’s Too Hard To Tell” is a long way from ending. It’s an ongoing story for as long as there are those who are left behind in life, there will be stories to tell.

God bless you all. Leave comments and click on the ad at the bottom of the blog to go to my donation site. When you get there, pull out the plastic and send me some money. Let’s get to work and show God we mean business and we take His word seriously.


10+ Things I Believe In: In One Word

10+ Things I Believe In: In One Word

In the Boy Scouts of America, when a young man reaches the rank of Eagle he is considered to be an Eagle Scout for life. I believe in The Scout Law which says; A Scout is…

Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean   And Reverent.

BOYSCOUTS

Yes, I know that’s 12 things but I’ve always been one to overdo.

About four months before I turned 18, I stood at my Eagle Scout Court of Honor and took an oath. I not only remember it by heart but refer to it daily and judge my self according to it. I have not always lived up to its ideal. However, to have such an oath as a compass to guide one’s life has been remarkably encouraging.

The proudest moment of my life was in January of 2000; I stood next to my oldest son, both of us in full scout uniform. We recited this oath together. Then, my ex-wife took the Eagle Medal off of my chest and pinned to my son’s. It was at that point that, I believe, I gave the best of me to my boy. Now, he too, will always be an Eagle Scout.

“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty, to God and my country, to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times and to keep myself: Physically Strong, Mentally Awake and Morally Straight.”

eagle badgeI believe that being an Eagle Scout has kept me from doing some things that would have otherwise gotten me in trouble. If you take a look at the Scout Law; most of the points have to do with how we relate to other people. It was during these formative years of my life that I learned what it meant to be a real man. It has nothing to do with being an “outdoorsman” or a “sports fan” or “ladies man”.

I believe that being a man means that you “believe”. To believe you must have faith and faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. If you don’t believe in something, you will fall for anything.

At this time in my life, I have lost all the material things and most of the relationships I have had, all except the most important. My relationship with God has allowed me to live by faith in a way that I never thought possible. I have chosen to live by faith and not by sight. Trusting in man and the things of this world have always led to nothing but heartbreak in my life.

I mentioned in a previous article that I have learned a very important method in determining what God’s will for my life is. That is, “Where God guides, He provides”. Whenever I have been obedient to what God wants me to do, His provision has always been there. When the provision dries up, it’s time re-evaluate what you are doing.

I have spent half of this year on the street and the other half hospitalized. I still do not know what my future holds, where I will go, what I will do for an income or how my health will hold up. But I Believe!

You never know God is all you need, until god is all you’ve got. In short, I believe in love. Since I think Don Williams said it best let me share his song with you now. God bless you all. If you have any comments please post them at the end of this blog and remember, Do A Good Turn Daily!

Time to put all the talk, into motion

HUD Stats

The Story That’s Too Hard To Tell. The obvious question is, if it’s so damned bloody hard to tell then, why tell it? Well, there’s an onion for you. Let’s start peeling back the skins on this one, shall we?

First layer, the altruistic layer. I tell it because it needs to be told. People need to know what the reality of the streets is like. But it’s not just the blog, my goodness no. #Homelessness hurts to be sure. In spite of the pain I have been a busy little beaver for the past year. This is the issue where I bring you up to speed on what I have been doing lately. This will be a bit of a departure from rekindling stories from the past year. Here’s what’s going on now!

Over the last thirty days I have posted 16 articles to HypeOrlando. I am not talking little twitter posts or facebook comments. I am a journalist; trained and educated. I don’t call a group of words an article till it reaches over 1,000 and includes photos and graphics, anything less than that is a blurb. The Story That’s Too Hard To Tell, after just a month, is being read by thousands of people worldwide.

hypeORL_badge_Blogger (1) So, there we have it in a nutshell. There are thousands of you out there. According to Google Analytics you’re reading the articles. You come from all over the world but the largest concentration of you is right here in Orlando. You are not just Clickers; you are spending time on each page, an average of 3.5 minutes. 26% of you are regular readers and each time you visit you read, on average, 1.8 pages per visit.

Keep in mind; I am doing all of this from my little hospital bed at the “luxurious” Adventist Care Center Courtland. Oh! But there is more. In addition to 16 articles revealing the heart ache of homelessness I have been busy at work with a new not-for-profit called New Directions Community Outreach.

The Second Layer of my onion came about because of my love for the down trodden and my background as a writer. I was asked, by my old and dear friend Gloria Esteban to take a board position overseeing communications for this brand new fledgling operation out of Seminole county. This is where I met my new and wonderful friend Bruce Larson. Mr. Larson, who’s name is familiar to regular readers of HyperOrlando, encouraged me to pitch my story to the Sentinel. Thus, if not for him you would not be reading this.

In researching and contemplating for this article, I begin to notice the circular pattern its taking. I normally like to report in a traditional straight line inverted pyramid priority. This seems kind of interesting though. I think I’ll go with it.

My #homeless experience led me to two different unrelated opportunities. The blog that you are now reading has proven to be most effective at achieving my goals as described at the onset of this article; to inform the public of the “real truth” of homelessness. Why? So they will see that we are not all a bunch of worthless scum and, secondly, so they might possibly help us out of our dire circumstances.

In the interest of truthful reporting I have revealed my circumstances fully. I have had no income since before Christmas of last year. I have been hospitalized half that time.

The separation between my little toe and the next was caused by infection.

The separation between my little toe and the next was caused by infection.of that time. I have a lawyer that has taken on my disability case and is working efficaciously on my behalf. However, these things take time.

My physical condition prohibits me from keeping regular employment for a number of reasons. First, I can’t walk. I have two compression ulcers on my left foot that must be tended to on a daily basis. I am diabetic and their healing is egregiously slow. I also suffer from a colonization of Methcyllin Resistant Staphylococcus Aurous.

According to my primary care physician, who has seen my original wound only once and the second not at all, I should be ready for discharge soon. I was hoping to get a second opinion from my podiatrist who did the original surgery on me and sent me to this hell hole. The eminent Dr. Michael Smith, who prefers the surgical approach to removing an infection, canceled my appointment on the very day we were to meet. The reason, my state Medicaid provider is not one of the HMOs that he works with.For short periods of time I am able to produce some relatively impressive work, at least from my view point. Unfortunately, I have yet to find an employer who can work with my time table which is centered on my pain. It comes and goes in variation of  amplitude and frequency. At this very moment I am struggling with a muscle spasm in my neck that’s related to who knows what. It affects my creativity and accuracy. It must pass before I get to the proofreading stage of this article.

Add this to my Onion metaphor and things really do start to stink.

Mentally IllThroughout all of these trials I have continued to look upward. I know God has got His hand on my life. If I can just keep myself out of the way of His plans, everything will be alright.

Speaking of God, it’s time to give credit where credit is due. I have listed some fairly amazing accomplishments. It would be ridiculous of me to take credit for any of them. God has guided and provided every step of the way. I have merely been willing and available.

Sometimes, God has used provision, or the lack of it, to guide me. I started a fundraising campaign to get a travel trailer and a truck. That was all me, not God. Hence, the provision was not there. I raised a small amount of money that served to keep me going and get my computer problem solved. When I cleared that misguidance up with the Father; the real vision started to flow.

When you are layed up in the hospital you are given a gift of time. You can use that gift to your advantage or you can waist it. I will admit freely that some of the time I was given I squandered on self-pity and depression. Some of it was stolen from my by the medications given to control my pain.

Many years ago, back when I was still married in fact, God gave me a vision. I have explained in previous articles how He had placed a burden on my heart for the needy and the homeless. Several times in my life, I have given until I had no more to give. That’s not what God had in mind. That was my plan, not His.

The vision that god gave me was to establish a ministry. Relax; I’m not going to get too preachy on you just yet. Shortly after aligning my heart with the homeless He gave me the name for the ministry. Mariposa.

Logo

Mariposa is Spanish for butterfly. The butterfly is one of God’s more fascinating creatures. When the female is preparing to lay her eggs she flies around looking for just the right plant. This plant will be the food source for her offspring.

When the caterpillar hatches, all it can do is eat and grow.

There comes a point when the caterpillar must isolate his self and undergo the greatest change in his life.

Once the Butterfly breaks free of the cocoon, he spreads his wings, shows his true colors and takes flight.

It is a story of transformation and rebirth that will be the theme of Mariposa Ministries. The ministry is devoted to assisting individuals who are undergoing change. Homeless people need a safe place to go through their own metamorphosis.

The place will be Mariposa Farms. This will be a unique place occupied and operated by the homeless seeking a subsistence lifestyle. We will grow our out food, produce our own electricity and natural gas, and use the excess to obtain items we cannot create for ourselves and pay bills. There is much more to come on this topic.

Finally, the last layer I will mention here tonight is The Knights Exemplary. The Knights will be an outreach of Mariposa Ministries. It is a membership organizationKinight sheild1 dedicated to developing trusted volunteers to serve in helping the homeless and needy. You become a Night by donating your time, talents and finances. Knights will receive recognition through the Credly website and earn badges for participating in various activities.

The Knights Exemplary was formed on the grassy knolls of Lake Eola Park by a small group of homeless men who shared the same mind. That, in a country such as our, there should be no one left outside, no one left hungry and no one left behind. We believed and did as much as was possible. We taught Bible Studies, We raised money we help all those God brought to us as best we could, including each other.

The Knights Exemplary grew out of a love for people. It functions as a way for people to help those who are in need and a way for those who are in need to receive help. The Knights Exemplary will bring acknowledgement and recognition to those who give from their heart and set an example for others. The Knights Exemplary will be the soldiers in the War on Homelessness.

It appears that the majority of you are getting something out of my writing. Help me keep it afloat. Help me to realize the vision of Mariposa Ministries and The Knights Exemplary.can you help

As I have told you, I have put all I have into this. I need donations to keep me running until my disability kicks in. I also need donations to incorporate and establish 501©3 status. You can help; you can sponsor this blog through the fundrazr site. Click on the ad below and the site will explain everything you need to know.

Regardless of the amount of your donation you will be recognized as a Knight Exemplary and be entitled to display the shield of the Knights. Future benefits will include a monthly printed newsletter, Tee Shirts, Caps, Pins and so forth to show your commitment to the homeless. In addition you will have the opportunity to become involved in the actual construction of Mariposa Farm. That process alone is going to be both rewarding and exciting.

Prayerfully consider what God would have you do. After several false starts and misunderstanding God’s will I have finally come to believe that this path is what my stubbornness has kept me from. I am human, thank God. That means I am capable of change. Join with me to make change happen not only in our own lives, but in the lives of the thousands that are living in the streets of Orlando today.

BREAKING NEWS: Florida Hospital Pledges $6 Million to Fight Homelessness

florida-hospital-orlandoFlorida Hospital has pledged a history making donation to end #homelessness in Central Florida. A group of 70 government officials, business magnates and homeless advocates recently traveled to Houston, Texas to observe and learn from that towns example, how to significantly reduce homelessness.

Mayor Annise Parker was quoted in the Houston Chronicle back in April of this year, “Efforts to reduce Houston’s chronic homeless population have cut in half the number of long-term downtown street-dwellers since 2012”

“Ending chronic homelessness”, Parker said, “Doesn’t mean you end homelessness forever, but that no one’s on the street because there’s no resource available to house that person.” That plays back to the misconception that many homeless are there because they choose to. While individuals will remain on the street for various reasons, the number that choose it as a lifestyle is very small.

Homeless_in_San_Antonio-638x478For a city the size of Houston, with weather suitable for mass homelessness, this is a remarkable accomplishment.

Kate Santich reported in yesterday’s Orlando Sentinel that the Hospital will be offering up $6 Million dollars to be applied to the actual problem of homelessness rather than continuing studies and research. Finally, we’re looking at some real money to attack the real problem.

Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, was quoted in the article as saying, “This is absolutely historic, and we’ve turned the corner on this issue.” Mr. Bailey makes it sound like we have won some major battle in the War on Homelessness. He is mistaken. While this pledge is revolutionary in its scope, it still remains to be seen how well these funds will be administered.

andrae_bailey

Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness

Florida Hospital wants to insure that government has a vested interest in this effort as well. They are requiring The City of Orlando and Orange County to provide matching funds for the effort. That will make a total of $12 Million toward the elimination of homelessness in the Central Florida Region.

The money will be managed by the nonprofit Central Florida Foundation. An advisory board of donors and homeless advocates and providers will determine exactly how it is spent — and will monitor how effective the spending is. The goal is to provide permanent effective housing to the chronically homeless. According to H.U.D., Chronically Homeless means anyone who has been on the streets more than a year and has an accompanying mental or physical disability. This represents the largest segment of the homeless population.

Eddie Soler is chief financial officer for Florida Hospital He said, “In order to give that full $6 million, the community will have to step up, I don’t think we’ll ever completely solve this problem, but we’ll make a lot of progress, and everyone in this community will benefit from that, so we think the community should help.”

The City of Orlando has committed $4 Million to the effort already while Orange County seems to be lagging behind. According to The Sentinel’s Santech, Mayor Teresa Jacobs has pledged $500,000 in cash and $200,000 in rental assistance and other in-kind services, although more could be offered after the Orange County Commission discusses the issue in December.

Could Orange County hold up this entire project or limit its scope, by not putting up its fair share? For that matter, what would Orange County’s fare share be? They would only need to put up $2 Million, half of what the City of Orlando has already committed, to insure the matching amount from Florida Hospital.

Photo by Jon Linton

Photo by Jon Linton

Where the government is going to run into trouble is the issue of control. As we all know, government loves control. As we have seen with recent laws to criminalize homelessness, the government wants to shift the homeless out of sight.

There is fear among the homeless in Orlando that the “controlled housing” that is proposed will be too much like jail or prison. If the government exerts itself over the homeless, attempting to force them in to programs, there will be rebellion. If there is rebellion, all the money in the world won’t help.

If these funds are administered with love and care then, something might be accomplished toward solving the problem. As for my perspective, it’s been a long time since I have seen the government administer anything with love and care.

I was very encouraged to see that is was Florida Hospital that was making the matching donation. If they given a degree of control as to how the program is administered then, we have an opportunity for that same loving care that has been my experience as a Florida Hospital Patient.

Over 10 admissions to Florida Hospital over the past two years have taught me one thing. The live up to their mission statement: Extending the healing ministry of Christ. Florida Hospital is owned and operated by The Seventh Day Adventist Church. I cannot speak to the beliefs or theology of the church, however, I can testify to the love and care of their hospital system. They have spent millions of dollars on keeping me alive and have never given me a bill. Well, not until I wound up here at the Adventist Care Center Courtland.That’s a story for another day.

I am currently a patient in The Adventist Care Center Courtland here in Orlando. I should be up for discharge within another few weeks. Since I am still waiting on my disability to be approved, I wish this project all the luck in the world. I may be the first on in line. As always, feel free to leave your comments and if you have the heart and mind to support this blog, click the ad below for more information on sponsorship.


Samaritans Arrested for Feeding The Homeless: It ought to be a crime.

Have you ever been hungry and not been able to eat because you were flat broke and had no one to turn to?

Only The Heart of America Can End Homelessness

Only The Heart of America Can End Homelessness

There are millions of people in the country who feel that way every day.

Now, this time of year you hear about and may even participate in all sorts of events to feed the needy. These events are wonderful what about the rest of the year. The #homeless are the hardest hit by this economy.

I am sure a large portion of the public believes there are government and charitable resources available to take care of everyone’s needs. Well, they would be mistaken. I can tell you from first hand experience; everything costs money. Even the emergency #homeless shelters cost money. The Orlando Rescue Mission charges $6 per night while the Salvation Army gets $9.

There have been times when I have had to choose between having something for lunch and getting a bed for the night. I have had to decide if eating or doing my laundry was more important.

I was in Lake Eola Park one Sunday. It was a beautiful day. They have the farmers market there with all sorts of booths offering wonderful dishes from all over the world. When you are hungry the aromas from these booths can be pure torture.

On this particular Sunday I was sitting on the benches watching the black swans. Suddenly, I noticed a group of Hindu women, about 5 or 6 six of them, walking down the sidewalk. They were each carrying large paper bags. Each time they would come across a homeless person they would reach into one of their large sacks and hand the person a smaller bag from McDonald’s.

I watched with anticipation as they came my way. I could almost taste the hamburger or cheeseburger that I imagined my sack would contain. Sure enough, when then came up to where I was sitting, I was handed one of the much anticipated bags. I had not had a hamburger in weeks and I just love McDonald’s French Fries.

I exerted all my will power to control myself and be cordial and polite. I wanted to rip the bag open and devour its contents with relish and, hopefully, a little ketchup and mustard too. I asked the lady who handed me my bag, “you do realize that you can be arrested for this, don’t you?”

Her response was simple but it moved me and I will never forget it. She said, “We Know”. She knew what she was doing. Her and her fellow Hindus were following their hearts. They were caring for the poor and doing it in spite of the threat of being arrested by the city.

As her and her little group passed by, I finally opened the little bag and discovered my beloved French Fries. Instead of the much anticipated cheeseburger though, there was a fish sandwich. Then, it dawned on me; Hindus don’t eat beef. It was the best fish sandwich I ever ate because it was seasoned with love. Talk about a Happy Meal!

I have personally witnessed other groups trying share their love with the poor in that beautiful park. They were either harassed or actually arrested by the Orlando Police Department. How shameful that is. How can our government be so heartless as to arrest people for committing such a loving and generous act? It doesn’t stop there and is, by no means, limited to Orlando. There is an incomprehensible and growing trend in this nation to criminalize homelessness. Someone needs to make our lawmakers aware of the fact that 1984 passed 30 years ago.


Homeless advocates from Colorado, California and Oregon have argued that local laws have criminalized life-sustaining actions like sitting or sleeping in public places. Their point is these laws unfairly target those the general public perceives as undesirable, including the homeless, in an attempt to push them out of public spaces. According to the national newspaper Al Jezeera, this coalition of more than 125 social justice groups has come together with lawyers and people living on the streets to draft the Homeless Bill of Rights to be introduced to state legislatures, according to Al Jazeera and hopes to find state representatives to sponsor the bills for the next legislative session, which begins in January 2015.

 

“Imagine if every shopper in Times Square that sat down got a ticket. It would never happen. It’s so blatantly racist and classist,” Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), told Al Jazeera. The coalition has interviewed over 1,300 homeless individuals and said it has identified six priority areas to be included in the Homeless Bill of Rights.

They are:

  1. The right to move freely and sleep in public spaces without discrimination
  2. To sleep in a parked vehicle
  3. To eat and exchange food in public
  4. To obtain legal counsel
  5. To access hygiene facilities 24/7
  6. To use the necessity defense in any criminal prosecution

Food Not Bombs was  started in 1980 by a group of 7 anti-nuclear activist

Food Not Bombs was started in 1980 by a group of 7 anti-nuclear activist

One Monday morning I heard about a group called “Drop Food, Not Bombs”. The rumor was that they were going to feed breakfast to the homeless on the steps of city hall. After my experiences in the park, I had to see this for myself. Plus, I was very hungry that morning as well.

My companions and I arrived at City Hall early that morning, not sure what time the event was to begin. There were a few others of our #homeless comrades on the scene so we figured we were in the right place. As we waited I started talking to the security guard there who was quite cordial and friendly. He informed me that, yes; the group would be arriving with breakfast in about 45 minutes. He told me that they had, in fact, been doing it for quite sometime.

I told the guard about my previous experiences in the park and asked him how this group was able to do the same thing right in front of city hall. The official told me, “There are no tourists or upper class people trying to enjoy the steps of City Hall.”

Drop Food, Not Bombs arrived shortly thereafter. I was on hand to help them unload the car. What I was expecting was day old pastries donated by a local bakery. My assumptions were, once again, proven faulty.

By the time they had finished setting up, they had a buffet line all prepared to feed a crowd that had grown to over a hundred. We all had the pleasure of feasting on a hot breakfast consisting of: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, rice and beans and, yes, day old pastries donated by a local bakery.

You see, it’s not that the city wants us to go hungry. They just don’t want us to be seen. They didn’t want the upper crust and tourists to be forced to mingle with us. That was somewhat of a painful realization I thought, as I munched on my hearty breakfast and hot coffee.

photo by Bruce G. Larson

photo by Bruce G. Larson

I am not a radical. I believe in following the laws of the land. It is unfortunate that the lower income members of society have very little to do with the making of those laws. When is the last time you saw a street person elected to public office. Or, for that matter, when is the last time you saw a public official spend any amount of time on the street to see how we are forced to live.

Yes, I said forced. Please don’t be taken in by the Urban Myth that homeless people choose this lifestyle. It’s not true. There are those who don’t know any better. There are others who are so afraid they can’t bring themselves to ask or look for help. And let’s face the real truth; there are precious few resources to help people end this life poverty.

The “System” has done what it can. The churches are stretched to their limits. Many of them have given up and simply refer those seeking help to other agencies.

The government tells us that there are over 670,000 U.S. Citizens that, as of January 2013, are considered homeless. The accuracy of the count, by the government’s own admission, is skewed. Personally, I would double that figure.The US governments has it’s hands full with trying to balance an economy that is out of control, reconciling accounts with Social Security and Medicare while fighting shadow wars all over the globe. They cannot be depended on to resolve the pandemic of homelessness.

If we are to be rescued it must come from the hearts of a giving nation. The governments of this country: Federal, State and Local, should not, cannot hinder its own people from helping each other. It is morally wrong and fiscally irresponsible. I say to Mayor Buddy Dyer and to the Mayors of every U.S. city where homelessness is a problem, implement the Homeless Bill of Rights and decriminalize the activities of necessity that the homeless are forced to participate in.

My health is nearly back up to snuff. I will be getting discharged soon. In my next issue of  “The Story That’s Too Hard To Tell” I will be revealing my plans for 1507760_871261579550898_7304217967579076071_na new ministry. This ministry will be devoted to solving the problems of homelessness. The details are forthcoming. I will be making a plea for help to you, my readers. I can’t do it by myself. Together, we can and will make a difference in this community.

I will be making the announcement this week, here and on my Facebook page. Please, take the time to look over my proposal and prayerfully consider supporting it. It is high time that full out War be declared on #homelessness in Orlando. If you have been wondering what you can do, if your heart has been tugging at you to get involved, I will have the answer for you next week. Until then, I remain your man on the street.

Any comments you may have are appreciated and may be included at the bottom of the post. In addition, if you would like to insure that “The Story That’s Too Hard To Tell” continues to get told, become a sponsor. Click on the add below for more information about Sponsorship.

 

 

 

First 5 Rules of The Homeless Survival Manual

jon1I have compiled here a few rules that I think are essential to anyone’s survival on the street, anywhere.  Most of them are common sense. The problem is, when the “event of homelessness” occurs, our common senses tends to disappear. I mean, seriously, your mind turns to bread pudding and rational thought goes straight out the door.

The condition of homelessness can come about as a direct result of any number of life’s tragedies. What’s important to remember is the first five letters of the word…HOME, or more importantly, SHELTER! There was a psychologist, back in the day, name Maslov. He devised this formula for people to achieve “self-actualization”. The formula took the shape of a pyramid.

The base of Maslov’s pyramid was FOOD, SHELTER & CLOTHING. His theory was if we had these three things we were well on our way to achieving our goals. Assuming that the goals we set for ourselves were part of our self-actualization.

This formula, by the way, became know as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. And brings us to our first rule of survival

Rule #1 – The Homeless Survival Manual: Safe and Clean Shelter

The Orlando Union Rescue Mission

The Orlando Union Rescue Mission

You first priority is safe, clean shelter. I will reiterate: Safe and Clean, not either or. Safe is obvious. A shelter doesn’t do you much good if you wake up in the morning with your throat cut.

The mistake that most people make is allowing their stomach to set their priorities for them. Food you can get any time. Safe and Clean Shelter is scarce and contrary to popular belief, does not come free. The human body can go almost two weeks without food, 3-4 days without water but one night on the street can kill you.

You need to find a place where you can lay your head and not get it bashed in. You also need a place to sleep where you will be relatively free from picking up any major diseases. There comes the clean part of Safe and Clean.

In Orlando there are only two drop-in emergency shelters. The Orlando Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army.

  • Orlando Rescue Mission: First 7 nights free, $6 per night thereafter.
  • The Salvation Army: First 3 nights free, $9 per night thereafter.

Rule #2 – The Homeless Survival Manual: Clean container for carrying water.

When you are living on the streets, summer or winter, dehydration is dangerous. Unless you are way out in the sticks, finding sources of clean drinkable water is not a problem. Finding something to carry it in safely can be a bit of a challenge.

Be very careful about discarded plastic bottles. Seriously, you have no idea who has had their lips on it last. Hepatitis and a dozen other diseases are just dying to get into your system. I am not saying that useful items can’t be found in the trash, just be sure you take precautions in sanitizing any items you intend to use to carry food or water.

Boiling water for a few minutes will kill just about anything. Bleach will kill anything that’s likely to cause you any trouble. Bleach is much easier to carry around than boiling water.

Rule #3 – The Homeless Survival Manual: If you didn’t see it cooked, don’t eat it.

Period! There are some sick bastards out there these days. I mean really, if some sick bastard will put razor blades in apples at Halloween, imagine what they will pass out to some homeless person.

Rule #4 – The Homeless Survival Manual: Be careful about clothing you accept.

Many diseases can be transmitted through dirty clothing. If someone gives you a jacket, a hat, shirt, whatever; make sure you get it cleaned before you wear it.

Rule #5 – The Homeless Survival Manuel: Share What You Have.Give 638

Keep your mind geared toward sharing. Look for opportunities to meet the needs of others. The Bible says that if you give, it will be given back to you. You can count on this. I have proven it thousands of times in my own live.

You will notice that our first four rules have to do with health and cleanliness. These are not the only rules that will deal with these subjects. Staying clean on the

The separation between my little toe and the next was caused by infection.

The separation between my little toe and the next was caused by infection.

street can mean the difference between life and death. I am writing this blog from a hospital bed even as we speak.

I acquired an infection that not only nearly killed me but, the jury is still out on whether or not I’m going to lose my left foot. Read my blog, “In The Beginning” to get some idea of how rough the streets are when you are sick. Not to mention how difficult it is to stay healthy.

Don’t forget Rule #5. Give and it shall be given unto you. No matter if you have all the money in the world or you right down in the streets with the rest of us. Give! What goes around really does come around.

You may be doing great today. Got the job, got the car and the house. It can happen to anyone at anytime you can find yourself in position of need. Make sure when you need to write a check on the Giving Bank that it doesn’t come back over drawn because you forgot to make those deposits when you had it.

There are many more rules to The Homeless Survival Guide. I will continue to share them with as we continue on this journey together.  I you would like to see “The Story That’s Too Hard To Tell” continue to be told become a sponsor. As sponsor you get special access to my Facebook group “Heart For The Homeless” Your personal Name or a small add for your church or business will appear at the bottom of each blog. For more information on sponsorship please email me.

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The Poor Are The Wealthiest People I Know

I was standing, waiting to cross the street one day, when a woman approached me and asked me if I had a dollar so she could get something to eat. I told that I was so sorry that I didn’t have anything and I didn’t, not one dime in my pocket. She glared at me like I was lying to her. I guess I didn’t look homeless but, I was.

I was upset, not from her glaring look though. I was hurting because I had nothing to give. Like Paul said in the Bible…

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

I am a giver. It brings me joy to provide for the needs of others. I particularly like to give when people aren’t expecting. To see the looks on their faces is those who do nothingprecious. Sometimes, the look is sheer surprise that someone would care enough to do something for them. Sometimes the look is one of ecstatic joy from giving them something they really wanted. And, sometimes the look is as if the weight of the world has been lifted from someone’s shoulders because you gave them something they really needed.

You might say, “You’re not giving unconditionally. You’re doing it to make yourself feel good.” Yeah, you’re right! It does make me feel good and that’s one of the reasons I do it. Some people drink or do drugs to make themselves feel good. I like my way better.

The Bible is full of words about giving. That’s not what I am here for today. I may preach to you another time, because I’m good like that. But this time I just want to share with you the nature of the homeless. Some of you may not believe this but, the homeless are the richest people in the world.

We don’t have much, some of have little more than the clothes on our back. Few of us, however, will pass up the opportunity to give. That’s because, like Paul, we understand what it is like to be without. We know the feeling that comes when a random stranger walks up to you and gives you a sandwich when you haven’t eaten for a few days. Do you?

I am sure there are some of you who have never missed a meal in your lives and have never wanted for anything. You, I feel sorry for. You have never had the opportunity to feel Gods love through the kindness of another person sharing what they have with you, for no reason at all.

Take a look at this video. You will see some young men performing a sociological experiment. They approach various people individually, telling them they are hungry and asking them to share their food with them.

The same young men then approach a homeless man and offer him the remains of a whole pizza. The man receives it…well, just watch the video for yourself and see what happens.

Published on Oct 24, 2014

The guys behind YouTube prank channel OckTV had an idea for a surprisingly emotional new video. Unlike most of their other videos (which are pranks), this one would be a social experiment.

Notice the difference? The people who were approached and asked for food hesitated. They didn’t wait to long. They all refused. Now, maybe that was all they had in the world? I don’t think so.

The homeless man graciously received the offered food and immediately began to enjoy the slice. When you are on the street, hungry, alone and penniless, you think about food. You try to remember how good that last slice of pizza you had was or how delicious the last stake you ate. Then, someone, out of the blue, gives you something tasty. Oh man! Its something else.

It’s not uncommon, on the street, to go a few days with little or nothing to eat. And when you do eat, seldom do you have much choice. Soup kitchens arecan you help not known for serving 4-Star meals. Nourishment is nourishment, so they say. Our homeless fellow in the video was obviously hungry.

This guy was pretty big. Being a big fellow myself, I like to eat and it takes more than a single slice to satisfy me on a good day. If I am hungry enough I can easily devour a whole pie and a 2 liter soda if I can get my hands on it.

You can see in the video, there were only two slices in the box. The fellow was in the process of devouring the first slice when one of the video guys, that he had not seen, sits down next to him. He tells the homeless man he’s hungry and asks him if he has an extra slice.

He was homeless and hungry. He was just given two slices of pizza. He was half-way through the first one and probably thinking how good his stomach was going to feel once he finished that second piece he was so generously blessed with. Of course he doesn’t have an extra slice. There is no such thing as an “Extra” slice of pizza when you are that hungry.

Did the homeless man refuse? Did he even hesitate when he was asked for a something to eat? No! No he did not, because he had been there, quite recently. He understood what it was to be hungry and he didn’t want another person to feel that way when he had the solution right there in his hands.

I first went homeless early last winter. All I had to wear was a pair shorts and some tee shirts. I know this is Florida but it still gets into the 30’s and 40’s. I was staying at the Orlando Rescue Mission. Some of you have heard this story before. Be patient, it bears repeating.

jon9The Mission makes everyone leave about 6:30 every morning. I was standing out front and it was particularly cold this one morning. A black fellow, about may age, came over to me and asked me if that was all I had to wear. I told him, through chattering teeth, yes.

He took off a worn, but clean, denim jacket and put it around my shoulders. He said, “Here you go pops, you need this more than I do”. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude I overlooked the “pops” comment.

My point to all this you ask? Be quick to give and give cheerfully. You will feel better for it and your beneficiary will too. Make a difference! There are too many needs in The City Beautiful that are going unmet. You can make a difference. You can help me make a difference. You can start by becoming a sponsor of this blog. It will not only help me to survive but will also allow me to keep bringing you these amazingly insightful articles. Most importantly, it will allow me to give also.


 

If you will click the small ad on the bottom left of this article, you will see how you can help me and others and yourself feel good. It works.


 

 

 

The Season of Pain

The fear is coming. Just around the corner. It won’t be too much longer now. I feel bad for those coming into the streets this time of year. It hasn’t gotten cold enough yet to make them automatically think about grabbing a jacket or sweatshirt.

Whatever is forcing them into the street has got their blood pressure up. They are already angry and an afraid of a dozen different things. It’s a crazy kinda mad that makes you worthless when it comes time for planning for the weather or anything like that.

Nobody really thinks about the homeless in Florida during the winter. Hell, in Orlando the worst you have to worry about is maybe freezing one night. Is that what you think? Well, concrete gets cold quick and even at 60 degrees that’s plenty to suck you body heat right out of you.

behind these eyes

The looks in that building thinking, “it’s warm in there”

If you are old and good friends with “Arther”, you can bet your sweet ass you are going to wake up hurting tomorrow; if you wake up at all. There are some cozy places like the alcove across from Fire Station Number One on Pine Street. Unfortunately, the police like that one a lot too.

You have to be very careful. The”PoPo” know the comfortable spots better than you do. They might let you slide a couple of hours. It depends on who you get. There are some who understand. I remember, once, a big old African American officer rolled up on three of us sleeping pretty close to the cop shop.

He got out of his cruiser and walked of to us with a couple sacks of McDonalds. I’m talking fat sacks too: Burgers, fries, fish sandwiches and chicken McNuggetts. There were only two of us. I looked in one of the sacks and it looked like he bought for an army.

Photo Courtesy of Jon Lemon

Photo Courtesy of Jon Lemon

Twenty minutes later he cruised back around and brought us sodas and coffee. I especially enjoyed the coffee. I rarely get it that time of night. It really helps to fight off “Arther”. He can be a bitch to get along with this time of year.

On the street, no matter what you sit on is hard and cold. You got to be careful. Too much hard and cold can lead to hemorrhoids and that gives you a whole other class of trouble. If you don’t have the money to get inside then you probably don’t have the money to get dressed warm either.

Maybe, if you life hasn’t gotten too screwed up yet, you got a couple of dollars so you can eat a little something tonight and maybe breakfast tomorrow. At least coffee. No matter what, you gotta keep a dollar for morning coffee. Many a bad day has at least started out right with a good hot cup of coffee.

I feel really bad for the crack heads that get bumped to the curb this time of year. They are the ones that have real problems with the cold. They have smoked themselves skinny as rails and none of them got any money to put any meat on their bones. They get hypothermia the quickest. It doesn’t have to get anywhere near freezing.

I’m bigger than most. I can handle it longer. Jack won’t get to me until February. By then I’ll have some layers and maybe even some new boots. I feel bad for them that are going through their first winter right now. They need to hook up with guys like me that can showem the ropes. Givem some street training. It ain’t no joke. If you don’t know what you’re doing. The street will hurt you in the winter time. Even in Florida.

To My Best Friend

Photo by Bruce Larson

Photo by Bruce Larson

I grew up in the Air Force. Making friends was something I learned to do quickly. It was a necessity of sorts. As an Air Force Brat you either made friends quickly or spent long miserable hours at recess wondering who all those strange kids were.

Fortunately, I developed a faculty for making acquaintances then a knack for turning those acquaintances into friends. Of course, they were not the life-long relationships that people who live in the same place all their lives have.

No, the life expectancy of an Air Force Brat Friendship is about a year, two if you’re lucky, three if there is some totally radical, cosmic bond. Other than that, a year seams to be about average.

My latest friendship seems to be headed toward breaking all previous records. From the very first conversations I “connected” with this other person. “Connection” is special. It goes far beyond the mundane, “have a few things in common” or “know a couple of the same people”.

Nope, connection is changing the topic of conversation in your minds at the same time with saying anything. Connection is reaching for the last brownie on the plate and automatically breaking it in half.

I like this new friend. Communicating with him makes me feel good. We already have a lot of the stuff that long-term relationships take long-terms to develop. It all came about without any effort. We were thrust together on a community service project because someone thought we might work well together. That someone was apparently a genius.

I am a writer, first strike. I am arrogant, second strike. My new friend is also a writer, a recipe for disaster. Not only is he also a writer, he is a significantly better writer than I am. I am really comfortable saying that because it is absolutely true. I find his style reminiscent of the great news commentators of the 60’s like Harry Reasoner.

Since the moment we began communicating my new friend has treated me with respect and has made room for my opinion while confidently expressing his own. iceberg This way we both learn from one another.

To me, that is the core purpose for friendship, learning from each other. Sharing the only thing that is truly eternal and that is knowledge. You know the worn out old cliché, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day…” If you have a friend that learns from you and teaches you simultaneously you have a relationship treasure.

My friend, no…, my best friend has become that type of treasure. I value him as I would a signed first edition. I look forward to our exchanges like I would a new book from a favorite author. I miss his wit when time and responsibilities keep us apart.

Here lately I have someone to be jealous of, someone who is taking more of my friends time than what I consider to be fare. This other, has known my friend longer than I have but still, it seems unfair somehow.  The new, fledgling relationship should be given some slight advantage.

This other, that I am jealous of, is not a friendship, oh indeed no.  As relationships go it is of the foulest nature. It is a disease and its name is Cancer.

My friend is brave and strong. I feel, in the deepest realm of my being that he will prevail over this vile thing. He will, by the Grace of The God that we both love, overcome.

Before now, I had not given cancer a great deal of thought. Before now, it had never attacked someone I love.

Bruce Larson, you are my best friend. I wish I could go through this with you. You have my prayers always.

You are my brother and I love you.

BIG MONEY TACKLES HOMELESSNESS

 


JP-Morgan-Chase-Logo-600x350A major financial concern is stepping up to the plate to help the homeless in Florida. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.5 trillion. The project is a collaboration between the public and private sectors to fund and execute a study to get a clear and factual picture of the state of the homeless in Florida.

As I have written in the past, shelters are not the solution to homelessness, rapid rehousing is the only thing that will provide lasting change. It appears that this survey, planned by JPMorgan Chase & Co., is headed in that direction.

The key to the success of this, or any other project, is accurate information. The number and condition of the homeless in Florida has always been elusive because many are not willing to stand up and be counted.

This project promises to be a unique study to get a complete picture of homelessness across the entire State of Florida. The project will be headed up by Barbara Poppe, former executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, and a national authority on the subject of homelessness.

Former Senator Mel Martinez

Former Senator Mel Martinez

“Every family, every individual that is experiencing homelessness needs our help and the more we know about them, the better prepared we are to help them find a place to live, a job, and a way to get back on their feet permanently and productively,” said Senator Mel Martinez, former Senator for the State of Florida and current Chairman for JPMorgan & Chase in Florida.

This effort is being supported by Mayors all over the State including:  Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. All are aligning forces to generate increased public awareness of the issue in their respective cities.

“Solving complex challenges such as addressing homelessness takes a comprehensive solution,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. And comprehensive solutions take money. Until Government and Business comes together to work against the pandemic of homelessness in our country, we are going to be left with anything but overcrowded shelters and people living in the streets.

In its 2014 report, a Council on Homelessness report concluded that current research methods are not sufficient to provide the in-depth data needed to effectively identify and address the issues that are contributing to homelessness.

Statistics have shown that homelessness, particularly among families, has increased substantially in Florida, especially here in Central Florida.

ORLANDO MAYOR BUDDY DYER

ORLANDO MAYOR BUDDY DYER

“This collaborative analysis will greatly help us plan and develop permanent solutions, and learn how we can prevent anyone from being out on the street. The more we know about the economic, health and personal situations that lead to people being displaced, the more we can plan to stop it before it happens, and act quickly to help solve it,” said Erik Braun, director of the Office on Homelessness, from the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Studies and surveys are important to build guidelines and make plans for change. But, those plans must be implemented. A study was done last year that reported there were only 900 homeless in Orlando. That number is absurd. Counting the homeless is a daunting task. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty. All victims of homelessness don’t hang out in front of the Orange County Public Library.

Homeless men sit outside the Orange County Public Library discussing issues with Advocate Brad Sefner. Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

Homeless men sit outside the Orange County Public Library discussing issues with Advocate Brad Sefner. Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

If Ms. Poppe’s survey is going to be truly accurate she is going to have to develop a staff that is willing to go where the homeless are. Getting there, however, is only half the battle. The homeless are not very trusting. You wonder why? Most of their interaction with government results in their being harassed, moved on from their places of rest or even arrested.

Photo by Ronnie Coats

Photo by Ronnie Coats

Whoever does this study is going to have to be able to communicate with us. In fact, the best interviewers for this type of project would be victims or former victims of homelessness. If they are serious about collecting accurate data and using that data to combat homelessness they are going to have to seek out individuals who have been there.

In addiction recovery it is commonly accepted that the best recovery counselors are former addicts. Well, that is something that is desperately needed in Florida, particularly Orlando. What I am talking about is Homeless Counselors. These would be counselors familiar with all the aspects of homelessness; substance abuse, physical, mental and emotional abuse, general social work and veterans affairs.

There is no one single place, agency or counselor where the homeless can go to get answers,

Current H.U.D. statistics on homelessness. Graphics by Ronnie Coats

Current H.U.D. statistics on homelessness

direction, guidance and help. If this survey is as unique as JPMorgan & Chase promises, it will reveal these facts. I hope they are willing to put up the money for more than just information. Information without action is worthless.

There are those of us on the street that are educated and willing to help solve this problem. By hiring us, they not only get the unique skills required to accomplish a unique project, they also immediately start solving the problem by employing the homeless.

What do I know? I’m just a homeless guy. If you want to weigh in on this discussion feel free to leave your comments here and I will make sure a copy of this blog gets to all those concerned. Who knows, maybe this time something “Unique” will happen.

 

ANNOUCMENT: If you have read my story, you know I have been homeless without any income for nearly a year. HypeOrlando has given me a voice in the community to share my experience. Please help me keep this voice alive by sponsoring.  A limited number of sponsorships will be available for “The Story That’s Too Hard To Tell” Contact: coatsron@gmail.com

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