A Child’s Perspective on Homelessness by Edith Yoder

Today’s post in the series  Return to Our Senses in Lent is excerpted from a newsletter I recently received from my friend Edith Yoder Executive Director of Bridge of Hope, a ministry which provides a church based approach to ending homelessness. I was so touched by the video in this post that I wanted to share it with all of you.

“It shouldn’t be this hard and I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong.”  These are the words of Kim Ahern, a single mom facing homelessness who’s featured in this powerful video from the Seattle Times entitled “A child’s perspective on homelessness.”

In 2010, Kim moved from Chicago to Seattle because she heard of job opportunities there.  When housing fell through, Kim, her 9-year-old son Jack, and their Cockapoo Gracie lived in the King County tent city.  Kim explains, “I wish I had Jack’s imagination – without the zombies.”

Kim used the 211 directory to look for housing options and felt that she kept “hitting a wall” until St. Vincent de Paul referred her to Blessed Sacrament.  She and Jack were provided with a room and a shared kitchen and bathroom.

Kim spent two months applying for jobs, but wondered what she would do about childcare.  “Everyone wants $10-$12/hour and I can’t pay out all I’m making.”  She explains that she and Jack dream at night about a new home and furniture.   “It’s fun to dream but everything’s on hold.  It’s a waiting game.”

My dream for Kim and Jack and families facing homelessness is Bridge of Hope mentoring friends from a local church.

A mentoring group could look at Jack’s “furniture map” and help to make it a reality.  Mentoring friends could provide childcare while Kim interviews for jobs.  Bridge of Hope staff would provide temporary rental assistance and help Kim to find a job (and job training if needed) so that she can meet expenses for housing, food, childcare, etc.

Please contact me if your church or agency would like to make this dream a reality for a family like Kim, Jack and Gracie. “It shouldn’t be this hard and I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong.”  These are the words of Kim Ahern, a single mom facing homelessness who’s featured in this powerful video from the Seattle Times entitled “A child’s perspective on homelessness.”

In 2010, Kim moved from Chicago to Seattle because she heard of job opportunities there.  When housing fell through, Kim, her 9-year-old son Jack, and their Cockapoo Gracie lived in the King County tent city.  Kim explains, “I wish I had Jack’s imagination – without the zombies.”

Kim used the 211 directory to look for housing options and felt that she kept “hitting a wall” until St. Vincent de Paul referred her to Blessed Sacrament.  She and Jack were provided with a room and a shared kitchen and bathroom.

Kim spent two months applying for jobs, but wondered what she would do about childcare.  “Everyone wants $10-$12/hour and I can’t pay out all I’m making.”  She explains that she and Jack dream at night about a new home and furniture.   “It’s fun to dream but everything’s on hold.  It’s a waiting game.”

My dream for Kim and Jack and families facing homelessness is Bridge of Hope mentoring friends from a local church.

A mentoring group could look at Jack’s “furniture map” and help to make it a reality.  Mentoring friends could provide childcare while Kim interviews for jobs.  Bridge of Hope staff would provide temporary rental assistance and help Kim to find a job (and job training if needed) so that she can meet expenses for housing, food, childcare, etc.

Please contact me if your church or agency would like to make this dream a reality for a family like Kim, Jack and Gracie.

 

Tracy Howe’s song Stranger used in The Work of the People Video.

A few weeks ago I blogged about Tracy Howe’s new album Hold Onto Love.  I have just discovered that another of her songs ‘Stranger’ (from the 2006 album Worship/Bring Me Some Peace) is used in this powerful video from the great folks at The Work of the People and Alter Video Magazine. I love Tracy’s music and the compelling images that she creates.  This is a very powerful video and the music compliments it beautifully.  Enjoy! (The videos can be ordered/downloaded for use in liturgies and services for many communities of faith).

You can check it out here

Take Off Your Shoes – by Edith Yoder

This morning’s post comes from Edith Yoder Executive Director of Bridge of Hope an organization which has always impressed me tremendously.  Their mission is ending and preventing homelessness in your community . . .one church and one family at a time.  I was really impressed with the practical suggestions that Edith has for ways to help us become more aware of the plight of those who are homeless.  And this seems such a timely reminder as I think that homelessness is likely to become more of a challenge in the future.

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In this recent episode of Secret Millionaire there is a scene that really demonstrates “seeing.”

John, the Secret Millionaire, is with a hat shop owner, Amin, who takes donated clothing and hygiene kits to the homeless.   John is amazed that many people take only one item.

Most moving to John is when Amin gives the shoes off his own feet to a homeless man using a walker.  The older man explains that he was sleeping when someone went to the bathroom near his shoes.  He asks, “How did you know these were just what I needed?”  Amin explains that he saw that the man needed new shoes.

The theme of this year’s Bridge of Hope conference is “Walking in Another’s Shoes: Seeing, Naming and Acting.”  Our theme was inspired by the book The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor by Mark Labberton.  Board and staff members from Bridge of Hope affiliates and sites will gather in October for training, networking and encouragement.

We will attempt to “walk in the shoes” of homeless women and children, especially via a poverty simulation and pre-conference seminar.  I invite you to try (this month) one of these ways to “walk in another’s shoes”:

  • Feed yourself/family for $3 per person per day for three days.
  • When your gas tank needs to be filled, find an alternate form of transportation because you “don’t have money for gas.”  Take public transportation, walk, bike, call a friend for a ride or borrow money, or even cancel your plans.
  • Be homeless – sleep in your car, pitch a tent in your or someone else’s yard, or bunk on a friend’s couch.  If you are married and/or have children, include them and spend time talking together about your experience.  You might consider sleeping in your clothes, not using a pillow, a blanket, or a toothbrush.

Recently I came across one of my favorite Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven

And every common bush

Aflame with God,

But only those who see

Take off their shoes

The rest stand around

And pick blackberries.”

Perhaps if we took off our shoes more often and saw the bush aflame (God at work), we would find the space in our lives to try on one another’s shoes and see things from each other’s perspective.

Giving Thanks When We Are Struggling

American Thanksgiving Day is on Thursday and many of my friends are preparing to get together with friends and family to celebrate and give thanks.  Some are struggling because they feel they have  very little to give thanks for this year – they have lost jobs and homes or loved ones.  Many more are fearful that they will lose jobs or homes before the recession is over.  The numbers coming to food banks are unprecedented and more people will spend this winter on the streets than has happened for many years.  Anxiety robs many of us of our sleep and snuffs out our joy.

How shall we give thanks this year? The Pilgrims would say that coming through their first fierce winter made them more aware of their blessings. Hard times often open our eyes to appreciate more deeply those relationships we have that are strengthened not weakened because of shared adversity. In the midst of struggle we see more clearly how much we need each other. People become more important than things, and life together becomes a source of joy that a lot of stuff can’t provide.

It seems that the more we have the less likely we are to appreciate the truly valuable things in our lives. Possessions often make us more focused on ourselves, our security and our comfort.  But does having less lead to more gratitude or to more enjoyment of life?  The research says no.  In fact no matter what we have, enough always seems just beyond the horizon.  But when we focus on relationships rather than possessions, on gratitude rather than discontent, our cups overflow with good things.

Tomorrow night Tom & I will give the homily for the Thanksgiving service at St Aidan’s Episcopal church on Camano Island.  We will take the Eucharist together, a very appropriate part of the thanksgiving celebration as Eucharist comes from a Greek word meaning “to give thanks.”  In fact Holy Communion is often referred to as “The Great Thanksgiving”.

But in the midst of taking communion I am reminded that I cannot fully enter into the great thanksgiving when people are without a place to live, nourishing food and adequate medical care.

In the midst of our own thanksgiving we should be doing all that we can to make sure that no one in our society or indeed in our world is hungry, cold or sick.   And of course many churches and faith communities do reach out at this season with meals for the homeless and the marginalized.  Unfortunately this is often only a transitory response, quickly forgotten as we focus on the hectic preparations for Christmas.

We will only be able truly to celebrate an American Thanksgiving when all the world’s people are able to share in the bounty of God’s world together not just for a day but for the rest of eternity.  Let me finish this morning with another beautiful quote from Danielle Shroyer’s The Boundary Breaking God

Injustice and violence happen when we limit our view of what is possible and resign ourselves to accept that the world”is what it is.”  They happen when our horizons get obscured, or when they cease to be God’s horizons… Utilizing our own powerful sense of hope, grounded in the very real promises of God, is to imagine and therefore bring into being a life of freedom.

Maybe what we should all be giving thanks for this Thanksgiving Day is the new found freedoms we have discovered in the midst of difficult times, freedoms which really do enable us to ground out lives more deeply in the eternal promises of God rather than in the transitory promises of this world.

Loving the Unloveable

I was just reading an article this morning about the wildlife we like to attract to our garden.  It talked about the fact that all of us love to see nice furry creatures like squirrels and winged creature like colourful birds and buuterflies out our windows.  We tend to ignore the destructiveness of some of these creatures – the racoons and deer that eat an entire row of corn in the night for example.  After all they look so cute while they devour our favourite plants.  Most of us are not so keen on the less loveable creatures – the stinging, slithery and slimy critter like toads and snakes and spiders.  They make some of us shudder just to think about them. Ironically these are the creatures that we most need in the garden.

When it comes to preventing damage to your garden, however, these critters are the ones you want visiting.  Snakes, frogs, carnivorous lizards, wasps and eetles help keep the true pests in check.”

As I thought about this I could not help but think about the similarities to the church.  What makes a healthy church?  We love to attract the well dressed and the wealthy.  We love to attract the energetic and the likeable people.  We are not so keen on the outcasts – the mentally ill, the homeless, the disabled.  Yet so often it is those that look good on the outside who do the most damage in the church.  A pretty face and a well packed wallet can easily disguise a deeply broken personality that suddenly erupts in broken relationships and destructive behaviour.  The perfect pastor or church elder who is suddenly caught in an adulterous relationship.  With the outcasts we are often aware of the sins and the brokenness right up front.  And they scare us because as a result of their own brokenness they are able to see through our facades.  They know our churches are not healthy, they know the well dressed are as broken as they are.  It amazes me how transparent my struggles are to those who are often ostracized and disregarded by the church.  Maybe that is part of the reason for our rejection.  We don’t want to face up to the areas in which God still needs to transform us and unfortunately in the process we turn away the very people that can make our churches healthy.

Just as the garden needs the stinging, slithering wasps and reptiles so our churches need the homeless and the marginalized.  We need the broken and disabled people in our midst to enable us to confront and eradicate the real pests both in our own lives and in the life of the church.

What’s New At the Lenten Synchroblog

Its Friday and I feel as though the week has gotten away with me.  Lent is meant to be a time of reflection and retreat but this week has certainly not been like that.  Fortunately next week should be different as Tom and I are heading away for one of our 3 monthly retreats Wednesday through Friday.  I am looking forward to this time of refocusing to round off my own Lenten journey this year.

So what’s new from our synchroblog participants?

From Theresa Grosh: Recapping the Second Week of Lent

JR Woodward:Reflects on Homelessness in  Observing Lent Week Three

For those of you who are reflecting on the Brokenness of Creation this next week and are looking for ways to observe this you might like to consider Earth Hour March 28th

T’S OFFICIAL: With more than 1,800 cities already on board, Earth Hour is set to be the biggest public event of its kind in history. In the U.S., 140 cities, towns and communities have now pledged to “turn out” for the largest climate event ever, with more signing up each day. A complete list of U.S. cities can be found at: www.EarthHourUS.org/map.php. Time is running out, but it’s not too late to sign up your community or school. Visit www.EarthHourUS.org for all the details.

U.N. TURNS OUT FOR EARTH HOUR: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling upon the citizens of the world to participate in Earth Hour. Click here to see his video statement.

STARS SHINE BRIGHT IN HOLLYWOOD: The sets for the television shows CSI, Dancing with the Stars, The Price is Right and Entertainment Tonight will go dark for Earth Hour. Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Dancing‘s Tom Bergeron, ET‘s Mary Hart, George Lopez, Will. I. Am, Edward James Olmos, Isabella Rossellini, Donny & Marie Osmond, Ashley Judd, Backstreet Boys, and Linkin Park are among the growing list of celebrities pledging to turn out for Earth Hour.

VOTE EARTH! Turning out the lights is just the beginning! Let Congress know you care about the future of our planet and are looking to them to take action in support of climate legislation. You can send a letter to your Member of Congress and Senators with a few mouse clicks at the Earth Hour website!

More Reflections for Lent

Here are a few more reflections on week 3 of Lent

From Kathy Escobar on homelessness – not just physical but spiritual and emotional. Read here

Ryan decided to go in a different direction than this Lenten guide but I still thought that you would enjoy his reflections in this post Too Entertained

As we draw towards Easter I notice that people are not so focused on Lent anymore in spite of the fact that there are still two weeks to go.  Unfortunately it does not seem to me that they are focusing on Easter and the resurrection instead.  Why is it that bad news seems to attract our attention more than good even as we read the gospels?  it is easier for us to think about the things that Jesus says we should not be doing than to form our lives around the life that he tells us we should be leading.

In many ways it seems to me we still live in a fallen world with a fallen theology that is more concerned about what we don’t do than about what we should do – we are more focused on death than life…. and we wonder why people are not attracted to the gospels.

How are you planning to celebrate Easter?  Not just the day but the whole season up to Pentecost?

Synchroblog Posts – What we have so far

Yesterday Jeff Greer wrote this very moving and thought provoking post on homelessness: Homelessness Has Changed My Life

I also thought that since we are now more than halfway through the Lenten Challenge that I would list all the posts so far in the Lenten synchroblog.

You can read the list of all those who are participating in this blog here

Kathy Escobar and her reflections on Hunger.  

Tom Grosh reflecting on Lent in general in You Have A confession to Make.  

Tim Mathis on Hungry Teens  read the entire post  

Theresa Grosh – Second Week of Lent

Aj Schwanz – Lent and Women (Multitasking as So Many Women Do So well)

Each year our good friend and alternative worship innovator Mark Pierson from New Zealand sends us a wonderful series of reflections for Lent.  You can download the entire guide here

As well as that we have another new post for the Lenten synchroblog

Steven Fouch:  One Week Into Lent

Also there are some excellent new reflections on the Anglican prayer blog: Lent and Beyond

Doug Jones: Spring Into Repentance

Maria Henderson: Lenten Journey – Broken

Julie Clawson: General Thoughts on Lent and Lent – Being Aware

JR Woodward reflecting on how brokenness can reveal itself in many forms including over activity.  Read more

Banu Moore reflecting on being broken in community and reminding us that reflecting on our sins is not meant to result in self preoccupation but rather in the desire to be changed more into the likeness of Christ.  Read more

Jeff Greer:  The Frailty of Life

Michael Winter: Fat Thursday

Michael Wallenmeyer: Lent and Hell

Aj Schwanz: Picking Up Rather than Laying Down

Joan Ball: My First Lent – Thanks to Twitter and the Monks

Here is a wonderful prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas posted by Karen B at Lent and Beyond

From Tom Grosh: Do Lenten practices or conversations regarding them give you the feeling that Big Brother is WatchingRead more

From Beth Stedman: Lent begins with Listening to where God is leading.  Read more

From Banu Moore: Akouete… Keep on Listening to Jesus.  Read more

From Aj Schwanz: Lent 2009

From Jeff Greer:Ash Wednesday Reflections. Read more

From Ecoquaker: Lent is not about chocolate.  Read more

Thomas Turner: Rethinking Lent.  Read more

Bob Fisher: Ash Wednesday tweets:  Read more

Doug Jones

Tom Grosh

Bob Fisher

AjSchwanz

Banu Moore

Tom Grosh gave us a good start with a post on The Emerging Shcolar’s blog 

There are also a couple of guest posts on my blog by Thule Kinnison – Third week of Lent  and Reflections on Ash Wednesday

You may also like to check out some of my posts on Lent

Lenten meditation video

and this very popular meditation based on a quote from Thomas Merton Finding Freedom in the Desert

 

Third Week of Lent

homeless-man

It is hard to believe but we are well into the third week of Lent.  

Here is a great post by JR Woodward with his reflections on the second week of Lent and the Brokenness of Hunger

This comment on my post on Have You Ever Been Homeless really caught my attention too

I am homeless.  I think this is a life experience that all should have.  People take for granted the most minimum things in life.  Being homeless, you appreciate and love the heart and Christ in the volunteers who help us.  Small things like a meal feed me one time, but a few kind words and compassion go with me when I leave.  read more from Padschicago

And last for today another post from Thule Kinnison posted here as a guest post.  

 

The “face” of Jesus doesn’t look like the “face” of Jesus…

just ask their name…

As I read about week 3 – Brokenness with the Homeless – This is what is coming up inside of me. I DO have a connection / gift from God that allows me to absolutely feel compassion for the homeless, lost and the sick. I am a recovering drug addict that was addicted for 18 years and have been sober for 5 years now, so my gift of “relating to” has come is the wildest form! As I think of my experiences since I’ve been sober and following Jesus, with my “friends” (the homeless and addicted) on the streets and encounters with the wanderers and hitch hikers, here’s what I remember. I’m blown away when recreating memories of facing Jesus in the flesh in the most awful but really beautiful places in the city of Houston~

When taking food to a homeless guy I’ve seen on the streets for at least 20, who never ask for money or food and is surely mentally challenged and wounded and doesn’t talk but mumbles to himself all the time, I asked his name and in the midst of his “mumble” he looks up and says “DAVID” and immediately looks back down, mumbling in “his” language.~ WOW! was my reaction because it seemed like in the midst of his world – he stopped to respond, because I asked.

When I befriended a couple (Brandon and Christina) who lived under the bridge, very addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine, I began to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the midst of chaos, fearlessly! And when Brandon went to jail and went to the hospital, I allowed Christina to stay in my home without restrictions only to find that she really didn’t like sleeping inside because the sound of the cars on the overpass is more comforting than the silence of her alone in the house. (we put a fan by her head and left the TV on so she could try to sleep) And at the end of my relationship with them, the church community and I were a part of sending them back home to Denver, CO via Greyhound bus~ I gave Brandon my “Forgiven” necklace before he got on the bus and he put it on and was very proud of it.

When asking the name of a homeless guy I pass by almost every day, I was excited to drive by a few days later and was excited to remember his name and yell out “HI RICK” and what really blew me away is that he said “HI THULE!” (even pronounced it correctly) I was soooo amazed that he actually remembered MY name. What an amazing feeling to just “be known” in that moment. And when I asked “What do you need?” he said “just a towel so I can wash my hair when it gets warmer outside” He didn’t want money, food or blankets, just his daily bread… a towel.

I’ve been given flowers from Hobo Joe Wino Bum who was about 55 years old and is a train hopper – I met him in a store that I was drawn to and had no reason to be in other than hearing God say “go Thule” so I did. He told me about King Solomon and asked why I even talked to him and I said that all people should be known, loved and acknowledged.

I’ve given my “Cutting Ties for Jesus” bracelet to a young train hopper in downtown who absolutely appeared out of nowhere, as I was thinking to myself “I guess God isn’t out here on the streets today”

So really, am I even a part of this world or am I “homeless” as I remember that I will go “home” one day after my visit here.

love, love and then love some more… till the end; or should I say the beginning!~

peace~

Hunger and Homelessness

The end of another week of Lenten reflections.  Some are still in the Hunger & $2 challenge like Kathy Escobar and her reflections on Hunger.  Others like Tom Grosh are reflecting on Lent in general in You Have A confession to Make.  Others, as is reflected on this comment by Pat Lasusky are focused on the challenges of homelessness. 

Thank you for introducing your readers to the deep spirituality of caring for the homeless.  My first exposure to working with the homeless was in outreach to those who were living on the streets.  But the ranks of the homeless include more than the stereotypical “street person”.  As a social worker at an Interfaith Hospitality Network, I am constantly educating people on the hidden homeless:  the families who are “couch surfing” week by week, families living in one room at a motel, families in cars.  These are often the working poor, trying to manage as best they can.  Some are young parents who have made some mistakes, or who never got the guidance they needed to be more successful.  Some are older parents, displaced from a job or a home, and unable to get back on their feet without a helping hand.  When I think of our churches opening their doors to the homeless, I think of the woman who broke the alabaster jar of precious nard so she could anoint the feet of Jesus.  We have such
an opportunity to experience what we “do for” others in a deeper way, if we truly take it into our hearts.

And for those that are still looking for ways to enter into the spirit of Lent and who live in the Pacific Northwest here are 2 opportunities to hear one of my favourite musicians – Jeff Johnson I often use his music as background in my meditation videos.

In two, rare live sacred concerts, Jeff Johnson will be joined by classical singer, Janet Chvatal for “Music & Prayers for the Season of Lent” at the end of this month. 
Chvatal, who lives and works in the shadow of Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein castle in Southern Germany, has been featured on many of Johnson’s CDs including VespersPsalmusStanding Stilland the newest, Journey Prayers. They will be joined in both performances by Portland violinist,Wendy Goodwin.
March 28, 2009 at 7:00pm
Chapel of Mary
Portland, OR 97220
$15 suggested donation
March 29, 2009 at 7:00pm
St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church
1318 E State Route 532
Camano Island, WA 98282
Offering donations encouraged