Pat has been homeless, living in her car since her husband ditched her to be on the street on her own. She is sometimes scared, being a woman in her late 40s, but she is gentle and amazingly strong, given her circumstance. We have allowed her to sleep on the church property for the last few months. She doesn’t always sleep in our parking lot, but she does for a few nights a week.
We have had some trouble with neighbors in the past with our homeless hanging around after hours. But they don’t usually cause problems. There’s the occasional yelling match, or people hanging around to bug our janitor as he works late at night, but they are peaceful and they don’t make a lot of noise. Often they are cleaning up, or catching a few zees before they are forced to move on.
But our homeowning neighbors aren’t so happy with the visitors at night. Last year when we allowed a man to crash at our place in his truck for a month, a neighbor called the police three times. The neighbor said that he was noisy in the middle of the night and was defecating in the bushed. The police checked with our “security pastor”, who said that this report wasn’t true. So the police went to the neighbor and informed him that filing a false report was a felony and the calls stopped coming.
Perhaps some of the police don’t want people sleeping on the church property. But in our city it is legal for people to sleep in their vehicles in a church parking lot. We screen people and only give permission to people who will be peaceful and quiet and won’t disturb the neighbors.
Unfortunately, some neighbors are disturbed because the homeless exist. Recently I had a neighbor call me anonymously and leave a voicemail, “I know who you are harboring on your property”… as if we were keeping a criminal. The only one he could be talking about is Pat, who isn’t a criminal and couldn’t possibly be confused for a criminal. A neighbor (same one? different one?) at about midnight a week ago, stood behind our church with his dog and screamed across the property (disturbing all the other neighbors), “Get off the property! You don’t belong here! I’ll call the cops!” One of our folks on the property approached him, and he just said he was calling the cops and walked away. The police did come, but they didn’t come onto the property. They just drove around, saw that all was at peace and left.
Last night was the worst so far. A neighbor that others recognized with a dog and two friends came over to our property at 2 in the morning and went to the car Pat was saying in. They hit their palms on the hood of the car, screaming, “Get up! Time to go! Get out of here! You don’t belong here!” Pat bolted upright and shook with fear. She turned the car on to leave, but the three had the car surrounded, still pounding on it, so that she couldn’t back up. She did back up gingerly, they moved out of the way and she found another place to stay last night.
When I saw Pat today, she was still visibly shaken, horrified. I told her that when she stayed again, that she should stay over by Pastor Jeff’s RV, where the neighbors won’t bother her because they wouldn’t want to disturb the pastor.
I recall the abuse and scorn and hate-speech the African American civil rights activists had to endure in order to be allowed to exist. In the midst of a time when the police are harassing the homeless outside of church properties, we need to make a stand to protect people. This is just the beginning.
Portland and Gresham has been pushing the homeless around for 60 days. Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken to dozens of homeless people who have had their possessions taken by city workers and the police have come and given them hours or minutes or days to move. Where are we supposed to move to, they ask. We don’t care, the answer is, just go.
Some police have told some of the homeless to leave the city and if they come back, they will have them arrested.
Increasing the suffering of our poorest citizens increases the suffering of us all. Those of us who care about our homeless friends are suffering with them, and we have to supply them with blankets and tarps because the city has taken their supplies.
Call the mayor of Portland and let him know that we do not approve of our city causing the poorest of our citizens to suffer. Ask him to not tell the homeless to move on unless he has a safe place to move them to. You can’t legally tell them to not exist.
Call the mayor’s comment line today. Make a difference for the poorest in our community. 503-823-4127
If you live or work in Gresham, please contact the mayor of Gresham to ask him to stop the police from harassing the homeless for camping. Let him know that we want all our citizens to live in peace, and we would like the police to focus on real criminals.
Email Gresham’s mayor Shane Bemis at MayorBemis@GreshamOregon.gov.
Also, please contact Multnomah County. A large camp on county property has also been moved in the last couple weeks. If all the cities and the county are moving against the homeless, then the homeless are being told that they have no right to exist. This is illegal! Please provide places for the homeless to go before they are moved.
Contact Deborah Kafoury, the chair of the county commissioners at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday, Yvan and I went to the club to work out in the pool and I like to cook in the steam room for about 20 or 30 minutes, depending how much the bones are complaining. Then I sit and meditate as the body cools down and then into a shower and then the hot tub and then off to the shower room.
Shower rooms are a place where everything is literally laid bare. The facade of clothing is not there to protect you and neither are there any other ornaments. All your battle scars are there for all to see as are all your physical imperfections.
So it was here where 4 old veterans were filling the shower rooms with the aromas of various types of body washes and soaps. It was here where I was confronted by three Japanese men of another generation still haunted by the specter of a war long over. Between the three they mustered the courage to ask me if I hated them.
I told them about an encounter I had at a coffee shop with a man who had once fought with an army against the United States and how we became friends through the power of forgiveness and the blood of Christ since we had both become Christians later on in life.I then said that hate breeds bitterness and bitterness kills the one bearing it not the one we hate.
“So, no, I do not hate you, and I thank you for asking.” I told them that it was my hope we could become better friends.
One of the drawbacks of showers is that they do hide tears, but they do not hide smiles of relief when an old darkness has been dispelled by the light.