The Story of Ned
Ned is your average chronically homeless person. Literally average. He’s the guy we are going to use as the composite of the chronically homeless in Portland. He’s the stereotypical homeless guy you might see holding a sign or picking up cans and throwing them into a shopping cart. Ned isn’t part of a family, because homeless families almost never become chronically homeless, which is being homeless for two years or more. (Ned could be a man or a woman, but in this case he’s a he.)
What made Ned homeless? Is it his addiction? Well, he does smoke weed and he drinks beer, but often he drinks only to be able to sleep at night—the stresses of nighttime homelessness is too much otherwise. And while he drank before he became homeless, no one knows if he drank to excess then. Did his severe depression and occasional bouts of anger cause him to be homeless? Perhaps he had depression before he was homeless, but he didn’t feel disabled at the time. Certainly the stresses of being homeless increased his mental instability.
Losing his job didn’t help. He looked for work for months after, but when he lost his apartment, he didn’t know that he could look for work. His parents have both passed on and his daughter isn’t talking to him—she’s busy with her baby, anyway. He was dirty, and soon he lost his change of clothes. At first he lived out of his car, but after the registration expired that got towed. He received a tent from the local mission and has been trying to make due ever since. For a year or so he slept near the railroad tracks, but authorities moved him on and he’s had a hard time finding a permanent spot ever since.
Ned has thought about getting housing, but he’s nervous about that. Housing is a lot of responsibility and he’s not sure he can handle it. He’s never been good at money and now he’s worse, how would he keep bills paid? The idea of living in four walls makes him sweat, actually—could he sleep without a breeze on his brow? And what about his friends? He couldn’t let them sleep outside while he was safe inside. But if they all got together… well, he knows they wouldn’t last long in an apartment building.
Trying to deal with people in an apartment is a laugh, actually. Ned can’t walk across the city without being stopped by the authorities, asking for ID, which he doesn’t have. He couldn’t get a job now if he was looking—who would hire a person homeless for four years. He can’t walk through a neighborhood without someone staring at him, fear like knives thrown at him. Hobophobia, someone called it. It’s all throughout this city. He has been accused of the worst crimes, and he’s done nothing worth being in jail for.
What caused Ned to be homeless? Lack of sufficient labor and especially a lack of a social network to help him through his economic crisis. What keeps Ned homeless? Stress which causes mental instability and addiction. Also the hobophobia of the town keeps him from having a chance to succeed. Housing might provide some help, but it doesn’t provide Ned with what he needs to obtain a successful life or a life of reduced stress.
What are the solutions to the problems of the chronically homeless?
We seek solutions to reduce the stresses of the chronically homeless. We want to give them a place where they can live, rest and sleep without fear. We aim to create places of community without danger from within or without. We want to provide them with the resources to help them meet their own needs, and to keep them from dying until they can get back on their feet.
We want to provide opportunities of connection between those in desperate need and those who might be able to meet those needs. We want to promote friendships between the housed community and the homeless community so that some homeless might be seen as safe and so provide them opportunities for needs being met, multi-cultural companionship and possibly housing and employment happening through natural social connections.
Opportunities for employment
We want to provide labor programs for the homeless to work for their own keep. This would include landscaping and creation of art and practical projects that could be sold.
Ultimately, our aim is to have the culturally homeless accepted as a part of our society. This requires education through our website and literature, teaching in churches and especially in connection between the housed and homeless community. This also requires for the homeless to have a voice as citizens so they are not “done for”, but partners in creating and receiving help.
This is all work that we do through Jesus. We do not insist that people follow Jesus, but Jesus is the source of all we do. Frankly, we wouldn’t be involved in this hard work without Him. Jesus provides all that we give, and gives us energy when we falter. Jesus gives us the love we can share others, both the generous and the ungrateful. It isn’t Anawim that will change the world. But we will do our part to help Jesus change the world.
If you have enjoyed Pastor Steve’s blogs or the articles in this website, you might enjoy the stories and insights on Scripture in the book Anawim: A Biblical Theology Told In Stories.
This book is free– which means without any cost, for those who have been following advertisements for too long. You can read it on the blog of the same name: Anawim
This book is telling the story of the poor in the Bible… but instead of doing so through dry, dusty, professorial theology, this book proposes to tell the radical truths of poverty through stories. It is meant not only to challenge, but to entertain. Let me know how that goes, okay?
The only catch is this: it’s a blog. So you read it backwards. Not the words backwards, but the book’s sections begin at the bottom and you have to read each post directly above that. It’s tricky that way. Eventually, the whole thing will be published and you can read it joyfully from left to right. In the mean time, it’s from the bottom to the top. Heh, kinda like the poor in the Bible, huh? That works!
Or you can just read it from the middle. That’ll work too. The blog format gives you SO MUCH FREEDOM!
You don’t get to read the end, though. It’s not published yet. In fact, less than half the book is, at this date. So you’ll have to keep tuned in to the blog to get the latest section. How Dickensian!
I hope you like it. If you do, tell your friends. Link to a favorite post on FB. If enough people like it, who knows? We might actually see it in a direct-to-paperback format. I’d love that. Pulp fiction, by Steve Kimes. Nice.
In case you’ve forgotten that I posted a link above, here’s another one.
Jesus and his disciples traveled through a village and a woman named Martha offered them hospitality. Martha’s sister Mary didn’t help Martha at all, but instead sat at Jesus feet as he taught his disciples, listening. Martha, of course, was busy with all the preparations one must make to host thirteen people.
Martha came up to Jesus and said, “Lord, why have you let my sister leave me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to get off her butt and help me.”
Jesus answered, shaking his head, “Martha, Martha. You fret and worry about so many things. Only one thing is really necessary and Mary has chosen the better part. This will never be taken from her.”
(Paraphrase of Luke 10:38-42)
It is amazing how much time I spend worrying about the mundane. As the head of a church for the homeless, I want to make sure that I have enough food for everyone, and to make sure that we have enough money to pay the rent and the bills. And I want to make sure that there’s enough toilet paper and groceries for the house… and on and on. Half my life is spend being concerned on whether there is “enough” to go around.
Jesus tells me clearly that I should stop focusing on if I have “enough.” There are bigger fish to fry. Just like Jesus told Martha “You are concerned about many things, but Mary has chosen the better part.” The better part isn’t doctrine, and Jesus is not rejecting service or hospitality.
The point is this: Jesus wants me to spend more time with Him and less time on fretting. I need to do what I can do and let the rest go. And if I stop fretting, perhaps I can spend more time in prayer and let the world turn without me tonight.