Marcine grew up abused by her father. She left home early, got a job and worked hard. Someone had lied about her and so she lost that job. The stress of her life was too overwhelming, so she sat in her apartment, unable to seek another job. “They won’t hire me because I was fired from my last job.” Soon she was evicted. She wouldn’t go home to her father, so she was homeless.
She went to a local church and obtained a tent, a sleeping bag and a tarp. A homeless man showed her a safe place to stay. She didn’t feel safe, so she got a boyfriend who would protect her. After a while, when his trauma showed through, he would beat her. She left him with her tent and sleeping bag, leaving her only with a blanket.
She slept in a park, under a bench. She stayed there all day except when there was a meal going on. She had no energy to do anything. A neighbor found her and said, “You are so lazy! Look at the trash under the bench! Get up and find a job!” She rolled over and stayed under the table.
The first neighbor told a second that there was a homeless person under the park table. The second said, “But there are children that play in that park! Homeless people use drugs! And are thieves! This person is dangerous!” And they called the police.
The police came over and looked at her under the table. There wasn’t much trash there, just a small pile. There were no needles, and one empty beer can. But she couldn’t stay there. “This is a park. You aren’t allowed to stay here.” She was so exhausted, she ignored him. “Ma’am, you will have to leave. Now.” She just laid there. “If you don’t get up, I’ll have no choice but to arrest you.” In the end, that’s what he did. Arrested her for trespassing on city property. As he was driving her in, he said, “I hope this teaches you a lesson. You are a good girl. You just need some tough love.”
Ninety-five percent of all homeless men have experienced trauma and PTSD. One hundred percent of all homeless women have experienced trauma. The homeless have experienced enough tough love. They need solutions.
Marcine isn’t a real person, but all that happened to her really happened to homeless people I know.
Tim was an alcoholic, but through support and a job he stopped drinking. He lost his job and ended up on the street, but he determined that he wouldn’t go back to alcohol as a “solution” to his problems. His friends all drank, and constantly offered him some, but he refused.
One day, he was in a park and he saw his sister with her children playing by the swings. He walked away from his homeless friends and waved at her, giving her his sweet smile. She saw Tim, immediately gathered up his niece and nephew, and walked quickly to her car, leaving before he could catch up to them. Tim walked back to his alcoholic friend, pointed at his bottle of vodka and said, “Here, give me that,” and drank it all down.
As Tim drank for years after that, his health deteriorated severely. His blood pressure was so high that doctors were stunned that he was still alive. He would spend a week at a time in the hospital. To save his life, a pastor friend of his asked him to stay in his house. Tim wasn’t sure that he wanted to, because he knew that to live in the pastor’s house was to stop drinking and he wasn’t sure he was ready to. But his homeless friends encouraged him, even demanded that he stay in the house. No one wanted him to die on the streets.
Tim agreed. He moved in, traded his beer for Mountain Dew, and he regained his health. He volunteered at the church and encouraged his friends. He relapsed a few times, but he remained sober until he died three years later of his heart giving out.
Life is a balancing act. Some are acrobats and can balance on their own. Most of us need friends and supporters to hold our hands in order to keep our balance.
“Recently, an attorney at Debt Masters, a local collection agency, found out that one of his managers was cheating the business. Of course, the manager was fired, but he was given to the end of the day when he would be given his final check.
“The manager considered quickly, recognizing that he would soon be without a job and homeless, because it would be difficult for him to find another job. He refused to live on the streets, so he quickly came up with a plan.
“He looked up all his clients who were living in Portland and gave them a call. His conversation went like this:
“‘Hi! This is Jed from Debt Masters and I have good news! The company is cutting your debt in half! The only requirement is this: The company may ask you to house a clean, polite man for a week sometime in the future. If you agree to this we can take thousands off of our debt!'”
“Although some hesitated, most leaped at the opportunity to reduce their bill. The attorney who supervised him found out about his scheme and he couldn’t help but shake his head in admiration at the manager’s ingenuity, so he gave him a job in his law office instead.
“Even so,” said Jesus at the end of his story, “have ingenuity like this manager. If you have resources or money, give it to people who act mercifully to the poor so they will reserve a room for you in heaven. Some of you will never get there otherwise.”
-Luke 16:1-9 (SKV) (really, if you know your Bible, look it up, that’s what he said!)
Today is the day that the church celebrates the death of Jesus. The death of forgiveness, the death that established a new nation, so that we need no longer live under the oppressions of this world.
Why was Jesus sentenced to die?
He didn’t die at the hand of Pharisees or at the hand of other enemies in Galilee. He was killed by the elders and the High Priest, who used their political savvy to get him killed, even crucified like one who is no longer to be counted on the roster of world citizens.
Why did they kill him?
They killed him because he declared himself to be greater than the High Priest, and greater than the emperor of the world, Caesar himself.
They killed him because he threatened the religious establishment on which they depended.
They killed him because he stood with the second-rate citizens, demanding that they be treated as equals.
They killed him because he denied any laws or statutes or rituals that were in opposition to love.
I pray that we would be so wise, so brave, so forthright to stand for these principles, although we are derided, stripped of our authority, made vulnerable, arrested and even killed. Because although we may make ourselves an enemy of the powers of the world, we are better off being an imitator of Jesus.
I have a friend who used to huff methylene when he was on the street and it messed up his mind some. He told me that he used a bit after he met me, but he soon quit. I was glad he had stopped, because it was keeping him from God. He told me that even when he was using, God was still directing him and helping him. I shook my head. He asked me, “Do you believe that God was with me, even in my addiction?”
I thought about him losing his mother who meant everything to him. I thought about him spending his childhood and youth in various forms of prisons, because he was emotionally unstable. I thought about his marriage, which ended with him completely losing contact with his four sons. I thought about him feeling that he was forced to leave his community because he was attacked by his ex-wife’s religion.
I am sure that he made a lot of mistakes. Sometimes horrible ones. But he lived a life of trauma. And he had more to learn to survive than I ever did. He learned to ride on his bike hundreds of miles just to get his mind right. He learned to read the Bible and take notes, finding truth. He learned to live with others and to calmly work through his problems. It took him a long time. I realized that I had no right to question how a person works through their trauma. Especially when they were in a better place.
In response, I nodded my head and said, “I am sure God was with you every step of the way. Talking to you. Helping you get to this place.”
Since then, he got in contact with all four of his sons and his family, and they all love him.