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.