To have no home in the Winter in Indiana is brutal, especially with the north wind blowing. I’m writing this in my house, sipping hot coffee, wearing warm clothes, staying warm as I look out the window at the snow covered grounds. I can’t help but think of my homeless friends in Indianapolis who are living in tents outside in this snow.
I’m thankful that this past Tuesday night, my friend Paul Sitkberg and I had an opportunity to go to downtown Indianapolis to distribute some socks, hand warmers, and emergency blankets, along with flashlights and lanterns, to our homeless friends. It warmed our hearts to come back with empty boxes. We hope and pray those items are helping them to stay warm in the snow today.
The harshness of living outdoors in the Winter experienced by the homeless is a serious matter of life and death. This past week, a friend of ours, Jeffery Leatherbury, a sweet man who loved everyone, passed away after being taken to the hospital by a visitor to the camp who saw that he was ill. Alas, it was too late to save him. I will really miss his constant teasing that brought me much laughter every time I saw him. Another friend, Tony, was hospitalized for 10 days for pneumonia. I’m glad he recovered to visit with us this past Tuesday! The homeless people are especially vulnerable to sickness as they constantly live in the damp and cold environment. They need help to stay warm and dry. As you enjoy the warmth of your home and hot coffee, tea, or cocoa, please say a prayer for our homeless friends.
Thank you for all your support for our endeavor to help the homeless!
At the time of this writing, it’s been 3 weeks since he’s been gone, yet no news media has mentioned the tragic collision that ended his life. Some bystanders at the accident who did not know him surmised from his appearance that he was homeless, and some even presumed that he was drunk or under the influence of drugs, or that he did not look carefully before stepping off the curb into the street. None of this is true, except for his lack of a permanent dwelling place.
His name was Grady Steven Scott, and while he was without a home, he was not an irresponsible drunkard, or a drug addict. He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a bighearted man, and a good friend to anyone who would take the time to know him. In the years that I have been visiting homeless people near the intersection of Shadeland and 21st Street in Indianapolis, he has been polite, always greeting me with a big smile, asking me how I was doing, and was genuinely concerned for my well being and safety in that area. He showed deep gratitude for the things my friends and I do for the homeless. He took very little from us, often saying, “Thank you, but I’ve got all I need; better give it to someone else who needs it more than me.” He was the kind of man who would gladly give the shirt off his back to another that he deemed needed it more. Even in death, he donated his liver to save someone’s life.
While he struggled with mental illness (bipolar disorder), he always gave his best at any temporary work he could find. On July 29th, 2019, the day that he was hit by a speeding vehicle, he was as sober as anyone could be. He spent many hours fixing an ice machine at the Exxon gas station convenience store. He impressed the manager so much that he was offered a part-time job. He then said to Jill, another employee there, “Today’s my lucky day!” His hard work to find stable employment and get out of homelessness finally came to fruition. He bid Jill good-bye and was crossing the street to run an errand, intending to return to the store later that evening to help Jill with the closing of the store. But he never returned because, after carefully looking for oncoming cars (as he habitually did), when he stepped off the curb, according to eyewitness account, a speeding car “came out of nowhere” and hit him so hard that he “flew” to hit another car. In that one instant, by the action of a careless driver, Grady’s life ended, just when he was about to taste the fruit of his discipline and get out of homelessness.
To the media, he wasn’t newsworthy, but to me, he was a good man and a friend I will miss very much.
I finally visited my homeless friends in Indianapolis again last night, after a couple of months of dealing with my health issues. I was dismayed to find that the city officials have yet again ordered a homeless camp to be dispersed without giving them an alternative place to move to. Thankfully, for our friend Tony, his shelter is farther down the hill toward the river and cannot be seen from the road, so he was given permission to stay, and the officials were kind enough to help him relocate his garden from the street level down the hill closer to his shelter. But many who were camping on level with the road were told to move, with no alternative location to move to, and their belongings will be swept away in dumpsters. This has been the pattern whenever enough complaints have been lodged to pressure the city officials to “clean up” the city. Then the homeless people are treated no better than the trash along the road that needs to be swept up and taken out of sight.
Homeless people are human beings, and it’s not right to treat them like trash. They have needs for shelter and basic sustenance, just like you and me. It’s a really sad commentary on our society when we treat animals better than we do fellow human beings. The right thing, the humane thing, if you do not want them to be camping along the road, would be to offer them an alternative place with adequate resources for them to move to and form a self-sustaining community. With all the wealth apparent in the expensive, gated subdivisions being built everywhere, can we not give these folks a permanent “subdivision” of their own where they can rest and call home, instead of sweeping them here and there like trash?
If someone is categorized as homeless, it must obviously mean that they are lacking a home…but just what is a home? The Oxford Dictionary defines home as “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” Okay – so what are some of the tangible/intangible things that we associate with “Home”?
1) Safety: we are protected both from the elements and other people who may harm us
2) Nourishment: we probably have a refrigerator and cupboards with food in them
3) Sanitation: we can step into the bathroom anytime we need to
4) Hygiene: we have showers/laundry facilities at our disposal
5) Entertainment: we can watch tv/movies/internet whenever we want
6) Rest: we have beds/couches that allow us to sleep comfortably
1) Peace: we can retreat to our home/room in safety and solitude when we need to
2) Healing: when we are sick we can recover in our own space and at our own time
3) Security: our possessions and precious memories are relatively safe from damage/theft
The above do not even capture the most important piece of Home for most of us: that we are there with our FAMILY
Now, try to imagine yourself as homeless and missing many, and maybe all, of the above. I cannot even comprehend how it must feel to be cold, wet, scared, lonely, fatigued, dirty, hungry, sick, and perhaps even addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. But I can tell you that I have many friends who are struggling with these very things. And on top of all of these crushing issues, Society is also looking down at them and wondering “why can’t you get your life together and get a job, etc.”
As I see many unsheltered friends this week and wish them Merry Christmas I can’t help but be even more sensitive to how they might be feeling with all of the festivities going on…I know it can be a challenging time of year for many folks for all kinds of reasons. But I do catch myself and remember that Christmas is really the greatest gift for EVERYONE – that God did indeed send his Son because He loves each and every person that he created, regardless of where their earthly home may be.
I just want so much to lighten the burden that my friends experience from the judgement and isolation that is levied upon them. Let’s all please think about what Home means and how blessed we are…and then go further to try and share any piece of that with those who are missing it. If we can lift them up, they have a fighting chance to achieve it once again (or maybe for the first time). Regardless, our efforts must not just be during the Holidays – but all year long.
Here is a link to this year’s report and you can see from the Summary that there is lots of interesting information…if a certain segment is more interesting to you, pls check it out!
This past week I met with my friend, Leon Longard, and he shared the vision of Circle City Village – a project that he and some other associates have been working on for quite some time. There are actually many of these tiny house villages across the nation, but don’t be fooled because the obstacles to achieving such a goal are so numerous and it requires incredible patience and dedication. I know Leon is truly committed to this endeavor and I am going to help him any way that I possibly can!
For more information you can find the Circle City Village page on Facebook, or also go to http://www.food4souls.org (Tiny House Village)
To see other projects from cities around the US check-out http://www.thevillagecollaborative.net