Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent

P.O. Box 366, Lightfoot, VA 23090
Office: 757-561-3255
"Assisting people in re-gaining hope and a better way of life."

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

"Eastern State Hospital Meeting"

Too many words can be used to describe the meeting last night about the acute care reinvestment program Eastern State may 'suffer through'; concern, caring, sorrow, anger, puzzlement, and the list could go on. Eastern State, by the opinions expressed by the citizens last night sounds like a great place if you need help (I only wish my Mother would have been able to go there instead of a hospital in Roanoke, that the lack of care, brought her to her death....maybe then she would be alive today.) Many of us asked the same questions, but phrased differently "What about the quality of care for the patients at a private institution verses the care they receive at ESH?"

My main reason for going to the meeting was to see about the possibilities of renting or buying some of the buildings to create a 'settlement house' or shelter for the homeless. Ugh, they gave me the stupid microphone (I know I must get over that fear of mine), but they do make me nervous. When I mentioned why I was there and our ministry's goal for a shelter, I was laughed at. Fine, that doesn't bother me. Jesus was also made fun of, mocked and refused but God didn't let Him give up either! (Which later people came up, asked for cards, and explained they weren't laughing at me, but at the Beauracrocy that would try and stop this proposal.) At the end, before the meeting was over, a lady spoke, who I think touched everyone's heart with her story and successes. She had been a patient at ESH, tried many other services, but now has obtained a more stable life for the time being and even works at ESH part-time. KUDOS! She even recommended to bring CSB and other programs into the empty buildings and then exclaimed "This young girl who wants to do a homeless shelter, YES! Do we need one? YES!" A man from the back yelled "Give her a building!" The lady continued on "Yes, give her a building! Heck, give her 2 buildings!) Applause, not just for what she said in regards to me, but what she said for the support of those who need help, came throughout the whole room.

We will see what happens next. Sen. Norment promised to call today, again, we will see.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

"How Scary Is The Unknown?"

Have you ever been out on a dark street and for no reason, other than the fact it is dark and unlit, you get scared? Or maybe go into some water that is murky and because you can't see into it or through it, you get nervous? Or you are lying in bed and hear a noise, but too scared to check it out, you curl up tight with the covers over your head? The unknown can be very scary, until you confront that fear. Sometimes you find, once you confronted it, there was no reason to be scared and laugh in relief. What's my point? There are some who would like me to end this website. I have considered it, but you know what would be worse than ending it, is the unknown! Would some people be wondering, what happen today? Where are some of the people working today? Are they working? Where did they move onto next since they aren't under the bridge? Was that a homeless person I just saw? Who is this person walking behind me?

At least on the webpage, those who are interested, are allowed into this society known as homelessness. I try to keep people up to date, not just people here in Williamsburg, but all over. If you want, do the poll on bottom right side and let me know what you think?

Monday, April 28, 2003

As you can tell on the webpage, it is a beautiful sunny day here in Williamsburg. After taking some food out and about, I stopped off at the new Bethel Restoration Church to meet Bishop Gray. I have heard so many wonderful things about him and have had a few conversations with him, so I thought it was time to put a face with the voice. Although he was busy, he took some of our 'business' cards and let me know he would be calling tonight. But I will say, from just a few minutes of talking with him in person, God radiates from him.

Several people have called today to find out how the meeting went over the weekend. Some I was able to chat with, since they don't have access to a computer and others said they would go to the web page.

Today has also been nice, because a couple of the guys have truly shown their friendship back to us. My husband had to go out of town at 3 this morn to finish up a contract in SC and won't be home til tonight. But before he left, he asked a couple of the guys who we work with (yes who are on the streets) if they would call and check up on me throughout the day to make sure everything is ok. Most of you I know think this is crazy. But first of all, I hate being alone at night. But secondly, it gives the guys a bit of pride knowing we trust them and treasure our friendship to the point we also ask for their help. Thirdly, many call us anyways, sometimes to check on work, or need money from their 'savings account' or sometimes just because they are bored and want to chat with us. The last one is always cute, cuz sometimes the phone gets passed around or one of the guys will say "Hey here comes a friend of mine...hey friend say hi to my other friend on the phone. Talk to her (or him if it is Geoff on the phone with them). They are nice people." So, since I have been back home, the phone has rang a few times of the guys checking on me. "OK we are gonna call back in a few more hours and check again. Make sure you answer so we don't get scared something happen to ya. Or if ya need us, you know where to find us." This says a lot about them. They trust us and see us as their friend just as much as we do toward them. We have always told them the only thing we ask is honesty and trust. And so far, they have always done so.

But, unfortunately, there is a downside to this also that causes them conflict. There are a few out there that don't trust us. And because of that, they try to convince the others that we aren't for real. Or that we are using them. Or even worse the reverse discrimination "Why would white people want to help you?" The last one is always the worse because we aren't the only people who try and help. Many do, but if you are going to discriminate against anyone no matter what race, you are shutting doors to those who would like to reach out to you.

Wow, my site today has been getting many hits. I just checked and now I know why. THANKS KEVIN! (aka the homeless guy) I appreciate the blog on your site (www.thehomelessguy.net) By the way, are you coming up here July 4th? We can get you a ride. Many people think Kevin isn't real when they see him on his webpage, but he is. Just from our phone conversations, if you have ever spent time with somebody who is or has been homeless, there are things you can pick up on. But I will say he is a nice guy. Another person I have talked with is James Worley (www.jamesworley.com) Another nice person and interesting reading.

We can't wait for July 4th! Usually I celebrate my birthday that day (even though it is technically the 11th, but it is hard since my brother's death which was between 10th & 11th). Last year we did a cookout for our whole neighborhood. Our neighbors there were mostly 50+ and had always wanted a neighborhood cookout, but nobody planned it, so we did. We had about 60 people and those who were too sick to come, opened their windows and watched if they could and we made plates and took them to the ones who were physically unable to get out. We had kareoke (a friend of ours does it professionally and came for 4 hours) 40 steaks and chicken breast, 30 hamburgers and hot dogs, 3 tables of sidedishes. We had the pool opened for everyone to swim, badmitton, croquet and bocce.We went from 10 in the morn til 11 at night and ended with 40 minutes of fireworks Geoff let off. It was such a great time fellowshipping (yes and that is what I meant because many of the men were ministers or religion professors at Furman or Elders at our churches. We actually did some gospel kareoke.

Well, time to get some yardwork done, if I am going to be able to answer the phone on the next round of calls. Remember to thank God for such a beautiful day He has provided!
Last night I called and spoke with one of the male neighbors who was also at the meeting. He came as a concerned neighbor, but had to leave early. I was able to at least have a civilized conversation with him and fully talk about some of the questions raised and my full answers. He did agree that the meeting as I describe it was out of control and suggested us to have another meeting with a mediator. He also thought as I did that I wasn't being given the chance to get answers totally out before I was being cut off. And I am totally open to another meeting if the neighbors want it, but I would agree a ref is needed. He actually mentioned a good idea of "the speaking stick". The person holding the stick has the floor until they are finished and then somebody else gets the stick and they have the chance to speak.

It was nice to hear that even a person who came to the meeting with concern also thought I wasn't given a fair chance to aliviate the neighbors' concern. But, now since we have had the meeting, I would like to keep our landlords out of being caught in the middle. THIS ISN"T FAIR TO THEM. All it really does is puts pressure on them. It doesn't jepordize our lease or makes us want to move. They are nice people and have not done anything wrong. My phone number is 741-2044 for those of you who still want to talk or have concerns.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

I know some of you, because you have emailed or called to ask what was the results from the neighborhood meeting yesterday. Well, actually nothing was resolved in my opinion. Basically, it came down to me stopping the webpage (because some have figured out where we live and know people on this street), I have lost the neighbors trust, I am a liar and was caught in 10 lies according to one person yet I was never able to finish an answer and if they would have given me the chance, it wouldn't have seem that way, I was taking it personally although many went into stories of their lives so who was also being persoanl and I should have notified everyone I was doing this, yet here again I never got much more than 20 words at a time out. Have you ever been around people or kids or the press and you have 10 questions at a time or one after another and before you could answer one, another question came out...that is how this was. So I decided, by our kids suggestion, to write down the questions and go ahead and reply via mail, to our landlord and on the website. So here is the basic Q&A's:

I am sorry about how yesterday turned out. Since I was not able to finish a single answer to any of the questions asked, I am typing them up and will give them to everyone. In regards to the others that were here, they are members on our board of directors and we were to meet with Linda Wall. I also included Paul Aron, because he is following the story of homeless and the work we are doing. He was there to find out concerns of others, the homeless/working poor, our new board and the meeting with Linda Wall. But, one of the neighbor's complaints via phone was the fact they didn't know any of the people coming to the house. I wanted to introduce the neighbors to some of the people that would be coming frequently over to the house, so they wouldn't feel 'threatened' any more. But I also thought the meeting with the neighbors would only take 1/2 hour. I thought they would ask me questions and I would have a chance to answer and that would be it. They were upset because of having our members here, but there was a girl at the meeting that no longer lives here, yet she is a friend of the neighbors. That to me was unfair.

1. (They wanted to know different services we provide. When it came to laundry, people were upset about how it would affect the wells and septic systems here.) Laundry service we provide: Here personally at the house we have done laundry 2 times in the past and it was stuff that also went in with Geoff's work clothes (just a couple of pants and shirts.) If people would have let me finished, Vicki, a retired lady who comes over, volunteered a while back at my 2nd meeting to do the laundry at her townhouse (that she owns.) She is in her 60's and her husband has been deceased for several years and she has been looking for some organization to get involved with and choose ours. . When she comes over, if there are any clothing donations (which have always been washed prior to people giving them to us,) she stays and helps sort and lists clothes/sizes that we have and puts them into bins. So no 'extra' laundering will be at our house. Anyone who needs clothing, we go through the bins and get their sizes and what they are requesting and drop it off to them.

2. Screening: As I was trying to say yesterday, people are screened. I do have an account with a company that runs background checks via computer on people. Also, we do talk with family members (who tend to be the most honest in regards to their relative's past and why they are in this situation.) Some of the people as we were saying, have already been screened through Salvation Army, I am not referring to the one here, but also in different areas. Their procedures seem to be very detailed as it takes usually an hour when they are meeting with somebody in need. I call to confirm they have been screened. Salvation Army actually has called us in the past about somebody who has contacted their office looking for work and since they didn't have anything, they either, after they have been screened, give them our number for Geoff to interview or they call me directly about the person. I have also at times, called the local police (of the area the person is from) to find out if somebody here had any priors and what are they if so. Nobody who works for us, with us or us with them have any past history of rape or murder. What I was trying to get through to one person at our meeting, even though I was not able to continue, is that I have also been a rape victim of a gang rape and that is why the doctors don't think I can have children. But, as one knows, rape is an act of violence and not sex. But, because I know this, it doesn't keep me from working with people. All people deserve a chance. How many chances does God give us, even when we fail Him or turn against Him. I would not trust or allow anybody who has a past of rape to work here or with Geoff and this we both agreed on before we started anything, whether it was his company and building a crew or working with the homeless & working poor.

Also, one neighbor is planning on using her property to rent out for summer vacation spot on a weekly basis. Mostly to people she knows, but that doesn't mean we know who the people are she will be renting to. Why aren't people concerned about that. And what kind of screening will she use. Just because she knows them, does that mean we should all trust them?

3. They felt like they lost trust in me because we didn't check with the neighbors first about doing this: Yes, we did take fliers around, not to everyone, because not everyone was home. Many we left on their door. I don't like putting things in people's mailboxes. Even if this is a 'Jeffersonian Area', that doesn't mean the post office would understand that because that is a felony. Duh, I'm not that stupid to even jepordize myself knowing our neighbors are upset. Why give them something that could legally get me into trouble.

But, here again what I was trying to explain is that many of the neighbors have people over or parties and they have never checked with us. We don't know the people coming to their houses. We don't know if any of the workers are bonded and safe. And bonding only covers if that employee steals from you, not if they sexually assault you or cause physical harm to you. But, we understand people are building houses, so we take that into consideration. But, just as they said yesterday we should have contacted them when I had a problem with their workers, they should also contact us. But, they haven't had a problem with anyone working here other than it upsets them. None of our workers have said or done anything (even according to one neighbor that said they have been quiet and to themselves.) I don't know several people that come here to do work or visit with neighbors and I don't question it. So I am still unsure why they need to give permission or know the people that are at our house. This isn't a private neighborhood with security gates like my husband and our workers go into, nor by what I understand are there any by-laws. Is it because we are renters and they are owners? And if that is so, yes, many renters have had people over, some for work, customers and friends. Not all of them 'appear' to be safe, but you can't judge by appearance in today's fads. And here again, I wanted to introduce them to people who have been coming over as friends, workers we have hired and volunteers.

4. Vested Interest: No we aren't on the same level as people who own homes, but we do pay rent. We have always taken pride in any property we have rented and tried to make sure it maintains, not just our standards, but also suitable to the neighborhood we are in. Whenever we move, if requested by the landlord, it is put back to the condition we received it. But typically it is in better shape than when we first received it. We want the landlords to be happy with what we do and that we have pride in where we live. I know you didn't get to see the whole house when you were here, but what we have done, we feel it has been an improvement. I hope I am not wrong in that regard. Even trying to make the yard look nice and appealing says something for us. We keep the yard cut and neat, maybe not as well as past tenants you have had, but in some ways better than others who own here. And as the weather gets better, the yard will also. Rarely, do we ever bother the landlord with anything minor, we fix it ourselves. With them being so busy, we only contact if it is something major, such as the air conditioning. So we do invest time, effort and a little money into where we live.

As one neighbor said they have $200,000 vested in the house they are building, which isn't comparable to what we have in our rented house, but we have $200,000 ++ in our personal belongings and antique furniture and collectibles. Maybe it isn't a vested interest in this area, but I wouldn't want anything to happen to our belongings (insurance companies have even said in the past, it isn't replaceable.)

5. Not bringing business home: My husband does have a business license as a General Contractor. We are in the process of getting worker's Comp. and GC Insurance/Bonding. The paperwork has been in the process for a week now, because he will need it for the big contract we have coming up. Many have asked who we do work for or this big contract coming up, but sorry that is none of your business and we don't trust you to not try and mess it up.

6. Leaving them alone: Yes, once I left one of the workers alone, but I had a volunteer here while I ran up to get gas from Garrett's so he could finish his work. Yes, I left the family that was staying here alone many time because the mother was here. She had been screened and I verified her work in Richmond and she use to do the screening and volunteer work at a shelter in Richmond. I also had contacted them about her. She checked out. Again as I said at the meeting, just because my car isn't here, doesn't mean I am not here. Once I was having my oil changed, but I was here. Another time, one of the guys used my car to go pick up some things (donations) for me. But here again, nobody has had a problem with them, nor have they bothered anyone.

8. In regards to the webpage, it is rare for me to ever talk about the neighborhood, unless it is about us/our house. I do not use names unless I have permission. In regards to the boat, the one neighbor did ask us to visit weekly along with another neighbor because they get lonely. Also at the party, a neighbor stopped us as we were leaving asked if we would take her fishing or visit. Her husband offered to sell us their boat at a cheap price and his wife when they were all looking at it, even pointed things out about the boat. When Geoff came home and told me, it was an answer to a prayer from the night before. We had already been calling newspaper ads about a boat the 2 days prior and most weren't in as good of condition and located too far away for us to get down here since we don't have a trailer hitch yet on our cars.

9. A neighbor, when talking with Geoff, said we were lying in regards that we had picked up other work and bids because of us working with the homeless. But, this is true. Many people support us and our ministry. Geoff has done over 10 bids in 2 weeks and 'won' at least 8 of them. Many people have said one of the main reasons is because of why we moved here and/or our ministry with thepeople on the street. The homeowners know that many people we use WERE homeless and fully support what we do. They live in Kingsmill, Ford's Colony and other places that are private or secluded. The homeowners haven't had a problem with the guys being left alone, either and have found them to be very nice, hardworking people.

So, that is just some of the questions I never got to mention.

Friday, April 25, 2003

"Another Note For Cat"

Yesterday my best friend, Cat's, father called me to give me an update. Cat, as you know if you have been keeping up with our webpage, is in the Army. As often as she can, she logs on to it and leaves me messages. Since I can't write back to her, I put my messages to her on the page. In honour of her and all the military over seas, we set out our flags throughout our yard and our red, white & blue light sticks. Thank you to all the troops who are fighting for freedom of the people who have been 'enslaved' by a person with no heart of compassion! Cat, we love you, are proud of you, miss you and pray for your safety back home!!! In His Name & With Great Frienship, Patti & Geoff
"One Of The Babies Birds Leaves The Nest"

Just an update, one of the ladies that we were working with, has finally been able to move on from work for us, to a regular full time job. Although in some ways it puts us in a bind, this is one of our goals for them: to get a job that will be for the betterment in their lives. Kudos to you "E" for taking that risk to move ahead! Way to go! But, never forget where you once were, so you can pass that empathy and support along to others who need help!
Wow, I just received what I consider to be a nice compliment from a staff member at United Way. She termed it as "we all think you are brave." Now, I don't look at myself as being brave or strong. Sometimes I don't even see myself as dee-hearted. As I have said before, this to me is what God wants me to do and it is His will. I work for Him, He works through me. So if anyone is brave or deep-hearted, it would be God. Do I ever get scared in this ministry, yes; but then I turn it over to God. But, I am also human and have concerns. Then I remember I have the strongest protecting me and everything is in His hands, control and time. But thank you United Way, and yes, I am growing to respect you also!
I haven't had much opportunity to blog in the past couple of days. Unfortunately, the homeless night has been cancelled. The guys informed me that others have moved down under the bridge. They don't feel safe staying under there and recommended us not to do it now "If we don't feel safe and we are use to sleeping under there, we don't want you to take the risk." Some of the guys have made enough money through work to get a 'weekly hotel' room on their own or together. Others have been staying with 'friends' that have mobile homes. We have actually moved our meeting spot now for food drop-off and supplies.

With the pollen season being so bad, one of the guys needs to see a doctor. His asthma is growing worse and he has had a hard time breathing. Just another complication of living on the streets.

In regards to our Non-Profit paperwork, our board members are almost complete in being established, our mission statement is written and our name will be "WHI"= Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent. So things are moving along.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

I can tell today will be a good day. My husband hired 2 more people yesterday, after lengthy interviews, who have several years of experience in painting. This will help him be able to catch up in some contracts he has currently and allow the othe 2 men, who do mostly prep or cleanup to finish 2 other properties. Over the weekend, we picked up a contract for cleaning up a yard that was just rented and the homeowners/tenant want a monthly yard maintenance. One gentleman who use to have a landscape company will be handling this. The new tenants met with my husband and him and everything was approaved. As a matter of fact, the new tenants want to meet with me to discuss how they can help in regard to the homeless ministry. This is helpful, since my mentor in Williamsburg is leaving for a few weeks to do work with their Stephen's Ministry at their church. So, that reduced the help. Just goes to show, where one door closes, another one opens.

Today, I am also calling the gentleman who is helping to get the non-profit papers completed and a shelter established in Williamsburg. I finally have a few addresses of properties for sale that are in the right zoning areas.

Two of the guys on the street almost have enough money saved up to rent a mobile home. They are excited, but I think nervous at the same time. They have become so use to surviving on the streets, that their fears keep haunting them of 'normal living.' We continue to talk to them and reassure them we will help them make adjustments. We know we will have to help them manage their money for some time in regards to paying utilities and rent. But for right now, they do seem excited when they comment on 'needing' furniture, kitchen supplies and bedding. They reminded me the other day when I call about a place to rent to "make sure and ask how much for deposit." I laughed and said "isn't it amazing how much you remember about normal living, after being on the streets for so long, when you have a plan and your mind becomes clearer?" One of the guys asked me if he had any money left in his 'savings account'? He needs $10.00, which he actually has $26.00 in it. Even though it is his earned money, I don't like handing it out to him without knowing why. He actually likes this also, since he has a hard time keeping money in his pocket. But, he told me it was for his birth certificate. His sister went down and got a copy for him, but he needs to be responsible and pay her back for the cost, gas, and travel time. Wow, it may sound dumb, but that is a big step for this guy! He also wants me to check into how much his child support is. He needs to catch up and help his ex out with his children's upkeep. Although no action has been made yet on his part, he is at least making plans and how he can 'make up for what he has caused in his past.' Just to hear him talk about things that have become so out of reach for him shows the effort he is trying to make. Gee, why do I feel like a proud parent who has just heard their child's first words or watched their first step?

Monday, April 21, 2003

"The Dangers of The 5 D's: Divorce, Depression, Drinking, Drugs & Death"

After my conversation with my neighbor, a gentleman in FL IM'd me. I had sent him an email regarding his website I found through www.thehomelessguy.net I had read his journal, but still didn't know too much about his situation that made him homeless. But, from what I could tell by his webpage and in 'speaking' with him, he is divorced and has chronic depression. He is a little different than some of the homeless in his area because he doesn't drink or use drugs. The same for Kevin (aka the homeless guy) in TENN.

The first 2 D's, divorce and depression causes a lot of problems in people's lives. Sometimes drinking and drugs also cause problems. But most of the time, the last 3 D's, drinking, drugs and death, are seen more as a solution than a problem to people who live on the streets. Many people, homeless included, think that those who live on the streets all drink or do drugs. This isn't so. I have met several people in my lifetime who are on the streets, but don't do either. But, it has been rare to meet somebody on the streets that doesn't have depression or who aren't divorced. But none of the first 4 D's are uncommon in all societies. My husband and I have both been divorced and there have been times when we have been depressed (temporarily due to a situation) and we drink (but you won't see us drunk because we don't let it get to that point.) Drugs, we are totally against that, no matter who you are or where you are living.

As a matter of fact, while I was instant messanging with the person in FL, one of our friends called to talk with my husband. He was depressed due to his divorce and his mother just had surgery. He had been out drinking and was in no condition to walk or be behind a wheel. He asked if my husband could pick him up and talk. They came back to the house so we could sober him up and give a 'shoulder to cry on'. By what we heard from him, he is scared his mother is going to die, due to complications with diabetes. He lost his father sometime ago and even though he likes his step-father, this surgery has brought back a lot of memories of his father's death. And actually, talking with him last night brought back memories of my Daddy's death. He also had diabetes and needed ankle surgery. Because of the complications with this disease, it was too hard on my Daddy and he didn't make it out of the hospital before they could finish the final surgery. He was only 64 and this was totally unexpected. Nobody can foresee death. It has been 3 years since my Daddy passed away, but I think of him often. This conversation last night was just a little too close for me, but as a friend we sat and talked with him. But, drinking is never a good escape and too many times people become irrational. Just as last night our friend, who typically is beligerant, was angered. Not at us, but more than likely at himself and God. He kept asking why does bad things happen to good people? Well, nobody can answer that other than God. Everyone questions this about life.

Once he was calmed down again, we offered our couch for him to sleep it off, but he didn't want to impose so we took him home. Kudos to the police who at times have to deal with those who are intoxicated. People change when alcohol is involved. You can be one of the most respected people in a community and within one drunk fest, become the most feared, hated or ignored person as well.

Because of the changes drugs or alcohol can cause, I have always set rules when working with people who are on the streets. If they have been drinking or doing drugs, we don't let them work that day nor do we put ourself at risk. Actually, there are only 2 we have spent time with that tend to drink. They know our rules and we know theirs. That is where the respect comes into play. They know we will listen to them (usually by phone), but we won't get them in our car, put ourselves or others in a potentially bad situation or let them come to our house. Those who do come to our house to work (which not everyone who comes is homeless), are higher up among the homeless. They want to work and try to get back on their feet and get a place to live. But, here again, photo id's are hard to get now. So, we try to get them odd jobs until we wait for birth certificates and social security cards come in. But, work is the key. Those who drink, work keeps them occupied; those who are depressed, work gives them a plan to restore hope. And the obvious, work helps them get a home.
I had an enjoyable and productive conversation last night with on of my neighbors. Although I don't know everyone in our neighborhood, I have always seen this one neighbor as a nice, understanding person. I had planned on doing postcards to mail out in regards to our neighborhood meeting, but last night I thought it would be easier to just call around to inform what time our meeting is scheduled for. Unfortunately, I didn't get too far because my conversation with the first neighbor was lengthy, but as I said, it was productive.

I know the neighbors have been upset in regards to the homeless and people working here. Then I was under the impression some were also upset with the fact we have a couple of blacks who have, on a weekly basis, been doing work here. The nighbor was kind enough to explain and allieviate my fears that is it not an issue of race, but the privacy aspect of people who live on our road.

We do and have always screened the people we have working for us. Sometimes it is through the local police such as the case in SC, other times with Salvation Army from which we have hired some people (ok, thsi I need to clarify. In SC we hired 3 people from the SA shelter where they lived. The shelter itself had screened the people in order for them to live there. They also talked with me about the rules and regulations they have for the people living there and how they came to be there.) or at times with references they supply. I wouldn't want to put anyone in a harmful situation; not myself nor any neighbors. I did explain to her that even with all the construction going on here on our road, there have been times I hadn't felt so secure. Which she understood.

Although we only rent our house and we don't have a property investment, we do care about it and it's upkeep. It was the same for our house we rented down south. Because we couldn't get our landlord to ever fix anything at the property he maintained for an individual, we ended up having to fix most of the problems and the outside of the property. Luckily here, our landlords are very nice and if we do run into problems at the house, they have them repaired immediately. But, just because we rent, it doesn't mean we don't care about the property or our neighbors' property.

But, as I said, overall it was just as productive to have neighbors allieviate my fears as well as I to allieviate theirs.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

On my way back from dropping off supplies, I was thinking about my 'blog' excerpt from this morning. And I realized a box of crayons is made up of several different colors, but even the broken crayons have a home and can still be useful.
"A Box Of Crayons"

How many different colors make up a box of crayons? Depending on the time period you were raised in, it varies: 16, 32, 64, 96, 128 and so on. But I have never seen a box of crayons made up of black and white! Have you? So why does our society have to feel people are that way? Although it is obvious that many different 'colors' make up our world, my husband nor myself view people on that level. We don't decide who we are friends with based on race, gender, origin, or nationality; we are friends with people that we share common bonds and interest with. We have several friends that are Hispanic, Italian, Asian, Black and White. Some people who work with us in our ministry are even examples of this. Our common bond being the love and concern for homeless people. Many of the people who work with us monitarily are also examples of this. Down south, my husband had a crew that consited of ALL people, not just one 'race'. We don't nor will we ever base our friends or co-workers with 'rose colored glasses', but with color-blind shades. People who do not like our friends, don't have to be friends with them. People who don't like our co-workers don't have to work with or hire them. People who don't like us because of this don't have to associate with us, because we do have other friends. Our box of crayons is made up of many colors that God created...and by the way, we color outside of the lines also! (In other words, we don't conform because others say we have to.)


Yesterday's meeting with The Task Force For The Homeless was very informative and productive. It was enjoyable to sit with others who have the heart and concern for those on the street. Although this meeting was more for introductory reasons, we are now working on a way to bring together the different agencies and our ministry to work together for the betterment of the people.
"Virginia Bred"

So far, many that I have spoken with, in regards to homelessness have said "You are an outsider." Well, I might have lived in SC for the past 11 years before my husband and I moved here, but I was born right down the road from where we live now. I was born at St. Mary's hospital in Richmond and if it wasn't for the fact my Daddy was transferred after my birth, I would have been raised in Richmond. From the age of 5 until I was 17, I grew up in Charleston, WV.

My Daddy (William D. Williams) was born and raised in Richmond, along with his 2 sisters (who still reside there) and 2 brothers (who are deceased.) His Father (Richard "Dick" Williams) was the Head of Clerk of Courts until his retirement. My Daddy's maternal relatives (Dunkum) still reside in Louisa, Virginia.

My Mother (Virginia Ruth Lee) was born around and raised in Salem, Virginia. Although her parents were considered to be part of the 'working poor', my Grandfather had several acrege of land and raised animals. My uncle still resides in Salem. Other than farming, he is also a landlord of 100+ properties.

So even though I wasn't raised in Virginia after my birth, I was raised for the most part Virginian. I may be considered an outsider of Williamsburg, but not an outsider of Virginia.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003


I have been confused since I started this website that many people daily read through it, but rarely do I ever get any emails in regards to the activity going on, other than the students at W & M (they are great kids who give their all to support problems such as homelessness and hunger.) I know, for example, somebody at the Chicago Tribune often visits, DSS of Richmond, Richmond Times Dispatch, people overseas in Germany, France, Italy; people in California, Florida, Georgia, of course SC (yeah!), and many from Williamsburg. If you are unsure how to contact me, click on the link "The Homeless In Williamsburg" for emails or call 741-2044. Your opinion always matters, whether it is pro or con. With us, everyones voice counts!

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

"A Hopeless Day"

Unfortunately, at the moment, I am experiencing what many who are living on the streets go through...hopelessness. Although it has nothing to do with the homeless or our efforts. This is about some bad news my husband and I received today in our personal lives. I will blog tonight, when I feel better. But, for right now, I just need to spend some time with God for prayer to pull myself out of this gutter of hopelessness. "Amber, I am sorry. We tried. We thought we would be able to be your 'new Mommie and Daddy. We fought hard and stayed true to the desire to provide you with a home. Maybe somebody else will love you the way we wanted to. You will never have the chance to know us and love us the way we feel in love with you, but we pray you will have a nice life." The parents you will never know, yet who wanted to be.

Monday, April 14, 2003

"Do you still remember?"

Aqualung--Jethro Tull

Sitting on a park bench --
eyeing little girls with bad intent.
Snot running down his nose --
greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
Drying in the cold sun --
Watching as the frilly panties run.
Feeling like a dead duck --
spitting out pieces of his broken luck.

Sun streaking cold --
an old man wandering lonely.
Taking time
the only way he knows.
Leg hurting bad,
as he bends to pick a dog-end --
he goes down to the bog
and warms his feet.

Feeling alone --
the army's up the rode
salvation à la mode and
a cup of tea.
Aqualung my friend --
don't start away uneasy
you poor old sod, you see, it's only me.
Do you still remember
December's foggy freeze --
when the ice that
clings on to your beard is
screaming agony.
And you snatch your rattling last breaths
with deep-sea-diver sounds,
and the flowers bloom like
madness in the spring.

For many people in the late 70's and 80's this was a popular song that blared from cars cruising around town on boring summer afternoons. For me, this song reminded me about a real person in the town I grew up, Charleston, WV. He was a homeless guy that roamed our streets of downtown, pushing a large, overfilled grocery cart. People always wondered what was truly in the cart, because there were so many stories circulating about Bill Dunn, aka Aqualung. Why was he nicked named that? Because he looked identical to the guy on Jethro Tull's album cover. He was as famous and important to our town as many of the well known Governors. Many times you could ask people of the town, mostly the teens, who was Governor and they couldn't answer, but to ask "Who is Aqualung?" and you would get an essay on him and their stories of time they spent with him.

I remember the first time I saw him. It was my first trip downtown, the summer of '78. My Mother and I were shopping and out of the corner of my eye, I saw this man pushing a cart around. Immediately I wanted to go talk to him. I kept pulling away from my Mom but she then saw where I was wanting to go. For some reason, I always had been compelled to be with people of the streets. She held onto me harder each time I pulled away. A couple of weeks later, I went with my best friend, Courtney Clay and her maid to see "Grease" in an old theater downtown. Again, I saw Aqualung. This time my Mother wasn't with me to keep me from talking to him. My friend Courtney told me a little about him and her maid shared her stories. As far as many could ever remember, he never asked or took money, even when it was offered. I walked over and said hi to him. He smiled, patted me on my head and sheepishly said hello back. I scurried off to get back into line for tickets. That night when I came home, I didn't want to listen to my soundtrack from Grease, but I got my brother's copy of "Aqualung" by Jethro Tull and played the song over and over.

Throughout the years, as I was able to go downtown on my own, I would always stop and say hi to Aqualung. In my 11th grade year, I went to school at Charleston Catholic, which was located downtown. Since we didn't really have a decent cafeteria in school, we were allowed to go off campus for lunch. Most of my time was spent at McDonald's and I would run into Aqualung walking around or even having lunch in McDonald's. One day I was short on money for the meal I had just ordered (back then McDonald's didn't take credit cards) and Aqualung was behind me waiting to order as well. He tapped me on the shoulder, smiled and handed me the amount I was lacking. We sat together and ate our meals.

That summer, the eve of my 17th birthday, in the middle of the night, my Mother woke me up to tell me her and my step Father had to fly down to Florida. My brother, Greg was in a very bad motorcycle accident and the doctors didn't think he would survive. I had always been a sound sleeper, so my parents feared I wouldn't remember when I woke, so they sent my sister Pam over to the house in the morn. Well, they were right. I didn't remember. I woke up excited for my birthday, singing "Happy Birthday to me..." and then I saw Pam crying. She shocked me back into reality with the words my Mother had told me in my sleep. I got in my car (the family car my parents let me drive) shortly after and escaped. I was suppose to go to work, but didn't. I didn't want to be with my friends at that time because they all knew my brother and I didn't feel like talking about it. The guy I had just started dating a few weeks earlier was out and I didn't feel like being with him either. I went downtown to walk the streets. Scared and alone, I just wanted to walk around with no destination in mind. I needed a friend, just somebody to listen and let me cry. Yes, I had many friends back then, but I didn't think they would understand. Our lives then were filled with Country Clubs, expensive shopping sprees and credit cards where the bill went to "Daddy" (so yes, Mr. Jeff Martin, I do know what it is like to live in your circles.) Outside the alley of the library, I bumped into Aqualung. He patted me on my head and when I looked up, he saw the tears that filled my eyes. He motioned for me to sit down. I tried to speak about my brother's accident, but before many of the words could come out, I started sobbing uncontrollably. With Fatherly instinct, Aqualung held me as I drenched his coat with my tears. It was the friend I needed at the moment. Not somebody who cared who my Father was, our circle of friends, if what I was wearing was in style or how much it cost. Somebody who cared for no other reason than unconditional friendship. A shoulder to cry on, heart of compassion, and no questions. An hour must have passed and when I had finished crying for the moment, we went to McDonald's for a birthday lunch. After that, I felt safe enough to be with my friends or sisters, to await more news. Everyone had always wondered where I was those few hours after I left my house. My sisters had called around and nobody knew. I had always told them I was with a friend. I just needed to be with a friend. “Who?” I never told anyone. Many wouldn't understand the unconditional friendship and security and compassion that a homeless guy offered to me at a desperate time of need. And until now, nobody ever knew. Until now.

So, even though prior to that moment, I had always had a heart for those who lived on the streets; now you know why my heart is even more deeply filled with compassion, care, concern and friendship for those we call homeless. The friend God lead me to when I didn’t think anybody would care. The friend God had filled my heart with Spiritual love for since I was a little child; those people who I knew would never judge me. The friend who in just a few short hours of pain and tears, one man who had no home, showed me home is in your heart. Before that lesson, I always had a house, but I never had a home.

For more stories on our Aqualung, you can go to Charleston Newspaper

Sunday, April 13, 2003

To be able to continue the betterment of the homeless people, we have no choice but to become a non-profit group. Yes, this means government paperwork and id #'s, but our hearts will still remain the same. I have played this out over and over in my mind, prayed about it and finally decided it can further their process to rebuild their lives and allow us to move ahead for the shelter. Because of this, our name will also have to change (and actually not really.) Although the webpage is called "The Homeless In Williamsburg", the cards I have handed out to people is under WHI? which stands for Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent. We also have to form a board and that is where I will be picky. My main criteria won't be past experience in regards to 'programs' but where is your heart. Why do you care? Who guides you? What do you know about homelessness? How? These are the important questions for me because many times people may have care and concern or love for the homeless but sometimes peoples' heart become hardened and forget why they stood strong for them in the first place. This I want to avoid, if possible. But, I know it is. My involvement has opened me up more to God's love, instead of turn me away.
A few days ago, while Herman was taking a break from work, he said to me "Did I tell you I have a daughter?" No actually he hadn't, but that is mostly because he is with my husband working. The week it was raining, neither of them could work at customers' houses, so they did work at our house. He proceeded to tell me he hadn't seen her since 1992 and she would be 25 this year. He lost track of her over the years since he was living on the streets. I have had a lot of success with US Search in the past, so I told him about the company, in hopes we could track her down. Usually they have a 24 hour turn around with the information and how to contact a person you are searching for. His eyes lit up in hope that he may be able to call her the next day.

Unfortunately, US Search didn't have any luck. My heart sank and I didn't want to let him down. But, because they couldn't locate her, they gave me another search for free. So I ran it on him to see if anything came up in regards to family. Wow, several brothers and sisters. Yesterday, while Herman was at work, I spent my time on the phone trying to contact any of his family. I guess I made the right choice on which sister to call, because she was elated! They had been looking for him for the past couple of years. He use to keep contact with his sister, but stopped calling 2 years ago, because he didn't want to be a burden to them. "They have their own family, bills and life. I don't need to add any of my problems to them."

Leanna couldn't decide who to call first and was excited, yet shocked "We never thought we would hear from him again. Each week my siblings call and wonder if I had heard from him. Bless you child; praise God He brought him to you." I assured her he was doing well and was healthy. He is a godsend to my husband and all the help he provides for his company. We talked about the possibility of the family to come to Williamsburg to visit with Herman. I told her that Herman was planning on coming here after work for dinner and she was welcomed to call if she wanted to talk to him. In the meantime, she was going to try and find out where Herman's daughter might be living now.

Shortly after dinner was over, the phone rang and I knew it would be for Herman. He slipped away into the livingroom to talk. Although it wasn't a long conversation (especially compared to mine with her,) it was a nice reunion. I didn't want to question him when he hung up, in his own time he will talk about it, but he seemed like a piece of his heart had been restored.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

I wish you lots of luck on Monday night sorry I can not
be there. Take care and God bless.
As I have been saying maybe God is hitting us
in the head and telling us to leave VA and go to
someplace else and start a new life where the wages
and cost of living match. I really do appreciate your
trying to help - it means the world to me. If the
other agencies want to know your secret to success -
you care and you really get to know the people -
something they do not even try to do - push papers is
the only thing they do - you really do care and you
have a knack for getting people to do things. Thanks
again. Elizabeth
Is it censorship of the newspaper or a mistake?

This morning when I opened the VA Gazette to see if they put my meeting for Monday night in the calendar, I didn't see it. Slowly I scanned over the meetings listed and then I noticed, "Homeless in America", but with all my info I had sent. Wait, that can't be right. I checked my computer to see how I sent it in via email "Homeless in Williamsburg". OK so either it was a typo or somebody at the newspaper doesn't like the title I gave for the meeting or group. Maybe they don't like the fact I included their town in connection with homelessness. I hope it is a typo. Not to say there isn't homeless throughout America, but that wasn't how I sent it. I need to follow up with Rusty at the paper and find out why this occurred.
Finally it looks like the weather may clear up today and the rain has gone away! The rain this week caused us some problems because some of the guys who wanted to work, couldn't. Since most of them are doing odd jobs at the moment until we can figure out how to get them photo cards and also get use to waking up for work at 7 am, the rain kept them 'job-less' this whole week. I know that will cause somewhat of a set back. But that's ok, they have such a desire to work, they make strong efforts to get back up to speed. And even though Emily, who comes once a week to catch my housework up, is typically inside working, our power went out a few minutes after we got back to our house. So she did what she could in the dark with little water left in the pipes. That also kept us from doing any reading lessons for others. The guys are eager to get the flower beds finished and start on a small garden. I had approached them earlier last week about helping me with a small veggie garden, especially since I have never planted one before. They liked the idea. Of course I wanted to know why, to see what would be their motivation. Many of them had gardens when they had places to live, whether it was with their Mothers or Ex-Wives. Also it gives them a chance to work physically on their well-being, the self pride of the end product and some even stated "being closer with what God created." But the biggest reason...THEY LOVE VEGGIES! OK good enough for me.

We still have a couple of other activities in the making. The guys want to go fishing and ask me at least once a week when we are going. So we have been trying to get this planned. I figure a boat would be needed instead of sitting out on a pier. Last night my husband came back from an hour of relaxing on the dock with a pole and squid; carrying a bucket filled with Croaker (yuk, I don't like fish, but I enjoy fishing.) He took them up to one of our neighbors who is a sweet Asian woman and her husband. We met them at another neighbor's 89th birthday party last week. Sadly the 2 women sit around during the day with very few visitors. We both promised we would stop in each week for a visit. But our Asian lady friend loves to fish and eat fish so that is another fishing trip we need to plan. While my husband was there visiting, the couple offered to sell us their boat (which could easily hold 6 people)and trailer for a very very reasonable price. Now we just need to see if they will do it on a few payments. So God again provides a solution so we can spend some fun quality time with the guys.

Also, we are planning a cookout. Not just any cookout with games and fellowship. But one of the main reasons many of the people on the street remain here is because they have kids that live with the other parent. One of the guys hasn’t been able to spend time with his kids in years. He knows they want to see him, the parent is willing to let him, but he has nowhere to take them for some quality time. So we are in the process of calling the custodial parents and schedule a day when we can get everyone together for some food, fun and re-connection. This will take some time to get several families schedules pinpointed to one day and volunteers to make driving arrangements for the kids. Also it is important for the custodial parent to trust us enough to make this happen.

Friday, April 11, 2003

John 16:24(NLT) ... Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

Yesterday was a day of wisdom for me! The lady who gave out the blankets and McDonald's Gift Certificates in Paul Aron's "Homeless Defy Easy Solutions" had invited me to breakfast to finally meet, face to face. The kindness that shines from her is incredible. Although she is quiet, there is a boldness that runs deep for the homeless. The connection between us is God given to fight for His people!

Prior to our meeting, the night before, like always, I prayed unto God to provide the knowledge to get a shelter here in Williamsburg. The time has come, the plans are made, but we need a building. God please lead me! Tell me if this is right, let me know how we can get a place for these people, whose only desire is to work, re-connect and come back to you. You have opened their hearts for the help they need, please help to provide the way.

During the drive to meet Anne, I kept thinking about my prayer. I kept feeling the Spirit to call about a hotel another wonderful woman had found. How can I afford a building? I have to go by the kindness and giving of somebody else to make this possible. I don't have good credit and the money we have left after bills are paid go to help the homeless, either food or paying for jobs or the gas to meet with them. How can I?

While listening to Anne, she said something that let me know God was talking through her "A man in CA wanted to buy an old hospital and turn it into a shelter for the homeless. He didn't have much money, nor good credit, but he prayed and now he is able to provide a multi-level facility to meet their needs." Wow, talk about a slap in the face to pull me back in! I thought, "OK I have prayed so now I need to try and leave everything else up to God." I have to call Wanda when I get out to have her set up a meeting with the person who wants to sell the hotel. When I did call for the request Wanda asked "Did you find the money?" Well, no I hadn't, but I have something better than gold, I have God!

Our power went out shortly after I arrived at home. Odd, what do I do now? I would typically be on the phone trying to make donation needs or on the computer updating my blog and emailing people for advice. So now what? I knew at that moment. God wanted me to slow down and be open to His advice. God wanted more time for prayer and more time with Him. So I spent the next couple of hours with Him. Our minister would be coming over that evening for dinner and fellowship and to discuss this 'ministry'. I had thought prior to the moment of prayer that I needed our Churches backing. I am just one person. What can I do with such a small group of volunteers and those who need help? I almost started to cry because I was feeling weak. I was feeling like I could lose this battle for these people that I love. I could not fail them, no matter what the cost! Nor would I! They are my heart, my joy, my human love, my friends, the people I spend time with. Even as a child I would get in trouble for 'talking to strangers' by my Mother. At that young age, I didn't know what a homeless person was, I just always told her they weren't strangers, they were my friends.

Shortly around 5:00, the power came back on and our phone rang. It was the line we have established for people to call in regards to the homeless. Great timing, I thought. Or at least until I answered it. "Patti, when do you want a shelter?" What, can God use a phone? I couldn't believe it. OK this is a sick joke. God don't let somebody be this cruel. He was for real and after an hour of conversation, we had a starting plan. God was working through us.

Although this is just the beginning and only 7 weeks into the ministry God brought me to, it is the timeline God has choosen. So, Williamsburg, you are getting a shelter and possibly before my goal of one year!

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

"Cruelty To Homeless"

Yesterday, due to the rain, the guys that had planned to go with me for daily work, were rained out. Instead, one of the guys who hasn't seen his daughter in some time asked if I would take him by so he could visit and drop him back off afterwards. Considering my belief for the family to maintain contact with each other, I looked forward to this visit. Although I don't want to go into the full details of his treatment, being cruel by beating an animal would be nicer than the words his daughter spoke to him and even at times, to me. At one point, the guys even had to 'defend my honour' to her with the words that came out. Not that she didn't 'love' her Father, cuz she claimed she did. But the fact he was on the streets and she at least lived in Grove. Not the fact that she had no vices, because as she claims "she does drink brown liquor and smokes weed daily" but her Father is a no good drunk. "Oh but he is sweet and a very kind 'bitch' but he is no good." As he kept saying he was trying to work and even said "Ms. Patti, didn't I work some last week?" Which was true, he still couldn't prove himself to her. Did he ever beat his wife or her....NO! Did he ever cheat...NO! But the fact remains that he doesn't work and he is on the street was her problem.

She invited me to an upcoming party and I strongly, but politely, declined. Because of the drugs...NO! Because of the liquor...NO! But it was because of the way she treated and talked to what should be another human, not just her Father.

In the car we spent a lot of time talking about how this time went and how it made him feel. It took some time for him to break down the walls, but he finally admitted that it hurt, for no other reason than it being a person looking at him that way. But, in the end he asked if he could go to church with us this weekend and maybe learn more than he once knew or felt.

Judges 11: 27 I have not sinned against you. Rather, you have wronged me by attacking me. Let the LORD, who is judge, decide today which of us is right

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

"Hey New Girl, What Is History?"

"History is all of us. History is all of our stories." This was a question and response from the Lifetime Movie "Homeless To Harvard." When I heard those lines, I started thinking about Williamsburg. This being a town built upon the history of many of the Nation's Founding Fathers and a town that now thrives and depends on it's history for income. So, if this statement is true that we are all a part of history and our stories make up history, then why not include the 'history' of the homeless in Williamsburg? Since this plight has been in existence since the early days of Williamsburg’s settlement, aren’t they a part of this town's history as well? Understandably many people don't want those stories to be told or think if it is ignored, it won't be included in Williamsburg's bibliography; but if that was the way our ancestors looked at the lives here during their time, what would we be able to learn and read about? Just the good? Just their achievements? As Patrick Henry stated "I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past." Even during his time, Patrick Henry fought for the truth, good or bad "...it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it."

Even during the early days of Colonial Williamsburg, the poor and homeless had an important part in the making of history that the town today earns income through tourism. In 1755 Reverend Thomas Dawson of Bruton Parish sought the burgesses acknowledgement that "the number of poor people hath of late years much increased throughout the colony" and authorized all Virginia parishes to build, purchase, or rent houses for the lodging, maintenance, and employment of the poor. They agreed that the establishment of workhouses was a suitable means of providing for such people and would prevent "great mischiefs arising from such numbers of the unemployed poor." Although over time it was considered to be a failure, at least then Williamsburg citizens understood their responsibility to the poor and needy under God's Words.

So if the poor, needy and the homeless were recognized and seen as part of Williamsburg then, why not now? If our ancestors were willing to reach out and help them with food and shelter, why should we fear to do the same?

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Quickly I wanted to include this on my 'blog' before I went to sleep. I try to check Kevin's site daily (www.thehomelessguy.net) Yes, he has a great amount of experience as being homeless in Nashville, Tenn. If you want to be shocked by what a homeless person looks like, I suggest you go to his site and look at the picture of the guy behind the computer. If you want to read more about what it is like, go to his site. Occassionally people will write him with questions. This is a recent Q&A:

Hello Kevin,

I have a question. From all the homeless people you have known. What is the main reason that they are homeless ?

Thank you,

Dear Dave,

Hmm, let me see. One big statement to define all causes of homelessness - like finding the single common denominator among all homeless people - Yes, there is such a thing.

Loss of Hope

Of course a loss of hope can happen many different ways, such as by a loss, or absence of community, (friends and family). This can happen either by the community rejecting the person because of his actions, like having an addiction, or by the person rejecting his/her community, because the community is abusive.

Loss of hope can also happen due to a cloud of despair. Perhaps a divorce, a loss of a meaningful job, or loss of a loved one, perhaps someone's child dies. In such despair a cloud forms, making it impossible for them to see that hope is still there. Once the cloud lifts, hope returns, and they return to society.

This means that to get people off the streets/out of homelessness, hope must be re-instilled. Doing such a thing is more difficult than it sounds.

There is definitely hope though faith, but because of the manner in which Divine hope is displayed in most faith-based homeless facilities, this hope becomes ineffective. Most people working in faith based facilities are too busy trying to get "sinners" to feel condemned, instead of getting sinners to feel the hope available through Divine forgiveness. What they seem to miss is that these sinners already feel condemned, they condemn themselves perpetually. To then hear some preacher reconfirm their own condemnation only deepens their hopelessness. Most people misinterpret the behavior of homeless people, believing that homeless people are actually enjoying themselves in their state of homelessness. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hope is like faith - it only needs to be the size of a mustard seed. It then needs plenty of sunshine, soil, and water. These components for growing a tree cannot be supplied by the seed. It must come from a source outside itself. Someone must provide the care. That is why the best thing anyone can do for a homeless person is to be a friend. Having a friend, a true friend, instills hope, nurtures hope, allows hope to grow.

thanks for the question, it really got me thinking,

W&M Night In A Box

Last night's meeting at W&M went well, considering this was Ally's first year organizing it and the student body has only done this a couple of times. Although I thought it started at 7:00, it technically didn't pick up as a crowd until 9:00 when the band started. But, by this time, my husband and I had already handed out info brochures on the 'truth about homelessness' and our cards. We had several groups gather around to ask questions and listen to our stories. The looks in their eyes were priceless. Almost the extreme opposite of the homeless people that typically have nothing left in their eyes but sadness and lost of hope. Right before the band started to play, a decent crowd had built up, but unfortunately, twenty minutes into their playing, several started to leave. I told Ally "You have to do something quick to keep the people from leaving!" (We had already watch 12 people walk past by that point.) She said "OK you are on next!" She jumped up to announce me (uh oh, here is my fear of microphones coming up. I can speak fine in front of people until that silly objects is before me.) Prior to going to the meeting, I was told I could have 3 minutes. Then at the meeting it went to five. Then before she went up, it was at ten+. Now let me paint this picture for you:

For 2 days I didn't shower or brush my teeth. I worked outside fully layered to work up a nice smell. A few hours before the meeting I cut our backyard in 80 degree temps with a pushmower and layered in clothes. An hour before the meeting, I sat in the dirt and scooted around, front and backside of me to make sure I was nicely couted with dirt. I loaded gel into my hair and while it was wet, I dump dirt all over it and my face. Then to top it off, I poured a whole bottle of cheap liquor all over myself, head to toe. Sounds lovely, huh. What was my point? I wanted to be the stereotyped homeless person that most picture when they hear the word.

When I got up on stage, I told the people (which many I had already spoken with prior to) that I was there to play devil's advocate with them. That how I looked and smelled like is uncommon for the majority of homeless people. Also, it is wonderful what they are trying to make others aware of, but very few sleep in cardboard boxes (and typically it is only those who are hiding from the law or they are runaways who do that.) Many of them have college degrees just as they (the students) will soon have. I explained the top reasons for homelessness (lack of education/skill, lack of low income housing, and lack of wages to meet the needs of an affordable standard of life.) Notice lack is the common word in those three. I told them most of the homeless want a job, but for the biggest obstacle, no photo id and no address, it is almost impossible to work. Then I explained my past few weeks with the homeless in Williamsburg and our hopes/goals. Here again, their looks were priceless. When I came off of the stage, again I was surrounded with students asking questions and thanking for the truth they did not know. We talked of God and our responsibility to the poor and needy by His command. A couple signed up for the "True Homeless Night Under The Bridge" and what they could do as students to help. But, before I walked off the stage, I ended my speech as I will now to you...

"Be safe, be comfortable in your sleep and think about those things you take for granted daily that 750,000 people who are homeless each day don't have!" Goodnight and God Bless!

Friday, April 04, 2003

The Wisest Man I Have Met

First of all, notice I say 'Met' and not "Know(n)' because the wisest Man I know is Jesus; the wisest man I have met is my Father-In-Law. Dad is a 'prison minister' in SC. He has lived in several other areas, yet he is always still a 'minister to the people.' In SC, he was one of the founding Disciples of God for Miracle Hill Rescue Mission and has been an intricate Disciple for other Missions as well.

Typically we e-mail back and forth several times a day, but lately our conversations via computer have slowed down (basically due to the pain in my fingers with all the typing I am doing daily.) This morning it was easier to call him. He keeps me in check and grounded so I myself don't get off track of the basics in working with the homeless. We shared our stories of the homeless people here and achievements and his ministry with the prisoners down south. It seems several people are wanting to come to the Lord; they just need a guiding hand.

What makes him so wise? His love for God. His desire to be humbled. His desire to not 'live inside the box of stereotypes.' His words. This morning he reminded me again "it is better to bring people to God in their own time, without forcing it down their throat and through compassion (this is paraphrased.)"Jude 1:17-22 17 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. 20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22 And of some have compassion, making a difference

Awhile back he had told my husband and I "to find that common bond or activity that will bring you together with others in Christ. To minister doesn't mean to preach, but to show through action. Never ask those why they aren't with God, but show them why you are." Wow, think about that! You don't need a resume to show your love for God, you don't need to even open your mouth, you don't have to be educated or even know how to read, YOU JUST BELIEVE! Now over the past week or so, I have met with several people of agencies/institutions and the one thing everyone wants to know is "what are your credentials to back you up in this so called mission?" So now I have the answer for you! My credentials come from God! If you need employment verification, educational background or even a resume, call Him! He will give a good reference for me! If you can't seem to reach Him, then I must ask YOU what are your credentials?

Again Dad, thanks for all you show me! We love you!

Thursday, April 03, 2003

A Homeless Night

Earlier I had mentioned about something 'special' I had in the planning stages. Way back when I first went down under the bridge, I had the idea that one night, my husband and I were also going to stay there: for fellowship with the guys, the experience to better understand and to humble ourselves. When I met with Drew from W&M last week, he told me about their upcoming event this Fri. where they have students stay out in "The Sunken Gardens" on campus to make awareness on the situation of homelessness. By the way, everyone is welcomed to that event. Unfortunately, our family can't stay the whole night, but we do plan to attend (and we are taking the boys. They would enjoy it and probably want to stay until Sat. morn.) I told Drew that I was wanting to also plan a night like this, but make it real. How?

Anyone wanting to join in: we walk from W&M campus to the bridge because we need to be tired as the homeless are from all the walking around or biking. The only thing we take is the clothes on our back. No cell phones, pagers, laptops or money. No cardboard boxes (very few homeless sleep in a cardboard box) or sleeping bags. We stay one whole night. If you have to use the restroom, you figure out what to do or where to go. Very few places around there let the guys come in to use the bathroom or wash up and most of them close early at night. Figure out how to brush your teeth and how to eat. Yes, I would provide food, just as I do for them, but it is the same type of food and at the same time. If you want to earn money, you can go out and find an odd job for a little bit of change.

A couple of days ago, I approached the guys about this and yesterday they told me it would be OK. Now since I am working with them to reconnect with everyday life, we continuously practice "give and take." So, since they are allowing this, my husband and I are going to put them up in a hotel for the night. Although they like this idea of others having this experience, they don't want to be there due to keeping their identity for now. That is a fair trade we thought. Although they guys are wanting to clean up down there, I asked if they would wait until we have our night 'under the stars.' So it is as close to what they experience as possible.

So, I am trying to schedule a date for this. Obviously it will be a Friday night and not too far off from now. Those who might be interested in the experience, please email me or call 741-2044. I also think this would be good for at least one rep from each agency to participate in so they can see what these guys go through first hand.

When I was coming back from town yesterday, I saw a a thin, tall black man walking from a hotel toward the gas station. There was nowhere I could pull over to talk to him so I went down a ways to turn around. He was gone. I looked around some of the store parking lots, but I had obviously missed him. With home as my goal so I could do some flower planting, I again headed for a u-turn and there he was standing by the left turn lane where I was getting ready to pull into. I rolled down my window and handed him a card. I didn't need to back traffic up to turn as he yelled "where can I find these people? I need help." I motioned for him to meet me in the parking lot of the hotel. I got out a soft drink for us and told him about some of the others and what we are trying to do (get a shelter.) He was shocked that I was the person on the card.

His name is Herman (he has no problem with me using his name.) He isn't from here. Actually he is from S.C. near where we moved from. He just arrived into Williamsburg today. Somehow he was in NN and a man told him about a restaurant that was hiring here and since he needed a job, he made his way down. Well, there was no place like the guy told him that was hiring. He has no family here. And no transportation. Confused of what to do next, he went to the Salvation Army. "They really are nice people there" we both agreed. The Salvation Army got him a room for the night and he had been walking to get some food, but he realized there weren't any places near him in a short distance for a tired body.

His past experience is contracting and painting. OK this works so far. I told him about my husband and how busy he is getting. But, I had other things on my mind. "I want a flower bed and the dirt is too hard for me to turn over! My husband has been too busy to do it for me so I can start planting. Would you come and do that? We will get you dinner and then you can interview with my husband when he gets in." Of course at this point I got the typical "what's a girl like you doing this for?" This always shocks me. Why does everything come down to colors and genders. Isn't it just about people? Earlier that day, the guys were talking with me about colors. They joked about how I wasn't white and they weren't black. They pointed to a door and said that is white and my shoes are black and neither of us come close to those colors. I had to laugh. So I shared this with Herman (so he didn't think I was laughing at him) and he started laughing too. We talked on the way down to the house. Not so much about his story, but about the myth or stereotype of homelessness. "Oh, I don't drink m'am. I tried it once and just didn't like it." And he has all his teeth!

Within an hour, he had turned all the dirt up so it was now soft enough to add some compost and potting soil and seeds. Geoff arrived and they talked about Herman's work experience. Geoff realized fast that Herman did know how to paint and prep work. So he was hired. Herman isn't sure how long he is going to stay, but for now he wants to work. We dropped him off at the hotel after getting him some food at KFC and they both agreed for 7:30 this morn to meet.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Sorry I haven't written, or what I may write will be short. But, those of you who log on to read (and yes, I do know who visits the webpage, as it is monitored...) know or may realize, my commitment is to the people who need help and then I report daily activities. I am their voice, they share with me their hopes/needs/dreams so I can pass it along. All the agencies, with all they do, are very helpful and try, but even though I have been having meetings with them, my loyalty remains with those who need the help.

Mr. Scruggs and Peter (Human Resource Services) were very helpful in making me understand where some of the problems are for this area. As they pointed out, Williamsburg is made up of 3 counties. They is a huge obstacle! Although they want to make it seem like I carry the concern for those 'who have fallen between the cracks.' That is a fair assumption, but it is wrong. But, they were willing to listen and vice versa.

Now today's meeting with Joyce O'Brien, contrary to what I have heard, I liked her. She seemed to be very nice, concerned and interested. I told her how I became involved, she gave me some background regarding her and this areas United Way and it seemed to click. She understands and it seems we both agree that all agencies need to be going in the same direction.

In regards to agencies, that is all I have to say for now. After church I will update further. I want to talk about a 'special night' we have planned for all those who want to join in and the work we found for 3 guys today.
I will log later this afternoon about my meetings with City Council, Paul Jost and my meeting this morning with Joyce from United Way.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religon too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
In a brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say i'm a dreamer
But i'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one
....John Lennon