“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
– Francis, Pope of Rome
Thursday, it was unclear whether or not we were going to be able to serve anything in the city on Friday night. I had spent $400 of personal funds to make the TKJ-mobile operational again. Our personal budget was blown for the month. There was not enough money to buy any food and drink for Philadelphia, for the guys on the street. I shared the last post on Facebook with the tagline: “We are out of money and out of food for the street. The car is fixed, out of personal funds, so we are out of money for the month. But I deserve to end up homeless, so don’t send money to help the poor.”
One friend responded with a $100 donation. So I called up Tony and told him to get himself up here to help me cook and gear up for the street. Friday morning, we shopped, then Tony peeled and diced potatoes while I cooked.
In the largest cast iron skillet you own, start to fry up a large handful of Ground Beef. Add a diced Onion or two and some of the Sweet Pepper. Add a bunch of the diced potatoes. Grate some ginger onto it. Crush a clove or two of Garlic onto it. Shake some Paprika, Red Pepper and Coriander on. Grind some Black Pepper on. Keep stirring and turning this until all the beef is cooked and the potatoes are looking delicious, but not crispy. Dump into large, agate roaster pan and repeat. Try not to have the skillet so full that you end up with your range full of potatoes and onions at the end of the process (voice of experience). Stir everything together in the turkey roaster pan. Cover. Place in the oven and slow roast for three to five hours at 190º.
Notes: Do not short circuit this recipe by failing to slow roast it. That is the secret to its success! The initial sauteeing released all the flavors, but the slow roasting allowed the subtleties of them to blend throughout the dish.
Coriander adds a very subtle, earthy flavor note. It is more important as a nutrient. It is helpful to the kidneys. Ginger is a bit of a surprise, but subtle in this amount. It plays a bit with the garlic. Only the more sensitive palates will notice, but they will smile.
It’s a low sodium recipe. We let people add their own salt. Very few people did. This is the first time in 30 years we served hash. The guys were enthusiastic! They told us to make it part of our regular rotation. We said we would try. Now we just need to try not to become homeless ourselves, and find some regular support.
This article should just about write itself. It has all the elements to tug at the heartstrings like classic poverty porn. However, this is what has made it so hard for me to write. After more than 30 years writing newsletters and blog posts about the shocking way the poor, the disabled and the aged are treated in our country, it has gotten old. It has only gotten worse, with the government cuts to every kind of assistance and the general hardness of hearts in our society. It is just downright depressing.
Last Friday evening, Tony found a woman, about my age, lying on the Cathedral steps and invited her over to see what we had to offer. She was very timid. We had to invite her to accept each thing, some soup, pumpkin rice, hard boiled eggs, pie, etc. It was apparent that she could hardly speak due to stroke damage. She needed a better hat and a blanket. Susan found these for her. She had tears of gratitude as the hat was placed on her head and the thick blanket was wrapped round her shoulders. She shuffled as she walked and didn’t have full function of her hands. What a picture! She sleeps outside the Basilica. St. Basil founded a city for the poor with free hospitals and shelters funded by taxation on the rich! She sleeps in the cold on the steps of the Basilica! In one of the richest countries in the world, where we pay three times more per capita for healthcare than all but one other country, yet, somehow, we can’t afford to take care of the lady sleeping on the Basilica steps.
Perhaps she can qualify for Medicaid or public housing, or SSI. I don’t know. I do know that the process to get these benefits is anything but easy. I am a fully vocal person, with a place to store my records and a phone. It took months of back and forth and filling out forms to get Medicaid. It took years to get SSI after having six strokes, kidney failure, cPTSD, a summer of disabling migraines, my business failing, and almost losing my house to foreclosure. We are almost certainly going to lose it to foreclosure because they still have not paid the back benefit that they owe. So how does one who lacks speech, lacks confidence and sleeps on the steps of the Basilica with no phone and no safe place to keep her records follow through with that process? IMPOSSIBLE! The govt. made it this hard for two reasons: to keep out the riff-raff; and to necessitate lawyers to navigate the system. The problem is, the lawyers are the riff-raff, and it keeps out the most deserving of help.
Then there are so many who say, this is not the government’s job. It is the church’s job to help the poor. Did I mention that she is sleeping on the steps of the Basilica? These are the same steps that Tony McNeal, Director of The King’s Jubilee, used to sleep on at times, when he was homeless. Back then, there was a sexton (that’s the church word for janitor) who used to secretly let some homeless sleep on the pews inside. Tony would then assist in keeping the peace, and cleaning up afterward. This all had to be done on the down low. If the priest were to find out, the sexton would have lost his job and possibly been charged with criminal trespass. Then there’s the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in North Phila. who put razor wire around their vegetable and flower garden rather than trust God for how its fruits were distributed. That’s so welcoming to their church, now that it looks like a prison. So much for relying on the church.
In fact, as government assistance has gone down in recent years, so has church’ and non-profit orgs’ assistance to the needy gone down. It seems people’s politics spills over into their religion in America, not so much the other way around.
We are not some big agency. We are basically a couple of families and a rag tag band of poor people with hearts breaking for the poor and oppressed. We love to give other people’s stuff away for them, and cook wonderful, nutritious meals for people who need them, with dignity and respect. Everything you give will help us continue to do this. Please give until it stops hurting. You’ll feel better for it!
It took me over a week just to start this article, meanwhile our GoFundMe sits there with $20 in it, and we are another week closer to losing a lifetime’s worth of equity, and any shot at having a decent base of operations for The King’s Jubilee. We are serving a hot, nutritious meal to the homeless each Friday night on Logan Circle, now, and have nothing left in the checking account after putting gas in the tank. The people are so glad to see us! One lady kept repeating how she had missed my soups. I am a bad fundraiser, though. I don’t have many friends who are not homeless or poor.
As I am writing this, Tony is out back, working hard to finish the barn, so it can be our office, community kitchen, art studio, project area and drop off point for food, clothing, household goods, and furniture. Please give and share the GoFundMe however you can, online, or by printing the poster and taping it up on the fridge in your break room at work.
Hi! My name is Anthony (Tony) McNeal. I’m 54 years old. I have worked with senior citizens, children, veterans, and the homeless for 30 or more years. I have helped run the Tindley Temple United Methodist Church Soup Kitchen at Broad and Fitzwater, for the last six years. I have been with The King’s Jubilee for the last decade. Many of you may have met me handing out desserts at the end of the bench in the park, or taking charge of serving at the TKJ 25th Anniversary Banquet. I’m the new Director of The King’s Jubilee.
I have worked at various jobs through the years. I have been homeless off and on through this recent and continuing 2nd Great Depression, so I know the lay of the land on the streets. I have friends, relatives and connections in various communities in and around Philly, including Christian, Muslim, Socialist, Jewish, LGBT and other. We will work with any and any may work with us, as long as no manipulation or proselytization is involved. We work as servants and equals among the homeless and poor. No hidden agendas. No working your way to heaven. On the other hand, no one has to hide who they are or what they believe. Just try not to be obnoxious. It’s a city. We’re neighbors. We’re humans. Respect!
You will find that I am much less loosey-goosey than Cranford. I like to have my ducks in a row, and keep a close eye on what’s happening. Being 6’5″ gives me an advantage in that department. I’ll be making soup most weeks. We need others to make vegetarian alternatives, pasta or rice sides, bring fruit, hard boiled eggs, sandwiches, cases of cold water bottles, make hot chocolate, gather clothes and blankets, etc. Email me at: Tony@thekingsjubilee.org and we’ll get this thing going! We serve across the street from the Ben Frankin Institute at 8pm, Fridays. Some of us leave from TKJ headquarters in Souderton at 7pm to arrive at 8.
We need support to keep doing this, and to even have a headquarters. Please give generously! Thank you!
The King’s Jubilee resumed serving on the street last night. Tony and I made soup and hot chocolate. We picked up a case of bottled water and cups. Our best driver, Will Toy, drove the newly, half-painted orange, yellow and green TKJ-mobile to Philadelphia. We made three stops to find people and serve the hot soup and hot chocolate and water. Tony went down into Suburban Station giving out water and inviting people up. Several people expressed their love for us and their joy at seeing us again after so many weeks absent. We also met a couple of young men from Minneapolis, who were so grateful for so many hospitable groups in Philadelphia.
It felt good to be on the road again. We had good, honest conversations on the way there and on the way home. Tony shared some of his vision for the future of The King’s Jubilee. He said that we will rebuild it from the ground up to be bigger and better than before. He sees it being more integrated with other agencies and thus, better equipped to help with various needs of our homeless clientele to help them move off of the street. He also works at Tindley Temple UMC’s Soup Kitchen, so there is already another connection, with our people. Most of the staff there are senior citizens, so he sees additional services involving seniors and for seniors. He is hoping to widen our base of volunteers so we can truly help men and women break out of the homeless culture and reintegrate into neighborhoods.
Of course, we cannot do any of this without support. We desperately need monthly pledges. It can be done easily and painlessly using Paypal, utilizing any of your credit or debit cards. Make a $25/month pledge today, so we continue to serve the poor and homeless. We operate on a frayed shoestring and give everything to the poor.
It is so difficult for me to speak of Fred Benjamin in the past tense. I was speaking to him last Wednesday. His presence was always a little more than one could contain. One never knew quite what to expect, except that he would be high energy, assertive, and want to be involved.
Fred lived on the streets for over twenty years. On three occasions in 2010, he helped lead teams of volunteers on tours of the center city homeless experience for The King’s Jubilee, which included the refrigerator box he had lived in for many months. He had a desire to give back and to volunteer. He made friends with the Haverford College women, some of whom wrote to him from Sweden and Germany when they were on semesters abroad. He gave Esther McGraw her street name of “Trooper”, because of all nine of the McGraw children, she came down the most faithfully in all kinds of weather and truly enjoyed serving. She started as a tiny girl. Now she is in her twenties and is helping coordinate Thursday night meals for Twelve Baskets Full.
Fred had a temper and could be ornery, but he was loyal and with his charm and smile, one could not stay angry at him for very long if he got out of hand. He kept fights away from volunteers more than once or twice.
It was about 6 years ago that Fred moved off the street into an apartment. We helped him find furniture and a VCR and computers, etc. He still came out to hep serve, and we’d give him rides home, many times. About a year ago, we didn’t see him so much. He said it was because he was taking care of his mom. I’ve met his mom. She seems fine. I have since learned that’s when his health took a turn for the worse. He says it was diabetes, but it was some kind of aggressive kind if wasting disease. He lost 120 pounds in 2 months according to his mom, after he had come down to 240. So in the end his blood sugar spiked and his blood pressure spiked and there was not enough of Fred left to fight it. He passed away at 7:08 am, July 18, 2015, in his apartment, with his cat, L.B. His mom had the police and fire break down the door to find him shortly thereafter.
Fred Benjamin had no insurance and his family has little money, so they are relying on the mercy of Fred’s friends to defray the cost of Fred’s funeral. They chose a modest service. The whole cost is $5500. Between Twelve Baskets Full and TKJ, we have at least $500 collected so far. This harks back to one of the 1st century ministries of Christians and is a powerful statement of love and mercy to the community. You may use the Paypal button to join in.
The viewing and funeral for Fred will be Wednesday, July 29, at:
Jason Lloyd Funeral Home
2125 N. 22nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19121
Viewing & Visitation: 9 am – 11 am
Funeral: 11 am
I have to start with the obvious here. The simplest and least expensive way to end homelessness is for the government to simply give the homeless apartments, no strings attached. Everywhere it has been done, it has worked. Since that takes political boldness and vision which most office holders lack, even in the face of empirical evidence, we need to move on to what we as citizens can do without them.
When the South still enforced the peculiar institution of Black slavery and the North did not, abolitionists organized a series of safe houses and people willing to take a risk who would convey freed and runaway slaves from house to house until they arrived some place ‘safely’ in the North where they could start a new life. Harriet Tubman is famous for her role in guiding so many to freedom. Now I ask you, when there are thousands of homeless men, women and children living on the streets and in the shelters of each of our major cities, subsisting on handouts and hand-me-downs, where there is no possibility of a job without an address, and no way to get an address without having a stable address (You read that right), how is this freedom?
It seems to me we need to get that old train moving again and add a few more stations!
This means we step up and take the risk. Remember the Underground Railroad is not Amtrak. It is not a government program. What does this look like? It looks much like the original. Families take in people and families who are homeless or about to become homeless and help them get on their feet. This is especially needed for families before they land on the street and the family gets broken up and the children get placed in foster care. Everyone needs to adjust. It is not easy. Our parents or grandparents did it, though, to get through the First Great Depression. From all of the stories I heard, because of the way people helped each other, it was the happiest time in those people’s lifetimes. We can do it again to help people through the Second Great Depression.
When I was in prison ministry, we took in ex-offenders to live with us when they were released from prison. I also started a program and support group for people who took in or related to ex-offenders after their time in our aftercare program. When we are talking about homeless people, it’s not quite the same thing, but for long term homeless, there are some definite cultural issues to deal with. We will facilitate with similar support groups. The idea is to be neighbors to each other and bear each other’s burdens, to share wisdom, and to not let anyone get in too deep.
We can end homelessness if we stop seeing the lines of bodies waiting for food and, instead, look at one face. Become family to that one face. Paste him or her in your family album. Take him or her home. Your grandkids will ask, who is that black man in the family pictures? “O, that’s your mama’s godfather, Michael.”
I guess my thoughts naturally went in the railroad direction today. We received notice that our house is in foreclosure again. This time, because PHH never did negotiate in good faith on an adjustment, and Social Security lost the documentation for expedited disbursement of my back pay for disability. It may work out for the best in the long run, as we may finally be able to negotiate a lower rate and payment. At any rate, the original part of our house was built in the 18th century. It was added onto to be the hotel for the railroad when it came through in 1845. There is an exposed spike between the two parts, right outside our bedroom door to mark this. The barn was built as a stable for the hotel. So we have a suitable, symbolic headquarters for a railroad of hospitality. Please consider how you may get involved.
God bless you.
It was an overreaction to state that our doors were closing. The truth is serving meals on the streets of Philadelphia was never intended to be the core of the ministry of The King’s Jubilee. It was just what the inmates at Graterford Prison set for me to do personally as I was starting the ministry. The prophetic ministry that has angered so many people was much more at the core of the ministry, as the goal of TKJ is not just to facilitate almsgiving, but to realize the King’s jubilee as Isaiah described it in his great jubilation song of chapter 61, which Jesus quoted in Luke 4, when he introduced his public ministry, and the ministry of all who would be his true disciples!
So people have gotten upset with me and say I shouldn’t be political and claim that the Gospel isn’t political. Well if the Gospel isn’t political, why were all the people enraged and wanted to stone Jesus? These were the political power brokers of Jerusalem. Yes. They were church people, just as they are today. Yes. they had no time for Jesus rearranging their lives and laying claim to what they mistakenly thought were their riches, just as they don’t today. The sounding of the “Jubal”, from which we even derive the word tuba, signified the Jubilee which meant that all the land and everything in it belonged to YHWH. The Law prescribed a radical redistribution of the land (the most basic capital in an agrarian society), freeing of all slaves, cancelling of all debts, and a rest for the land and for the draft animals.
This was not just for the Jews and to be forgotten. This was the core lesson of the whole Old Testament. The Jews never kept the sabbath years and the Jubilee. For this, they went into captivity. “These things were for our admonition.” Then Jesus quotes Isaiah’s Jubilee proclamation to initiate the new era in Luke 4. The early Christians took this seriously. That’s why they were martyred so regularly and why so much change took place. They went out and gave proper burials to the pagan poor and slaves whose bodies had been thrown on the trash heap, honoring every human being equally. They rescued babies who were left to die because they were the wrong gender or families had too many, and raised them as their own, respecting and having compassion for every life without discrimination no matter the cost. They honored and protected women, as they revered Mary as she who bore Jesus, establishing monogamy and chastity as the standard. Women were apostles and deacons and some say Priscilla was a priest. She is adorned so in an icon in a chapel under the Vatican. They were a mighty army of radical love; an army that died, but never killed. This is what Jesus called us to.
I am still a follower of Jesus. I have been abused by too many clergy to feel comfortable in church. I suffer with CPTSD from non-sexual clergy abuse. I don’t sort out saved and lost. Jesus forbade that, when he said, “Judge not.” and “Judge nothing before the time.” I don’t care if you or I are atheist today or tomorrow or not, or Muslim, or Jew, or Hindi, or any number of religions or philosophies with which I am not familiar. We are all subject to where we fell out of our mother’s wombs on this orb, as to what we believe, what nationality we are, what language is our primary, etc. It’s interesting, but nothing to be judged on. We welcome anyone to serve with us.
You will see on our site and on our literature that we serve in Jesus’ Name. The Hebrew sense of serving in someone’s name was not to be calling out their name all the time or even ever. It was to be serving according to their will and wishes. So what we mean is that we attempt to follow the Golden Rule. We serve people with dignity and respect. We do not look down upon those we are serving or make them feel as if they are anything but equals, brothers and sisters. We never use an institutional approach. Every one is special and unique. There are no cookie cutter solutions.
So, where from here?
We intend to continue to do and develop our services to those transitioning off of the street. We had hoped to not be serving people on the street by this time at any rate, hoping there would be no need. We already have our Clean Start and Kitchen Jumpstart programs that need continued support and participation. We also have our Rent Party program which we will be expanding and promoting as this is a vital need to help folks move off of the street. We will be developing a one on one or posse friendship program to help people make the move off the street. It can be very hard for people. Homelessness is not just the lack of walls in our city. It is its own subculture. People need something to replace that with if they are to succeed. This is where city volunteers come in.
I will be working, finishing my cookbook / nutritional guide for ministries serving the homeless. We have raised the bar over the years nutritionally, and would like to see others follow suit. I want to share this knowledge of the hows and whys and what nots, before they escape from memory.
Please join us in this next phase of The King’s Jubilee. We need your regular monthly support, even if it’s just $10. Use the Donate button below. Thank you. God bless you.
Sorry, I am removing any and all endorsements from the 12 Baskets group. They have told me they don’t want to be associated with me in any way shape or form, even though none of them would have gotten involved on the street had it not been for me introducing them to it and being there constantly. They say I have been cantankerous and argumentative. Of course, the person saying that to me has been extremely cantankerous and argumentative to me, and has not been on the street that much.
I have never said I am not cantankerous. I can be. I don’t know of a single person who has been at this as long as I have who isn’t at times. It is damned hard to live at below poverty standards and keep going while pastors continue to abuse you and bishops lie and abuse you and feel threatened in their lifestyle, because the pittance you want for the homeless may cut into the grandeur of their banquets and not be considered an irritant!
I am finally quitting, because I am bankrupt after 26-1/2 years serving on the street. Some of these people who are saying these nasty things, just two weeks ago were flattering me and saying how they couldn’t do this. Then, as soon as I was quitting, it was all about how they could do it easy, because of how rich they are. They despise me because of my poverty! This is exactly what makes them unsuited for this ministry!
We are about to lose our house. No one gives a shit!
I have extreme depression and CPTSD because of CLERGY ABUSE! No one gives a shit! (Perhaps this is why I am cantankerous?)
I gave up a lucrative career to serve the poor. My children and grandchildren are wonderful, happy children, largely as a result. Thousands of inmates and poor received some hope and joy and unconditional friendship. Hundreds received HS GEDs. Hundreds learned English as a second language. A couple received their Bachelor’s degree. One graduated as a nurse Cum Laude. One became a prison chaplain. Others got their families together, etc. That’s among the homeless and inmates. Then, among our volunteers; Several found their callings to be doctors and medical missionaries and counselors and priests and nurses or to serve the homeless in other cities, while they were serving with us, because I stuck by the stuff. No one gives a shit!
I went through the court case with no support from any of these people or the church, in tears for months, in order to continue serving in the parks. No one gives a shit!
I was trying to be magnanimous. I gave my cooking gear and supplies to 12 Baskets, even while I was hearing negative comments, then it went beyond the pale.
I am a throwaway. I am a difficult person. Never mind the sociopathic priests or the bishops who refuse to deal with them and just hang up on me. Never mind the pastor who threatened to kill me. He got to keep his salary. He was the right nationality. I can just go to hell. I can’t go to church without risking a stroke. But I am “playing the victim” to say this!
Yesterday, I brought a week’s rent down to a couple, only to find out today that Social Security lost our documentation for expediting back disability pay. This means, we are likely to lose our house. This is why I quit. I was just too tired of begging to people who didn’t give a damn. All they care about is their warped view of Matthew 25. Here is a news flash. If you are serving the homeless to get into heaven, it won’t work! You can’t buy your way into heaven. Everyone is surprised at the Judgment. That is the point of that story. Judge no one. Muslims or atheists may enter before you. No one can con God. If you are doing this to earn points with God, the people can smell that on you, and it stinks to high heaven of self-righteousness. You may as well stay home.
You need to serve the poor because it is the right thing to do and because you enjoy doing it. The McGraws understand this and are faithful, loving people, with more patience than me. I am really glad that 12 Baskets is taking up this work and pray that God will bless and strengthen their hands and hearts and provide them with every good thing to continue to provide for my friends for many years! I guess I am blessing them after all. God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise. If God could use me, He can certainly use them.