Homeless in Souderton

Are there homeless people in Souderton or Pennsburg or Perkasie or your town? Let me tell you a few stories, then you decide.

Scott is in his fifties. He has had a series of financial and health setbacks. A couple of the companies he worked for went out of business. He injured his back. He had old junkers for cars that he would try to keep running. Unemployment ran out. He lost his apartment. He stayed with a friend for a while, and was working under the table for a small machine shop (for slightly above minimum wage) doing technical machining and design. When his car was beyond repair, he moved into the shop and slept on a couch, because he could no longer commute.
The owner of the company died. Scott helped his widow clean out the shop and provided security for the tools and equipment until it was all gone. He was there to open it up to show it to prospective new tenants. A new tenant was found and he had to go.

Scott had made friends in the neighborhood, since he had to walk anywhere he went. One of these was another businessman, Mack, two doors away. Scott would occasionally run errands for him and in exchange use his truck to bring scavenged metal to the salvage yard for cash.

Mack offered Scott a room to stay in until he could get things sorted out. Mack’s business is going through a real dry spell. He is resourceful, creative and skilled. He keeps on creating beautiful and inventive designs out of wood. Mack’s truck needed more work than he could afford for inspection, so it is idled. The gas company shut off the heat for the house and shop. Mack remains optimistic against all indications and plows ahead.

Jose grew up in Montgomery County. His parents, his children and his ex-wife live in Florida. He has worked odd jobs through the years: dishwasher, cook, painter, etc. He never makes enough money to pay rent and child support. He has been on work release in jail for lack of payment; then he lost his driver’s license for lack of payment. (I don’t know how the state thinks a man is going to be able to get to a job if he can’t drive.) For the last ten years, since his wife kicked him out, he has stayed with different friends and relatives for a few months at a time; sometimes in Florida, now in Souderton.

He’s an evangelical Christian and always wants to be part of a “radical” ministry. He is friends with a strange bunch, that include a socially evangelical, closet agnostic; a Mormon youth leader; a couple of lapsed Mennonites; several mentally and psychologically handicapped people who are either on SSI or inherited wealth; and me.
Then there are Corey, Alexis, Dale, Britney and Bryan; who are still living with or returned to live with their respective parents well into their thirties or forties, without paying meaningful room and board. They are referred to as “failed to launch.”

How about Lois? She worked all her adult life at a low wage job. she was an only child and she never married. Her parents had to sign over the house in exchange for long term care. She rented a room for as long as she had a job. The plant closed. A couple from her church took her in. She works part time at Giant (because that is all they hire). She lives hand to mouth and the couple she lives with has nothing to spare.

Are these people homeless? You may say No, because they still have places to stay. What is the difference between them and people living on the street? Some of them are personable and friendly and this has helped make a way for them; but not all. Some have made bad choices. Some have done everything that was expected of them, yet circumstances conspired.

In every case the only thing that is keeping them from being on the street is that there is at least one person in their life who has the means, however meager, to help; and the willingness to accept and treat them as family.

(Names were changed.)

Bishop THOMAS Joins Us

On Thursday, December 3, as planned, we commemorated St. Nicholas by giving away at least three one dollar coins to each of our “customers”. Some also went to the children who were helping us serve. We were able to give away $300 of your money in praise of the Trinity and in honor of Holy Bishop St. NICHOLAS. May God bless you.

Another bishop visited us that evening. Bishop THOMAS had arranged to be picked up at the Philadelphia Airport by Fr. Noah and delivered directly to where we serve in center city Phila. They arrived just as we were giving out the last of the hot food. We were giving out the blankets and clothes, the last of the coins and the sandwiches.

Bishop THOMAS was so excited to witness this that he got on his cell phone and called a few people that he thought would enjoy being part of it. On the way home, we stopped at Amir’s Sunoco (formerly Sammy’s). It took him a while to get out of the van, because he was busy dictating an e-mail about TKJ to go out to all the priests in the diocese.

We introduced him to Amir, Chrystina and Donna (the regular Thursday night crew), and he regaled us with stories of the convenience stores and bistros in his neighborhood in Charleston, WV.

At St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Mission in Lewes, DE, on Sunday, he gave an enthusiastic report of what he saw. He instructed the mission to forward the bishop’s offering directly to The King’s Jubilee, which they were delighted to do.

It was great fun and a wonderful blessing to receive such enthusiastic support from our bishop. Many Years to Thee, O Master!

Cookies, Hats, Cookies, Gloves, Cookies, Blankets and more Cookies!

Last Thursday, Dec. 17, The King’s Jubilee gave away oodles and oodles and oodles of quality, delicious, homemade, with-the-love-baked-in, Christmas cookies. They were packed in bags with new hats, gloves and a personal note from someone who cares. A Bible study group from St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church put this together. They also gathered coats and lots of blankets. It was a jam-packed van load.

This started as a more modest, yet equally delicious, annual event sometime in the former millennium. Rosanne Hayes and my wife both worked at Pennsburg Manor Nursing Home. Rosanne learned of The King’s Jubilee and came up with the idea of having everyone in her circle’s Christmas cookie exchange give an extra dozen for the men on the street.

We also gave away coats gathered at Peace Mennonite Church in East Greenville. Pastor Dave Benner and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Benner dropped them by our place earlier in the week. We have known them for almost thirty years.

I share these bits of history just to illustrate a bit of wisdom I gleaned from Garfield the cat, who said, “Use you friends wisely!”

Change of Schedule

Since Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve fall on Thursdays this year, we are serving on the Wednesdays prior instead. The main group that serves on Wednesday is a group of students from Haverford College, so they will not be serving those nights to be home for the holidays.

There are groups and individuals who give away food on the street only on the holidays, so no one should go hungry.

It has long been my conviction that the main cause of homelessness is families dis-integrating. So we will be of little use to serve ‘others’ if we do not take care for our own families, and they for us.

Please Remember Us in Your Year End Giving

We don’t have cash reserves or investments to carry us from year to year. What we receive, we use to cover expenses to serve the poor in Jesus’ Name. We are here to facilitate your almsgiving. With automobiles, expressways and zoning, the people with the most to share rarely are confronted by the people who need it most. So here we are panhandling for them.

In the Autumn Report, I explained how we serve an average of 430 meals a month on an average monthly cash income of $900. What I didn’t mention, is that we also gather and transport furniture and household goods to those who are just setting up housekeeping. We would like to have a clean, dry place to receive, sort, then distribute these things. This is where an infusion of cash would really help.

After three years, our barn is still not near completion. I guess I was operating under the delusion that we Orthodox could pretend we were Amish for a weekend and get it done. If we had the money, we could hire some of our under- or un-employed neighbors who are on the verge of homelessness to help finish this project. Some of them have real skills.

This would be synergistic: a way of giving a hand up instead of just a hand out, resulting in an improved facility to continue serving the poor for years to come. The barn also houses “Come and See” Icons, Books & Art. I started this business so that I could have a flexible schedule to serve, develop and expand The King’s Jubilee.
We would like to finish the barn in such a way that it could also serve as hospitality space for neighbors in transition or visiting seminarians.

May God bless you for your generosity.

Any Tuesday Night

We would like to be able to help lessen the burden of our friends at Word in Action International Ministries. They currently try to serve on the street and at Ridge Ave. Shelter on Tuesday nights. Many weeks, they do not have enough food to do both. We are praying for laborers and donors to step forward so that we can double our street ministry to two nights a week.

We can not and we will not do this until we have faithful people who are willing to cheerfully serve, and who embrace our philosophy of ministry.

Also, this would take another freezer, another church to do Turkeys ‘R’ Us like St. Phlip’s, another bakery or grocery store like Landis’ in Telford to donate baked goods, more cups, more spoons, more napkins, more spices, more vegetables, more fruit, more tea, and more hot sauce.

Pray and consider how you may fit into this expansion of ministry to the poor in Jesus’ Name.

New Team Members

In October, Fred introduced us to Denise and Albert. Denise is a foster mom and runs a food cupboard in her neighborhood in Phila. She cooks great food, and bakes outstanding cornbread; then brings it down to serve it on Thursdays.

Albert is Fred’s caseworker with Horizon House, a program that helps homeless people obtain housing. Fred thought it would be good for our diners to meet Albert to learn about opportunities that may be available to them.