Rent Party on May 19! CANCELED

DUE TO UNDERWHELMING RESPONSE, THE RENT PARTY HAS BEEN CANCELED. THIS WEBSITE WILL BE DISAPPEARING SOON, AS WELL. ONE CAN ONLY TAKE SO MUCH DISCOURAGEMENT BEFORE IT BECOMES CRYSTAL CLEAR ONE HAS NO COMMUNITY.

SO, ENJOY YOUR FASCISM UNDER THE ORANGE HAIRED CHIMPANZEE.

Our other rent parties were roaring successes and great fun! We need to do it again. Subdeacon Vincent Kaufmann was called on Easter Sunday evening by the bank he worked for and told to come in early the next morning, to get fired. They told him they had given him impossible assignments, but he had nevertheless failed. At any rate, Vince and Lydia have two daughters to provide for, a mortgage, debts to pay, etc. It would be great if we could help lighten their load to help them through this time until they get their feet under them again. Lydia has been homeschooling the girls. They each have very special learning styles. Both Vince and Lydia are looking for work. 70% of the proceeds of the rent party will go into a fund to help the Kaufmanns.

The second recipient has had multiple health setbacks while trying to get diabetes under control. It interfered with work and ability to pay for car repairs and insurance. This is a vicious circle. Now, able to go back to work, the $300 balance on the repair bill and the ongoing car insurance are impediments. So 20% of what comes in will cover these expenses, until taken care of.

The remaining 10% will go to help others, as the needs arise.

The Party: There is a $10/ person suggested donation for admittance. That covers food and soft drinks. We will have vegan and gluten free as well as meat dishes. Beer and cheap wine will be available for additional donations. Kevin Paige & Co. will be providing live music. It will take place on Friday, May 19, 6pm – 11pm, at 309 and 310 South 5th Street, Perkasie, PA 18944.

If you can’t come to the party, but you want to make a donation for it, use the yellow Donate button to the left and designate it for the “Rent Party”. Thanks!

If you are coming, please call me and let me know or RSVP on the Facebook event page. My number is 267-497-0268

Thank you so much!

If you want to learn more about rent parties, there is a link on the left.

Oscar

I have recently started to paint portraits. I never knew I could do this. I don’t think I could before. Every attempt at art, other than on a computer, or with a blade of some sort to steady my hand and smooth the curves always seemed to look like my kindergarten work. That never even made it onto the refrigerator; it was so bad. This is therapy for me. It is good for my heart. It lowers my blood pressure. I started with a self-portrait. Now I have completed three portraits of two brothers and one sister from the parkway in Philadelphia: Rosalie, Alex and Oscar. Only Alex is still among the living, and he was the only one I had a photograph of. My paintings are cartoonish, not realistic. I am trying to capture something of the emotional and spiritual impact these people made on me, a touch of their beauty, if you will.

Oscar

I shared Oscar’s story more than 20 years ago in a newsletter shortly after he had died. Oscar was in his early 50s. It was 1992. I was 37. We were serving on the sidewalk on the City Hall side of JFK Plaza at that time, more commonly called the Love Park because of the world famous LOVE art in front of the fountain there. We would see Oscar on occasion. Every time he came, he made it a point to seek me out after to say how thankful he was for what we did. He would say how special that I am for doing this. I always deflected by saying something like, “I’m just doing what Jesus compels me to do. I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t do it. It is Jesus who loves you.” He would reply, “I don’t believe in any of that god stuff. I just know that you are really special and I am truly grateful. Thank you!”

At times, we would talk about history or philosophy or the arts. He was well educated. He had had a good paying job at one point. I don’t know if I ever learned how he ended up on the street. He had used cocaine and had suffered a couple of heart attacks as a result. He is among the most civilized people I have ever known, with a twinkle in the eye and a Bohemian side.

Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead, FL, in August of 1992. Church groups were sending clothing and supplies down to the more than 100,000 families whose homes had been destroyed. Word got out that people were having a hard time surviving because it was it slow process to get any cash to buy necessities. So people started tucking cash into the pockets of clothing to short circuit that process, and get money into people’s hands quickly. Several bags of men’s clothing did not fit onto a truck bound for Homestead, so they got re-directed to The King’s Jubilee. They told me about the potential money in the pockets. Between working full-time, leading a Bible study at Graterford prison that afternoon while Bethann made the soup, coordinating with the Pottstown and SC serving sites, somehow searching pockets got missed.

When we gave away the clothing that night, it was a free for all, like always. There was one garment no one seemed to want. It was a corduroy sportcoat with suede elbow patches. Oscar grabbed it and put it on. It fit. It was warm. He said, “I’m not proud. It’s warm. It’s clean.” The others laughed and called him professor. Who knows? Perhaps, that’s what he had been. He disappeared for a couple weeks. When he came back, he told me what happened. Later that night, he checked the pockets of the sportcoat and found a $50 bill. He told me that he wished he could say he did something productive or constructive with it. Alas, he said, he had a good meal at a fancy restaurant and went on a week long bender. He said, “I’m sorry. But it’s been a long time since I had such a good time and could forget about all of this. Thank you. Can you forgive me?”

I told him there was nothing to forgive. He found the money. It was his to do with what he wanted. If he got some relief, well, who am I to judge? (I am weeping as I type this.) His eyes welled up and he thanked me again with a hug. The next time he thanked me for serving all the guys on the street. He said, “I thank God for you, Cranford.” My eyes welled up with tears.

I don’t know if he had found faith, or if he was just being gracious and kind to please me. It was the last time I saw Oscar. He died of a heart attack at 53. I attempted to paint this from memory. It is a poor likeness. The beret and the neck scarf are there. The beard, long, full hair, and brown eyes are there. I tried to convey both his thoughtfulness and the mischief, with the intent stare, the tilt of the head, and the slight smile.



Martin’s Ground Beef Hash

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.

Ingredients:

  • 9-1/4 lbs. 80% lean Ground Beef
  • 7 lbs. red potatoes, peeled, diced to ~1/2″ cubes and rinsed
  • 3 lbs. yellow onions, diced
  • 5 large, sweet red peppers, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 head Garlic
  • 1-1/2″ fresh Ginger
  • Black Pepper Grinder
  • Ground Red Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Ground Coriander

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.



The Lady on the Basilica Steps

Ss. Peter and Paul Basilica

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!



I am tired of begging.

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.

Thanks! Peace.



We’re on the road again!

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.

Thank you!



Fred’s Gone

Cranford & Fred at the Love Park
Cranford & Fred at the Love Park in 2010

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 help 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 of 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




Pray and give to save Rashawn’s Diamond

I have known Rashawn for over 20 years. He suffers from dwarfism, yet I have rarely seen him with a negative attitude. He works hard whenever he can get work. He always has a plan for the future. I have never seen him drunk or high. He is known to be a reliable man. Life keeps knocking him down. He is trying to take care of his wife, Alice, who he calls Diamond. She is a beautiful, cheerful, African-American woman who is always thankful for every little blessing that comes their way. This has been a rough winter. There has not always been enough money to rent a room. The shelters don’t let people stay in during the days. There has not always been enough room in the shelters. We have not had enough money to make up the shortfall to provide rent for them. They had been working with a social worker and were on the verge of moving into a house last November. The social worker’s mother died. She went to France to bury her mother. The agency did not transfer their case intact to another social worker. They had to start the months long process all over.

All of this made for a bad situation, leaving Rashawn and Diamond out in the cold for some of the wettest, winter nights of the year. Diamond got walking pneumonia and TB. She spent a few days in ICU and a few days recovering with oxygen on a regular floor at Hahnemann, then they released her back onto the street, still coughing, during Code Blue weather. May God have mercy on us!

Many of the private shelters, including the one they have been staying at (because they can stay there as a couple) will be closing on April 1. That’s less than a week away.

I know we can’t save everybody we meet or intervene in every bad situation, but we can do this. At The King’s Jubilee, we have never had the institutional approach, that, if we can’t do it for everybody, we should do it for nobody. No. We have the attitude of “the starfish thrower” who when she was told that it was futile to throw the beached starfish back into the sea, because they were too numerous. How could she possibly make a difference? She replied, “It will make a difference for this starfish!” as she flung one more out, saving its life.

Rashawn and Diamond need $500 for one month’s rent to get a running start through the iffy weather of spring. This way, Diamond has a real shot at recovery. Frankly, I don’t understand why this is not covered as part of Medicaid. It is far cheaper than a return visit to the hospital. At any rate, we can do this. Rashawn and Diamond would be most grateful and they also deeply covet your prayers. (Rashawn’s Christian name is Jose’.)

P.S.  We paid for over two months of their rent, even though less than that was designated for their support. They did join us for Memorial Day picnic. When I took them back, they were very upset because they did not have rent. They did not tell us this ahead of time. I told them I did not have money. Diamond got very upset. She started to call and accuse me of all sorts of all sorts of false things. Anthony answered the phone, since I was driving. He could not believe what she was saying. He has known me for many years and was at our house for the weekend. She began texting all sorts of accusations that we had not given them all the money that had come in for rent, etc. We paid the next month’s rent despite the accusations, even though none of the money was designated for them. We decided to go the second mile. A few weeks later they asked if they could store five bags of their things in our barn. We said OK and arranged for Uncle John to pick it up from their place on his way home from work.

When John arrived at our place, I went outside and found they had come home with him, expecting to stay with us. They had just not said anything to him and climbed into his car. They had never asked me if they could stay with me. They had accused me of all sorts of awful things the last time they were here for a picnic. We had helped them in spite of their behavior with another $600 rent and $20 cash. It was close to midnight. There was no room. Bethann would have been very upset if she woke up to find them here. I was ballistic. I have never in all my years seen such gall and such deception! I gave them 10 minutes to put their bags in the barn and get off my property before I called the police for trespass. They called John. John gave them a ride to the train station to get a ride to Philadelphia.

Now they are texting me with a threat of suing me for not giving me all the money I raised for them. They are delusional and evil. Rashawn, as it turns out, has been offered housing through an agency in Phila., which he turned down in order to stay at the hotel without inspection with Alice Diamond Robinson.

Tonight’s Meal

Love Pack
Love Pack

Just because I said on Tuesday that we did not have the resources for Thursday night’s meal, does not mean we are not serving Thursday night’s meal. It just means somethings got to happen to make this possible. Not only are we serving a meal; we are serving a feast! I am making a turkey soup with beef broth. Miss April is making a vegan side and buttery cabbage and pasta side. Holy Annunciation are bringing peanuts, eggs, oranges, bananas, and pastries. Pennridge South Middle School are bringing blankets and “Love Packs” with toiletry items and snacks & water for later. Bob is bringing bags of socks. Esther is bringing spaghetti. I’m bringing iced tea, hot sauce, salt and pepper!

I forgot to mention sandwiches! I don’t remember who all are bringing sandwiches, but we will have plenty, so people will have enough for a late night snack or breakfast or lunch tomorrow.

Thank you, people, for coming through again!

Thank God!