The last few Monday’s have seem to be hard days for me on the streets.
Monday: Tornado Warning
Monday: Abuse and Detained
I arrived at the homeless shelter just after I had dinner with some of my Young Life students at Edison High School. (I think it’s great that I work with students at both Alamo Heights and Edison…those two schools are not getting along right now…)
Once I arrived, I waited in line to be checked by security but before I got to the front I realized that I had forgotten to organize my backpack. At the shelter, you cannot bring in medication of any kind without informing the authorities and allowing them to administer the drugs 1-3 times a day.
I decided to risk it…and sneak my meds in…
As I entered the gates I was chosen for a pat down after my belt set off the metal detector. I was pulled aside for a pat down. Bad News.
After the pat down was over, they found out that I had a bag of antacids in my pocket.
They were not happy to say the least. They pulled me aside to interview me about my medication and to see if I had other drugs hidden in my bag. They were not very understanding.
After my bag was deemed clean, they still needed to find out if I had told the truth. Through a simple google search of the pill number, they realized I was telling the truth and gave me a stern warning. (I could have been kicked out for the night…)
Once inside, I ran into Georgia just before he laid down his mat to listen to music on his player. Here is where I leaned that our good friend Jesse was checked into the psychiatric ward at the Baptist Hospital downtown.
Jesse is a nice guy (26 years old) but is wild by nature. Bi-Polar would be a good way to describe him…however, one thing Jesse does not do is lie. Even if it gets him in trouble. Over the last few weeks, apart from William and Robert (who live in the barn…), Georgia and Jesse have been solid friends…despite their crazy ways. One thing is for sure…they are loyal…very loyal. I needed that on the streets the past 40 days.
Jesse is a cutter.
Meaning…Jesse cuts his arms with a razor to feel the pain (and make marks) on his body. I am not an expert on cutting…but some of my youth have struggled with this destructive habit. There are many reasons people cut themselves…but for Jesse…he cuts himself so he can “feel something” in his life…even if it hurts. Despite the harm, the pain is that something. Cutting makes him feel “alive”…and feel some emotion in his life. The twisted practice is not too far off from how monastic monks used to flagellate their bodies as an extreme form of mortification of their own flesh (penance)… by whipping themselves with various instruments.
Regardless, it’s an extremely harmful way to justify feeling and emotion….both for Jesse and the monks.
Earlier in the night, Jesse cut way too deep into his arm. It was bleeding everywhere…so when he arrived near the outdoor shelter, Georgia told him to go to the ER and receive help. Jesse listened to his friend and checked himself into the psychiatric ward at the hospital near the shelter. That is when I arrived and learned from Georgia about Jesse’s problem.
It was a bad week. In just seven days…two of my four friends were no longer able to be free. Jesse was in the hospital and William was in jail. It was just Georgia and I that night… hanging in the outdoor shelter. My friends were being depleted.
To get our mind off our problems, Georgia and I watched a movie on a laptop he traded for his phone. We watched the X-Men Prequel. It was really good. Just for kicks… Who are the mutants in our society?
After the movie, we went to bed…so we could wake up early, find work for Georgia, and visit Jesse in the hospital.
We got up at 6am and had breakfast. It was really basic….but we ate the food anyway. Beggars can’t be choosers.
After we ate, we walked outside to unlock Georgia’s bike so he could ride around and find work. We quickly realized his bike was stolen overnight.
Georgia was very mad. Actually…really, really mad. We went to the shelter security and they said they would review the cameras and locate the thief. I doubted their commitment. However, they eventually tracked the guy down and kicked him out for 7 days. That did not ease Georgia’s mind.
To calm down, Georgia and I went to buy a few cigars and then went to take showers at TriPoint. It helped…but Georgia was still hacked…and depressed. The bike was his transportation. It meant a lot to him.
Just before we were about to walk down to visit Jesse, my church worship leader called and reminded me (and the other pastoral staff) of a commitment we had made to attend an Easter banquet for women in the Rehab Center that we support. The men of our staff had planned to escort the ladies around the room in an Easter Parade during the banquet. It is good old Baptist fun! But I was late!!!
Georgia said we could delay the hospital visit and take care of the banquet….so Georgia and I ran a mile to the church to make the parade just in time. In fact…Georgia became one of the escorts. He even wore a top hat and cane while leading a lady around the banquet room. It was classic Gavin…pulling a friend into a random activity they woke up never dreaming they would do that day…but it was awesome. For a moment, Georgia was able to help someone else in need and forget about his own problems! It was a God Moment.
After the Easter Parade, we headed down to see Jesse but the hospital did not allow us to visit him. He was still on Suicide Watch and could not see unapproved visitors….even though I am a Baptist Minister visiting a Baptist Hospital. Rules are rules.
So we went to find a job. Over the next few hours we looked for work. But nobody was hiring…it was a depressing journey.
But I learned something…if you say on your application that you live at the shelter…they will not hire you. The shelter is where many of my friends receive mail…and paperwork…but they will be blocked from employment due to the fear of homelessness.
I was now even more depressed.
Are we really that shallow?
A few days later…Jesse was released. We spent the entire day today hanging out around San Antonio. I even took him to our church’s community center and allowed him to take a long shower at the YMCA. It was good to see him clean…but his scars were bad.
It made me think…
Christ death offers us to experience and feel true life. His sorrow offers us true joy. Tomorrow we mourn how he allowed his body to be cut and broken so we don’t have to experience the pain and cuts of death that we deserved to feel. I hope Jesse learns to trust in God more…so he can feel the Love that will last forever…and not trust in the pain of cutting that will only be felt for a moment.
Gavin, when I learned of your adventure on Wednesday, I must admit I was surprised and worried for your safety. After reading your blog entries, I see that your new friends have helped you get through your journey. Thank you for sharing this story. You will open the eyes of many who believe being homeless is a simple choice for those who don’t want to work. As you found out, there are many reasons for homelessness, and many are extremely disturbing.
I am reading your story and your blog. You are truly a disciple of Christ to do what you have done. You are an inspiration to me reminding me that there is always more to do for those less fortunate than myself as Jesus taught us. All I did for lent was give up some of my free time to lead a bible study class when I could have spent it doing something else for me. My job keeps me very busy so free time is a luxury, but I was approached by one of my church leaders and asked to do it. I couldn’t say no. So I did it and ended up leading a group of about 15. I know I should have more than that for lent and now after seeing what you have done, I must do more. I know we are all on our own spiritual journeys in life when it comes to following Christ, but I must and will do more. You have truly moved me and I thank you for it. Stay the course for I will pray for you. Know that God watched your compassionate actions with our city’s homeless and you will be blessed tenfold.
Thank you and God Bless you….
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