Archive for the ‘Homelessness’ Category

In the last month, many people have died or, as in the case of the Malaysian airline, disappeared without a trace. Millions are suffering, aching, grieving or in pain. Right now  I’m one of those people.

On March 13, the VA found a tumor on my beloved husband David’s brain. The same day they sent him immediately to Barrows in Phoenix, one of the best in the world, where he had brain surgery on March 17. The news: malignant, stage 4 and metastasized to lungs and pancreas or from his lungs to his brain. They weren’t sure. Anyway, it’s spread and “grim” to quote the doctors.

On March 25 he came home and on March 27, the VA assigned him to Hospice of the Valley, our choice. Their initial visit yesterday started the process. There are different opinions of “days, weeks, months” depending on the doctor. Of course I heard the same 12 years ago. when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Only God knows and we live in hope, that most priceless of emotions.

David is in good and peaceful spirits.  He said when he came in the door of our home, he was overcome with joy and peace and it shows in his quiet strength.

He’s always had that quiet strength while I feel as though I’ve been thrown headfirst off several cliffs simultaneously. There are not enough words to tell all of you who have rallied how grateful I am, beginning with our brother and sisters in orange who have been there every step of this unbelievably unexpected journey to help hold me up when my knees felt like buckling. I’m grateful for the strength God gave me. I’m not a marathoner but I do know how to put one foot in front of the other and fight for those I love, like David and those behind bars.

I’m so grateful we are together. Although I continue to live in gratitude,  I’m just a bit wobbly right now. Gina’s Team’s incredible group of volunteers has circled the wagons and rallied to bring food and hugs in equal measure.  David says he isn’t ready to “leave” yet and I’m certainly not. More than anyone on the planet, David KNOWS ME. We have been on an incredible journey for 27 years. We have shared prison and the passion of Gina’s Team and the loss of everything but each other. There is great comfort in not having to explain anything to the person who KNOWS you. Despite my thoughtlessness, my over-the-top passion and determination, all my weaknesses and insecurities too numerous to mention, David loves me. I consider THAT a great gift and miracle.

His biggest, strongest wish is for us to continue our focus and work with Gina’s Team. As a matter of fact, he says it’s the most important thing. Something happened to him in the hospital that confirmed that with great clarity. I’ll write about that later.

We do have a special request to everyone all over the planet. The common question to both of us and to everyone else going through something like this is “How are you doing?” There just isn’t an answer to this. You ask because you care, but there is no answer. Perhaps you could skip the question and say, “I just called to say I love you.” Hey, isn’t that a song?  Laughter, music, and prayers, surely the BEST medicine. We are most most grateful  to ALL of you and for laughter and music and prayers.

We are also grateful if you add to those prayers, all those others in pain and grief, behind bars or in hospitals or homeless under a bush. No one’s pain is unique. When we remember that, it’s truly a blessing.

And while I’m at it, here’s another request. Instead of a card for David, would you consider making a donation to Gina’s Team? It’s easy to go to www.ginasteam.org and push a button. If you donate the cost of a card, it will make a difference in the life of someone behind bars or free and struggling to change their life. Imagine, the cost of a card can make a difference. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

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Susie Smith is one in millions, a brain-damaged former prostitute, addict who has lived on the streets for years. She is sweet and simple and completely unskilled. Her background is convoluted and full of abuse. Her memory is clouded from beatings. She is one of the masses of women  and girls who  work in the sex trade and have been in and out of prison, always for low-level prostitution. She has no family, no job skills, no place to go and no hope for a future. She is one of the faceless millions that society does not want to think about. She exists in the underworld; under a bush, under a piece of cardboard, under an abusive man who could very easily kill her as use her for sex. 
Yesterday Susie was released from prison without parole or probation or a place to go. I picked her up  and fed her pancakes at iHop. He stomach wasn’t used to such food and she threw it up.  I managed to get an intake interview with Dignity House, a safe haven for former prostitutes. They denied her for being low functioning and hearing negative voices that tell her she is worthless and horrible. They think she needs more supervision than they can provide. We’ve been looking for a place for her and others like her for some time without success. There just aren’t enough beds, too many restrictions, and no budgets. After all, people should be able to pull themselves up by their own boot straps, right? 
Finally someone suggested we try the 72 hour emergency commitment offered by Recovery Innovations to see about her mental stability. We took her there and she was finally admitted for an evaluation. They were incredibly caring and we are hopeful she will get the help and resources she needs.  The entire process from prison to final admission took 10 hours and we were very lucky. 

If it weren’t for security issues, I would like to take her to the legislature, sit her on the floor of the house and ask them to find her boot straps so she can pull herself up by them. 
Where is the place for the Susie Smiths of the world? Where is the religious community to help these faceless, helpless and forgotten women and girls, the sweet, simple, damaged, scarred, addicted ones that no one wants to look at or think about? They are Legion in our community, our country and our world. They need prayers but prayers aren’t enough. THEY NEED HELP. The question to ask yourself and our world: Are we our sister’s keeper?

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 Recently Arizona had a terrible tragedy in Tucson when a young man shot up a Safeway parking lot, shooting nineteen people, injuring or killing them. I won’t go into the details. Only if you live in a cave would you have missed this story and the resulting outcry and accusations. It makes me think and I realize I have no earth shaking answers to solve the problems of the world. I have more questions than answers. Actually I have a question for you. 

If you could eradicate any one thing from the world, anything, what would it be? Give it some thought. This is not an easy question. Among those I’ve asked, drugs is a common answer. OK. All drugs? Some drugs save lives. See, you need to think and be very specific. 

So, that is my question. If you could eradicate any one thing from the world, what would it be?If you have an answer, please share it. Maybe you have a better question. Share that. Everyone has a story. In your question or answer, is yours


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Did you know there are 8,000 homeless people in Maricopa County? So said the Arizona Republic on Friday.  Not only that, the number of homeless families has increased 27% in the past year.  When I read that, I shook my head and said a thankful prayer that David and I have a roof over our heads. Later that day I came face to face with one of the 8,000. 

In the parking lot of Wal-Mart, I met Tara. A tall, very pretty young woman with a backpack, she approached us and politely asked if we had any spare change. When I said yes, she looked astonished. “Really?” she asked. As I handed her a dollar, she got tears in her eyes. I asked if she was all right and she nodded silently. Then she said she had been out there most of the day and we were the first people that had seen her as a human being. 

We know what that’s like, so we stood and talked awhile. We learned she was 22 and six months pregnant. Because she refused to have an abortion, her boyfriend had kicked her out and she had been homeless about two months. She said she never expected to be homeless. She’d been to a couple of emergency shelters but actually felt less safe there than she did on the streets. She was “camping” with a group of about 10 homeless people, mostly couples, who looked after each other. They were sleeping behind a large warehouse. The owners let them stay and didn’t bother them. The rats, she said, were the problem. There were a lot of rats. There were also some pallets and they stacked them into a platform to allow them to sleep higher than the rats.  That helped. She described it calmly and reminded me of the way I describe a strip search. She was used to it. Funny what we can get used to. 

Tara and a girlfriend, also pregnant, were trying to collect enough money for a motel room for the night so they could have a shower and a really goodnight’s sleep. I pulled out my cell phone and started calling my connections with shelters. Tara looked on impassively. She explained that she had been through this already. She was homeless and pregnant BUT she wasn’t an addict nor was she a victim of domestic violence. There are many homes that will take addicts or abused women, but none that just take a pretty, articulate, intelligent, pregnant homeless woman.  I looked at the lovely face of this very young woman and I felt I was looking at the bravest person I’d ever met. Many people can’t imagine what prison is like. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be pregnant and sleeping on a pallet behind a warehouse.

Tara was right. Despite my many calls, I could find no one to help her. In the end, we gave her enough money for the two young women to get their motel room. I also gave her my card and asked her to let me know how she was doing. Again, she remarked that we had “seen” her as a person and so I explained GINA’s Team and how I came to know Gina in prison. David and I told her we knew what it was like to be invisible. Gratefully she asked, “Could I call you sometime, just to talk?” I said I hoped she would. Somehow I felt a connection to Tara and hope I will see her again. If not, she is in my prayers. There are too many Tara’s. Please remember her and all the other 8,000 homeless. They need more than prayers, they need help desperately. I wish I knew the answer. I don’t. I am just posing the question.

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