A Love Letter to Mama

by Reginald Gilmore

I don’t remember much about you before I saw your face, but the warmth I felt was somewhere I knew I wanted to stay! Though this loud thump seemed too often to keep me awake, I saw something flowing through it, learning later it was your heart beat that spoke a language that would say, “Rest little one, you have plenty of time to enjoy your life. I promise to keep you safe, secure you with love, and sing sweet songs to comfort you through the night!”

Oooh mama for all you did when life breathed its air through you.

Though I didn’t turn out as great as you intended, it speaks volumes still when it says I am your child on loan. God saw you as a worthy carrier to incubate me for 9 months. It may have been a tough delivery that put us both at risk, but I was determined I would still come! To greet the world as an extension of you, I’m so proud to say to you mama – there is no one worthy to replace not even a version of the woman God created in you. Hey mama no one knows the secrets that kept us close..

We’ve shared some very special moments, in your memory I will never forget, that God chose me from your womb. Every special moment I will forever miss!

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When Time Stands Still

by Rege Gilmore

I awake each day same time, same place, same conditions as though I live in a capsule of deja vu. I try so very hard not to look at my situation as failure yet more as a moment of clarity. Trying to fit all of what others need me to do into a time block of time running out. I pray, I hope, and I struggle to maintain faith, but the conditions I clearly see have taken a position of residency in my less than productive life…so it seems! Don’t mistake what I am saying as if I’m complaining, I’m clearly chiseling broken pieces of painful residue  invading my space. Suicidal thoughts lie in the crevices of my mind, yet afraid to tell anyone because then I would be subject to undergo mental evaluation. I’m not suicidal but I will admit countless thoughts have passed me and some have either walked beside me and or have stood still while at the crossroad. Habitually  homeless, spirit dead in a maze of constant tears silently streaming down my face when no one was watching. Wanting to pick up a crack stem and blast away all  memory of anything that caused instability. When time stands still I begin to feel alone and excluded from all good. I attended NA meetings that only remind me that when I leave to make sure I stop at the store for choy, stem, and lighter. Oh and don’t forget the crack! Everybody has a solution but not one wants to really listen to my pain that yells louder than the words. Does anyone care or is it just another payday for the educated. More meds for that out of body experience that leads to more depression after they’ve done their part for a brief moment only to addict them to another substance called excuses. We sit behind the back of computers as they look at the screen typing anything that comes to mind, and then tell you to sign what they’ve interpreted from what you’ve said. Later to find that you’ve signed your life over to the system that fails you everyday.  They systematically place you in a nonexistent file of cold cases gone wrong…

 

“Evicted” A Second Look

by Bob Norfleet

The reason the Greensboro Voice reviewed Evicted is because poverty causes eviction and eviction creates homelessness. Eviction is only part of the homeless problem. Actually having an eviction record creates homelessness because many landlords will not rent to someone who has an eviction record. Job loss, divorce, felony records, mental and physical disabilities all play a part in creating homelessness.

Many of our physically disabled fail to qualify for the State’s SSI benefits upon first or second applications. Often, these unfortunate people have to reapply using the services of an attorney who collects a fee from the State but only if their client is approved. While waiting for benefits the unfortunate person often becomes homeless, especially when family is not nearby to lend a hand or a place to stay.

Felony records follow ex-felons around like an incurable disease. Many felons upon release go directly from prison to homeless shelters because family and friends don’t want to associate with them or don’t have the room to share . At the homeless shelters, the ex-felon gets free room and board for only short stays (60 – 90 days). After that, most end up under bridge or in a donated tent. Yes, the punishment for the crime continues well after incarceration.

A serious mental condition that causes a person to “not play well with others” also prohibits one from qualifying or maintaining a job. Landlords don’t like to lease to the mentally ill unless the lease payment is guaranteed from some secondary source and the illness is not dramatically obvious on the date of application.

Many who are walking the streets, once lived with family but were soon asked to move out. Struggling families cannot afford to feed an extra mouth……especially if that mouth cannot get along with paying family members. Everyone is expected to carry some portion of the load. “No money, no stay.”

Only a person who has lived on the streets can feel the fear, taste the rejection or live daily with its associated loneliness. I have been amazingly blessed in this life. I was raised by loving parents and loving relatives. I got a stern scolding or whipping as a child if I did something unethical against a friend, neighbor or stranger. I was taught that I had value and was encouraged to move forward and to accept failings by getting back on my feet. I was expected to work hard and use my brain to get an education, get a job, give service others and be a loving person to my family & friends. I was taught to be kind to strangers but to keep my guard up. I missed the mark many times. Still, good choices are options that come easily to me. To the homeless, options come hard and every option seems to have scary consequences. “Got that job…..now how will I get to work? When can I get a roof over my head”.

Poverty and it’s evil siblings are unintended partners for too many in this world. Happiness for them is fleeting and choices seem limited. So they get evicted, loose jobs more frequently, commit crimes more often, end up incarcerated and experience homelessness.  Few find themselves motivated or qualified to grasp the brass ring when it comes their way because they don’t recognize its face or it’s value. It is a stranger so they pass it by. Then they get evicted

In The Eye

by Rege Gilmore

Raging out of control in a maze of pain,

Seeking refuge under the shadows of the Almighty’s name.

I need protection for this battle has just begun,

Though now I see the purpose thank God, and that it’s already won.

He has prepared me for what will be called the fight of my life,

And sometimes my weeping may go longer than a night.

Yet, when I look up and see my Giants they will be begging for mercy,

Because in the eye of this storm I’m still free in knowing He has not left me!

“Evicted” Book Review

by Stephanie Thomas

Evicted, written by Matthew Desmond, will change your perspective on the causes and result of evictions. In his book, Desmond follows 8 families through the process of being evicted. He spends an enormous amount of time with each family, allowing us to get a close look into their personal lives, revealing the effect evictions has on them.

The eight families featured in the book live in Milwaukee, in what most of us would consider extreme poverty. When they and their families are evicted, they lose more than a place to live. Some of lose all of their possessions. One loses his job. Most lose access to decent neighborhoods. With poorer neighborhoods comes poorer schools, and no chance for the children to get a descent education.

In Milwaukee, people are evicted for a multitude of reasons. One family is evicted after they complain about unsanitary living conditions, another because an ambulance is called for a child with asthma, and still another because the landlord had failed to pay the mortgage on the property.

Another tragedy that befalls families who lose their homes is they frequently have to put their belongings in storage. Once this happens, it is not uncommon for the families to be unable to pay the storage fees. At that point, their possessions are auctioned off and they lose everything including household items, furniture, clothes, the children’s belongings, medicine, and even food. To make things worse, once an eviction is on an individuals record it either forces them into less desirable housing, a homeless shelter, or the street.

Every city is different in the way it handles its poor. Some are worse than others. Greensboro has its own issues, but in spite of the difficulties our poor and homeless face, we are kinder and more generous than some of the larger cities.

If you work with individuals and families living in poverty, struggling to keep a roof over their head, this is a must read.

Close to Where We Are

Chris Ward

      This article is in response to one written by Amy Murphy: Move Homeless Services Away From Downtown?

      I became homeless in December, 2013. I was not able to find housing until October, 2014. I am a heavy guy who has a lot of physical issues that also helped contribute to my disabilities. I suffer from degenerative disk disease which has also caused nerve damage down my legs, especially the left. This results in my falling quite a bit.
         As it stands Greensboro Urban Ministries is located near the Interactive Resource Center and in spite its close proximity it would still take me two hours to walk there due to the need to stop and sit so often. I would also be in extreme pain by the time I would get to the IRC and this would only be compounded as I had to make the journey back to the shelter provided by GUM.
       If these non-profit services are moved further away then it will be harder for those who have physical limitations needing these services. Really it will make it harder for anyone lacking transportation other than their own two feet.
       Downtown Greensboro also offers more services for the homeless and near homeless than just the services that are offered by the IRC. There are also the services offered by places such as legal aid, mental health facilities and the Department of Health and Human Services.  Moving the IRC further away would limit the ability for its clients to utilize all of these services that are currently located within close proximity to each other.
       I also believe that moving the Interactive Resource Center further away from downtown could easily result in people spending less productive time waiting on computers at the library or sitting at the local McDonald’s killing time instead of spending it benefiting themselves with a GED or some other worthwhile service offered by the IRC. On the rare occasion that the IRC is closed for a holiday, this is usually how those hours were filled since there was no other place for the homeless to go.
       Yes, I agree we need more job growth in downtown Greensboro. More jobs would benefit those who are looking for work in order to get off the streets. But we also need a place that is easily accessible to the homeless so that they can do laundry, see nurses, get their mail, and even apply to many of these jobs.
      But should we make things more difficult for those who are already going through a difficult situation? If you think moving these services is a simple solution that won’t have deep impacts on the homeless then I can challenge you. Put yourselves in the shoes of the disadvantaged. Leave your money and car keys at home and try being homeless for a few weeks.
      I have always truly appreciated everything the volunteers do for the homeless community and it does help make a difference in the lives of those going through these situations. But there is so much more that you have to live through to truly understand homelessness. Trying to explain in words to someone who has never lived the homeless life is difficult.  Much the way a soldier can never truly describe war to a civilian if the civilian has never experienced it.

 

Where Can I Take a Shower?

By Stephanie Thomas

It’s something we take for granted. We get up in the morning and take a shower. If we need to wash our hands we go to the sink. If we want to wash our clothes we put them in the wash. For people living on the street and in tents, getting clean and staying clean is not so easy. Fortunately, in Greensboro, we have the Interactive Resource Center on Washington Street. For people who are homeless, being able to go there and take a shower and wash clothes is a real blessing. Unfortunately, for people who live away from downtown, it can be difficult for them to get to the IRC, especially on a daily basis. In California Doniece Sandoval came up with a solution: She turned retired city buses into mobile shower units. 

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/01/health/cnn-hero-doniece-sandoval-lava-mae/index.html

 

 

Hannah’s Haven

By Stephanie Thomas

Drug addiction is a growing problem, destroying lives, and stealing the future from our young people. With an increasing need and insufficient resources, help is not always available. But for a few, there is Hannah’s Haven.

The faces of the recovering addicts at Hannah’s Haven were those of 4 young women. Before I arrived for the interview, I didn’t realize I had met them before. At the time I thought they were college students. They didn’t look like recovering drug addicts. They looked like young women, which of course, is exactly who they are.

Hannah’s Haven is a Teen Challenge addiction recovery facility specifically designed for young women. Located in Brown Summit, the 3 bedroom house is surrounded by woods and fields, in an atmosphere that is quiet and peaceful. Every aspect of the house feels like a home. It’s comfortable, nicely decorated, and spotless. The most recent update to the bathrooms, we’re done by the residence.

I sat down with the director and founder Bonnie Harris. Her dedication and compassion are apparent. She shared with me her personal story of recovery from drug addiction and how she felt God used that struggle to bring her to a place of helping others. She in turn shares these personal lessons with her residence, which helps them in their recovery.

The residence enter a structured and well disciplined program, rising each day at 6:00 am, working through classes, counseling, and doing chores. Admittance can cost up to a $1000, but Bonnie said she wants recovery to be affordable so she does not let a lack of financial resources keep someone from entering the program.

Ninety-six young women have gone through the 9-12 month recovery program since Hannah’s Haven first opened its doors over a decade ago. Many of those women have gone on to live happy and productive lives.

“Addiction is just what we see,” Bonnie said. “It is merely a symptom of what is really going on inside. When you take the drug away you are left with the individual. Sometimes that individual has to get in touch with who they are. We take them on a deep journey, back to the first time they felt rejection and then we work towards healing and recovery.”

Bonnie invited me to join the morning class. The girls were working through a study book with lessons and scripture. The book and the discussion were designed to teach good life choices, and change old patterns into healthy ones. The women were open about their issues and struggles. One of the women, who had served in a ministry, shared her effort to find recovery.

“In desperation I moved to a new place. I thought the change would help, but I took my problems with me.”

In spite of her good intentions, she found recovery impossible to achieve on her own. But now, with the help of the staff at Hannah’s Haven, she is making progress.

The biggest challenge for Hannah’s Haven is money. Fundraising is a large part of what Bonnie does. Besides the day to day expenses, she wants to expand the facility to make room for more women. Also in the planning stages is a thrift shop that will help the organization be more self-sufficient.

If you are interested in having Bonnie Harris speak to your organization or church about Hanna’s Haven, she is available.