Embracing the Chaos

I'm writing this as a personal reflection about some of the ways I've been challenged or some of the things I've learned in the past year. 

I've just gone through a season where it seems everything isconfusing, chaotic and crazy. This craziness is exemplified because I’ve dedicated my life to living in a community and working with and around those experiencing homelessness.
The cries of desperation and pleas for survival over the cold months has been my experience every single year I’ve lived in Chicago. This insanity and chaos embraces Christmas, the month of December and goes well into the new year! Yet, I’m happy to say, this season has also always been a great time of blessing and being uplifted. But, it's not for the usual reasons.
During this past year, I have been challenged to embrace some attitudes in new and different ways. I’ve often heaped unnecessary guilt and shame upon myself because I tend to find fulfillment or meaning in things that make others quest…

Getting Identification!

Many reading this may wonder why I’d waste my time writing about getting identification. You may ask: what's the big deal about getting an ID? It should be easy! Such a task should be an easily-obtained accomplishment, and the truth is, for most people like myself it is simply an aggravating nuisance interrupting our occupied lives! 

Yet, for those living in poverty, for those who are homeless, they are struck by numerous debilitating complications and barriers, often making the process almost impossible!
For several months we’ve been trying to help one elderly gentleman get his State ID. He came to CCO with nothing! His case isn’t unusual, as many people come to us with nothing or next-to-nothing. No State ID. No Driver’s License. No birth certificate. No Social Security Card. No Passport. No DD214. No income. 
They want these documents, but for various reasons the hurdles are enormous! Did you know that opportunities like housing, benefits and employment fade away because people do…

Stepping Up and Reaching Out

I was asked by a friend to write a reflection or thoughts about living with, working with and assisting those who are experiencing homelessness. My life also regularly involves going into Cook County Jail. When we choose to dedicate our lives to help those without homes, we quickly find it is far more eclectic than we could ever imagine. It involves, and is not limited to, helping people with their rap sheets, assisting those who are struggling with addictions, walking alongside those struggling with a mental illness or visiting with those who are chronically ill. The challenges are never dull and ever expanding. My hope in this rambling is that I can encourage those who aspire to do something similar.
These are just a few of my own personal opinions, aimed at inspiring anyone who wishes to enter this exciting, challenging and rewarding world. This is in no way comprehensive, but a list of what I see as most important for those who wish to dedicate years to fighting for and walking alo…

It’s Political: My Own Self Realization

Trust me when I say, I wish it didn’t have to be political, but it is and there’s no escaping it! 

I wish we could just simply house the homeless, feed the hungry, visit prisoners, give those thirsty a drink, visit the sick and clothe the naked without fuss; but let me tell you, it ain't that easy!

When I first came to Chicago 21 years ago, when I first started working with those experiencing homelessness, I was very naive and my views on homelessness were somewhat one dimensional. In my naivety, I thought politics would never rear it’s ugly head because it was all about spreading the gospel, providing “3 hots and a cot”, giving away coats and welcoming strangers. All that is great, but in my naivety, I thought I could easily separate myself from anything political, I thought I could divide the two into vastly different worlds where they never needed to meet! I was very wrong!
In my naivety, I truly believed I could help and assist Chicago's “least of these” with direct aide with…

Embracing the Disinherited This Festive Season.

Thanksgiving and Christmas can be such a confusing season. It is supposed to be the season of joy, celebration, and happiness, yet many are struggling to see even a glimmer of hope. To those who are experiencing homelessness, are precariously housed, isolated in an SRO, a Nursing Home or incarcerated, this time of the year is often a season riddled with guilt, regret, and grief.

Guilt over not being able to provide meals or gifts for their families. Guilt over having to rely on organizations and churches. Guilt over the mystery of estranged children and the whereabouts of family members.Regret over relationships that have been destroyed and need to be repaired. Regret over the decisions that were once made and now having to suffer the consequences. Regret over not having a home to call their own.Grief over what could have been, but isn’t. Grief over their reality of alienation and rejection. Grief the loss of those loving family members that are now gone. Grief the ones who once invite…

The GRIEF continues....

I write this as a continuation of another blog post I recently finished; in "I'm grieving" I take my time to grieve over 4 friends who left us too early! But since writing that, I was shocked to hear of at least 6 more friends who have died.

Since the beginning of September until the start of November 2017, so in just over 2 months, I know of at least 10 people who have passed away. There's a reason I say "at least 10", because there have been 2 more people who've been mentioned to me, but I haven't been able to confirm whether the rumors are true or not. 
All 10 of these men are younger than my parents but older than me! In other words, none of them reached the age of 70! 

All of them experienced homelessness. All of them struggled with poverty. All of them had times when they lived with the heart-wrenching uncertainty of where they’d sleep at night! All of them were exposed to the threats of hypothermia, frostbite and heat stroke. All of them were s…

Remembering Kenny

Oh Kenny: I’m sad to hear you left us last week. Rest in Peace, my friend. 
I had the honor of knowing Kenneth for almost 2 decades and I want to remember him for his wit, confidence and relentless generosity. Even in the difficult times, it was always good to see this resilient warrior limping through the streets of Uptown. He was a picture of survival and perseverance.

Life wasn't easy or simple for Kenneth. His struggle was real. He faced a lot of trauma in his life. He was a Vietnam veteran. He experienced homelessness. He rotated in and out of housing. He stayed with us at CCO, he slept at the airport, he slept on trains and he often found rest and support in Uptown Tent City. It seemed like everyone knew Kenny, and he found community and support in Uptown. 

What I'm about to say, I say out of love for a man I consider a friend. A few of us went through many hills and valleys with him and his obstacles were huge and daunting. He needed others and many of us rose up to assist…