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…

Finding Hope in the Daily Battle.

People may think that working with hundreds of people experiencing homelessness every day is depressing: well, it isn’t! 

Don't get me wrong; the big picture is extremely depressing. The fact there’s so many people experiencing homelessness in Chicago is depressing. The fact that there’s so much bullying, vilification, and criminalization of those who are homeless is depressing. The fact that there’s not enough affordable or subsidized housing is depressing. When we look at the big picture and everything homelessness encompasses, the outlook is morally wrong, downright criminal and absolutely depressing. But when we look at and work during the day-to-day, that's where my spirit is lifted and hope is found!

When I am greeted at work every day by our security who were all once homeless and unemployed, and now they are housed and have jobs! At CCO, many of our staff were formerly homeless and unemployed and now they’re integral parts of our team. This reality gives me hope!
Every da…

Fighting the Good Fight!

A great deal of my time is spent with people experiencing homelessness! I also go into Cook County Jail and know many who are either incarcerated, on parole, probation or have rap sheets! Every day I work with people who struggle with mental illnesses, addictions, chronic health issues and so much more. I don’t find this a drag, I love what I do and consider it an honor and privilege!
During my past 20 years of attempting to live out what Jesus calls us to do, I have come to know some extraordinary people who have dedicated their lives in different ways to fight for those whom society has judged, criminalized, neglected and rejected. It's amazing to watch people courageously use their unique gifts and talents, to stand up and advocate for those who need help. I've learned, and continue to learn, so much by walking alongside some absolute gems who have persevered, are compassionate and continue to love despite all odds stacked against them.
For over 2 decades I’ve enjoyed network…