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My End of the Journey with a Homeless Man
by Jack Wellman
2010-03-24 07:36:05
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If you have not read my first part of this story, you must because this conclusion will make more sense for you. You see, going door to door doing Outreach for our church I often found what people say do not exist in this town and in this county. To them, they are invisible only because they do not seek to find them and the homeless many times are intentionally invisible, for fear of people calling the authorities on them. Even though they lack food, shelter, services, physicals, and clothing more that a Bible, they often hide from people because they are treated so disrespectfully. They are accused of being the cause for their homelessness. But I just wish I could tell those who look away or look down on these unfortunate ones, that they have a story to tell. It was not always their own destiny that they controlled. When I found “Bill” in his tiny, beat up pull-over camper shell with no food, water, heat, electricity and scare blankets this past winter, my first question was not, “Okay, what did you do to put yourself in this position?“. No, I did not judge him, I simply said, “What can I do for you”, and “Are you okay?”

This homeless man, with all his worldly possessions consisting of a blanket, a pan [used to burn sticks for heat in the winter], two blankets, a dying penlight flashlight and a nearly empty bottle of Grape jelly did not need a lecture from me. He needed help. He remembered me from school, but I didn’t know who it was. I only saw long, stringy unkempt hair, dark and dirty skin and bloodshot eyes. He told me his name and it was only then that I remember that we had worked together for the city long ago during the summers. That’s how my journey with this homeless man began. But the ending was much more rewarding.

I had checked with his sister, his aunt, his two cousins and his other relatives, but not one would help him. He had a sorted past, and had some drug abuse problems, but I was not there to judge him. He had lost everything due to circumstances beyond his control. He was an independent newspaper carrier and with his liability-only insured van hit a cow and totaled his mode of transportation he lost his job. The farmer refused to pay for the damages and unfortunately, in cattle country, every lawyer we had spoken with said that the courts favored farmers and that he would have to prove negligence on the farmer’s part. No lawyer would take the case. So he eventually lost his job, could not find a job without transportation, had to leave his apartment and his marriage to dissolved due to financial collapse. His broken marriage had removed him from the love of his life and now his life was all that he had.

Here is what I had to go through, over a 2 month period to get some help for Bill.

I drove Bill over to the county seat to visit the SRS. I had to help him fill out the application because he had lost his glasses. He got no medical card.

We went in to SRS for some emergency G.A. cash relief. The state of Kansas had a 6 week waiting period and got nothing, save $193 dollars in food stamps for a whole month.

We returned to apply for disability qualification. We were told that we could not even interview for them since the state Social Security benefits office was so overwhelmed. We had a phone interview scheduled for seven weeks later over the phone and on long distance, so I planned on using my home phone for this.

We were told at the SRS that no more benefits could arrive until he had a mailing address so I had to rent him a P.O. Box at my hometown Post Office.

I checked the nearest homeless center in Wichita, Kansas, which had opened up an expanded facility about 9 months ago, but it was filled up with room only for women and women with children.

We returned to try and get him a Medicaid card and were told that he needed a birth certificate, even though his ex-wife claimed that she didn’t have it. She refused to look and would not return my phone calls so we had to pay for a replacement and sent of to our state capital in Topeka, Kansas. We were told it would be 6 to 8 weeks and the fee had to be paid in advance for it, which I did.

We looked for a lawyer to get help in a court case from the car accident when he hit the farmer’s cow and the farmer refused to help him fix his car. No attorneys would take the case, citing that we were living in cattle country and pro-farmer courts would prohibit any settlement.

He came to my house to eat, take a hot shower, and do his laundry.

I had to submit myself as a character witness and the low-income apartment center had to do a background check on Bill.

Went to a local family healthcare clinic and somehow convinced the Office Manager to let me give Bill a physical so we could fax the results to the government subsidized housing apartments to qualify him for an apartment. I offered to pay for it and she simply waived the fee. I did not expect that.

I gathered some “housewarming” supplies for Bill for his new apartment including some items that food stamps could not purchase: clothing, toilet paper, cups, saucers, dishes, soap, shampoo, etc,

The small town he will be living in does not have a grocery store, so we bought some food.

I spoke with the local convenience store owner and she said that they do accept food stamps there so he could walk to the convince store to buy any food he lacked.

As I drove Bill back to his “new” apartment I told him I would be back to check on him. We both sat there, wiping away tears in his new home. We hugged as if brothers. If you read my first article on the homeless, called The Invisible People - My Journey with a Homeless Man” look at the picture and then look at this picture that goes with this article and see if you can tell any difference. Gone is the lost, lonely look of depression, abandonment, and hopelessness; now replaced with a shorter beard, a cleaner, soot-free face and, most importantly, hope and purpose in his eyes. He disappeared again, but this time into his new apartment. He now had heat, running water, electricity, and a place to lay his head at night. And, I am sure, a sense of being visible now, in his own little apartment, with new neighbors, a near by park, a library…all quite visible. So, off I went, to look for someone else who was invisible to nearly everyone else….everyone else but God that is. God, please show me where the invisible are that I might make your Name known among them, not by preaching to them, nor thumping my Bible at them, but to help them. And to make these “invisible people” meet the invisible God, so that they both might see one another. Even though, all along, they were quite visible to God.


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Emanuel Paparella2010-03-24 11:31:57
Indeed Jack, in the final analysis we shall be jucdged not by our activism in the name of social justice and ideology but "what you did to the least of your brethren." This story should be sent to every Republican in Congress who after obstructing for a year are now in repeal mode and continue to consider health care a privilege and not a right. One wonders in what kind of bubble do these people live?

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