Monday, January 28, 2013

Corner Journal 1/24/2013

My friend, Wendy, is a frail, almost toothless, very slight woman, likely younger than my oldest daughter. 

I’ve never seen her clean. 

She lives beneath a matted, stringy, filthy head of brown hair. 

Her clothes are tattered and ill-fitting. 

Wendy is a street beggar.

When I first met her, she responded to my presence much like a wild animal.  She circled my space, throwing me an occasional glance as she tried to figure out who I might be.  

She talked to herself.  Constantly, as if negotiating her next move in life before some listening court. 

More recently, she has warmed up to me.  I think the fact that I’ve spotted her $5 a couple of times helped with that.  And, I expect that she’s been on her meds more regularly than when we first “met.” 

Wendy is always hungry. 

Everybody knows her. 

Everybody likes her. 

We're working hard to get her into housing.  At this point she can’t imagine how that would be possible, so it’s hard to set appointments that she will keep.

 I’m driven by two facts.

First, she is a delightful soul whose life is being poured out in front of my eyes, and it could be so much better.

Second, and more immediately important, she will die on the street if we don’t get her inside.  Time is not friendly here.  

Today I was able to hook her up with a CitySquare neighbor advocate.  We started working more diligently on getting her a home.  

She is a real hoot. 
She deserves so much better.

Tonight, Wendy will sleep in an abandoned house on Malcolm X Boulevard. 

 I pray that she will survive. 

I met Charlie for the first time today. 

He’s an ex-con, I bet about 50-years-old.

He is a proud man and very wise.

All he wants is a job.  If you have one to offer, I'll vouch for this dude. 

He doesn’t drink.

He believes that his time served in prison should settle his debt and not forever block his return to work. 

 Charlie told me, “It’s like if we are playing football.  If I hold a person, the team gets a 15 yard penalty.  It is assessed.  And, that is it!  No one brings it up again.  The penalty is paid.  It should be that way with prison.  Time served should square the debt!” 

 Did I say Charlie is wise? 

He rides a bike.  

He rejects charity, hates shelters, loves people and just wants a shot to get back in the game. 

He told me that he doesn’t hate anyone nor does he resent his situation. 

He is black.  He doesn’t hate white people.

He wants a job.

He is responsible.

He is a good man.  He has no home. 

“I can sense a man’s spirit.  I don’t talk to anyone who is not ‘open,’” he explained to me.

He volunteers in our Thrift Store. 

He wants a job.

He is a son of the Kingdom of God. . .whatever  exactly that means.



Anonymous said...

It seems like we could do better by Charlie. As he says, he did his time. Maybe a law which would allow an employer to pay $1 an hour under minimum wage for a limited period of time (1 year?) to encourage hiring the formerly incarcerated. Maybe a limit on the amount of time his record can be used against him for employment, except for sensitive positions. (3 years?)

Wendy, and mental illness, are a harder case, since the issues are innate and not external.

Anonymous said...

I can't remember a post from you that has spoken to my soul as much as this one. Thanks so much.

Richard Corum

Jeremy G said...

Ditto to Richard.

And anonymous -- the government currently provides a free and instant enrollment to employers in a federal bonding program that provides up to $5,000 to protect them against employee theft/dishonesty if they willingly and knowingly hire an ex-offender. See

Also, in Texas, employers receive a $2,400 tax credit for hiring ex-felons.

The challenge is not one of government involvement/incentives but moral willingness.

In addition to the opportunities above, felons make highly motivated employees if they get the right support... because they know that, without a job, they are significantly more likely to end up back in prison.

So, employers can get free bonding and a tax rebate for hiring a highly motivated worker.... if they can just get over the fact that he once made a really bad choice.

(Something that many of us could also have done if we were born to different parents or had ended up in a bad situation)