Hi Angie and Jessica -
I have a confession: when you first announced the new book, I was a bit disappointed. (There... I said it.) I don't make time for "fun reading" and really was looking for another more "Bible Study" type book written by another theologian. However, because I love the fellowship and friendships I've gained from the "Night Ladies" at the Ning site, I decided to dive in anyway.
Boy, I'm glad I did!
My husband runs a homeless center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. During the week after Christmas, he had to work, but I decided to work half days. The kids were at day care. I spent my mornings in my office and my afternoons in his office helping him with the data entry, clerical stuff that their skeleton staff really doesn't have time to do amidst meeting the needs of their guests. As I walked into his office, I saw, "Same Kind of Different As Me" sitting on his desk. He was on the phone, but I glared an accusing eye at him and said, as soon as he got off the phone, "Did you steal my book?" Ha! He didn't have a clue what I was talking about or that I had just ordered the book for myself for Bloom. One of his board of directors had loaned it to him thinking he'd love the book.
I don't know that he's had a chance to read it yet -- somehow I highly doubt it, when I recall his schedule and the hours he's worked during the cold snap during the past few weeks. However, I agree with her.
When we moved to Arkansas 2 years ago, it was for my job. His job history has had him working with troubled kids in various roles: counselor, group leader, assistant principal of a day school, principal of that same school, he ran a foster care program, he ran a family program to help the kids integrate back into their homes. His heart and his true calling are with troubled kids. However, NW Arkansas didn't have any programs whose philosophies aligned with his, or that had openings available at his level. I guarantee you, both of our opinion of homeless people largely matched Ron's at that point in our life. Working with the homeless was pretty much the LAST thing he had in mind when he went into an executive head hunter. That particular day they were working pro bono for Seven Hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville who was looking for a new executive director. Fast forward through interviews, one of the board members donating several $K of their own money to "afford him" and he's now changed his career focus. In the past 2 years he's taken Seven Hills from a Day Center that meets the homeless' needs during the day (showers, clothes, meals, job search, ID attainment, day labor, case management, prescriptions, etc), to also including a short term residential treatment (2 months - 2 years) where over 30 people and families have a permanent place as they continue to reestablish themselves in society, and most recently a brand new program called the FICASSO Project whose goal it is to catch near-homeless people and help them before they become homeless. As Mr. Mister told Ron -- it may be a couple missed paychecks and a spouse leaving, and YOU could be homeless. The number of stories identical to that which Jon has heard is staggering.
On Christmas Eve morning, I asked Jon how long he had to work and what time I could expect him home. My family was in town to celebrate Christmas, and he had already put in many long days. Selfishly, I just wanted him home. His response, "I'm not sure, there are 3 families I need to put in homes today." That floored me. Knowing that FICASSO was only a month old, I asked how many they had housed -- his response: 40 or so. Unbelievable.
I'm sorry for blabbering on and on.... I guess my point in all of this is THANK YOU for choosing this book. It hits SO dead on about the issues that surround homelessness, the history that can lead people to it, the hardness that comes from life on the streets, the needs that exist EVERY day, and not just at Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. The fact that homeless people have a name.
I wanted to share with you my story about when I first realized that homeless people had names -- I blogged about it last summer.
I also wanted to share with you what a local organization (The Cobblestone Project) is doing in our area. My husband has been very involved with them, helping them get up and running, linking them with other charities in our area who have need etc. What's SO cool about this group -- they're just everyday people who work other jobs. But they see the need and meet the need in ways that are SO easy for all of us to do. One of the saddest sentences in the book thus far was Denver's account of sleeping in the doorway -- and the members of the church next door never glanced his way. It scares me that we all are "that church" many times. Anyway, please check out The Cobblestone Project (http://www.cobblestoneproject.com/), specifically "Initiatives" -- to see the examples of easy things that any community can do to help those less fortunate.
Angie, I was blessed enough to meet you briefly at the Selah concert in Bentonville (my husband and I were sitting across the aisle from you) -- and to THANK YOU for Bloom there. Jessica, I'd hug and thank you in person, too, if given the chance. As I mentioned before, I so appreciate the friendship and fellowship that have come out of it -- and even more, the soul searching and the God-seeking that it has led me to personally.