Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Behind Bars--and aftermath

Another unfortunate fact of life is that some people flout our laws and after paying their debt to society often have nowhere to go but the streets.  They have no money, no family to support them and do not know where to look for a helping hand.   Most of their problems are drug related. 

Mervin is one of the lucky ones.   He served several months in a Canadian jail and afterwards was able to make his way back to the U.S.  His family are in St. Louis where they found a job for him in the trucking industry.  He needed help to return home.  The bus fare was $195 and with a pledge from us and the other churches within the Community Resource Network, he was assured of a passage to the Midwest.  As we pointed out, the rest is up to him.  He set off--with the blessings of all of us in the network. 

Marcus was well-dressed and well-spoken and had the good fortune to have the support of his mother.  After his release from prison, he was offered a place in clean and sober housing.  He needed help to secure this bed and we were happy to give him a pledge.  The house had telephone service and so we gave him information on employment opportunities and agencies which he could access after he completed the clean and sober intake process.  He arrived at Humanitas in the company of Charles who also needed our assistance to secure a place in which to maintain his sobriety.

These houses are to be commended upon the work they do to help men and women reclaim their place in society.  They provide rooms for a low rent, the means whereby the addicts can attend meetings, find mentors and encourage and support each other through this very difficult period.  Most post-incarcerated people are not that fortunate.

Donald was just out of prison.  His only means of identification was his prison number. 
As well as showing him where he can find a daily hot meal and giving him some free bus passes, we referred him to Access ID, an adjunct of Street Lawyers, who help people obtain the necessary documentation, a birth certificate for example, so that they can apply for a State Identification Card.  Without this, it is impossible to get a bed in the Lighthouse Mission, obtain a driver's license, apply for a job or claim any kind of assistance from the city or state.   Without the help of friends or family, Donald will probably have to live on the street until his interstate documentation arrives.   At that time, we will help him pay the fee for his ID. 

As always, we listen, encourage and offer our blessing to the folks who find us.  We have a list of places that are sometimes available to help former prisoners, but without friends and family plus the added problem of addiction, it is a difficult path for them to walk.   However, we know that some are successful and that is what we continue to strive for.

We thank you all most sincerely for your continued encouragement and financial support in our clubs--both the 10-bucks-a month  and our one-client-a-month for $35.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


The Humanitas team is constantly reminded of the fact that living from paycheck to paycheck exacts an emotional toll from people doing their best to live up to their responsibilities.  Trying to keep up with unexpected bills when theft enters the picture and a paycheck is no longer sufficient compounds their worries.    

Deirdre is a single mother of two managing on a little more than minimum wage.  While at Elizabeth Park with her children, her purse was stolen.  Her credit card, house keys, license and cash for the week were gone. She was embarrassed to ask for help but we were glad she found us. As her current insurance card and registration form were untouched in her car, we were able to give her a voucher for gasoline, thereby freeing up some money in her transportation budget to pay for changing the locks on her house.  A visit to other churches in the Network will enable her to meet the fees to replace her driver's license.

Dennis (his American name) is what is known in Canada as a "scoop" child.  In the sixties at the age of two, along with many other indigenous children, he was taken or "scooped" from his First Nation mother and sent to the United States for adoption.  His biological mother is still devastated as a result of this governmental action and over the years has continually refused to sign his adoption papers.  Thus he remains a Canadian citizen called Gilbert.  He jokingly introduced himself to us as "a man with two names." His Canadian passport (Gilbert), US Resident Permit (Dennis) and licenses for operating heavy machinery and truck driving were in his backpack when it was stolen.   However, the owner of a landscaping company has offered him a job so we made out a voucher for a bus pass so he can get to and from work.  He is saving up to replace all his paperwork which will cost him several hundred dollars. 

Pierce is a young man who came west to join his brother in Oak Harbor.  After only a few days there, he was beaten up and robbed.  He still bore the wounds on his face when we saw him.  He wanted a bus ticket back to Tennessee.   The west had lost its appeal for him.   We joined with our CRN partners and gave him a pledge towards his ticket home.

Humanitas has now been in operation for a year and a half.   Thank you for your continued support.  We feel privileged to be able to help the citizens of Bellingham on behalf of BUF.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Band Aids

In the large scheme of things, Humanitas is a very small life preserver for people who are living under difficult circumstances and are struggling to keep their heads above water. Critics of  the giving of alms use another metaphor, suggesting that it is just a band aid. They are right.  It is.  A band aid reminds us we have a sore to tend; a band aid protects a wound and keeps it clean; a band aid allows healing to take place; a band aid is--simply--timely care.   For example:

Edgar needed shoes.  His only pair had holes in the soles.  He was living temporarily in clean and sober housing, he was taking classes at Good Will to train to be a cashier, and he had no way, other than walking, to get from place to place.   We gave him a voucher to purchase a pair of shoes so he could do so in reasonable comfort.  His gratitude was humbling.  Such a small thing--a leak-free covering for his feet.

Neat, clean, sober and well-educated, William needed minutes for his cell phone.  New to Bellingham, he already had a sponsor in AA, had a bed at the Mission,  and was very actively seeking work.  He needed his phone to communicate with prospective employers. We gave him some bus passes so he could get around town plus a voucher for a monthly, prepaid phone card.  William actually proclaimed that we had offered him a lifeline.

Glenda and Rob were living in their car, parking at night in public rest areas.  They had been out of work for several months and could no longer afford their apartment.  Now, though, filled with optimism, they were both due to start a new job, at the same place, in two days time.  In addition, Rob had secured a second job working at night.  They needed gasoline to make sure they could get to work.  We also gave them our laundry packet to enable them to do two loads of washing beforehand.  This timely band aid enabled them to start their new jobs in fresh, clean clothes.

We are always taken by surprise when so much gratitude is expressed for these small services.   Calling what we offer a band aid is certainly one way to describe the giving of alms.  It is the word "just" to which we take exception.