Tag Archives: The Author

Night Ministry Bus

This brings back memories.  A great, worthwhile program.


No links today, or pictures, or plugs for my upcoming book Painted Black (okay, just that one).  Today I just want to share a few thoughts on the homeless as inspired by a conversation I had yesterday.

It started when someone expressed being tired of all the homeless people. Some guy had decided an empty lot next door was a great place to get drunk off his ass and shout abuse at people day after day.  I’d get pretty tired of that myself.  What a pain.

But it’s not the guy being homeless that is a problem.  What I’d get tired of is a drunk guy who’s being a loud asshole.  If he sat in the lot every day reading a book and waving at everyone who walked by, he would still be homeless but would I be complaining about him?  Probably not.  If my neighbor with a mortgage and a good job sat on his front porch every night getting drunk off his ass and shouting abuse at people who walk by, would I be bitching about him?  Damn right I would.

I’m not the kind of person who likes to stand on a soap box.  Sure I’ve volunteered with several organizations that help the homeless.  But I don’t go around protesting public policies that make life difficult for them, or petitioning strangers to approve more transitional housing.  The truth is I’m not very good at being an advocate for the homeless.  I feel awkward even debating the subject with friends and family.

I agree that homeless people can be annoying and scary.  That guy who stands at the intersection with a sign asking for money.  The woman who sits on the bus ranting and raving to invisible beings.  But the guy at the intersection is annoying because he’s at an intersection asking for something I may not want to give.  The woman on the bus is scary because she’s obviously off her meds and her behavior unpredictable.

The truth is non-homeless people can be annoying and scary too.  I’ve seen people from The Lion’s Club stand at an intersection soliciting donations for their organization.  I personally am just as annoyed by someone asking me to sign a petition and thrusting a clipboard in my face when I walk out of a supermarket.  My ex-husband was a great provider who brought home a good paycheck and bought me lots of things any woman would love to have.  But he was scary as hell every time he got drunk and cornered me in the hallway with his threats and his abuse.

Alcoholism and schizophrenia and other mental illnesses afflict everyone.  The only difference is that it’s often more difficult to regulate your medicine and get consistent treatment if you don’t have a place to live or a loved one who cares enough to help keep you on track.

Homeless people with problems are just more visible than the non-homeless ones.  Most substance abusers terrorize people behind the privacy of their own front door.  They’re usually showered and well dressed and dosed with pain killers washed down with a beer when they leave for work the next morning.

When you work with the homeless on a closer level, you find that most of them aren’t annoying or scary.  That makes it easier for me to say “Sorry, not today,” to the kid with a cup and a cardboard sign.  It’s the same thing I say to the guy with a clipboard outside Target.  And if I smile when I say it, chances are both the homeless kid and the guy who wants to stop the tunnel project are both going to simply turn to the next person passing by.

Is there a chance the homeless drunk might hurt me?  Yes, there is.  Is there a chance my drunk neighbor might hurt me?  Yes, there is.  Because they are people, people.  People can be dysfunctional–ALL people.

I’ve been raised to believe that most people are good.  That if you treat them with respect, they’ll treat you with respect.  Not everyone, not always–because people are flawed and some people, quite frankly, are assholes.

I guarantee you, if you treat the homeless with respect, they’ll treat you with respect.  Not everyone, not always–because they are people, just like everyone else.  Just like you.

Streetwalking with Jesus

My first reaction to seeing a group of men prostituting themselves was to ask, “Why don’t they just get a job?” It was only after several years of walking with these men and listening to their stories that I realized that it wasn’t that easy. They were conditioned. If I wanted to help, I would need to get in their cage.One young man who taught me this was Jim.

via Streetwalking with Jesus – Home.

Emmaus Ministries was the first program I volunteered with when I moved to Chicago.  John Green, who founded Emmaus and wrote the book quoted above, has a wife Caroline who is a folk musician.  She and Mike Choby were performing at the Barnes and Noble Cafe in Schaumburg near where I lived.  Many of her songs were about the homeless men she and her husband worked with.  It was like a sign.  I’d moved to the city to do exactly the kind of work she was singing about and there she was–with flyers to hand out no less.

There is no such thing as coincidence.

Short Street Stories

If you want to get a taste for what Painted Black the novel is about, Download two of my short stories.  One of them even has a couple of characters you may recognize from the little teaser quotes I’ve been posting here.

The Author

When I first heard The Night Ministry’s Mission Statement, I knew
this was the right place for me. Building relationships that
empower people to meet their own needs. “Recognizing the
uniqueness, dignity, and value of each person.” I’m not good at
preaching. My purpose is to be there when they need someone
to talk to, laugh with, share their tears. To try to feed their
hunger, physical and otherwise. I spent most of my life living in
a small community in Central Illinois, I used to hate Chicago.
It took me more years than I want to tell anybody before I grew
enough courage to come here and get involved in issues that
have always been important to me, but took second place to fear.
And, man, has it been worth it!

To read more of the article I wrote about my experiences volunteering with the Night Ministry, CLICK HERE.