Homeless People Can Be Jerks Too (Part I)

I have been writing here on this blog for well over a year, and no one has ever pointed out to me in this forum that not all homeless people are simply innocent victims of circumstance.  In fact quite often they are jerks too.

I am well aware that my writings offer a certain kind of lens (or that they have a tendency to show only limited viewpoints) which effectively turn a blind eye on some ugly aspects.  And I guess this post is meant, in part, to apologize (make defense) for that, but also to acknowledge work that needs to be done in those other areas as well.  This blog is not intended to be comprehensive in the most exhaustive ways, but perhaps a post here and there giving voice to those less attended areas will lend weight to reconciliation.

First the caveat:

In general, and almost entirely, this blog demonstrates that Jesus, the Lord and Savior of Holy Scriptures – the one so highly esteemed Sunday mornings across this city – identifies himself with the poor and vulnerable – “the least of these” – which certainly includes the street homeless.  And he makes no distinction between the “deserving” poor and homeless and the “undeserving”.  Those are terms our society brings to the table which I believe will backfire on those who use them in the coming Judgment of the goats and sheep where Jesus makes this identification known (Matt. 25).  Thus, even the scoundrels among those lower ranks are apt to be him, as far as we are concerned, and since this blog always orients remarks around Jesus, there is little reason to point out that some of those poor souls are jerks.

But THEY ARE JERKS IN PLENTY and they themselves will tell you as much.

First Example:

One of the saddest aspects of my ministry is listening.  You know – that skill that makes for a good friend?  Yes, that one.  Because sooooooo often when I listen to the homeless, they complain at length about other homeless!  And if you hang out among them very long, you begin to see why.  And honestly, I really think they are giving voice to the same irritations that most White, middle-class folk just drive past or lock their doors to keep outside.  The difference is that the homeless are stuck with each other and must deal with each other rather than ignore each other.

Some of these bums are mean drunks that will hurt you.  Others are messy drunks that will leave their nastiness strewn all over the lawn, the park, the parking lot – wherever!  And I really sympathize with this complaint!  I know lots of relatively responsible homeless people who find a good spot to crash repeatedly and who arrive late, leave early, pick up after themselves so as not to draw negative attention, but once their spot is exposed to these clowns, the public ire gets drawn unfairly on the “good” and “deserving” ones!  And there’s not any rules or laws that help that.  The public will lump them all together for scorn, and then the “responsible” ones have to lump it with the rest.

Squatter Camp Vandelia Village I

That is just one small example among many I could offer along that line, but I think you get the gist of it.

Second Example:

Then there are those who want to argue against me.  This kind just astound me.  I recall an episode last year when some other street ministers caught wind of a new policy enacted at one of the bigger churches downtown to reject the homeless from joining their worship.  (I will keep that church nameless in this post.)  It actually was unclear whether the church had really enacted such a policy, but the fact that it was rumored was enough to prompt a handful of these street ministers to pay that worship service a visit WITH SOME HOMELESS FRIENDS COMING ALONG TOO.

023 022

The local media was contacted.  Even the mayor’s office supposedly was watching this closely (at first this was merely rumored too, but the strong police presence that Sunday morning suggested that it was true).  And I was invited to come as well, which I did – BUT – Because I had officially been kicked out of the Premier Homeless Church (which was a subsidiary, we might say, of the big church the group was focused on) I decided to participate by outfitting the group of invaders with bright Fat Beggars tee shirts so that they looked like neon Easter eggs parading into that church while I obeyed the restriction placed on me.

Now, you would think that the homeless would look at this and see their opportunity to flex a moral muscle. 

You would think.  I can easily imagine the faint of heart opting out, but there is a lot of anger out there, and this provided a constructive avenue for it.  The plan was quite simple.  The street ministers and a handful of homeless would attempt to enter the worship service and participate as equals with everyone else.  If access was allowed, there would be no story and the media would have no reason to cover it, but the homeless would now know they are welcome.  If they were denied access, the media would have a story and the church would be shamed by its un-Christian policy being exposed before the whole world.

But some of the homeless told us that the leadership at the Premier Homeless Church had gotten wind of the intervention and disapproved.  These homeless claimed that the staff there warned of sanctions and reprisals if anyone participated.

While I did not actually verify any of those claims personally, I did encounter a handful of homeless people who turned out on the streets to preach against us!  What a trip that was!  Homeless jerks accusing us of dividing the church when our mission was quite the opposite; it was one of inclusion!  But these homeless preachers were very shrill and boisterous as they denounced us.  You could try to talk with them, but they were shouting at us!  What was most saddening was how that almost became the media story!

And it reminded me of Moses in the brickyard announcing to Pharaoh’s task masters and the Hebrew laborers that YHWH has blown in off the desert with a message: Let My people go!  And almost immediately the task masters and Pharaoh take offense, which is no surprise, but also the Hebrews complain and thus begins their habit of murmuring, which of course earns them no points with God! (See Exodus 5).

I point out this long story to say: Yes.  Homeless people can be jerks too.  And while the usual kind of stuff is relatively easy for a guy like me to blow off, this example really hit close to home.

(Just so you know, the big church did allow access to the poor.  If there ever was such a policy, this publicity stunt nipped it in the bud.  However, it is possible that there never was one, and that it was only rumored.  Of course, that begs the question about how so much hoopla got stirred up over it, but nevertheless no such policy was ever proven to my satisfaction, and the whole stink blew over in a matter of days.)

So, back to my point.

Homeless people can be jerks too.  And I am quite certain that more than one ministry staff in this town thinks I am a jerk as well.  This blog rarely features the short-comings of the poor, not because they don’t exist, not because I am unaware of them, but because dwelling on them does little to serve my purpose.  However, we all must acknowledge our sins, and that goes for the poor as well as the rich.  This is part of the recipe for reconciliation.

And to that I will return in part II.

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7 comments

  1. Debi · October 3

    I guess I just haven’t been following you long enough to know (a) why you were kicked out of the nameless church, (b) is there really a Premier Homeless Church? and (c) if so, how does that work? I’d appreciate links to prior blogs that would answer these questions for me. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Agent X · October 3

    Thanx for responding. Here is my quick feedback with more to follow later.

    A. I was officially kicked out after a series of confrontations with leadership and myself when I attempted to allow the homeless to sleep inside the church facility on cold winter nights and leadership there did not want to do that. I do not believe I have ever supplied a detailed account of those events on this blog, just referred to them in broad terms a few times. Perhaps I will write a post outlining that exchange.

    B. Yes. There is a Premier Homeless Church, but that is not what it is called. I have opted not to use the real name so as to protect the guilty. For those living in Lubbock who take much interest in them, this is a thin disguise – easily seen through. There are a couple of places that might fit that description, but one in particular that would definitely make the radar screen, and that bunch was started by one of the large churches in the downtown area. It gets a lot of media attention. They raise a lot of money (esp in recent years). And in fact, they do a lot of good work that I admire. However, they really did choose to kick their own flock out to the cold and to kick me out for protesting it. AND they did this quietly while raising tens of thousands of dollars from the community. They have never answered for it. They have never sought me out to mend the damage. And it is my understanding that at least from time to time, they still kick the poor out to the cold – although at least some times they do in fact let them in now too. That part is really fickle.

    C. As stated above. I will make a point to post on it in detail in the near future. I will poke through some old posts and see if I find any that might be informative to link you to in the meantime.

    Thanx again!

    Like

  3. Debi · October 3

    Wow. Just unbelievable! As I might have mentioned before, I am not in the Lubbock area (nor in the state of Texas for that matter), but your ministry is dear to my heart despite how far away I am. I am hoping that when you write more, you will talk about whether you or anyone else has tried to make the public aware of the money/kicking out issue. I guess I’m naive enough to think that the people donating to this “homeless church” would be as outraged and you and I and presumably many others are. Thanks for your quick reply to my questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · October 5

      Debi,

      I just offered a monster post detailing my interactions with the Premier Homeless Church leading up to my forced departure. It is a really long post, the longest I ever offered. I hope it serves the purpose. Your comments prompted me to offer it. But actually there are several reasons for it. I hope you don’t feel overwhelmed by it, but I did not want to short-change the truth. Even so, I could have said more – quite a lot more. But I think this covers the gist – and then some.

      Thanx for asking. It means a lot to me that you care.

      X

      Like

  4. John Lewis · October 4

    Of course the homeless can be jerks, just like the rest of us. They are broken people living in a broken world, also living on the bottom end of the broken systems of that world. I live what you’re doing for the homeless, it’s what we are all called to do as Christians. Yet so few of us (including myself) actually do it. Keep fighting for them, Jesus tells us where your treasure is being stored brother.

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    • Agent X · October 4

      Thanx for the encouraging word, John!

      Yes. It actually is obvious and understandable that homeless people can be jerks too. All of us, with rare exception, deal poorly with frustrations, especially when they overwhelm us. And homeless, almost by definition are that on a chronic scale. AND yet that is soooooo easily overlooked in the collective worldview our society shares.

      To your second point, yes, we all need to do more about it. We all need to find new sensitivity to it. We can do better. However, with that said, I would also allow that not everyone needs to take a lead position in this particular issue. There is lots of work for Christians in cancer wards, jails, orphanages and rest homes, and we cant all be leaders in all those areas. I fully recognize that. But there is a particular resistance, I think, to homelessness in a lot of Christian quarters. This demographic comes in beneath our contempt tooooooo often. So, I make a fine distinction there, but basically agree with your words and take great encouragement in them.

      Thanx!

      Liked by 1 person

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