Fire Damage and Homelessness

“Blame it on a homeless guy!  Problem solved.”


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See the link:

Last week’s national headline grabbing fire in Atlanta, that caused a section of the I-85 freeway to collapse, is now blamed on a homeless crack addict.  Not only did the fire make national news, it strikes one of the major commuter arteries inhibiting daily traffic for millions of drivers for the foreseeable future AND will cost millions of dollars to repair.  Basically, there is no end in sight to the headache of it all, and the homeless are taking the blame.

I have no ambition to defend the actions of this careless individual.  I like to think that I would never be homeless and/or addicted to crack.  I like to think that no matter how desperate I might be to get warm, I would take care not to ignite flammable materials in storage.  And I am reasonably sure that my choices and actions would prevent such an outcome even if I were to find myself in that man’s situation.  Thus, I will not waste my time trying to exonerate him.


I will suggest that the authorities SHARE some responsibility, which is not readily discernable to the average Joe.  After all, people are sheep – at least this is a very biblical notion.  And sheep need a shepherd.  Shepherds guard against dangerous predators on the one hand, but also against straying into trouble on the other.  Not to mention… If I actually found myself homeless, it would be a deep psychological blow to me – one which would effect my decisions and tempt me with drug abuse.  NO ONE is immune to that.

And the fact is that no matter what else, as long as homeless people remain homeless, then desperate people making stupid and desperate decisions will loom around in the shadows and under bridges.  No matter how you slice it, this is a persistent fact of life – barring genocide or some truly ugly options of that scale.

And that means, another fact – one nobody WANTS to see.  Homeless people cost us a lot more than we ever will be able to calculate. 

Thank God no one was killed in that fire!  But Atlanta’s traffic for the remainder of 2017 and beyond is going to be a daily reminder of this cost.  The millions of dollars it cost to warm this homeless man and his crack smoking friends seems just a tad too high to me.  The ounce of prevention surely would be worth the pound of cure!

But these fires rarely make national headlines.  We have similar fire (on a much smaller scale) in the Lubbock news this week.  It’s not likely you heard of it.

See the link here:

And when you consider all the storage sheds in back yards and back lots, all the condemned apartment buildings, and rental storage units in which desperate people take shelter all over town (and all over the nation), it is a wonder there aren’t far more fires with far more devastating results.

Since everything I say here is true, and practically unarguably so, it follows that shepherds (both church and civic) should be addressing homelessness (and addiction) as a matter of fire prevention.  Even ignoring spiritual dimensions, just as a matter of cost/benefit analysis, waking up to the issues is too important to ignore another day, and blaming these things on the poor is not going to settle accounts on any books either here or in the hereafter.  The cost of shunning the homeless must be factored in, and that puts all of us on the hook with that homeless man in Atlanta.



  1. T. F. Thompson · April 5

    I will say this in no uncertain terms. There is no such thing as a homeless person! Yes, you have a person (people) who is/are homeless, but there is no such thing as a homeless person anymore than there is a such thing as a say: teacher, sheriff, banker, lawyer, etc. These may be your condition, your trade, etc., but that is NOT who you are. These are identity markers only, but is NOT who you are. First and really only, you are a child of God.
    Okay, I’ll admit also that at times, I’ll use the expression as well such as homeless person, but I am not judging character. This is NOT the identity only. We have the spirit, the soul the emotions the dreams the accomplishments and failures, etc., we also have a relationship, but all of this is separate from character. This is why I believe my friend, the prophet is angry and takes out his rage here. For I believe he knows that it was not the PERSON that caused a problem in Atlanta, not a statistic, but a person, a humble person before the throne of our creator. No, we do not make excuses for behavior, but that is a separate issue. We are speaking of judging a person based on their condition. A person is NOT good because he is rich nor bad because he is poor. In both situations, they are people first with all the problems all people have in common. N0, I will make no friends here for saying what I am saying anymore than my prophet friend will for his statements, but I’ll stand behind the prophet and too, behind my words. I would hope that some of your out there would also respond and no, we do not require agreement. God bless you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agent X · April 5

      Thanx, Tom.

      Glad you replied. Sorry I am slow to respond. Busy with kids lately… In fact, I read the post again myself and saw where I wish I had redrafted at least one more time. Like so much of my offerings lately, I had a baby on my lap as I typed this one. Lots of distractions!

      Anyway, I appreciate your point here. Obviously I don’t comply with your standard, but I trust you know that I in fact do very much see the PERSON there and not so much the HOMELESS PERSON even though I use exactly that kind of language. I suppose I could have offered a post somewhere in the course of the last (almost) 2 years of writing here in which I explain myself, but I did not. (I don’t think.)

      I used to read a blog by a lady who blogs about mental illness. She writes frequently about her opposition to referring to people who suffer schizophrenia as “schizophrenics”. She would prefer to refer to them as PEOPLE who suffer schizophrenia. I trust she is making effectively the same point you make, but only applying it to people with mental health issues.

      I recall when Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana a few years ago and sent displaced people far and wide that a number of them wound up in Lubbock. At first the media referred to these displaced people as “refugees”, but after much backlash, they stopped using the term.

      To be honest, I never understood that one. I mean, if you look up the term, those folks pretty much fit the definition. And not only that, the term never carried a stigma… not that I was ever aware of. I mean somewhere along the way we stopped calling people who were subject to a criminal investigation “suspects” and began calling them “persons of interest”, but suspect still seems to me to be the correct term.

      I wonder if one day when an airplane crashes and leaves injured people along with dead people scattered around, if the media gets scorned for referring to the living as “survivors”. And sometime after that, we might stop calling people in the military soldiers and warriors and refer to them instead as persons who engage in combat.

      Where does the problem lie exactly?

      I am a white person who will be utterly scorned for referring to black people using the N-word. In fact, that word is so hot, I wont even type it under a pseudonym. But it is clear to me that this word is so hostile and carries a depth of baggage that it will hurt people and destroy any other elements of a message I might want to convey. But at the same time, I am quite clear (after all I do have a number of black friends (brown too for that matter) who refer to each other using the N-word and/or the slightly modified version ending with an “a”, and these folks cause no offense to each other in so doing.

      When it comes to racial slang, the problem is pretty clear. Beyond that, it seems to be any term that carries stigma. And I was working in the mental health field when all the books and laws surrounding it changed the terminology from “retard/retarded” to IDD. And I get it, even though again, the word “retard” was technically correct. But over time it filtered through our culture picking up baggage that carries stigma that hurts people who suffer it.

      But, like I said, I was working in mental health at the time. I did not suffer schizophrenia, but I worked with a lot of folks who do. And being one who did not while mixing with those who did, I found that blurring the distinction helped me to make friends of them. If I can blur the lines between “US and THEM” in a meaningful way, then it means I help carry the stigma too.

      I am mindful that even the term “Christian” was probably an epithet originally that was meant to attach stigma to people. However, the followers of Christ, at least the early ones, were into humility as a virtue and so they embraced it. It sucked the sting out of it over time. This move was similar to what we see blacks doing with the N-word today. In the particular context and coming from particular people, it actually is a badge of honor to be called by the N-word! Go figure. The N-word is cool! Not cool for me to use, but cool for the insiders who are actively robbing it of its stigma by using it the way they do.

      With these things in mind, I embrace the shame of being a homeless person. And I don’t stop there. I use terms like bum and beggar frequently too. In fact, Fat Beggars is a name intended to embrace the stigma of homelessness and begging and to help carry the stigma. I actually hope it makes for a sense of “cool”. Whether it does or not, it definitely is an embrace of humility, and this is required to enter the presence of God.

      My friend, Cliff, is an old hand at being homeless. He has traveled around the nation as a homeless man for (I think) more than 30 years. He refers to himself as a “tramp” – a term I grew up using for females only, and then only if they were promiscuous. Not that I never heard of his use of it, but I had not used it that way ever, and here Cliff was using it to refer to himself. I like that. I often walk the streets of Lubbock looking and smelling like a homeless person, tramp, beggar, bum. I embrace the look, the smell, the name and the person purposefully.

      I completely understand that when I use these terms, I am risking hurt feelings. But I think it is worth the risk to embrace shame and humility while inviting others to embrace these things too. And then when I speak to a church, which is where my message is most frequently targeted, I insist the “Christians” there wrestle with their contempt in order to deal with the Jesus who resides within the skin of those lowly people.

      I don’t expect you to agree or even do likewise at all. And I share your concern about the humanity of the people being referred to with these terms. But I hope you at least understand why I use these terms anyway. And I do my best to apply them to myself right along with those who suffer the conditions of displacement.

      Thanx so much for bringing this all up for discussion. I hope this comment gets some attention. And if you or any reader wants to challenge me on it, I am open minded and will listen to (read) your challenge carefully.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. T. F. Thompson · April 6

    Agent X I should have qualified this more. First, I know YOU don’t label people as such and were only responding to what Atlanta et al were doing. And another qualifier: I don’t go for all this Political Correctness BS we hear and read about so much. My comments are only to definitive to the issues of people so people may be observed in context to who they are. The same goes with ‘sex offenders’, criminals, arsonist, sinners, Christians, etc. In other words, we are more than whatever label society designated for us. We are a summation of many facets, much more than how society will introduce us. It is different say, with Jesus:
    Jesus, King of Kings
    Jesus, Son of Man
    Jesus the Christ
    Jesus the Messiah
    Jesus, Son of God
    Yet, even though all of this is in positive terms, we probably also fall short in describing our friend, Jesus.However, our tendency as people is to reduce man, to reduce God to a little box so we can then discard them. We say we understand and then go about our business as if neither even exist.
    And that is until the pain-in-the-Ass Prophet shows up and reintroduces these people to us and pushes them into our face.
    And where Nathan charges back to the king, “And that person is YOU!”
    And of course, it is us. We are all guilty and only through following our master can we ever wash all the stain from our clothes and adopt the purple robe of Jesus.
    In spite of kids, thank you for responding. Sorry, I have had so many over I’ve been away from the computer. Thank you again, Nathan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · April 6

      It looks like I misread you. Sorry about that. I am still glad the exchange provided the opportunity to make my case.

      I noticed that the on-line stories I found about the Atlanta fire all named the man, something I did not. I sensed a bit of irony in that at the time. I decided leaving him nameless gave my post more punch in the gut.

      I did not invent the phrase I used at the top, though once I read it, I felt it’s sting. I am not so sure its use is accurate, entirely, but rhetorically, it captures a deep meaningful message alright. One I wanted to hitch my post to as well.

      Thanx again for your response. It is so highly valued.



      • T. F. Thompson · April 6

        It is only to easy to misread when in these types of writing. Often, as you know, no context in which to ‘read’ the person. Also absence of body language, inflections of voice, etc. In my case, I tend also to cut to the chase and get right down to what I mean and thus, often it is easy then to wonder my viewpoint. If you knew me in person, you’d know immediately for I always throw in a bit of acid wit, yet never to be taken too seriously. I appreciate your responses, Mr. Nathan. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

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