One of the more disturbing images I see from time to time is homeless people camped right up next to a locked church-house door – sometimes literally right against it under the shelter of the overhang of the roof or awning. More often than not, I actually don’t see it (which also disturbs me). And I recall a night about three years ago when I gathered up a group of street friends and suggested we go sleep at a church where I was attending, but the street friends protested strongly saying they did not want to wind up in jail!
A few weeks ago, Agent Mamma DJ and Agent V and I met Agent W in her camp spot on a tennis court in a park in central Lubbock. Agent W is the one that had all the dogs.
I failed to even try to describe Agent W’s rig at the time. The thing about her that caught our eye that day was the rig. But it defies description, I think, and I just left it out of the report on account of that. But if you had been there, you would have found it most remarkable – remarkable among eye-witnesses.
But how to describe it… to others who were not there to see it first hand? hmmm….
I want to say go watch Mad Max in the Road Warrior. But of course that is a fast paced movie with all manner of hot rod contraptions. The “contraption” part is where we are getting close, however, I did not see the contraption move, but I imagine it moves very cumbersome and slowly.
I did not examine it when I was up close to it. I was so very deeply engaged with Agent W herself at the time that I really did not notice where the shopping cart ended and the fence around the tennis court began. But I think that if I called to your mind the skeletal frame of an old West covered wagon, and then transferred that picture onto a grocery buggy, and then loaded that with all manner of junk dangling off the scaffold contraption, then maybe, just maybe, you would begin to imagine the gaudy, tacky, and sophisticated trashiness on wheels that Agent W manages to relocate around town (along with five or six dogs).
It so happens that I have regular business that takes me up on 34th Street near Ave Q on a weekly basis. There is a Sonic drive-in and a Family Dollar store there on 34th next to each other and flanked on either side of these neighboring businesses sits two small churches.
I have another memory from about three or four years ago when Ms. Jenny from Restoring Hope street ministry introduced me to a couple of guys who were sleeping behind one of those church buildings. I recalled then that it was daring for those guys to sleep there, and they told me at that time they were staying away until they knew the pastor and all the congregants were gone.
Knowing that, I always glance back in that direction to look for evidence of squatters every time I drive through that part of 34th Street ever since. And sure enough two weeks ago, I spotted Agent W’s rig back there across the parking lot from the church building and tucked almost out of sight behind the Family Dollar. I drove up and spoke with Agent W briefly on that occasion and told her she is in my daily prayers.
But yesterday, as I was making my way through there, I saw her rig jammed up against the church-house door under the protection of the shade on a day with record-breaking heat. I noticed no cars on the lot, suggesting that no pastor or congregants were currently around.
I did not stop to talk to her. I was way too busy with foster care business, and I make a point not to seek out street homeless people when I have foster kids in the car with me. I have no way of KNOWING, at this point, whether Agent W had express permission from the church to camp there like that, but I highly doubt it. I doubt it because I have only ever heard of one church, Bacon Heights Baptist Church, that made such an arrangement with street people in Lubbock on the one hand, AND based on my experience with psych patients plus my conversations with Agent W, I expect she is delusional on the other hand and may well squat like that rather boldly without permission.
There are so many burdensome side issues raised in these observations I make here that I cannot address them all in a single post. But I can, in under 800 words so far, do my best to create the snap shot of what I saw as I drove past. It is a disturbing image. “The least of these” camped outside the locked up church-house door in all the glory of junk a grocery buggy can possibly carry, and with six or more dogs all chained together making dog messes and passing the time away on a hot day like no one has a care in the world.