Day 43-44: The Ending: 40 Days of Haven: Reflection

The blogs posts below were my last two blogs before my journey ended on Easter.

It was a very strange feeling the last 2-3 days on the streets as I started to conclude my Lenten journey. I met some amazing people who really took me under their wing so we could manage the streets and form a close community of friends. I also got to learn about so many groups and nonprofits that serve all throughout the city. One of those being “Taking It To The Streets” that still exists today!

My last night was a night of community and sharing. It was cold but we all shared what we had so we all could stay warm, create a pallet, and make it through the night. It was a great final display of the amazing people I met on the streets and what they will do for one another even when other people ignore them, their gifts, and what they can offer to the community around them. That night WOAI ran a story about my journey. I was afraid to reveal my journey to my friends but they fully supported and helped me tell the story even when they knew nothing about when I began the 40 days. They are heroes.

When reflecting on “Marriage” blog post below, my friend Joshua (Who I called Georgia in the old blog) still comes to mind. I still have not met another person who was willing to live homeless in an outdoor shelter so his or her spouse could receive treatment and find healing. He truly took his vows “For Richer and For Poorer” seriously and never wiggled out of his commitment to his wife. For months Joshua lived outside and waited for her to graduate from her program. When she completed the program they both moved to Seattle where he could find stable employment. He still lives there today. You can read more about his story below.

Tonight I am going out one last time for Holy Week 2022 with my friend Neville. He is going to show me how he used to survive on the streets by building shelter out of boxes. Will post again tomorrow.

Community: Posted on  (The Last Night Out)

A few weeks ago, the second night I slept under the bridge (which happened to be the night after I slept under a bridge for the first time) was a nervous night for me.  I was not afraid of any apparent danger by other homeless people…but I was afraid to get busted by the police.

SAPD had already given me a warning for trespassing and was told the next time I would receive an actual violation. But my friends made me feel better…they told me because the bridge was busted the night before…it was unlikely that it would happen 2 times in a row….(I don’t know how sound the logic was…but it sounded good.)

That night, Jesse made the decision to not sleep because he could not sleep well during the night (the talking, trains, etc…) and needed to have a less stressful environment.  I thought it was funny to assume a bridge is more peaceful than the outdoor shelter…but in someways, it is true.

After meeting 2 other friends who were homeless, CT and Lindsey, we went under the I-10 bridge to find our spot and create a large pallet.  (Jesse forgot his blankets…so we needed to combine resources.)

Unlike the night before, where I was in bushes in between bridges, we found an area truly under the bridge with a exit ramp close to where we were sleeping.   It was louder, but still constant enough to get used to the sound to sleep quite well.

The ground was not smooth but covered in gravel…so we laid all of our sleeping bags and blankets down for padding and used a friends giant blanket to cover to stay warm.  Jesse,  who does not like group pallets, used my bag to sleep in.  (See Photo)  Unlike most Spring nights, where the weather is cool….this night was cold…so it made it even more communal.

A few years ago, when I was a youth pastor at UUMC in north San Antonio, I led a group of High School students on a poverty simulation in Waco, Texas.  For 3 days and 2 nights our students became citizens in poverty and had choices to make…like whether to spend their money on indoor bunks vs food, clothes vs blankets, toothbrush vs toothpaste, etc.  Because the weather seemed good, all the students, including myself and the intern, chose to stay outside and save money.  It was a bad decision.  Around 1am a thunderstorm hit and a cool front entered Waco.  It was miserable.  All of our stuff got soaked and we were freezing.  We had to huddle down and bear through the pain.   After some investigation around the outdoor courtyard,  some of our students found a storage shed that was full of old tables.  They decided to empty the shed and sleep inside.   It was not a bad plan!  After the bin was cleaned out, all of us huddled up inside and warmed up!  It was truly effective.  We really needed each other to stay comfortable.  Two of our students stayed outside because they were sleeping on top of a washer and dryer.   (They were like Jesse…better off alone…but still smart enough to survive)

This night reminded me of that experience.  All of us under the pallet needed each body to create heat inside the make shift pallet.   It worked nicely.  You get to know someone really fast when you have to sleep that close… strange… but also comforting.

It was a good vision of community.
Each of us were needed to stay comfortable the whole night.

Two Dollars: Posted on 

Tonight was my last meal at 9th Street ministry “Taking it to the Streets.” (Read more here)

It was a strange feeling.
I really don’t want the journey to end.

Most of my good friends on the streets have been informed of my real identity. All of them took it well…and we actually drew closer as friends.

Georgia and Jesse have been like brothers. I would do anything for them.

Once the meal was over, Jesse and I took the bus to our bridge area near downtown. The minute I got on the bus, a women shouted with joy “You are the Pastor on the News!”.

I froze. So did Jesse. Actually he started to laugh.

The woman saw the clips of my journey on WOAI and was moved by the experience. She had a lot of questions and made sure the entire bus knew what I was doing. It was very humbling.

The woman was homeless herself, or at least in poverty. However, after talking with her, she pulled out $2 dollars and leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.

I tried to refuse the money. But she would not have it. She wanted it to go to me and my ministry.

I was moved.
She does not have anything….
But this woman gave a lot.

Maybe everything she had.

Married: Posted on 

During my 40 days I have met some amazing people.
As I said before, the diversity within homelessness is much larger than I anticipated.

There are people with full time jobs.
There are people with temp jobs.
There are travelers who love to hop towns.
There are drug addicts unable to skip their fix.
There are the mentally ill.
There are scholars.
There are students.
There are believers.
There are non-believers.
There are people who are single.
There are people who are married.

I have to be honest, meeting married couples in the homeless community was not on my radar. It’s not like I was unaware of homeless couples, but I was not really looking to find it.

During my journey, I have met 3 married couples around town living in shelters and on the streets. (There are more…but these are the ones I met.)

The first couple was married in a ceremony during the Church Under the Bridge service on a Sunday I visited. It was a sweet service that took place during normal worship. I like that. Why do we make such a big deal about weddings? Let’s start making a big deal about marriage. I posted their photo below.

The second couple I met have been living in the outdoor shelter together for quite some time (although they are not allowed to sleep in the same section or
any contact deemed “purple.” They have been married for 9 years and have been on and off the streets. They have their common fights (usually in public due to the lack of privacy in the outdoor shelter) but always seem to stick together.

The third couple is the couple I know the best. Georgia (whom I have mentioned before) has been married to his wife for just over a year. Due to their circumstances, they sought out the shelter (even from out of state) to help take care of his wife.

However, this was not Georgia’s first marriage. He was married for over 15 years to his first wife. When Georgia and his first wife were pregnant with their first child, both she and the baby were tragically killed in a car accident. They were taken away from Georgia and this world.

Georgia was broken. And rightly so.

Why would God take them from this world?

Years passed before Georgia began to date again. The sting of the deaths were too much to handle.

Then he met Denise…

They dated and got married. They have been married for 2 years and are deeply committed to each others needs.

Denise struggles with deep depression and PTSD—so they hand picked the San Antonio shelter to receive the best care possible.

Being homeless and married creates a hard situation.

For Georgia…that means sleeping outside for months until his wife gets out of the shelter.

Gives a whole new meaning to the vow
“For Richer and For Poorer”

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