Last night was the last night out for Holy Week 2022. It was good to reconnect with friends and the community on the streets. It was also nice to reflect on my 2012 Lenten blog posts that I wrote ten years ago. What a decade!
Yesterday, I went out with my dear friend Neville who showed me how he used to live in downtown San Antonio by collecting boxes and building temporary shelter each night. I have known Neville since 2017 when I started to work more directly with clients in downtown. Over the years, we have visited the beach, toured my farm, and spent countless nights getting to know one another. Neville currently is housed at the SAMM hotel and working toward a permanent place to live with the help of his best friend and outreach worker Valerie Salas from CAM and other case workers at his shelter. You can read more about Valerie and Neville in this touching story. Their story often reminds me of my friendship with Willie that started in 2012. Relationships like these really do prove that “Friendship Knows No Homelessness.”
Neville and I met at 8pm yesterday to collect boxes that work well for shelter and planned a strategy for overnight. Neville prefers the boxes from Subway, so we had to wait until they reopened after the Easter holiday, then we could use the Frito Lay boxes that work well for his design.) Neville reminded me, “The Frito Lay boxes are much preferable for shelter. They are clean and just the right size to connect together to form a cocoon. You just have to be quick to snag them. On the streets there is ‘box supply and demand’. If you miss the clean ones, you might have to use dirty ones from the dumpster or not use any at all. There is a whole economic equation out there.” It took us a few rounds to get all the boxes for the night. “I’m a little rusty” Neville said while laughing, “I used to do this all the time! We will find them.”
After collecting the desired boxes, we went to find a safe place to sleep outside and rebuild his design from the collection. He connected the boxes like a caterpillar and so he could sleep inside the row of boxes similar to being inside a cocoon. “Not only does it block out most the light,” Neville recalls, “but it also provides nice insulation with some breathable spaces.”
After building our shelter we got into our separate cocoons to go to sleep. We talked about the stars, what it was like living outside, and his favorite theological concepts. Neville has a deep sense of faith and loves to talk about numerology, religion, and Jesus’ teaching. It might sound strange but Neville is really connected to the Spirit and how all of us are interconnected through shared science and experiences in this life.
The cocoon was interesting to sleep in, and not trying to make it better than it seems, but I have to admit, it was actually much more peaceful than sleeping open by the sidewalk. “I first thought it would feel like a coffin,” Neville warned me, “but it’s really nice most nights.” There were a few moments I felt a bit trapped but his design was just big enough to move around, reposition, and find a good position to sleep. That’s why I love Neville, and so many people on the streets, they find great value in the smallest of treasures and rarely take gifts for granted. Neville provided me a gift last night and I will celebrate the comfort I found inside those Frito Lay boxes he found. They are the best!
Neville is very intelligent. He is originally from Zimbabwe and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Cleveland State University and taught science in Ohio and Texas. He enlisted in the Army and worked as an engineer at Fort Hood in Killeen, TX. Soon after enlisting in the Army, Neville started showing signs of schizophrenia and was honorably discharged because of his medical condition. Unfortunately, Neville’s condition worsened over the years and he ended up experiencing homelessness first in Austin then in San Antonio on Houston Street. Neville has been in San Antonio for around 5 or 6 years and started attending Corazon on Sundays at Travis Park (a block away from where he would sleep) and began working with Valerie Salas when she was a Block to Block outreach worker for Centro serving the unhoused in downtown and around Haven for Hope. To be honest, we all thought Neville would be stuck on the streets in San Antonio indefinitely so Valerie started connecting Neville with his family in Zimbabwe to see if there was a way to get him back home to receive better care. That was on track before Covid-19 restrictions kept altering the plan.
During this time, doctors from SA Street Medicine and the Corazon Clinic started getting Neville on new medication to treat his schizophrenia. Miraculously, the new medication did wonders and started to really heal Neville’s mental struggles and allow him to find emotional balance on a daily basis. Now, the Neville that only a few of knew about started to be seen by everyone and he was able to successfully find a place to stay in San Antonio. Through these experiences, Neville has become more of friend and brother to Valerie, Morgan and I rather than a client. Through his vulnerability, he has helped us learn new ways to connect, seek treatment, find hope, and trust sometimes the long road to recovery. We are all grateful for his friendship, loyalty, and humor.
The below blog posts are the last of my 2012 lenten journey when it ended on Easter of that year. Please enjoy the reflections and all the past blog posts. The Season of Easter is all about celebrating new life and finding hope in the resurrection. Both on this Earth and in heaven. I am humbled each and everyday when I get to witness this joyous resurrection in the lives of so many people we work alongside with at Corazon. Each day is challenging but miracles happen!
I will continue to share more as we all continue to serve our siblings on the streets of San Antonio.
Risen: Posted on
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, “Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?”
Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back—it was a huge stone—and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished.
He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.”
They got out as fast as they could, beside themselves, their heads swimming. Stunned, they said nothing to anyone.
Christianity started once the Mary’s announced “Christ is Risen.”
The good thing is that we don’t have to be afraid or trembling. Christ is ahead of us in Galilee. Already at work!
In Your life
In My life
All we need to do is follow the Risen Lord!
Our fear as been turned into hope.
Our death has been turned into life!
Christ is Risen
He is Risen Indeed
Today. Jesse came with me to church. He was famous. People were glad to get to know him and say thank you for looking after me.
Today I will go eat with Jesse’s family and get to know his mother. I cannot wait! Tonight, I have Easter dinner with my family and friends at my house!
This experience has been not about me. It’s first about Jesus Christ. And Second, it’s about guys like Jesse.
I am a fallen person who makes mistakes everyday. Everyday. I Made plenty of mistakes during this journey.
The good news:
He is Risen.
I will share more about the end of my journey this week. Thanks for following.
Back Home…Posted on
I am back in my home.
Laying in my bed.
And I can’t sleep.
Other than my dog…it’s extremely quiet around here.
Almost too quiet.
It seems so strange to be back. I was always outdoors. Out in the open. Now I’m in a box of a room. It seems so small. Yet it’s big.
But I’m not going to lie. The bed is awesome.
Attending Easter lunch at Jesse’s house was fantastic. It was great to see his family and learn more about his life.
For dinner, Jesse, my parents, and my local friends had dinner at my place. I thought it might be awkward to have both come together. But it was amazing.
God bridges those gaps when we allow him to…
Here’s the reality.
I got to go home to a bed.
Over 3,500 people tonight did not have a Lenten timetable to be on the streets.
It seems wrong. Was it a simulation?
I hope not.
Isaiah 61:10: Posted on
I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation. He has wrapped me with a robe of
Homeless?: Posted on
A friend of mine, named Cowboy, told me that “nobody on the streets should be called homeless. Our home is where we lay our head. That could be the shelter, a bridge, or a friend’s floor.” It sounds cliche…but home really is where you make it.
I keep using homeless to define my friends…
What is another word we could use?