If there's one thing I've learned about the topic of homelessness, it's that everybody has a perception about it. Some are based on facts, but sadly, most perceptions come from a shallow understanding of homelessness that stems from no real experience or a temporary one. Even more mind boggling is the tendency to demonize the poor and blame them for being homeless. Very few choose to be out here and for the homeless youth I talked to, the streets are safer to be on than at home.
The other amazing thing I've seen out here is the tendency of some homeless people doing everything in their power to pretend they're not homeless. Maybe the individual has a severe case of denial going on, but homelessness is homelessness no matter how one tries to frame it. Yes, I'm an advocate but let's get one thing straight; I do not advocate enabling homelessness. I advocate creating opportunities to get out of homelessness, which is not easy to do and is very time consuming!
Recently I saw something in a local paper called The Kent Reporter that blew my mind! Supposedly Dennis Box is writing a series on homelessness in the city of Kent, yet so far the people he's talked to in Kent are not reliable sources of information on the local population. Where are the quotes from the many organizations in Kent working directly with ALL of the homeless population for several years? Better yet, when does Dennis plan on interviewing all the homeless families, seniors and other individuals who aren't hanging around the Kent Regional Library looking for drugs, as his articles seem to suggest? If you're going to cover the issue of homelessness, make sure you get all the facts! I will be the first to tell you I'm aware of the drug problem in Kent, which brings up questions about what and how the city is going to deal with the pervasive meth industry in their midst.
Most people know I'm not a "churchie," however I will work with any organization willing to help the homeless out of homelessness and let's face it, in the city of Kent, most of the groups out here working toward helping people out of homelessness have been the local churches. The homeless in Kent know the faces of those out in the community trying to help them simply because they see who engages in outreach on a regular basis. When I first "landed" in Kent, the first faces I met were those of rude police officers, then came the Reverend Jimmie James and Pastors Andrey Khilchenko, Brian May and Eric Daniels. Little did I know that I would soon be working with the Reverend Jimmie James, yet here I am, about to engage in the One Church One House campaign.
I showed Reverend Jimmie James the articles written by Dennis Box and, with the permission of Jimmie James, here's a copy of the letter he sent to Dennis:
I just read a couple articles regarding your series on the homeless. I hope in your last edition of the series you interview others who are homeless advocates and have a different view regarding the homeless situation in Kent. There are those who live in Kent and have worked directly with the homeless for years providing services, housing and supportive services and will not depict most homeless people/ youth as "gangsters wanna-bes" and addicts, which is false. Also the services many people have provided for the homeless are not enabling services.
There are even members of KBAC who have been providing successful supportive transitional services for homeless individuals. Mr. Schwartz is new to this community and as he is doing a good work, his view is based on his limited history of what type of activities have and are taking place, and the history regarding the homeless situation in Kent. There is a social justice aspect to the homeless situation in Kent that is historical and is a major factor to the homeless situation in Kent. So far the first two articles in your series do not depict this truth. This story has become a topic of discussion among many people who have sacrificed time, money, and work for the successful transition and advocacy for the homeless in Kent for years. These people see this story as very incomplete and inaccurate. Based on our earlier conversations, I know you are objective and willing to report "all the facts" regarding the homeless situation in Kent.
Therefore, I ask that you please contact Ms. Carey Fuller (who is cc'd on this email) myself, Pastor Danny Buswell and others who have been in this community for years, working to help homeless families and individuals address their homeless situation and tackle the historical barriers of injustice and indifference from city officials regarding solutions for the rising homeless situation in Kent. That must be a truth to be told to make this series authentic. Otherwise, this series will only be another -- "blame the poor for being poor"; "it is all their own fault for their situation"; "Churches are only being enablers to keep the homeless homeless" story. I know this is not the kind of story that you desire to tell, but the story from all the angles and/ viewpoints. There just is so much more to the homeless situation in Kent. I look forward to hearing from you regarding this story.
Apostle Jimmie James
Like Jimmie James, I too look forward to how Dennis is going to approach the next piece he does on homelessness but in the meantime, for those of you wishing to express your thoughts on homelessness to Dennis Box, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-872-6600 ext 5050.