Is There An Answer to the Dilemma of Lawrence?

Dear and kind-hearted readers, what is the solution to chronic homelessness in America? Wow, Mother Goose, that’s pretty huge for this early in the morning. Can you tone it down a bit?

OK.

Our friend, Lawrence Little, returned to our home on Monday which is the day after Sunday which is the day that we brought Lawrence to church with us. He sat at our kitchen table and drank a large mug of hot chocolate with Husband Goose. (Mother Goose was not present for this meeting as she occasionally works at a part-time job…) Recounting the previous day with our church pastor, Chuck Colegrove, Lawrence said that indeed the pastor did take him into the city to The Safe Haven Foundation, but there is a two-week waiting list to be allowed into their program.

Mother Goose is indeed grateful for all of the help that our church has shown Lawrence in the past eighteen months. Here is an excerpt from my pastor’s email describing just some of the care they have provided to our friend:

We have helped Lawrence on several occasions since first meeting him back in the Fall of 2012. We paid for 1 month of housing while he was seeking a job, paid for bus passes on 4-5 occasions that he secured a job or was about to secure a job….you’re right, helping with money isn’t necessarily the best option….when we’re able to, we help.

I’m hoping that Safe Haven will get him on the right path. He’s had several opportunities in the last year with jobs but can’t seem to hold it down.

Chuck has also offered to write a referral for Lawrence if he needs something like that to speed up the housing process at Safe Haven. Thank you, Chuck, for all you do to bring joy and love to a dark and fearful world.

I may have mentioned that Lawrence does his “rounds” through the city — knocking on the doors of kindly people who have helped him in the past. Husband Goose described him as having a “rolodex of helpers” in his head, and I believe that is an accurate picture of how he survives. One day at a time, one handout at a time, one bit of help from his friends is enough to get him to the next day.

Obviously many people have shown him love and kindness. Many people have directed him to job opportunities and housing opportunities. I am sure that somewhere in this large city he has at least one case manager who has filled out the proper intake forms and has done everything to get him into the system of public care. He has had money in the past — according to his story, he used to have a LOT OF MONEY in the days when he was a street performer doing break dancing on a cardboard mat on Michigan Avenue…

He’s an artist as well.

Lawrence has been prayed for and preyed upon. The mean streets of Chicago can be rough — a stark contrast to the kindness of the people who God puts in his life to care for him in manifold ways every single day.

Is there an answer to homelessness in America?

I don’t know if there is anything else that can be done except for this one thing:

We must not lump all of God’s homeless people into one big category and call it The Homeless Dilemma.

Each and every one of those people at the busy intersections and sitting along the avenues with their cups and their cardboard signs is a real person with a history of good times and hard times. Each and every individual who wanders the streets looking for a way to get somewhere else has a story to tell.

They have souls that require as much nourishment as their physical bodies.

They need a hug and an ear to listen to them — they say they need money, but what they might need more is a short-term connection to someone who might give them hope for another day.

Hope is a survival tool for those who have little else to carry with them.

My friends, do what you can. One person at a time is enough. Give them the time of day, give them a hug, give them a mug of hot chocolate, but whatever you do, give them hope.

Mother Goose thanks you.

This is not Lawrence.  I have never photographed my friend, not wanting to seem exploitative in any way.

This is not Lawrence. I have never photographed my friend, not wanting to seem exploitative in any way.

The Lawrence Little Dilemma Begins

Mother Goose didn’t really plan to invite a homeless man into her home for lunch.

And yet, the truth of it was that here she was in her kitchen making coffee, frying up bacon and eggs, and toasting a bagel for a man who had been living on the streets for the past ten years.

Sometimes, Mother Goose has to just shake her head at the unlikely turns that her life takes!

On Tuesday, as she was climbing the front porch steps after a long emotional tutoring session with the squirrels, Mother Goose heard a man calling out, “Ma’am, excuse me, ma’am, do you have any work for me to do? I’m homeless. I haven’t eaten in two days. I’m a man of God. I just need to do some work so that I can get into a hotel tonight. Do you have any work I can do for you, ma’am?”

Mother Goose turned to look at the middle-aged man walking up her sidewalk. He was dressed in a Carhartt chore jacket, baggy light-colored Carhartt overpants with a black stocking cap and gym shoes. His face looked a little tired, but he smiled at Mother Goose when he reached the bottom of the porch steps. He looked clean enough and didn’t have a beard. He didn’t smell bad and seemed to have his teeth. Most homeless folks really look homeless, but this man looked pretty “normal”. Mother Goose hates to use that word, but my readers will surely understand…

Normally, I do not strike up conversations with strangers who are walking by. I greet folks with a hearty “How ya doin’?” and then let them pass by my house.

We live just two blocks from the western border of Chicago, near a neighborhood where shootings happen regularly and gangs own the blocks. Territories are staked out and street corners are occupied. I drive through the Austin neighborhood everyday on my way to work — I am curiously drawn to these streets and the people who have little choice but to live in such extreme conditions.

Unemployment, drug deals, violent crime and guns are the real facts of life for these folks, and yet there are families who live on the residential streets of Austin. There are little kids who walk to school, and moms who pray that their children will arrive safely.

I typically stay in my car when I’m in the Austin community. Perhaps you read the story of the time Mother Goose rode her bicycle to an oasis within the neighborhood, the Garfield Park Conservatory

Unless I’m going to a meeting where we are working out ways to connect military families and veterans to the social services and VA-sponsored services they may need in their community, I try to be as safe as possible and just keep driving.

However, if I’m waiting at an intersection and see a homeless person walking between the cars trying to collect some change, I’ll immediately reach into my purse for whatever I can find. I drop the money in their cups — they say “God bless you, ma’am. God bless you.”

homeless

When Mother Goose looked into the eyes of this homeless man at the bottom of her front porch steps, her heart was filled with compassion for him and his circumstance. “I don’t have any work for you,” she explained. “But I’d like to help you anyway.”

Opening her wallet, she found some bills and handed them to the man. He smiled gratefully as he reached for the money, and said, “Thank you, ma’am. My name is Lawrence. Thank you so much.”

Softly, Mother Goose replied, “Oh my grandfather’s name was Lawrence.”

The homeless man beamed knowing he had made a connection. “Well, there you are,” he said. “I knew we had something in common. And what is your name, ma’am? I’d really like to do some work for you. Could I come back tomorrow for some work? I’d sure like to do some work for you.”

I told him my name and said that if he’d come back tomorrow, I’d find something for him to do.

Though I am a very giving person, even this was way out of the box for Mother Goose. This is called beginning a relationship with a homeless man. It starts with the exchange of names. Now it is no longer anonymous donations in an empty coffee cup. Now it’s personal. Now there are expectations and hopes and suggestions of help to come. Now it gets real. Now there’s a commitment of sorts.

Some people would say “Now this is an open can of worms.”

Mother Goose said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Lawrence. Around noonish?”

(Please return tomorrow to hear more of this story…)

Important Stats for a Goose

  • 77,493 honks to date

What’s New? What’s Old?

May 2022
S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031