Tuesday evening June 15th KXAN the NBC affiliate in Austin ran a story on Danny & Maggie about how they are back on the corner of Braker Lane and IH 35 panhandling. You can see the story by clicking here. We are grateful to KXAN for continuing to elevate the dialogue of the chronic homeless here in Austin and we are happy to be a part of that dialogue. We do take one extraordinary exception to one part of their story however. KXAN implied that they tried to reach me for comment repeatedly but without return phone call but the truth is that I was out of town on a fishing trip with my church and was not reachable. They were told this by our staff. They were also told this by our official spokesperson. As the spokesperson for Mobile Loaves & Fishes I look forward to every opportunity to speak on behalf of those brothers and sisters whom we serve.
Now on to Danny & Maggie. It is with pure joy that I am able to report to you that for nearly three months Danny & Maggie have a place off the streets that they can call home. They are progressing just as we expected. While making this radical transition they have longed to reconnect with old friends; both those on the streets and those that served them in ministry while they were on the streets. This longing led them back to their old stomping grounds at Braker and IH 35. Of the almost 90 days they have been off the streets they have spent about 5 days out on their old stomping grounds. Folks, this is a celebration! Now personally I wish they would not go back there but we live in a free world and they are allowed to do so. I respect and honor their decision. I do pray that as time goes on there will be a greater connection in their new community and a lesser longing for their old.
We are learning that for anyone, much less those that have experienced this type of homelessness, it takes about one month for every year you have lived in a place or a lifestyle to make the adjustment. For folks like Danny & Maggie this may mean an adjustment period of a year or longer. For those of you with families that have had to transfer from one city to the next think of the extraordinary adjustments you have had to make. So too for Danny & Maggie. Merely receiving a place they can call home does not allow us to say they have been fixed and repaired. It is a giant step though.
Now let's talk about panhandling. Virtually everything I have to say about panhandling can be found at www.mlfnow.org/panhandling. Simply, I would prefer no one felt compelled to have to panhandle for any reason. Those that do find it humiliating. Read the citeable studies found at the above link to get the facts.
When questioned by the reporter about why they needed to panhandle Danny & Maggie responded that they needed the money to live and pay bills now that they are housed. Let me go on record by stating emphatically that in the almost six years we have been housing formerly chronically homeless brothers and sisters 100%, YES 100%, of them have struggled in almost a life and death situation to pay their bills every month. Come on folks! These people live in poverty and we are grateful every month that any of our residents are able merely sustain themselves. We are not moving this population of people into a middle class lifestyle. What is really incredible though is our residents level of happiness however, not without the pitfalls of life.
"Why don't they just get a job!", many would say. For a variety of reasons many of our brothers and sisters have a difficult time gaining employment. Their fault, our fault or nobody's fault the fact remains that many of the chronically homeless are unemployable in the way you and I typically think of employment; the forty hour week 8 to 5 type of job. You can read a lot about how we view this by going to www.mlfnow.org/jobs. We talk extensively about why and then offer a program as to how we can begin to change this for some. We have been changing the lives of several formerly chronically homeless through our micro economic jobs model. If the only answer is to stuff them into the 8 to 5 box we are only going to be marginally, if that, successful. We are thinking outside the box with results.
We would love for you to go read about our Community First! approach to home by going to www.mlfnow.org/how. Here you will find our business plan for the RV community we are proposing as well as a number of other documents that details very specifically our philosophy. No secrets here as these documents have only been up on our website for several years now.
Everyone wants to know how much money we made on the I Am Here campaign. Many suggest or allude that there was a windfall. Let me assure you there was no windfall. We are grateful that we exceeded the goal to raise enough money to get Danny & Maggie into a home plus a little more to perhaps get another chronically homeless individual off the streets of Austin. We were blown away by the national attention the campaign received and are ecstatic with how viral the campaign elevated this very important issue. Mission accomplished!
Let's celebrate a victory and continue to dialogue together on how our community can best tackle this very pressing issue. Mobile Loaves & Fishes is committed to this mission of serving our most vulnerable. We love to love those whom many choose to despise. We welcome those who want to join us in this effort. We are making a powerful difference.