My husband just said to me, “You are living your bumper sticker, honey!” One of my bumper stickers says
SPEAK YOUR MIND EVEN IF YOUR VOICE IS SHAKING
Because I just called in to KLBJ radio (AM/Austin, TX) with hosts Mark, Ed and Sargent Sam to confront them over their viewpoints
on the homeless being invited into churches for shelter, meals and overnight stays. Sam was saying churches are just asking for
Sergent Sam was talking about certain homeless folks as “vermin” (his word, not mine) and how “you better nail everything
down in your church or they’ll steal it” and how “these bums will drink the communion wine and lift your coffers”.
I was driving in my car and had just dropped the girls off at theatre camp, and I was really, really shaken by his words.
All I could think was: how many people are hearing this right now and nodding their heads in agreement? And then when he
started talking about Christ, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Because
1) Since he is a Christian, I’d like to see Sam out in these communities serving fellowship and love instead of vilifying folks
he does not know
2) He would be able to talk about change and be an inspiration to others
So when I got home, I made some notes and called in to say that I was upset that Sam was propagating these negative myths
about the homeless. I told them I have worked in D/Fw and Austin, I have spent the night at my church (First United Methodist
Church in downtown Austin) to help SERVE the homeless—not just to serve food and shelter but to SERVE love and hope and help—
and then I CHALLENGED Sam to come down and spend the night with me at FUMC and witness what these families are suffering and living.
And I am not going to give up. I have already called Jen Stuart, director of membership at FUMC, and she is going to send an invite to
Sam at the radio station with the dates of our next IHN program (Interfaith Hospitality Network).
I recognize that Sam has been a police officer and has been called to arrest some rowdy, high and or abusive homeless folks.
I get that. But he is calling out a few bad apples and poisoning the entire cart with his rhetoric, and I just couldn’t take it.
I also asked all three DJS, on the air, if they had ever been homeless? (They all replied, “No.”)
And, lastly, I invited them to come on November 16 to the Sunrise Service that is held on Townlake—with city council members
and rabbis and ministers and musicians—to HONOR those who have DIED on the streets of Austin and how last year we read the names of
96 people. NINETY SIX PEOPLE DIED LAST YEAR, THAT WE KNOW OF, ON THE STREETS OF THIS CITY.
I told them about Richard Troxell (founder of House the Homeless and Universal Living Wage)
and his tireless comittment to those who have been displaced and how he goes to D.C. to fight (for the rights of our neighbors, our family
members who have been evicted and can’t afford housing, those who are mentally challenged and find themselves without care or assistance,
those who have fought in American wars and come home traumatized and physically incapacitated that also find themselves homeless because
our government, the very government that sent these troops over, don’t follow up and care for them when they come home, for the elderly
who have no where to turn and end up on the streets, for the runaways that leave abusive situations and end up homeless…) and they
mentioned that they have talked to Richard many times***.
I tell you, I was thinking, as I dialed the number, “Call in love. Call in love. Call with respect.” Because I understand it is “entertainment” radio and that
they are doing their job, and they are people who just need to SEE the “other side”, but I also felt like I wasn’t going to stand by and let them attack the
groups who are bringing homeless families into churches NOR was I going to let them degrade people who are already feeling neglected, invisible,
unworthy, unaaceptable, forgotten and hopeless.
And I wonder: do these three guys get the damage they are inflicting on PEOPLE? Mark, Sam and Ed (who usually fights for the underdog, so thank you, Ed)
have so much POWER. They have unbelievable power to reach thousands upon thousands of people and bring hope and laughter, and when they choose
to turn ugly words into their mantra, I just can’t believe it. It is really disheartening for me because it is like every tiny little step forward I make with
a homeless person, well, it’s all just been destroyed in a few seconds by sending out this horrible idea that all homeless are untrustworthy and bad.
And the fact that HOMELESS is a tainted word—that most people hear it and shudder or think “dirty” or “crazy” (like the way the word
FEMINIST makes people think unshaven, angry, bra-burning women)—it really brings me down. It hurts my heart like I can’t express.
BUT I AM NOT GIVING UP. Nope, for every knucklehead on the radio or eager, tasteless voice on television creating havoc and ca-ca all
in the name of the mighty dollar, well, I’ll just keep walking against their bellowing wind, or walk around it, or under it, or right through it
and continue to believe that ALL people deserve a chance to be educated, to have clothing and shelter and food and fellowship and the
pursuit of liberty and happiness.
To me, this is the message of Christ. To love what is unloveable. 7 x 70.
(***By the way, I just got off the phone with Richard Troxell, and he said he has never talked with those guys, except Sargent Sam when Sam has been on the other
radio show with Bob.
And…While we were speaking, Richard also told me that all those multi-million dollar condos going in down by the ARCH and Caritas are going to push all those
shelters away, and the city is going to want to “clean up” the streets so that there are no homeless down around those areas at all. Where are the displaced people
going to go now? ….Who will help this growing number…?)
I’d like to thank Lance, my husband, for cheering me on and to Jen and Richard who talked me through afterwards and understood. I love you guys.