Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Update on the Homeless Men

In the words of the Leonard Cohen song, "It's come to this, oh yes, it's come to this."

First, I thank you all for your participation in this conversation. I thank you for your comments and your interest. In particular I thank the Park Slope Civic Council for their desire to be part of a solution, and I thank Rabbi Andy Bachman and Congregation Beth Elohim for their offering to support us and assist us. ("Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.")

Second, now that this conversation has started, it needs to keep developing. If Park Slope was just voted the best neighborhood in NYC, then why shouldn't homeless people want to live here too? A truly diverse community needs to embrace its FULL diversity. Old First wants to be part of the continuing conversation, especially with Beth Elohim and the Civic Council.

Third, because this is a developing story, let me update you on the weekend. There are some new facts on the ground. On Sunday afternoon, the cops were called in twice by neighbors. I have to say the cops were great.

As left the church on Sunday evening, I found a steel bar the guys were keeping as a weapon. On Monday morning I learned that the men had been urinating in front of nursery school children and into their play-yard. On Monday evening a deacon confirmed to me that the men had exposed themselves in front of children while urinating.

Yesterday Frank showed me his face, very badly bruised. He told me had fallen, but I don't believe him. His face tells a different story. This morning I removed a blanket with blood stains on it.

"It's come to this, oh yes, it's come to this." (I guess I always expected it would come to this.)

I have been denying them permission to sleep on our grounds since last July, but I found it impossible to enforce. As of this morning, the Commander of Precinct 78 agreed with me that the police would enforce it.

The story isn't over. What's going to happen next, I don't know. But now that the community seems to have woken up I want it to stay involved. The men were sleeping and hanging out at Old First because Old First is public space for the community, and because, like anyone, they want a short commute, and they work on Seventh Avenue.

So please don't give them money. Give them food. Address them by name. Robert, Will, and Frank.

It's not over for us with them either at Old First. We have three deacons who will work on this with me. We'll get back to you.

Meanwhile, you might check the Brooklyn Paper for a story this weekend.


James Brumm said...

And so we have despair and hope, all rolled up together. And--Hallelujah!--there is God at work in it.

I wish I could do more immediately and directly about this, but I'm a bit far removed. I pray for you and your Consistory and thank God for your congregation's witness in this.

slope resident said...

3 rude, obnoxious, homeless men?

It seems like maybe God isn't so all loving and powerful and giving after all.

I thought that the church was about the awesome, unrelenting, compassionate, power of God.

That's why I liked the fact that there are no fences and that people can crash on your steps.

Because you represent the true nature of God. No fear. Love all. Sanctuary.

And when I see you I am reminded:
"Do not be afraid. Love all. Share what you can. Keep what you can't."

but now I am not so sure.
I guess it's ok though.
The world is changing.

9-11 has taught us that we need to be afraid, there is a real enemy, we can be hurt, and sanctuary is an idea of the past.

Old First said...

Dear Slope Resident:

You have every right to judge us. Please judge us fairly. Please read the whole story.

For two years we've been protecting them as best we can. We gave them food and clothing.

But our public space is public space, and we had to regard the children who use our building too.

I hope that you will contribute to whatever long term proposals we and Beth Elohim and the Civic Council can come up with.

slope resident said...

Attack in any form is still attack.

You named these men publicly as you would "the beast".

You put their families at risk of even more humiliation and ridicule
- And who knows what else?
The wrath of some irate community member now feeling justified to act out of fear and anger or downright hatred cause the church is struggling too?

I am sure that you felt justified - 2 years is a long time - even for a man of God. And the Homeless in Park Slope are a challenge.

I only hope and pray that there isn't a time limit or 'condition' on God's Grace - otherwise I'll be blogging from hell in the very near future...