Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Phone call from jail

On Monday afternoon I received a phone call from an inmate of the Henrico County jail.

Let's call him Bob.

Bob called me to say that he'd received my name from a friend who works at the jail and attends Atlee.

He went on to say that he needed a duffle bag to put his personal belongings in. He was being released on Tuesday. The plastic bags he uses will not hold up.

Bob happens to be homeless and tends to spend time in jail to stay off the streets.

He assured me that he was not a hardened criminal.

I told him that I'd do my best, but I couldn't make any promises.

I found it amazing that all he wanted was a duffle bag. He didn't ask for a place to sleep, food or money!

I ended up in meetings all day and found myself at 6:30 pm looking in Sam's club for a duffle bag. I finally made a call to the jail to see if I could drop it off. 

The answer was no!

I went home frustrated. 

I got up the next morning full of energy and prepared to face this challenge again.

I noticed on my bookshelf several new bibles that were left over from a case I'd bought for my wife several months ago. 

I took a bible and wrote a short note with my life verse Prov 3:5-6 on the inside cover.

It reminded me of the time I received my first bible.

I then proceeded to Walmart and found the exact bag that Bob wanted!

I traveled across the river and went to the jail. I'd envisioned the night before that I might run into a sheriff in the parking lot who might help me out.

It wasn't two minutes after I arrived in the parking lot a man in a sheriff's uniform came walking by.

I asked if he could take the bag in to Bob. He said sure! 

He even knew who Bob was. It would appear he was a regular at the jail.

I haven't heard anything from Bob yet, but I can still be praying for him.

It turns out that another person who is helping me plan the retreat works at the Richmond City jail. 

He told me last night that he knows Bob as well. He said that Bob might be a great candidate for the retreat.

So the next time you get a call from jail don't be surprised what might happen!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Homeless Retreat Moving Forward

Tonight at the Alpha and Omega Bible Church there was a lot of movement towards the retreat becoming a reality!

Pastor Carolyn made an announcement to the folks in attendance that I was sponsoring a retreat for any of the men that wanted to go.

We are starting with just the men for the first time and then try the ladies on the next go round.

After her announcement several men came up to her to sign up with the understanding that it would be a dry three day retreat, so leave the drugs and alcohol behind!

So now we have several folks that want to go.

I also spent much of the night speaking with Shelton who once was homeless himself. He now volunteers and helps out at the church Tuesday nights for dinner and Sunday mornings for Church.

I told Shelton about the retreat and he really liked the idea. He said that it was a radical idea and that many guys would really take advantage of it.

He also volunteered to help plan the retreat on Thursday evenings with the rest of the group.

He will have huge insight into what will and won't work!

Tonight was a great step towards the reality of a retreat!

Things are moving forward!

Monday, January 28, 2013

The compassion of a seventh grader!

This morning it is 32 degrees outside and raining.

As I drive through Northside and Barton Heights I see men and women walking the streets cold and wet.

I can't begin to empathize with the homeless because I have never been in that situation.

I do recall reading this article the other day and was so impressed with this seventh grader who did his best to better understand the plight of the homeless and then did something about it!

7th Grader sets the example

A story like this encourages me in my journey to put on a retreat for the homeless!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Morning After

For months I drive through neighborhoods like Highland Park, North side and Barton Heights.

I am praying while I pass by abandoned buildings, crack houses, drunks on the streets and other assorted people and places.

The need is great, but what is the need?

This morning after the snow fall, I see things differently.

Snow tends to brighten things up!

A blighted community looks totally different.

I see God's hand at work!

Its as if he has laid his white robe over everything.

God is moving!

The snow looks awesome and brings a smile to my face!

I know God is just telling me "I got this!"

Nothing like a new snow fall the morning after.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Difficult but NOT impossible!

This morning I met with Alice who is the Executive Director for Va Supportive Housing.

I had read an article about Va Supportive Housing not too long ago in the newspaper

Today was a great meeting learning more about what they do.

Va Supportive Housing has learned over the years that the practice of "housing first" for the homeless, is what works best for the most vulnerable folks on the streets.

This past summer I learned about this same process at a conference here in Richmond.

It made a lot of sense to me!

This idea is actually quit simple in it's concept. 

Take someone who is most vulnerable living on the streets and put them in housing with NO conditions!

It doesn't matter whether or not you have mental issues or substance abuse.

Place them in a safe environment and then deal with their personal issues only if they want to.

Alice spoke of "not judging" who they are.

Sounds familiar!

In NY, I learned that this concept of "housing first" works!

NY was able to use this concept to cut their homeless population in half in just five years for a specific area.

People won't deal with their issues until they find a safe place to live.

It's a basic need and one that I can not truly relate to, but one that I am trying to better understand.

Here is a testimony of a homeless woman in London that speaks to this challenge!

Mark Horvath produced this video on his blog called

Mark is doing incredible work to help solve homelessness across the world!

So if we don't judge and we provide a safe place to live, then maybe we can make a difference!

I know in my life I didn't deserve what Christ provided for me.

Now we have the opportunity to provide that same love to those on the streets.

Va Supportive Housing is on the right track!

It's simple in concept, but difficult to pull off.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

There are no rules on the streets!

I have been told by a counselor that living on the streets can be addictive almost euphoric!

How could that be I asked.

One has no responsibilities, no one to answer to and no on to care about.

One can wake up and eat when they want. No job is calling one to work.

There are no responsibilities!

When there is love brought into the equation with structure and expectations then there can be respect for one another!

Not only respect for one another, but self respect as well!

Above is a picture of the rules listed on the wall at the Alpha and Omega Bible Church for the men and women who are in transition.

I have seen love and respect towards one another abound in that Church.

I have seen it work first hand.

There maybe no rules on the streets, but once you walk in the door of this Church you WILL respect one another!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Jerry has been seen!

Yesterday I wrote a post called Do I even care?

Today I wanted to give an update!

Last night I went to the Alpha and Omega Bible Church to check in and see if anyone had seen Jerry.

I found out that Jerry was at the Church this past Sunday and everything seemed to be fine!

I was excited to hear that they had seen him even though I didn't get to see him last night.

He was a no show! 

By the way Jerry and Tina are no longer spending time together.

That was not a surprise based on the word on the streets that I had received earlier.

I hope to run into Tina and Jerry though separately,  some time soon through my travels and see if they still are interested in a homeless retreat!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Do I even care?

Where is Jerry?

Jerry is a man who sleeps on a bench outside the bus station.

I see Jerry on the streets just about every morning.

We have shared breakfast together a few times.

I usually see him every Tuesday evening at a small bible study.

Haven't seen him in over a week!

Is he OK?

Has he gone home?

Is he safe?

Has he been hurt?

Is he alive?

Will anyone miss him?

Does anybody care?

Mark Horvath has created a site called

The title speaks for itself as I delve deeper into the homeless situation.

I must confess that there was a time not too long ago, that I wouldn't have even cared!

I never took the time to notice all the people living on the streets!

Now is the time I start caring and doing something about it!

Pray that I will see Jerry tonight and that he is ok!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Update! Homeless Retreat!

I wanted everyone to know that a group of folks is forming to help Pray, Plan and Implement a retreat for the homeless!

We meet every Thursday evening at 6:30pm at Atlee Community Church!

We will start by praying for the retreat and seeing where God will lead us!

We will then plan what the retreat will look like and all the details that come with that.

And finally we will pick a date and actually put on a retreat.

If you are interested in getting involved come join us on Thursday nights.

God is up to something BIG!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Black and White or in the Box!

Have you ever heard the term that you are either "black and white" or "grey", in the way you see things?

You are either decisive in one way or another, thus black and white.

Or we see things in the grey area where there are many possibilities not just one or another.

I happen to be black and white!

It happens to get me in trouble because when you are black and white you tend to put things in a box!

I saw things like a man holding up a sign that said he was homeless, I assumed he was!

Ask any of the homeless providers and they will tell you that's not true! Most of them are not homeless.

I have been told don't give out money to the street beggars because you are feeding their habits, such as drug addiction and alcoholism.

I have seen it first hand where a man on the street was asking for money and it was obvious that he needed money to feed his habit.

What I have found to be true is that you can't be black and white!

Not everyone fits in the same box!

The other day I found that to be so true.

Give! But don't judge!

I have to stop being black and white and just follow God's leading!

He's teaching me that there are limitless possibilities and don't put him in a box!

It actually be a lot of fun when you look outside the box.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Give! Time not your money! Part 2

This was a video that was sent to me yesterday, it really speaks to my heart!

If we are willing to make friends with the homeless, we can change the world!

It's not about money it's about making friends and introducing our friends to Christ!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Give! Time not your money! (Part 1)

One of the most important lessons I have learned over the last year is that it is going to take a lot of patience and time to solve homelessness.

Time not money!

I have heard it said over and over again that we are spending more money than ever before on issues like poverty and yet there is more poverty than ever before!

So if we give our time in order to help solve homelessness what does that look like?

It involves spending time with individuals on the street getting to know them.

Now that can be a scary thought for most folks and it was and still is for me!

I am like a fish out of water!

But God has a plan to reveal his love to ALL!

If we spend time with folks, we build trust, with trust comes the opportunity to share the good news of Christ with someone!

With Christ all things are possible!

Over the past year or more, I gave up fishing on a weekly basis. 

Don't get me wrong, I still love the sport!

I love to fish! 

I made the conscious decision to take that time and start fishing for ways to solve homelessness.

Start fishing for men!

I have never regretted it once!

I have seen God move in ways I could have never imagined. 

I put myself out there scared to death, but knowing God was with me!

I have had more thrills and excitement, than any 9 lb large mouth bass or 58 lb catfish could ever give me!

I made a choice to give of my time to a calling of God in reaching out to the homeless.

It didn't take money, but it did take time!

PS Tomorrow I will share a video that will challenge you to rethink what it means to combat poverty!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What puts a smile on your face?

Over a year ago I started going through my closet and finding clothes that I no longer wear.

I thought to myself that I could give them away to the homeless!

I then had my daughter go through my sons closet and do the same thing. The boys had gone off to college! 

Time to clean house!

I started by cruising down town Richmond and handing out the clothes to the homeless!

My son James used to joke with me that he would be on the look out for some of my clothes down town!

He lives in the VCU area!

Well tonight after over a year, it finally happened to me. 

I was at the Alpha and Omega church near Broad and the Boulevard as part of a bible study for the homeless.

In walked a man wearing a RVC volleyball sweatshirt! 

I looked real hard and there on his sleeve was the name "Huber"!

That was the name of my twin boys best friend in high school!

I guess it got left at our house over the years!

My daughter said to me "that it got better use than sitting in the boys closet". 

She couldn't be more right and it put a big smile on my face!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Prayer and Hope

This is a tweet I read the other morning.

"Hope is the power that gives a person the confidence to step out and try!"- Zig Ziglar  

I have the Hope that we can make a difference with the homeless community!

How do we show Hope to the homeless?

Spend time and show love like no other!

Introduce them to others who have overcome the same odds!

Show the Hope in Christ!

Pray like you believe you can make a change with Christ's help!

Prayer and Hope can lead to action.

If we don't try than nothing will happen!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hope before Food!

This is a great article that has helped me solidify my calling in the way I can best help the homeless!

Jesus, Poverty and a Bad Mistake!

Greg Stier wrote the article for "Church Leaders" website.

Friday, January 11, 2013

More about building trust!

Yesterday I put up a post about giving to the homeless without playing judge or jury!

Give? But don't judge!

I said that I would follow up today about the conversation with Robert, that I had yesterday morning.

I went to find Robert standing outside the Wawa and approached him standing on the corner.

I introduced myself and he smiled.

I asked if he wanted to go to breakfast and he immediately responded "No I have to stay here".

On the way over I began to think to myself that maybe he just might not want to go out to breakfast with me.

Sure enough he was hesitant.

He began to explain that he needed to be there to receive funds and maybe even someone might offer him a job

I responded by saying that I might be that "someone".

He said "but you work for a church!" (He had received my business card the day before.)

Interesting comment?

We had a great chat and it was fun getting to know him.

He showed me all the cuts on his jacket and the bullet hole in his sign.

Evidence that there are people out there that don't care and are cruel in their behavior!

I walked away knowing that trust had to be built first before there could be any movement forward!

Solving homelessness is NOT quick or easy!

It will take a lot of patience and building up of TRUST!

PS Robert is not homeless yet, but he is on the cliff! He is currently behind in his rent this month!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Give? But don't judge!

Lengthy post, but worth the message!

The other day I saw a man on the street soliciting donations. I decided to try something different. 

I had read a blog post from a blogger who lives in England, who once was homeless herself (Nadia's Perspective) and challenged her readers in how to view solicitors.

Should you give a homeless person money?

Having read the story and struggled with the topic on several occasions I decided to try something new!

I was in kinda of a hurry at the time, so I wrapped up a bill around my business card in hopes that I might get a response some time later by way of a phone call or email.

Last night this is the email I received. I asked for permission this morning to share this on my blog.

Evening Mr. Parker,
       Thank you again for your generous contribution to my situation. I realize most people who panhandle usually are pre-determined as addicts, recovering addicts, alcoholics, or suffering from some other condition.

Long story short, September 28th 2011 I was involved in an accident shortly after leaving work. No fault of my own, just sitting still in traffic when a young man ran a red light and collided into the back of my car leaving me unable to return to work at either profession. 10 months later I was able to sit up  and begin walking again, unfortunately,with a limp and cracked lower back discs. 

As a preexisting condition, employers politely decline hiring you because of the possible ramifications of injury and they do not want their insurance to be held liable in the event something should happen. If I don't tell them and something occurs, then its' employment fraud and no one is held accountable except me and jobless again. 

Disability has been filed, declined and now going for the appeal. Another 4-6 months of struggle. There are no resources for rent, utilities etc....the waiting list is insane.

So I'm forced to panhandle and make the best out of whatever the good Lord should bless me with for the day. I stand for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week no matter the weather. I have no options and I don't stop for breaks from standing etc....My wife counts on me and I count on myself. Extremely determined to say the least, I don't know how to give up.

        My employment history is very simple. 16 years with the World Art Group as the specialist printer of antique reproductions which now is no longer a position or department. 

9 years on a television show in Canada, The Fourth Encounter which is now just a memory. After the networks sued for my contract and the I.R.S. collected, there was nothing left except day to day.

No savings, etc....This is why my sign reads STARTING OVER. Not quitting, just starting back up the hard way.

Victim of a misfortunes of circumstances. Life moves on and I have to do my best everyday in order to begin to turn things back around. If it wasn't for my trust in Christ, I probably would of collapsed by now. Sounds grim, but I'm optimistic, something will come together. 

On rare occasions as with you, I received a blessing from you. That hardly ever happens. 

The average comes out to 1.53 per hour or less and all the bad mouth and grief a person can stand on a daily bases. 

Stereotyping is rampant, but it is part of it unfortunately. 

Easier to assume than to ask a question. The truth I guess isn't as fun I guess. 

The police have a betting pool going as to whether or not I'll make it. At least they are friendly. 

People really have no idea just how vicious people really are, from being slashed with a hook knife to being shot at, a new hole in the sign now, to being burned with a fire starter.  2 months ago I was shot in the face with an air cannon loaded with pennies and gravel. Still healing from that one. 

I have to be careful and cautious of everyone. I tried to get a news medias to cover my story, no luck there. No dirt, no story basically  The Holy Spirit is watching over me and something will occur for us, just in God's time, not ours. Bless you again for the help Mr. Parker and we thank you.The clip is a show sample.

Best Regards,
Robert and Tricia Bess

I too have been guilty of trying to put everyone on the street in the same box! I too have judged people wrongly!

This was a great wake up call! 

Give it you want generously, but don't judge!

Take the time to ask!

Tomorrow I will follow up with a post concerning our first meeting.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It's a great Day!

Nothing better to start my day than to spend time and hear an encouraging word from my angel!

I met Geraldine on March 6, 2012!

I have thoroughly enjoyed every time we meet at 7:35 in the morning!

She is always an encouragement and an inspiration!

She puts a smile on my face every time!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Great Read!

There is a great Homeless Article in today's paper!

Housing must come first!

I look forward to working with Va Supportive Housing and help solve the homeless situation in Richmond and beyond!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


What is the definition of patience?

Wikipedia describes it as follows:

"Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast."

I have always associated patience with time!

We live in a world that wants things fast, such as instant messaging, movies on demand, or even fast food!

I have grown up seeing our demands for things to happen faster and faster.

This has been my hang up with the homeless situation. I want to see it end right NOW!

Sally Steenland wrote and interesting article about Ending Homelessness in 2013.

As I reflect on the idea of patience I am beginning to see that it has more to do with learning and growing then it does time.

Am I where I need to be to make a difference?

Am I knowledgeable about the issues?

Am I ready?

I know that God has me on a journey and I want to be ready in his time!

God will bring the pieces together despite my lack of patience!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

4 pieces of the puzzle

I have spent the past year learning all I could about the homeless situation in Richmond and beyond.

In order to make a lasting change in this area, I have boiled it down to 4 areas of importance

The first area is to help everyone come to the knowledge of a loving God through Jesus Christ. How do we show God's love without enabling the problems to continue? Charity is not the answer, but a hand up and not a hand out will make a difference!

The second area is that housing must come first before you can address the substance abuse, mental illness, sexual abuse or any other issue. This basic need takes priority. It has been shown that if housing comes first then change can happen.

In NY this approach has cut homelessness in half in 5 yrs. After a home is found then the other areas listed above can be addressed.

The next would be the employment issue. Often times you have to address the lack of transportation as part of the employment piece. Employment can help with a sense of self worth and dignity that has been lost on the streets.

Lastly we must address how to prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place. Sometimes it's as easy as showing somebody a budget for the first time! 

People find themselves homeless for a wide variety of reasons.

Keep in mind that WE ALL are one or two bad decisions away from being homeless!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Homeless man prays for me!

I started the new year with my usual devotion time. It was about forgiveness.

2 Cor 2:5-11

I then went on my prayer walk and thought about the need to forgive and move forward.

I made some notes in my prayer journal concerning my family.

I then drove off looking for Jerry (Homeless man that sleeps on the park bench in front of the bus station).

I didn't see him at his usual spot. I continued down the boulevard looking for him.

I spotted him walking down the other side of the railroad bridge on the boulevard.

He immediately spotted me and started to laugh a little.

He came up to the car and said he had just finished praying that God would send ME to pick him up!

I was caught off guard a little bit, but I shouldn't have been surprised by what God can do!

Jerry got in the car and asked for a ride downtown to the Conrad Center, which is the point of entry for all the homeless in Richmond.

As we were driving Jerry shared how he had gotten up at church
(Alpha and Omega Bible Church) last night and spoke about God to all his homeless friends.

It was very exciting!

He then shared that he had always wanted to be a preacher!
Jerry wants to share the love of God with all the folks he meets!

He then stated that he needed to get his act together first.

When we arrived at the Conrad Center he asked if he could pray for me!

He started by saying "God I want to ask a favor of you".

Jerry prayed that myself, my kids and wife would be closer together!

I was blown away!

I am on this path to help solve homelessness in Richmond and the people I am trying to help are praying for me!

Exciting and humbling at the same time!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

End of 2012 and the beginning of 2013!

If 2012 was a year of acquiring knowledge about the homeless!

Then 2013 will be the year to apply what I have learned!