Friday, May 31, 2013

Jerry's not at the bottom yet!

As I drove my usual route to the Northside, I began to think and pray for Jerry.

Jerry is a gentleman that sleeps outside the greyhound bus station.

I have written about him quit a bit.

I turned into the neighborhood looking for Jerry.

Sure enough as I was stopped at a red light, there he was literally standing at the corner.

I rolled down the window and asked him if he wanted to hang out with me.

We have had many a meal together.

I said I was going to pray at the church and then go out to breakfast.

Jerry is a man of God. 

As a matter of fact we have prayed together before.

On one occasion he shared with me his desire to one day be a pastor.

This day however he turned me down. He said he was meeting someone at 10am.

I assured him we would be back by 10am. 

It just so happens it was 6:45 am!

He said no and that he would stay in touch.

This was the second time in a month that Jerry has turned me down because he had to meet someone.

I want to think the best of someone, but the streets cause people to do things they may regret.

It's survival mode and not always a time to socialize.

I am still praying and waiting on Jerry.

I am believing that God can do a good work in Jerry's life.

It's not up to me to figure that out.

Jerry just hasn't hit bottom yet!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It doesn't have to be this way!

This has to stop!

We the Church can make a difference.

What are you called to do?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Released to The Great Beyond

"Released to The Great Beyond" is a saying that is used at the hospital for those patients that are discharged and have no one and no resources.

In other words if your homeless and are dismissed from the hospital then your on your own and the hospital doesn't seem to care about your future.

It's strange that a hospital will do all they can while your in the hospital, but they fail to ensure your care as soon as you walk out the door.

How can I say that?

Over the last few weeks I have seen it happen twice now in David's care or lack there of!

This second episode happened on Saturday evening.

David was being released from the hospital after being there for over a week.

As we were preparing to leave the nurse gave me a script for a miracle drug that is keeping David alive.

I asked the question where do we fill the script?

She very willingly called a few pharmacies to see who carried the drug.

No surprise here, no one had it in stock.

The drug is very expensive. $300-$350 A PILL!

Needless to say David could not afford the medicine.

I told the nurse that we could not leave without knowing where we were going to receive the pills he needed.

She made a call and we got one pill to carry us over till the next day. This was on a Saturday.

What would have happened if the question was not asked?

We were told to come back on Sunday to the pharmacy at the hospital.

At the hospital pharmacy David receives drugs using his Va Coordinated Care card.

On Sunday we made the trip and sure enough the pharmacy did NOT have the medicine!

How does this happen? It's not that complicated, but yes it is!

It's all about the money!

When I spoke with the Dr about the situation she alluded to the fact that David was insistent on leaving the hospital.

I agreed and could understand why, but what she was really saying was that he could only get the meds he needed if he stayed in the hospital.

Stay in the hospital just to take a pill? Literally!

After much discussion the Dr found a way to get David three more pills that will last him till Wed.

The next step would take place at his Dr appt on Tuesday.

I could write a book about how David would have died by now if he was still living in the woods.

The hospital is supposed to take care of all their patients and try to treat them.

Unfortunately there comes a time where the patient is released to "The Great Beyond" and the hospital seems to wash their hands of it!

Monday, May 27, 2013

HIPAA and the Homeless

Over the last few weeks I have seen the hospital on more than one occasion violate the federal laws that were put in place to protest ones privacy.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”)

This was taken from the US Dept of Health and Human Services website.

Your Health Information Is Protected By Federal Law

Most of us believe that our medical and other health information is private and should be protected, and we want to know who has this information. The Privacy Rule, a Federal law, gives you rights over your health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your health information. The Privacy Rule applies to all forms of individuals' protected health information, whether electronic, written, or oral. The Security Rule, a Federal law that protects health information in electronic form, requires entities covered by HIPAA to ensure that electronic protected health information is secure.

On one occasion I came to the hospital to meet with the Drs to discuss David's prognosis and treatment.

When the Drs came into the meeting I was asked from the attending physician who are you?

I was quite surprised by the question because David's nurse had set up the meeting for me.

I responded.

"Nelson Parker, I am his power of attorney, my name, phone number and such are all in his file."

The Dr then asked who the other man was that had a ball cap on and had been in the room on prior occasions.

I believe that might have been Tom one of David's friends from the retreat.

The Dr looked at me with a very flushed face, kinda like she had seen a ghost.

Turns out she thought Tom was me and had revealed all the patient information, prognosis, and treatment with him and not me!

She had been making plans for David's release with Tom and I knew nothing about any of it!

The story started here if you want to catch up!

Here's another example of federal laws being broken.

Then last week I received a letter from the hospital addressed to David.

It was a hand addressed letter with David's name on it.

I took the letter to David and he opened it and began to read it.

He wasn't feeling all that well at the time.

He was confused reading the letter so he gave it to me.

I too was quite confused at first, because none of the Drs names or information in it were familiar.

It turns out that the letter was actually medical records of ANOTHER patient!

I have since lodged a complaint with the hospital compliance officer and waiting to hear back from them.

My eyes and ears have been awakened to a very sad situation.

The most I have learned from this experience is the need for an advocate for the homeless (or anyone who is alone) that goes into the hospital. 

The Drs can not depend solely on the patient themselves to help in their own treatment even though I was told this goes on all the time!

There needs to be an advocacy group for patients like these.

I have seen David put out on the street from the ER at 4 am.

He was released with no money, no phone and no ride home!

This is just plain wrong!

Patients rights are being violated far too often.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Great News!

David is doing much better, as a matter of fact I have never seen him so upbeat!

Thank you for the prayers!

He's feeling good and has begun to show his sense of humor!

Yesterday he got the news that his sodium levels were back at a normal level so he began to celebrate.

The hope is that he will be able to return home tomorrow.

I am not sure I have ever seen this side of David since I have known him.

Funny and crazy!

He'll fit right in at home with my family!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Update on David

I wanted people to know the current status of my friend David.

He came out of the ICU on Monday evening and has been moved to a step down unit.

The hope is that he will be able to come home in a few days.

Please keep him in your prayers as we walk together in this journey.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Drive to Work with Purpose

For years I have gotten up every morning and taken the 30 minute drive to work.

It was always a routine with little or no excitement.

Now I drive to work with purpose and I am always excited about the possibility of an adventure.

I drive a certain route in hopes of seeing several of my new found friends who happen to be urban campers.

Just about every morning I honk my horn and wave to a friend.

Some times when I have time I will stop and we will chat or maybe even go out to breakfast together.

Each morning holds new possibilities.

What would happen if you drove to work with a purpose in mind?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Setbacks and Divine Appointments

On Thursday, David went in for day three of his chemo treatment.

On this particular occasion they decided to do some blood work.

His sodium levels had fallen to a dangerous level.

He was to be put in the ICU for the second time in just over a month.

After waiting literally hours, we finally got to move into the ICU.

Upon arrival I looked at the nurse with some curiosity.

I am terrible with names, but great with faces.

I asked if she knew my wife. She immediately smiled and said "yes we went to nursing school together". Bingo!

We had a great time catching up and getting up to speed on David's situation.

I was thrilled to know that David was in good hands!

But that thrill was short lived.

Just after he got settled in bed, in walked the Dr. 

I couldn't believe it, the one and only Dr I would not want to come into David's room!

Let me stop you there and get anyone who is not up to speed to read this post from 4/15/13.

This is the same Dr that watched and did nothing as I had to restrain David when he was not of sane mind in the emergency room back on 4/13/13.

The same Dr that did not bother to fully examine him, if he had at that time David would have been admitted to the hospital right then.

No we ended up coming back three days later and David was placed in the ICU.

The same Dr that dismissed David from the hospital at 4am in the morning with no money, no phone, and no ride home.

Needless to say this was an opportunity to bite my tongue! 

I began to repeat in my mind "love your enemies".

The Dr introduced himself. 

It took all I could not to unload my frustration!

I stayed calm and began to jog the Dr's memory.

I immediately reminded him that we had met before.

I reminded him of the picture of me in the hallway of the ER restraining David to his bed.

The light came on in the Dr's mind!

He was obviously taken back quit a bit! 

He had a real blank look on his face as he tried to reach for the right words to speak. 

At this point the Dr said "You have a good memory".

I couldn't believe how all this has happened, but I know that I have some great material for how impersonal, irresponsible and confused our health care system is.

I have seen first hand how vulnerable the homeless can be even in a hospital that should be there for the health and well being.

Those patients that are all alone need an advocate!

I do know one thing!

I know God is in control!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mustard Seed Bloomed Today!

On April 14, 2012 I wrote a post called Mustard Seed.

Today I saw what was planted over a year ago finally bloom!

On a Friday in April, 2012 I was taking my usual prayer walk around Northminster while picking up trash.

A lady came out to thank me for doing so. She asked if I went to church at Northminster. I said "no".

She asked if I lived in the neighborhood. I said "no".

She then asked where do you live? I live in Southside in Bon Air.

She was quit puzzled and tried to put all the pieces together.

She then thanked me and said "God Bless your heart."

I replied "He is the One who told me to do it, so I do!"

Now let me travel just over a year and come to the present day.

This past Wednesday I met a pastor named Dr Willie Woodson at an event for Boaz & Ruth.

He was introduced to me by Marti and Lewis Williams. Marti explained to Willie that I was prayer walking in the Northside.

Willie asked if he could join me.

I was thrilled because I had prayed a while back that someone from the neighborhood would join me. 

Someone who had a vested interest in the community.

Just so happens Willie is a pastor of First United Presbyterian Church on Ladies Mile Rd about half mile away.

Willie got up early and joined me this morning as we walked around the block.

When we made the turn onto Montrose Ave, a lady got out of her car and called out "Pastor".

The same lady that I had met over a year ago!

She asked inquisitively of her pastor. "What are you doing? Are you helping clean up?" 

He responded that he was prayer walking with me while we were picking up trash.

It was awesome to see how God orchestrated that one moment in time! 

Willie and I just smiled because I had just shared with him that story of that same lady greeting me a year ago about 10 minutes earlier.

That same lady that goes to his church!

Some times we need to be patient and wait for the mustard seed to bloom, but when it does you can count it all joy for how God brought it to life!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Simple pleasures!

When you don't know the why.

When the days seem to be getting worse.

When you feel like crap.

It's the simple pleasures in life that make you appreciate what God has given you.

A beautiful morning with the sun shining down on you.

A kinda tree house setting looking out into the woods.

The sound of the hustle and bustle of birds and squirrels going about their business.

A good cup of coffee.

A conversation with a friend. 

Enjoy every moment that God gives!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

God's path

When this journey started about 18 months ago, I could have never imagined the path God would take me on.

My advice, don't ever try to figure out where God will take you.

You might say no!

Two years ago I would have been running away in the opposite direction for sure.

That's what I love about God, he knows that about me.

He tells me to take one step of faith and then another and another.

My first step was to get out of my car in a strange neighborhood.

I was scared to death!

But God has revealed himself to me like no other time in my life.

I wouldn't trade these past several months for anything.

The journey has been a blast and I continue to meet some awesome people along the way!

If you want to walk on God's path don't ask questions just take that step of faith.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Prayers Appreciated

David who was formerly homeless just found out the other week that he has terminal cancer.

He is one of the guys that went on the Homeless retreat!

After just two weeks of being in a house and starting to get his life back together, he received the devastating news.

Please be praying for David who is going through his first round of Chemo this week.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Intentional Work!

What is Intentional Work?

Before I answer that question let me give you some back ground on the ways I used to get work done around my house.

I have lived in my present home for close to 20 years.

When there was work to be done I had three choices.

1) Call a contractor to come do the work.

2) Do it myself.

3) Don't do anything and let it slide.

Unfortunately I have to admit that in a lot of cases I would go with option three because I was just plain lazy!

Over the past few months I have come up with option 4, which I have found to be the most rewarding and fun!

4) Go into the city and find urban campers or people with little or no income and give them a job to do.

I have chosen option 4 recently in order to get my house ready to be put on the market.

Option 4 takes intentionality!

It takes time, effort and even money.

The rewards of option 4 are everlasting because it has more to do with building relationships with people you would never meet otherwise.

Options 1-3 don't involve building relationships.

Hire the contractor and be done. 

Do it yourself and be alone, or just be lazy like I have been most of my life!

If you don't believe me then just look at the pictures of my back yard.

For years I have allowed the weeds and vines to take over the backyard.

This past weekend I went into town and got two guys from the city to come out and work along side my son and myself and transform the jungle into a yard.

We all had a blast sharing stories and getting to know one another.

We even made the neighbors mad by playing our music too loud!

I blame my 20 something son for that! He's actually 23.

We shared meals together and even had other friends over to enjoy one another's company.

The house was alive with family and friends!

Oh by the way a great job was completed!

This work just didn't happen on it's own. 

I didn't call the contractor.

I didn't do it myself.

I chose to go with option 4!

It's what I call Intentional Work!

I dare you to try it!

It will change your life! It has mine!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Charity vs Kindness

I would like to propose that we stop giving out charity and start doing acts of kindness.

When I did a Google search for "charity definition" this is the first thing that came up.

"The voluntary giving of help, typically money, to those in need."

When I looked up kindness I found a great description on Wikipedia.

"Robert Louis Stevenson considered that 'the essence of love is kindness; and indeed it may best be defined as passionate kindness."

Charity infers that the giver has something the recipient doesn't have. Therefor the giver unknowingly in most cases, is superior to the recipient.

There is no dignity or respect when it comes to charity in the eyes of the recipient.

In the bible God teaches that love is kind. 

One of the greatest commandments is to love thy neighbor.

So how do we express this love through acts of kindness and not charity.

For me it has been a learning curve over the last year or more, but yesterday it rang true to me.

I texted a friend of David's, a fellow urban camper and asked if he wanted to pay David a surprise visit.

He replied back that he would like that. I then made arrangements to pick him up at the city library.

The library is the place for the urban camper to get access to email and get out of the weather.

When we arrived at home David was surprised and thrilled to see his friend!

We then proceeded to go out to dinner together because a prospective buyer was coming by to see the house.

We had a blast laughing and enjoying each others company at dinner.

After dinner we all went for a drive down to the river to see how high the water was since we were expecting a flood.

David used to be an expert kayak-er so he was thrilled to see the crazies out on the water doing their thing!

After we dropped David's friend off, he said to me that was the first time the two of them have ever had a meal together in a real restaurant.

He then proceeded to say, you have no idea what that means to my friend.

When you take someone out of their harsh environment, that alone can recharge their batteries.

I take for granted eating out with friends. 

I have a new appreciation.

Charity is usually quick and uncomplicated. 

Kindness takes time and effort.

I believe God calls us to love one another! To be kind!

I am all about kindness and not charity.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

When God shows up!

Every day I ask God to show up.

I don't want to take anything for granted.

I know he's there all the time, but sometimes I want him to blow me away.

Today was one of those days. 

I was having breakfast with Charles and his friend Darrell.

I have met Darrell on several occasions, but I don't know him all that well.

Even at breakfast I forgot his name. 

Sorry Darrell!

He currently lives in one of the houses Charles oversees.

Darrell has had his share of challenges in life.

Now at breakfast we were talking about the status of David's health.

Without hesitation or even being asked, Darrell volunteered himself to help with David's situation.

Darrell doesn't even know David!

Charles broke in and said that is God moving in a man's life!

I got to see God show up at breakfast this morning!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's not just Richmond!

Below is a blog post I just read after my fiasco at the hospital this past weekend.

Some how we need to find a way to have hospitals treat ALL people with dignity and care.

Others have shared with me similar stories across the country.

This post was another sad statement of where our health system stands today.

Paul's Story

My effort is just to make people aware of the conditions. 

A month ago I had no idea of the extremes!

I don't have all the answers, but I can educate others through my own experiences.

All that to say, is that Richmond is not alone!

Monday, May 6, 2013

No Where to Go!

If you have never worked closely with the Homeless population then you will never really appreciate how broke the system is.

When I speak of the system I am speaking to the services that are available to a person in need in the Richmond area.

Unfortunately based on what I have learned it's not just Richmond!

Take for example that on this past Saturday the hospital wants to release you as in David's case and you have no where to go.

First off there is no one there to be your advocate other than a social worker from the Hospital.

That is the job of the social worker.

The problem with that is, that on the weekends there is only ONE person on call for the entire hospital.

Keep in mind that the social worker is the one and only person that is your advocate if you are all alone.

I've been told and seen first hand how over whelmed the social workers are at the hospital.

Fortunately enough during our time on Saturday the social worker came by the room.

She was a very nice lady and showed genuine care for David's situation.

After she heard David's case she explained there was nothing she could do because it was Saturday!

She said there were no resources to access because it was the weekend, yet the hospital was prepared to release him any way.

Respit care was not even an option.

In the hospital's defense David's housing situation changed at the last minute, but there were no alternatives provided for him from the hospital.

I don't mean to SHOUT, but do peoples' needs stop on Saturday or after 5pm on the weekdays?

Another example is that the Homeless services shut down on the weekends.

You see the point of entry for the Homeless is only open Monday - Friday 9am -5pm.

This is a tragedy and it needs to change.

One more example of why Richmond needs a Dream Center that is open 24/7!

There should not be a situation where somebody has no place to go!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Death with Dignity

In the less than 24 hours David (whom I asked for permission) was told he had only 1-2 months to live and no place to call home.

The hospital was prepared to release him yesterday knowing he had no where to go!

David is an Urban Camper with no family and no resources.


Over the next few weeks and months I want to share with you the story of David, who is my friend and who once was homeless.

He now resides with my family as we walk together in this journey.

This past week has been one of unimaginably emotions and struggles of a man that spent the last 21 days in a hospital.

I not only want to tell you the story of the man, but also the story of how poorly run our health care system is, especially for those who do not have anything.

There are bright lights to the stories to be told as well.

My hope is that you will not only pray for David, but you will be made more aware of the plight of the Urban Camper.

You see David was one of the men from the retreat, and I am not going to let David die without dignity.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

SUV for An Urban Camper!

The other week a bicycle was donated for the Urban Campers.

I was searching for a friend who might need it to get around town.

At a Church picnic, I asked WB who went on the homeless retreat or should I say the Urban Camper Retreat if he needed some transportation.

He smiled and said he would love a bike.

My only concern was the amount of personal belongings WB liked to carry with him.

He had two bags with him at all times.

I asked where he would put them.

He said the handle bars were perfect for that.

I expressed some concern, but He and his bike were loaded up in a car and were driven back into the city.

The following week I waited to see if WB would show up for the Tuesday night bible study at the Alpha and Omega Bible Church.

I wanted to see him riding on the bike to Church.

Sure enough in his usually late manner he came slowly down the street.

I was glad to see him riding slowly because he had not two bags on the handle bars, but four!

After parking his bike and locking it up, I asked how did he manage to steer with all that luggage?

He said "That's my SUV"!

I couldn't help but laugh and smile at how thrilled he was to have An Urban SUV!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Urban Camper Picnic

A few weeks ago I invited the guys from the homeless retreat to come have some fun and great food.

The Church was having a picnic.

There was a little competition going on as well.

We played the "Minute to Win It" game.

It just so happens the Urban Camper Group merged with the Story Teller Group to form the Urban Story Teller Group.

We placed third in the competition.

The guys were excited about the medals they received.

It was a blast having the guys come over and have some fun and great food!

Think of the possibilities if you will just reach out and make a friend!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

One Day at a Time!

I wanted to take this time to give an update on my friend's status in the hospital.

He has a very aggressive form of cancer in one of his lung's and throat.

Please keep him in your prayers!

I know that PRAYER works! 

I have seen prayers answered with my own eyes over and over again.

Now is the time for God to show himself strong!

I am humbled by the way God has orchestrated the situation to get him in a hospital where he can get the best care available.

Two weeks ago he was taken to the hospital and placed in the ICU.

If he had not gone then, he would probably be dead today!

He would have died on the streets. 

I had no idea of where God was going to take me on this adventure after the Homeless Retreat, but I can't think of where I would rather be seeing God at work.

God has a plan and I am just taking it one day at a time.