“Ma’am, I’m sorry to bother you, but do you think that you might be
able to spare any loose change you may have.” Esther stepped back and looked the
scruffy looking young man over then asked him one simple question. “Do you love
Jesus?” Steven lifted his head and pushed his dingy brown hair out of his eyes
to see Esther better before answering. “Yes ma’am I do, with all of my heart.”
Esther continued to examine the man from a safe distance. He didn’t reek of
alcohol or look to be strung out on drugs; he smelled of out doors but nothing
that a shower couldn’t cure. Esther cocked her head at the man then asked him a
second question. “Do you talk to him everyday.”  Steven let out a chuckle and
gave a brown toothed smile before replying. “Ma’am being in continual dire
straights, how can I afford not to.” They shared a laugh and then Esther replied
simply. “None of us can afford not to baby. I’m Esther and you are…” Esther said
extending her hand to her new friend. Stephen wiped his hand on his pants before
shaking the lady’s hand and introducing himself. “I’m Stephen, Stephen Murphy,
good to make your acquaintance.” Esther took a seat on the bench outside the
store and then patted the spot next to her, directing Stephen to sit down beside
her. “Son, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” “No Ma’am, go right
ahead.” “Well, you seem like a nice man and somewhat intelligent. I was
wondering how you got to be homeless. You are homeless, aren’t you?” Stephen
chuckled again. “I guess my uniform here gave me away.” He answered while
pulling at the bottom of his stained shirt, looking down at it. The two fast
friends laughed together again. Then Esther chimed in. “You sure are in high
spirits for a man in your situation.” Stephen allowed his face to reveal the
sincerity in his heart. “Ma’am I’ve got the joy of the Lord’s love in my heart
always. He sent you here to speak with me today and for that I am grateful. This
is the first bit of kindness I’ve been extended in several days.” Stephen ran
his hands back through his hair as he took a moment to reflect on his journey
before sharing his experience with his new friend. “My story is quite the sorted
tale ma’am. I am actually from Flint, Michigan, born and raised. I’ve been
homeless the last three years due to a string of unfortunate events. I used to
work construction for over ten years before I got injured. It was great,
traveling to everywhere in the mid-west to do work. Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago,
Milwaukee, Cincinnati; I’ve work in ‘em all. I had a house, cars, savings, a
wife and a child on the way as well three years ago. Things were great and I was
on top of the world, literally; I worked high steel, sky scrapers. That was
until I got hurt on the job, back injury.

            I was out of work only three months when the bills started piling
up. We ran through my savings in no time. My insurance didn’t cover much so I
took out loans against my house to keep the lights on. Then I sold one of my
cars. My wife was pregnant and caring for me was putting a great strain on our
relationship. She left me five months after I was injured on the job; then I
found out something that tore me to pieces. I didn’t have a baby on the way. My
wife was pregnant but the child wasn’t mine; it was a high school buddy of
mines. They had been carrying on for years whenever I was out of town. I can’t
tell you how much it hurt me to discover how I was being betrayed by two people
I trusted. I suffered many sleepless nights in pain, emotional and physical.
Within six months my back was starting to feel a little better and I could walk
around without a lot of pain. By the seventh month, my house was foreclosed on
and I was evicted to live in my car. My parents died three years earlier and I
didn’t have any family in the area anymore. We never had much family. Most of my
friends, except the one having an affair with my wife, had moved away and
started new lives in other cities. I eventually migrated into Detroit to be in a
more metropolitan area where I might be able to find work and shelter. When I
arrived there, I learned what it truly was to be homeless. After my car was
towed, my third day in Detroit and I was left with no shelter, I became a
citizen of a new dangerous world. I was attacked on my first night sleeping in
the streets, robbed of all the worldly possessions I had left and beaten with a
chain and lock. I almost starved while trying to recover from my injuries. That
night I learned not to be weak. I found a small community living in a downtown
bus terminal and joined them, my fee for entry was two half eaten Big Macs I
found in a dumpster behind a Mc Donald’s. I’d never been much of a fighter in my
life, but I certainly learned to fight back, I had to if I were going to
survive. I lay on wet cardboard out in the open like an animal many night’s of
my life. I often shared my bedding with animals mostly large inner city rats.”
Esther winced at the graphic detail Stephen gave of a homeless man’s life in the
big city. Stephen continued on with his terrible yet true tale of torment.

            “The people living in the street displayed behavior of survival; it
was a dog eat dog world. I could somewhat understand their brutality and immoral
conduct but the actions of the “civilized people” truly surprised me. I never
realized how cruel we Americans were to people without homes. They spat at me
when passing by, teens ridiculed me or stole my shoes, tied the laces together
and threw them up on a telephone wire when I was asleep. I would hear well to do
ladies tell their children not to get too close to me as if touching me might be
hazardous to their health. I was made to feel as if I weren’t human. Sometimes I
wanted to yell out to them “This is not my choice, I didn’t want this; this is
something that happened to me.” That is exactly what they don’t understand. Most
of them are just one pay check away from being where I am, lost in an outcast
world of desperation. The police were never any help to us what so ever; they
were sometimes worse than the citizens. They called us skells or lice heads when
running us away from some area that “decent folks” didn’t want us in. That was
the only time that they interacted with us, to show us how much we weren’t
wanted by the rest of the populace. That was when I finally understood that I
had been evicted from society.

            If one of us got attacked they would receive no medical treatment;
the assault would even go uninvestigated unless someone was killed and sometimes
not even then. If a person on the streets is sent to prison for a crime they
commit, it is almost a reward for them. They knew that they’d eat and shower
everyday. But, in actuality they were just being removed from one jungle and
dropped into another. Tax payers came first; that’s who justice and medical
treatment was meant for. It was certainly not essential to care for a man, woman
or child who was not currently paying into the system no matter how many years
of their lives they worked and paid taxes. I saw many people freeze to death in
the cold winter streets of Detroit. I eventually migrated east to Philadelphia
where I found survival to be just as challenging. I traveled by the same means
as the men they once called Ho Bo’s. I hopped freight trains. There in Philly I
slept on the subway platforms or heated grates around the city. ATM vestibules
were a safe place to sleep sometimes until the mayor started cracking down on
that as well. Police would often jar you from your sleep with a whack from their
baton on your lower leg. That was your alarm, pain and ridicule. After another
horrid winter outdoors, this time in Philly, I decided that it was time I moved
to a warmer climate. I gave thought to settling down in Charlotte or Atlanta but
I knew that it never got cold in Orlando so this is where I came. I thought that
I might be served up a little southern hospitality and a steady day laborer’s
job. Unfortunately, neither came to fruition. I was still viewed as a scary,
smelly, subhuman being shunned from civilized society. Pan handling even became
more difficult when they made the poor register for cards granting them the
permission to pan handle then band them from being in certain areas of the city
at certain times. If found you were detained and arrested. A lot of people,
including myself, have gotten arrested on purpose just to get out of the rare
cold, get a shower, a bed or meal.” Stephen paused and shook his head while
inhaling deeply as he thought about his last shower and how good it was.
“Showers are like a little piece of heaven in our world. To be clean and smell
good is a luxury to a person on the street. I’ve done many things that I thought
I’d never do while living out here. The way we live is a social injustice. Don’t
get me wrong, I am fully aware that a large number of people living on the
street are there because they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, mentally ill or
criminally insane. There are ways to help these people and to make the streets
safer for everyone. There is no reason that even one American citizen should
live on the street. We are the richest nation in the world. Rich enough to be
involved in several wars at one time, explore outer space continuously and
provide humanitarian efforts all around the world. A person’s mental health is
not essential to treat if the person or their family has no money. Rehab
facilities are big business now, there’s money to be made. They can’t be
admitting anyone who is unable to compensate them handsomely for treatment. The
criminally insane are never brought to justice as long as their crimes are
against the undesirables. Some days can become mentally depressing as the
anguish of a bleak future and the struggle to find food can overwhelm even the
strongest of people.” Stephen pulled a napkin from his pocket and dap a tear
from his eye as Esther listened intently. “There has been only one comfort
during my three year decent into the world of homelessness. JESUS!

I was raised in a Pentecostal church as a boy in Flint and my parents were
devout Christians. As I got older, I moved away from Christ and further into the
ways of the world. I no longer attended church, tithed, prayed or read the Bible
in my adult life. Things were going good, I had everything that I wanted and I
thought that it was all because of me and the greatness I possessed. I never
once gave thanks or praise to the Lord although I always knew the truth. It even
took two and a half years of not having a home for me to turn to him. I have now
and because of that, I have peace in my heart and spirit during these trying
times. I know that he will deliver me from this and that’s what keeps me going.
I understand that our time on this planet is temporary; it’s just a test. When I
am done with this trial the Lord will call me home; he can now trust me with
this life because I will use it to serve him until my time here is done. I don’t
know exactly when my life here will get better or if it ever will but, I am
grateful for my suffering. If it were not for me having to endure such hardship,
I would never have turned to Jesus. I could have died the richest man on earth
and been headed straight to hell for eternity. So, I remain grateful and
thankful.” Esther threw her arms around Stephen’s shoulders and held him tight.
She then started praying to Jesus that HE would give her the wisdom in her
efforts to help this man and that they may both use his struggles to help
others. She thanked HIM for allowing their paths to cross on that day and for
the opportunity for them both to serve in a greater capacity. When she finished
her prayer, she pulled back from Stephen and looked him deep into his tired
eyes. “Stephen, our lives are going to change today, yours and mine. Oh how we
are going to do a powerful work in our Lord and Savior’s name. I’m so excited. I
want you to look around at your surroundings, say goodbye. When you return to
these streets it will be as a champion of the people, your people. The people
you will never forget.” Esther stood and pulled Stephen up from his seat by his
shoulders; he stood 6’2” when upright. That evening Stephen met Esther’s large
Jamaican family and the following Sunday morning he met her congregation and
pastor. That Monday he was working, helping to build a new church sanctuary. He
returned to the streets to minister to people and serve food every Tuesday and
Thursday. Three months later he helped to organize Esther’s home church’s first
food drive for the homeless. Three months afterwards he helped to start and
worked at a soup kitchen for Orlando’s homeless. He conducted a small service at
every function. Reverends and pastors from around the city joined him in his
causes. Stephen created a Christian workshop and job training facility that
offered lodging to its enrollees. Stephen spoke at churches all around the city
on the plight of the homeless and his call as a Christian to assist them in
their time of need. He always shared the story of his rise and fall and rise
again through Jesus. Within two years of first making Esther’s acquaintance,
Stephen ran for councilman of the district where most of the homeless lived and
he worked for their causes. He even started a voting drive amongst the poor and
homeless and got a large number of them to register to vote. Stephen won in a
landslide and continued to be a champion for the forgotten. Clothes drives, book
drives and more food drives were held around the city until peoples’ perceptions
of the homeless became more positive and realistic. They began to realize how
close some of them actually were to joining them or how close they had come to
being homeless at different difficult times in their lives.

Stephen took his hardships and adversity and turned it into triumph through his
faith in Jesus. Enduring devastation and destitution is possible through faith.
When faced with challenges and adversity, you should pray that much harder and
be that more grateful because often times these are the things that help us to
see much more clearly. Strengthening our faith and bringing us that much closer
to the Lord. The next time privation and poverty present themselves, pray and
praise HIM that much stronger. Trust that your faith in HIM will not be in vain.
HE will deliver you; just ask Stephen. Thank you Sister Esther and all those
like you!

Evicted from Society

Cam Rascoe
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