Sunday, November 23, 2008

30 Days on Minimum Wage

This video below is around 40 minutes long. Be warned, this is an episode of a television series that ran late nights on a cable network, so there may be some content that is inappropriate for some viewers (mainly some language in one or two spots).

In this episode, the host and his girlfriend willingly live on minimum wage for 30 days to experience life in a low-income community. I found it to be rather insightful.

NOTE: This episode was filmed in the Hilltop area of Columbus, OH, where I happened to spend last summer working with kids.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Town

Here are some facts specific to the area around Mulberry House. (Our source is the U.S. Census Bureau)

According to the 2000 census: 3,129 families in Clark County are living in poverty.

In 2000: 5,531 Children were living in poverty in Clark County. Of these, 1,785 were under the age of 5.

Black and Hispanic children in Clark County were twice as likely to live in poverty compared with white and Asian children.

Clark County's infant mortality rate is 8.1 per 1000 compared to the state rate of 7.8 per 1000.

Birth rate to teen girls (ages 15-19) in Clark County is 90.6 per 1000 female population. Compare that to the Ohio rate of 75.1 per 1000.

Teen Birth Rates(per 1000 teens aged 15-19):

Netherlands- 5.5
France- 10
Germany- 12.5
Ohio- 38
United States- 41
Clark County (that's us)- 50

Manufacturing Job Loss from 2000-2004: 31.7% (3,697 jobs)

Total Job Loss from 2000-2004: 11.7% (6,798 jobs)

In 2003, 1 of every 60 homes experienced foreclosure. This represents a 69.4% increase in foreclosures between 2000 and 2003.

In 2000, Clark County had the number one foreclosure rate in the nation.

Where do people stay when they are unsheltered? People replied with the following answers: hotel, public park, alley, car, truck, RV, tent or in the woods, abandoned building, or with family and friends.

Specific to Springfield:

Population of Springfield: 65,358

Poverty rate: 16.9% of the population, 13.5% of families

In Springfield, 11,045 are living in poverty.

3,998 are children.

23.9% of those under the age of 18 are living below the poverty line. This means that roughly 1 in 4 children is living in poverty.

Springfield City Schools ranked in the top 100 poorest schools based on taxpayer income.

The poverty rate in the Mulberry Street neighborhood is 37.1%, four times the national average.

In 2003, the divorce rate in Springfield was 95%.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Thank You Post

Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have contributed to the Mulberry House. I want to thank them.

Dr. Preston Sprinkle- Thanks for the refrigerator and all those awesome books.
Alan Moore- Thanks for fixing our furnaces free of charge!
Corey and Jillian- Thanks for giving me all that stuff. It will certainly come in handy.
Dr. Carl Smith- Thank you for giving us those lighting fixtures.
Amplified- Thank you for your continued support, and for the cleaning day when you came in and de-loused the building.
Southpoint Church- Thanks for your continued prayers and support.
The Clarks- Thanks for offering your financial support in our time of need.
Several people (I don't know who did it)- Thanks for providing us with some space heaters when you heard about the failed furnaces. It means SO much.
Janet and Jerry- Thanks for the couch and tables.
Daniel Koranek- Thank you for the dresser!
My family- Thanks for not thinking I am crazy! Thanks for all the work you've helped me do on the house!
Dr. John White- Thanks for the help you so generously provided.

I will periodically return to this list and update it as people continue to give of themselves.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I want to know what love is

A funny thing happened on the way to the Mulberry House. I met Jesus on a street corner and took Him out to lunch (take a look at Matthew 25:31-46 if you’re confused).

Today, Jesus was holding a sign that said “Veteran- Broken down and Hungry. Please help.”

I saw him yesterday too, standing there at the intersection with two battered suitcases and a camouflaged coat. He had a hospital band around his wrist and his breath smelled of alcohol. I was, at the time, hurrying to the house to do some repairs. I passed by in my car, looking at the man with half-interest. I drove several blocks toward Mulberry Street, but as I hit the intersection of Limestone and John Streets, I got this strong sensation that I was supposed to go back and meet with the man.

For the first time in my life, I turned the car around and went back for someone I saw standing on the street corner.

When I got back to the spot, he was gone. I kicked myself for missing an important opportunity to meet a stranger and make him into a friend.

Today, I saw him again. I was heading to the house to do some more repairs.

I stopped at the red light, rolled down my window, and without hesitation said, “Hey man! How’s it going? I don’t have a lot of time because I am supposed to meet someone. But if you hop in, I will buy you some lunch.”

“That would be great,” he said. He then pointed at his two suitcases and said he’d have to take them as well. The traffic light turned green, and cars were lined up behind me, but I put on my blinker and opened the doors so he could climb in with his stuff. When his bags and cardboard sign where in place, he sat in the front passenger seat.

His name was Kenny. I offered to take him to any of the restaurants there, but he insisted that I choose. We pulled into Wendy’s because it looked less busy than the other places. He also insisted that I order for him, refusing to choose from the menu himself. I ordered a couple of extra junior bacon cheeseburgers, just in case he was still hungry.

We were there for about an hour and fifteen minutes. We ordered some food, sat in the lobby and ate together. Kenny has a knack for telling funny stories, and he had me laughing for much of the meal.

It turns out, Kenny was a sergeant in the army, and he even saw combat. (Homeless veterans are not uncommon: Kenny became homeless, or “broken down” as he kept saying, in the Buffalo, NY area and had hitch-hiked all the way to Ohio, trying to make it to Illinois where his mother lives.

“Where are you staying?” I asked him, when he said he’d been in Springfield for 4 days.

“In the weeds,” he said with a laugh.

There are some overgrown weeds alongside the highway. If you’re ever driving into Springfield from Route 70, take a look at the weeds behind the Shell station. Kenny had discovered that he could avoid detection from the police by climbing deep into these weeds and laying down to sleep.

His experience in Springfield so far had been interesting. He’d been stopped by the police, who agreed not to bother him if he stayed close to the freeway. Kenny said that was fine by him anyway; the man at the liquor store and two other people had warned him not to go too close to downtown or the “crack-heads would rob him.” It is really bad out here, they told him.

He pointed toward Mulberry House and warned me how dangerous it is to go into that neighborhood. I smiled.

He also told me how he spent Halloween. A man handed him a pumpkin as a joke. So, Kenny carved the pumpkin with his pocket knife. He climbed into the dumpster behind Big Lots, found a candle, and placed it inside the pumpkin. We laughed for a long time.

The restaurant was playing some music over the loud speaker. Suddenly, Kenny declared, “I love this song. It is Foreigner, they’re great.”

He was right. It was Foreigner singing, “I want to know what love is.”

Kenny started singing. I don’t mean he quietly mouthed the words… I mean he belted out the tune loud and clear so everyone in the place could hear him.

“I gotta take a little time/ A little time to think things over/ I better read between the lines/ In case I need it when I’m older.”

Word for word, he was nailing it. As he kept singing, the other patrons and the workers behind the counter were staring, pointing, and whispering.

“I wanna know what love is!!!!”

At this point, I was laughing even harder than before. Having been escorted out of restaurants with rowdy teens before, I am not easily embarrassed. I sat back and enjoyed the show.

When he found out that I am a minister, Kenny asked me, “Has anyone seen God?”

I told him that Jesus had seen Him (because He’s God), but other than that, no human has seen God.

“I’ve seen God,” he said, “Once when I was doing LSD.”

He burst out laughing, but I soon discovered that he sincerely believed that God had appeared to him in a bright light, inviting him with open arms: “Come to me, come to me.”

Theology is a funny thing in the city. Here was a man telling me that God had personally invited him to be a part of the family. Vision or no vision, I affirmed that God invites anyone who will to come to Him. Kenny then reminded me that “Jesus went through hell,” describing the crucifixion in detail.

I wanna know what love is.

We talked about all sorts of things: airplanes and UFOs, the times he got drunk with his father out by the old air force base near St. Louis, skydiving, the Iranian liquor store man who feeds stray cats in the alley, the “Laundromat chick” who does the same thing, and the door in Wendy’s that was locked (“Why is it locked?” Kenny asked, “I have no idea.”). He also flirted with more than his fair share of women before asking me to return him to the street corner.

He had no ID and said that he had no place to stay. I offered to help him get to the shelter in town, but he insisted that he was safer sleeping in the weeds by the freeway.

He said God will take care of Him (He will, by the way). Kenny shook my hand, thanked me profusely, and told me he’d make it to Illinois.

“It will take a minute, but I’ll get there.”

He dragged his suitcases out of the car and walked back into the weeds.