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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Stories of Allentown's Homeless

Mark Matthews (bearded) with homeless
advocate Eugene McDuffie 
Though this September is warmer than usual in the Lehigh Valley, we all know that cold temperatures are coming, along with snow, ice and wind. As icy fingers beckon this year's Winter, Allentown's fearless leaders are no further along in combating chronic homelessness than they were two years ago. Government is useless. The Allentown Rescue Mission is a temporary solution, and exists only for men. The Lehigh Conference of Churches, which should be renamed the Lehigh Conference of Hypocrites, excels mostly at drumming up money. The purpose of this series is to introduce you to Allentown's homeless.

Most experts will try to tell you that the homeless are different, not like us. The Lehigh Conference of Churches Hypocrites, for example, commissioned a study to describe them as people who suffer from substance abuse or mental disorders. How they could reach that conclusion without knowing how many people are actually homeless is beyond me. I question whether the purpose of these studies is to ease their own consciences about the shitty job they do in helping their fellow man,

While it certainly seems logical to conclude that many of the homeless might have these problems, the two I met this weekend are no different than your neighbors. They might actually be a little better.

Mark Matthews, a Southern Lehigh grad, camps out on Race Street with four others. This is not far from the Allentown Rescue Mission, and is right across the street from the bus station. The owner of the vacant factory building has let them stay there provided they keep the place clean. They periodically pick up garbage along the block between Linden and Hamilton. No alcohol or drugs are permitted.

Matthews carries a business card that Allentown Police Officer Christopher Hendricks gave him. It contains his social security number, date of birth and other information on the back. He shows this card to other officers when attempt to roust him. Some are fine after seeing the card. Others say they don't care and will arrest him next time they see him. That has not happened. That card has probably kept him out of jail.

Sitting on a cushion, Matthews is very likely eligible for full disability. He has suffered from chronic bursitis since his teen years. After graduating from high school, he began working for North Pole Photo, which brings Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to many of the malls. He became its artistic director, and played the Jolly Old Elf every year.

Unfortunately, he developed an abscess from the weight on his lap. He tells me it's inoperable because it is located near major arteries. His career as Santa ended prematurely, and there is little else he is able to do physically.

Jonathan Ward has only been in Allentown for three months. At age 22, he's been on the streets for the past six years. He handed me a business card indicating that he is a self-taught photographer and videographer. In fact, he took the picture of McDuffie with Matthews, which is much better than the photographs I took.

Ward was starting a job that very night at Amazon

A woman named Donna stops by from time to time to provide food. She gave Matthews a bomber jacket and got a blanket for Ward. Before he was camped out here, Matthews tells me that Diane Teti gave him a tent, which is being used by two other homeless guys living elsewhere.

As they told their stories, sparrows nearby would join us periodically to eat the breadcrumbs these guys left for them.

Matthews has been homeless for two years, so he went through both of the last two brutal winters. The Allentown Rescue Mission took him in last December. Though the Mission limits housing stays to 30 days, it was extended last year until April 1 because of the harsh weather.

"Do you know what day April 1 was?" he asked.

No.

"April 1 was Good Friday. This religious group started throwing people out on Good Friday. They even threw a few out on Easter Sunday."

They both laughed at the forms-ridden Lehigh Conference of Churches, which refuses to supply basic things like work boots to people who lack identification cards

Matthews said it gets pretty wild on Saturday nights because there are nightclubs in the area. He talked about a recent Saturday night in which three women pulled into the bus station barking lot and urinated. When they turned around they were embarrassed to see five homeless guys, across the street, grinning at them. Matthews said he and his group applauded, and the ladies took a few bows and left.

28 comments:

Bernie O'Hare said...

i have deleted two anonymous comments. One attacks me for daring to write about this topic. The other attacks the homeless Santa.

Anonymous said...

Bernie Thank you for caring about those that are homeless and doing this story!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Lots of excuses for living on the street and not working. Sadly this is all to common in our culture today. Everybody has a sob story. Pick yourself up and move on.

Anonymous said...

APD Officer Christopher Hendricks is one extraordinary human being.

the other Ron said...

The link is to a report which is not by the Lehigh County Conference of Churches. That report (from 8 years ago) was a 10-year plan by Lisa Pawlowski's "The First Lady's Commission to End Chronic Homelessness." It was a flop. (Both the report, and the "commission" itself.) Less than 10% of the "members" of the "commission" were from the Lehigh County Conference of Churches. After a few years of talking, talking, and talking, many church-related folks split off and put their efforts into groups that DO something instead of only talking about it.

Michelle Collazo said...

Hello there friend its me the homeless lady i am thankful how you are really doing alot to help us out here many ppl dont know why or what lead us here and want to say pick yourself up ang move on ok easier said than done there are obstcals many dont see alot of rejections and broken promises or a bad record you see i am homeless n have more insight to the here and now i live that life to know the struggle is real !!!!!Thank you once again !!!Michelle Collazo your homeless friend!!!!

Anonymous said...

The First Amendment doesn't necessarily apply to his privately owned and operated blog. He's deleting comments, not calling government storm troopers to come drag the people who made the comments to prison.

I love how some of the most vocal - "real Patriots, Constitutionalists, Tea Party idiots" - don't have a remote understanding of the document they claim to champion.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michelle, It was your story to City Council that really inspired me and many others.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I deleted yet another anonymous attack on one of these homeless persons. I'll be happy to host your comment if you provide specific information identifying yourself, so you can be sued for libel. Then he won't be homeless, but you might be.

Anonymous said...

Hard to say that someone's opinion on a blog is grounds for a lawsuit. Seems to be the entire point of a blog.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The comment was defamatory. Go ahead and identify yourself. Please.

Michelle Collazo said...

each one teach one !!!!! Bernie u call delete comment after comment they just dont get it we can educate of be bias as they or we will continue to show our faces n learn those mistakes of others as well as our onw !!Reality thete is many homeless with out a voice i will continue my mission even if i remain homeless to help another find refuge its the act of kindness !!! they dont understan to why maybe they should sit n talk to us get to know us n grab a spot n be one of us for the day n then Speak !!! I pray for there minds to be touched !!! Ty again Bernie !!!

Michelle Collazo said...

Good morning still standing strong those cowards i must say never will get it !! Bernie Keep up the great job we all thank you

Michelle Collazo said...

Good morning still standing strong those cowards i must say never will get it !! Bernie Keep up the great job we all thank you

Michelle Collazo said...

Good morning still standing strong those cowards i must say never will get it !! Bernie Keep up the great job we all thank you

None said...

If you have a problem with the Lehigh conference of churches then do something about it. Stop using this forum to just spread negativety and hate. Calling people hypocrites is not accomplishing anything. Use your facts not your hatred to make the changes that you think need to get done. Do your research before making such ridiculous statements. You are obviously only getting one sided information for your blog.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have dealt enough either the Lehigh Conference of Churches hierarchy to know they are phonies primarily interested in taking care of themselves. I can republish a few of my exchanges with Ira Pharo to prove my point.

None said...

I have read your exchanges on this blog. If there is more than please by all means post them. You must keep in mind that Ira faro is one person not an entire agency. You have no idea what any program in The Lehigh valley does for the homesless. Have you ever worked at the rescue mission, the Salvation Army the conference of churches, valley youth house, safe harbor.....the list can go on and on. Until you know what you are taking about and not forming your opinion based on hatred for one person then please do your research before you post another blog on homelessness. There are good people in our comminity doing the right thing. These people are not ones that have to annouch all there so called good deeds publically. Have you ever been homeless? Do you know everything about what is really being done???

Bernie O'Hare said...

Here we go. I know what phonies you are and you are making the same arguments made in those exchanges. You are nothing more than a fundraising machine and a disgrace to the true church.

None said...

You don't know anything. I am not representing any organization. I am a community member who lives in center city Allentown. I live and work where the biggest homeless problem in the city is. You are just trying to deflect our conversation because you do not know what you are talking about. I am looking for real dialogue so we can make real changes for our community. We need conversation, we need to work together. I have been reading and commenting on your blog for years. I know what I am talking about when it comes being homeless. The problem is that you do not

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's funny how you are using arguments identical to those used by Faro. Being a resident o center city Allentown gives you no special insight into the Lehigh Conference of Churches, the homeless or the Allentown rescue Mission. As it happens, I do know what i am talking about, and expect to see you at the october banquet so you can enlighten the rest of us.

None said...

Its funny that you do not know how to respond when you know I am correct. I do think living in the heart of the problem gives me every right to talk about it. when I started out commenting on this blog I challenge you to do something about what you disagree with. My point all along is stop making blanket statements by calling people hypocrites. Instead of spreading hatred do something.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Those people are hypocrites and it is likely you are, too. The proof of that will come in October, when you fail to show at McDuffie's symposium for the homeless. If I am wrong, you can introduce yourself to me then, and I will admit it. But that's not gonna' happen.

None said...

Thank you for proving to your readers and me that you only only filled with hate.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Pharisee.

None said...

Anger and hate. Wishing you peace and love.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's far from true. If you had any ethics, you'd ID YOURSELF.