|Eugene McDuffie with Allentown's homeless|
I've always heard that being homeless adds years to you life. Eugene McDuffie, who looks a decade younger than his 55 years, must be an exception. His life includes several years on the streets of NYC, where at age 14 he ran away from alcoholic and violent parents. He also dropped out of school and slipped into drug abuse. For several years, he slept on park benches very similar to the one on which I interviewed him at Bucky Boyle Park. If it was cold, he'd climb into a dumpster, hoping he'd wake up before a truck came.
To survive, he ate out of garbage cans. On his 16th birthday, he recalled seeing a man walk by with a hamburger and just toss it into a garbage can. "That man's garbage was my birthday dinner that day," he told me.
During blackouts, he'd slit his wrists. "I just didn't care about life anymore," he admitted. But somebody cared about him. Thanks to Teen Challenge, he turned his life around. After learning how to eat regular food again, he got his GED and also spent several years at a bible institute. He got a college degree in psychology, located to Allentown, and worked at three different jobs to provide for his two daughters. He beamed with pride as he described them.
But something was missing.
Allentown's Homeless: "We Need a Miracle"
|Mark Matthews was a shopping mall Santa Claus|
According to McDuffie, Allentown has done a good job of making some downtown buildings look better. "But the only people who are going to come to this area are the rich," he noted. He cited his own experience at The Hamilton, where a friend recently treated him to a lunch that cost nearly $20.
He'd like to see Allentown use the same energy for its disadvantaged that has been used for the wealthy. Specifically, he'd like to get a vacant factory building and convert it into a community center that could also provide transitional housing, especially for women.
"We need a miracle," he flatly stated.
His calls to State Representatives Mike Schlossberg and Peter Schweyer have gone unanswered. He hasn't bothered with Fed Ed. "He seems a little busy right now," McDuffie noted.
Government is doing what it does best - ignoring those who lack the means to make campaign contributions.
The Lehigh Conference of Churches and Allentown Rescue Mission have demonstrated pretty clearly that they ignore those they are supposed to help as well. Allentown Rescue Mission has no facilities at all for women, and the Lehigh Conference of Churches buries applicants in paperwork until they just give up.
There has to be a better way.
This is what homeless advocates like Diane Teti and Chris and Amy Cocca have been saying for the past two winters.
Fundraiser on October 17
In order to do anything, they need to form a 501c3. But to do that, they have to raise $400 for the filing fee. To that end, McDuffie has scheduled a banquet to help the homeless on Saturday, October 17, from 1 pm to 5 pm, at the Ramada Inn in Whitehall.
If you'd like to attend, or just send a contribution, you can send a check to Eugene McDuffie, 124 1/2 W. Liberty St, Allentown, PA 18102.
In contrast to the misrepresentations made by Miked Fleck about his transition committees, this is NOT a tax deductible contribution. It will be once enough money is raised to form a 501c3.