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Sunday, October 28, 2007

God’s Dwelling Place is Poverty

“How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves, ‘What is my poverty?’ Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell! “How blessed are the poor.” Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in poverty. We are also inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land in which our treasure is hidden.”
by Henri Nouwen

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Built to Wander

In an inspiring work on loneliness, Fr. Roland Rolheiser refers to all humans as lonely creatures and thereby are always somewhat “homeless.” In his book, The Restless Heart, we discover a strong premise that exposes each of us for what we really are - poor nomads and wanderers. “Homeless” is no longer just a title we give to those physically lost on streets and sleeping in alleyways. Rolheiser states, “We are built to wander, to be restless and lonely. Accordingly, we should not be surprised if we find ourselves incurably in that condition.” The nomad in each of us is always on a journey that is never quite fulfilled no matter how hard we try because we are ultimately built by God for union with the Infinite. St. Augustine agrees. He states in possibly the most quoted thought of his writings, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

Homelessness is not just a physical state of being lost and lonely under a bridge somewhere. It is a psychological/spiritual emptiness, loneliness and restlessness built inside of each of us by God to inspire us to seek after Him. So what does psychological and spiritual homelessness look like? It begins with the fact that each of us goes through life always experiencing dissatisfaction and being unfulfilled. Think about when you prefer a window over an aisle seat, prefer it to be hotter or cooler in the room or prefer New York over Los Angles. We are always in a state of seeking personal satisfaction and fulfillment. It is at the root of why frequently in our lives we believe, "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence."

Thus, the “homeless” state of mind is expressed in our own personal obsessions, whims, anxieties, compulsions and addictions. Personal homelessness is demonstrated in each in a variety of ways, such as: Being a workaholic, gym addict, packrat, shopaholic, Internet addict, O.C.D., neurotic user of cell phones/email/TM/IM, collector of anything, big talker, recluse, alcoholic, drug user, porn or sex addict - well, the list goes on and on. In this respect we are one big “happy” dysfunctional homeless family and must treat each other with compassion and concern. We must help to bring each other home. Each of us is a direct brother or sister of those who are physically homeless. Like them, each of us is nomadic and seeking rest but wake up each day to discover it is always elusive.

In summary, Rolheiser states, “We are constantly being driven by our loneliness to seek more and more love, more and more knowledge, and more and more beauty. We have an inbuilt loneliness that makes us longing, yearning, grasping, and hungry creatures. Our aspirations for love and knowledge are limitless, yet our capability of fulfilling these aspirations is always limited, no matter how good a situation we are in. For this reason, we are this side of heaven, always lonely.” And, for that matter, we are always homeless. Because, as St. Augustine states and it is worth repeating, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

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Friday, October 26, 2007

South Carolina's Our Lady's Rosary Makers

In the past two weeks, more than 200 rosaries have been lovingly handed out to homeless women and men living on the streets, under bridges and in alleyways. Most prefer to wear them around the neck. Others put them in a pocket to later draw upon in times of trouble or while feeling alone and frightened in the night. It is because of this great need to feel God’s presence that almost everyone becomes "Catholic" as they most gratefully accept and grasp upon the rosary. More than prayer cards and other religious items, it is the most loved single source of comfort preferred by those living in homelessness.

All the rosaries have been handmade and donated by Our Lady’s Rosary Makers ( of South Carolina. OLRM is just one of many branches of The Rosary Club of Louisville, Kentucky founded by Brother Sylvan, C.F.X. In 1949, Brother Sylvan began to teach children how to make rosaries for missionaries. Inspired by Our Lady's words at Fatima, and having received letters of request from missionaries around the world, he knew of the great need for rosaries in the mission fields. By 1954 membership had grown to 2,500 adults and many children in schools across the nation.

Today the club has grown from its humble origins to an international non-profit organization. A new International Rosary Center was built and has more than doubled the organization's original size. A staff of 24 people, working five days a week fill orders and serve over 40,000 members, who annually distribute millions of rosaries to the world's missions.

Many thanks to Our Lady’s Rosary Makers of South Carolina and the Rosary Club of Louisville, Kentucky for generously supplying us hundreds of rosaries. Recently, they just sent another new shipment. Through their efforts, the rosary is now a gift lighting the way for hundreds of poor Angelinos who grasp the Cross of Christ and the intercessions of Mary when they are alone, frightened and struggling for hope.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pray for Us

Today, HIA goes on a day-long retreat with the St. Peter's Homeless Prayer Group & Bible Study community. The four-part day will begin with "Testimonies of Mercy" as we discover how God has lovingly brought each person to this point of knowing Him in their lives. After a short time of reflection we plan to gather for a second session, "Prayers of Mercy" as we explore showing mercy for others in our private prayers and how to pray. After some more reflection, we return for a third session to ask the question, "What is God saying to me today?" Lastly, we will break bread and have fellowship as real people at a local restaurant! Please pray for our retreatants: Arturo, Ernesto, Juanito and Raby (pronounced "Robbie").

Also, please pray for the many that we know and actively pray for living under the bridges, in alleys and on the streets of Skid Row: Paul, Maynard, David, Anthony, Kitty, California, Pur, Anthony, Jim, James, Pepper, Pio, William, Terry, Tara and her baby, Shannon (male) and Shannon (female), Elaine, Joyce, Patricia, Gloria, Kevin, James, Tyrone, Victor, Connie, Sheila, Tabatha, Ty, Jo Jo, Anne, Meghan, Seven, Jimmy, Melanie, Tora, Eritleka, Leanord, Gregory, Blackie, Tee, Wayne, Heaven, Michelle, Khalid ...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


To both discover and live God’s message of mercy to the poor is the equivalent of physicists discovering the all-encompassing singularity theory. The "Mercy Message" is THE “God surprise” and THE paradox that defines the Kingdom of God. The mystery of mercy is revealed by the Holy Spirit – to those who are spiritually and psychologically ready to hear and to hear, to see and to see, to act and to act upon it.

Catholic Christians in particular embrace the potent “Mercy Message” in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, however only in so much as mercy is embraced as a two-way-street. We receive mercy in the sacrament, but we must also leave the confessional and then go and do likewise; otherwise just receiving mercy is pointless by Jesus’ standards, (see the parable of the wicked servant). In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the mercy flow floods us to sanctify our lives only when we go out and do the same for others. We must actively be merciful to others according to the mercy God has shown us. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

The call of poverty-stricken Israel (See Poor Israel, Thursday, October 18, 2007) is a microcosm of the mercy message God desires to make known to all of humankind. He wishes to tell us that from birth, "each is a poor nomad" and "each is homeless" until as Augustine once said - "Our souls are restless until they rest in Thee." Our personal poverty, once embraced is the tool that God uses to call us to our homes, peace and rest in Him. In mercy, He rescues each one of us from self-destruction. (If you believe that in and of yourself you are beautiful, successful and not sure why you need a Savior, this will make no sense to you.) Once we accept his mercy for our own personal brokenness and then share it with others, we enter into eternal time and are no longer homeless. Until that happens, each of us is psychologically and in many cases literally nomadic, on the run and destitute.

So, rather than despising the homeless and poor, we are to actively embrace them. They, by God’s design are a sign, image and symbol of the poverty in each one of us waiting to embrace God’s message of mercy. Despise the poor loser and Christ is despised. Embrace the poor and mercifully God sanctifies our wretched lives and shows the way home. Heaven is found. Welcome to THE paradox of the Kingdom of God!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How may I help?

An HIA blogger raises an important question regarding today's post, "More than 500,000 Found Homeless or Worse". R.S. writes, "How may I help?"

More than 500,000 Found Homeless or Worse

Today, by late afternoon, an AP update regarding SoCal's apparently unstoppable wildfires reports that more than 500,000 people are temporarily homeless or worse from north of Los Angeles, through San Diego to the Mexican border. They have been ordered to immediately evacuate by authorities. It is the biggest evacuation in California history. Today is the third day of wildfires raging across the state that firefighters concede there is no end in sight short of stopping at the ocean. More than 1,800 homes have been destroyed. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the flames were threatening 68,000 more homes. In San Diego, evacuees are at Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers. At the moment, nearly 20,000 displaced homeowners are huddled inside the stadium, according to reports. The fires are the worst in California since 2003, when 22 people were killed and 3,000 homes were destroyed. One evacuee sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot with her 10 year old daughter said, "No one ever expects something like this to happen to them."

Make of our Hands your Hands

Fr. John and Danny gather us to pray last Friday, the night of St. Paul's first "Sandwich Builders." Danny prays ...
Dear God,
There is no place like home. For home is where the heart is.

We feel the truth of these words as we gather now together to serve the homeless.

We give thanks for food, drink, warmth and shelter.

We ask you to remember those who do not enjoy these simple necessities.

Hear our prayers for all men, women and children who are homeless.

For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, or in doorways. We pray for them.

For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in. We pray for them.

Blest are they, the lowly ones, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blest are they, who hunger and thirst, for they shall have their fill.

Lord, bless the volunteers who gather at our parish to serve the homeless.

We gather to do your work.

Make of our hands, your hands.

In your name we pray, Amen.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

The Expedition

In today’s blog, J.F. shares a reprise of a story written a couple of years ago for Gary’s Downtown Deals - now merged with the Los Angeles Downtown News. (“Deals” is a color glossy coupon magazine in DTLA designed to create jobs for the homeless and raise money for the poor.) J.F. shares the story in hopes it gives readers a sense of the rich history and the cause St. Paul’s under-the-bridges mission is benefiting.

Spending an afternoon feeding the homeless wasn’t exactly what one might expect. Of course, one afternoon does not a statistical sample make, but in this one experience, it wasn’t so much about finding a level of desolation or despair as much as learning to accept homelessness as a part of life that just is.

It is 10:00 am; we meet at the Casa Juan Diego house, a home for homeless young men personally started by Mother Theresa. Today, our hosts are Jack, Blanca, Letti, Josie and Ines. For the last three years, they have gone out every Wednesday underneath the bridges, behind the industrial buildings and into the lives of the homeless people on Skid Row. Earlier in the week, Jack made the rounds to Vons and gathered day old bread, pastries and candies. Letti made sandwiches – over a 100.

Now it is 11:30 am; we venture out into the streets. Jack explains it is not always safe to get out and we should stay in our cars. Jack has seen it all. In between cutting hair for a living, he’s been a military chaplain and a prison counselor. We see all types of homeless. The most common thread among them is substance abuse and mental illness.

What am I observing as I move about in places that most in Los Angeles would dare to go? Despite the filth, drugs, prostitution and violence, many homeless wouldn’t feel comfortable anywhere else. Entrance into a shelter means exposure to more predators than in living under a bridge. A job may mean the crushing pressure of responsibility that those who are mentally ill cannot handle. The rickety, leaky plastic tents, worn clothes three sizes too large or small, the public outhouses that double as a red light district are as home to them as a picket fence is to the rest of us.

It is 3:00pm; five hours later what did I learn? I learned that preconceived notions and prejudices fade like a sunset as you get to know someone else and their situation. We can move them, we can dump them and we can try to “societize” them, but in this one morning and afternoon it began to emerge that we probably can’t cure most. This is a part of life that will always be with us. Sharing even a tiny bit with the poor and vulnerable is a great blessing we both give and receive when we care for those who are less fortunate than ourselves. J.F.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thankful for Volunteers, St. Paul's Gets the Call, "Time to Serve in Los Angeles"

Friday evening, more than 100 parishioners packed up 180 lunches while children made hand-crafted prayer cards for the homeless living under downtown bridges. Thankful for the volunteers, it is just the first day of a monthly outreach to the homeless from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in West Los Angeles. They call the Friday event, "Sandwich Builders." Food, water, prayer cards and clothing are then delivered first thing Saturday morning by a team that has been serving the homeless in downtown for more than four years.
Take in the photos and pray for those encountered - like Shannon, a beautiful teenage girl emaciated and suffering from addiction as well as Elaine - a young woman sweet, broken, timid scared and running from an abusive boyfriend. We remember - we pray!

“How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says ... “Our God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Do not call Unclean, what God has Declared Clean

Reprise for the Clean and Unclean (See Wednesday October 17, 2007) sparked a shower of wisdom, but none like M.A.’s comprehensive synthesis that brought us to understanding some ancient Hebrew customs to the crucifixion and then on to Peter and a vision that sparked the new age of the gentiles. M.A. brings clean and unclean to us this way...

“Every society has its cultural norms for ritual purity, i.e., explicit or implicit rules governing what is acceptable and unacceptable. Such cultural norms were quite elaborate and rigid in 1st Century Judea and Palestine: Certain foods, Non-Jews, lepers, menstruating women, tax collectors, prostitutes, were all ritually impure, and no pillar of the community would partake of or associate with them.

The most ritually impure object for that society was an impaled corpse; it was to be taken down before sunset or avoided at all costs. In his crucifixion, Jesus the Christ became the most ritually impure object that his society could imagine. But, God's justice and sanctifying power were greater than the worst ritual impurity - God's righteousness and holiness would not allow God's most faithful servant to see corruption.

The Supreme Being, the fountain of all holiness, resurrected Jesus from a most ignominious death as a sign of God's own life-giving and sanctifying power in the world, as well as a final seal of approval on all of Jesus' words and deeds. Now, that same sanctifying power that proceeds from the throne of God is offered to all of mankind through his anointed one, his Christ. So, now, we too can realize, as Peter later did, that it is not for us to ‘call unclean, what God has declared clean,’
Acts 10:15.”

Friday, October 19, 2007

Just a Paycheck or two away from being Homeless

Today, HIA launches a new poll question. “How many family members or friends do you know that in your opinion may be 1-2 paychecks away from being homeless if their income suddenly stopped?”

Like Ben Affleck (photo) in the movie Paycheck, (2003, Paramount Pictures) many Americans struggle to find clues as to why they are having real life career woes. Many are filing for bankruptcy in record numbers and as credit card debts explode, more and more Americans are a just a paycheck or two away from being homeless. Families who once owned homes now sleep on mats and cots in homeless shelters. Former managers and supervisors are now stopping by soup kitchens before heading out for interviews. With no place to live, some homeless are camping out in their cars (See Friday, September 28, 2007 - Rad Guide to Living your of your Porsche) until work comes along. Families with children are among the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population.

So, scroll down and participate in the poll - “How many family members or friends do you know that in your opinion may be 1-2 paychecks away from being homeless if their income suddenly stopped?” Your opinion counts!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Poor Israel

God’s preferential love for the poor and homeless goes back more than 4,000 years to the time of the nomadic tribe of Abraham. These first “chosen people” were a wandering clan that God called in their poverty to make his very own. But why a poor band of losers when he could have chosen winners like the Egyptians? Historically, God set the stage at this ancient juncture in time to demonstrate his preferential love for the poor. He called the migrant homeless clans of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) to be his very own. With this shocking poverty-stricken choice (not a Donald Trump-style hiring pick), he sent out a seismic message that has rocked the ages. The Lord God is basically saying that, “I am the God of the poor, the lost and the downtrodden. The poor are ready to hear my voice. The rich are not.”

The Lord God could have chosen the Egyptians to be his people. He’s God, he could have chosen whomever he wanted. In fact, he could have chosen a rich and powerful army of people such as the these very organized Egyptians. But he didn’t. Why not? They were the perfect choice! They were smart, clean and powerful by earthly standards. Unfortunately, strong, arrogant, abusive, smart, wise, proud and controlling beautiful people do not make for good residents in the Kingdom of God. Possibly these types of people are good picks for business ventures, but not for the city of God.

In Deuteronomy we read, “The Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and imposed hard labor on us. Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders; and He has brought us to this land flowing with milk and honey.” Deuteronomy 26:5-9

Okay, so in the end, God made this poor homeless band of the first Jews rich. The first tribesmen of the new nation remembered their poverty and were grateful for their new home. The lost and the homeless always make for more thankful and grateful citizens. God knows that. That is why in his wisdom he calls the poor, the lost, the homeless, prisoner, the neglected, the despised and the abandoned to preferential treatment in the Kingdom of God. Wouldn’t it be wise to get to know the poor and to serve them now? Soon they will be the saints and leaders in the new heaven and new earth. “The first will be last, and the last will be first.” Basically that means the homeless man or woman on your street corner may soon be your next boss in heaven. Welcome to the Kingdom of God!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reprise for the Clean and Unclean

How accurate is the separation of people into the “clean” and the “unclean” categories? (See Tuesday, October 9, 2007) Sr. Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking once said, "The government would like you to believe that the unclean are the gays, welfare recipients, immigrants and prisoners." But are these individuals the only ones who are "unclean?" Could there be others?

When one really thinks about it, each and every one of us is "unclean." Each of us in our own special way is broken and damaged. We know this to be so when we call to mind our excesses, addictions, anxieties, compulsions, failures and broken relationships. And so this unfortunate reality poses many questions for those of us who knowingly or unknowingly hold to a "clean" and "unclean" mentality. How long will it be before we stop running from ourselves and befriend God’s mercy for our own “uncleanliness?” How long will it be before we befriend the “loser” inside of us? How long will it be before we befriend those parts of our lives that we are most ashamed?

When we finally slow down enough inside and allow the personal embrace of brokenness to happen, then we are ready both to receive and to give the mercy of God. Now we are ready to shed false images of ourselves; the ones where we see ourselves as smart and rad or powerful, rich and having it all together. Let us exchange the false notions of ourselves for the authenticity of accepting personal brokenness. In this reality we are ready to discover a Savior who provides all the grace we need to become “clean.” We are now empowered to believe and to know that others can become "clean" too as we see our own busted lives transformed.

Ultimately we pass from the judges of others to their mediators when we embrace the personal reality of the “poverty” within each of us. We wholeheartedly accept that we too are “unclean” and in need of a Savior. It is in embracing this reality and knowledge about ourselves that we are propelled to become servants and mediators of mercy to the poor, homeless, prisoner and all others who are broken and discarded.

Please scroll down and vote in the HIA Polls. Your opinion counts!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mountain Man

Today's memorial is dedicated to “Mountain Man.” That is the name volunteers gave him over the past years of frequent visits. When he died alone on a hillside and anonymously over this past weekend, no one could recall him ever having shared his name. Yet rumor has it that his name may have been Charlie, but no one is certain.

He lived nearby on a steep barren embankment that descends to some railroad tracks. For the past two and one half years workers recall how he arrived disheveled, soiled and cold when breaking bread in the morning food line. The chefs said that he enjoyed a hot coffee with warm milk, a café con leche that they compassionately prepared especially for him. In the evening hours, he was often caught like a deer in headlights tearing apart the dumpsters scrounging for grub. He was then given a fresh plate of food direct from the kitchen.

One volunteer recalls that Mountain Man once said that he was an actor in Hollywood decades ago. He was also an artist. Apparently he had been alone and homeless, possibly for 10-20 years or more. Before taking leave for his final ride, just as the medics arrived he was anointed with oil and given last rites. He is no longer a pilgrim but someone who has completed his purgatory. And so today we remember a life that is as priceless as the blood that was shed for him and all the poor for heaven's sake. We remember and we pray.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Charmed by the Sentiment

C. S. is thankful for Francis a Rich Model for Serving the Poor (see Tuesday, October 4, 2007). He said... “My favorite prayer of all time is the St. Francis prayer. (in recovery it's suggested as the 11th step prayer) Thank you for the article, and it is inspiring... I feel that truly what is the most worthwhile and spiritually fulfilling would be to dedicate myself to be of service to those in the world who are poor and in need.”

R.S. comments regarding Homeless Victims of “Sport Killings,” (see Sunday, October 14, 2007), “Check it out: I'll betcha the parents have rotten attitudes about people without homes (homeless) and they may unknowingly be passing on their attitudes to their kids. When my brothers were teenagers they had compassion for all people less fortunate than we were. Guess who they got that attitude from?”

J.F. "charmed by the sentiment," writes up a personal story in reaction to the blog, Clean and Unclean, (see Tuesday, October 9, 2007). He said … “I passed by a spot where I would frequently see a homeless man. Today, the man was different, dirty, having a hard time walking, had straggly brown hair and a matted beard. He was wearing a hand made sign that said something like: "I will take whatever you can give me, even if all you do is say Hello." Charmed by the sentiment, I rolled down my window and simply said "Hello" and he turns to me says: ‘See, how can you know if God exits, if you can't even stop to say Hello!?’ Wow! That couldn't have come at a better time. I tried to give him money or food and he wouldn't take it, he said the hello was enough for him today. He gave me a gift that was much greater than anything I could have given him. Jesus exists in all of us and, sometimes, especially in the homeless sleeping on our streets.”

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Homeless Victims of "Sport Killings"

As if it’s not bad enough being out in the cold, without a roof over their heads, there’s a growing threat to homeless individuals: the danger from teenagers who beat homeless people for amusement. Baffling and unthinkable to most, a growing number of homeless murders have been occurring that are attributed to a phenomenon labeled “sport killings”. Groups of mostly teenage boys have been attacking homeless people in alarming numbers and even videotaping themselves doing it.

Across the nation, America's homeless are under attack - literally. They are hunted down during youthful rites of passage by roving packs of males armed with prejudice and tools of torture. Criminologists call these wilding sprees "sport killing," -- largely middle-class teens, with no criminal records, assaulting the homeless with bats, golf clubs, paintball guns. The attackers are almost always boys, peer pressure and mob mentality sweep away caution, and parents don't suspect their children could be capable of such actions. For more see

Friday, October 12, 2007

Homeless Numbers Drop in Los Angeles but Climb on Skid Row

Yesterday, journalist Susannah Rosenblatt reports in the Los Angeles Times that the number of homeless people living in Los Angeles County on a given night has dropped in the last two years, but more people are concentrated in downtown Los Angeles' skid row, according to a survey by a city-county agency. Countywide, the number of homeless dropped from 88,000 in 2005 to 74,000 this year according to a federally required report of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. However, the 5,100 people sleeping on skid row (the streets and park around 5th and San Pedro) represent a 40% jump from 2005. "It still indicates a tremendous amount needs to be done," said Orlando Ward, spokesman for the Midnight Mission on skid row. (For more see

The Facts about American Youth Homelessness - a National Crisis

Each year, 3.5 million individuals are homeless in America. Children and teens total 1.3 million. All homeless youth combined make up the 6th largest city in America, a metropolis about the size of Phoenix, AZ. Becoming more aware, understanding the facts and the demographics of the homeless can motivate even the most hard-hearted to open their pockets and their hearts to this group of forgotten Americans. Consider the following:

  • This year, 1 in 8 American youth under the age of 18 will leave home and become homeless in need of charity and social services.

  • 12-17 year olds are at more risk of homelessness than are adults.

  • In 2004, child protective services agencies reported an estimated 872,000 children to be victims of child abuse or neglect.

  • 43% of homeless youth report being beaten by a caretaker.

  • 40% report being gay and abused in their schools and homes for their orientation.

  • 44% of homeless youth report that one or both of their parents had at some point received treatment for alcohol, drug, or psychological problems.

  • Almost half of homeless youth have witnessed domestic violence.

  • Nearly 93,000 people are estimated to be homeless each night in Los Angeles County - the largest homeless population in the nation for any major metropolitan area.

  • In a city with high poverty districts such as Los Angeles, one in three youth reside in a household that is below the poverty level.

  • By the time homeless children are eight years old one in three has a major mental disorder.

  • The prevalence rate for substance use disorders among homeless youth is 85%.

  • 1/3 of homeless teens have witnessed a stabbing, shooting, rape or murder.

  • Youth Homelessness Begins a Cycle of Chronic Homelessness.

  • 25% of the adult homeless population report having experienced physical and/or sexual abuse as a child from someone with whom they lived.

    More at

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Treasure of the Poor

The poor have a treasure to offer precisely because they cannot return our favors. By not paying us for what we have done for them, they call us to inner freedom, selflessness, generosity, and true care. Jesus says, "When you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and so you will be repaid when the upright rise again." (Luke 14:13-14) The repayment Jesus speaks about is spiritual. It is the joy, peace, and love of God that we so much desire. This is what the poor give us, not only in the afterlife but already here and now. by Henri Nouwen

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wealth Psychologist?

Reuters reports that a surge in the number of millionaires in the world is spawning a fast-growing industry -- wealth psychology. What’s up with that? Apparently there is a new breed of psychologist that now specializes in handling the neurosis of clients who feel guilty about their riches or have become heirs to the many problems related to inheriting wealth. Wealth psychologists help with issues such as how to raise children in an environment where almost anything can be bought, or intervene when spouses fight over money. Reuter’s reports, "One of the biggest concerns when people become significantly wealthy is ... 'How am I going to raise my kids responsibly with all this money'," psychologist and consultant James Grubman told the Reuters Wealth Management Summit in Boston.

HIA invites the nation’s wealth management firms to consider augmenting their psychological counseling services with our “free” formula for mental health, (see Saturday, September 29, 2007 - Proverbs 14:21 Unplugged & Updated). When we ignore the poor, it is by God’s standards a sin of omission – not that we have done something wrong – we have failed to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the result of all sin is unhappiness. But happy is the person who shares his wealth with the poor and has mercy on the needy. He will not experience the psychological and eternal penalties of sin. Happy is the one that regards the poor in their low estate by personally helping them, giving them financial aid, having conversation with them and blessing them. Happy is this person. He will not have need to pay expensive fees to a wealth psychologist!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Clean and Unclean

Historically, it has been human nature to divide and categorize people into two basic groups – the clean and unclean, the privileged and the unprivileged or the despised and the likable. Jesus and his disciples were easy targets for this dualistic categorization by the powerful religious of his day. Jesus and his followers were a grubby band of homeless transients that did not have the means to always wash their hands when breaking bread or eating dinner. As a result they were classified as “defiled” or unclean. (Matthew 15) Because of their on-the-go lifestyle, it was nearly impossible to follow the cleansing traditions of the religious leaders. The accusation of “unclean” was exasperated because the men dared to associate with women and were unaware of their cycles, prostitutes and tax collectors – also unclean.

So who are the “clean” and the “unclean” in American society today? The “clean” are easily identifiable. We see them everywhere. These are the people with homes, cars, the latest electronic devices, and jobs. They are the Hollywood stars, sports stars, the politicians, the clergy and the beautiful – they are the lovable and easily accepted ones. Who are the “unclean?” In short, these are the scapegoats in our society that make the rest of us feel thankful that “we are not like them.” The “unclean” are the people who are homeless, prisoners, suicidal, mentally ill, handicapped, transgender, gay, grossly overweight, bankrupt, physically deformed, HIV+, in hospice or are on the brink of decay in our nursing homes – they are the forgotten and the abandoned ones.

So let us imagine. If Jesus were here walking among us today, would we even recognize him? We must honestly accept the fact that he certainly would not come to us with pure white skin, a Midwest accent, the latest Dell laptop, a Ford Taurus and a WAMU free-checking account. Given the fact that he was poor and despised then and is now - would we even care about him? Would we welcome him? Across America, those among us who think ourselves “religious,” would we too despise him as “unclean?” Jesus in Matthew 25:40 states, “Whatever you have done to the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me”.

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Francis, a Rich Model for Serving the Poor

Beginning tomorrow, HIA goes on retreat. We resume publishing early next week our daily “blogazine” with its edge on poverty and the homeless in America. However, servants of the poor everywhere join together to celebrate today’s special commemoration, the feast of St. Francis. The legend lives on!

Born in 1182 in Assisi, Italy - Francis was brought up in luxury, considerable wealth and extravagant pleasures. He was well-off in other ways too; he was very good-looking, had many friends and all the noble men's sons were his companions. One day Francis was joking and laughing with his friends. A homeless guy came along crying for spare change. Francis, who was soft-hearted, gave him whatever he had. His friends mocked him for his charity. The sight of the beggar set him thinking about the poverty and misery of the mundane life he had been living. Immediately, he became inspired to give money to the poor. This did not go over very well at home. His father thought that Francis was wasting the family’s money and tried to stop his random acts of philanthropy.

Francis fell seriously ill and was bedridden for many months. He was just about to die when the Lord extended his hand of mercy and revived him. After receiving a new lease on life, Francis changed completely. He began to pray often and soon had a vision and supernatural encounter with the Lord. After the vision, almost instantly Francis gave up his old ways by distributing all of his clothes, goods and money to the poor. He informed his parents of his new life in Christ and his call to serve the poor. His father became progressively angry, upset and once said, "Is this the gratitude you show to me? I labored hard and achieved all this wealth. Now you are lavishly wasting it on these miserable wretches". Even Francis' long-time friends mocked him. They pelted him with stones and mud whenever they ran into him on the streets. But Francis bore all the rejection and disdain with patience.

In serving the poor, Francis became known all around the region as a humble man that loved and freely gave to all of God's creatures. He cherished birds and beasts. He loved the homeless, depressed and the outcasts. Soon others were following with him in his footsteps. Bernard, a very rich man of Assisi joined with him. Together the two brothers placed all their wealth at the altar of God. Others also joined. They distributed all their wealth to the poor. The news of the brothers and their gospel of kindness and love for the poor soon spread all over Europe and earned for him the name of “Saint” Francis. People also called him “the little poor man of Assisi”. For centuries now, the lavish wealth of Francis’ poverty continues to forever endure in the hearts and minds of the rich and poor alike.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Franics, Guide Our Way

With glowing light sent from above,
O Francis, how you guide our way!
Your virtues and example pure
Show us the path to heaven's day.
Amidst the graces of your life
Your charity sheds brightest fire:
How many of the poor it fed,
Filled many hearts with Christ's desire.
Urged on by zeal and charity,
You preached in town and countryside,
Proclaiming all God's mysteries
To poor and rich. both far and wide.

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go sell all what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Notre Dame Spreads Peanut Butter & Jelly and the Gift of Giving!

Yesterday, the girls of Notre Dame Academy spread the gift of giving. They delivered 100s of PBJ sandwiches for homeless women, children and men living under bridges and alleys in the heart of Los Angeles. Sr. Jolisa, campus ministry director said about their outreach - “We teach the students that we are to open our hearts and give of ourselves to those in need.” The students get it. Each sandwich came lovingly wrapped, sealed and stapled with a "Share a Sandwich Prayer" card. They sweetened the delivery with 100s of creative personalized craft notes that were handed to each diner. Flowered with lots of hearts and compassion the cards read like a Hallmark factory, “Have a great day – Enjoy your PBJ!” and “You are special – Enjoy your sandwich!” HIA is thankful for the poor because as we bless them, they in turn bless us. Otherwise, how would we who are wealthy learn important eternal lessons of love and compassion? As we enjoy yesterday’s photos filled with grateful tears and smiles we contemplate, “Who is teaching who?” “Thank you” to Sr. Jolisa and the students of Notre Dame Academy! The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Sad, Frightened, Smiling & Homeless

Just a few of the many homeless children being cared for by the Hope Haven Gospel Mission of Auburn, Maine. According to the National Coalition of Homeless in Washington D. C., homeless mothers and their homeless children from birth to age ten are the fastest growing segment of homeless people in America. Many women run away from their abusive husbands or boyfriends and often take their children with them to get away from violent home environments. These mothers are confused themselves let alone having to raise homeless children with them. While the women need jobs to survive and take care of their children, many of them do not have the skills necessary to get jobs. Without help, the cycle of homelessness can continue indefinitely and be passed on from one generation to the next.