GUEST COMMENTARY: Homeless' plight a disgrace for thousands of Columbia's Christians

Thursday, October 27, 2011 | 5:26 p.m. CDT; updated 5:25 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In Columbia, with a population of approximately 100,000 — at least half of whom claim to be Christians — we have 188 active duty police officers, and Chief Ken Burton wants to recruit 40 more.

As if that were not enough, so many people are so paranoid that we have added cameras to the mix.


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With the number of people who claim to be religious, we probably shouldn't need any more police, except to direct traffic.

The problem is that the Christians are faithfully worshiping God but have not learned how to become spiritual graduates and share their time with those who are less fortunate. Their definition of working for God is not the same as God's definition.

Jesus healed completely. He did not pay lip service with a tidbit here and a tidbit there. The homeless were not to be coddled all their lives. They were encouraged to get back up and be a part of society, even if they chose to be successful and poor without addictions attached.

The evidence is obvious when everyone Christian and non-Christian is forced to witness so many homeless carrying their belongings on their backs as though they were pack mules.

Because our religious leaders obviously refuse to work out a solution to solve the homeless dilemma, the police are left with no choice at times but to arrest them, making matters worse. Now the homeless are considered not only derelicts but criminals as well.

About three years ago, a man named Stanley Lamberson was released from Boone County Jail in the middle of a freezing December. He walked back into town, found a stairwell door unlocked at the Travelodge Motel, and he was discovered later, frozen to death.

Another man was found dead in Flat Branch Park, and another lost his life in a fire.

With all the thousands of Christians in Columbia, this is uncalled for.

Have they become so callous that they cannot leave a phone number with the police and ask them to call when someone is released from jail with a need they could respond to?

What happened to the religious leaders who passed onto the police the job of cleaning up the city?

Why is it that I never see any Christians on foot or driving up streets and alleys helping these people get themselves straightened out?

All you hear from Christians is, “I wasn’t called to preach,” when that is all the Holy Scripture is about.

Every talent or skill a Christian has could be shared with another who is less fortunate. If every person with a Christian background would donate at least 5 percent of their time or about eight hours per week to help another who is less fortunate, what a difference we would make.

In fact, I believe that idea should become law since everyone is so selfish with their time.

“I don’t have time for that” is not a good excuse when we don’t seem to run out of time being experts after a person commits a crime.

On the other hand, it is nearly impossible not to find a police officer in Columbia.

Why don’t we have church substations in or near every shopping area? They could be open 24/7 so indigents could receive help, whatever the need — frustration, hunger, depression — and a place to store belongings so they could walk the streets like a normal human.

The church substations should also have classes or programs available where volunteer citizens and students could share their talents and coach the homeless on how to be ladies and gentlemen since many have lost or traded those skills for a different lifestyle.

Since many church leaders and members are reluctant to share their worship services with the homeless for a variety of reasons, substations would be an excellent alternative to re-educate and ease them back into the mainstream’s “successful” lifestyle.

In my view, we are not spending much of our intellect or energy trying to solve this problem. Many wonderful people are being forced to seek other means to sustain themselves in ways most of society does not approve of. 

Sin is nothing more than a problem without a solution. To blame the homeless when problems enter their lives that are beyond their control — fire, eviction, accident — and rub their noses in those problems is really just saying you don’t want to be bothered.

We need to stop blaming the homeless for everything we don’t want to be bothered about.

The successful leaders of society are just as much to blame for the situation, though they want to place all the blame on the homeless.

Let us learn to be problem-solvers. I believe that there is a solution for every problem.

Gary Kelley is a minister in Columbia. The views expressed here are his own.

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James Krewson October 27, 2011 | 6:24 p.m.

I know this may be hard to fathom...but most of the "homeless" are there by choice. I know that isn't the most politically correct answer, but it is the correct answer. I will always help those that want a "hand up", but I will not be a part of enabling someone with a "hand out."

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield October 27, 2011 | 6:58 p.m.

I don't know if most are, but some definitely choose to be. For example:

"Birkhead bragged about having a telemarketing job waiting for him in Virginia that paid $700 or more per week but said he preferred the carefree life. 'It’s a choice,' he said."

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 27, 2011 | 9:13 p.m.

As usual, reading the comments, I thought about a post. As more lately usual I thought I'd better first read the letter. This commentary is so irrelevant to our current situation, it does not deserve a comment.

However, the plight of the folks the minister refers to can be attributed to the liberal laws concerning individual rights passed since the 60's more than any lack of compassion from any American. Thousands of mentally ill were turned on to our streets because "they had the right to be there".

I was reminded of the publicized case of the loud, obnoxious "homeless" one that took residence in a public library. He became so disruptive that the library took steps to bar him from the premises. ACLU sued the library on his behalf and a federal Judge awarded a judgement of over $200,000 from the library to the "homeless" one who later was proven to be the schizophrenic heir to an 8M$ fortune. Somewhat later B. Clinton promoted the same judge to the Appeals Court.

I'm afraid the minister is, as is often the case when money can be had from a "benevolent" government, looking to provide for the masses when individuals require the attention.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 28, 2011 | 5:09 a.m.

frank christian wrote:

"Thousands of mentally ill were turned on to our streets because "they had the right to be there"."

As I recall, this was during the Reagan years, and my recollection was that it was mostly due to cuts in state spending for inpatient mental care. It was thought that a lot of them could be mananged on an outpatient basis with the newer medications of the time. Sometimes that was true, but those times it was not, those former patients often wound up causing a lot of trouble.

I recall this from medical journals of the time, BTW, not any political source.


(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 28, 2011 | 5:46 a.m.

"Birkhead bragged about having a telemarketing job waiting for him in Virginia that paid $700 or more per week but said he preferred the carefree life. 'It’s a choice,' he said."

I don't earn $700/week (I don't work full time, either, but still...).

You do have to take some of what these guys say with a big grain of salt.

I used to run into a guy "Charlie" downtown from time to time. Short, with long curly sandy hair, wire-frame glasses, and always wore a bunch of Mardi-Gras style beads around his neck. He was a marvellously happy psychotic guy that "only slept in alleys to connect with the city better". He "owned a 4 bedroom house on Greenwood", drove a "D-9 Cat for a living", had a job with a railroad, etc. etc. Very entertaining, especially if he had been drinking. I've never seen anyone that could tell so many whoppers in so short a time.

Was he there by choice? I don't know, but he sure didn't seem to be doing very much about his situation, and honestly seemed to enjoy it.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 28, 2011 | 6:46 a.m.

During good economic times and bad economic times (read Great Depression, for example), certainly not all men who ride the rails and panhandle for food are mentally ill. Some could better be classified as social misfits. A person who is mentally ill may also be a social misfit, but a social misfit doesn't HAVE to be mentally ill. A problem, should you give food or money to a hobo when he shows up at your back door, is knowing which category he belongs in.

Growing up, our house was 100 feet from a railroad line (Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul) and I saw quite a few of these nomads; they periodically operated a "jungle" about a mile from our house.

While in close proximity to the railroad tracks, our house was located "on the right side of the tracks." That's very important, being from the right side of the railroad tracks. It's also an expression you don't hear much these days. :)

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 28, 2011 | 7:27 a.m.

Mark Foecking - From the "Legacy of the Draft Act", the revised Act Governing Hospitalization of the Mentally Ill of 1952.

"But the mood of the nation toward the rights of mental patients changed sharply in the decade after the Draft Act appeared. A confluence of new forces was responsible (4). Skepticism about the reality of mental illness grew, fueled by new sociological theories suggesting that deviance was in the eye of the beholder and that categorizing persons who behaved oddly as "sick" or "crazy" was simply a tool of social control.

Doubts were raised as well about the benefits of mental hospitalization, as exposés and books like Erving Goffman's Asylums (5) portrayed hospitals as places that created, rather than cured, patients' symptoms. Moreover, the legal system became sensitive to the trauma inflicted on disempowered groups, often in the guise of benevolence, and developed new theories allowing legal protections to be extended to them."

Note, this was long before "Reagan years" and mentions nothing about "state spending".

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush October 28, 2011 | 9:54 a.m.

@ JK

Quote some science or
At least data. Random
Claims carry no weight.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush October 28, 2011 | 12:43 p.m.

I'm not convinced the
Nearly two million homeless
Children made that choice.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield October 28, 2011 | 1:01 p.m.

Greg, some teenagers do choose to be homeless. You'd be surprised how many -- including from upper-middle-class families -- couch surf with friends' families or sleep on the streets because they don't get along with their parents. In those situations, both the parents and children need to suck it up and resolve their differences.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush October 28, 2011 | 1:46 p.m.

"I remember this
One guy that I met, and he
Told me...." Laughable.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 28, 2011 | 2:25 p.m.

@ Gregg Bush:

Bearfield is correct, both as regards the problem and a solution. Some of us know actual situations.

How recent is this? I don't recall hearing much about it years ago, but it has probably been true to some extent for decades. Anyone have any data?

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield October 28, 2011 | 2:56 p.m.

A teenager's decision to do drugs often leads to homelessness, such as when it causes parental friction. According to the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment ( , 85% of homeless youth have substance use disorders. Even if a lot of them began doing drugs only after becoming homeless, that still leaves a lot whose decision to do drugs caused their homelessness.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ( , more than half of the youth interviewed during shelter stays reported that their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving and did not care. That was 15+ years ago, but from what I've seen, it's still often the case.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin October 28, 2011 | 3:09 p.m.

Just substitute "city or county human and mental health services budget" for "Christians" in this article, and you have a close approximation to my more secular take on the issues it presents.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor October 28, 2011 | 3:10 p.m.

What a load of self righteous fertilizer!!!

I'll start with the obvious. I know some Jewish people and even a few atheists who are kind hearted and giving people.

Maybe you should go back and check on some previous stories about the homeless and research the topic before you start spouting. The person who died in the fire that I believe you are referring to died in a shed that was being provided for him by a homeowner with a kind heart. (And who faced some troubles for trying to help...) There was another homeless man who died from a bump on the head. (Suspected foul play, not sure how that case turned out...) They interviewed his family. They had tried numerous times to get him to change his ways. They provided a home for him to live in, (their basement...) but he kept choosing to be out on his own because he was free from any responsibility and could drink and smoke as much as he wanted and when he wanted. How do you think that family feels now, knowing the only thing that kept their loved one on the streets to eventually die, was a lack of will from the columbia christians??? <sarc>

Come down from the mountain top oh righteous one and live amongst the rest of us... Things aren't perfect around here. You can't save everybody. If you want to let that bleeding heart of yours get its bleed on, go on some mission trips to other lands and see some real poverty...

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush October 28, 2011 | 5:16 p.m.

May the kindness you
Sow, be the compassion you
Reap. Or lack thereof.

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub October 28, 2011 | 5:18 p.m.

Millions of homeless in this the greatest country on earth, and a handful of citations becomes proof that the vast majority of homeless are that way by choice. Elderly women and children make up the largest piece of this black bird pie, so as the black hearts say "let them die". We as a society are falling into a very deep chasm, with slippery slopes.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield October 28, 2011 | 5:37 p.m.

Will Gregg and both Garys be at the camps tonight handing out food, cash and standing invitations to stay at their homes when there's snow?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 28, 2011 | 5:44 p.m.

Gary Straub wrote:

"Elderly women and children make up the largest piece of this black bird pie"

No they don't. Single male alcoholics/drug addicts/mentally ill make up the largest piece of the homeless pie.

Politics is one thing. Misinformation is another.


(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush October 28, 2011 | 6:20 p.m.

Is sheltering the
Homeless, feeding the hungry
So controversial?

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 28, 2011 | 9:23 p.m.

gary straub - "Millions of homeless in this the greatest country on earth, and a handful of citations becomes proof that the vast majority of homeless are that way by choice."

Do you ever base a comment on fact? Or, is it always from emotion created from your imagination? If you won't accept "a handful of citations", why should we believe your citation of "millions" of homeless"? Wikipedia: "According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were 643,067 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons nationwide as of January 2009." Did not note any reference to "elderly women and children" in their statistics. Did note as a cause of homelessness, "The deinstitutionalization movement from the 1950s onwards in state mental health systems, to shift towards 'community-based' treatment of the mentally ill, as opposed to long-term commitment in institutions."

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub October 29, 2011 | 12:21 p.m.

Sorry I haven't researched this for quite awhile, and single men are ahead now, thanks to never ending wars and the wrecked economy. I assumed that since posters read the paper they are capable of doing their own research, but for those who get their facts from FOX news, here are some good starting points:

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 29, 2011 | 1:05 p.m.

Homelessness is about relationships:
Being homely is an act of God.

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 29, 2011 | 5:01 p.m.

G Straub - Can I assume you are addressing me? I indicated my information came from Wikipedia. I do read newspapers and Fox News never was in it, here. You did not explain your reference to "millions" or why you think many are not there by choice. You did proceed with the emotion driven crap, as usual.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor October 31, 2011 | 11:20 a.m.

Gregg, you still have not listed your address so I can send anyone I see in need of shelter or food to your house. C'mon dude. Heartless...

(Report Comment)

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