This is a picture of Donnie. Her husband died. His pension ran out. She lost her house. She is now homeless.
40 degree rain is the worst. And it just felt unrelenting this week.
I think it was Wednesday where every minute of the day was this deep gray drizzling cold rain.
A supporter of the charity donated one of those S.A.D. lamps. Have you seen these? They supposedly help counteract the symptoms of something called Seasonal Affect Disorder - S.A.D.
This one is nice.
It's the size of a breadbox. It emits this powerful wall of white light.
We keep it in our main day room.
I've never seen the villagers use it or even any of the homeless that come in to our facility from the woods and abandoned houses. But I use it.
Several times this week I just sat in front of it.
I must have looked ridiculous.
I wasn't working. I wasn't relaxing with a cup of tea. I just sat there.
One of the most beautiful parts of being with the homeless is that they don't judge.
I've spent this whole week trying to make sense of the world.
I thought I had it straightened out in my mind to write this blog post. But I'm still struggling.
It's not that I'm surprised people are cruel. It's not that I'm surprised people are completely self absorbed. It's not even that it turns out that these are the traits that seem to be the prevailing traits of American leaders today.
I've known all that. I'm not naive to the righteous power leaders seem to derive from their positions of authority.
I get it.
But this week it just filled me with sadness.
Our mayor did himself no favors with his op-ed. But I get it.
I write things like that sometimes. I'm butt hurt. I'm raging. I'm pissed.
But I don't publish them. Especially now.
I know people are watching. I know people are looking to see what a leader is going to do. How a leader is going to behave.
I guess in government today that's what our supreme American leader is teaching. Throw tantrums online. So maybe it feels like that's a green light for all government leaders to do the same.
I have handlers now.
I have people that regularly remind me of the tone and message and vision we are all working towards.
My wife, who is my greatest handler, gave me one of those rubber bracelets that have catchy sayings. The one she gave me says: "Stay positive."
I'm always looking for the common ground. I'm always looking for the solution. I'm always looking to find ways to inspire people to find compassion and love in their hearts for those in need in our country.
We have SO much of everything in our country. We can afford to share a little with the homeless. Especially if we are doing it with private money on private land.
I get it. Akron is in debt. To the tune of $1 billion.
I don't want to even ask the city for so much as a dumpster to help clean up remote campsites. They have no money.
But fighting us every step of the way to help people that are living on the streets of our city. It's just sad.
That's all I keep coming back to. It's sad.
I'm not sad for me.
In more totalitarian countries, guys like me would just disappear. In other places and times guys like me are not tolerated.
Many much smarter and more giving people than me have lost their lives at the hands of governments that would have none of it.
My eyes were wide open going into this. I'm not upset that leaders are angry at me. If anything, I spend most of my time being thankful that I live in a country where the most leaders can do to me is write pouty letters to the local newspaper.
I'm sad for you. I'm sad for the homeless. And I'm sad for them.
Let's paint this for what it is.
I have a small piece of land hidden from all streets where some homeless people chose to build something beautiful for themselves.
Doug Livingston of the Akron Beacon Journal, our great storyteller of this journey, just completed his Origin Story of our village.
I didn't create this village. A couple homeless guys created this village.
Yes. I'm highly involved now. But at the time it all started I was busy doing other things.
They came up with the concept. They came up with the rules. They came up with what they wanted to build for themselves.
Doesn't that seem beautiful to you?
People coming out of the woods, coming together and building their own bridge back into society.
You don't have to be some bleeding heart liberal to appreciate how beautiful that is.
But all it does is make leaders mad. Our mayor. Some council members. Some homeless service provider leaders.
I guess I'm just astounded at the lack of emotional maturity that is still lacking in 2018 in the most powerful country in the world.
These people are mad because we didn't ask their permission to work on helping the homeless. I think that's all this is about.
If they had created a focus group and decided they were going to work on getting people out of the woods I guarantee they would have not come up with anything significantly different than what the homeless created for themselves. I know that because what we have is what other cities are beginning to create all across America.
They like to tell me that tents are inhumane. But have you seen where these people came from? And our president is setting up tents even as we speak for illegal immigrants. And our military has always lived in tents.
No. This isn't about tents. This is about respecting authority. We didn't ask permission. And we didn't ask permission because there is no will in authority to help these people living on the street.
There isn't a magic pot of money where they can create some state of the art homeless facility to take people in who are living in tents and abandoned buildings.
But that focus group was nowhere on the horizon. They believe, and will tell you quite publicly, that they believe "the street is motivating." Living on the street is so painful that it will inspire people to come into the system to get in line for a house.
I disagree with that premise and that lack of compassion. That's all. There are many people who are so emotionally wrecked and even cognitively limited that the process of getting into housing is far too overwhelming. They can't even imagine a path of getting into a house. So they live in squalor and danger on the street.
I'm sad because not once have they acknowledged the suffering of the homeless on the streets.
I'm sad because they are now starting to blame you for not rising to the occasion and getting these people into houses.
And I'm sad for them because they are missing out on being part of something wonderful and helpful.
Not one time has anyone said, "hey, we don't like this idea. But here is this idea."
The idea they have is to shut down the village the homeless created for themselves on private land and go back to the way things were. Literally, they want us to create public, documented celebrations around tearing down tents.
It's just sad.
Right now I feel like in America we aren't getting the leaders we need or the leaders we deserve.
People in power, from top to bottom, just play their little power-trip games with no regard to the ramifications of how it effects the people.
But as there always is: there is hope.
The hope is you.
I've seen high school kids stand before city council with tears in their eyes saying how much helping these people means to them.
I've seen countless meals, clothes and supplies pour into our facility by people like you.
And I've seen the homeless. They are a forgotten people. They don't vote and they have no money. So they matter to no one in authority. Their suffering becomes irrelevant.
You are the leaders we need and deserve. You are the heart of America. You are what makes America so amazing.
I'm sorry that I'm not smarter or stronger or even richer for you.
But I will do my best to keep working on this issue.
People should not have to live on the streets and in the woods of Akron. It's that simple. And we've shown that we can immediately solve that problem with our village while we work on the future which probably is renovating some of the abandoned houses in our city.
It's not complicated. And I'm not going to stop.
I feel incredibly honored and blessed to be able to help the homeless. It is the greatest thing I've ever done in my life.
I'm not going to stop just because I'm hurting some people's feelings. They will get over it.
The homeless have real problems that matter.
We need to inspire our leaders to come join all of us, the people, to come together to fix this highly fixable problem in Akron Ohio.