[Hpn] Alexandria, VA - HOMELESS IN AMERICA,
PART II - Religion & Ethics Newsweekly/PBS WNET - April 5, 2002
H. C. Covington
H. C. Covington" <firstname.lastname@example.org
Sat, 10 Aug 2002 19:09:40 -0500
Homeless in America - Part II
The so-called "hidden homeless," those who may not look much different
from anyone else but who cannot afford a place to live. They are a
of the country's estimated 800,000 homeless men, women, and children.
Deryl Davis - Religion & Ethics Newsweekly/PBS WNET - April 5, 2002
BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Now, part two of our report on the
homeless in America -- today on the so-called "hidden homeless,"
those who may not look much different from anyone else but who
cannot afford a place to live.
Experts say they are a majority of the country's estimated 800,000
homeless men, women, and children.
Deryl Davis reports on one group of the hidden homeless, and the
church that is trying to help them.
DERYL DAVIS: A service for the homeless in northern Virginia,
about four miles from the White House. Many here today are
homeless themselves. Some worry that, unless something changes,
their names could be on this list someday.
UNIDENTIFIED HOMELESS MAN: What has happened to the love that men
must show each other? Why not change? Why not go back to helping
one another? I know I need it. Because without it, I'm destined
to die either in the streets, jail, or in the institution.
DAVIS: There are 25 percent more homeless people here in Fairfax
County today than there were four years ago, one of the sharpest
increases in the nation in one of its most affluent regions. At
any given time, well more than 2,000 people in this county are
The average rent here jumped 40 percent since 1998, and while new
housing is being built for those who have money, experts say the
working poor -- which most homeless here are -- have become
Mostly, they live day to day in shelters, low-rent motels, or
local parks. Like John Lewis, who sleeps in the woods. He suffers
from emphysema, high blood pressure, and other illnesses.
JOHN LEWIS (walking by his shack in park): It's cold. It's wet.
It's lonely. And there's always darkness. I mean, it seems like
in the daylight, it's dark. It just seems like there's a haze
over most things. I do pretty good and I burn a lot of sterno. It
doesn't, you know, produce a lot of heat, but in a place this
small, insulated with plastic, the little bit of heat that it
does produce, it just stays inside.
I wash up in the morning with the little towelettes. I got my
water. I brush my teeth. Here's a bag of socks, shirts, t-shirts,
a dress shirt just in case I want to go to church and change.
DAVIS: Most people don't even know these "hidden homeless" exist.
But advocates say they represent about 80 percent of the total
homeless population in this area. That's especially true along
Route 1. A number of homeless have died crossing this busy
highway in recent months. John Lewis faces it each week on his
way to church.
DAVIS: Keary Kincannon, a United Methodist minister, started
Rising Hope Church here six years ago. It was created especially
for people like John.
Reverend KEARY KINCANNON (Pastor, Rising Hope Church): We have a
very specific focus in reaching out to what we say -- the least,
the lost, the lonely, the left out.
DAVIS: Kincannon says about 85 percent of his congregation is or
has been homeless.
Rev. KINCANNON: We've got so many folks that come here with so
many problems -- people that would be rejected in other churches
and other situations -- because they know we genuinely love them.
We genuinely care for them.
DAVIS: Kincannon calls Rising Hope a "recovery" church. Many of
its members, some of whom have children, are recovering from
addictions, or simply the shame and trauma of being homeless.
GLORIA HARRELL (Rising Hope Church): You become faceless. You
become -- you're just there. I mean, it's like a gray area. I
called myself at one time a leper. I felt like a leper.
DAVIS: Gloria Harrell leads a 12-step spiritual recovery circle
at Rising Hope. She was homeless herself for many years, the
result, she says, of out-of-control spending and a destructive
Ms. HARRELL: If I've made it, then I have a duty to my brothers
and sisters to help them.
DAVIS: The problems associated with homelessness are very real
for Tom Star-King. He's been homeless on and off for 30 years,
although he works hard not to appear so. He keeps his worldly
goods in a storage closet and commutes back and forth to a
TOM STAR-KING: You're gonna get discriminated against if you
appear to be homeless. That's why you have to keep up a fašade.
DAVIS: Tom says his involvement at Rising Hope has helped him
deal with emotional problems and alcoholism, but it's a daily
Mr. STAR-KING: Alcohol is a disease, and that's why I'm having
trouble battling that. My faith says one thing, but my disease
says another thing.
DAVIS: Tom washes dishes part-time at a restaurant and volunteers
many days at Rising Hope.
Rev. KINCANNON: Tom is taking some wonderful steps to deal with
his situation. He's not out of the woods yet. He's got a lot of
work to do in his life. But he's got a lot to give.
DAVIS: Kincannon empowers his church members, like Tom, by
holding them accountable for their behavior and telling them that
they, too, should do something to help others. For Tom, that
includes joining a Friday-night food delivery to other homeless
people living along Route 1.
DAVIS: The "Phoenix Rising" food delivery is led by United
Methodist field minister Abi Foerster, and it includes more than
just material sustenance. Sometimes, the human contact matters
most for these homeless people. Their campsite, on the grounds of
Fort Belvoir, was broken up by the military police.
Rev. ABI FOERSTER (leading a prayer): For everyone who has lost
their home today, we just ask that you'd be with each of us, that
you would help open new doors for places to live and to be.
One of the things that is often a refrain from folks that come
out and volunteer with us, they say to me over and over again, "I
had no idea this was in our backyard. I knew that Route 1
struggled, but I had no idea that there were folks living behind
townhouses and in trash dumpsters and in the woods."
DAVIS: Sarah Hoover is the lay leader at Rising Hope Church. She
says she's learned that all kinds of people can become homeless
in all kinds of places. And she learned it the hard way -- by
becoming homeless herself as a result of a medical emergency that
put her out of work, in debt without health coverage, and in a
SARAH HOOVER (Rising Hope Church): Yeah, this is where I first
stayed. A lot of times you have to come into overflow because the
main building is full and this is the women's section over here
and this is the men's ... a much larger area because you
generally have more men than women.
There was kind of a, a mocking, I guess, in a way with my
situation. "What are you doing here?" And, you know, "How could
you come to this situation?" It was hard to find a bond with
people because I didn't really fit a certain mold, I guess, that
a lot of people were used to seeing.
DAVIS: Sarah says there were times when the trauma of being
homeless was so great, she just wanted to die. But she doesn't
regret that experience now.
Ms. HOOVER: I would never have been able to understand what
people go through. I would have never been able to relate with
people like I do now. Nor could I, you know, speak to other
groups that don't understand about homelessness.
DAVIS: Today, Sarah leads church committees and tries to explain
Rising Hope's needs to groups that support its mission.
Ms. HOOVER: We really need people from other churches and from
the community to come in, because a lot of the people who come in
are dealing with serious issues themselves, and it's hard for
them to serve. We do run the risk of burnout and certainly live
on that edge a lot in this ministry.
DAVIS: Kincannon admits there are many challenges associated with
a church like Rising Hope. But he says the church was created to
include everyone, no matter their condition.
Rev. KINCANNON: It's bringing God's love to that part of the
community that the church has sometimes not done a very good job
of doing. And it's bringing God's love to the unlovable, to
recognize that, that God does love everyone.
Go now and celebrate recovery, because life is worth celebrating.
DAVIS: In Fairfax County, Virginia, I'm Deryl Davis.
Homeless & Housing Daily News
Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church
The United Methodist Church in Northern Virginia
Washington Post: "No Place to Call Home" by Sewall Chan, January 23,
Washington Post: "An Account of the Homeless" by Mary Otto, January
Washington Post: "Prosperity Feeds Housing Pinch" by Peter Whoriskey,
March 17, 2002
The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness
Homeless Empowerment Project
Catholics for Housing
A nonprofit housing provider working throughout Fairfax County and
Northern Virginia to increase housing options.
National Resource Center on Homelessness and Mental Illness
Homeless People's Network
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development: The SHARE
Homeless Intervention Program
The Reading Connection: Homelessness in Virginia
A literacy outreach program for children living in shelters.
Arlington Street People's Assistance Network
Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless
The Urban Institute: Publications on Homelessness
U.S. Conference of Mayors: "Hunger and Homelessness Up Sharply in
Major U.S. Cities," December 12, 2001.
DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA: THE ORIGINS OF HOMELESSNESS by Peter H. Rossi
THE HOMELESS by Christopher Jencks
THE WAY HOME: A NEW DIRECTION IN SOCIAL POLICY by the New York City
Commission on the Homeless
DOWN ON THEIR LUCK: A STUDY OF HOMELESS STREET PEOPLE by David Snow
and Leon Anderson
RUDE AWAKENINGS: WHAT THE HOMELESS CRISIS TELLS US by Richard W. White
CROSSING THE BORDER: ENCOUNTERS BETWEEN HOMELESS PEOPLE AND OUTREACH
by Michael Rowe
THE WAY HOME: ENDING HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA edited by Jodi Cobb et
THE VISIBLE POOR by Joel Blau
RACHEL AND HER CHILDREN: HOMELESS FAMILIES IN AMERICA by Jonathan
NO PLACE TO BE: VOICES OF HOMELESS CHILDREN by Judith Berck
THE ETHICS OF HOMELESSNESS edited by G. John M. Abbarno
HELPING AMERICA'S HOMELESS: EMERGENCY SHELTER OR AFFORDABLE HOUSING?
by Martha R. Burt, Laudan Y. Aron and Edgar Lee
OVER THE EDGE: THE GROWTH OF HOMELESSNESS IN THE 1980S by Martha Burt
VISIONS OF CHARITY: VOLUNTEER WORKERS AND MORAL COMMUNITY by Rebecca