Written by Tony….
Yesterday after outreach in the morning (see Peter’s reflections yesterday), some of us went upstairs to the print shop – www.street2life.com. This is an Open Door Ministries project started by Bruce Vlieger and Bex Drake that provides four-month transitional employment for young homeless adults, as well as help with finding full-time jobs. The letters in the logo stand for Community, Spiritual formation, Employment and Discipleship. John, who is an experienced digital cartographer, now runs the print shop so he and Bex showed us how the screens are made, demonstrated inking the screens and then printing onto T-shirts. After printing they go through an oven to dry and fix the ink, which can get everywhere if you aren’t careful. Then it was our turn! After practicing on test shirts we printed some Ezra T-shirts both on the inside, some text explaining about Street2Life, and the Ezra logo on the outside. Ezra is another Open Doors ministry directed by Bex and Bruce as an outreach to Streetkids. In all we printed about 30 T-shirts, and we got quite good at it! Those shirts we will hand out later during outreach, but they also print T-shirts and other clothes for various organisations, including multi-colour screen printing and transfers.
It has been interesting hearing from Bruce and Bex about the homeless in Denver. In larger towns in Britain you can’t avoid seeing the homeless begging, selling The Big Issue (Denver has an equivalent called the Denver Voice) or sleeping in doorways – but our numbers are dwarfed by those in Denver, one of the top cities in US for homelessness. It’s a rapidly expanding and prosperous city, and most residents and workers here are probably unaware of the problem but about 13,000 are homeless, including sofa-surfers and the like. Bex and Bruce know about 750 personally in Denver Metro, the downtown area. Many use dirt and body odour as a barrier, a way of fending people off. I wonder if there’s a spiritual analogy there – do we try to fend God off so he doesn’t come too close, forgetting that he is not put off at all by the unpleasant odour of our ‘sin’, and loves us despite the dirt that we accumulate in our lives? (Talking of dirt, I was going to mention the faulty shower downstairs, but having listened to Duncan’s talk from last Sunday we will not be complaining! The other one works.)
Yesterday Peter and Lynn went to the Denver Central Library, which provides an invaluable service to the homeless. Not to borrow books primarily, but they can charge their phones which they all have, use wifi to keep in touch by social media, use the rest rooms (translation: toilets and washing) and even watch films. Library staff receive training in CPR and administering Narcan, a drug given after an overdose of opioids including heroin and fentanyl which reverse their effects. This may come as a shock to my wife, who works in Debenham library!
Finally last night Bruce and his wife Marla invited us to a meal at their house, with young adopted daughter Zylana. I was impressed by their unassuming, unpretentious lifestyle; their immersion in the community, moving house to be part of it; their contentment and improvisation. This seems quite different from the American lifestyle we are used to seeing via films and TV in Britain, where a large and well-appointed house and numerous cars are normal.
PS Sorry I haven’t learnt how to rotate the photos in here yet!