Street Dwellers

It’s been a while since I’ve consistently walked to my appointments downtown, mostly because of insane heat (wisdom has a way of getting through every now and then). However, today I ignored wisdom, and felt it was time to brave the heat and embrace the sweat. So I walked to the meetings I had today, and, as usual, whenever I slow down and stop the hurry of life, I encounter people and see them through new lenses.

I was walking south on Central just south of McDowell when I encountered a band of street dwellers. They were full of energy and very outgoing.

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As I smiled and nodded a culturally acceptable “hello” to them, the gal in the pony tail (in the back of the picture) said to me, “Hey, what are you carrying that camera around for?”

I told them, “I have a blog and I like to tell stories of people in Phoenix. You guys want a group photo?”

Surprisingly, they all agreed and assembled very quickly for a family photo, and as they did, they said, “You can’t get our beers in the picture though.” They were all sharing two 40’s (that’s slang for 40 ounces of beer) wrapped in a sock, to keep them cool of course.

I said, “That’s alright… just get in there for a group picture. You’re going to be famous.”

Then the tall guy in the Nike shirt, his name is Dallas, said to me, “I’m already famous.” Then he  said, “I’m famous with the man upstairs. He’s the only reason I can wake up every morning and keep living.”

“Alright bro,” I said, and I gave him a high-five and told him to keep looking to Him.

Right at that moment, the light rail horn sounded off, it was coming, and they were in a hurry to leave. Then I said, “You guys look like a great family. Where you guys from?”

Then the same gal who asked why I was carrying around the camera said to me, “We’re homeless. Make sure people know that not all homeless people are bad.” She said it again as she was walking away quickly to catch the light rail. I said, “Will do!” (while I gave her a thumbs up).

Not sure what their lives look like day to day (I have my ideas), but today, the glimpse I got was one of correction that led to compassion.

Correction: Don’t have a single story of street dwellers. The term “homeless” is a bad term. They have a home, it just so happens to be bigger and less convenient than most of ours, and people ought never to be defined as homeless. Home is not always a physical structure.

Compassion: I am praying for street dwellers in a new way today as they navigate the street life, and I wanted to write this blog to allow some of to look at a snapshot of people who live radically different from us and suffer in ways that most of us never do, granted, some of their suffering is self-induced, but not all. We can say that when we stop having single stories of people. Not all street dwellers are bad.

Kineo Urban Renewal Update

By Amy Skeens (my wife!):

The moving, the growing, the changing is all set in motion. This month, the month of May, is our last in the Alhambra Neighborhood. What a sweet place for 5 1/2 years it has been.  So much has been birthed, reshaped, purged, put to death, and brought back to life here. Amazing experiences… amazing people. Our faith will never be the same!

This is a picture of the last of our harvest here on this ground (lettuces, tomatoes, arugula, jalepenos)

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Animals are being moved to temporary places (thanks to the Davis’, Annette Schuster, Gail/Med Skeens) and the last litter of bunnies are being sold as we speak. Sarah Ramsey has so faithfully come over a couple mornings a week to feed, clean, and care for the animals. Sarah, we love you and we have enjoyed seeing your passion and the giving of your gifts!

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We are enjoying the last of our parties and memory making here.

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We have prayed for a place to take the farm/garden and God has provided. We are breaking down everything and moving the fencing, chicken coop, etc this month. We are excited to say that we are able to reuse almost all of the material we have here, along with Jeff finding a lot of pallets to creatively use for more fencing.

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We are headed to downtown Phoenix, to live on property owned by Aim Right Ministries. Our kids go to school just a few streets away from the new home, at ASU Prep, which we are really excited about.

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The home was built in 1926 and is on a large property with lots of space. Aimright Ministries is happy for a family to move in and feels the garden and animals will bring life to the land. Our “job” is just that… to work as a family and take care of the land.

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We love the neighborhood and its cultural diversity and history. Here is a local diner just blocks away, tucked within the historical homes. We are excited to walk to it and meet our neighbors.

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Some colorful artwork, telling many stories of the past

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We will move in at the end of the summer, late July. This spring, we have worked to prepare the place. Jeff, in the backyard, using his gifts of drawing up plans and measurements

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This month of May is a big month of building. Let us know if you want to get your hands dirty:)

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Changes! Change can be exciting and also involves loss… and loss is sad. We are sad for our time in Alhambra to be over. We will miss things about this area of town and miss the people.

So we live in the present. Remembering what is behind and looking forward to what is to come. It has been amazing to keep learning how to follow Jesus. He does know and does lead.

We think of many of you… knowing you are walking much out as well in your lives and neighborhoods. We love watching and taking part in what God is doing in this world and in this city. At this point, this is one of our hopes… given by the Hope Giver.

During the summer, while we are in between homes, we will be leaving on a sabbatical, to travel around the country in an RV as a family. We will be on a hunt for hope. We will be connecting with family and friends, new and old, while also taking much time just for our own unit of 6 people to enjoy the great outdoors together and rest. We hope to gain more healing and refreshed vision and clarity about life in the valley of Phoenix. What is God up to on a greater scale? We will get to see people and communities outside of ours here in Phoenix.

Prayers appreciated. 6 of us in an RV for 8 weeks… it is sure to be an enlightening experience- ha!!!
I’m sure there will be certain hours when the hope looks foggy because of cramped space and the limitations of crabby human hearts, but I am sure there will be many mores hours of colorful, life-changing signs of HOPE.

Love to you all,
Jeff and Amy Skeens

Did You Know…

…that by 1940, Phoenix was considered the “air-conditioned capital of the world”, not only in use, but also in manufacturing. In 1900 Willis Carrier developed the first known “air-conditioner” that actually cools the air down. . . who would’ve thought that was possible?! Well, send wealthy Americans to Phoenix and there you go!

The first hotel in Phoenix to get A/C was the Westward Ho (1929), which then, mainly catered to the wealthier vacationers. Now it’s been converted (since 1980) into a subsidized housing complex for the elderly and mobility impaired. In 1935 Phoenicians were taking out FHA loans to buy new A/C window units, and by 1936 the Central Arizona Power and Light Company recorded that there were around 5,000 units in Phoenix (it’s around this time that the roof-mounted units were being discovered developed).

This industry in Phoenix, by 1940, saw the birth of more than 30 manufacturers who employed over 200 workers, not including all the other jobs that were created outside of the A/C business because of this new coolant industry. But more important to that in Phoenix, was the rise of creativity and ingenuity that this new industry created. Men who were car mechanics, sheet metal workers, and the like, who contributed their minds to the industry that has blessed us 21st century urban desert dwellers! This new industry eventually funded the development of many other metalworking and machine shops which were needed to keep up with the demand to manufacture more A/C’s to chill the air in this desert climate.

Who would’ve thought that such an economic thrust could come out of a bunch of creative wimps who couldn’t stand the heat like the Hohokam did years before us. I for one am thankful for those wimps, and am encouraged and reminded that necessity (with some amount of resources) can help create new things that help people, and change the face of a city for good. I wonder what the next city changing idea will be birthed out of a comfort necessity in our city?

(City of Phoenix facts were taken from Philip VanderMeer’s book Desert Visions and the Making of Phoenix: 1860-2009, 84-85)

Just Tryin’ to Find a Way to Eat

IMG_0825This is Juan. I walked by him today while I was downtown and I asked him what he’s up to today, and he said, “Just tryin’ to find a way to eat man.” Then he asked me if I had any change. I gave him the change I had in my pocket. Some people make a commitment not to give money to guys like Juan because they are afraid they’ll use it for drugs or alcohol. I normally feel that way too, but today when I encountered Juan (who was alone on a crowded street), I was reminded that Jesus gave much more to me, and he ‘knew’ I would waste much of it on things that brought death to my soul. So I thought to myself, “I’ll trust Juan with 89 cents and hope he puts it towards food. If not, it’s on him.”