The Bible and Homelessness

Being a pastor it is easy to preach! My last blog, “Homeless Is Not a Disease,” may illustrate this. There are things that need to be preached. It is hard not to preach in defense of the homeless because the Bible is supportive of the poor, the hungry, and the homeless.

The ESV translation actually mentions the homeless poor in Isaiah 58:7. The real telling scripture about the homeless is Leviticus 25:35-36(HCSB translation) “35 If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among[a] you, you are to support him as a foreigner or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. 36 Do not profit or take interest from him, but fear your God and let your brother live among you.”

No doubt some will say that is Old Testament. I would offer from the New Testament James 2:15-16(KJV) “15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” God cares for the poor!

God’s expectation for us is to take care of the poor and hungry. It is to compassionately minister to those in need. This is the heartbeat of West Virginia Rescue Ministries. I would be derelict in duty to not advocate on their behalf. I have to employ my energy to see that they are fed, housed, and clothed. That is why Union Mission serves 3 meals a day, houses the homeless nightly, and operates a thrift store (Penny Pincher, 113 Fairmont Ave. Fairmont) to clothe those in need. This is why I would gladly welcome your partnership in this endeavor.

I must be assertive in my advocacy of the hungry, homeless, and needy. To care for the poor was drilled into me from my childhood. It is my parent’s legacy that I care for the poor. But it also is God’s heart.

It is common sense to take care of those in need. It is socially responsible to make provision for the homeless. It is also biblically accurate. If anyone could spend a day with the homeless their understanding of the homeless person’s plight would grow and become compassion.

The homeless need a voice and someone to hear that voice. Let me close this blog with Proverbs 21:13(HCSB) “13 the one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor 
will himself also call out and not be answered.”

Thank you for hearing the cry and answering.

George E. Batten
Executive Director

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Homelessness is not a Disease

It is my job as the Executive Director of this homeless ministry to state emphatically, “Homelessness is not a disease.” In fact it is not contagious. Homelessness can be based in economics; not earning enough to cover the basics of life or poor money management. The homeless may not earn enough because of education and/or area employment opportunities limit income.

Mental illness can also cause homelessness. Addiction to drugs and alcohol causes homelessness. As you can see many issues create the intolerable state of homelessness.

I have never met a homeless person who set out to be homeless. I have met many a homeless person who made poor choices that led them to being homeless.

If homeless people cannot bathe, receive calls from potential employers, and be located in a timely fashion homeless people cannot find employment. An endless cycle develops and any hope for improvement vanishes.

All homeless people are not lazy. All homeless people are not criminals. All homeless people are human and deserve the respect we would give any other human being.

All homeless people, beyond needing food and shelter, have a deep inner need. If you discover that person’s need … you can change that person’s life forever. A moment of caring will cure a hurting person. Every human needs compassion.

The stereotypes placed on homeless people are often cruel and those stereotypes many times destroy any hope of recovery. Even doctors have become homeless, lawyers too. People have fallen a long way from societal position because of addiction. Addiction is a choice or at least begins with a choice.

Union Mission provides a place to bathe, eat, receive phone calls, and a place to heal. Compassion is demonstrated to homeless and hungry people every day and in every way.

Homeless people need interaction, love, conversation, and intervention of a heavenly kind. Union Mission stands to be that place of refuge, where all of this is offered. It is offered because homeless people have to be given the respect that allows them to make their own choice.

My wife and I have raised five children and we have learned you cannot fit any child into the mold of the first. Likewise homeless people are individuals with choices, right or wrong, that they must make.

Union Mission invites your compassion for the homeless so we can remedy the intolerable state of the homeless.

George E. Batten
Executive Director

A Savior to the Rescue

In recovery, we advocate for recovering addicts to take one day at a time. For a person in recovery, it means, do not fight tomorrow’s battle today. However, today’s victories bode well for tomorrow and today foreshadows tomorrow.

When a person struggling with addiction begins to plan for tomorrow, the plan must be realistic. They cannot plan for graduation from college until they have been accepted at college. In a hurry to prove they are recovered – they continue to engage in addictive thinking. Getting a job after 30 days of sobriety is the same thing.

A job means money. Money makes drugs and alcohol available. We are not trying to produce dependency but strength. When a child is ready for a bicycle you do not get them a motorcycle because the child is not ready. In time, a child grows and can handle the motorcycle. It is a strength and maturity issue.

Handling a job is a strength and maturity issue, each person grows and matures at a different pace. A person must be given an opportunity to develop. Housing, likewise, can be a stressor and can be taken on before a person is ready. A person can commit to a monthly rent beyond their capability. Not knowing how the rent will be paid brings them full circle to hopelessness.

West Virginia Rescue Ministries believes the first step is recovery. Our program is achievement based with triggers that signal the next phase of recovery. The second step is to get and keep a job. We recommend that a resident pursue jobs with low turnover rates or fields of employment where it is reasonable to expect long-term employment. A savings plan is part of the job phase. Step three is getting affordable housing but it is necessary to have a job that allows them to maintain housing.

Without these steps, homeless shelters will have a revolving door, the same resident will come in and go out. In the end we would be facilitating the addict and addiction. It takes time to recover.

West Virginia Rescue Ministries is a Rescue Mission – Rescue being the important word. We serve meals with the intent of rescue. We shelter with a view to rescue. If we do not offer a Savior we cannot offer rescue!

George E. Batten
Executive Director

Recovery First

A recent referral to WVRM’s program had been housed twice with support from the Housing First Initiative (a government program). Now the person is homeless again. This illustrates that the root cause of homelessness must be addressed first. In the medical field, you address the problem before you can expect recovery.

Union Mission’s goal is recovery. Housing is only one part of recovery. Money management is another aspect, addressing addiction is yet another. Depending on the homeless person there can be a laundry list of items to address. Common sense dictates that you can only help those that want help. Success is not determined by what the Mission does, but hinges on residents following instructions as they recover.

If you have no expectation, then no expectation can be met. We expect behavioral and lifestyle changes. We believe homelessness and addiction are spiritual issues. For that reason, Union Mission has a spiritual component to our recovery program. We are not embarrassed about believing the Bible or employing its principles in our program. These Biblical principles are the basis of behavioral and lifestyle changes. We set financial goals for a resident to meet. We have medical goals for our residents on a need-basis as well as mental hygiene treatment goals. Our program attempts to address the whole individual. Our hope is to have services in place before they leave our facility.

Union Mission is not just a place to stay: it is a place to stay if you want to work on recovery. We temporarily house homeless people in hopes they will allow us to help them. We feed the hungry because feeding the hungry is what God wants us to do. The story is told of a young man sitting on a park bench with God. The young man asks God, “Why do you allow people to go hungry and suffer?” God answers, “I was going to ask you the same thing!”

Union Mission exists to alleviate as much suffering and hunger as we can. We are not under the impression that the homeless and hungry have no responsibility. We recognize they have little resources with which to address their immediate needs. This is where we come in – addressing the immediate needs and providing assistance to equip them for a new and better life.

We invite you to join us in the “hospital” called Rescue. We cannot do it without you!

George E. Batten
Executive Director

A Clash of World Views

A world view acts as a filter for beliefs and actions. It is the filter through which we see the world. Union Mission is in the middle of a clash of world views.

Secularists ignore God at the very least, most deny the existence of a supreme being. The work of rescue and Rescue Missions originated from a world view in which Christ, the Son of God, is the source and reason for a person being set free from bondage.

In a Christian world view, there is right and wrong and a basis for determining what is right or wrong. In a Christian world view, Christ stands at the center of our beliefs and actions. We adamantly believe that Christ is the source for a change in thinking which changes a person’s actions.

Finding a way to cooperate with many of the social services is difficult. This is especially true when the purveyor of those services is unwilling to work with people from a different world view. We advocate that our residents get the counseling they need. We recommend our residents participate in programs other social service agencies provide.

Our residents then become confused when they are urged to abandon the world view that helps them the most. We recognize the clash! We will continue to offer a belief system that centers on Christ and defines right or wrong. If homelessness is acceptable, why then is there a government initiative to house the homeless? Homelessness is not acceptable.  Neither is a lifestyle that leads to repeated homeless events! The real cure for homelessness is Christ who alters a person’s thinking, thus changing the individual’s actions,  resulting in a life worth living.

Union Mission of Fairmont (West Virginia Rescue Ministries) is engaged in transforming the life to bring about permanent life change. Success is not based on the number housed, but based on the number transformed — living in freedom. It is based on citizens returning to society with the strength, faith, and tools to live life better.

The clash of world views will continue because secularists change their world view. Two thousand years have come and gone since Christ came to this world and offered a better way. His way has not changed and has not been proven wrong!

George E. Batten
Executive Director

Addiction is an Epidemic in West Virginia

West Virginia Rescue Ministries, Inc offers that Jesus is bigger than addiction! 40-MILLION Americans (that’s 1 out of 7) have an addiction problem……as compared to only 27 million with a heart condition, 26 million with diabetes and 19 million with cancer. The most heart wrenching and alarming news is that West Virginia is leading the country in addiction.

In addition, to the preceding facts, local media released alarming news in November 2015 – informing the public that 50% of the babies born in Harrison County were born with an addiction. Sadly, Marion County is not far behind.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation reports that drug overdose death rates among 12-25 year olds was highest in the state of West Virginia with males being 2.5 times more likely to overdose and die than females (this is five times higher than the lowest rates in North Dakota).

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Substance abuse affects people from all walks of life and is a growing problem throughout the state of West Virginia, with over 152,000 West Virginians in need of treatment.

In 2008, West Virginia had the highest rate of prescription drug overdose deaths in the United States, surpassing both motor vehicle crashes and falls as the leading cause of accidental death. In five years (1999 – 2004), deaths resulting from drug overdoses in West Virginia rose 550%. This was the largest increase of any state in the country.

West Virginia has one of the highest rates in the country of non-medical use of prescription pain relievers in 19 to 25 year olds. Opiates are the number one cause of death associated with drug overdoses in West Virginia.

From 2001 to 2010, West Virginia had a 214% increase in the number of prescription drug overdoses in the state.

The number of people who died in one year from overdoses of prescription drugs alone is more than six times the number of people who died from overdoses of all other illegal drugs combined.

From 2009 to 2012, opioid exposure reported to the WV Poison Control Center increased by 12.5% from 460 to 518 reported incidents.

In 2010, oxycodone and hydrocodone, both opioids, were the top two abused prescription drugs in West Virginia, oxycodone with 39% of percentage of total drugs abused and hydrocodone with 28%

“While law enforcement officials, lawmakers and medical professionals are all scrambling to find solutions to West Virginia’s heroin epidemic, EMTs and paramedics across the state are receiving calls almost daily, rushing to the homes of those who’ve made it to the very edge with their addiction,” is the perspective of public responders reported by WV Public Broadcasting Network.

Never before have the services of WVRM, Inc been so absolutely necessary and in need or your constant financial and prayerful support. We are not scrambling for a solution, we believe we have one….. it is a healing Jesus who wants desperately to help the addicted in West Virginia.

West Virginia Rescue Ministries’ purpose is to reach the least, the last, and the lost with the physical and spiritual bread of life, through its ministries of men’s shelter, women’s and children’s shelter, family shelter, soup kitchen, and Penny Pincher thrift stores. We provide hot meals to all who wish to come with no questions asked. We shelter those who request it. But perhaps one of the most important things that we set out to accomplish is to see the binding chains of sin fall off those who are being held captive by drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and other forms of addiction.

As part of our plan in moving forward with this information, with the help of the Advocate Volunteers, we will be delivering gift bags to the addicted mothers for their drug addicted babies complete with information about WVRM, Inc and the recovery services available.

As Executive Director of WVRM, Inc, I see the task at hand as being a bit overwhelming. However, the good news is that God does not change and in addition to offering shelter and food, we believe and offer deliverance to all who are afflicted through Jesus. We believe that Jesus can provide healing to the addicted individual. THERE IS HOPE and HELP in JESUS! Consider today….. JESUS IS BIGGER THAN ADDICTION!

George E. Batten
Executive Director

Resurrection

The apostle Paul makes a statement to the Corinthians that without the resurrection our faith is empty. The resurrection stands as one of the most important events in history. Many apologists can defend the resurrection better than I can. My purpose is not to debate in favor of the resurrection – it is to explore the implications and hope the resurrection brings to the homeless and addicted.

When the resurrection happened, Jesus Christ fulfilled the plan of God to redeem (buy back from sin’s hold) all of humanity. On the resurrection hangs all of Christianity. On the resurrection hangs all of the hope addicted or homeless people have for recovery.

We improve a homeless person’s life when we provide housing. If we give them the message of Christ and the resurrection, we provide an avenue for a new life, not just an improved life. The effects of homelessness are so disturbing that new life becomes a necessity. Homelessness brings hopelessness and despair. If addiction is part of the homeless issue, the effect multiplies.

That is why the old must become new and hope must replace despair. Christ is the answer for the mental and emotional state created by addiction. Improvement alone will not suffice.

Union Mission understands the importance of a new life, and we offer it at every juncture of our ministry. We are fighting for transformation on behalf of our resident guests. We can only offer faith in Christ. We cannot force anyone to accept Him.

The dead in sin can live in Jesus Christ. In Christ alone, our hope is built. Union Mission is a ministry making a difference for those who come to us. Every friend, supporter, and volunteer shares in the ministry and the victories experienced by those we serve.

It is for the homeless we serve, with you by our side. We make a difference one life at a time. It is our joy to be at the forefront of homeless ministry with YOU!

George E. Batten
Executive Director

Babies Born Addicted

On September 27, 2015, the Clarksburg Exponent – Telegram ran an article entitled, “50 percent of Harrison County babies born to mothers who use drugs.” Although caffeine and nicotine are some of the drugs, the article went on to say 25% of the 1,050 babies born in Harrison County in 2015 needed treatment for withdrawal. This in itself is alarming and it is increasing yearly!

The same newspaper ran an article on March 3, 2016, about three people charged in a robbery at a club. The three suspects had chemical dependencies. One had been arrested 25 times and another had at least one brush with the law involving methamphetamine. In addition, the 4-year- old son of one of the suspects was in the van while the child’s mother participated in the robbery. Two of the accused stated that they had been living in an apartment paid for by The Housing First Initiative.

I do not need to state that there is a chemical dependency problem in America … we know that already. Neither do I need to point out that chemical dependency results in criminal acts … we again know this. But I ask again, does housing someone who cannot maintain housing help them? It is not the fault of those overseeing The Housing First Initiative; they cannot be responsible for the acts of the individuals they house. It does, however, help make the case that “housing first” is putting the cart before the horse.

We need to address the issues in order. Providing housing may actually delay a person seeking real help. These issues are spiritual in nature. No mother, in her right mind, would take their child with them to commit robbery. No mother, in her right mind, exposes their unborn child to the horrors of addiction. My wife, a registered nurse, has described for me the cries of the newborn babies as they withdraw from the chemicals in them. It is horrific.

This is a spiritual issue, one created by chemical dependency that is rooted in the sickness of sin. There is a remedy, one we often reject, Jesus Christ and the victory He provides through His death on the cross and resurrection.

What will the future hold for the babies born addicted? Only God knows for sure, but Union Mission will continue to offer the answer that is in Christ Jesus. I invite you to work with us in lifting up the cross of Christ as the answer.

George E. Batten
Executive Director

People First!

When I was attending Zion Bible Institute thirty-plus years ago, the late Dr. Leonard Heroo stated that if you had a party and food was left over — people went away full. On the other hand, if food was not left over — people went away hungry. Likewise, if there is an empty bed – there is room to house all. We just cannot turn people away because there is no room! Everyone deserves shelter. To make sure all the homeless are housed, we need to have an empty bed.

Government-subsidized shelters cannot afford empty beds because of the intense competition for government dollars. To fund the Housing First Initiative, the government must commit large amounts of tax dollars.

The most immediate need of the homeless is food and shelter. Union Mission serves as a temporary shelter for those in crisis. The Housing First Initiative seeks to house a person first and then wrap services around them to prevent the reoccurrence of homelessness. It begs the question, “Why did these services not prevent the initial homeless occurrence?” It could be that many of the homeless did not want the services or did not qualify for the services.

Although Housing First is a compassionate initiative, it is built on an assumption of affordability, availability, and adequacy. The idea that all people, regardless of race or socio-economic status should have affordable adequate housing is valid. Affordability, availability, and adequacy are the white elephants in the room. A full-time minimum wage job generates $1,400 per month income before taxes and deductions. A rent payment of $600 a month for adequate housing is unaffordable at minimum wage. At some time, a person earning minimum wage will have to choose between food, rent, clothing, and utilities. Are rentals of $600 per month adequate? It depends on where you are. According to the RENTRANGE website, a one bedroom apartment in Fairmont, WV, averages $700 per month.

The next question in the Housing First Initiative revolves around the definition of homeless and qualification for the program. The focus of the Housing First Initiative is whether the homeless person is likely to succumb in the next year if they are not adequately housed. If you are couch surfing (staying at a friend’s) you are not considered homeless, but if you reside in a homeless shelter you are, by their definition, homeless. As with all government-funded programs, you must qualify, and the vast number of mission residents do not rank high on the priority of assistance — yet they are homeless.

Union Mission is an achievement-based recovery program focusing on people first. A client’s final achievement in our program is saving $3,000 toward the next step . . . leaving the mission. This means they have demonstrated mastering the root cause of their homelessness, found employment and maintained it, then saved money — a habit that hopefully will continue into the future.

For us, simply housing the homeless is not success. Success is helping someone return to society and independent living. It is just simply people first!

George E. Batten
Executive Director

Soup, Soap, and Salvation

Does secularism offer hope of recovery for homeless people?

There is a great difference between secular homeless shelters and faith-based ones. To clarify, West Virginia Rescue Ministries is a Christian-based shelter. The difference begins with the world view the shelters subscribe to.

Secular shelters have to explain what they are and what their world view is. We can only be accountable for ourselves. We center our ministry on Biblical principles and faith in Jesus Christ. We truly believe that faith in Jesus Christ is the only real and complete hope for behavioral change, life skills development, and a restored life. Providing a homeless person with a job and a house is commendable. However, it does not address the life styles that led a person to homelessness.

I plan to address the “Housing First Initiative” in a future blog. However, it needs to be noted that a homeless person had acceptable housing before they became homeless. I asked the residents of our shelter if they thought having a house would solve their issues. Repeatedly they stated that they had housing before they were homeless. They recognized that deeper issues had separated them from their housing.

Jesus Christ and faith in Him is the only hope they have. Sexual immorality, drugs, and alcohol are part of the cycle of homelessness. To break the cycle of chronic homelessness, there has to be a spiritual answer — an answer that secularism cannot offer.

If your world view denies the existence of God, what we are striving to do does not make sense. Belief in the existence of God is a legitimate, rational, reasonable belief. For all the arguments against this idea I offer the successes of Christ-based ministry. Secularism will offer its successes, but our idea of success is different than theirs.

The first shelters were built by Christian men offering help and hope — or soup, soap, and salvation, as they often stated. Since 1937, West Virginia Rescue Ministries has been working toward ending homelessness, one homeless person at a time.

George E. Batten
Executive Director