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by Phillip Morgan

My first night homeless was in Chicago, in the early winter of 1998. My alcoholism had landed me in the Cook County jail while I sat out court dates for a pair of DWI's.

Sentenced to time served, a year's probation and alcohol counseling, I was released at 10:30 PM into a tough neighborhood surrounding the county jail. My jail-provided bus token got me to downtown Chicago by midnight. I slept in a park across from the Conrad Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue. By morning, my shoes and jacket had been stolen. At 49, I was homeless and shoeless in America's third largest city.

A passing policeman rudely pointed me to the nearby Pacific Garden Rescue Mission (www.pgm.org) on South State Street. It was huge! Four stories high and covering an entire city block. I rang the bell at the front door, and a man I later learned was a chaplain answered. I explained my “no shoes” problem. I got a pair of shoes, a sweater, a hot meal, and a promise of a bed that night, if I came back at 5:00 PM. Meeting Rev. Samson Green that morning changed my life.

Over the next month I attended a church service every night, got a meal and a bed and met with Rev. Greene whenever he was available. He gave me reading assignments in a Bible he also provided. Before long I accepted Christ in my life and began a new way of living. I sold newspapers on street corners each morning. I made about $20 per day, more on Sundays, and soon moved to a flophouse where I got a bed for $7 a night. I still met with Rev. Greene when he worked at the mission and my walk with Christ deepened.

I should mention that the historic Pacific Gardens Mission, with its two-story “Jesus Saves” sign, has been waging a political struggle with the powerful Daley administration over their location. The city of Chicago expanded through the industrial area where the mission has been located for a hundred years. Politicos wanted the unsightly presence of all those homeless men away from their bright and shiny downtown, and it appears they have won.

The Pacific Garden site has been sold to a private school and the mission is apparently moving further south. Pacific Garden Mission is the home of the famous radio program, “Unshackled” (www.unshackled.org), the site of Al Capone soup kitchens, Billy Sunday's conversion, and the famous wall mural, asking, “Have you written your mother today?”

Since 1998, I have traveled through the south and the west, working and ministering with the homeless, in shelters, churches, hobo camps, and along streets and highways. Things have changed out here over the past few years. The number of homeless families and children is skyrocketing; their population is growing in large proportions. The shelters and food lines have become crowded with younger men and women lost in the

Posted: 2005-06-28 17:45:00

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