Port Austin Bible Campus, 8180 Port Drive, PO Box 474, Port Austin,
Michigan, USA, 48467. • 989-738-7700 • firstname.lastname@example.org
In This Issue
PABC Newsletter #3 — June 2014
For four years, PABC has been successfully providing housing to a great variety of homeless people: 115 men, 91 women and 60 children, for a total of 266. We have provided 21,545 bed-nights! Unfortunately, most of that was done with an artificially low electric bill—which we have suddenly been asked to remedy! Please read the article on the last page.
We currently have 14 Guests, with a family of seven and a family of five who are in danger of losing their homes at any moment. Families of that size frequently have trouble getting into government housing programs as units sufficiently large are not available. Even the nearby big city shelters almost never have facilities to house a family like that together, but must split them up with men and older boys going one place, and women and younger children going to the other.
Four of our current Guests have recently gotten jobs and will be moving out soon. But we have four more people planning to come from jail or prison. All of them say they are excited to start a new and honest life. Our experience has shown that some of them probably will change, and some might not. But of the former-prisoners that have stayed here in the past, some continue with jobs and homes three years later. With some who continued their lawless ways, we helped to ensure a conviction so they would receive more correction. We are so glad to have given an opportunity to all, so that those who wanted to escape a life of crime were able to do so.
We have recently had four 18-year-olds request to be guests at PABC—we accepted two whom we think we can help.
We have planted our largest garden ever this year, and with the help of our Guests, hope to keep it watered, weeded and harvested. We continue to receive offerings of food, clothing, paper goods, toiletries and other essentials from our local community. We also have the possibility of a mentor moving to campus, but there is one critical issue to be worked out first. So please, if anyone knows someone who would like to be a full-time Christian mentor to homeless people, we have a place for them to stay and the essentials of living. Nobody has ever received a wage or salary for working at PABC, but our needs have been met. We do not receive any government funds or grants, but we are free to minister to and teach people as we understand from the Holy Scriptures. Thank you for your interest in our ministry!
When others hear about our difficult financial circumstances, they sometimes ask, “Why don't you just quit? Wouldn't all of these people find somewhere else to go?”
The answer is most of them would find another place. Only a small percentage of those turned away from homeless shelters die within a short time due to their unsafe living conditions, drug overdoses, suicide or some other cause attributable to a lack of a caring place to live. We do not keep statistics about the people whom we refuse to accept to PABC—we usually hear nothing more from them. But of those who stay at PABC for at least several weeks, we frequently maintain contact with them through friendships and rerouted mail and phone calls. Of the 60 people PABC required to leave for rules violations and other difficulties, we know of only 6 who died shortly afterward (10%). So unless there are other deaths we don't know about, 90% of the people who lost the benefits of our homeless ministry survived somehow.
But what are some of the alternatives to housing the homeless? Is the way they survive good for them? Is it good for the rest of the citizen's of Michigan's Thumb?
We cannot give a specific percentage for each category of Guest whom we do not accept to PABC or whom we require to leave—we do not have the resources to research and keep such records. However, we do know what happened in some specific cases. We will provide our understanding about several broad categories of alternatives to any given homeless shelter, roughly in the order from the most common to the least common.
1. Go to Another Shelter. While this may sound like a great idea to many—the problem simply goes to somebody else—it is not very Golden-Rule friendly. PABC continually teaches its guests to treat others as they want to be treated. However, most people complain greatly when PABC accepts a Guest from outside of Huron, Sanilac or Tuscola counties. So why should we send people to distant counties if we do not want distant counties sending them to us?
2. Move in with Friends. About one third of those who are offered a place to stay at PABC find another place before they ever stay here. The most common reason is a friend who initially refused to give them a place to stay, decides to take them in when the friend hears that they are going to “a homeless shelter”. Sometimes this works out very well—the friend knows them and cares for real needs, but encourages them to get on their own as soon as they can. Other times, the group does not get along, or the landlord discovers a person living in his property that is not on the rental agreement, and lawfully demands that they leave. Our largest source of new Guests are those who were staying with friends and who were required to move out by the friends' landlord.
3. Live in Unchristian, Unofficial “Homeless Shelters”. After four years of helping homeless people, we have learned that there are quite a few “hosts” who will let others—sometimes even strangers—live with them. In nearly all cases, this is done to benefit the host. In the better situations, their guests are expected to do housework, yard work, and probably share their food stamps with the host (which is illegal). Sadly, some hosts expect their guests to participate in their parties—getting drunk or high and having sex with whoever happens to be there. In the worst situations, guests are required to take part in drug running, prostitution and other crimes. This “semi-slavery” is not good for the people, nor is it good for the community.
4. Quickly Enter a Government Housing Program. If they could, most people would get into a government housing program before they go to a homeless shelter. But some do not qualify for the programs or they need time to qualify, so they go to a homeless shelter. (Also, there are times when housing programs run out of funds.) About 80% of the people who come to PABC cannot get into a housing program quickly because of their lack of a job, criminal record, ill health, lack of documents, mental illness, etc. That leaves only about a fifth who would have a good alternative if our homeless ministry did not exist.
5. Get Drunk or High. This is not a solution to a housing problem, but heavy drug or alcohol use allows an individual not to worry about the fact that he doesn't have a solution. It is obviously very short-sighted, but some never think it out further. Sadly, they usually end up with one of these latter solutions—or sometimes die of an overdose.
6. Use Crime to Pay for Housing. Some homeless people will plan and commit crimes on their own in order to produce money for housing. Theft of various kinds, drug manufacture, drug sales, counterfeiting, check fraud and other crimes can be a strong temptation for someone with no place to live and nothing to lose. Some reason this way: If they are caught, they will have no money to pay fines, so they will be sent to jail—which at least provides a place to stay and three meals per day. It is much better for these people, and much better for society, to have a homeless shelter option than to “live by crime then do their time”. An even greater menace to society are those who become skilled at committing crimes and do not get caught. Everyone would again be much better off if they had never started down the road to crime as a means of homelessness prevention. Losses due to crime, law enforcement, prosecution, courts, jails and prisons are all big cost factors to hard-working people.
7. Stay in Psychiatric Facilities or Adult Foster Care. People with no place to live sometimes go to these programs that are much more expensive to our governments. Sometimes, the stress of being homeless actually makes them mentally unable to care for themselves. But the PABC staff also has witnessed cases where a person feigned suicide or other mental problems simply to stay in a nice facility for a while. A person can stay in a homeless shelter for around $2400 per year. Medical facilities will cost our governments that much every week.
8. Stay in Public Places. Bridges, parks, state forests, etc. all provide places for the hearty homeless people to live. In many cases, it is not legal, but most become very skilled at eluding whatever authorities monitor these situations. While not all of these people commit crimes, some of them do and criminals on the run often hide among them. These places are very unlike homeless shelters that run background checks and cooperate with law enforcement.
9. Quickly Get a Job and Housing. There are very few people who could do this, but choose a homeless shelter instead. Homeless shelters, including PABC, have restrictive rules that most people would rather avoid if possible. Only a small number of people would be able to quickly get a job and a place to stay completely on their own.
10. Stay on Private Property Without Permission. Sometimes, homeless people watch others habits and find that they can stay in outbuildings or even unused parts of other people's homes. While most of these are eventually caught, they represent a significant danger when they are. The owner is understandably surprised and angry when he finds out and the squatter is surprised and defensive. Violence from either side is possible. A homeless program is a much better place.
While homeless shelters or ministries do not solve all of the problems, and even create some of their own, they solve far more problems than they create. Our PABC ministry builds its guests' confidence by teaching that each person is important to God, and that we are given this physical life to learn to love our neighbor as ourselves. We teach that greed (coveting), lying and committing crimes is a road to loneliness and difficulty, but the Golden Rule is the road to friendship and contentment. These are messages that everyone needs to hear while they are getting their physical life back on track to again take care of themselves and others for whom they are responsible.
Five days per week, PABC requires its guests to attend 9:15 A.M. Bible classes. The classes consist largely of Bible-based videos, during and after which we hold lively discussions. The main message goes something like this:
If you needed a cell phone, would you look outside to see if random forces of nature had assembled one? (With minutes on it!). Of course not. Everyone knows anything that complicated requires an intelligent design and manufacturing process. But if you did take that look outside, you would discover millions of life forms, each one of which is many trillions of times more complicated than a cell phone. Did they get there by random forces? Through this simple logic, and videos that cover the issue in great detail, it becomes obvious, even to our skeptical Guests, that life had a Designer.
But how do we know what life's Designer expects from us? Since He is intelligent enough to design all life, could he not make sure that His information was better distributed than any other? Sure. There are over 6 billion copies of the Bible in print—no other book comes close. It is also available in more languages than any other work. While there are many translations and versions, the same 66 books and basic teachings are in all of them. So one should read the Bible, live by its teachings, and pray to the God the Bible describes. With the theory of evolution and “survival of the fittest”, homeless people are often regarded as the failures of society that should be “weeded out of the gene pool”; with the Bible, everyone is made in the image of God and has the opportunity to receive eternal life.
Our guests vary greatly in their educational background and learning ability. They may be children, adults who never finished high school, adults with college degrees or people possessing great self-taught skills. For example, one man was able to successfully repair numerous heaters, clothes driers, and other electromechanical devices, replacing numerous different parts as needed—even rebuilding electric motors. Others have had great abilities to work with animals, cook or do computer work. Therefore, we have chosen to use a variety of videos as our teaching tools—which attract and hold the interest of everyone—even when too simple or too difficult for some of our guests.
We provide a list of videos and publishers below, for those who want to understand our teaching, and for those who would like to use them to teach others. Most are still available from eBay, Half.com, Amazon.com or other sources.
Bible Reliability/Authority Teaching Videos
Dramatized Bibles (Movies that use only the exact words of a Bible translation)
Good Bible-teaching Videos (The words are not exact, but the stories are largely correct.)
The Greatest Adventure Stories From the Bible, Hanna-Barbera Productions These high quality animations largely stick to the Bible story, with the addition of 3 modern-day time travelers going back to witness the events. Great for children through adults.
Inspiring Movies with Biblical Themes
We are still in court over having chickens in a business district, a charge originally filed against us on October 4, 2012. We were found guilty in a Huron County District Court trial and appealed to the Huron County Circuit Court. Oral arguments were heard on February 18, 2014, and on February 28, the Circuit Court issued an order denying the appeal for "reasons set forth upon the record". On March 21, 2014 we filed a Motion for Reconsideration or Rehearing, but it was denied on April 22, 2014. So we filed an Application for Leave to Appeal to the Court of Appeals in Lansing.
In spite of these numerous Court sessions, no judicial analysis has been written, either by a Court or the prosecution, answering what we understand to be a clear interpretation of Michigan Law and the Port Austin Township Ordinance. Neither have commented on the rules of statutory construction as they apply to the Township Ordinance or the Michigan statutes—even though we have done this several times. To us, it is plain that the state of Michigan has never asserted jurisdiction over a church or religious society's activities nor its own property—and neither the Township Ordinance nor the state zoning laws claim to do so. Most churches are formed as corporations. Corporations are created by the Michigan statutes and are explicitly subject to its regulations. But unincorporated religious entities have long been recognized as not subject to property tax, income tax or sales tax—or any other regulation by the government. Indeed, the government has no agency that investigates minister's messages, to make sure they are not giving bad advice or trying to get the members to give too much money. People are free to attend or leave “the church of their choice”.
There are already at least nine entities recognized at law as not being subject to zoning: Schools, Adult Foster care homes, Farms conforming to GAAMP, Department of Corrections properties, State Police communications towers, Department of Agriculture state fair grounds, Department of Natural Resources snowmobile trails, County government facilities in townships and Military bases. Should any of these nine entities cause a significant problem for their neighbors, numerous nuisance and liability statutes provide their neighbors a way to resolve their grievances. But local governments simply cannot control them through zoning. This system has worked well for decades, and the tiny number of unincorporated religious entities that should also be clearly recognized as exempt from zoning will have exceedingly minimal effect on the local governments with which they interact.
Our Circuit Court transcript is scheduled to be completed on June 20, 2014, after which the Court of Appeals may or may not decide to take the case. If they decide not to take the case, then we have the right to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. Either of these courts could decide either for or against our arguments, or they could send the case back to the lower courts to properly consider the laws and ordinances. In any event, we pray that justice will be done and that the courts will uphold the religious freedom that our founding fathers worked so hard to establish. There were many religious communities in Michigan back in the 1800s. At that time, the idea that a local government could tell them what they could do on their own property would have seemed ridiculous to everybody. The laws regarding these things have not changed—mostly people's attitudes have changed.
A former-PABC guest wrote the following poems for her son, beginning before he was born. She eventually lost custody of him, as she struggled with mental illness and other difficulties. Yet she was able to visit him every month or so and still had the love for her child that nearly all mothers do. She was abused as a child and never taught the ways that God meant for us, His children, to live. To effectively keep her at PABC, we would have needed at least a half-time, and maybe a full-time mentor just for her. Since we did not have one, we required her to leave, which brought her to more difficult times. In spite of all of this, she beautifully captured the love and hope she had for her son. This writing’s copyright (c) is held by the author, who gave permission for its publication without her name.
Poems and Quotes For My Son
Joy Without Measure
We heard the good news,
When you feel a hand rest
A Little Note From Me
When I first felt your hand on mommy's belly
Precious BabyA new family member has arrived,
Our darling, precious baby.
Our lives are filled with amazing love
And sleep has become a “maybe!”
Congratulations! Now enjoy
Our darling and special treasure.
Our lives are better, now transformed
With childhood's awesome pleasure.
To My Paulie
I never appreciated my life until I gave you yours.
He Is The Perfect Person
He is the perfect person,
Your New Arrival
It's got a cute nose and big round eyes
A Baby Changes Everything
A baby changes things;
My Baby, My Joy
Tiny hands, tiny feet,
Wrinkled and wet you were,
My Baby Boy
Hey, baby boy!
My Sweet Baby Boy
The most precious lily in the valley,
Little baby, oh so small,
In April of 2011, PABC was struggling to pay a March electric bill and called DTE Energy to ask them to defer the payment for a few weeks. We mentioned we were serving homeless people and the DTE agent asked “Can you pay $300 per month?” We answered, “Yes” and were surprised to find that each month afterward, our amount due was only $300, even though our usage was several times that amount. Indeed, DTE's on-line payment system would not accept more than $300/mo.
In May of 2012, our payment amount went to $375/mo and we called DTE to find out exactly how the plan worked. The DTE agent said it was a special Shutoff Protection Plan which DTE researches and gives to deserving users. We asked if DTE would ever suddenly adjust the amount due upward to more quickly recover the $11,000 outstanding balance and the agent said, “No, it will only go up a little at a time”.
As 2012 went on, we helped a large number of homeless Guests— having 41 of them living on campus at Thanksgiving time. We put them in buildings with only electric heat, and our electric usage went up, especially through the winter. We kept all of the Guests that we could, with plans to increase our sources of funding in the future. As the agent said, our bill went up to $450/mo in November 2012, $525/mo in May 2013 and $600/mo In November of 2013.
Then in May of 2014, our bill went up to $4315/mo! This amount was calculated to pay all our $35,595 outstanding balance plus ongoing usage in one year. After several weeks and many conversations with multiple DTE representatives, DTE could not figure out how we received such favorable treatment for the last three years—they knew of no such internal policy. On the other hand, they realized why we would have trouble going from $600/mo payments to $4315/mo payments. So they settled on $2500/mo and said they would have to manually override the computer system every six months to keep it that low.
The bottom line: We need to pay DTE $3800 more by June 23rd. (They want $2500 for May and June; we have paid $1200 of that.) Those who would like to help us can send a check to Port Austin Bible Campus, PO Box 474, Port Austin Michigan, 48467 or pay directly to our DTE Energy account for “P A Sabbatarian Church Community Sacred Purpose Trust”, Acct. No. 5340 725 0009 1; tel: 313-235-9224; address: DTE Energy, PO Box 740768, Cincinnati OH 45274-0786. Thank you.