No little people IV

National | It has been said by many that there is not a social problem in America that is not being solved somewhere, somehow, by someone. Nowhere is the truth of that statement more resonantly clear than with the groups and people profiled here. These pearls of hope for the least among us reaffirm the best in us--they prove that where two or more are gathered in his name, Christ is in the midst of them. The four organizations noted here are representative of many more that transform lives one at a time in a way that challenges those being helped to take responsibility for where they are, and to take stock with God for who they are. Francis Schaeffer once wrote that there are no little people and no little places. Here is WORLD's fourth annual report about some big people.

Issue: "Washington Gets One Right," Dec. 6, 1997

Every day, rain or shine, along the railroad tracks and highways of Wilmington, Del., small groups of men gather to pick up trash and beautify the city. They are part of a program called "He Is Pleased," and they are making the long, tough, and hopeful journey from homelessness into the world of work.

He Is Pleased began with a small group of homeless men and a program director, Tom Weller. HIP made this offer: Spend a day cleaning up litter and we'll give you a day's wage. Spend 90 days with us in a strict program that demands no tardiness, no drugs, no criminal activity, and a spiritual reassessment of your life, and and we will help you find a new place to live, a full-time job with one of our corporate partners, and a new life.

The program worked. Since it began a few years ago, about 100 men have made the leap from the streets to jobs. While some of those successes have lost touch with the people at HIP, the anecdotal evidence suggests that the vast majority of those people who made it through their "program" have been able to get off the streets.

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HIP has become a model for other programs because of its simplicity of operations: It has involved local corporations providing entry-level jobs for HIP graduates; it has worked with the city to get the OK to clean up the streets; and it has kept its overhead remarkably low.

All of this is not to say that HIP doesn't face real challenges. Its budget of about $150,000 per year doesn't allow for full-time work on expanding, or for providing hard documentation on those served. Even getting in touch with HIP is difficult because the lone staff member is usually off working with the clients. In addition, when Mr. Weller goes off to the shelters to announce new openings on the work crew, he finds less than overwhelming interest. He tells them about the drug tests, about the importance of punctuality. He says HIP will do everything it can to make sure that the person is able to find a permanent job after the program. At the end of the day, only a small percentage of those he talks to ever contact him again about the program. Of those, a good number find the requirements too tough and don't show up.

Calvin's story tells a lot about what HIP does. Once a state employee with a steady job, Calvin went on a downward spiral after an encounter with heroin. He finally hit bottom after spending several years living under a bridge. He was, in his own words, "too low" to be admitted to the local homeless shelters.

Feeling convicted to change, he became part of HIP and now has the reputation for being the most punctual, hardest working team leader the program has ever had. When asked about it, he says, "I'm on my way"-a sober admission from someone who knows that the road back is not one of big language and big ideas, but of hard work, of learning how to do the small things.

During his time with the program, Calvin had heard about HIP's original funder, Foster Friess. But they had never met. Then one cold, wet March day this year, they did meet. Dropping by the work site with some guests, Mr. Friess made a beeline for the man with the blue and white "HIP" hat.

There, these two men, one a well-dressed businessman and one an up-and-comer in work clothes, hugged and talked as though they had known each other all their lives. And standing there, one could sense clearly that He Is Pleased.

Sometimes hope is found in the most unexpected places. In northeast Washington, D.C., behind building 119 of the Franklin Commons Housing Project, a short pass from a cemetery with funeral vaults stacked four high, a National Football League star is nurturing hope. His name is Darrell Green, and the program is the Darrell Green Learning Center.

Growing up as a "peanut" in Houston, Mr. Green was taken under the wing of his maternal grandmother. "She saved me from the streets," he recalls, "by the simplest acts of goodness-she took me in after school, fed me milk and cookies, asked about the best and worst parts of my day, and then helped me with my homework and my soulwork." His grandma was an extra teacher, encouraging him to do more of the things he did well and helping him do better the things he didn't do so well, and instilling in him a faith in Christ that lasts to this day.


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