The following article was written by Pastor Ken Locke of Downtown Presbyterian Church, Nashville: [h/t The Homeless Guy]
James Rychednick is not a terrorist. He may be any number of things, but he is certainly not a terrorist.Amen. I couldn't agree more.
James is about 35, not mentally retarded but clearly "slow." He also hears voices, voices telling him to leave, leave, leave. I met James when he came seeking help to get a state Identification Card. State ID cards are one step down from a drivers' license. They are a legal proof of identity but are generally only used by those who cannot or are not allowed to drive. They are the most common form of ID among the homeless and urban poor.
James lost his ID card in Minneapolis where he was working a string of dead-end jobs and living in a shelter. Don't ask me how he lost his card. He probably doesn't know himself. But when he lost his card he listened to the voices and left. He took the bus to Atlanta and from there to Nashville. Last week he rolled into our fair city, homeless and broke.
It's surprising how many of the homeless and urban poor don't have any form of state issued ID. Not having one complicates your life – a lot. Ever since the Patriot Act you can't (legally) get a job scrubbing floors at Wal-Mart without a state ID card. You can't get into a drug or alcohol rehab program. You can't apply for housing or cash a social security check without a state ID card. In short, it's hard to (legally) better yourself without a state ID.
People show up asking for help with ID cards for a variety of reasons. Some have simply lost them. Some were stolen. Crack addicts have a hard time hanging onto their important papers. Women fleeing abusive husbands rarely pack all their necessary documents before leaving. (And often times the abusive husband will keep the woman’s ID card as a means of control.) People getting out of prison lose their ID card in the incarceration process. They have a prison ID card but that doesn't help a lot when you're looking for a job.
We know a lot about ID cards here at DPC. It's one of our missions. Last year we helped purchase 130 state ID cards. So far this year we’ve purchased 79. Not a positive trend.
So in the normal course of my day I found myself talking to James. Someone had told him maybe we could help.
But James has a problem. He's never had Tennessee ID card and he was born in Illinois. That means he needs his IL birth certificate. But the state of IL will only release a birth certificate to someone with a state ID card. Need a state ID card? Show us your birth certificate. Need a birth certificate? Show us your state ID card. Can you say Catch-22?
James came to me and I called the Office of Vital Records in Chicago. The nice lady told me that if someone from an agency would send them a copy of their own ID, they would release James' birth certificate to that agency. (They won't release ID cards to a church, but will release them to a non-profit agency. Go figure.)
A case worker at the Campus for Human development kindly made a copy of her drivers license. DPC wrote a check for $15.00 for the certificate and now it is in the mail. The birth certificate will be here in three to four weeks. Meanwhile, James is in Nashville - broke, staying at the Mission or on the streets, legally disqualified from getting a job. But James is a gentle person and will be easy to manipulate. It won't be long before some of our rougher elements take advantage of him. My guess is he'll be in jail before the certificate arrives.
Tramp, wanderer, no-good, Forrest Gump, lost soul: call him what you will, James Rychednick is not a terrorist. He's many things but not a terrorist.
But legislation aimed at protecting us from terrorists is keeping him from being a legally employed member of society. It’s increasing the likelihood he will be a drain on the taxpayer. But at least we know he won’t be building bombs.
OK, politicians. You want a mandate from the people? Here it is. Protect us from the terrorists. That's important. But help people like James be in a position to seek work before they become one of the permanent 'left behind' of our society. That's important too.