In Fresno, CA, as we all prepare to enjoy Christmas, a homeless man fights bulldozers to maintain his ministry for the destitute. Ray Polk, a kind soul with a fierce spirit, works through self-directed acts of good will to soothe the city’s homeless problem — but he is administering his good works from a spot Fresno plans to demolish.
The structure from which Polk dispenses food, clothing and compassion to the poor stands in front of an abandoned overpass marked for destruction by city planners. Polk has ignored requests that he vacate his ministry, which borders tent cities housing many of Fresno’s 4,400 homeless. In fact this beacon of goodness is settling in even more deeply — decorating his shanty shelter to celebrate Christmas himself. The Los Angeles Times report:
A former appliance repairman, Polk ended up on the streets 22 years ago when he descended into alcoholism after his mother died. Two years later he sobered up and dedicated himself to lending a “kind ear” to the community that had nursed him through despair.
“It’s funny how one person’s ways can change a place,” said Tony “Preacher” Thompson, 54, a homeless man who described himself as Polk’s assistant pastor. “A lot of people out here had given up on people caring for one another, and Ray restored that.”
Polk’s hand-crafted ministry expanded after the city’s last homeless sweep. Three years ago, before razing the camps, city workers handed out vouchers for temporary housing, along with eviction notices.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the homeless camps was able to attain housing — including Polk. He saw this as a sign from God that his life mission is to stay on the streets serving the outcast people living on the fringes of Fresno with daily loving care. He needs to remain where he is to do this, but city officials have other plans.
Area leaders have given Polk until Thursday of this week to relocate, despite the fact that the city might not have anywhere for him to go. Yet, as a man of God Polk does not fear the sword of Damocles hanging over his head — or rather the bulldozers poised to break apart his makeshift ministry. He continues to provide respectful help to those the authorities persecuting him shamefully overlook.
Let’s hope that Polk is able to celebrate Christmas with his homeless compatriots in close proximity.