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Fix Homelessness How to rebuild human lives

Walking Through Darkness, A Spiritual Response to the Drug Crisis


Volunteers have been working to move people living in tents outside Burien City Hall into shelter. But they tell me that only a few accepted the offer. Most simply moved down the street to a new plot of land.

Murphy Shaw and Joseph Riverson are with Hope Christian Community Church, one of several ministries helping these homeless men and women.

“We’re gonna be here, we’re gonna keep ministering to them,” Riverson told me.

As frustrated neighbors and business owners sharply critiqued city leaders at a council meeting for being unprepared for the growth of this new encampment, Riverson decided to take action.

“I’m pitching a tent right here,” said Riverson, who is trying to build trust and relationships in the encampment by spending the night there. He tells me this is part of the volunteers’ long-term plan for helping the people in this encampment.

After the council meeting, and as the temperature dropped, I returned to check in on the encampment. 

I could have never anticipated what I encountered. A young man named Austin was experiencing convulsions. His body was writhing and twisting in an unnatural manner, with his eyes glazed over.

His friends in the encampment were calling for Narcan to treat his bad reaction to an unknown drug.

Everyone gathered around to help, but nothing could stabilize Austin. So, Riverson decided to take a different approach.  For the next 30 minutes, he prayed over Austin, and even followed him protectively as he walked into traffic.

Burien police arrived on the scene. By then, Austin had started to come around. So Austin received no Narcan, and no police intervention. Just the care of one volunteer who walked beside him the whole time – like the biblical story of the good Samaritan.

Riverson told me that he always looks beyond addiction and mental illness. He recognizes that “there is a spiritual aspect” to the kind of reaction Austin experienced.

In Riverson’s view, “drugs open up a portal of man’s psyche, man’s being, part of his soul.” He tells me, “Not everyone would agree with that…but the Bible says otherwise.”

Riverson will continue to offer this brand of hope, one person at a time.

Jonathan Choe

Journalist and Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Jonathan Choe is a journalist and Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute's Center on Wealth and Poverty, covering homelessness issues for its Fix Homelessness initiative. Prior to joining Discovery, Choe spent several years as one of the lead reporters at KOMO-TV, consistently the top rated television station in Seattle. His in depth stories on crime and deep dive investigations into the homeless crisis led to measurable results in the community, including changes in public policy. Choe has more than two decades of experience in television news behind the scenes and in front of the camera for ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and Tribune. He has also been nominated and honored with multiple industry awards including an Emmy. Choe spent several years teaching classes on emerging media and entrepreneurship to under privileged youth in inner city Chicago. As an independent journalist, Choe also contributes regularly to the Mill Creek View and Lynnwood Times and has reported on exclusive stories in the past year for Daily Wire and The Postmillennial.