Jack Fleihmann, Concord, is on a mission to help Concord’s unsheltered population. He is no stranger to homelessness himself. When Jack was 5 years old, his mother left him. She eventually died homeless at the age of 34. He never knew his father, until he found out that he too had passed. At age 14, Jack ran away from home and lived on the streets for four years. He was smoking two packs per day, sold and used drugs, suffered from addiction, was an admitted speed freak, and was losing his hair and teeth. At one point he was placed in Byron Boys Ranch. A doctor told him that he was on pace to live six more months. He was only 18.
Then on May 26, 1970, Jack participated in a riot. He threw a brick at a police car window. Three officers chased him, he ran inside a house to hide, but was thrown out.
“A girl there gave me a note of a place I could go. She said they will let anyone in,” Jack said. “I went to this house and there were a bunch of hippies singing.” They had all converted to Jesus which soon enlightened Jack. After accepting Christ, Jack lost all desire of speed, stopped smoking, and set out on a new path. Soon afterwards, he met his wife. Today, Jack is 69, and has been married for 47 years with three children and four grandchildren.
In January of this year, Sanctuary Ministeries in Concord was having a 21-day Prayer and Fasting. Everynight, they would gather for prayer and Jack would pray for the homeless.
“That was when God came to me twice in a dream,” Jack said. “The first time, I dreamed that Jesus came up to me and kissed me. Then two days later, in a second dream, He came up to me and said ‘homes are not the answer, I want to get to know them.’ To me, that meant He wanted to know them through me.”
“The next day I went out on the street and started talking to every homeless person I could find. And if they needed anything, I tried to supply it. Ever since, I’ve gone out every single day. Most days I go out two to three times per day.”
Jack wakes up every morning at 3:30 and makes a giant creamy pot of oatmeal, with blueberries, peaches, raisins, or cranberries, half and half, butter, brown sugar. By 4:30am, he has loaded up his tiny Scion IQ with supplies including food, toothpaste, tooth brushes, blankets, and drives to the homeless camps.
“I wake them up and say, ‘Good morning.’ They love it and look forward to a bowl of hot oatmeal, orange juice, granola bar or a bottle of water. We talk. I ask if they need something: socks, underwear, a shirt, sleeping bag, blanket, I’ve got it. I’ve given away over 100 brand new sleeping bags since January.”
He also reads them a scripture from the Bible every morning and every afternoon. Jack’s wife Debra writes random verses from the Bible on individual pieces of paper. “I carry them and have given out thousands of little scriptures, each with one verse. Nine out of ten times the person says, ‘You’re talking to me!’ or they can’t believe that was in the Bible.” One woman asked if he could read all the scriptures Jack had with him that day.
“The thing is, I know them. I know their names, I know their stories, I spent time with them, I sit with them. On a daily basis, I probably serve about 80.”
At first Jack didn’t have much, he just knew God wanted him to do this work. “I just took my own food and took whatever we had and shared it. Once friends and people heard what I was doing, people began dropping food and water at my door. My garage is full now. I give out over 1000 bottles of water every week. ”
A couple recently dropped off 67 homemade ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, and some sort of dessert. Luna Restaurant has provided hot pasta meals.
Jack’s effort has touched and inspired others. Pam Thompson, from Brentwood found Jack on Facebook. She had wanted to help the homeless but didn’t know what to do. She asked if she could come out once a week with Jack. She prepares and brings a giant meal with her.
Another friend, Greg Coppa does the same. He makes a hot meal every Saturday, follows Jack, and serves from the back of his pickup truck. On this day, he had served broccoli casserole, water, bread, cottage cheese and fruit.
“People love to just be acknowledged. Most of the homeless tell me that people look at them and turn their heads away, because they don’t want to see them. So many have told me that just spending time with them is better than the food.”
One of my unsheltered friends, Kenny, looks after his mother, Lisa, who is 65. Both are in poor health. They have lived in his Saab for three years now. Kenny’s car battery was dead. Jack bought them a new battery for their Saab.
It is in Jack’s heart to help. “When people ask for something or need something, I look at that as a prayer request. And if I can answer that, I am going to. If I can’t, then I put out a request to folks. Two men asked if Jack knew of any jobs. Both do handyman work, odd jobs, HVAC work, but neither own their own tools.
Jack says one of the joys he experienced was when there were 10 to 12 unsheltered that he was caring for. Jack kept warning the City that these people are going to die unless the City/County does something. After months of pleas and the Covid-19 pandemic, the County finally put them in motels.
Jack brings a portable power source around 4pm, his third round of the day, to different camps so they can recharge their devices as there is no public electricity for them to use.
Jack has called upon City Council for various support, alerted them to conditions, but get minimal if any response. When the Pandemic began, City turned off all the water sources, and public restrooms were closed. There was no access to bathroom or drinking water anywhere. I was giving away almost 2000 bottles of water a week. It was a hard situation for about two months before the City put out four port-a-potties around town. The County supplied eight more; yet no one serviced them. They were full.
“All I want to do is provoke and encourage others to do the same thing and make a difference. The only commandment that God wants us to obey now, is to Love each other.”
If anyone wishes to help Jack in this endeavor, you can drop donations at 2028 6th Street in Concord or call him at 925-787-5947.
Currently, 563 homeless people are placed in motel/hotel rooms in Contra Costa County. Placements are approved for homeless people who are awaiting COVID-19 test results or those who are considered at high risk.
A Zoom community discussion on homelessness and mental health will be held August 12 at 6:30 pm Online. Register to join the discussion at www.cityofconcord.org.
Meet some Concord Homeless