Someone asked me today if I thought life has value. I think life is important, but attempting to place a measure of value on it is egotistical.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
It's been a couple years since I last wrote on this subject. I read over that old post recently and found some problems with it. It's not that the information was wrong but that I think I can explain things better, more clearly, now.
People outside of homelessness usually only consider the "how" of becoming homeless. The how of becoming homeless is fairly simple, and everyone who becomes homeless runs into this same problem. They lose the resources necessary for maintaining a home, that is, a place of their own in which to live. (I'll try to define homelessness in another post.) The people outside of homelessness see that a person lost his job, and in turn lost his apartment. So to them the answer is easy, homeless people just need to get another job. But that is too shallow of a view of homelessness to be accurate. It fails to ask the question, "why did they lose their job?" To find the answer to that question requires more time and attention than most people want to give to the subject, and don't pursue any deeper answers.
Of course losing a job is only one way a person losing his resources for keeping a home. Sometimes they are living with family or others who are paying the rent. This often happens to young people and to people going through a divorce. A parent my decide that they no longer want their child living with them, and so they put them out on the street. Or, after a divorce or a break up of a relationship, the income they depended on is either cut in half, or lost all together, if the other person involved was paying the bills. It is even more difficult to get back into that kind of living arrangement, once it is lost, and adequate employment is even more difficult for that person to find. I think most people would be surprised, if not alarmed, at the amount of people who became homeless after a divorce. There are many, especially for men who are required to pay child support and alimony. These men usually maintain their employment, but because of judgments against them, they no longer have enough income to also pay for a place to live. Because of this, many full time employed men live at shelters.
That answers the question "How do people become homeless", but like I said before, it doesn't answer the questions of "why". When considering why people become homeless their appears to be two kinds of homeless person. There is the person whose only problem is financial. For whatever reason, they were unable to pay their bills. That may be because they did not adequately plan for periods of unemployment, or they made some decisions with their money that did not work out for them.
For these people, their homeless experience lasts only a short time, a few months at the most. Once they get a taste of homelessness, they become highly motivated to fix their financial problems, and to leave homelessness once and for good. Often, these people are able to get additional help from friends and family which will shorten their stay in homelessness even more. They arrange to stay with family, or perhaps borrow money from a friend. Because the cause of their homelessness was only an issue of finances, they can be trusted to payback loans, and to not over stay their welcome at their parents home, etc.
In the other group of homeless people, the "why" of their homelessness is more complex, or at least more difficult to determine. For these people, just getting another job isn't going to help them. The reason they have lost their access to resources is because they have issues beyond their control. These people are suffering from some kind of mental health issue. And yes, I do include addicts and alcoholics in this group. There are actually more addicts and alcoholics who still maintain homes than are homeless. Surely there must be more to the homelessness of an addict that just being an addict.
It must be said that a person doesn't have to be "crazy" for their mental health issues to become a reason for their homelessness. It only has to affect their decision making. People who suffer from depression or anxiety, or both, or a number of other issues, are not crazy by any stretch of the imagination, but they are still trapped in homelessness because they don't have the means to overcome their mental health issues. It is often the case that a relationship is broken because one of the people in the relationship developed a debilitating depression. Being that they depressed, not only does their relationship end, but they are also unable to move on, get a new job, and live independently. That's a double hit that for people suffering depression becomes very debilitating, and difficult to overcome.
For people suffering from mental health issues they must first be able to admit that they have a mental health issue, then they must accurately identify the issue, and then heal from that issue before they can move on towards getting the resources necessary to maintain an independent life. That takes a lot of work. It also requires many resources on it's own. It is very difficult for homeless people to get and keep help from a mental health professional. The conditions of homelessness also interfere with maintaining that help. If your not able to get bus fair together, you might miss out of therapy sessions, etc. And that kind of thing can hinder a person's healing.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Every person's life is like a row boat. To get anywhere in life, each person has to grab the oars and get to work rowing. The ability and strength of each individual to row their own boat determines the general direction and outcome of their life, barring any unfortunate circumstance that may arise.
But unfortunate circumstances do arise from time to time, and sometimes these circumstances can injure and maim the rower, or damage the boat. And that leads us to the circumstance of your average homeless person. In the condition the homeless person finds him or her self, the best they can do is to only pull on one oar at a time. And you know, if you only pull on one oar, your row boat (your life) only goes in circles and never gets anywhere.
But, if someone where to get into the row boat, that is, to get into the life of the homeless person, then that someone can pull on the other oar so that together they can get the boat moving in the right direction again, perhaps even row to a dock so repairs can be made to the boat, and the homeless person can heal from what ails him/her and rest up, and eventually get back to rowing his or her own boat.
Yes, it does happen that sometimes a person gets into the boat and starts rowing, but the homeless person doesn't row, doesn't make any effort on his or her own behalf. That can happen for several reasons. Sometimes the homeless person is really in no condition to row, and it does become necessary for the other person to row the whole boat on behalf of the homeless person, but sometimes the homeless person is angry and spiteful, sometimes even self destructive, and they refuse to row, and won't allow anyone else to row for him either. Still, these issues off anger and spitefulness can be cured, and really must be addressed.
The "big" problem is that there are very few people willing to get into the boats of homeless people. If anything, they keep their distance, and perhaps they attempt to instruct the homeless person on how to get back to shore, from the safety of their own boat. Still, none of that will be of any benefit to the homeless person, as their is still no one to pull on the other oar.
Oddly enough, you will find some people in the row boat with the homeless person, working away feverishly on behalf of the homeless person, such as the people who work at homeless shelters. But for all the work they do, they never lay a hand on the other oar. All the work they do, providing beds, and meals, is akin to sitting at the bottom of the boat, bailing out the water that's seeping in through the cracks and holes in the battered boat. This keeps the boat from sinking, but still does nothing to get the boat moving forward, and the boat remains dead in the water.
To truly help a homeless person, you have to get in the boat with him/her. And you have to pull on the oar, and keep the homeless person motivated and focused on pulling the other oar. And once you get that boat to the dock, repairs must be made to the boat, and the homeless person must be allowed time heal and to rest up so that in time he/she can continue on their journey through life.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Another movie I watched recently is "Lincoln" with Daniel Day-Lewis. I admit that the movie was better than I expected, and I don't have any complaints of it, except that I wish there was more of it. But I really want to discuss just one point of the movie, a point that I didn't "get" until a couple days after viewing the movie. It is the point on which the whole movie rests. It deals with Euclid's first common notion, which Lincoln quotes in the movie. If you didn't understand this part of the movie, then you didn't understand the movie at all.
Euclid's first common notion is this: Things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other. That's a rule of mathematical reasoning and its true because it works - has done and always will do. In his book Euclid says this is self evident. You see there it is even in that 2000 year old book of mechanical law it is the self evident truth that things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other.
What makes this quote significant is this: There were many people in the United States who saw black people as inferior, some even to the point of believing blacks were not truly human. On the other side of the debate were many Republicans who knew that blacks were equal to whites in all matters, and they fought vigorously for the rights of blacks and for true recognition of their equality with whites.
The problem for the people trying to end slavery was two fold. First, the thirteenth amendment would require 2/3s of the congressmen in the House of Representatives to vote in favor of the amendment. Second, the fight against the thirteenth amendment was more against what the thirteenth amendment implied. It wasn't just that slaves would be freed, but attached was the fear that former slaves, black people, would by law, be considered equal to whites. So long as the politicians in favor of the thirteenth amendment insisted in the equality of blacks, the amendment was not going to pass.
It became necessary for the politicians to tone down their rhetoric concerning equality of the races, and make the amendment about something else, something that would allow certain politicians the room to deny equality of the races and yet end slavery once and for all.
Here, the Euclid idea comes in to play. By declaring blacks as equal under the law, and whites equal under the law, then in fact blacks and whites are, by default, equal to each other. That's because two things that are equal to the same thing, are equal to each other. It's that simple. I'll say it again, since blacks and whites are equal to the law, they are equal to each other.
I imagine that most other politicians of the day had no clue of Euclid's notion, or how it would apply in this instance, otherwise there would have been more objection, and the amendment might not have passed.
Basically, Lincoln was not only a foot taller, but just that much smarter than other people of his day. Thank God that he, and others leaders of the country held to an ethical standard that matched their intellectual prowess.
If only we had such politicians in our government today.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
There is so much that I want to explore in the movie "Wreck-It Ralph", but I will spare you of much of it. But there is one thought in particular that I want to bring attention to, before the thought escapes me - as so often my best thoughts do if I don't jot them down immediately.
There is a quote I've been hearing recently, the source of which you can easily google, that is being used more frequently these days among advocate types. It is rich with meaning and may cause many to stop and consider it's implications.
"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
For the Christian who believes that seeking justice for the world is part of their calling, the word "liberation" could easily be substituted with "salvation".
In our constant quest to understand the world in which we live, we humans like to labeling things, it helps us to develop identity and definitions. Of course labels can be full of pitfalls if we are not careful in how and why they are placed, and if we decide to use labels for anything more than identifying things and people. But, if people are prone to anything, they are prone to making mistakes such as using labels in pursuit of salvation. Our pursuit of liberation, of salvation, is always a difficult one.
In the movie, "Wreck-It Ralph", Ralph is a character in a video game. But Ralph is discontent with his role in this game because he is considered the "bad guy". All of the other characters in the video game have gone so far as to take that label of "bad guy" and have deemed Ralph as "bad". Because of this, Ralph is completely ostracized from the society of characters in the game, even when the arcade is closed and the video game is no longer in play mode. (In the movie, once the game arcade closes for the night, all the video characters socialize with each other, both within their own game, and with characters in other games. Once the arcade reopens in the morning, all the video game characters go back to fulfilling their roles within their respective games. The video game characters have a social life outside of their games.)
In one of the opening scenes of the movie, all the characters within the video game, that Ralph is a part of, throw a party to celebrate the 30th year anniversary of the game. The problem is, they don't invite Ralph to this party, despite the fact that Ralph has a major role in the game. When Ralph goes to confront the other video game characters about his exclusion from the party, tempers flare, Ralph is told plainly how the other characters think about him, he is told in essence that because he is the "bad guy" and therefore is "bad" that he is not worthy of being a part of the video game community.
Through the course of the dialog that follows, Ralph is led to believe that if he could somehow win a hero's medal, that he would be allowed into the cliquish society of the other characters within his game. Since the design of the game that Ralph resides in does not allow for Ralph to win such a medal, Ralph decides to leave his game and hop through other video games in the arcade in pursuit of the medal.
And these leads to an unexpected consequence.
With Ralph gone from the video game, the game cannot function as designed. So, when the arcade opens and someone drops a quarter into game, so to start playing it, the game appears to be broken, and for all intended purposes, it is. The owner of the arcade refunds the player's quarter and slaps an "Out of Order" sign on the game console. When the characters of the game see this, they are sorely afraid. They know that if their game does not function properly, the owner will unplug the game, meaning the end (death) for all of them. The game's characters all know that if Ralph doesn't return to fulfill his role in the game, that they are all doomed. The movie continues with one of the game's characters going on a search for Ralph in an attempt to bring him back.
Do you see, now, how the above quote aptly applies to this part of the movie? All the characters in the video game believed themselves to be the "good guys", they considered themselves to be superior to Ralph, and that they didn't need him, and thus didn't want him, within their community.
So often in real life people will find themselves feeling superior to others, and though they may extend a hand to the less fortunate, they do so condescendingly. They may do things "for" others, but they do not wish to do things "with" them. They believe themselves to be liberated, and they may magnanimously attempt to bring salvation to others who they deem to be lowly. I see this play out all the time between homed and homeless people. The homed people want more than anything to keep the homeless at a distance. And, if any kind of connection is to be made between the two groups, the homed will give to the homeless, but the homed will refuse to receive anything from the homeless. In doing this, they deny the homeless any chance at real community, at real liberation, real salvation.
"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
By the end of the movie the other characters of the video game are very glad that Ralph has returned, and although Ralph still plays the role of "bad guy" they have a real appreciation for him, realizing that Ralph wasn't really so bad, and that their survival, their livelihood, their liberation, was bound up with Ralph's.
Know that when we marginalize people, for whatever reason, we are also marginalizing ourselves. And if we limit one person's liberty, we limit everyone's.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Oh my goodness! Have you seen the movie "Wreck-It Ralph"? No? Why not? Cause it's some Disney kiddy show? Well, with that kind of attitude, you're going to miss out on a lot of good and important stuff. I was blown away by the movie, and if you give it some consideration, I think you'd be blow away too. I am including Wreck-It Ralph in my list of best movies on the subject of homelessness.
After seeing the movie the first time, I decided to do some research on it. I checked out several reviews of the movie, including what people said about it on rottentomatoes.com To my disappointment, no one saw in the movie what I did. But, that's kind of par for the course when society is confronted with the homeless and disenfranchised. Either they don't really recognize it for what it is, or the subject is beyond their comprehension and so choose to ignore it. It seems that everyone's perspective on the movie is trapped in the idea that the movie is about video games and video game characters. But truth be told, the subject of video games is just the device used to tell the story of homelessness, and of the disenfranchised.
The movie is an allegory, using video games and video game characters to represent different people in society, including the homeless, the real world they live in, and the difficulties they face. Ralph is isolated socially from his community, though he desires nothing more than to be included. Not fully understanding what it would take for him to be accepted by his community, Ralph gets the idea that if only he won a hero's medal, then the people of his community would come to accept him, and include him. So, Ralph goes out on a hapless quest to attain said hero's medal. Along the way, we meet other characters and watch scenarios unfold that expound on the issues of homelessness - how the homeless are disenfranchised from their communities, and how they try to resolve their issues. By the end of the movie, Ralph learns several lessons about himself, what it truly means to be content with himself and with others. And so too do the other characters in Ralph's community learn to accept Ralph for who he is, finding value in what and who Ralph is - extended to him the community he's always desired.
I hope you can see the movie again, and watch it in light of the perspective that the movie is indeed an allegory on homelessness. I'm sure you'll find it a much more enlightening and entertaining movie. The movie is now available on DVD - I found it in Red Box.
Monday, April 8, 2013
My blog posts have been sparse because I've been distracted by health issues. On the 6th of March (last month) I came down with a case of Uvulaitis. It made it difficult to breath, and when I swallowed, I would choke on my Uvula. I was out of town at the time, and so not knowing of any doctors where I was, I went to the ER of the local hospital. I was given a prescription for antibiotics. Recently, I was put on disability, and with that I was also assigned to Medicaid. In Tennessee, Medicaid is called Tenncare. Although I was from out of state, the hospital accepted the Tenncare insurance (a contractual obligation), so I didn't have to pay for the ER visit out of pocket. A couple days later I came back to Nashville. A couple weeks past and I started to feel an obvious swelling in my throat. It wasn't painful, I didn't feel like I was dying, so I thought I'd just ride it out and see if my own immune system could take care of it. The thing is, after taking the antibiotics for the Uvulaitis, I shouldn't have gotten sick. People said that I may have developed a "super infection" where the original infection mutates into a stronger germ, they strongly suggested I go see a doctor. I told them I would, but I just put it off. Several more days passed and the tightness didn't go away. I talked to a friend over facebook who recently contracted Esophagus Cancer. When I read up on the symptoms of Esophagus Cancer, it was exactly what I was experiencing. I became very concerned, and as I am susceptible to anxiety, I became more than a bit worried. A few days later I talked to another friend, someone who is a cancer survivor, and she thought that my condition was more related to allergies, Spring now being upon us. That did have me calmed down some, and I started looking for other potential causes of this tightened feeling in my throat. Then I learned something kinda disheartening. No doctor in the area would accept the insurance provider I was set up with. I believe there are two companies who provide Tenncare insurance, and I was assigned to the provider that no doctor would accept. I then put off looking for a doctor until I could find out more information about the insurance. Hopefully I could switch providers. I have sleep apnea which affects my throat, my breathing tube collapses when I sleep, causing me to stop breathing for a couple seconds, this happens off and on through the night. And I snore very loudly because of it. I've had sleep apnea for a very long time, so much that it also causes me to have acid reflux while I sleep. And I've had acid reflux for a very long time as well. I read that doctors suspect that continual acid reflux can cause Esophagus cancer. Still, this type of cancer is rare. I have read that there are some things I can do to help relieve this tightening in my throat, most of which has to do with reducing the acid reflux by way of significantly adjusting my diet. And I have done that for the past couple days, and the tightening in the throat seems to be calming down a bit (I did have a bad stretch of acid reflux last night as I tried to sleep. When the acid in my stomach starts to come up the esophagus it burns and wakes me up. Disgusting, I know. Recently I received a letter stating that I would have to wait until May before I could change insurance coverage. So, I'll have to wait until then before I can see a doctor who can determine the cause of my health issue. In the mean time I'll keep to this new diet and see what it does to improve things.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Thursday, March 28, 2013
It is often said that nothing worth while is easy. A weight lifter does not become stronger by lifting weights that he knows he can. To improve your life a struggle will be required. But, it is best to know the nature of your struggle. If you push and push and push but don't seem to get any where, perhaps you need to pull. And don't struggle just for the sake of struggling. A caterpillar struggles to become a butterfly, but if it struggles to become a turtle, it's just wasting its time. We will all do much better to accept people for who and what they are, and stop trying to turn people into reflections of ourselves. It really is ok to be different.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Well, it's not Easter yet, it's Tuesday, and Tuesday is when Candy Christmas (a real person's name), brings her ministry to the poor and homeless under the Jefferson St bridge in Nashville. Check out bridgeministry.org
Today was the first time I'd ever gone to the bridge, (actually it's under the bridge), when Candy Christmas was there. It was cold, near freezing, but that didn't stop anyone. Hundreds of homeless, and hundreds of volunteers, showed up. Being that it's Spring Break there were perhaps more volunteers than homeless people.
It was everything you'd expect from a church ministry. It was along the style of television evangelism, but toned down for the streets. Gospel singing along with pretaped backing musical instruments. There was a sermon. And there was food. Thank goodness they let us eat while the sermon was going on. It's really frustrating to have to wait until the sermon is over - many homeless will get cranky while waiting to eat, and that's usually when some kind of violent outburst takes place. Well, there was no violence, but a car in the parking lot did catch fire just as the sermon was about to start. Dinner was barbeque chicken and beans. After the service was over, they had an enormous amount of boxed food for people to take home.
Candy, though an evangelical preacher, has been doing this service long enough that she's developed some street smarts, and she uses that in her sermon. Of course there were still parts of the service that I have a particular distaste for, like the use of fear to force conformity, but she didn't harp on it. The length of the service was well within tolerable limits for me.
The most important thing is that I was running low on food at home, and I have no more money until next month. So the food, especially the food box, was a true blessing for me, and I'm very grateful for it. People always say that we should thank god for blessings, but I know that this blessing came from the people involved in this ministry, and so I thank them. They helped me out in the nick of time.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I do this every once in a while. Now seems a good time to do it again. I'm about to go through a big change in my living situation, it's only fair that people know why.
To begin with I should admit, (well it's pretty obvious), that I'm not the same person I was 5 years ago when I moved into my current residence. Five years ago, I was tired. I was tired in the way a person feels like they've lived all the life they could and there was no point in going any further. My physical exhaustion was second only to my spiritual/emotion exhaustion.
Then, I got into housing, with the help of case management. This case management also offered to help with other aspects of my life. The first major accomplishment by case management was arranging for me to see my children, whom I had not seen in years. Things were certainly looking up. I had been blogging for several years already, and one of the main motivators for doing so, besides the obvious need to tell the story of homelessness, was that, if my children ever decided they wanted to find me, I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. This blog has always been popular, so I knew a simple google search of my name would send my kids directly here. And if they so chose, they could contact via my email address.
Sadly, things did not progress well with my kids. There had been too many years between us, and with them living 90 miles away, there was little opportunity for us to develop a relationship. After a few visits and some facebook messaging, my kids and I drifted apart.
With the idea of reestablishing a relationship with my kids all but gone, the next productive thing to do was to get into therapy. If I was to move on and create a better life for myself, I would have to deal with my depression and anxiety issues. I had more success with this than with my kids, for a while, anyway. In the past several years I've come to understand my psychological issues, most of which are associated with Asperger's Syndrome and my parent's misunderstanding of me and my condition. Much of what my parents did to me as a child, which in their eyes was supposed to make me a better person, were actually the worst possible things anyone can do to someone with Asperger's.
On another front in the effort to improve my life situation, I searched out alternative ways to make a living, since my Asperger's prevents me from doing the normal 9 to 5 type of employment. Most of my efforts in this regard were internet based. And with varying degrees of success, each attempt eventually failed.
Much of my failings was due to my lack of actual skill. And not understanding my lack of skill was due mostly to my living a life in denial. It was a philosophy I learned from my parents. I understand how it can work for some people - overcoming an obstacle by denying that the obstacle exists. The problem for me is, Asperger's is a problem that no amount of denial is going to help. Asperger's cannot be cured. The best anyone with the condition can hope for is to develop good coping skills. No one with Asperger's can hope to live a decent life without those good coping skills. And people wonder why I've spent so much of my life homeless. Now you know. And now I know.
Much of my time in therapy was teaching me those skills, but although I have the knowledge, I've been unable to apply them successfully to life. Most of life is about connecting with other people, and other than meeting with people on the most cursory level, I still can't bring myself to engage people on a meaningful level. My social phobia is strong. I hit a wall of sorts and could go no further in therapy. I began withdrawing, even more than my usual withdrawn life style. I stopped making progress. I was stalled out.
Then, out of the blue my case manager came to me with a job offer - a job with the state. It seemed as though this was going to be the answer to all my issues. It would harness what skills I did have, and my past job experience. And it would pay enough for me to have a normal life. The job was handed to me without having to jump through the usual hoops. Everyone was so supportive. Training for the job was hard but I was handling it. I was getting along well with my co-workers. Things were looking good. But when it came time to do the actual job, something went askew. Just at the point when the job started in earnest, the demand for the particular task we were assigned with dropped dramatically. Because of this, we were given another similar but different job to do. And this change, this new job for which I was not prepared for, became my undoing. The stress was more than I could deal with, I started having serious anxiety issues, I couldn't sleep, and I couldn't do the job. After a month and a half, I was unemployed.
This defeat took a heavy toll. Though on the outside I kept up a good appearance, I was crumbling away on the inside. A few short months later my case manager informed me that the case management company was dropping me as a client. Although they used other wording to make it seem less offensive, the reality was I was no longer going to have the kind of case management that I needed. My new case manager wasn't really providing me with case management. Instead, he began the process of securing my disability - which he did, successfully. My psychological history, along with case management files and mental health examinations, I was deemed disabled for my mental health condition. Along with Asperger's, I have some serious bouts with depression and my social phobia is no joke.
So, what am I to do with this new reality? Well, it's not really new accept to me. I've dropped enough of the denial to accept more of what I truly am. What I should do, what I am expected to do, is to just accept charity for my living, including living quietly in government housing, and just wind down the last of my years. But the thought of that bothers me to no end. I've known too many people who just decided, at a relatively early age,, to resign themselves to sitting in an easy chair and watching Wheel of Fortune for the rest of their lives. Despite the many and often severe obstacles in my life, I have to do something with myself. And there's nothing that I can do just sitting in this dumpy little apartment. So, when my lease is up at the end of this month, I'm moving out. Yes, initially this means going back to living on the streets, but it also means freeing myself up enough to do something with what few years of my life I have left. I'll be lucky if I have 10 good years left in me. I might as well make the most of them.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
I have been reminded recently, in discussions I’ve had with people about the appointment of the newest Pope, that there truly are two sides to everything. It was fascinating to watch how some people were quick to cast dispersions on the new Pope, as well as the whole of the Catholic Church. Sadly, their criticisms were not without merit. Still, I have seen the good side of the Catholic Church and its members. Some say that the harm the Catholic Church has caused, including most recently the abuse of children and the subsequent denial and cover up. Still, all across this country, the poor and the homeless are receiving food and shelter and clothing, and opportunities for a better life, from the very same church.
Every day I read about yet another city that has decided to go with the “harass the homeless to get them to leave” approach. After a short period of time the streets of the city have fewer homeless people on them. Citizens praise the city leaders for the “improvement”. On the other side, all that has happened is that the homeless have adapted and made themselves less visible, they have gone into deeper hiding, none of have actually left the city. In the minds of many, it is believed that such harassment of the homeless would motivate them to get jobs and end their homelessness, what has actually happened is that the city has now made it even more difficult for homeless people to improve their situation. An often used tactic against the homeless is the use certain laws and city policies to shut down or at least curtail the feeding of homeless people. Again, the belief is that by making life difficult for homeless people, the homeless people will be motivated to end their homelessness. The results of this tactic is a population of homeless people who are starving. If the hope is for homeless people to “get a job”, how can a person do his/her job adequately if they haven’t eaten recently.
Here in Nashville, the building of a new, and very large, convention center is almost complete. It is located just one block away from the Nashville Rescue Mission, which happens to be the largest mission in the state. Already, developers and city officials are talking about the difficulties of developing the area with so many homeless people nearby. The reality is that this mission and its guests have, for the most part, proven themselves to being good neighbors. The mission moved into its current location over 10 years ago, and the many businesses in the area are thriving. Still some people are suggesting that the mission be moved. Advocates for the homeless say that such a move would be problematic for the homeless. On the other hand, the mission building is poorly designed, and if the mission were to move, they could incorporate a great many improvements to its design that would benefit the homeless, (that is if the mission administration decided to design a new mission without the look and feel of a prison.) On the other side, if the mission stayed near the convention center, the homeless could make good use of the employment opportunities that the convention center would bring.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
The state of Tennessee is known for it's Red State hate. It could be that Tennessee is actually the reddest, and meanest, state in the land of the free. (I'm sure many people from Texas would like to dispute this.) Not only is there a super majority of Republicans in the Tennessee state legislature, the legislature is working feverishly at gerrymandering so they may remain the dominating political party for years to come.
The citizens of Tennessee already pay very little for public education and social safety nets, and they want to pay even less. They pay some of the lowest rates in taxes and public utilities and yet they still complain that their bills are too high. They tell the poor and homeless to just "get a job" and to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Although Tennessee claims to be the buckle of the bible belt, what they offer to their fellow citizens is something less than grace. They are more likely to offer punishment, than forgiveness, as a motivator to the wayward. It is also a right-to-work (for less) state. Equal rights for minority groups? yeah, right.
As red as Tennessee is, the city of Nashville (and Davidson County) is as blue as can be. It's liberal nature is due, I believe, to two things: Nashville is home to several universities and colleges, and home to a large concentration of musicians and music industry people. Both groups focus their energies on being open minded, and discovering and communicating the realities of life.
As if a reaction to the liberal nature of Nashville, all the counties surrounding Nashville have some of the highest concentrations of Republicans in the state. So, it came as quite a surprise when I read this article which published a couple days ago in the Tennessean.
Nashville is home to the country's largest street newspaper, The Contributor, employing homeless and formerly homeless people to sell the paper, and to give them an opportunity to work their way out of homelessness. Given the liberal nature of Nashville, The Contributor was fairly well received. But, as the newspaper grew, hiring several hundred homeless vendors, the vendors were forced to look farther out from Nashville for fertile sales territories. This led them to eventually attempting to sell the paper in the surrounding counties - counties that were less hospitable, counties with different jurisdictions, with different laws and politics. What was openly accepted in Nashville/Davidson County was not, anywhere else.
Vendors of The Contributor were being regularly ticketed by police for selling the paper, or just being force to leave, when selling the paper in other counties. the Contributor was relying on their 2nd Amendment right to freely publish and distribute a newspaper, and many people living in these outlying counties were reacting unfavorably to the sudden appearance of admitted homeless people in their neighborhoods. Court battles ensued, communities became vocal, city councils debated and created new laws, and it wasn't looking good for the future of The Contributor vendors outside of Nashville.
Then, something unexpected happened. The city of Franklin, in Williamson County, just south of Nashville, decided recently to officially allow vendors to sell there, (within certain limitations). It is a welcomed change of heart by the people of Williamson County. And I'm sure that many people there will disagree with this decision. There will be people watching every move the vendors make, and will be looking for every opportunity to destroy the reputation of the paper and its vendors. All the more reason for the vendors to be on their toes, and to tow the line.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The thing you'll hear most from people reluctant to start a Housing First program in their city is that they just can't afford it. It seems the excuse for everything these days. But just how much would it cost? Here is my own break down. There are about 900,000 homeless people in the US at any one time. To modestly house feed, clothe, and provide case management would cost about 15,000 dollars per homeless person - the majority of participants would need little or no case management help. At 15k per, the total cost of housing every single homeless person in the country would be 13.5 Billion dollars a year. That may seem like a lot until you compare it to other things that Americans willingly pay for. The US gambling, or gaming, industry consists of about 500 casinos, about 400 Indian casinos and bingo halls, and lotteries in about 40 states with combined annual revenue of about $80 billion. http://www.firstresearch.com/
Put another way - it would cost 28 cents per day per employed person to house every homeless person in the U.S.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Without trying to explain every little thing that's happened in the past 5 years, I should tell you that a change is coming, and though it's not really a planned change, it may be a good one.
Five years ago I was nearing the end of my rope. Physically and emotionally fatigued, I was losing hope. I saw the end approaching and didn't care. It took the efforts of people who knew my situation dragging me into the social services offices of Metro government, to get me to apply for a housing program. And I say "dragged" because I really was reluctant. Even then, it took another year before I was given the housing. It shouldn't have taken that long, my case had hit a snag. It took a lawyer friend to call on a Senator to inquire as to the hold up. That seemed to get the wheels in motion. In the last days of March 2007, I moved into an efficiency apartment in a 16 unit building dedicated to housing chronically homeless people.
These past 5 years have been something of a respite - a chance to cool my heels, relax, and recuperate. It also became a time of searching and of discovery about myself. It wasn't always fun living around other chronically homeless people in this building. Drug using and drug selling were common on the property One neighbor had a penitent for setting the place on fire. Schizophrenics would have screaming matches with invisible foes in the middle of the night. Still, it was much better than being on the streets or staying in a homeless shelter. It was 200 square feet all to my self. I could cook my own food when I had food, I could shower whenever I wanted, I could sleep as much as I wanted.
One of my favorite quotes is "The truth will set you free," because, as I've always contended, once people know the true reason "why and how" they became homeless,they can take the right steps to overcoming their problems and leave homelessness. Up to this point, though, I could not figure out my own path out of homelessness. Every attempt I made, however temporarily successful, resulted in me becoming homeless again. The "just get a job" approach didn't work, neither did the "accept Jesus as your personal savior," concept.
There were things from my past, things that took place before I ever became homeless, (running away from home, suicide attempts) that had me thinking the root of my problems was psychological. And so that's what I've been focusing on. For the past 5 years I've been working with case managers, social workers, therapists, and psychologists, trying to figure out the cause, and solution, to my perpetual homelessness.
It began with acknowledging my constant state of depression, (something I've suffered from since a child). Though I worked on handling my depression, I was still having problems. It seemed as though depression was not my only problem Then I learned about the issue of anxiety. Comparing my life events with symptoms of anxiety, I knew that anxiety was a big part of my life. Yet as I was working on my depression and anxiety it became clear that there was a deeper issue, my mental health progress was still being hindered. Eventually I discovered that the source of my depression and anxiety was Asperger's Syndrome - a form of high functioning Autism. And it wasn't the Asperger's alone that was causing me problems. There were also childhood issues due to my parent's misunderstanding my condition, labeling me a bad child, believing I was purposely behaving badly, and trying to correct my behavior with punishment. Of course the punishments didn't turn me into a normal child so they ultimately rejected me as their child, turned their back on me, and that caused a great deal of psychological harm. There was also the matter of my several years living in homeless shelters that caused a form of institutionalization to set in.
Though my mental health condition has now been correctly identified, another issue has arisen. There is no "cure" for Asperger's. There are coping skills I am developing and am incorporating into my daily life. But the extent of my condition prevents me from moving on to a level of independence whereby I could life successfully without outside support. My behavior will always be insufficient for independent living.
And so, after due consideration of my condition, I have been put on social security disability. I now receive a check from the government to cover the most basic of living costs. Still the amount I receive is way below the poverty line. My current case manager came to me about 6 months ago, saying that he believed I would be a good candidate for disability. I never believed that about myself, never thought I'd actually qualify. But then, I was living in a state of denial about the full extent of my condition. Denial was my parents method of dealing with things, (though really, denial is the opposite of "dealing" with things, it was just their way of sweeping difficult things under the rug). Denial is what I was taught. It was how I lived my life. It prevented me from coming to an understanding about my condition earlier.
Being declared "disabled" for a mental health issue is a mind blowing experience, and I've been reeling from it ever since. It has me questioning my entire existence, self perception, who am I really? what is my actual worth? what I am going to do with myself? Especially now that I'm in my 50s. Do I live out the rest of my life like some kind of "ward of the state"? Is there anything I am really capable of doing effectively?
I don't have any answers. And I wonder if it's even possible to have any answers. Well, sure, I can always come up with answers, but are they real answers, or am I just be BSing myself, as people in denial are prone to do?
What now? Well, perhaps it's time to try and figure out some answers to those questions. Perhaps it's time to take the next step in my journey though life. I really have no idea what's going to happen, except that things will have to change. Change is good, right?
Saturday, February 23, 2013
It's finally here. The first in the series of books, The Homeless Guy Blog In Book Form is now available on Kindle, through Amazon. (if you don't own a Kindle device, you can easily download the book app and read the book on your PC or other device)
I am transposing this entire blog into book format. The blog certainly has enough content to make several books. The first book has over 48,000 words long, though it includes only the first few months of the blog. Having the blog in book format makes it much easier to read, it flows, and you don't have to fish through the old archives as you read.
Just follow this link, The Homeless Guy Blog In Book Form.
The book costs only 99 cents, of which I will get 35 cents for each one sold. The next book will come out soon.