Monday, March 31, 2008

Roller Coaster

I haven't been blogging recently as the days have been a roller coaster ride, and I've been too busy just trying to hold on. I think the ride's about over, but I'm still feeling sick at my stomach. Maybe one day I'll tell you about it.

Quoting Kirk Douglas

"My name is Kirk Douglas. You may know me. If you don't ... Google me. I was a movie star and I'm Michael Douglas' dad, Catherine Zeta-Jones' father-in-law, and the grandparents of their two children. Today I celebrate my 90th birthday. I have a message to convey to America's young people. A 90th birthday is special. In my case, this birthday is not only special but miraculous. I survived World War II, a helicopter crash, a stroke, and two new knees. It's a tradition that when a 'birthday boy' stands over his cake he makes a silent wish for his life and then blows out the candles. I have followed that tradition for 89 years but on my 90th birthday, I have decided to rebel. Instead of making a silent wish for myself, I want to make a loud wish for The World. Let's face it: The World is in a mess and you are inheriting it. Generation Y, you are on the cusp. You are the group facing many problems: abject poverty, global warming, genocide, AIDS, and suicide bombers to name a few. These problems exist, and the world is silent. We have done very little to solve these problems. Now, we leave it to you. You have to fix it because the situation is intolerable. You need to rebel, to speak up, write, vote, and care about people and the world you live in. We live in the best country in the world. I know. My parents were Russian immigrants. America is a country where EVERYONE, regardless of race, creed, or age has a chance. I had that chance. You are the generation that is most impacted and the generation that can make a difference. I love this country because I came from a life of poverty. I was able to work my way through college and go into acting, the field that I love. There is no guarantee in this country that you will be successful. But you always have a chance. Nothing should interfere with it. You have to make sure that nothing stands in the way. When I blow out my candles - 90! ... it will take a long time ... but I'll be thinking of you." (9 December 2006)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Good for some things, but not President

Never Thought I'd Quote Barry Goldwater

"However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired 0f the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.' " -- Barry Goldwater
Jesus never forced a person to listen to Him.
- The Homeless Guy

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Question Concerning Homelessness

Respect: how much do people deserve? Should amounts of respect differ for different people - between homed and homeless people? How much respect should a homeless person expect from homed people? If a person treats another person disrespectfully how should they respond? How can they stand up for themselves? Should they?

Accident Victim Identified As Homeless Woman

From the Tennessean
Downtown accident victim is identified

A woman killed while pushing a shopping cart across North First Street on Saturday night has been identified as Linda Harris.

Harris, 38, who was homeless, was struck by a Dodge pickup truck about 8 p.m. on a dimly lit part of the road near Jefferson Street. She was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

The truck was driven by Marion Pugh, 55, of Thompson's Station. Metro police said they don't expect to file charges.

Getting the Homeless Story Right

Getting the homeless story right is nearly impossible. I wish it weren't so, but then we'd probably have ended most of homelessness by now. You cannot count on most homeless people to tell you of the realities of homelessness, cause most of them have not figured it out. Many of the homeless are dolts. Many more of them are too busy telling homed people what they want to hear, half because most homed people don't want to know the truth of homelessness, and the other half because many homeless people are just as unwilling to deal with their homelessness and so talk around the subject instead. And a there are some homeless people will only engage the homed population unless they can get something out of them.

Then there are the homeless advocates. The problem is that anyone can claim themselves to be a homeless advocated, and most advocates are not to bright on any subject, let alone homelessness. But in declaring themselves advocates, or even better, when they take on some type of employment at a shelter, these advocates quickly find themselves to be the big fish in very small ponds. They are doing work that most other people would never do. And that is because most people think that dealing with homeless people must be very messy, as well as extremely difficult. So they give a great deal of credit, too much in most cases, to the self declared homeless advocate. Instead of the average citizen taking the time to figure out the homeless industry for him/her self, they would rather just take the word of the person declaring himself an expert. And, as the old saying goes, "those of you who think you know everything, are annoying to those of us who do." In that I call myself a homeless advocate, some might see that my words tell on myself. I guess they only way to get past that is to encourage people to see homelessness for themselves, and then compare that to the advocate and his/her words. But, even that is dangerous. Because, the advocate may be telling the homed community what the homeless community wants to hear, instead of what is real.

In the mix of people not really wanting to know the realities of homelessness, and the self declared advocates not really knowing the realities of homelessness. And perhaps the advocates not really telling the truth, even if they knew it, the actual voice of truth concerning homelessness is rarely heard.

On top of all this, you have the very real issue of homeless industry workers and homeless advocates being territorial. As they find themselves the big fish in the small pond, and getting credit for doing work that people see needs to be done, but no one else is willing to do - big titles are give to homeless industry workers - big clout too. And few are willing to challenge them. Like in the previous post, where a person takes it upon himself to learn about homelessness and take action, when he seeks out information and guidance from someone already in the homeless industry, the industry person tries to do everything she can to stop him.

If every homed person became seriously interested and motivated to help out with the issue of homelessness, then most homeless industry workers would be put out of work. There are approximately 400 homed people to every 1 homeless person in the United States. From this perspective, homelessness seems relatively small and manageable - especially if most homed people were helping to work towards solutions to homelessness. I myself have heard rescue mission chaplains lament the idea that if homelessness were eradicated, that they would have no one covert to their religion.

If you find yourself curious about homelessness - and perhaps interested in working with homeless people, then just do it. And don't let anyone discourage you. Get involved as much as you can - listen to every voice, and decide for yourself were the truth is in the many stories you will hear. And keep as your goal, the end of homelessness.

StoryCorps Is In Nashville Too

Here is the NPR story filed at StoryCorps in Los Angeles, about a homeless man, and how an simple act of charity changed his life.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Expose Ignorance To Overcome Fear

I just met this blogger from Nashville. He was one of the Inn Keepers at the church I am staying at tonight. I just checked out his blog. And reading his most recent post, I became angered, insulted, offended. Read the post for yourself and see what I mean. theburts.wordpress.com

I mean really. You would think that people working in the homeless industry would be encouraging homeless and non-homeless people to mingle, to get to know each other, for any other reason than to create opportunities for homeless people to assimilate back into society. If even the homeless service providers work to keep these two groups apart, what hope do homeless people have?

The Easter Bunny Did Visit

My thanks to you who sent Easter gifts.

This Is The Worst Kind Of Political Stunt

It's a political stunt disguised to look like patriotism. http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/

Addictions Do Not Cause Homelessness

This post goes with my earlier post Poverty Does Not Cause Homelessness. And this theme applies to mental illness as well. It applies to all the established beliefs about what causes homelessness. Certainly all these things, poverty, addictions, mental health issues, etc, have a part to play in the world of homelessness. But, current mainstream ideas in the homeless industry, about the causes of homelessness, are incorrect.

As I've stated before, it is only when we correctly define homelessness, especially the causes of homelessness, that we will be able to take measures that will effectively reduce the homeless population - if not end homelessness all together.

The first clue that addictions, including alcoholism, do not cause homelessness, is that most people with addictions have homes, compared to those who do not. And secondly, ending a homeless person's addictions does not end that person's homelessness. There are many homeless people who have been sober for years who have yet to leave homelessness.

It is a quick and easy assumption, when seeing a homeless person drunk in public, that his drunkenness is the cause of his homelessness. But a closer look will reveal something important - that addictions are a symptom of other deeper problems. Sure, addictions cause problems for homeless people, but that does not mean addictions cause homelessness. To find the cause of their homelessness, we must look at what is causing the drug use, or drinking.

Those who look for a guilt free answer to addictions will talk about the physiological effects of drugs and alcohol. But that information only addresses the difficulties of living with, and overcoming addictions. It does not answer the question as to "why" a person begins drinking. And, it doesn't answer why a person would then leave job and house. Many organizations like AA, (alcoholics anonymous), place their focus on what happens with a person after they've stopped using. Because, that is when the real issues that led to the addiction begin being addressed. If all there was to ending an addiction was to stop using the drugs, then there would be no need for AA.

People turn to drugs and alcohol for the relief they give from the difficulties of life. And if the difficulties are more than the person can deal with, then he/she will become dependent on the drugs until such time as those life difficulties cease to exist. So, excessive drug use, alcoholism, is just a symptom, a response, to life's difficulties being greater than a person's ability to deal with them.

Of course, drinking and drug use don't make the difficulties go away. Often they compound them. And perhaps they even have the effect of lessening a person's resilience. But really, the thing that causes the drinking and drug use is the thing that causes the homelessness. Solve the problem that drives a person to become homeless, and you cure both the homelessness and the addiction...

to be continued...

Now Hiring - Sisters Of The Road

Sisters Of The Road is seeking a Development Director. This position will lead the planning, implementation, and evaluation of a comprehensive fund development strategy that generates revenues from a diverse base to support the mission, vision and programs of Sisters Of The Road. At least three years experience with strategic planning and directing a very wide range of development activities. To view the full job description, click here.

Salary $46,301 (plus COLA).

Please send resume and cover letter to Monica Beemer at Sisters Of The Road, 133 NW Sixth Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97209 or email her. No phone calls, please. Position closes 4/4/2008.
People of color and/or people with experience of homelessness and poverty are encouraged to apply. Sisters provides full benefits to all regular employees working 20 hours or more per week and offers a one-month sabbatical at three years of full-time employment. We are committed to the philosophies of non-violence and gentle-personalism.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Influence Of Culture On Homelessness

Ok, for now, just read this article as it will be referred to in the future, (yes, this will be on the test), as I work to create the true definitions of homelessness, and all it's many facets.
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/psychology-0111.html


Culture influences brain function, study shows

Cathryn M. Delude, McGovern Institute
January 11, 2008

People from different cultures use their brains differently to solve the same visual perceptual tasks, MIT researchers and colleagues report in the first brain imaging study of its kind.

Psychological research has established that American culture, which values the individual, emphasizes the independence of objects from their contexts, while East Asian societies emphasize the collective and the contextual interdependence of objects. Behavioral studies have shown that these cultural differences can influence memory and even perception. But are they reflected in brain activity patterns?

To find out, a team led by John Gabrieli, a professor at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, asked 10 East Asians recently arrived in the United States and 10 Americans to make quick perceptual judgments while in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner--a technology that maps blood flow changes in the brain that correspond to mental operations.

The results are reported in the January issue of Psychological Science. Gabrieli's colleagues on the work were Trey Hedden, lead author of the paper and a research scientist at McGovern; Sarah Ketay and Arthur Aron of State University of New York at Stony Brook; and Hazel Rose Markus of Stanford University.

Subjects were shown a sequence of stimuli consisting of lines within squares and were asked to compare each stimulus with the previous one. In some trials, they judged whether the lines were the same length regardless of the surrounding squares (an absolute judgment of individual objects independent of context). In other trials, they decided whether the lines were in the same proportion to the squares, regardless of absolute size (a relative judgment of interdependent objects).

In previous behavioral studies of similar tasks, Americans were more accurate on absolute judgments, and East Asians on relative judgments. In the current study, the tasks were easy enough that there were no differences in performance between the two groups.

However, the two groups showed different patterns of brain activation when performing these tasks. Americans, when making relative judgments that are typically harder for them, activated brain regions involved in attention-demanding mental tasks. They showed much less activation of these regions when making the more culturally familiar absolute judgments. East Asians showed the opposite tendency, engaging the brain's attention system more for absolute judgments than for relative judgments.

"We were surprised at the magnitude of the difference between the two cultural groups, and also at how widespread the engagement of the brain's attention system became when making judgments outside the cultural comfort zone," says Hedden.

The researchers went on to show that the effect was greater in those individuals who identified more closely with their culture. They used questionnaires of preferences and values in social relations, such as whether an individual is responsible for the failure of a family member, to gauge cultural identification. Within both groups, stronger identification with their respective cultures was associated with a stronger culture-specific pattern of brain-activation.

How do these differences come about? "Everyone uses the same attention machinery for more difficult cognitive tasks, but they are trained to use it in different ways, and it's the culture that does the training," Gabrieli says. "It's fascinating that the way in which the brain responds to these simple drawings reflects, in a predictable way, how the individual thinks about independent or interdependent social relationships."

Gabrieli is the Grover Herman Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and holds an appointment at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and supported by the McGovern Institute.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Poverty Does Not Cause Homelessness

I feel very strongly about this.

The only way to make significant reductions in the homeless population is by accurately defining homelessness. And accurate definitions of the causes of homelessness are rare. I believe this happens mostly because people in the homeless industry come to it with preconceived ideas, either on political, or religious, or other cultural demagoguery. Not only are these people working on homelessness unable to end it, they have the ability to cause a great deal of money and resources to be wasted chasing after shadows.

Although a person can live in poverty his/her entire life, and yet never become homeless, part of being homeless means doing without and living in poverty. And once a person leaves homelessness most likely he/she will still be in a state of poverty. But, poverty itself does not cause homelessness. Poverty is only the environment in which homelessness exists.

Any person who loses a job can get another one. A person who misses a rent payment can implore upon the graces of his landlord for leniency. A person without any money can borrow from family or friends or government or lending institutions, or can begin selling off personal property. Eviction from one's residence requires a court order, which takes 3 months or more to process. For other personal items, like food and toiletries and laundry, there are many organizations that supply these items to those in need. And one does not have to wait until they are homeless before receiving such charity. If the issue is solely an economic one, a person can stave off becoming homeless long enough to reestablish themselves financially, and thus avoid homelessness.

When it does appear that financial ruin caused a person to become homeless, a closer look will reveal that money issues were only a symptom of other problems. The person might have anti-social tendencies that prevent them from keeping a good paying job, or from making adequate bonds with people, people would normally bail out a friend during difficult times. Or they may have addiction issues that actually cause the person's financial downfall. These are the things that can, and do, lead a person to homelessness.

When a person cannot get himself rehired after losing a job, it's not because of the economy, it's because he's fallen into depression over having lost his job - and thus has developed a mental health issue. Homeless addicts and alcoholics have reached the point in their illness that they spend all the money they make on their addictions. So, it would not matter if the addict had a job making 10, 20, or 50 bucks an hour, and free rent - all their money would go towards drugs and alcohol and they would have nothing left for a place to live. And a mentally ill person is just not going to have the personal, or job skills to call on, so to get, or maintain a job.

So, yes, if you haven't already guessed, the idea that people are a paycheck or two away from homelessness is a myth.

Yes, homeless people do deserve sympathy and help overcoming their homelessness. But misleading people about the nature of homelessness is not going help anyone in the long run - regardless of how much sympathy or funding it generates.

Of course, once a person becomes homeless, the state of the economy will effect how quickly and efficiently a person will returned to a housed situation. But that is an entirely different matter.

Don't get me wrong, poverty is a terrible thing, and should be eradicated as much as possible. But even if there were no poverty, there would still be homelessness.

The reason so many people are drawn to the idea of homelessness being an issue of poverty is that the solution becomes both simple and impersonal. In other words, it's easy. How efficient, and sterile, would be the process, if all we had to do to end homelessness was to create a more equal and balanced economy. Pay people more for their labor, and not charge them as much for rent, utilities, and food. Best of all, this approach would allow us to keep our distance from actual homeless people. We would not be required to be their teachers, or mentors, or friends, or anything else to the homeless.

to be concluded...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

No Beds For Crazies Means More Crazy Homeless

Contact: Stacy Fiedler of the Treatment Advocacy Center, +1-703-294-6003, press@treatmentadvocacycenter.org

Report finds US deficit of nearly 100,000 inpatient beds; result is increased homelessness, emergency room overcrowding, and prisons as de-facto psychiatric hospitals

ARLINGTON, Va., March 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report released today by the Treatment Advocacy Center reveals that for every 20 public psychiatric beds available in the US in 1955, only 1 such bed existed in 2005.

According to The Shortage of Hospital Beds for Mentally Ill Persons, in 1955 there were 340 public psychiatric beds available per 100,000 U.S. citizens. By 2005, the number plummeted to 17 per 100,000 persons. Mississippi had the most beds available in 2005 (49.7 per 100,000 people), while Nevada (5.1) and Arizona (5.9) had the least. Complete report at: http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/Reportbedshortage.htm.

The results of this report are dire, and the failure to provide care for the most seriously mentally ill individuals is disgraceful, said lead author, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, president of the Treatment Advocacy Center. Our communities are paying a high price for our failure to treat those with severe mental illness. Untreated persons with severe mental illnesses have become major problems in homeless shelters, jails, and emergency rooms and are responsible for at least 5 percent of all homicides.

To determine a minimum number of beds needed, a consensus of experts looked at specific criteria such as number of individuals who need hospitalization, length of hospital stay, and current state and federal financing structures. Using these criteria, the panel concluded 50 public psychiatric beds per 100,000 individuals is the minimum required to meet current needs.

This report confirms what many already know - too many people with severe mental illnesses arent getting treatment, said report co-author, Dr. Jeffery Geller. Someone with schizophrenia who is having a psychotic break should not be told they cant get treatment. We are talking about people in need of immediate care.

State Rankings

States with the fewest beds in 2005 were: Nevada (5.1 beds per 100,000 people), Arizona (5.9), Arkansas (6.7), Iowa (8.1), Vermont (8.9) and Michigan (9.9). States with the most beds available were South Dakota (40.3) and Mississippi (49.7).

"One silver lining in this alarming study is Mississippi meets the 50 bed standard, said study co-author and Treatment Advocacy Center executive director, Kurt Entsminger. If the state which ranks 49 in per capita income can achieve the minimum standard, then states with greater wealth have no excuse for failing.

Consequences of Bed Shortage

The consequences of the reduction in psychiatric hospital beds are evidenced in the following areas:

-- Homelessness. A study in Massachusetts found 27 percent of patients discharged from a state psychiatric hospital became homeless within six months; a similar study in Ohio showed 36 percent.

-- Jails and Prisons as Psychiatric Hospitals. Since the reduction in public psychiatric beds there has been an increase in severely mentally persons in jails and prisons. Conservative estimates say 7 to 10 percent of all inmates have a mental illness, while some studies show 20 percent or higher.

-- Hospital Emergency Room Overflow. Emergency rooms are often used as waiting rooms for psychiatric beds, thus backing up the entire hospital system and compromising other medical care. In Arlington, Virginia, county officials had to call 31 hospitals before finding one that would accept a patient.

-- Violent Crime. Studies show between 5 to 10 percent of seriously mentally ill persons who are not receiving treatment will commit a violent act each year. Such individual are responsible for at least 5 percent of all homicides.

Recommendations

The severe shortage of public psychiatric beds should not be tolerated and can be ameliorated in a number of ways:

-- Holding state governors and mental health officials responsible for the shortage.

-- Utilizing Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) and assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), both of which have been proven to decrease hospitalization.

-- Modifying federal and state regulations to allow the utilization of alternatives to psychiatric hospitalization.

The Treatment Advocacy Center (www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illnesses.

"We take no money from pharmaceutical companies.

Contact: Stacy Fiedler

press@treatmentadvocacycenter.org

703-294-6003

SOURCE Treatment Advocacy Center

So They Say, Homeless Surveys

There are now a number of organizations that collect data on homeless people and provide it free of charge on the internet. When reading this information, it is important to understand the particular slant to homelessness each organization takes, because their perspectives really effects the data and how it is interpreted. Politically motivated organizations will have different data than religiously motivated organizations. And among the politically motivated organizations, there will be a noticable difference between conservative and liberal organizations. And it's the same with religious organizations. To understand the information provided by organizations, it is important to know where they are coming from.

The following links are to websites with data concerning homelessness.

The National Coalition for The Homeless offers several reports. And they provide a list of several directories of homeless service providers and resources. And, of course, there is their very popular Fact Sheets.

The Association of Gospel Rescue Missions provides their own stats concerning people staying at rescue missions.

in 1996 HUD conducted its own study on homeless and discovered some interesting information that can be read www.huduser.org/publications

The Real Me, The Real Homeless

As I am applying for "help" with my homelessness from different agencies, the process of application is becoming increasingly difficult. More and more details are being asked of me, of the issues that cause and effect my homelessness. Thinking over all my issues, and trying to describe them accurately is damn depressing.

Perhaps it is a human trait, perhaps also an American cultural thing, that people purposely repress the negative aspects of themselves, and highlight, even exaggerate, the positive. Even when talking with the homeless, and they give a depressing story about their situation, they will still avoid telling the real and personal and most painful aspects of themselves. That they want to avoid dealing with their own problems, all the more they will avoid telling anyone else these personal truths. Me too. I am having to admit to some things in this application process, that I don't even like to admit to myself.

Even the panhandler will fain honesty with a sign saying, "why lie, need beer." If his sign were honest it would say something like, "I have had an uncontrollable addiction. And if I don't get a drink soon, my body will go into shock, and I will probably die." And it's not so pithy either.

But, only the real answers, the ugliness of myself, will qualify me for the kinds of services that I need.

And then I look at all the homeless on the streets, with all their many problems - people who are also not getting the real help they need - and it strikes me how so many people are on the streets solely for sake of pride and appearance, and the fear of honesty.

The OIC

Clipped from the The Tennessean
Tennessee Voices
by Bernard Werthan

Forty years ago, I served on the founding board of Nashville Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) and joined a movement to help unemployed and underemployed Nashvillians achieve a better quality of life.

During a time of great social turmoil, it was exciting to me to be a part of a nonprofit organization that provided disadvantaged citizens with the job training they needed to participate in the growing opportunities America had to offer.
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I hold that same excitement today. Although the social climate has changed, the need for job training and job-placement services remains the same. That is why I am proud to continue to serve on the board of Nashville OIC.

Unemployment rates have gotten better in our city, but joblessness is still a big problem.

OIC can play a vital role in solving this problem, particularly given the current state of our economy. In my experience, despite the economy, there have always been jobs for those with training, and I believe there will continue to be jobs for those with training. OIC gives them the training they need.

Recently, there have been many discussions on other problems our community faces — poverty, homelessness and high school dropout rates, to name a few.

One of the best ways to help solve these problems is to help people who need a job find employment. And to keep it. We believe that if we can help people get to the point where they can hold a steady job, it will improve, not only their quality of life, but our community in so many ways.

I continue to be amazed at the success OIC achieves. Nashville OIC's staff, led by President and CEO Margaret McClain, works tirelessly to fulfill the mission national OIC founder the Rev. Leon Sullivan began in 1968, and it shows.

Last year, 12 OIC students earned GEDs, 33 completed training in four Microsoft Office modules, and 61 obtained employment.

Nashville OIC is not as well-known as other local nonprofit organizations. But I can tell you that OIC is just as important. And, yes, it is just as worthy of public support.

One way individuals can support OIC's efforts is by attending its 2008 Annual Awards Banquet on March 25, which will honor Melvin N. Johnson, president of Tennessee State University. Dr. Johnson's commitment to education and to our community is exemplary.

I encourage other Tennesseans to share in his commitment, and the commitment of many others, by supporting Nashville OIC and its mission to educate and train our underemployed and unemployed citizens. For more information regarding the banquet, call Helena Farrow at 615-248-2906.

Bernard Werthan is founding board member of Nashville Opportunities Industrialization Center.

Law De-Da

I know that there are some people who are law fanatics. They never really met a law, or a rule, they didn't like. Some people would call this type of person a "control freak." They aren't happy, or content, unless they are in control of every little thing other people do. And, they have this uncontrollable urge to find themselves "right" all the time. Really, they just fear being found wrong. To be wrong about something, anything, is a sign of weakness, or imperfection. And since authority figures are the ones usually making the rules they kiss up to authority at every opportunity, so to be on the side of the "right." It seems like a very sad life.

There are two types of people, those who favor the letter of the law, and those who favor the spirit of the law. I am a spirit-of-the-law kind of guy. To me, there has to be a good reason for a law, other than just that it is a law. Speeding in your car is dangerous, and can kill people, including yourself. So laws against speeding have a good purpose. On the other hand, rules like those that prohibit sleeping in the library are suspect. Sleeping in the library offends no one, and threatens no one, and thus there is no real good reason for it. It is known that certain homeless frequent the library. And it is the homeless how suffer the most from issues relating to sleep deprivation. So it is that it is almost always homeless people who fall asleep in the library. And it is to homelessness of a person who has fallen asleep in the library. If it were well dressed people and obviously not homeless, who were falling asleep in the library, then no such rule would exist. And there are other rules of the public library system that are only enforced against homeless people. It used to be that bags over a certain size were not allowed to carried into the library, and when a homeless person broke that law, he was told to take the bag back outside. All the while, business people, and students were bringing bags and other items that exceeded the limits of this rule yet nothing was ever said to these people. From the library's tactics as well as the police - the police were busting homeless people for their bags because supposedly their bags were blocking the right of way of pedestrians - the homeless no longer carry larger bags with them. It's now been some time since I've seen the library enforce the bag size rule.

As a side note, the homeless have been forced to stop carrying all their belongings with them, which means they now have to hide their belongings wherever they can. And it often happens that their things are found by others and either stolen or thrown away. Such loss of property is very damaging to the homeless, making it all that much harder for them to overcome their homelessness.

When Spring Begins

From wiki.answers.com
The first day of spring this year (2008) is March 20. The equinox will be at 5:48 GMT.

In general, the four seasons correspond to the relative position of the Sun to the earth. Meteorological determination of Spring is calculated when the Sun passes through the equatorial plane. When going from Winter to Spring, the Sun is moving North, and as soon as the Sun crosses the equator, we call it Spring.

Benefit Of A Sad Event

A tornado hit Atlanta a couple days ago, causing extensive damage. And so large crews are needed to help with the clean up. Even temporary labor companies in Nashville have been called upon to supply workers. And so we have about 150 - 200 of Nashville's homeless now down in Atlanta, working for the next couple weeks, helping to clean up that city. So, the first benefit is that this tornado has created work for many people who need it. The second benefit is that the load on the homeless shelters and service providers in Nashville has lessened. Wednesday night is the hardest night to get into the Room In The Inn (RITI) shelter program, but almost everyone got in. I myself had a ticket to RITI good only for Thursday, but I was able to get in on that ticket for the lower than usual demand. And chances are, I'll be able to get in tonight, Thursday, with my Friday ticket. I'm sorry for what happened in Atlanta, but I can't help but be grateful too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Recent Email Makes All The Difference

So, I've said it a million times, I'm tired. And in looking at some of my past writing, it's obvious - my level of concentration is low. Before I get back into more serious writing, I'll need to get some rest. How I'll get that I'm not certain. I do have a case manager working for my benefit, so maybe something of it will come soon.

And I have a feeling that this coming season, contention between different special interest groups regarding the homeless. And there will be a lot of work to do, in the fight over ideas about what is best for people, about how to make a better city, and about the truth. And let me say it again, I'll surely be saying more and more, "only the truth with end homelessness." People say all sorts of horribly untrue things about homeless people, as a justification for treating homeless people the way they do, but those things they say are distortions of the truth, if not outright lies. Those distortion, those lies are what I fight against, not to be contrary, or obstinate, or bellicose, but only to get at the real solutions to homelessness - to get to the point where homelessness is brought to an end.

I just received a nice email from a reader that has made a world of difference for me. At a time when I'm feeling down and discouraged, perhaps mostly because I am so tired, such messages from people bring me back to a good mind set.

"Hi Kevin,
I'm so glad you write this blog. The reasons I appreciate it are all overlapping in my head and it's taking some effort to sort them out so that I can express them, but I want to do this.

So much of what's written about homelessness speaks about the people suffering under it in the third person. There's so much lack of understanding of the realities of life, so much idiotic judgment and objectification, such a hideous lack of knowledge, especially when coupled with the tone of authority writers seem to take so often.

And I crave real voices who know this life for what it really is, speaking the truth so we can all learn it. I think the problem with that is that homelessness destroys people. Through the avenues you've described (lack of sleep, lack of privacy) along with all the other tortures endured, people on the street are robbed of their strength, stamina, so much of the vitality that feeds motivation and inspiration and creativity. It can't be easy to write when your body and mind have been worn or beaten to the edge of survival. So I imagine that many people with stories so very worth telling aren't in any shape to tell them. That thought makes me feel really sick, almost as much as the idea of homelessness itself.

I want to tell you, too, why this subject (and your writing on it) resonates so much with me. But I shudder every time I hear someone say "I know exactly how you feel" when they have a place to sleep, with a reasonable amount of security, every night. I don't want to be guilty of that. I'm not homeless. I feel that I've gotten very brief tastes of some aspects of what this life must be, though, and they've made me think and wonder, and rage...(the main part of this email was of a more personal nature)...

There's something I wanted to say too, about the way you tell it. I love your writing voice. You keep things simple and just tell the story, stressing important things people might miss, but there's so much in that simplicity. The intelligence and thoughtfulness and the nature of you that comes through, it's just a joy to read you. I am very grateful that you're telling this story. At the same time, of course, I wish it weren't yours to tell. Or anyone else's. But it is, so thank you for telling it."

Could Not Have Said It Better

Thunder Jones comments on racism and the good Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Damn it, again

Big fiasco at Room In The Inn last night. It's hard to believe the people now running the show are so incompetent - Father Strobel is in retirement - are so incompetent . It seems more plausible that they are purposely changing the rules to the program, on an almost daily basis, because they believe it somehow fixes things. The distribution of tickets, which allows homeless people into Room In The Inn, is not rocket science. But at least once a week, and sometimes more, they "run out of tickets." Of course to the average person this problem could be fixed by making more tickets. But, that's not what they do. Actually, a 5th grader has the mathematical proficiency to assure the proper number of tickets are available each night. It really seems that something else is going on, something they don't want the homeless to know.

Part of the miracle of Room In The Inn is how simple the program really is - it could almost run itself. Problems always arise whenever someone decides they need to fix it. Well, as the saying goes, "if it ain't broken, don't fix it." What I actually heard on staff member say was that the system was "not fair" and so adjustments had to be made to make it more fair. Of course that is just one person's idea of what "fair" is. And they inflict it on everyone else.

Well, there are too many details to discuss it all right here. And it will certainly take some time to get people to listen and make things better for the homeless. There are only a couple weeks left to Room In The Inn this year. And really, isn't that what Room In The Inn is supposed to be about? making things better for the homeless?

We homeless have indeed noticed a steady decline in the quality of the programs that the Campus for Human Development offers, including Room In The Inn. And I have always withheld most criticisms of the Campus as they once were much better and I always hoped that it would return to its former better self. But things there have deteriorated to the point there seems almost no better for the homeless than the rescue mission. There used to be programs and practices at the Campus for Human Development that actually inspired homeless people to better themselves and get off the streets. But that just doesn't happen any more. And the people working at the Campus used to be genuinely concerned about homeless people's concerns - that also doesn't happen any more.

Anyway, I didn't get in again last night. Had to stay out all night - no sleep. And it wasn't necessary.

I'll write about it more later - when and if I can get rested. I'm still working with a case manager in an attempt to get housing. Fingers crossed - prayers made.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Cheap Motel

Last night I stayed at a cheap motel, thanks to a recent gift. (thank you, to you know who)

Walking in to the room, dropping my bags, shutting and locking the door behind me, pulling the curtains closed, and I realize just how stressed I am - stressed to the point of sickness. I fall onto the bed, bouncing a little, on my back with my arms stretched out, my feet hanging off the edge, and I burst out with a silly laugh. I can actually feel myself feeling better and better, honest to God real relaxing. And for a moment I almost cry.

There are two very real benefits to having your own place, especially if it's just for one night. And it's hard to choose which one to take advantage of most. Because really, they are kind of exclusive.

The first benefit is sleep. Oh dear God, how good a well made bed of springs and support feels, with just the proper amount of sheets and blankets and pillows, and the temperature of the room just the way you like it. Sleep comes easy, and is of an infinitely better quality than in any shelter. What a blessing. I feel so much better today than I have in a least a month, when I last got a cheap motel room.

The second benefit is privacy. The thing with sleep is that you are unconscious, and are unaware of your privacy, or anything else. To do whatever you want, whenever you want, is something homeless people are so deprived of. Many people wrongly assume that homelessness equate to freedom, but it doesn't, not even close. When you are homeless, you are always in the public eye, and people must act a certain way in public. When in the library, sitting down with your favorite book, you can't just kick off your shoes, or assume just any ol' position in the chair. You certainly cannot sit or lie on the floor in the library. You certainly can't fall asleep. You can't sleep in a public park either, or do any number of things that you wouldn't think twice about doing when at your own place. And that creates a stress that often goes unnoticed, until you are relieved of it. It's like all the sounds of the city. Your ear hears them all, but your mind selectively ignores them. And you don't realize all those noises are there until, like on a Sunday morning, most all the noise making things are turned off. Even when taking a walk around downtown on a Sunday morning, you can noise the quietness, and feel a sense of relief from the stress of it.

And with real privacy you can watch tv or not - and if so, you get to watch exactly what you want to, without having to compromise. You can take a shower whenever you want, for as long as you want, you eat dinner when you want, and eat what you want, and you go to bed when you decide to go. And so there is this temptation to stay up late, if not all night long, just for this time of being in control of your own life and actions, sans the shelter regulations and administrators who observe and dictate your every motion.

I didn't sleep as long as I hoped I would. But I was still able to sleep in. I awoke at 6:30, which is an hour and a half longer than I'm usually allowed to sleep when in a shelter. And by 6:30, in shelters, have already awakened, dressed, had breakfast, finished the chores of putting away sleeping cots, etc, and have been driven down to, and dropped off, at Room In The Inn. It's funny but true, that the homeless will have done more by 8am than many people will do all day.

But not me, not on this day. After I woke up, I turned on the tv and just vegged out for a while. Good Morning America, Regis and that other girl. Dustin Hoffman was on Regis this morning, promoting a movie. I don't think it will be a good movie, but it was interesting listening to DH talking about home life - like he's just another human like me.

Eventually I checked out of the motel and walked up to a fast food restaurant for breakfast. Then I caught a bus back into down, just in time for the bring-your-own-lunch/bible study at Downtown Presbyterian Church.

Yes, I stayed up longer than I should have - I could have gotten even more sleep at the motel. But I still benefited from a night of privacy - a privacy I might not again visit for another month.

I feel much better today.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sleepy-Bye

So, while sitting at my laptop, in the library, I fell asleep. Ya know. It's a normal function of the body. And it is a medically proven fact that people who are suffering from sleep deprivation, sleep apnea, and even people with ADHD, can easily fall asleep for reading.

BUT, the old security guard caught me, and "wrote me up." Funny, though, for a violation he wrote "loitering." This was just a warning, he said. If he catches me again, I could be suspended from the library for one day.

Now, I can see, if a person came into the library with the specific intent to find a place to sleep, perhaps he curls up under a desk, whips out a sleeping bag, etc, then I'd say you've found yourself a perp. But, falling asleep while reading, or doing other book/library related work, is not loitering. It is certainly not malicious in nature. It is a victimless crime. I even asked the security guard if my sleeping had disturbed any of the other patrons. He said, "oh no, not at all."

This is just silliness. Just wake me up. If I can't stay awake, then you might need to call me an ambulance. And if some homeless guy has pitched a tent in the non-fiction section, then please, by all means, take appropriate measures. But really, is kicking someone out of the library for the day, the appropriate measure for falling asleep while reading?

I Fought The Boar And The Boar Won

I've been told that when I snore, it sounds like I am wrestling a wild boar. Well, last night, the boar won. I woke up at least 5 times during the night. And what sleep I got, was not productive sleep. So, now I'm here at Panera Bread, falling asleep as I scan the Internet. And I hear myself snoring, so I wake myself up. Sure, there are other people around me, and no doubt the people around me are hearing it too. It's a little embarrassing. I do have some money coming, and if it comes today, I'm going to get myself a cheap motel for a night and try to get some more better sleep - at least sleep in as late as I can. and rest.

I am meeting with my case manager again today - we meet at least once a week. We'll be talking about qualifying me for some kind of disability related financial aid so to help pay for my eventual housing. That should be fun. I'll have to confess things I don't really like talking about.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Beware Of Tax Refund Scams

I just received an email scam that looked incredibly official. I even had to check with the IRS website to make sure it was not legitimate. If you have suspicions about what you receive via email concerning the IRS, you should check out their website: www.irs.gov

  • The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail. In addition, the IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail or ask taxpayers for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.
  • Do not open any attachments to questionable e-mails, which may contain malicious code that will infect your computer. Please be advised that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via e-mails.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Chili - With, or Without, Homeless?

This Saturday, which is March 15th, 2008, the organization, Friends of Church Street Park, (FoCSP), will hold a Chili Cook-Off in, of course, Church Street Park.

You remember Church Street Park don't you. It's the park across the street from the library that the city had demolished and rebuilt because of all the homeless - whoops, don't quote me on that. The official word from the city was that the park had been overrun with rats and pigeons. Funny, but no one really buys the "official" reason.

Anyway, we've now got ourselves a brand new park. And it's time to start making the most of it. Well, when I say "We" I'm really just talking about the residents of downtown. You see, the residents claim that park to be their own, because it is in their neighborhood. Forget the fact that this "neighborhood" is actually the center of the city of Nashville - the downtown area centrally located and used and visited by citizens of the whole city of Nashville, not just those few who live within a half-mile of the park.

Oh, and when we say "resident" we are really talking about a specific person, who has spent a certain amount of money to live downtown - thereby we can exclude the free living homeless. Sure, the homeless have to pay to live where they do, in one way or another, but that is besides the point. And, of course, looking at the definition of the word "resident" the dictionary makes no mention of a particular income, or price paid, for residence, only that a person is called a resident of a place when they live in a certain place. That means that all homeless people are residents of Nashville, and especially downtown Nashville Sure, homeless people do pay city taxes, but lets not think about that right now.

We are having a function in the park - the Church Street Park. Oh, and did you know that they called that street "Church Street" cause of the churches that were built on that street? Did you know that churches are religious organizations dedicated to the idea that Jesus is God and lord of all and that Jesus taught us to treat others as better than ourselves? Oh, but I digress.

There will be live entertainment too. It starts at 3pm. And admission only costs $10.00 Can you imagine how much chili you can buy for $10? Children under 10 are admitted free with a paid adult. For more information you should call 615-254-1277 ext11 - or go to www.churchstreetpark.com - I would make that url a link, but I tried it and it doesn't work. I mean, there is no website at that url address. I don't have a phone.

Call them if you'd like to enter your chili. Chili entries are open to the public. How about that, any ol' buddy can bring their chili and distribute it to the public. Boy, now that really is funny. Mostly because these people putting on this event are the same people who had homeless feedings in the park shut down, on the excuse that the food being distributed to people (the homeless) was not prepared in a city health codes qualified facility. Yet now they are encouraging people to bring food they cooked from home, or who-knows-where? and giving it out to the general public.

I guess that the FoCSP people expect to exclude the poor and homeless from this event by charging such an exorbitant admission fee. Crazy, ain't it? Doesn't seem right to me, either.

Then I got to thinking, and Googled that phone number on the flyer.
The following is what I found. Check out the following link: nashvillecharrette.com If that link goes dead, I have copied its contents below. It is an announcement of another recent event by the same people:
Masquerade Ball (Public Event)
bzorch
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View Member Profile
Find Member's Posts
Event Date: 27 October 2007 (Single Day Event)
Administrator
***
Group: Root Admin
Posts: 1,517
Joined: 8-May 06
Member No.: 1
This is a fun & unique opportunity for each and every one of us to make a difference in our neighborhood! The Friends of Church Street Park foundation will soon be in place to manage programming and fund raising for our newly renovated Church Street Park. In the mean time, The Standard at The Smith House has graciously donated dinner & beverages and their venue for the First Annual Charity Masquerade Ball on Saturday, October 27 at 7:00PM. Tickets are only $50.00 per person and include hors d'oeuvres, dinner, open wine & beer bar, ballroom dancing, and live music. One hundred percent of the proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorship contributions will go directly to programming the Park and keeping the Park safe until the Friends of Church Street Park foundation is in place. This will allow us to pass on a healthy, vibrant space to the Friends of Church Street Park the day the foundation is active. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a fine dinner and fabulous party, while contributing to a New, Healthy Church Street Park!

You can purchase tickets by emailing Amy Walters at amydroppwalters@yahoo.com, by phone 615-254-1277 ext.11, or in person at The Standard at The Smith House, 167 Rosa Parks Blvd (8th Ave N), open M-F 11:00AM - 3:00PM, 5:00PM - 9:00PM. See you at the Ball! (See attached file: Flyer Word Final.doc)
----------

Now remember these words from above: "One hundred percent of the proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorship contributions will go directly to programming the Park and keeping the Park safe until the Friends of Church Street Park foundation is in place. This will allow us to pass on a healthy, vibrant space to the Friends of Church Street Park the day the foundation is active."

Sound to me like these people plan on buying the Church Street Park and giving control of it to the FoCSP Foundation. Just how are they going to "keep the park safe" - just how are they going to "pass on a healthy, vibrant space to the Friends of Church Street Park"? Who are these people, and what gives them the right over a city park? And they use that word "our" in reference to the park, as if the park does not belong to other citizens of Nashville and Davidson County. What is with these people?

Just how can a private organization take over city property, and the organization of it, and produce events on it that will exclude certain citizens by way of an admission fee? Sound a little crooked to me. Does it to you? Call your city councilman, heck, call the Mayor if, like me, you think there is something wrong with this.

Trying To Beat The Homeless At Their Own Game

Bench-Warmers Sought to Block Homeless

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A community activist thinks a few couch potatoes, strategically placed on sidewalk benches in an upscale shopping district, will keep transients on their feet and on the move.

Esther Viti, who oversees the donation of public benches for a merchants' association in La Jolla, sent an e-mail to 45 other activists last week asking them to sit in three-hour shifts, no bathroom breaks allowed.

"After all, you MUST OCCUPY THAT BENCH continually for three hours to prevent that homeless person from sitting on that bench," the e-mail said.

Donors weren't happy that transients were sleeping on benches they had provided for the public, Viti said.

The group previously tried installing benches with metal dividers that split the seats. Transients simply began sleeping upright, said Deborah Marengo, president of Promote La Jolla.

No one has offered to sit a shift yet, Viti said. Some potential recruits expressed concern that the bench brigade could provoke retaliation from displaced transients.

In 2006, the Regional Task Force on Homeless estimated the homeless population at 9,600 countywide, which included 4,400 people within the city of San Diego.

Video Of Fight Aftermath In Downtown Library

It is so common to hear loud noises coming from the area designated for teens, in the downtown library, that at first I didn't think anything of it. But there was something a little different so I started listening. Then I heard someone call out "fight" and I grabbed my camera. This is what I saw, next time I'll get a better shot of the action. At some points I just watched and forgot to point the camera in the right direction. From what I gathered, two girls got into a fight, and their boyfriends jumped in. Mostly this video is of teens standing around afterwards. The "action" if of the security guards trying to get the kids settled down.

video

Fight In The Library

I did get some sleep last night. I was sent out to Northside Church of Christ. I was able to get a good shower there, and did laundry too. After a week or more of wearing the same clothes, it is incredibly refreshing to be ALL clean.

I cut off yesterday's post in mid-thought, because a fight broke out in the library. It really was only a matter of time before something like this happened. As the library security occupies itself with catching sleeping homeless people, school aged children and teens are allowed to run amok. Really, the idea that requiring kids to behave themselves in libraries might end their appreciation for libraries, or that it would hinder their growth and creativity is absolutely ridiculous. Mostly because this lax disciplinary policy creates an environment whereby NO ONE can read or study or learn anything. When schools let out and the library fills with kids, the library ceases to be an institution for personal growth, and becomes a play ground.

Everyday, the kids are yelling, fighting, flirting, chasing each other, playing tag, making out, talking on phones, and generally socializing - everything but utilizing the library for what it was designed for. But, Hey, at least the homeless can't get away with sleeping in the library. I was able to catch a little video of the aftermath of the fight, and will try to get it uploaded here. Once I get that done, I'll post more about current homeless happenings.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tired Again

They cut off the intake for Room In The Inn last night, just as I next to go in. We're full to capacity," is what Mary said, the lady running the gate.

It does happen though, that after people have been brought through the fence, and a few churches have picked up people, that Room In The Inn finds itself with room for a few more homeless people. This is figured out during "final count."

I wasn't able to draw a ticket that morning for Room In The Inn, so I had to wait until that afternoon. I got down to the campus about 4:30pm, when the campus reopens. I went into the front desk area and drew a ticket. It was a "plus ticket." Plus tickets are guaranteed for the following night. But, if the bed count is high enough, and the ticket count low enough, some tickets will get you in that night, instead of the following night, if you so choose. Mine was a +14. To myself and the other homeless, I had a good chance of getting in that night (last night). After drawing the ticket, there was nothing left to do but hang around the campus for an hour until the program began at 5:15pm. At 5:15pm the tickets were called. The gate was shut just in front of me. At that point, the people left outside the gate are told that "final count" would be held around 6pm and that if more bed space was discovered, then at 6:15pm, a few more people would be allowed in to fill those spaces. So I waited some more, and at 6:15 Mary came out with her clip board. She announced to the gathering hopeful's that she only had room for 3 more people. Of course there were 3 people there with tickets lower than my 14, and they were let in. The rest of us homeless were told to "scootch along" go to the mission or wherever, so that the volunteers could continue on with the evenings work. It was, as always, a nervous and stressful 2 hours, waiting to see whether or not I'll get in. The stress does become a bit much for some, and fights occasionally break out. There are always arguments, usually on petty issues, during the wait. Homeless people feel it necessary to fight, sometimes literally, to protect what little personal space and dignity they have left.

So I scootched up to Cafe Coco for the night. In the morning, I caught a bus back into downtown. My ticket is definitely good for tonight. I'll actually be one of the first one's in, since I was almost one of the last ones in yesterday. After all the riggamaroll, I'll get to hit the bed, or army cot, or whatever about 8pm. That's about 39 or 40 hours without sleep. Like I said, I'm tired.

I did learn that during our freak snow storm that a homeless guy died from exposure that night. A bunch of people, who did not believe the weather forecasts, and really didn't care if they were true, went out drinking that night. Often these storms skip over Nashville. One of them had a guitar. A couple of women went with them. There was music, and dancing, and severe drunkenness near the railroad tressel.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

SNOW !!!

The "wintery mix" that had been called for all day long, finally began, just as the Room In The Inn shelter program started gearing up for the evening. And the prognosis was not good. Just the threat of snow can freeze Nashvillians in their tracks. When Rachel came outside to being the process of bring the homeless in, she announced that many churches had cancelled, and so about 100 beds for the homeless were lost for the night. She had already called the rescue mission and warned them that they would be getting more people than usual. She even told the women that she would supply them with bus passes, so that they could get to the women's mission, which is located a few miles away. And it seemed that even I was not going to make it in for Room In The Inn, but I did. My ticket was good enough.

But, tonight might be even worse, now that there really is snow on the ground. More churches may cancel. The rescue mission will be packed beyond capacity. Not everyone will get a bed for the night.

If you or your organization or church, whatever, are able to take in some homeless people, even for just this night, you could call Room In The Inn, and ask for Rachel.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Waves On Waves

Kids in the neighborhood would get together during the long summer and start a band, practicing in someone's garage. It was the era of the "garage band". Today, the kids are hanging out and working in coffee shops, meeting with other musician types - it is now the era of the "cafe' bands."

The kids at Cafe' Coco have put together a band. And they sound pretty good. You should give them a listen. Seriously. And remember you heard about them here, first.
Waves On Waves

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Nietzsche A Day

Nietzsche said:
Concerning life, the wisest men of all ages have judged alike: it is no good. Always and everywhere one has heard the same sound from the mouths - a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness of life, full of resistance to life. Even Socrates said, as he died:
"To live - that means to be sick a long time: I own Asclepius the Savior a rooster." Even Socrates was tired of it. What does that evidence? What does it evince? Formerly one would have said (-oh, it has been said, and loud enough, and especially by our pessimists): "At least something of all this must be true! The consensus of the sages evidences the truth." Shall we still talk like that? May we? At least something must be sick here," we retort. These wisest men of all ages - they should first be scrutinized closely. Were they all perhaps shaky on their legs? late? tottery? decadents? Could it be that wisdom appears on earth as a raven, inspired by a little whiff of carrion?"

Mundane Homeless Issues - Sleep

It's funny how the more common elements of life never get talked about, or blogged about. They are so "everyday" that they don't seem worth discussing.

With homelessness, one of those mundane things people hardly ever talk about, and I've only mentioned a few time, is how sleep evades us. Real rest is never achieved. To rest, one must be able to relax, and relaxing isn't something homeless people can do. In mission-like shelters many people are constantly crowded together, and being herded from one thing to the next. Even as homeless people sleep in shelters, there is no real relaxation. There is constant noise and disruption. It's hard to fall asleep, and people are always awaken before they are ready. Some people, in response to the harassment, are able to avoid the wake-up call by the program men at 5am, by setting their internal clocks. They awake before 5, on their own. Though they are able to avoid the rude awakening, they lose even more sleep for it. And, with technology being more accessible, many homeless people now carry cell phones with them into the dorms, and their "peeps" are likely to call them at all hours of the night. The phone rings and wakes every one up. Or they have watches with alarms, which they purposely set to an early time, or they don't know how to turn the alarm off, and the watches become a problem too. And all of this happens in addition to the general rowdiness of some of the homeless who want to talk all night , cause they are one drugs, or are mentally ill, etc.

And this, among other things, makes the Room In The Inn program so desirable. Sleeping in a room with 12 people is much more relaxing than in a dorm of 150 people. Still Room In The Inn has its issues too. There is one church that has their homeless guests sleep in a filthy storage room with a window broken out. And from with I've gathered, that window has been broken at least two months. So, not only does the church bearly heat the room, the cold is allowed in unabated. Why the church would not get that window fixed is beyond me. It's a safety hazard as well as a health risk, to the homeless having to sleep in that room. This makes for a cold night, and increases the difficulty of getting restful sleep. Sure, the majority of churches participating in Room In The Inn do at least an adequate job. But about 10 percent of them - about 15 churches, really need to take some drastic steps in improving their ministry to the homeless, or else drop out of the program. Cause really, they are doing more harm than good. Most depressing of all, is that the administration of the Campus for Human Development, the organization that operates Room In The Inn, is very much aware of these problems, but refuses to do anything about it. For them, having as high a bed count as possible is more important that providing for the actual needs of the homeless.

When a homeless person is actually better off sleeping outside, than in a shelter of any kind, then there is a problem with that shelter that needs to be addressed.

The lack of good sleep is one of the biggest problems for the homeless. And yet it is rarely discussed. That the problem is so common, that people hardly recognize it, and instead accept it as normal - that is until something happens that brings it to light.

The downtown library has a security staff. Usually 3 guards are wandering the library at any one time. And the thing they spend the most time doing is waking up homeless people. I experience this too, and fairly often. And I've known homeless people to get barred from the library for sleeping infractions. Some homeless guy sits down to read the paper, and before you know it, he's nodding off. Personally, I don't understand why the library administration makes such a big deal about it. Unless the sleeper is snoring loudly, he/she really isn't disturbing anyone. Even today, I caught myself falling asleep while in the middle of reading something on my laptop.

And homeless people will also fall asleep in the parks - and that too is against the law. The city parks are all closed at night, so it is also difficult to get sleep when outside - "sleeping rough" as they say in Europe. Even those who can find some hidden place to sleep, they are likely to get only 4 hours or so. Traffic noises, exposure to the elements also keep one from enjoying proper sleep.

The only way a person can get sleep is to have a room to one's self, with a door they can close and lock, and be undisturbed. For the homeless, that means spending about 50 bucks a night at some sleazy hotel. And since day labor usually pays less than that, living at a cheap motel is out of the question.

Four to six hours of sleep is all that homeless people can usually muster, and often times they go a whole day without sleep. Being well rested is so important to having a good life, and for overcoming homelessness, no wonder leaving homelessness is a difficult thing to do.

So, homeless people are tired. Of course, when you look at them at the park in the middle of the day you only see them as lethargic, and call them lazy.

But then, you really don't know anything about them, do you?

Religion And Money

What Religions Say About Money, is an article I found at bankrate.com that I think is worth reading.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Nashville Scene Letter

Two weeks ago, the Nashville Scene ran a compelling article Outlawing_the_Poor, about homeless people downtown and the city's attempt to outlaw their poverty. I responded with a letter to the editor, which ran in the paper this week.

For your convenience I've posted it here:

Major Kudos to Jeff Woods for so accurately describing the current state of affairs on Nashville’s downtown streets (“Outlawing the Poor,” Feb. 21). The homeless have always been in downtown, mostly because they have nowhere else to go. For them, it is the end of the trail. Besides the fact that there are no services for the homeless in the ’burbs, the homeless are even less welcome out there. And though there are always non-homeless people in the ’burbs, downtown Nashville is often abandoned after working hours, even with today’s downtown loft dwellers. These residents spend almost no more time on downtown streets than when they lived in the ’burbs and only worked downtown.

The real issue, as always, is money. These non-homeless people living downtown are expecting to make money off the downtown mystique. They bought property downtown, hoping only to resell it in a short time. Others have opened businesses, hoping to make a huge profit on the inflated costs of downtown living. All of which wouldn’t be such a problem except for one thing—greed.

These people, who call themselves pioneers, are actually just profiteers. And they don’t just want to make a living, they want to make a killing. They want to maximize their profits and are willing to do anything to anyone to make it happen. To them, all profit is good profit—regardless of who they hurt in the process.

They wrongly believe that homeless people interfere with their profit-making processes. Sure, they will provide anecdotal evidence, but there is no hard empirical evidence, no scientific study, proving that a panhandler outside a business will hurt that business’s bottom line. An inconvenience? A nuisance? Perhaps. But we cannot outlaw people for being a nuisance—otherwise every human being would be in jail.

Regardless of all the hype, most people feel safe downtown, even with the presence of homeless people. The Nashville Downtown Partnership’s own surveys prove as much.

If interested parties want to see an end to homelessness in Nashville, they could start by reallocating money they spend to hire cops to harass the homeless and put that money into homeless rehabilitation programs that work.

Again, thanks to Jeff Woods for getting the truth out there. Besides knowing the truth of the matter, he writes it very well.

Homeless People Are Not Pets

A homeless guy in California discusses the issue of preference between homeless people and homeless animals. It's a good read. SLO Homeless

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Recently On The Homeless Guy

This morning, at sun-up, the temperature was 62 degrees. Now at 11am, it is 51 degrees. We will be down to 32 degrees before the day is over. The past 2 days saw highs in the 70s. Such is Nashville's weather.

I now have a new (to me) laptop. It had been stripped over everything but XP, so I've been adding things to it, running it through diagnostics etc. If someone has a spare copy of Office, I could sure use it. For now I'll use Wordpad when needed. The laptop is a Dell Latitude D800. The screen is wider than I've had previously. Can't wait to run a movie on it. The color of the screen is a little yellowish. If you know how to correct that, please let me know. Otherwise, the machine works great, is fast, and has lots of storage space.

I had a meeting with my first real meeting with my case manager yesterday. We have a sheet full of tasks to take care of and goals to meet. It will take some work, and overcoming some obstacles, to get me into housing. But try we will. The first housing will probably be ghetto-ish, but other applications are being worked on, so hopefully I'll be able to move into a better place in short order. My first apartments in Nashville were around Vandy (vanderbilt university). My first jobs in town were on West End Ave, which runs right past Vandy.

It's going to rain most all day long today. There's a bible study/bring your own lunch, thing at church at noon. I'll be going to that. I don't have a ticket for Room In The Inn tonight. So, I might have to stay at the mission, which means looking for a safe place to put the laptop.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Recognizing Homeless Deaths

SFGATE.ComHollywood has its star Walk of Fame, but San Francisco could soon have a Walk of Shame - complete with human-shaped bronze sidewalk plaques marking where the city's homeless have died on the streets.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution last week urging the Department of Public Works to approve a privately funded plan to install "commemorative bronze sidewalk plaques" in the districts of Supervisors Chris Daly and Ross Mirkarimi, both champions of the city's homeless.

However, it doesn't seem many of the supes bothered to read the resolution before voting "yes."

Mirkarimi, for example, was listed as co-sponsor - but he knew little about the project when we contacted him after the vote, and he referred us to Daly's office.

Daly did not return calls or a written request for comment, although his staff confirmed he had met with the memorial's organizer.

And board President Aaron Peskin couldn't recall the measure.

But Ian Brennan, the man behind the project - and who spends his time commuting between San Francisco and Los Angeles - couldn't be happier.

Brennan is a record producer, twice nominated for Grammy awards, who has spent years working with the mentally ill in Oakland. He said the idea would be to place human-shaped plaques, about 2 feet by 2 feet, in sidewalks and inscribe them with details of the deceased's lives and the circumstances of their deaths.

Brennan said the plaques are not intended to be provocative, but if the memorials upset people more than the reality of homelessness, "then it obviously illustrates the problem really well."

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Alcoholism and Homelessness

I posted a survey in the left hand column about the subject of selling alcohol to alcoholics. I you are reading this not long after I posted it, then it will still be there. Otherwise you'll have to search for it at the bottom of this page. I will try as much as possible, not to delete any of my surveys.

Surveys are tricky, if not fun, cause they ask a very simplified question, requiring the person answering the question to sift through all the info and personal experiences logged within their brains and come up with what they believe is the most appropriate answer. It's a great way to get people thinking, and hopefully engaging in conversation. I just may attempt, again, to open up a related discussion board for my surveys and blog posts.

For this particular survey, I received an email from a regular reader who stated, "About your poll--there are alcoholics galore in my family :( but we (society) can't play Big Brother--where would it end?."

Alcoholism has often be called "the slow suicide." Besides all the trouble that comes to a person's life for drinking, consuming alcohol, uncontrollably, causes irreparable damage to one's internal organs. And left unchecked, will lead to death. Our society has deemed it appropriate, even necessary, that we (society) intervene in such cases. When a person, for whatever reason, is doing harm to him/herself, then society is obligated to take steps to save that person. Even if it means saving them from themselves. I think that should include taking such steps as preventing an alcoholic, as much as possible, from obtaining alcohol. Sure, a motivated alcoholic just might find a way to get his drink, but there is no doubt that such measures by society will save many lives. As much as Prohibition was declared a failure, it actually did reduce the amount of alcohol people consumed. And, certainly, I'm not talking a complete ban on alcohol. What i think would be appropriate would be similar to the laws that are currently in place preventing people with violent histories from buying guns.

An additional benefit would be that the general public would not have to deal as much, or as often, with the "publicly drunk" alcoholic. And since panhandling is the means by which most homeless alcoholics have purchasing power, outlawing the sale of alcohol to known alcoholics would reduce panhandling.

If my little brother were an alcoholic, I certainly would play the role of Big Brother, and do all I could do to prevent him from killing himself. The longer I can keep my brother alive, the more chances he has of coming back to his right mind and getting the upper hand on his problem.

But, that's just my opinion.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Recent Readings On Homelessness