Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Rest Of Preston Grishaber's Questions

For a summer class project, Preston has sent me 10 questions about this blog. I'll try my best to answer them all in the time allotted.

6.       What would be your ideal writing experience be, I read in a older posted article in USA Today that you would like to write a book, would that  be your ideal experience or just another stepping stone?

Answer: Although I do a bit of writing, I don't really consider myself a writer. Well, not much of a writer. I'm more of an advocate who writes, than a writer who advocates. The idea of a book interested me only so far as it would 1.) further my advocacy for the homeless, and 2.) would generate an income I could live on. After having researched the book writing process and discovering the very limited potential for getting a book published, and even more limited potential for making a living from it, I've pretty much given up on the idea. Although I have overcome a lot conerning writing, the act of writing is still very difficult for me, and I don't do it very well. I seriously doubt, given all I know about myself, and given what is involved in getting a book published, that I have it in me to make a book a reality.

7.       Where do you think you would be if you hadn’t started or found writing as an outlet and way to communicate with others?

Answer: I have no idea. There really is no way to see down paths you have never traveled. The blog gave me a reason to live that I did not have before.

8.       Homelessness has greatly affected your life, do you think that if you had not experienced homelessness that you would still be writing?

Answer: Homelessness didn't "affect" my life, homelessness is my life. From my current vantage point, given my mental health issues with Aspergers and the lack of compassion I was raised with, it seems pretty clear that I was destined for homelessness. It was only a matter of time. Writing only came to me by chance of the educational program that was offered at the homeless day shelter, and by the advent of blogs. Without those two events, I don't think I would have bothered with writing.

9.       One of your posts talked about your bucket list, what are your top 5 items and do any of the involve writing?

Answer: I don't recall a bucket list. I may have written one but it doesn't come to mind. At this particular moment in my life, writing a bucket list seems pretty silly since I don't have the means to fulfill any thing of that nature. Though, now that you've got me thinking about, I can imagine doing some things. I would like to live out the rest of my days near an ocean beach. I would like to travel Europe and visit the great art museums, and historical sites - perhaps a tour of all the places where Van Gogh lived and painted. I would like to live in a real house in a normal american suburb. (though still near an ocean) I feel like the inner city is contributing to my early demise. I'd like to have my children (who are now grown) visit me on a regular basis. This would require me having a regular home, the place I have now is no place to entertain visitors. And, I'd like to "go home" like the character Sol did in the movie, "Soylent Green," listening to Beethoven's Pastoral and surrounded by nature's beauty.

10.   If there is one message that others should take from your blog what do you think it would be?

Answer: Sadly, I'm not sure that I have put the right material into the blog that would allow people to get my message about homelessness.

My message would be along the lines of:
Life really is too short, and too precious, for people to be wasting time harassing each other over their imperfections. If you think it's important that people do better with their lives, then be the one who gets in there and helps them become better.

There is the old saying, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for life." Concerning homelessness I think the saying should continue, "But if you're unwilling to teach him how to fish, then shut the hell up and leave him alone."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Contributor Press Conference

Street Newspaper Asserts Its Rights

As seen in The Tennessean
(it appears this article has been dropped from the Tennessean webpage, but is going national through the Associated Press)

The Contributor filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the City of Brentwood over the presence of newspaper vendors on the city’s streets.

The paper is sold on Nashville area streets by the homeless and the formerly homeless to help provide a view of life on the streets and to aid those who are without homes.

In January, Calvin Hart and Andrew Harrington were collectively sentenced to a fine of $125 after distributing the paper in Brentwood, which has caused other vendors of The Contributor to stay away from selling in Brentwood.

The city is arguing that Hart and Harrington were in violation of The City of Brentwood Ordinance section 58-1, which says "no person shall use or occupy any portion of the public street, alley, sidewalk or right of way for the purpose of storing, selling, or exhibiting any goods, wares, merchandise or materials."

The Contributor is arguing this as a freedom of speech issue, citing "deprivation of First Amendment rights."
This was in the article at Channel 5:
Brentwood City Manager Mike Walker also said the city is in the process of amending its current ordinances to address concerns that were raised by the ACLU. He said the amendments will make it clear that newspaper sales on public sidewalks are permitted, as long as vendors do not enter the street. Walker expects the amendments to be in place by the end of July.

He went on to say that the city had previously advised the ACLU that the ordinance would be amended, and city leaders were surprised that the ACLU had still chosen to file a lawsuit against the city.
It should be noted that the city of Brentwood has very few sidewalks. Most of their streets are built without them. People who walk to their destinations just don't seem to be welcomed there.

MetaFilter

I recently tried, and failed, to find this mention on Metafilter, but checking my site meter today I found that someone had followed a link from it to my blog. I back tracked the link and there it was. It was this short mention on MetaFilter that launched my internet popularity, a popularity that has now all but faded from memory.

http://www.metafilter.com/20013/The-Homeless-Guy-Weblog (look at the date of that post).

The comments start out pretty harsh, and even nine years later it still hurts to read them. But as the conversation in the comment section continues, a certain amount of balance of opinions is achieved.

Nine years ago only a very small fraction of the world's population knew about blogs. I started blogging in the later part of 2002. In 2003, when Google took over Blogger, Blogger was responsible for about 250,000 of the net's total blogs. In 2009 Blogger had 300,000,000 regular users. Add to that total all the Myspace, and Livejournal and WordPress users, and some 500 million active Facebook users today. (Yes, Facebook is a form of blogging, at least in my book it is.) http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics

We've all come a long way since those early days. So has many people's understanding of homelessness. Still, there are a lot of haters in the world. Homeless people still face an incredible uphill battle.

Tracy Morgan Is Not The Devil

Jesus Christ, people. Comedians make fun of people. That's what they get paid to do. Have a damn sense of humor and stop being 'offended' at every little thing. Every comedian makes fun of gays and retarded people and the homeless and every other "group" you can image. If you don't like this kind of language, then don't go to comedy clubs. Get over yourselves. People Are Taking This Too Far.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

U2 Tribute Concert To Benefit The Contributor



Please join us tomorrow evening, June 29th at the Downtown Presbyterian Church for great music and for a great cause,
your Nashville street newspaper!

"When Love Comes To Town"

In tribute and celebration of U2's first show in Nashville in over 20 years, some of Nashville's finest artists (who are longtime fans of the band) will play their favorite U2 songs and maybe gush a little bit about "the best rock-n-roll band in the world", to quote Bono (It ain't braggin' if it's true).

There is a $5 suggested donation with all proceeds benefiting
The Contributor's summer fund drive.

Doors open at 7:00 pm
Downtown Presbyterian Church, Nashville
154 5th Avenue North
Nashville, Tennessee

Thank you for your support as The Contributor continues to change lives.

Questions 3 4 And 5 From Preston Grishaber


For a summer class project, Preston has sent me 10 questions about this blog. I'll try my best to answer them all in the time allotted.

3.       Were you always interested in writing and was it always targeted at current events and issues you hold at a personal level?

Answer: I think that my answer to this question is addressed in my answers to questions 1 and 2. It is interesting how different aspects of writing are interconnected and that you can't always adequately discuss one aspect without mentioning the others. I think the same could be said about the next two questions.
 
4.  How do you think that your homelessness experience offers a different or unique view to your writing, and its processes? 5.  While reading your blog I found that you believe you have Aspergers disease, do you  think this influences your point of view, or how and what you write about?

Answer: I believe that for the most part people's writing style and process develops internally and thus separate from their external environment and experiences. Everyone who writes with intention develops their own unique method which best suits them - that best allows them to tap into the writing process, that part of their brain that allows writing to happen.

Still, the external environment has some say in the matter. In Stephen King's book, "On Writing" he discusses how he organizes the writing task. He has a room separate from the rest of the house. There is nothing in that room but the tools for writing, a table and chair, a typewriter or computer, a clock. He goes into that room every day to do nothing but write. He writes none stop for three hours (cranking out some 10,000 words at a time). Then he leaves that room and does not write again until the next day. He compartmentalizes his writing, and does not allow it to interfere with the the other aspects of his life. Not everyone can be so disciplined, such a process may not work for other writers. While some writers can type out whole chapters in one siting, others may spend an entire day struggling over just one sentence. It took Herman Melville a year to write Moby Dick (208,000 words). John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath in less than 6 months, (180,000 words).

Being homeless, I was limited in the amount of time I could dedicate to writing, I could not write while in a shelter. Usually I had to be in the shelter by 5pm and did not leave until the next morning. Although I first wrote in journals and could write almost any where but in the shelter, once I started writing with computers, (first at the public library then on my own laptop), I gave up using journals. And when someone donated a laptop to me for the first time, I was able to cut my umbilical cord to the library and I could go anywhere to write.

Concerning Asperger's Syndrome, let me emphasis one important aspect. It is not a disease, it is a condition. Just as everyone's bodies are shaped differently, some are tall and some short, etc., some people have brains that operate differently than others. Aspies (people with Asperger's) are more intellectually sensitive in some brain functions and less sensitive in others, as compared to more typically brained people.

Aspies are more matter-of-fact towards subjects of interest and are less swayed by the emotional influences that may be attached. I think this leads Aspies to have a more factually accurate, though clinical, understanding of subjects of interest. This tends to make them appear more cold and aloof, and less perceptive of the emotional human intricacies that influence our relationships to subjects of interest. It's not that Aspies are emotionless, or lack empathy, we just find emotions in others more confusing and difficult to understand and interpret correctly. We have a harder time recognizing emotional influences, so we avoid that aspect of things and focus on the more tangible.

There is also my familiarity to homelessness that may effect my perspective of it. Years of living on the street desensitized me to the more shocking aspects of homelessness. When I see someone overly react to homeless people I have to remind myself that the very first time I entered a rescue mission, it took me about an hour to build up the courage to walk in. The people inhabiting the mission were scary looking and behaved oddly, the building itself had an ominous vibe to it. I have to remind myself that I see homelessness differently than others do. I'm sure this effects my writing, and how other's read it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The New Monastics In Nashville

I know these people, they are good people. If you're interested at all in new ways of helping the less fortunate, you should read this article. USAToday

Question 2 From Preston Grishaber

For a summer class project, Preston has sent me 10 questions about this blog. I'll try my best to answer them all in the time allotted.

2.       You mentioned in one of your posts that you started blogging because you were told on a discussion board that you were ranting and that a blog might be a better venue for you, how do you feel that this switch has changed your writings and life, if at all?

Answer:
The advent of the internet played an even bigger part in changing my life, than blogging did.  Sure, the internet itself has revolutionized the way people communicate.  But for me specifically, (and I'm sure for others like me) it created an even bigger change.   I suffer from social phobias, so it was usually difficult for me to engage people, especially in important and meaningful conversation.  For this, I lived a very isolated life.  And this isolation certainly interfered with my ability to fend for myself, which in turn had a lot to do with my becoming homeless.   As the internet became popular, the coffee shop where I hung out placed a computer at the bar and allowed patrons to use it, and access AOL.   This was my first real venture into internet chatting.

Not long after I started playing around with AOL, something very surprising happened.   A whole different side of my personality emerged.  Something about the dynamics of chat rooms allowed me to be myself in ways I'd never experienced before.  I was free from the phobias and anxieties that had plague me.  In the chat rooms, people responded favorably to what I had to say.  I was told that I was funny, that I was charming, that I was smart.  People actually sought me out for conversation.  This kind of thing had never happened before.  As you can imagine, I quickly became fond of the internet and what it was offering.  Some may say that the internet is not real life, but for me, the internet became my life.  Being in those chat rooms was more fulfilling than any in-person relationship I ever experienced.  This introduction to chat rooms happened in the mid to late 90s, a couple years before I started utilizing discussion boards.

Before the internet, I had pretty much given up on having meaningful inter-personal relationships, but after these experiences in AOL, I was motivated to try again and seek out real life friendships outside of the internet.

The discussion board I was frequenting, prior to blogging, was operated and populated by several of the people whom I was also attempting to socialize with in the real world. I was drawn to them because they were mostly well educated intellectual Christians. They were very different from the fundamentalist Christians I had been surrounded with for years in the homeless shelter community.  Many of the people using this discussion board also attended the church that served a free lunch to the homeless every Wednesday.  That's how I became familiar with them in the first place.

Although I fared well in chat rooms, I didn't do so well on discussion boards. Where chat rooms were mostly small talk and flirting, talk on discussion boards was more serious - politics and religion and the like.

Being that I still lacked good social skills,  I struggled to connect with these people on a meaningful level. The kinds of discussions these people engaged in, I was not so good at.  Also, they all had similar backgrounds that I was unfamiliar with, some had attended college together.  And, they seemed to have a similar world view that I often did not fully understand and often disagreed with.  I had almost nothing in common with them.  Still, the seemed to have to all together, and I wanted to be like them. To them, I'm sure I was little more than a troll.

When posting on discussion boards I rarely offered up my own ideas. The majority of my writing was in reaction to other people's postings. I often found fault with their views, and opinions, and never hesitated to tell them so. Yeah, I guess I was a troll. :) Blogging forced me to generate my own content. I was no longer in “respond” mode. I was putting myself, my ideas, my perspectives, on view for others to examine.   I quickly found myself placed on the butcher's block of internet criticism. Yeah, I guess turn about is fair play. Although I did get a lot of positive feed back from people, I was often the one being trolled. It was humbling to say the least. I learned a lot from this and I think I'm a better person for it. I certainly communicate with more respect towards others now. Still, I'm relatively opinionated, and from time to time I will call someone out for being less than intelligent on a discussion board, or in a comment section, (thank you cnn.com).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Question 1 From Preston Grishaber


For a summer class project, Preston has sent me 10 questions about this blog. I'll try my best to answer them all in the time allotted.

Question 1.     What prompted to you to start writing, and what was the first venue you started using, did you write anything else prior to starting blogging?

Answer:
A little background first. As a kid going through public schools, I had a horrible time with English. I did acceptable work in other subjects, yet in English I was always on the verge of failing. Although never officially diagnosed, I believe I have some form of dyslexia. My brain just did not process words very well. Not only could I not write well, I could not read well either, I guess it goes without saying that I was also terrible at spelling. It is not that I failed to understand definitions of words, it was the processing of those words through my brain for effective communication that was malfunctioning.  Something always got lost in the process.  My parents believed that my bad grades in English were due to me being lazy and rebellious. In an attempt to cure me of this I was often punished. Being punished for something that was beyond my control was confusing, and caused me a lot of problems.  I became depressed and overly wrought with guilt. This also effected my self esteem, and I began to hate myself. Because I wasn't very good at it, and that I carried emotional baggage for it, I came to hate the task of writing and reading. This stayed with me for a long time.

Fast forward many years. I met a woman who helped me get off the streets. We eventually married, we had a couple kids, bought a house, etc. When we divorced, I returned to the streets. Not long after that, she began accusing me of things I had not done. So, I started keeping a journal in which I wrote a list of my daily activities; where I was, at what time, what I was doing. I felt I needed it in case I ever had to prove my whereabouts. After a few months of this, I started adding things to the journal, writing out my thoughts about life etc. It was pretty basic and poorly written, but it got me in the habit of putting pen to paper on a regular basis. The cheap spiral notebooks, pens, and coffee at the mom and pop coffee shop, I paid for with money I made selling blood plasma. Writing in the journal gave me something to do while sitting in the cafe for hours on end, seeing as I had no where else to go.

Then I found out about an educational program being offered at the Room In The Inn homeless day shelter. The program was self paced and lasted about a year, with lessons to do each day. The technical definition of the program was "neural linguistic programming." Its commercial name was "Expressways to Learning." Each session consisted of 40 words of an 8th grade vocabulary. It wasn't so much about learning the words as it was about the act of processing the words. In one section of a session each word would flash on the screen and I would have to say the word, or I would hear each word through the head phones and would have to write it down. This repetition of hearing, seeing, saying, and writing the words helped condition my brain to process words more efficiently. When I completed the program I was reading and writing better than ever. And I was motivated to continue with improving these skills afterwards. The first book I read after the program was Moby Dick. In a few years I had read several novels. Prior to this program I had never read an entire novel.

In the late 90's, while homeless, I did get an idea about creating a newsletter, of sorts, to explain homelessness to the general public, seeing as most people didn't understand it. Researching this idea on the internet at the public library, I discovered that other cities had Street Papers that were already doing what I had envisioned. I contacted these papers and got some advice on how to proceed. Using a computer at a homeless shelter, and borrowing money from a couple friends, I made two issues of “Homeword”. They were surprisingly well received. Still, it was costing me 80 cents to make each copy of the paper that I was selling for a dollar. Soon after I came out with the second issue, I got an opportunity to move into a halfway house, so I abandoned the project and took a job working at a convenience store.

After working at the store for a year I was able to move out of the halfway house and into my own apartment.  But, a year after I got my apartment, I was let go from my job.  The store was going out of business.  I eventually lost the apartment and ended up back on the streets.  By this time, Nashville had built a new public library downtown.  It was a very large building and was furnished with a hundred internet accessible computers. I started spending all my days at the library and on the internet. That's when I started getting involved in discussion boards, and soon after, into blogging.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Twitter @KevinBarbieux

Yes, I just started a new twitter account. @KevinBarbieux

Follow me.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Long Time Ago.

Here is a news spot featuring yours truly from a LONG TIME AGO. Thanks Cal, for making this available.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Now Hiring

This comes from the offices of The Contributor, Nashville's homeless newspaper.


We are happy to announce a number of new paid positions with us. Descriptions and application instructions are below. Please read and forward to anyone who may be interested. We’re really looking forward to adding to our team!

Vendor Field Organizer
(Part-Time: 25 hours/week at $14.00 an hour plus mileage)
The Contributor is seeking an individual with a vehicle in good working condition who will be responsible for providing support for current vendors in the greater Nashville area both in the office and out in the field where The Contributor’s vendors work, while answering vendor hotline calls. Conflict resolution skills are a must. This position will also be responsible for managing data related to this support and helping collect related data from other areas of the organization.
Duties include, but are not limited to:
1. Vendor Support (approx. 15 hours / week)
a. Attend weekly staff and vendor meetings
b. Patrol key areas and hotspots two days a week
c. Talk to vendors concerning complaints and vendor requests
d. Answer vendor hotline calls (during above hours)
2. Data Management (approx. 10 hours / week)
a. Enter data attained through secret shopper program, codes of conduct & surveys
b. Input vendor specific complaints and news into vendor blog
c. Forward other vendor data to The Director of Vending
Skills needed:
Excellent communication skills
Ability to remain calm and patient under stressful conditions
A valid driver’s license and access to a vehicle in reasonable working condition
Familiarity with Mac computers, social media, email, Microsoft Word and databases
Hire by date: July 11th, 2011
Send Letter of interest and resume by June 28th to:
Tom Wills, Director of Vending, at tom@thecontributor.org

CPA
(Contract: salary negotiable)
The Contributor is seeking a Certified Public Accountant for bookkeeping and tax purposes.
Please send letter of interest, resume and salary requirements by June 28th to:
Tom Wills at tom@thecontributor.org

Event Planner
(Part-Time or Contract, Temporary: salary negotiable)
The Contributor is seeking a part-time or contract, temporary event planner to organize and assist organization of multiple conference and fundraising events for the remainder of 2011.
Please send Letter of interest, resume and salary requirements by June 28th to:
Tasha French, Executive Director, at tasha@thecontributor.org

What You Should Know

Here are today's important links.

It's difficult to find people telling the truth about homelessness.
How Many Homeless People Are There?

We must fight for our right to do the right thing.
Homeless Sue City.
Sharing Food Is Now A Crime.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Memory Lane

Amazingly, some of the first articles written about this blog can still be found on the internet. In August, this blog will be 9 years old. Can you imagine it? Back then there was no Myspace, no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube, and no Flickr. Some of these now life dominating services were still a couple years away. Spell Check didn't recognize "homelessness" as a real word. It does now.

Check out these articles:
USAToday (I still remember going to a hotel downtown early in the morning and snagging a copy of the paper the day the article came out.)
Salon.com (This reporter was actually the first to contact me for an interview.)
Associated Press article (will cost $1.50 to read it - bastards!)

Contributor Vendors

The Contributor is Nashville's homeless newspaper. It employs homeless and formerly homeless people as vendors to sell the paper. There is an average of 400 vendors throughout the Nashville/Davidson County area (over 500 square miles), and beyond. Over 30% of The Contributor's vendors are able to earn enough money through selling the paper to get themselves a place off the streets. No other homeless service provider can make such a claim.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Various Causes, One Solution To Homelessness

Photo by russelljsmith on Flickr
Can we be honest? Let's be honest. Honesty is so important to curing homelessness. And really, dishonesty is a major factor is preventing people from escaping homelessness. Oh, there's lots of dishonesty to be found in the homeless world. Homeless people are dishonest, homeless shelter workers are dishonest, politicians... well, that's a given. Everyone has a say, and everyone has an impact, in the lives of homeless people, (of all people really). But homelessness needs a cure, and cures require science.  Science is the practice of finding the truth. And, I am a big proponent of the idea, "The truth will set you free."

Lately there has been a lot of discussion about homeless specialities. Most vocal of late has been the talk concerning homeless gays, and homeless teen gays. Article after article states that these gay teens who happen to be homeless need special consideration, special help, in overcoming their homelessness. And, every other speciality of homelessness has been discussed in the same matter. If you are black, or gay, a woman, whatever, there is supposedly some special cure for your homelessness that is different and special from all the other homeless people and their cure.

Hogwash!

Becoming homeless is much like committing suicide. Contrary to popular belief, people do not commit suicide because they happen to be gay, or black, or a women, or whatever. They do so because they are suffering from depression. It is the depression that leads people to suicide, not the situations that they are mulling over when depressed. Depression causes people to magnify the negative and difficult aspects of their lives completely out of proportion, giving the sufferer a distorted perspective of their life and situation.

The statement, "I'm homeless because I'm gay," just doesn't cut it. No, you're homeless because your parents are assholes and kicked you out of their house. The statement, "I'm homeless because I'm black," doesn't cut it either. No, you're homeless because, while growing up in the projects, no one ever taught you the life skills necessary for living independent of institutional help.

Let me be clear about this, I am in no way intending to belittle the difficulties people face in being whom ever they happen to be. Life can be hard, even in the best of circumstances. Yes, generally speaking, black people have more difficulties in life than white people,  and generally speaking, gays have more difficulties in life than straight people. Yet, there are many white people who have it worse than blacks, and many straight people who have it worse than gays. (Feel free to insert any particular life speciality in the above statement, it's all the same.

Homeless people need two things to overcome homelessness. They need to learn the life skills necessary for effectively organizing their lives, and they need the means by which to earn an income necessary for paying for their needs. That's it.  Nothing else is needed in order to overcome homelessness.  Sure, it's easier to say than to do, but nothing more is involved in the cure.  Addressing the issues that make someone different from other people has nothing to do with curing homelessness. They are all arbitrary to the homeless condition.

I say all this mostly because we must be honest about life. Whether homeless or not, life is often difficult. Curing yourself of homelessness is not going to make all the other problems of your life go away. And, it would be stupid and a waste of time to wait for all your life's problems to be solved before taking the steps necessary for ending your homelessness. You'll never leave homelessness if you do.

Freedom Of The Press

Foto by Gluemoon at Flickr.
Freedom of the "press" wasn't first drafted only for businesses that sold information as entertainment. It was meant for every single citizen to publish their thoughts and report on the world around them. As Americans it is your right and duty to participate in the freedom to "press", just as much as it is your right and duty to vote.

Of course, with the right to participate in the Freedom of The Press comes the responsibility to tell the story accurately and truthfully. Know that many people are incapable of doing so, so always keep the salt shaker handy.

Here I Come

It's the first day of Summer 2011.   No better day to gear up my blogging efforts in earnest.   I am making the commitment to make at least one blog post every single day.   I will blog about homelessness, and I will blog about all the issues I think are important and relevant.   I'll be video blogging too.   To make sure you don't miss out, "like" my facebook page at http://facebook.com/thehomelessguy .

If you find my efforts worth supporting, please send a donation through the paypal link.  My computer is old and has been acting up.  I've put it through a lot.  It was a refurbished model when I got.   I need to replace it before it completely conks out.  Your help would be very much appreciated.  thanks.

‎"There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for."--Sam Gamgee, Lord of the Rings