Friday, September 30, 2011

Observational Bias

Observational Bias is the clinical term used by scientists to describe one of the difficulties of determining the truth. Everyone has biases, everyone has preferences of how they'd like the world to be, or how they think the world is, and this gets in the way of them seeing how things really are. These biases not only make doing science more difficult, it also makes people's personal lives more troublesome.

It is these biases that lead to the creation of stereotypes and prejudices towards people and ideas. Shortly after childhood a person begins developing ideas about the world, trying to give names and definitions to the things they have experienced. Young people are also subjected to a lot of input from adults too, that affects the way in which they look at the world and everything that is in it. And these early ideas, and lessons from teachers and parents and church etc, (because they are our first thoughts on the subject) are most embedded into our minds, stay with us the longest, and are hardest to break away from.

When we are children, our parents and others try to teach us right from wrong, and how to behave properly. One of the things they did was to tell us that if we do a bad thing, then something bad will happen to us. They illicit fear as a way of controlling us. They said things like, "if you're bad, then Santa Claus won't bring you any presents." We also learn about "sin" at church at this age too, and about Karma. In our minds we take this to mean that bad things happen to bad people. Add to this people's natural tendency to follow patterns and we soon start believing that, whenever something bad happens to a person, it's because they are a bad person. Of course that is not true. Bad things happen to good people just as much as to bad people.

We grow up believing these, and other such things, and they affect how we see the world, and other people. It is how we develop our biases.

Now, consider homeless people. They are the most despised and feared and are also the most misunderstood group of people in our country.

When we look at homeless people, either on our tv sets, or computers, or when driving by them in our cars, we look at them in puzzlement. We don't really understand them, what they are doing, why they even exist. And because we don't have any immediate information to draw from, our minds start attributing other non-related ideas to the homeless.

In the homelessness industry, observational bias has a huge negative impact on homeless people. It affects how they are perceived and how they are treated.

Most people who work with the homeless do so from a religious, and mostly Christian background. In many homeless shelters it is a requirement for employment that the people working there have a strong background in Christianity/bible study, etc. This causes the people working with the homeless to see all homeless people from a certain point of view. And this point of view prevents them from seeing the homeless for who they truly are. When people view homelessness as only the result of "sin," then they can see no other potential causes for it. They will actually deny any other causes for homelessness. This affects not only their idea of a cause, but also what they believe to be the cure of homelessness. Most people working at christian rescue missions believe, and teach, that the only way out of homelessness is for a homeless person to convert to Christianity, to be "reborn" in the "Fundamentalist" sense. Because they are so biased towards their Christian faith, using everything they can find to justify their faith, and attempting to prove their beliefs to be valid, they will deny any other means by which a person can escape homelessness. I have known many people who have escaped homelessness, and very few of them ever converted to Christianity in the process.

I have also known people who have worked in homeless shelters for 20, 30 years or more, and because of their various biases, they still have no clue about the realities of homelessness, what causes it, what cures it, and why it makes people so miserable.

To really help homeless people, to help them overcome their many and serious problems, you have to rid yourself of your biases. Not until you can see homeless people for who they truly are, you'll never be of any real help to them.

Although everyone has an observational bias, that does not mean that it cannot be overcome. But it does require a person to first admit that they are biased. And then they have to take clear and direct steps to remove it from themselves. This means they must learn to be more honest with themselves, and about themselves than ever before. It often means admitting some ugly truths about one's self. And that process can sometimes be painful. But the results will be worth it. You'll see the truth of things like never before.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stock Market Buffoonery

When the stock market drops 400 points or so, the media and political pundits rev up into high gear, writing articles and ranting on tv, assigning blame mostly on the president, and casting dire predictions of doom and gloom for america. But when, in a very short time later, the market completely recovers and then some, you hear nothing but crickets.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada

Someone recently asked me what I thought was the best shelter service for the homeless.  It is this, the St Vincent dePaul Center run by Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada.   This video is a recent fundraiser piece, so it has the fundraiser vibe going on.  But it does show some of the very facilities I made use of in my time there.



Yes, the meals they offer are exceptional.  Yes, everyone staying at the shelter is treated with a great deal of respect by  the people employed there.  There are no homeless people supervising other homeless people.  The kitchen is run by a professional kitchen manager, so the food was always tasty and nutritious.  The menu was posted weekly so people always knew what to expect and their was never any repetition of meals during the week.  Security is provided by a well organized and professional security guard company,  and because of this the shelter was free of violence.

The men in the work rehab program that I was involved with worked three days on the property, and two days in the day labor business that was run by the shelter.  And every one got two days off a week.  There were no restrictions on where a person could go, or when they could go there.   AA and NA services were available but not mandatory.  Counseling was always available, but not mandatory.   If a person staying at the shelter was able to secure a real job, they were still allowed to stay in the shelter for up to two years and pay a minimal rent, and have no other obligations to the shelter.

There were several different dorms completely separated from each other.  There was the dorm for the street homeless, to give them a place for the night.   Then there was the work dorm for those in the work rehab program, and there was another dorm for those who had their own jobs outside the shelter.   There was also a dorm for the older guys who could not work.  There was an apartment building for people with disabilities who were on a fixed income and drawing social security.

In addition to the dormitories, there was a food stamp office on the property, their were services for recently relocated immigrants to assist them in getting used to their new home.  There was a pair of restrooms near the entrance to the property that were left open 24 hours a day for anyone who needed it.

I remember back when I was staying there, they had a moto on their web site:  "we serve a community, not a denomination."  Religion was not forced on anyone there, but everyone knew that religion was the reason for the place existing, so there was no need for constant reminders.  The focus was on helping restore people's lives, not on creating converts.   Funny, but by restoring people's lives they did make a few converts.   Really, if a christian is doing it right, they won't have to chase down converts, the converts will come to them.  It's the quality of the help given, not the quality of the sermon, that ultimate wins a person to Jesus.

Homeless People Think About Politics Too.

image from cnn.com

People are getting this one wrong, and that is bad news. There is nothing wrong with our political system, ie The Constitution, it has worked fine since the beginning of our country. What's broken are the people within our political system. They are a mess. Instead of allowing the system to work as designed, they are purposely trying to shut it down. They are doing so because they and their cronies benefit, mostly financially, when the system is not allowed to work.

(BTW, I have often heard it implied that homeless people must all be liberals because they are all looking for a handout. Ugh. That's so not true, and can only be believed by people who don't know much about homelessness. There are MANY politically conservative homeless people. And the majority of homeless people hate to be the position of having to accept charity.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Carl Resener

I just got word that Carl Resener, the former director of the Nashville Rescue Mission, passed away today. He retired from mission work in 2000.

There are three things about the man that stand out the most in my mind.

He was mostly a ghost around the mission. It was a rare occurrence for homeless people to see him around the mission, except for the Sunday Sermon, which he always preached. All the other 13 sermons given at the mission each week, one required to receive lunch, and one required to receive a bed for the night, were given by other staff members. When Resener arrived each morning at the mission, he made a bee line for his office, and when he left for the day, he made a bee line to his car. And if you dared to stop him to talk about something, while he went to or from his car, you'd get a mostly cold shoulder from the man.

He also had a regular turnover in staff. The mission often hired exceptional chaplains and management personnel. But these people, always looking to improve conditions at the mission, would run up against the brick wall of Carl Resener, when trying to implement changes to the mission system. Frustrated, these people would soon find employment elsewhere, where their talents would be more appreciated. The only staff members with longevity at the mission were those people who made no effort to improve things, and only did what they were told. Resener was the quintessential fundamentalist christian, holding to the belief that, because he had God on his side, he was complete in his work, he needed no other help, and nothing ever needed to change.

Lastly, of all the poorly given sermons I was forced to attend, so to receive food or a bed for the night, Reseners was by far the most boring, sleep producing, and mind grating. That's when I got into the habit of not eating lunch on Sundays.

Oh yeah, he also said that the work of AA was bad for people because they did not require people to declare Jesus to be their "higher power." He also denied the benefits of the science of Psychiatry.

Yes, I know that some people have this superstitious belief that it's wrong to speak ill of the dead. But really, these were the obvious features of the man, at least from the perspective of a homeless person who had to endure his "work in the name of Jesus."

Two Causes Of Homelessness

There is just as much variety in the homeless population as there is in the general population. But you can still divide homeless types into two distinct camps. And these two camps are so drastically different that they really should not be considered together. Sadly though, all homeless people, regardless of their differences, are all thrown into the same category, and all receive the same treatment, from homeless service providers, and from society in general.

The first camp consists of those people who become homeless ONLY because of some financial mishap. They were laid off from work and/or mismanaged their money, or their revenue stream stopped abruptly, (such as a stay at home mother/wife who suddenly separated from her husband). These people really have nothing in common with other homeless people. Their problems are limited to financial issues, and they have the skills and wherewithal to quickly overcome these issues on their own. This people will experience homelessness for a very short period and will most likely never experience homelessness a second time.

The second camp consists of all other homeless people. They become homeless because they lack the ability to engage society in a successful manner. Not only do they have problems that effect their abilities, they have an additional problem of having developed some detrimental coping issue. Alcoholism and drug adiction, and even mental health issues are all mechanisms that people use to help them cope with the problems they face in life. Although these things help them cope on one level, they actually become an additional hindrance to overcoming their problems. That may be why things like alcoholism and drug adiction are so difficult to overcome. These things make people feel safe and protected. And to overcome them, people have to allow themselves to let go of those feelings of safety and protection.

Only recently have I learned about Asperger's Syndrome and how it has effected my life. Since then I have seen many of my fellow homeless people in a new light. I see the symptoms of Asperger's in many homeless people. Depending on how a person with Aspergers is treated early in life, he/she may develop some very serious guilt and regret issues. And to help them deal with those issues they often take to drinking, or excessive drug use. And this is why I believe every homeless person of this type is actually dealing with mental health issues. A person doesn't have to be completely crazy for mental health issues to make them homeless. They only need enough of a mental health issue to effect their ability to engage with society successfully. All homelessness in this camp is caused by mental health issues, regardless of other problems they may be having.

So, that's the deal. There are only two causes of homelessness, one is based in financial issues, the other is based in mental health issues. I think it is important to note that society in general as some very messed up ideas about mental health, and so most people will deny their own mental health issues as well as deny mental health issues in other people. It's funny, but being afraid of mental health issues is itself a mental health issue.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Oyster Race

Call for volunteers: Nashville Oyster Adventure Race
Saturday, Oct. 8
Volunteers are needed for the Nashville Oyster Adventure Race benefiting The Contributor, Nashville’s street newspaper. What is the Oyster Race? It is billed as the "Ultimate Urban Adventure Race" for its uncanny ability to provide pure athleticism with thought-provoking strategy. The rules are kept a secret until the start of the race. All you know is that competitors will run-bike-scoot/ trek-climb-swim (and other crazy stuff) their away around Music City doing amazing things and performing some creative stunts. Approximately 60 volunteers will be needed throughout race day on Saturday, Oct. 8. Duties include setup, registration, race judging, and cleanup. Volunteers can sign up here. http://bit.ly/oyster2011 Email hello(at)nashvillehiking.com with questions.

Reality Strikes

This is true not only of Facebook, but of a great many things.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

You Cannot Enable Homelessness

I've written about this before.  I'll try to be more clear about it in this post.

You cannot enable homelessness.  You can, though, enable the conditions that lead to homelessness.

Homelessness happens as a result of a person's inability to engage society in a successful manner.  It is a relationship issue between the individual person and his or her world, alone.

What you can enable are the conditions that, in turn, have an effect on a person's ability to engage society.   If a person is an alcoholic, you can do things that will enable their alcoholism, like giving money to a panhandler.  If a person has mental health issues, you can treat them in such a way that their mental health becomes worse instead of better, such as by denying them the respect every person deserves.

Many people will say that by giving compassion to homeless people, you are enabling their homelessness.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Compassion is a restorative action that has the ability to heal people of their assorted problems.  And it's that healing that helps improve a person's ability to successfully engage the world, and thus leave homelessness.

Be compassionate, be supportive, don't abandon homeless people.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Big Problem At Homeless Shelters

Most homeless shelters use homeless people to perform chores and other tasks that need to be taken care of, even the chore of watching and supervising other homeless people, a supervisor of sorts, or providing security, or performing administrative tasks, etc. depending on the size of the shelter and the number of homeless people staying there.

This has been the cause of one of the biggest problems at homeless shelters, instigating the perpetual disharmony and often violent atmosphere found in shelters. The people running shelters call this "work rehab." But really, it's coerced, if not forced, labor.

This article from CNN.com explains "why" it's bad news:

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A new study by three universities shows that people holding positions of power with low status tend to demean others, one of the authors said.

The research sheds light on why clerks can seem rude or even why the Abu Ghraib guards humiliated and tortured their prisoners, the researcher said.

In an article to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers studied the relationship between the status and the power of a job, said Nathanael Fast, assistant professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.

The study, "The Destructive Nature of Power without Status," determined that the combination of some authority and little perceived status can be toxic.

"We found that people who had high power and high status, they were pretty cool," Fast told CNN. "But it was people who had power and lacked status who used their power to require other persons to engage in demeaning behavior."

In a field of study where psychologists and business schools are now jointly looking at how power shapes business relationships, the study's authors examined the notions of how low status is "threatening and aversive" and how power "frees people to act on their internal states and feelings," the researchers say.

"The world was shocked when pictures circulated in 2004 showing low-ranking U.S. soldiers physically and sexually abusing prisoners from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq," the study says.

"One could point to these examples as support for the popular idea that 'power corrupts.'

"However, we believe there is more to the story. Although it is true that the prison guards had power, it is equally true that their roles provided little to no respect and admiration in the eyes of others. They had power but they lacked status. We posit that understanding the combinations of these two variables — power and status — produces key insights into the causes of destructive and demeaning behavior," the study says.

~~~   The article goes on, but I think you get the idea.

In shelters, often one homeless person, usually someone who has been around longer than others, is chosen to do something like supervise the behavior of the other homeless people.   They are often given the title of "security guard" or some such.  It is their job to make sure the other homeless people follow rules and behave themselves properly.  But what usually happens is that the "security guard" takes advantage of his position and engages in inappropriate behavior himself.  I have seen such guards take advantage of others, harass others, make up rules to justify harassing people, falsely accuse others of inappropriate behavior, ban others from the property without warrant, give personal friends preferential treatment, etc.  And the administrators, wishing to be supportive of their "program people" will summarily side with their program people without actually looking into any facts of the situation.  Among other things, this sends a signal to the security person that he can get away with  his demeaning behavior towards other homeless people.

As you can imagine, there is usually a good deal of animosity towards the program people (still homeless themselves) from the general homeless population..   Funny, but the administrators of religion based shelters with usually dismiss complaints on their program people by declaring that the regular homeless are either jealous or still suffering from their sins.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Back To School

Yay! Welcome back to school. I can always tell when school has begun because I get a big increase in the number of people visiting this blog. I'm glad to have you here.

Whatever it is you are working on, an English paper, or research on homelessness, or studying computers and the effect of the internet, you'll find a lot of stuff to work with on my blog.

A while back, Blogger moved all my older archives to archive.org. There you will find my posts since the beginning of my blogging, back to 2002. Some of the things I wrote here are lost forever, but most of it is still intact. It's been a strange 9 years since then. I've gotten off the streets, and fell back into homelessness a couple times. But, I am currently in a program that has me off the streets but not quite out of homelessness either. There are many different ways to be homeless, and some people will argue over whether a person is really homeless or not, given their particular situation. There is no exact definition of homelessness, which I think is mostly a good thing because it makes people think more about it. There is more to people than just their living situation. Well, as I used to say, "There's more to homeless people than being homeless."

There are no easy answers to most questions about homelessness. That doesn't mean that their are no answers. But very few people truly understand homelessness, not enough sociologists and scientists are studying homelessness. We know a lot about outer space because people put a lot of money and effort into studying outer space. We know a lot about biology because people put a lot of money and effort into studying biology. You get the idea. Very few people put money and effort into studying homelessness. So, people's understanding of homelessness, especially in a scientific sense, is way behind other pursuits of learning. And, because people know very little about homelessness, homelessness remains a problem without a cure.

That is why I'm so glad you are here, students of today. It gives me hope for the future, that perhaps some of you will decide to dedicate yourselves to the study of homelessness as a career, intellectual, and scientific endeavor. If homelessness is ever going to end, we will need some very serious and dedicated people working on the problem.

There's one thing I must add. Because there is very little real scientific information available about homelessness, many of the people involved with homelessness related industries, such as running rescue missions, or soup kitchens, etc, have become the default authorities on homelessness. Though their hearts may be in the right place, most of these people are not scientists, or sociologists, or psychologists and don't really know how to process their experiences with homeless people into tangible, testable fact based conclusions. So, be careful about what you read and what you believe, when studying homelessness. There is a lot of incorrect information out there, posing as the truth. Question everything and test it to determine if it's true or not. That goes for everything you do in life really, not just when studying homelessness.

Well, I'm glad you are here, I hope you have a good school year.

Be happy. And if you are not happy, change things in your life until you are happy. It's the best way to live.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Note From Urban Housing Solutions

It’s a Beautiful Day in Trimble Bottoms!
We’re excited to announce our purchase of four properties in the Trimble Bottoms area—1216, 1220, 1225, and 1335 Lewis Street. This area has long been a haven for drug and gang activity. We recently met with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department in the hopes of increasing patrols and establishing a substation in the area, and we’re meeting today with administrators of Trevecca Nazarene University to see how we can work together to improve the neighborhood. Renovation of these properties will begin soon and if they’re anything like the other properties we’ve rehabbed through HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, you can expect vast improvements—inside and out!

If you have questions or wish to schedule a housing appointment for your clients, please call 726-2696, ext. 110, 116, or 133 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. You may also visit us online at http://www.urbanhousingsolutions.org

ICH.GOV

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
Opening Doors Across America
September 22, 2011

Become an Opening Doors Community
This new federal initiative offers communities across the country support, guidance, and clear steps to prevent and end homelessness locally.

In the last few years, remarkable progress has been made in our commitment to prevent and end homelessness. Together, we made history in 2010 with the launch of Opening Doors, the first ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. Over the past 15 months, there has been unprecedented collaboration from federal agencies with one another, and with state and local governments and nonprofits in our efforts to implement the Plan. We need to accelerate our progress to reach the goals in Opening Doors.

Over the last decade with the support of the federal government and national advocacy organizations, local communities have made substantial advancements by developing over 300 community plans to prevent and end homelessness. Many are being implemented, others have stalled, and some communities need to reassess their approach.

Today, USICH is excited to announce Opening Doors Across America, a call to action for states and local communities. We are inviting states and communities across the country to formally join this national effort by taking four steps:
Align your community plan with Opening Doors
Set targets and measure results
Act strategically
Partner in the national efforts to end homelessness
Taking these actions and becoming an Opening Doors Community will help your community achieve results and be recognized as a champion for your leadership in ending homelessness. This is something you can highlight as you seek to advance your goals by applying for local, state, and federal programs. It will also connect you to a support network through a feedback exchange with USICH and other signatory communities.

Now more than ever, we need a sense of urgency. In this tight budget environment, community-wide and cross-government strategic planning is a pivotal step in ending homelessness and can result in demonstrable decreases in homelessness and cost savings when the plans are well-crafted and implemented. Now is the time to collaborate and to invest in and act on strategies that are proven to make an impact.

Through collaboration at all levels of government, the nation can harness public resources and build on the innovations that have been demonstrated at the local level and in cities nationwide to employ cost effective, comprehensive solutions so that everyone from the most capable to the most vulnerable has the opportunity to reach their full potential.


The Four Steps of Opening Doors Across America and Examples from the Field
Building upon the success and best practices implemented by cities, counties, and states

As part of the launch of Opening Doors Across America, USICH is pleased to share that the call to action has been endorsed by recognized elected leaders in ending homelessness: Mayor Ashley Swearengin of Fresno, CA; Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, CA; Mayor Michael Coleman of Columbus, OH; and Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado. These leaders specifically indicated the importance of aligning state and local plans with the goals, objectives, and strategies of Opening Doors.

Many communities across the country have made great strides in their efforts to prevent and end homelessness locally. In this issue and future online communications USICH will call out cities, counties, and states that are leading the way so that their successful programs and partnerships can be used as models for other communities around the country. Below, we link successful state and local initiatives with the four steps of Opening Doors Across America. Later this year, USICH will roll out a solutions database capturing many of these initiatives.

Align with Opening Doors

The first action to become an Opening Doors Community is to align your community plan to end homelessness with the strategies and objectives of Opening Doors and to adopt its four goals:
Finish the job of ending chronic homelessness by 2015
Prevent and end Veterans homelessness by 2015
Prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children by 2020
Set a path toward ending all types of homelessness
If you have already aligned your plan, please let us know.

Norwalk, CT released a strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness earlier this year that aligns with Opening Doors.

- Read more about Norwalk's plan

Set Targets and Measure Results

As a part of the second step, commit to incremental targets, measure your progress toward the goals, and implement strategies that will enable your community to achieve these goals. As has often been said, "what gets measured gets done."
Set numeric goals for permanent housing units made available for target homeless populations
Measure progress using the annual point-in-time data for the four population goals
Measure how well homeless programs help their clients become employed and access mainstream programs
Over the last decade, communities in partnership with the federal government have been successful at using a targeted pipeline of resources to deliver permanent supportive housing to people who have experienced homelessness for the longest period of time and have the most difficulty attaining stability.

The State of Utah and the City of Worcester, MA have been leaders in ensuring that progress toward their goals is measured regularly and with the most reliable data available. They have had great success at reducing the numbers of people experiencing chronic homelessness even to the point of ending chronic homelessness in Worcester's case.

- Read more about efforts in Utah and Worcester

Act Strategically

Acting strategically means evaluating local needs, using best practices, partnering with those who can help you streamline your efforts and achieve your goals and reevaluating your progress and adjusting your efforts to match the reality on the ground. USICH advises communities to take the following key strategic actions.

Key Priorities for Action
Transform homeless services to rapid response systems to focus on housing stabilization. Centralized and coordinated intake is key to making this work. Offer alternatives to shelter admission whenever possible, make shelter available, and ensure quick housing placement and housing retention.
Implement Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing practices broadly across all homeless programs.
Seize the opportunity created by health reform, both through expansion of Medicaid and expansion of community health centers by making sure eligible individuals and families are enrolled in Medicaid.
Coordinate with the VA Medical Centers as they implement the VA's 5 Year Plan to End Veterans Homelessness. The Continuum of Care, 10 Year Planning Bodies, and State Interagency Councils on Homelessness should be working hand-in-glove with the VA and their partners.
Collaborate with Public Housing Agencies to identify how families and individuals who are homeless can be prioritized for housing.
Commit to using data as a management tool. Review your state/community's data to identify system and program strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement.
Work collaboratively and build relationships to streamline resources and efforts: involve health and human services, housing agencies, VA, education, corrections, law enforcement and the private sector, including business, philanthropy, faith-based and community organizations. Invest state, local, and philanthropic dollars toward strategies aligned with the strategic plan.
Memphis, TN; Denver, CO; King County, WA; Asheville, NC; Hennepin County, MN; and Clallam County, WA have each collaborated, invested, and acted on strategies that are proven to have an impact.

- Learn the details of what has worked in these communities

Partner

As communities implement strategic plans to end homelessness it is essential to keep the lines of communication open so that other communities can benefit from lessons learned. State Interagency Councils have an important role to play to ensure effective solutions are shared and that communities can build on the knowledge base already developed. Massachusetts and Missouri have used their Councils to spread the word about what works.

- Read about successful state interagency councils in Massachusetts and Missouri



What Does Opening Doors Across America Mean for Providers, Advocates, and Individuals?

Opening Doors Across America is a call to action for Ten Year Plan Leads, Continuum of Care Leads, and state and local governments; but USICH's other stakeholders have a role to play as well. First and foremost, you can encourage your local officials to take action, join this initiative, and begin to move strategically toward preventing and ending homelessness on the local level. Service providers, advocates, and others who want to see an end to homelessness can also partner with their local governments to make sure the right players are at the table and that plans are developed and implemented that are based on proven strategies.

Opening Doors Across America provides a basic overview of these proven strategies to help guide the discussion and make sure we are all working toward the same goals and using the same effective tools.

- Use this one page fact sheet in your advocacy efforts

Roseanne Haggerty the President of Community Solutions has an Op-Ed in the Huffington Post about her endorsement of Opening Doors Across America and what it means to have a federal initiative in place that describes and offers guidance on the solutions and effective actions that communities need to take to prevent and end homelessness.


Webinar: Opening Doors Across America
Tuesday, September 27th 4:00-5:00pm EDT

Next week, we will be hosting a webinar on Opening Doors Across America. Leaders in Salt Lake City, Utah; Hennepin County, MN; and Massachusetts will share the importance of the principles laid out in the initiative and will share examples from their own communities. This will be an opportunity for you to learn more about this new initiative and to engage with USICH staff.

New Tools Available Online to Help Communities Take Action

As a part of the launch of Opening Doors Across America we developed a set of tools for local action that includes resources and guidance to help local communities begin or enhance their efforts to prevent and end homelessness.

Tools for Local Action include toolkits on the following topics:

A Guide to Developing a State Interagency Council

Specific information about how to establish a Council, tips on effective structure, and details on needed partnerships to ensure success.

Local and Community Strategic Planning

A step-by-step guide to develop and begin implementation of a strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.

Using Data to Get Measurable Results

A set of tools on best practices to use available data to track your progress and assess strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement.

Retooling Crisis Response Systems

We have collected eleven resources from our partners to help communities transform their homeless services into rapid response systems that work quickly and effectively to prevent homelessness whenever possible and rapidly re-house those who do become homeless.

Building the Permanent Supportive Housing Pipeline

We have collected a set of resources from our partners that address everything about developing a permanent supportive housing pipeline from leadership and collaboration to financing ideas, build community support, and legal issues.

Using Medicaid to Fund Supportive Services

Securing funding through Medicaid can at times seem confusing, however Medicaid is a valuable source of funding for supportive services of various types. We have collected some great resources focused on using Medicaid to fund services for people experiencing homelessness.

Stock Market Scare

Funny how all the financial news we hear is "doom and gloom." Yet if you take a real look at what's happening with our economy, things really aren't so bad. The market dropped 400 points today, and may drop even more. Sounds bad. but is it really? Take a look at this chart from the past 50 year history of the stock market. Things were pretty good, pretty stable, not much ever changed. That's until 1985, a dramatic shift took place. Stock market growth began a new upward coarse. Then, exactly 10 years later, the market took to an even steeper increase. Of course from time to time stocks faltered, but overall, they have maintained their growth rate consistent with the '85 to '95 coarse. Yeah, I don't think things are really dire. The movers and shakers are in it for the long haul, and that's how everyone should look at the market, not this week to week, or day to day stuff. That's for day traders and other idiots.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stupid Facebook

Dear Facebook, as I've said before, I'm not interested in what YOU have chosen for me to read. You really have no idea what interests me, mostly because your algorithm has no idea "why" I choose to read what I do. Please leave my content alone, and let me find my own way. Thanks.

Second Harvest Food Bank

I got a food box from Second Harvest Food Bank this weekend, and to my initial surprise it included a large package of boneless chicken breasts. And then I looked at the expiration date ~ Dec 6th 2010. There is no way in HELL I'm gonna eat that. This is indicative of the kind of disregard people have for the poor and homeless in this country. People think that giving their garbage away is an act of charity. Well, it's not. Thanks Second Harvest!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tough

Some people become offended reading my posts. Well, all I can say is, I'm not here to tell you what you want to hear. Lives are at stake in the world of homelessness. Hiding from the ugly truth of it won't do any homeless person any good.

The Church Myth

It's probably true to a certain extent with all peoples, but it's seems more true with America, that we live by myths. We prefer a good story over the truth.

One such myth is that Churches pick up where the government leaves off, when it comes to charity. But, that's not the reality of it. Most often, when people become homeless, they turn to the church, even before going to the government for help.

But as I discovered, churches are no longer places of sanctuary. Every church I went to, when I first became homeless, turned me away at the door. The two basic responses I got were, "you're not a member of this church, we only help church members," or "we cannot afford to help you."

Truth is, people turn to churches first for help, and the government picks up where churches fail.

I too believed the myth that people in America could turn to churches in times of need. But reality struck me square in the face. This disillusionment was the beginning of my irritation.

Oh, there are things that some churches do in the name of the "needy," but when you get close enough to it you see it for what it really is. Even with their charity work, churches are mostly self serving entities, insisting that everything they do be labeled with their name, their denomination, etc. Their focus isn't on helping the needy, their focus is on making a show of helping the needy. In their act of charity, their attention is not on the needy but on facing the camera with their best side, metaphorically speaking. So, most of the time what is given to the needy doesn't meet the needs of the needy as much as it makes the church look good.

For 30 years, chaplains at the rescue mission told me that all I needed, so to solve my problems, was to read the bible and pray. That is their answer to everything. They consider no other possible solution to problems. Well, what I really needed was a proper diagnosis of my mental health condition (Asperger's Syndrome) and a good therapist to teach me some coping skills. But that help never came my way while homeless, so I languished on the streets. The rescue mission still preaches against psychology, declaring that all problems people have are based on their faulty relationship to God, and that only by developing a right relationship with God can they overcome them. Can you believe that? They even tell that crap to people with severe Schizophrenia.

Yes, in the past few years things have changed, to a small degree. Some people are actually starting to pay attention to the needs of homeless people, and responding in proper and significant ways. Still these people are in the minority. Hopefully, they are a sign that things are changing. But, when I look at politics today and see how the Rightwing does everything they can to discourage compassion for their fellow man, I have doubts about the future.

By the way, I finally did get that diagnosis and have an exceptionally good therapist. I got it with the help of government agencies, agencies whose funding is being threatened.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Growth

I grew up on television in the 60s and 70s, shows like Leave It To Beaver, The Brady Bunch, Eight Is Enough, etc. We all know that television isn't real. But for my particular life situation, I was learning more about life from watching those shows, than I was from my own family. Eventually though, I outgrew television in my quest to learn and understand life. More than likely, though, without that influence of television, as flawed as it is, I would not have made it to the next step in my journey. I guess the thing to keep in mind is the limited nature of all things to complete our understanding of life, that we should never stop growing, and should give ourselves permission to take the next step in understanding, whatever that step may be - the next step often being a process of letting go of things that give us a sense of safety and comfort.

Why I Write What I Do

Politics and religion have a profound impact on homelessness. So, I write about them. Homeless people are injured people, injured beyond their own ability to recover. Like people who have been in a car crash and suffered serious injuries, they need the assistance of others, to have their injuries looked after, and to be given time to heal. People respond to those in a car crash by sending an ambulance, transporting the injured to a hospital where they are treated by professionals, and are given time to heal. Homeless people, on the other hand, are left to languish in the misery of their injuries on the side of the road, and the only response they get from others is to be spit on and kicked about, and told that since they are the cause of their own injuries that they must heal themselves.

This attitude of society's towards homeless people is simply a great lack of compassion for fellow human beings. A lack of compassion that is spurred on, in large part, by our political and religious leaders. Yes, even many so called Christians believe it's best to withhold compassion from people in need.

So, it is that I write about such topics. It may not be the sort of thing people want to read concerning homelessness. But as I've learned from my many years homeless, most people have no real concern for the homeless anyway.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Bunch Of Hippy Christians

These hippy Christians think they can actually help homeless people. They created an organization called "Open Table Nashville" which you can read more about at their blog http://amoshouse.wordpress.com/ Here is what they are doing.
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(ADDENDUM) I forget how little people understand my sense of humor, which is often chocked full of irony and underlying social commentary - such as my opening sentence on this blog. It is my hope that people would be clever enough to read between the lines and see that by my act of listing all the work these people are doing, and providing their contact information, etc., I am actually attempting to support their efforts. Yes, I have Aspergers Syndrome, so I admit my brain works differently than the "typical" brain. Y'all will just have to try and keep up with me.
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VOLUNTEER TRAINING

We will be hosting two volunteer trainings for anyone interested in learning more about what we do here at Open Table Nashville and how you can get involved. Both trainings will be held at Hillcrest United Methodist Church:
5112 Raywood Lane Nashville TN 37211
September 24th from 9AM - 11AM OR
September 25th from 5PM - 7PM
Until then, here are some opportunities for you to consider!


HOBSON HOUSE

Hobson House is home to up to 15 individuals who are in transition from homelessness to being self-sustainable in permanent housing. If you would like to get involved, you can sign up to spend a night as an "Inn Keeper" or cook a meal through our CareCalendar.
Carecalerdar.org (Login- 45351 Password- 6077) http://www.carecalendar.org/


MENTORS

We believe that homelessness in rooted in the disintegration of community around a person, we want to be able to build community back up through strong relationships. We try to offer each member of the Hobson House (and other of our friends) with a mentor, someone who is willing to enter into friendship with them, and to journey with them.


OUTREACH

On Monday evenings Open Table is going to be headed downtown to serve alongside People Loving Nashville. Open Table will have a table set up to talk with folks, connect them with resources, and help them receive birth certificates, IDs, foodstamps, cell phones, and clothes. We hope that in the process relationships will be built. We will meet behind the War Memorial at 7PM.


FURNITURE

We are looking for a team of 8-10 committed volunteers to help us operate our furniture ministry. This team would be responsible for picking up donated furiture and then delivering it to individuals or familes that have recently moved into housing for the first time. Ideally, in sets of 2, member of the team would rotate weeks so that each person only runs furniture once a month. We do ask that these volunteers have a vehicle with a hitch that could pull our furniture trailor.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Bible And The Homeless

Here is something I wrote some three and a half years ago. I think it bears repeating.

Christianity generally, and the Bible specifically, are subjects in need of exploring because a great many people respond to homelessness through them. Can there be a more easily manipulated person, to a confession of faith, than one suffering the burdens of homelessness? Some Christians will declare that during such difficult times, Christianity is in most need. Yet others will declare that people become homeless through Divine intervention - a ruse by God to get wayward people’s attention. I can’t tell you how many times a chaplain at the rescue mission chapel service declared to the coerced attendants, “It is no accident that you are here tonight.” Sadly, the rescue mission staff does not allow dissenting views to be expressed, on this subject, or any other.

Most people who feel compelled to bring Christianity to the homeless will declare the inerrancy of the Bible. The justification goes thusly - if the Bible is perfect, and they are preaching “from” the Bible, then the words they speak as they preach are also perfect, to be considered dutifully, without question. Such proclamations made so often at the begin of chapel services at the mission has caused many, including myself, to automatically turn off my attention, and dismiss whatever the chaplain is saying. On the other hand, if the chaplain starts out on the right foot, with humility and practicality, I’ve give him a listen. (and in this instance I use the pronoun “him” because women are not allowed to preach at the mission. Although the rescue mission claims that it is non-denominational, only fundamentalist views are allowed to be expressed at the mission.)

The Bible is not perfect, and there is plenty of reasonable proof of its imperfection. But, really, does the Bible have to be perfect? I don’t think so. God is still God, with, or without it. For some, though, their faith is founded on the Bible. In their twisted logic God can be proven to not exist, if the Bible can be found to be lacking. What a terrible state they put themselves in. Instead of having a relationship with God, they have a relationship with the Bible. And instead of developing a life in relationship with God, they spend all their time trying to defend the Bible, defend their faith, defend “Christianity,” etc., etc. But, God needs no defenders. God is perfectly capable of defending himself, and desires for us to instead spend our lives doing His will. A real Christian is not one who makes signs to the world that they are Christian, but is one who feeds the hungry, shelter the cold, provides for the needy, etc. A person who spends all their time trying to convert the already converted, and ignores or neglects their needs, is nursing a dead faith.

I often wonder where the body of Christ would be if we didn’t have the Bible, if the words of 2000 years ago were never put into print. I imagine that us “Christians” would be more alive in Christ, having a more dynamic relationship with God, because they are not confining their lives to the stories and few teachings found within the Bible. When witnessing to non-believers they wouldn’t turn to the Bible, as they do today as a crutch, but would instead relay their own real and personal experiences with the almighty. Churches and their doctrine would appeal more to the contemporary needs of people.

But today there is almost no accurate relating of God to people and their needs. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the story of the prodigal son at chapel services at the rescue mission. But let me tell you, folks, the story of the prodigal son is not a story about homelessness. There are no, sons-of-wealthy-land-owners, hanging out at the rescue mission after squandering their inheritance. That story doesn’t apply to us homeless. Please stop trying to make that square story fit into our round lives.