Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jobs For Homeless People

I've tried writing about this before. And as often happens, when I read over old posts, I find them lacking. I can do a better job of explaining things. I'll try to do so this time as well.

What homeless people need, so to best get back into the work force, is a service that can help connect them to employers willing to help the homeless. This service would do three things. First it would find employers who are willing to hire the homeless. Second, it would find homeless people who are able and available to work. (some homeless people have issues that would preclude them from employment, such as addictions and mental health issues). Third it would create a vetting process by which the best candidates for employment would be matched up with potential employers. It's really no different than any other job service, except that it deals with the specific needs and issues of the homeless. There are employers out there who are willing the hire the homeless, and there are homeless people who are qualified and are willing to work. But the unique situation of homelessness often makes it difficult for employers and potential employees to find each other. Most importantly, this service should be provided by real people getting involved and making things happen by getting to know both employers and potential employees. Automation would just not work in this situation.

For homeless people, it would be a great relief to know that the employer they are going to interview with has already been apprised of their homeless status, and that the issue of being homeless is not necessarily going to be an obstacle to employment. Homeless people can than relax enough so to focus on having a good job interview - developing a good relationship with the potential employer - and not wasting time worrying about how to dodge certain questions concerning their homeless situation.

Employers also have certain needs in hiring people, especially homeless people. I imagine most employers don't want to spend a great deal of time finding qualified applicants, neither do they have the time, usually, to learn all the specifics of how to deal with the different homeless types, trying to figure out which would be the best candidate for a job. It would work out much better for them to hear from a knowledgeable third party whom best to hire. And I'm sure most employers would appreciate being told up front by an expert in homelessness, how best to deal with the specific needs of homeless employees, such as scheduling and transportation issues for the employee.

Posting job openings on a board or web site, for any homeless person to find and attempt to apply for is problematic in a number of ways, which I don't think I have to elaborate on. This particular service requires a real person as liaison. Doing so would insure a much higher rate of success, homeless people would be more likely to apply for jobs and potential employers would not be discouraged by any potential negative experience.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Homeless Guy Needs A New Laptop

My current laptop I've had for over 4 years, and I got it from the refurbished bin at Dell.com. It is old and is having difficulty keeping up with the ever changing and increasing demands of the internet. As you may know, I pretty much live on the internet. I've put this Dell Vostro through a lot, and I worry that it will not last much longer.

Upgrading to a new/er laptop will assure that "the homeless guy" continues to be around for years to come, educating the masses about the realities of homelessness, from the unique perspective of a homeless person.

Among the things I want to add to the blog is video. I got myself a new Flipcam recently. It takes great HD images. Now I need a laptop that can actually handle the additional burden of editing and loading those larger, more complex, files.

For my part, I will continue blogging, and I will continue selling The Contributor, so to afford all the other necessities of life, rent, food, etc.

This is the computer I'm shooting for - if by the end of June I still don't have enough money for it, I'll get the best thing I can afford with your donations.

MacBook Pro
15″ 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
-4GB memory
-750GB hard drive
-SD Card Slot | 7 Hr Battery | SuperDrive
-Intel HD Graphics 3000 & AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB GDDR5

Your help is appreciated beyond measure.

Thanks in advance,

Kevin - The (formerly) Homeless Guy

Monday, March 26, 2012

We Have A WINNER!

Alrighty folks, the "Being Flynn" movie giveaway contest is officially over. We spun the big will of random choice and it landed on... Mary F. from Somewhereville, planet Earth. She gets the Fandango.com movie tickets, the movie sound track, and the book that inspired it all. Prizes will be delivered by bighonchomedia.com through an arrangement with Focus Features.

Thank you, everyone, for participating in this event. And as always, thanks for reading my blog.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Make This App For The Homeless

Win $25,000 creating an app to help the homeless!

The world is going app crazy. There's an app for everything, almost. And with today's technology, if you can think it, you can make an app for it. Best of all, you can make money with it.

One of the barriers to homeless services is that no one has yet found a way to make money by helping the homeless. Few if any people are willing to invest in it. As productive a world as we live in, there is little productivity in the homeless arena - and for that, very little in the way of advancement in the world's general knowledge about homelessness. In many ways, we are still in the dark ages concerning homelessness, current cures for homelessness being about as technologically advanced as blood-letting to cure depression.

Well, here now is an opportunity to make some serious cash while developing a technologically advanced service for the homeless, and those who care for them.

The government has announced a contest to develop an app that helps homeless people, and homeless service providers, connect to the right services for them. Grand prize is $25,000!

Go to the official website: http://reachthehomeless.challenge.gov/

Friday, March 23, 2012

Being Homeless Is Not A Crime

By Lindsey Krinks

Homeless advocates in Nashville will host a “Rally for the Right to Exist” on Sunday, April 1st, culminating in a mass “sleep-in” to demonstrate against Metro Nashville and the State of Tennessee’s onerous anti-homeless laws. The event is part of a larger bi-national day of action with more than a dozen other cities across the United States and Canada participating to raise awareness about the ongoing criminalization of homelessness in our communities.

The rally will take place on Legislative Plaza and will include food, discussions, music, a film, teach-ins and trainings. The evening will culminate in an act of civil disobedience in the form of a sleep-in to stand (or sleep) in solidarity with our unhoused neighbors and to support the civil and human rights of all, particularly the poor and homeless.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS (come whenever you can!):
1:30 p.m. Free lunch with Food Not Bombs
3:00-4:00 Meditation and talking circles
4:00-5:00 Mobile foot clinic
5:00-6:00 Pot-luck dinner with music (bring food if you can!)
6:00-6:30 Welcome and introductions
6:30-7:30 Teach-ins including “Know Your Rights” and “Criminalization in Nashville”
7:30-9:30 Screening of the documentary "More Than a Roof"
9:30-Sunrise Sleep-in on the Plaza
(*Email lindsey.krinks@gmail.com if you plan to participate in the sleep-in or have any questions.)

On March 2, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed HB 2638/SB 2505 into law, making camping, sleeping and cooking on state property a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by almost a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. In addition, “quality of life” ordinances enforced by Metro Nashville Police officers have disproportionately targeted members of the homeless community for carrying out non-criminal acts in public spaces, especially since 2007. Laws that prohibit sleeping on public property and staying too long in public passageways may make our cities more “attractive,” but the downside of these “quality of life” laws is that they criminalize the very existence of people with nowhere to go. On any given night, there are not enough shelter beds or affordable housing units to accommodate everyone in need. Hundreds of men, women, and children have no place to go save the streets and public spaces, yet these laws further victimize them for doing so. Furthermore, in Davidson County alone, vacant housing units (24,479 in 2010) vastly outnumber the people who lack affordable housing (approximately 4,000).

NASHVILLE STATS (Summary Report of Committee on Police/Homeless Issues to the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission, February 7, 2011):
- From 2004 through 2009, the number of physical arrests by police for obstructing a passageway increased by approximately 500% (from 102 in 2004 to 520 in 2009).
- From 2004 through 2009, the number of physical arrests by police for public intoxication more than doubled (from 2029 in 2004 to 5,031 in 2009).
- As physical arrests of homeless individuals for “quality of life” offenses were increasing between 2004 and 2009, the number of state citations issued during that same period of time drastically reduced.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who Can Help The Homeless

Everyone can help the homeless. Seriously, anyone with the desire to help the homeless can do so - regardless what others might say.

As with any endeavor, a person's ability to help is limited only by their knowledge of the subject and their desire to do excellent work. Still, anyone can learn about homelessness if the have the desire to do so. There is no special mystical wisdom involved, although having a heart for the homeless certainly helps.

There is no university, no dedicated trade school, no field of academics, that teaches specifically about homelessness. Everyone who works with the homeless has learned how to do so on the job. Some believe that the people working with the homeless had themselves been previously homeless, but that is not usually the case. Most organizations that work directly with the homeless have policies in place that require formerly homeless people to have been unhomeless for a period of a year or two before considering them for employment. By that time, most formerly homeless people don't really want to go back, even if to help others. They just want to move on with their lives, and that's perhaps a good thing. Now, there are some shelters, usually run by religious organizations that will hire a homeless person. Not surprisingly, those are usually the worst run shelters with the least success in helping homeless people permanently move off the streets.

If you know very little about homelessness, volunteering with a feeding program would be a good place to start. Then as you grow in knowledge about homelessness, you can try your hand at other things. Most service providers offer a wide range of services, so there are many different types of jobs you can do. If, after a while, you are wanting to doing more, see if their are any out reach workers in your area, and ask them if you can apprentice with them. Out reach workers usually travel on foot around a city, and take services to the homeless. There are always homeless people who, for whatever reason, refuse to go to a shelter or other service provider for assistance. It is usually those people who are most in need of help. The outreach workers I've known have usually been willing to have someone travel along with them.

The most important thing people should consider is the demand that will placed on them by the homeless. Homeless people are emotionally injured people, and they need a crutch. They have a tendency to lean emotionally on the employees of homeless service providers. Just imagine 200 to 500 people every day leaning on you for emotional support. That can be quite a heavy weight to bear, and it will wear you down. The homeless do need that kind of support and it's good to provide it. Just know that bearing up under that kind of burden for an extended period is impossible. That is why it's important for people working in the homelessness industry to have term limits. After two years of such work, it can change a person, and not for the better. What I have found is that people working with the homeless for longer than two years tend to begin distancing themselves from the homeless, and become emotionally detached from their work. That's just not good for the homeless people they are serving. It would be better for these people to step down, or step aside and allow other, fresher, people do the front line work.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Talk Down

I understand why it happens, but that still doesn't make it right. I was reminded recently of the treatment that all homeless people face when seeking assistance from service providers.

It really doesn't matter who you are, or what you as an individual have, or have not, done. Practically every employee and volunteer of homeless service agencies is going to talk down to you. Their tone of voice, their choice of words, all show an overt distrust of you. You are treated like a criminal, whether or not you have committed any crime. And even if they don't accuse you outright of doing something wrong, they treat you as if you are about to violate something or someone.

Even if a person starts out their homeless experience without a chip on his/her shoulder, the experiences they have while homeless will most likely change that condition.

Besides that, there is a condescending tone that homeless service workers have, that exposees their negative attitude towards the homeless. They assume that the homeless person they are talking to is less of a person, is beneath them, and is ultimately a burden. And again that happens regardless of who the homeless person is, and what they have done or not done, regardless of whether they've done something to be treated with way, or not.

Getting Home

Someone recently emailed me, asking where a homeless person in Houston could get a bus ticket home.

This was my response:
Sorry, I could not find any info on that. Not every city offers the service - not on an official level anyway. Some homeless service providers will help with greyhound tickets to people whom they know to be homeless and are wanting to get home. Usually, the person has to prove that they have a home to go to in another city. You just have to ask around.

Assistance with greyhound bus tickets can be expensive, so homeless service providers might be selective of whom they help, they won't advertise such assistance. If you ask the guy sitting at the "front counter" of a shelter about it, he may not know anything, and will just tell you "no." Instead ask for an appointment to speak directly, and in private, with whomever is actually running the organization. Talk to someone higher up, someone in administration.

Also, see if there is a "Travelers Aid" in your area.

Be careful of the help you go looking for. In Nashville there is a program with the police department, paid for by the business interests of downtown Nashville. The thing is, before they give you a greyhound bus ticket home, they will run a warrant check on you. If you are wanted anywhere, even for unpaid parking tickets, you just might end up going to jail instead of going home.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Being Flynn Movie Giveaway


Alrighty folks. It's contest time. Put your name in the hat for a drawing to win....

  • $25 in movie tickets from Fandango.com
  •  the sound track by Badly Drawn Boy
  •  the book that inspired the movie
.
All you need do is leave a comment on this post, with your contact email address. The winner will be chosen 2 weeks from today.

.

Being Flynn:
Nationwide Release: March 16, 2012
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Studio: Focus Features
Based on the memoir By: Nick Flynn
Written & Directed By: Paul Weitz (“About a Boy”)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, Olivia Thirlby, Lili Taylor, Wes Studi and Julianne Moore

LINKS / VIDEO
Official website http://focusfeatures.com/being_flynn
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/BeingFlynn
YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/BeingFlynn
Twitter Follow @FocusFeatures on Twitter! Be sure to use #BeingFlynn when tweeting about the film. Thanks!

Synopsis:
Can one life story have two authors?

Being Flynn is the new dramatic feature from Academy Award-nominated writer/director Paul Weitz (About a Boy). Adapted from Nick Flynn's 2004 memoir Another Bulls—t Night in Suck City, the movie explores bonds both unbreakable and fragile between parent and child.

Nick Flynn (portrayed in the film by Paul Dano of Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood) is a young writer seeking to define himself. He misses his late mother, Jody (four-time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore), and her loving nature. But his father, Jonathan, is not even a memory, as Nick has not seen the man in 18 years.

Jonathan Flynn (two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro) has long defined himself as a great writer, "a master storyteller." After abandoning his wife and child, Jonathan scrapes through life on his own terms, and ends up serving time in prison for cashing forged checks. After prison, he drives a cab for a number of years, but with his drinking and eccentricities now accelerating, he loses his job. Despite the occasional grandiose letter to his son, he has remained absent from Nick's life.

Suddenly facing eviction from his apartment, Jonathan impulsively reaches out to Nick and the two come face-to-face. The older man is eloquent and formidable; overwhelmed, Nick nonetheless prepares to integrate his father into his own life. But, as quickly as he materialized, Jonathan flits away again.

Moving on, Nick takes a job at a homeless shelter, where he learns from Captain (Wes Studi) and Joy (Lili Taylor) how to relate to the guests who arrive night after night. Seeing the homeless – some permanently, some temporarily so – and hearing their stories, Nick finds purpose in his own life and work. He also sustains a romance with a co-worker, Denise (Olivia Thirlby). Then one night, Jonathan arrives, seeking a bed, and Nick's senses of self and compassion falter. To give the two of them a shot at a real future, Nick will have to decide whom to seek redemption for first.


Evocatively told, ruefully funny, and moving in its depiction of the ties that bind, Being Flynn tells a story that reveals universal truths.



THE SOUNDTRACK
The original motion picture soundtrack for BEING FLYNN, features 15 original songs by Badly Drawn Boy, including the tracks "I'll Keep The Things You Throw Away," "Asleep At The Wheel," "Harbor Street Check-in," and more. Download on iTunes, buy from Amazon.

The soundtrack is available digitally now and physically on March 27th.

Track listing:
01. I'll Keep The Things You Throw Away
02. Asleep At The Wheel
03. Harbor Street Check-in
04. If It's Too Late
05. Last Day
06. The Smile Behind Your Face
07. Priest Rant
08. Coming To Your Senses
09. Sell My Blood
10. The Space Between My Ears
11. Jonathan Goes To Work
12. Letter, Mirror
13. Another Day, Another Night
14. Letter To The President
15. Let It Rain

BEING FLYNN
Focus Features
In Theatres Nationwide March 16th
To read my personal views on the upcoming release of "Being Flynn", read my previous post - here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Robert De Niro And Paul Dano Are "Being Flynn"

The promo company that asked me to host this give-a-way is compensating me for my efforts with movie tickets. Please understand that this promotion has not influenced my opinions. I have always been a fan of this book, and would have written about and recommended the movie, regardless. This blog post is not much of what the promo company was wanting, but if you know me, I have a hard time doing what I'm told. :) I'll make another post more in keeping with the instructions. For info on the giveaway, a chance to win movie tickets, the movie sound track, and the book that inspired the movie, Click Here.

OK, now on to what I have to say:
It took less than a week of living at the Nashville Union Rescue Mission to develop an understanding of the social sphere within the shelter, and my place in it. The initial fear that consumed me had given way to an uneasy confidence. I felt safe enough, and knew what and whom to avoid. The paradigm that ruled the shelter was different from that of normal every day life, but it was knowable. Like my high school drivers ed teacher used to say, "go with the flow." Knowing that the flow of shelter life doesn't often make sense, and knowing it's futile to try and make sense of it, you'll be ok. I adapted quickly enough. My own home life had been much the same. I was accustomed to low expectations.

My first experience with homelessness happened in the middle of winter. The mission had opened up what they called the "over flow room", for men to get inside and stay warm. It was actually the basement of the mission's dormatory building. The room was long and rectangular. The floor was a pored concrete slab, the walls were cinder blocks painted white, the ceiling was painted white too, with thin pipes running the length of it, just out of reach. Men constantly flowed in and out of the room. Some others stayed in the room all day. Women were required to use a separate room, and for good reason. Smoking was allowed, so a permanent cloud of cigarette smoke hung in the air. The florescent light bulbs glowed through the haze. Beat up and fragile metal folding chairs and odd shaped pieces of carpet remnants were pushed up against the walls. It didn't take long to learn it was best to sit in the chairs, the carpet pieces were over run with lice. Some men sat on the carpets anyway, they didn't much care about the crawling things. What's one more? Besides, the bare concrete was cold. A large black man, one of the mumblers known as "two steps", was sitting in the middle of the room on the floor, obsessing over the exact placement of a plastic cup in front of him.

You could tell how far gone a man was by the condition of his clothes and the smell he emitted. Alcohol not only affects people's breath, but also the smell of their three day old sweat. All the men needed a shave, and a shower, more than one had shit his pants. Newly homeless people were easier to spot.

The basement was filled with the din of small talk and big talk, story telling, threats and raised voices, alcoholic slurred speech, crazy people mumbling to themselves, buzzing cheap radios playing on different stations. Some one shouted an accusation, an elbow cocked back, a shaky fist landed square on a greasy nose, a drunk man fell. No on reacted. No one gave a fuck.

Thinking over all the things I had seen that first week of homelessness, I said out loud, "this would make one hell of a movie."
The guy sitting next to me replied, "yep."


There have been movies made about homelessness, before. None of which struck me as being very accurate in relating the realities of homelessness as I knew them. "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" was unrealistic to the point of being offensive. "Ironweed" was depressing as hell with its obsession with death. "With Honors" has been my personal favorite, but even that movie was ultimately disappointing. Joe Pesci tried too hard to be quirky and zany as the entertaining homeless protagonist. Robin Williams failed for the same reason in "The Fisher King". "The Soloist" was good in that it highlighted the difficulties chronically homeless people face as they attempt to transition out of homelessness, but Jamie Fox's portrayal of the homeless man didn't evoke any sympathy, at least from me. And don't get me started on "The Pursuit of Happyness" - the story of a man going from homeless to stock broker wealthy. The difficult and complex realities of homelessness were scrubbed clean from that movie so to fit the capitalistic "it only takes hard work" narrative.

Books I had read on homelessness similarly had me underwhelmed. That is until I read Nick Flynn's "Another bullshit Night In Suck City". That book resonated with my own experiences. Not only did the author tell an accurate story in my eyes, he did so in a manner, with his choice of words and phrasing, that revealed what it truly feels like to be homeless.

Needless to say, I was excited to learn that the book was being made into a movie. I kept checking with imdb.com for news of the movie's progress. For years there was no news. It seemed as though the project had been shelved. Then, just recently, I happened onto the trailer for the movie - not only was the movie being made, it had been finished. (I was interested to see what they were going to do with the title - would theaters actually put the word "bullshit" on their marquee? "Being Flynn" seems a good choice.)

I was more than glad to see that Robert De Niro was cast in the role of the homeless man. This signified, to me at least, that a serious effort was going to be made in creating a quality movie. The story deserves as much.
Paul Dano, who gave a remarkable performance in "There Will Be Blood", stars as Nick Flynn, the author of the memoir. Just imagine being a young man working at a homeless shelter and learning that your own father is homeless.

Does the apple fall far from the tree?

I've been reading reviews of the movie during it's initial limited release, and they have been mixed. I wonder if the critics are really reacting to the movie, or are reacting to the theme of the movie. There have been few middle of the road reviews about the movie, either people really like it, or really don't. Homelessness is one of those subjects that seems to strongly affect people. It touches something at their core, causing strong reactions. The reputation of the book too, could be influencing how people see the movie. Are they truly seeing the movie, or just recalling how they felt when they read the book? On rottentomatoes.com the movie gets a 48% positive rating from the critics, but a 78% positive rating from the audience. Still, the movie has so far only been in limited release - two theaters in L.A. and two in NYC. It remains to be seen what the masses will think of it.

Regardless, I'm going to see it. Whether or not you go to see this movie, do yourself a favor and read the book.

The President Is Just A Bum

A Recent Work

I call it "a recent work"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Homelessness In The Movies

Soon, I'll be having a special give-a-way, brought to you by the promotional team for the movie "Being Flynn". They said the promotion begins on the 12th, so I'll be waiting until then to start it. Being Flynn, is the movie based on the memoir, "Another Bullshit Night In Suck City." By the way, Robert DeNiro stars in this movie!