Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Do People Become Homeless 2013

In Internet time, this article is ancient.  In homelessness time, it's even older.  The content of this article, although correct at the time of the writing, needs to be rewritten in light of changes currently taking place in the homelessness industry.   I'll keep this article here as a historical perspective.  Just know that a lot of the info herein no longer applies.   I guess I'll have to write yet another article on this subject - a 2014 version.  I'll put a link here once it's written.  Thanks.

It's been a couple years since I last wrote on this subject. I read over that old post recently and found some problems with it.   It's not that the information was wrong but that I think I can explain things better, more clearly, now.

People outside of homelessness usually only consider the "how" of becoming homeless.   The how of becoming homeless is fairly simple, and everyone who becomes homeless runs into this same problem.   They lose the resources necessary for maintaining a home, that is, a place of their own in which to live.   (I'll try to define homelessness in another post.)   The people outside of homelessness see that a person lost his job, and in turn lost his apartment.   So to them the answer is easy, homeless people just need to get another job.   But that is too shallow of a view of homelessness to be accurate.  It fails to ask the question, "why did they lose their job?"   To find the answer to that question requires more time and attention than most people want to give to the subject, and don't pursue any deeper answers.

Of course losing a job is only one way a person losing his resources for keeping a home.   Sometimes they are living with family or others who are paying the rent.   This often happens to young people and to people going through a divorce.   A parent my decide that they no longer want their child living with them, and so they put them out on the street.  Or, after a divorce or a break up of a relationship, the income they depended on is either cut in half, or lost all together, if the other person involved was paying the bills.   It is even more difficult to get back into that kind of living arrangement, once it is lost, and adequate employment is even more difficult for that person to find.   I think most people would be surprised, if not alarmed, at the amount of people who became homeless after a divorce.  There are many, especially for men who are required to pay child support and alimony.   These men usually maintain their employment, but because of judgments against them, they no longer have enough income to also pay for a place to live.   Because of this, many full time employed men live at shelters.

That answers the question "How do people become homeless", but like I said before, it doesn't answer the questions of "why".    When considering why people become homeless their appears to be two kinds of homeless person.  There is the person whose only problem is financial.  For whatever reason, they were unable to pay their bills.   That may be because they did not adequately plan for periods of unemployment, or they made some decisions with their money that did not work out for them.

For these people, their homeless experience lasts only a short time, a few months at the most.   Once they get a taste of homelessness, they become highly motivated to fix their financial problems, and to leave homelessness once and for good.  Often, these people are able to get additional help from friends and family which will shorten their stay in homelessness even more.  They arrange to stay with family, or perhaps borrow money from a friend.   Because the cause of their homelessness was only an issue of finances, they can be trusted to payback loans, and to not over stay their welcome at their parents home, etc.

In the other group of homeless people, the "why" of their homelessness is more complex, or at least more difficult to determine.   For these people, just getting another job isn't going to help them.   The reason they have lost their access to resources is because they have issues beyond their control.  These people are suffering from some kind of mental health issue.   And yes, I do include addicts and alcoholics in this group.   There are actually more addicts and alcoholics who still maintain homes than are homeless.   Surely there must be more to the homelessness of an addict that just being an addict.

It must be said that a person doesn't have to be "crazy" for their mental health issues to become a reason for their homelessness.   It only has to affect their decision making.  People who suffer from depression or anxiety, or both, or a number of other issues, are not crazy by any stretch of the imagination, but they are still trapped in homelessness because they don't have the means to overcome their mental health issues.   It is often the case that a relationship is broken because one of the people in the relationship developed a debilitating depression.  Being that they depressed, not only does their relationship end, but they are also unable to move on, get a new job, and live independently.   That's a double hit that for people suffering depression becomes very debilitating, and difficult to overcome.

For people suffering from mental health issues they must first be able to admit that they have a mental health issue, then they must accurately identify the issue, and then heal from that issue before they can move on towards getting the resources necessary to maintain an independent life.   That takes a lot of work.  It also requires many resources on it's own.  It is very difficult for homeless people to get and keep help from a mental health professional.  The conditions of homelessness also interfere with maintaining that help.  If your not able to get bus fair together, you might miss out of therapy sessions, etc.  And that kind of thing can hinder a person's healing.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

From Open Table

(THIS is what you've been waiting for!)
Nashville's Registry Week
100K Homes Campaign: How’s Nashville
May 28 – June 4
We need your help hittin' the streets!
Here’s what the 100K Homes / How’s Nashville Campaign is all about:

–The 100K Homes Campaign is a national effort to house 100,000 individuals who are chronically homeless and extremely vulnerable by July, 2014.
–The How’s Nashville campaign has been and will be driven by incredibly beautiful community collaboration as we work together to bring Housing First to life in our city.This is a model that considers permanent housing as the first form of “treatment” for our most vulnerable friends. People don’t have to be good enough or have their lives together first. They are just given a safe place to live and then surrounded by the services they need to heal and be whole. This way housing is not a reward, but a thing that all people deserve. Yes.
–Nashville is one of 189 cities that have joined the movement. To date, more than 38,000 people have been permanently housed and supported!
What is Registry Week?
Registry Week is the official kick-off of the campaign, and we couldn't be more excited to hit the ground running. During 3 very early morning outings (what a good time for bonding with other members of the OTN family and advocates from around the city!), team leaders and volunteers will survey people who sleep on Nashville’s streets or in campsites in order to determine which folks are among the most medically vulnerable and at risk of dying on the streets if not placed in housing soon. These people will be placed in housing according to the most urgent need.
We Need You!
Our leadership team is looking for:
-100 dedicated volunteers who are willing to participate in a volunteer training session and then conduct surveys on three consecutive mornings from 3.30-5:30am. (Volunteers able to survey on all three mornings are preferred, but we will work with you to meet your schedule.)
-After the surveys have been conducted, we’ll need a third group of volunteers to help with data entry.
We are so proud of the work that the Metro Homelessness Commission, area businesses and other service providers from all over Nashville have put into this campaign so far. The energy is catching on, and we’re excited to be an integral part of this work with the bold hope that it will change the lives of our friends.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

It's All In Your Brain

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Row Boat

Every person's life is like a row boat.   To get anywhere in life, each person has to grab the oars and get to work rowing.  The ability and strength of each individual to row their own boat determines the general direction and  outcome of their life, barring any unfortunate circumstance that may arise.

But unfortunate circumstances do arise from time to time, and sometimes these circumstances can injure and maim the rower, or damage the boat.   And that leads us to the circumstance of your average homeless person.    In the condition the homeless person finds him or her self, the best they can do is to only pull on one oar at a time.   And you know, if you only pull on one oar, your row boat (your life) only goes in circles and never gets anywhere.

But, if someone where to get into the row boat,  that is, to get into the life of the homeless person, then that someone can pull on the other oar so that together they can get the boat moving in the right direction again, perhaps even row to a dock so repairs can be made to the boat, and the homeless person can heal from what ails him/her and rest up, and eventually get back to rowing his or her own boat.

Yes, it does happen that sometimes a person gets into the boat and starts rowing, but the homeless person doesn't row, doesn't make any effort on his or her own behalf.   That can happen for several reasons.  Sometimes the homeless person is really in no condition to row, and it does become necessary for the other person to row the whole boat on behalf of the homeless person, but sometimes the homeless person is angry and spiteful, sometimes even self destructive, and they refuse to row, and won't allow anyone else to row for him either.   Still, these issues off anger and spitefulness can be cured, and really must be addressed.

The "big" problem is that there are very few people willing to get into the boats of homeless people.   If anything, they keep their distance, and perhaps they attempt to instruct the homeless person on how to get back to shore, from the safety of their own boat.   Still, none of that will be of any benefit to the homeless person, as their is still no one to pull on the other oar.

Oddly enough, you will find some people in  the row boat with the homeless person, working away feverishly on behalf of the homeless person, such as the people who work at homeless shelters.   But for all the work they do, they never lay a hand on the other oar.   All the work they do, providing beds, and meals, is akin to sitting at the bottom of the boat, bailing out the water that's seeping in through the cracks and holes in the battered boat.   This keeps the boat from sinking, but still does nothing to get the boat moving forward, and the boat remains dead in the water.

To truly help a homeless person, you have to get in the boat with him/her.  And you have to pull on the oar, and keep the homeless person motivated and focused on pulling the other oar.  And once you get that boat to the dock, repairs must be made to the boat, and the homeless person must be allowed time heal and to rest up so that in time he/she can continue on their journey through life.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lincoln and Euclid's First Common Notion

Another movie I watched recently is "Lincoln" with Daniel Day-Lewis.    I admit that the movie was better than I expected, and I don't have any complaints of it, except that I wish there was more of it.  But I really want to discuss just one point of the movie, a point that I didn't "get" until a couple days after viewing the movie.   It is the point on which the whole movie rests.   It deals with Euclid's first common notion, which Lincoln quotes in the movie.   If you didn't understand this part of the movie, then you didn't understand the movie at all.

Lincoln said:

Euclid's first common notion is this: Things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other. That's a rule of mathematical reasoning and its true because it works - has done and always will do. In his book Euclid says this is self evident. You see there it is even in that 2000 year old book of mechanical law it is the self evident truth that things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other.

What makes this quote significant is this:  There were many people in the United States who saw black people as inferior, some even to the point of believing blacks were not truly human.   On the other side of the debate were many Republicans who knew that blacks were equal to whites in all matters, and they fought vigorously for the rights of blacks and for true recognition of their equality with whites.

The problem for the people trying to end slavery was two fold.  First, the thirteenth amendment would require 2/3s of the congressmen in the House of Representatives to vote in favor of the amendment.   Second, the fight against the thirteenth amendment was more against what the thirteenth amendment implied.   It wasn't just that slaves would be freed, but attached was the fear that former slaves, black people, would by law, be considered equal to whites.  So long as the politicians in favor of the thirteenth amendment insisted in the equality of blacks, the amendment was not going to pass.

It became necessary for the politicians to tone down their rhetoric concerning equality of the races, and make the amendment about something else, something that would allow certain politicians the room to deny equality of the races and yet end slavery once and for all.

Here, the Euclid idea comes in to play.   By declaring blacks as equal under the law, and whites equal under the law, then in fact blacks and whites are, by default, equal to each other.    That's because two things that are equal to the same thing, are equal to each other.  It's that simple.   I'll say it again, since blacks and whites are equal to the law, they are equal to each other.

I imagine that most other politicians of the day had no clue of Euclid's notion, or how it would apply in this instance, otherwise there would have been more objection, and the amendment might not have passed.

Basically, Lincoln was not only a foot taller, but just that much smarter than other people of his day.  Thank God that he, and others leaders of the country held to an ethical standard that matched their intellectual prowess.

If only we had such politicians in our government today.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Good Guys And Bad Guys

There is so much that I want to explore in the movie "Wreck-It Ralph", but I will spare you of much of it.   But there is one thought in particular that I want to bring attention to, before the thought escapes me - as so often my best thoughts do if I don't jot them down immediately.

There is a quote I've been hearing recently, the source of which you can easily google, that is being used more frequently these days among advocate types.  It is rich with meaning and may cause many to stop and consider it's implications.
"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."

For the Christian who believes that seeking justice for the world is part of their calling, the word "liberation" could easily be substituted with "salvation".

In our constant quest to understand the world in which we live, we humans like to labeling things, it helps us to develop identity and definitions. Of course labels can be full of pitfalls if we are not careful in how and why they are placed, and if we decide to use labels for anything more than identifying things and people. But, if people are prone to anything, they are prone to making mistakes such as using labels in pursuit of salvation. Our pursuit of liberation, of salvation, is always a difficult one.

In the movie, "Wreck-It Ralph", Ralph is a character in a video game. But Ralph is discontent with his role in this game because he is considered the "bad guy". All of the other characters in the video game have gone so far as to take that label of "bad guy" and have deemed Ralph as "bad". Because of this, Ralph is completely ostracized from the society of characters in the game, even when the arcade is closed and the video game is no longer in play mode. (In the movie, once the game arcade closes for the night, all the video characters socialize with each other, both within their own game, and with characters in other games. Once the arcade reopens in the morning, all the video game characters go back to fulfilling their roles within their respective games. The video game characters have a social life outside of their games.)

In one of the opening scenes of the movie, all the characters within the video game, that Ralph is a part of, throw a party to celebrate the 30th year anniversary of the game. The problem is, they don't invite Ralph to this party, despite the fact that Ralph has a major role in the game. When Ralph goes to confront the other video game characters about his exclusion from the party, tempers flare, Ralph is told plainly how the other characters think about him, he is told in essence that because he is the "bad guy" and therefore is "bad" that he is not worthy of being a part of the video game community.

Through the course of the dialog that follows, Ralph is led to believe that if he could somehow win a hero's medal, that he would be allowed into the cliquish society of the other characters within his game. Since the design of the game that Ralph resides in does not allow for Ralph to win such a medal, Ralph decides to leave his game and hop through other video games in the arcade in pursuit of the medal.

And these leads to an unexpected consequence.

With Ralph gone from the video game, the game cannot function as designed. So, when the arcade opens and someone drops a quarter into game, so to start playing it, the game appears to be broken, and for all intended purposes, it is. The owner of the arcade refunds the player's quarter and slaps an "Out of Order" sign on the game console. When the characters of the game see this, they are sorely afraid. They know that if their game does not function properly, the owner will unplug the game, meaning the end (death) for all of them. The game's characters all know that if Ralph doesn't return to fulfill his role in the game, that they are all doomed. The movie continues with one of the game's characters going on a search for Ralph in an attempt to bring him back.

Do you see, now, how the above quote aptly applies to this part of the movie? All the characters in the video game believed themselves to be the "good guys", they considered themselves to be superior to Ralph, and that they didn't need him, and thus didn't want him, within their community.

So often in real life people will find themselves feeling superior to others, and though they may extend a hand to the less fortunate, they do so condescendingly. They may do things "for" others, but they do not wish to do things "with" them. They believe themselves to be liberated, and they may magnanimously attempt to bring salvation to others who they deem to be lowly. I see this play out all the time between homed and homeless people. The homed people want more than anything to keep the homeless at a distance. And, if any kind of connection is to be made between the two groups, the homed will give to the homeless, but the homed will refuse to receive anything from the homeless. In doing this, they deny the homeless any chance at real community, at real liberation, real salvation.

"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."

By the end of the movie the other characters of the video game are very glad that Ralph has returned, and although Ralph still plays the role of "bad guy" they have a real appreciation for him, realizing that Ralph wasn't really so bad, and that their survival, their livelihood, their liberation, was bound up with Ralph's.

Know that when we marginalize people, for whatever reason, we are also marginalizing ourselves. And if we limit one person's liberty, we limit everyone's.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wreck-It Ralph and Homelessness

Oh my goodness! Have you seen the movie "Wreck-It Ralph"? No? Why not? Cause it's some Disney kiddy show? Well, with that kind of attitude, you're going to miss out on a lot of good and important stuff. I was blown away by the movie, and if you give it some consideration, I think you'd be blow away too.   I am including Wreck-It Ralph in my list of best movies on the subject of homelessness.

After seeing the movie the first time, I decided to do some research on it. I checked out several reviews of the movie, including what people said about it on rottentomatoes.com To my disappointment, no one saw in the movie what I did. But, that's kind of par for the course when society is confronted with the homeless and disenfranchised. Either they don't really recognize it for what it is, or the subject is beyond their comprehension and so choose to ignore it. It seems that everyone's perspective on the movie is trapped in the idea that the movie is about video games and video game characters. But truth be told, the subject of video games is just the device used to tell the story of homelessness, and of the disenfranchised.

 The movie is an allegory, using video games and video game characters to represent different people in society, including the homeless, the real world they live in, and the difficulties they face.   Ralph is isolated socially from his community, though he desires nothing more than to be included.   Not fully understanding what it would take for him to be accepted by his community, Ralph gets the idea that if only he won a hero's medal, then the people of his community would come to accept him, and include him.  So, Ralph goes out on a hapless quest to attain said hero's medal.   Along the way, we meet other characters and watch scenarios unfold that expound on the issues of homelessness - how the homeless are disenfranchised from their communities, and how they try to resolve their issues.  By the end of the movie, Ralph learns several lessons about himself, what it truly means to be content with himself and with others.  And so too do the other characters in Ralph's community learn to accept Ralph for who he is, finding value in what and who Ralph is - extended to him the community he's always desired.

I hope you can see the movie again, and watch it in light of the perspective that the movie is indeed an allegory on homelessness.  I'm sure you'll find it a much more enlightening and entertaining movie.   The movie is now available on DVD - I found it in Red Box.

Monday, April 8, 2013

My Health

My blog posts have been sparse because I've been distracted by health issues. On the 6th of March (last month) I came down with a case of Uvulaitis. It made it difficult to breath, and when I swallowed, I would choke on my Uvula. I was out of town at the time, and so not knowing of any doctors where I was, I went to the ER of the local hospital. I was given a prescription for antibiotics. Recently, I was put on disability, and with that I was also assigned to Medicaid. In Tennessee, Medicaid is called Tenncare. Although I was from out of state, the hospital accepted the Tenncare insurance (a contractual obligation), so I didn't have to pay for the ER visit out of pocket. A couple days later I came back to Nashville. A couple weeks past and I started to feel an obvious swelling in my throat. It wasn't painful, I didn't feel like I was dying, so I thought I'd just ride it out and see if my own immune system could take care of it. The thing is, after taking the antibiotics for the Uvulaitis, I shouldn't have gotten sick. People said that I may have developed a "super infection" where the original infection mutates into a stronger germ, they strongly suggested I go see a doctor. I told them I would, but I just put it off. Several more days passed and the tightness didn't go away. I talked to a friend over facebook who recently contracted Esophagus Cancer. When I read up on the symptoms of Esophagus Cancer, it was exactly what I was experiencing. I became very concerned, and as I am susceptible to anxiety, I became more than a bit worried. A few days later I talked to another friend, someone who is a cancer survivor, and she thought that my condition was more related to allergies, Spring now being upon us. That did have me calmed down some, and I started looking for other potential causes of this tightened feeling in my throat. Then I learned something kinda disheartening. No doctor in the area would accept the insurance provider I was set up with. I believe there are two companies who provide Tenncare insurance, and I was assigned to the provider that no doctor would accept. I then put off looking for a doctor until I could find out more information about the insurance. Hopefully I could switch providers. I have sleep apnea which affects my throat, my breathing tube collapses when I sleep, causing me to stop breathing for a couple seconds, this happens off and on through the night. And I snore very loudly because of it. I've had sleep apnea for a very long time, so much that it also causes me to have acid reflux while I sleep. And I've had acid reflux for a very long time as well. I read that doctors suspect that continual acid reflux can cause Esophagus cancer. Still, this type of cancer is rare. I have read that there are some things I can do to help relieve this tightening in my throat, most of which has to do with reducing the acid reflux by way of significantly adjusting my diet. And I have done that for the past couple days, and the tightening in the throat seems to be calming down a bit (I did have a bad stretch of acid reflux last night as I tried to sleep. When the acid in my stomach starts to come up the esophagus it burns and wakes me up. Disgusting, I know. Recently I received a letter stating that I would have to wait until May before I could change insurance coverage. So, I'll have to wait until then before I can see a doctor who can determine the cause of my health issue. In the mean time I'll keep to this new diet and see what it does to improve things.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Podcasting Teaser

You bet, I don't know much about audio stuff. Perhaps if this takes off, I can get some professional help with it. In the mean time, this is what people should expect, quality wise from me.