Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Facebook And Twitter

Homeless Man Makeover

Not everyone will think this a good thing to do. Certainly, it does not solve all this man's problems, but I do think it is a step in the right direction. The video shows that doing good things for homeless people will have positive results, and IS appreciated by the homeless.

What Happy Are You?

(CNN) -- You feel happiness all the way down to your genes, scientists say. But the kind of happiness you're feeling matters, as different kinds can have wildly different effects on your physical well-being.

In fact, the happiness you get from instant gratification -- eating that giant cupcake or buying that fabulous pair of shoes -- may have the same physical impact on your genes as depression or stress, according to a groundbreaking study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"I've been studying the physical and psychological impact of positive emotion for 20 years, (and) the pattern of results we found with this study completely surprised me," said the lead author, Barbara Fredrickson.
Fredrickson is a professor of psychology and the principal investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina.
"I've known anecdotally that positive emotions impact us on a cellular level, but seeing these results have given us proof that there is a real difference in the kinds of happiness we feel and its potential long-term consequences."
The experts divide well-being into two different types: hedonic and eudaimonic. These are fancy words to describe happiness that comes from two different sources.
Hedonic well-being comes from an experience a person seeks out that gives them pleasure. As study co-author Steve Cole describes it, it's "having lots of positive experiences that come from, say, eating great food or smelling beautiful flowers."
Eudaimonic well-being is a kind of happiness that comes not from consuming something but from a sustained effort at working toward something bigger than you. In other words, it's working toward a sense of meaning in your life or contributing to some kind of cause. Think of the happiness you see on the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa's face.
While the two kinds of happiness are conceptually different, they can and do influence each other, so it has been hard for scientists to measure which kind has had a greater positive influence on someone's physical or psychological well-being.
Cole, a professor of medicine, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA, studies the biological pathways by which social environments influence gene expression.
"I know what misery looks like on a genetic level," Cole said. "I can look at white blood cells and see a physical response to stress and misery, but we knew very little about how -- if at all -- positive psychology gets disseminated to the body. That's what this study does."
If you experience misery and stress, your genes react to it. Essentially, there is an increased expression of genes involved in inflammation and a decreased antiviral response. People who are subjected to long periods of stress have white blood cells that make slightly more pro-inflammatory proteins on a constant basis.
Inflammation is the first line of defense against infection, so that would be a very useful kind of protein to have; however, something that causes your body to create inflammation over a sustained amount of time can cause collateral damage to healthy tissue.
Colorado College microbiologist Phoebe Lostroh, who is not affiliated with the study but is familiar with its contents, explains it this way: "The immune system of someone stressed out is not at the normal level of green on the terrorism alert scale. Instead, it's on yellow or orange, if not all the way on red. So there's this low level of constant inflammation, which is not healthy."
Low levels of inflammation can cause exhaustion. They also increase a person's risk for cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's and can damage various tissues wherever the white blood cells are causing inflammation where they shouldn't be, Lostroh said.
With this understanding in mind, the scientists in the new study took blood from 80 healthy adults who were screened for the two types of happiness. None of them reported being depressed or stressed.
Scientists extracted the RNA from their blood and took a closer look at the inflammatory and antiviral responses.
The study found that people who experienced the well-being that comes from self-gratification had high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression, a result similar to what people who are depressed or experience great stress have.
The people who found happiness by pursuing a greater good had a lower level of this inflammatory gene expression and strong antiviral and antibody gene expression.
Bottom line? Happiness that comes from working for the greater good has a much more positive genetic impact.
"Keep in mind positives go with both kinds of well-being," Fredrickson said. "But emotions you feel today ... really will effect who you are at a cellular level."
The study didn't get at why the two kinds of well-being have different genetic impacts, but Cole has a theory.
"Hedonic well-being is dependent on your taking self-involved action to constantly feed this positive emotion machine," he said. "If something threatens your ability to seek out this kind of personal happiness -- if you get injured, for instance, or you experience a loss -- your entire source of well-being is threatened. You are living closer to the edge of that kind of stress.
"But if you find well-being in the connections you have to others and in pursuing something that involves collaborating with other people, if in that circumstance you get sick or injured or suffer a personal loss, that community you've worked so hard to connect to, they will help you get through."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bicycle Awesomeness

I found this at a homeless day shelter, Room In The Inn - securely attached to the side of the wall is every tool one might need in repairing his/her bicycle - free for anyone to use.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Job Fair For Veterans In Nashville

Philanthropic Colonialism

Published: July 26, 2013

I HAD spent much of my life writing music for commercials, film and television and knew little about the world of philanthropy as practiced by the very wealthy until what I call the big bang happened in 2006. That year, my father, Warren Buffett, made good on his commitment to give nearly all of his accumulated wealth back to society. In addition to making several large donations, he added generously to the three foundations that my parents had created years earlier, one for each of their children to run.

Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to “save the day” in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms.

Often the results of our decisions had unintended consequences; distributing condoms to stop the spread of AIDS in a brothel area ended up creating a higher price for unprotected sex.

But now I think something even more damaging is going on.

Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.

Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.

Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.

My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change.

It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.

What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.

There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff).

Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

It’s an old story; we really need a new one.

Friday, July 26, 2013

NAEH Conference 2013 The Take Away

What did I get out of the NAEH Conference?  Well, I should probably stop gushing over Iain de Jong from but it's gonna be difficult.  I was so blown away by his pre-conference presentation, "Creating a Narrative of Success", in which he discussed the current state of homeless service provider organizations, how the work, how they fail to achieve success, and what needs to happen if these organizations are to achieve the results they want.   There is no question that Iain understands this thing we call homelessness, and better than anyone else does.  He doesn't mince words.  He sees how most programs and services provided to the homeless are defective. He understands why homeless people are so leery of people and services offered to them.   BUT he also knows how to go about fixing things so that programs and services for the homeless can be more effective and efficient.   I recorded his presentation and now have it as an MP3 file.  I will be listening to it often.   His presentation was nearly 3 hours long and my laptop battery didn't last, but I have about 2 and 1/2 hours of it.   His company can  be found in every form of social media, from youtube to facebook.   You should seek him out and see what all he has to offer.

It is time for a change in the way the world thinks about homelessness, about homeless people, and about the services that are provided to the homeless.   The old ways just are not cutting it anymore.  Society expects more, and there's no reason why homeless services providers cannot meet this new challenge.   Society is no longer satisfied with service providers just feeding, clothing, and warehousing the homeless.   Society wants homelessness to end.   And though realistically there's no way to stop people from becoming homeless, no way to stop families from breaking up, no way to stop houses from catching fire and burning to the ground, no way to stop a person from experiencing financial ruin, what can stop is the ineffectual response to these people, when certain things happen to put them on the streets.   There are approaches to the problem of homelessness that have been PROVEN to be more effective than others.  It is time for all homeless service providers to seek out these better ideas, and implement them.  And they need to be constantly thinking about ways to improve their services, always with the goal in mind of meeting society's demand that they END homelessness.    Homeless service providers should be working, not to grow their organizations, but to put themselves out of business.

The first person I met up with at the conference was Mark Horvath of  He introduced me to another homeless advocate from San Diego, and we had dinner at 5 Guys.  I was quite impressed with this individual too.   He owned a business that was successful enough that he could devote the majority of his time (not just his spare time) being an advocate for homeless people.  Surprisingly, people like that do exist - rare though they be.

I really did over do it my first day, which was actually the day before the conference started, and so I was physically and emotionally exhausted the next day.  Though I did try to regain and regroup, I never fully recovered.  I just kept pushing myself to do as much as I could.   The biggest problem for me was the social anxiety.   Over 1600 people were attending the conference, more people than the organizers had planned for, so every conference room was packed to over flowing.  In between sessions, the hallways reminded me of high school, everyone bumping into everyone else trying to get to the next session, lots of chatting going on, creating a din at a volume that was difficult to deal with. Part of my anxiety issues is brought on by the auditory problems I have.  I can't hear anything at all when their is considerable cross talk in a room.   Because of this, I did skip some sessions, and went for walks instead, wandering the city to see what there was to see.  And yes, there are considerable sights to see in D.C.

I did see homeless people around D.C., but there were no groups of homeless people congregated anywhere - a drunk here or there, a few panhandlers. but, more than anything else, I saw people selling the homeless newspaper "Street Sense".

Myself, I live mostly as a hermit.  I stay away from people, don't engage them unless absolutely necessary.  So, I don't travel.   I was surprised at how well I did in negotiating around this unfamiliar city. I learned I have skills I wasn't aware of.  Maybe I'll allow myself to do some more traveling.

Everything about this conference was a positive.  Things are looking up for homeless people and the overall state of homelessness.  Except for obvious fluctuations, the homeless population is on the decline across the country.  Proven methods for getting people off the streets, and for good, are available to those to wish to impact the homeless in a positive way.  And those methods are constantly being improved upon.   What is needed now is for homeless service providers to adapt to these new ways of working with the homeless, and for society to understand that these new ideas are worth investing in, financially, and politically.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Will Connelly

Will Connelly of the Nashville Homelessness Commission.  He is working to reform the commission into a more effective organization.

Iain de Jong

This man will lead the way to ending homelessness.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New Blog Format

You may have noticed that I recently changed the format of this blog.   Doing so has doubled the readership of my posts.  So, for that reason alone, I am leaving the format as it currently stands.   Just remember that these first paragraphs are just links to the full articles, which in most cases are much longer than one paragraph.  Click on the text to be taken to the full article.

NAEH Conference So Far

My observations:
I thought I would be able to live blog the conference, but that's just not going to happen.  The information is coming too fast and furious to keep up with.   I have audio recorded the sessions I have attended.   I'll be able to write more about what I'm learning later as I re-listen and study and contemplate on the info.  That's more my style anyway.  I think so deep that I can't think fast.  Sure, that's my excuse.  So, blog posts about specifics will come after.  I hope that's all right.   The NAEH has paid for my entire trip, so I  owe it to them to give them as much exposure as I can.  

If you know me at all, you know that I can be quite critical of things, especially when it comes to homeless issues, and homeless service providers.  And you know that when I have a problem with something, I won't hesitate to say so.   But I can honestly say that I've found little to take issue with at this conference.  Maybe because people are finally coming around to seeing things my way :)

The conference seems to be mostly focused on governmental responses to homelessness, from funding to best practices on to how to run shelters and other service provider organizations.    I haven't seen or heard from faith based organizations.   I think that's mostly because faith based facilities do things their own way, based on their religious beliefs.  They purposely don't take government funding, so that they can avoid government intrusion into their operations.

There is a problem with that, though.   Faith based services for the homeless have been doing the same things, the same way, for the past 50 to 100 years, and to be honest, their methods have had very little, if any, impact on actually reducing homelessness.   For what they do, they do ok.  Day after day, for years and years, without fail, they have provided food and shelter to countless homeless people.  Yet they haven't moved beyond that to actually impacting the state of homelessness.  Perhaps this is because they are more concerned about converting homeless people to Christianity, than getting homeless people off the streets.   In surveying the whole of the homelessness industry, HUD and others have discovered which approaches work best to alleviate homelessness, and like it or not, faith based homeless are not performing as well as other approaches to the problems of homelessness.

Ending homelessness is the focus.   And yes, the solutions to homelessness are known.  But to bring those solutions to fruition, two things must happen.   First, those new, and better, approaches to ending homelessness must be funded.    Americans, wishing to be frugal in their spending, usually try to put off spending money until it's absolutely necessary.   This reminds me of that old commercial about car maintenance.   The quote is 'You can pay me now, or you can pay me later."  If you spend a little up front, doing things like regularly changing the oil in your car, you can prevent bigger problems down the road, like having to buy a whole new car, because you blew out the engine - all because you never changed the oil.  Dealing with homelessness can be expensive, but if things are done right, up front, then more expensive, and difficult problems can be avoided down the road.

The second thing that needs to happen is that homeless service providers must adopt new paradigms, including re-engineering how they operate their facilities and provide services.    Getting organizations to do these things is not easy.  It's easy for people to fall back into their old ways of thinking.  They get into a rut, and for this, so too do the homeless people they service.

As some homeless service organizations become successful with these new approaches, others will be motivated to adapt to the new ways as well.  Besides that, when it comes to funding, people with the money usually want to put their money with those who do the most good with it.   If an organization stays stuck in the old ways, they may see their funding resources dry up.

Most of the people attending this conference seem to be government employee types who work in social services, or people who run shelters.  And so it also seems that many of the workshops are focused on those people's needs, teaching them how to negotiate government systems so to get funding and other resources.  Discussion about faith based services providers seems to be marginalized,  although I did see one guy here in a Salvation Army uniform.    Every service provider I've had contact, in regards to my own homelessness,  has been faith based.  Faith Based homeless service providers are prolific, and I would hope that more effort will be made to 'bring them to the table" in the future.

New Documentary on Homelessness

At the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference we screened the movie "@Home" about Mark Horvath and his webpage called "Invisible People." It was the first time the movie was shown to an audience, the production people who made this documentary were all there, as well as Mark. It's safe to say that everyone was impressed - not only with Mark's efforts but with the quality of the film. The film will it be a great advocacy tool, and I can see this movie getting recognition at film festivals. Although the subject of homelessness is by it's very nature, a negative thing, this film leaves you feeling good and hopeful.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I Arrive In Washington DC

Well, it's been quite the day.  Woke up at 5:15am, giving me time to shower, dress, eat breakfast, (spaghetti), and make a final check of things to take.  I then hiked the 1.5 miles from my apartment to the downtown Nashville Bus Terminal, rode said bus to the airport, went threw the nerve racking TSA screening process (yes, I'm slow at putting my shoes back on, get over it.), and then I waited 2 hours for my flight.  The flight was less than 2 hours.  It was a smooth flight but it still wears me out, flying.  I fear that any move I make on the plane could cause it to come crashing down to the ground, (a heavy responsibility, I know.)  Then we landed at Reagan Intl Airport, took a little bus ride from the plane to the terminal.  Then it was through the terminal to the metro rail.    I need to take a picture of the machine people have to use to buy a ticket for the metro, but it's crazy hard to figure out.  Thankfully someone helped me a little there.  Then I rode the Metro Yellow Line and got off in China Town which is also (or right next to) downtown.  I then walked the two blocks to the hotel.  Since I had a few hours before registration for the event,  I checked in to the hotel, took a shower, and then went for a walk around the neighborhood.  Got 1/2 block from the hotel and met my first DC homeless person. (pictured below).  It's hard to see in the photo, but his little camp was very clean.  He had a couple blankets and pillows stretched out, the porch was just big enough for him to stretch out on. I gave him a dollar for letting me take the photo.  (if you are going to make use of a photo op like this, be sure to always compensate the person.)
I then walked on to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.  After a short visit there, I found a McDonalds, 11 hours since I ate breakfast, (always hold on to those McD gift cards, they can be life savers).  Then I walked back to the hotel and did the registration.   There is A LOT to read, and I want to be as prepped as possible.  It's time for me to learn about the other side of homelessness.  I know all about being homeless, now I want to get seriously involved in helping end it.   The conference begins tomorrow.  Read about it at

Friday, July 19, 2013

Barbara Ehrenreich Speaks On Homelessness

This is from a conference of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  (The sound cuts out for a moment towards the beginning but soon recovers.)

Do Homeless People Have Rights?

Since homeless people are still "citizens", perhaps a better question would be, "should homeless people have fewer rights than anyone else?"

Regardless of how you personally answer that question, the reality for homeless people is that laws are being created all over the country that limit the rights of some people, only because they are homeless.    And, where certain laws are still the same for homeless and non-homeless people, the police are increasingly enforcing such laws unequally against the homeless.  For example, we all enjoy our city parks, we know them to be public places were people can go, either alone, or with a group, and leisurely enjoy their time, either playing a game of Frisbee catch, or flying a kite, having a picnic, or doing absolutely nothing at all but sit on the grass and stare at the clouds above.  Yet it has happened where police have ticketed for trespassing in a park, even though it was in the middle of the day.   You can go to the park with friends, spread out a blanket, open up a picnic basket and make sandwiches for your group, but if you go to the park, spread out a blanket, open up a picnic basket and make sandwiches for a few homeless people, you can be ticketed for it and told to leave the park.    So much for equal protection under the law!

This kind of thing isn't just happening in parks, it's happening everywhere homeless people go.  If you are a tourist and put your luggage down on the sidewalk for a while, the police will not bother you, but if you are a homeless person, and you put your backpack down on the sidewalk for a while, you will be ticketed for obstructing a passageway.   And these tickets come with hefty fines.  If you are homeless, more than likely you have no money, certainly not enough money for paying a ticket like this.  So then homeless people get in additional trouble for not paying their fines.   Get enough fines against you may end up doing jail time.   Of course then you are also burdened with having to pay court costs as well.

This kind of harassment can and usually does have a negative affect on homeless people, the financial burden makes it even more difficult for them to leave homelessness, as well as causing them to become depressed and less motivated to rejoin society.   From what I've heard, the police believe that such tactics will motivate the homeless to get off the streets, but that just isn't true.  It makes homeless people's situation worse, not better.  When law enforcement "cracks down" on homeless people, homeless people just go into hiding, and when the cops finally decide to do something else with their time, the homeless come back to the streets, usually in numbers even larger than before.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sugar - A New Movie On Homelessness

Elliott Broidy Raises Money for 10,000 Meals for Homeless Youth

OK, I've only seen the trailer, but I must say, I am impressed.

"Sugar" is a based-on-a-true-story movie about homeless youths in what I assume is Los Angeles, perhaps Venice Beach.   The line in the trailer that got to me, that moved me to support this movie was, "People always end up hurting you. That's why most people end up on the street."  Again, I've only seen the trailer, but if it's any indication, this movie is about as honest as you can get about homelessness.

Watch The Trailer