Thursday, October 31, 2013

How Homelessness Can End

First off, let me mention that this is not an article about how to change the current system of homeless services to the system that will actually end homelessness - this is only an explanation of how a proper, "homelessness ending" system would work.  Other smarter people could tell you more.

Door One - A Single Point of Entry
     In each city there would be only one organization that would do the job of intake.  Every homeless person receiving help to end their homelessness would process through this one organization.   This "intake" would consist of a thorough analysis of each homeless person's current situation, including an in-depth look at what each person would need so to end their homelessness permanently.

Door Two - Placement into permanent housing with proper wrap-around services.   
     Door Two could be one organization with several departments, each geared towards the different types of homeless person, or it could be several organizations, each one focusing its services towards a single type of homeless person. (ie alcoholic, mentally ill, dual diagnosed, fiscally inadequate, etc)   Door Two would take the homeless people from Door One and place them immediately into an SRO (Single Resident Occupancy) type of housing unit (small apartments or efficiency or boarding houses where each person gets a room to their own with a door they can lock), and assign the proper case managers to them, based on their particular needs.

That's it.  That's the program - nothing more to it - no religious conversion attempts - no "housing readiness" programs.   Homelessness isn't caused by a lack of religion - homelessness isn't caused by an inability  to fill out a job application form.  Certainly these things can help improve the quality of a person's life, and the case managers working with the homeless in this program can help them to develop these skills.  But these things can most certainly wait until after the participant is in their housing unit.

As part of the groundwork for this system, housing property owners, for example, owners of apartment complexes, will be recruited to donate a certain percentage of their properties to this program. Past experience has proven that there are property owners willing to participate in such programs.  Perhaps they can get tax credits as an incentive.

Most homeless shelters operate at a cost of 20 to 25 thousand dollars per participant, over a years time.  The "Housing First" model I just described can work for as little as 17 thousand dollars per participant.

Each homeless person processed would no longer be homeless and would be receiving the services they need to help them overcome their personal issues.  As they overcome their issues they become more stable and less likely to return to the streets.   Once they have reached and have maintained a good level of stability, they can be processed out of the system and into a life of true independence.

Yes, there are some people whose issues are so advanced that they will never be able to overcome them all, and will require assistance for the rest of their lives.  Still, in this Housing First program, they would incur less of a cost to the city, than if they were left to fend for themselves on the streets.  Approximately 85% of all homeless people who take advantage of the Housing First program stay with the program and do no return to the streets.  University studies have verified these facts.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Too Much Stupid

I couldn't even begin to list all the stupid things done on behalf of the homeless, supposedly to help the homeless, but only makes life worse for them.   The main reason for this is simple, as has noted by those who actually pay attention, homeless service providers think only in terms of what they want to give the homeless, instead of thinking about what the homeless actually need.   There are other problems too, with homeless service providers, but all the rest of that falls under the heading of incompetency.

Indicative of everything is the one small problem of heat.  Sure, the weather is mild in San Diego, relatively speaking.  But when you warehouse 240 homeless, 1/4 mile from the ocean, in a tent with zero insulation, you will be exposing those homeless to some harsh cold conditions.    There are many people now living in the tent who have colds, and are on the verge of catching the flu or pneumonia.     There are some heating units in the tent but they are not properly set.   AND, the admin refuses to make changes to the settings.

The heaters put out very little heat - and at the same time are expected to heat the wide expanse of the tent.   So, the fans are turned up in an attempt to move the heat all around.   The problem becomes this little thing called "wind chill".     When the wind is blowing strong enough, it causes the temperature to feel colder than it is actually.  So because of this, the homeless are feeling colder than if there were no heaters at all.  This cold air weakens people, weakens their ability to fight off colds and the flu, etc.   It's miserable enough just being homeless, and then you increase their misery by cramming them together in what amounts to a warehouse of other homeless people, and then you make it worse by not providing adequate heating.   Geez, the Tent doesn't even supply people with sheets for their plastic covered beds.  Imagine having to sleep on cold plastic when it's 55 degrees.  It's not pleasant.

All of this results in homeless people being extremely miserable, and extremely miserable people are in no state to accomplish the things necessary for ending their homelessness.   Service providers need to understand that it is only by relieving the misery of the homeless that the homeless will feel better about themselves and about life, only by relieving the misery of the homeless will they inspire and motivate the homeless to try once again to overcome their homelessness.    Happy people are never homeless people for long.   It's time for service providers to stop thinking that homeless people need to be punished into changing.  It's time for homeless service providers to learn and understand that care, concern, and compassion are the things that end homelessness.

But as it is right now in the homelessness industry, there is too much stupid.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I Am Tired But Not Pissed Off

I have been living in the "Tent" for over a month now.   For the most part it is doable.   The staff, mostly volunteers, are not skilled in shelter work, but that doesn't really matter as I don't need anything from them.   Their only real job is to keep a lid on the place.   I have noticed that the "clients" in the tent have been getting rowdier, pushing the boundaries of what they can get away with.  But it usually only takes one incident, resulting in someone being thrown out, (rolled up) to bring things back in line.   And the clients themselves seem to be able to keep each other on the up and up, calling each other out for the less than respectful things they do.   Of course sometimes they back fire and things escalate, and trouble brews.

If someone plays their radio while others are sleeping, usually it only takes someone mentioning it to the offending person, to get them to stop.   The other day, the guy in the rack next to mine had been on a coughing jag - obviously he'd caught a cold.   I had just gotten over one and really didn't want to catch another.  So, I told the dude to cover his mouth when he coughed.   Instead of just saying "ok", he raised his voice and started cussing, becoming defensive and in essence saying I had no room to complain, since I snore.   I just shook my head and remained silent.  Yet even though I did piss him off, he has covered his mouth every time he's coughed since.  Mission complete.

Then this morning, I found that one of my Timberland boots had been filled with urine.


Should I escalate things and being some tit-for-tat warfare with this guy?

I reported what happened to the front desk.  I had no proof as to who did it.   It could have been the guy on the other side of me, to lazy to walk all the way out, in the rain, to the portajohns.

I don't really want to risk my own bed privileges.    Perhaps I'll just wait a few days until I've made arrangements to move to another shelter, and exact my revenge prior to leaving.   What kind of juvenile thing should I do?

On top of all this happening, I started getting a headache last night and it got worse as the night went on.  By this morning is was very painful, to the point of making me sick at my stomach.   It was caused, I believe by my sleep apnea and the new cold I'm coming down with.

Now that I've finished breakfast at McDonalds, I'm going to do my laundry.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Voices Too Many Voices

Just googling "why do people become homeless" will give you more website links than you could ever read through - and my blog doesn't show up very often anymore.   But besides that, there are a lot of people saying a lot of different things about homelessness, on the internet, and not all of it is true, or is only half true.   But the internet gives it all equal opportunity so there's no way for the casual reader to determine who is really an expert and who's just spouting off.    Getting to the "true true" of the matter is 'most impossible.   and you have no idea how sad that makes me feel.  how useless I feel and that my efforts are for not.   maybe I should just play video games instead.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

As the saying goes, "Sometimes you find books, sometimes books find you."   I have found this to be true of many of the books I've read.   And it is true of this book, "The Good Earth".   I am about 1/3 of the way through the book and I am already in love with this story, and the way it is told.

I have occasionally asked people for recommendations of books to read, especially concerning homelessness, but no one has ever suggested this book.  Yes, a major theme of this book is homelessness, although it is much more than a story of homelessness - it is about life.  But of the recommendations made to me, this book was never among them.

I don't want to give away the story, so I won't.  But this book is called "a classic" and it certainly lives up to that proclamation.   It will go in my list of books to read about homelessness.   On, this book is listed as being on the Oprah Book Club list, and is called a "contemporary classic", but know that it was first written in 1931.   (A time when books were written mostly to tell the truth, not to forward an agenda.)

Hmm.   I haven't written out a list of books to read in a long time.  I wonder what all I could remember right now.

Of course the very first book I read, that wasn't a children's book, was, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". And that certainly was about homelessness.

1. Jonathan Livingston Seagull (an allegorical metaphysical metaphor)
2. Cannery Row
3. Tortilla Flat
4. Being Flynn (Another Bullshit Night In Suck City)
5. The Double Bind
6. Under The Overpass (A Christian themed book, but very much worth reading, regardless)
7. The Soloist
8. The Grapes of Wrath
9. Down and Out in Paris and London
10. The Good Earth

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wrong Messages

In reality, everything is complex, but that is not to say that things are so complicated that they cannot be understood for what they are.  It is just that something like homelessness cannot be understood in 160 characters or less.   Now we can debate the merits of encouraging citizens to not give money to beggars, there are good points to be made on both sides of that issue.   But, such debates are worthless when the basic concepts of homelessness are set askew.

Take for instance this photo:
This particular campaign has been tried in cities throughout the country, all with no effect on the amount of panhandling taking place. It remains as it always has.   The people who put on this campaign obviously are no experts on homelessness.  But, that doesn't stop them from trying such things.

In most cities in the U.S., organizations have sprung up, all with titles similar to "The Downtown Partnership".  They consist of business owners, developers, bankers, and others with a vested financial interest in the metro areas of their cities.   These "partnerships" use money they've raised to hire groups like "Block by Block" who provide services of "cleaning up" the neighborhood.   One such service has been to deal with the homeless.    It seems these partnerships hoped that Block by Block and others would make the homeless leave metro areas - and they certainly tried, but all to no avail.  It takes more than being rude to homeless people to make them "leave".  These partnerships since learned that lesson, notwithstanding the harm they caused the homeless in the process.  Of course, these city "partnerships" could have just asked the people who work with the homeless, if such tactics were a good idea.  But, they had good reason to believe that true homeless experts would not tell them what they wanted to hear.  Signs like the above still remain.

So, what is wrong with that sign?   Lets look at the first line - "Panhandling Promotes Drug & Alcohol Abuse."  The reality is panhandling does NOT promote drug and alcohol abuse, but the opposite is true.  Alcohol and drug abuse promotes panhandling. People do not panhandle unless they have a strong motivator such as the need to feed an addiction.  Knowing the actual cause and effect of a problem is key to overcoming it, and the above signage proves that whoever put up the sign doesn't know what they are talking about, and are actually making things worse by promoting their own ignorance.   

The second line - "give help - not money" I actually don't have a problem with this concept on it's own.   For those who panhandle, a lack of money is not their problem, and so money is not the solution to their problem.  Their problem can be found in what they are doing with the money once received.    Know that when a person panhandles, he is in an area of town where food is usually not readily available for free and so sometimes they will take their panhandled proceeds and buy food with it.   But that doesn't change the fact that they are panhandling to feed an addiction.   I have always said that, before people give to a panhandler, they should first take the time to get to know the person and determine what that person real needs, and then supply those things, bypassing the exchange of money altogether.

The third and last line is just as misleading as the first.  In the context of the rest of the sign, it implies that all homeless people are addicts.    It also implies that people should not get directly involved with homeless people and their rehabilitation from homelessness. It implies that people should leave all interaction with the homeless to "charities."  And it also implies that charities are qualified to deal with homelessness. Again, the exact opposite is true.   If homeless people are going to overcome their homelessness, and all the other issues in their lives, they need people in their lives, people who care, people who will help.   They need community perhaps even more than people who don't have such debilitating issues.   Regardless of what people might think, homelessness is not something a homeless person can overcome by him/herself.   Yet people do overcome homelessness all the time.  The average homeless experience is only 3 to 4 months in length, and they were able to overcome their homelessness because there were people who cared enough to lend a hand.

The real difficulty is with those who have become chronically homeless - they are the one's who need help the most and are least likely to receive it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Homeless Guy Update

Ok Ok, yeah I know I've been slacking off with the blog.  Last month I was posting more than once a day, this month I have only posted 9 times in the past 20 days.   That's not what I intended.  It's just that things come up and I get distracted.  And really, as much as I am driven to advocate for the homeless, there are other things to do as well.   As I have often proclaimed "there is more to homeless people than being homeless."   There are some TV shows that I like.   I don't have a tv, but I do have streaming Netflix.   I don't have many friends in San Diego, but when I get a chance to do something with one of my friends, I'm gonna do it.  Like yesterday, I attended a meeting of the Comic Con volunteers.  My friend from high school volunteers each year at Comic Con and she took me to the meeting.   If I attend enough meetings and stay a member in good standing, then I'll be able to work Comic Con next year - that means being able to attend Comic Con too.   Homeless people are just as diverse as the rest of the population.  They are Democrats and Republicans, they are sports fans who support their favorite teams, some are readers while others like to watch movies.   Some have musical interests.   Some never work because of a disability, some work 80 hours a week.   Some cannot read or write while others have completed post Doctoral work.    So, please be careful with your generalizations of homeless people, and know that there is no 100% of anything regarding the homeless.

Saturday, I attended an a meeting of, I guess you'd call them, "homeless advocates."  They are people who are interested, not just in helping the homeless, but also with moving the conversation about homelessness forward - mostly with the idea  of one day bringing homelessness to an end.   There were 5 people at this meeting besides myself.  Some work as service providers, others are interested in homelessness for personal reasons.   The conversation was very positive, everyone had a wealth of knowledge to share, and everyone was interested in seeing what the group could do to positively affect homelessness.    We all recognize that the subject at hand is big and complex, and working towards the end of homelessness is going to be a daunting task, but we all agreed that bringing homelessness to an end is a very real possibility.    We will be meeting again next month.  If you are interested in attending, you can email me for more information.

Friday, October 18, 2013

About Me

Since I am now meeting more people in San Diego, and I am still an unknown entity in this city, I thought now might be a good time to introduce myself a bit and explain what I do.

For those who worry that people around the country travel to San Diego to be homeless, know that I am a native San Diegan.  I was born in Chula Vista Community hospital and was raised in the Clairemont Mesa area.   I attended Madison High my sophomore year, had some problems in school, and was then transferred to Kearny High to finish out my education.  I graduated in 1979.

Actually, I have deep roots in San Diego, wit family history going back over 100 years in the county.   My mother's side of the family helped to settle parts of Julian and Ramona.   Pepper Park, located along the harbor in National City is named after one of my grandmother's brothers.   Though my father is from back east, he met my mother while stationed here, in the Navy, during the Korean Conflict.  He was taking dance lessons at the YMCA.  Mom was a dance instructor there.   Shortly after he was discharged, Dad took a job at General Dynamics, Convair, (next to Lindbergh Field).  He worked for that company until he retired.   As was common for the time, Mom was a housewife.  I believe that all took place around 1957-1958.

After graduating from high school I continued to live with my parents until just before my 21st birthday.   My father told me, "I looked into it and found that once you turn 21 years old, I will no longer be legally responsible for you.   So, I want you out of the house by then."

I took a job as a security guard, working at the Salk Institute in Torrey Pines on the graveyard shift.  Because of the low pay of the job and the high cost of housing, the nearest apartment I could find was in Chula Vista.   Still, because of my particular condition and inability to socialize in a healthy manner, within 2 months of moving out of my folks house, I found myself 2000 miles away and homeless.

For the next 30+ years I made Nashville Tennessee my city of residence.  While there I experienced several separate episodes of homelessness - amounting to about 15 years of living on the streets. Most of that time, I lived in homeless shelters.  I spent some time living in halfway houses and in homeless facility "programs".  I have also slept in alleys, slept in cars,  (when I had cars to sleep in), couch  surfed, etc.   During this time I also spent a couple years in the Navy, attempted a year of college, worked in construction and in retail, and tried my hand at photography.

In 1988 I met a young lady - a local girl who knew nothing of homelessness.  She helped me to get off the streets and within a couple years we were married.  We had two children and eventually bought a house.  Our divorce was finalized in December of 1995 and I returned to living on the streets.

In the late 90s, while still living at the local rescue mission, I tried my hand at homeless advocacy, publishing a homeless newspaper called "HomeWord" (the pun was intended).  Although I was only able to create two issues of the paper, I had learned a good deal about advocacy and met some key people working with homelessness, such as Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for Homeless and Tim Harris of the homeless newspaper, Real Change, of Seattle.

By then I had become know, at least in the homeless industry circles of Nashville, and a little bit on the national level.   I have been involved in several different advocacy activities, including the Homeless Power Project, the Nashville Mayor's Taskforce on Ending Homelessness, and the Metro Homelessness Commission.  I have also given talks at churches and universities in the Nashville area, including several times at Vanderbilt.

In 2002, I  began writing a blog about my life and experiences with homelessness, which I continue to work on.    As a matter of fact, you are reading that blog right now :)

I have recently returned to San Diego, for no other reason than I wanted to return home, and that I want to live out the rest of my life here, in the place of my birth.   Homeless advocacy is what I know, and so I will continue with it as I live here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Homeless Advocate Meetup San Diego

Come hang out with some homeless advocates and discuss pressing issues, with a focus on bringing homelessness to an end.  This will be an informal get-together of positive minded folks.
Saturday October 19th, 10am
Ryan Bros Coffee 1894 Main Street, San Diego, 92113

Friday, October 11, 2013

Solutions For Homelessness

There are several ways to solve homelessness.   Back in the day, I used to say, 'by any means necessary'.  That is, if a method resulted in getting someone out of homelessness, I supported it.   To an extent, and for the time being, I still do.   But lately, people have been taking a closer look at homelessness and how best to deal with it.    One thing that has come about is the understanding that solutions to homelessness are not equal.   Some do a better job of getting people off the streets, and keeping them off the streets, than others.  People with an interest in the well being of the homeless, feel an obligation to society to not just end homelessness, but to do so in the best way possible.  They feel that those who work in the homelessness industry should promote the method which works best, using efficiency and effectiveness as guides.

No matter how you look at it, there is a cost to ending homelessness.  It would behoove us then to find the least expensive means to that end.   And, there is no perfect solution to ending homelessness, so it would also behoove us to find the method with the best success rate.

Both, government and private sector non-profits have discovered over the past few years that the "Housing First" model works better than any other program currently available.  It has been proven to get homeless people off the streets, and keep them off the streets, for approximately $17,000 a year per person.   Rescue missions, and other shelters spend approximately $20,000 to $25,000 per person, per year.   The Nashville Rescue Mission has beds for about 500 people a night and operates on a 11+million dollar annual budget.  If the mission operates at full capacity, it is spending $20,000 per person every year.   With Housing First costing only $17,000 per person per year, you can see the obvious financial benefit.    Better still, Housing First gets homeless people off the streets IMMEDIATELY, while rescue missions make no promise of ever getting people off the streets.   Instead, rescue missions require that homeless people go throw the mission's rehab programs, on rescue mission property, for a year or more.    For 10 million dollars a year, Housing First can get 588 homeless people off the streets, and keep them off the streets.   Rescue Missions can make no such claim as the majority of their efforts are geared towards managing homelessness, not ending it.   As the former director of the Nashville Rescue Mission, Don Worrell, was often quoted as saying "I'm not interested in ending homelessness.  My job is to convert people to Christianity."

For extensive information on "Housing First", take a look at these links:


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Narratives On Homelessness

There are many narratives on homelessness.   Some say that there are as many narratives as their are homeless people - and they often say that each narrative is as unique as the person telling it.   But I have found that if you strip down these narratives, these stories of homelessness, you'll find some common threads running through them all.   One such theme is "homelessness is not my fault".

Whether it is a homeless person, or a local business man, or someone working at a homeless facility, when they tell the story of homelessness, you will find that their story is crafted in such a way as to avoid assigning any guilt to themselves.   The business man will blame the homeless person, or the homeless facility.  The homeless facility worker will blame either the homeless person, or society.  The homeless person  will claim to be a victim of circumstance.

The reason for all this "blaming" is a result of defensiveness, and all this defensiveness is the result of people obsessed with passing judgment on everyone and everything, people, organizations, the government, etc.  (It has always struck me funny that the people of United States, being so preoccupied with passing judgment on others, still espouses to be the harbingers of "freedom".   Sadly, Americans spend most of their freedom working to take away freedom from others.)   Why would a free people be so obsessed with telling others how to live?

Being judgmental has a way of stifling people, making them unwilling to talk openly and honestly with each other. People would be more open and willing to discuss even the most difficult aspects of life, including those aspects in which they themselves fail, if only people would not be so judgmental.

The thing is, we all fail.   We fail at most everything all the time, there is very little perfection in the world.   And when it comes to homelessness - the homeless person, the business men, the churches, the organizations designed specifically to deal with homelessness - we are all failing, and miserably so.

For the sake of ending homelessness, lets put aside the judgmentalism, with the blaming, and lets get on with accepting the fact that things are not going the way they should, and that we should move on towards honestly solving homelessness.


Obamacare and Republicans

Oct 2008: "You'll never get elected and pass healthcare."
Nov 2008: "We'll never let you pass healthcare."
Jan 2009: "We are going to shout you down every time you try to pass healthcare."
July 2009: "We will fight to the death every attempt you make to pass healthcare."
Dec 2009: "We will destroy you if you even consider passing healthcare."...
March 2010: "We can't believe you just passed healthcare."
April 2010: "We are going to overturn healthcare."
Sept 2010: "We are going to repeal healthcare."
Jan 2011: "We are going to destroy healthcare."
Feb 2012: "We are going to elect a candidate who will immediately revoke healthcare."
June 2012: "We will go to the Supreme Court, and they will overturn healthcare."
Aug 2012: "The American people will never re-elect you, because they don't want healthcare."
Oct 2012: "We can't wait to win the election and explode healthcare."
Nov 2012: "We can't believe you just got re-elected and that we can't repeal healthcare."
Feb 2013: "We're still going to vote to obliterate healthcare."
June 2013: "We can't believe the Supreme Court just upheld healthcare."
July 2013: "We're going to vote like 35 more times to erase healthcare."
Sept 2013: "We are going to leverage a government shutdown into defunding, destroying, obliterating, overturning, repealing, dismantling, erasing and ripping apart healthcare."

- From Washington Post Comments

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Solving Homelessness I Am Only A Messenger

Yes, there exists a solution to homelessness.   I did not create the solution, I do not have the means to implement the solution, but from all my experience with homelessness, I know for a fact that it works.

Still, a problem remains, and so does homelessness.  The reason being, the people with the ability to implement this solution are not doing so.  Not yet anyway, not to the degree necessary to actually bring homelessness to an end.

The reason for this is simple.  The solution to homelessness is different than how homelessness is currently viewed.  To implement the solution, everyone working in the homelessness industry will have to change what they think and do regarding homelessness.   Ending homelessness will require a massive paradigm shift. 

The organizations and facilities that are currently addressing homelessness are so entrenched in the old way of doing things that they struggle to comprehend anything different.  When told of the new paradigm, they become confused, their eyes glaze over, they cannot see the forest for the trees.

From my standpoint, from my understanding of things, about all I can do is to begin educating people about the solution with the hope that eventually enough of the right people, with the right resources and influence, will begin to see the solution for what it is and adopt it as their own.

The solution to homelessness is not some wacky crazy idea with radical notions.  Actually, the solution is the result of a great deal of research, and developed by people who are scientifically minded, who are focused on provable, verifiable, results.   Our federal government has recognized this solution as being effective and is rewarding communities that implement this solution with financial support.  

When I say "provable, verifiable results" I'm talking about the actual ending of homelessness.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

San Diego Homeless Discussion Forum

Well, I done did it.   I've given myself yet another task to try and keep up with.   Yesterday I created a discussion board specifically for San Diego Homelessness.   I think San Diego is ripe for change in how it deals with homelessness, and all it needs is to educate, organize and mobilize those people who are interested in seriously reducing if not completely ending homelessness in San Diego.  It can be done here.  There are many compassionate people here, they just seem a bit scattered at the moment.   Hopefully this forum will help the city coalesce and congeal an affective model for solving homelessness.   Please check out the forum, become a member, and participate.   Everyone's input is vital.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Where Did You Go, They Asked.

Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately.   I promise to start writing again on Monday.    I hope you are all well.  Be strong, be smart, be courageous.   We can end the majority of homelessness in this country.  All we need is for people to be willing.   Are you willing?