Wednesday, April 30, 2014

She Likes To Be Homeless

Sadly the title that the LA Times gave to this story leads people to believe that homeless people actually like being homeless.   But that's just not true.   No one in their right mind would ever want to live homeless, especially in the U.S.   Regardless of what some homeless people say, if you dig into their story you find that they are only saying so out of spite.

Still the article this post links to is a well written account of the wrong headed, mean spirited, unproductive practice that the police use in trying to deal with homeless people.   Harassing the homeless does nothing to reduce the number of homeless people, it only makes the already difficult situation for homeless people even more difficult.   Really, homeless people are stuck between a rock and a hard place.   Harassment of the homeless would only work if there was, on the other side, a viable option, some other place for the homeless to be, but there just isn't one.
Moody, 59, said she doesn't like sleeping on the sidewalk but believes skid row is part of her "destiny." "We're human beings, not to be pushed around like cattle," she said. "We have a right to be stationary."
Read the whole story here www.LATimes.com

Saturday, April 26, 2014

And Just Like That

And just like that it happens, we reached the Fundly.com goal for my new laptop.   I'm so very grateful to everyone who supported this cause.    I was a bit concerned that we wouldn't make it, seeing as I did everything I could to wear out everyone with my incessant emails and postings about my requests for donations.   But then came one very generous donation that took us the goal line.  "Touchdown"!

Now to get that laptop ordered.

It is time for me to take everything I've learned about life, and about being homeless, and apply it to the cause of ending homelessness.   Of course I'm not so delusional as to think I can do it all, or mostly by myself.   It could be that my best efforts may be in mobilizing others to do what work needs to be done.   Still, my hope is that soon the changes will be put in place so that homelessness, as we know it today, will cease to exist.  And that our country develops a proper and healthy response to those who find themselves in the precarious position of becoming homeless.   It can be done.   I hope it's done in my lifetime.    I only have about 20 good years left in me, so it's time to get working, now.

So Close To The Finish Line

Come one guys, and gals.  We are so close to wrapping this up, less than 25% to go.    Please help me replace my old laptop so that I can continue my advocacy for the homeless by way of the internet.  We've raised $1180, we need just $320 more.  Please click on the link below.   Any amount will help!  Thanks!

Friday, April 25, 2014

More Thanks!


UPDATE: We reached the goal (yay) and I now have a new laptop, one that should serve the purposes of this blog for years to come. I am humbled, and grateful. Now that the laptop issue is out of the way, why not check out all the coolness which is this blog :)  click >> homeless.expert

 We are more than 3/4ths the way to the goal! To those who have donated to my laptop cause, I want to thank you all.  Your support means more to me than you know. I understand that Fundly does generate some mass emailings, and I hope they were not too much of a bother.

Still, nearly all the donations I received came from emails. (At least with emails, you phone doesn't ring in the middle of dinner!) I have found the laptop I want and will be ordering it once the goal is reached - and that won't be too much longer as we are now more than 75% there! Big changes are coming in the homelessness industry, and I have more hope than ever that homelessness, as we know it today, will soon be a thing of the past.

I'm hopeful that with all of our efforts we'll see this change come to pass in my lifetime. I've only got about 20 good years left in me, so we better get things going now! With my most sincere appreciation, Kevin  
See the new laptop at: 
http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com/2014/05/my-new-laptop.html


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Resistance To Changing The Homeless Industry Paradigm


Yes, homelessness is an industry, that is for those who offer services to homeless people - this includes everything from year round shelters to mom and pop groups that deliver food to the homeless on the streets.  Scouring the internet, I could not find a total count of all the official not-for-profit organizations nor for the  unofficial, yet altruistic, service providers dealing with the homeless.  Certainly their numbers must be in the thousands, if not tens of thousands.    There are 289 cities in the U.S. with a population of 100,000 or more.  There are more than 3000 counties in the country as well.  And I'd guess that homeless people live in every single one of them.

Still, from what I've seen, nearly all who work with homeless don't really understand what causes or cures homelessness.   They may work hard to provide shelter and food and clothing, but they don't make much of an effort to understand the "who what when where and why" of homelessness.   It could be because they are so focused on doing the work of caring for the homeless that they have no time or energy, or interest, in discovering more about the issue.

Still, these workers in the homeless industry are considered experts in the field.   The general public have a lot of questions about homelessness, so they seek out service providers, hoping to get real answers to their real questions.  But, these homeless industry people, lacking true comprehension of homeless issues, make up most of their answers, backed up by nothing more than anecdotal stories.    Over the many years, these answers have become solidified in the consciousness of the homelessness industry, and a "canon" of knowledge has developed, as well as a philosophy of sorts about the work of homeless services.

The bigger problem is that no one has ever questioned the answers coming from the homelessness industry.

But, we are now finding out that their answers to the important questions have never been truly analysed and checked for accuracy - they have never been qualified. Most everyone has just assumed that these supposed experts know what they are talking about.

Now, science is getting involved and turning its critical eye on the entire homelessness industry, and it is  changing everything we thought we ever knew about homelessness.   Much of this new focus on homelessness came by way of President W. Bush's declaration that we, as a country, should be able to end chronic homelessness in a short amount of time.   That is when the department of Housing and Urban Development got involved, and they in turn employed the scientific community, and they are helping the government to better understand and develop better cures for homelessness.   It is because of the efforts of our government, HUD and social scientists that we have these new models, such as "Housing First" and "Rapid Rehousing".   This is also the reason why the government and other funding sources are now changing how they distribute funding to the homelessness industry.   Soon the government will stop funding the many shelters and other homeless services that have little or no real impact on the goal of ending homelessness.  People are demanding that homeless services give up the band aid approach, (which seems to only enable homelessness) and to instead work towards ending homelessness.   Homeless shelters must now work towards putting themselves out of business.   And that may very well be the rub.

The homelessness industry has been doing things the same way for so long, they cannot fathom another way of doing business - their entire mental concept, their organizational charters, their philosophies are tightly wrapped around the old way of doing things.  So, these new ideas that are come along, they don't comprehend them.  The old school homeless service providers believe, and declare, that any other way of approaching homelessness will no work.  Or, they declare that there is nothing wrong with their particular approach.   Some of this resistance could be motivated by a sense of self preservation.   The new way of dealing with homelessness will make many services, and their many employees, obsolete.  Workers in the industry will have to relearn everything they've ever done, and that may require more effort than they are willing to dedicate to the cause.

A good example of this resistance is found in a recent article by KPBS in San Diego about the coming changes in how homeless service providers do their work.  http://www.kpbs.org/news/2014/mar/26/debate-over-housing-first-may-cost-local-homeless-/

Regardless, the change is coming.   Homelessness will end.  Rescue missions and the like will soon be a thing of the past.   But until then, people will still be suffering needlessly on the streets.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Almost There

When advocating for the homeless you will inevitably offend many people. Add to that my own innate ability to offend, and I'm surprised my advocacy has gone as well as it has. My thanks to all those who have donated so far to my laptop cause, we are more than halfway to the goal!

Please, if you can spare any amount, large or small, it will be greatly appreciated.   See my Fundly post in the right hand column for more info.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Lack Of Balance

So much of homelessness has changed in recent years.   It used to be that the economy wasn't a source of homelessness, except for a very few people.   But now, the economy is a much bigger driver of homelessness.     It used to be that the design of our economy didn't make people homeless, but only made it difficult for people to leave homelessness, but now it cannot be denied the role of our economy in creating homelessness.   And getting out of homelessness?   Well, that journey is now more difficult than ever for the average homeless person - all the more reason why homeless people need the help of the whole community in recovering from homelessness.   And this community approach is showing the most promise.   In addition to "Housing First" for the chronically homeless, "Rapid Rehousing" is working wonders for those who have been homeless a very short time, and only need a little assistance in reclaiming their lives.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness:
  • people served with rapid re-housing are homeless for shorter periods of time than those assisted with shelter or transitional housing;
  • more people exit to permanent housing from rapid re-housing programs than from shelter or transitional housing;
  • compared to those people who exit to permanent housing from transitional housing or shelter, those that exit through rapid re-housing are less likely to return to homelessness; and
  • rapid re-housing is less expensive per exit to permanent housing than shelter or transitional housing.
An example of Rapid Rehousing would include assessing people as they entered a homeless shelter for the first time. Focusing on those who still have an income - they may have lost their home but they are still employed. The shelter would then provide financial aid, perhaps paying a months rent and deposits for move in and utilities for a new apartment. This gets the homeless person right back out of homelessness, and in the long run saves the shelter money that it would otherwise spend on the person as he/she stayed in the shelter for several months.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

When Movies Disappoint

It is not usually a "bad" movie that disappoints people.  It is when advertising leads people to believe a film will by one kind of movie when it's actually another.  Many good films suffer at the box office because of this.
I just watched "Blue Jasmine" and found it to be such a movie.  It was billed as a comedy of sorts, but there was really nothing funny about it, despite it being written and directed by Woody Allen.

It is a story about the creation of a homeless woman (although homelessness is never directly mentioned, only hinted at in the final scene).   It follows her journey from high society, through tragedy to despair and eventual mental illness and destitution.   The main roll was expertly played and worthy of the Oscar she received.  The movie did suffer, if just a small amount, because the rest of the cast was played by third rate actors and comedians - yes even Andrew Dice Clay is in this, though for the life of me I don't know why - he was certainly the low point of the movie.  Still the lead was so well played by Cate Blanchette that she more than saved the movie.

Regardless of the attempts as humor, the theme was just too heavy for them to create any comic relief.  If you've ever wondered how a any person, but especially a person of means, can fall into homelessness, then watch this movie.  It will answer many of your questions.

Homeless GoPro


As I make preparations to start videoing my homeless experience, I find this on the big ol' webs
 http://www.homelessgopro.com/ It is a project where Gopro cameras are given to the homeless, and they share those videos with the public, giving people a unique first hand view of homeless life.

This is pretty much what I want to do here in San Diego.   If you feel so inclined, please send a message to them, and ask them to include me in this project! click on their "get involved" button (or click the link I provided) "get involved".    Thanks!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Laptop Troubles

I need to get a new laptop, if I am to continue with my blogging about homelessness.   Their are several issues I am having with my current laptop - it has slowed down considerably since I first got it and maintenance isn't helping.   It is also very slow at starting up, and slow at finding and logging into whatever wifi I can find.    When I am able to connect to wifi, the contact is always slow and weak   And with blogs being less popular and youtube vlogging becoming the main source of internet activity, I need a laptop that can process, compress and upload video in a timely manner.   as it is, it takes the majority of my time to upload the few short videos that I have created.    Additionally, my laptop is bigger and heavier than practical, especially since I have to carry it everywhere I go.   I need a machine that can better handle processing video as well as one that is smaller and more portable.    As it is, my audience is shrinking and to regain my standing on the internet is to engage people in these new formats of video and podcasting (the company that owns youtube.com now considers video as a form of podcasting).    I need to either make these changes in what I do on the internet, or just let it go altogether.     I do think there is potential on the internet for me to make a modest living as a "content creator".   I just can't get there with the machine I currently have.

This is why I started the Fundly account in the right hand column.   Please donate.  It really wouldn't take that many donations to reach the goal.   And I would be very grateful!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Homeless In A Shelter Versus Outside

Updated 4/16/14

Overall, more homeless people live in shelters than outside.   Roughly two thirds of all homeless people live in shelters.   One third of homeless people live outside.   There are many factors that come into play that lead a homeless person in one direction or another.   Where a homeless person stays is determined more by situations and conditions than just choice.   It is a rare occurrence for a shelter to not be filled to capacity every day of the year.

Every situation and condition can be found in the homeless environment, regardless of the place.  Still, no two places are the same.  The situations and conditions of the homeless environment very mostly by degree.  For example, in some cities there exists two or more types of homeless shelter, in other cities, there is only one.   In the cities were there is only one type of homeless shelter, they will most likely be religious.   In the greater Boston area, there are 21 homeless shelters, most of which are run by the city and have no religious affiliation.   In the Nashville area there are four shelters, all of them are christian based, one is run by fundamentalist christians, one is run by many denominations, though it leans catholic, and the other is the salvation army.  One is a family only shelter.  The shelter run by the fundamentalist christians is by far the largest.   In Las Vegas there are a half dozen shelters, most are religious some are not.  But the largest shelter there is run by Catholics.    And Catholics and Fundamentalist Christians run shelters very differently.   The Catholic shelters tend to be more compassionate and work to meet the needs of the homeless, whereas fundamentalist christian shelters focus more on condemnation of sin, and on conversion to their denomination.   As one director of the Nashville Rescue mission has said "I'm not here to end homelessness, I'm here to make christians."   There may be a correlation between this approach to homeless sheltering and the fact that fundamentalist christian shelters have a reputation of being the most violent and unpleasant.

So, let us now compare some of the differences between living in a shelter with living outside.

1. Autonomy - Perhaps "independence" would be a better word.   Living outside allows a person to be themselves, and as much as possible, in control of their own lives.  When staying in a shelter, people must relinquish control over what they do and where they go, while in the shelter.   To many homeless people, this giving up of control is equivalent to relinquishing their sense of dignity and self respect.  When a homeless person lives outside he is beholding only to himself and what he deems best for himself.  When living in a shelter, a person must give up his own ideas of right and wrong, and must submit to the rules of the shelter.   Certainly rules alone are not a bad thing, especially when operating a large facility.  But most shelters create an excess of rules that even none homeless people would have a difficult time conforming to.  Shelter workers usually work with very little oversight, or training, and they often distort the rules or make up rules to suit their personal ideas of right and wrong.  These shelter employees, because of the lack of supervision, are likely to mistreat the homeless, against which the homeless have no recourse.

2. Safety - Often, shelters promote themselves as a safe alternative to living on the streets. But from all I've experienced, this is not always true.   It all depends on how the internal operations of the shelter are managed.   In a shelter I stayed at in Las Vegas, there were always two guards on duty within each dormitory.   In Nashville, there were no guards in the dorms.  The only person "on duty" during the night was in an office a good distance away from the dorms.  And it was not unusual to find this person asleep.   Without proper oversight the environment within shelters can be conducive to violence and theft and drug abuse.  Shelters are always crowded which in itself can create stress, and the homeless become frustrated for having to wait long periods for services, usually having to stand in lines, on their feet, for hours.  Then, when services are rendered, they are usually less than adequate for the homeless person's needs.  

Fights happen occasionally in shelters, but the stress of being in a shelter creates an environment where the homeless are constantly being aggravated, so anger is constantly being expressed by one person or another.  Theft happens more often.  And although drugs are not allowed in shelters, addicts can either partake of drugs immediately before entering a shelter, or will be able to sneak drugs in when shelter employees become lax in their duties.   Still, within a shelter, when a fight does break out, usually there is someone around to break up the fight, and the offenders are removed from the shelter. That of course depends on the situation.  It is not uncommon for the instigator of a fight to con the shelter workers into believing that he was actually the victim, and his victim is escorted off the property.

Although street predators do exist, homeless people can keep themselves safe by keeping their guard up and paying attention to their environment.   This involves such things as deciding where and how to sleep at night, staying sober, and having a sense of their changing environment, to know who you can trust, and to know when a peaceful situation is about to become ugly.   As with all people, homeless people don't usually pick on random people to fight.  Fights, for the most part, only happen when one homeless person feels they have been wronged by another.  Keeping to one's self is the best protection from such fighting and general aggravation.   I can't tell you how many arguments and fights I've witnessed because one homeless person asked another homeless person to watch his possessions while he was away, and that other homeless person did not fulfill that promise as expected.    It starts out something like this:

     "you said you'd watch my stuff for me while I went to the food stamp office.  when I came back you weren't here"
     "well, you were gone for 4 hours, I wasn't going to stick around all day waiting for your ass to get back, I had something I had to do too"
     "I just stopped at the store on the way back to get some beer"
     "Well, let me have a beer then"
     "It's all gone, we drank it already."

Then the yelling starts, then perhaps shoving, and the fists fly.   One or two punches later and it's over.   Revenge violence is more of a concern.   If you have upset a homeless person, and they know where you sleep, they  might attack you in the middle of the night.   Still such occurrences are rare and most homeless people will never experience it.   Just as often, it happens that two homeless people are drunk, one gets mad over something the other said or did.  He shoves the other guy, the other guy, being drunk, loses his balance, falls and hits his head on a rock.   Death wasn't intended, accidents happen to a lot of drunks.

3. Mental Health - If a homeless person has certain mental health issues then he won't be able to stay in a shelter.   It's not that shelters have rules against the mentally ill, it's just that the behaviors of many mentally ill people are not allowed within shelters.   Schizophrenics who have discussions and arguments with imaginary people will eventually cause a disturbance in the shelter.  Others who don't understand the behaviors of the mentally ill may feel threatened by them, and for this fights might break out.   When you have a hard time dealing with reality, it's hard to defend yourself from accusations, and for this you may be removed from a shelter.  It just depends on how a person's mental illness manifests itself.   Some mentally ill people have no problem getting along in a shelter.

For some schizophrenics, drinking actually helps to alleviate symptoms of their mental illness.  Getting drunk may help make the voices in his/her head go away.   But in many shelters, a person is not allowed to be intoxicated.   Only by staying outside is the person have to drink to his/her content.

And just the plethora of rules in shelters makes it nearly impossible for some mentally ill to survive within a shelter.   And most shelter employees are not trained to deal with people who are mentally ill.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Please Send A Donation Today



Advocacy Difficulty

Actually, it's the most difficult thing for people to do, not just homeless advocates.  When considering what's best for the homeless, people cannot help but attach their own world view to the process.   If it is a religious person, their answer to the question "what's best for homeless people?" will always reflect a religious answer. Or if a person is a big proponent of Capitalism, their answer to the question will reflect capitalistic ideals.   And, of course, there are as many different world views as their are people.

But none of these responses to the question offer a "what is best for homeless people" answer.

First and foremost, when considering what is best for the homeless, people MUST strip themselves of all preconceived notions, not just about homeless people, but about life in general.   Only after doing so will they be able to accurately see what will best answer that question.

The first step is to rid one's self of all sorts of prejudices and emotions they have attached to the subject of homelessness.  Then they have to step outside of themselves and acknowledge that what may work well for themselves may not work well for others.   Only then can a person see through to the actual needs of others, and to what would be best for them.

If only temporarily, let go of your religion, let go of your politics, let go of your own personal up bringing, let go of your personal world view and philosophy of life.   Then look upon the homeless for who they truly are, and what would actually work best at ending their homelessness.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Evictions And A Conviction

There are some apartment buildings, mostly SROs, that offer cheaper rent than normal.  To qualify to live in such a place, you have to prove that you don't make very much money.   For this service, the government subsidizes the apartment building owner, to make up the difference of what the building would have earned otherwise.

Our government, having no other function but to create and enforce laws, is constantly making more laws - even when additional laws are not necessary.   Politicians like to show off, like to prove that they are doing their jobs, by creating more and more laws.   It has gotten to the point that when a person commits a single criminal act, that person can be found guilty of violating several laws.  It is overkill to be sure.  But I digress.

Besides laws concerning crimes, government also creates regulatory laws.   And one of it's favorite subjects to regulate is the help it provides to the poor and disabled.   Always fearful that someone might get away with abusing the system, this system has been overly burdened with regulations - to the point that often the regulations prevent any help from getting to those it was intended for.

Say, for example, you become poor because you lost your job.   Well, what happens after losing your job?  You can't pay your rent.  And what happens when you can't pay your rent?  You are evicted from your home/apartment.    Now, guess what one of the requirements is for getting a low rent apartment?  That's right, you are not allowed to have even a single eviction on your record.  In addition, you aren't allowed to have a criminal record either.    A person commits a felony.  When he gets out of prison, he has a difficult time finding a well paying job.  He lives in poverty.  He can only afford one of these low rent SROs.  But, because of his previous conviction, his application for the apartment is denied.

As for myself, I have 2 evictions, and one conviction of a misdemeanor offense. Additionally, the amount I receive from SSI doesn't allow me to live in but the cheapest of apartments - that's if I'm ever able to find one that will accept me.