Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sick Old Homeless Man

The man was vomiting up a thick dark brown liquid that looked like used motor oil. It was all over him and all over the sidewalk. He was very physically weak and took him a bit to roll over and put the pillow under his head. I asked him if he wanted me to call an ambulance. He said no.

Inside An SRO

Friday, May 30, 2014

Chronically Homeless And The Frequent User Fallacy

When the government first introduced the "Housing First" model for dealing with homelessness, it included a brand new definition for a type of homeless person, the "Chronically Homeless".  The basic idea was that by putting the chronically homeless into housing first programs, it would save communities a good deal of resources and money, which could then be used to help other homeless people.  This concept assumes that Chronically Homeless people are frequent users of community resources.  They are the homeless who are often arrested by the police, visit the hospital ER more than most people, etc.  (Being that they are homeless, they have no way of paying for those services so the community has to eat the costs.)

The problem is that many Chronically Homeless people are not "frequent users" of community resources.   Yes, those homeless people who do use an excessive amount of community services are undoubtedly chronically homeless.   But, the assumption that being chronically homeless equates to frequent user is a non sequitur.   The logic does not follow.

When a community considers which homeless people to put into their Housing First program, they aren't really looking for Chronically Homeless people, but are looking for the frequent users.   Because of this many Chronically Homeless people do not get the help they need to get off the streets.

So, be wary of a community that claims they are ending, or have ended, chronic homelessness.  Most likely they haven't gotten to everyone.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wells Fargo Commercial: #HashtagLunchbag

Oh wow, I just saw this for the first time. A corporate commercial showing people feeding the homeless in a park! Edgy, and progressive. A good move on their part. And you cannot deny that this shows a corporation supports such causes. Well Done Wells Fargo.

Ethnic Differences In Homeless Population

On another post I was asked:

     the homeless I see are white, black, & hispanic. I never see homeless people who are of indian descent, middle-eastern, or asian. Surely they must exist; why are there so few of them?

My Answer: 
    Homeless people of every ethic background do exist, but it is obvious that they are not equally represented in homelessness as they are outside of it. I assume this is because of differences in the cultures of the different races. Cultures that are closer knit and more family oriented seem to suffer less homelessness. This would be a good subject for a social science study.

Bill Moyers On Homelessness

Late last week, the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness released a new study showing that, when accounting for a variety of public expenses, Florida residents pay $31,065 per chronically homeless person every year they live on the streets. The study, conducted by Creative Housing Solutions, an Oklahoma-based consultant group, tracked public expenses accrued by 107 chronically homeless individuals in central Florida. These ranged from criminalization and incarceration costs to medical treatment and emergency room intakes that the patient was unable to afford. 
UPDATE: this wasn't Bill Moyers, but someone who worked for him, quoting another source.

Homeless Terms To Know - Faith Based

“Faith Based” is the term used to designate any homeless service provider that is associated with a religion.

Fundamentalist Christians are known for operating rescue missions.

Catholics have St Vincent DePaul centers and a variety of services under the name of Ladies of Charity.   

The Salvation Army is also a Christian faith based organization.   

Those are the largest and most well known organizations, but there are many other faith based homeless service providers.  Some of these organizations require the homeless to participate in religious activities in exchange for services, but not all.

Faith-based groups provide the vast majority of homeless services in the United States, but in recent years the effectiveness of faith based organizations to end homelessness has been called into question.  A shift away from the faith-based paradigms is currently underway, moving services toward more scientific, evidence based, approach to dealing with homelessness.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - Homeless

What is the definition of homeless? That depends on who you ask. Each agency that works with the homeless will develop and implement it's own definition of the word.

Can you see how this causes problems for homeless people looking for help?  And how this causes problems for the people trying to help the homeless?

Hopefully soon a single definition will be decided on. Even if it is a less than perfect definition, having only one will make the search for help less difficult, and will help organizations to see where they need to make improvements in services. And as time goes on, that one definition can be improved - as more knowledge of homelessness is gained.

I do think that HUD's definition of "Homeless" is the most correct, so I will include it here.  (People can find themselves in a many different living situations.  Deciding which meets the definition of homeless can be difficult as the variables are often subjective.)

From HUD

  • An individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence;
  • An individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or camping ground;
  • An individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including hotels and motels paid for by Federal, State or local government programs for low-income individuals or by charitable organizations, congregate shelters, and transitional housing);
  • An individual who resided in a shelter or place not meant for human habitation and who is exiting an institution where he or she temporarily resided;
  • An individual or family who will imminently lose their housing [as evidenced by a court order resulting from an eviction action that notifies the individual or family that they must leave within 14 days, having a primary nighttime residence that is a room in a hotel or motel and where they lack the resources necessary to reside there for more than 14 days, or credible evidence indicating that the owner or renter of the housing will not allow the individual or family to stay for more than 14 days, and any oral statement from an individual or family seeking homeless assistance that is found to be credible shall be considered credible evidence for purposes of this clause]; has no subsequent residence identified; and lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing; and
  • Unaccompanied youth and homeless families with children and youth defined as homeless under other Federal statutes who have experienced a long-term period without living independently in permanent housing, have experienced persistent instability as measured by frequent moves over such period, and can be expected to continue in such status for an extended period of time because of chronic disabilities, chronic physical health or mental health conditions, substance addiction, histories of domestic violence or childhood abuse, the presence of a child or youth with a disability, or multiple barriers to employment.

  • Dad

    My father is now 80 years old.  I found out this morning that he is in the hospital, tests are being run to determine the cause of his latest ailment.   It is odd to think that this man, who had used his physical presence to intimidate me when I was a kid,  is so fragile now.   It's been some 20 years since I'd last seen my parents, and there are no future plans to reunite.

    Both mom and dad will die soon enough, but I will not lament the loss.   They were not the best of parents, to put it lightly, and so, if I am to lament anything, it would be that I was never afforded the opportunity to grow up in a healthy family.

    Some people will say that I had a good father because he put clothes on my back and food in my stomach, but it takes much more than that to be a good parent.  People who don't understand that scare me.

    I just wish I could rid myself of the memory of my parents abusiveness.  It is a tumor on my brain that clouds my thinking.

    Tuesday, May 27, 2014

    Homeless Terms To Know - SRO

    SRO stands for "Single Room Occupancy", sometimes called, "Single Resident Occupancy".  I have always used Single Resident Occupancy, as it made more sense as concerning homelessness and Housing First.  But it wasn't until I returned to San Diego and saw a true SRO, that I learned what an SRO truly is.

    The concept for Single Room living spaces came about long ago (the 1800s) when Capitalists were exploiting the lack of housing codes.  (Read about Alonso Horton for more detail.)  Some of the oldest hotels in San Diego were built explicitly for construction workers who were hired to build the more palatial hotels and supply the building boon with cheap labor.  These hotels, built for construction workers, crammed as many people together as possible.  The single rooms were smaller than 10x10 feet square.  Toilets and showers were shared, one per floor.  Downtown San Diego saw many building boons and busts over the years, but there was plenty of room for expansion and so many RSO's were built - a couple dozen or more of these SRO hotels/boarding houses still exist, and charge relatively cheap rent (although the application process and standards are very strict, and residents are paying 60 to 75% of their income for rent).

    Because SROs usually offer the least expensive rent, they are the first places that case managers contact when trying to place their clients.   In recent years, most of the SRO building has been contacting with HUD and other government agencies for subsidies in exchange for renting cheaply and for working with Section 8.

    It should be noted that these SRO hotels and similar resident buildings were, and in some instances still are, the domain of slum lords.  But these slum lords are finding it more lucrative to partner with government organizations such as HUD, and HUD  requires their properties to meet strict housing codes, which is leading to improvements in these buildings.

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    Homeless Terms To Know - Permanent Supportive Housing

    Now this is a real thing - "permanent supportive housing" is the name (or description) of the services given to chronically homeless people who are participating in a "Housing First" program.  Whenever chronically homeless people are placed in a "Housing First" program, they are NOT then abandoned and expected to figure the rest out by themselves.  (Some critics of 'Housing First" will accuse the program of this very thing, of abandoning the homeless once they are housed, but it's just not true.)   When I was accepted into a "Housing First" program, I was introduced to the team of case managers who would be assisting me, before I was ever placed in housing.  Actually it was this team who secured my SRO for me.  And this took some time.

    This team of case managers, along with my SRO, comprised my permanent supportive housing.    This sometimes goes by other names as well - Wrap Around Services - Continuum of Care - although they are not always so "permanent".   The "permanent" part is necessary for the care of chronically homeless people because it has been determined that the chronically homeless will never possess the skills necessary for truly independent living - without this care they will most certainly return to the streets.

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    Monday, May 26, 2014

    Homeless Veterans

    I am a veteran.  I was in the U.S. Navy from 1982 to 1984.  I am now homeless. And, like most homeless veterans, my tour of duty did not cause me to become homeless. You would be hard pressed to find any person who became homeless as a direct result of their military service.   So, I don't really see how the country could be held responsible for our homelessness.  On the other hand, the fact that these homeless veterans did serve the country, stood on the line between the U.S. and any potential enemy, all for relatively poor pay and less than desirable living conditions, perhaps the country, as a show of respect for veterans, should provide services to the veterans who are currently homeless - should lift them back up to an honorable living situation.

    The one problem I have regarding the discussion of homeless veterans, that is, of separating the homeless population into different kinds (homeless veterans as one kind, homeless families as another kind, homeless teens, homeless gays, homeless addicts, homeless mentally ill, etc.), is that this act unwittingly leads to people passing judgment on homeless people based on what kind they are, and determining that some homeless people are more deserving of help than others.  Or, even worse, deciding that some homeless people don't deserve any help.

    There currently exists programs for homeless veterans, and these programs exclude everyone else.  There are programs for homeless alcoholics that also exclude everyone else.   Programs for teens, programs for families, programs for the mentally ill - all excluding other types of homeless people.  Because of this there are many homeless people who don't fit into any of these categories and so are unable to receive the kind of help that other homeless people do.

    The entire homeless population is not so large that we cannot afford to help all homeless people regardless of type.   It time to help all homeless people because, after all, they are all people.

    Friday, May 23, 2014

    My New Laptop

    Just thought I'd show you the Macbook Air 11 that I was able to get because of your wonderful generosity.   Thank you, again, so much!  I am currently in the San Diego Central Library, working on new plans for the blog. :)

    Homeless Terms To Know - Permanent Housing

    "Permanent Housing" is another of those phases used in the homelessness industry that isn't exactly what it sounds like.    Although permanency is the goal in getting a homeless person off the streets, the word "housing" betrays other intentions.   "Housing" never means "home".  Housing is always a facility or a program run by some organization.   And whenever a homeless person is living in such a facility or program, they are under additional obligations to the organization besides just paying rent.

    For a truly non-homeless person, the only obligation they are under to maintain a home is to pay rent in a timely manner.  But in a "permanent housing" situation, the person not only must pay rent but also meet other requirements as placed on them by the organization.  Failure to meet these other obligations can lead to eviction.  Therefore the "permanent" part is an illusion - so is any sense of real independence.

    The phrase "permanent housing" is language manipulated to make the situation sound better than it really is.  It is a way for the homeless industry to appear as though it has solved homelessness.   Actually it is glorified shelter living made permanent.

    Sometimes, though, when someone says "permanent housing", they are really referring to permanent supportive housing.

    The last time I had a place to live, it was part of Nashville's poorly designed "Housing First" program - although, come to think if it, I don't think the city actually called it that.   Many agencies were involved and to qualify I had to jump through all the hoops these many different agencies set up.  At one point even my Senator had to be called-in to get the deal finished.   Once I had the place, an SRO in a small building full of other homeless people, not only did I have to pay a monthly rent, I had to constantly be in conformity with standards set by two different agencies - HUD's Section 8 program, and with the company which owned  the building I lived in.   The landlord was receiving many different grants from different government and charitable agencies, so I had to allow my landlord to use my personal information in qualifying for these grants - even though I did not personally benefit from them.   My income, my living situation, everything about me was inspected, and if I was not within expected grant parameters I could have been evicted.    With my anxiety issues, this process was always difficult and stressful.  After 5 years of it, I'd had enough.  I stopped participating, and was evicted.

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    Thursday, May 22, 2014

    Good Morning San Diego

    6 cop cars idling for an hour burning up gas, 12 cops paid an average of 30 dollars an hour, all to roust a half dozen homeless people from their sleep at 6:30am. Seems like these resources could have been better spent catching real criminals.  Actually for the 300 to 500 dollars this police action cost, these 6 homeless people could have been put up in a decent hotel for the night.

    Remember that these police actions are not done to help the homeless but as a a public relations stunt to show the few complaining constituents, (mostly the land developers looking to get rich by investing in the area), that the police are "doing something about it."

    Housing The Homeless Blah Blah Blah

    The more I look into it, and the more I think about it, the more disgusted I become with the word "housing" when it comes to homelessness.   Seriously, enough already.

    If people are not actually talking about houses when they discuss "housing the homeless" you know, the real single family dwelling with bedrooms and a living room and a kitchen and a garage and a yard and a driveway, etc., then they really should come up with another term besides "housing".

    Trying to pretty up the situation by prettying up the language just makes you a liar.   It's time for everyone to know that when "housing" is mentioned in regard to homeless people, what they are really talking about is the warehousing of people - you know, shelters - the place where homeless people are stored away, out of sight and hopefully out of mind.

    Still, homeless people are more people than homeless, and they deserve more respect than society current affords them.

    If society is going to treat people who happen to homeless as if they are things to be stored away, then society should just admit as much.   Lets deal with the reality of the situation.  It's the only way to really fix things.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

    Homeless Terms To Know - Temporary Housing

    There is nothing called "temporary housing" in the homeless industry, as far as I can tell.   That is, there are no programs or facilities for the homeless that go by that name.

    Still, the wording "temporary housing" is kicked around a lot by those in the homeless industry - it is used in a generic sense referring to shelters and transitional housing programs.

    Outside of the homeless industry, the phrase is used to describe short term leases for apartments.   Sometimes these apartments will be labeled "affordable housing", but they are still priced way out of reach of homeless people.

    Some people may use "temporary housing" in reference to living indefinitely in cheap hotels and motels. But I just don't see that as being homeless. Sure, people who live long term in hotels may be in a vulnerable state, and very close to becoming homeless, but as long as they are able to pay rent, they shouldn't be considered homeless, not in the technical sense anyway. I am sure that some in the homeless industry will disagree with me on this point, but such is the current state of the industry, as concrete definitions of terms are still elusive.

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    One of San Diego’s Most Successful Homeless Programs Is Out of Money

    Thirty-four of the most frequent homeless users of San Diego’s emergency services cost taxpayers and hospitals $4.3 million in responses to 911 calls and other public safety needs in 2010. Take those same people, put them in a house, give them preventative medical care and access to round-the-clock case workers, and the costs drop to $2.2 million in 2013.
    One of San Diego’s Most Successful Homeless Programs Is Out of Money

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

    Homeless Terms To Know - Transitional Housing

    Transitional Housing is the name given to homeless programs that require the homeless to participate in rehabilitation. 

    Of all the misused terms in the homelessness industry, “transitional housing” is the most abused.   And, the programs called “transitional housing” are the most problematic.

    First of all, the term “transitional housing” is a misnomer, being that houses, (or homes of any kind), are not actually involved.  In truth, the living arrangements of a transitional housing facility are no different than in regular homeless shelters – dormitory style with several people assigned to each room, all functions are operated in mass, with no opportunity for privacy or individuality.

    Being that homeless shelters also provide rehab programs of one kind or another, the only real difference between transitional housing and a regular homeless shelter is that in transitional housing the rehab is mandatory.

    The rehabilitation that takes place in transitional housing is supposed to prepare, or retrain, a person for a return to life in mainstream society.  Yet the effectiveness of the programs offered have not been proven to effectively prepare a homeless person for “real life”. Certainly, the basic life skills that are taught in transitional housing facilities are important to learn, yet a lack of these skills has not be proven to cause homelessness. Nor does mastery of these skills prevent homelessness.

    Because of these and other factors, a movement is in progress to stop the creation of any more transitional housing programs and to repurpose current transitional housing programs into something more efficient and effective in ending homelessness.

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    Monday, May 19, 2014

    The Best Food For Homeless People

    What is the best food to feed to homeless people?

    At first is sounds like an odd question, perhaps even a bit rude.   But then considering the conditions in which homeless people live, there are some things that should be taken into account.

    The Food Pyramid is the best place to start.   Fruits and vegetables, the natural foods rich in vitamins and minerals, are most needed.  Meat and bread, not so much.   But this is all common sense.

    Homeless people are humans!

    LOL, yes, it is a silly statement, but you'd be surprised by the number of people who think of the homeless as something less. But, when it comes to food, what is healthy for one human is more than likely healthy for all humans. AND health concerns are equally represented in the homeless population.

    There are some special dietary needs of the homeless that people feeding the homeless should consider.
    • Hydration - More than anything else, homeless people need water, and plenty of it.  The usual drinks, coffee, beer, colas, etc., are all diuretics, meaning that they dehydrate people.   Forget the sodas and energy drinks and caffeine and stick with good ol' water, especially in hot weather. (reusable bottles are best)
    • Soft foods are preferred - Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that homeless people have little access to good dental care, and because of this their teeth are not in the best shape.  Many homeless are missing teeth, and what few remain are broken jagged remnants. Foods that are hard, or require a lot of chewing, are often passed over by the homeless.
    • Vitamin B12 - Alcoholism causes vitamin deficiencies, most especially vitamin B12, a lack of which can cause serious brain damage. Other deficiencies caused by alcoholism are, Folate, Vitamin A, and Calcium.  Foods high in these vitamins are best for homeless people.
    • Conveniency - If you do not have a kitchen and dining facility in which to properly prepare and serve food, it is best to make the food as travel friendly as possible.   Canned and processed foods are unhealthy, but they can be easily carried in backpacks.  Also, considering that homeless people do not have proper storage facilities (no pantry or refrigerator), it is best to not overload the homeless with too much food.  The food will likely go bad before it is consumed and will be wasted.
    • Availability - Funding is a major consideration when feeding the homeless.  The cost of food must be weighed against the number of people being served.   This makes it all the more important to be creative in developing food sources, and you might be surprised at who would be willing to donate food and other goods to your project.   Grocery stores are often willing to donate fruits and vegetables that are still good but have cycled out, bakeries often donate day old bread, even Starbucks has been known to donate unsold pastries and coffee beans, etc. 
    Independent groups and individuals wanting to feed the homeless should be warned about one thing in particular.   More and more cities are requiring that people use codes-approved facilities that have been inspected by the city, in preparing the food that is served.   If you set up in a city park or on a sidewalk near where the homeless congregate, expect to receive a visit from the police.   Even if you have not broken any laws, the police may attempt to intimidate you, to get you to stop feeding the homeless.   There is a misguided belief that feeding homeless people actually creates homelessness.  Of course this isn't true, but that won't stop the police from trying to shut down your feeding program.  THE MORE COMMUNITY AND POLITICAL SUPPORT YOU ARE ABLE TO GENERATE FOR YOUR WORK WITH THE HOMELESS, THE LESS LIKELY THE POLICE, OR OTHERS, WILL BOTHER YOU.

    Sunday, May 18, 2014

    Communication 101

    For those of you following this blog, you know that I am currently working on a list of words, (and their definitions), used in the homelessness industry.

    It doesn't take long to understand that one of the biggest problems facing the homelessness industry is communication - communication between homeless service providers, the homeless, and the community at large.

    In order to move the cause of ending homelessness closer to the goal, communication between all interested parties must be improved.  First and foremost, everyone most agree on which words, terminology, and definitions to use.

    The history of homelessness is marked by a recent and significant change in how the industry responds to homelessness.   Until recently, the homelessness industry focused only on the care of homeless people, providing food, shelter and clothing.  That was the extend of it.  Then about a  decade ago, the homelessness industry started focusing on the task of ending homelessness.

    Food, shelter and clothing are still important aspects of the work, but those things are now thought of as the beginnings of the work, not the end of it.

    Ending homelessness is a bigger and more ambitious endeavor.  It requires not just a compassionate heart but also a mind big enough to comprehend the complexity of the work.  As the work of ending homelessness evolves, new terminology develops.  These words and their definitions must be understood so to effectively engage in the work of ending homelessness.

    One difficulty currently exists in that, on the local level, many of these terms are used indiscriminately,  interchangeably, as if there are no real definitions to them.    This is happening partly because ending homelessness is still in its infancy, and it will take some time for the industry to accept an authoritative single definition for each term.  

    To understand a little of the current difficulty, watch these short videos by Iain De Jong.

    Saturday, May 17, 2014

    Homeless Terms To Know - Shelters

    Shelters are facilities where the homeless are allowed to sleep during the night.

    Shelters come in a wide variety sizes and types, each with it's own particular style of operation and organization.  (It should also be noted that "day shelters" are not usually referred to as "shelters" as sleeping is not normally allowed in them.)

    The number of nights a person can stay at a shelter varies depending on the rules and policies of the shelter.   Some shelters allow people to stay for only a few days, other shelters allow people to stay indefinitely.

    Some shelters require people to be sober, so to be allowed in, but not all have this requirement.  Still, all people must behave themselves while in shelters or face removal from the facility.

    Some faith based shelters require everyone to attend religious services in exchange for shelter services.

    Some shelters also provide food and clothing and minimal health care services.

    Some shelters allow the homeless to remain in the facility during the day, while other require people to leave by a certain time in the morning and will not allow people to return to the facility until a certain time in the evening.

    And some shelters offer other necessary services, job readiness, education, mail, case management, showers etc.

    It should be noted that there is serious need for shelters which allow people to sleep during the day, so that they may take advantage of night and evening employment.   I have not heard of any shelter that offers this service.

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    Friday, May 16, 2014

    Homeless Terms To Know - Wrap Around Services

    Wrap Around Services is the term given to the practice of providing, or making available, all the various services that a person might need.  In the case of homelessness, wrap around services are provided so to stabilize and house a homeless person.   Often, the terms "wrap around services" and "continuum of care" are used interchangeably.    Continuum of Care is the name given to the official US government program whereby communities can get funding for the wrap around services they provide.

    It seems that the term "Continuum of Care" came from the health care industry in reference to major illnesses such as cancer, where as the term "Wrap Around Services" was developed in the psychiatric field, namely for children with mental health issues and their families.

    A difference could be made by saying that Continuum of Care consists of housing and wrap around services, and that Wrap Around Services could be the designation for everything done for the homeless person outside of housing.   But again, it does not seem that homeless services do not make such a clear distinction.

    Because so many different professions and different government departments have worked on the homeless issue independently of each other, they have inevitably developed different jargon and definitions.   Homelessness care is still in its early stages of development so it will be a while before the language of the work is honed down to single specific terms.

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    Homeless Terms To Know - Rapid Rehousing

    Rapid Rehousing is pretty much what it sounds like.  It quickly returns people to a housed situation.  It can also be considered a form of shelter diversion.

    We know from experience that the longer a person stays homeless, the worse their homeless condition becomes, and the more difficult it is to remove them from homelessness.   We also know that for about 50% of the homeless population their only problem is a financial one.   With a source of funding, it is then relatively easy to return a segment of the homeless population back to normalcy - back to a homed life.

    Rapid Rehousing is a program that determines which of the homeless need only financial support in obtaining housing, and supplies it.   Even for those people who have been homeless for a period of time, but now have a steady source of income, Rapid Rehousing can work for them.

    First a homeless person applies for Rapid Rehousing.  His/her current income is determined.  The homeless person applies for apartments for which they could afford the monthly rent with their current income.   Then if the landlord agrees, the Rapid Rehousing agent will pay a portion of the rent and utilities - usually first and last months rent and utility deposits - so to provide a stable financial foundation for the homeless to start living on their own.  And it works as a guarantee of sorts for the landlord so to minimize the landlords risk in renting to a recently homeless person.

    Just how much is paid depends on current income of the homeless person and the cost of rent and utilities - and the amount of funding available.

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    Homeless Terms To Know - Shelter Diversion

    Shelter Diversion is a relatively new practice that attempts to keep people out of homeless shelters - and can work as a form of homelessness prevention.

    When a person first arrives at a shelter and requests services, he/she meets with someone who investigates the cause of his/her need for shelter, and attempts to resolve the issue.

    The events that transpire, which lead a person to seek shelter, are varied, so the responses will also vary.

    • If a person was living with their parents, but there was a fallout in their relationship, an attempt will be made to reconcile the relationship so that the person can move back in with them.
    • If a person failed to make his rent payment, or otherwise dissatisfied his/her landlord, mitigation would be attempted to satisfy the landlord and get the person back into their home.
    • If it is not possible to return a person to the housing situation they were in before seeking help from a shelter, then other options for housing are sought.  (See: Rapid Rehousing).
    Shelter Diversion attempts to keep the homeless population down as well as lowers the overall demand for shelter beds.

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    Homeless Terms To Know - Housing First

    "Housing First" (often referred to as "permanent supportive housing") is a program in which homeless people are given private quarters to live in, as the first step in their rehabilitation from homelessness.

    The old school method of rehabilitating a homeless person back to a life of normalcy required that the homeless person first address and overcome all of his or her personal issues.  Then, as a reward for doing so, the homeless person would be given housing assistance.  It was expected that the homeless person first stop his addictions, deal with his mental health issues, and become gainfully employed for a period of time.

    It was assumed that the issues of addictions and mental illness and unemployment, caused him to become unstable and lose his housing in the first place. But this is just not true - although most people believe it so.

    Being that the majority of people with addictions and mental health issues never become homeless, it stands to reason that these are not the issues which cause homelessness.  In my estimation, these things are only symptoms of other issues that cause homelessness.

    But, regardless of what actually causes homelessness, and despite the old school approach, it has been proven time and again that the best way to rehabilitate a homeless person is to first give him or her a home of their own.  (This housing does not have to be extensive.  In most cases, the homeless are given SROs - small, one room apartments.)  Having the stability that comes with a place of one's own, homeless people are much better equipped to address all the other issues in their lives - the addictions, the mental health issues, etc.  80% or more of the homeless who have participated in a "Housing First" program have remained housed.

    (It is important to note that for "Housing First" to be effective, quality case management must also be assigned to the homeless to help them keep up with sobriety meetings, therapy sessions, employment, etc.)

    The other benefit of "Housing First" is that the program saves communities a good deal of money.   "Housing First" is much less expensive than allowing the homeless to wander the streets and fend for themselves.

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    Thursday, May 15, 2014

    The Apple iPhone Homeless Rip Off

    NOTE: The Apple company has been made aware of this practice, and that some of their employees are involved in this scheme, but so far Apple has done nothing about it.  This particular scam has been going on for some time, but it continues today unabated.

    This is a scheme that preys on the poor and the homeless - pretty much anyone who is desperate for cash.

    Apple offers some of it's iPhone for free if a person signs up for a 2 year service contract.   The person running the scheme will tell a homeless person, "if you go to the Apple store and get approved for a free phone, I'll give you up to $200 dollars for the phone."    So the homeless person goes to the Apple Store, signs up for a 2 year service contract.  He receives the free phone and has it activated.  The homeless person then hands the phone over to the person running the scheme for the $200.   The schemer then turns around and sells that iPhone on the international market for up to $700.   Eventually the bills for the service contract pill up, the homeless person cannot pay, and his/her credit is ruined, and most likely will never be able to purchase another phone.

    These schemers not only target the homeless but anyone who seems desperate for cash, so they will hang out at plasma blood banks, title loan stores, etc, looking for their next victim.

    Still, if you don't care about your credit score and need some quick cash...

    Wednesday, May 14, 2014

    Homeless Terms To Know - 211 Referral

    The 211 Referral service is a phone number to call for information about services available in your community for those in need.  There is usually a corresponding website that people may also use to find this information.  The program is spearheaded by United Way in partnership with other agencies.

    As the program has evolved it has grown to encompass many aspects of life.  It is not limited to helping with homelessness issues, but also with services like financial stability, tax preparation, health care, education and employment.

    Although 211 service is widely advertised in the homeless community, the truth is it provides almost no real help for the homeless.   Often a homeless person will call the 211 number only to be referred back to shelter they are making the call from.   Once a person becomes homeless it doesn't take long for him/her to learn of all the services available.  So a call to 211 after becoming homeless will usually serve no purpose.

    The real benefit of the 211 referral service is in homeless prevention.   If a person calls 211 at the first notion that they might become homeless, they might receive the information necessary to stave off homelessness.  So, make the call as soon as possible.  Once the snowball of potential homelessness starts rolling, it might grow to big and too fast to stop.   For those who are already homeless, their best bet is to acquire the services of a case manager.

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    Homeless Terms To Know - The HEARTH Act

    The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (The HEARTH Act) was signed into law in 2009 by President Obama, and has been amended several times since.  It reauthorized the McKinney-Vento Act and made several changes to the federal response to homelessness.

    It redefined many terms used in the homelessness industry, including "Homeless" and "Chronically Homeless", it consolidated certain departments which eventually became the CoC program, it renewed emphasis on performance required for grants, and established the HMIS.

    The HEARTH Act is the legislation currently being used by the federal government in its response to homelessness.

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    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    Homeless Case Management Faux Pas

    Consider this scenario:
        With an increasing homeless population, the good citizens take notice of all the alcoholics and mentally ill people wandering the streets, and so they call on the city to "do something about it."   In a charitable mood, city officials decide to allocate funds to help the homeless.  Those funds are given to a local shelter, since the shelter administrators are considered the experts on homelessness.   The shelter hires two case managers and gives them office space to work from.

    Announcements are made in the shelter about the services available from these new case managers.   Some of the homeless who spend their days around the shelter avail themselves of these services.  For several months the city funds this case management program, but it fails to see any progress made on the streets - the drunks and mentally ill people are still wandering around the city.   Complaints from citizens continue.  City officials call on the shelter to ask what is going on with the program.   The case managers show their records to the city officials, proving that they are doing the job assigned them.    Everyone is perplexed.   Money is being spent, the case managers are doing as instructed, but the problem remains.    What is wrong with this picture?

    Here is the deal - homeless people can be divided into two types - shelter homeless, and street homeless.   The homeless who spend their days around shelters do so for several reasons, safety and comfort usually.  Those homeless who do not make use of shelters have their own reasons, a lack of trust is usually at the top of that list. Also, the addicts and mentally ill who wander the streets usually lack the skills necessary for living in a shelter.   Because the shelter homeless spend their days in and around shelters, they are not usually noticed by the general public.  Those homeless who wander city streets have no other choice.

    The problem of the above scenario is that the case managers are sitting behind desks.  They are shuffling paper work instead of getting out and scouting the streets for homeless people who could benefit from their help.  To reduce the number of homeless people living on the streets, it is imperative that case managers, and others who work with the homeless, do outreach work.   They should not be sitting behind desks and waiting for the homeless to approach them.   Often these shelter case managers will claim that they don't have time to do outreach too.   And this may be true as resources are often limited.   It is easy for a case manager to occupy him/her self with helping 100 shelter homeless people file for food stamps instead of helping 2 street homeless find permanent housing.    When setting priorities it is important to establish quality over site and not just assume that the case managers should fend for themselves.   In the homelessness industry, communication is still the biggest problem, a lack of proper over site is a close second.

    It is also important to recognize that not every outreach effort is really benefiting the homeless.  Many outreach efforts only work to get the homeless into shelters.  This may temporarily clear the streets of some homeless people, but this does nothing to actually help people overcome homelessness.    Shelters do afford a certain level of service, providing food shelter clothing etc., but rarely do shelters end homelessness.  In many cases they do more to enable it.

    The best situation would be for case management to be available to all the different types of homeless people, for those who live in shelters and for those who do not, for those who live in camps, for those who couch surf, for those who have recently become homeless, and for those who are chronically homeless.

    Monday, May 12, 2014

    Homeless Terms To Know - McKinney-Vento Act

    The McKinney-Vento Act was created in 1987 in response to pressures on the federal government to respond to the nations growing homeless crisis.

    Congress passed the Homeless Person's Survival Act legislation in 1987.   After the chief Republican sponsor of the bill died, the Act was renamed for him - the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act.  In 2000, when the Democratic supporter of the bill passed away his name was added.  It remains today as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.  It is still the only major federal response to homelessness.

       There are nine sections to this legislation:
    • Title I - findings about homelessness are given, justifying the creation of the Act.  A definition of homelessness is included.
    • Title II - establishes the creation of the USICH
    • Title III - establishes the Emergency Food and Shelter Program through FEMA
    • Title IV - creates emergency and transitional housing programs through HUD.   It also establishes the Supportive Housing Demonstration Program, Supplemental Assistance for Facilities to Assist the Homeless, and Section 8 Single Room Occupancy Moderate Rehabilitation.   (NOTE: These three programs were consolidated in 2009 to form the CoC by way of the HEARTH Act.)
    • Title V - obligates federal agencies to identify unused federal property and to make that property available to state and local governments and non-profit organizations for assisting the homeless.
    • Title VI - authorizes the Department of Health and Human services to provide health care and mental health services to the homeless.
    • Title VII - authorizes educational and job training assistance to the homeless.
    • Title VIII - amends the food stamp program to facilitate participation by the homeless.
    • Title IX - extends the Veterans Job Training Act to the homeless.
     From the National Coalition for The Homeless website -
     Also in 1986, the Homeless Housing Act was adopted. This legislation created the Emergency Shelter Grant program and a transitional housing demonstration program; both programs were administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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    Homeless Terms To Know - USICH

    USICH is the acronym for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

    The USICH consists of the heads of some 19 Executive department cabinet heads.  They are charged with enacting the provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act.    The provisions have been modified over time, but the main objective is still to create an all-encompassing federal response to homelessness.  HTTP://USICH.GOV

    In 1987, in response to increasing pressure from homeless advocates, but mostly from Mitch Snyder (and the national attention he generated, shedding light on the federal governments lack of response to the growing homeless problem in the United States), a homeless relief bill was created and passed with bipartisan support, soon after re-named the McKinney Act, for the recently deceased senator who supported the bill.  Eventually it was again renamed the McKinney-Vento Act, in honor of senator Vento who also supported the bill and who had passed away.

    Like most other bills, this one has undergone several revisions over the years, but they have been mostly positive, strengthening the bill, gaining the support of each successive president.

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    Homeless Terms To Know - Mitch Snyder

    Oddly enough, my first experience with homelessness (back in 1982) happened to correspond with an unexpected surge in the national homeless population.   I remember seeing news articles in the local paper discussing this sudden increase in homelessness, and reports of its continued growth through the 80s.  This growth was happening in cities all over the country.  Attention shifted from local news to national news and programs like 60 Minutes.   In the mid 1980s a great deal of attention was given to Washington DC homeless advocate Mitch Snyder who understood the importance of media in getting out his message.  In watching old news clips it is interesting to see how the media, even back then, made homeless advocates appear as troublemakers, and how government officials were dismissive and downplayed the significance of Snyder’s efforts.

    Mitch Snyder advocated for the needs of the local homeless, yet being in Washington DC, he’s actions had national repercussions.   He requested that the government give one of it’s many empty buildings to his organization to use as a homeless shelter.  Frustrated over the lack of progress being made in this regard, Mitch and others broke into a building and took it over, basically squatting on the property.  Eventually the government conceded and allowed Mitch and his group to lease the building.   Still the building was is very bad condition, walls were crumbling, plumbing did not always work, there was no heating, etc.   So again Mitch called on the government to bring the building up to standards and make the needed repairs.  The government, namely President Reagan, refused.  In response to this, Mitch and 11 others went on a hunger strike.  With Mitch near death, and an election nearing, President Reagan relented and promised to have the building repaired.  This ended the hunger strike, but after several weeks, repairs had yet to begin.

    Mitch Snyder’s struggle with the federal government continued until his death in 1990.  But his efforts did provoke the government into action, and homeless people today are still benefiting for it. There is a documentary about Mitch Snyder and his organization CCNV that is available on  Additionally, a low budget movie was made about Mitch called “Samaritan”, also available on

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    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Football And Homelessness

    How is football and homelessness the same? too many arm-chair quarterbacks. 

    It is easy for a person sitting in the comfort of their living room to judge the actions of the players on tv. The problem for the arm-chair quarterback is that he/she is not privy to everything that is actually going on in the game - what all the conditions are, all the considerations that have to be made by the people in the game.   People react to homelessness the same way.  From the comfort of their homes, people judge the homeless without really knowing anything about homelessness.

    Solutions exist for most of the problems of homelessness, but people will never know of them if they never get involved. And no, "getting rid" of homeless people isn't a solution, and neither are all the other "ideas" that arm-chair quarterbacks come up with. There are solutions out there that truly benefit everyone. But, those solutions are not going to implement themselves.

    Homeless Terms To Know - Continuum of Care (CoC)

    The term "Continuum of Care" comes from the health care industry.  It is used to describe the type of services required by people needing a variety of services over a long period of time, such as people suffering from cancer.  For people suffering from homelessness, the Continuum of Care would include getting a homeless person into a Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) apartment, making sure they have food and other necessities, and then arranging services for them such as addiction rehabilitation, mental health therapy, employment, etc., leading up to the point of self sufficiency.  Often you'll hear this referred to as "wrap-around services".   I have also heard mention of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (see the above image) as the impetus of this approach.   Basically, each human need requires a foundation of other needs already met, starting with physical needs, achieving those, and then moving up the list, one level at a time.   A feeling of security cannot be achieved if the physical needs have not been met.   A sense of belonging cannot occur until one has achieved a level of security, etc.

    In 2009 the McKinney-Vento Act was amended with the HEARTH Act.  Among other improvements to the governments response to homelessness, the Hearth Act consolidated three previous HUD homeless assistance programs, repurposed them, and gave it the name, Continuum of Care Program.  HUDs CoC Program is a competitive funding source for those communities that are implementing CoC strategies in dealing with homelessness.    If on inspection HUD determines that a community is moving in the right direction in improving services to the homeless, HUD will award funding to help pay for these improvements.  Learn more about HUD's
    Continuum of Care.
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    Thursday, May 8, 2014

    Homeless Advocate Confession

    I confess, as homeless advocates go, I suck.

    Sure, I have this blog where I write about homelessness, sort of - some times.  But I haven't done much that could really be considered "advocacy".  I admit that most of my defense of homeless people has just been a defense for myself.  And the attention that my blog has gotten, especially in the first years, was more about the curiosity of a homeless person with a webpage than about any actual content I put on it.

    It was a trip, though, how people first responded to my blog.  Many just couldn't bring themselves to believe that a homeless person could create a blog.  12 years later, some people still think this blog is a hoax.  Or maybe that just wish it was a hoax.   I don't know.   Still, all that attention in the first years, I did nothing to earn it, except to be me.

    Sometimes I have tried to educate people about homelessness.  But of all the writing I've done in the past 12 years, only 5 posts get any real attention on the blog. And some of those posts are many years old.

    So at first, my existence was all I needed, so to challenge people's ideas about homelessness.  I guess that was a good thing, except some people said that caused to them to think less of the homeless.  I can only hope they were being spiteful.

    Still, many people had the wrong idea about homeless people, I saw there was much ignorance concerning homelessness and I tried to counter their wrong ideas.  Doing this, I only made more enemies.  Attacks on this blog, and attacks on me personally only grew.   Eventually I had to take drastic measures to protect myself.   Sometimes it got so bad that I gave up on the blog.  I had shut it down a couple times - the insults and negativity, and people trying to take advantage of my situation made me want to hide from it all.    It was only because I had nothing else in my life, that I stayed with the blog.

    One of my main issues is that I had problems - still have problems - that I have difficulty dealing with and which are a leading cause of my homelessness.   The mental health issues of depression and anxiety - due in some part to Aspergers Syndrome, and to complications arising from abuse I lived with as a kid.   I was a messed up homeless person, but I was held up to a higher standard.  No one cut me any slack.  I was chided for not being able to achieve more although it was not within me to satisfy them.   Perhaps being satisfied was not their point. To harass and aggravate me, they constantly moved the goal posts.

    And here I am, many years later and I'm still homeless, still unable to achieve what everyone else deems the standard for success.

    Well, it seems all I can do is to again try and reinvent myself, refocus my purpose and attention and try to become a better advocate for homeless people.

    I only as that you not dismiss the message here, even if you do condemn the messenger.

    Homeless Terms To Know - HUD

    If we are going to end homelessness, it is important for those involved to adopt the new way of addressing the problem.   In the past, all that people had to focus on was "food" "shelter" "clothing".    Those items are still important to homeless people, but we now know that they have nothing to do with ending homelessness.

    It is time for people to learn and use other terms when talking about and dealing with homelessness.  Let's start with:

    HUD - HUD an is the acronym for Housing and Urban Development.  It is a Cabinet department of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government concerned with the quality of housing in impoverished areas of the country.  The HUD website explains:
    The federal government’s interest in housing conditions can be traced back to the first national investigation of large urban slum areas in 1892. HUD is the successor to a number of federal housing agencies, which gradually evolved following a major effort during the great depression to stimulate housing development.
    In 2002, President Bush named Boston homeless advocate Phillip Mangano as homelessness Czar.  Phillip was a proponent of Housing First, and the recent university studies on homelessness that supported the cost benefits of Housing First programs.  Mangano was the executive director of the USICH from 2002 until 2009.

    Among the many housing issues that HUD deals with, it also partners with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, another executive branch department, in developing, funding and executing programs related to homelessness.  According the the HUD website:
    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the federal agency responsible for national policy and programs that address the country’s housing needs. HUD is a pivotal USICH partner in the effort to prevent and end homelessness. Through HUD’s targeted homeless programs, its mainstream housing and community development programs, and collaboration with both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services, HUD works to house the most vulnerable of the nation’s population while supporting community growth. HUD currently manages targeted programs that directly address homelessness...
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