Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sleeping On The Sidewalk

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Please Help

No longer being in a shelter, (winter shelters closed at the end of last month) and back to sleeping on the streets, this is an exceptionally difficult month, financially. Your donations are most needed and appreciated.

Thank You, Kevin

Monday, April 13, 2015

It's Homelessness Me

It's me leaving the cafe because it's closing.
It's me gathering my things in my cart and walking down the sidewalk  to the place I sleep.
It's me looking for a spot for my tent.
it's me setting up the tent while watching what the other homeless people are doing.
It's me keeping an eye out for the crazies and hoping they don't bother me.
It's me putting all my things inside the tent and spreading out my sleeping bag and checking my phone one last time.
It's me listening to the sounds of people walking by, and listening to make sure they keep walking and don't stop.
It's me keeping my bike lock nearby in case I am awaken suddenly and need a weapon to protect myself.
It's me trying to relax enough to fall asleep.
It's me waking up every couple hours to pee in a container so I don't have to leave the tent.
It's me being awakened by loud noises from people fighting just outside my tent.
It's me waiting for the commotion to settle down so I can get back to sleep.
It's me constantly checking my phone to see what time it is.
It's me awake at 4:30am and knowing the cops will be by in an hour to wake all the homeless.
It's me at 5:00am unable to get back to  sleep, taking down my tent, packing up my things in my cart.
It's me at 5:30am pushing my cart towards the Starbucks.

The Homeless Community Myth

Most homeless people tend to live in groups outside of any shelter system.  They create camp like communities where up to hundreds of homeless live, so long as the city allows it. Even those homeless who don't "camp" are often found traveling in groups with other homeless people.  Even in some shelters the homeless are required (forced really) to live in what is called community with other homeless people - they do so under threat of losing their shelter bed for not participating in the community.

As part of the design of some rehabilitation programs, the homeless live in close proximity with each other.  Many in the homelessness industry believe that part of homeless people's problem is that they've rejected society, or have not learned how to get along with others in a community setting. (actually it is their community that rejected them, making them homeless, but thats a post for another day).

Seeing homeless people living in these large camps is misleading because the homeless don't create such community because they want to live that way, but only because it is necessary for survival.   There is safety in numbers.  There is also the benefit of networking with other homeless people to keep apprised of services for the homeless, for knowing where the next feeding will be, for learning that some shelter has closed down for the weekend, without having to trek the 3 miles to find out it's doors are closed, etc.

For addicts, living and traveling with people with similar addictions increases their ability to get a drug fix when they need it, drunks are more likely to share a drink with a fellow drunk knowing that the offer might be reciprocated.  That's important because suddenly being without a drink can cause an alcoholic to sober up too quickly, giving him the DTs, or suffering other dangerous ailments.

The myth part is that, outside the confines of homelessness, very few of these people would ever consider being in community with other people who are or were homeless. There is nothing quaint or endearing about a homeless camp.  Often times people living in the same camp will actually despise each other, and will avoid each other at all costs.  There are several people who pitch camp where I do, but we never talk to each other unless it's to discuss what to do with a disruptive neighbor.  That's more reflective of the benefits of living in a homeless camp. Other benefits include less thievery and fighting, if only because of the many eyes and ears near by.

Still, there are no happy campers in a homeless camp.  If given the choice, the homeless would not camp near other homeless people.

From time to time you'll witness homeless people looking out for each other, or even in documentaries about homelessness, they often highlight that particular aspect, as it comes across as endearing.  But it's still not what people really want, because it's still the result of being excluded from the rest of society.

What is really best for the homeless, and what is right morally, is for all of society to remain open to, and accepting of, all homeless people.  Doing so would certainly make transitioning back into mainstream society easier and quicker, and less damage would be done to the homeless, physically and emotionally.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Homeless Reintegration Center

As I have just said, the best homeless shelter of all is no shelter at all.  Instead, shelters would be replaced with small bureaucratic processing centers that will divert people away from homelessness and into permanent housing of one kind or another.

Every Homeless Reintegration Center will have three main types of resources available to allocate to the client. 

The first is a funding stream.  If a person has lost their job, but has not yet lost their home, the center can cut a check to the landlord so to keep the person in their home.  If a person has lost their home, but is still employed, the center can also cut a check to cover first and last month's rent, and utility deposits for whatever new place is found for the client.  In each case the client is under an obligation to become and stay employed, and to take over rent payments after a certain time period has elapsed.

The second type of resource is that of employment and housing liaison.  Each client will be assigned to a case manager who will help the client secure the kind of employment and housing that will be best for the client.  The focus of this case manager will be to secure all the necessities for the client - a job that will generate enough income for a place, and  a place that is affordable and near work and/or transportation, and all the other necessities of living, and will help with procuring furniture and kitchen supplies etc.

The third resource of the reintegration center will cover all the mental health and drug rehabiliation needs of the client.  Depending on the needs of the client, a host of social workers and other professionals will be assigned to the client.

All the needs of the client will be determined at the first meeting in the Reintegration center.  Before the client leaves the center at the end of the first day, they will have the funds and support necessary to either keep or attain their home.

Ideally, the client will have a home secured before the end of the day, and will not have to spend one night homeless. 

At first, the center will focus on getting all current homeless people off the streets, and once that's done, their job becomes one of prevention.

Every middle sized city, or larger, spends millions of dollars every year just managing the needs of homeless people without every really targeting the end of their homelessness.  That money, usually in the ten to twenty million dollar range, would just as easily end homelessness, as manage it.  Managing homelessness keeps homeless people on the streets, year after year.  Ending homelessness is a win win for the city, because a city without homelessness is a better city, and because people endure untold suffering, illness, and death, while living on the streets. And getting them off the streets makes them better people.  Best of all, with this program, homelessness becomes less and less expensive to deal with.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Very Best Homeless Shelter

The very best homeless shelter would be to have no shelter at all.  Instead, the homeless would go to an office, something like the Social Security office, or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

At this office, the homeless would be given a very thorough assessment of their  condition.  From all the information gathered, a plan would be created, specific to the needs of the person, a plan that would first get them into a permanent home as quickly as possible, and would then arrange for them all the help they need to address the issues that led them to homelessness.  These services, counseling, therapy, abstinance, etc., would be home delivered where they live.

In all the studies conducted so far, this approach is more effective and cost effecient than putting all the homeless into one shelter, and expecting the homeless to solve their homeless situation on their own without assistence.

About The Best Homeless Shelter Of All

The best homeless shelter of all would be no shelter at all.  Of course I'll explain.

Up until just recently, homelessness and services for the homeless, have been thought of in just one way.  And because no one really much cared about the conditions that homeless people lived with, no one bothered to give homelessnessness a second thought.

But more people are getting involved, people who did not traditionally bother with homelessness, and they are bringing a whole new way of thinking about homeless people and homeless services.  And, these people are turning the entire homelessness industry on its head.

Most of these people are highly intelligent and educated, with degrees in social studies, sociology, anthropology, community design, and public policy.  They approach homelessness from a scientific perspective, and that's made all the difference.

For so many years, the homelessness industry was in the domain of faith based organizations.  People just assumed that by giving homeless people religion, they were giving homeless people a solution to their problems.  Well, after several decades we now know that that approach just doesn't work in any significant way.

Then the scientists came and started to study homelessness, applying scientific methods for developing an understanding of the true nature of the condition.  And from this, they have been able to develop better and more effective means to ending homelessness.   What has since been learned about homelessness has been so impressive that  even the government now supports these scientists, and the communities that adapt to the new ways of dealing with homelessness.

The ideas I express here are not originally mine, except perhaps my way of expressing them, or perhaps my particular take on how to arrange these elements to ending homelessness could be considered mine.   If anything I've ever said on this blog has inspired anyone in anyway, all I ask is to have my name plastered on a building somewhere.  That would be cool.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Good and Bad Habits

Traditional homeless shelters are so heavily concerned with stopping homeless people's bad habits that there is little or no room in the shelter for a person to work on creating good habits. Especially with faith based shelters, where they spend so much time and effort trying to convince the homeless that they are bad people, they give no opportunity for the homeless to show their good side.

It's time for a change.  Instead of obsessing over the mistakes that people make, shelters should give ample opportunity for the homeless to let that side of them, where the face of jesus can be seen, to shine through.

Homeless Stuff To Write About

I have material for blog posts but I have been saving it for the podcast.  The problem is that I'm having a difficult time with the podcast, unable to finish a single show without making any serious mistakes.   BUT...  blog audiences are not, by and large, podcast audiences, so I guess I could write some things here.   I've received several emails recently asking pretty much the same question.  So, I guess I'll put those all together into a single blogpost.   I guess I'll write that one next.  Give me an hour or so and I should have it done.

I love you guys.  Thanks for being here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Suicide Retention

Many years ago in Nashville I had called the suicide help line.  It was late at night, I was wandering the streets, and I had a razor blade.  I just could not bring myself to cut my arm deep enough to break a vein.  I did, though, scratch up my forearm until it was a bloody scabby mess.   I found a pay phone and called the number.  I didn't know what to say.  Dude on the other line asked what my problem was.  I said I didn't know, cause, ya know, I didn't know.  So he gave me the, "quit wasting my time, we need this line open for people with real problems."  I hung up.  Some times I get to feeling like I should call them again, but then I remember what happened last time, and I dont.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Whats New

For the past 4 and one half months I lived with a curfew, and other restrictions, due to living in the homeless shelter.

Every night for the past 140 nights, I made sure I was back at the shelter before bed check at 8pm.  I also had to abide by a myriad rules and  conform to many policy decisions for life in the shelter.  Some of them made sense, many were plainly non-sense.  As is usual for homeless shelters, the staff and employees were not the highest quality people, although I must admit that they were most sincere about wanting to help the homeless. but as has been mentioned before, sincerity is no substitute for intelligence.)

For example: It has always been a rule at the tent shelter that after 10pm was quiet time.  Even if you did not feel like sleeping, it was required of people to remain quiet for those who were sleeping.  And, that was all fine and good.  Mostly, it meant that the tv had to be turned off at 10pm, regardless of what was being watched.   But shortly into the season, someone made a complaint, thinking it unfair that the tv had to be turned off, but people with laptops (about a 1/2 dozen) were allowed to use their computers after 10pm.  Some people were using their laptops to watch movies, (and yes everyone on laptops were using headphones and so were not breaking the no-noise rule.)  The complaint was that people with laptops were able to watch movies when others who did not own laptops could not.  So, staff made the decision that no one could use their laptops after 10pm.  Though weak, I could sort of see a justification for this rule.  Yet people who were playing cards or dominoes or other games were still allowed to play their games at any time without restriction, so long as they "kept it down".

This kind of inconsistency was common, and was found in most decisions made about shelter life.  Most everyone just rolled with it, and thought it better abide by such silliness than to risk being kicked out of the shelter.

DNR or Do Not Return, was the threat over everyone's head in the shelter.  It meant being summarily kicked out for the rest of the season.  Grievances against  staff were rarely filed as it seemed like a futile gesture.  People who were being disrespected were expected to just bite their tongue and not rant about it.   Regardless of how justified a person's rant might have been, ranting was just not allowed and could cause a person to be DNRed, even if they spoke the truth.   In a place where you are required to be respectful of everyone, being then disrespected by staff or others is often difficult to remain silent about.  In the four months that the tent shelter was open, I saw about 1/2 a dozen men DNRed for losing their cool after being mistreated.

Anyway, it feels good to no longer have a curfew and to now have the freedom to stay up all night working on my laptop if I so wish.

Oh, and another thing.  The front doors to the tent were always left wide open, and the heaters were rarely used.  And even when the heaters were turned on, they were turned on so low that they really didn't help to generate any significant heat in the place.  So, even though the days may have been warm from time to time, every night it tent felt like a meat locker.  And this was the main contributing factor to my relentless illnesses.   It's hard for a person to shake off  cold when living in an unheated winter shelter tent.  Now that I am in a hotel (cheap though it be) I am in control of the room temperature, and I'm feeling better already.

Ah, and of course there is the renewed privacy.  I am in a room all to myself.  for the past 140 days I lived in a one room facility with 150 other people.  It's gonna take some time getting used to the quiet again.   And I can now scratch myself wherever and whenever I want.   True Luxury!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Preparing To Leave

In the morning of April 1st 2015, the shelter tent will officially close, and every homeless person within will pack up the last of their possessions and leave, never to return.  The city has decided to not reopen the winter shelters come next fall.

I have moved all my things, save a few clothing items, and my backpack, to a storage facility. From what I learned last summer, it's better to not haul all your things around, day after day.

Most everyone is making arrangements for when the shelter closes.  Some have received housing grants or financial aid to get into apartments.  Others who have applied but never received any support, are now making other arrangements, all while still hoping for something to materialize in the next two days.

Some are planning to pool resources and rent some cheap housing together.  Those with less resources are making plans to head to Mexico where everything, including housing, is cheaper.

Fair wells and phone number exchanges are now common around the shelter.  Others have been  spending every day this past week in a drunken stupor.

I've just been hoping to get over this damn cold and sinus infection before returning to the streets.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Especially Homelessness

Why do we always try to fix social problems with the least amount of compassion possible?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Funny that I still get emails like this

"Why should anybody bother to help you, you big fat fucking pathetic slob.

i don't expect you to respond to this e-mail, because after reading it, you will probably cry & whimper all day."

Some people do have worse problems than I do.