Showing posts with label homeless. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homeless. Show all posts

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Why Homeless People Are Fat

This picture says it all -

Friday, June 13, 2014

Turned Away From The Library

The Culprit

I walked through the front door of the downtown library but was not allowed to proceed.  I was then told I had to leave.  My violation?  Carrying a sleeping bag.  All rolled up and tucked neatly into its carrying case, somehow it became problematic for the venue.  I asked the security guard "why".  She said, "because it's the rules".  I asked, "But why it is a rule?"   She told me that I'd have to talk to someone with the city about that.  She said I could come in if I left the sleeping bag outside.  I told her someone would steal it.  She said I could have someone watch it for me.  I told her I don't know anyone I could trust to watch it.   I asked her if she thought the rule was fair.  She said she was just doing her job.

All the old cliche' come out - "I'm only doing my job" - "In the grand equality of the law it is just as illegal for a rich man as for a poor man to bring a sleeping bag into a library."

I think what gets me the most is that I have been allowed to carry my sleeping bag into every conceivable place without a problem - Cafe's, Grocery Stores, Restaurants, Fast Food places, shopping malls and their stores, movie theaters - you name it, in my many years of homelessness, the ONLY place I've not been allowed to bring a sleeping bag with me is the public library - yeah, so much for the word 'PUBLIC.'

The security guard gave me a list of the rules of the library.   This is sad mostly because of all the different types of people, the homeless need the services of the public library the most.

Here is the list.  It begins with this preface:
    To allow library patrons and staff to use the library's facilities without disturbance or undue interference, and to provide a clean, pleasant and safe environment, please consider your fellow library users and staff and refrain from the following in the library.
  1. Smoking, eating, or drinking, bringing open containers of food or drink in the library.
  2. Sleeping or loitering.
  3. Using loud, abusive, threatening or insulting language.
  4. Engaging in any disruptive or unsafe behavior.
  5. Disturbing, offending, intimidating, annoying, or harassing others.
  6. Leaving a child under the age of 8 unattended.
  7. Bringing any containers, packages, briefcases, parcels, or bundles into the library which singly or collectively exceed 24"x18"x6".  All items not prohibited are subject to inspection.
  8. Bringing shopping carts or wheeled conveyances into the building, with the exception of wheelchairs and baby strollers/carriages used for the actual transport of a person or child or wheeled backpacks and book carriers not exceeding 24"x15"x12" (excluding handles).
  9. Bringing any animal into the building, with the exception of service animals accompanying a person with disabilities.  As defined, a service animal (dog or miniature horse) is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.  The animals work or tasks must directly relate to the handlers disability.
  10. Bringing sleeping bags, bed-rolls, or blankets into the building (blankets for small children are acceptable).
  11. Coming into the library without wearing shoes and a shirt.
  12. Using cell phones and/or similar communication defies or software inside the library.  Ringer volumes should be set to vibrate and use should be restricted to the lobby or outside the building.
  13. Distributing handbills or flyers, soliciting signatures for petitions, selling merchandise, or other similar activities that may disrupt patrons use and enjoyment of the library.
  14. Interfering with another person's use of the library, or the library staff's performance of their duties.
  15. Engaging in any activity prohibited by law.
I admit to getting a little hot under the collar when I was told to leave.  Luckily someone caught the incident on camera.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - Section 8

The U.S. Government offers rental payment assistance to the poorest Americans through HUD in three ways

  • Privately owned subsidized housing - landlords receive assistance from HUD for offering low rent to low income tenants.
  • Public housing - housing units/apartments owned by the government offered to low income tenants
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) - a voucher is given to a low income person to use for paying rent in the home of their choice.
In each case, the tenant pays a percentage of their income, with of minimum payment due of 50 dollars each month - even if the tenant has no income.

The demand for these programs is high and often the waiting lists for these programs are many years long. BUT for newly created programs that address homelessness, these waiting lists can be bypassed, allow the homeless to move into housing much sooner.

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The Sleep Thing

I know I've been talking a good deal about sleep, but that's because homelessness is really all about the sleep.  Homelessness isn't about what you do during the day, everyone has activities that fill their time.  But, when you strip life down to it's bare ingredients, the only thing that really separates homeless people from everyone else is that homeless people don't have a secure place to sleep.  Once a homeless person is able to find such a place, then the rest of life is theirs to do with as they please.

I think one of the reasons that people get angry with the homeless is that the homeless act as a mirror of sorts, reflecting back the reality of the self, of the onlookers.  The onlookers who have bought into the idea that certain standards of living are important and necessary - they may not actually believe what they've been told about life, but they have conformed anyway.  Then they see other people getting away with not conforming, and that makes them angry, makes them jealous, makes them realize that all the things they pursue are but a mirage, a hoax, a facade.  They feel trapped in the life they've built around themselves.  The homeless are existing without conforming, and they think it's unfair, so they take out their self loathing on the homeless.

I guess this is why, when people try to end homelessness, they focus on denying the homeless a restful night's sleep.  Still, sleep is a human necessity, as necessary as food and water, we cannot live without it.  To deny people the right to sleep is criminal, is inhumane.  Sleep is a right.

Speaking on a restful night's sleep, I just figured out something - the importance of a good pillow.  I had been using my back pack as my pillow.   For one, I need something under my head when I sleep, and two, keeping my head on my back pack is an added layer of security so that no one steals it.  The problem is my back pack feels like a lumpy rock.  It is very uncomfortable.  So, for the past couple nights I've been rolling up my sweater and using it as my pillow, and for this my head feels more comfortable when I sleep and so I sleep better, and I get more rest.  I used to wear my sweater as I slept, but with the sleeping bag, I don't really need to. My body in general is getting used to sleeping on the cement.  I don't have as many aches and pains when I wake up.   That's a good thing!

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.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

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.

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.

  • 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.

    Back to Homeless Terms To Know

    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.

    Back to Homeless Terms To Know

    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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