Showing posts with label homelessness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homelessness. Show all posts

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 youtube.com.  Additionally, a low budget movie was made about Mitch called “Samaritan”, also available on youtube.com.

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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.
https://www.onecpd.info/resources/documents/coc101.pdf
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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, usich.gov 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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Friday, December 12, 2008

Unwelcomed - Update

Today I received this email: "I didn't get in till 9:30 and no one told me about this. Richard has been reminded who runs this show and that he was aware that I had extended an invitation to you that was open ended. Just Richard being Richard I guess. I am really sorry about this Kevin and I am sure that it will not happen again."

happy ending.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nothing So Constant As Change

Yeah, I'm going to Denver. For personal reasons I'm not giving out an ETA. I'll be visiting with a friend for a little while. And then I'll be striking out on my own. It doesn't take long to figure out the lay of the land. I'll get myself involved in homeless services. There is a we produced homeless newspaper there called Denver Voice and I'd like to work with them for a while. There is the infamous Colfax street which is very colorful and eclectic and where you'll find a good many street people. There are also the beautiful Rocky Mountains that I'd like to explore some. I believe I have had a positive impact on the homeless situation in Nashville, and I'd like to see if I can do the same in other places. There could be something in the stars for me beyond Denver, but I'll not spend much time contemplating that just yet.

My efforts on the internet are also about to intensify. I just received word that I'll be receiving donated web services - I'll have an entire webpage, of which the blog will just be a part of. With that, I'll be able to provide a much wider scope of coverage of homeless issues. Information about homelessness will be much easier to find - and won't be lost in some blog archive.

I'll be podcasting, and vlogging as well. (Watch out Youtube!) And that will allow for a more dynamic presentation of information on homelessness. I'm very excited about all this, and a bit nervous as well. Everything is changing - but change is a good thing, right? Right.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cross Roads

I received a comment on an article I wrote for Associated Content that was appealing. It caused me to ponder my current situation.

Congratulations , you've got a job. You've joined tens of millions of working class slobs aching from the daily grind.[...]Soon you'll get a cubbyhole of your own and start paying [your bills], just as legions of faceless unsung plebe heroes do every day. Sure your life will be boring and unromantic- you'll be a solid cog in the machine- but much less dangerous and chaotic as having one foot planted in the gutter and the other in fringe Bohemia.


Sure there's a little bitterness in the tone of the author, but the idea is clear. There is some comfort and security in just doing what everyone else does. It's a proven method (for the most part) of making life's journey as safely as possible. And isn't that what people want? Safety?

But just as quickly I remembered, yet again, these quotes by Richard Bach. It counters the above mentality.

The Master answered and said "Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. The current of the river swept silently over them all - young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going it's own way, knowing only it's own crystal self. Each creature in it's own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth. But one creature said at last, 'I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom. The other creatures laughed and said, 'Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed against the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!' But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks. Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more. And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried 'See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah come to save us all!' And the one carried in the current said, "I am no more messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure." But they cried the more, 'Savior!' all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Savior."

*
*

And [the Messiah] said unto them, "If a man told God that he wanted most of all to help the suffering world, no matter the price to himself, and God answered and told him what he must do, should the man do as he is told?"

"Of course, Master!" cried the many. "It should be pleasure for him to suffer the tortures of hell itself, should God ask it!"

"No matter what those tortures, no matter how difficult the task?"

"Honor to be hanged, glory to be nailed to a tree and burned, if so be that God has asked," said they.

"And what would you do," the Master said unto the multitude, "if God spoke directly to your face and said, 'I COMMAND THAT YOU BE HAPPY IN THE WORLD, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE.' What would you do then?"

And the multitude was silent, not a voice, not a sound was heard upon the hillsides, across the valleys where they stood.

Monday, October 13, 2008

On Homelessness

As I have said before, there are two types of homeless people. There are those people who become homeless only because of some financial crisis. Yet, no financial crisis lasts forever, and once these people over come their financial problems, they leave homelessness, never to return. The other kind of homeless people, are those who become homeless for every other reason. And though these people become homeless through an infinite variety of circumstances, they all have two things in common. They are either very sad, as in suffering a tremendous depression, or very angry, usually a non-violent variety, where the person is given to dispersing much blame, and harbors a considerable amount of self loathing.

Now, someone may say that all people experience sadness and anger at different times in their lives, and that they never become homeless for it. That is true. But for homeless people, the amount of sadness and anger they feel is so extreme that they are unable to overcome it.

The key lies in the human event of "loss." Again, every person experiences loss in their life, but it has been proven that homeless people experience many more loss events in their lives than other people. Also, for a great many homeless people, opportunities to learn loss coping skills are rare. And, the types of loss homeless people face are usually more severe. Divorce is very common, as the straw the broke the camels back, so too is the death of a loved one, especially a child. And, so is the loss of a healthy childhood, due to abuse. But the loss events homeless people face, and have faced, run the whole gambit of negative experiences.

The inability to cope with these problems of loss ushers in all sorts of coping attempts, by the soon-to-be homeless person. They begin taking drugs and drinking alcohol. And often, under the duress of these issues, a person may become ill, physically and/or mentally. But these coping attempts only exacerbate the problems the person experiences, and their lives eventually collapse. It is not long after this collapse that people begin to lose their jobs, their friends and family, and eventually their homes. Now homeless, their situation becomes significantly worse. The opportunities to overcome personal problems are almost non-existent while homeless. But, much more problematic is the superstitious stigma society places on homeless people. Instead of seeing homeless people as being in need of great care, much like a person with cancer needs care, homeless people are usually ostracized from society, and blamed for the condition their lives have fallen into.

Now, there is something that society says about homeless people that is true, although it sounds harsh. But the harshness isn't in the truth of this statement, but in how people generally respond to it. Others will say that homeless people lack the proper motivation for successfully leaving homelessness. Yes, for the chronically homeless that is true. But then most of these people will also say that the best way to motivate homeless people to get out of homelessness, is to make homelessness as difficult as possible. And that is just not true. When you take a person who is feeling so much sadness and anger, and who has experienced an inordinate amount of loss in his/her life, and then add more loss to their life, you only make their problems worse – the loss of good shelters, the loss of proper quality and quanity of food, the loss of proper health care, the loss of adequate mental health care, the loss of the basic rights of citizenship, the loss of being treated like an equal, of thus being harassed by the police and other citizens, the loss of the right to walk through a park, or sit on a bench, the loss of access to basic facilities like clean restrooms....etc. All of these only compound the exacerbate the problems homeless people face that led them to homelessness in the first place, and making it all the more difficult for people to overcome their homelessness.

For homeless people, but mostly chronically homeless people, the solution to ending their homelessness is found in countering all the losses they have experienced in life with positive experiences. They need to start having some real and serious gains in their lives. They need friends, and family if possible, to have positive experiences with. They need to have experiences in life that don't end with some kind of loss. They need for others to stop passing judgment on them. They to have a real community to belong to. They need to be treated with respect. They need people to be on their side, and to not give up on them. They need access to health care, and a clean and safe and dependable place to sleep, they need to start collecting personal belongings without the threat of theft, or of some shelter employee throwing their belongings away. They need for the police and other law enforcement types to leave them completely alone, if they have committed no crime. Etc.

It must be known, that even with nothing but positive things happening in a homeless person's life, it will still take quite a while for it all to have a permanent effect against all the negative things the homeless person has experienced in life. So it will require constant vigilance on the part of everyone who comes in contact with homeless people, so to make the transition from homeless to homed as quick and permanent as possible for all homeless people.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Couple Thoughts

Why are some Feminists voting for McCain - just to get Palin into office? Palin will set back the Feminist movement back another 50 years. Palin is not a Feminist, she is a Christian Fundamentalist. Palin wants to take away women's choice with Abortion. Palin wants to teach teens to only practice abstinence - and is against teaching safe sex. Palin thinks homosexuals and lesbians are an abomination to God, and will burn in Hell. And yet, in spite of all this, some Feminists still want Palin to have access to the highest office in the land? Whats the matter with these people? NOTE: Whenever Palin is asked about her views on issues, she always prefaces her statement saying, this is what I personally think, and purposely discusses how she would actually do while in office. This gives her one big loophole to say what she thinks people want to hear, and then do whatever she feels led to do when in office. This is incredibly disingenuous. Why doesn't she just tell people what she will do/strive while in political office?

Relatively speaking, homelessness is a small and insignificant issue. And it could be easily reduced, if not eliminated altogether. But people's reactions to homeless people have cranked up the controversy and thus the media attention. And this controversy arises because the issue of homelessness and it's causes, both real and imagined, strike at the very heart of people's beliefs about life, about citizenship, about God, about ethical behavior. And so many people cannot resist the temptation to pass judgment on the actions of others, especially on the subject of ethical behavior. For many people, it is important that their own behavior be seen as above reproach. And the best way to make that happen is to point out, and cast dispersions on the activities of people who do not act the same way as themselves. A false issue about homelessness is the question as to who would pay for the keeping and rehabilitation of homeless people. Relatively speaking, homelessness is rather inexpensive to fix. For the cost of our military being in Iraq for one month could also house and provide services for every homeless person in the U.S. for an entire year. Yes, with a homeless population at any one time in the U.S. of less than a million people, and the cost of housing and feeding a homeless person being less than $5000 a year...Actually the cost would be less than the 10 billion spent each month in Iraq. Such a program as housing all the homeless would mean that by the end of the year, many people would have found a way out of homelessness, so the next year, there wouldn't be nearly as many homeless in our country, and the cost of the program would be much less.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Parenting As Hospitality

Nothing could be more crucial to parenting as hospitality. It is the most necessary aspect of raising a child. For with hospitality parents are required to recognize the person, and the individual that is their child, and to give this person full respect and consideration. It is striking how often parents fail to do so. And it is not at all surprising how messed up a child becomes when mistreated by a parent. Like the old saying goes, as the tree is bent, so shall it grow. Show me an adult that is lacking proper social skills, and I'll show you someone who was not treated with respect by their parents. And that old excuse is hogwash – where supposedly a perfectly good parent ends up with a malcontent for a child. Give me a break. Such things are only said by people who are afraid to look past the facades of our disingenuous society. People say, “oh, but they were good people. How could they end up with such a bad child?” By what measure are these people deemed “good?” Because they've never been in trouble with the law? Because they are hard workers? Because they pay their bills on time? Because they attend Church? Sorry, but none of these things guarantee good parenting skills. Especially good intentions. Saying, “I did the best I could,” is the worst excuse for poorly raising a child. Raising a good child requires a tremendous amount of effort. First and foremost, a parent should make the effort to learn how to properly raise a child. Getting knocked up does not also magically impregnate someone with good parenting skills.

A child is not an animal to be mastered, but a human to be loved. And mastering your child is NOT an act of love. Neither is beating your child, nor is belittling your child, or another other act that is demeaning or degrading. Love is only love when it builds a person up, makes a person stronger, teaches the person to love in return. If you treat your children with hospitality, they will treat you with hospitality in return. Anything less, and you failed to properly raise your child.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Much Worse Will Things Get?

Today I walked the 1/4 mile down to the Bethlehem Center where they have a Second Harvest Food Bank distribution center. And upon arrival I found the door closed. And so did a couple others who arrived about the same time. One person went inside to the Bethlehem center offices where he was told that they had given away all their food and that they had closed down their food pantry permanently. This is a real set back for the whole neighborhood, which is made up mostly of people living in poverty.

I don't know where the next closest location is.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Canary Watch

From the pastor of Downtown Presbyterian Church,

"Who knows? Perhaps you have been raised up for such a time as this." Esther 4:14b.

The hard fact of reality is that if you push any of us hard enough we will break. Spiritually, physically, mentally: pushed hard enough we will all crumble and go under. Some will last longer than others because they have more will-power or were raised differently. Maybe they have more financial advantages to act as a buffer between them and hardship. Some will appear to be strong but that's only because they haven't been pushed the right way. But given enough time and hardship we'll all fold.

As well know, the world economy is going through a difficult time. Economics is both a science and an art so one must expect that there will be downswings as well as upswings. And because of that, some people are being pushed to their limit and beyond. It's happening around the world. It's happening in our country. It's happening in Nashville. People are losing their jobs, losing their medical benefits, their pensions are being frozen. Along with that they are losing their positive outlook on life, their resiliency, their reason for hoping and trying harder.

In June, our Pastor's Discretionary Fund jumped from about 50 checks and $500 per month to 100 checks and a little over $1000 dollars. That's a 100% increase in just one month. Our Sunday Breakfast ministry averages about 100-120 per week. On June 20th we served 180 people. This past Sunday we served 212. Again, an almost 100% jump in just 2 weeks.

As you might expect, the homeless and urban poor are experiencing a general increase in tension. It's hot outside. There are more people competing for less food and clothing and fewer beds. Those just entering the world of homelessness or increased poverty are scared and afraid.

The anxiety gripping our nation is not confined to just one social class or one sector of the economy or one geographic location. It is a general disquiet during which more and more of us are wondering just how far we can be pushed before we crumble.

This is exactly the kind of situation where churches and individual Christians can make a tremendous difference. First of all, we are generous. While we were still sinners we were generously saved by the blood of the lamb and we respond to that generosity by being generous ourselves. We give freely because God gave freely to us. And we well know that when times are hard generosity is more important than ever. When times are hard no one can only afford to look after themselves. That's when we have to look after everyone, especially those who can't look after themselves.

Second, we are calm. We know we are God's children. We know the next world is even better than this one. We know our status comes from being children of God, not from where we live, the car we drive or the price of the food we eat. The fact that we are calm helps those around us be calm as well. Our mere presence lowers the anxiety and increases the hope and vision of everyone around us.

Finally, we practice the healing power of community. By worshipping and sharing our concerns together we are reminded that we are not facing these hardships alone. We have the support and love of each other to bolster us and give us hope in situations where we might tempted to give in to despair.

What can churches do in times like this? What can our church do in this time and place? We can be faithful to serve God and one another with our spirit of generosity, our calm assurance and our healing presence. Perhaps it is for times like these that we exist. Amen. ~ Ken Locke

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Couple Random Thoughts

There are two basic methods people use for surviving this world. One method is to work towards shaping the world to fulfill their own desires. The other method is to shape themselves to conform to the worlds desires. Successful people are constantly working to form the world in their own image. Unsuccessful people are always trying to conform to the desires of others. As a wise man once said - "If you want to be successful, do what successful people do."

People working the homeless industry will often talk about "justice." Almost like they believe it to be some magical word - a trump word - that justifies their work. To them every issue homeless people face is a justice issue. They believe that if justice were provided to homeless people that people would no longer be homeless.

hogwash.

The reality is, there is no justice in the world - not for the homeless, not for the homed - not for the poor, nor the rich. What the rich and homed people enjoy over the poor and homeless is not a bigger share of justice, but more control over their own worlds. When O.J. Simpson got away with murder, twas because he was wealthy and had very good lawyers to do his bidding, it wasn't justice that saved him. Justice is a thing to strive for, and ideal to consider when determining another person's fate. But there is no real thing as justice. The successful people of the world know this, and so they do not wait for justice to set them free from what ever bondage they may be under - instead they use their influence to create a world by which their fate is not so much determined by others. And that sets them free - that is, if they are successful enough. Justice does not set a person free - but the concept does manipulate people into conformity to other people's determination of their fate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sometimes I Doubt

There are times when I doubt if blogging has really been worth my time and effort - and then I get an email like this, and I no longer doubt. In fact I feel encouraged, and feel hopeful for the future.

Mr. Barbieux,

Like the subject of this email says, this message is a long time coming. I probably should have written it earlier, but either way, I just wanted to let you know how much of an impact your blog has had on my life as a whole.

I began reading your blog about two years ago when I saw an article about it on the Wired website (I'm pretty sure that's what it was). I spent that summer reading through the archives and everything, just soaking in information. Homelessness has always been a subject that intrigued me. Being part of an immigrant family, my parents always told me they moved to the US because the opportunities are endless here, so, especially as a little kid on trips to New York, it confused me to see people out on the street. In any case, when I first found your site, I was going to be a sophomore, majoring in Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. I had plans to eventually work for Lockheed Martin, where I was interning at the time, and one day become an astronaut. Your blog had a hand in drastically changing that.

As the following semester progressed, I started to dislike my engineering work more and more. I didn't really take any joy in doing all the math and physics problems and by the end of those three months, I knew that I wouldn't be able to pursue a career in this field and be happy. So I began to question, over and over, what it was that would make me happy, and everytime I came up with the idea of helping people. Still, I ended up changing my major to Business Management and Marketing. Like Aerospace Engineering, this didn't work out, mainly because I couldn't see myself being happy with it for the rest of my life.

Which brings me to now- I'm majoring in Political Science, hoping to go to Law School in about a year. From there I want to be able to, well, help people. Specifically (and I know this is a lofty goal), I want to see the day that the homeless folks in New Orleans don't have to worry about having a safe, private place to stay. I want to see different options and avenues open to them to make sure that they have a roof over their heads. In addition to my internship with Lockheed, I'm currently in contact with a group called Stand Up for Kids, who are dedicated with reaching out to homeless kids to get them off the streets.

So anyway, I just wanted to thank you for the new perspective your blog has given me and really encourage you to keep going. You're doing something great.

H.F.