5.30.2011

Burying The Poor: "no process to stop funeral homes from using the site for cheap burials for people who weren't poor"

If an outreach worker has any length of time under the belt in the position, one of the things that they find themselves doing on a far too frequent basis is attending funerals. 

Homelessness kills, it's a well-known fact that's backed up by considerable empirical data.  Hearing that a friend or acquaintance has died while living on the street is so common that it rarely even raises an eyebrow.  And the older in years one is while on the street, the more likely it is they'll die on the street (funeral pictured on the left is for William "Ox" Drescher, a former resident of Nashville's Tent City, who passed away shortly after obtaining housing).  

The National Coalition for the Homeless posits that,
"there is a growing consensus that persons aged 50 and over should be included in the 'older homeless' category.  Persons 50-65 frequently fall between the cracks of governmental safety nets (and even tho these safety nets are barely capable of helping a person subsist, they are better than the 'nothing' that people experiencing homelessness enjoy while on the streets: SSS); while not technically old enough to qualify for Medicare, their physical health, assaulted by poor nutrition and severe living conditions, may resemble that of a 70 year old."
 So dealing with death, funerals, loss, more trauma, and the strangeness that accompanies some of the farewell services held for those on the street who've died becomes, if not routine, certainly familiar to those of us who attend them. 

I can usually deal quite well with the death of the individual on the street because I know that for a great many who've passed while homeless, it's probably the end of a long stretch of hopelessness, suffering, severe poverty, and misery of a life spent wanting, wishing and waiting.  If you've never experienced this kind of lifestyle, it's very difficult to convey to you the utter despondency and wretchedness that permeates the mind and body on a daily basis. 

To add insult to long-term injury, after the end of a life led anonymously while languishing in the alleys and gutters of cities in the richest nation in the world, these individuals then typically end up in "pauper's cemeteries."   Just about every major-sized town has one of these cemeteries created specifically for "indigent burials." 

Similar to the plain and somewhat forlorn appearance of a standard prison cemetery, these Pauper Cemeteries frequently look a lot like the one in the flick on the right (and many thanks to Champ 1964 for this image).  They don't see much in the way of funds for upkeep and usually appear as rundown, neglected graveyards that hold the remains of those our community has long ago kicked to the curb and forgotten about. 

But each of those graves holds a human being who at one point was most likely loved and cherished by somebody.  That they now lie alone, forgotten and ignored has a sadness all its own; the kind of sadness that makes you want to stop what you're doing and tell those close to you in your life that you're damned glad they're there. 

It takes a special kind of greed and avarice to use one of these graveyards for the pursuit of personal wealth.   There's something darkly ugly, not to mention grossly offensive, about those who would line their pockets by capitalizing on - and using up - space designated to hold the remains of society's lost souls.  I frankly don't know how people like that can sleep at night.  I don't know how Karma might work in those circumstances but I can tell you unequivocally that I do not want to know, either....

Report: Indigent cemetery being improperly used

Associated Press - May 30, 2011 8:05 AM ET
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A Shelby County auditor's report says there is no process to stop funeral homes from using the site for cheap burials for people who weren't poor.

Since the report, county officials say procedures have been tightened and the control of the cemetery has been moved to a different department.

County spokesman Steve Shular told The Commercial Appeal some families were paying funeral homes hundreds or thousands of dollars for headstones and burial at the cemetery

Shular said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, who took office Sept. 1, had been looking into problems at the cemetery even before an April report by auditor Richard Davis.

More than 20,000 bodies have been buried at the cemetery since it began operations in 1965, and 108 were buried in January and February.

Blogging from the phone ain't quite the same, but it's good, indeed

So as I catch up with the rest of the world and learn to use my smartphone, I've begun to branch out beyond mere phone calls and text messages.

Oh sure, there's a gazillion apps for a droid or I-phone (I am using an HTC Thunderbolt to put this together) and I, like ten zillion other peeps, have burned up countless hours slinging angry birds at other birds in cages, have used my maps and gps to get from point A to point D, and even killed another couple of hours in a Chilis restaurant watching Green Zone from my HBO Go app while waiting on a connecting flight from Houston to Nashville.  But there's some really cool stuff that one can do with one's phone, if one is so inclined. 

 So right now, I'm trying to get used to using a Swiftkey phone keyboard in order to make posts here. So far, it's taken considerable time to type what you've already read, but I think by getting used to it, I'll be more apt to send posts from anywhere and this may help me post a little more often as a result.

We'll see how this works over the next couple of weeks, as I travel to DC for the upcoming 2011 vets conference.  I'll then head to Boise, Idaho for a few days and present a couple of workshops; who knows, maybe I'll be able to post live right out of the conference venue. 

Not sure what the future holds in the form of technology but I'm pretty glad I've been able to witness the computer revolution over the last twenty years.  I think of all the things that have come to civilized societies, the capability of computing devices, whether they are computers, tablets, phones or whatever else comes down the pike, have dramatically changed the way we govern ourselves in the 21st century and will continue to do so for a long time to come...

5.26.2011

Federal Deficit Diversion: "Put simply, we're being conned."

"While the media's focus on the deficit has increased dramatically in recent years, this is nothing new. Conservatives have spent the last 30 years pushing all manner of distortions about taxes, spending and the national debt – the stuff lies at the heart of their “supply-side” economic pablum."

I swear, trying to figure out the truth of our situation in this ol world - trying to determine what is accurate and what is pure hogwash - is so damned hard and complex that I think most people just give up, pick something near and dear to their hearts and then align themselves with politicians that most align with them. 

Folks vote against their best interests every election because they allow an emotion to be fueled by slick, manipulative charlatans who want only to wield power that increases personal wealth.  Doesn't matter what side of the aisle a person is standing on, the game's the same.  

The information here is so important I felt compelled to share it with anyone who cares to read it.  I don't expect it to change minds, I just hope folks will try to get a bigger picture and understand just how easy it is to be manipulated by media and the political machines that operate better than most high performance racing engines....


What the GOP and Corporate Media Are Hiding: The Higher the Debt, the More Cash in Your Pocket

The media is hoodwinking us into buying the Right's deficit hysteria -- they're not telling us the real story.
Americans are increasingly confused about what the national debt is, and how it effects the economy, but that's no accident; we're being hoodwinked by politicians with a massive assist from the corporate media. Even worse, they're waving the deficit around like a shiny object to distract us from the really pressing issues facing our economy.

Here's some reality: according to the Congressional Budget Office, projected “budget deficits will drop markedly over the next few years” — falling by around two-thirds by 2014 (less so if the “Bush tax cuts” aren't allowed to expire as scheduled). This fact is not all over the news.

In fact, while the deficit is on a relatively steep downward slope, just this week the Washington Post told its readers in a front-page news story that Democrats and Republicans have been “lambasted as being far too timid in dealing with the nation’s swelling deficit," and the New York Times reported that Congress is trying “to cut spending to deal with America’s own ballooning deficit [emphasis added].” These weren't editorials or opinion pieces; they purported to offer factual news.

That just scratches the surface. In 2009, the Post came under fire for running an article – also in its news section – written by the Fiscal Times, which the watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting described as “a propaganda outlet created and funded by Peter G. Peterson, a Wall Street billionaire and Nixon administration cabinet member who has long used his wealth to promote cuts in Social Security and other entitlement programs.” (It was Peterson Foundation employees, among those from other outside groups, who staffed Obama's “bipartisan deficit commission.”)

After years pushing the inherently conservative "sky-is-falling" deficit narrative, the Washington Post now tells us that, based on the results of a poll it conducted last week, “lawmakers are likely to face voters’ wrath if they can’t prove that they are also working to rein in the spiraling debt.” The poll actually found that a plurality of respondents would rather default on the national debt, driving the economy into a deep recession and sending unemployment skyrocketing, than see the debt limit raised.

That's madness, and it results from what one of the paper's liberal bloggers, Greg Sargent, describes as a “deficit feedback loop,” in which “the relentless bipartisan focus on the deficit convinces voters to be worried about it, which in turn leads lawmakers to spend still more time talking about it and less time talking about the economy.” Sargent highlighted a study released last week by the National Journal that confirms his thesis. According to the Journal, “major U.S. newspapers have increasingly shifted their attention away from coverage of unemployment in recent months while greatly intensifying their focus on the deficit.”
The analysis -- based on a measure of how often the words "unemployment" and "deficit" appear in major publications -- portrays a dramatically shifting landscape of coverage over the past two years, as the debate over how to fix the federal deficit has risen to prominence and the question of how to handle still-high unemployment has faded from the media's consciousness.
Now look at the impact that relentless focus on the deficit – and declining coverage of the jobs crisis and housing meltdown -- has had on public opinion:

Click for larger version


How Does the National Debt Affect You, Personally?
It's no wonder Americans are so bewildered – polls show they want the deficit cut, but they don't want to see taxes go up or cut any programs other than military spending (which wouldn't alone balance the budget).

And while the media's focus on the deficit has increased dramatically in recent years, this is nothing new. Conservatives have spent the last 30 years pushing all manner of distortions about taxes, spending and the national debt – the stuff lies at the heart of their “supply-side” economic pablum.

An exchange at a town-hall style debate way back during the 1992 presidential campaign spoke to the cumulative effect of that mendacity. A woman in the audience asked the three candidates – Bill Clinton, the senior George Bush and Ross Perot – how “the national debt personally affected each of your lives?” The question famously stumped Bush, who said, “I'm not sure I get it. Help me with the question and I'll try to answer it.” But the exchange also prompted political scientist Jonathan Bernstein to posit that many Americans, “have no idea that 'deficit' refers to the difference between federal government revenues and federal government expenditures, but instead use it as a synonym for 'bad things in the economy.'"

So what is the debt's impact on ordinary people? A truth rarely spoken in the corporate media is this: any way you slice it, adding a dollar of public debt puts a dollar into the pockets of American households.

Let me repeat that: There is a 1:1 ratio between adding public debt and private wealth, any way you want to look at it. If we had paid enough taxes to cover the services we enjoy, we wouldn't have any debt, but we would have less money. As conservatives always point out, a dollar in taxes is a dollar less in our pockets.

Similarly, if we cut public services, we'd save the government some money, but people would have to pay for the things it provides out of their own pockets. Consider the GOP's Medicare plan for example. As the L.A. Times noted, “even as the federal government cut its own spending, seniors would end up paying almost twice as much out of their own pockets — or more than $12,510 a year, the CBO estimates.” The same is true for subsidized student loans – we could cut them, saving some public dollars, and every one of them would be added to graduate student loan debt (two-thirds of college grads now leave school with an average debt of $24,000). We could cut programs for the poor, which would save public money, while making them poorer.

That's true of virtually everything under the sun, including spending conservatives tend to like and progressives usually hate– killing a dollar in corporate subsidies also kills a dollar in corporate profits; a buck less in military spending is also one less greenback for defense contractors and soldiers.

Now, it's true that more debt requires higher interest payments, but here again we have a 1:1 ratio. If our household debt was higher as a result of paying more out-of-pocket, then we'd have to pay more interest as well. The only difference is that with public debt, the interest burden gets spread over our entire society – including rich people like Pete Peterson – instead of only bankrupting those among us who have fallen on hard times or had a string of bad luck.

This gets to the crux of the progressive argument. The number one reason we're seeing elevated deficits right now is the recession itself. In a consumer-based economy, the way to decrease those deficits is to grow one's way out, which isn't going to happen by taking money out of Americans' pockets while demand is still in the hole.

OK, So How Do Deficits Affect the Economy?
Let us consider two dueling narratives, one for which there is no real-world evidence at this time, and another one that can be demonstrated empirically.

The first is the deficit hysterics' dark warnings that high deficits will push interest rates up, making it harder for companies to borrow money to expand and ultimately costing the economy jobs. This is known as “crowding out” private investment, and it may be the case in certain circumstances. But, as economist Jared Bernstein notes, it's “not a plausible story with excess capacity, the Fed funds rate at zero, and companies sitting on cash that they could invest with if they saw good reasons to do so.”

We've run high deficits in the past couple of years, but as I noted a few weeks ago, the Fed's discount rate -- the interest charged to financial institutions -- now stands at 0.75 percent while a year ago, it was … 0.75 percent. The prime rate -- the basis for setting the amount of interest charged for mortgages and consumer credit -- stands at 3.25 percent. A year ago, it was 3.25 percent.

Economist Paul Krugman put it a different way, noting that the interest paid by Germany, which is running a deficit equal to 3 percent of its economic output is essentially the same as what we're paying with a deficit equal to 10 percent, and also similar to that paid by the UK, which has a deficit similar to our own but has launched a panful “austerity” program.

A more realistic narrative, demonstrated repeatedly since at least the Great Depression, is that when the economy is in a hole and consumers are tapped out, spending public dollars – and running deficits in the short term – minimizes the pain felt on Main Street. Cutting spending, as the deficit hawks want to do, simply increases the hardship.

Bernstein points out how this dynamic is playing out in the states, where spending cuts have led to the loss of 300,000 public sector jobs, which is creating a drag on growth. All of those people will have less money in their pockets to buy goods and services. Some will miss mortgage payments or face foreclosure, their personal debt will increase, and all of that leads to less demand overall – a vicious cycle if ever there was one.

What Else Could the Media Be Telling Us?
Journalist Sally Kohn pointed out this week that the U.S. has a debt-to-income ratio far smaller than most corporations, a fact that is as rarely reported as the deficit's downward projections. We have a dollar in public debt for each dollar we're taking in as a nation, while companies like IBM and Caterpillar are running debts four times their incomes, and JP Morgan Chase has borrowed 50 times what it makes in a year. Corporations are fine with that, as their debt represents investments that will pay off in the future, and we should be similarly content to invest in infrastructure, education and keeping the economy growing – it'll also pay off down the road.

But perhaps the biggest distortion in our discourse on deficits is the idea that, like fungi, they just grow naturally rather than arising as a consequence of policy choices made by our representatives. As I've written before, we don't have a structural economic problem called a “deficit.” Aside from the recession, we're running high deficits now for three reasons. 

First, we're under-taxed – after endless rounds of tax cuts, the federal government brought in the lowest amount of revenue last year since 1950. Second, we have a ripoff of a health-care system – if we spent the same amount per person for health care as any of the 35 countries with longer life-expectancies we'd be looking at large budget surpluses in the near future. And, finally, we spend a wildly disproportionate amount on our military. As economist Dean Baker notes, the dreaded “Medicare gap” is equal to just one-fifth of the increase in our military spending since 9/11.

And while the dominant deficit narrative sets us up mostly for spending cuts, if there was the same emphasis on any of those real-world causes for the debt, it would lead to different, and far more progressive approaches to the issue: cutting defense spending, restoring at least the Clinton-era tax rates on the wealthy and making deeper reforms to our overpriced health-care system.

Put simply, we're being conned. So, whatever you do, don't buy into the media-driven hysteria.


"Jail workers in Portland, Ore., discharged a one-legged homeless man without his wheelchair Monday morning after a citation for consuming alcohol in public. "

As soon as I saw this, I thought about some of the jail staff at one of our facilities in the Nashville area who delighted in releasing people shortly after midnight far from downtown, running buses and accessible phones.  
On more than several occasions, I have gone down to a liquor store that sits near that jail to pick up people who have called me at the nearest phone they could access after they were released in the clothing they had on when they were originally arrested.  On more than several occasions, this meant that they were in t-shirts and shorts when the outside temperatures were in the mid 30s.  

I have seen men and women pushed to hospital curbs in wheelchairs and unceremoniously dumped onto the bus bench.  I have shot video (see the bottom of this page) of a man who, suffering from prostate cancer, was given a box of catheters and a 15 minute tutorial by nursing staff on how to cath himself using sterile technique.  When he mentioned that finding a clean place under the local viaduct to perform this catheterization would be a real challenge, the nurse told him he ought to get some housing.

The callousness, viciousness, arrogance, and sheer assholiness of human beings never ceases to amaze me, and the more I work with those of us who must endure poverty, the more convinced I am that the world is filled with far more assholes than decent human beings.  It's been twelve long years since I had to endure abject poverty, but I have never ever forgotten what it was like, the powerlessness, impotence and misery of enduring the very worst that our humanity has to offer.  

For the jail staff that sent this man onto the bricks without his wheelchair, there is going to be a special place in hell for people like you.  

I hope you end up there soon.... 



Portland One-Legged Homeless Man Discharged From Jail Without Wheelchair

PHOTO: Scott Hamilton, 37, used his hands to scoot out of the jail on his butt and head out into the dark street at about 1 a.m.

Scott Hamilton, a one-legged homeless man, was discharged from jail without his wheelchair. (Courtesy of Eve Browne)
Jail workers in Portland, Ore., discharged a one-legged homeless man without his wheelchair Monday morning after a citation for consuming alcohol in public.

The security officers apparently watched as Scott Hamilton, 37, used his hands to scoot out of the jail on his butt and head out into the dark street about 1 a.m.
Hamilton then made his way to a convenience store about three blocks away where girlfriend Eve Browne picked him up, she said.

"It was just over the top, beyond being disrespectful or inconsiderate. It was just negligence," Browne said of the treatment Hamilton received from the Multnomah County Detention Center.

Hamilton has rheumatoid arthritis, and his hands were swollen and purple after making the trek, Browne said.

Officials have since returned the wheelchair to Hamilton.

Portland police arrested Hamilton Sunday night. He was given a receipt for his belongings, including the wheelchair, when he was booked into jail.

Hamilton has battled alcoholism since his early 20s, according to his father, Frank Hamilton, and lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. Police said he has been arrested at least 10 times since January.

His personal wheelchair is usually held at the jail and Hamilton is given a loaner. But Hamilton's personal wheelchair was taken away this time to an off-site storage facility.
Courtesy of Eve Browne
Scott Hamilton, a one-legged homeless man,... View Full Size
Cops Struggle With Man in Wheelchair Watch Video
Man in Wheelchair Stabs Cop Watch Video
'I Cried Every Time I Got Kicked Out' Watch Video
 
When it came time for discharge, his wheelchair was unavailable. When the loaner chair was taken away from him, Hamilton became angry. He stormed out of the jail on his hands, as a security officer held the door open for him.

"This was kind of a miscommunication," chief deputy of corrections Michael Shults said. Shults, who works for the sheriff's office, added that policies and training practices will likely change to ensure this doesn't happen again.
"We want people to be able to get home safely," he said.

Today, Hamilton -- who could not be reached for comment -- is back on the streets panhandling, but still without his wheelchair. Shults is working to return the wheelchair to Hamilton and an investigation of the incident has been launched.
"We don't want this to ever happen again," Mary Lindstrand, public information officer for the sheriff's office, said.

Lindstrand said the poor treatment of Hamilton has overshadowed all the positive things the sheriff's office does. That will be particularly noticeable tonight when the sheriff's office is scheduled to give out 31 awards during its annual awards ceremony.
Neil Donovan, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said that incidents such as Hamilton's are all too common.

A Washington, D.C., homeless man was forced out of his wheelchair and tackled by police Sunday as they arrested him. Video capturing the event shows police rough-handling the man, who has blood spewing from his head from the fall.

Donovan said that while law enforcement officials certainly have a role in situations such as these, the problem is rooted much deeper and stems from policies aimed at getting homeless people off the streets rather than solving the cause of the homeless problem.

Donovan said that even after 31 years in the business, these events are still tough to accept.

"I feel a real sense of sadness for the individual who had to be humiliated and had their civil rights taken away," he said. "Injustice seems to never grow old or allow you to become accustomed to it."

5.22.2011

"Allowing direct service providers to cream is a slippery slope."

I was in Denver this week, working with SAMHSA's Homelessness Resource Center training team, and one of our keynote speakers was Paul Carlson.  Paul is a regional director and is responsible for promoting the mission of the Council in AK, AR, AZ, CO, ID, MT, ND, NM, OK OR, SD, UT, WA, WY.

He's got a lot on his plate, but you'd never know it; the man is intensely personable, gregarious, energetic and in a sense, prophetic as well.  He's the second high-ranking Council member I've had the pleasure of not just hearing speak, but also having an opportunity to actually spend some time chatting with about various issues related to homelessness and veteran homelessness.

The other person was Anthony Love, an incredibly bright and personable man who promotes the goals and the mission of the Council with a zeal that infects and motivates you.  I only wish all our federal personnel approached their duties with the drive and energy Paul and Anthony bring to the table.

I know both these men would be horribly embarrassed to hear me gushing about their personalities, as they both seem to be really humble servants of a cause that anyone reading this blog can understand; not just managing homelessness, but ending this damned scourge permanently.

During Paul's Keynote address at the Denver conference, he said something that really hit home, and it concerned something I've seen happening in Nashville for some time now, but reports coming to me from a number of sources have indicated that it seems to be worsening recently.

Paul was talking about the master plan from the Council, Opening Doors, The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness (full plan can be downloaded as pdf here).  One of the things he mentioned during his conversation was this goal to get agencies and organizations that work with the Homeless population to stop "creaming" the easiest cases while leaving the most difficult languishing on the streets yet again.

When I heard that statement, I instantly recalled policies and procedures I'd run across in the area over the past several years that established and perpetuated the "creaming" mentality, and for the most part, this was an unintentional consequence of the lack of available services needed to assist some of our more challenging population members.  Unfortunately, allowing direct service providers to cream is a slippery slope; initially, they may be forced into picking the easiest cases because the lack of said services makes it fruitless to try and assist those (beyond the basics of backpack survival items) in any meaningful way. 

There is an important secondary issue here as well; as an advocate or an outreach worker, the last thing you want to do is to ruin an engagement and relationship with a client(s) by running them through a bunch of hoops that won't pan out, for whatever the reason.  It's better to support the folks, remain committed to serving them and vigilant to new programs coming that can provide some help, and keep them informed of those new opportunities as soon as they arise.  Folks on the street will be far more appreciative if you're not blowing smoke up their butts.  It's the old "underpromise and overdeliver" mantra anyone with more than a few days of outreach under their belts will immediately understand.

The lube on the slope unfortunately, seems to be that once we set in motion creaming for reasons related to non-existent resources, it seems to send a message to the staff that we seek the easy ones because the challenging cases are "uninterested in help," or are "non-compliant anyway" and therefore don't deserve our help.  It becomes very easy to justify denying services to difficult clients by blaming it on the workload, on previous efforts to assist the individual that failed, that there are more "deserving" cases out there (one of the main issues I have with the Vulnerability Index), and just plain laziness, too.

Before I go further, I want to point out clearly that there is a huge difference between creaming and suffering from the same frustration those on the street are enduring as a direct result of the lack of resources available to all of us.  If you feel the finger is pointing at you, well then perhaps you ought to examine your motives and your caseload.  There are a great many conscientious and dedicated providers who suffer dearly from the lack of resources and unintentionally forced creaming that occurs as a result.  My desire is not to impugn your extraordinary efforts in service delivery and I apologize in advance if this post rubs some the wrong way.  I would reiterate however, that if you feel a tinge of defensiveness rising somewhere within you, it may pay to re-examine your practices. 

As Paul mentions when he talks passionately about Housing First, "we don't give up on the person when a housing unit is lost by the client." It's a philosophical approach, really, in that when we commit to ending homelessness, we don't commit only for those who are "easy," who may be able to sail through a SOAR application while making every appointment on time and kissing the butts of those filling out the application throughout the entire process.

We don't give up on someone who, after spending decades on the street, is coerced into a housing unit through fear of their camp being closed down, then evict that individual when we find they are unable to live with the new rules of an apartment complex.

We don't abandon the alcoholic or addict when they fail a stint in rehab,  and we don't ditch the person when another rehab ejects them back onto the same tormenting streets when their time is up after "successful" completion of the program.

I get that we have huge caseloads, that resources are so scarce every single penny must be carefully weighed under the "benefit of the greater good" scale.  I understand that we have some damned challenging folks who need our help, and they aren't always acting the way we think they should.  I know these people well, because I am one of them, and you can bet your last dollar you are too. 

ALL of us would rather have real choices, not the slick methods of denial cloaked under the banner of providing "choices" some agency personnel like to trot out when rationalizing to the rest of us why it is they aren't providing services to a potential client, or now refusing to serve a client they once had on their caseload.  This kind of discriminatory behavior towards people experiencing homelessness should be called out at every opportunity, and we as a community - and as taxpayers - ought to seriously consider revoking funding from agencies receiving federal grant money.

It took me seven years from the time I dimly recognized I was suffering from a serious disease and illness to the point at which I finally entered what I would consider real recovery.  During that period, countless assholes wrote me off, labeled everything me from "non compliant" to "malinger" (I actually saw this as a diagnosis from a quack physician, no less, who continues practicing his dangerous, biased, discriminatory ignorance upon our community members to this day), deemed me "unworthy" of services, labeled me "DNS," and generally stomped just about every last ounce of self respect and dignity out of me in the process.

I've since come to understand, thank the Gods, that it wasn't my inability to recover, it was their inability to put the correct options in front of me to assist me in my recovery, and when they couldn't do their own jobs, they found a way to blame the failure upon me.
  
Because I was "non compliant" under the terms of their "resource requisites and prerequisites," I was often either summarily dismissed or quickly weeded out from services, kicked to the curb, and left to fend for myself.

Over that period of time, I surely cost local and state taxpayers thousands of dollars as a result of my addictions, my incarcerations, my inability to work and the resultant food stamps and medical, vision and dental services I received on the state's dime.  Who knows what kind of productivity I may have been capable of with the right employer, so how much money in tax revenue, in providing goods and services to others, did we as a community lose?

Factor in the boost in self esteem and general well-being I could have had, had I been treated appropriately the first, second, third, even fourth time around, and if my current recovery trajectory is indicative of my abilities, I'd say you all lost bigtime as a result of the improper handling of my illness and disease.  All because I'd been "creamed" out by people who weren't willing to spend the time needed to work with this "challenging" case.

If you're providing services and you're finding ways to deny potential clients services, regardless of whether you want to pretty up the act by arguing that you're "providing choices" to the individual as you send them packing, you're as much of the barrier to ending chronic homelessness as is lack of affordable housing and poverty. 

When you signed on to this line of work, you made a commitment to serve.

Everyone.

If you aren't doing that, I hope you are either working to change the policies of your agency or are looking for another job in an unrelated field.

Too many people are suffering while you skim the cream....

5.21.2011

"Be prepared to be blamed for your circumstances"

This piece was first published in the Nation back in 2009 and I felt it deserved a re-visit...

Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets

This monthly feature was conceived by writer and Nation editorial board member Walter Mosley as a kind of do-it-yourself opinion and action device. Most often "Ten Things" will offer a brief list of recommendations for accomplishing a desired political or social end, sometimes bringing to light something generally unknown. The purpose of the feature is to go to the heart of issues in a stripped-down, active and informed way. After getting our visiting expert--or everyday citizen--to construct the list, we will interview that person and post a brief online version of "Ten Things," with links to relevant websites, books or other information. Readers who wish to propose ideas for "Ten Things" should e-mail us at NationTenThings@gmail.com or use the e-form at the bottom of this page.

About the Author

The Nation
The Nation is America's oldest weekly news magazine, and one of the most widely read magazines in the world for...

For millions of Americans, the housing crisis began well before last year's front-page collapse. Bigotry and criminalization by an unjust system of policing and incarceration, combined with economic privation, have kept even the meager privilege of a subprime mortgage or slumlord lease out of reach for many. As the crisis unfolds, the number of homeless will grow.
Picture the Homeless, a social justice organization founded and led by homeless people in New York City, has joined The Nation to come up with a list of things you need to know to live on the street--and ways we can all build movements to challenge the stigma of homelessness and put forward an alternative vision of community.

 1

Be prepared to be blamed for your circumstances, no matter how much they may be beyond your control. Think of ways to disabuse the public of common misconceptions. Don't internalize cruelty or condescension. Let go of your pride--but hold on to your dignity.

 2

There is no private space to which you may retreat. You are on display 24/7. Learn to travel light. Store valuables in a safe place, only carrying around what you really need: ID and documents for accessing services, a pen, etc. You can check e-mail and read at the library. You can get a post office box for a fee or use general delivery (free).

 3

Learn the best bathroom options, where you won't be rushed, turned away or harassed. Find restrooms where it's clean enough to put your stuff down, the stalls are big enough to change in and there's hot water so you can wash up. If you're in New York City go to Restrooms in New York.

 4

It's difficult to have much control over when, where and what you eat, so learn soup kitchen schedules and menus. Carry with you nuts, peanut butter or other foods high in protein. Click here to find a list of soup kitchens by state.

 5

Food and clothing are easier to find than a safe place to sleep--the first truth of homelessness is sleep deprivation. Always have a blanket. Whenever possible, sleep in groups with staggered schedules, so you can look out for one another, prioritizing children's needs over those of adults.

 6

Know your rights! Knowing constitutional amendments, legal precedents and human rights provisions can help you, even if they're routinely violated. In New York, for example, a 2003 court-ordered settlement strictly forbids selective enforcement of the law against the homeless. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement offers another resource, and the ACLU has cards, brochures, fact sheets and films.

 7

Learn police patterns and practices. Be polite and calm to cops, even when they don't give the same respect. Support initiatives demanding independent police accountability. Link with groups from overlapping populations of nonhomeless and homeless people (i.e., black, Latino, LGBT groups) that are fighting police brutality and building nonpolice safety projects, like the Audre Lorde Project's Safe OUTside the System in Brooklyn. Organize your own CopWatch--and photograph, videotape and publicize instances of police abuse. Consider and support models like the Los Angeles Community Action Network or the People's Self Defense Campaign of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in Brooklyn.

 8

The First Amendment protects your right to solicit aid (panhandling), especially if your pitch or sign is a statement rather than a request. To succeed, be creative, funny, engaging ("I didn't get a bailout!"). Find good, high-traffic spots where the police won't bother you.

 9

Housing is a human right! Squat. Forge coalitions with nonhomeless but potentially displaced people in this era of mass foreclosures. Support United Workers in Baltimore, the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco, the Nashville Homeless Power Project. Learn about campaigns against homelessness in other nations, including the Landless Workers' Movement in Brazil and the Anti-Eviction Campaign in South Africa.

10

Don't go it alone! Always be part of an informal network of trust and mutual aid. Start your own organization, with homeless people themselves shaping the fight for a better life and world. Check out the Picture the Homeless Blog for news, updates and reports on homelessness in NY.
CONCEIVED by WALTER MOSLEY with research by Rae Gomes

5.17.2011

James Ridgeway: "the stark symbols of Obama's Washington may turn out to be babies squalling in bus stops, and families living in cars."

Having spent at least a modicum of time in the DC area over the past couple of years, and heading there again in a couple of weeks, I know that the area around the Capitol literally springs to homelessness life after dark.  Folks are scattereed all over the place, eking out an existence in the shadows of the buildings that house the wealthiest, most powerful government in the world.

It's shocking, really, to see this many individuals sleeping on benches, curled up on the steps of churches, wandering aimlessly around the city's center as they try to pass time the best they can.  

Meanwhile, around them some of the most influential men and women in the world conduct financial business with dollar amounts so large many of us cannot even begin to comprehend the impact that much money would have in ending homelessness. 

Many of those very same people then balk and demand concessions from the poorest of the poor while giving tax breaks and subsidies to companies who, besides making literally billions of dollars in profit each quarter, have taken these huge sums of money and used them to move out of the US in order to hire cheap labor from third world countries.  

There's something very very wrong with that picture.....

A Capitol offence: homelessness in DC

Washington's political class prospers, but as budget cuts bite, what it means to be a have-not in the capital is starker than ever
  • James Ridgeway
  • homeless in Washington DC
    A monument to Reagan's cuts in social welfare programmes: a homeless man in Washington, December 2008. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters
    Whatever Ronald Reagan had in mind for the shining city on the hill, it could not have been Washington. His lasting legacy to the capital city has been to make permanent an encampment of homeless people. There always have been poor here, living in sharp contrast to the well-to-do political world of the city. But the homeless, during DC's recent history, appeared with Reagan's inauguration in 1981. They are testament to the first wave of conservative cuts in social welfare programmes, which, among other things, resulted in Reagan's famed "welfare queens'', along with the supposed malingerers who turned out to be mentally ill, being forced onto the street. Administrations have come and gone but the homeless have become a permanent fixture in the city's life – a reminder that the conservative era launched by Reagan has little in common with Roosevelt's New Deal. There are now some 16,000 people who live on the streets of Washington in any one year, with at least 1,000 families among them. This city of 600,000, which considers itself progressive, young and hip, and where whites have now replaced blacks as a majority of the city's inhabitants, has sought to help homeless people with shelters, social programmes and housing. But there is not enough low-cost housing to make a serious dent.  Cont. here

5.12.2011

NCHV Policy Forum Coming June 6: will dispel rumors and answer questions about the impact of the Five-Year Plan on grant-funded homeless veteran assistance programs


For my brothers and sisters serving those who served us and our country without question, complaint or regard for their own lives....


NCHV Policy Forum and Workshops
The NCHV Policy Forum, which will be held on the afternoon of June 6, will dispel rumors and answer questions about the impact of the Five-Year Plan on grant-funded homeless veteran assistance programs. Top officials from the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and Labor will participate in Q-and-A sessions, directly responding to service providers’ concerns. USICH Deputy Director Anthony Love will co-facilitate the forum with NCHV President and CEO John Driscoll.
In addition to policy briefings and networking opportunities at this year’s annual conference, attendees will be able to engage in 34 critical workshops, including sessions on the following:
1. Changes in the Grant and Per Diem Program
2. The future of HUD-VASH and access to low-income housing
3. Increasing veteran employment opportunities
4. Ensuring veteran access to mainstream and homelessness prevention services
5. Expanding legal aid for homeless veterans
6. Data integration impact on local programs and funding

Registration for the 2011 NCHV Annual Conference is still open. A registration form can be downloaded here (PDF). Although NCHV’s discount room-block at the Grand Hyatt has sold out, general reservations may still be made by calling 202-582-1234. You may also search for other accommodations at www.travelocity.com/hotels.
For more information on the 2011 NCHV Annual Conference, click here.

HALLEFREAKINLUJAH! Second Chance Act Becomes Law in Indiana

Many thanks to my good friends at AHP and on my training team for this alert!

Now if we can just get every other state to follow suit, felons who've paid their debt and want nothing more than to get on with their lives can do so a little easier, and a lot more successfully, too.

Kudos to Indiana for helping those who want to help themselves!





Governor Mitch Daniels signs HB1211 into law.   
Second chance legislation restricts access to criminal records after 8 years for for non violent class D felons and misdemeanants


HEA 1211 Arrest Records       
 
HEA 1211would allow persons with criminal records the opportunity to petition the court and request that access to those records be restricted.  The bill encompasses two parts.  The first provides that a person charged with a crime may petition the court to restrict disclosure of any records related to the arrest if the person: (1) is not prosecuted, or if charges against the person are dismissed; (2) is acquitted of all criminal charges; or (3) is convicted of the crime and the conviction is subsequently vacated. In layman's terms, arrests not leading to a conviction will remain accessible to law enforcement, but restricted from general public inquiries.   It is up to you to petition! 

The second part of HEA 1211provides that eight years after the date a person completes his sentence, satisfying all obligations imposed, he or she may petition the sentencing court to restrict access to the arrest and criminal records.
   
To read the bill in its entirety online click here.     

It's a great time to be part of the Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition!  We stand poised to move addition public policy initiatives forward in the next legislative session.  We represent your voice and we thank you for your interest and continued support as the IAIC works to change minds, attitudes and beliefs about addiction and recovery here in Indiana.  

What's This? Housing Availability Has Helped Drop Homeless Numbers? Whodathunk???

"The number of people in Utah who are homeless dropped by about 8 percent since last year due to a slew of new housing programs designed to help the chronically homeless."

Housing should be a basic human right.  In fact, housing should be the number one basic human right because we've seen that when someone must endure homelessness, more problems than Carter's got pills arise for that individual as a direct result.  

We know too that living life homeless can be fatal.  A person experiencing chronic homelessness is damned lucky to be alive after the age of 47.

Sadly, we treat even our most heinous criminals better when we incarcerate them than we do the average homeless person who struggles to survive on the streets on a daily basis.  For criminals, there's a guaranteed "3 hots and a cot," provided courtesy me and you, every single day that person is under our control.  That we're unable to afford the same basic privilege to members of our society who may have done nothing more than to be laid off from their most recent job is shameful and sends a very distorted message about the priorities of the most wealthy and powerful nation on earth.

Housing for the homeless.  What a novel idea.  

And get this, it actually works. Just ask Utahans....

Utah homeless rate down 8 percent, housing options up

Utah homeless rate down 8 percent, housing options up
SALT LAKE CITY -- The number of people in Utah who are homeless dropped by about 8 percent since last year due to a slew of new housing programs designed to help the chronically homeless, a new survey found.

The 2011 Point-in-Time Count survey conducted by the Division of Housing and Community Development reported that the number of people who experienced homelessness for some or part of the year declined from 15,642 in 2010 to 14,351 this past year across Utah.

Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, chair of the State Homeless Coordinating Council, said at a news conference Wednesday that those who are chronically homeless consume 50 percent of resources available to the homeless population, even though they represent only 10 percent of that population.

"We have found that providing rental subsidies with case management initiatives ... meeting their mental and physical health needs, jobs and other necessities, we've been able to address this issue in a humane and cost effective manner," Bell said.

Bell also said the chronically homeless are high consumers of expensive community services such as emergency rooms, jails, ambulances, fire response teams, and police interaction -- costs that could be minimized to provide shelter and food to others in need.

Chronic homelessness has declined nearly 26 percent -- from 812 people in 2010 to 601 in 2011, according to the survey.

Initiatives over the past five years, such as providing about 500 units of housing to the homeless community, have driven the decline in numbers, according to Zach Bale, a spokesman for the Volunteers of America in Salt Lake City. He said more still needs to be done to help homeless youth and families, a portion of the homeless population on the rise in Utah.

"Even though the overall numbers are decreasing, the number of homeless youth and families are still increasing," Bale said.

"With foreclosures and unemployment rates still high, this has caused some families to kick out members who don't pay rent or families that are suddenly homeless because they can't afford mortgage payments."

The survey, which was taken on Jan. 27, is part of a national effort to by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to collect data on homeless and their use of services, according to Gordon Walker, director of the Division of Housing and Community Development. Walker also credited the decline to the improving economy.

Utah adopted a plan in 2005 to end chronic homelessness in 10 years by helping them with re-integrating them into society, finding jobs and getting them into their own apartment, according to Bell. He said for every chronically homeless person that is helped, about 2.5 homeless people, some of them in a temporary rut, would be able to get the help they need.

Smiling does a body good

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