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“No Sit-No Lie” Ordinance Passed in San Francisco

Homeless Group with Dog

Change.org is a website where you go to sign petitions, or to start a petition, and to learn from the informative articles why it would be a good idea to support each cause that has a petition attached. The site covers a dozen general areas including animals, criminal justice, education, environment, gay rights, health, human rights, human trafficking, immigrant rights, poverty in America, sustainable food, and women’s rights.

Under the heading of Poverty in America, there’s a recent piece by Josie Raymond, a Change.org editor, whose beat is usually the South Bronx. She has titled it: “Sitting Is Now Illegal in San Francisco. Next up: Breathing.” A bit sarcastic? Maybe not. No doubt there are citizens who, if they could figure out a way to do it, would deny the privilege of breathing to people experiencing homelessness.

Is this San Francisco, California, law aimed at people experiencing homelessness? Well, duh. Who else sits on sidewalks, except the occasional child having a tantrum? Presumably it’s okay to sit on a chair, on a sidewalk. Otherwise, a lot of upscale cafés would be out of business.

Speaking of business, Raymond notes that the “Yes on L” group raised $280,000 for its campaigning efforts. Wow, that’s a lot of dough. How many tents or socks or hot meals could that money have bought? How many folding chairs could it have bought? There’s an idea — supply a portable chair for each person experiencing homelessness so they could be in compliance.

On a purely practical basis, the money would have been better spent taking homeless people to the bus station and buying them tickets to the destinations of their choice. At least a fair percentage might have someplace to go that would actually welcome them, a friend or relative willing to help out, if only they could get there.

And many others would wind up elsewhere, unable to afford the price of a return ticket, and become some other city’s problem. As long as we’re being sarcastic: As the bus pulled away, the farewell committee could wave and shout, “Just don’t leave your heart in San Francisco!”

Who would have imagined that sitting could be outlawed? And, of all places, in San Francisco, where, within living memory, they used to wear flowers in their hair? Yet here, in all its ugly reality, is news of how the city by the bay has voted for Proposition L, informally known as the sit-lie ordinance. No sitting on any sidewalk between 7 o’clock in the morning and 11 o’clock at night.

Raymond gets into the interesting details, such as the fact that sitting and lying on sidewalks is okay during the nighttime hours. She writes,

So everyone’s admitting they’re ok with homelessness to the point of people sleeping on the sidewalks, as long as the homeless wake up and move along by rush hour?

Apparently so. Imagine the gratitude in the hearts of the dispossessed, who are allowed the generous boon of being permitted to sit on a sidewalk between 11 PM and 7 AM. What a magnanimous gesture!

Despite the fact that the Mayor and the Chief of Police supported this ordinance, San Francisco isn’t all bad, of course. It has some great programs going, like Project Homeless Connect, and the people experiencing homelessness have a strong local advocate in Craig Newmark.

Rev. Billy Wirtz has been out there demonstrating against Proposition L, and the organization Sidewalks are for People has not given up. It is planning a citywide action on December 18, and encourages all interested parties to sign up at its Facebook page. This is peaceful protest. Folks are urged to get out there and play hopscotch, paint watercolors, share tea with their neighbors, have a game of chess, or do any other creative activity that claims the sidewalks as the rightful place for human beings.

This group thinks public spaces are safer when people use the sidewalks and other areas in ways that express the diverse and vibrant culture of the city. Here’s what they proclaim:

We believe in freedom of expression, the right to peaceably assemble, and the pursuit of happiness on our sidewalks!…We think it’s a terrible idea to criminalize the act of sitting in public space and we’re quite sure it’s a violation of our constitutional rights. We intend to challenge Prop L in the courts.

Reactions?

Source: “Sitting Is Now Illegal in San Francisco. Next up: Breathing,” Change.org, 11/03/10
Source: “Sidewalks are for People Day: SAT 12/18,” Sidewalks Are For People, 11/24/10
Image by Franco Folini, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Austin, Texas, Debates Best Approach to Homelessness

I Heart AustinRecently, the Editorial Board of the Austin American Statesman has made a wise observation:

It is very difficult for a man or woman to gain stability, get and keep a job, recover from substance abuse or stay out of jail if they are living on the street or in a temporary shelter.

Somebody in that group comprehends a basic concept that many housed people fail to grasp. If you’re homeless, how do you get a job?

Where do you keep your social security card and birth certificate and a tattered copy of your most recent resume, saved from back when you had access to a typewriter or a word processor? How do you wash and iron your shirt? Where do you shave or style your hair? Where do you leave the rest of your stuff when you go to apply for this job? Will the guard in the office building lobby watch your duffel bag for you?

The Editorial Board marked the end of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week by publishing a piece called “Better approach needed for housing the homeless.” It recaps how the City Council plans to create 350 units of permanent housing, and some of the difficulties the project will face. It goes on to say that the same problems apply to a proposed RV park. The City Council likes the blending and integrating approach better, the proposed Marshall Arms Apartments in particular. The Editorial Board says,

Ideally, permanent housing for homeless people would be matched with a host of services to address their medical, mental, employment and social needs, giving them their best shot of overcoming factors that keep them down and out.

So we’re looking at how one city is attempting to cope with a situation faced by many cities. Below is the reaction of a local Austin citizen, intimately familiar with the workings of the municipality, Richard R. Troxell, founder of House The Homeless:

The lead editorial stated that a ‘Better approach (is) needed for housing the homeless.’Our organization, House The Homeless, could not agree more. The paper praised the City Council for creating 350 units of permanent supportive housing, as do we. But in searching for a better approach, let’s consider that it took our community almost 10 years to create a Housing Trust Fund and pass a bond that produced the millions of dollars needed for the 350 units. It is also estimated that the units will be built over four years with the push past NIMBYism taking an additional two years, if then. (In other words, one of the forces to be dealt with is the tendency of residents to react by saying, ‘Not In My Back Yard.’)

And that’s only 350 units. With 4,000 folks experiencing homelessness, to get everybody housed would bring the total to 11 times that amount, at a cost of half a million dollars per person, and a response time of a couple years. We can hardly wait that long, not with 159 names of men, women, and baby girl Vasquez having been read this year alone at the Homeless Memorial.

Now, add into this equation that the Federal Government (according to the last several US Conference of Mayor’s Reports) has set a minimum wage so low that even a full-time worker cannot afford basic housing anywhere in this country! Instead, 40-hour-a-week workers are unable to afford the basics of food, clothing, and shelter. They end up living under bridges, in our woods, and panhandling for survival on our streets.

House The Homeless views those experiencing homelessness in two categories: those who can work and those who cannot work. As a taxpayer, am I expected to take care of all 3.5 million people experiencing homelessness nationwide? I gag at the thought. HTH completed a survey in January, of 501 people experiencing homelessness in Austin. The results exposed that 52% of the homeless can work but are lacking one thing… opportunity. If the only roof the full-time worker can expect is a bridge… then why bother? The alternative of selling drugs or the girl down the street is a lot easier and much more rewarding financially.

So, here’s how to cut the need for subsidized housing in half — by employing that 52% who just need an opportunity and a job that pays enough to live on. Then they can make their own housing arrangements. Then taxpayers only need to be concerned with the other half, the people experiencing homelessness who are unable to function as full-fledged participants in the economy. With the entire population need reduced by half, and the remaining folks being so vulnerable and needing focused support, then collective site programs such as the Mobile Loaves and Fishes mobile home park, just might be the thing.

Again, for those who can work, let’s consider the idea where the Federal Minimum Wage ensures a Living Wage: enough to afford the very basics; food, clothing, shelter (including utilities), as both halves of Congress had originally intended following the last depression. Wouldn’t the result be better all around? See House the Homeless for complete information on the Universal Living Wage.

Reactions?

Source: “Better approach needed for housing the homeless,” Austin American Statesman, 11/20/10
Image by Krikit, used under its Creative Commons license.

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The Bridge in Dallas Aids People Experiencing Homelessness

Dallas, Texas, Weather SkiesGoing by press reports, Texas is a happening place when it comes to dealing with the growing problem of people experiencing homelessness. Quite a lot of events went on there during the recent Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Other efforts and institutions are ongoing, although, of course, the Week is a special time.

The city of Dallas estimates that about 6,000 people experiencing homelessness live within its borders. The Bridge has fed 900 people at a kickoff breakfast for Help the Homeless Week. The keynote speaker was Chris Gardner, who wrote the novel, The Pursuit of Happyness, that became a movie. Mike Rawlings, long known as the city’s “homeless czar,” was honored for his five years’ service in the volunteer position.

Reporter Kim Horner tells us,

Mayor Tom Leppert said at the event that the homeless alliance has helped reduce chronic homelessness in Dallas by 57 percent and saved government agencies millions by caring for people who otherwise would go to more costly institutions, such as jail.

The facility called The Bridge, owned by the city and operated by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, offers meals, shelter, and a wide variety of services including counseling. Founded only two years ago, it was designed to deal with 600 clients a day, but now serves 1,400. (Not sure how that squares up with the mayor’s statement about having reduced chronic homelessness by 57%.)

One thing is for sure, The Bridge is looking at $200,000 worth of red ink this year if its current fundraising efforts are not successful. In this area, as in many others, government funding is drying up, and private donations are going to make all the difference.

It’s kind of an ironic name, in a way, because one of the stereotypes of homelessness is that people live under bridges and freeway overpasses. And indeed, some do. But this is a whole different thing. Now it’s time to get up on the bridge and make the crossing from one way of life to another. The Bridge is known as “Dallas’ Way Back Home,” a bridge that, for many people, through the years, has spanned the gap between hopelessness and a future.

We mentioned The Bridge before, in relation to the Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze and his endearing way of poking fun at Dallasites who don’t like the shelter. We have all heard of the NIMBY phenomenon, where residents of a town agree that some kind of place has to exist to help people experiencing homelessness — only the location of this place should be Not In My Back Yard.

Well, part of Schutze’s article tells about an opposite case, which started out as a NIMBY problem, and then turned around. The journalist relates a conversation he had with Dan Millet, who owns a printing company in the downtown neighborhood of The Bridge, and it’s beautiful. He tells it so well it would be a shame to steal his thunder. So please just go read it, and feel better all day!

Reactions?

Source: “Official says The Bridge in Dallas needs donations to cover shortfall,” The Dallas Morning News, 11/05/10
Source: “We’ve Banned Their Shopping Carts… ,” Dallas Observer, 09/02/10
Image by williamedia, used under its Creative Commons license.

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On This Thanksgiving Day…

Thanksgiving at Melissa-JamiesMay we remember how much we have to be thankful for, and not forget those who have less.

Image by Ed Yourdon, used under its Creative Commons license.

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In Search of Socks, Underwear, and Hats

GuitarsRemember how the musicians of New Orleans went all out, raising funds to help people recover from the aftermath of the deadly hurricane? Now a bunch in Texas are doing a thing called Warm Up Fort Worth. It can actually get pretty cold in that part of the country. Steve Watkins tells us about how the local musicians sent out a call for donations of coats, hats, gloves, socks, and especially underwear, to benefit the people experiencing homelessness.

This is a match made in heaven, because any band either owns or has access to some kind of vehicle big enough to carry stuff around in. Remember the friends of Gram Parsons, who had a hearse for moving their equipment from show to show? It really came in handy when they needed to transport his coffin.

Those trucks and vans are just as useful for collecting blankets, winter clothing, and other practical and necessary items from people fortunate enough to have jobs and homes. Then, the bounty is shared with people who are experiencing homelessness, though they may have jobs. Yes, that happens, more often than you might think. Economic homelessness is the term for when somebody has money coming in, but not enough to even rent a basic, no-frills apartment.

Warm Up Fort Worth started with Phil Wallace, a member of Snake Shaker Revival and a self-described hellraiser musician, from whom Watkins has captured a pithy sound bite:

It’s not easy to be homeless, but it’s easy to become homeless.

The musician himself is unclear about his own motivations. Wallace seems to have received what some would describe as a call, and has formed a conviction that this is what he should be doing at this time, and he doesn’t really have much of a choice. The reporter went along to Family Baptist Church, where the collected clothing is made available as burgers are served. Of that experience he says,

Keeping the distribution orderly is major ordeal… After last week’s drive nearly got out of hand, the volunteers took a firmer stance — telling the eager crowd they would move on if everyone didn’t back up. Order was quickly restored…

When I was a kid, there was a goofy rhyme:

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Uncle Miltie’s underwear!

And I can’t help being reminded of it, every time I think about the Thermal Underwear Party that traditionally occurs on New Year’s Day in Austin (check out this page at House the Homeless about the last year’s drive). The article contains a typo, by the way. The upcoming Thermal Underwear Party on January 1, 2011, will actually be the 10th annual occurrence of the event. And what a fascinating event it is! Hey, even poverty and homelessness are not serious all the time. And if you can’t have fun with skivvies, what in the world can you have fun with? Maybe the drive will adopt this as its official chant:

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Austin Thermal Underwear!

Okay, so there’s a reason why I’m not in public relations. Still, it is kind of catchy, no?

But we’re not just talking about warm underwear, important and life-saving as it is. The drive volunteers are also asking for hats, gloves, scarves, and all the same kinds of items that are needed when, for instance, a Veterans Stand Down is scheduled in an area.

Hats are important in cold weather. People who know about these things say that 80% of the body’s heat loss happens through the scalp, which is very vascularized. Your head has a lot of veins in it, so when your blood is up there, it over-chills, and then circulates around making the rest of you cold.

On the same scientific principle, a radiator cools a car engine, and a swamp cooler keeps the temperature reasonable in a trailer. In the summertime, this is a splendid arrangement that nature has made for our comfort and convenience. In the winter, however, a hat can make the difference between staying healthy and getting sick.

Reactions?

Source: “Local musicians help Warm Up Fort Worth,” dfw.com, 11/16/10
Source: “10th Annual House The Homeless Thermal Underwear Party,” House the Homeless, 01/02/10
Image by renschmensch, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Celebrities, Thanksgiving, and People Experiencing Homelessness

AkonMaybe you’re a fan of the most-watched soap opera on TV, The Bold & the Beautiful. Apparently, it has 26 million devoted viewers. Journalist Becky Blanton focused her attention on this television program because the creative team has written several homeless people into the script. If we’re understanding this right, one of the characters, a Stephanie Forrester, has been told that she would die of cancer very soon. This news inspires her to become interested in the plight of people experiencing homelessness.

The show’s producers hired 25 people right off Skid Row and recorded them telling their stories, and some of these documentary segments will be woven into the show’s plot line. And there is more. The head writer and executive producer of the show, Brad Bell, is said to have also hired an additional 30 homeless individuals as extras, or actors with non-speaking parts. He has told journalists that this interest is not just temporary, and that he intends to continue to incorporate people experiencing homelessness into the unfolding narrative.

Blanton is interested to discover whether this show will go along with the same old stereotypes, or have the integrity to do something better. She asks,

Will they provide a realistic view of the homeless and the challenges they truly face, or will they sanitize life on the LA streets for viewers?… I hope Bell takes time to address the real issues that affect the majority of the homeless — the lack of affordable housing and child care and living wage jobs.

Blanton sees this as a great opportunity on Bell’s part to influence the attitudes of Americans regarding people experiencing homelessness. Depending on how this widely-viewed serial depicts members of the homeless community, a powerful force for good could be exerted. It might also, she feels, give the housed American public some useful ideas for how to help, and, in some cases, might even put into their heads an idea that wasn’t there before, the idea that we should all help.

Although not a soap opera star herself, Becky Blanton is another kind of celebrity. You’ve heard of TED, which stands for Technology Entertainment and Design. Every year, this nonprofit organization sponsors a series of conferences where people with “ideas worth spreading” come to spread them. In 2009, Becky Blanton spoke at TEDGlobal in Oxford, England. This is a credential of almost unparalleled cachet. Her topic was “The year I was homeless,” and there is a seven-minute video clip on TED’s website. For an appetizer, here are a couple of soundbites:

Homelessness is an attitude, not a lifestyle.

Hope always finds a way.

The Universal Living Wage is the concept that Richard R. Troxell, president of House the Homeless, offers as a solution that will help all Americans. The foundations on which his argument rests are included in the Protected Homeless Class Resolution, whose full text is found in Looking Up at the Bottom Line. Here are just a few of the points he makes:

● There is a shortage of affordable housing stock nationwide.
● The national minimum wage is an insufficient amount of money to secure safe, decent, affordable housing even at the most basic financial level.
● More than the minimum wage is required in every state to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent, as set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Universal Living Wage could bring about the day when no American is unhoused or hungry. Meanwhile, highly publicized celebrities continue to adopt the cause of helping the homeless.

There is an interesting website called “Look to the Stars,” which keeps track of Hollywood personalities and show business folk, and what charities they are connected with. The search word “homelessness” matches up with 29 celebrity names. Among them are such luminaries as George Clooney, Whoopi Goldberg, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nicolas Cage, Scarlett Johansson, and Eddie Murphy.

The search word “Thanksgiving” brings up 28 matching news items published on the site, where we learn about the philanthropic activities of Kirk Douglas, Gisele Bundchen, Ludacris, Akon, Drew Barrymore, and many other actors, musicians, and fashion models. Celebrities donate their time, talents and money to turkey giveaways, or serve dinner at the Los Angeles Mission, and just generally give it back or pay it forward, to show their gratitude for their own good fortune.

Here, from another source, is a story about a typical celebrity response. It is a cooperative effort including promoters of hip-hop and martial arts to provide Thanksgiving dinners for families. All over the country, people who are famous, and a whole lot of people who are not so famous, do their best to make this holiday a happy occasion for others.

Reactions?

Source: “The Bold & the Beautiful to Feature Homelessness & Poverty,” Homelessness.change.org, 10/27/10
Source: “The year I was homeless: Becky Blanton on TED.com,” blog.ted.com, 07/09
Source: “Looking Up at the Bottom Line,” Amazon.com
Source: “Search results for homelessness,” Look to the Stars
Source: “Master P to Help Feed Homeless People on Thanksgiving,” AceShowBiz, 11/13/10
Image by petercruise, used under its Creative Commons license.

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House the Homeless Message Goes Out

Homeless (near subway entrance)Three things stand out about Tim Chamberlain’s review of Looking Up at the Bottom Line: The Struggle for the Living Wage! He calls the book “part memoir, part call to action,” but it is Chamberlain’s own concise summary that throws light on another aspect of the book. What becomes obvious is something we may not have noticed before. It is also the biography of a city.

For many years, Austin, Texas enjoyed the reputation of being one of the outposts of civilized and humane living in the United States. A very hip, very cool place to be. Looking Up at the Bottom Line is a chronicle of the struggle for social justice in Austin during a certain span of years. It is the story of one facet of the city’s greatness — how it cares for people.

The review says that Richard makes a compelling case in a strong voice. Yes, this is very clear, and speaking out is something we can always benefit from hearing about. A lot of us just keep our heads down and muddle through, until an event happens that brings us face to face with some unconscionable bit of reality, and we decide that, as the famous line from the movie Network goes, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” When we reach that stage, we look to people like Richard R. Troxell who have honed their community action skills and can teach us how to take “get mad” and turn it into “get results.”

Third, and most significant point Chamberlain brings up cannot be stressed too much:

No matter your stance on the Universal Living Wage or homelessness in general, you would be hard-pressed not to be touched by the stories told in this book.

The operative words are “no matter your stance.” This idea can be expanded. No matter where a person comes from politically, there seems to be general agreement that a society is not in good shape, when a large proportion of its people are out there roaming around loose. It is difficult to imagine anyone who does not see homelessness as a problem. Some people think it’s a problem because they are tired of being asked for spare change. Others think it’s a problem because they are tired of asking for spare change.

A thank you goes out to Hopeton Hay, host and producer of Economic Perspectives, a weekly talk show broadcast from Austin via KAZI 88.7 FM. Its concerns include finance, small businesses, and economic development in underserved communities. Richard was a guest on November 7. House the Homeless welcomes every opportunity to help raise awareness of the very dire situation the country is in, and to discuss the universal living wage. This is everybody’s problem.

Getting back to the big idea, there are perfectly good arguments for ending homelessness that can be made to almost anyone. Here are a couple of examples.

If you’re a fiscal conservative, study up on the stats. In Canada, they have found that while it costs X number of dollars to maintain the present system of mentally ill people on the streets, it only costs a fraction as much to put them into some kind of housing, with some kind of assistance in meeting the demands of life. We are not making this up. Here’s the deal, from chairperson Janet Yale of the Leadership Table on Homelessness, Ottawa’s community-based initiative whose focus is the end of chronic homelessness. Yale says,

As we have outlined in our 10 year plan: Destination Home, it costs us about $100,000 per person per year to keep them exactly as they are versus the $18,000 per person per year it would cost to find them real homes and provide them with the supports they need to help them stay housed. Beyond costly shelter per diems, allowing this revolving door to remain open means we are also paying for unchecked visits to hospital emergency rooms, mental health stays, incarcerations and police and emergency responses. The impact to our businesses, tourism, public safety and our sense of community is also at stake.

We’re talking about tax dollars — fewer of them to house the homeless than to continue on the present course. The Canadians say they got the idea from the Americans, but if they did, why aren’t we practicing that idea?

If you’re religious, it’s a no-brainer. It comes as no surprise that faith-based organizations consistently take the lead in offering sustenance to people experiencing homelessness. If you’re Christian, all you need to do is look at the example that was set. When it came to blessing the poor, Jesus was The Man. The Quran is also pretty specific about giving to the less fortunate. If you’re an old hippie, all you have to do is call to mind Arlo Guthrie singing, “Maybe your ticket on the last train to glory is the stranger who is sleeping on your floor.”

Reactions?

Source: “Book Review: Looking Up at the Bottom Line: The Struggle for the Living Wage,” KAZI Book Review, 11/16/10
Source: “Destination Home/Chez Soi Media Statement” (PDF), Destination Home, 10/07/10
Image by fotografar (Osvaldo Gago), used under its Creative Commons license.

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Bridge Action Day 2010

Please enjoy this compilation of photos from the Universal Living Wage 2010 Bridge Action Day down in Atlanta, Georgia. The great music is Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin ‘Bout a Revolution,” and of course the copyright remains with the copyright owner.

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Consider the Universal Living Wage

Homeless Life in Santa Cruz, CAIf you’re within hollering distance of Austin, here’s the thing to know: Tomorrow, on November 20, the author of Looking Up at the Bottom Line: The Struggle for the Living Wage! will meet with the public at First United Methodist Church, from 2 to 4 PM. The address is 1201 Lavaca Street.

Richard R. Troxell is the founder of House the Homeless. At this event, he will give a talk and sign his books. The proceeds, needless to say, will go to the people experiencing homelessness in Austin. Last week, Richard was in Philadelphia, the city where his activist path has begun, lecturing and signing books at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice.

Veterans Day, November 11, was chosen as the official publication date, to emphasize the fact that a very large proportion of the homeless community is composed of the ex-military people who are not getting from the government the care they need and deserve.

The struggle against homelessness has consumed 30 years of Richard’s life, first on his own behalf, and always on behalf of others. When his situation has improved, he didn’t turn his back and say, “Well folks, it’s been interesting, but homelessness is no longer my problem.” Instead, he formed an intention that could not be diverted, and put his very strong character and considerable talents at the service of this intention, with results that have helped Austin remain the humane and civilized place that so many have known it to be.

Looking Up at the Bottom Line is full of stories of triumph and defeat, tales of frustration, sorrow, and hope. It’s interspersed with character sketches of people experiencing homelessness, people not that different from the folks next door. It contains a number of ideas for improving the situation, including one big idea: the Universal Living Wage.

Immediately, some people shout “Yay!,” and others shake their heads and mutter, “No way.” Here’s a suggestion: Look at the man’s reasoning, and understand what the concept of the Universal Living Wage is all about. He says it’s a workable solution to economic homelessness in America. What if he’s correct? That would be a thing worth knowing, right? And if you have a better idea, don’t keep it to yourself, because an awful lot of people are waiting to hear it.

Meanwhile, check out what the book has to offer. Just because you take the time to understand it doesn’t mean you have to vote for it. But it does mean that you’re a little more well-informed than the average Josephine or Joe.

The lecture and book signing event was also announced by Austin360.com, and others. Thanks, everybody!

And thanks, Rhonda Lee of KXAN, for telling the people who could not be there about the 18th Annual Homeless Memorial Sunrise Service on Sunday the 14th. Richard read out the names of the 159 people experiencing homelessness who had died in Austin in the past year. Say what? That’s not a misprint, I checked with Richard, who says,

[…] 159 this year (2010). Last year (2009) it was 158.

Lee passes along a quotation from Richard’s talk:

We are willing to work until our fingernails crack and the tips of our fingers bleed. We are the believers. We believe in equality and opportunity.

And here are some heartening words from Laura Morrison, a member of the City Council, who also spoke at the memorial service:

They may have been invisible to many people in their lives on the streets, but today they are not invisible to us.

Reactions?

Source: “Lecture and Booksigning by Richard R. Troxell,” ImpactNews.com, 11/10
Source: “Helping the Homeless and Hungry,” KXAN.com, 11/15/10
Image by Franco Folini, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Many Cities Observe Homelessness Awareness Week

In the soup kitchenToday, we’re looking around America to see what is being done in various cities about the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The news is encouraging. Many groups, both secular and faith-based, are taking on the responsibility for doing something useful to alleviate the growing problem of people experiencing homelessness. Here is a small sampling of what folks throughout the land are up to this week.

In Vero Beach, Florida, housed citizens take turns living in a car for 24 hours in a public place, while a local radio show broadcasts their reactions and sends out requests for donations to help the involuntary homeless, whose number in the area is estimated at 2,000. Volunteers staff 10 collection sites around the city to take contributions, and many businesses put on special events where part of the profit is donated.

In Pensacola, Florida, the main organizers for the Week are the Waterfront Rescue Mission and EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless. Events there include food and clothing drives, a candlelight vigil, a prayer breakfast, a sale of art created by people experiencing homelessness, and the screening of a film called On the Edge.

On the opposite coast, in Portland, Oregon, a group called Human Solutions has opened its 60-bed Family Warming Center (it will be open for 12 hours every night), and also offers help with housing information and help with job hunting. Located at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, the Center is always looking for volunteers to help out in the recreation room with the evening activities leadership, and to mentor the children. Community members volunteer in the kitchen and, as always and everywhere, food donations are gratefully accepted.

In California, Project Homeless Connect holds an event in three towns (Hanford, Porterville, and Visalia), visited this year by close to 800 people in need of help. Actually, this is only a small portion of the activities of PHC. Machael Smith gives the background:

Created in 2004 in San Francisco, Project Homeless Connect is equal parts welcoming homeless neighbors into the life of the community, changing the way resources are accessed and achieving quantifiable results for people experiencing homelessness. The innovation has taken off like wildfire across the country as communities look for solutions to end homelessness. More than 330 events in 220 communities have taken place so far.

Thanks to the efforts of many volunteering agencies and individuals, clients receive an amazing array of services from haircuts and showers to vaccinations for their pets. The State Department of Motor Vehicles is on hand to issue ID cards for those who need them, and many other needs are also met, improving the lives of people of all ages.

In San Francisco, Craig Newmark himself (the founder of Craigslist) takes the time to publish an appeal for the sock drive sponsored by St. Anthony’s. This may sound like a small thing, but, as the article explains, people experiencing homelessness are rarely in a position to be able to do something as simple as take off their shoes, let alone wash any of their clothes. Clean, dry socks are rare, and a brand new pair of socks can seem like a luxury fit for a king.

This is a reminder to all of us that no matter how little we have, and regardless of how close to the edge we ourselves might be, there is still something we can do for a person who is even worse off. A pair of socks is not much to give, but it can be a bounteous gift to receive.

Meanwhile, down in Southern California, STANDUP FOR KIDS (SUFK) hosts a wine-tasting benefit to raise money toward the construction of a drop-in center and transitional housing facility for young people. Orange County, long regarded as a center of affluence, estimates that it contains an astonishing 26,000 homeless youth. And that’s only the kids. The SUFK organization concentrates on helping the young gain a foothold in society before they can slip too far into the hopeless situation of seeing homelessness as their only possible future.

From Evansville, Indiana, Richard Gootee reports that this is one of the many cities participating in the “Totes for Hope,” a program that provides tote bags and backpacks to homeless veterans.

Last but certainly not least, The Statesman carries a report from Andrea Ball on the doings in Austin, Texas, the center of operations of House the Homeless, and the site of the annual Homeless Sunrise Memorial Service.

Reactions?

Source: “HFC joins National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week,” TCPalm.com,10/04/10
Source: “Homeless Families Warming Center Opens…,” Chuck Currie, 11/04/10
Source: “Events urge awareness of hunger, homelessness,” pnj.com, 11/13/10
Source: “A day of hope offered to the homeless,” Visalia Times-Delta, 11/06/10
Source: “St. Anthony’s needs socks for homeless veterans,” San Francisco Chronicle, 11/09/10
Source: “‘STANDUP On The Vine’ To Benefit Local Orange County Homeless Youth,” San Francisco Chronicle, 11/03/10
Source: “‘Totes for Hope’ gives hand to local homeless veterans,” Evansville Courier & Press, 11/12/10
Source: “Who Are the Homeless?,” The Statesman, 11/15/10
Image by Elsie Esq. (Les Chatfield), used under its Creative Commons license.

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