Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why Hasn't Poverty Been Eliminated?

  1. Poverty is personal. There are many factors that are the causes of poverty: war, disease, lack of clean water, inadequate housing, insufficient land. We don’t actually have enough information on most poor households to know what makes them poor to create a plan which accurately will eliminate poverty. Ending poverty begins with listening to the poor and then dealing with their issues.
  2. Poverty is social. Many people will figure out a way to live with what resources they have, but people who see them bring them down. There are people in slums or people who are homeless who are content with their lives. But others see them as disgusting or living in squalor, and that brings them down.
  3. Lack of will and organization. There would have to be a determined, coordinated effort by tens of thousands of organizations to make the end of poverty happen. This requires a surrender of organization’s personal goals to make it happen. No one really wants to do that. They’d rather see their ideals happen.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What Should I Do About Homeless In My Neighborhood?

Tim, nicest guy ever
When someone sees a group of homeless folks in the local park or a couple living in a van on their street, people are trying to figure out how to get rid of them.  Because, they figure, they don't belong there.  

Perhaps that's true.  Or maybe it's not.  Folks on the street are, more often than not, citizens of our town, of our neighborhood.  They just don't have a place they own.  So local public property is the only place they have.

What if we don't like them in our neighborhood?  We need to deal with them, and ourselves. But calling the police is a bad idea.  First, because we should really be calling the police for criminal activity, that is what they are trained for.  Also because it puts them in the uncomfortable situation of being someone else's babysitter.  If someone is trespassing on your personal property, then you can call the police.  But no matter how much I wish I could, it's not right for me to call someone for parking on the street in front of my house.  Even so, no one should be calling the police because homeless folks are on public property.

Here are some things that I did about the homeless in my neighborhood.
  1. I invited homeless folks to my house, to eat dinner with my family. I listened to them to understand their perspective and their lives. While some disturbed me, others became my friends.
  2. Talking to the city about giving space for them to be. Perhaps I don’t want some of these folks sleeping in my neighborhood (if they were noisy at night or whatever), but they have molecules so they have to be somewhere. So I spoke to city hall and the mayor and worked with them to create a piece of unused property that they could stay, even if only temporarily. I helped a homeless camp organize and establish rules for their camp. They were able to live peacefully for months there.
  3. Some of the folks, after I got to know them well and could trust them, I invited into my house to live with me and my family. I established rules and work for them to do and they lived with us for a while until they could get another place set up. This option isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t for every person who lives on the street, but if one gets the right “match” it can work out well.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Preparing for the Destination

"Before beginning a long and arduous journey the prudent traveler checks her maps, clocks and address-book entries and makes certain that her clothes will suit the weather she plans to encounter.  If the trip includes crossing national boundaries, she examines her travel documents for their validity and, to the best of her ability, furnishes her wallet with the appropriate currency for her destination.  This traveler urges us toward sober deliberation and stolid concentration.

"The second traveler is less careful, not so meticulous in planning the trip and, as a result, will encounter delays, disruptions and even despair. When disappointments mount to intolerable proportions, this traveler may even give up and return home, defeated.  We learn from this example to either prepare well or stay at home.

"It is the third, the desperate traveler who teaches us the most profound lesson and affords us the most exquisite thrills.  She touches us with her boldness and vulnerability, for her sole perpetration is the fierce determination to leave wherever she is and her only certain destination is somewhere other than where she has been."

-Maya Angelou

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Save Addicts

Bill Thompson is an ambulance driver and EMT in Illinois.  He is also a big-hearted man who I am proud to know.  And he wrote something that has been dear to my heart for a long time:

"The longer I spend in this field the more I realize I have to be a champion for addicts. Seems like every day lately I overhear, or take part in, a conversation that centers around addiction.
"The points being offered are usually the same, 1) Addicts aren't as good as the rest of us, 2) They choose to be addicts, and 3) Why is it our responsibility to save them?
"All three are points that make me want to punch a hole in a wall.
"1) Addicts are the same as everyone else. They are people, and I guarantee all of us are surrounded by recovered, or active, addicts and we have no idea. If anything, if we choose to turn our backs on those suffering from addiction then we aren't as good as they are.
"2) No one chooses to be an addict. The science bears this out, but beyond that, if you really think someone chooses to lose control and alienate those who care about them, I don't know how best to respond to that
"3) We can't save addicts. We can keep them alive, we can help them. That's the most we can do, and we do it because we are human beings. The person addicted to heroin is still a person, and it's my responsibility as a human being to help my fellow man, when I am able.
"Very few of you will read this, but this is a topic I care more about every day, and I'm not backing down."

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sweeps Don't Work

A "sweep" is a tool of a Western city to continually move their homeless from place to place, in order to make sure they know that they are not welcome in the city and to invite them to leave to another place.  Recently a friend of mine asked a police officer involved in the sweep where the homeless should go.  He said a national forest fifty miles away from the city.

Why sweeps don't work:

1. You can't use a stick to motivate someone who is beaten regularly

2. Homeless folks have molecules. If you move them from one space, they will have to take up another.

3. If neighbors complain about the homeless being under the freeway, they would like them worse on the sidewalk in front of their house.

4. To move homeless folks around means that they are more difficult for service agencies to find them, to help them and so to get them off the street.

5. 40 percent of homeless folks work, and forcing them to move on a regular basis threatens their ability to hold down a job.

Can you think of any more? 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Tent Living

To deny people the opportunity to live in a tent is to deny an ancient way of life. A healthy city allows for a variety ways of life, a variety of means of survival, according to a person's means.

Monday, May 29, 2017


“I will always be on the side of those who have nothing and who are not even allowed to enjoy the nothing they have in peace.” 
—Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca