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

The Time Had Come

"Quietly they pack up their few belongings. Not saying a word to each other or those forcing them to go.
"The 'cleaners' are threatening to take an old persons walker. An old mans cart. A back pack because they are on the sidewalk next to my house and the sidewalk was posted. They threatened me with the cops. I moved my home and he told me to move it again he is going to cause me problems.

"Silently the homeless move down the road. Small groups and single people breaking off going in different directions. No communication. Just a sense of loss. A sense of defeat and anger. Shoulders slumped and heads down. They keep walking trying to just remember why they even bothered to wake this morning. Each one lost in their own thoughts their own devastation. Finally they look up and see how far they have come only to realize that even as far as they have come they will only have a few hours rest if that. They set down their heavy loads and Finally look at one another realizing that not a one of them can keep moving. The time had come for them to make their stand. It was time to stand and fight. No more flight."

-L. Karen Burch, living in an RV on the streets of Portland, watching her friends in tents be forced to move, even though their spaces were clean and on public sidewalks

Monday, February 6, 2017

Homelessness and Drug Addiction

If you see a bunny, you may be addicted.
I posted on Facebook recently that homeless folks were just as worthy as other folks, just in a different situation. I received a rebuttal from another person, having met at least one homeless person. His response could be summarized thus:
All homeless folks use drugs.
Drug users are weak and thieves.
Therefore, these are less worthy than others.
Well, I know a number of homeless folks who do not use drugs, not addicted to anything, and I know a number of drug users (also homeless) who are not thieves. But there is a stereotype there that has some truth to it. Allow me to unpack a general trend of the homeless and addiction.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, approximately nine percent of people who become homeless do so because of addictions. This doesn’t mean that others aren’t addicts, but it wasn’t their addiction that caused their homelessness. So let’s just say that 15-20 percent of people become homeless with an addiction. What everyone agrees on is that most people aren’t addicts when they become homeless.
The far majority of them. Approximately 70 percent of all people who become homeless every year find housing in less than a year, most of them in a few months. Most of these people certainly didn’t get housing maintaining or increasing their addictions. A few did. But most of them were never addicted to begin with and some gave up or reduced their addictions to meet their goals.
What about the rest? Well, the people who are generally considered “homeless” are those who have been on the street for more than a year. These are the folks who have been without a decent night’s sleep for at least a year. These are the folks forced to move, with everything they own, sometimes more than once a day. These are the folks who tried to get work, to get into school, to find a place to live until they had given up hope for themselves. These are the folks who have had their possessions stolen. These are the people who have nothing left but regret.
So almost all of these folks who are chronically homeless are also sufferers of chronic stress. And since they have no tomorrow, they need to forget. And drugs or alcohol offer that way out.
Again, not everyone takes that way out. Not everyone wants to be seen as the wino, the bum on the corner. Or, I should say, some folks have enough self-respect left to care what people think about them, so they do all they can to avoid that most disgusting, most degrading of American occupations. The man openly drinking a 40 ounce outside a convenience store, who is shooting up in a public restroom are really the only ones who have no self-respect left to give in this country. They really don’t care, because they’ve lost everything.
This is why people who think that folks in this state need a few months to brush themselves off and get out there and struggle for their sobriety, their self-respect and their survival don’t really understand the state of the chronically homeless, especially those who are addicted. It took at least a year, possibly years, to drive a person into abject hopelessness. It will take some time to climb out. I think of the way out as stepping stones.
1. Self-respect This stage will only happen when a person receives respect that they didn’t necessarily deserve. When they see others respecting them by giving them kindness and opportunities for hope, they will think that maybe their view of themselves need to change, and they want to earn the respect they are receiving.
2. Better living When they see themselves as someone who wants to live, they will see the squalor they live in, and want to improve their state. That desire doesn’t do anything unless they also have a hand up, because one cannot jump out of the ditch of homelessness themselves. But they will accept that hand, because they see the necessity of it. They may accept a place in a village, a spot in a treatment center, a place in a shelter they trust, so they could get a better life.
3. Strength But most people who are chronically homeless will fail at their first attempts to improve their life. Some are out of practice, some are unlucky, some are too sensitive to disrespect, some have mental health issues and some have physical health issues. It will require inner strength for them to try again. Some have it, and some don’t.
4. Progress One step leads to another, even if there are missteps. Entering into treatment sometimes leads to housing and outpatient treatment and possibly a job. Entering a wet village can later lead to living in a less chaotic dry village, which can lead to a job and permanent housing. Entering into a shelter can lead to a part time job and then a full time job and housing. No one’s path is the same. And the first step of progress can, with strength, lead to the next one.
My point is, everyone is worthy. People are worthy. The person you see as a worthless drug addict on the corner is worthy, and we can have hope for her even if she does not have hope for herself. A wino doesn’t have to live that way. But they will unless two things happen. Someone gives them respect. And someone gives them a chance.