Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why the Poor Don't Vote

Some reasons why poor people don't vote as much as wealthy people:

Because there really isn't much difference between voting for one prep school grad or another.

Because the discussed issues aren't really significant enough.  Sure, there a talk of "more jobs" but the poor know that they won't see a whiff of it.

Because felons aren't allowed to vote.  And because a percentage of the poor are in jail or prison, whether misdemeanors or felonies. They don't get to vote, either.

Because working and cooking for one's family and helping the kids with homework seems like a better use of time.

Because many of the issues are esoteric and require education as well as the ability to be functionally literate.  Almost no one wants to vote on what they see on the TV or hear on the radio.

Because when the poor do vote, and their candidate wins, nothing changes.  So why vote next time?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Bud Clark Commons

Pretty, isn't it?  It's the Bud Clark Commons, and it is a fine-looking addition to Portland's downtown area.  It has a day shelter, a 90 bed shelter and a hundred and thirty single resident apartments.  Those hundred and thirty apartments went to the most needy homeless residents of Portland, mostly to folks who struggle with both mental health issues and addictions. This has been and is a noble project. The idealism and care for the most needy is truly inspiring. 

What is also inspiring is the price tag.  Altogether, it cost the city fifty million dollars to build it.  I don't know how much it will cost to maintain it, but that's got to be a pretty penny.  The city plunked down 29.5 million dollars for it and they obtained other grants for the balance.  *Loud whistle*  That's a chunk of change. It must show how much Portland cares about homelessness. 

That's certainly what Steve Rudman, Excecutive Director of Home Forward said:  "This new building underscores that homelessness is at the forefront of our community's priorities. We are excited to be part of the solution that continues the city's momentum towards ending homelessness."  

Hmmm.  That's interesting.  The goal of the city is to end homelessness?  And this is part of the solution?  Wow, that's really generous of the city.  So their goal to end homelessness is to provide housing like this?  That's great.  However, that comes with quite a price tag.  

In Multnomah County, according to the latest street count, there were 4655 people sleeping on the street or in shelters on January 26.  Of course, there are less people homeless in the winter than in the summer when people don't feel as guilty putting family members on the street, but let's just work with that figure.  If the city was going to spend as much money on all the homeless as they did on the 220 people they just provided housing and shelter then that would be... $1,057,955,815.  A billion fifty eight million dollars.  That's more than half of Portland's annual budget.

That doesn't seem rational, especially in these times of tight budgets and frugal spending.  This must not be Portland's plan to help the homeless, to provide them all with housing.  Perhaps what Steve Rudman said is completely accurate: Homelessness is a focus of the city, not the actual population of homeless people

I suspect that the Bud Clark Commons wasn't developed at the request of homeless people.  Frankly, homeless folks are pretty frugal as a group. If the city were to ask them-- the actual people who are homeless, not the "experts" on homelessness-- how to help the homeless, they would have gotten a lot of answers.  "Tell the police to leave us alone," some would have said.  Others would say, "Get us jobs."  Some would say, "Let us have our own space to build up and to keep secure."  Perhaps some of the less thrifty would say, "Rent us all apartments."

However, not a single homeless person would say, "Spend fifty million dollars on a facility to house 220 of us."  

The Bud Clark Commons only makes sense if you take actual the actual homeless population of Portland out of the equation.  It seems like a great opportunity for the city to show that the city of Portland has the issue of homelessness as a focus.  But more than 95 percent of the homeless population aren't touched by the fifty million dollars spent.

I think next time the city wants to spend fifty million-- heck, even 29.5 million-- dollars on the homeless, they should get together the leaders of the various homeless communities in Portland (yes, there are leaders), and create a series of project that could help literally thousands of homeless folks.  When we see that happening, perhaps I would believe that Portland is actually interested in helping the homeless instead of just creating an expensive facade of care. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How Much Is A Dollar Worth?

A great post by Pad's Chicago Blog, which can be found at this link.

How much is  a dollar worth?  Just ask a homeless person.
For just $1.00 to $5.00 a homeless person for  1 to 2 hours can:
  • Drink a coffee or eat a meal.
  • Sit indoors.
  • Have access to a clean bathroom and sink to watch hands and face.
  • Be out of the rain.
  • Be safe from severe weather.
  • Watch a movie matinee.
  • Buy a ticket and ride the bus or train.
  • Do laundry.
  • Make calls on a pay phone.
  • Put a small amount of gas for the day in their car’s gas tank.
  • Access pool and shower facilities at a local park.
What a person can get out of it:
  • Food.
  • Shelter.
  • Clean clothes.
  • Hygiene care.
  • Entertainment.
  • Transportation to shelter, an interview, a job, and other appointments.
  • Access to a toilet and facilities to do hygiene.
  • A visit with family and friends, call to schedule a job interview.
  • Social interaction and networking.
  • A sense of normalcy (whatever normal is)
  • Happiness.
  • A love and gratitude for fellow man.
What you get:
  • Happiness.
  • God’s love and blessing.
  • A love and gratitude for fellow man.
  • Social interaction and networking.
  • Increased self-satisfaction, self-love, self-worth, self-value

Pulling It Together

It is a great thing to see a community at work.

Yesterday, we had two homeless men and two people who moved into our community house and two of my children all working together at Anawim's facility in Gresham: improving gardens, spreading wood chips, getting rid of termites, organizing our online message, playing with a baby: all for the glory of God and the benefit of the poor!

Last week our vegetable garden was planted, the huge lawn was mowed and blades were sharpened.  And, of course, hundreds of people were fed, dozens of showers provided and people worshiping, same as every week.

Today, we have our homeless sponsored BBQ at 4pm.

Anawim is just so cool!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Answering a Phone Call

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a nervous neighbor.  She was polite enough, "I'm glad that someone is helping these people," she said, meaning the street folks.  However... yes, when we get a call from the neighbors there's always a "however".  She saw some folks pushing each other out in the street, cussing up a storm.  For herself, she might have been irritated, but her young daughter was there "and she could have been watching through the slits in the fence".  And she certainly heard the language.

Investigating the situation, it turns out that there was a person who was not a regular who was drinking in the church.  He was also lightly groping a couple of the girls.  Because he refused to desist, he was asked to leave. He also refused to do this.  So they had to work with him, getting him out, and this led to the front of the church, next to the street, where I guess it devolved into a pushing and cussing match, where at least one person was almost pushed into traffic.

Not good.  We need to do something about it, and we must. And I told the neighbor this.

But she was not satisfied.  She said, "Why can't these people act better when they are at the church?  Are they receiving this help for free or do they have to work for it?  My daughter said that she saw a drunk person vomiting on the church grounds while she was at the park a couple years ago?  Are people sleeping there? How many people do you have there, anyway?"  No matter what I said, I couldn't ease her upset about the fact that she is in a community that has an unwanted population that our church is pulling in.

What I couldn't say is that if we weren't creating a place for folks that has rules and food and people to watch over, then they'd be out in the community, without rules, hungry and with no one they trusted to suggest they act differently.  They'd be in someone's front yard or street-- if not yours then someone else's.

Instead, with the day shelter, they are in a safe place-- safe for themselves and safe for others.  They have a place to cook their own food, to connect in a non-violent place.  They can be respected and so not find any reason to be violent or dangerous in any way.  Sure, a few of the people will occasionally act out, but the community as a whole teaches them that such behavior isn't welcome.

Very rarely we have situations like yesterday when those who are helping snap and act in a way that in not in accord with the church atmosphere.  But that's rare, very rare.  The fact is, without the day shelters, the community would be in a worse state.

I want to keep everyone safe, and I'd like to have the neighbors be content with our work.  I am hoping that we will all be working together to create a unified community of peace and everyone working together.  I heard today that the police are directing the homeless to the day shelters to keep them out of the community at large.  That's fine with everyone.  Praise God there's a place for everyone to go.  It is our hope that our folks will eventually work for these neighbors who have problems with them now.  Maybe even to be paid.