What To Do When You Are Facing Homelessness

This is a follow-up to my post How To Help Someone Facing Homelessness. If you are trying to help someone else who is facing homelessness, then read the first post – it’s long and detailed, but it contains a lot of important information most people don’t think about. After you’ve done that, start making a plan by thinking through the suggestions in that first post, researching the websites listed below and reading books like these:

If you are facing homelessness…

The events that ultimately result in homelessness are wide and varied. There are literally thousands (millions?) of stories behind the financial emergencies that ultimately result in homelessness. However, when facing the reality of homelessness, focusing on the reasons behind the current crisis is a luxury you do not have.

Here is a list of actions to take and facts to consider. (Note: This information is specific to the United States of America.)

All Homeless, Regardless of Age

  • Contact every trustworthy human being you know. Ask for suggestions and help.If there is an option other than the sleeping on the street, take it. Do not stop until you have exhausted every last resourced you have.
  • Contact every nonprofit, government agency and similar resource you have. If they have help to offer (including advice) take it. Do not stop until you have exhausted every last resourced available.
  • Keep your mind fierce. You are human and worthy of respect. Remain focused on moving through this crisis and into something better. People will try to tear you down mentally and emotionally because they can. Predators will try to convince you that you are worthless and should just give up. Don’t let them succeed.
  • Be polite and practice gratitude for all help received. This for your own mental health. While it is extremely important to remain on good terms with trustworthy people who provide assistance, it is equally important to maintain a positive perspective. A meal at a soup kitchen isn’t fun, but it’s keeping you alive and well-enough fed to avoid a mindset of desperation. Desperate people make bad decisions. remain grateful, recognize the necessity in what little you receive and force yourself to believe that things will get better.
  • The party isn’t worth it. I don’t care who is going to be there or how tired you are of talking to people, politely asking for help and getting verbally kicked-in-the-teeth for trying. Do not go to any parties or bars.  If you are under-aged or if anyone there has illegal drugs and the police show up, you will find yourself on a fast train to prison. When you are homeless, association and prejudice are the law of the land. Without money, you can’t pay for a lawyer – and people who hate the homeless (of which there are many) know this. Avoid those circumstances like the plague.
  • Remember your place. Frankly, it’s unfair and frequently degrading, but it’s reality. Review the expectations of Deserving VS Undeserving Poor and learn to play the game. Simply going out for a beer, and being seen by the decision-maker of XYZ nonprofit, can result in being denied for all sorts of necessary services. Being impolite to the wrong representative can trigger a cascade of nasty phone calls that will stretch out your homelessness and/or make your life significantly worse. There are many truly good people who are really and honestly trying to help people facing financial emergencies, poverty and homelessness. Sadly, there are also plenty of spiteful-gossips (and a few predators) employed by those same agencies. When you are homeless, you do not have the luxury of responding to nasty people in the manner in which they deserve.
  • Trust no one: This applies to everyone but anyone under 21 must be doubly careful. There are nasty adults who will offer desperate children ‘help’ – and the result is far worse than sleeping on the streets. Be careful. Be very VERY careful.

Ages 0 to 12

  • Ask your friends for help. Can you stay at their place for a while?
  • Talk to your teachers and counselors at school. Ask for resources and suggestions for places to stay.
  • Talk to coaches or youth workers at local community centers and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, the YWCA and your place of worship.
  • Contact other family members and/or every trustworthy adult you can locate and ask for help. If you are going to be placed in foster care, then making contact with trustworthy family will significantly help your situation.
  • If you are avoiding DHS and trying to stay out of foster care, then find other kids and team up. A child on the street alone is an easy target. Being properly housed and protected by trustworthy adults is better, but (when that’s not possible) there’s some safety in numbers.
  • Contact government agencies. DHS (a state managed program falling under HHS) is not the only government agency offering assistance, Family and Youth Services Bureau has additional resources.
  • Locate a youth shelter and get connected to their services. (Hopefully, they will have enough room for you to stay there instead of on the street). Sadly, there are far too few of these shelters available and many do not advertise. The local adult shelter will (should) know where these shelters can be found. (See blog post: Homeless Youth Shelters)
  • Contact the adult shelters and talk to the people who work there. They will not even consider providing services or allowing you to sleep at the shelter (don’t be surprised) but they will have connections to the organizations that provide assistance to homeless children.

Ages 13 to 15

  • Everything listed in Ages 0 to 12 applies to you.
  • Find a job. You are now legally able to work a W-2 (legal, above-board) job. Do everything you can to get one.
  • Get your GED. Dealing with homelessness and high school is both stressful and risky. With a GED you are legally eligible for a full-time job, which makes getting a permanent apartment (owned and paid for by you) significantly more possible. Missing out on high school can be a disappointment, but survival takes precedence. Completing a GED as soon as humanly possible directly (significantly) improves your chances of survival.

Ages 16 to 17

  • Everything listed in Ages 0 to 15 applies to you.
  • Get a drivers license and a car. Surviving homelessness is significantly easier when you have a car. Getting and keeping a job is also significantly easier when you have a car.
  • Join Job Corps. Job Corps provides assistance, jobs and training. If you qualify, take advantage of the program.
  • Research technical training programs. Don’t give up on the possibility of college, just plan to complete technical school first. This is long-term planning. being trained and certified as an automobile mechanic translates into immediate and reasonably well-paying work. A bachelors degree in art does not.
  • Look for grants and scholarships. Talk to government agencies and social workers (and everyone else you can think of) and ask for help locating funds to pay for technical school.
  • Look for a women’s shelter. If you are 16, female and running from an abusive situation, a woman’s shelters will (should) provide assistance.
  • Contact an abuse hotline. If you are running from an abusive situation (regardless of gender) there are services available.

Ages 18 to 21

  • Everything listed in Ages 0 to 17 applies to you.
  • Keep looking for youth shelters. Adult shelters will not admit people under the age of 21. Some will not admit people under the age of 22.
  • Apply for assistance. You are an adult, so applying for assistance through government agencies is a possibility. Start filling out forms and keep it up until you’ve applied for everything (EVERYTHING!).

Ages 22 and older

  • Look for an adult shelter. Adult shelters will now admit you – and youth shelters will (literally) refuse to unlock the door if you come knocking. Contact an adult shelter and talk to the people who work there. If the shelter is safer than the street, try to get admitted.
  • Get a car. Having a car greatly improves your ability to survive homelessness and get a job. If at all possible, get yourself a working and reliable vehicle.
  • Get your GED. If you don’t have a high school diploma or a GED, then make it your top priority. Not having one will make life very difficult.
  • Apply for assistance. Start locating agencies and filling out forms. Keep it up until you’ve applied for everything (EVERYTHING!).
  • Apply for the military. The military offers many benefits that are extremely helpful to people trying to get out of poverty. If you qualify and have a personality that is suited to the military, then it is an excellent choice. However, the military has a very specific and extreme culture. Not everyone is suited to the environment and early discharge does not look good on your record. If you realize the military is not a particularly good fit after joining, then do absolutely everything in your power to keep your nose clean. A dishonorable discharge is a HUGE BLACK MARK on your record. Employers rank this right up with a felony on your criminal record. Follow orders, remain polite and respectful and do not attend parties where drugs may be involved. Just be careful, finish your time, get an honorable discharge and move on with your life.
  • Get a job. Everyone you encounter will give you this advice. It’s going to become annoying very quickly. Bite back your pride, proceed with the job search and target the highest paying work you have the qualifications and skills to perform.
  • Apply for work through targeted work programs like those offered by the Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and non-profit Restaurants.
  • Apply for Senior Assistance. Be honest about your age. If you are old enough to qualify for programs targeting seniors (housing, employment, medical, etc), then take full advantage.

Originally published: 05/01/2016

How To Help Someone Facing Homelessness

how to help

If you are truly trying to help someone facing a serious financial crisis and potential homelessness, then begin by familiarizing yourself with the realities of poverty. In the United States, there are resources available, but they are limited. Extremely limited. That means survival depends on multiple factors, including: 1) identifying available resources by researching local agencies and organizations, 2) applying for said resources and 3) finding alternative resources.

Anyone who has survived poverty or homelessness for any amount of time is acutely aware of the power held by those who make resource-distribution decisions, and the frequency with which said decisions are based on a subjective opinion about the recipient’s relative worth. This is an unfortunate reality born out of extremely limited resources. No matter how altruistic a social worker or non-profit volunteer is, when a program has enough money to cover the needs of 100 people and it receives 500+ applications, decisions must be made.

Also, keep in mind that many non-profits are provided opportunities to collaborate with wealthy benefactors or other organizations on a limited basis. These are purposely unadvertised programs made available to ‘hand picked’ clients. Effectively, they will examine the people who have applied for publicly advertised programs and select those who are considered a good fit.

For all of these reasons (and more), it is important to present the best possible argument for being selected as a recipient.

The following suggestions provide practical advice for helping a person survive poverty or homelessness while laying the groundwork for (re)establishing financial security. The links embedded within this post provide further information and additional examples directly related to the points covered.

what to do

Educate Yourself

  • Deserving vs undeserving poor: The concepts of deserving vs undeserving poor are extremely important to understand. An examination of these terms can be found HERE. For the purposes of this blog post, remember the following: surviving homelessness or a financial emergency requires help. Finding a way out of these situations requires more help. Getting that help is heavily dependent upon convincing those controlling needed resources that you (or your friend) are deserving of assistance.
  • Realities of poverty: Every region is different. Walk or drive around the area and take the time to actually see homeless people and low-income neighborhoods. Visit the homeless shelter. Research both resources available and news stories about the deaths of poor and homeless people in your area. Try to get a sense of what this person is actually up against, and then remind yourself that you will never truly understand what this is like until after you have lived it.
  • Biographies and books: Another source of information are the biographies of people who have survived extreme poverty and nonfiction books about poverty and homelessness:

Publicly Associate: Continue spending time together. Whenever possible, make a point of doing so publicly; here’s why:

  • Lifts the spirits. This kind of crisis will send a perfectly healthy human being spiraling into depression. Simple and authentic acts of friendship can help fight the depression that inevitably comes from living with the stigma of poverty.
  • Networking. It improves the possibility of positive networking, and that could lead to a job.
  • Protection from predators. Surviving homelessness or poverty requires making alliances. Individuals without a support group or network are frequently targeted by predators.
  • Deserving Image. It enhances the individual’s standing as a member of the ‘deserving poor.’
  • Community. Provides access to and a sense of community, which has been proven to be a key factor in getting out of poverty.

Listen: Anytime someone you care about is faced with a crisis it is time to put on your listening ears and let them talk. Don’t judge, don’t get offended, and (for the love of Pete!) do NOT break confidences!

  • Initial Crisis: Act as a supportive, confidential and reliable sounding board whenever this person needs it. This is a situation that will push every button a person has. Chances are very good that all sorts of angry words, profound thoughts, offensive opinions and absolute nonsense will come pouring out of their mouth. Just let it flow. When they return to their rational selves, gently help re-direct that energy into brainstorming possible solutions.
  • As Time Passes: Like it or not, there are no quick fixes for financial problems. This is going to take time. How much time? It’s impossible to say – weeks, months, maybe even years. Keep listening. Sometimes listening is hard, but surviving is harder. Remember that.

Brainstorming: This is an activity that most helping professionals and assistance-providing-organizations actively and aggressively squelch due to a pervasive social-cultural belief that people in poverty must completely focus on taking any work offered for any amount of pay. This is the worst possible advice, and here’s why:

  • Hope: Brainstorming all possibilities, no matter how outlandish, helps re-establish hope. Some things are not possible right now, but there’s always someday.
  • Direction: Setting a long-term goal can help to clarify the next best move. The financial situation may be desperate right now, but that does not eliminate the possibility of reaching any number of life or career goals at some point in the future. in fact, if the person is able to identify a long-term goal, then looking for immediate opportunities that move in that general direction can both simplify and improve the employment-seeking process.
  • Perspective: By seeing the actions taken in the immediate moment as steps on the path to a much different (better) place, the individual is able to achieve a more positive perspective overall. This is invaluable when writing resumes or sitting through interviews.
  • Possibility: For some reason, brainstorming sessions have a way of making people more aware of opportunities. After taking some time to look at seemingly outlandish goals, something within immediate reach will be identified. A contact, a job posting, a passing conversation…any number of resources and leads will be revealed. It just requires allowing the mind to focus on what is possible.
  • Toxic Work Environments: If an individual goes into the job-seeking process willing to “take anything from anyone in exchange for whatever paycheck is offered” then chances are very good that an unethical manager will use the opportunity to exploit the individual to the fullest possible extent. The end result? Job loss and a tarnished work record. Possibly worse.

Tangible Help: Helping out in small ways provides more than financial assistance, it lifts the spirits and establishes an ongoing sense of community. It makes taking that next step out of poverty possible.

It is your responsibility to identify what you are both willing and able to do. Therefore, I suggest sitting down and making two lists: a) things you can do in the short term and b) things you can do over the long-term (read: years). After you have clearly identified your own limits (to yourself), it’s time to take action.

How you communicate this information will depend on the person facing poverty/homelessness and your relationship. Sometimes simply showing up with a casserole is the best thing you can do. Other times, it’s better to discuss the available options ahead of time.

A few suggestions/examples:

  • Make dinner once a week.
  • Help with laundry.
  • Offer to babysit.
  • Provide access to a shower.
  • Help establish a permanent mailing address.
  • Regularly meet up for coffee and conversation.
  • Research local agencies, organizations and shelters offering assistance. Make a few preliminary phone calls, inquiring about options and requirements.
  • Network with people who know how to utilize the local resources for survival. Most people find good solid information through places of worship, community organizations, and 12-step programs. Ask the people in your own network of friends and family for recommendations about both resources and people who might know more about local resources.

Odd Jobs: Helping to identify and arrange temporary work is a valuable form of assistance. Whether it’s above-board, under-the-table or in-trade, odd jobs provide access to resources and opportunities:

  • It enhances the individual’s standing as a member of the ‘deserving poor.’
  • It qualifies as freelance work and/or self-employment which provides solid networking opportunities while helping to fill a time gap on a resume.
  • It’s easier to find a job when you have a job.

what not to do

All of the suggestions included here under “What Not To Do: apply to anyone going through a crisis. For more detailed information, look for workshops or books focused on helping people in crisis. Homelessness (potential or realized) is a crisis of enormous proportions. It involves grief, fear, anger, and many other emotions. Another source is books about helping people (or yourself) through a crisis:

Platitudes: When a person is facing a crisis, the only thing they should be focused on is securing real, practical help. Saying things like ‘it will all work out,’ ‘god has a plan’ and ‘think positive’ aren’t particularly helpful. Before you speak, stop and ask yourself: who am I trying to comfort, me or them?

Accusations: Throwing on the guilt, expressing your opinion of purchases made in the past (near or distant), and lecturing on every single bad decision you believe this person has ever made is simply not helpful. Chances are very good these things are already running through their head (over and over). Focus on finding solutions for the immediate problem and planning for what lies ahead. Let your opinions of the past remain unspoken until a more appropriate time. Learn to accept the fact that this day may never come.

Minimize The Pain: Yes, it really is that bad. This person is going through a tough time and it hurts. Saying things like ‘stop whining,’ ‘cheer up’ or ‘look on the bright side’ while trying to insist that it’s ‘not that bad’ is not helpful. It IS bad. Pretending otherwise will only lead to more disaster. Learn to accept the discomfort.

Try to Fix It: There is nothing worse than false hope, particularly when it is immediately followed by the complete disappearance of the ‘friend’ who can’t handle the uncomfortable realization that this really and truly cannot be fixed. Accept reality and be brutally honest with yourself about what you can (or cannot) do. If you are a fixer by nature, keep your mouth shut and your ears open – there will be plenty of opportunities, usually on a smaller scale. It is your responsibility to 1) focus on identifying those things you truly have the power to change and 2) wait for it.

Hold a Fundraiser: This may seem counter-intuitive, but fundraisers and requests for donations or other financial assistance from individuals and similar private sources must be kept to a minimum and restricted to very specific and targeted goals. For example, if a person needs to pay back rent and child support in order to get a drivers license and, thereby, qualify for a job, a fundraiser may be in order. If there is no employment in sight, no money in the bank and no one really knows what to do, then a fundraiser is not the right place to begin. Here’s why:

  • Expectations: People are accustomed to fundraisers run by huge non-profits, where a donation is made once or twice a year, an official thank you is provided with assurances that this donation has helped solve the problem, and everyone continues on their merry way (until next year). Similarly, everyone who donated will be expecting tangible, positive, and immediate results (e.g.: we gave you money, why isn’t this fixed?)
  • Amount: In a real-life financial emergency, even the most successful fundraiser will only go so far. $10,000 may seem like a lot of money until you do the math: six (6) months of rent and utilities, plus childcare, and that money is gone. Add in food, transportation, and other essentials, and the time-frame covered is significantly reduced. Unless the fundraiser can eliminate the housing problem, it is better to pursue other avenues.
  • Deserving Poor: The inevitable social backlash generated by a) accepting charity and b) not being pulled fully, completely and immediately out of poverty, will be extremely damaging over the long-term.
  • Problem Solving: Focus on identifying both immediate needs and long-term solutions. Addressing the immediate without considering the long-term will result in failure.

Vocalize Your Classism: A few infuriatingly common examples of stereotype-based responses:

  • I’m glad this happened to you and not me because you’ve been poor/homeless before, so you know how to handle this.
  • I don’t have that problem; therefore, you must have done something wrong and/or there must be something wrong with you.
  • I knew this was going to happen. My family told me you couldn’t handle living right. I knew you would be coming around asking for money. I never should have made friends with…one of you.
  • I know a great therapist. I’m sure they can help you address the real problem. (Read: Financial emergencies are proof of mental illness.)
  • Have you considered adoption? Obviously, you can’t handle being a parent. I know an adoption lawyer who makes loads of money, so you know they’re good people. (Note: Forced adoptions are commonly assumed to be a relic of the past. They are not. Adoption is a multi-million dollar industry and both illegal and unethical practices continue. Women and children in poverty are primary targets.)
  • Have you considered taking a budgeting class? (Read: Financial emergencies are the result of financial or mathematical incompetence – it has nothing to do with low wages and high costs of living.)
  • I thought you said you had a college degree. (Read: Higher education magically eliminates the possibility of future financial problems.)
  • But you seem so smart. (Read: Financial emergencies are restricted to those with a substandard intellect.)
  • But you seem so nice. (Read: Financial emergencies are restricted to those who participate in immoral or criminal activities.)
  • Where’s your man? What kind of a woman are you if you can’t even land a man who can pay your bills?
  • Have tried getting a job? (Note: Most people living in poverty or facing homelessness already have, and actively maintain, one or more jobs – in addition to spending a lot of time trying to survive.)

seriously just don't

Most of the following actions are justified like this:

“This will force them to change. We have to force them to do what it takes to avoid being homeless, instead of taking the easy way out. We’re just giving poor people the kick in the pants they need to get ahead. This is helping.”

Let’s be clear about one thing, none of these actions will help anyone out of poverty or homelessness. In fact, most of them will seriously impede their ability to get back on their social and financial feet. For more research-based information on this fact, look into books about the Housing First method for addressing homelessness:

The decision to participate in any of the following isn’t about them – it’s about you.

Public Humiliation: I am forever amazed at the number of people who really and truly believe: a) poverty is a lifestyle choice and b) acts of public humiliation will force poor people to ‘choose another lifestyle.’ Using this logic, acts of public humiliation are deemed to be a form of HELP.

Before you jump on the opportunity to indulge your inner predatory high school mean-girl, take a moment to imagine yourself in the same situation. Consider all aspects of this individual’s reality and ask yourself this one question: how, exactly, does this HELP? In what way is the situation improved by my behavior?

Ostracism: “When you get back on your feet, call me,” is one of the most common acts of cruelty faced by people dealing with a financial crisis that could plunge them into poverty. If this friendship is based solely on class-association and enhancement of your own public image, then you are not a friend. Telling people that they will earn the prize of being allowed to associate with you, once they have returned to a proper financial status, is disturbingly classicist and disgustingly narcissistic.

It’s this same attitude toward class that leads members of the upper classes to treat poverty survivors as though they were living with a deadly and contagious disease. Treating poverty survivors with the disgust generally reserved for extremely filthy garbage, is sadistic. This does not have a positive effect on the problem – it merely inflates your own ego.

Gossip: Anyone facing a financial crisis is dealing with a world that is literally falling apart. The opportunities for viscous gossip will be plentiful and easily identified. Making up a juicy story out of the wreckage will do more than stir up a little dust and hurt a few feelings. The damage carries the potential for devastatingly permanent consequences.  If you can’t keep it positive then remain silent.

Call The Boss: Employers are not charities. Employees who are facing serious financial difficulties are generally viewed as unreliable (at best) or a liability (at worst). This is a difficult conversation and a private one. It is the employee’s responsibility to speak with a boss/employer when and if necessary. It is unprofessional and unethical to disclose to a current or potential employer another person’s private information.

Call The Landlord: Informing a landlord of impending financial ruin will hasten the move to the street. Landlords are running a business, not a charity; they are not going to assist a tenant facing difficult times, they are going to eliminate a risky customer and make room for reliable income flow.

Call The Landowner: If this person is already on the street and squatting in a building or on private land, contacting the owner of said property will (most likely) result in an arrest and the beginnings of a criminal record. People do not generally choose to squat. Criminal records never increase the possibility of finding viable employment. This is not helping.

It must be pointed out that there are various Faux Poor communities who choose to squat. This is not to be confused with actual poverty. People who have the ability to leave a Money-less or Stripped Down lifestyle at any time they choose are not truly poor. They are frugal, which is admirable, but distinctly different from homelessness and poverty.

There is much to be said about the Faux Poor and the ways they affect Poverty Survivors, but that will have to wait until another day.

Call DHS: DHS is the Department of Human Services. Every state in the union has a DHS office, which is responsible for evaluating reports of abuse, removing children from abusive homes, placing children in foster care, etc. They do not help families locate financial assistance or address problems related to poverty. They examine a situation, determine whether or not there is reasonable cause to initiate an investigation and remove children from the care of parents or guardians.

  • Poverty Is Not Abuse: If you are concerned about the effects of poverty upon the lives of the children, then calling DHS is not the right thing to do.
  • Double Standards: Check your double standards. If you had to turn in everyone you knew who was doing [parenting action], how many people would be on that list? Are you going to report all of them, or is this limited to a specific category of people?
  • Actual Abuse: If you have been keeping your mouth shut about a truly abusive situation because they had a nice home and a good paycheck, then a) report the abuse immediately and b) educate yourself about the realities of abuse – people with money do not get a free pass.

Assist a Stalker: Having money does not make a predator less dangerous. Being poor does not negate the right to live a safe and terror-free life. Owning property does not transform a manipulative and violent individual into a ‘good parent’ or a ‘good spouse.’

final commentsI have noticed that much of the advice given in the area of grief and bereavement is very appropriate and applicable to people surviving poverty or facing homelessness, for example:

“Research has shown that the more distressed the bereaved person appears to be, the more discomfort this will evoke in others, and the more they will avoid, derogate or blame the mourner. This means that those who are most in need of support may be least likely to get it.”

Offering Support to the Bereaved: What Not To Say, Grief and Loss Blog, PBS.Org, by Camille Wortman, PH.D.

“Unfortunately, many people associate tears of grief with personal inadequacy and weakness. Crying on the part of the mourner often generates feelings of helplessness in friends, family, and caregivers…Yet crying is nature’s way of releasing internal tension in the body and allows the mourner to communicate a need to be comforted. Crying makes people feel better, emotionally and physically.”

Common Myths About Grief, Center for Loss and Life Transition, Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

“In the end, most of the silly things we say to grieving people could be avoided if we simply keep our mouths shut. Silence is better than stupidity, I think. In some of these sayings, we mean well, but the sayings don’t effectively communicate our concern. In others of these, we’re not really concerned about the grieving person, we’re concerned with our own discomfort”

10 Things You Should never Say To A Grieving Person, MinistryMatters.com, Tom Fuerst

“Don’t let a fear you may say something foolish frighten you into saying nothing. Say something—then listen. Friends who are grieving don’t expect you to toss off some wise advice that will instantly wipe away their sadness. What they could use most from you is an open heart and time spent listening.”

Things No Grieving Person Wants to Hear (and What to Say Instead), Oprah.com, Scott Simon

More books about grief:

Originally published: 01/24/2016

Service Project Ideas: Helping the Homeless

If you really want to use your service project to help the homeless, then consider doing the following:

  1. Make a List About YOU: Make a list of all of the key characteristics that describe you, right now, as a person. Try to make it as exhaustive as possible.
    1. What categories do you fit into? For example: race, gender, religion, sexual identity, family situation (e.g.: kids, no kids, married, single), education level, health status (e.g.: healthy, diabetes, food allergies, disabled, etc.)
    2. Identify those categories that you think are most important during homelessness. For example: Diabetes is potentially deadly without proper diet and/or medical care, adult shelters will not take anyone under age 21, and caring for children while homeless is extremely difficult.
  2. Imagine Yourself Homeless: Picture yourself facing some catastrophic financial or physical emergency that leaves you instantly homeless right now. What would you do? Where would you go?
  3. Research: Do a little research and identify those resources that you would attempt to utilize in that situation.
  4. Make Contact: Contact those organizations and tell them you are looking for:
    1. Volunteer work to complete a service project.
    2. Opportunities to meet and work with people who are currently homeless and similar to yourself in a few key ways. Example short lists:
      1. 21 years old, female, no children.
      2. Over 50 with diabetes
      3. 35 years old, male, single parent, 3 kids
      4. 26 years old, lesbian, 2 dogs
  5. Listen: Let the organization tell you what they need help with and then do your best to provide assistance.
  6. Reflect: After a few weeks of volunteer work, sit down and re-imagine yourself homeless. Based on what you now know, what would you do? What are the dangers and challenges other people, just like you, are facing? Are any of those things particularly surprising? What is your biggest fear?

All of this will provide some real insight into what it feels like to be homeless AND the many unique and often maddeningly difficult challenges people surviving homelessness are forced to face.

Follow up that experience by pursuing some tools to help you make a positive impact on poverty and homelessness in the future:

  1. Social Justice: Take a social justice workshop (if you can) and pay particular attention to the justice issues faced by poverty survivors (homeless included).
  2. Mentoring/Internship: If you complete the first part of this plan and decide that you really want to do more – contact the non-profit and ask for a mentor or an internship. Getting to know people who’ve built a career out of fighting poverty and homelessness is far more important and useful than any number of textbooks, news articles, books, workshops, etc.
  3. Emergency Plan: If you were facing a serious emergency that would place you into a homeless situation, what would you do. Take some time with this, really identify the financial and physical needs that would have to be addressed. How can you plan for the worst right now? How can you face a catastrophic financial emergency and get through it? What is your plan? Keeping yourself out of homelessness is important! It’s extremely difficult to survive homelessness, much less combat it while trying to survive. It’s also important to remember…ALWAYS remember!…that anyone can experience homelessness at any time. Poverty is an equal opportunity employer.

-Originally posted to Quora in answer to the question: What can I do as a service project to help out the homeless?

Originally published: 03/22/2017

Re-Post: Sheriff, NRA and Welfare

Amazon.com

(Note: I finally got around to writing a response to this article. The revised blog post is being re-published as a new entry.)

This is the kind of uninformed vitriol that makes addressing poverty in the USA unnecessarily difficult.

In an appearance Monday on Fox, Sheriff Clarke, who is African-American, offered his explanation for the major cause of riots in Milwaukee and other cities: “You know what encourages this? The growth of the welfare state. These are underclass behaviors. Seventy percent of the kids born in Milwaukee … are born without an engaged father in their life. So I look at the progressive policies that have marginalized black dads. They push them to the side and say ‘you’re not needed.’ Uncle Sam is going to be the dad, he’s going to provide for the kids, he’s going to feed the kids … Uncle Sam has been a horrible father. Uncle Sam does not love these kids. He might keep a little food in their mouths and that is about it. But we all know the importance of an intact family, what it can do to shape the behavior of kids.”

Of course, it is unsurprising that this appeared on FOX News. But, media biases aside, what this man is saying is that community networks have broken down and that needs to change.

Um…YES!…liberals and anti-poverty activists have been saying exactly that for decades. In fact, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Quotes from this books can be found HERE)  clearly illustrates the way that a lack of universal healthcare, widespread poverty (particularly mostly through disturbingly common low-wage jobs), the crash caused by predatory lending within the banking system, the actions of predatory landlords and…ultimately…relatively recently established culture of evict-take everything-and-forced movement has resulted in the breakdown of all kinds of community networks. In short: people unable to land in a physical location they can call home are significantly less capable of creating and maintaining relationships with other people.

A young African-American man found by a TV camera during the weekend riot said: “The rich people, they got all this money, and they not … trying to give us none.” Really? All of that tax money spent on anti-poverty programs for the last 50 years never trickled-down to him? This poisonous attitude has been promoted by progressives and has not helped the poor rise above their circumstances.

What is it about right-wing conservatives constantly refusing to evaluate the actions of the rich? If you have money you are without blame. Challenging the lack of financial opportunities available to specific communities is automatically proof that the individual asking the question is lazy or trying to ‘work the system.’ There is something inherently wrong with that level of blind-faith in a select community of people based on financial resources alone.

This young man should talk to Sheriff Clarke about changing his attitude. Some self-evaluation and an internal re-adjustment would do more for him than any anti-poverty program the Democrats could dream up.

The only anti-poverty program the conservatives have ever developed is this: take away everything and toss the low lifes out into the street. If they die of starvation, exposure or violence, so much the better – fewer people and more stuff for us!

If the right-wing ever took the time to actually acknowledge the problem and TRY to address it, they might see just how real and difficult and complicated (and directly related to the actions and decisions of wealthy people) this issue is.

They also might find more poor people coming their way. But, those people would be lower-class people and…well…that’s not who they are, what they do or how they operate.

Thomas: Sheriff David Clarke speaks truth, Clarion-Ledger, Cal Thomas, Syndicated columnist, August 19, 2016

Securing Credit and Identity After the Equifax Breach

Amazon.com

Step 1: Read this article –>How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Security Freeze

Step 2: Place a freeze on social security numbers of all family members. Note: A freeze cannot be placed on minors through online portals. Most agencies offer snail-mail options for minors.

Step 3: Place all account IDs, passwords and PIN numbers in a safe place! Applying for credit in the future will require contacting the agency and removing the freeze, temporarily or permanently.

Women’s Empowerment

What is Women’s Empowerment?

Simplified, it is the actions that result in women being able to own and control property. It is primarily financial, but extends into the areas of body autonomy (the ability to chose what is done with your own body), childcare, education and violence against women because they all directly impact a woman’s ability to work, run a business and/or manage property.

Addressing inequality and Human Rights violations are key to resolving poverty. When inequality is high, poverty goes up; when inequality is low (and equality is high), poverty goes down.

It’s an important economic concept that has been thoroughly examined, discussed and researched by academics and activists all over the world (see references below).

My Own Experience

Since I’m just a poverty survivor and not a world-renowned academic expert in economics (or anything else), allow me to provide a ground-zero perspective from life here in the United States of America.

The examples I have collected show how an individual is kept in poverty or under absolute financial control of another individual. Therefore, it is important to understand that placing one person in a family (or community or collection of humans) under the absolute control of another person contributes to poverty overall.

The most simplistic explanation for this statement is this: If the controlling person is wealthy, the person they control is impoverished because they care unable to own property.

However, these human rights violations continue the cycle of poverty in many other ways. If a woman is unable to make decisions, maintain control over her body or well being, is subjected to violence, or is simply trapped in her home, then she is not contributing her full potential to the household or the community. Also, if something happens to the individual who is controlling all finances, leaving him unable to work, then the entire family becomes homeless.

For the purposes of this answer, I will focus on the effect on the women (specifically). Please understand that there are others who are effected, both directly and indirectly, by these issues.

1960s

Image source: Asterisk Gallery: No Moms Allowed: Teen Hangouts Through History

(Note: this is NOT a photo of my mom. Technically, it’s a 1950s photo, but the hairstyles remind me of photos of my mother during her late teens.)

During the late 1970s, my mother told me the story of her first drivers license. She a navy child, so my grandfather was out at sea when it came time to go to the DMV, take the test, and get her license; so, my grandmother took my mother in herself.

The man behind the counter asked one question: “Where’s your father?”

They explained the situation and he flat out refused to allow my mother to get her license without a man present, providing his permission. She was not allowed to drive until my grandfather returned home. You can imagine how infuriating it was for both my mother and my grandmother.

Why this is important

Not being able to drives means being shut out of nearly all forms of employment in the far majority of people in the USA. It also significantly restricts movement and the ability to complete simple daily tasks, like shopping for food and going to the doctor.

Simply making divers licenses available to women (and punishing this sort of discrimination on the part of DMV workers) improves both women’s rights and women (economic) empowerment.

1970s

Images Source: NIH: Domestic Violence in the 1970s

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I had a stay-at-home-mom and lived in a house surrounded by houses filled with stay-at-home-moms. Some of the women were literally trapped in their homes without a vehicle or access to public transportation (at that time, it did not exist outside of the city). A few were doubly trapped by an abusive spouse.

Domestic violence was also common. Not just in my little town – everywhere.

This was when the women’s movement was picking up steam and making a lot of progress, but deep social and political change always seem to take an extra 5–10 years to reach the deeply rural areas and the states located in landlocked areas between the coasts. It took a while, but it did, finally, arrive.

Why this is important:

Without realistic options for income, these women were unable to escape violence and abuse against themselves and their children. Without employment they could not escape. Employment was not possible until after they managed to escape. It was an impossible situation.

When domestic violence awareness campaigns reached all corners of the USA, and changes to the laws provided all people of all ages protection from violence and abuse, then large numebrs of women were finally able to achieve both physical and financial freedom.

1980s

Image Source: 1985 cover of TIME | Current & Breaking News | National & World Updates

As a teenager in the 1980s I found myself faced with some strange contradictions. There were people who were claiming that women had achieved equality and feminism was dead (sound familiar).

Yet, at the exact same time, many of my classmates were getting pregnant due to many difficult realities. Chief among them were the anti-birth control and anti-abortion sentiments of the local religious and political leaders and the disturbingly common occurrence of date rape.

While the majority of teenage girls simply gave their babies to family members to raise, there was a not-insignificant minority of teenagers who were forced to marry their boyfriend and/or rapist. I listened to more than one story that roughly translated into the following process:

  1. Boy ‘likes’ girls and wants to control her (permanently).
  2. Boy rapes girl.
  3. Boy tells everyone, including girl’s parents, that they had sex and the baby was his. There may not be a baby on the way. This did not appear to matter.
  4. Girl is now socially tied to boy. Other teens and adults perceive her as ‘his.’
  5. Boy continues to rape girl until she gets pregnant.
  6. Boy demands marriage.
  7. Parents force marriage, while trying to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing.
  8. Girl is now physically, socially and financially trapped by boy.

This is not a relic of the past – it continues to happen.

Why This is Important:

Body autonomy is about significantly more than ‘wanting to be a parent.’ It’s about physical safety and freedom – literal freedom.

No human being, regardless of age or gender, should be subjected to rape. Laws are in place to protect the victim, but they are difficult to enforce. The circumstances are also frequently complicated, particularly when it’s ‘date rape.’

The ability to prevent a pregnancy under any circumstance is the last line of defense against this particular kind of predator. Therefore, birth control is absolutely necessary in the fight against rape, domestic violence, and women’s inequality.

The ability to raise a child as a single parent, and still pursue a career and/or life goals is something our entire society MUST support, because it provides freedom to girls facing this kind of abuse,

The ability to address everything that goes along with a teen pregnancy, including medical care, without being forced into a marriage, is also absolutely necessary.

Those who have access to these necessities are also provided access to the possibility of a financially independant and reasonably secure future.

1990s

Image Source: Huffington Post: Why Anita Hill’s 1991 Testimony Is So Haunting Today

I started working full-time after college. Then I went to grad school, and returned to working full time immediately after. That makes the 1990s the decade of my introduction into the regular workforce. Here are somethings that I heard on a regular basis during that decade (said to me directly and to other women):

  • Of course your pay is low, you’re married. Your husband is bringing in the real income.
  • You’re young and married. You’ll be having babies soon. We don’t expect you to stick around.
  • We need someone to take notes. [Name of only female in room], you can be the secretary for the meeting.
  • The best job [a woman] can get is secretary (nurse, teacher, [other stereotypically female position]).
  • You should wear clothes that are tighter (more revealing, more fashionable, etc.). If you want to get ahead, you have to learn to work it. Don’t you want to succeed?

I could go on but you get the idea.

While all of these things were frustrating, uncomfortable and occasionally infuriating; none of them were perceived as harassment. In fact, the possibility of harassment didn’t come up until the Anita Hill hearings brought the topic into the TV sets and living rooms of every American with access to standard news channels. Even then, the focus was on extreme examples of sexual harassment.

Therefore, I will put aside the general atmosphere that was prevalent a few decades ago, and focus on the one specific comment that had real and far-reaching consequences for every working woman in the USA:

  • Of course your pay is low, you’re married. Your husband is bringing in the real income.

This is just one of the many excuses/responses to questions about pay disparity that I, personally, encountered. Attempts to pursue this line of inquiry, or negotiate for a simple pay raise, were usually (invariably?) met with threats (direct or implied) of dismissal.

(Note: Reason it’s important will be explored in 2000s)

2000 to Present

Image Source: Equal Pay For Equal Work (Also see: Equal pay for equal work – Wikipedia)

While being held back in the pay-scale during my 20s was frustrating, I didn’t realize just how important it was until many years later. The problem is this:

  • New employers base their pay-level offering on the amount of money previous employers have already paid you.

Requesting pay history and verifying the amount former employers paid is standard background check process. These are also standard discussion points during the interview process.

When it comes time to talk salary, it’s ALLWAYS based on information the new employer has on what previous employers paid. If you made $30,000 doing the same (or similar) work at your last company, why would the new company pay you significantly more? The fact that the men in the company are getting $90,000 during their first year, is irrelevant.

Bottom line: Your price has been set.

Why this is important:

Women consistently making 70% of the salary earned by men (across all professions) has serious implications for total household income. It reduces a woman’s ability to sustain herself and her children without a roommate or a husband. It significantly reduces her ability to find a job that pays a living wage, if she happens to be an unskilled worker.

However, it also has wider implications that directly affect men. The existence of wage disparity establishes a process by which some people are financially discriminated against. This process can be…and often is…applied to any group of people, as the company sees fit.

This isn’t about finding the best candidate or paying for a stronger skill set. Wage disparity is the act of paying significantly different wages to people who are doing the exact same work.

This perpetuates poverty by systematically restricting select groups of people from accessing key resources.

What the Academics Have Said

There are many highly respected academics and activists who have been saying poverty is reduced when women are economically empowered for a long long time. Here are a few examples of published academic papers that illustrate this fact:

For an excellent speech on the effects of violence (specifically) and unenforced laws (in general) on poverty, please watch this TED talk:

Ted Talk (YouTube.com) Gary Haugen: The hidden reason for poverty the world needs to address now

Originally posted in response to How powerful is female empowerment in resolving world poverty? on Quora.

Why a Muslim Registry is a Bad Idea

Originally posted in answer to the question What is so bad about a Muslim registry? on Quora.

I am going to provide an IT perspective on this question.

Yes, that’s right, an Information Technology, computers and the-people-who-deal-with-the-machines-collecting-and-crunching-the-data-perspective.

Why? Because when someone decides to ‘create a registry’ someone (similar to myself) is tasked with the job of creating a database AND reports generated by that database.

As illustrated by the wonderful commentary generated by the Y2Gay database discussions, IT has an important perspective on these things: Gay marriage: the database engineering perspective

Creating Databases Means Identifying Key Data

When a database is created, the first thing that must be done is simply this:

  1. identify the key data being collected
  2. identify the reports and other deliverables created by the database

While you might thing the second item could be restated as ‘identify the reason for the database’ nothing could be further from the truth. When dealing with non-computer people it is not unusual to have someone demand that a database be created to gather information “that creates a positive customer service experience for our customers!”…or something equally unclear yet very pep-rally appropriate. Then, after talking to multiple people and FINALLY getting them to explain what, exactly, they are going to DO with the data, the unofficial and IT specific purpose changes to: “create a mailing list.”

This is one of those near-universal experiences people in IT like to laugh and complain about. It applies to government and private sector equally.

So, in the case of a Muslim registry, the first step (key data) is partially addressed in the notes included with this question:

I am shocked there is not already a registry of ALL citizens with info such as race, gender, religion, languages etc. At least a Muslim registry is a step in the right direction, seeing as a great threat to America happens to belong to a single religion (I know most Muslims are not terrorists).

As noted in other answers, many of these elements are already gathered through existing databases, like the US Census and ID Cards.

Don’t Make Me Fill Out ANOTHER Form!

When data is already being collected and reported, the individuals responsible for that data tend to get cranky when someone comes in asks them to fill out another form, create another report, and generally re-enter the same stuff AGAIN. There’s also the possibility of entering errors into the data source when it’s being created/generated/imported/modified multiple times by multiple people.

Of the items listed, everything except religion and language are already included on divers licenses and state IDs. The data collected by the DMV is free and available to the general public (personally, I do NOT agree with this massive dumping of personal information…but I digress) so an enterprising database designer could…potentially…import the DMV data and connect it to the missing elements: religion and language.

With the right connections and political power, it could also connect to the state and federal databases containing anyone and everyone who has ever been arrested for any reason (including those cleared as innocent) AND the databases maintained by the department of homeland security, the no-fly list, and even the records maintained by public schools. Several of these databases INCLUDE religion and race.

In short, we COULD create a complete profile on every person residing within the United States neatly coordinated within a single location just by importing already existing data.

Explain to me…again…why we are doing this?

That brings us to the second question – what, specifically, is going to be DONE with this data?

Since the Muslim registry enters into the network of existing information specifically for the purpose of:

  1. collecting religion and language
  2. identifying terrorists
  3. focusing specifically on Muslims as potential terrorists

Then the database being created is more like a report-generating app that connects all existing data, spits out lists of known Muslims, their home address, the school they attend, the language they speak, connections to known terrorists groups, their place of worship, and anything else that might be deemed important.

Presumably, this information would be provided to people in the field, who would add information to individual files, as needed.

As an IT person, I’m thinking: soooo…you want to re-create the department of homeland security?

As noted above, all of this information already exists and it is a well known fact that federal agencies have made concerted effort to connect and share data. I guarantee you, this sort of thing already exists – along with similar reports on every religion, hate group, environmentalist group, activist community and whatever else someone in ANY federal level policing agency (or state level or whatever) might deem important to know…for whatever reason,

In fact, if human behavior remains consistent (and it usually does) there are probably databases and reports that focus on individuals, groups and concerns going back to the beginning of data collection – and people working in all levels of law enforcement who occasionally stumble across these things and scratch their heads wondering why in holy hades do they even HAVE this?

Duplicate with different purpose…and the reason is what?

So, again, why are we building this?

Now we are getting down to brass tacks. The key term here is registry.

A registry managed by the government contains data on people that is made publicly available (GovernmentRegistry.org – Public Records Online). A category-specific registry is usually (always?) focused on presenting information about people who are deemed dangerous enough to warn the general public on a permanent basis.

For example:

Therefore, this isn’t data collection, this is data distribution to the general public.

Whats Wrong With a Muslim Registry?

Creating a database of all individuals who associate with a specific religion and making it publicly available for the express purpose of warning all individuals NOT associated with that religion to be wary of interaction due to potential terrorism…

Yeah, that’s a problem.

Why? Because that’s not purpose-driven data collection, that’s propaganda.

I suggest reading any of the other posts that focus on the registries maintained by the Nazis or the crimes committed again the Japanese here in the USA during WWII. I’m sure there are other equally powerful examples and all of them come down to the same thing: when the government ostracizes a group of people and generates a marketing campaign that vilifies all members of said group…and a registry would achieve that goal (and ONLY that goal)…then bad things happen.

Really bad things.

We don’t need that here in the United States.

Can Technology Solve Poverty?

Technology can address the symptoms of poverty

Apps are basically high tech communication devices. They are really useful for gathering and distributing information. In that respect, they can help address the symptoms of poverty by providing poverty survivors access to:

  • Information about potential resources.
  • Free educational resources, tutoring services and MOOCs.
  • Crisis lines addressing everything a person without health care or the cash to pay for professional help, including: medical questions, parenting questions, suicide hotlines, 12-step program hotlines, etc.
  • Legal advice
  • Job listings, resume advice, job advice, etc.
  • Establishing funding platforms to meet the needs of schools and similar resources in poverty stricken neighborhoods.
  • Applying for assistance through online forms (it is important to note that this has both positive and negative affects on access to those resources)

These apps can also affect public perception by answering the questions and addressing the prejudices surrounding poverty. They can attempt to educate the masses about the realities of poverty and the truth about who poverty survivors really are, including those of us who have experienced homelessness.

The voices of poverty survivors

All of these things currently exist and all of them require access to the internet and the specific technology required to connect to the applications. While there are plenty of poverty survivors (homeless included) who have some form of smart phone (Tracfone offers several android phones for less than $100 and a SUPER cheap pay-as-you-go plan…it’s really easy to get one), for many people that is where the technology ends.

Being able to leverage these opportunities often requires access to more than a low grade android cell phone. Determined poverty survivors with access to a reasonably well funded public library will use the computer lab to access all of these things. Others just shrug their shoulders and assume they don’t apply to them.

The thing that is missing from all of these resources and opportunities is the voice of poverty survivors themselves. Please watch the following TED talk by Mia Birdsong. She says it far better than I ever could:

Can technology solve poverty?

No. Poverty is not caused by technology, so technology is not close enough to the source of the problem to have a profound effect on the problem.

Technology does not pay the bills or end human rights violations. It does not block human trafficking, slavery, violence, exploitation or stalking (cyber or face-to-face). It does not end racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, slander or classicism. It does not prevent police brutality or government corruption. It does not put food on the table, a roof over your head or clothes on your back. It does not force your employer to pay a living wage – or provide the paycheck that is owed to you.

It doesn’t even get you a job. Access to long lists of jobs posted to websites like LinkedIn is helpful, but it is NOT a job. If one of those job postings happen to materialize into a job, there’s no guarantee it will pay a living wage.

Poverty can be positively affected by technology. I encourage those with this particular skill set to look for ways to use those skills to positively change the world in every possible way, including addressing the symptoms of poverty. But never forget that these are symptoms and not root cause. Until the root cause is addressed, poverty will remain epidemic in this country and around the world.

-Originally posted to Quora in response to the (frequently asked) question Can apps be used to tackle societal problems like hunger or homelessness or income insecurity?

Mass Blindness: Why don’t American’s see the poverty in their own backyards?

The most common reasons for mass blindness are as follows:

  1. Prosperity theology – Wikipedia This highly flawed religious belief took root in this country before it became the USA. It never left. People still think that poverty survivors (rape victims, abuse victims, people struck by illness, etc.) are cursed by God because they are ‘bad people.’ It’s religion-sanctioned victim-blaming, and it’s long-term effects have been extremely destructive.
  2. Welfare queen – Wikipedia: A highly effective political marketing/propaganda campaign utilized by President Reagan which vilified all poverty survivors based on a fictitious character developed, loosely, out of one female African American criminal who was convicted of fraud. It is a well-established fact that this campaign was an attempted to garner the support of white voters by demonizing black people – and it worked.
    1. The Truth Behind The Lies Of The Original ‘Welfare Queen’
    2. The Real Story of Linda Taylor, America’s Original Welfare Queen
    3. Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” myth: How the Gipper kickstarted the war on the working poor
    4. The myth of the modern welfare queen
    5. Return of the ‘Welfare Queen’
  3. Deserving or undeserving poor: A European belief that was imported to the United States by European immigrants and became a permanent fixture within our culture and politics. It is a well-established fact that the hyper-examination of the relative morality of people surviving a life-threatening crisis is counterproductive to the efforts to reduce poverty, homelessness, and everything that goes with them. But the social belief remains and grant money, political favor, and individual donations are often tied to proof that poverty survivors deserve assistance.
    1. Deserving vs. undeserving poor — for the love of God, here we go again
    2. deserving-vs-undeserving-poor
  4. Performance Poverty: Thanks to the combined efforts of politicians, Hollywood and authors like Charles Dickens, people in the USA have come to expect a very specific ‘show’ when they look for proof of poverty. Some expect to be entertained, others want proof that their investment of money and/or empathetic emotion is ‘worth it’ and, therefore, want a proper performance.
    1. Comparison arguments: This is frequently accompanied by non-logical comparison arguments like:
      1. “Look at these photos of poor people in Africa! Poor people in the USA are FAT, so they CAN’T be poor…not really.” The photos shown are invariably images of people surviving war, plague and/or drought, thereby leaving them so devoid of resources that their ribs are showing through their chest. All reasonable discussions about the realities of poverty in the USA are then dismissed because those people don’t ‘look poor.’
      2. Example: What is the biggest slum in the U.S.? There are American’s who answered this question with ‘they don’t exist here,’ and then proceeded to post photos of ‘real slums’ in other countries. These answers are then debunked by other Americans who proceed to post photos of slums here in the USA.
    2. Slum tourism – Wikipedia: Upper-class Americans are known to make entertainment out of poverty by traveling to other countries and gawking at the poverty survivors in those areas. It’s…unethical…to say the least. It’s also NOT restricted to international travel. It happens here in the USA.
    3. Tiny Tim (A Christmas Carol) – Wikipedia Every Christmas season local theater’s put on yet another performance of a Christmas Carol. There are old movies shown on TV and sometimes a new version is released. ONCE AGAIN the world watches as the poor are stomped on by Scrooge and yet, one particularly saintly and sickly child keeps his faith in both God and man, showing great generosity in his ability to extend forgiveness even to Scrooge – a fact which proves to be the tipping point for massive spiritual transformation within the old wicked miser. HURRAY! The Noble savage, in the form of a handicapped child without access to health care, has given proper service to the power-holding upper class by successfully transforming the man’s soul just in time for his death of old age! Americans of all ages leave the theaters filled with Holiday Cheer and a destructively erroneous image of the ‘deserving poor’ in the form of Tiny Tim, as well as an even more destructive storyline concerning the proper interaction between rich and poor. (No, I am not a fan of this story.)
  5. Service Trips: church groups, schools, and community organizations have a frustratingly common habit of taking groups of people (children, in particular) on service trips. Instead of examining and addressing poverty in their own city/town/neighborhood, they pile into a bus or a caravan of cars and go to some magical ‘poverty land,’ like the Appalachian mountains, where they help the ‘real poor.’ Now, just to be clear, poverty survivors exist in large numbers in the Appalachian mountains – the poverty in this region is VERY real (America’s poorest white town and Why Poverty Persists In Appalachia). I object the service trip culture because it presents and solidifies through action the idea that poverty ONLY exists in the Appalachian mountains or other well-known poverty-stricken regions. This directly and significantly contributes to the collective blindness the general public has towards poverty in the USA. It even has this weird way of convincing poverty survivors themselves that their own poverty is, at least partially, a figment of their own imagination because they don’t live in one of the recognized ‘poor areas.’ For example:  I may be homeless, but at least I don’t live in the Appalachian mountains – really???

-Originally posted on Quora in answer to the question: Do Americans care about their poor people?

Reasons for Avoiding Homeless Shelters

There are many reasons why homeless people avoid using the local shelter. Some of the more commonly known reasons are a lack of sanitation, infestation with bugs or rodents, extremely dangerous people already using the shelter, problems with theft, enforced sobriety rules and being banned from the shelter for previous actions while staying there.

Here are a few more items to add to that list:

Social stigma: If a person has a vehicle or (even better) a camper they can use, then parking in some random parking lot for the night is more socially acceptable than sleeping at a shelter. Unfortunately, some shelter volunteers are there for the express purpose of identifying ‘those people’ and pointing them out to anyone and everyone who will listen. I’ve actually watched well respected and well connected ‘pillers-of-society’ do this…aggressively…on many (MANY!) occasions over the years.

Employment: If you’re serious about acquiring or maintaining employment, then staying at the shelter can be a really bad idea. People talk and word gets around. If your employer finds out you are staying at the shelter, he or she may decide to eliminate you due to the perceived risks associated with hiring a ‘homeless person.’ This is regardless of how long you’ve worked for that employer or how good your work has been and continues to be.

Abuse: Anyone running from an abusive relationship will be trying to find a safe place where they cannot be found. Shelters are not safe places for people running from a stalker, domestic violence, or similar threat of violence. It’s too easy to be found AND for the abuser to enter the premises of a shelter. If a bed in a battered women’s shelter is not available…or if the individual is male (men face abuse too)…then the standard adult shelter may be exceptionally unsafe.

Children: Even shelters that make accommodations for families with children can be exceptionally dangerous for kids and teens. Depending on the situation, the number of people using the facility (read: is it crowded?) and the way the shelter is managed, a parent may assess the situation and decide that it is simply too dangerous for the kids.

Discrimination: Shelters are often run by private non-profits and religious organizations. Therefore, some of these shelters feel they have the right to require anyone who uses their services to participate in their particular brand of religion. They also believe they have the right to deny assistance to anyone they consider to be ‘immoral’ – this includes people who are LGBT, devoted practitioners of other religions, members of races or ethnicities the group dislikes, and pretty much anything else. Sometimes a court case will be brought against a shelter for doing this sort of thing, but finding (paying) a lawyer is extremely difficult for all poverty survivors, even more so for homeless people.

Forced Adoption or Abortion: There are ‘shelters’ that ‘help’ pregnant women by providing care during the pregnancy with the aggressively enforced assumption that those women will give their children up for adoption (arranged by the shelter, through their network of lawyers and other adoption professionals, all of whom get a cut of the final sale…sorry…adoption). Sometimes these same shelters will do everything in their power to force women to abort babies that are difficult to adopt out (e.g.: they are not a popular racial mix). Bottom line? Word gets around and pregnant women who have found themselves homeless will go to extreme lengths to avoid these places and with good reason – even when other shelters refuse to provide services to pregnant women.

-Originally posted to Quora in answer to the question Why are homeless people still on the streets when there are shelters for them to go to?