Part 1: How to Help Someone Facing Homelessness

Video

This is based on the post: How to Help Someone Surviving Homelessness

Discussion forums:
(2) Surviving Homelessness (quora.com)
(1) SurvivingHomelessness (reddit.com)

Transcript of Notes
(not a full transcript)

If you are trying to help someone facing a serious financial crisis and potential homelessness, then this is the place to begin. The following suggestions provide practical advice for anyone attempting to help a friend or relative survive homelessness.

This information is divided into three presentations:
Part 1 – What to do
Part 2 – What not to do
Part 3 – Seriously, just DON’T do this

This first presentation assumes the following:
1) you already know the homelessness person you are trying to help
2) neither you nor this person have ever experienced extreme poverty or homelessness before.

No one is ever just handed help of any kind you have to prove that you’re not – to use a common slur – human garbage. Anyone who’s homeless is always considered guilty until proven innocent and even then most people will assume you just haven’t gotten caught yet. That makes proving yourself to be ‘deserving’ rather complicated.

Actually, you have to prove that you’re human – and then you have to prove that you deserve to live like one.

Spend a little time trying to understand the realities of poverty in your area. Walk or drive around and take the time to actually see homeless people and low-income neighborhoods. Visit the homeless shelter. Research all of the resources available to homeless people in your area. Call around and get some basic information about what it takes to qualify for help. Then spend some time researching news stories about homelessness in the region. This will give you some insight into the way the media portrays extremely poor people and how dangerous it is to be living on the street.

Just remember that you will never truly understand what it’s like until you’ve lived it.

Simply read the biographies of people who have survived extreme poverty and nonfiction books about poverty and homelessness can be helpful. Sadly, these resources these tend to be few and far between – particularly biographies. A readily available online resource is Invisible People, a homeless journalism project that interviews people surviving homelessness and posts the interviews without edits. It’s one of the only resources that provide a voice to homeless people by simply allowing each person to tell their own story. The link is provided in the description.

After your friend or relative has become homeless, continue spending time together. Whenever possible, make a point of doing so publicly.

This kind of crisis will send a perfectly healthy human being spiraling into depression. Simple and authentic acts of friendship can help fight the despair that inevitably comes from living with the stigma of poverty.

Other people will see you together, which will reduce the damage caused by poverty stigma. This will also increase the possibility of making whatever connections are necessary to get out of homelessness.

Making alliances is crucial to both surviving and escaping poverty. Being homeless means losing police protection. Individuals without a support group or network are frequently targeted by predators –including those living financially stable, socially acceptable lives.

Publicly associating with the housed enhances the individual’s standing as a member of the ‘deserving poor.’ The is a matter of survival and 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 and those decisions are often subjective.

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 and that requires being perceived as ‘deserving.’

Community. It’s the one thing everyone surviving homelessness loses. Ostracism and stigma are part of the homeless experience. They are unfair, unwarranted, traumatizing, and will directly hinder any attempts to escape homelessness. Publicly associating with someone even after they’ve become homeless maintains a connection to the community that existed before losing everything. I can’t overstate just how helpful it is to have a public display of that connection. It’s one of the few things that can counter the ostracism and stigma, just enough to begin making additional connections that could help lead a person out of homelessness.

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

Brainstorming all possibilities, no matter how outlandish, helps re-establish hope. Some things are not possible right now, but there’s always someday.

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 life or career goals in the future. Identifying a long-term goal and looking for immediate opportunities that move in that general direction can both simplify and improve the process of escaping poverty.

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, sitting through interviews, filling out applications for assistance, looking for housing and so on.

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 might be revealed. It just requires allowing the mind to focus on what is possible.

Brainstorming discussions can help a person remember their worth and remain cautious while job hunting. 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 or abusive manager will exploit the opportunity. The end result? A terrible work experience, Job loss, a tarnished work record and minimal pay. 

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. This is about boundaries. You can’t communicate or enforce your boundaries if you don’t know what they are. Other people can’t respect your boundaries if you don’t know what they are. Identifying those boundaries are your responsibilities.

Sit down and making two lists: 1) things you can do in the short term and 2) 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 are listed here.

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.

Helping to identify and arrange temporary paid work can be a valuable form of assistance. Before we get into the benefits of odd jobs, let’s take a look at the realities of the work poor. Most homeless people already have jobs – commonly known as the working poor. Don’t assume that your friend needs additional work

If you have the ability to offer or arrange paid work, then make the offer. If they turn down your offer be gracious about it and let them know the offer remans open if they ever change their mind. Homeless people have the right t accept or refuse as they see fit. Acknowledging and respecting that fact is important.

Here are some reasons odd jobs can be helpful – if they choose to accept your offer.

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.

Helps fill a time gap on a resume.

It’s easier to find a job when you have a job.

Part 3: How To Help Someone Facing Homelessness

Video

This is based on the post: How to Help Someone Surviving Homelessness

Discussion forums:
(2) Surviving Homelessness (quora.com)
(1) SurvivingHomelessness (reddit.com)

Transcript of Notes
(not a full transcript)

If you are trying to help someone facing a serious financial crisis and potential homelessness, then this is the place to begin. This is part 3 in the 3 part series- how to help someone facing homelessness.

This information is divided into three presentations:
Part 1 – What to do
Part 2 – What not to do
Part 3 – Seriously, just DON’T do this

This third presentation assumes the following: You already know the person surviving homelessness or the person trying to survive homelessness is not exhibiting behaviors that are dangerous to themselves or others.

Identifying dangerous behaviors means you have directly witnessed or experienced violent or dangerous actions taken by a specific person. This entire presentation focuses on the terrible things people do when they act on prejudices, stereotypes and gossip. Do not be that person.

By the same token, anyone who has survived the trauma of homelessness will tell you that it’s dangerous out there and a lot of predators hover around the homeless community because they know they can do pretty much anything they want to homeless people without consequence. When dealing with strangers, keep your prejudices in check and your street smarts turned on. If you don’t have street smarts then find a buddy with experience enough to keep both of you safe.

If you can’t find a buddy and you don’t have reliable street smarts – or if you’re unable or unwilling to keep your prejudices under control – then just walk away. Leave the people surviving extreme poverty and homelessness alone and keep your judgmental comments to yourself.

This third presentation – Seriously just don’t – contains a lot of fire imagery, which is appropriately symbolic. Doing any of these things is akin to finding someone desperately in need of help and choosing to douse them in gasoline and light a match.

We’ll begin with simple verbal abuse – It’s amazing what people feel compelled to say when they find out a person is either facing the possibility of homelessness or actively surviving homelessness. All of the following examples are pulled from my own experience – this is not a compete list.

This is based on the idea that some people deserve to be poor or are inherently different from the so-called ‘good people’  born into a higher financial class. This ridiculous and offensive belief that poor people are biologically suited to poverty generates backhanded compliments like this one!

I’m glad this happened to you and not me because you’ve been homeless before, so you know how to handle it.

Poor people are being punished by god and community – that’s why you’re poor. If you’d been good, you wouldn’t be poor! This nonsensical belief comes out in fun comments like these.

I don’t have that problem. 
You must have done something wrong. 
There must be something wrong with you.

People who believe the stereotype that casts all poor people as sneaky, manipulative, moochers will say things like this. Particularly if they are those special members of the upper class who like to keep a ‘poor friend’ in their circle for bragging rights or entertainment purposes. Confiding in a ‘friend’ like that about a current financial crisis will invariable produce a comment like this one.

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.

People who believe poverty only happens to people who are mentally ill or addicted to something, love to recommend ‘getting help’ without knowing anything about the person or their situation. Side note – Mental health isn’t free. A person who can’t afford a place to live isn’t going to have money for therapy. Regardless, the stereotype generates comments such as…

I know a great therapist. I’m sure they can help you address the real problem.

Extreme poverty is just a budgeting issue – who comes up with these things? Recommending a budgeting class to poor people is like telling a starving person to go on a diet. Yes, homeless industry professionals habitually say this:

Have you considered taking a budgeting class?
Our services require completing a budgeting class.

Everyone knows that having money automatically makes you more intelligent, better educated and more polite. Proponents of these opinions can’t help but be openly surprised by someone they thought was a peer turning out to be ‘one of them!’ Saying things things like…

I thought you said you had a college degree. 
But you seem so smart. 
But you seem so nice.

Where to begin? It is annoyingly common to hear homeless industry professionals and government workers saying this. There are quite a few stereotypes and prejudices tied up into these comments. Poor women are sexually loose, can’t maintain a relationship or are poor because they had children or were simply  to ugly or stupid to land a rich man. Leading them to confront women with questions like…

Where’s your man? 
What kind of a woman are you if you can’t even land a man who can pay your bills?

Please pay attention. Most homeless people HAVE jobs. The vast majority of those who don’t have jobs are trying to find work that pays a living wage. Actually, those that HAVE work are often trying to find another job – that pays a living wage. Asking Have you tried getting a job? Only proves you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Have you tried getting a job? 

Variations of this can crop up among religious people of all kinds, but the ‘negative energy’ concern is most often used as an excuse to ostracize someone in the new age, pagan, feminist or womanist communities. Basically, you’re bringing uncomfortable truths into their daily lives and they aren’t allowing it. ‘Energy’ has nothing to do with it.

Your energy is really negative. I just can’t have that in my space. 
I am a very sensitive empath and I have to protect my space. 
Until you get rid of this negative energy, you’re just going to have to keep your distance.

Surviving homelessness means living in a state of ostracism. It’s an unfortunate and highly traumatizing fact.

The most common and vicious attacks against people dealing with a crisis, homelessness included, come in the form of backstabbing gossip.

Gossip never dies. When I was a kid, my family went to public places and collected recycling to help cover the bills. We also pulled things out of the garbage, cleaned them up and sold them at flea markets for the same reason. I personally have had co-workers triumphantly throw in my face the fact that I was one of those ‘trash kids’ and then proceed to make sure everyone else knew what I ‘really am’, which actually created some hostile work environments.

During the years that I followed the standard employment advice to keep my experiences with poverty quiet, this happened multiple times – and I mean 10, 20 even 30 years after the fact. I discovered that posting details about my experiences surviving poverty to my blog and online forums about homelessness lessened the power of this kind of gossip, but it did not eliminate the issue – And I am not unique. This is a sadly common problem.

Outing homeless people – what does that mean?

When the general public hears the word ‘homeless’ they usually think of the ‘visible homeless. These are the people who are begging on street corners, clearly intoxicated or severely mentally ill.  This is actually a very small percentage of total homeless population in any area. The vast majority of people surviving homelessness are indistinguishable from anyone else on the street. They are parents with children, single adults, teenagers and kids trying to survive the streets entirely alone. They’re invisible because they go out of their way to hide their circumstances and just blend in.

In many cases this invisibility is an important protection from predators or thieves and a key part of their strategy to escape homelessness. It’s incredibly common for employers to fire employees for being homeless or refuse to hire new employees after they discover the candidate is homeless. Therefore, secrecy is very important.

The people who are notorious for outing homeless people are 1) volunteers at homeless shelters, soup kitchens or food banks; 2) members of religious organizations that provide benefits to people surviving poverty, homeless or not, and 3) librarians at the local public library.

It takes a very small number of vicious gossips to effectively destroy the efforts of a large number of homeless people just trying to get back on their feet.

The moment a family member or friend is surviving homelessness, someone will make it their mission to disclose every secret or embarrassing detail they know. Often, they will follow these betrayals with musings about how much they regret ‘trusting or ‘believing’ or ‘being friends with’ someone who is now homeless because – obviously – something must be wrong with THEM. This is cruel. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s just plain cruel.

Defamation is a legal term so let’s take a look at the definition.

Defamation: The oral or written communication of a false statement about another that unjustly harms their reputation and usually constitutes a tort or crime.

The key element is the false statement – lies, insinuations and exaggerations – that harms a person’s reputation. Outing a specific individual as someone who has survived homelessness and then suggesting that certain stereotypes, such as 1) mental illness, 2) addiction, or 3) criminal behavior are true for that person BECAUSE – and only because – they were homeless…that is defamation. It’s illegal.

Quick bit of trivia: “The first use of the phrase ‘blacklist was in the 1639 tragedy “The Unnatural Combat” by Philip Massinger.

A blacklist is a list of people who have been who are punished or boycotted. It’s unethical, at best. In the United States blacklisting is also illegal in some states – under certain circumstances. The reality is that this happens to everyone experiencing homelessness – because they are homeless – the reasons behind their current crisis are often irrelevant.

From the moment a person becomes homeless they will find themselves blacklisted by people they trust Friends, family and members of the community they previously participated in. This is part of the ostracism and dehumanization process. The blacklisting itself usually manifests in the person trying to survive homelessness being cut out of family gatherings, blocked  from community events, and isolated from everyone.

 As people talk and it becomes clear family and friends are spreading the word that this person is homeless and warning people against interacting with or assisting this person – intentionally or not. Others will take it a step further and start cutting the person off. Landlords will refuse to consider renting to homeless people. Some businesses will start following the person around and accusing them of shoplifting, provide a noticeably bad haircut or sell them food that has been tampered with.

This can spread to the services provided by the homeless industry, medical professionals, and similar services. As people talk a person can get labeled as ‘underserving’ and when those rumors reach the individuals controlling access to gov’t benefits and non-profit resources, it can influence their decisions and actions, effectively cutting the person off from what little social safety net currently exists.

God blocking refers to clergy or lay members of a religious organization blocking people from participating in religious services, taking volunteer positions within the organization or socially ostracizing a person for ‘religious reasons.’ Usually, the people doing the god-blocking will justify their actions with theories about how they are doing ‘what God wants.’

That brings us to the end of Part 3 – Seriously, Just DON’T when helping someone facing homelessness. Please check out parts 1 and 2 and, as always, thank you for listening.

Solving Extreme Poverty

The video presentation Solving Extreme Poverty and Homelessness in the USA can be seen on YouTube:

Commentary on Quora can be accessed here: https://qr.ae/pG5f5w

PDF of all slides in the presentation:

The text of the presentation with slide titles in bold:

Solving Extreme Poverty and Homelessness in the USA

This presentation describes a potential solution from a big picture perspective. These ideas are being presented as a starting point for discussions on poverty and homelessness. I am inviting fellow poverty survivors – people with lived experience surviving poverty, particularly homelessness – to participate in this discussion. If you have never experience poverty directly, your support is appreciated but please be respectful and allow people with lived experience take the lead in this conversation.

Big Picture, Big Steps

Three (3) different plans with overlapping goals implemented simultaneously. This presentation covers the objectives of all three plans and then looks at the five-year plan in more detail.

5-Year Plan: Objective

The 5-year plan.

The objective is to meet the immediate needs of people currently surviving extreme poverty or homelessness, those in danger of slipping into poverty and people escaping catastrophic events, 

5-Year Plan

To this end, the 5-year plan focuses on providing emergency support to those surviving poverty, universal support to everyone and the establishment of emergency facilities and basic infrastructure to support providing for a large population a catastrophic event.

50-Year Plan: Objective

The 50-year plan.

The objective is to address the root causes of social inequality, financial inequality, global warming and environmental destruction.

50-Year Plan

This requires digging deep into complicated issues like systemic racism, global warming, environmental destruction and crumbling infrastructure.

500-Year Plan:  Objective

The objective is to address long-term problems through multigenerational planning.

500-Year Plan

The 500-year plan lays the groundwork for making changes while fostering a culture of identifying and evaluating potential risks and consequences across many generations.

5 Year Plan

Now for a more detailed look at the five-year plan.

On its own, this is an ambitious band-aid for out-of-control homelessness and poverty in the United States, designed to keeps people alive while facilitating a transition into the 50-year plan.

Emergency Support

Emergency support is a lifeboat, not a final destination.  It consists of an expansion of both the resources available and the number of people eligible, while simplifying the process for accessing necessary resources.

Government Benefits

Food, housing, transportation and childcare make up the most basic benefits already available. They also address some of the most basic necessities.

Government Benefits

Modifying the existing program is simple: 1) increase the amount o all resources made available to each person, 2) increase the annual income requirements to include the middle class,

Government Benefits

3) simplify access – For example: automatically enrolling everyone whose tax returns indicate eligibility

Government Benefits

And 4) Expand benefits to cover more key issues faced by people surviving poverty, such as student loan forgiveness and free legal assistance

Universal Support

As the title implies, these resources would be immediately available to everyone.

Universal Basic Income (UBI)

Universal Basic Income or UBI checks providing a reliable monthly payment to everyone over a certain age, regardless of income, living status or participation in other government assistance programs. Cash in hand goes a long way towards establishing nationwide financial stability and ensuring the basic needs of the population are met.

Universal Health Care

Five (5) years of Universal health care, covering all aspects of mental and physical health care at no cost to the patient, including medical programs normally addressed outside of hospitals, like dental, eye and chiropractic care.

Universal Photo IDs

The universal ID would be designed to be entirely free of charge, reasonably easy to create, centrally managed and regularly updated. To that end, a new ID could be based on anything from standard identification documentation to information provided by the individual verbally or select biometric data types.

Universal Photo IDs

The objective is to get everyone into the official universal photo ID system, including people who already have other forms of government ID, thereby making it commonly available and useful.

Universal Photo IDs

This may require connecting it to a specific purpose, such as voter identification, a centralized medical records system, or the universal medical benefits program.

Emergency Facilities

Emergency facilities are distinctly different from existing resources available to people during a crisis. They are designed to provide refuge to a very large population of people, pets and property during anything from a personal emergency to a catastrophic event or a mass evacuation.

Facility Formats

The resources currently available have three (3) possible formats: 1) a cold site, 2) a warm site, and 3) a hot site.

Cold Site

A cold site takes time and effort to set up and may require additional supplies to get up and running. Examples include bomb shelters, remote summer cabins or an RV only used for vacations.

Warm Site

A warm site is used on a limited basis or has a primary purpose that makes it reasonably easy to modify quickly. Either way it is partially up and running and mostly operational. Examples include schools, community centers, churches and stadiums.

Hot Site

A hot site is fully functioning and continually operating. Examples include hospitals, hotels and homeless shelters. Unfortunately, currently operating hot sites are not equipped to handle a large-scale emergency.

Hot Site

Homeless shelters struggle to meet the needs of people surviving poverty on an average day.

Hot Site

Hospitals and hotels are neither designed nor equipped to handle a large population for an extended time.

Hot Site

Emergency Facilities are hot sites specifically designed to handle the worst-case-scenario by meeting the long-term needs of an extremely large population during a crisis – whether that crisis affects a single person or involves a mass-evacuation.

Basic Requirements

Emergency facilities provide a place to live, a place to die, the resources necessary to live, and the ability to access at least one facility from anywhere in any state in the country.

Handicap Accessible

They are 100% handicap accessible because an evacuation event requires fast and simple processes. Able bodied people can used handicapped accessible housing without modification or difficulty. The same cannot be said about people who are handicapped or injured being placed in standard non-accessible housing.

Handicap Accessible

A facility that is 100% handicapped accessible can provide housing and basic resources to anyone at any time – without delay. Simple. Fast. Efficient.

Known Population

The facilities, supplies and the public transportation connecting them MUST be designed to meet the needs of 150% of the total known population of the entire state.

Known Population

That number includes the housed, unhoused, and temporary residents.

Known Population

Why 150%? First, it’s an emergency facility. During an evacuation, everyone is moved out of the danger zone and into a safe place no questions asked – there MUST NEVER be a moment when people are stopped and evaluated for access.

Known Population

Second, if the entire population is evacuated to these facilities at the same time and the total population count is off by 10%-25% or more, then there’s still plenty of room for everyone, including emergency transfers from other facilities.

Emergency Transfer

Which brings us to Emergency transfers. These are pre-established plans for moving people to different emergency facilities when the local facility is compromised, destroyed or at capacity.

Emergency Transfer

To illustrate, Try to imagine the states of California, Oregon and Washington on a map. All three states share an ocean coastline and problems with regular natural disasters, such as earthquakes, wildfires, floods and drought.

Emergency Transfer

In this fictitious scenario…California has three (3) emergency facilities, Oregon has one (1) and Washington State has two (2). A wildfire rips through Oregon, forcing the evacuation of a large portion of its population to the emergency facility. This works until the fire changes course and starts heading for the facility itself

Emergency Transfer

Despite planning, prevention and firefighting efforts, the fire gets dangerously close, and the Oregon facility must be evacuated. Per the plans already in place, the entire displaced population is sent to emergency facilities in California and Washington State via specially designed public transportation, such as a high-speed rail.

Emergency Transfer

When transfers arrive, they are immediately provided living arrangements and access to all resources. Housing and assistance continues for as long as each person or family needs.

Emergency Transfer

When the Oregon facility re-opens, those who remain at the emergency transfer locations are given the option of being transferred back to Oregon. Transfers are always free of charge and, outside of an emergency evacuation, they are voluntary.

Medical

An emergency facility requires comprehensive medical resources. Because this is a continuously operating facility, those resources are available – free of charge – to anyone who needs them 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Nursing Homes and Hospice Care

A mass evacuation event is going to generate serious injuries, some of them fatal and others requiring long-term care. Evacuations also include nursing home residents and hospice patients in other regions of the state. Therefore, the emergency facility must be prepared to handle the needs of these patients.

Nursing Homes and Hospice Care

Homelessness among the elderly is becoming more and more common. Serious illness often causes financial ruin that leaves individuals and families at the mercy of the welfare system and homeless shelters. Therefore, facilities must be prepared to continuously accommodate the needs of people dealing with a family or personal crisis.

Political

Catastrophic events do not adhere to a political calendar. Citizens evacuated to an emergency facility still have the right to vote in all elections – local and national. Voting options must, by necessity, be made available to all citizens residing at a facility for any length of time.

Communications

Basic communication resources include reliable high speed internet connections and universal cell phone towers designed to allow the entire population the ability to contact family and friends, or to remotely connect to work and school.

Communications

This facilitates communication between individuals, families and government agencies during a disaster. It also helps to encourage people to leave an area in anticipation of a known pending disaster, like a hurricane.

Education and More

Getting back to normal after a disaster takes time. Most likely, people forced to rely on an emergency facility will live there for several months or even years. Life continues.

Education and More

Children must be educated, and college students need to finish school.

Education and More

There are religious events and cultural holidays to observe.

Education and More

Athletes and arm-chair warriors alike need to continue their training.

Education and More

Opportunities to participate in both sports and the arts relieves stress, builds community and helps people continue living their lives. Which, in turn, helps people recover from a traumatic experience and get their lives back on track.

Legal System

Laws and policies governing emergency facilities must be consistent across the entire network to ensure that a flood of people traveling between facilities during an emergency transfer can complete the move as smoothly as possible. The fewer details people are trying to figure out during an emergency, the better.

Community and Culture

Many people will stay at a facility temporarily. Some will take a job and settle down permanently. There will be students who come seeking a free education and individuals who simply choose to remain long-term – these are all good things.

Community and Culture

Anticipating the establishment of a permanent community and actively working to foster a culture that is conducive to the unique nature of life at an emergency facility will help ensure smooth operation over the long-term.

Big Picture, Big Steps

That’s the basic overview of the primary components of the five-year plan à Emergency support, universal support and emergency facilities.

Solving Extreme Poverty and Homelessness in the USA

Thank you for listening!

Poverty and The Law of Compounding Exploitation

As a security professional within a corporate environment, I am tasked with identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities or threats. Information Security (InfoSec) effectively comes down to this: 1) know what you have (valuables), where it’s located and who has access to it, 2) identify potential vulnerabilities/weaknesses coming from both inside and outside the company (or DMZ), and 3) eliminate/reduce all vulnerabilities and weaknesses to the fullest extent possible, while carefully monitoring those that you choose to allow to remain unaddressed (there are many reasons for making this decision).

Take this process and apply it to a community of people. For the sake of argument:

  • Make 10% of that population homeless.
  • Create an economic structure wherein people are constantly flowing in and out of homelessness. The population keeps changing.
  • The total % of people who are homeless increases, slowly, over time.
  • 25% of the people who experience homelessness spend the rest of their lives living with a mental or physical illness (disability?) acquired as a direct result of being homeless.
  • 75% of the people experiencing homelessness, at any point in time, are children.
  • The protection afforded to housed people is not provided to homeless, making them perfect targets for criminals, predators and ‘recruiters’ of all kinds.
  • Surviving homelessness requires surviving violence.

If this community has 100,000 people, then a minimum of 10,000 people are being forced to live underground at any given moment in time. 7500 of these individuals are children whose education is being interrupted and/or negatively impacted by the experience. There are also a minimum of 2500 people who are dealing with illnesses and disabilities as a direct result of being forced to live underground while surviving extreme poverty.

Those 7500 children and 2500 permanently injured/disabled adults (we’ll assume they are all adults) are (re)entering society with training, experience, perspective and skills that may or may not positively contribute to the safety, security and positive function of society.

As a security professional, I shake my head in disgust because those 7500 unknowns (at this point, they are not officially threats) were completely avoidable. I did not have to be concerned about them at all. It is a situation that could (should) be eliminated through housing, access to basic resources/necessities, respectful and effective assistance from police forces and safe, quality, reliable and free education.

Now, let’s introduce some known threats.

All of these threats could consist of a grand total of 10,000 people due to overlap (read: the highest number listed above), but it also could consist of a total threat base of 16,200 people – assuming no overlap. So my known threat base ranges from 10,000 to 16,000 people in the total population. Assuming %s remain consistent and all known threats are adults, then it can be assumed 250–400 experienced homelessness at some point.

I’m guessing that you are looking at that relatively low number of homeless predators and wondering: how does this illustrate compounding vulnerability exploitation? Allow me to illustrate…

Compounding force #1: One vulnerability leads to a strengthening of a threat which, in turn, creates another vulnerability.

10,000 perpetrators/threats (10% of the total population) are committing crimes against 10,000 vulnerable (homeless) people (10% of the total population) either by preference or as a form of practice. The homeless are not provided police protection and they cannot defend themselves due to extreme poverty and social stigma. Therefore, a potential criminal who has not crossed the line into full-blown criminal activity, is provided a ‘sandbox’ where these behaviors can be acted out and perfected before perpetrating them against people who ‘matter.’

Compounding force #2: The purposeful allowance of an exploitation, and the refusal to take proper action in response, increases both the threat and the vulnerability.

The widespread acceptance surrounding the degradation, marginalization and violent treatment of poverty survivors (homeless people in particular), creates a pervading social construct (culture) that is less able (unable?) to identify and address these same behaviors perpetrated against the general population. The community has become ‘numb’ to criminal activity and lost a significant (important) portion of it’s willingness and/or ability to properly address these actions.

The culture of a community/environment must be such that threats can be identified and addressed, promptly, properly and effectively. If the culture is negatively affected in one circumstance, allowing a known threat/criminal act to go unaddressed (unpunished), then that same threat will not only continue, but will grow stronger and begin to expand (aggressively).

Compounding force #3: Threats that are mitigated ad-hoc and separate from the whole often generate more vulnerabilities and create new categories of threats.

The widespread refusal to treat poverty survivors (homeless in particular) with the basic respect due to any human being, combined with an aggressively enforced caste system that forces people into permanent association with a ‘lesser-than’ category, directly and negatively affects all poverty survivor’s ability to improve their lives both financially and socially. They are placed between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place.’

Desperation and lack of options can force people to find creative solutions (this is good), but it can also push them into making alliances and decisions that place them into the community threat category (this is bad).

The homeless are the absolute bottom, they are not the entire community of poverty survivors. Those who are surviving poverty while remaining housed (however tenuous that situation may be) will see what is happening to those trying to survive homelessness. The actions taken against the homeless will directly and profoundly effect the decisions made by those who are ‘merely poor.’

The two communities combined are placed in a state of desperation, trying to improve their situation. This makes them all particularly vulnerable to everything from relatively light criminal activity (e.g.: shoplifting) to criminal association (e.g.: joining a gang or a criminal network) and radicalization (e.g.: joining terrorist organizations like the KKK or ISIL and participating in hate crimes or terrorist attacks).

By isolating and ignoring the safety and welfare of one segment of the community, the threat level is increased for another segment of the community. Due to the ostracism and marginalization of poverty survivors, the actions taken by poverty survivors, in reaction to their situation, are separate from the actions taken by the police and similar organizations in protections of the community as a whole. This disconnect creates an increased number of threats seeking to exploit vulnerabilities found throughout the community.

Compounding force #4: The creation of exploitable vulnerabilities increases with the acceptance of those exploitations.

When the only thing separating those vulnerable to degradation, vicious social behavior and open violence is financial standing, moving a targeted individual into a state of absolute vulnerability hinges on destroying their financial standing.

In other words, everyone is vulnerable, because anyone can have a financial crisis at any moment.

It’s easy to assume that you are immune to such experiences. But it is even easier to examine the life and habits of any individual or family and identify that ways in which they could go from housed and financially secure to living out of shelter – in a stunningly short period of time.

For criminals and predators, this is an important loophole. It permanently establishes a vulnerability within every single household, that can be exploited to reduce or eliminate a threat to criminal operations. Because the vulnerability is entirely financial, exploiting it presents minimal risk to criminals and predators. After all, arranging for a family member for come down with a mysterious illness that requires a lengthy hospital stay, or simply ensuring the primary breadwinner looses his or her job, is relatively easy.

Conclusion

There is no such thing as an isolated threat. Every ecology or environment (e.g.: computer systems, the environment, human social networks, towns and cities, etc.) operates within the push-and-pull of threats-vs-vulnerabilities. Every threat has the potential to grow strong and every vulnerability has the potential to grow larger. Both have the ability to spread to other systems, ecological environments, communities, etc.

Dividing the world into absolute, unchanging, categories of US and THEM is a dangerous habit. A truly effective system of threat identification and mitigation recognizes that there is no them – there is only us.

God’s Spam Filter

Do you ever think back over all of the problems you’ve faced, the prayers you’ve prayed, and the final outcomes? Do you ever compare all of the time spent asking for God’s help to the times when help was received, and then look up to the sky and think “Are my messages going into your spam filter?”

Yeah. Me too.

-Just some random thoughts floating through the head of Adora Myers

T-Shirt Dreams

Quote

Last night I woke from a dream I do not remember. It wasn’t a very memorable dream, so there was no regret in not remembering. The sole memory that remained was the following statement:

Change is a choice,
Choice is a change.

I’m seriously considering putting it on a t-shirt.

-Adora Myers