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.

Poverty Survivor Pride

Video

The original posting of text covered in this video is located here: Poverty Survivor Pride: No Shame In Being Poor | Adora Myers

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!

Solving Homelessness: Health Care

Homelessness is unhealthy. In the United States poverty, extreme or otherwise, is unhealthy. For many middle-class families, simply being underinsured in unhealthy. Health care is a wide-reaching issue but the cost of health care, with or without insurance, is frequently financially devastating and potentially deadly.

Doctors don’t work for free. If you can’t pay the bill and the insurance company (assuming you have one) won’t cover the expenses, then medical care and medication are cut off. That’s the way things work.

For people trying to survive extreme poverty (homelessness), the conditions of day-to-day life exacerbate medical issues. The lack of health insurance all but eliminates health care. Trying to find work or other resources necessary to get off the streets is difficult under the best of circumstances, add an illness into that scenario and ‘extremely difficult’ becomes ‘near impossible.’

Universal Health Care

Universal health care would address the financial devastation that pushes middle-class families into extreme poverty (homelessness) when a loved one falls ill.

Universal health care would provide extremely poor people access to much-needed resources and services. Simply being able to address an illness or injury makes finding a job significantly more possible, which makes escaping homelessness possible – not easy or guaranteed but possible.

Universal healthcare would begin the long and arduous process of addressing the medical resource caste-system currently built around government-provided Medicaid and Medicare programs. People who receive health insurance through an employer have significantly more options and receive markedly better care. There are large numbers of doctors and medical care providers who refuse to accept patients reliant on government-provided benefits – unless they are government employees, in which case they receive the same care as people in the private sector. Since extremely poor people are overwhelmingly dependent upon these programs, this creates a prejudiced resource distribution wherein people at the bottom are treated very differently from people who have more social and financial ‘value.’

A true universal healthcare system would help to place all Americans on equal footing within the medical care system. It would place every person under the same medical payment system, giving all citizens access to the same medical resources without fear of financial devastation.

The social stigma surrounding extremely poor people will take significantly more time and resources to change. Medical professionals who harbor an aversion to interacting with extremely poor people (homeless or housed) will continue to shun these individuals, provide substandard care or participate in abusing vulnerable populations for the same reasons that racists treat the objects of their hate in the same manner.

The cascading effects of hatred towards extremely poor (homeless) people will have to be addressed in another way.

Solving Homelessness: Legal Assistance and Reform

Legal problems can, and often do, force people into extreme poverty, homelessness included. A court case can take over a person’s life, draining time, resources and funds. Depending on the reasons behind the case, it can cost a person their reputation, job and family – justifiably or not. Any involvement with the legal system is costly and winning is often the result of simply having more resources to devote to the process. If the issue at stake is important enough, people will (and have) devote every last resource to the fight, leaving them financially destitute.

Surviving extreme poverty (homeless or housed) is a legal quagmire of vagrancy laws; restrictions based on lack of a permanent address; illegal evictions; and accusations of theft, fraud, trespassing and simply existing (e.g.: sleeping in public). Attempting to report violent attacks or rapes is practically impossible and police brutality is not uncommon.

Those are just the most commonly known legal issues facing people trying to escape extreme poverty.

Any form of legal entanglement is devastating to impoverished families. Criminal cases are common and many of them are based on racial profiling or ridiculous laws specifically designed (and selectively enforced) to criminalize the existence of poor people because those with power don’t like seeing extreme poverty in public spaces.

I wish I could say that last sentence was an exaggeration or an analogy or even representation of worst-case-scenarios that pop-up through the country. Sadly, it is the cold-hard-reality faced by people surviving extreme poverty everywhere in the United States.

There are free legal aid programs, but they are inundated with requests for help, run by a small staff of volunteers and universally refuse to even discuss anything that is considered criminal. Legal representation provided within the court system is also overloaded and poorly managed.

As the experts in mass incarceration have pointed out, simply being part of a targeted racial group almost guarantees problems with the criminal justice system, regardless of your commitment to living a good and honest life. The same can be said for people surviving poverty – particularly those faced with extreme poverty and homelessness.

Extreme poverty and homelessness will not be significantly reduced, much less solved, until prejudiced and predatory laws are eliminated, all people are provided access to quality legal assistance and addressing an issue through the court system does not require being either extremely wealthy or a willingness to face complete financial devastation.

There’s a lot of work to be done here.
I don’t have a clean or easy answer.
It must change.
Period.

Mass Incarceration and Vagrancy Law Resources:

Solving Homelessness: Living Wage Work

“Get a job!” is one for the most common insults screamed into the faces of homeless people and individuals begging for change. Extremely poor people are stereotyped as being lazy, unreliable and unwilling to hold down a regular job. In reality, a significant number of extremely poor (homeless and housed) people hold down multiple jobs, working between 40 and 80 hours a week, month-after-month and year-after-year. The problem is not the ability or willingness to work – it’s the extremely low wages being paid by the vast majority of available jobs.

All over the country, the struggle is the same. Good paying jobs are inundated with applicants and almost every other opportunity pays less than the cost of living. Simply paying rent on a full-time minimum wage paycheck is impossible. Add in other expenses and holding down 2-3 jobs may not bring in enough cash to simply live.

The irony of this is the fact that there is plenty of work to be done and plenty of resources to go around. Take a walk around your neighborhood. How much would the 2-3 blocks surrounding your home benefit from a crew of people dedicated to simply cleaning, maintaining and fixing things? Expand that to the entire town or city. How much work needs to be done? How much of it get’s pushed aside year after year?

Then consider the number of small family businesses and start-up companies that struggle to survive in a market where large corporation not only dominate but reduce prices to the point where it’s impossible to compete. Providing people to work at small, local, businesses at a reduced cost to the business while paying the worker a living wage could help boost the local business economy.

A very simple program that simply provided a living wage job to any and every person who applied would go a long way toward reducing poverty (extreme or otherwise), preventing homelessness, and providing homeless people a much-needed opportunity to move into long-term housing.

Couple this program with standard employment assistance services and people who have been out of work for a long time will be provided a much-needed opportunity to return to the workforce. Even if every person working is doing low-skill manual labor, the possibility of being hired for completely different work significantly increases because it’s always easier to get a job when you have a job.

Also, presenting yourself in an interview becomes both difficult and complicated when you are stressed about finding your next meal, a place to sleep, the possibility of being evicted, or the overall safety of your children. These are things that employers consider liabilities and reasons to remove a person from consideration – if they should find out. They are also things that make remaining cheerful and pleasant a challenge.

A significant number of the seemingly insurmountable hurdles faced by extremely poor people could be addressed by simply providing a job that pays enough to cover the cost of living to anyone who wants one, regardless of their work history, background, criminal history, skill set or age.

This program would have to provide opportunities for teenagers, including those who are trying to help their family pay the bills, trying to care for siblings on their own or simply surviving without the help of a family. An education is crucial, but being open to helping these kids cover the cost of living through a job (full or part-time) presents a multitude of opportunities to address things like obtaining a GED.

Providing people with a criminal record or a less-than-perfect background with work that covers the cost living – guaranteed – helps to reduce criminal activity because it makes crime less necessary. When people have the ability to choose to live a good honest life, then making the decision to pursue criminal activity is more complicated because they really and truly do not have to break the law just to survive.

Making work available to anyone who needs it, at all times, also acts as a safety net for individuals who:

  • Lose their job due to cutbacks or a large corporation shutting down.
  • Quit a job due to a hostile work environment.
  • Leave their spouse due to abuse or a crumbling relationship.
  • Were forced to close a small business.
  • Are faced with the loss of work and/or income for any reason.
  • Many more…

The bottom line is simply this, providing a living-wage-job to anyone both willing and able to work benefits everyone in a specific geographic region and goes a long way toward reducing homelessness overall.

Fighting for an Education

I believed I could become more than what their statistics believed I could. I also knew, outside of my mom and sister, no one else believed I could beat the statistics. But there comes a time where you have to follow your heart, where you have to make your own decisions to better yourself, even if everyone else calls you crazy. I knew to Mr. Robertson and English, I sounded crazy, naïve . . . a little homeless boy trying to dream big. I was being overlooked. I knew there were other non-homeless students in better schools who were given an opportunity. Wanting the same opportunity shouldn’t be a crime. How could they expect me to look around at my life and just accept it, and just roll over and die? Why couldn’t I have more? I didn’t choose the life I lived. But I could choose to opt out for a better life for myself since I was the only one who had to live it…Most kids I knew were dropping out. I knew I would have to fight the public school system with everything I had if I wanted to come out college ready. If, and only if, living on the streets didn’t kill me first.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

Poor People’s Campaign: Lincoln Nebraska

The Poor People’s Campaign launches today with coordinated local protests in state capitals all over the USA.

Nebraska is one of the states that does not have a campaign organised, so I took a photo of the capital and modified it a bit:

Now there’s a protest in Lincoln, NE!

It doesn’t have the same powerful (and important) effect as a real life protest, but it’s the beginning of something…hopefully…even if that something is just an idea.

Homeless Communities

All of the following groups are working to establish communities for people trying to survive extreme poverty (homelessness):

Rootz of Change: (Atlanta, GA, USA) An intentional community, farm, training center and a community of anti-poverty activists.

Dignity Village: (Portland, OR, USA) A tiny house community offering temporary living to people trying to survive extreme poverty (homelessness). Also maintains a collection of micro-businesses. Quote from website: We feel it’s necessary to establish a community-based living facility where people living on the streets can have their basic needs met in a stable, sanitary environment free from violence, theft, disruption of peace, and drugs and alcohol.

Right to Dream Too (R2Dtoo): (Portland, OR, USA) Safe camping location/community offering a safe location to sleep. Video tours and interviews of the community are listed on the website. I recommend watching this one: Right To Dream Too (R2D2) City Hall Meetings Portland OR 2013 Quote from website: Right2DreamToo (R2DToo) was established on World Homeless Action Day, Oct. 10th, 2011. We are a nonprofit organization operating a space that provides refuge and a safe space to rest or sleep undisturbed for Portland’s unhoused community who cannot access affordable housing or shelter. We exist to awaken social and politcal groups to the importance of safe undisturbed sleep. Our purpose is to create a placewhere unhoused people can rest or sleep without being rousted by police or private security and without being under the threat of violence.

Opportunity Village: (Eugene, OR) Micro-housing community providing transitional housing and community support for homeless. Managed by Square One Villages, a non profit  dedicated to creating self-managed communities of cost-effective tiny homes for people in need of housing.

Build Our House Project: (Philadelphia, PA) Quote from website: Sustainable, supportive housing, organised by poor and homeless people, for poor and homeless people. Working to end homelessness in Philadelphia through justice and compassion.

Community First!: (Austin, TX, USA) Quote from web page: A 27-acre master planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas. A development of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, this transformative residential program exists to love and serve our neighbors who have been living on the streets, while also empowering the surrounding community into a lifestyle of service with the homeless. Additional information, upcoming events and videos can be found on the Community First Village Facebook page.

Homeless Ecoville: (Richmond, VA, USA) A self-sustaining, tiny home community created by and for extremely poor (homeless) people. Quote from website: It is a community of people who work together toward being a self-sustaining village. A Go Fund Me page has been set up to raise funds for the land.

Tiny Cabins 5 Safe Harbor: (Seattle, WA, USA) Quote from Facebook page: A safe harbor from the mean streets of Seattle, a community of tiny cabins & dorm tent shelters, doing what we can to help one another.

Evil Church Folk

The next shelter operated under a church…The temperature’s generally cold in there so we stayed layered up with jackets. We all lived in a room right beside the church. They welcomed us to the deserted early morning service but nothing else. We were under strict orders not to talk to the congregation. We weren’t allowed to interact. In fact, we had to stay as far away from them as possible, especially during service. They were afraid of us. They were afraid of a bunch of homeless people wandering around their church. It made them nervous. They couldn’t tell the homeless people there were all families. They couldn’t distinguish between us and dirty vagabonds on the corner drinking and swearing…The shower wasn’t in the building where we slept, though. Some genius put it across the parking lot. We could only take showers at designated intervals, those slots mainly around service times where more staff could monitor us. To take a shower, we had to strip down to meager towels and walk across the parking lot to the shower building with everyone around watching. Without a doubt one of the most embarrassing things I had ever done. I couldn’t begin to describe the humiliation all those cold eyes feeling sympathetic toward us, glad we were unfortunate and not them, it made me feel so bad. It didn’t make sense to me why we had to strip down to our bare essentials. I think they said an incident had happened which made them have to create such an embarrassing ordeal. They moved out of our path, far enough so we couldn’t touch them, but hovered around us close enough to get a good view….They made the ordeal even worse. They just kept staring. No smiles, no friendly conversation, just relentless attention. They didn’t whisper about us, they just silently watched.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.