Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Homeless Mindset

To survive homelessness, a person must develop a different mindset than the one he/she used while non-homeless.  Concerns, considerations, motivations, priorities, and more must all change, otherwise they might not be able to handle the vastly different environment that is homelessness.  If not able, or not prepared, a person becoming homeless might easily slip into a crisis mode.  Suicide among homeless people is much greater than in the non-homeless world.

So, when someone proclaims that homeless people are attracted to fair weather cities, or to cities with more services for the homeless, they are not taking into account what and how homeless people think about such things.  They are, instead, projecting their own thoughts and ideas onto the homeless.

The idea behind thoughts like "what's in it for me" or "what can I get out of this situation" or "where can I get the maximum benefits" etc., comes from a more egotistical and self centered mindset.  It is the mind of the materialistic capitalist, that generates such thoughts.  And if person where really this egotistical, self centered and materialistic, they would never allow themselves to become homeless in the first place.  When becoming homeless, these are the first things that the person has to sacrifice.

If you were an addict, you'd dedicate your whole being, every effort, every penny earned, every thought, toward getting your fix.  Even if you thought that it would be nice to live in San Diego, your addiction would never allow it.   As you earned money for a bus ticket to San Diego, at a normal cost of over 100 dollars, that idea of not spending that money on your addiction would drive you to distraction.  If you Panhandled 20 dollars, you would not be able to hold on to it long enough to buy a bus ticket.  All because 20 dollars is more than sufficient for becoming inebriated, and you would not be able to resist spending that money at the liquor store.   See what I'm saying?

And if you happened to be homeless due to mental health issues, well then you might as well forget it.  Even if you were able to collect 20 dollars a day in panhandling... "Squirrel"  !!  You wouldn't be able to stay focused on the task long enough to realize the goal.

Several years ago I helped to conduct an extensive survey of homeless people for the city of Nashville.  Some of the findings were:

Only 35% of homeless people ever traveled to another city.
Of those who did travel, the main reasons given were - to find work, or to be closer to family.
No one answered that question saying that they left one city for another for the sake of better homeless services, or because they were looking for a milder climate in which to live.

Homeless and the Weather

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Homeless People and the Weather

Homeless people come here for the weather.

It is one of those myths about homeless people that remains, regardless of how well and how often it is refuted.

Mostly, the statement is made in fair weather cities such as San Diego, CA.   Some people claim, erroneously, that San Diego has a large homeless population precisely because they are attracted to San Diego's mild weather.  Of course this only works if one considers only San Diego.  Yes, I understand that some people are that myopic.  For whatever reason, myopic people are usually the most phobic about the homeless.  But, if the weather really was a draw for homeless people, we should be able to see a corresponding drop in homelessness in places with worse weather.  So, lets take a look at a place with some of the worst weather in the country, Fargo ND.

Fargo has a total population of about 100,000 people.   Of that 100,000 people 720 of them are homeless.  This makes the math easy because we can easily see that the rate of homelessness in Fargo is 720 per 100,000 people.   Now, lets see what the rate of homelessness is in San Diego is per 100,000.

San Diego County has a total population of 3.5 Million people, and a homeless population count of 9000 people.   Now to find the rate per 100k, we divide the 3.5 Million by 100k and we get 35.  We then take the homeless population of 9000 and also divide that by 35.   This gives us a homeless population rate in San Diego of approx 257 per 100,000 - proving that San Diego has a much smaller rate of homelessness than Fargo ND.

Have you seen what the weather is like in Fargo ND?  How about in New York City where there are some 60,000 homeless people.  The weather sucks there too, most of the time.  The city of Seattle reports having over 9000 homeless people, at a rate of 450 homeless people per 100k, and it rains there 140 days a year and claims having 226 cloudy days per year as well.  San Diego's weather is clearly better than Seattle's, so why is it that Seattle's homeless rate is higher?

And what of Miami Florida?  It's a big tourist draw, many people go there to retire specifically because of the weather.  Yet Miami/Dade county has only 4100 total homeless people - a homeless population rate of only 197 homeless people per 100k residents.

And just to make it more clear -
Fargo ND (crappy weather) 720 homeless people per 100,000 residents
Seattle WA (a little less but still crappy weather) 450 homeless people per 100,000 residents
San Diego (the best weather in the entire country) 257 homeless people per 100,000 residents
Miami (almost as nice as San Diego) 197 homeless people per 100,000 residents

(All population numbers came from official government websites found on the internet.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Read The Comments

I do read all the comments I get from people, all the emails too - well except for a few trolls, whose messages get deleted instead of being read.  But, to keep my videos as candid and raw as possible, I will avoid commenting on youtube.  I am, though, more likely to answer your emails, if sent to thehomelessguy (at) gmail dot com.

Apr 20, 2015 Near Midnight

Apr 20, 2015

Apr 18, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Please Help

No longer being in a shelter, (winter shelters closed at the end of last month) and back to sleeping on the streets, this is an exceptionally difficult month, financially. Your donations are most needed and appreciated.

Thank You, Kevin

Monday, April 13, 2015

It's Homelessness Me

It's me leaving the cafe because it's closing.
It's me gathering my things in my cart and walking down the sidewalk  to the place I sleep.
It's me looking for a spot for my tent.
it's me setting up the tent while watching what the other homeless people are doing.
It's me keeping an eye out for the crazies and hoping they don't bother me.
It's me putting all my things inside the tent and spreading out my sleeping bag and checking my phone one last time.
It's me listening to the sounds of people walking by, and listening to make sure they keep walking and don't stop.
It's me keeping my bike lock nearby in case I am awaken suddenly and need a weapon to protect myself.
It's me trying to relax enough to fall asleep.
It's me waking up every couple hours to pee in a container so I don't have to leave the tent.
It's me being awakened by loud noises from people fighting just outside my tent.
It's me waiting for the commotion to settle down so I can get back to sleep.
It's me constantly checking my phone to see what time it is.
It's me awake at 4:30am and knowing the cops will be by in an hour to wake all the homeless.
It's me at 5:00am unable to get back to  sleep, taking down my tent, packing up my things in my cart.
It's me at 5:30am pushing my cart towards the Starbucks.

The Homeless Community Myth

Most homeless people tend to live in groups outside of any shelter system.  They create camp like communities where up to hundreds of homeless live, so long as the city allows it. Even those homeless who don't "camp" are often found traveling in groups with other homeless people.  Even in some shelters the homeless are required (forced really) to live in what is called community with other homeless people - they do so under threat of losing their shelter bed for not participating in the community.

As part of the design of some rehabilitation programs, the homeless live in close proximity with each other.  Many in the homelessness industry believe that part of homeless people's problem is that they've rejected society, or have not learned how to get along with others in a community setting. (actually it is their community that rejected them, making them homeless, but thats a post for another day).

Seeing homeless people living in these large camps is misleading because the homeless don't create such community because they want to live that way, but only because it is necessary for survival.   There is safety in numbers.  There is also the benefit of networking with other homeless people to keep apprised of services for the homeless, for knowing where the next feeding will be, for learning that some shelter has closed down for the weekend, without having to trek the 3 miles to find out it's doors are closed, etc.

For addicts, living and traveling with people with similar addictions increases their ability to get a drug fix when they need it, drunks are more likely to share a drink with a fellow drunk knowing that the offer might be reciprocated.  That's important because suddenly being without a drink can cause an alcoholic to sober up too quickly, giving him the DTs, or suffering other dangerous ailments.

The myth part is that, outside the confines of homelessness, very few of these people would ever consider being in community with other people who are or were homeless. There is nothing quaint or endearing about a homeless camp.  Often times people living in the same camp will actually despise each other, and will avoid each other at all costs.  There are several people who pitch camp where I do, but we never talk to each other unless it's to discuss what to do with a disruptive neighbor.  That's more reflective of the benefits of living in a homeless camp. Other benefits include less thievery and fighting, if only because of the many eyes and ears near by.

Still, there are no happy campers in a homeless camp.  If given the choice, the homeless would not camp near other homeless people.

From time to time you'll witness homeless people looking out for each other, or even in documentaries about homelessness, they often highlight that particular aspect, as it comes across as endearing.  But it's still not what people really want, because it's still the result of being excluded from the rest of society.

What is really best for the homeless, and what is right morally, is for all of society to remain open to, and accepting of, all homeless people.  Doing so would certainly make transitioning back into mainstream society easier and quicker, and less damage would be done to the homeless, physically and emotionally.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Homeless Reintegration Center

As I have just said, the best homeless shelter of all is no shelter at all.  Instead, shelters would be replaced with small bureaucratic processing centers that will divert people away from homelessness and into permanent housing of one kind or another.

Every Homeless Reintegration Center will have three main types of resources available to allocate to the client. 

The first is a funding stream.  If a person has lost their job, but has not yet lost their home, the center can cut a check to the landlord so to keep the person in their home.  If a person has lost their home, but is still employed, the center can also cut a check to cover first and last month's rent, and utility deposits for whatever new place is found for the client.  In each case the client is under an obligation to become and stay employed, and to take over rent payments after a certain time period has elapsed.

The second type of resource is that of employment and housing liaison.  Each client will be assigned to a case manager who will help the client secure the kind of employment and housing that will be best for the client.  The focus of this case manager will be to secure all the necessities for the client - a job that will generate enough income for a place, and  a place that is affordable and near work and/or transportation, and all the other necessities of living, and will help with procuring furniture and kitchen supplies etc.

The third resource of the reintegration center will cover all the mental health and drug rehabiliation needs of the client.  Depending on the needs of the client, a host of social workers and other professionals will be assigned to the client.

All the needs of the client will be determined at the first meeting in the Reintegration center.  Before the client leaves the center at the end of the first day, they will have the funds and support necessary to either keep or attain their home.

Ideally, the client will have a home secured before the end of the day, and will not have to spend one night homeless. 

At first, the center will focus on getting all current homeless people off the streets, and once that's done, their job becomes one of prevention.

Every middle sized city, or larger, spends millions of dollars every year just managing the needs of homeless people without every really targeting the end of their homelessness.  That money, usually in the ten to twenty million dollar range, would just as easily end homelessness, as manage it.  Managing homelessness keeps homeless people on the streets, year after year.  Ending homelessness is a win win for the city, because a city without homelessness is a better city, and because people endure untold suffering, illness, and death, while living on the streets. And getting them off the streets makes them better people.  Best of all, with this program, homelessness becomes less and less expensive to deal with.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Very Best Homeless Shelter

The very best homeless shelter would be to have no shelter at all.  Instead, the homeless would go to an office, something like the Social Security office, or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

At this office, the homeless would be given a very thorough assessment of their  condition.  From all the information gathered, a plan would be created, specific to the needs of the person, a plan that would first get them into a permanent home as quickly as possible, and would then arrange for them all the help they need to address the issues that led them to homelessness.  These services, counseling, therapy, abstinance, etc., would be home delivered where they live.

In all the studies conducted so far, this approach is more effective and cost effecient than putting all the homeless into one shelter, and expecting the homeless to solve their homeless situation on their own without assistence.

About The Best Homeless Shelter Of All

The best homeless shelter of all would be no shelter at all.  Of course I'll explain.

Up until just recently, homelessness and services for the homeless, have been thought of in just one way.  And because no one really much cared about the conditions that homeless people lived with, no one bothered to give homelessnessness a second thought.

But more people are getting involved, people who did not traditionally bother with homelessness, and they are bringing a whole new way of thinking about homeless people and homeless services.  And, these people are turning the entire homelessness industry on its head.

Most of these people are highly intelligent and educated, with degrees in social studies, sociology, anthropology, community design, and public policy.  They approach homelessness from a scientific perspective, and that's made all the difference.

For so many years, the homelessness industry was in the domain of faith based organizations.  People just assumed that by giving homeless people religion, they were giving homeless people a solution to their problems.  Well, after several decades we now know that that approach just doesn't work in any significant way.

Then the scientists came and started to study homelessness, applying scientific methods for developing an understanding of the true nature of the condition.  And from this, they have been able to develop better and more effective means to ending homelessness.   What has since been learned about homelessness has been so impressive that  even the government now supports these scientists, and the communities that adapt to the new ways of dealing with homelessness.

The ideas I express here are not originally mine, except perhaps my way of expressing them, or perhaps my particular take on how to arrange these elements to ending homelessness could be considered mine.   If anything I've ever said on this blog has inspired anyone in anyway, all I ask is to have my name plastered on a building somewhere.  That would be cool.