Sunday, April 20, 2014

When Movies Disappoint

It is not usually a "bad" movie that disappoints people.  It is when advertising leads people to believe a film will by one kind of movie when it's actually another.  Many good films suffer at the box office because of this.
I just watched "Blue Jasmine" and found it to be such a movie.  It was billed as a comedy of sorts, but there was really nothing funny about it, despite it being written and directed by Woody Allen.

It is a story about the creation of a homeless woman (although homelessness is never directly mentioned, only hinted at in the final scene).   It follows her journey from high society, through tragedy to despair and eventual mental illness and destitution.   The main roll was expertly played and worthy of the Oscar she received.  The movie did suffer, if just a small amount, because the rest of the cast was played by third rate actors and comedians - yes even Andrew Dice Clay is in this, though for the life of me I don't know why - he was certainly the low point of the movie.  Still the lead was so well played by Cate Blanchette that she more than saved the movie.

Regardless of the attempts as humor, the theme was just too heavy for them to create any comic relief.  If you've ever wondered how a any person, but especially a person of means, can fall into homelessness, then watch this movie.  It will answer many of your questions.

Homeless GoPro

As I make preparations to start videoing my homeless experience, I find this on the big ol' webs It is a project where Gopro cameras are given to the homeless, and they share those videos with the public, giving people a unique first hand view of homeless life.

This is pretty much what I want to do here in San Diego.   If you feel so inclined, please send a message to them, and ask them to include me in this project! click on their "get involved" button (or click the link I provided) "get involved".    Thanks!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Laptop Troubles

I need to get a new laptop, if I am to continue with my blogging about homelessness.   Their are several issues I am having with my current laptop - it has slowed down considerably since I first got it and maintenance isn't helping.   It is also very slow at starting up, and slow at finding and logging into whatever wifi I can find.    When I am able to connect to wifi, the contact is always slow and weak   And with blogs being less popular and youtube vlogging becoming the main source of internet activity, I need a laptop that can process, compress and upload video in a timely manner.   as it is, it takes the majority of my time to upload the few short videos that I have created.    Additionally, my laptop is bigger and heavier than practical, especially since I have to carry it everywhere I go.   I need a machine that can better handle processing video as well as one that is smaller and more portable.    As it is, my audience is shrinking and to regain my standing on the internet is to engage people in these new formats of video and podcasting (the company that owns now considers video as a form of podcasting).    I need to either make these changes in what I do on the internet, or just let it go altogether.     I do think there is potential on the internet for me to make a modest living as a "content creator".   I just can't get there with the machine I currently have.

This is why I started the Fundly account in the right hand column.   Please donate.  It really wouldn't take that many donations to reach the goal.   And I would be very grateful!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Homeless In A Shelter Versus Outside

Updated 4/16/14

Overall, more homeless people live in shelters than outside.   Roughly two thirds of all homeless people live in shelters.   One third of homeless people live outside.   There are many factors that come into play that lead a homeless person in one direction or another.   Where a homeless person stays is determined more by situations and conditions than just choice.   It is a rare occurrence for a shelter to not be filled to capacity every day of the year.

Every situation and condition can be found in the homeless environment, regardless of the place.  Still, no two places are the same.  The situations and conditions of the homeless environment very mostly by degree.  For example, in some cities there exists two or more types of homeless shelter, in other cities, there is only one.   In the cities were there is only one type of homeless shelter, they will most likely be religious.   In the greater Boston area, there are 21 homeless shelters, most of which are run by the city and have no religious affiliation.   In the Nashville area there are four shelters, all of them are christian based, one is run by fundamentalist christians, one is run by many denominations, though it leans catholic, and the other is the salvation army.  One is a family only shelter.  The shelter run by the fundamentalist christians is by far the largest.   In Las Vegas there are a half dozen shelters, most are religious some are not.  But the largest shelter there is run by Catholics.    And Catholics and Fundamentalist Christians run shelters very differently.   The Catholic shelters tend to be more compassionate and work to meet the needs of the homeless, whereas fundamentalist christian shelters focus more on condemnation of sin, and on conversion to their denomination.   As one director of the Nashville Rescue mission has said "I'm not here to end homelessness, I'm here to make christians."   There may be a correlation between this approach to homeless sheltering and the fact that fundamentalist christian shelters have a reputation of being the most violent and unpleasant.

So, let us now compare some of the differences between living in a shelter with living outside.

1. Autonomy - Perhaps "independence" would be a better word.   Living outside allows a person to be themselves, and as much as possible, in control of their own lives.  When staying in a shelter, people must relinquish control over what they do and where they go, while in the shelter.   To many homeless people, this giving up of control is equivalent to relinquishing their sense of dignity and self respect.  When a homeless person lives outside he is beholding only to himself and what he deems best for himself.  When living in a shelter, a person must give up his own ideas of right and wrong, and must submit to the rules of the shelter.   Certainly rules alone are not a bad thing, especially when operating a large facility.  But most shelters create an excess of rules that even none homeless people would have a difficult time conforming to.  Shelter workers usually work with very little oversight, or training, and they often distort the rules or make up rules to suit their personal ideas of right and wrong.  These shelter employees, because of the lack of supervision, are likely to mistreat the homeless, against which the homeless have no recourse.

2. Safety - Often, shelters promote themselves as a safe alternative to living on the streets. But from all I've experienced, this is not always true.   It all depends on how the internal operations of the shelter are managed.   In a shelter I stayed at in Las Vegas, there were always two guards on duty within each dormitory.   In Nashville, there were no guards in the dorms.  The only person "on duty" during the night was in an office a good distance away from the dorms.  And it was not unusual to find this person asleep.   Without proper oversight the environment within shelters can be conducive to violence and theft and drug abuse.  Shelters are always crowded which in itself can create stress, and the homeless become frustrated for having to wait long periods for services, usually having to stand in lines, on their feet, for hours.  Then, when services are rendered, they are usually less than adequate for the homeless person's needs.  

Fights happen occasionally in shelters, but the stress of being in a shelter creates an environment where the homeless are constantly being aggravated, so anger is constantly being expressed by one person or another.  Theft happens more often.  And although drugs are not allowed in shelters, addicts can either partake of drugs immediately before entering a shelter, or will be able to sneak drugs in when shelter employees become lax in their duties.   Still, within a shelter, when a fight does break out, usually there is someone around to break up the fight, and the offenders are removed from the shelter. That of course depends on the situation.  It is not uncommon for the instigator of a fight to con the shelter workers into believing that he was actually the victim, and his victim is escorted off the property.

Although street predators do exist, homeless people can keep themselves safe by keeping their guard up and paying attention to their environment.   This involves such things as deciding where and how to sleep at night, staying sober, and having a sense of their changing environment, to know who you can trust, and to know when a peaceful situation is about to become ugly.   As with all people, homeless people don't usually pick on random people to fight.  Fights, for the most part, only happen when one homeless person feels they have been wronged by another.  Keeping to one's self is the best protection from such fighting and general aggravation.   I can't tell you how many arguments and fights I've witnessed because one homeless person asked another homeless person to watch his possessions while he was away, and that other homeless person did not fulfill that promise as expected.    It starts out something like this:

     "you said you'd watch my stuff for me while I went to the food stamp office.  when I came back you weren't here"
     "well, you were gone for 4 hours, I wasn't going to stick around all day waiting for your ass to get back, I had something I had to do too"
     "I just stopped at the store on the way back to get some beer"
     "Well, let me have a beer then"
     "It's all gone, we drank it already."

Then the yelling starts, then perhaps shoving, and the fists fly.   One or two punches later and it's over.   Revenge violence is more of a concern.   If you have upset a homeless person, and they know where you sleep, they  might attack you in the middle of the night.   Still such occurrences are rare and most homeless people will never experience it.   Just as often, it happens that two homeless people are drunk, one gets mad over something the other said or did.  He shoves the other guy, the other guy, being drunk, loses his balance, falls and hits his head on a rock.   Death wasn't intended, accidents happen to a lot of drunks.

3. Mental Health - If a homeless person has certain mental health issues then he won't be able to stay in a shelter.   It's not that shelters have rules against the mentally ill, it's just that the behaviors of many mentally ill people are not allowed within shelters.   Schizophrenics who have discussions and arguments with imaginary people will eventually cause a disturbance in the shelter.  Others who don't understand the behaviors of the mentally ill may feel threatened by them, and for this fights might break out.   When you have a hard time dealing with reality, it's hard to defend yourself from accusations, and for this you may be removed from a shelter.  It just depends on how a person's mental illness manifests itself.   Some mentally ill people have no problem getting along in a shelter.

For some schizophrenics, drinking actually helps to alleviate symptoms of their mental illness.  Getting drunk may help make the voices in his/her head go away.   But in many shelters, a person is not allowed to be intoxicated.   Only by staying outside is the person have to drink to his/her content.

And just the plethora of rules in shelters makes it nearly impossible for some mentally ill to survive within a shelter.   And most shelter employees are not trained to deal with people who are mentally ill.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Please Send A Donation Today

Advocacy Difficulty

Actually, it's the most difficult thing for people to do, not just homeless advocates.  When considering what's best for the homeless, people cannot help but attach their own world view to the process.   If it is a religious person, their answer to the question "what's best for homeless people?" will always reflect a religious answer. Or if a person is a big proponent of Capitalism, their answer to the question will reflect capitalistic ideals.   And, of course, there are as many different world views as their are people.

But none of these responses to the question offer a "what is best for homeless people" answer.

First and foremost, when considering what is best for the homeless, people MUST strip themselves of all preconceived notions, not just about homeless people, but about life in general.   Only after doing so will they be able to accurately see what will best answer that question.

The first step is to rid one's self of all sorts of prejudices and emotions they have attached to the subject of homelessness.  Then they have to step outside of themselves and acknowledge that what may work well for themselves may not work well for others.   Only then can a person see through to the actual needs of others, and to what would be best for them.

If only temporarily, let go of your religion, let go of your politics, let go of your own personal up bringing, let go of your personal world view and philosophy of life.   Then look upon the homeless for who they truly are, and what would actually work best at ending their homelessness.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Evictions And A Conviction

There are some apartment buildings, mostly SROs, that offer cheaper rent than normal.  To qualify to live in such a place, you have to prove that you don't make very much money.   For this service, the government subsidizes the apartment building owner, to make up the difference of what the building would have earned otherwise.

Our government, having no other function but to create and enforce laws, is constantly making more laws - even when additional laws are not necessary.   Politicians like to show off, like to prove that they are doing their jobs, by creating more and more laws.   It has gotten to the point that when a person commits a single criminal act, that person can be found guilty of violating several laws.  It is overkill to be sure.  But I digress.

Besides laws concerning crimes, government also creates regulatory laws.   And one of it's favorite subjects to regulate is the help it provides to the poor and disabled.   Always fearful that someone might get away with abusing the system, this system has been overly burdened with regulations - to the point that often the regulations prevent any help from getting to those it was intended for.

Say, for example, you become poor because you lost your job.   Well, what happens after losing your job?  You can't pay your rent.  And what happens when you can't pay your rent?  You are evicted from your home/apartment.    Now, guess what one of the requirements is for getting a low rent apartment?  That's right, you are not allowed to have even a single eviction on your record.  In addition, you aren't allowed to have a criminal record either.    A person commits a felony.  When he gets out of prison, he has a difficult time finding a well paying job.  He lives in poverty.  He can only afford one of these low rent SROs.  But, because of his previous conviction, his application for the apartment is denied.

As for myself, I have 2 evictions, and one conviction of a misdemeanor offense. Additionally, the amount I receive from SSI doesn't allow me to live in but the cheapest of apartments - that's if I'm ever able to find one that will accept me.