Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vol 6 No 16 The Contributor

The newest edition of The Contributor was distributed to the vendors this afternoon. The meeting started at 2pm. It was 4:15pm before I was able to collect my copies of the paper.

Usually I just wait until the morning to start selling, but today I went out for an hour - straight from the meeting to my vending spot. I sold 4 papers and made 16 dollars. If only that rate maintained itself through the week, I'd be making a real living. The truth is, some hours, well, many hours, I sell two papers and make 2 dollars. If there is any rhyme or reason for why people buy when they do, and tip as they do, I don't know it. I would certainly be able to maximize my profits if I did.

Jesse Call is a name that should be familiar to fans of The Contributor.  He writes many of the featured articles in the paper.   I don't know if he's experienced homelessness before, but he has been working with homelessness related causes since graduating college 5 years ago.   His articles are always well written and well researched.  He writes the way I wish I did.

Jesse authored both of the articles on the front page of the new issue.   The first one deals with the difficulty of leaving poverty, even with a full time job - being that so many jobs, especially entry level jobs pay little more than minimum wage.   He backs up this article with information from MIT.  And you just can't argue with what MIT says.    The second article is about a local church that has been allowing some homeless people to camp on their property.  It looks like  the city is trying to shut down this ministry to the homeless.   Why is it that the only methods that city governments allow for such ministries are the most difficult and most expensive to maintain.   Being that everyone wants homelessness to end, one would think that people, especially government officials, would bend over backwards to help facilitate such services to the homeless.  Oh well.

In the News Briefs we find that the Nashville Metropolitan Homelessness Commission  is looking for a new director.  If you have experience with such programs, you should look into it.    The founder of Room In The Inn, father Charlie Strobel, will be honored at the ACLU of Tennessee's annual fundraiser.  And, in San Luis Obispo, California, a judge recently ruled that a law banning sleeping in cars is unconstitutional.   Still, I  don't expect cops will leave people in peace as they snooze.

Also in the paper, Edwin Learnard's NFL Preview gives us a rundown of the coming season.  Jeremy Blankenship gives his top 10 list of homeless rules to live by.  Ray Ponce de Leon ruminates on the history of America and the "Old Country".

Also included in this issue are the center page poems by homeless people, the sudoku puzzle (that I make), and chess puzzle (courtesy of Chess.com), the ever popular Hoboscope.  And much more.

The Contributor is worth reading.  Pick up a copy or two.

In Four Months

In four months I plan to be out of this apartment. I have developed a plan. Hopefully it will work. If not, I'm still leaving, even if it means going back to the streets. Don't worry. It may not come to that. Just know that me going to back to the streets will worry you more than me. With 14 years of experience living homeless on the streets of Nashville, I can deal with it. But lets not even think of it in those terms. That's just the default situation if nothing else works out. In the next four months I will be dedicating myself to two projects; spending as much time as I can selling the street paper, hopefully building up a savings, and writing as much as possible for publication on Kindle, which of course will eventually mean publishing for any e-reader. Technology is coming along that will make such publications available across all platforms. The one caveat about publications is that it takes 90 days to receive payment for my writing. Anything bought today would not show up in my bank account (via direct deposit) until December. Anything bought next month will not show up until January. Therefore I'll have to focus more of my energy on selling the street paper. With whatever money I'm made by the end of December, I'll go looking for a room to rent. I now have two subscribers to my blog via Kindle.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Down Side Of Beliefs

Beliefs are taught perspectives of life, the world, everything. Perspectives are a way of looking at and perceiving things in a particular way.

There is the classic example of perspective, a line drawing of a set of stairs. Depending on how you look at it, you could just as easily think the stairs are leading down as leading up. There is no correct answer, both perspectives are equally valid. But, with beliefs, a choice is made between two or more views. One view, or perspective, is labeled good and the others are labeled bad. This labeling is enforced and reenforced by the dominating culture.

Given people's propensity for conformity, for desiring to belong to the group, (however you define "group") people will adapt their personal perspectives/beliefs to that of the group. If the group says that the perspective of the stairs going up is good, then that perspective eventually becomes the definition of good, for you and everyone else under the influence of that group. All other perspectives, especially the perspective of the stairs going down, conversely, will be considered bad.
History has proven time and again that the desire to belong to a group will cause people to adjust their perspective, and thus how they think about any particular subject, so to be in alignment with the group. People will even go so far as to deny logic and physics and other common sense thinking so to conform to the group.
Americans in particular have been subject to this phenomenon. Even though many people admitted that slavery was wrong, they still participated in it because society dictated that slavery was the accepted form of labor. Once people have conformed their own thinking to that of the group, or society, it seems that their conscience is no longer plagued with doubts or insecurities about their actions as members of the group. In the photo above we see Nazis who work at Auschwitz having a good time, seemingly unaffected by the wholesale slaughter of human beings for which they are responsible. They are doing what they have been told is the right thing to do, and they have received approval and acceptance from the group in which they belong. For people who are removed from the situation so that we can see things more objectively, and are not influenced by that society, we have no desire to belong to it, we can see clearly the actions of the Nazis as spectacularly terrible. Be careful then, of the groups you wish to belong to, that you allow to persuade you, to influence your perspective of the world. Be brave enough to question your own beliefs, and remember there is a down side to every perspective.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kindle and The Homeless Guy

I am excited to announce that this blog, The Homeless Guy, is now available for your Kindle devices.  Just go to Amazon.com and search for "The Homeless Guy" and the link should appear.   It's just 99 cents per month. about 1/3 of which will go to me.

Check it out here:
The Homeless Guy on Kindle

Monday, August 20, 2012

In The Beginning

My very first blog post occurred ten years ago, today. The oldest archives are no longer attached to this blog, but can be found at http://web.archive.org/web/20020923154740/http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com/ The world has changed a lot since then, and so have I.

When I first got into blogging, very few people knew what a blog was, and even fewer were actually blogging. Blogs, (the word being a shortened form of "web log") were first created for the purpose of creating reference lists to things found on the internet. They were a device used mostly by journalists (news reporters), and most of them worked in print media. The first bloggers had to build their blogs from scratch, requiring them to have extensive knowledge of HTML, the computer code used for building web sites.

There was no small amount of confusion generated by my blog, as the author, (me), made claims to being homeless. People could not bring themselves to believe that a homeless person would have knowledge of such cutting edge technology, and they assumed that anyone who did know HTML would certainly have the capacity for maintaining an income and a home. Even more so, people could not comprehend the idea of a homeless person having a computer and access to the internet.

What most people were unaware of was a new tech company that was providing web space and an extremely user friendly interface for the purpose of blogging. The name of the company was Pyra, (one of the people involved with Pyra was Biz Stone, the creator of Twitter). This service was called Blogger, and the domain name was Blogspot.com. All that was required of an author to use Blogger was to provide a title, write the text, and then post it to the internet by clicking on the "publish" button. Pretty simple stuff. Still, people were crediting me with computer skills I didn't have.

Prya was taking blogs in a new direction, seeing a potential for blogs beyond that of logging one's internet finds on a web page. The idea had come to them that blogs could be a type of internet venue where people could express themselves, and with bloggers interacting with each other, conversations could take place, and community could develop. (which is pretty much the same idea that launched Twitter.)

As with many homeless people, I was a frequent patron of the downtown library, and it was there that I first gained access to the internet. It started for me in 1998. At that point the library had a total of two computers for patron use. On those computers I stumbled onto Yahoo's Geocities and with that created my first web pages, learning the basics of HTML as I went along. Some time later, with a grant from Bill Gates, the library opened a bank of some 12 computers.

During that time, I started getting into online discussion groups. Of particular interest was the discussion board for Sarah Mason, a contemporary Christian singer/songwriter who had reached a certain level of popularity. It just happened that Sarah also was a member of the Downtown Presbyterian Church, a church I attended, mostly because of their Wednesday lunch for the homeless.

In 2001 a brand new downtown library opened, sporting some 100 computers dedicated to patron use. When this new library opened I spent most every day there, spending nearly every hour on the internet. Early on, most people were unaware that those computers were available, so getting access to them was not a problem. As per usual, I was having a difficult time socializing with people on these discussion boards. People were often saying things I disagreed with, and I could not resist responding with my own opinion, often irately so. For some reason, I often found other people's opinions to be irritating - an irritation that I could not suppress.

Eventually it was suggested to me, by the people on Sarah's discussion board, that I should try blogging as perhaps a better venue for expressing myself. At first I was hesitant, as my experiences with Geocities had me believing that blogging would be mostly an exercise in self indulgence. After a short time, and some discussion with people on the discussion boards about blogging, I opened my blogger account. After some time familiarizing myself with blogger and how it worked, I made my first post.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Contributor Benefit

http://thecontributor.org/benefit/
SUNDAY, SEPT. 2, 2012 || 7–7:30 P.M.
Nashville Symphony musician Roger Wiesmeyer will play 10 intermezzi by Brahms on his 108-year-old, restored Steinway baby grand piano. You can live-stream the performance from your computer for just $5. Half of the proceeds and all tips will go directly to The Contributor, enabling us to keep providing for our vendors. Tune into the show by logging onto www.stageit.com, creating an account and buying Stageit “notes” (one note = 10 cents, admission is 50 notes). There is also a “tip jar” and you can buy notes during the show if you are so moved. There will be prizes for the top three tippers.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Biggest Obstacles

The biggest obstacles people face in life are not natural but man made. If people actually worked together instead of against each other, everyone would survive.

Tony Clemens

A beautiful little student film about a real homeless person who lived in Canada and was the subject of the blog, Homeless Man Speaks. He passed away about a year ago. Please watch.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Jail For The Poor

The following comes from The Contributor, Nashville street newspaper. (know that Nashvile's city jail holds an average of 350 homeless people at any given time. That's 10% of Nashville's total homeless population.)

According to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College in London, there are over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States today. That’s nearly 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Only 40 years ago, there were 200,000 people incarcerated in the United States. That means that, in a mere four decades, the number of people living behind bars has increased tenfold. To put it lightly, something is awry in our nation’s criminal justice system.

 “Locked Up for Lack of Income”: In this issue’s cover story, we add to our occasional series on criminal justice in the U.S. by exploring poverty’s intimate relationship to prison. As we learn in this story, getting caught up in the “justice” system can almost always be avoided, so long as the accused has access to one thing: money.

On the flip side, being poor in the United States means there’s a decent chance one will end up behind bars at some point in time. Contrary to the claims of equal justice, it is often the case that two people guilty of the same exact crime will find themselves on opposite sides of the barbed wire fence—a line, as we learn in this story, that too often runs parallel to the distinctions of race and class. Be sure to read this story to learn more about the state of “justice” as it relates to poverty in our country today. “When Povery and Desperation lead to Incarceration”: In our second cover story, we hear from a formerly homeless Nashvillian and vendor of The Contributor on his experience with both poverty and prison.

 Putting flesh on the bones of our first cover story, this piece illustrates vividly what it means to say that living in poverty means one might eventually live in prison. Having lived both on the streets and behind bars, this writer shares his firsthand experience with readers in a story you won’t want to miss.

 And More... In addition to these pieces, this issue also features our usual vendor spotlight, an array of quality submissions from vendors on surgery, windstorms and being a good person, an excellent new series of poems, new letters to the editor, and much more. Also, please take the time before the end of August to complete our 2012 Readers’ Survey online at www.thecontributor.org/survey. Your feedback is immensely important!

Summertime Gift Bags For Homeless People

On Friday, June 29th of this year, we experienced the hottest temperature ever recorded in Nashville - 109 degrees Fahrenheit. As if that was not enough, Nashville's high temperatures for the first couple weeks of Summer averaged 100 degrees.

These temperatures are causing many to wonder what the next few months will hold. One thing is certain, it will not take long for people to tire of the heat and begin longing for the cold days of Winter.

Six months previous to our record high, December 29th, the temperature in Nashville was a relatively pleasant 55 degrees, just half of our new record. The low for that day was a balmy 28.

What was happening on that day back in December is fairly easy to imagine. People were still procrastinating about putting their Christmas decorations back into storage. Plans for the last celebration of the season, New Year's Eve, were being discussed and finalized. With all the food eaten since Thanksgiving, people were feeling a bit regretful, and desperate resolutions for the new year were being contemplated.

Reminiscing over the holiday season, measuring the good and bad of it all, I suspect most people considered the holidays were going well. Friends and family gathered together, shared food, laughs, and other gifts. Past traditions were honored, new traditions were created. Love for one another overcame differences so that the joy of being together could be more fully appreciated.

Moreover, the good people of Nashville, mindful of the "reason for the season", were doing their best to extend the blessings of the holidays to others who may have not been so fortunate.. The impoverished, the orphaned,. even the homeless of the city were being blessed with kind fellowship, good food, and gifts.

For the homeless, gift bags filled with life's little necessities have become a Nashville Christmas tradition. Individuals, families, entire church congregations participate. It is a holiday project that anyone can do.

Items of necessity, those things which people normally take for granted, are often luxuries for homeless people. These things are collected, placed in bags decorated in holiday fashion, and distributed to the homeless wherever they are found. These items may include toiletries, heath and beauty aids, and other things that would help alleviate some of the difficulties of living homeless.

But, Christmas was six months ago.

All the holiday gifts will have been used up, and the rough conditions of street life guarantees that even the more durable gifts will need replacing by now. Brand new back packs, worn all day every day for six months straight, will no doubt be threadbare. And though some people may have found a way off the streets since last Christmas, other newly homeless people will have replaced them. 

 There is no holiday this time of year, that inspires people to be considerate of the homeless. Until next Christmas, many needs of the homeless will go unmet. Homeless people struggle daily to meet the basic human needs of food shelter and clothing, and usually don't have the resources to acquire for themselves the kinds of things that come in gift bags.

For this, many needs of the homeless will go unmet until next Christmas. That is an awfully long to go without. Perhaps it is time for a new tradition - a tradition of gifting the homeless as Summer begins.

So, what should be included in Summer gift bags for homeless people? Along with the usual items, the gift bags should include items that help them cope with excessive heat, humidity, and other conditions of Summer.

Staying hydrated is, of course, the most important need. Reusable water bottles are a good idea, but not every homeless person can to keep up with one, nor does every homeless person have access to a source of water. Periodically distributing bottled water to the homeless during the summer months is a great idea. Water that has been chilled is even better. Gatorade and similar products are also appreciated. Be aware, though, that caffeinated and sugary drinks can dehydrate people and make them even thirstier, so it's best to avoid such drinks as coffee, tea, and soda.

Gift certificates to fast food restaurants not only help to feed homeless people but at the same time become an opportunity to get inside a place with air conditioning.

Being homeless is particularly rough on people's feet, as they tend to walk and stand a great deal, especially on concrete. Because of this, healthy feet are difficult to maintain. New and clean socks and other foot care products should be a gift bag priority.

Body powder or baby powder, otherwise known as talcum is a handy way to freshen up and cool down and keep dry, especially when it will be a long time before getting to a shower.

Also consider those items you would take with you on an extended trip to a sunny place. If it is something you would want at the beach, homeless people would have a need for it on the streets. Sunscreen, cheap sunglasses, a visor or cap, etc would be helpful as well.

The making of gift bags for the homeless is a fairly simple process that can be done by one person or many. It is a great project for youth and church groups. Having many people involved will help spread out the cost so that no one person will be over burdened. Simple brown lunch bags will do, though depending on your efforts, larger bags may be needed. Young people can be employed to decorate the bags with smiley faces, stickers, and other happy crayoned images. Fill the bags with as much as you can. But, know that everything you put in the bags will have to be carried everywhere the homeless person goes, so try to not overburden them. Travel size items work best.

You might also consider adding to the gift bags things like small candies or other treats, bus passes, or hand written notes of encouragement.

Being homeless, and working to overcome it, is often the most difficult thing a person will ever do. Neither of which is done successfully without help from someone along the way. And to that end, gift bags are indispensable.

The following is a more comprehensive and yet not completely exhaustive list of things that may be included in gift bags.

Hand soap, shampoo, lotion, small towel, razors, shaving cream, toothbrush, tooth paste, mouth wash, comb, brush, chapstick, deodorant, tissues, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, nail clipper, nail file, athletes foot cream, white socks (preferably new) talcum, sunscreen, sun glasses, aspirin, vitamins, granola/protein bar, hard candy, bus passes, rain poncho, umbrella, phone card, stationary, pen, stamped envelopes, gift cards to fast food restaurants and grocery stores, etc.