Sunday, December 10, 2017

New Triage Shelter [on Railway Rd.] moves toward completion

I received a generous response from Leo McFarland of VOA on the status of the 200-bed Triage Shelter that is progressing toward completion on Railway Rd.

McFarland writes,
Tom, all the contacts and referrals to the Triage Shelter are coming from the outreach team called the Impact Team.  No walk ups are allowed per our contract with the City.
Last night's opening was scheduled to be limited to 50 individuals for several reasons. First the Impact team transports each referral over to the Shelter which limits the number that could be handled by this group on opening day.

Secondly, and more to the site permit challenge, we have not completed the full interior build out as yet. We are going to erect physical walls in the Shelter to provide for guests' privacy in the sleeping areas.

Everything is complete for this build except we cannot begin to set it up until the city issues us the building permit.  It is under review by the city and we expect to get the green light very shortly. Secondly, the beds are required to be bolted to the concrete floor before we can use the upper bunks. This is a requirement of the building dept. We cannot affix the beds until we finish building the walls I mentioned earlier.

The schedule had us opening on Dec 15, but everyone wanted to push that day up due to weather conditions so we got ahead of all the final permitting processes which limits us in how many we can welcome into the Shelter until everything is complete.  

Hope this helps a bit to clarify what is going on.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Railway Road Shelter opens near Globe Mills

The 200-bed shelter at Railway Road and Del Paso Blvd opened last night -- Friday, the 8th -- with fifty homeless people spending the first night there. The shelter -- as yet unnamed -- was scheduled to open on December 8, but is not as yet ready to be populated by the maximum number of people and their pets that, when the shelter is completed and ready, are expected to be staying there. The shelter, for winter, will be open through March 31.

An article written by Cynthia Hubert in the Sunday, Dec. 10 edition of the Bee, is the source of this news.

One peculiarity that is perhaps trivial, but maybe not, is Hubert's unfortunate use of the word "trudge" in describing the, um, walking style of those who first made use of the shelter. "Trudge" is a derogatory word associated with Libby Hernandez, the three-wheel nun. It has been noticed by homeless people, themselves, that they "walk," as opposed to "trudge" when they move forward.

In addition to accepting the pets of sheltered homeless people as guests, the shelter, when in full operation, will allow couples to bunk next to one-another. Also, in the near future, the shelter will offer "wrap-around" services that, according to Mayor Darrell Steinberg, are "designed to put homeless people on a path to permanent housing."

The last part of Hubert's article discusses continuing controversies related to the shelter. Regular citizens who live proximate to the new shelter are upset due to "a lack of details about certain issues, including additional security and promised funds to pay for impacts of the shelter on businesses."

Mayor Steinberg is referenced in the Hubert article for making a statement that broadly supports the new shelter and his commitment to do much more to aid homeless people. Steinberg's support is rendered thus in the Hubert piece:
Steinberg has said that winter shelter, along with a more-permanent facility planned for next year, is part of a broad response to a crisis of homelessness in Sacramento. The mayor has made the issue a centerpiece of his administration.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Panhandling Dilemma

For many homeless folk: “To panhandle or not to panhandle? That is the question."
 Stolid citizens of Sacramento ask themselves: “Is it best to abruptly deny panhandlers their requests?”
SN&R News Editor Raheem F. Hosseini takes a helpful dash into the question of homeless people panhandling in this week’s edition [for  11/22/17] of the alternative weekly, which I’ll use to try to flesh out a further examination of the merits and demerits for solid citizens and needy desperate homeless citizens who put money in a hand or put out a hand for money.
Hosseini tells us that new laws took effect on Nov. 24 in the city that can damper down what success panhandlers can expect, since the money seekers are, for the most part, subject to punishment if their efforts to get some cash are perceived as aggressive, or, even, forthright – but in a circumstance that is no longer deemed lawful .
Regarding the new laws, Hosseini writes,
Under the new laws, anyone deemed to be causing a disturbance in a park can be cited with an infraction for failing to leave. If that person is cited three times in six months, he or she can be charged with a misdemeanor.
The more controversial law is the city’s new policy against “aggressive panhandling, “ which was drafted and approved without actual data about how often aggressive panhandling occurs. A city staff report says that the Police Department “has received complaints from residents, visitors, and businesses about aggressive or intrusive solicitations,” but provided no figures or statistics.
By the city’s definition, aggressive or intrusive solicitation can mean simply approaching a pedestrian, or asking for money when some citizen is a captive audience, which now pertains to when citizens are near banks or ATMs, bus- and light-rail stops, gas stations and outdoor dining areas. It’s now also illegal to solicit on roadway median strips, and near the driveways of shopping centers, retail and other business establishments.
I have no doubt that most people who see themselves as homeless advocates are aghast by the new laws.
As for me, my preference is that government and charities meet the most-basic needs for homeless people in Sacramento city and county. SNAP and EBT cards are readily provided to needy people to meet most of their need for food. More shelters and campgrounds need to be established to provide sleep space for all the people without a roof.  Food is being provided for people at Loaves & Fishes and at many, if not most, of the shelters, and that is going to continue to be the case.
I don’t want people to be panhandling. I don’t think that there is a “freedom of speech” right attached to panhandling. A person begging for money is seeking a one-way transaction: “I put out my hand; you put money into it.” That’s NOT an exchange. I don’t think that average citizens should be in situations where others are ogling their money. And I don’t think that poor people should count on panhandling as an income source.
The fix is, simply, that government needs to have a fully adequate program that guarantees the health and care of all poor people in its jurisdiction.
Meantime, poor people should seek, as most do, to improve their lot in life by getting job training and by pursuing jobs and quasi-volunteer positions where they are paid for their contributions to the effort of the organization where they work. Or, they should seek to improve their job skills to be better prepared for opportunities that might come along.
As for the new seemingly draconian laws that Hosseini describes, I think they could wither away if both average citizens and homeless people cease participating in money-for-nothing transactions.
I write all this, but I do understand that situations occur where it appears some poor person has soiled clothes and is on the ground with nothing good going for him or her.  In one way or another, these people need to be rescued. Giving money to someone who is a mess, and is directly in front of you, is a good-hearted thing to do.
I believe there are times when giving some poor messed-up person a fiver is salvific for the receiver, and it is a momentous thing that changes the direction of a life. Both the giver and the receiver of the money will never know that something wonderful happened. It will just have been very important without ever having been recognized, remembered or written down. I am not suggesting that God intervened. It is just a fortuitous happenstance. Or, dumb luck, if you want to call it that. One of those things that occur infrequently, in defiance of all the craziness, noise and tumult that dominates our walking-around and trying-to-get-things-done existence. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Homeless people are REAL people

or Toilet Paper and the 
reducing of others to mere Its.
Getting the average citizens of Sacramento city and county to have a more-positive sense of Homeless People is an important and laudable effort that must be pursued. But how, and to what end, precisely?
In recent days, Loaves & Fishes has had a campaign going to get citizens to buy toilet paper and to bring what they purchase to the Loaves & Fishes Welcoming Center/Warehouse.
Below is text about the toilet-paper drive, written, I believe, by Justin of L&F:
Toilet Paper Drive This Thursday
Access to clean fully stocked restrooms is one of life's most basic necessities. Providing those facilities is an essential part of Loaves & Fishes. We need your help to keep everything stocked and rolling.

Help us collect for those in need by donating a package of TP.

When: Thursday, August 31st, 7am-5pm

Where: Loaves & Fishes, 1351 North C Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
A toilet-paper drive is a common something that Loaves & Fishes has done. There was, likely, a drive of this kind every year in the Libby era. While it has certain benefits in creating interaction between the charity and its donors, the detriment of collecting toilet paper in this manner is overwhelming, particularly so at the current time.
Homeless people have been in the news a lot in the past year or so, most frequently for pooping against the sides of buildings or along the American River Parkway or in the proximity of where they’ve been “illegally” camping.
The reason for the feces problem is simple: Bathrooms have not been available. The bathrooms in Chavez Park that had been available for men and women were razed in order to build all new facilities for the new restaurant in the park that offers its restrooms for the use of customers, only. It is ironic that Cesar Chavez, after whom the park was named, was a proponent for poor folk, not for fancy restaurants.
Nonetheless, the Bee newspaper, in particular, has written badly-researched articles and published ill-conceived Breton editorials that have brazenly attacked homeless people for something they cannot avoid. All people need to piss and poop on a schedule that their body commands. These things cannot be put off indefinitely for want of a proper place to do one’s dirty bit of business.
But the problem is not simply a matter of nasty need; it is a matter of how homeless people are perceived and then treated.
If homeless people are put forward as “toilet-paper users” – if that is how they are to be presented, as is the case with Loaves & Fishes’ pernicious toilet-paper drives – then homeless people are being dehumanized, presented as disgusting animals and not as the unique, interesting, complex individual human beings that they are.
When I say that homeless people are being dehumanized, I ain’t foolin’ around. Drs. Lasana T. Harris and Susan T. Fiske have collaborated on a series of perhaps ten papers that document the dehumanization that occurs when homeless people or other marginalized groups, such as alcoholics, are pushed out of the flow of being perceived as mainstream human and become mere objects that are perceived as disgusting. See the Harris and Fiske paper in Sage Journal, titled “Dehumanizing the Lowest of the Low,” and from there you can see References related to articles that further document the degradation of being homeless and dehumanized.
As to the matter of getting toilet paper properly, I think that what would be best is for Loaves & Fishes to simply pay for the common commodity out of whatever is the closest thing to a Fund for Common Expenses and abandon the malicious [or, if not "malicious," or "thoughtlessly conceived," then highly ill-advised] practice of having toilet-paper drives, altogether.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The usual in the Homeward Street Journal

A friend of mine gave me a copy of the latest Homeward Street Journal – for July & August, 2017 – and I am here to tell Sacramento Homeless blog readers about it in a fairly succinct manner.
The lead article is about a woman named Tiffany whom, to her great benefit, lives in Salt Lake City where “Housing First” is practiced in a manner that gets homeless people into housing as quickly as possible. The article comes from a publication called “The Big Issue Australia.” Sacramento is never mentioned.
The article at the bottom of the first page is written by Marin Law Firm attorney Cathleen Williams and  begins with these curious words: “On a recent hot Saturday – May 13, 2017, the day before Mother’s Day – mothers, fathers, grandparents and other family members, from L.A. to the Bay Area, gathered on the steps of the Stockton City Hall to commemorate their sons and loved ones, and to express their grief and their anger …" The article is continues on the third page of HSJ. May 13, the date mentioned in the piece was three months ago – which is not a recent date.  A quick, but careful, edit of content would catch many errors in the publication. Nowhere in the long article is there any mention of Sacramento.
Inside, there is a long piece, credited as having been written by the “Street Sense Staff” about the death and legacy of Michael Stoops who helped create the Washington D.C.-based National Coalition of the Homeless in 1988. He died on May 1 of this year. There is no mention in the article of Sacramento.
The fourth page of HSJ is about the activities of the Police Department in Chico. Author Steve Breedlove writes about conditions and interactions with police in Chico, with brio. Breedlove airs many complaints. Likely, his grievances are quite legitimate.  The piece has nothing to do with Sacramento and Sacramento is not mentioned.
On page 6, there is a short piece by Suzanne Hastings, an HSJ writer whom I have complimented in the past. Hastings’s piece in the current HSJ is certainly about Sacramento, but it is content that is her usual screed, about the difficulties living on the street.  And, unfortunately, it is another of Hastings’ overwritten pieces where she wildly overstates and misunderstands what some of the central problems of homelessness are. Generally, Ms. Hastings writes the near-same article over and over and over again.
“The $100,000 Homeless Man,” a subject in an SNR article six months ago, plays a part in Ms. Hastings’s ire in the current issue. Hastings seems to believe that had the $100,000 Man lived, he would have had to truly pay fines totaling over $100,000, the sum of tickets he’d received from the police for a period of, perhaps, 15 years. THAT would never have happened, both because the $100,000 Man didn’t have the money and because a lot of what occurs in interactions between the police and homeless people is a kind of crazy  dance where much foolish stubbornness plays a major part.

This is something that I think Hastings doesn't recognize. It comes from George Orwell's book "Down and Out in Paris and London." It's the last paragraph in chapter 3:
[There is a feeling] that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone who has been hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs—and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.
The rest of the HSJ issue is, on the back page, content from The Chico Vibe; the usual Resources information on the next-to-last page; and a sprinkling of poetry here and there.
It is very difficult to write excellent poetry, and only excellent poetry is worthwhile. I feel certain that the poetry in the Jul-Aug issue of HSJ doesn’t rise to the plateau of true excellence, not that there aren’t some good lines and interesting ideas expressed here and there in the poetry.
The Homeward Street Journal is a very confounding project. Homeless people are recruited to act as distributors of the publication and they are expected to be satisfied standing around a lot and pocketing one dollar from citizens who buy an issue.
As content in the publication becomes ever-increasingly less and less about Sacramento, the public’s interest in the publication is sure to diminish. But, hey, it’s a way to give a little money to the homeless distributors, right?
But the way the situation is set up between the publication and its distributors, it is the publication – in the name of Paula Lomazzi or her organization, SHOC – that creates the terms of how and what homeless distributors are paid.
I have been told by a distributor that he can make about $5/hour for a few hours until he gets tired. That is far less than minimum wage. If $5/hour is a valid sense of what homeless distributors are making, then the situation is insane.  Homeless people – like employees anywhere and everywhere – should NOT be taken advantage of.  Paula/SHOC sets the rules, thus Paula/SHOC is ABSOLUTELY OBLIGATED TO BE CERTAIN THAT HER DISTRIBUTORS ARE PAID BY THE HOUR AT NO LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGE. Either THAT, or I am very confused. Slave labor isn't allowed in California, right?
Paula/SHOC must meet the pay requirements set by law. Paula/SHOC is not exempt from having to treat her employees properly.
AND, it must be said, that the distributors of Homeward Street Journal ARE ACTING AS EMPLOYEES. It is Paula/SHOC that sets “the price” of an issue. It is stamped on every single issue: “Donation $1. All proceeds go to Distributor.” The distributors aren't receiving any other pay -- say, money directly from SHOC, right?

I think this all might be a case where the distributors need to Unionize. Either that, or get a good lawyer -- and not one from the Marin Firm.
And, by the way, I am pretty serious, here. Homeless Sacramentans should not be taken advantage of. [And I should not end a sentence with a preposition. Oh, well.]

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What Charles Darwin was like

I heard well over a thousand sermons at the Union Gospel Mission during my period of years as a dirt-poor homeless Sacramentan.

While there are many preachers at the mission who were spectacular; some were terrible. There were a couple that came to the mission to orate in opposition to Charles Darwin, calling him all manner of mean, cruel  names and impugning his character.

I would speak up to defend Darwin to the preacher of the night, only to suffer a lambasting directed at me and my possibly-foul character.

Wright's 1994 book
A recent book by Robert Wright -- an author in whom I have taken great interest -- has, in an early section of his 1994 book "The Moral Animal: Why we are the way we are: the new science of evolutionary psychology" a depiction of Darwin that is stirring and stunning and Right On! [I know of what I write. I've read more that a little about Charles over the years. Those who knew the man are near unanimous in their high regard for the fellow.]

There is this, from pages 14 & 15 of Wright's book, that captures Darwin splendidly:
Darwin's life will serve as more than illustration. ... Advocates of evolutionary theory -- including him, including me -- have long claimed that it is so powerful as to explain the nature of all living things. If we're right, the life of any human being, selected at random, would assume new clarity if looked at from this viewpoint.
Darwin doesn't seem like other organic phenomena. The things that come to mind when we think of organic selection -- the ruthless pursuit of genetic self-interest, survival of the fiercest -- don't come to mind when we think of Darwin. By all accounts, he was enormously civil and humane (except, perhaps, when circumstance made it hard to be both; he could grow agitated while denouncing slavery, and he might lose his temper if he saw a coachman abusing a horse.) His gentleness of manner and his utter lack of pretense, well marked from his youth, were uncorrupted by fame. "[O]f all eminent men that I have ever seen he is beyond comparison the most attractive to me," observed the literary critic Leslie Stephen. "There is something almost pathetic in his simplicity and friendliness." Darwin was, to borrow a phrase ... a true gentleman."
Here is something from the book that Darwin wrote or said [Dunno which; wrote, probably.] in 1882, at the age of 70:
“As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.”
Now, I would extend yet further Darwin's noble sentiment ...
There is no bar that should prevent men and women from recognizing the artificiality of economic measurements as right-to-life barriers. Our brothers and sisters out on the streets, in the cold of winter and in the heat of summer are as much “us” as we are “us” and should be taken in to our hearts.
An interesting factoid about Darwin: He and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day, February 12, 1809.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Lost, the Unlucky, the Disenfranchised

Several things have come up.

The thing of peculiar interest has to do with the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

It reads thus:
Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses
yearning to breathe freee,
the wretched refuse of
your teeming shore.
Send those the homeless tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Lady Liberty
President Trump is now wanting to evoke new limits on those wishing to come to America to live. Trump wants skilled immigrants who have already mastered English to be those who are allowed to come to America and have an opportunity to gain American citizenship. THIS, as opposed to [quoting the poem] the "wretched refuse," or "tempest tossed."

It has all been a big issue of the day in Washington D.C.

There is a big mistake that Trump and his cronies in the White House are making. We don't have any particular need for so-called skilled employees in this country. We have the people already who can fill all the job positions in America. And, in the not-far-distant future computers and robots will all be doing our work for us.

Now, I am not saying that more people coming to the U.S.A. to live isn't a good thing. Let them come and find their place. What I AM SAYING is that a wild variety of people is what every country needs to maximize the excellence of the nation, as a whole. "Variety" is the "secret sauce" of evolution that creates ever-better people and ever-better employees and ever-better human beings.

There is one particular word in the Lady Liberty poem that -- OF COURSE -- got my attention: "homeless."

"Send those the homeless tempest-tossed to me."

There are two homeless fellows who died sleeping outside City Hall. Mr. Steinberg, you have been a great disappointment. Pick up the pace or, please, step aside such that someone more formidable can carry the burdens and put many more tempest-tossed homeless folk into housing and into lives that are splendidly more ordinary.