Tag Archives: homelessness

Poisonous Choice

In every circumstance there is a choice, whether it’s personal or societal.

From a societal aspect, it seems many of our choices boil down to choosing either a punitive or compassionate approach to solutions that challenge our communities. In the US, we seem to take a punitive approach to most of our societal issues.

An examination of our overall response to homelessness exemplifies the point. Instead of looking beneath the surface of the problem to discover solutions, we vilify the homeless as lazy and moochers instead. We think they should just pull themselves up and get a job and realize the American Dream, but we don’t want to help them do it. We cry ‘socialism’ and ‘entitlement’ and ‘dependence,’ and blame them for their own undoing. As Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs demonstrates, when one is focused on merely surviving day to day, anything else takes second place. But we refuse to offer the one thing that will help them, a means to have a roof over their head. In some cities like mine, we kick it up a notch by forcing the homeless out of public spaces and booking them like criminals. A blatantly punitive, not compassionate approach that only exacerbates the situation.

Norway provides an example of a compassionate approach. It dropped its homeless rate by a third in four years simply by getting to the root of the problem and providing housing.

“This means that homelessness is understood as a housing problem, not primarily or solely as a social problem, and the provision of housing with or without follow-up is considered essential to prevent and reduce homelessness,” says researcher and project manager Evelyn Dyb at the NIBR City and Regional Research Institute at Oslo and Akershus University of Applied Sciences.

The US obviously takes a punitive approach to drug addiction as well. Instead of applying compassion and the understanding that we’re dealing with a disease, we criminalize drug abuse. It’s my personal contention that by taking this approach, we actually enable their thievery and other violence. We keep our prison industry alive with drug offenders, with almost half of its occupants convicted on drug related charges. (rarely do the drug companies or doctors who push the pills suffer any consequences).

The nation of Portugal decided to approach drug addiction from a compassionate angle with robust positive results. But their society first made a conscious effort to adjust their perspectives:

Portugal’s remarkable recovery, and the fact that it has held steady through several changes in government – including conservative leaders who would have preferred to return to the US-style war on drugs – could not have happened without an enormous cultural shift, and a change in how the country viewed drugs, addiction – and itself. 

As a last example, I’ll utilize the current US border issue and the choice this administration is making by acting punitively instead of compassionately. Prior to the Zero tolerance policy, and at the behest of the Obama administration, migrants were released to relatives with ankle monitors to ensure their accountability to appear to court cases, etc.. There were social workers and agents involved to act as liaisons to help them through that process. Our nation does not act compassionately in this regard any longer.

Detention centers have morphed into concentration camps as they’ve become overcrowded and unsanitary due to defying the Flores Settlement as well as scrapping the prior administration’s more compassionate program of release with the ability to monitor.

I’ve observed a couple of compelling reasons behind the US’ consistent punitive approach to most social issues. The first is hard to miss: greed. The private prison industry takes millions in taxpayer money every year to house non violent drug criminals. GEO and CoreCivic are currently earning a whopping $775 a day to house migrants instead of releasing them to relatives. Drug manufacturers have raked in billions thanks to Oxycontin. Quite a few people became much wealthier by creating the housing bubble, which helped create the homeless crisis.

From another stance, there’s a healthy contingency in our midst that infuses a religious flavor to the idea of punity, choosing to draw from the notion of an authoritarian god instead of the example of a compassionate savior.

In each example, the compassionate approach is more humane and overall healthier for the society who employs it. The punitive approach only seems to poison a nation by reinforcing greed and authoritarianism. Would that the US could have a paradigm shift along the lines of Portugal and Jesus’ teachings.

In Peace,


“Lord of the Flies” Adapted by Paul Ryan

Stands on the corner,"homeless - please help" sign

cardboard sign in hand.

Dirty clothes, ragged shoes,

I bet you stink to high heaven

You worthless piece of shit.

Weak for falling so far,

Where’s your self-respect?

You’ll get nothing from me,

Not even a moment’s compassion.

You don’t deserve it

If you can’t help yourself.

Not my fault your boyfriend is an alcoholic,

and you’d rather be homeless.

Doesn’t matter that you’re mentally ill,

Don’t care that you got fucked up in the war.

I got problems too,

But you won’t catch me begging.

So move on bum, outta my town,

off my corner, away from my view.

Your presence disturbs,

Your reality pricks,

your desperation smells.

You are my intolerable spectre.








Hey Dana!

What’s the deal with you and yours?  Why is it you despise liberals, democrats, and protesters?

Are we so threatening that degrading us becomes your only pastime?

Do you comprehend that when you condemn us for being paid protesters and crisis actors, you only disclose your lack of logic, empathy, and human decency?

Don’t you remember that democracy literally means equality, an idea which is a cornerstone of our nation?

Does that equality really constrict your rights and lifestyle, or is it that you prefer absolute superiority?

How is it that the fight for the poor, the immigrant, the homeless is deemed a  nauseous waste by you who stand for christian values?

Is your world view so narrow that you can make no room for these, even for a moment’s consideration?

Have your immigrant ancestors removed themselves so far from your memory that you’ve forgotten their struggles and faith in government for protection against the boss-man?

Were you absent from the history class that taught us that imperiousness only results in a spectacular downfall?

Answer these queries or not, here’s what we conclude:  We cannot believe your claim to be American when you despise those who choose to embrace democracy.


Here’s the Real Challenge, Gweneth, but Thanks for the Effort! #FoodBankNYCChallenge

One of the big headlines this past week in celebrity news was Gweneth Paltrow’s pledge to survive on $29 of food in a week.  Here is the instagram snap she shared of all the food that amount of money can buy.


Ms. Paltrow is taking part in a sort of ice bucket challenge gig to bring awareness to the issue of SNAP assistance (food stamps), or more to the point, how small an effect SNAP assistance really has on helping a person to survive, .  I mean just look at the picture.

LOOK                   AT                          IT.

Contained within that one picture is not just a week’s worth of food.  It’s an entire lifestyle.

You see, there’s a psychological framework that we all work within and an astute man by the name of Abraham Maslow put it in a tangible illustration called Maslow’s Triangle, or Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.


At the base of the Triangle, as the very very very very foundation of our needs, we must be safe and fed and have a roof over our heads.    Maslow observed that until our physical needs are met, we are trapped at the first level of Need. We cannot meet our social needs of feeling loved and having a sense of belonging until we reach a point where we consistently have full tummies, safe sleeping quarters, and clothes on our backs.

Here’s what we miss:   Statistically, if a person is utilizing SNAP to meet their basic needs, chances are their entire life is stuck at the first level of Maslow’s Triangle.

It’s not just the food you see, its the lifestyle that goes with the food.  It’s knowing I have food at the beginning of the month, but I’ll be eating ramen noodles the last week of the month – for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It’s wondering if I can find a job this month, or if I’ll be able to keep the one I have, or maybe trying to deal with my work hours being cut.  It’s wondering if my babies will be safe in the neighborhood playground because I can only afford certain housing.  It’s working with a damnable toothache because I cannot afford dental insurance let alone the trip to the dentist.   It’s sharing a bed in the winter because I can’t afford the heating  bill.  It’s going without nail polish, using the same mascara for a year, and wearing torn underwear – the kids need clothes you see. It’s excruciating pain when my child comes home crying because he was teased for having holes in his shoes.  It’s fighting with my husband over steak or beans for dinner again.  It’s laying in bed, in the early morning hours, worrying, anxious, trying to figure out how I can come up with ten measly bucks so my daughter can go on the school field trip.

It’s the day in and day out grind, just barely surviving, just making ends meet (or learning to live with yourself if you can’t – a silent surrender to your circumstances, a compromise you never thought you’d make), its scratching out even a meager existence any way possible  –  THAT’S what this picture really represents:


Education is the key to understanding.  I am grateful that some attention is given to the issue, but we must realize that it’s not just the food, or lack of it, that our brothers and sisters deal with.   They deal with the mere act of surviving on a daily basis, without physical safety, without choices, and without understanding. They cannot contribute to society in a meaningful way since all their attention is focused on meeting their basic needs one day at a time, they have no energy left over for anything else   I would challenge Gweneth, and any others, to look beyond the picture in order to comprehend the lifestyle.   THEN we might be able to effect some real change.

Here’s to making a difference.  Here’s to awareness.  Here’s to less of us struggling to merely survive.


America’s Homeless: Taking the Fall for Alan Greenspan, Hank Paulson, and Co.

This past week a well meaning, albeit misinformed youth, posted a link to his facebook page about putting welfare recipients to  work instead of just giving them welfare money.  “Make them earn it” the message says, “They shouldn’t be allowed to be lazy.” it continues.

I quietly fumed inside.

This past year in my hometown there’s been a loud outcry for something to be done with the homeless population, all of them focus on making homelessness a criminal activity and a scourge on our local society.

I am deeply concerned and saddened.

Over and over the message I hear and see is that being homeless or receiving welfare benefits are a huge crime.  They are the ones ruining our nice clean cities.  They are the ones abusing the system and taking advantage of our hard earned money.

They are the ones taking the fall for the ills in our society simply because they are right in front of us.


The real perpetrators, the real criminals, and the true manipulators of the system, people like Alan Greenspan and Hank Paulson are the responsible parties. they escape our focus however because they live quietly tucked away, out of sight of the public and certainly not on our everyday radar.

They are the ones however who deliberately allowed the past two economic crisis to occur and led us into the Great Recession.  It doesn’t take much reading for any citizen to discover that they are the ones who went out of their way to mutilate the economic system entirely in their own favor.   They consciously broke laws.  They ignored loud warning signs from economists that the system was going to crash.  They are the ones who deceptively invented ways to shift massive amounts of money from the pockets of the middle class to their own offshore bank accounts.

This disconnect.

This idea that welfare recipients are ‘milking’ the taxpayer while Wall Street members still receive obscene bonuses.

This stain.

This concept of blaming the homeless for the degradation of society when it was Wall Street who shuttered our homes and our stores.

This shame.

This……is one of the greatest social injustices we’ve ever created as Americans.

It is a situation easily remedied though, if we’re willing to take the time.  It means being aware and educated.  It means addressing problems such as unemployment and de-regulations instead of treating the symptoms such as homelessness.  It means electing leaders who are not afraid to let the right people take the fall.

We are a better nation than this, I am sure of it.  Let’s act like it kids.


P.S.  Keep an eye out for a new website I am launching next week intended to help us be aware and educated as I admonished “Twentyfirstcenturyrevolution”.   It’s new information and provides some real focus to our current socioeconomic problems.  Here’s to finding solutions.

Book is coming out this week: Here’s an excerpt

From “Maslow’s Triangle: Short Tales of a Homeless Chick”


Chapter 3:  A day in the life of…..

The beginning of each day had to begin before seven or so.  Sleeping until eight meant that I stood the chance of being discovered by an early morning hiker or local law enforcement. I usually woke up fresh and proud of myself in some sick way for having made it through another night.

Starting a new day meant rearranging my sleeping quarters back into a drivable vehicle (my truck was a Transformer!).  The back seats were made upright since I put them down at night to stretch out completely.  All the blankets got folded and stashed neatly in a corner.  Buck knife was re-instilled in its sheath, having spent the night under my pillow. Last night’s dirty clothes made their way into the corresponding pillow-case-hamper.  Bags of makeup, computer, and clothes were relocated – again – from the front seats to the very back.

Using leftover water from the night before, I would brush my teeth and wash my face.  One of a few favorite ball caps kept my hair out of the way and I was off to start my day, Tank positioned nobly in the passenger seat.  He always smiled as we rode along; I couldn’t help but smile as well.

The first errand of my day consisted of taking my boys to school (they stayed at their dad’s during my homeless stint, they have a good daddy).  A couple of times a week I had a house to clean, but when I didn’t the mornings would drag on.  I found myself sleeping a lot.  The sheer exhaustion of being homeless surprised me.  Being on the move all the time zaps one entirely of their strength. Now I knew why I would see homeless people sleeping all day long.  It’s not because we’re lazy, but because we are weary to our very soul from shuffling around.  Like a bird with no nest, we are unable to relax and feel safe within the warm confines of carefully constructed twigs and feathers.  Homelessness is an un-natural state of being, and as such it is relentlessly tiresome.

Afternoons were filled with tutoring and picking up the boys from school. This was my favorite time of day.  My boys are everything to me and amid the brokenness of my life they were my anchor, all that was sane and balanced.  It was hard sometimes, not to feel like an absolute failure around them. I never once shared with the two younger ones that I was homeless.  I didn’t want them to be ashamed. Or disappointed.  Mostly I felt frustration with myself because I wasn’t providing for them in the way I wanted to – I had no home to offer them.

I always had a mother’s love to offer them and so every afternoon was ours together.  Homework, snack, and car time from school.  I savored each minute until I knew their dad would be arriving from work, at which point I vacated the premises. (Their dad and I got along okay; mostly we kept to the business of the boys, avoiding any unnecessary chit-chat, thus my punctual exodus from his house each afternoon.)

It was an eternity from when I’d leave them till bedtime.  Roughly seven hours lay ahead of me, nearly one third of my day, looming before me, leering at me, daring me to buckle. Work at the hotel would keep me busy about half the time.  The other half, Tank and I would drive.  Pearl Jam, U2, and Godsmack supplied the soundtrack while I roamed the rural roads of Shasta County, (it occurred to me once that my vehicle was aptly named; I certainly was Exploring, not just physically, but in a psychological and emotional way that I never dreamed of).  I had Lassen Peak to the east, Mt. Shasta to the north, and the Trinity Mountains to the west, each offering solace to my tired eyes and soul.  I meditated a lot as I watched them from the hills Tank and I hiked.

Eventually we would end up at Barnes and Noble, or the lobby of the hotel I worked at, mostly because both places provided free wi-fi.  Occasionally I would go see a movie.  Sometimes I would park in the lot of a store somewhere and watch people come and go, thinking what lucky bastards they all were because they presumably had a bed waiting for them at home.  (Did they take it for granted, I wondered?  Didn’t I take it for granted once?)  Whatever Tank and I did though, it was only something to pass the time ‘til the inevitable when I would have to decide where I was going to camp for the night and then meander my way there.

The most dreadful of emotions, loneliness, crept up on me during these hours.  I was grateful for Tank; he was the only other pack member I had, the one thing that provided me a sense of belonging.  If not for him, I surely would have crumbled because I knew that within the intimate cell of a roof and four walls, evening time was golden. As always, it was the small things that I missed, causing real physical pangs of ache.  The small things that evoke comfort and security by providing a familiar routine:  the consistency of everyone coming home from work in the afternoon; family members adjusting their moods to each other, the smells of supper blending with the chatter of everyone vying for attention.  T.V., music, cell phones and pets add to the cacophony as households begin to settle in for the evening.  Homework, reading, playing, perhaps arguing, ignoring, outright hostility; however the form, they are part of the finely tuned rituals that create permanence, security, and a sense of belonging; those crucial elements that make up the first two levels of Maslow’s triangle.

Without them  I was floundering.  Without that sense of belonging it became difficult to keep a semblance of self-worth and esteem.  I had no pack to be a part of, I was a lone wolf.  As a coping mechanism, I could somewhat pretend and ignore my plight during the day when I was going about my usual gig with work. But as time passed, homelessness became lonelier and more arduous.  And at night more than any other time, missing the details and the sense of belonging, the struggle to remain rational was greatest.

I found it was best to wait until as late as possible to “go to bed”.  A late arrival meant I could slip into my chosen camping spot without drawing attention to myself.   Our local sheriff is sticky about seeing vehicles in weird places at awkward hours so one had to be stealth.

I had a few favorite spots to park, but the safest was on some Bureau of Land Management property a few miles out of town.  There was a small trail to a stream where the salmon ran and at the head of it was a large parking area.  It was situated well below the road and I could tuck my Exploder up next to the hill that banked it and be nearly invisible.  Certainly I was inconspicuous.  There was also a boat ramp lot next to the Sacramento River where I would camp as well.  I loved it here.  I had a beautiful view of the river from inside my Transformer den and I would watch it for hours at a time, especially when the moon was full and reflecting off the water – eternally a peaceful sight.

So I managed.  My savings was growing and I was pursuing possible residences doggedly.  “Just a few more weeks,” I would think as I laid my head to rest and wrapped my body around Tank’s.  I willed away the dementors of loneliness and fear with a patronus charm of hope, and pure desire to survive.