Saturday, March 26, 2011

Joseph Twodogs -- It's a pleasure to meet you!

Mr. Twodogs -- if I may ... I am not certain what the altercation between you and @hardlynormal is, it's none of my business ... but you did include a tweet mentioning me that was inaccurate, and I'd like to take this opportunity to clarify, not only for you but for the world, because it's my mission to give any assistance I can to my comrades still in the streets. And I believe there is a fallacy that "the system" is going to help them.

@PATHAchieve is a phenomenal emergency shelter.

I stayed there for the first 3 months of my homeless adventure. (Allow me to use the word adventure instead of trauma-drama, because I believe that the verbiage we use is part of the means of transforming paradigms. It is part of my mission to transform the bottom-line world view to one of human-being world view, because I believe this will alleviate homelessness and a spate of societal ills.)

@PATHAchieve is responsible for the greatest psychotherapist I have ever had the opportunity to deal with. She is one of the crowning gems of @PATHAchieve's services to the homeless community. I cannot recommend her enough. Their Wellness Wednesday program is heads and tails above anything I had access to as a housed person.

I would not be coherent enough to write this had I not been able to take advantage of their option for Wellness Wednesdays.

@PATHAchieve is a superb organization for getting homeless families off the streets and into safe housing.

@PATHAchieve has one of the best outreach teams I've come across, and they are a foundation that does their absolute best to be humane, and aid the homeless community. When you walk into their offices you are treated as a treasured individual (or family) and their caseworkers do their absolute best to help you regain what you have lost ... housing and self-respect.

Mr. Twodogs, even with their awesome track record, they were unable to assist me into housing. This is not a diss. They tried with everything they had. My caseworker is one of the best, and he gave every venue an attempt, he answered my questions, and responded to every query I came up with, both positive and negative. The best @PATHAchive was able to get me considered for was Hayward Hotel, which I turned down as an option, because I could not psychologically accept living in that location.

I went to @PATHAchieve as my first stop on my homeless adventure because I came across Mark Horvath (founder of @hardlynormal on Twitter. I went to Twitter, because I came across HomelessGirl due to our homeless blogs, on the internet. Without HomelessGirl I would not have made the connections I have today.

My three months at @PATHAchieve came and went, I moved onto sleeping at other venues because there are time limitations at emergency shelters, and I was hoping for another opportunity to pan out. Unfortunately, it didn't. Thus I wound up in the Glendale Winter Shelter on January 1 of 2011.

I don't know if you are familiar with the Winter Shelter and how it works in the Southern California area.

The Winter Shelter happens because of The Union Rescue Mission. Without Winter Shelter, and @hardlynormal I would not have survived January 2011.

Certainly I still had my caseworker at @PATHAchieve while I was in Winter Shelter, as I do now, because they are gracious enough to allow we, the homeless, to utilize their services for 6 months after we have been housed. I was housed February 2, 2011, and it is through @PATHAchieve that I still attend Wellness Wednesdays -- which I intend to do for the entire 6 months allotted to me. I will say again, Wellness Wednesdays are one of the gems in @PATHAchieve's offerings to us (the homeless). I am grateful beyond words to @PATHAchieve, and for Wellness Wednesdays alone, I recommend them to anyone, homeless or housed.

They (@PATHAchieve) did not, however, place me in housing. That is no diss to them. They tried. My caseworker gave it his best shot. Their housing expert provided me with listings of places that I might go to and apply for housing, once my SSDI was awarded.

It just wasn't happening.

I lived for over a month in Winter Shelter ... with my poor health, I wound up in ER for bronchitis. I was rescued during one of the blackouts of Winter Shelter when everyone is bussed down to Union Rescue Misson by a plea sent out by Mark Horvath to his followers to donate to a hotel room for me.

This immediately preceded the incident where I was sent to ER for bronchitis, the bronchitis flared up while I was in the hotel room, but I didn't know what it was. On one of my next nights back in the Glendale Winter Shelter, I was sent to ER.

Can you imagine what might have happened to my health if I had been with all the people from the 4 winter shelters that blacked out at the same time, thereby sending all the homeless using those beds to Union Rescue Mission? I was lucky to be put up in the hotel then, because the bronchitis began taking it's toll during that time. I prefer not to think about it because it was a tumultuous time. However, I will reassure you ... without the action taken on my behalf by, the outcome could have been much different than me sitting here right now writing this.

I was not housed because of "the system".

I was housed because of one man with a very loud mouth.

I was housed because he connected a very brilliant organization ( with me.

I was housed because of Twitter, and the power of social media to connect people.

I was housed because of conversations like you and I are now holding, Mr. Twodogs ... and I appreciate the opportunity to clarify information for both you and the world.

It is my mission to share my experiences, difficulties in dealing with homelessness and "the system" and to share with people what works.

@PATHAchieve has Mark Horvath on their staff as part of their Outreach team. It is another of the brilliant choices they have made, in my humble estimation.

I personally thank Mark Horvath, Shelene Bryan, and for being housed.  It is due to the fact that they connected on social media that I have housing.

I personally thank @PATHAchieve for all that they do to assist the homeless .. they are a premier service provider for the homeless community, and I support them both in my heart and with my volunteering.

I personally thank all of the people I have connected with through Social Media, including you Mr. Twodogs, because each and everyone of you is a part of the circle of life that encourages, teaches and supports me.

If there are any questions regarding my personal situation, I can answer for you Mr. Twodogs, I would consider it an honor. I cannot speak for others, I can speak for myself.

I look forward to our continued dialogues on Twitter. Thank you for the opportunity to express my gratitude to the people and organizations that have been so instrumental in my recent life.

Signing off for now, while I continue to deal with my sporadic internet service.

Thank you everyone who honored me by coming to my housewarming, and who wished me well in absentia. Good journies one and all!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Crap Happens - A Follow Up

“Are you frustrated? Do you feel you must be crazy because things don't make sense to you? Do you gawk in total befuddlement as you approach someone ask them questions and they give you answers that leave you feeling as if there's a total disconnect? Do you ever find yourself wondering if you're crazy because you know you took steps to accomplish something and not only is there no tangible accomplishment, you can't even find the traces of those steps?

Yeah. It's very discombobulating when your very survival is tied up in the communications.

You begin to wonder if you're making sound decisions.

Crap happens.

When it all happens in one fell swoop, you can cry (been there done that); scream (been there done that), rage, depress, bemoan, bewilder, and befuddle (been there done all that).

For the moment I am laughing.

And personally, I hope it stays this way.

Not the crap. The laughing.

Yesterday, I received acknowledgment that I desparately needed. What freed me most yesterday was not any kind of resolution from the earthshaking circumstances surrounding me. It came from recognizing that I was being listened to, acknowledged and validated.

It didn't even come from someone who knows me, it came from a technician, a service provider of internet.

It came at the end of an already full day, and I very much needed to have it happen.
The previous part of the day?

I spent hours waiting for a call from legal counsel I was led to expect I would receive regarding the biggest survival issue of the moment, the offsetting of my SSDI income.

After the first half hour of waiting, I called their number and left a message politely indicating I understood we would be connecting and verifying my working telephone number to their voicemail.

After the second half hour, I began to wonder if perhaps I had misunderstood the notes I had taken at my meeting with the advocate and written down the wrong information.

After the third half hour, I had more news from another front that added to my stress, and I had to take a shower to help me cry, breathe and release emotional stress – get it out of my system and be able to continue on.

The words of a valued friend spoken the day before (and paraphrased because I don't remember exactly what he said – it can be an exercise in futility at times to remember things when you're dealing with mind fog) replayed a few times in my head, “You need to use phrases that include 'homeless' and 'hardship' when you talk to these people. I get to points where I have to resort sometimes to pulling in under my blankie.  Then when I've been under my blankie long enough I force myself to take steps even when I don't want to.  I put on the boxing gloves.”

I have taken steps my whole life I didn't want to take and fought just to survive; I'm sick and tired of it. Not just figuratively speaking, but literally.  So I wasn't able to grasp onto the import of his expression at the time.

However, because I have a need to prove to my friend that I value his advice and wisdom highly, I am writing this to acknowledge that I was able to put a small portion of his insight to use, and effect a change in my circumstances.

The fourth half hour I decided to quit waiting for the legal advocate to connect with me, it obviously wasn't happening and I obviously wasn't going to be able to make it happen.

Instead, I picked up the phone and called the student loan folks again.

I opened the conversation with this long bit of wording:

“Who can you put me in touch with to assist me? I have recently been housed, after being homeless and sleeping at night in winter shelters. My source of income is my SSDI and you along with the IRS have both offset (garnished) that income at the beginning of this month, without warning to me by 15% each.

This puts me under severe hardship and it puts me in jeopardy of becoming homeless once again, after only being off the streets for a month. The last person I spoke with in your agency a little over 2 weeks ago, indicated he could do nothing for me but send me a form that has to be filled out by a doctor, which I don't have and with you garnishing my income cannot even hope to afford to find, stating that I am permanently disabled.

Are you someone who can assist me with this, or can you put me in touch with someone who can assist me with this?”

The gentleman on the other end of the line said “I can help you.”

“What information can I give you to help you help me?”

He asked, “Were you sent a hardship form?”

I blinked, “A hardship form? No, the only thing I was offered and have received is a form that has to be signed by a medical doctor, which I don't have, indicating that I am permanently disabled. I have had to go to a legal advocate who has my authorization to contact the Social Security Disability doctor who examined me and declared me disabled. However, that is going to take time during which I am unable to meet my basic needs due to the loss of the percentage you are taking from my monthly SSDI income.”

“Okay. Let me put the form in the mail to you. It will take 10 to 14 business days for you to get it. When you do, fill it out and return it immediately, so we can try to get you a year's stay on the offset, to give you time to find a doctor to sign the form.”

“All right, I can do that. I need to ask you a question. Why didn't the person I dealt with a few weeks ago tell me I could do that?”

“I don't know.”

“Will you please note in my records that I am asking this question and that I think it is important for your agency to know that some customer service representatives are not giving us all the information we need to deal with you?”

“Yes, I will be happy to do that.”

“Thank you. I am extremely concerned about what can I do to survive right now, because this loss of income stands to make me homeless again, after I've just been housed.”

“I have the ability to put a stop on the offset on your next check.”

“You do? That would be a great help to me right now, and I am very grateful to know that is possible.”

“I'm setting that up for you right now. ::pause:: I have stopped the offset for your April check. Fill out the hardship form I'm sending you within 30 days, so that it can be evaluated and that we can extend to you a year to be able to get a doctor to sign the other form.”

“Thank you.”

This is major, and I truly am grateful for it.

You'd think that this bit of information would be what made my day, rather than the incident with the internet service provider technician.  It wasn't.

The only difference I am aware of in this telephone communication with the student loan folks was that I used the words homeless and hardship in my discourse with the person on the other end of the line. I cannot say if those were the key words, but certainly the result this time was vastly different than the previous phone calls and outreaching for ways to deal with the circumstances.

In dealing with what I call "bureaucacy" ---  people whether they are homeless, poverty stricken, or otherwise disaster-stricken are confronted with innumerable instances of disparate information.

For me it's crazy-making situation.  Why after 22 days of trying to find ways to resolve the dilemma does a call to the same number I called in the first place garner a response totally opposite of the initial response?

I can't use the same imagery my friend uses ... for me putting on boxing gloves is deterimental, whereas for him and many others it is a contstructive and highly productive scenaro, but he wasn't telling me to use the same tools he did.

Whether or not my friend and I can use the same imagery is irrelevant.

The gift he gave me was sharing with me that moment in which he gave himself permission to go under the blankie (i.e., take time out to withdraw and provide nurturing for himself) and then take the actions to transform the situation.

I cannot resolve the crazy-making game at the moment, but I can substitute another game for it.

Just call me PollyAnna.

Yes, I can play The Glad Game -- instead.

This trauma-drama
  1. has put me in touch with agencies and people that will help me further the endeavor I am working on with Project Return and We Are Visible;
  2. it has given me the physiological testing grounds to prove to myself unequivocally that foods I ingest are heavily involved in many of the things that have plagued me over the years, including mind-fog, and for which I will never, ever again let a medical doctor tell me "it's only my imagination";
  3. it has given me the opportunity in psychotherapy to address and begin transformation in core issues that have kept me from being who and what I am;
  4. it created a sitatuation in which a woman I value highly was able to present to me some books which she had no way of knowing that I had once had and treasured in my private collection and had to give away when I became homeless in August of 2010 (as well as a couple of new ones that I didn't have) by an author I admire and strive to emulate -- the book I'm currently reading is of tremendous support and empowerment at this very moment
  5. it has given me the opportunity to share with you a portion of myself in case it reflects anything you are feeling.

What the friend who used the imagery of boxing gloves did for me, was the greatest gift we (the human race) give to each other, every moment that we breath.  The gift is showing a part of ourself.  It was something my biological family didn't train me in.  They didn't know how, and to them doing anything other than denying oneself was dangerous.

We affect everyone one around us.
My final thought in this blog entry?  This is how we change paradigms:  By giving ourselves and each other permission to be.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Crap Happens - Hope

Roadblocks, challenges, issues, problems, trauma-drama, dilemmas, circumstances, acts of nature, distress.

Crap happens.

You can use it as fertilizer for the other things going on in your life, or you can let it do you in.

Grueling at times to see the opportunities, in a grim situation? Yes, without a doubt.

My personal ability to see and act upon the chances misfortune brings swings from muted to blaring and all the decibels in-between. A saving grace is that logically I know these situations hold doors I can open. I know this because I’ve seen it happen in regard to situations in my last year and a half.

However, the logical capability is not necessarily enough to allow myself hope and that I can deal with situations when I find myself dangling over the side of a cliff grasping a vine being gnawed on by a rodent, with a woman-devouring beast above me and a woman-devouring beast below me. (variants of the tale: ; ; ; )

How about you? Do you find yourself wondering where the dickens is my strawberry and is it poison or not?

What constitutes a dire strait varies depending on the eyes beholding it.

What is an earth-shattering experience for me is not necessarily the same to you (and vice versa).

How we deal with said situations may or may not be the same as how another person deals with their zen strawberries.

Hope is one of my strawberries.

For instance, last month (February 2011) saw some of the brightest moments of my last two years: housing; an income; the ability to communicate (cell phone, internet, California lifeline landline phone); grant to present to other homeless and poverty stricken; the ability to wash clothes steps away from me; a disabled bus pass; toilet paper; nutritious food I can eat; camaraderie beginning to blossom – all things that I found myself able to draw tremendous hope from.

So the 3rd of this month, when I found out as I joyously went to withdraw the money to pay my rent for the first time in 2 years, that both IRS and a decades old student loan had offset (the current buzzword for garnish or levy) my SSDI monthly income by 15% each (a total of a 30% loss of my income) without any word of warning, I was caught offguard.

In fact, the incident ripped open all my recently bandaged wounds of being homeless, of being helpless, of being violated, of feeling secure or insecure, of believing I could take care of myself, of feeling hope.

Hope flew by the wayside and I’ve had to work constantly to turn things back to feeling I am capable, worthy and able to handle things.

I am fortunate. The biggest scramble – to pay my portion of the rent – was able to be met, I had enough left to me on my SSDI to cover that. Because I am being subsidized by private individuals and an organization I cannot say enough good about, I still have electricity, gas, and water – they pay those bills. As you can see, I’m not fully on my own, even though I am not homeless.

Other bills (my California lifeline was safe, I had the funding for that); food; toilet paper; clothes washing (the $1.00 for the wash machine and the $0.50 for the dryer); my necessary monthly haircut, and any other expense went by the wayside, with no hope in sight for the return of that 30% offset for a very long time.
The hoped for seeking of health treatments, most notably my mouth at this juncture, disappeared in a thunderous poof, since meeting even my basic needs is now in question again.

Everyone I know … everyone, has some situation facing them.

From HIV, to cancer, to mental health issues, to being in emergency shelters, to no longer having the Winter Shelters and being back on the streets – these are just a few of the things my comrades on the streets, the homeless, are dealing with daily.

My housed friends are experiencing issues:

Shortage of food, shortage of transportation, shortage of toilet paper, shortage of utility services, shortage of toothpaste, shortage of adequate clothing, shortage of internet access, shortage of leisure time activities, shortage of social communication, health issues (physical, mental, emotional), shortage of funds …

Crap happens.

I can use it as fertilizer for the other things going on in my life, or I can let it do me in.

I’m using it as fertilizer.

To eat, I’ve had to locate the local food banks, I got a lead on those from my therapist at PATHAchieve.

Granted, my health is suffering for eating canned foods, wheat, refined sugar, salt and other things I know I cannot eat without repercussion. My sensitivities are acting up like mad because most of the food offered is rife with things I react to. As I told my therapist, my body is not in shape to fast, so I have to make the choice to eat things that give me reactions, it’s the same choice I had to make my last week and a half in winter shelter. I choose to see it as temporary.

The strawberry is:

Since I have the information I’m passing it onto you, and with luck through the ripple effect, you’ll be able to pass the information onto someone who needs it.

The even greater strawberry is that by my expressing this you can pass on the hope of finding information to someone else so they can feel their own empowerment and handle their situations.

Food Pantries:
To find a Los Angeles area Food Bank online. If that link gives you issue, go to In the second paragraph you will see the phrase "See the Food Pantry locator on our website -- to search for food pantries by City of by ZIP code" click on either link.

Homeless (on the streets) or not ... many people are having to make use of foodbanks. If you are local to the San Fernando Valley here are some references:

I recommend you contact the provider in advance if you can. Many service providers require appointments. Some pantries have restrictions. Some require ID, proof of residence, proof of low-income.

Housing for disabled people:
Here is a program I haven't had a chance to research, I picked up the flyer at a local foodbank 2 days ago (3/20/11):

Want to live in a House with a Garden? $500 or less per month. For information call toll free 1.877.SHARE.49 (1.877.742.7349); or a direct line at 310.305.8878 This is Collaborative Housing, a public-private partnership to provide affordable, permanent, supportive housing to disabled people.

Crap happens. When it does, one of the opportunities you will have is to pass on the value you are gaining through the throes of the experience.  By doing so you give yourself and others hope.

Good thing hope. It's a lifesaver for many. What are your thoughts?