Thursday, November 1, 2012

How To: Change A World

This post as with all my posts in November, 2012
is the direct output of a birthday challenge to myself
during NaNoWriMo 2012.
50,000 words on homelessness
The symptom I am choosing to focus on is homelessness – you can pick any social ill – they are all interrelated.

If you are not asking yourself the following questions – be you a person experiencing the symptom by:

being homeless;
being a service provider;
being curious;
being a change agent;
being an advocate; or
being a bystander –

if you are not asking yourself the following questions, you are not effecting as much change in transforming a world as you could.

If change or transformation is not your goal – stop reading here.

  • Are you nourishing discovery, awareness and choice in yourself? In your clients? In all your relationships?
  • Are you encouraging yourself and all those around you to recognize your choices--moment-by-moment--are important, no matter how small they may seem at the time?
  • Are you facilitating respect, compassion, empathy, openness, and positive psychology for yourself and others?
  • Are you fully present? Or trying to multitask, taking your presence away from the moment that is now?
  • Do you believe this world is for you or against you?
  • Do you assume capability, strength, wanting to give the best – from yourself and from those you come in contact with? Or do you assume ineptitude, helplessness, or inferiority in those you come across?
  • Do you condemn, chastise and devalue as a daily way of life? Or do you acknowledge; illustrate self-approval; and give yourself acceptance as valuable daily tools?
  • Do you believe you can make a difference?
  • If you are a service provider to those of us who are experiencing being without a home – do you believe we (those of use without homes) make a difference?
  • If you don't believe we make a difference – why are you providing services to us? Pity? To fix us? To fix your world? Because someone 'has' to do it? Because it's your job and you're getting the income to subsist in this world from it?
Your answers to these questions are important.

Unless you ask yourself such questions, you don't really know what it is you want to change, and why.

Change can be a very tedious, difficult, seemingly improbable type of quest if you don't know the answers to these questions.

Statistically, I am one of the homeless, poverty-stricken, and disenfranchised of this world.  Statistics do not make a person.

Over the course of this month, November, 2012 you are going to hear some of my story because I am in the process of coming through homelessness. About this time in 2010 I sent out a tweet among my community it was a round-robin type of thing – you may know the sort: “If I was homeless I would ---”

This is a paraphrase of what I tweeted:

“I am homeless and I will help others see themselves as powerful while we all make a path out of this morass.”

Now I can begin to do that, on my terms.

I want to change the world and homelessness is one of the symptoms of the world's dis-ease.

I can change it because, I changed my world, and am continuing to change it.   I can give you an inside story on what homelessness is like -- from my viewpoint.

The viewpoint of serially homeless person, even though I worked my tuckus off during the time I could work -- and that was a long time. From 15 and 1/2 with a work permit in 1965 through my last employed position ending February of 2009.

From the viewpoint of having to go on welfare for the first time as a mother-to-be so I could get adequate hospital coverage for the birthing of the baby; to being on welfare for the second time in my life at the ripe old age of 56 when I was without a home the last time, August 2010-Febrary 2011.  Yes, I hope it was the last time, I have the audacity to believe it was the last time, yet I cannot predict it, because homelessness can strike anyone, anywhere.

From the viewpoint of a person who embarked upon my escape and to get a life by running away from home at 17 and 1/2 -- to now, being on ssdi and searching for ways I can provide for myself as I play in the closing quarter of my life.

I don't promise you'll get great prose.

I do promise you'll get questions from me, that I ask myself, and you'll my answers of How To Change A World.

Whether you are one of my street peers; one of my service provider peers; one of my activist/advocate peers; or one of my "homed" peers,'s another question I want you to ponder:

How do you recognize a homeless person?

Well, perhaps I've jumped the gun.

Do you recognize homeless people?

Take the question on more than just face level. Meditate with it for a bit. Do a bit of introspection. I'll be looking at it in some depth in my next blog post.

In the meantime:

To give you a beginning view of homelessness, no matter how empty or full your cup of knowledge is, here is a quote from an article by Mary Ellen Hombs, Social Recognition of the Homeless: Policies of Indifference, 31 Wash. U. J. Urb. & Contemp. L. 143 (1987) (link to the full article)  that is still, even with many people's best intentions, still valid today.

Psychologists describe a phenomenon known as "bystander behavior," in which spectators observe a person who may be in need of help. The bystander observes the behavior of other bystanders to determine whether action should be taken. He or she thinks, "If this person really needed help, wouldn't someone be giving it? Isn't it likely someone has already called for help?" The behavior of others helps the individual bystander determine whether the "victim" is actually in need.
Americans are bystanders to an almost unparalleled example of human pain: two to three million people are homeless1. These people are without a decent and dignified physical place that provides privacy and security from the elements. They are of every age and color, and come from every social, economic, and political group. The homeless attempt survival in every city. They also experience temporary, perhaps permanent, loss of sanity, physical health, or both. Once homeless and on the street, it is as if these people were covered with a net of lead, unable to escape. In analyzing the causes of this national problem, bystanders are lulled into accepting personal circumstances as the critical catalyst for the condition. The bystander stops short of the outrage he or she should feel at what has become common deprivation: people without housing.
The roots of the problem are deep. When names and faces are put on the homeless, something more is known. The problem is not caused by a deviant fall from grace or hemorrhage of personal virtue. Resourceless, unhoused, ill-clothed, ill-fed people do not spring from the sidewalks of our cities. A number of common routes exist to such catastrophe.
Affordable housing has become an almost unknown commodity. The destruction of low-cost, permanent units by private and public enterprise has turned cheap housing into an untenable idea for poor people. The incursion of high-cost housing on low-rent neighborhoods has left demolition and displacement in its wake. A 1982 study published by the Legal Services Anti-Displacement Project stated:
Displacement is just a calm word for a frequent and shattering experience: people losing their homes against their will ... afflict[ing] some 2 1/2 million Americans each year ... [T]he great majority of displacees are the very people most likely to be harmed by the process: low-wage and welfare households, single-parent families, beleaguered minorities, the fixed-income elderly.2
The National Housing Law Project estimates that 500,000 low-rent units are lost annually.3 This occurs not only through demolition, but also through abandonment, conversion, arson, and outright unaffordability. Federal assistance has dropped drastically for low-cost units. In fiscal year 1985, low income housing assistance funds were at a low of ten billion dollars, down from a high of thirty-one billion dollars in 1981.4 For families already facing years of waiting for public housing, the outlook is grim. As a solution, these families double up with friends or family, usually in substandard and inadequate units. This delicate arrangement is easily unsettled, sending the families back to the street and causing almost certain disintegration of the family unit.

3 Id. In recent years, almost 50% of single room occupancy (SRO) housing has
been demolished. Green, Housing Single Low Income Individuals (1982)(paper prepared
for the New York State Social Welfare Policy Board).

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