Tag Archives: Homeless

Take Back The Internet And Do Something Great

caffeinating, calculating, computeratingI’ll be the first to admit (though not proudly,) that at times I’m all about using the internet for mindless activities and procrastination… though I’ve never ventured into Candy Crush territory, so at least I have that going for me. Nevertheless, it’s often that I find myself  keeping a window minimized on my computer screen while working on an article just so I can “accidentally” hover my cursor over it to see if I have any new notifications on Facebook and Twitter. Usually there are and next thing I know, it’s half an hour later and I’m still only a couple of paragraphs into my piece.

Well, Kid President is back with an exceptional new video (which definitely pulled my covers a bit) on ways we can use our time online for a collective greater good, rather than just for procrastinating, posting “selfies”, getting the latest gossip on celebrity nonsense, ad infinitum.

Check out the video below and visit the Socktober page for ways you can get involved and help make a difference! And with that being said, it’s time for me to get back to the other damn article I’m procrastinating on…

photo by: ryantron.

Unlikely Heroes: The California Teen Responsible for Feeding Thousands of Hungry Families

waste-no-food-sridhar-537x399At twelve years old, most of us were trudging through the awkwardness of adolescence, developing friend groups, and struggling to master pre-algebra. But at that age, Kiran Sridhar, a teenager from California’s Silicon Valley, had larger concerns on his mind.

According to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, nearly 4 million people in California are “food insecure,” which means they cannot afford to buy enough food to sustain themselves. Southern California is disproportionately ailed by hunger in comparison with the rest of the state, but the Bay Area also contains some of the largest numbers of food insecurity. This may seem counter intuitive, especially considering the ever-growing prosperity of Silicon Valley, in particular, with its booming tech economy. But the reality that Sridhar learned as a middle schooler was that many in his own community were suffering, even in the midst of such prevalent wealth.

Shocked and inspired by this revelation, Sridhar got to work. He founded the non-profit organization, Waste No Food, to connect restaurants and farms to food banks that would distribute their excess and leftover food. According to the organization’s website, a whopping one third of California’s food goes to waste. With so many in the state hungry, such waste is simply unacceptable, and Waste No Food works to get that food to those who desperately need it.

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 12.19.35 PM

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or cafe, then you know how much food gets thrown out at the end of each day. Oftentimes food service workers just feel limited by the effort to transport leftover food, or else the fear of liability. But through the program, all the work is done for them with the click of a button. Farms, restaurants, cafeterias, and grocery stores can sign up on the website to donate their excess food, and Waste No Food then connects them to aid organizations (already vetted for authenticity) who are responsible for all food transportation and handling. It’s a win-win all around!

Now a 10th grader in high school, Sridhar hopes to expand the program to other parts of the Bay Area, and we have no doubt the enterprising teenager will succeed in his aims. As he told CBS San Francisco:

When you’re hungry, that is your primary focus, figuring out what your next meal is going to be. But when you have your needs for food met, than you can actually be a positive contributor to the community and to the economy.

It’s inspiring to see not only what such a young person is capable of accomplishing, but also more generally the length a concerned citizen is willing to go to support his community. Over 50 million Americans live in households that quality as “food insecure,” the highest percentages occurring in Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. These are our communities, our neighbors, and our families. Let Kiran Sridhar and the Waste No Food program inspire you to make a difference.

Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

Photo credit: Inhabitat.com

Graphic credit: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

Helping Homeless People Die Indoors

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 12.33.21 AMThere is one certainty in life – we are all going to die. How and where we die are the only issues.

Will we die quickly or have a lingering death? We don’t know. However, most of us housed people are pretty sure we will die indoors in some health facility or in our own home. In fact, some of us buy insurance so that we are assured of the particular standard of care and facility we prefer in our last days.

However, what about unsheltered homeless people? They live outside and very likely will die outside.

How do I know this? Because over the past several years I have been involved in the end of life care for three homeless friends. I’ve written about Bobby Ojala who passed in late August 2012 and Susan Hunt who died twelve days later in early September. But, Karen Lee Creeden was the first homeless person I helped die indoors.

I first met Karen Lee on July 11, 2010, in Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA. An elderly woman with medium length graying hair pulled back into a rubber band, Karen Lee was sitting on the grass in Saratoga Park. Even from a distance, I could see her distended abdomen.

As I approached her, I wondered how to begin the conversation and decided just to introduce myself, ask her name and inquire how she was doing.

“I’m Karen Lee Creeden,” she said, “and I need size 8 shoes. I just got out of the hospital and I have no shoes.”

“Is that all you need?”

“It would be nice to get some medium-sized warm clothing – it’s cold at night. All I have are the t-shirt and light pants I’m wearing.”

I offered to look for these items, but made no guarantees I could find the needed items in the correct sizes.

Upon leaving Ocean Beach, I called family members and friends who I thought would be sympathetic and would have access to the correct sizes of clothing and shoes. Sure enough, they kindly donated the requested items.

When I delivered these gifts to Karen Lee, she was thrilled. She posed for pictures and had fun modeling her new clothes and tennis shoes. Over and over Karen Lee told me to thank her donors for the much-needed items.

KLC2Res150But what to do about her apparent medical condition? I contacted a psychotherapist friend who suggested I ask Karen Lee if she had a social worker and, if so, whether she would give me permission to speak to the worker on her behalf.

Karen Lee did have a social worker and readily gave me her phone number and permission to discuss her case.

The social worker told me what I suspected; Karen Lee was seriously ill and dying. She said she had paid cabs several times to take Karen Lee to hospital after hospital for end of life care, but the hospitals continued to release her.

I offered to go with a friend and take Karen Lee to a hospital and do what I could to get her end of life care.

The results of my efforts are outlined in the following thank you letter I sent to all of the parties who were involved in Karen Lee’s care until her death 24 days later. My letter is a tribute to all of the people and institutions involved in assuring that Karen Lee, an unsheltered homeless person, died free of pain and indoors. It is also evidence of the steps Karen Lee had to go through to die with dignity indoors.

My thanks again to all of those people who provided end of life care to Karen Lee and to all givers of end of life care everywhere.

“August 15, 2010
Dear Concerned Care Givers and Service Providers,

On July 14th, after consulting with her social worker, my friend and I took Karen Lee Creeden to the local hospital where she received excellent emergency care from the doctor and his wonderful staff. Thank you.

After being admitted to the hospital, Karen Lee was expertly cared for by her attending physician, a hospital social worker, nurses, chaplain and staff. Thank you.

I called the president of Alpha Project and he reassured me that ‘no one dies outside’ because of the Alpha Project Hospice Program. His chief operating officer made herself immediately available. Although we did not make use of these kind offers of help, I thank you for your much-appreciated assurances at that time.

After her stay in the hospital, Karen Lee spent several days in the San Diego Rescue Mission Recuperative Care Unit under the concerned supervision of the residential manager. Thank you.

During her brief stay in the Mission, Karen Lee met with a program representative of San Diego Hospice and Institute for Palliative Care who gently assisted Karen Lee in enrolling in this program. Thank you.

At San Diego Hospice and Institute for Palliative Care, doctors, social worker, patient advocates, nurses, chaplain, staff and volunteers compassionately helped Karen Lee. Thank you.

KLC6Res150I was going to write individual notes of thanks to each of you, but upon reflection, I thought perhaps one note to all of you might be more appropriate because each of you was an indispensable part of the process of helping Karen Lee transition from this life to the next. And I thank you all for being so supportive of me during this time.

Karen Lee was 55 years old when she died. As you may know, for the last ten years of her challenging life, Karen Lee was homeless. However because of your care, Karen Lee lived the last 24 days of her life free of pain and indoors.

While at San Diego Hospice and Institute for Palliative Care, Karen Lee wrote the following words on the patient white board in her room: “Do you love me as much as I love you?”

Witnessing your many kindnesses and genuine compassion, I can answer her question, Yes, you each loved her as much as she loved you.

May God bless you for your compassionate service for people in need.

Very truly yours,

Christine Schanes, JD, PhD”

In Memory Of Homeless Advocate Larry Dean Milligan

Larry Dean Milligan was a champion of homeless people in San Diego.  Through his efforts and the efforts of his partner, Johanna Argoud, the lawsuit, Spencer v. San Diego was filed in 2004 and settled in 2007.  (and then modified 11/10)   The settlement in Spencer protected homeless people from fines and arrests relating to sleeping in public – a very important settlement for thousands of homeless people in San Diego. Below is a conversation between Christine Schanes and Johanna Argoud. 

Johanna Argoud… In Her Own Words

As Told To Christine Schanes

Christine Schanes:  On July 14, 2011, your partner, Larry Dean Milligan, champion of homeless people, passed.  You seem content despite your loss.

Johanna Argoud:  Yes, you could say that.  I feel that his life is such a gift to me. And despite the physical separation from Lar, I don’t have the feeling of being without him, unless I choose to.  I can always have that joy of being with Lar, a feeling of being even closer than in our physical life together, if I so choose.

CS:  Can you share something about your life?

JA:  Of course. I am sharing this because Lar and I are part of the oneness that includes the reader and all of humanity.  

On April 26, 1932, I was born in Sharpsville, PA.  When I was three years old, my parents and I moved to Germany.  I had a wonderful childhood in the small town of Stockach.  My friends and I  would go into the forest to pick berries.  We would make visits to the Catholic Church, roller skate in the streets and toboggan in the snow.

I was brought up Catholic and enjoyed reading the stories of the saints, especially the martyrs.  I admired their courage and that they gave their lives for God.  I asked myself whether I would have the courage to give my life for God.

In the Spring of 1953, I married my husband, George Argoud, in San Diego, California.  Together, we had five children.  I worked so my husband could go to medical school in Switzerland.  In one of my jobs, I worked as a secretary for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  After my husband graduated, we came back to the United States where he practiced medicine.

When George and I divorced in 1982, I felt that I had fallen into a deep hole.  I just couldn’t get out.  I thought my life was falling apart.  My marriage… five kids.  I asked, “What is the purpose of life?  Who am I?  Where Did I come from?”

I found refuge in meditation.  I had a room built in the back of my home to be a meditation place and my meditation group met there.  One day my meditation group discussed doing something to help homeless people in San Diego.

I just felt that was for me.  So, I put a small ad in the San Diego paper that read, “San Diegans Help the Homeless” with my telephone number.

There was just one call as a result of my ad.  The caller said that if I wanted to do anything to help homeless people that I should call Larry Milligan and he gave me Lar’s number.

I called the number, spoke to Lar and agreed to meet him the next day at the local bookstore.  I told Lar that I could only be interested in helping homeless people if we regarded them with the greatest respect because as Jesus said, “What you do the least of them, you do to me.”

Before we parted, Lar said to me, “I’m ready for a relationship.”

I said, “Only a spiritual one.”

He didn’t say anything.  It didn’t seem to stop him.

So I began going to the weekly meetings where Lar and homeless people met. I could see that Lar was a leader who asked everyone to participate in the meeting equally.  However, he did not put himself on a pedestal – that impressed me.

For over ten years, Lar and I served food twice a week to homeless people in Balboa Park and also at the Lutheran Church.   Later on other people joined us in this effort.   Lar conducted hunger strikes and we had peaceful demonstrations to bring attention to the issues of homelessness.

One of our major concerns was the criminalization of the act of sleeping in public because there was not enough room in the shelters for every homeless person in San Diego.   As a result of our efforts, the case of Spencer v. City of San Diego was filed in 2004.  When the case settled in 2007, homeless people could sleep on public property at night without being subject to fine or arrest.

[In November 2010, the settlement agreement in Spencer v. City of San Diego was modified so that a homeless person can be fined or arrested if a police officer offers his or her an available shelter bed within a five miles and he or she chooses to decline the bed.]

Because of our activities to help homeless people, Lar and I had numerous encounters and a wide variety of relationships with individuals and groups at the national and local levels, including City authorities, the police and the press.

On September 8, 2009, Lar was the recipient of a lung transplant.  For the next three and a half weeks, Lar was in a coma.  While I was grateful that he was alive, I took refuge in finding that space where I could feel at one with him.

When Lar awoke from his coma, he told me that no matter how much he loved me, he hadn’t wanted to come back from that place that was so peaceful and absolutely beyond description.

He said, “I hope you’re not angry with me.”

I told him, “Of course not, no one would want to come back from there.”

About two years after his surgery, Lar became seriously ill with pneumonia.  One day he said to me, “I want to be with you in eternity.”

I said, “I will always be with you.”

I experienced an indescribable feeling of communion.

When Lar passed, somehow I had the sense to take refuge in that place where we had been as one in our meditation.  And somehow his passing was not real to me because in that space he was one with me.

Now when thoughts come to me about him, I come to a place we enjoyed together.  When I read his poetry or I listen to the songs he loved, I never fail to take refuge to be with him in that space.  I marvel and it never ceases to amaze me that I am so much a part of him and he a part of me in that oneness.  All the years of meditation had given me that space.

In 2005, Lar wrote Love Poem to Joanna to me.  I share part of it with you now.

I’m just right here.

In thoughts of life

Never to be changed.

Thinking of the times we gave

Serving each other.

No, love can never be rearranged

And someday death will sweetly come.

Sparking Kindness with Socks. GIG Spark: Technology + Storytelling = Action

Who doesn’t love socks? They’re warm, fuzzy and for the most part, inexpensive — unless your phalanges are of the fabulous kind. As a journalist, I’ve covered many stories about homeless people — and guess what? Socks nearly top their wish lists.

With that said, GoInspireGo is excited to share our first GIG Spark submission. Way to go and thanks Sierra Sanchez for warming our soles and our souls!

Gigster: Sierra Sanchez

Spark: Buying socks for the homeless in San Francisco, California

Your Turn:
 It’s simple – buy socks and give them. No strings attached. One of our favorite organizations, Just Give has a list of 35 things you can you to help the homeless. It’s easy, inexpensive, and a good GIG.

We hope this video sparks (and knocks) your socks off:



FEELING INSPIRED? GET INVOLVED! make your own GIG Spark
:

WHAT’S A GIG Spark & CREATE your own!

As a part of GoInspireGo’s mission to inspire our viewers to discover their power, we’ve joined forces with Youth Service America (YSA)Lil’ MDGs and Miley Cyrus’ “Get Ur Good On” to bring you GIG Spark: A Lesson on Compassion.

A “GIG Spark” is a short 1-1:30 minute video that inspires viewers to take action and help others after they’ve watched the video. The video will feature you showing and telling viewers what you want them to do on video. It’s simple, quick and can generate inspiration for others! The goal: a fun, easy way to inspire action.

We’re inviting YOU and your community (school, organization, friends, etc.) to use your passion and creativity to produce a “GIG Spark” and inspire viewers with your story. This is for anyone who can shoot and edit short videos. Get Started on a GIG Spark now.

Inspiration can be fun and infectious! We believe in the power of small acts and using technology to crowdsource ideas, capture it on video, spread the word online, and inspire immediate action. We know that people (especially youth) care and want to do something good for others, but just don’t know how. So why not teach compassion to kids and adults in your life? This is a quick way for you to use your power to spark civic engagement and inspire a small ripple of kindness that will create a domino effect…

We can’t wait to see inspiring acts popping up all over the state, country, and world! What can YOU do?

*Follow us on: LinkedInTwitter & Facebook

In Celebration of Larry Dean Milligan September 23, 1946 – July 14, 2011

It has been said that  “a man is known by the company he keeps.”  And Larry Dean Milligan kept excellent company –  from his dear friends who are lawyers, business people and advocates, to the homeless men, women and children whom he befriended and championed, to his partner, Johanna Argoud, and their family whom he loved with all his heart.

For over 20 years, Larry worked tirelessly with Johanna and wonderful colleagues in San Diego to help homeless people in many ways, including giving food to satisfy their hunger, fighting for shelter to protect them from the elements and working for public toilets for their personal hygiene and dignity.

Larry made his causes visible by making himself visible.  He tabled his opinions on the San Diego Concourse.  He wrote articles and lobbied policy makers.  But perhaps the most influential thing that Larry did was that he sacrificed his own health through hunger strikes to bring awareness about the plight of homeless people.

He thought that homelessness should not be criminalized. To this end, he fought the imposition of illegal lodging tickets upon homeless people who were sleeping on public sidewalks in the City of San Diego because there was not enough space in the local homeless shelters.

In 2004, largely through Larry’s efforts, the lawsuit, Spencer v. San Diego, was filed to protect homeless people from illegal lodging tickets.

Larry was victorious when this lawsuit was settled in 2006 and homeless people were allowed to sleep outside on public areas in the City of San Diego from 9pm to 5:30 am without being ticketed by the police.

He felt that the November 2010 modification to this settlement was unfortunate because under this modified settlement the police are allowed to ticket a homeless person who is sleeping outside in the City of San Diego if there is an available shelter bed; if the police offer the homeless person the bed; and if the homeless person refuses the bed.

Larry took great pains to avoid confronting people.  He used temperance, kindness and truth to bring about peaceful change.  He was a true humanitarian.

And now a few words from the members of the excellent company that Larry kept.

•  Judge Robert C. Coates, retired Superior Court judge, author of A Street Is Not A Home, remembers Larry for his positive influence on unhoused people and among housed people:  “He was very constructive and respectful.  The homeless community desperately needs people who are articulate and Larry was articulate.”

•  Liza Elliott writes, “Johanna and Larry ran a weekly feeding program for the homeless in Balboa Park.  I worked with them there as well as at the TACO Feeding program at the Lutheran Church.  We did sit-ins at City Hall, served pizza, beans and rice to the homeless and had lots of fun.

“Larry and Johanna were tireless advocates for the homeless, and it was my pleasure and honor to have served with them.

“The World will miss Larry.  And so will I.”

•  Scott Dreher, Esq., Dreher Law Firm, co-counsel in Spencer v. San Diego feels “Larry was the last of the true Hippies with all their altruistic, idealistic spirit, and he never lost sight of our society’s potential.

“Indeed, Larry promised to give up his Hunger Strike only if we agreed to file the Spencer case (which resulted in voiding the City of San Diego’s policy of issuing “sleeping tickets” to homeless people in violation of the state and US Constitutions).  His organizing skills were invaluable in convincing the court and city to resolve it in favor of homeless people!  He was a vigorous advisor and a loving voice for the homeless to the end.

“He called me a couple weeks ago, and his voice was filled with enthusiasm, energy and readiness as he put forth more ideas on trying to fix the social imbalance that allows people in our country to lack basics such as food, a place to sleep, and shoes.

“I joked with him and told him we’d carry on as long as he promised not to go on another hunger strike.

“He said ‘OK, I’m taking you at your word!’

“I loved him and miss him.”

•  Timothy D. Cohelan, Esq., Cohelan Khoury & Singer, co-counsel in Spencer v. San Diego shares,

“Larry was a great spirit whom I first met in the mid 90’s when we were handling a case against the city of San Diego for failure to designate or site emergency shelters and transitional housing (Hoffmaster vs City of San Diego) – he kept me and others informed of the conditions as he saw them on the street.

“At one point he went on a hunger strike and some believe this contributed to his later health problems.

“Larry acted like a cheerleader on the Spencer case, always calling Scott [Dreher] or me to say how he appreciated our efforts, and how the homeless with whom he always talked, felt like someone cared.  He will be missed.”

•  Steve Binder, Esq., San Diego Deputy Public Defender says,  “Larry had the unique capability to bridge the discussion between the police and people on the streets and to help people realize that citations alone are a simple solution to a complex problem that continues to frustrate police and the people who receive the citations, alike.

“Larry had the ability to look past the shortcomings and problems that the police presented to the people on the streets and to look past the shortcomings and problems that the people on the streets presented to the police so that he could improve everyone’s situation.

“Larry was a builder.  He built community.”

•  Dr. Ellen Beck, M.D. supervisor of The UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic Project at TACO (The Third Ave Coalition Organization) adds, “Larry was a remarkable person, a truly passionate change agent, who lived what he believed and helped to change laws and policy. He will be missed!”

•  Jim Lovell, Executive Director, Third Avenue Charitable Organization, Inc. (TACO) notes,“Larry was an amazing force brought to bear on San Diego.  His faith seemed to be what drew him to need to call those in power to act to treat all who live in their city with the same dignity that those who were wealthy and who had power were treated.

“When Larry fasted in order to get the city to open the winter shelter early, he was quick to point out that it was a “fast, not a hunger strike”.

“When Larry would come to see me, I quickly learned that I should hold on tight because things would move very fast, and we may go to see a council member or we could be at the mayor’s desk with signatures to record turning in or we may be in the office of the Chief of Police.

“Larry often verbally argued and pushed those in power, though he was always so quick to forgive and call them again and ask to meet.  That was one of the most amazing parts of Larry.

“I will miss him deeply.”

Not only will Larry be remembered for the excellent company he kept, but by the passion and devotion he exhibited as an outstanding leader, as an effective advocate for homeless people and as a genuine human being.

A week before his passing, Larry told Johanna’s daughter, Ninon, about his personal philosophy.  He said, “The most important thing to remember is that we are all equal.”

 

In Celebration of Larry Dean Milligan September 23, 1946 – July 14, 2011

  

It has been said that  "a man is known by the company he keeps.”  And Larry Dean Milligan kept excellent company –  from his dear friends who are lawyers, business people and advocates, to the homeless men, women and children whom he befriended and championed, to his partner, Johanna Argoud, and their family whom he loved with all his heart.

 

For over 20 years, Larry worked tirelessly with Johanna and wonderful colleagues in San Diego to help homeless people in many ways, including giving food to satisfy their hunger, fighting for shelter to protect them from the elements and working for public toilets for their personal hygiene and dignity.

 

Larry made his causes visible by making himself visible.  He tabled his opinions on the San Diego Concourse.  He wrote articles and lobbied policy makers.  But perhaps the most influential thing that Larry did was that he sacrificed his own health through hunger strikes to bring awareness about the plight of homeless people.

 

He thought that homelessness should not be criminalized. To this end, he fought the imposition of illegal lodging tickets upon homeless people who were sleeping on public sidewalks in the City of San Diego because there was not enough space in the local homeless shelters. 

 

In 2004, largely through Larry’s efforts, the lawsuit, Spencer v. San Diego, was filed to protect homeless people from illegal lodging tickets.  

 

Larry was victorious when this lawsuit was settled in 2006 and homeless people were allowed to sleep outside on public areas in the City of San Diego from 9pm to 5:30 am without being ticketed by the police.

 

He felt that the November 2010 modification to this settlement was unfortunate because under this modified settlement the police are allowed to ticket a homeless person who is sleeping outside in the City of San Diego if there is an available shelter bed; if the police offer the homeless person the bed; and if the homeless person refuses the bed.

 

Larry took great pains to avoid confronting people.  He used temperance, kindness and truth to bring about peaceful change.  He was a true humanitarian.

 

And now a few words from the members of the excellent company that Larry kept.

 

  Judge Robert C. Coates, retired Superior Court judge, author of A Street Is Not A Home, remembers Larry for his positive influence on unhoused people and among housed people:  “He was very constructive and respectful.  The homeless community desperately needs people who are articulate and Larry was articulate.”

 

  Liza Elliott writes, “Johanna and Larry ran a weekly feeding program for the homeless in Balboa Park.  I worked with them there as well as at the TACO Feeding program at the Lutheran Church.  We did sit-ins at City Hall, served pizza, beans and rice to the homeless and had lots of fun.

 

“Larry and Johanna were tireless advocates for the homeless, and it was my pleasure and honor to have served with them.

 

“The World will miss Larry.  And so will I.”

 

  Scott Dreher, Esq., Dreher Law Firm, co-counsel in Spencer v. San Diego feels “Larry was the last of the true Hippies with all their altruistic, idealistic spirit, and he never lost sight of our society’s potential. 

 

“Indeed, Larry promised to give up his Hunger Strike only if we agreed to file the Spencer case (which resulted in voiding the City of San Diego’s policy of issuing “sleeping tickets” to homeless people in violation of the state and US Constitutions).  His organizing skills were invaluable in convincing the court and city to resolve it in favor of homeless people!  He was a vigorous advisor and a loving voice for the homeless to the end.

 

“He called me a couple weeks ago, and his voice was filled with enthusiasm, energy and readiness as he put forth more ideas on trying to fix the social imbalance that allows people in our country to lack basics such as food, a place to sleep, and shoes. 

 

“I joked with him and told him we’d carry on as long as he promised not to go on another hunger strike. 

 

“He said ‘OK, I’m taking you at your word!’

 

“I loved him and miss him.”

 

 Timothy D. Cohelan, Esq., Cohelan Khoury & Singer, co-counsel in Spencer v. San Diego shares,

 

“Larry was a great spirit whom I first met in the mid 90’s when we were handling a case against the city of San Diego for failure to designate or site emergency shelters and transitional housing (Hoffmaster vs City of San Diego) – he kept me and others informed of the conditions as he saw them on the street. 

 

“At one point he went on a hunger strike and some believe this contributed to his later health problems.

 

“Larry acted like a cheerleader on the Spencer case, always calling Scott [Dreher] or me to say how he appreciated our efforts, and how the homeless with whom he always talked, felt like someone cared.  He will be missed.”

 

  Steve Binder, Esq., San Diego Deputy Public Defender says,  “Larry had the unique capability to bridge the discussion between the police and people on the streets and to help people realize that citations alone are a simple solution to a complex problem that continues to frustrate police and the people who receive the citations, alike.

 

“Larry had the ability to look past the shortcomings and problems that the police presented to the people on the streets and to look past the shortcomings and problems that the people on the streets presented to the police so that he could improve everyone’s situation.

 

“Larry was a builder.  He built community.”

 

 Dr. Ellen Beck, M.D. supervisor of The UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic Project at TACO (The Third Ave Coalition Organization) adds, “Larry was a remarkable person, a truly passionate change agent, who lived what he believed and helped to change laws and policy. He will be missed!”

 

  Jim Lovell, Executive Director, Third Avenue Charitable Organization, Inc. (TACO) notes, “Larry was an amazing force brought to bear on San Diego.  His faith seemed to be what drew him to need to call those in power to act to treat all who live in their city with the same dignity that those who were wealthy and who had power were treated.  

 

“When Larry fasted in order to get the city to open the winter shelter early, he was quick to point out that it was a "fast, not a hunger strike".  

 

“When Larry would come to see me, I quickly learned that I should hold on tight because things would move very fast, and we may go to see a council member or we could be at the mayor’s desk with signatures to record turning in or we may be in the office of the Chief of Police.  

 

“Larry often verbally argued and pushed those in power, though he was always so quick to forgive and call them again and ask to meet.  That was one of the most amazing parts of Larry.  

 

“I will miss him deeply.”

 

Not only will Larry be remembered for the excellent company he kept, but by the passion and devotion he exhibited as an outstanding leader, as an effective advocate for homeless people and as a genuine human being.

 

A week before his passing, Larry told Johanna’s daughter, Ninon, about his personal philosophy.  He said, “The most important thing to remember is that we are all equal.”

 

 

Homelessness Myth #20: They Make Millions

 “Well, maybe homeless people don’t make millions, but they certainly make thousands,” some housed people say.  The myth that homeless people make millions or thousands of dollars is a myth of gigantic proportions.  This myth incorporates the mistaken belief that homeless people make big money by trading on their homelessness.  This myth is simply not true.

Panhandling is one of the primary ways a homeless person can raise funds.  In today’s parlance “begging” is called “panhandling.”

I learned a great deal about the nature and necessity of panhandling from a young homeless woman I met outside a theater in Los Angeles.  It was 9:30 p.m. on a cool winter’s night when I walked by her as she stood by a shopping cart that held her young child and her infant. 

“Can you spare some change?” she asked.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out two $1 bills.  As I handed these singles to the young mother, she pulled out a wad of bills from her pocket.  She proceeded to place my bills on top of the high stack that she already had.

I began to walk away when I thought I would talk to the young mother.

“May I ask you a question?”

“Sure.” 

“I’m wondering about something.  It’s late at night, you have two young children and you have a lot of money.  Why are you and your children outside in the cold?”

“Well, you don’t understand.”

She pulled out all of her money from her pocket.  For the first time I noticed that the high stack of bills was actually a bunch of crinkled one dollar bills stacked one on top of another.

“Before you came along, I had $26 here.  Now, with your two dollars, I have $28.  I’ll be out here until I get $36 for a motel room for me and my babies.”

I was silent.  I had no more cash to give her.  So, I wished the young mother well and left with a heavy heart.

Obviously, panhandling is not as lucrative as some of us think.  And, this young mother taught me that appearances can be deceiving.

Recycling is another way a homeless person can make money.  We’ve all seen a homeless person pushing a cart filled to overflowing with cans and bottles.  Sometimes there are even plastic bags bulging with recyclables tied to the sides of the cart.  

Can a homeless person “get rich quick” by recycling?  Not really.  Working from dawn to dust, a homeless person may gather as much as $40 in recyclables.  Just enough for a motel room and perhaps one meal.

And recycling is not easy work.  It requires some mental ability and more than a little physical strength.  Certainly, this method of pursuing an income is not available to the elderly or infirm.

My homeless friend, Danny, recycled cans and bottles every day for years.  Each morning Danny would follow the same route, visiting the same locations searching for discarded recyclables.  He considered recycling his job and he was devoted to his work.   

A lovely, responsible person, Danny was hired not long ago by the City to do part-time maintenance work.  Although he enjoys his new job, Danny says that he misses his old job of recycling and the places he would visit every day.

Government benefits are another way that a homeless person can acquire funds to live.  In California, general relief (GR), also known as “welfare,” is a county-funded program.  Although each of the 58 California counties sets its own amount of benefits, San Diego County provides $234 as a loan to a single qualifying adult.

A $234 loan per month is a far cry from riches for a homeless person.  Often a homeless person will use some of his/her GR to rent a motel room for several nights and to pay for food during this same period of time.  His/her goal is to clean up, rest and possibly remember what it is like to be housed once again.  This brief respite gives the homeless person an opportunity to leave the harsh conditions of being unsheltered. 

Other benefits a homeless person may qualify for include:

•  SSI:  Supplemental Security Income is available to assist the elderly, blind or disabled person who has low or no income.  In the year 2000, SSI’s maximum monthly benefit was $512. 

•  SSDI:  Social Security Disability Insurance is a monthly benefit for disabled people who have worked within 10 years of the disability and paid Social Security taxes. In the year 2000, the average benefit was about $750.

See www.socialsecurity.gov and http://www.ndrf.org/NDRF%20Patient%20Handbook/SecB_pp265-274.PDF

Once again, the monthly benefits available to a qualifying adult through SSI or SSDI will not make a homeless person rich.   The goal of these programs is to provide a safety net for those who do qualify.  These funds may be sufficient for a homeless person to secure housing.

People are homeless for a host of reasons.  But, for whatever the reason, unsheltered people have no homes.  Homeless people are not pretending to be poor.  They do not have the funds for three meals a day and a roof over their heads every night.

No homeless person is getting rich through panhandling, recycling or any government program.

I look forward to your comments.  Thank you.

Christine

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / B Tal

Homelessness Myth #20: They Make Millions

 “Well, maybe homeless people don’t make millions, but they certainly make thousands,” some housed people say.  The myth that homeless people make millions or thousands of dollars is a myth of gigantic proportions.  This myth incorporates the mistaken belief that homeless people make big money by trading on their homelessness.  This myth is simply not true.

 

Panhandling is one of the primary ways a homeless person can raise funds.  In today’s parlance “begging” is called “panhandling.”

 

I learned a great deal about the nature and necessity of panhandling from a young homeless woman I met outside a theater in Los Angeles.  It was 9:30 p.m. on a cool winter’s night when I walked by her as she stood by a shopping cart that held her young child and her infant. 

 

“Can you spare some change?” she asked.

 

I reached into my pocket and pulled out two $1 bills.  As I handed these singles to the young mother, she pulled out a wad of bills from her pocket.  She proceeded to place my bills on top of the high stack that she already had.

 

I began to walk away when I thought I would talk to the young mother.

 

“May I ask you a question?”


“Sure.”

 

“I’m wondering about something.  It’s late at night, you have two young children and you have a lot of money.  Why are you and your children outside in the cold?”

 

“Well, you don’t understand.”

 

She pulled out all of her money from her pocket.  For the first time I noticed that the high stack of bills was actually a bunch of crinkled one dollar bills stacked one on top of another.

 

“Before you came along, I had $26 here.  Now, with your two dollars, I have $28.  I’ll be out here until I get $36 for a motel room for me and my babies.”

 

I was silent.  I had no more cash to give her.  So, I wished the young mother well and left with a heavy heart.

 

Obviously, panhandling is not as lucrative as some of us think.  And, this young mother taught me that appearances can be deceiving.

 

Recycling is another way a homeless person can make money.  We’ve all seen a homeless person pushing a cart filled to overflowing with cans and bottles.  Sometimes there are even plastic bags bulging with recyclables tied to the sides of the cart.

 

Can a homeless person “get rich quick” by recycling?  Not really.  Working from dawn to dust, a homeless person may gather as much as $40 in recyclables.  Just enough for a motel room and perhaps one meal.

 

And recycling is not easy work.  It requires some mental ability and more than a little physical strength.  Certainly, this method of pursuing an income is not available to the elderly or infirm.

 

My homeless friend, Danny, recycled cans and bottles every day for years.  Each morning Danny would follow the same route, visiting the same locations searching for discarded recyclables.  He considered recycling his job and he was devoted to his work. 

 

A lovely, responsible person, Danny was hired not long ago by the City to do part-time maintenance work.  Although he enjoys his new job, Danny says that he misses his old job of recycling and the places he would visit every day.

 

Government benefits are another way that a homeless person can acquire funds to live.  In California, general relief (GR), also known as “welfare,” is a county-funded program.  Although each of the 58 California counties sets its own amount of benefits, San Diego County provides $234 as a loan to a single qualifying adult.

 

A $234 loan per month is a far cry from riches for a homeless person.  Often a homeless person will use some of his/her GR to rent a motel room for several nights and to pay for food during this same period of time.  His/her goal is to clean up, rest and possibly remember what it is like to be housed once again.  This brief respite gives the homeless person an opportunity to leave the harsh conditions of being unsheltered. 

 

Other benefits a homeless person may qualify for include:

 

  SSI:  Supplemental Security Income is available to assist the elderly, blind or disabled person who has low or no income.  In the year 2000, SSI’s maximum monthly benefit was $512.

 

  SSDI:  Social Security Disability Insurance is a monthly benefit for disabled people who have worked within 10 years of the disability and paid Social Security taxes. In the year 2000, the average benefit was about $750.

See www.socialsecurity.gov and http://www.ndrf.org/NDRF%20Patient%20Handbook/SecB_pp265-274.PDF

 

Once again, the monthly benefits available to a qualifying adult through SSI or SSDI will not make a homeless person rich.   The goal of these programs is to provide a safety net for those who do qualify.  These funds may be sufficient for a homeless person to secure housing.

 

People are homeless for a host of reasons.  But, for whatever the reason, unsheltered people have no homes.  Homeless people are not pretending to be poor.  They do not have the funds for three meals a day and a roof over their heads every night.

 

No homeless person is getting rich through panhandling, recycling or any government program.

 

I look forward to your comments.  Thank you.

 

Christine

 

Threads of Compassion Weave Warmth, Gratitude and Life-Changing Lesson

I never thought that the dude that directed blockbuster comedies such as Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor and Bruce Almighty — movies that don’t particularly interest me — would craft an inspiring, probing, life-changing film.

Tom Shadyac’s non-fiction documentary genre "I Am" is a powerful, in-depth and eye-opening look into our world. It raises two simple, yet intensely deep questions: "What’s wrong with it [our world]?" and "How can we all make it better?" This non-fiction flick tells the story of Tom Shadyac’s near death experience — how it awakened his spirit and how he is choosing to consciously live the rest of his life. He explores how interconnected humanity really is, using science to explain how when two people touch or are in proximity to one another, the person’s heartbeat signal actually registers in the other person’s brain. Researchers also explain how our thoughts and emotions affect the world around us, even impacting bacteria in yogurt. Yes, I did write yogurt!

The film "I AM" truly is amazing. I don’t use the words truly and amazing lightly either. It shook me to my core and moved me to tears. As a former TV reporter, I’ve seen so many tragic and profound real-life stories and multimedia pieces, that I’ve become desensitized. If you ask my friends, they’ll tell you that it takes something significantly moving for me to laugh and cry during a movie. That’s why I want to share my experience with you…

Shadyac recounts his life-changing shift after a cycling accident nearly took his life. Not wanting to spoil the ending, I’ll stop there. I’ll only tell you that he became disillusioned with life on the A-list — the status and material wealth that came with it — and had an epiphany that sparked a shift that led to drastic life changes. He sold his house, expunged material "things" (the personal jet, big home and fancy cars) and moved to a mobile home to start a new life filled with awareness.

Aside from the snapshot of Shadyac’s surreal awakening, the images, textures and riveting interviews with Desmond Tutu, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky are brilliantly woven together, with a sprinkle of eye-opening scientific data, and a lot of moving scenes, vignettes, facts, figures that will leave you feeling like you can really make your mark in this world.

 

Coincidentally, on my way home, I had an experience that eerily depicted scenes from the movie. I was out of gas. For some weird reason I passed up the gas station right off of the freeway exit and was compelled to drive out of my way, past my San Francisco apartment, to gas up. As I pulled up, a scene played out before me like the movie I just watched — fancy shiny cars, hybrids, Mercedes and Hondas juxtaposed next to two homeless men eating out of the trash can, another asking customers to clean their windows in exchange for some spare change.

As I got out of the warm confines of my car to pump gas, I immediately noticed the frigid wind against my face. That’s when a homeless man walked up to me, with a desperate glare in his eyes. He told me, "Sir, someone stole all my stuff. Do you believe that? Do you have an extra jacket or tee shirt in your car that I can have?" I was shocked to think that someone would steal from a homeless man and immediately glanced inside my car and didn’t have any garments. I told him, "If you would’ve asked me yesterday, I would’ve given you two as I just cleaned out my car." His hopeful face filled with despondency. In a genuine tone, he said, "Thank you, have a nice night."

I felt terrible that he didn’t have anything to keep him warm, aside from a thin tee. I had a thin maroon v-neck sweater on and I was shivering. I thought, wow, he only has a tee-shirt on, so he must be colder than I was. I said, "Wait, do you want this sweater I’m wearing?" His eyes lit up as though he won the Mega Millions jackpot. Dumbfounded by the offer, he graciously said, "Oh, yes, please, anything will help, I’m cccold." I took off the sweater and handed it to him.

What happened next caught me completely off guard. He put both hands in front of him, palms facing me to signal me to stop and said, "Wait, you don’t have to give it to me now, you can take it off when you’re done pumping gas so you’re not cold." Wow, I immediately got the chills (not from the windy weather) and handed it over to him right away. I thought to myself, how thoughtful of him to think about my warmth when he had been exposed to the elements for God knows how long.

I then asked him for his name. He said, "I’m Kevin." I shook his frozen hand and said, "Nice to meet you, I’m Toan. Have a good night and God bless you.” His smile widened, revealing a mouth full of missing teeth. WOW. Talk about adding more octane to an already inspiring night.

Admittedly, I rarely give to the homeless on the street. I thought, I give so much to the homeless through GoInspireGo.com and have passed up lucrative job offers to build my organization (a video based website that inspires people to help others.)

This personal, raw, real connection and experience taught me that we are more interconnected than we think. Our actions, however small we think it might be, could change how people treat others. No ripple is too small.

This experience taught me that there is more I can do, simple things like clearing out the many sweaters and jackets in my closet and donating them to folks like Kevin. In return, Kevin probably doesn’t know what ripple he created in me as I share this story with you and many others. He created a shift in me, raised my awareness and consciousness -– and emblazoned in my mind is his smile, filled with so much hope. I will never forget that.

Perhaps there is more that you can do too…
What can you do to make someone else’s life better today? You have the power.

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