Tag Archives: homelessness

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.

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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

A Million Reasons to Volunteer This 4th of July

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 10.40.44 PMBy Levi Newman

I’d like to believe that most of us are actively looking for ways to live healthier, more meaningful lives. It may be a “glass half full” way to view life, but to me you should always be looking to do more with the time you have. That’s why I think we should become more responsible citizens of this planet by finding ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Think about it; we’re always asking for help from dieticians, aestheticians, yoga instructors and life gurus, but how often do we ask what we can do for someone else? I’m going to let you in on a secret that I’ve been using to fill my own health and wellness needs—it’s called volunteering.

Wait, you mean you’ve heard of it? Okay, you caught me, it’s not a secret, but it is amazingly good for you!

There are a million and one reasons to volunteer at either a local or global level, but let’s focus on just a few. For starters, people who volunteer are linked to having better mental, physical and emotional health. According to a study by the UnitedHealth Group and Optum Institute, 76 percent of people surveyed said volunteering made them feel physically healthier, while another 78 percent reported lower stress levels. Researchers at the London School of Economics have even found a correlation between the amount you volunteer and the chances you’ll have of being “very happy.” In essence, the more you volunteer, the happier you become.

Of course, I don’t need statistics to tell me that if I trimmed my waistline and dropped some stress that I’d be a lot happier.

Did you also know that people who volunteer are more likely to land paid employment? In fact, people who volunteer are 27 percent more likely to find a job according to research by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Looks like all that time you spent passing out meals on Thanksgiving could pay even more dividends than you imagined.

Let’s not forget the social aspect. Your selfless service helps your community grow and come together. In today’s society we can sometimes lose those close ties because of social media, so it’s imperative that we build strong bonds with those around us. And while making new friends, expanding your social network (hooray for jobs!) and even boosting your interpersonal skills are important facets, we’re not even scratching the surface of the benefits of volunteering.

We’ve talked all about the selfish—in a good way—reasons we should volunteer, but let’s talk about how volunteering our valuable time affects those in need.

The single most important thing you provide those you serve is hope, and even a little hope inspires. Giving your time, time you may have otherwise wasted on some mundane, forgettable task, could have been time used to inspire someone that may have all but given up on life. It doesn’t matter if it’s volunteering at a food bank like Feeding America, or rebuilding communities around the globe with Team Rubicon, the point is that you’re providing a service to people that truly need help.

Volunteering is one of the few activities on earth that benefits the givers as much as the recipients. That’s why when you’re looking to take on a new hobby, project or adventure, choose something that can impact someone’s life in a positive way. It doesn’t matter if you decide to start down the street at a local church, or choose to take on the big jobs with the United Nations, know that you’re making the right decision.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we’re all looking to be happier people living more fruitful lives, I challenge you to take those words and volunteer to be that change. Here’s hoping I see you out there.

* * *

-1Levi Newman, a 10-year Army veteran and graduate of the University of Missouri, currently serves as the senior author for the Veterans United Network. He also works as the Director of Outreach for Veterans United Home Loans, where he builds and maintains relationships with businesses, organizations and individuals.

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”

A Blessed Life: Practicing Gratitude in the Face of Robbery

I Dedicate You My Heart !If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep at night, you are richer than 75% of the world.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the one million who will not survive this week due to illness.

If you have money in the bank, any money at all, money in your wallet, spare change in a dish some place in your life, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. 92% of people don’t even have that.

(All three quotes above are from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer and his presentation on Gratitude.)

One time a couple of years ago, I left money in the console of my car. I deal mostly in cash. I had skipped going to the bank and left a wad of ones and fives in my console to the tune of hundreds of dollars. Not smart, I know. At the time, I was pregnant, and I was also raising my eight year old boy. This meant, when I exited the car each afternoon, I had many elements to manage — book bags, yoga bags, grocery bags, etc.

One night I absentmindedly left my doors unlocked. When my son and I got in the car the next morning to hustle to school, I realized my car had been broken into, the console had been raided and my wad of cash was gone. I was very bummed. I was irritated with the perpetrator and myself for leaving the money there in the first place. I grouched and grumbled and was so animated, that my son began to cry. He was concerned, anxious, and scared. Recognizing this, I started to pull it together. That’s when it hit me: the thief had not only taken my hard earned yoga money, he/she had also stolen all my spare change. I had no idea how much that even totaled. It was certainly not something I even noticed. So the thought occurred to me: Maybe the thief needed the money more than I did. I mean, maybe not too of course. But maybe, given that they stole every last penny, maybe they did.

Right then, I turned it around. I released my anger and my frustration. I wished the thief best of luck and love. And I started to comfort my son, while also simultaneously pledging not to leave money in the console again. And of course, to this day, my son double checks to make sure I have locked the doors each evening.

According to Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, treasuring our divinity means being in a constant state of appreciation. Dyer professes that it is in this state that we train ourselves to look for things to be joyful about, happy about and grateful for. When I am steeped in gratitude, life seems so much simpler. I am not overwhelmed with things I wish were different. I am not viewing the world from a lens of lack. I am not drowning in self-pity or sorrow. I am abundantly aware of the blessings in my life. I am full of… I am just full. It’s such a delightful way of being. I offer you this humbly. Gratitude. It’s a practice worth engaging. It’s the practice of looking for the beauty around you at all times. It’s so fulfilling and enriching. Give it a try.

photo by: Joe Fakih Gomez

5 Amazing Stories from Go Inspire Go’s 50/50 Campaign

Many have written about the ability of social media to disperse information and create networks, but is it affecting any real social change? There are plenty of examples of social networking platforms playing essential roles in social movements, often in an organic, if scattered and chaotic, fashion. But the folks at Go Inspire Go (GIG) are taking a different approach. Their aim is to create organized, social media-driven campaigns to trigger overarching change on social issues.

Easier said than done. What makes people actually change their ways and beliefs? What final straw acts as the catalyst for reform? You might say “give people the facts,” or “use statistics to make an argument,” or “wait for a catastrophic event to get people moving.” For GIG, the power lies in sharing inspiring, relatable stories to show people that small steps can lead to real transformation.

That’s why GIG’s leader Toan Lam came up with the idea to document 50 inspiring stories, one from each of the 50 United States, to paint a portrait of local, everyday heroes in communities around the country. They are calling the initiative “50/50” and dispersing the stories via their YouTube channel – a great thing to check out if you’re ever in need of an inspiring pick-me-up. From an 8-year-old’s freedom-inspired lemonade stand to a woman who makes custom Superhero capes for sick children, these stories are guaranteed to strike a empathetic chord. In conjunction with the 50 stories, GIG also oversees a “Tea with Toan” video chat series, leadership training for millennials, and monthly blogs on various nonprofits working for social change.

We are inspired by the many ways people are rallying to use social media to make a difference in the world, and these video stories poignantly capture these efforts.

Here are five of our favorite stories from the 50/50 campaign:

1. After witnessing homelessness for the first time, 5-year-old Phoebe from San Francisco spearheaded a campaign to raise money to feed the hungry in her city. She has raised over $18,000 already for the SF Food Bank!

2. Psychiatrist Dr. Ron Holt decided to cut back on his private practice in order to travel around the country speaking about and educating people on LGBT issues and the science of sexuality. He discusses the devastating impacts of bullying and discrimination, with the goal of inspiring communities to adopt more inclusive values.

3. In response to recent riots in London, one couple decided to take alternative action. It started when they offered one particularly exhausted-looking sergeant a cup of tea, and spiraled into them walking the streets with cups and pitchers of hot tea to pass out to guards and bystanders.

4. Many people love dogs, but Emelinda Narvaez made it her life’s work to save as many dogs as she could through her nonprofit, Earth Angels. As of now, her organization has rescued over 10,000 canines. Even cancer couldn’t stop her, and she went on to use her own social security money to continue her dog-saving efforts.

5. In one inspiring story of corporate responsibility, the Spungen family from Illinois sold their multi-million dollar company and distributed $6.6 million to 230 employees as year-end bonuses. If only more businesses would follow their example!

Support Go-Inspire-Go’s IndieGoGo campaign HERE >>>

For more amazing stories from GIG’s 50/50 campaign and to help them raise $50,000 in the next month, visit their website, YouTube channel, and help them spread the word!

Peace Begins with Me

"The LORD is my Light..."By TL Cullen

I have been thinking a lot about this statement and how I can be the peace I wish to see in the world. I’ve had quite a turbulent time emotionally these last couple of years and it is these experiences that have driven me to search for techniques to restore my inner peace. Consistently be the best version of myself. Consistency, now that is the part that I really struggle with.

My hope is that by changing my perspective of life from defending the beliefs and behaviour of my ego to one of cooperation and support that it will remind others of their compassionate supportive nature. Consistently be the best version of themselves.

On my way to work this morning I witness road rage, a driver beeps and abuses a lady riding her bike. The bus driver argues with the man who can’t work out his bus ticket. These serve as reminders of peace so I buy the guy a ride on my ticket. It reminds to me to smile and connect with people on the street as I walk to work, people I would normally ignore. It reminds me to hold my tongue when my ego wants to defend me and say things that I know peace would never think let alone say.

I’m 35 years old so I forgive myself, daily….hourly, and figure that 35 years of habits running subconsciously are going to take more to reprogram than buying a bus ticket. But I do it anyway because I know that all these small things everyday represent the good in me. That well of unconditional love, compassion and kindness that we all carry around with us. They make me strive to do more and be accountable for my actions and inaction.

I once heard a saying that has stuck with me “anyone can be a Hitler or a Mother Teresa” (words to that effect). All it takes is choice. It’s so easy to go through life on autopilot and forget that we have choice. Recognising that I have a choice to be either I know instantly who I would rather be. Then
why is it so hard sometimes?

So I give a homeless man all the change left in my wallet but this time I engage in conversation, peace wins over fear, making those around me awkwardly shuffle on their feet desperate for the traffic light to change but at least they react. For a brief moment they return from autopilot to this world where they can make a real difference. It they choose to.

Individuals do make a positive impact on the world. I know this because I am one and I have given many positive things to this world. But I know that does not give me permission to revert back to the negativity that can settle in my mind. There is no point system involved in this process. I am committed to being the best version of myself.

What if individuals in power on the world stage chose peace? Chose to put their collective ego aside and began to demonstrate peace. These conflicts are old so I forgive them daily…hourly for not choosing the peace that is very much possible. The road less travelled. I know that years of habits running subconsciously through this world will take more than the seemingly difficult changes required to reprogram it but I hope they do it anyway.

Much Love.

* * *

IMG_0276Having written for business for 16 years I have turned my attention to myself and begun the long overdue process of questioning my habits and beliefs and the effect they’ve had on my life so far. My passion is to find a balance between supporting others and loving myself in a non-ego way. My hope is that writing about my experiences will inspire others to have the confidence to be themselves, flaws and all, and to use the space that clearing self-sabotaging habits leaves to be the best version of themselves.

Homelessness: “Not in my Backyard”

urlNIMBY is the abbreviation of the phrase, “Not In My Backyard.” It is a term used to describe the negative emotional reaction that some of us experience when we fear that other people, who belong in a group other than the group to which we align ourselves, may live near or among us.

NIMBYism is the term used as a noun as in the sentence, “Group homes for people with severe mental challenges are not welcome in this neighborhood because of the NIMBYism of its residents.”

The focus of NIMBYism can be any race, economic class or any basis upon which similarly situated people can be distinguished from other groups.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that the first known use of this term was in 1980. However, the negative emotional response to people unlike ourselves living in our neighborhoods developed long before its use in everyday parlance.

Question: How did NIMBYism develop?

Answer: How does any fear develop? Sometimes we fear the unknown. Sometimes we fear that which we cannot control. Sometimes we fear that which we don’t understand.

I believe the changes in mental health law in the State of California had something to do with the widespread development of NIMBYism.

Prior to the 1970s, mentally-ill and developmentally disabled people in the State of California could be detained without their consent for an indefinite period of time in the State mental hospitals. By 1966, “eighty-four percent of all persons in State mental hospitals [were] under involuntary commitment.”

At that time, it has been said, “criminals had more due process than mental health patients.”

In 1967, the California Mental Health Act, co-authored by Assemblyman Frank Lanterman (R) and Senators Nicholas C. Petris (D) and Alan Short (D), was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan. The Act, known by the name of its co-authors as the “Lanterman-Petris-Short Act” or “LPS Act,” became fully effective on July 1, 1972.

The intent of the LPS Act was:

“To end the inappropriate, indefinite, and involuntary commitment of mentally disordered persons, developmentally disabled persons and persons impaired by chronic alcoholism, and to eliminate legal disabilities;
 To provide prompt evaluation and treatment of persons with serious mental disorders or impaired by chronic alcoholism;
 To guarantee and protect public interest;
 To safeguard individual rights through judicial review;
 To provide individualized treatment, supervision, and placement services by a conservatorship program for gravely disabled persons;
 To encourage the full use of all existing agencies, professional personnel and public funds to accomplish these objectives and to prevent duplication of services and unnecessary expenditures;
 To protect mentally disordered persons and developmentally disabled persons from criminal acts.”

While one of the goals of LPS was “to prevent inappropriate commitment,” mentally-ill and developmentally disabled patients were released from the State mental hospital often without access to alternative housed treatment programs. It was believed mentally-ill and developmentally disabled patients should be treated in the least restrictive environment possible.  In fact, “A New Vision for Mental Health Treatment Laws, A Report by The LPS Reform Task Force,” found that the purpose of the LPS Act was actually “to depopulate state hospitals.” .

Question: When mentally-ill and developmentally disable people were released from the State mental hospitals, why were alternative treatment centers/group homes not available for these former patients?

Answer: There were a number of reasons, including economic factors, that alternative treatment centers/group homes were not available. But the fundamental reason was NIMBYism. We did not have the will to treat and house these former patients because some of us feared having mentally-ill people live in our neighborhoods. Hence, few treatment centers/group homes were available with the result that a number of these former patients became homeless.

Question: Why is understanding NIMBYism important today?

Answer: NIMBYism is often the reason for many of the challenges service providers face when proposing new residential programs for homeless people. A local community may oppose residential programs based only on the fear of having homeless people, the program participants, within their neighborhood.

Question: How do we get over NIMBYism?

Answer: Education, understanding and compassion.

When we become educated, we understand that we do not need to fear people simply because they have no homes and/or they have mental impairments. Once we understand people and the reasons for their current situation better, we become sympathetic to their plight. Our compassion motivates us to help them.

In the words of A New Vision for Mental Health Treatment Laws, A Report by The LPS Reform Task Force, “We have a choice: we can shut our eyes to the sight of tragedy or we can make up our minds to give people with mental illness a community structure of compassionate care.

“Current California law emphasizes deinstitutionalization of people from long term, state-run, psychiatric hospital facilities. Today, as the original LPS proponents intended, state institutions are nearly a thing of the past.

Question: Why is the discussion of NIMBYism relevant now?

Answer: Because of NIMBYism, some of us now fight the building of shelters, affordable housing and treatment centers/group homes for homeless people. It is only with adequate, appropriate housing, including residential treatment programs, can homelessness end.

Question: What is the result of NIMBYism?

Answer: Homelessness is the result of NIMBYism. Without adequate, appropriate housing for people, including residential treatment programs, people will continue to be homeless.

Question: How do we rid ourselves of NIMBYism?

Answer: We can replace NIMBYism with compassion – compassion awakened through education and understanding.

Once we have replaced our fear of homeless people with compassion for their condition, NIMBYism will end.

Frank Lanterman, one of the co-authors of the LPS Act has said, “I wanted the LPS Act to help the mentally ill. I never meant for it to prevent those who need care from getting it. The law has to be changed.”

The law will change and homeless people will be housed and treated, as needed, as our attitudes become more compassionate. By increasing our compassion, I believe we can put an end to NIMBYism.

I look forward to your comments.

Thank you,

Homelessness Myth #25: Here a Homeless, There a Homeless

For some time now, we have been aware of homelessness in our midst. In the 50’s, we called people without homes, “hobos.” The hobos were generally men who we believed chose the free and easy lifestyle of riding railroad cars and doing odd jobs for housed country folk in exchange for sandwiches.

In fact, the lives of hobos were romanticized through movies, including “Emperor of the North,” staring Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine.

Today, the fastest growing segment of the homeless population is families, including single mothers with their children. I don’t know anyone who believes that families choose a homeless lifestyle. There is nothing free and easy about their homelessness. And there are no romantic movies being made about their plight.

However, we housed people now often refer to homeless people by the adjective, “homeless” as if by losing their homes, people lose their humanity and become defined and classified by their economic status. We’ve all read, heard and maybe even said, “There’s a homeless.”

There’s a “homeless” what? A homeless dog? A homeless cat? A homeless person?

I believe that this practice of referring to people merely by the use of the adjective, “homeless,” dehumanizes them. I recommend that we put a noun after the adjective, “homeless,” such as, “homeless man,” “homeless woman,” “homeless youth,” “homeless child.”

Our choice of language is important for ourselves and for the people about whom we are speaking because it reminds us that we have a shared humanity and that realization can awaken our compassion.

We don’t refer to housed people by their economic status. For example, have your ever heard or said, “Oh, there’s a housed.”

But, we do say, “Oh, there’s a homeless.”

My question is: Why does it matter to us whether people have a home or don’t when we’re talking about them?

Recently, a security guard friend of mine showed up with a bandage around the fingers of his right hand.

“What happened?” I inquired.

“When I was standing outside the store I patrol, I told a ‘homeless’ that he had to move along. When I grabbed his shirt, he grabbed my thumb and it got bent backward.”

I wished my friend well and I’ve being thinking about our conversation ever since.

Aside from the fact that perhaps my friend should not have grabbed the person’s shirt, I wondered about his use of language.

Why did it matter that the person he was trying to move along was homeless? Why couldn’t he have just described the person as a man?

Upon reflection, I believe that my friend’s language is common usage today. Watch for it and see if you agree. In even the most casual of conversations, some of us say something like, “A homeless’ did this,” “’A homeless’ did that,” or “There’s a ‘homeless’.”

I believe that there are a number of reasons for our choice of language. At some psychological level, perhaps, we may be angry with homeless people whom we believe have failed to live up to what society requires of them to be housed.

We may also resent that homeless people are living off the benefits of society that we housed people have supplied.

And, perhaps the most prevalent reason for our choice of language is that we may be afraid that, pretty much like feelings of old about cancer, if we speak about homelessness we might “catch it” and become homeless ourselves.

Of course, homelessness is not catching, but in this economic climate many of us, dare I say, most of us are one paycheck away from becoming homeless ourselves. Economic instability creates a great deal of fear in us.

I’m no psychologist, but it seems to me that we are unconsciously transferring our fear of homelessness from ourselves to the visual presentation of our fear, homeless people.

What do you think?

I look forward to your comments.

Thank you,


photo by: @alviseni

Thank You For Helping Susan Hunt

On Saturday, August 25th, in San Diego, California, Susan Hunt, a 61 year old woman, was struck by a car driven by a 69 year old man.

In the collision, Susan hit her head and suffered severe brain trauma. She was on life-support at Scripps Hospital until September 4th, when, following her previously stated wishes, extraordinary measures were removed. Within fifteen minutes thereof, Susan died peacefully.

Although she was housed when she passed, Susan had been homeless for over 10 years. Susan’s progress from homelessness was the combined result of her great personal determination and the compassionate efforts of many people and agencies.

Our Center for Justice and Social Compassion (CJSC) helped her get her identification documents and many basic services.

Sally Dunn and the entire staff at SD County Mental Health provided invaluable services.

Susan received much needed support at Rachel’s Women’s Center.

David Ross, The Waterman, was a dear friend and supporter of “Mo” (Susan’s nickname).

In December 2010, through the efforts of Bob McElroy and the Alpha Project, Susan became a resident of the Winter Shelter.

At that facility, Susan was assisted by many agencies, including Townspeople, Friend to Friend and many more.

Susan received HPRP funding and was housed for a year. She then received funding for an additional year of housing, now in its fourth month, from the SD Housing Commission.

Susan had many friends, housed and unhoused, and we will all miss this gentle lady.

We thank everyone who was a part of Susan’s life.


What Kids Think About Homelessness

Would you appreciate the opportunity to be inspired? Do yourself a favor and watch this video, “Dream What Could Be Done,” sung by children of Lanai High and Elementary School (LHES) Fifth Grade Class of 2020 under the direction of Matt Glickstein, educational assistant for the Department of Education, State of Hawaii.

Some of the children share their thoughts on homelessness.

“There’s always something you can do.” – KA

“If homeless people have no homes, we will build a home for them. We will help the kids get an education. We will help the adults to get jobs so they can make money.” – KK

“One person can make a big difference, so give the stuff you don’t need to a homeless shelter.” – CP

“In the future I will stand up and talk to one city, two cities, three cities, or 4 cities. I don’t care how many cities I go to, I only care about changing the world.” – MB

“If we can all work together, we can do much more than you think.” – AA-T

“What I know about some homeless people is that they talk to themselves sometimes, and that is because they don’t have people to talk to.” – KS

“I think everyone should have a home and a family. People in Africa and other parts of the world are hungry and eat from garbage cans, and drink dirty, polluted water. These people deserve fresh water and good food. They deserve it from the second they were homeless and/or hungry. It’s not their fault.” – LC

As Matt generously says, “The idea to compose “Dream What Could Be Done” came from this blog. Matt posted the link to “Singing to the World” on a blog I had written about the Dalai Lama. I responded with enthusiasm and asked Matt if he could create a song and music video about homelessness.

Matt Glickstein is a songwriter and musician born and raised on O’ahu, Hawaii. His goal has always been trying to help people through music, the universal language. After ten years of writing many different kinds of songs, he found what he loves most by creating Songs For a Better World.

The project started as an ordinary poetry assignment by LHES fourth grade teacher Sandy Patterson, who has personally supported our efforts, and turned it into something much, much more. First, through the creative energy inspired by writing about peace, the poems became lyrics. Then, with the help of Glickstein, the song, “Singing to the World,” at http://youtu.be/7xXnlmitQWc was born. The children’s passion inspired ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro to accompany them in a music video.

“Songs For a Better World,” in CD format now and DVD in the near future, are available for sale on Matt’s website, as well as on iTunes.

As a post-script to this article, Matt informs me, “On September 21st, the Maui County Council is going to present the Lanai Class of 2020 with a resolution honoring the work they’ve done, including the ‘Singing to the World’ video, which was played at two events honoring His Holiness the Dalai Lama in April of this year, and ‘Every Day is Earth Day,’ which won two contests, including one national contest.”

Congratulations Lanai High and Elementary School (LHES) Fifth Grade Class of 2020 and Matt! And thank you for your wonderful, inspiring and compassionate songs!

I look forward to your comments.

Thank you,

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