Tag Archives: Myths

Probiotics, Prebiotics: Fact and Fiction

yogurt probioticsThese days with so much access to information we tend to get overloaded with it. We can’t tell what’s valid information and what isn’t. There is so much confusion surrounding probiotics and prebiotics, and outrageous marketing claims of yogurt companies and other companies isn’t helping.  Here’s a basic overview of what probiotics are in comparison to prebiotics, and some information to help cut through the clutter of claims.  

The Pros of Probiotics

Probiotics are basically microorganisms that promote health.  They are primarily bacteria that offer health benefits when eaten or supplemented with.  There are many different strains of bacteria that offer an array of health benefits.  The two most common strains include:  L. acidophilus and B. bifidum,

Eating yogurt is rarely enough to obtain the many health benefits of probiotics.  Many commercially-available brands of yogurt don’t contain “live cultures.”  If you’re choosing one, be sure to choose one that says “live cultures” on the label.  The claim doesn’t guarantee that the cultures are intact, but it may increase the odds.

The Myths about Prebiotics

Prebiotics are the food that probiotics feed on to enable them to populate the intestines.  Many food products and supplements come with claims that they contain prebiotics that are necessary for probiotics to work but that isn’t the whole story.  While it is true that probiotics feed on prebiotics, they are rarely necessary and more often take up valuable “real estate” within a tiny capsule.  Carbohydrates such as sugars, starches, and fiber are technically prebiotics that feed probiotics.  They are found in all plant-based foods.

***

Adapted with permission from my upcoming book, The Probiotic Miracle (DaCapo).

Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Check out my new books 60 Seconds to Slim and Weekend Wonder Detox.  Follow my blog on my site ProbioticMiracle.com, Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook. 

Homelessness Myth #24: They All Frequent Bars

photo: mac.rj

We’re all aware that the United States economy is going through some hard times. A number of businesses are experiencing financial down turns. Some housed people believe that all homeless people spend a great deal of time hanging out in bars and, by their very presence in those bars, negatively impact those businesses.

But do all homeless people really hang out in bars? To answer this question, I asked a number of people who have experienced homelessness whether they frequent bars and, if so, what have their experiences in bars been. I am grateful to them for their answers that follow.

Anonymous, a 49 year old man who lives in his van: “I don’t go into bars. In fact, I don’t even like to go into stores so why would I go into a bar?

“Years ago I did go into two bars, but I was asked to leave both bars because I was homeless. I had never been in those bars before. I was asked to leave and I hadn’t done anything. I wasn’t drunk.”

Ami, a 18 year old woman who is homeless:

“I don’t drink [alcohol]. I can’t. I would if I could, but I can’t. I don’t drink because I might be pregnant.”

Dani, a 25 year old man who has been housed for 2 years:

“I was homeless right after I got out of the military when I left my wife. I was homeless for 1 ½ years.

“When I was homeless, I went to bars – all the time. I pretty much lived at the Noodle House.

“I tried to take my friend who is homeless, autistic and of age into a bar. Because he was homeless, the owner sent a waiter to tell us that my friend had to leave. So we all left. We went to another bar.

“Now that I’m housed, I go to bars. It was my birthday yesterday and I think I hit all of them.”

Ray-Ray, a 28 year old man who is homeless:

“I was asked to leave a bar because I am homeless. The rich have everything. [They think,] ‘the hell with us kids!’

“I’m old enough to do anything, but I can’t because I’m homeless. I have a lot of limitations, but I don’t give up on anyone.”

Joker, a 18 year old man who is homeless:

“Hell yes, I go to bars. I go all day whenever I want to.

“I’ve never been asked to leave. Once or twice I’ve seen another homeless person denied service in a bar.

“I’ve been denied service because I was too drunk when I got to that bar.

“Business is great when a homeless person goes into a bar. There are a lot of kinds of drunks. I’m a funny drunk. I’m one of those drunks that everybody likes.”

Scott, a 32 year old man who is homeless:

“I don’t go to bars. I haven’t been in a bar since Easter Sunday. Before that I would go to bars.

“In San Diego I was asked to leave a bar because I didn’t have any money.

“Several times I’ve seen homeless people asked to leave a bar because they were homeless.”

Ronald, a 46 year old man who is “in-between homes:”

“I go to bars, but I don’t drink. I go for the music and nightlife. I’ve been clean of alcohol for 15 years because I didn’t want my 4 sons to be around that.

“I’ve never been kicked out of a bar for being homeless.

“It’s how you dress. And if you don’t buy something, they kick you out.

“[By the way,} do they really occupy 2,500 square feet and they don’t have a restroom? But, then you still have to buy something. See this bottle of water? I bought it for $2 just so I could use the bathroom.

“I have seen people kicked out of bars because they’re homeless. That’s why bars have cover charges – to keep the homeless out.

“If you have a backpack, you’re frowned upon [by the management of bars].”

Justin, a 25 year old homeless man:

“I don’t know about homeless people and bars. I don’t go to bars. I don’t drink.”

Terrance, a 36 year old, self-employed man, homeless 3 years ago, currently housed:

“I don’t go to bars. I don’t like bars because it’s a set up. I can’t remember the last time I was in a bar – maybe 15 years ago.

“I don’t even like to drink at ball games because of the kids. It’s a mixed signal. Adults drink and the kids are right there seeing it.”

Thomas, a 22 year old, “very homeless” man:

“I go to bars now and then. It’s a good social place.”

Boston James, a 52 year old homeless man:

“I can’t afford to drink in bars. I’ve been homeless since 2000. I’ve been 86’d from every bar I’ve tried to get into – not because I’ve done something stupid, but because when I became homeless, they no longer wanted my patronage.”

Logan, a 50 year old homeless man:

“When I was rich, I used to go to the bars with a $1,000 in one pocket and $800 in the other. I would buy drinks for the house. I was very happy and everyone else was a ‘hanger-on.’

“Now [that I am homeless], I don’t go to bars anymore.”

Grace, a 53 year old woman who lives in her van:

“I don’t go to bars. I stay as far away from bars as I can.

“I have seen homeless people being kicked out of coffee shops and restaurants. There’s a local coffee shop that opened with the premise that they were going to be a cultural center for Ocean Beach. So they have ‘open mike nights’ and full-moon drum circles.

“In the beginning homeless people could come in because they’re real musicians and could use the open mike,.

“But then the coffee shop had complaints and thought that it might loose business of how the homeless people looked.

“So, the store said that the homeless people had to be paying customers.

“Later, even if they were paying customers, homeless people weren’t allowed to stay. They were told that they couldn’t be there anymore – they weren’t welcome.

“[For example, I know] one young homeless man who is developmentally disabled, homeless, very nice, appears to be very young, and doesn’t drink alcohol. Yet, they banned him because he talks to other people and distracts the staff.

“The coffee shop now has a retired police officer to sit in front and keep out the ‘trolls,’ as he refers to homeless people.

“Most homeless people don’t drink in bars. [If they buy alcohol,] they get it from the corner liquor store and then get ticketed for public intoxication.”

I look forward to your comments.

Thank you,

Christine

When Mythology Crumbles (It’s Happening Now)

 Anyone who equates myth with superstition would claim that we live in a world that has gone beyond mythology. Science is proud of vanquishing superstition, and a certain vocal contingent of atheists use science to bolster their belief that God is pure superstition. However, mythology is harder to vanquish that that. It crops up in new guises, because myths aren’t superstitions. They are mental templates, operating assumptions, the beliefs that bolster a world view, and above all, a way to explain Nature. In any infinite universe, the human mind finds ways to tell a story that will bring the infinite within reach, and myths serve that function.

Sometimes myths are so strong that they pen reality in, building a fence around it and forcing every natural event to stay inside the fence. When God or the gods were the cause of earthly events, the fence was tight and inescapable. But the rise of quantum theory a century ago revealed that even stronger fences were hemming in our sense of reality. We explained the universe through matter and energy governed by physical laws. In the pre-quantum world this scheme wasn’t theory; it was reality pure and simple. Everything inside this fence acted the same way. It operated by cause and effect; it never went faster than the speed of light; it conformed to mathematical formulations; it excluded the mushy emotions and shifting moods of subjectivity. Science claimed to have found a model for Nature that was based on reason alone. How strange, then, that reason was actually the seed of a new mythology, and even stranger, that this rock-solid system is crumbling all around us.

In previous posts I’ve given the simplest indications of the cracks in the pre-quantum scientific mythology. It turns out that matter has no real existence but is a pattern of waves entangled in the quantum field. It turns out that events are not localized in time and space but have ramifications that go beyond spacetime and travel faster than the speed of light. And in the end the entire universe, including space and time, emerged from a state of potentiality that transcends visible creation. None of this is disputable, yet we all lead our lives as if the old boundaries hem us in. In fact, these boundaries were self-created. They are part of our accepted mythology.

Seeing what the next stage might be, after the old mythology totally crumbles, falls to a handful of speculative thinkers, many of them physicists, since they are the direct heirs of the quantum evolution. The key ideas that are catching hold, at various stages of acceptance, include the following:

The universe is evolving.
The universe is conscious.
The universe is a living organism.
The way that the cosmos presents itself depends on how you look at it.
Reality conforms to the explanation we impose upon it.
The human mind may be creating what we call reality, which mirrors us but contains infinite possibilities unreachable by the human mind.
Creation may be eternal and infinite, with countless Big Bangs and multiple universes.

Not all of these ideas are compatible with one another, and all are evolving. But the promising thing is that they are coming out into the open, acquiring respectability and therefore leading to dialogue without anyone being ostracized. Which isn’t to say that materialism, the basis of science itself, has been toppled or even lost its firm grip. Speculative thinking is the basis of all original discoveries, not to mention awe and wonder. But on an everyday basis, scientists perform experiments and seek mathematical rigor. Thus the common expression, "Shut up and calculate." Or an equally arrogant dismissal that one young physicist received form an elder colleague, "I remember when you did good science."

Mythology, as was pointed out in the beginning, isn’t superstition; it’s the way we convince ourselves that we have the right explanation. It’s a conceptual fence in which we hope to corral Nature. Science will continue to be science, of course, yet the next phase of its evolution needs somebody to look outside the fence. That will surely happen; it’s beginning to now. Even more intriguing is how science and religion are approaching the same obstacle. Science has come to the point where even quantum theory cannot venture. We want to know what gave rise to the universe, what preceded time and space, how randomness is related to design, why the laws of nature mesh so precisely, and other ultimate questions. They imply a pre-created state that gave rise to creation, and yet we may never be able to venture there, not even with mathematics. Time and space are tough boundaries to cross when the human brain is a product of processes in time and space.

 

deepakchopra.com

 

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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

 

Homelessness Myth #19: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

 Imagine for a moment the image of a homeless person.  How do you feel?  Are you imagining someone you respect?  

Many of us do not respect homeless people.  And by "us," I mean "housed people." Often, having respect for homeless people is only a myth. 

At home with our families, at work surrounded by colleagues, and even with friends, we may thoughtlessly use negative words, such as "bums," or "transients," to describe unhoused people.  Our use of these words has become so prevalent that even homeless people use them to describe themselves. 

For example, two days ago, I saw a homeless man wearing overalls taking a shower at the beach.  Standing in the cold weather under even colder running water, the homeless man made a great effort to wash.  As the homeless man finished his shower, he explained to an approaching housed person, "That’s how a bum washes his jeans."

The word, "homeless," is an adjective.  There are homeless dogs and homeless cats.  We need to remember our nouns.  We need to be clear and accurate when we are speaking about a "homeless person."  By avoiding the noun, "person," when we are talking about someone who is unhoused, we are essentially dehumanizing the person about whom we are speaking. 

Words count and we know that words can hurt.

 In addition, while we may be sympathetic to housed people with various limitations, our empathy does not seem to extend to homeless people with the same limitations.  It seems that many of us have become desensitized to the plight of homeless people through constant exposure to negative language and images in our culture.  For example, our print, radio and T.V. media often contain many disrespectful and inaccurate references to "transients," when those homeless people are often born and raised in the same area in which they are currently homeless.   

We may also show disrespect through our treatment of homeless people. Why else would we offer fewer services than are needed by them?  We disrespect homeless people when we have insufficient shelter space for the number of homeless people within any municipality.  We generally don’t meet homeless people "where they are."   In other words, we often ignore the reality of their situations and require that homeless people live up to our standards in order to get into shelters and/or receive services.

However, there is some very good news.  The cities of Los Angeles and San Diego are now attempting to "meet homeless people where they are" by providing housing to fifty and twenty-five, respectively, most-in-need homeless people regardless of their personal needs, habits and/or addictions.  After these people are housed, appropriate services will be offered.

Why should we respect homeless people?  We need to respect homeless people because they are people.  Living without a home, money, modern conveniences and often a job, they are suffering more distress than many housed people have ever experienced.  

Further, about 45% of homeless people are mentally ill.  Does this diminish the respect that we owe them?  No, because they are still people.  Most of the time we are unaware that certain housed people we know are mentally ill.  Because of a number of factors, mental illness among housed people is often not as obvious as the mental illness of homeless people.  

It seems to me that the issues of homelessness have been in existence long enough for homelessness to become a formal science.  Although we don’t offer enough shelter to meet the entire need, we now offer homeless people more housing assistance than ever before.  Over time our service programs have become more effective.  Our statistical methods of counting homeless people have improved.  

Therefore, it is time to review our language concerning homeless people, our cultural influences on the topic of homelessness and our treatment of homeless people so that we can recognize our biases.  When we realize our negativities, we can make changes to reflect our enlightened state of mind.   Once we respect homeless people, our world will change for the better. 

I look forward to your comments.  Thank you.


Christine

Contributor, Barbara Raymer Witzer, R-DMT, LMFT

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / Joel Bedford

Homelessness Myth #18: The Police Will Solve It

 Homeless is first and foremost a social service issue.  In other words, homelessness can be and will be resolved through the work of compassionate individuals and social service agencies, be they nonprofit organizations or government agencies. Nevertheless, the myth exists that homelessness is primarily a police issue. 

 If homelessness is truly a social service issue, why is police activity often seen as the ultimate solution to ending homelessness?

 First, some housed people fear homeless people.  The concept of “nimbyism,” not in my backyard, is the totality of the negative thoughts and fears of some housed people who think that their safety depends upon homeless people, as well as social service programs serving homeless people, not existing in their neighborhoods, their “backyards.”  These housed people often look to their municipal policymakers, legislative bodies and the police to “solve” homelessness by preventing or removing homeless people and homelessness programs from existing in their neighborhoods. 

 Second, often in response to the real or perceived feelings of housed people, some municipal policymakers and legislative bodies have focused on homelessness as an issue to be removed from within their borders, rather than as a city issue to be solved.  These municipal lawmakers may pass ordinances that appear to remove the problem of homelessness within their city as a political tool for garnishing votes in the next election from their fearful constituents. 

 City ordinances do not cost money to draft and pass because the municipal legislative bodies are already in place and being paid to pass ordinances.  So passing ordinances relating to homelessness per se, costs no additional funding. 

 Third, when a city focuses on passing municipal ordinances for removing homelessness from within the city, its police department becomes charged with enforcing these ordinances.  Police departments already exist and, hence, no additional funds are needed to create an enforcement body.

 There is no doubt that there are many fine members of police forces across the United States who diligently enforce the laws and simultaneously compassionately help homeless people.  In addition, in a number of municipalities, there are police teams specifically dedicated to addressing homelessness.  Sometimes these police teams have a working relationship with social service agencies and may refer homeless people to them for needed services.  However, while the police can help homeless residents, the police cannot be expected solve all of the issues of homelessness.

 What can we as individuals do to help end homelessness?  We can do a lot —

•  We can volunteer for and support local social service agencies who are helping to end homelessness.

•  There still may be time this January to volunteer and support the HUD-required Point In Time Count (PITC) of homeless people which has been mandated nationwide bi-annually at the end of January since 2005.  HUD uses the statistics gathered as a basis for distributing millions of dollars of federal funds to social service agencies.

•  We can be kind and compassionate to everyone regardless of economic standing.

I asked several social service providers to share their views on this myth.  I am grateful to them for their comments that follow.

“There are a lot of times when the police get the rap… My experience is that the police are much more of a friend to us [Alpha Project] and homeless people.  But, the police are complaint-driven…

“All the best officers are sympathetic to homeless peoples’ situations.  Anytime the HOT Team [San Diego Police Homeless Outreach Team] brings in a homeless person, we put them in the shelter…  The HOT Team is our biggest advocate.  There is no place to take anyone without the Winter Shelter being open.”

Bob McElroy, President, Alpha Project.  The San Diego Winter Shelter Program is run by Alpha Project.

 “Social services – whether publicly or privately funded – are all dedicated to improving social conditions – that’s why they’re called social services.  It’s part of the community that has solving social problems as its core mission, its bottom line.  Social service agencies are core in providing the relationships people need to be successful.  

 “Yes, to solve homelessness, let’s make everyone count.  Let’s support the experts – the social service agencies – in the powerful work of building relationships with each person who is without a home.”

Patricia Leslie, M.S.W., Director, Social Work, Point Loma Nazarene University

 “The police can be invaluable partners in our shared effort to alleviate homelessness. However, they cannot be expected to arrest or simply relocate people who are homeless. Many jurisdictions restrict the reach of the law enforcement when it comes to where people sleep or reside during the day…

 “However, what is clear is that Homelessness is not a Police Issue, it is a ‘Community Issue’. As a community, we can solve homelessness. The solution begins with empathy, compassion, and understanding. This is often difficult, but necessary in order to create the groundswell of action needed to create solutions. From this, we need to commit to affordable housing, employment options, health care, and ongoing supports in order to enable people to achieve their potential. Whose issue is it? Ours.

Peter Callstrom, Executive Director of the San Diego Regional Task Force

 “I, of course, sincerely believe that homelessness and problems that accompany it must be addressed by society at large and the social service agencies that have the knowledge and skills to help the homeless population. Government (cities and counties) and the service providers should be working together to help homeless individuals and families acquire housing, health care, both physical and mental health, education and the employment skills they need to become contributing members of our society.

 “The police do have an important piece in this process, but it should be ‘compassionate policing’ such as the Homeless Outreach Teams that are trained to work with the chronic homeless population…

 “All of us must take some responsibility to help solve [the homelessness] problem. So many talented and caring people are trying hard to end homelessness. We all need to do our part.” 

Hannah Cohen, Policy Consultant on Issues of Housing and Homelessness, President of the Cohen Group

 “It’s such a myth to me, that when I heard that, I almost brushed it off my shoulder…because the political involvement [in homelessness] does not make the issue go away, it only moves it around.  You can sweep it [homelessness] under the rug, then you shake the rug and people on the other side of the street get upset. 

“Whatever we do to get rid of ‘the problem’ [homelessness], we affect all those communities around us.  It does not go away; it only grows.” 

Tim Sandiford, Head Trustee, Point Loma United Methodist Church, Commissioner of Ministries and Missions, Member and Point Person for Public Facilities, OB Forum

I look forward to your comments.  Thank you.


Christine

 PHOTO (cc): Flickr /  Thomas Hawk

Homelessness Article #18: The Police Will Solve It

 Homeless is first and foremost a social service issue.  In other words, homelessness can be and will be resolved through the work of compassionate individuals and social service agencies, be they nonprofit organizations or government agencies. Nevertheless, the myth exists that homelessness is primarily a police issue. 

 

If homelessness is truly a social service issue, why is police activity often seen as the ultimate solution to ending homelessness?

 

First, some housed people fear homeless people.  The concept of “nimbyism,” not in my backyard, is the totality of the negative thoughts and fears of some housed people who think that their safety depends upon homeless people, as well as social service programs serving homeless people, not existing in their neighborhoods, their “backyards.”  These housed people often look to their municipal policymakers, legislative bodies and the police to “solve” homelessness by preventing or removing homeless people and homelessness programs from existing in their neighborhoods. 

 

Second, often in response to the real or perceived feelings of housed people, some municipal policymakers and legislative bodies have focused on homelessness as an issue to be removed from within their borders, rather than as a city issue to be solved.  These municipal lawmakers may pass ordinances that appear to remove the problem of homelessness within their city as a political tool for garnishing votes in the next election from their fearful constituents. 

 

City ordinances do not cost money to draft and pass because the municipal legislative bodies are already in place and being paid to pass ordinances.  So passing ordinances relating to homelessness per se, costs no additional funding. 

 

Third, when a city focuses on passing municipal ordinances for removing homelessness from within the city, its police department becomes charged with enforcing these ordinances.  Police departments already exist and, hence, no additional funds are needed to create an enforcement body.

 

There is no doubt that there are many fine members of police forces across the United States who diligently enforce the laws and simultaneously compassionately help homeless people.  In addition, in a number of municipalities, there are police teams specifically dedicated to addressing homelessness.  Sometimes these police teams have a working relationship with social service agencies and may refer homeless people to them for needed services.  However, while the police can help homeless residents, the police cannot be expected solve all of the issues of homelessness.

 

What can we as individuals do to help end homelessness?  We can do a lot —

 

•  We can volunteer for and support local social service agencies who are helping to end homelessness.

 

•  There still may be time this January to volunteer and support the HUD-required Point In Time Count (PITC) of homeless people which has been mandated nationwide bi-annually at the end of January since 2005.  HUD uses the statistics gathered as a basis for distributing millions of dollars of federal funds to social service agencies.

 

•  We can be kind and compassionate to everyone regardless of economic standing.

 

I asked several social service providers to share their views on this myth.  I am grateful to them for their comments that follow.

 

“There are a lot of times when the police get the rap… My experience is that the police are much more of a friend to us [Alpha Project] and homeless people.  But, the police are complaint-driven…

 

“All the best officers are sympathetic to homeless peoples’ situations.  Anytime the HOT Team [San Diego Police Homeless Outreach Team] brings in a homeless person, we put them in the shelter…  The HOT Team is our biggest advocate.  There is no place to take anyone without the Winter Shelter being open.”

Bob McElroy, President, Alpha Project.  The San Diego Winter Shelter Program is run by Alpha Project.

 

“Social services – whether publicly or privately funded – are all dedicated to improving social conditions – that’s why they’re called social services.  It’s part of the community that has solving social problems as its core mission, its bottom line.  Social service agencies are core in providing the relationships people need to be successful.  

 

“Yes, to solve homelessness, let’s make everyone count.  Let’s support the experts – the social service agencies – in the powerful work of building relationships with each person who is without a home.”

Patricia Leslie, M.S.W., Director, Social Work, Point Loma Nazarene University

 

“The police can be invaluable partners in our shared effort to alleviate homelessness. However, they cannot be expected to arrest or simply relocate people who are homeless. Many jurisdictions restrict the reach of the law enforcement when it comes to where people sleep or reside during the day…

 

“However, what is clear is that Homelessness is not a Police Issue, it is a ‘Community Issue’. As a community, we can solve homelessness. The solution begins with empathy, compassion, and understanding. This is often difficult, but necessary in order to create the groundswell of action needed to create solutions. From this, we need to commit to affordable housing, employment options, health care, and ongoing supports in order to enable people to achieve their potential. Whose issue is it? Ours.

Peter Callstrom, Executive Director of the San Diego Regional Task Force

 

“I, of course, sincerely believe that homelessness and problems that accompany it must be addressed by society at large and the social service agencies that have the knowledge and skills to help the homeless population. Government (cities and counties) and the service providers should be working together to help homeless individuals and families acquire housing, health care, both physical and mental health, education and the employment skills they need to become contributing members of our society.

 

“The police do have an important piece in this process, but it should be ‘compassionate policing’ such as the Homeless Outreach Teams that are trained to work with the chronic homeless population…

 

“All of us must take some responsibility to help solve [the homelessness] problem. So many talented and caring people are trying hard to end homelessness. We all need to do our part.” 

Hannah Cohen, Policy Consultant on Issues of Housing and Homelessness, President of the Cohen Group

 

“It’s such a myth to me, that when I heard that, I almost brushed it off my shoulder…because the political involvement [in homelessness] does not make the issue go away, it only moves it around.  You can sweep it [homelessness] under the rug, then you shake the rug and people on the other side of the street get upset. 

 

“Whatever we do to get rid of ‘the problem’ [homelessness], we affect all those communities around us.  It does not go away; it only grows.” 

Tim Sandiford, Head Trustee, Point Loma United Methodist Church, Commissioner of Ministries and Missions, Member and Point Person for Public Facilities, OB Forum

 

I look forward to you comments.  Thank you.


Christine

 

Homelessness Article #18: The Police Will Solve It

 Homeless is first and foremost a social service issue.  In other words, homelessness can be and will be resolved through the work of compassionate individuals and social service agencies, be they nonprofit organizations or government agencies. Nevertheless, the myth exists that homelessness is primarily a police issue. 

 

If homelessness is truly a social service issue, why is police activity often seen as the ultimate solution to ending homelessness?

 

First, some housed people fear homeless people.  The concept of “nimbyism,” not in my backyard, is the totality of the negative thoughts and fears of some housed people who think that their safety depends upon homeless people, as well as social service programs serving homeless people, not existing in their neighborhoods, their “backyards.”  These housed people often look to their municipal policymakers, legislative bodies and the police to “solve” homelessness by preventing or removing homeless people and homelessness programs from existing in their neighborhoods. 

 

Second, often in response to the real or perceived feelings of housed people, some municipal policymakers and legislative bodies have focused on homelessness as an issue to be removed from within their borders, rather than as a city issue to be solved.  These municipal lawmakers may pass ordinances that appear to remove the problem of homelessness within their city as a political tool for garnishing votes in the next election from their fearful constituents. 

 

City ordinances do not cost money to draft and pass because the municipal legislative bodies are already in place and being paid to pass ordinances.  So passing ordinances relating to homelessness per se, costs no additional funding. 

 

Third, when a city focuses on passing municipal ordinances for removing homelessness from within the city, its police department becomes charged with enforcing these ordinances.  Police departments already exist and, hence, no additional funds are needed to create an enforcement body.

 

There is no doubt that there are many fine members of police forces across the United States who diligently enforce the laws and simultaneously compassionately help homeless people.  In addition, in a number of municipalities, there are police teams specifically dedicated to addressing homelessness.  Sometimes these police teams have a working relationship with social service agencies and may refer homeless people to them for needed services.  However, while the police can help homeless residents, the police cannot be expected solve all of the issues of homelessness.

 

What can we as individuals do to help end homelessness?  We can do a lot —

 

•  We can volunteer for and support local social service agencies who are helping to end homelessness.

 

•  There still may be time this January to volunteer and support the HUD-required Point In Time Count (PITC) of homeless people which has been mandated nationwide bi-annually at the end of January since 2005.  HUD uses the statistics gathered as a basis for distributing millions of dollars of federal funds to social service agencies.

 

•  We can be kind and compassionate to everyone regardless of economic standing.

 

I asked several social service providers to share their views on this myth.  I am grateful to them for their comments that follow.

 

“There are a lot of times when the police get the rap… My experience is that the police are much more of a friend to us [Alpha Project] and homeless people.  But, the police are complaint-driven…

 

“All the best officers are sympathetic to homeless peoples’ situations.  Anytime the HOT Team [San Diego Police Homeless Outreach Team] brings in a homeless person, we put them in the shelter…  The HOT Team is our biggest advocate.  There is no place to take anyone without the Winter Shelter being open.”

Bob McElroy, President, Alpha Project.  The San Diego Winter Shelter Program is run by Alpha Project.

 

“Social services – whether publicly or privately funded – are all dedicated to improving social conditions – that’s why they’re called social services.  It’s part of the community that has solving social problems as its core mission, its bottom line.  Social service agencies are core in providing the relationships people need to be successful.  

 

“Yes, to solve homelessness, let’s make everyone count.  Let’s support the experts – the social service agencies – in the powerful work of building relationships with each person who is without a home.”

Patricia Leslie, M.S.W., Director, Social Work, Point Loma Nazarene University

 

“The police can be invaluable partners in our shared effort to alleviate homelessness. However, they cannot be expected to arrest or simply relocate people who are homeless. Many jurisdictions restrict the reach of the law enforcement when it comes to where people sleep or reside during the day…

 

“However, what is clear is that Homelessness is not a Police Issue, it is a ‘Community Issue’. As a community, we can solve homelessness. The solution begins with empathy, compassion, and understanding. This is often difficult, but necessary in order to create the groundswell of action needed to create solutions. From this, we need to commit to affordable housing, employment options, health care, and ongoing supports in order to enable people to achieve their potential. Whose issue is it? Ours.

Peter Callstrom, Executive Director of the San Diego Regional Task Force

 

“I, of course, sincerely believe that homelessness and problems that accompany it must be addressed by society at large and the social service agencies that have the knowledge and skills to help the homeless population. Government (cities and counties) and the service providers should be working together to help homeless individuals and families acquire housing, health care, both physical and mental health, education and the employment skills they need to become contributing members of our society.

 

“The police do have an important piece in this process, but it should be ‘compassionate policing’ such as the Homeless Outreach Teams that are trained to work with the chronic homeless population…

 

“All of us must take some responsibility to help solve [the homelessness] problem. So many talented and caring people are trying hard to end homelessness. We all need to do our part.” 

Hannah Cohen, Policy Consultant on Issues of Housing and Homelessness, President of the Cohen Group

 

“It’s such a myth to me, that when I heard that, I almost brushed it off my shoulder…because the political involvement [in homelessness] does not make the issue go away, it only moves it around.  You can sweep it [homelessness] under the rug, then you shake the rug and people on the other side of the street get upset. 

 

“Whatever we do to get rid of ‘the problem’ [homelessness], we affect all those communities around us.  It does not go away; it only grows.” 

Tim Sandiford, Head Trustee, Point Loma United Methodist Church, Commissioner of Ministries and Missions, Member and Point Person for Public Facilities, OB Forum

 

I look forward to you comments.  Thank you.


Christine

 

Homelessness Myth #17: They Flock For Services

In my opinion, the popular myth that homeless people “flock” to any particular city to take advantage of its services is cruel.  This myth is espoused by some housed people, including some people in positions of political power in certain municipalities.  They argue that their city should not offer humanitarian services or add further services to what they are already providing to homeless people, because, if they do, more homeless people will be attracted to their city. 

In essence, they rationalize that homeless people will “flock” to their city for its services.  As a result, this myth is often perpetuated as the reason to avoid creating or increasing services for people in need.   

First, people don’t “flock.”  When using the word, “flock,” as a verb, we can say, “birds flock.”  Or we can say the phrase, “a flock of birds.”  People move.

Usually people who are housed or unhoused move individually or in family units.  They move when it is convenient for them, often during vacation time so that their children avoid missing school.  Or they move to accept a new job.  Or to “start a new life” for whatever reason in a new locale.   

Only the impact of a major natural disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina, forces numbers of people to leave their homes and move en mass because their homes have became uninhabitable.  

Second, statistics show that when a person is housed and then becomes homeless, they generally stay in their own location. 

For example, in 2005, the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) held “the single largest homeless enumeration effort ever conducted…using HUD-recommended practices for counting homeless persons” that was published in its 2005 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, “Executive Summary,” p. 3.  LAHSA also reported in this same “Executive Summary,” page 8, that among the 88,000 plus homeless people residing in Los Angeles County, 78% of them were housed in Los Angeles County when they became homeless. 

Obviously, these homeless people didn’t “flock” from another jurisdiction to become homeless in Los Angeles County.  In The Daily News of January 13, 2006, LAHSA Commission Chairman Owen Newcomer acknowledged, “We do not have a situation where hordes are coming in from outside the county.”

In its 2007 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, LAHSA found that there were nearly 74,000 homeless people residing within the County of Los Angeles.  At that time, LAHSA also found, but did not publish, that the percentage of homeless people who were housed in Los Angeles County when they became homeless increased to 84%. (Source within LAHSA)

Third, some people also say that homeless people “flock” to jurisdictions where there are services to help them.  However, in its 2009 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, LAHSA reported that there were just over 48,000 people who were homeless in Los Angeles County.  This number represented a decrease of 38% of the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County from 2007. 

To what does the County of Los Angeles attribute this decline in the number of homeless people residing in the County?  On November 13, 2009, I asked that question of a LAHSA employee who told me that the decrease in the number of homeless people was due to the cooperation between the City and County of Los Angeles and their programs that have been helping homeless people become housed.  It would appear that providing effective housing programs does lead to a decrease in the number of homeless residents.

I asked several homeless people what they felt about this myth.  I thank them for their responses that follow.

Jon, 47 years old:  “I left East County because it was not making me happy and I have to be happy.  Homeless people come to certain areas for the people.  People are attracted by people.  The services come after that.  I didn’t know about the services when I came here.  I only heard about them after I was here.”

Cosmic, 48 years old:  “I wanted to come to Ocean Beach (OB).  Someone told me about OB and I looked it up on the Internet.  I didn’t come here for the City services.  I am an OBcian.’ 

Cameron, 32 years old:  “They try to keep services out of the beach communities because they don’t want to attract more people.  But [homeless] people don’t come here for the services because there’re not many services or shelters.” 

In conclusion, it is human nature that people move from one location to another seeking better opportunities for themselves or their families. Housed people move, why shouldn’t homeless people?  However, if we are all kind to our neighbors, housed and unhoused, and provide housing programs for those people in need, there would be less homeless people in every city.  What a wonderful way to put a myth to rest!

I look forward to your comments.  Thank you.

Christine

 PHOTO (cc): Flickr / Kamil Porembiński

 

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