Tag Archives: San Diego

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”

“Too Religious” for School: Yoga Curriculum Sparks Lawsuit in Southern California

little OmToday marks the first day of trial in a lawsuit over whether yoga is a religious practice and should or should not be allowed in schools. The case of Sedlock vs. Baird, et al., has been brought by parents and guardians of children who attend an Encinitas school that includes yoga in the curriculum.

The San Diego case is generating strong opinions and emotion on both sides. It places front and center the issue of separation of church and state. While each side have their respective opinions, the trial will dig deep into the roots and origins of yoga as well as yoga as it’s practiced in the modern day. A jury of 12 citizens will decide the outcome after weighing evidence and expert testimony.

Yoga Alliance has joined YES! Yoga For Encinitas Students in preparing for and defending the case on behalf of the school district. The school district claims the yoga being taught to the students is not of a religious nature. The school’s yoga program is funded by a grant from the KP Jois Foundation. Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, also referred to as Guruji, is credited with establishing the widely practiced form of yoga known as Ashtanga.

The petitioner’s expert, a PhD and Harvard professor of religious studies, has submitted an 86-item declaration that spells out specific aspects of yoga she argues prove yoga is a religious practice.

She makes the following assertions:

  • The practices taught by the EUSD yoga curriculum promote and advance religion, including Hinduism—whether or not these practices are taught using religious or Hindu language.
  • EUSD curriculum teaches Ashtanga religious concepts of yama and niyama.
  • EUSD curriculum teaches children to play act as yogis, i.e. Hindu religious specialists.
  • EUSD curriculum teaches Sun Salutation—which represents worship of solar deity.
  • EUSD yoga includes pranayama—to prepare for samadhi (uniting with Universal).
  • EUSD curriculum includes Buddhist mindfulness meditation.
  • EUSD yoga instructors have taught children to say “Namaste” to each other while gesturing with a religiously symbolic “praying hands” position.
  • EUSD yoga instructors have taught children to sit in a “lotus” position that resembles that often used in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain meditation.
  • Hindus warn that yoga will cause Christians to adopt Hinduism. Prominent Hindu spokespersons warn that Christians who practice yoga will inevitably adopt Hindu religion.

Three experts have been retained to testify on behalf of the school district. One of the experts, a PhD and professor of Indic and comparative religion at Loyola Marymount University, submitted the following response:

  • Petitioners point to the use of “Namaste” as a religious element of the yoga program. The use of the term Namaste in the EUSD curriculum, however, would be the equivalent of greeting students in a French class by saying “Bonjour.”
  • Philosophy, mathematics, architecture, literature, the sciences: all these disciplines have their origins deep in the history of world civilizations, whether arising from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, or South America. World culture has been enriched by contributions from all these cultures. Incorporating yoga movements first practiced in India into a program of physical education is appropriate, particularly where the teachers are careful not to impose religious meaning in their classes. In my opinion, this appears to be the case with the EUSD yoga program.

A second expert on behalf of the school district, a PhD and professor at St. John’s College, supports this opinion, adding the following statement:

The Dattatreyayogasastra, an earlier text teaching hatha yoga, is clear on this matter: anyone can practice this yoga, no matter what their belief. Some believe in God (brahmins); some believe there is no God (Buddhists); some practice renunciation (ascetics); and some focus on the good to be had in this world and have no belief in a hereafter (materialists). The Dattatreyayogasastra clearly conveys that yoga was for everyone, and that it did not belong to any single religion. One can reasonably claim, in fact, that versions of yoga such as these are self-consciously non-religious, in the sense that they are not partisan to a particular metaphysics, or dogma, or set of rituals.

He compares the modern practice of yoga to the game of basketball:

Similarly, modern sport and physical culture grew up in the same cultural milieu as modern yoga. But it cannot therefore be asserted that such practices are inherently religious. For example, the game of basketball was created in the context of a religious missionary organization (the YMCA) in the same decade that modern yoga began to develop in America (1891). In my opinion, to claim that the practice of yoga techniques in secular, ecumenical, or religiously plural settings in the United States today is inherently religious is akin to claiming that college basketball is inherently religious because of its missionary Christian origins.

Whatever the outcome, both sides will have the ability to appeal the decision to a higher court.

I personally find it interesting that activities related to religious-based holidays are routinely practiced in schools without much objection. Where to draw the line on what is acceptable seems to stem largely from one’s personal perspective and comfort level.

What do you think? Share your comments below.

 

Photo source: Flickr

Homelessness – Think Globally, Act Locally

Homelessness, a challenge composed of many issues, spans our globe. Because homeless people seem to be everywhere, many of us feel that homelessness is too big an issue to be solved. And because of the complexity of the issues of homelessness, we may feel too overwhelmed to affect change.

Sometimes we use these feelings of powerlessness as excuses for failing to develop plans or to take any action to help homeless people. Thus, our feelings can literally create a paralysis in our thinking and acting to end homelessness.

Actually, we needn’t feel overwhelmed by the challenge of homelessness. We have conquered major issues before.

Do you remember when we felt that the issues of reducing waste and protecting our environment were overwhelming? We adopted the slogan, “Think Globally, Act Locally,” which reminds us to address these global concerns by reducing, reusing and recycling discarded items at a local level. Educational facilities encouraged its students to educate their families. Through common practice, we accepted our civic responsibility to protect our planet.

In much the same way, we have the power and ability to solve other complex global issues, including homelessness. Recognizing the widespread issues of homelessness, each of us can act on a local level, together and individually, to affect real change. Some of us are already thinking globally and acting locally as illustrated by the many participants in conferences about homelessness.

For example, since 1997, the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) has been holding conferences twice a year – a national conference each July in Washington, DC on homelessness generally and a West Coast conference specifically about youth and family homelessness. http://www.endhomelessness.org/

On February 9th and 10th, NAEH had its 2012 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness in Los Angeles, CA. At this conference, there were presentations, panel discussions and conversations about:

• Implementing rapid re-housing (and maintaining those programs as HPRP [Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing] funding expires);

• Coordinating with larger ‘mainstream’ anti-poverty programs to multiply impacts, especially by providing help with employment;

• Strengthening families and promoting reunification in order to end homelessness for youth;

• Preventing homelessness for families and youth, including targeting for the maximum impact;

• Getting the most out of the HEARTH Act, and

• Housing families and youth with the most severe challenges, including chronic homelessness” [The NAEH 2012 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness Program, inside cover]

Steve Berg, NAEH Vice President for Programs and Policy, says that these conferences enable people to learn about “good practices and approaches” to help end homelessness. They “teach trends locally and explain what federal funders are looking for” in local programs.

Steve feels that these conferences are very important because they “get people together so they can support each other, energize each other” and encourage people, now “armed with common experiences,” to solve the issues of homelessness. Helping end homelessness, he concludes, “is a movement and conferences are important to keep the movement going.”

In 2004, the City of San Francisco held the first Project Homeless Connect (PHC) as an innovative way to offer necessary services to homeless people. Now held every two months, its mission for PHC is “to provide a single location where nonprofit medical and social service providers collaborate to serve the homeless of San Francisco with comprehensive, holistic services.”

In December 2005, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) launched the National Project Homeless Connect Partnership encouraging mayors and county leadership to hold a one day community event by providing housing support and quality of life resources at a one stop event with the goal of ending homelessness. By 2008, PHC has been offered in more than 200 cities in the United States, Canada and Australia.

In January of this year, the San Diego Housing Commission was the lead organizer for the 6th Annual PHC. With the help of 300 volunteers, more than 65 service providers offered health screenings, housing referrals, legal aid, food, clothing and other supportive services to 941 homeless San Diegans.

Just two months later, the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, Inc. presented its 23rd Annual Women’s Resource Fair (WRF) involving over 100 organizations which helped over 600 disadvantaged women and children with medical, legal and social services. As explained by Amy J. Fitzpatrick, Esq., Executive Director of the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, Inc., “The purpose of the WRF is to gather lots of resources and services for disadvantaged women (primarily those who are homeless, victims of domestic violence, and those fighting substance abuse) under one roof where that assistance can easily be accessed on one day in one place.”

Rosemary Johnston, Executive Director of the Interfaith Shelter Network, is an active member of the planning committees of both San Diego PHC and WRF. She explains that these events “are important to the homeless community and to the wider community because they increase access to services in a low-demand environment; there are no obstacles to access these services.” Continuing, she shares, “It is very important to put a human face on the homeless population, particularly to people in administration who don’t normally meet with homeless people.”

Rosemary confirms that conferences are important to keep up our momentum in our efforts to help homeless people, “I appreciate the opportunities these events provide because I don’t want to lose touch and it energizes me to return to work with renewed passion to serve these people in need.”

So, please “think globally and act locally” to help end homelessness.

I look forward to your comments.

Thank you,
Christine

photo by: Alex E. Proimos

In Memory Of Homeless Advocate Larry Dean Milligan

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

Johanna Argoud… In Her Own Words

As Told To Christine Schanes

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

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

CS:  Can you share something about your life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said, “Only a spiritual one.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said, “I will always be with you.”

I experienced an indescribable feeling of communion.

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

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

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

I’m just right here.

In thoughts of life

Never to be changed.

Thinking of the times we gave

Serving each other.

No, love can never be rearranged

And someday death will sweetly come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I loved him and miss him.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Larry was a builder.  He built community.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I will miss him deeply.”

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

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

 

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

  

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“I loved him and miss him.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Larry was a builder.  He built community.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“I will miss him deeply.”

 

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

 

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

 

 

Homelessness Myth #13: “Please Don’t Feed Our Bums”

 Within the past month, The Black, a head shop in Ocean Beach, California, began selling a 3 and 1/2 inch square sticker that reads, “Welcome to Ocean Beach.  Please Don’t Feed Our Bums!”  

Ken Anderson, buyer for The Black, thought that these stickers were “bad satire,” but would be a big seller for The Black because “people are tired of the aggressive panhandling of the homeless kids.”  He said that while he and the OB Community felt fine about the older homeless people who have lived in OB for many years, there has recently been “an influx of young homeless kids who don’t want to work and who have cells phones and ATM cards from their mothers.” 

I interviewed housed and unhoused members of the OB Community to get their reaction to the “Please Don’t Feed Our Bums!” sticker.  Representative samplings of their comments follow.

Home Owner, long-time resident of OB:  “They [the homeless youth] are very aggressive, very dirty and they go to the bathroom around my house so I have to clean up human waste. 

[By buying, distributing and displaying many of the stickers] I’ve decided to take a stance and support the Community that wants to get rid of this behavior that is coming to our beautiful Community.  If we don’t, we’ll just continue to be a haven for all of this.”

A “bartendress,” housed:  “It’s the street kids.  They have money, they use drugs and they’re capable of working.  They’re not even homeless! 

They all have cell phones and credit cards from their mothers. 

They’re ‘trustapharions’ – trust fund kids. 

Some people can’t help themselves, but these young kids can help themselves.”

Charles, adult, housed:  “I’m housed.  I sweep in front of this store everyday and I get a can of dog food as pay.  There are homeless people who are good people.  But the homeless kids have everything – ATM cards from their mothers and even dogs, but they don’t pick up the pooh-pooh.”

Jen, 80 years old, housed:  “The sticker doesn’t say ‘homeless’ is says ‘bums.’ Bums [The homeless youth] ask for cigarettes and change.  I’m sick of it.  They should go home to their families.”

Pop*Rocks, 15 years old, housed:  “People don’t have to be judgmental… Everyone needs to smile more.”

OB Wildlife, adult, unhoused:  “First, they’re trying to market the whole area [of Ocean Beach] as a place from the 1960’s with “love-ins” and “then someone comes up with the sticker – a stupid idea. 

I question the integrity of the sticker.  They [The Black] make money off the sticker so they’re helping themselves.”

Second, it’s better for businesses that homeless people pick-up small change because 100% of that money goes back to the OB Community.  Go ahead, run a test [on where money given to homeless people is spent].  All the money goes back to them – the local shop owners.

Hannah, 18 years old, unhoused, lives in a truck:  “I just want your [housed people’s] respect.  We just want to live our lives and be respected.  It’s a downturn economy.  There are more people on the streets than I’ve seen before and a lot of them are young people.”

Shaggy, 20 years old, unhoused: “I think the sticker is outrageous and not fair because they’re taking out what some people are doing, not everyone. 

We’re human beings, too.  We’re just as likely to help them [the tourists] as they are to help us.

I do have a cell phone because I have two jobs:  laying cement and working at the tire store so I need the phone [to be in contact with his employers].

I grew up in foster care and I’ve been a street kid from 11 years old.  A lot of kids out here [who are homeless] are struggling.”

Jessi, 18 years old, unhoused:  “I had a cell phone and it was stolen by a housed person.  Just because we’re homeless doesn’t mean we’re bad people.”

Kandy, 19 years old, unhoused:  “I think the sticker is funny… I don’t think of anyone as a bum… We’re not bums.  We’re no different than anyone else!”

Teddi, 20 years old, unhoused:  “The sticker – they judged a bunch of people [homeless youth] based on a couple of people doing something wrong.  People don’t look at the big picture, they just see a little part.”

Kayla, 16 years old, unhoused:  “I have no cell phone or ATM card from my mother.  After all the time we’ve been here, now they put a sticker out and try to get rid of us… The sticker is false advertising to get rid of us!”

Derrick, 32 years old, unhoused:  “I think of myself as a protector. I watch out for the homeless kids out here.  I was raised to think of others before myself.  OB is like Haight-Ashbury in the day.”

Tim, 46 years old, unhoused:  “I was a house framer before I became homeless some months ago.  There’s no work out there.”

Dennis, 21 years old, unhoused:  “The sticker is a way to put people down.  It puts me down.  It’s a diss…"

Halie, 24 years old, unhoused:  “I don’t like the sticker.  It is a pretty generic description of a bum.  It looks like a hobo.  We’re homeless, but we’ll work for food. It’s sometimes hard to eat…a cup of soup…trash food.

[Housed] People don’t find the joke in it [the sticker].  They just agree with it."

Doug, 21 years old, unhoused:  “We’re not animals, so there shouldn’t be anything about feeding humans.  The sticker is about the bums going to bit you if you don’t feed us.” 

In addition, Peter Callstrom, Executive Director of  the San Diego Regional Task Force On the Homeless, offered the following comment: "The sticker is completely offensive and counter-productive. People who are homeless are not bums. Name-calling helps no one and only leads to divisiveness, fear, and disdain. 

The RTFH has created an alternative sticker that sends a message of compassion, not condemnation. To get an RTFH sticker, please go to www.rtfhsd.org.  

For The Black to profit from there hate-message is unconscionable and hypocritical.  If The Black really wants to make a difference, they should give all proceeds from their sticker to the churches, agencies, and volunteers who are working tirelessly on solutions and actually helping people to return to lives of dignity."

Visit www.rtfhsd.org for further information on the RTFH sticker.

I look forward to your comments.  Thank you,

Christine

Homelessness Myth #4: There’s Room in the Inn

On December 8th, the San Diego Union Tribune reported that on the previous day, the County of San Diego, California experienced one of "the most powerful winter storms in several years…bringing damaging winds, record-setting rainfall and several inches of snow to the mountains."

My homeless friend Maurice supplied me with the following video of the situation of homeless people in downtown San Diego and the efforts of Alpha Project president, Bob McElroy, to help homeless people cope with the challenging weather. This video, as you will see, was filmed just outside the Emergency Winter Shelter, run by Alpha Project, which was filled to capacity.

Some background from the San Diego Regional Taskforce on the Homeless 2009 Point In Time Count:

1. In the County of San Diego, there are a total of 7,892 homeless people of whom:

• 4,014 homeless people are living on the streets

• 965 homeless people are living in emergency shelters

• 2,913 homeless people are living in transitional housing

2. In the City of San Diego, there are a total of 4,338 homeless people of whom:

• 1,868 homeless people are living on the streets

• 656 homeless people are living in emergency shelters

• 1,814 homeless people are living in transitional housing

Link: http://www.kusi.com/news/local/78745687.html

 

I look forward to your comments. Thank you,

Christine

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