Wealth vs Worth in 1 Picture

In “the Bible Corrected by God” God is changing the captions of the rich to “poor” and vice versa.

It was super windy in Los Angeles last night. The screen blue off of my bedroom window. As I walked across my front yard and then started trying to try to catch up with the tumbling metal Square I took a moment to realize that I was so lucky to even have a window or home. I wonder what it must have been like for the people living in their tents that have their tents try to blow away with the only wait and then grounding them down be their bodies.

Do the people who were blown about last night deserve comfort and security? I like the think that they’d you deserve those things they just can’t afford those things. And when we make a list of things are entitlements that everybody should have, I like to think that housing is one of those things that we should make if not a human right, an “American Right”.

I live in the country of the greatest innovators of the world. This is the country where the assembly line comma the modern car, light bulbs, stop signs, peanut butter, super computers, and the internet or dreamed of, created, and brought into reality. I simply don’t understand why we can’t build basic housing for everybody. A basic starter level housing even if it’s long project like rooms connected one to the other so that people have a roof and walls and access to indoor plumbing. It wouldn’t be a place where people would want to live but it would be a place where they could live and I’m starting pad to move up from or a safety net to land in. Nobody here needs to be homeless. We have a great deal of unskilled workers and an educational system which seems bent on keeping them on skills. We have Warriors returning from the Armed Forces who need something to do. Building these types of housings would keep them employed and give them skillful and gainful trades.
People who are housed are less likely to be sick and to call nine-one-one or two need to go to the emergency room or two be a burden on the taxpayers dollars. The money we would invest in simply housing people will come back to us in savings over and over again.
I live in a country where we were told to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps but we were also told to do to one another what we would want them to do to us and we called that the Golden Rule. Maybe our next step should be to put boots on our neighbors and help them pull up their bootstraps.

FAILURE . . .

Hey guys,

So we’ve been hanging out here for over a decade (if you have been here since the beginning).

When I started this in an Excalibur hotel room in Las Vegas, I was a little buzzed and talking to my friends Bonnie and Isabel. They did not understand why I spend my days on skid row when I could choose to stay in cushy Arcadia, away from poverty, bugs and drugs.

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“Billy Blade” from my Skid Row days

The answer to that is “Poverty, drugs and disease are everywhere, even hidden in plain sight in ‘nice’ neighborhoods”. There is a stigma on poverty and people don’t ask for help because asking involves revealing that status.

My goal was to tell the story of my experiences – to let my friends see the world with me as their lens.

One example is: This is “Billy”. On the surface he is smelly, scary and unpleasant. He is a “stereotypical homeless guy” with visible symptoms of mental illness and completely off-putting. The reality of Billy is that he would bake me chocolate chip cookies on his cook stove and give me audio tapes of the radio show he always wished he could host. Billy was a teen foster kid who never bonded with his parents. As an adult he was desperate for love and acceptance but could not recognize it or trust it when it was offered to him. USC has taught me that this is related to Erickson’s stages of development and attachment. Fancy theories aside, what I want this blog to do is let you know that there is more to Billy than his smell and gruff manner and the surprising number of knives he has secreted on his person are more about him feeling safe and less about your chances of being stabbed by him.

In the big picture, I worry that I have failed. Homelessness sucks and I really wanted to slide in on the ground floor of the ending of homelessness. I had dreams that the problem would be defined and solution refined and I would be an active agent of change. The reality is that homelessness keeps increasing at 12% jumps. I suck. I have not ended anything.

But I also rock. Individuals have come to my desk homeless and the last time they left my office they had homes.

A bigger scale of success is “What have you learned from Homelessinla.com?”

National Alliance to End Homelessness: 2015 Homeless Counts Map

Where are the homeless people living? Here is an interactive map to show you the Homeless Count numbers. That state on the far left… yep, that’s where I live and work: right under the big red teardrop.

National Alliance to End Homelessness: 2015 Homeless Counts Map.

In Search of Understanding

It is hard to write about something you have never experienced. Sure, you can close your eyes and fantasize and guess what it would feel like – but reality isn’t a fantasy.

Stubbing your toe always hurts more, and for longer, than you imagine it will.

Sometimes I sleep out on the street. I work with homeless families and I lose my compassion. I get angry and feel manipulated. I am frustrated that people try to fool me or use the system. I read one too many times on Facebook about how the poor are choosing to be poor and homelessness and poverty only happen to people who deserve those circumstances. It is the “Bad things only happen to bad people” excuse we sometimes deploy to keep from dwelling on the nastiness that we allow other people to experience while we only fantasize about what it might be like.

I am from the San Gabriel Valley, so of course I have slept on the Tournament of Roses Parade Route as a rite of passage. Sleeping in a sleeping bag and sitting with happy, excited, drunk and munching friends is completely different than sleeping on the streets of Skid Row. On Colorado Boulevard the revelers are sure that they can greet a new day and go away – to warm cozy beds to catch up on the sleep they missed and to resume their lives. On the streets of Los Angeles ( or anywhere else, actually) there are other emotions at play.

  • Some people are resigned to it – they have as much dignity as they can muster and no hope of changing their situation. They are not “Fine” with that, not “okay” with that, and mostly are “Angry” that it is what it is … but it is what it is. It is their home, their situation and it isn’t changing soon.
  • Some people are hustling with gusto and deviance:. They are trying to make a buck – they star in Bum Wars, they sell shoes, they become self-appointed parking lot attendants, they sell themselves and they use the money for rent by the week motels and try to find ways to save enough money to move out. Unfortunately, everything they are doing to get off the streets creates patterns and habits that will return them to the sidewalks.
  • Some people are living as if they were housed still – they shower and wash clothes and do a job hunt. You find them in the public library and work source centers and knocking on the doors of service agencies. These folks are awful at being homeless – which often means they will be rehoused and remain so with greater success than their brethren.
  • Some people are dead with a heartbeat. They have no hope, feel no dignity and are counting breathes until they die.

I am not homeless and I could not live as a homeless person for long. Homelessness is a great fear of mine – but in order to combat it, I had to taste it.. If I expect and accept that other people will be without permanent, human appropriate shelter, I should be willing to sample that life.  I have – it sucked – and now I spent 40 hours or more a week trying to end poverty for individuals, families and in the United States.

So, here is my conundrum. I am a registered Republican in a society that jails people in overcrowded cells, profiles based on ethnicity and race, and tortures folk based on guesses and assumptions – all of these acts are rooted in exposed and faulty science – but I have not tried to understand them or change them. I don’t feel motivated to because I have not experienced them. ( I actively try not to be arrested, jailed, etc. – except for my twice daily jaywalking to get coffee from 7-Eleven).

Who deserves justice?
Who deserves justice?

Former Vice President Chaney and Rush Limbaugh seem to think water-boarding isn’t torture and is acceptable. Here is my offer: I volunteer to be water boarded if they

will do it alongside me (but let’s wear bathing suits because seeing naked old guy isn’t in my life plans for a few decades). In my search for understanding, this is what I am willing to do before I decide it is acceptable.