Toilets, Because s#!+ Happens

Los Angeles has self cleaning toilets for the public to use. What this really means is that there are self-cleaning toilets out there that homeless people can use because the general public can use a toilet inside a restaurant or a store that their patronizing has homeless people are often turned away by signs that say for “customers only”.

Andy Bales of the Union Rescue Mission, and one of my personal heroes, recently stated that there are just 5 self cleaning toilets in use for the homeless.

I did some math, and it breaks down to LAS homeless using the toilets at a ratio of 360 bladders and bowels per toilet. You would almost have to stand in line to use the restroom again as soon as you were done in order to have access to it by the time you needed it again. That is assuming that you only went pee 4 times today. A well hydrated human should be urinating at least 7 times a day. (That last statement was more of a factoid  my father likes to throw around than a scientific fact that I’ve researched, but  I find it to be accurate.)

LA Times article in the toilets from 2013

I have been saying for a long time that Skid Row is not a place or a feeling, it is a smell. It is the fetid putrid smell of human waste period excrement is smeared on the sidewalk and urine stains building walls.

As you drive down the streets you see people hunched between cars with their pants down trying to poop as fast as they possibly can to avoid detection, to be as helpless and exposed for a short amount of time as possible, and to retain as much dignity as possible while doing the most human of bodily functions.
It is unfair that the Mounted Police Officers can take the horses down San Pedro and have the horse’s poop on the street but they will arrest a human who does the same.i have McDonald’s toilet tokens in the cup holder of my car to hand out to people I know who live there.

Yes, there are places like laugh community that runs a public toilets and showers where people can come inside and use the toilet with running water and soap. But the doors closed at night and people need to urinate in the middle of the night. I know so many people who have kept the five gallon buckets by their boxes or 10 because that’s what they had to pee and and in the morning they try to find a gutter to pour it down. In an era where we’re already costing people their health insurance, I don’t think that pouring feces and urine and public places is the wisest of health decisions, now more than ever.

toilet

 

I was taking a walk around my local park today and realized that there are far more open Toilet stalls there than there are the entire downtown area of Los Angeles. Nobody likes being reminded that people are homeless. Nobody likes seeing homeless people. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could see them and treat them with respect. Wouldn’t  it be nice for people to be seen and not smelled?

Karsplus Warehouse – just, no.

Oops. In an earlier post if I spelled the name wrong of the car store. I know that the story is true because it happened to a friend of mine who then posted a review on Yelp. The car store has harassed her for posting her story.

People who are low-income have a hard time finding traditional loans. This leaves customers at the mercy of other smaller private lenders. When these smaller lenders act in an orthodox and Austin illegal ways, the low income client has few ways to retaliate. They already have poor credit and can end up on the hook for payment that they can’t possibly make at a rate which is impossible. However the car sales person seems like a man of authority as so they believe them when they originally strikes a deal.

Examples like this are what I mean.

You cannot run credit on somebody’s  first and last name alone, you need a Social Security number or more identifying information. I know this, and now you know this. Gus, the salesclerk who spoke with my friend over the telephone was hoping that she did would not know this. 

She called once about the car and gave A name. – She called again to ask a question and was told that her credit had been run and she would have to take financing from the Karsplus location if she wanted to buy a car.

No. People, just no.

A low income person may not be business savvy and may not understand that they are being lied to.

A car can mean survival – it is a way to get to a job, to earn a paycheck, and pay the bills to keep a home.

It is just mean to take advantage of these folks. Just because you CAN, does not make it the correct thing to do.

Gustavo, or Gus at KarsPlus – I am looking at you.

A whole bunch of tears

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There is a purposeful lack of tissues in my office – a reminder of absence that I should not make people cry.

However, today I started a flood. A lady going through divorce is afraid to tell supportive agencies that she is homeless and needs help.
She wants to hide homelessness from her child’s father.

Said child is a teen and fully aware of her homelessness.  She is also aware of the impending “D” aka divorce. Mom is so enthralled with her drama that she cannot register the pain if her child.

My conversation went thus:

“You don’t have to be Team Mom or Team Dad. You need only be Captain of Team You.  If you need someone to talk to who isn’t carried away with their own opinions, come back to me. Your friends don’t understand what you are feeling or going through and your grown ups are having their own feelings , so come back to me and I will listen and help you find someone to find you for tutoring and a professional to listen to your heart.”

Homeless children are powerless to change their living situation and ultimately helpless.

She cried because no one had told her that she was allowed to have feelings or an opinion.

Her mother looked stricken.  Poor lady had been unaware of the impact her homelessness and divorce had on the young lady who is her child.

Homeless Advocates Divided Over Bill Aimed At Helping Kids

Families with children make up a large part of the homeless population. I can promise this is all I see 40 hours a week.

Yes, Couch Surfing is homelessness. Hotel hoping and the 28 day Shuffle is homeless. It is temporary and there is no guarantee people can be stable and stay there long term.

via Homeless Advocates Divided Over Bill Aimed At Helping Kids.

USC Bike Application Criteria

Bikes at USC from marshallmashup.usc.edu

@USC Bike Give Away
Click the link at the end of the article for the paper applicatopm/
The University of Southern California Public Safety and the South Los Angeles Homeless TAY & Foster Care Collaborative have partnered to give back to their surrounding community in the South Los Angeles region. Highly renowned academic and public service partners would like to offer 15- 20 free bikes to homeless youth who are faced with the daily challenges of transportation. The free bikes have been held on reserve specifically for homeless or formerly homeless transition age youth (age 16-25 years old) who would like to take advantage of this giveaway opportunity. Further criteria for youth to pick up a free bike is stated below. Please fill out this form and email it to Summer Reed at sreed for consideration. This is due April 6, 2015. Due to the nature of this event, resources are limited and bikes are first come, first serve. Good luck!

USCBikeApplicationCriteria.docx

Photo from http://marshallmashup.usc.edu/alternatives-to-driving/

I Blog to Cope in Social Work

Today sucked.
It is 12:26am  and I am writing this on my Verizon Samsung phone. I did middle of the night grocery shopping, cleaned my kitchen and still have the events from work poking me in the eye.

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All else has failed, so I will write. It turns out that writing is pretty therapeutic (something psychiatrist have been saying for years, blah blah whatever). I started this blog officially to explain my passion and job to my parents and people I grew up with from the affluent town of Arcadia. Unofficially, I totally started it to impress a man I was dating who worked at Microsoft and friends with noted blogger Robert Scoble.

This has been a great place to toss resources for my own reference, mention events in the news, explain complex processes of government assistance and vent. Tonight it has been a measuring stick for me.

When I started as a social worker I was so excited and bright eyed. Not for the work I would be doing, but because having the work meant I had completed my college degree and the work would take me out of Welfare. That’s right, I was a Welfare mom who went to school on the DL because Welfare programs did not allow education – only work or community service.

I started at a Senior Center in Monrovia as a glorified receptionist who also did the MIS & database for matching care providers with low income seniors. While there I met a homeless man who was unable to connect with food, shelter or a way out if our parking lot. It occurred to me that Monrovia, Arcadia, and Temple City all were without food stamp or Welfare Check dispensaries. That’s right, in the dark ages before EAT cards benefits were handed through bullet proof glass and half the time you had no idea if your case was currently active until the moment of truth when the teller would either hand you a packet of coupons and a check or shake their head at you – causing an entire day trip to sit in the DPSS office completing forms and bad attitudes.

I did my research and found LAMP. For two hours before my first interview with Mollie the founder, I sat on the roof of my car and talked to the residents on Crocker Street. Skid Row, I discovered is more than a section of the city – or place where more people fill the streets than cars. Skid row is a smell, a stench of urine and police equestrian feces and people who had little to no access to showers. It was many things, but scary wasn’t one of them.

Working at a shelter and apartment for recently homeless adults was a trip. I had nothing to compare it to. Here is where I discovered how easily influenced I was by manipulations of addicted minds who worked differently than mine. I’m a gullible sucker. Also, I discovered how much I love people. For the first time, I dug in with people and met their problems and private fears. This happened just as my own daughter was developing her own perspective on the world. I was parenting at home and, to some extent, at work.

Non-profit organizations are hopefully run differently than this one was. “Non-profit” referred to the employees. We got calls asking who could live on $40 until the next pay period because they had not made payroll and sometimes were told we couldn’t use our insurance because premiums were not paid.I was spending 15 extra hours a week teaching residents of the shelter how to blog and MSN/Microsoft and employees had kindly given computer parts and books to assist me. . . . See, dating that Mocrosoftie wasn’t just good for me: it benefitted others. I’m a giver like that :smirk:.

For the last eight years I’ve been a contractor for the Los Angeles GAIN program: the same program that tried to prevent my college completion. So much has changed in that time.

I completed college, my oldest child turns 21 years old next month, bought a house and am raising a tiny tyrant – I mean 4-year-old. I don’t work for the paycheck anymore (in part because I realized social work never has much of a financial return), and I have the technical skills to solve hardware issues and the soft skills to connect meaningfully with clients.

So, today sucked. Today was the day of Opiates Addicted Pregnant People (can I see that on a Hallmark calendar? ) and PET team calls, paperwork, reports and audits. Today was the day a full grown woman collapsed into my arms sobbing about her death wish – I dealt with it – with compassion and humor and professionalism.

Okay. Going to sleep now I feel better.

Homeless Veteran Services

Homeless Veteran in need of help?
Call 1-877-4AID VET (1-877-424-3838)

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) has founded a National Call Center for Homeless Veterans hotline to ensure that homeless Veterans or Veterans at-risk for homelessness have free, 24/7 access to trained counselors. The hotline is intended to assist homeless Veterans and their families, VA Medical Centers, federal, state and local partners, community agencies, service providers  and others in the community.  To be connected with a trained VA staff member call 1-877-4AID VET (877-424-3838).

  • Call for yourself or someone else
  • Free and confidential
  • Trained VA counselors to assist
  • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • We have information about VA homeless programs and mental health services in your area that can help you.

What will happen when I call?

  • You will be connected to a trained VA staff member.
  • Hotline staff will conduct a brief screen to assess your needs.
  • Homeless Veterans will be connected with the Homeless Point of Contact at the nearest VA facility.
  • Family members and non-VA providers calling on behalf of a homeless Veteran will be provided with information regarding the homeless programs and services available.
  • Contact information will be requested so staff may follow-up.

National VA Homeless Resource Guide  Word Document MS Word / PDF Document PDF

—♥ #Proud2beanAmerican —— this information from http://www.va.gov/homeless/nationalcallcenter.asp 2/11/2015

The People on the Offramp

It makes me nervous to see folks standing on the side of the rode, the off-ramp, or intersection asking for money.

I am afraid FOR them, not of them. Hospitalizations are a common occurrence for someone who falls into traffic or doesn’t vacate the roadway fast enough or just wants to be hit by a car to get to a warm hospital bed and be shown human concern and care.

Every part of me wants to throw open the doors of my car and invite them in and take them home with me. Although, as I think about it – I often have homeless or impoverished people staying with me and occasionally have lived in my own living room to give someone else a place to call home. Knowing that does not reduce my concern.

What are your thoughts?

Also – how humbling it must be to stand in public and beg – does it feel like being in the stockade of yore?

Socking it to the New Year

Socks and the homeless.
It seems like an odd combination. I’m going to sit right here while you put a cube of ice under the bridge of your toes. Go ahead, I will wait.

Ouch! Right?

When money is tight it all goes to food and shelter. Socks are just not in the budget. Socks fall into the survival priority cue after food, shelter and deodorant – oh and cleaning the clothes people can see. No one sees your socks. They seem like a luxury item. They are not.

Throw the ice away and pay attention to how much pain you are in when your feet are cold. Think of all the times you have stumbled because your feet were frozen and numb. Consider all the circulation issues with Diabetes and neuropathy. Feet are important. Protecting them and keeping them healthy and warm is also important.

My friend Mark Horvath has been passionate about socks for the poor and homeless for years. Here he is on Ricki Lake  talking about donating socks, and Hanes has often heard the call to action. 

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I know the Schremp Family from a little organization called the Free and Accepted Masons  (you know, the Water Buffalo Lodge for Fred Flintstone in real life would be the Masonic Lodge). We are all part of the all girl youth group called Job’s Daughters which teaches lessons about facing your hard times with hope and faith that better things are yet to come.

Hopefully poverty is temporary for anyone experiencing it – but tonight it will be a little warmer for some.

Serving the people

I wrote to Jack Seiler and this is the letter he sent back . . . In case you have forgotten, he is from FLorida where a 90 year old man is arrested for feeding the homeless.

Sonya,

I appreciate the opportunity to clarify much of the misinformation that has been prevalent in the media recently regarding the homeless and I encourage you to visit the city’s website athttp://www.fortlauderdale.gov/Home/Components/News/News/159/16?backlist=%2f for a comprehensive look at how the city of Fort Lauderdale is addressing the homeless issue.

Contrary to reports, the City of Fort Lauderdale is not banning groups from feeding the homeless.  We have established an outdoor food distribution ordinance to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our community. The ordinance does not prohibit feeding the homeless; it regulates the activity in order to ensure it is carried out in an appropriate, organized, clean and healthy manner.

While the ordinance regulates outdoor food distribution, it permits indoor food distribution to take place at houses of worship throughout the City.  By allowing houses of worship to conduct this activity, the City is actually increasing the number of locations where the homeless can properly receive this service.

At two recent outdoor food distributions, citations were rightly issued for non-compliance with the process enacted to ensure public health and safety.  Contrary to what was reported in the media, no one was taken into custody.  Had these activities taken place indoors, at a house of worship, they would have been in full compliance with the ordinance.

Experts agree, however, that homeless individuals need more than just food.  The homeless need shelter, clothing, and comprehensive medical and social services in order to help them get back on their feet.

To set the record straight, few cities have done more for the homeless than Fort Lauderdale.  We are taking a comprehensive approach by working with numerous agencies, non-profit, charitable and faith-based organizations that, like us, are dedicated to effectively addressing this complex and important issue.  Our overarching goal is to provide a long-term comprehensive solution for the homeless population.  While aiming for that goal, we are concurrently working to protect public safety and maintain quality of life for our neighbors, businesses and visitors.

Our efforts include:

•             Fort Lauderdale was the first City in South Florida to establish a dedicated Homeless Assistance Unit as part of its Police Department.  This Unit makes approximately 8,000 referrals a year working with the homeless to provide them with access to housing, critical medical care and social services.  The award-winning initiative stands as a model that has been replicated by local, state, and national police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country.

•             Fort Lauderdale is home to the only full service comprehensive Homeless Assistance Center in Broward County.  The Center has been operating here since 1999.  Recently, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance allowing the Homeless Assistance Center to expand its size and scope of operations to accommodate more beds and serve more homeless.

•             The City maintains an active partnership with Mission United, an organization dedicated to providing housing and social services to homeless Veterans.

•             In addition to Mission United, the City maintains partnerships, provides resources and support to Broward County, the Broward Partnership for the Homeless, Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale, Salvation Army of Broward County, United Way of Broward County, Hope South Florida, and the Task Force for Ending Homelessness.  These partnerships represent an outstanding example of how homelessness needs to be addressed – by bringing together a variety of agencies and organizations to collaborate, share resources, and leverage strengths in a unified effort to comprehensively impact homelessness through the coordination and delivery of essential programs and services.

•             Fort Lauderdale is the only city in South Florida and one of 235 communities in the United States taking part in the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national effort to move disabled, chronically homeless people from the street to a place of their own. Using the motto “Housing First,” the campaign reverses the traditional approach that required the homeless to go through addiction counseling and job training before earning a roof over their heads.

•             Through the Housing First program, Fort Lauderdale is providing the most vulnerable homeless individuals with housing, medical, and social services.  The program is funded by a $441,000 federal grant that the City of Fort Lauderdale secured from HUD.  It is currently providing permanent supportive housing for 22 chronically homeless people.

•             The City is proud to report that our initiative was recently re-funded by HUD.  During the current year, we will have an additional $455,000 to continue to operate and expand this effort to serve even more chronic and vulnerable homeless in our City.

As part of our comprehensive strategy, the City has passed new ordinances that aim to reduce the public safety hazards and inappropriate nuisance activities that are negatively impacting our community.  As a City, we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our public spaces are accessible and can be safely enjoyed by everyone – families, children, residents and visitors.

Our quality of life in Fort Lauderdale and our economic viability are directly linked to our stewardship of public spaces.   The City continues to provide leadership in the implementation of innovative ideas to protect our quality of life while ensuring continued funding for programs and initiatives that address humanitarian needs.

The City, our neighbors, and our businesses have a long and distinguished history of compassion toward those in need.

If you would like to make a contribution to local non-profit agencies that help fund homeless assistance, substance abuse, and community support services in Fort Lauderdale, please visit:www.fortlauderdale.gov/give<http://www.fortlauderdale.gov/give>

Again, thank you for your interest in this important humanitarian issue.