The Issue of homelessness:
We refer to ourselves as Outdoor Citizens. We are working to help change the existing crippling, supply-side dependency dynamic that persists in this and other regions of the country.
Supporting dependency is not the solution to solving the problem of homelessness in the Santa Clara Valley or elsewhere in America, we believe. And if you don't agree, simply consider what has been and is currently taking place with the outdoor citizens in your community and your family. And in the spirit of Dr. Phil ask this questions: and how is that working for you, your family and your community"?
Oftentimes, the end result of goodwill and institutional supply-side government ... subsidies programs is that too many outdoor citizens remain in the same place, homeless, underemployed, unemployed, begging, living in city parks and ravines or surviving on handouts.
We believe that it will require massive disruption among outdoor citizens, as well as fundamental changes to the existing institutional structures before we will see any appreciable or lasting changes. If not, we do not expect to see any appreciable differences or improvements, with regard to America's expanding homeless and downwardly mobile permanent underclass.
Hope for Outdoor People (the Outdoor Citizen's Coalition and Think-Tank of Santa Clara County), recently incorporated in the state of California. In less than 1.5 years in existence our 501(c)3 federally exempt, non-profit corporation is already making an impact, even in terms of defining the narrative.
We believe that our critical policy analysis is second to none, and might just be more realistic than anything else that is out there at present. I also serve on several boards including The Santa Clara County Collaborative, West Valley Community Services and soon several others if confirmed. I do not claim to represent their positions.
All of us, HOPPEOPLE, are proud to be citizens of the United States of America, and individuals and families that are entitled to all of the rights and protections of the United States Constitution. And in deference to our current status, we are committed contributors and problem-solvers. It is our intention to help solve the growing and pernicious problem of homelessness that is growing by leaps and bounds within the American Commonwealth.
We are current working alongside government and faith-based institutions, the one's who will listen to the class groups that they purport to serve. And, we are doing so without financial support from any of these institutions to help solve the current crisis in America. Clearly, the problem has reached monumental proportions - and what has been done so far, minus the direct input and involvement, of the identified homeless community, is not working.
More and more displaced Americans have been and are being relegated to streets, parks, shelter-programs and ravines, while houses, condominiums and apartments (some foreclosed upon) sit empty.
Having said that, several institutions in the Valley are being impacted by our message, and more than a few organizations are already modifying their programs, based upon HOP's input and its business model. HOP's model consists of helping people to understand that if good intentions are not properly channeled, that they will only exacerbate the problem, and lead to further dependency.
Although not as quickly as we would like to see it happen, outdoor citizens are beginning to understand that they will also have to make changes and work to solve their own problems - as opposed to waiting for someone or some other agency or institution ... to do their work for them. Partnerships are what is needed in the Valley and beyond, we believe.
To wit, we are teaching our erudite outdoor citizens to be both accountable and responsible, and to come up with creative ways, with our assistance, to make an honest living for themselves and their families - despite current conditions.
In other words a change in practice and strategy on both sides is needed - the helpers and the individuals who are being assisted. The outdoor citizens, will have to take ownership in order to solve their problem, and the rest should only provide strategic and tactical help and support.
How have we been successful in terms of helping outdoor citizens and helping institutions to revamp their programs and to modify their ways of thinking? We created tension, made our voices heard and began to teach a new and improved paradigm to former supply-sider organizations in the region, and to outdoor citizens, the ones who would listen.
The organizations that have helped consist of government agencies, as well as faith-based groups.
The church that permitted us to use its facility in order to create and shape HOP, free of charge, once served over 1200 meals a week. We helped them to understanding that they were only supporting and therefore creating more dependency, given that the individuals who were being served were consumers only. We have other churches to begrudgingly understand that they were guilty of doing the same!
Sadly, some of our people wanted to be paid if they were expected to clean up their feeding areas, or to put their own trash in a trash container, in spite of all of the meals that they consumed each week for free. HOP urged this and several other faith-based groups to stop providing something for nothing, in particular to long-term and chronic outdoor-citizens. After all, they were unwittingly conditioning our people to be co-dependent and to have a sense of entitlement!
Today, in the manner that Jesus, Paul and Peter of scriptures did, the church who helped us has created a new recovery, help, participate and receive style program, that includes employment training ... More organizations need to eat a bit of humble pie in the region and to make similar changes.
Another prominent church from Milpitas, changed its modus operandi
They didn't care for my interference at first, I used scriptures to show them how they were doing just the opposite of what Jesus did among the outdoor people of his time. Today, we are all friends, and the outdoor citizens are being asked to be participants and not only recipients in a program that benefits them.
By sharing our experiences, as informed outdoor citizens, and participating in public policy planning in the area and constructive criticisms, other organizations along with their personnel or members, are not only listening, they are beginning to sing a different tune.
More resources, from hereon, will be used to help individuals who are capable of and will work to overcome destitution and homelessness, as opposed to rewarding slovenly behavior. I had begun to wonder at one time, just how long slovenly behavior would be rewarded?
And there is and has been a payoff; in the final analysis our people will be, and some have already become contributors as opposed to beggars and dependents that are living in parks, begging on the streets or in the city and county's thoroughfares.
Second, by employing our methods, eventually, we will be able to expose and isolate the malingerers, the ones who will require a different method of intervention.
And certainly, we will have to come up with something else for malingerers to do, and there are more than a few outdoor citizens that fit into this category. For some, malingering has become a satisfying lifestyle. Many of these individuals sadly have become drug and alcohol dependent!
And still, there are some great people living outdoors, the majority of them I might add!
Having said that, there are an estimated 2 million outdoor citizens living in the USA at present, and the number is growing, exponentially. Keep in mind that for every domicile that is being foreclosed upon, one or more outdoor citizens were former residents!
Examine this article from HOP's blogsite, www.hoppeople.org, entitled: Addicted to Homelessness, using a text from the bible found in Acts 3:9-11
9. And all the people saw him [who sat begging before] walking and praising God:
10. And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.
11.And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering.
A follow-up to last quarter's article entitled, 'Addicted to Homelessness': After the people saw this man who sat for years, walking again, many of them ran to Solomon's colonnade (or porch). And they wondered, how could this be? Actually, that is what we are attempting to do at HOP, 'The Outdoor Citizens Coalition & Think Tank of Santa Clara County California': We are attempting to do the miraculous.
Our work is cut out for us in that we are attempting to change the existing paradigms, methods, social and public policy. And we are doing so in a region where faith-based groups, government institutions and the working public are arguably the most generous in the nation.
Giving is what our people do in the Santa Clara Valley and beyond. However, we believe that the resources that are currently being expended, are not being used optimally. The same resources could be put to work in order to motivate outdoor citizens to do the same, that is to help themselves as opposed to supporting dependency, the ones who want to do better.
In other words, I am referring to the carrot and the stick approach!
Frankly, many Americans are lost, confused and shocked by what is transpiring in the American economic market place. In fact, other than by going to school, sending a resume or signing up at an employment center or online to apply for a position that does not exist, they are lost.
Many displaced American workers don't have a clue how to take care of themselves or to take charge of their lives under the new rubric of high unemployment the result of greed, globalization, consolidation, automation... and a former sense of entitlement!
For over half-a-century, jobs were aplenty in America.
And therefore the second part of our challenge is to do the following: To help to convince the recipients of the area's government ... supply-side largess programs (to include food, clothing, medical help, medicine, shelters, free bus passes, housing ...) that times have changed.
We have to make an effort to get displaced Americans to understand that if they intend to make it in the new American/World-wide economy, without becoming dependents, that they have to do things in a different way than they did in the past. Depending on job creation by others, has become a thing of the past.
The shrinking middle-class, faith-based groups and government agencies, won't be able to take care of the expanding non-working class. Teaching the underemployed or unemployed to complete resumes, and to practice their interviewing skills in an economy, where the jobs are going away is not the solution.
HOP compliments Stanford grad and CEO, Peter Thiel co-founder of PayPal and current president of Clarium Capital, for encouraging entrepreneurship, and investing seed money in would be entrepreneurs. There are a lot of outdoor citizens with advanced degrees, living in the parks. Imagine, if 10 of them came up with ideas or businesses that could re-employ their counterparts?
Similar to President Thiel, we believe that by teaching individuals who can't find work, how to work for themselves is the answer - even when it means cleaning gutters, painting numbers on curbs, mowing lawns, shearing hedges, farming or by coming up with the next Facebook or Google perhaps.
All too often, displaced American workers who have been down-sized out of companies spiral down and become completely dependent on handouts in a system where the resources are already drying up or ending up in the pockets of a few. The latter I often refer to as an economic watershed.
The same individuals have forgotten their years of training and experience, that which they already have underneath their belts. We are teaching outdoor citizens how to use those same skills and experiences to make a living not only for themselves but for their families (in an even more specialized economy). Or as I heard on a television program last night, some may have to attend "Rap University", in order to earn a living!
We are creating a new crop of entrepreneurs, and hopefully future employers, that are able to think outside of the box. Our methods encompass teaching individuals to take 'baby steps', and eventually to stand up and walk again. The end result is that individuals who have given up, will be able to be productive in the new world-wide economy.
Clearly, either side is dependent upon the other for survival, when operating under the current paradigm, that is one to receive government aid, grants, donations and other freebies - and the other to receive a paycheck ... for distributing the free goodies. Something has to give!
The first group that I will refer to is the dependency supply-siders group. Even though this group offers their clients unconditional positive regard, they are oftentimes unconditional enablers. The reason that they are enablers is because while maintaining paid positions (under the guise of solving the problem) often on the inside of a massive bureaucracy that is rife with fraud and corruption), these organizations are the problem.
Why? All too often, these organizations fail to hold their own feet or their client's feet to the fire. There is a lack of oversight, accountability to assure the dollars spent are receiving the desired results - the kind that the public wants to see.
And why is that? It's simple, if the clients were to have their problems solved, or to simply walk away, they would loose their reason for existing. And the end result is that they are perpetuating the problem that they are supposed to be there to fix.
Ergo, no pain and no gain, and an enormous sum of money that could be used to help individuals to get going again, continues to go down into a massive sink hole, and to the tune of billions of dollars. Many of our outdoor citizens recognize that it 'pays to be homeless', unfortunately.
And it is truly unfortunate that the indiscriminate amounts being spent on outdoor citizens, actually rewards dependency, inertia and slovenly behavior - this is not discretionary spending!
On the other hand, institutionalized begging, has become a growing cottage industry locally, and across the nation. I don't have to tell you that!
Neither side, the suppliers or the recipients up to this juncture, wants to see the other go away. Both the recipients of government, social service and faith-based largess, all have a stake in the supply-side dynamic.
Waste and fraud in the housing sector, costs American taxpayers, billions of dollars each year. Consider this, a person who is out of work will eventually receive free-housing, in some instances, paid-insurance, free transportation, food, medicine, clothing, sleeping bags ... while doing nothing to merit it!
So you are thinking, what motivates HOP's outdoor citizens (over 100 of us at last count and still growing), to behave any different from our malingering counterparts? Or, you are thinking, haven't your people benefited from some of the very programs that you have benefited from, and now are criticizing?
Our answer is, yes on both count. And as result “we have learned by experience what can take place when subsidies are not used as a stop gap, with the intent to stop the bleeding, instead of making it a permanent condition. We learned quickly!
And the fact of the matter is, we are not trying to close the door on others who have come behind us that are in need of emergency support. At the same time we are attempting to get all sides to understand that participation must be required on the part of the recipients of the country's and individuals largess.
We are trying to open a new door, and as citizens of the United States of America ourselves, don't forget that, it is our desire to protect the treasury, and the good-hearted Americans who give.
We have a responsibility to use what should be a temporary gift, to help us to get up and going again (I am speaking of any outdoor citizen), as opposed to turning giving and receiving into a lifestyle. Many outdoor citizens who were there when we fell, are still there living off of and enjoying the largess of others.
By making good use of the resources, we are (outdoor citizens) repaying the public and other charitable and faith-based groups for the temporary assistance, which can be used to help other individuals to get going again!
Some of us believe that our having ended up where we did before, albeit for a short period of time, may have been a part of our destiny - that is to take what we have learned and share it with both groups, in order to help turn things around.
The members of what appears to be a permanent and growing permanent American underclass needs our help, even though it may be painful to them to listen to us at first. I learned a long time ago, that you can do the right thing, the wrong way, which can lead to disastrous results.
"We believe that by feeding the problem, no pun intended, or by supporting dependency that either tactic will only help the problem to persist, if not grow even bigger".
A substantial portion of the nationwide outdoor citizens demographic, are veterans of foreign wars. Thankfully, the Federal government is coming to grips with the problems of homeless Vietnam-era veterans who are returning from both Afghanistan and Iraq. Warehousing able veterans under unsanitary condition, isn't the solution either. Consider what was discovered at Walter Reed in DC, several years ago.
Exactly, what will happen to America, once 2 out of every 4 Americans, perhaps 150m or so, rely on government agencies, subsidies, strapped faith-based organizations ... to supply their survival needs? Why?Because under the current paradigm, that is where we seem to be headed, if things don't soon change.
It time we would have to tear down houses and buildings in urban centers and expand and replace park lands, because the majority of Americans will be living outdoors again - while domiciles sit empty and are no longer need..
At the OCCTT, we recognize the direction in which the nation is headed. Why? Because we have been there, and many of our members are still experiencing both sides of the divide – even though we are working daily and often alone mostly, to help to change the current dynamic and to stream the tide.
If something isn't done to alter the nation's current heading, we believe that the nation is heading to the economic abyss, of the kind that will rival, if not surpass what took place during the Great Depression.
Perhaps, America will have to foreclose before it wakes up, clearly, that is what the Republicans in the House seem to believe! We are doing all that we can, as outdoor citizens, to help both sides to alter America's present heading towards an economic abyss.
And we are creating income-producing opportunities for ourselves, in some instances opportunities that we would not have considered before, and did not train for initially.
And don't forget that if we keep heading in the wrong direction, once we reach our destination as a nation, there will still be hundreds of millions of Americans, hungry and homeless, along with a soaring national debt. Should the rich share the wealth? The question is moot, the real question is do they look like they are going to share the wealth?
Many of our billionaires talk about sharing the wealth, and giving money to charity, however, besides Bill Gates and a few others, when will that happen? Hopefully, whenever they decide to share the wealth (tee hee), they will share the wealth with organizations that help people to get up and to get going again.
Too much money is simply sitting, that could be used to train individuals and to get the economy going again - sadly, the individuals who are sitting on incredible wealth, can never spend what they have in hundreds of lifetimes.
And even though they are reticent to give, oftentimes for the reasons that I have shared, there are legitimate causes that you can give to that will result in a return on your investment (ROI). We invite you to simply do the math, and help to underwrite the costs of sound recovery plans and organizations that have them.
At the very least, poverty should not be underwritten, all of us agree, supply-siders should understand, that only keeps individuals in poverty for a prolonged period of time, if not forever.
Sadly, outdoor-citizens often are often an afterthought when it comes to developing or shaping social and public policy. Often it would appear that the supply-siders, who are not accustomed to having representatives from our unique demographic at the planning table, would prefer that we stay away.
The attitude of some institutions appears to be, “shut up”, or on the other hand, "we will tolerate you", as we go about the business of saving your worthless lives. I have also sat at the table with do-gooders, who have their own agenda in place to 'save the whales', so to speak.
And with these types, not even an outdoor citizen that has input or a plan to help is going to interfere with their faustian ideas and ideals. Clearly, that kind of attitude, and the policies that follow will not help to resolve the problem, it only perpetuates the problem.
And as a result, a lot of money, time and energy has been and will still be wasted, and conditions will pretty much remain the same. Too many supply-siders have not spent one day experiencing homelessness, or in some instances abject poverty for that matter.
Sadly, supply-siders are often do-gooders who are on a personal mission of their own. They are creating their own self-inspired, I know what you need, policies and practices. Speaking at public forums … increasing their own visibility, is not working to solve the problem of homelessness, or dealing with its root causes, however.
Simply consider the current unemployment rate in California, and the nation for that matter. No matter which indices you read, more and more Americans are either unemployed, underemployed, furloughed, part-time workers, unhoused or going to food banks in order to get staples and other items to supplement their shrinking and inadequate incomes.
Disruption is needed on both sides, it is the answer that we believe will eventually take us into the new heading, one that will yield the desired results. And what are the desired results?
The answer is that not only Californians, but all Americans, to include our young-adults, college graduates … will learn to use their ingenuity and skill sets, as they prepare to earn a living again, under the new paradigm as opposed to living from hand to mouth!
We believe that in time (real-time) hopefully soon, that the groups that helped to create or sustain and maintain the poverty status quo in our region and elsewhere, and the beneficiaries will come running once they witness, if not before, lives being transformed.
The miracle of a lame-man being able to walk again instead of begging, happened, when Peter, employed a different method, that of helping a man to walk, instead of providing him with another handout. The net result was that decades of co-dependency and begging at the Temple, immediately ended, and a man was able to go and take care of himself again and to inspire others.
The same thing can happen in the Valley and beyond, however, it will require change on both sides, just as it happened with Peter and the lame man. However, we must change the current paradigm and belief system in the Valley. Service, should not be confused with crippling someone by giving them too much.
Already, we are reaching out to other agencies ... and speaking in front of different audiences, to include other outdoor-citizens in the area, in order to teach change. If something isn't done soon, there will be more and more unabashed beggars on the streets, in front of Target and Safeway stores or on sidewalks in American thoroughfares.
There will also be more robberies, burglaries and shakedowns taking place all over America. Keep in mind that many of the individuals that are ending up on the streets, are ex-convicts. And some of these dudes are mean, not all, just some!
Author Derrick Bell, in his book, 'Faces At The Bottom of the Well', wrote: "if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will keep getting what you have been getting". And most Americans know firsthand, that not only are we getting what we have been getting, there is no end in sight.
HOP, with a vision, minuscule resources (the work is all being done here by unpaid volunteers, former and current outdoor citizens and with the help of a few donors), is using these resources, our experiences, our wits and a new paradigm in order to turn lives around. Already, we are witnessing lives being transformed, and outdoor citizens taking charge of their lives and standing upright again.
What we are doing at HOP, that is working, benefits outdoor citizens, the city, county, state and the entire nation in time. We provide space, a place, professional training, desks, computers, business and marketing plans ... where research can be done and ideas put into practice. This is not the mission of poverty supply-siders.
The winds of change are blowing in the valley, the nation and the world for that matter. Individuals and organizations that learn to shift with the current tide, will succeed, we believe.
It is our hope that other outdoor-citizens (who up to this time have preferred the methods that are currently in place, (that have not worked) and rather supports dependency, or receiving something for doing nothing, will try something different.
It is also our hope that organizations in the area who support dependency will soon follow suit and join us (even when it means swallowing pride, and simply admitting that what worked before is not working today – given that the problem is expanding).
Even the Apostle Peter, a fisherman who still had fish to give, stopped giving alms, and instead helped to lift a man to his feet so that he could walk on his own 2 feet again, when his paradigm changed.
Readers who are familiar with 'disruption theory', understand that from time to time there has to be a change in the customary manner in which things are being done, and with the methods that have been used before, if an individual or an organization plans to keep pace.
Even a once great idea (the free delivery ice wagon, black and white TV, typewriters … eventually runs its course and needs to be replaced). Smart leaders, and managers on the cutting-edge, recognize when it is time to do, improve or create something different.
Several organizations, some of notoriety in Silicon Valley, failed to forecast or evaluate their processes, the ones that worked for a significant period of time in the past, and they suffered as a result. America, and Americans have also failed to heed the signs of knowing when to change.
Some once venerable organizations, in the once booming Silicon Valley have recently been overtaken by upstart organizations that didn't exist a decade ago. Why? Because the leaders of the organizations failed to keep up, or to recognize that from time to time, even a venerable organization has to recognize when it is time to change its mission, its methods and ways of doing things.
Some of them ignored, The Laws of Accelerating returns, and failed to keep up with the pace. Consider, what has taken place in the the Republic of China and the other emerging global markets today, and the 'huge sucking sound', that we hear coming from the American economy. The ROC tried something different, given new leadership at the top, and China has come out of the dark ages and is booming.
America, on the other hand stayed with what had been working before, for too long. Arrogance perhaps?
Successful businesses that plan to thrive under changing conditions, also recognize the need to be as effective as they are efficient and therefore to modify or change their practices at certain peak and off-peak times and junctures.
The Valley in my opinion, with Federal and State help, has effectively underwritten what appears to be a burgeoning and expanding permanent underclass if things don't change. There are an estimated 7,000 outdoor citizens in the region, who will continue to depend on the system for life-long support, get it life-long support.
The composition of the outdoor-citizen's demographic includes women, children, men from number of ethnic groups, American and foreign born. Members of this permanent underclass have been on the dole, in some instances, for 5, 7, 10 and 12 years, a period that has eclipsed either of the two major Silicon Valley recessions. The supply-side provisioners will continue to respond to the demand, instead of helping to change the dynamic.
Since my return from the nation's capitol several years ago, I ended up living in a shelter, a church's rear office, on a park bench, at the Salvation Army for a few nights and occasionally with friends. Immediately, I recognized 'my problem', and that of my new cohort group, as a result of living among the outdoor citizens' demographic in Santa Clara Valley.
I also observed what was taking place with well-intended government, social services and faith-based groups in the area.
During the time that I lived among the outdoor citizens in the Valley, I not only made observations, I also took notes on both sides of the Bay, to include the People's Park in Berkeley, and parks, shelters, feeding programs ... in Santa Clara Valley.
The First Church of Christian Science on Dwight Way in Berkeley was most helpful, Priscilla, a member of the church, was my teacher and guide. Rosie, a long-time resident of the People's Park and Terri (who was affectionately known as 'the Compost Lady', because she planted flowers and vegetables in the park to feed the outdoor-citizens there, were also extremely helpful.
I began to collaborate with outdoor citizens, as well as with service providers and faith-based groups on both sides, in hopes of trying to determine what course of action should be taken in order to change the current dynamic, in the most prosperous state in the world, as far as I was and am concerned.
The first thing that I observed and took note of, was that the outdoor citizens were mostly non-participants in their own recoveries, they were often missing from the policy and planning table. Second, I noticed that there was a percentage of the outdoor-citizens demographic who were satisfied with the way that things were operating at the time, 'receive, and you shall receive more'!
Some outdoor citizens require support help true enough, however, others were and still are unabashed moochers. What kind of help is needed, was the question that I attempted to answer. The latter group, I concluded, needed what the lame beggar at the temple needed, someone to help to lift him himself from the ground begging, so that he could get on with his life instead of depending on handouts.
I also recognized that there were physically and mentally handicapped individuals, that were also in need of a supportive lift, not a wheelchair for life. The De-institutionalization Act, one of late President Ronald's proud accomplishment, has been disastrous, for many individuals, who are in need of in-house mental health services.
Helping people is a balancing act, one that requires vision, wisdom, an ear to hear, analysis, strength and discernment. Otherwise, good caring people, end up being pawns in a sleighter’s hand! Many caregivers ... have, unwittingly become pawn in someone elses manipulative game.
Aside from the fact that some of the outdoor citizens who lack a conscience, and will pull the whole system down with them in deference to the ones who require genuine help. At times it appears as if many of the supply-siders (who are supposed to be change agents), have experienced Stockholm Syndrome.
Retired Stanford professor from the Department of Psychology, Dr. Zimbardo, could explain this firsthand given his work with the Stanford Prison Experiments. In fact, I was stunned, given the responses and feedback that I received from several service providers in the region. Several of them were were more perturbed with my suggesting that change needed to take place than they were with the individuals (some malingerers), who were co-dependent with them, their agencies and other faith-based groups.
Again, in too many instances, outdoor citizens are still not participating in their own recoveries - and too many services providers, faith-based groups, agencies ... want to rescue, rather than help their clients to walk again. It was incredible, the amount of resources that were being expended, to include dollars and human capital, to solve a problem for outdoor citizens, in which outdoor citizens had zero input!
At present, HOP and several other organizations and individuals, in the area that are ahead of the curve (in terms of recognizing a need for disruption in the systems in this region). I have joined forces with current and former outdoor citizens, who want to make a difference in the lives of our demographic.
The incredible amount of resources being expended, including direct handouts on the streets, by government, faith-based and other institutions in the region, has reached critical mass.
And still, there are approximately 7,000 outdoor citizens, living in the leading state in this Union. In other words, instead of crisis-altering measures, most resident institutions in the area, have accepted homelessness, as a condition.
They are providing change (in a monetary sense), instead of helping individuals who need to work to change themselves and their plights!
HOP, hopes to, in time, change minds and attitudes. HOP, other individuals and groups in the area who believe in what we are doing - are intent upon changing the current dynamic. And we plan to do so, not only among the outdoor citizens' demographic, but also among agencies, faith-based groups and services providers that are co-dependent with chronic outdoor citizens.
Individuals who are capable of helping themselves, who have found that “it is cheaper to keep her', the freebies, require inspiration (to include negative sanctions) in order to motivate them to get up and to get going again. I am speaking about the ones that can help themselves with a minimal amount of supervisorial help, but have given in to supply-side handouts ...
In order to do so, HOP had to create its own creative think tank agency. Now what is truly sad is this, some individuals and institutions who make their living off of the homeless, don't seem to want to have much to do with a professional outdoor citizen's organization that has an understanding of the problem, and is staffed with recovering individuals who have been there and are still there in some instances. Hmm!
Well, who is this Solomon dude anyway, they are likely thinking, a man who popped up in town from Washington DC several years ago? To some, I am certain, that I am a loud mouth, who has as much as said that the service-providers … in this area ... are co-dependent with the outdoor citizen's demographic in this area, many of them.
And besides that, some are thinking at first, "I have been in this fight for awhile and who is he (an outdoor citizen) to come walking in here, Mr. High and Mighty, to tell us or me, what to do with our money?
Answer: Your friend! Remember, again even Jesus had to stop the miracle feeding crusade that he began, because the people were only following him for food and miracles - not to turn their lives around.
Oftentimes, my fellow members of the cloth need to hear this most. Some of them are 'hell-bent' on rescuing people, or let's put it another way 'doing works'. One leading church, located in downtown San Jose has been blessed with incredible financial resources.
This church is intent on rescuing people by doing good works. However, is it good works that the outdoor citizens really need. Sadly, these kind of churches often end up being used, and worst than that by using their methods, the outdoor citizens that they intended to help remain destitute and dependent.
This prominent church has a dearth of financial resources, and they (their pastor mostly) believes that by simply spending money, that they are solving the problem. Factually, one at would can happen when God, the people and a few loaves of bread and fish are involved. In other words, 'stop spending pastor and get God and the people involved'!
At times, I can be very curt, when I want to be, however, it is intended for a useful purpose. To these type of individuals who I make angry, all I can say is: Take you thumb out of your mouth because there is more at stake than your damaged egos. Truthfully, I've own experienced a couple of individuals (even clerics) that I would consider to be 'true jerks who are on mission of their making. God ways, are not our ways?
Am I a T-Partier, or an individual on the Right who believes in a redistribution of wealth that inures to the benefit of the class group that needs it the least? Nyat! However, will the rest of us sit on our laurels, and help the rich to get richer. We have the same right to compete with anyone, and to steal market-share in and outside of America. Why criticize the ones that you patronize?
Anyway, don't get upset with me, I am on the side of right and I would like to help if I can to break through the powerful matrix of caregivers ... that exist in this area, whose hard-work has gone unnoticed, or is not helping anyone to reach the desired result.
And don't feel bad if you feel turned off at first by me, many of the outdoor citizens who have been enjoying a comfy existence as a result of the area's largess, wish that I would shut up and go away too. Can you blame them, Solomon is creating disruption, and spoiling the party for some of them.
I understand too, for would you like it if someone was tampering with a way of living that costs you nothing?In fact, when you think about it, they have done so already. Some of our outdoor citizens are confirmed whiner-babies. You can't say it I know, but I can, and oftentimes I do just that, I say it to them!
Some years ago, I actually argued a similar position with a group of do-gooier social workers ... who converged on Washington DC, just over 2 decades back in in the nation's capit0l. I was an invited delegate.
Service providers came from all other the nation, in order to focus on nationwide social and public policy issues.
Approximately 1,000 of us, spent the week in the nation's Capitol at a forum that was put together by The United Neighborhood Centers of America. Our mission was to, among other things, discuss ways to solve the problems of America's permanent underclass in the inner cities.
We caucused every day for one week, listen to speakers, engaged in discussions and debates, met with Representatives, created policy papers ... Eventually, the bleeding hearts among us came around. On one occasion, when we were drafting a policy paper, I explained to my colleagues that they were guilty of being idealistic, but not very realistic.
The latter is a problem that often persists and plagues most service providers and service provider agencies.
Why? Services-providers typically are people who have hearts of compassion (I wish everyone did), who want to help. Our downside is that often idealism, trumps realism – we don't care what it costs, let's just do it. Not good, I explained!
In fact, some of our delegates were not being very realistic when it came to addressing the needs of America's permanent underclass at the time. I am referring to the survivors in the nation's inner-cities at the time, where the average per capita income was at around 9K at the time.
Two decades later, the average per capita income in some urban centers still hovers around 15K, one area is adjacent to Capitol Hill.
Prior to leaving Washington (in 1983), neither my first nor my last time working on social, urban and public-policy issues by the way at the Congressional level, there was a change of heart. Many of the individuals who came there to bleed for America's permanent underclass, as opposed to coming up with some realistic proposals and solutions, help to put together something with teeth, that we could present to the politicians before we adjourned.
I hope that some of our bleeding hearts in the Valley will eventually recognize that they will have to do the same in The Valley. Let me put it another way, 'stop enabling the able-bodied outdoor citizens, would you please'?
Many of our outdoor citizens need to feel the kind of pain that will shock their sensibilities, and hopefully, spring them back into action, so that they can jump start their lives. Pain, can be a powerful motivator for positive social change, and to reverse lethargy and inaction.
Given the number of individuals that are unhoused in the area and living on someone's floor... given all of the manpower and resources that have been expended and distributed, wouldn't you say at some point, that what has successfully worked before, is simply not working today? The crisis is worsening, and the Republican House has already proposed to role HUD Funding for example, back to 2007 levels, as a starting point.
It is time for disruption, and a change from the old ways of doing things to take place. For example, when outdoor citizens come to you and beg for handouts, either on the streets or at your agency: “Tell Them Where To Go", in other words where you send your money to in order to assist them and where they can be held accountable and put into recovery programs.
Explain to them that a organization with skilled personnel will help them to get going again. Whatever you do, stop supporting begging and dependency, you are reinforcing bad habits, which will only result in re-enforcing long-term chronic dependency. Again, tell them where to go 'to meet your money', in order to get help!
Jesus believed in and taught individuals to be responsible. It seems to me that some of the faith-based groups, agencies, and recipients of all of the public's and their congregation's largess in this area, are intent upon doing just the opposite.
Many of them are busily maintaining the "we will take care of you status quo”. Let me give you an example. The outdoor citizens get everything for free in this area, to the extent that other outdoor citizens travel to this area from other parts of the state and the nation,because they have heard 'just how sweet it is in Santa Clara County'.
Even, San Franciscans travel down the peninsula (to the Southbay) in order to get what they can no longer get in San Francisco. Our current Lieutenant Governor, Gaven Newsome, when he was mayor of San Francisco, recommended that Bay Area cities, work together in order to deal with this cross-pollinating phenomenon. Outdoor Citizens from as far away as San Diego... come here to take care of the area's largess, which impacts already limited resources.
From all across the nation they come, knowing that if you can make it to the Bay Area's shores, that you will be taken care of, shortly, after you arrive. And even though I admire the spirit of giving in this area, I was even helped when my fortunes turned, however, with this caveat: I immediately engaged in a personal recovery plan.
My plan worked for me, and now I am teaching other outdoor citizens how a well thought out recovery plan can work for them.
However, many of the helping organizations in this area neither understand when they are doing too much without a return on their investment, nor when the able mind and bodied outdoor citizens are not doing enough to help themselves. Many of our outdoor citizens have not sat down to - some, haven't sat down to make a recovery plan yet, and some of the helpers don't seem to mind!
And having said that, what you are doing is contributing to cultural dependency and social anomie. Outdoor citizens, ought to be required to take action steps themselves before receiving more than the very basic help. And afterward, when they are helped, benchmarks need to be set, with targets in mind, accompanied with frequent compliance reviews. Otherwise, permit the ones who refuse to a tour at The Pain Station!
The by-product of all of the, 'we will solve your problems for you', that too many of our chronic outdoor are experiencing, some for a decade or more, is that many of our outdoor citizens have remained right where they were long before I, and others like me, got involved in the fight. While being supported without condition, many of them have lost jobs, homes, apartments ... before the most recent recession, and some before the 2001 recession in this region.
Has there been any accountability? What happened, given all of the resources that have been expended already, I can't see any results. We can blame what has transpired on the the economy ... however, that is not the whole story. Over-dependence on a free-handout economy, including a guaranteed job is the problem. It is time for a new way of thinking and reckoning to be put into place - consider HOP's model.
Sadly, I can't seem to get faith-based groups to understand that not even Jesus, continued his 'miracle healing feeding crusade', once he realized that his program enabled individuals (who were merely following him in order to obtain fish food, and other miracles). At HOP, the Think Tank and Advocacy organization, one that is comprised of current and former outdoor citizens mind you - we are teaching a new paradigm. Hopefully, others will get on board and try something new for a change.
One HOP member proposed a slogan 2-days ago that will be incorporated, with regard to street and other beggars, and it is: REFUSE TO GIVE CHANGE TO PEOPLE WHO REFUSE TO CHANGE. This slogan compliments, the new TELL THEM WHERE TO GO slogan that we came up with!
In other words, don't give any more money to anyone on the streets, or at the expressway exits.
Instead, give the money to responsible and ethical organizations; and at the same time tell the beggar where to go where he can be helped, supervised, monitored and given a helping hand (if he or she will do what they are told in order to help themselves.
Giving on the streets ... have only buttressed begging and the lack of accountability, but more importantly, the lack of effort and change in the lives of beggars.
We know some things that some don't know, because we've been there. Many of our team members are already working to turn their lives around - instead of being dependent on a system that doesn't work to help individuals to get up and to get going again, sadly.
During my last person-to-person meeting with late Congressman Augustus Hawkins of the 21st district in Los Angeles when in Washington DC and before he passed on - he told me something. He said, you can actually do more back at home by working with the ones who are in need in the community, than you can get down here in Washington DC …”
Many other Representatives in Washington, for example late Representative John Seiberling of Ohio ... echoed the same sentiment and shared similar advice. Practically every Representative that I spoke with, admitted that Washington was in gridlock.
Representative Conyers from Michigan, once explained to a group of us in DC, that a certain bill that he tried to get on the floor for 25 years, was never permitted to come to the floor, out of committee ... for a vote. Washington, as most Americans already know, has been deadlocked - well that is unless you are an organization that owns one or more of the 300,000 or more registered (mostly corporate) lobbyists in this nation (who will do your bidding for you), then you will likely get you what you want.
Is it any wonder that many of the residents in the District of Columbia refer to it as 'Dodge City', not, because of the killing that goes on there. They are also referring to the crime that is taking place on Capitol Hill. There are hundreds of corporate lobbyists for every congressperson.
HOP, and several other well-intentioned institutions in America and this area, are not the place to go if one does not intend to alter their plight, and that is in consideration of individuals on both sides of the spectrum. At HOP, we are essentially teaching outdoor citizens, the ones who will listen, a new paradigm, and it includes the following:
- That the world has changed since the Post WWII economic boom that America experienced (which lasted more than a half century).
That Europe was devastated, and broke at the end of the war, while America's blue collar industry, factories, its banking and mercantile system, among other things, was booming.
And as a result, there were jobs aplenty. (Many Americans in the rust belt where I hail from, held more than one job at a time). I can recall when I held 2 jobs and was working 16 hours a day around the age of 18.
However today greed, coupled with globalization, corporate down-sizing, loss of market share to the emerging global economies, corporate down-sizing, the depression and the slow economic recovery (not to overlook the psyche of the entitled to a job Americans), too many Americans have lost that one well paying job - that they used to have. And more more and more of them are sitting in a stupor, while waiting for 'their job' to come back.
That the shrinking manufacturing base, currently at about 27% of what it was decades ago, has resulted in many of blue collar workers having been simply put, eliminated. And as a result, homes, apartments, rooms and families have been broken up and lost...
That even if you were able to garner a job, typically short-term, you would not be able to earn a sufficient amount of money to cover your living expenses, particularly, if you live in northern California.
That the solution is within you coupled with solid supportive help, of the kind that teach and help you to take back charge of your lives, and therefore your destinies with this in mind; you must take the responsibility for your comeback, and create income-producing opportunities for yourself. In other words, you will hone and depend on your current skill-sets, return to school if you must, and use what you have already in your toolbox, to compete in the market place.
We remind our people that they have, 'not only marketable skills, but income-producing skills" and that American citizens will have to compete against American and global interests, in order to garner and with our support (and hopefully yours) their slice of the global pie (not just the American one), for that ship has sailed.
Maintenance programs are just that, maintenance; and they will result in many Americans being on the dole for the rest of their lives - we lost over 50 outdoor-citizen lives in the area, last year alone, along with several outdoor citizens in this region just over the past 3 weeks...
Finally, we help outdoor-citizens understand that more and more of the jobs that they were accustomed to having before, have been and are being shipped overseas, automated or outsourced. This phenomenon has occurred with the full consent of lobbied American government officials by American corporations.
Both entities are competing for their own survival and to satisfy campaign-financers and their stockholders. The dangerous nexus that currently exists between government and corporations, is only hurting the American people. However, we have to fight back!
John Maynard Keynes, Kenneth Galbraith would be appalled, if they could witness the current economic conditions in America, particularly what is taking place in the American corporate marketplace, on Wall Street and with America's mercantile system (particularly in a nation with a 14T GDP, piled-up debt and Americans living in the streets). Who knows what Mr. Friedman would have to say if he were still with us today, with respect to current market conditions. And we all know that he was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and supply-side economist. Thomas Sowell, my soul brother, I don't understand you, but at the same time, we are moving on with our own economic recoveries. I feel that it is safe to say that the contract with America ala Hobbes and Keanes is DOA, at this juncture it appears to be, every person for themselves!
Mr. Volcker has had very instructive things to say from time to time. Mr. Greenspan, has to defend himself, since he presided over the Fed, during the downturn and slide, ergo, he has been somewhat muted and more of an apologist. Mr. Geither and Mr. Bernanke are presiding over the current debacle and economic recovery, at the Treasury and at the Fed.
All of us know, I believe, what the real problem is and where it originated, in addition to all of the above (to include job losses, corporate down-sizing, repositioning, job furloughs, the stock-market crash), can you say hedge funds though? Where I disagree with many of the outdoor citizens and organizations that I am involved with, many of them accept the status-quo and fail to understand that it is time to to alter the status quo. Why?
Because with the best of intentions many of them are doing the wrong thing today, and very little to address the systemic issues of our time. One thing that is needed for sure, in the Santa Clara Valley and other regions of the nation, is DISRUPTION!
In other words the same organizations that have prevented a crises of hunger in and among our demographic, have fallen into a separate rut. Today, however, it is time to get on with the business of rehabilitation, by partnering with outdoor citizens in a way that will help them to get back to creative ways of producing economic returns on their best investments, themselves.
These institutions did an admirable job before, however, it is time to switch gears, and to kick some butt. There has been a massive redistribution of wealth in this nation and this area, to the ones who needed it the least - and they are not going to give it back.
In summary and I repeat that we believe the following:
That organizations in the area need to adapt to a new paradigm, one in which individuals working with those who want to help themselves to recover, ought to be helped. The ones who do not, and will not help themselves, ignore them.
That outdoor citizens must be encouraged, taught … those who can be taught, to begin working to create income producing opportunities for themselves, with support (to include cleaning, sweeping, painting curbs, mowing lawns, using their computer-skills, starting their own hi-tech businesses some have advanced degrees you know).
That outdoor citizens must volunteer to work, when one is capable of doing so, instead of receiving the gifts that they have been receiving of late, gratis.
That a certain amount of pain being felt, will inspire some of our able-bodied, but spoiled outdoor citizens to get back to work or to create income-producing opportunities for themselves. We are living in a new day, and certain jobs aren't coming back!
That organizations must channel more dollars into self-help organizations, not only HOP, who are trying to create self-sustaining and independent human beings instead of dependents (and the latter is what is taking place all over the area today.
In conclusion: I wonder what our critics will have to say when we, HOP, a year and a-half old organization that began without money, a place and not very much of anything else, helps to alter the current paradigm and status quoin this region; or on the other hand, when the ones who are being served by status quo organizations make the turn around? Motivated outdoor-citizens, are turning to us already. The rest are staying in the parks, and relying on government, faith-based groups … to sustain them, to do their work for them - however, they are watching us.
We plan to help individuals who desire to and are willing to work, to stand and to walk again. The answer is on the porch, not on the streets, or under another person or institution's control. And why are we doing what we are doing, because of LOVE!
And if what you or you group has been and is doing currently works for the good of the people (not your group...) then by all means keep doing it. On the other hand and in the words of Dr. Phil, ask yourself or your group ... "how is what you have been doing, working for the individuals or groups that your group or you serves or has served in the past?"
If nothing else you will be able to determine why you or your group are doing what you are or have been doing, and who really benefits! Sadly, and at times, we can do the right thing the wrong way!
And here is one final shameless, but hopefully helpful plug. During my years as a psychiatric counselor, where I received plaudits from my teammembers, who wondered why I had been more successful with my caseload, than many of them who had been there long before I arrived.
My response was, "the clients in our Mental Health center told me that the difference between you and the other therapists is that you care about us, the others are here using us in order to acquire their advanced degrees". Sadly, and in many instances, I knew firsthand that they were correct - several of my peers were using the clients as a part of their work, in order to get what they wanted, their PhDs.
To be informed, is to be armed! Do some introspection and self-actualization, those of you who want to help. And ask yourself, why are you doing what you are doing? In other words, are you doing what you are doing for the ones who need help, or are you doing what you are doing for yourself? It matters ...
The Proud President of Hope for Outdoor People
Learn more about the growing supply-side dynamic and the outdoor citizen's demographic in Santa Clara County, by visiting 'The Outdoor Citizens Coalition of Santa Clara County's website at www.hoppeople.org! We have our own think tank, and are working to bring about positive social-change for our demographic in the Santa Clara Valley and beyond.
We need more HOP chapters around the nation. And please read our inspiring articles. Through The Window of Kathy's Eyes, is the featured article the week - please read it.