The Issue of homelessness: Part I
We refer to ourselves as Outdoor Citizens. We are working to change the existing crippling, supply-side dependency dynamic that persists in this and other regions of the country.
Supporting dependency is neither the solution to the problem of homelessness in the Santa Clara Valley nor elsewhere in America, we believe. And if you disagree, simply consider what has been taking place with outdoor citizens in your community.
Or in the words of Dr. Phil, "how has what you or your community have been doing ... working for you and your community so far"? Oftentimes, the end result of goodwill, faith-based 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. At the very least, a more synergistic multi-modal approach, to include direct participation from the outdoor citizen's community to solve the problem of homelessness, will be necessary!
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 anytime soon.
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. HOP's opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any of these organizations.
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 currently working alongside numerous government and faith-based institutions in the area (the one's who will receive input from the class group that they purport to serve. And we are doing so without any financial support from any of these institutions when helping to address America's current social pandemic.
Clearly, the problem has reached monumental proportions - and what has been done so far, minus the direct input and involvement of the identified patient-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, however, 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 both practice and strategy on either side is desperately needed - the helpers and the individuals who are being assisted. The mentally capable outdoor citizens will, themselves, need to take ownership of 'their problems', if their problems are ever to be resolved.
The solutions that are currently in place, are there, all to often to appease a portion of society that believes that it can pay to have the menace go away. Other caring individuals or institutions, faith-based, government and otherwise, should provide strategic, tactical, sincere and meaningful partnering support.
How have we been so 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-side 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 organize HOP, free of charge, once served over 1200 meals a week. We helped them to understand, that with the best of intentions, they were only supporting the problem and therefore creating more dependency.
The individuals who were being served, were consumers only, 99% of them, instead of participants within their own recovery. We have helped other churches, begrudgingly in some instances, to understand that they were guilty of doing the same, supporting and bolstering dependency!
Sadly, some of our people wanted to be paid if they were expected to clean up the feeding areas, or to place their own trash in a trash container, in deference to all of the meals that they consumed each week (often 3 or 4 days per week) at not charge.
HOP urged this and several other faith-based communities 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 former, come, help, cook, feed, provide gifts ... and afterward the outdoor citizens simply walked away without doing anything to help, modus operandi.
They didn't care for my interference initially, however, 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 recipients only in programs that benefit them the most.
By sharing our experiences, as informed outdoor citizens, and participating in public policy planning in the area or offering constructive criticisms, other organizations along with their personnel and members, are not only listening - they are beginning to sing a different tune. It hurts to have to correct individuals, whose only intent was to offer sincere help our people.
However, 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 would slovenly behavior 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 mode. 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 happen to be, 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, to assist individuals to walk again, and hopefully others will come running.
Our work is cut out for us in that we are attempting to change existing paradigms, methods, and social and , public policy along with their questionable practices that often fail to work. 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 effort, along with the proper distribution of shrinking resources, could be put to work to help motivate outdoor citizens to do the same, and the ones that are already trying.
Resources should not be provided ad hominen, to able bodied individuals, who refuse to do anything to help themselves!
In other words, I am referring to the carrot and the stick approach! However, by simply giving more and more, or expending more and more, without any accountability being in place, is not representative of America at its best.
Frankly, many Americans are lost, confused and shocked by what has and is transpiring in the American economic market place. In fact, other than by going to school, sending out resumes or signing up at employment centers or online to apply for a position that does not exist, too many Americans are lost.
Many displaced American workers don't have a clue how to take care of themselves or their loved ones under America new rubric of high unemployment (the result of greed, globalization, consolidation, automation, ... and a former sense of entitlement!
For over half-a-century, high-paying jobs were abundant in America, however, that is not the case anymore.
And therefore the second part of our challenge is to do the following: Help to convince the recipients of the area's and the government's ... supply-side largess programs (to include food, clothing, medical help, medicine, shelters, free bus passes, housing ...), that times have changed - and they will have to adapt.
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 competitive economy, without becoming dependents, that they will 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 a expanding, formerly employed working class in perpetuity. Teaching the underemployed and unemployed to complete resumes, or to simply 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. Here is a wealthy individual, who is doing something realistic to help solve America's unemployment problem in a realistic manner.
He is not rewarding dependency - instead he is giving individuals a real chance to help themselves, and likely others by providing future employment for themselves and other people. Give that man a cigar!
There are a lot of outdoor citizens with advanced degrees, that are living in parks. Imagine, if 10 of them came up with business ideas that could result in them re-employing both them and a few of their counterparts, as opposed to waiting on handouts?
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, several future employers, who will be able to to learn to think outside of the box. Our methods include teaching individuals to take 'baby steps' first, and eventually to stand up on their own 2 feet and to walk again.
The end result is that individuals who have given up this far, will be able to become productive achievers in the new world-wide economy.
Clearly, either side is dependent upon the other for survival when operating under the current paradigm, one to receive government aid, grants, donations and other freebies without merit - and the other (typically inside of an agency) to receive a paycheck ... for distributing the free goodies. Something has to give!
The first group, the dependency supply-sider's group typically offers their clients unconditional positive regard or support, however, and on the other hand, they are oftentimes unconditional and unintentional enablers.
The reason being that maintaining paid positions (under the guise of solving the problem oftentimes on the inside of a massive bureaucracy that is rife with fraud and corruption), they only bolster and create more dependency. Why?
All too often, these organizations fail to hold their own feet or their client's feet to the fire, and lack creativity. And on occasion, there is a lack of oversight and accountability in place, to assure that the dollars being spent are receiving the desired results - the kind that the public would like to see, especially taxpayers.
If their clients were to have their problems solved, or to simply walk away, they would loose their reason for existing. And sadly, the end result is that they are perpetuating the problem that they are supposed to be fixing - the supply sider bureaucracy.
Ergo, no pain and no gain, and an enormous sum of resources that could be used to help invest in individuals to get going again, continues to go down into a massive sink hole, 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 that are being spent on outdoor citizens, actually reward 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 services 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 counts. And as result “we have learned by experience what can take place when subsidies are not used as a stop gap, instead of with the intent to stop the bleeding, instead of making it a permanent condition. We learned quickly!
And the fact of the matter is that we are not trying to close the door on others who 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 individual largess.
We are trying to open a new door of opportunity, 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 or grant, to help us to get up and to get going again (I am speaking of any outdoor citizen), as opposed to turning giving and receiving into a lifestyle. Many outdoor citizens who were present when we fell, are still living off of and enjoying the largess of other Americans.
By making good use of the resources that we received, 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 - by doing what we are doing today!
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 in America).
The members of what appears to be a permanent and growing American underclass needs our help, even though it may be painful for them to listen to us, however, at first. I learned a long time ago, that you can do the right thing, the wrong way, which can also lead to disastrous results.
"We believe that by feeding the problem, no pun intended, or by supporting dependency that either tactic will only help to prolong and to expand the problem".
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 survival needs? 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 replace them with park lands, because the majority of Americans will be living outdoors again - while domiciles sit empty or 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. Apparently, 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 collapse. We are in the process of 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 the nation keeps heading in the wrong direction, once it reaches its destination, there will still be hundreds of millions of Americans, hungry and homeless - along with a soaring national debt.
Should the rich share their 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, and should it 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 in hedge funds ... that could be used to help retrain individuals and to get the economy going again. Sadly, the individuals who are sitting on incredible wealth, that they can never spend in hundreds of lifetimes, aren't helping either.
Now even though they are reticent to help, giving to charity is a write-off, oftentimes for the reasons that I have mentioned before, there are legitimate causes that many of them can give to that will result in a return on their investment (ROI), as opposed to sinking more money into the Supply-Side sink holes.
We invite them to simply do the math, and instead to help to underwrite the costs of sound recovery plans in organizations that have them already in place. A cheap plug for HOP did you say, and why not? We are trying to help - we are not asking to be supported the rest of our lives. At the very least, poverty should not be underwritten, encouraged or buttressed by anyone. Supply-siders, will have to learn that by doing so, it only helps to keep impoverished individuals in poverty for a longer period of time, if not forever.
Too often, even though we are beginning to witness some improvement in this area, outdoor-citizens are often an afterthought when it comes to developing or shaping social and public policy that will work. 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, even faith-based ones, 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 many a do gooder organization, who have their own agendas in place to 'save the whales', without knowing a thing about the whales or outdoor citizens in this context! Can you say, waste?
With these types, not even an outdoor citizen that has input or a plan to help, is going to interfere with their faustian ideas or self-conceived 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 or lost, 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. However, speaking at public forums … increasing one's own personal visibility, or rising up the societal ladder is not working to solve the problem of homelessness, or to come up with lasting solutions. Simply consider the current unemployment rate in California, or the nation for that matter. No matter which indices you subscribe to, more and more Americans are either unemployed, underemployed, furloughed, part-time workers, or going to food banks.
And, many of outdoor citizens remain un-housed. Many Americans are seeking help, even working Americans, in hopes of garnering staples and other items that will supplement their shrinking and inadequate incomes. Disruption , of the fork-grade uplift type, is needed on both sides. It is is the answer that we believe will eventually take America into a 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 young-adults, college graduates, seniors … 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. Yes, the growing senior class is already suffering! We believe that in time (real-time hopefully), that the groups that helped to create, sustain and maintain the poverty status quo in our region and elsewhere, along with the beneficiaries of crippling supply-side economic paralysis (who have been lying around and begging, at the temples), will come running in order to be transformed.
The miracle of a lame-man being able to get up and to walk again instead of begging, happened, when Peter, employed a different method, that of helping a man to stand and walk instead of providing him with another handout. The net result was that decades of co-dependency and begging at the Temple, immediately came to an end, and a man was able to go and take care of himself again and to inspire others to do the same, apparently.
The same thing can happen in the Valley and beyond, however, it will require change on both sides, just as change was required with Peter and the lame man. However, we must change the current paradigm and belief system in the Valley and elsewhere. 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 a variety of 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 of America, in front of Target and Safeway stores or on sidewalks and 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 of them, and they are teaching others to be con men and women!
continued see part 2
Solomon is 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.