Jun 11, 2011

The Supply-Side Poverty Paradigm in Santa Clara County and Beyond

The Issue of homelessness: Part 2

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"?


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 appears not to be an end in sight.

The give and give more again paradigm is solidly in place in American cities!

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 help to turn lives around.

Already, we are witnessing lives being transformed, and outdoor citizens taking charge of their lives, their personal destinies and standing upright again - and we just got started.

What we are doing at HOP, that is working, benefits outdoor citizens, the city, county, state and the entire nation. 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 be motivated to try something different - at the very least we can help to save the next generation. 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, but only when the Apostle's 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 and with the methods that have been used before, if an individual or an organization plans to keep pace. In other words, adaptability is required.

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 re-evaluate their processes, the ones that worked for a 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.

To that end, several 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 Law 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 has come out of the dark ages in a few decades, and is threatening the existing world order. America, on the other hand stayed too long with what had been working before, and it is costing all of us. Arrogance, over-confidence, elitism at play, perhaps? Successful businesses that plan to survive and to thrive under existing 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 junctures.

The Valley, in my opinion, with Federal and State help, has effectively underwritten what appears to be a burgeoning and expanding permanent underclass, that costs billions to support, when you take into consideration what is already in place. 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 a number of ethnic groups, both American and foreign born. Members of this permanent underclass have been on the dole, in some instances, for 5, 7, 10 and 12 years however, a period that has eclipsed either of the two major Silicon Valley and national recessions.

The supply-side provisioners will continue to respond to the demand and do it their way, instead of helping to change the dynamic. Several of these organizations, as HOP has experienced already, operates like a impenetrable syndicate of who's who's in the valley. We have observed that some of the political figures in our area, are a part of these syndicates. HOP, has made numerous attempts to get our Councilmen and some ministers to respond to the numerous messages that we have left for them. Hmm!!

Item I

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 and at the Salvation Army for a few night (and did I mention with very special and caring friends). I recognized 'my problem', and that of my new cohort groups and the helping community and agencies, as a result of living among the outdoor citizens' demographic in Santa Clara Valley.

I especially took note of 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 of the Bay, 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 types I call them'!

And then there was the group that I will refer to as 'the helping-naive, or the helping beneficiaries might be a better term. These individuals appeared to be involved for personal or political reasons, at the expense of the individuals that they were supposed to be helping. .

Some outdoor citizens required support help true enough, however, others were and still are unabashed moochers to this day. What kind of help was needed, was the question that I attempted to answer. The latter group, the chronics who business it was to beg, I concluded, needed what the lame beggar at the temple needed, someone to help to lift them from the ground begging, so that they could get on with their lives instead of depending on handouts. Providing them with alms, was not the solution.

I also recognized that there were physically and mentally handicapped individuals, in need of a supportive lift, not a wheelchair for life. Project Hired, convinced me that there were motivated handicapped individuals, working every day, and they wouldn't have it any other way. However, the De-institutionalization Act, one of late President Ronald's proud accomplishments, has been disastrous for many individuals, who are in need of round the clock in-house mental health services. Too bad they weren't rich, he would have protected them1

Helping people is a balancing act, one that requires training,vision, wisdom, sincerity, 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 pawns in someone elses manipulative (occasionally political) games.

Aside from the fact that some outdoor citizens who lack a conscience, will pull the whole system down with them in deference to the ones who require genuine help and appreciate it - at times it appears as if many of the supply-siders (who are supposed to be change agents), have experienced Stockholm Syndrome.

In other words, they have become one with the individuals that they are supposed to be serving, even the bad ones! Retired Stanford professor, from the Department of Psychology, Dr. Zimbardo, could explain this phenomenon firsthand given his work with the Stanford Prison Experiments, and what took place at Abu Ghraib.

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 ... prefer to rescue them, rather than to help their clients to get up so that they can walk again. This is what happens whenever you outsource your responsibility to another person or agency.

It was incredible to me, the amount of resources that were being expended, to include dollars and human capital, to solve a problem for outdoor citizens wherein which outdoor citizens had zero input or involvement. At present, HOP and several other organizations and individuals in the area are ahead of the curve (in terms of recognizing a need for disruption in the systems in this region).

We have joined forces with current and former outdoor citizens, who want to make a difference in the lives of our demographic. We will be doing this while too many of the rest are saving us, instead of working along with us. Thee incredible amount of resources being expended on a daily basis, including direct handouts on the streets, from government programs, faith-based and other institutions in the region, have reached critical mass.

And still, there are approximately 7,000 outdoor citizens, who remain outdoor citizens in arguably of most populate and leading state in this Union (1 out of every 7 or 8 Americans, is a Californian). In other words, instead of providing crisis-altering measures being implemented, most institutions in the area, have accepted homelessness, I believe, 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 change minds and attitudes in time. 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 in time.

Individuals who are capable of helping themselves, and 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, we're in charge here? 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 guess, "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? The problem is, it is not anyone of our money, it is typically taxpayer money ... that is being referred to.

And the answer to their question is, I am their friend. I could turn the question around and ask, who are you to turn away an outdoor citizen who wants to help outdoor citizens. Remember, even Jesus had to stop the miracle feeding crusade that he started during his public ministry, because the people were only following him for food and miracles - not to turn their lives around.

Can our missionaries today, public and private, alter a course that is not working?

Oftentimes, my fellow members of the cloth need to hear this the 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 upon rescuing people, by doing good works, the latter also makes them feel good about themselves. 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 purport to serve remain destitute, dependent and in the same place.

This prominent church with a dearth of financial resources, (their pastor mostly believes that by simply spending money, that problems are being solved. I recall what happened when Jesus, and a boy with a few fishes and a few loaves of bread, helped a group as large as the Valley's outdoor citizens group, without money.

In other words, 'stop spending pastor and get God, the right vision and the people involved'! How dare I? I am a minister, on sabbatical dude. Paul withstood Peter, and some of our clerics need someone to confront them from time to time!

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 your 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 that 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 will inure to the benefit of a certain class group, the one that needs it the least? Nyat! However, will the rest of us sit on our laurels, and help the rich to get richer and turn around and cry about it. Each one of us has the same right to compete with anyone else, even to steal market-share, inside and outside of America. In other words, why criticize either the organizations or individuals that you continue to patronize, and wait for to employ you? Figure out a way, to start your own business, instead.

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 exists in this area, whose apparently misdirected hard-work is not reaching the desired result. Someone pointed out that when the President was in town, and spoke at Facebook, in downtown Palo Alto, he even failed to stop and speak with the outdoor citizens who were a block away. Instead, he raised money for his campaign. Just imagine what all of those millions could have done to create opportunities for the outdoor citizens demographic in this region?

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, when I start shouting from my porch.

I understand it too, for how would you like it if someone was tampering with a way of living that costs you nothing? In fact, when you think about it, some of our outdoor citizens are confirmed whiner-babies. You can't say it, I know, however, I can, and oftentimes I do just that, I say it to them! This combination of supply-siders and whiners, is another big part of the problem to deal with the area's homeless issues.

These are 2 polarizing power groups!

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. I was an invited delegate. Service providers came from all other the nation, in order to focus on nationwide social and public policy issues in 1984.

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, listened 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), and want to help. Our downside is that oftentimes idealism, trumps realism or pragmatism – we don't care what it costs, let's just do it. Not good, I explained! Our delegates were not being very realistic when it came to addressing the needs of America's permanent underclass back then.

At the time, the average per capita income in the inner city was around 9K. Nearly 3 decades later, the average per capita income in some urban centers still hovers around 15K, one area is adjacent to Capitol Hill just on the other side of the Anacostia River.

please read part 3

Solomon (the Proud President of HOP)

Please respond, or send your rebuttals

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