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, helped to put together something with teeth before we left, that we could present to the politicians.
Initially, many of them wondered whether or not I had inadvertently joined the wrong discussion group - I sounded very conservative to them, at first. But soon, they felt that I made sense, and asked me to speak for the group.
It is our hope, at HOP, that some of our bleeding hearts in the Valley will eventually recognize that they will have to do the same in The Valley, engage in introspection. 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 elses'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 WhereTo 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 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 themselvesMany of our outdoor citizens have not sat down to consider or to construct a recovery plan for themselves yet, and some of their professional and semi-professional helpers don't seem to mind! And having said that, what they 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 do anything, to experience The Pain Station. Let them know up front that help will be measured, and it will be cut off in time. 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 outdoor citizens who lost jobs, homes, apartments ... did so before the most recent recession, and some before the recession in this region in 2001. Has there been any accountability? What happened, given all of the resources that have been expended over the past 3 years alone. I can't see any results. We can blame what has transpired on the the economy ... however, that is not the whole story.
Reliance on a free-handout economy, with the expectation of a guaranteed job is the problem. It is time for a new way of thinking and reckoning to be put into action - consider HOP's model. Sadly, I can't seem to get some 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 to a new perspective, 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 (outdoor citizens), that each one of them possesses 'not only marketable skills, but income-producing skills'. We also explain that the American citizen will have to learn to compete against both American and global interests in the new paradigm. And finally, with our support and hopefully yours, outdoor citizens will learn to garner a slice of the American and global pie - the former 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-financiers 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 or Kenneth Galbraith would be appalled, if they were alive and 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, formerly at the Hoover Institute at Stanford (in 1984, someone asked me to read his books) I don't understand you, but at the same time. However, and at the same time we are moving on with our own economic recoveries and an economic recovery plan to benefit other outdoor, and indoor citizens for that matter. I feel that it is safe to say that the contract with America ala Hobbes and Lockes is DOA, at this juncture it appears to be, every person for themselves! And as far as I am concerned, the majority in Washington are interested in the few, not the masses.
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. Geithner at the the Treasury Deparment and Mr. Bernanke at the Fed are presiding over the current debacle and economic recovery.
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, 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, including in Washington DC.
In other words the same organizations that have prevented a crises of hunger in and among our demographic, have fallen into a separate rut of their own. 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 - in deference to whatever the rich and politicians do!
Certain institutions did an admirable job before, however, late President Ronald Reagan shifted the gears. There has been a massive redistribution of wealth in this nation, since that time, having said that, individuals who needed it the most, are not going to give it back/invest in the American people. The word when Ronald Reagan was President was, 'what's wrong with greed', right Tony Blankley, Editor of the Washington Times?
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 team members, who wondered why I had been more successful than many of them who had been there long before me.
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 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?
President of HOP Hope for Outdoor People
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org