Monday, May 2, 2011

Another practical solution eaten by the GOP

On March 11, 2011, The United States House of Representatives voted to cancel the $1 billion dollar initiative to help jobless homeowners with legal bank action and financial assistance. The program seeks to help those in tough economic situations remain housed and not to become homeless. Essentially, it provides prevention measures- something everyone needs from time to time. The federal funds are dispersed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to people working in the field to help people pay bills.

Unfortunately, the GOP voted to cancel this plan and it is now on its way to the United Sates Senate. Taxpayers are tired of ‘wasteful’ Washington spending, but how can we consider preventative measures wasteful? The excuse that cutting this initiative will ultimately save people money is false. In America, the average cost of supporting a homeless person living on the streets is roughly $40,000 a year. Why would we want to increase the amount of people struggling and potentially living on the streets?

A society is judged by how it treats those less fortunate, and this initiative was a great start to show that there is a caring community in America. The economic recession has turned many successful families into struggling families fighting to eat, pay bills and keep a roof over their heads.

In Pennsylvania, over 45,000 families remained housed because of this initiative. In Georgia, through Fresh Start, another federal financial assistance initiative, over 20,000 people remained in their homes because of the assistance they received. Whether it is a mortgage payment or a utility bill, small assistance makes a difference. What if those numbers did not exist as success stories, but rather, as homeless statistics?

Another problem is within the housing system itself. Affordable housing simply does not exist for everyone who needs it. Many of the programs that existed just a few decades ago to increase the supply of affordable housing and provided subsidies to those who could not afford housing have disappeared. This program was something that brought back a similar paradigm in the housing world but is now on the chopping block.

Eventually, spending money on housing assistance and preventative measures will have dissipated. There will be no solution to poverty if practical solutions continue being eliminated.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Criminals, right?

Response to a bone-chilling video shot in OUR community- check it out.

As a fellow activist and concerned citizen of Atlanta, I speak on behalf of some of the efforts Atlanta offers homeless individuals. Though the resources might be scare and on a smaller scale, the help is here. People like Sylvester do indeed have a large challenge at hand after serving time in prison. Their backgrounds are shot, their knowledge of society is not up to date and their lifestyle is not parallel with the vast majority of Atlanta's lifestyle. Re-entry into society after serving time is definitely a large reason people become homeless. Imagine being inside a building for several months, maybe years, at a time. What is changing in the world outside? What are you missing out on? There are some people who don’t even know what a cell phone is, what a computer is or what an ATM machine is. How are they supposed to just leave prison/jail and be expected to assimilate and conform? There is no humanly possible way of doing so. This cause is frowned upon by human kind: we are not a very forgiving race and we expect people who make a mistake to pay severe, sometimes inappropriate consequences. When they’ve done their time, their punishment might be over in the eyes of society, but to them, their stigmatized background will remain a lifetime of punishment.

I was homeless for about two weeks of my life when I was 11 years old, and even though I was in a hotel and not the streets, my lack of a stable home contributed to my depression. I echo Sylvester’s thought about suicide. It’s difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel when the world is spinning around you and all you are doing is watching helplessly, passively and sadly.

His calm, subdued and passionate eyes reassured me that he was genuine in his desire to belong in society with everyone else. He has been more than active in seeking employment but has hit all the roadblocks that everyone else leaving prison have. It’s unfortunate that in America people are judged by those kinds of things. Whatever happened to having a second chance? Even a third or a fourth chance ought to be merited depending on circumstances. I’ve got to say that some blame lies in Sylvester, but mostly, society. Closing doors to a fellow human out of preconceived judgments is a fault in American culture and ought to be resurrected before we kill off our own kind.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Really Rihanna? You're going to sing a song about abuse and patriarchy after your previous abuse from a boyfriend?

Excellent role model!


EMINEM I know I'm a liar if she ever tries to fuckin' leave again
I'ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire
RIHANNA Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
Well that's all right because I like the way it hurts
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry
Well that's all right because I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

Really encouraging to those women who actually do get abused because of some twisted relationship where they feel that staying in one is better than being alone.


This song is absolutely not far from what happens in our community. Why Rihanna would opt to be a part of this song is worrying to me. She suffered from domestic violence recently and now she wants to publicly and nationally proclaim that it's okay because the relationship is worth more? Am I missing a piece of the pie here?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Community Efforts... Wait, WHERE?????

Does everyone have an equal opportunity?

Does everyone have a fighting chance?

Should everyone aspire to live the ‘American dream’?

Who says we can all take care of ourselves?

Can we all really all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps?

Rather than point a finger at a specific demographic, I’ll just say that there are some groups of people who think all these things are wonderful and true. Some people think that everyone can do anything they set their minds to. In a sense, this is partially true. When it comes to important issues, however, some of us DO need an extra boost. Let’s talk- for example- SURPRISE! about homelessness.

Hypothetically (and based off several true situations) I just lost my job. I have no more income. After a long and unsuccessful search for employment, I got evicted because I can’t pay my rent. My savings are gone. My furniture is out on the street. I don’t have the financial means to put it in storage. I think the neighbors are going to steal it. I can’t really stop them. I’m beside myself. I don’t have a family that has the financial means to help me either. I have no where to go. I no longer have a home. Looks like I’ll be living out of my car until I figure this out. But wait, how can I continue to job hunt if I can’t shower and look professional? How can I buy food? All of this is hitting me so quickly. I hate that the tears run down my face without my consent. This defeat is unwelcomed and I want to shrivel up sometimes. My emotions are out of control. I don’t know how it got this bad this quickly. I had a good job. I don’t know what to do now. I’m alone. I guess I’ll park my car in this abandoned lot for a while. It’s so hot. I’m sweating, I’m hungry, I’m sad, and I’m worried. It’s unbearable.

Since when did it become okay to have over 600,000 homeless Americans PER night? Why does everyone ignore the issue as it continues to be more of a problem? Unfortunately, the face of homelessness is still depicted as that old and gross bum who haggles for money on the corner. That bum on the corner is just as much of man as the next man. Much like the story describes, homelessness is taking on a new face because of the recent economic downfall. Everyone needs a helping hand sooner or later. Maybe it won’t ever be in this context, but everyone will need help at some point in their lives. What the general consensus fails to realize is that simple preventative measures could have helped the person in that story.

Let’s sit on that for a while and reconsider what we are doing to help out those in need in Atlanta. It’s our community. It’s where we do everything that matters. We are all a part of ONE big community. Those who want to claim that fending for yourself is always a practical option are uneducated. We all live here. No one is exempt from helping. It’s not hard. How come we don’t realize that lending a hand to our community patrons may make all the difference in their world? Let’s coexist. Let’s fight for others to be successful- because most of the time, they want to be successful too. Let’s contribute to a better city in whole. We can do it and we can do it together.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Take Advantage!

Every time I walk or drive through Atlanta it breaks my heart. I hate to see the homeless people on the streets, sleeping where ever they can and hanging out wasting their lives away. It’s unbearable to watch and I can’t imagine how unbearable it is to live like that.

When they are given an opportunity to receive shelter and comfort for a minimum of one night, how come they don’t accept? I mean, if I was sleeping on concrete I’d totally want a bed for at least one night with running water and other regular ‘needs’.

Well, it’s just not that simple, of course! The shelters in Atlanta (for men, at least) are so completely difficult to live in that sometimes the streets remain a significantly better option. That’s embarrassing, Atlanta. Take, for example, one of the major men’s shelters in Atlanta- Peachtree & Pine. Men can stay there as long as they like. However, every instance I have spoken with someone who stayed there, they have had nothing but regrets, complaints, and problems. One gentleman, whom may I add, is successfully contributing to society again, dealt with serious trauma while he stayed there. He almost died because of how unhealthy it was there. It is a breeding ground for disease, and it’s located right next to Georgia State University. This man, who so graciously shared his story with me, expanded on the conditions in the shelter. There was never any consistency in the resources provided, and the men there treat each other horribly. I shudder when I imagine someone so humbled living in a shelter like this. I mean, he was TWO HOURS away from DYING. People are DYING- because living conditions are THAT bad. No wonder more people would rather live on Peachtree Street. I would too. So what can be done to fix the problems?

I wish I could answer that. However, I do see some amazing contributions to resurrecting the situation. I have met some extraordinary people where I work and I am so touched by all the work they do to aid the homeless. For example, there is a resource fair where homeless people can get shelter, health check-ups, and connect with staffing agencies. They are given a lot of essential tools to get back on track. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of people take advantage of what’s being offered. However, those who do truly deserve every success they earn. Last week, I was interviewing all the homeless individuals coming in- evaluating what services they needed and anything else I could tell about them. All of them walk in and tell me they need housing. One of the questions I have to ask is whether or not they have an income (yes- some homeless people do indeed have an income!) and if they don’t if they are planning on getting one in order to secure housing. Most of them tell me no- they don’t want to work, they just want housing. However, one gentleman, sweet as could be, sat down and instantly told me he wants a job. He told me he doesn’t mind staying out on the streets until he could afford a place. I told him he was the first person who had EVER said that to me! He was surprised- because his logic was that income provided housing. Imagine….!!

Anyway, I hate how sad it is to watch these people cope with this ridiculous Atlanta heat. It truly brings tears to my eyes to imagine how horribly hot it is for them. Those who utilize the vast amount of resources Atlanta DOES have to offer are helping themselves in so many ways. Of course, it takes work from everyone involved, but it is possible to end homelessness. It will happen in my lifetime- I have such faith in every organization and agency in Atlanta- they are all so incredible.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A little bit of initiative

In Atlanta, there are plenty of people in and out of shelters and on the streets. Of course, this is an ongoing problem. However, there is sometimes a situation that can make a difference for at least one person. Yesterday, there was a resource fair for homeless people in Atlanta. There was line out the door for people to receive help- which in itself is a huge deal. Homeless people who take initiative on their own are the ones who are a part of the success statistics.

Inside the building, there were several stations set up with agencies from all over the Atlanta area. The organizations offered transitional/permanent housing, mental and emotional health care, dental care, vision care, and staffing agency appointments. These were all free. All these resources are sometimes all that it takes for a person to get out of the situation they are in- if they so desire.

One of the men I dealt with was incredible. Upon first glance, my assumption would not be that he was homeless- of course I was wrong. The older gentleman had been homeless for about a month because he had lost his job, and in turn, his housing. It was unfortunate because he was a perfectly able and willing human being who had just come across a hard time. He has no drug or alcohol problems, and that was very apparent as well. He was able to secure housing, set up an appointment to receive job counseling, and he made an appointment with the dental people. Overall, I’d say he had a successful afternoon.

While everyone was packing up, he was still hanging around. I asked him how he felt about the day and he said, “You guys are lifesavers. I wouldn’t know what to do with out this being here. I am so relieved.” There was such sincerity and compassion in his voice. He seems like he will be able to get back in a comfortable situation, and aside from all the tools he had received to do so, he had a great attitude. From the beginning, he was pleasant and polite. He even brought a copy of his resume.

Now, this is a story that I do not personally come across frequently. It takes a lot of help and tangible resources for people to get out of homelessness, but it also requires a positive attitude and the desire to leave the streets and shelters. This is an instance in which ‘the system’ has proven successful, and these are always situations we want to hear about. There is nothing more gratifying than hearing someone express their appreciation.

So, in hindsight, maybe the entire system in Atlanta isn’t failing. Aside from the specific man I had the pleasure of speaking with, there were plenty of people who took full advantage of all the organizations that were there. Of course, there are still people who need help, but those who came with the goal of getting out of their situation are one step closer to achieving that. It’s truly amazing.