Monday, November 16, 2009

On The Value Of A Shelter To A Commmunity

Following is an editorial which appeared in the Key West Citizen on May 16, 2008.....

SHELTER NEEDED BY BOTH RESIDENTS AND EMPLOYERS

This past Saturday morning, a homeless man named Harry walked out of the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter on Stock Island and caught the first bus to the airport, where he boarded a northbound flight and left Key West.

I know several people who would say, "Good riddance!" But there are a few things those folks should know about Harry. This 44-year-old former marine now has a job, and he was being flown to Minnesota for a week of training and orientation before returning to the Keys to go to work maintaining and repairing commercial dishwashing machines.

In Harry, the community already has a congenial, law-abiding citizen, and now it will also have a self-sustaining, tax-paying, year-round consumer.

While looking for work, Harry stayed at the Key West shelter for the homeless, known as KOTS. He had a safe, clean place to sleep, and he was able to shower daily and keep himself presentable for job interviews.

Harry's story is not an isolated case. On any given day, more than 60 percent of the homeless people staying at KOTS will have worked. They are a part of America's ever-growing number of working poor, who can not find an affordable place to live.

Anyone who has recently been to Radio Shack, Border's, Dion's Chicken, the Waterfront Market, or Lower Keys Medical Center, quite possibly came in contact with an employee who stays at KOTS. Restaurants that employ people who stay, or have stayed at KOTS are too numerous to list, as are the landscapers and building contractors.

All of the aforementioned businesses, and many more, need the people who stay at KOTS for jobs that are often difficult to fill.

The homeless people who stay at KOTS need those jobs to provide them with the basic necessities of everyday life.

Both the businesses and the homeless people they employ need KOTS. Key West needs KOTS!

--William Laney

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Compliments That Mean The Most

Forget the denials! We all welcome a pat on the back, and we all appreciate kind words that say well done. Whatever the source; from wherever it comes, a timely compliment can make your day. There is nothing better, however, than hearing that compliment from someone who shares your field of endeavor, and who has knowledge of what you do, and who knows of your effort, and of the quality of your work. There is nothing that means more than praise from your peers. And that is why I so enjoyed a comment posted by Virginia Sellner concerning the article about Karen Olson, founder of Family Promise. Here is Virginia, Executive Director of The Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless, and herself an iconic figure among homeless advocates, praising the work of another icon of like stature. Both ladies are long serving, highly respected, and extremely effective leaders in homeless advocacy. Is it thousands, or could it be millions--the number of homeless and hungry and hurting people who have been helped directly or indirectly by the efforts of Virginia Sellner and Karen Olson over the last thirty years. Both were helping the homeless before America knew it had a homeless problem. In speaking with these ladies individually, I have found something else that they have in common. Both Virginia and Karen project a natural and genuine warmth that makes you feel proud and privileged to know them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Compassionate Lady's "Family Promise" Fulfilled

Photo courtesy of Family Promise
It was 1982, and America was just waking up to the fact that it had a serious national problem with homelessness. That was five years before the first-ever major piece of legislation to help the homeless was enacted--the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. But back in 1982, there was at least one lady who was ahead of her time. Karen Olson was moved by the sight of homelessness. It was not what she read in newspapers, or saw on TV that touched her--the media was not yet on the story. For Karen, it was leaving work each day in New York City, and passing a lady who lived on the street. One day, Karen passed the lady, and on impulse detoured into a store and picked up a sandwich. She went back and gave it to the lady, whose name was Millie, and who displayed genuine emotion in her thank you. Karen, a single parent, told her two young sons what had happened, and the three of them returned to Millie's "neighborhood" on the weekend, and gave out more sandwiches and smiles. That episode became like a "Family Promise" to help the homeless. That they did! And soon thereafter, Karen started something called the "Interfaith Hospitality Network". Her idea was to get help from churches of different denominations, and synagogues, so as to pool resources to help the impoverished and those without housing. Her plan was to provide families in distress with immediate help, while working to return the families to long term self sufficiency. Eventually, the name of the organization was changed to "Family Promise" and there are now 134 chapters across America. I have been privileged to see Family Promise at work in Palm Beach County. I met with a young Mother named Grace who has been given a fresh start. Karen Olson will be appearing at a Family Promise fund raiser in Boca Raton on November 5. For information, log on to familypromisespbc.org. It's just one more result of a Family Promise fulfilled.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hands On Help For The Homeless--"The Home Van"

A homeless advocate is defined as one who speaks for, works on behalf of, or in some way supports the homeless. The legions of homeless advocates across America are made up of some people who are "hands on" advocates, and other people who are "hands off" advocates. Those who are "hands on" are in direct contact with the homeless.

An example of "hands on" advocacy is "The Home Van" in Gainesville, Florida--the basis for this column. "Hands off" advocates are those who work to help the homeless, in various ways, from afar; while also working to end homelessness. Many of the latter group are professionals, who earn their living by working for advocacy organizations. While, as a group, they are compassionate and caring about the work they do, and about the people they strive to help, they cannot know the deep feelings and emotion that come with personal, up-close knowledge of the homeless, and they cannot give to the homeless what they need as much as food and blankets--friendship. They cannot look into the face of a homeless person, and say in so many words, "I care about you. How can I help you?"

Time and conversation are as important and welcome to a homeless person as the necessities of life. That is where "The Home Van" comes in--striving to provide for people whose needs, material and emotional, are not being met elsewhere. I described my personal experience with "The Home Van" in an editorial, which first ran in the Gainesville Sun last spring, and which was published again, in this space, on October 21.

I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a drive-out with dedicated "hands on" volunteers, to four different locations; and while a lot of homeless people benefited from the home-made chili that I doled out, I got a lot more than a bowl of chili from sharing their company that evening. "The Home Van", which was launched seven years ago by Arupa Freeman, goes out looking for homeless persons twice a week. It carries freshly made sandwiches and hot soup made by volunteers, pantry-type, non-perishable food, blankets, clothing, toiletries, and whatever other items might have been donated.

There is no one involved with the operation of "The Home Van" who receives any compensation. No one. It is also important to note that "The Home Van" neither applies for, nor receives, any government help or money, or grants of any kind, from any source. Its revenue comes entirely from donations.

Due to the closing of Tent City in Gainesvillle, and the limit placed on the number of people that St. Francis House soup kitchen is allowed to serve (130), "The Home Van" has seen the need for its supplies and services grow by leaps and bounds in the last few months-- far exceeding the donations of money and material goods it has received. Most folks are tapped out these days--barely able to keep themselves afloat. But just in case you are able and willing to help, we are providing the following information. Donations are welcome in ANY amount--nothing is too small to be appreciated and to be put to good use. Checks should be made payable to The St. Vincent de Paul Society and earmarked for "The Home Van". They should be sent to 307 SE Sixth St., Gainesville, Florida, 32601. All donations are tax-deductible.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Homelessness And Murder On Hogtown Creek

A lot of dedicated homeless advocates put an awful lot of effort into making the general public more aware of homelessness, and more understanding of the homeless. Marjorie Abrams has come up with a unique way to spread the word. Marjorie, who writes as MD Abrams, has incorporated the subject of homelessness into her latest novel. She writes about a homeless campsite, which affords the opportunity in two chapters to discuss issues of homelessness. Marjorie is a former university professor and college administrator; as well as an accomplished author. Murder On Hogtown Creek is her third successful novel in the last five years--following Murder On The Prairie and Murder At Wakulla Springs. She also wrote the award-winning play, The Cellphone. Midway through the writing of her latest book, Marjorie put her work aside for a while, in order to arrange and promote speaking dates for me in the Gainesville area; and she has honored me by including me on her Acknowledgements page, for the now-completed novel. In this newest murder mystery, which will be available by year's end, there is mention made of the man who rides Greyhound. With her creative mind working full speed as author and advocate, Marjorie is one more bright beacon of hope for reducing, and eventually eliminating homelessness.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Someone Who Has Seen It All

Former Cheyenne Mayor Jack Spiker and Virginia Sellner, Executive Director
Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless

Virginia Sellner was a homeless advocate before the expression became household words. She was helping folks who were homeless, hungry, hurting--or all of the above--even before the early 1980s, when America was first beginning to realize that it had a serious national problem with poverty. Virginia is the Executive Director of the Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless, and has devoted her life to helping others--always with a close-up, hands-on approach. She is one of the country's most respected authorities on, and one of the most dedicated advocates for, the homeless. When I decided to write a daily column--to do a blog, Virginia was among the very first persons that I sought out for help. I met her in Cheyenne some weeks ago for conversation over a quick lunch--which turned out to be a fascinating two hours of information and education. Dr. Michael Stoops, of the National Coalition for the Homeless, has worked with Virginia for nearly a quarter of a century, and I believe that his affectionate description of Virginia as a "trooper" is accurate and appropriate. What struck me most during my time with Virginia was the freshness of her approach to the ever-changing face of homelessness. After all these years, she is still ahead of most of her peers in her thinking. For example, Virginia believes, and I agree, that shelters must get away from the "they're all the same" approach that many have in housing homeless persons. Even if it's an invisible curtain of separation, those who have a history of addiction, mental illness or violence, should be in an area as far removed as possible from those who are simply homeless, period. Just as I came away from my meeting with Virginia feeling that it was time well-spent, a visit to Virginia's website will have you feeling the same way--time well-spent. http://www.wch.vcn.com/

Saturday, October 3, 2009

This Morning In Tallahassee.....

Saturday's dawn started a day oh, so beautiful, in more ways than one. There was the blue sky with just a few small puffy clouds here and there. There were those giant oak trees with hanging Spanish moss. And there was that refreshing coolness to the air. But this morning, Mother Nature had to share credit for a beautiful day with something man-made. The Tallahassee Downtown Farmer's Market was setting up shop in the Chain of Parks. This once-a-week happening is a beautiful setting, with its white canopies and green grass and foliage and comfortable wooden benches. And there is beauty also in the Norman Rockwell-like portrait of smiling vendors scurrying about getting ready--taking time, though, to exchange greetings and pleasantries with their Saturday morning neighbors. There was also an abstract beauty about this morning--something you felt, rather than saw or heard. It was the peacefulness of it all. It seemed to me how wonderful--that for a few precious hours-- it was like any worries and all problems were out of sight and out of mind. It was like--for just a little while, all was right with the world.

A Warm And Wonderful Mission Of Grace

The Episcopal Charities luncheon Thursday was a beautiful event in every possible way. The venue--The Rusty Pelican Restaurant in Key Biscayne-- afforded a spectacular scenic backdrop for the gathering of compassionate and concerned homeless advocates from throughout the greater Miami area. I spoke from the heart when I told those assembled that it is truly an honor to be invited to speak at an Episcopal Charities event; but to be invited to speak for the second time within a year--that is really very special and quite humbling. Back in January, I was privileged to give the keynote address at an Episcopal Charities luncheon in Palm Beach. Also speaking Thursday was Desmond Meade, an impressive young man who has gone in four years from intermittent homelessness and involvement with drugs, to being "clean" with realistic hope for admission to law school. A long list of charities from Palm Beach down to Key West receive financial support from Episcopal Charities.

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Not Enough Rain, Not Enough Food"

That was the headline for a front page article in Tuesday's Miami-Herald. It caught my attention because it was about Guatemala. That is where Mario and Christy Castejon live, in a little village named Santo Tomas de Castilla, on the Caribbean side. I met Mario and Christy sometime ago in the Greyhound terminal in Nashville. It was one of those special occasions when strangers immediately become friends, and continue to correspond long after that one relatively brief meeting. The amazing part of this is that the Castejons are not completely fluent in English, and my espanol can best be described as "poquito" (very little!). Still, we have enjoyed the long-range friendship, and therefore, something that I know is hurtful to them, also saddens me. The drought and shortage of food for the children in Guatemala must be especially painful for Mario--for he is a pediatrician. He is responsible for a medical project that saw the installation of an intensive care unit and creation of an educational program in the public children's hospital, where he works. In his "spare" time, Mario writes a weekly column for the local newspaper, works on a historical novel he is writing, and is an advocate for the conservation of nature and wild life. Mario is another one of my super heroes. He works with the children in the face of two discouraging facts. According to the Guatemalan government, some 400,000 farming families have seen their crops severely damaged by drought, and are at risk for going hungry. And according to UNICEF (the United Nations agency), almost half of Guatemala's children under five already suffer from chronic malnutrition. Immediate help is needed, and neighboring countries have begun to provide that help. Venezuela, Ecuador and Chile have been shipping in food. Other countries are expected to jump in with assistance. Will it be enough? Here we go again with that word hope!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Ripple Effect Of Homeless Advocacy

One simple act of human kindness can have a ripple effect. Likewise, one sincerely-spoken expression of hope can have a ripple effect. And there is one more important ripple effect--that of homeless advocacy---as one person's efforts to help the homeless encourages other people-- who in turn encourage even more folks to create awareness and further understanding.

This ripple effect in homeless advocacy is one of the reasons for realistic hope in reducing and eventually eliminating homelessness.

I have witnessed a number of examples of this ripple effect. Following are just two. After I spoke at the Episcopal Charities luncheon in Palm Beach in January, a dedicated advocate--Carl House--read "Homeless Isn't Hopeless", and passed it on to a friend in Ohio--Bill Parke. Bill--who had little prior experience with homelessness, was moved to help produce this blog and to set up a sales outlet on Amazon.com--for which he purchased copies at the full cover price. He did this to give the book exposure. One of those who purchased the book from Bill was Pat Terry in Maryland. After reading the book she emailed that she has shared it with friends and is more active than ever in helping the homeless.

A second example begins with Dr. Malcolm Sanford, one of the world's leading authorities on beekeeping--whom I met on a bus and who purchased my book and then passed it on to Arupa Freeman,in Gainesville, Florida. Arupa, who operates the Home Van in Gainesville to help feed and supply the homeless, read the book and passed it on to Marjorie Abrams, author and award-wining playwright. Malcolm and Arupa and Marjorie took time from busy schedules to arrange and publicize my speaking engagements in the Gainesville area.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Story That's Not Newsworthy----Or is it?

This is a story that you definitely won't see on CNN, or in the newspapers. The media would deem it unimportant--not newsworthy. It is just a simple, feel-good story about two people helping someone in trouble. The "someone" in this story is me.

It was the last Sunday in May--on Interstate 70, some 35 or 40 miles east of Denver. My Greyhound bus had pulled into a roadside rest area to provide the driver an "emergency" rest stop. I also made a quick trip to the men's room, taking a little longerthan the driver, but no more than a minute or two at most. When I came out, the bus was already down the highway--getting smaller and smaller. I felt the ultimate fear and panic of most bus riders--I had been left behind. My first thought was, "Thank heaven, it's not January, when bitter winter winds whip across the highway". Yes, there's always something to be thankful for. Then, more serious thoughts took over. This park was not a regular rest stop, and the next bus through, which was seven hours away, would not be pulling into this somewhat secluded area. What little traffic existed was speeding by at 70 miles per hour and was not apt to stop for a hitchhiker. Anything I might need, including medication, was in my carry-on bag on the bus. I had four or five minutes to ponder my dilemma, before I welcomed the most beautiful RV I have ever seen into the rest area. It was one of those RVs that are as big as a bus and usually have a smaller vehicle in tow. This one had a jeep. I approached the RV, which I reckoned was there to give the occupants a few minutes to stretch their legs. Initially, I was understandably rebuffed as I attempted to explain my situation. Once given the opportunity to tell my story, however, I was invited inside the RV, which belongs to Mike and Kay Stokes, of Champaign, Illinois. They were on their way to Breckenridge, Colorado, and their route did not come close to downtown Denver, my destination. Bottom line, Mike and Kay went way out of their way to take me to Denver, and downtown to the Greyhound terminal. In the process of performing an act of kindness above and beyond, they made their arrival in Breckenridge much later than planned and incurred unexpected expense. Through it all, Mike and Kay never let me feel that I was inconveniencing them--which, of course, I was. I think that there is a message for all of us in what Mike and Kay did that day. There are a lot of wonderful people out there doing a lot of very nice things--proving that there is hope for this old world of ours. Isn't it nice to read a feel-good story that isn't newsworthy? But, then, maybe it is!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

(Almost) No One Will Ever Know

From time to time, we learn of an extraordinary homeless advocacy success story.

An example is the good work done by the Community Partnership For Homelessness in Miami, which helped Desmond Meade lift himself from nine years of intermittent homelessness and alcohol abuse, to four years of being "clean", with realistic hope of admission to law school.

Desmond will be talking about his amazing transformation, and the help he received, at the Episcopal Charities Mission of Grace luncheon next Thursday at the Rusty Pelican Restaurant in Key Biscayne.

But for every story that provides public recognition for the efforts and success of an organization such as Community Partnership, there are so many, many more success stories that go untold.

What the public hears is only the tip of the iceberg. For every Desmond Meade, there are countless other success stories that the public will never know. One of the "others" is Dwayne, whom I met while we were both being helped by the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition in Key West.

Dwayne was fresh from prison, with a long history of involvement with drugs. He was bitter, and he could be mean, but somehow we became friends.

The Neece Center, where we stayed, is under the supervision of Chris Welts, a compassionate, but firm manager of men. Chris has a wonderful way with people who are on their way back, and he had a calming effect on Dwayne.

Still, after a while, Dwayne disappeared. No one knew where he went, and no one--including Chris-- had any idea that any of Chris's message had sunk in.

Then, a few months ago, I ran into Dwayne again. It was outside Baker City, Oregon, at a truck stop. My bus had stopped there to give passengers a smoke break.

On the way to the men's room, I bumped into someone, who walked a few steps past me, and then turned and shouted, "Bill!" It was Dwayne, who bear-hugged me, and slapped me on the back, and said, in between expletives, how happy he was to see me.

He had somehow gotten his truck driver's license back, and he was operating an eighteen-wheeler out of his home state of Michigan. He was obviously drug-free and he had a happy look about him.

Within the few minutes I was with him, he mentioned Chris and FKOC over and over--which I relay to Chris every time I see him. Dwayne is truly appreciative of the help he was given--the message did get through.

But like Desmond, Dwayne is a homeless advocacy success story--that (almost) no one will ever know.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where Do You Go When There's No Place To Go?

This morning, as I passed through the Chain of Parks on my way to the Tallahassee Library, I saw a sign that I hadn't noticed before. It is a small sign mounted to a stake not more than a foot above the ground. Its location and my vision (or lack thereof) explain how I could have missed it heretofore. It reads simply "Park Hours: Sunrise To Sunset". I immediately thought of Benitta. The morning that I first came across her in the park, I assumed-- that when she said she was on the street-- she meant that she had been on that park bench all night. Knowing now that she wasn't, I wonder where she could have spent those overnight hours. I realize now that she may well have literally been on the street--walking dusk 'til dawn. Having been in that position myself, my heart sank. I am all the more troubled because I have lost contact with Benitta. No replies to my emails. No voice mail for leaving messages. I am worried, as I wonder where she is. Where do you go, when there's no place to go?

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Winds Of Change Are Blowing

Getting off the bus this morning, there was a chill to the Denver air that I haven't felt for a while. It was a reminder that autumn officially arrives in a few days, and that winter will soon follow. Then I won't be visiting Denver as much--if at all--because the Colorado weather can wreak havoc with travel planning.

Glenn, the Greyhound security guard, spoke again today of the time last winter when dozens of people were stranded for 48 hours in the terminal while a winter storm shut down everything in the area, including interstate routes 70 and 80.

Even if I return to Denver in the weeks ahead, a lot will have changed. A lot will be missing.....those breathtaking orange and red sunrises that through much of the summer matched my time of arrival.....the riot of color in those massive flower beds at the civic center.....those leisurely conversations with the vendors on the 16th-street mall....and so much more.

I will also miss working in Denver, which seems to me to be the center of the Universe as far as homelessness is concerned. Whatever the subject related to the homeless, I always check to see what is happening in Denver and how that particular situation is being handled.

But what I will miss most of all, however, is seeing Chipper. Even if I do get back to Denver sometime in the next six months. the weather will not be conducive to sharing a bench with my squirrelly friend.

As ridiculous as it might be, I wondered this morning if he was sensing it all as he stared me down. It may sound corny, but I'm sure I will think of him from time to time over the winter. Yeah, Chipper, I will miss you, buddy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Remembering Marathon

There is a danger in publicly trying to thank a lot of people for something--be it for wedding gifts received, a surprise party given, help rendered, or whatever.

 Ask Julia Roberts, who lives with perhaps the most famous example of what can happen. Upon receiving an Academy Award for Best Actress for her title role in "Erin Brockovich", she thanked a lot of people, but forgot to thank Erin Brockovich, the lady whose life inspired the movie.

 Yesterday, someone was asking me questions about how I went about writing my book. During the conversation I mentioned that it was written almost entirely at the Florida Keys Community College Library, where I worked almost every hour that it was open.

I started to add that on those occasions when the school--and library--were closed, that I traveled to Marathon to work in the public library there. I didn't finish that thought, because something stopped me in my tracks. It suddenly occurred to me that I have never public acknowledged the use of facilities, and the help given there.

 I would like to belatedly say how much I enjoyed and appreciated the kindness shown by Gloria and Beverley and Mark.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When Rainy Days Are The Best Days

For folks in Indianapolis, the middle part of Labor Day weekend was absolutely miserable, with leaden skies and steady rain throughout the morning and afternoon. Sunday was not a good day to be outdoors, and certainly not a good day for checking out the homeless situation in Indiana. But, although it was not a desirable day to do much of anything else, it was actually the best of days for accomplishing what I wanted to do. If you want to know what people without housing are doing on a Sunday afternoon, you don't seek them out on a sunny day, for you already know what they are doing--enjoying the weather. A bad weather day is an entirely different story. Then people who are homeless need something to do and somewhere to be that offers protection from the elements. Every city or town seems to be a little bit different in what is available to the homeless. In Key West, there isn't much. There, as in many other cities, homeless persons who are fortunate enough to have refuge in a shelter at night, must be out of the shelter during daytime hours. For something to do that doesn't cost anything, wandering the streets is about it. In Las Vegas, where the downtown library opens at 10:00 AM on Sunday, the homeless are able to go there, and are even treated to a morning movie in the lobby. As I ventured on to the streets and into the rain in Indianapolis, I saw little evidence that the city has a homeless problem. I splashed my way down Illinois Street and turned off here and there to check side streets. Finally I asked a police officer if there were a lot of homeless persons in Indianapolis, and if so, where they were. He assured me there were "quite a few". He repeated his answer twice for emphasis. He didn't know, however, where they were on this rainy day. He knew though that they were "hiding" somewhere. Then, as I walked with him a half block or more, he suddenly stopped and pointed down the street. "There's one of them!" he exclaimed, as though he had just spotted one of the Dalton gang, or a Jesse James sidekick. I said goodbye to the police officer and approached the man he had spotted, who was barely under cover as he sat on the sidewalk in the entrance way of a Steak and Shake. His name is Jack and he didn't seem at all unhappy with his circumstances. Jack was friendly and talkative and provided an answer to the whereabouts of the homeless population. He said that homeless persons were allowed in the shelters during daytime hours on Sundays, and he added that if I wanted to see a lot of them, I would be welcome visiting the shelter over on Delaware Street. By this time, however, I needed to hustle back to the Greyhound terminal to catch my bus. On the way, I thought about Sunday afternoons, and the rain and the homeless. I thought about some people I know who are new to helping the homeless, and whose idea of helping is to volunteer to help dish out meals at soup kitchens. I think that what they really need to do is go out and get their feet wet--in more ways than one. That's how you learn about the homeless, and how you can best help them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Willie Nelson and Senator Kennedy

What could these two American icons possibly have in common? The answer is that both have told us that it is never too late to do something worthwhile, that it is never too late to put wasted years in the rear view mirror, and move on to doing things worthwhile. Last weekend, I was one of the many who watched television coverage of events leading up to Senator Edward Kennedy's funeral. Time after time, someone mentioned that Ted Kennedy had overcome a lot of mistakes and failings early in life to become a powerful advocate for those less fortunate, and that, at the time of his death, his lifetime body of work was an exceptionally good one. Those comments reminded me of a line from a Willie Nelson song--words that I thought of often when I began to write "Homeless Isn't Hopeless"....."I could cry for all the time I've wasted, but that's a waste of time and tears". I am no icon, but I thank the Good Lord that later in life--after wasting a lot of years and a lot of opportunities, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a messenger for something worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

From Glad To Sad

It was a good feeling earlier today--writing about Jimmy Buffet and Stephanie Kaple. It is a happy story. They are two more reasons why there is hope for reducing and ultimately eliminating homelessness.

Now I must write a story that is not so happy. It furthers awareness that we still have a long way to go. It is about my friend, Bob, who is on the verge of being homeless in Billings, Montana.

Bob is 55, with some heart problems. He lost his job some time ago and his unemployment has run out. He is unable to find steady work. His landlord has told him he must pay--or go.

Bob is trying. Last week he found temporary employment--cleaning stalls at night during the Montana State Fair. It wasn't easy work for a man with a bad heart, shoveling manure from ten at night until dawn. It wasn't easy, but he did it.

Now it is over. The state fair ended Sunday. Today, Tuesday, Bob has nothing in his future but a knock on the door. Where does he go then? To a shelter which has a limit on how long he can stay? Where does Bob go?

Stephanie Kaple.....An Amazing Young Lady!

It was just about a year ago in Key West, while I was awaiting the publication of my book, that I first saw Stephanie Kaple in action. She was happily scurrying around The Bottle Cap, a very nice bar, which was sponsoring a fundraiser to benefit the family program of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition. Stephanie manages that program. She also works part-time as a hostess at Margaritaville--hence the connection with another homeless advocate, Jimmy Buffett. What is really special is that she went to college knowing that she wanted to use her education to help the homeless. After graduation, she applied for a job with the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition. Fr. Stephen Braddock, President and CEO of FKOC, hired her, and as they say, the rest is history. It would seem that Fr. Braddock, who does a fantastic job in many areas, is also a very good personnel director.

Jimmy Buffett.....An American Icon!

Nearly everyone knows of Jimmy Buffett--the fun-loving troubadour who excites audiences all over the world. A lot of those folks, however, are not aware of the genuine kindness of this "pirate over forty". Those living in the homeless shelter in Key West are well aware of his generosity. Jimmy's bar and restaurant there--Margaritaville-- provides shirts for those in need. They are new shirts, quality shirts, expensive shirts--donated seven boxes at a time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Pal Chipper

There are a lot of reasons I enjoy getting back to Denver--not the least of which is seeing my good friend, Chipper.

On the way to the library, I have to pass through the civic center area, with its manicured green lawns and flower beds. There I occupy a bench for a while, and there I meet up with Chipper.

This morning, like always, he comes up on the bench to greet me. And like always, he stares me down--daring me to say I have nothing for him. I do, and we share the nuts.

I call him Chipper, because until some locals corrected me, I thought he was a chipmunk. My pal, Chipper, is a squirrel.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meet The Brains Behind The Blog....

Before we go any further, there is something that you should know. None of the work that created this blog was done by me.. I am not very good with computers.

I love the layout, and all the credit goes to Carl House, who got the ball rolling, and to Bill Parke, who jumped in with his skill and creativity.

Kudos and many thanks to helpful advocates and wonderful friends.

Monday, July 27, 2009

IT'S A GO!.....

"Homeless Isn't Hopeless"!.....first the book.....and then the talks.....and now the blog.
After giving it a lot of thought, and after considering the input from a lot of people, I've reached the conclusion that the blog can provide information, and create a diologue about homelessness that is not available anywhere else. So, yes!.....It's a go!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is There A Need?.....

I gave a lot of thought to doing a blog. The biggest question I had was, "Is there a need?" I don't want to just repeat and rehash information that is available elsewhere.

Creating A Blog....

Well, here we are!.....taking baby steps as we work on a new project--creating a blog.

The name for the blog will be the same as the name of my book.......
"Homeless Isn't Hopeless".