Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Push to House Homeless Vets

Most of the homeless vets I have talked to recently have told me that they would not take advantage of the chance to get off the streets that HUD and other government agencies is offering them now. Reasons range from not wanting to be in a building with other homeless people that may have more serious problems then them (and having to deal with those people and their problems) to just not seeing the need or not wanting to put up some of their money for rent.

As a person who has been wanting a break like this for the last 4 years (but, the ‘house the middle aged homeless person, who has no criminal record, but is under paid and living in an over priced tourist trap area program’ hasn’t yet been developed by the government), I wonder about how much money will be thrown at this program before people just give up and decide that it won’t help as many people as they had hoped it would. Here are some suggestions that will bridge the gap between what Uncle Sam is offering and what just might be what the vets need:

* Renovate buildings in urban areas and make them resource centers for homeless vets. These centers can include places to get clothes, food (food banks), employment info, social services/sobriety programs, computer training, etc. These buildings can be a good place to offer rooms to vets who want to get off the streets because of illness or hospital discharge. And for those who have had it with living on the streets, they can be a place to connect with to get an apartment or room.

* For places where there is not much snow, having colonies of tiny homes (see Welcome to the Small Time for posts about this), that give each person a shelter that is more sturdy than a tent and can be put up quickly; perhaps in forested areas that need clearing and maintainance. Community kitchens, dining areas, laundry, and lavotory/showers can be built and kept up by the residents. It would be something like the living that they had been doing in the service and they could be paid for work that they do to upkeep the forest or national park area.

Of course, those vets who have been recently discharged form the service will benefit most from the housing programs that are currently being offered, but for the guys who have been living on the streets for a long time, the two other options listed above might make more sense for them.

The helping homeless vets article below is very informative.

Free Web Cast Program on the Human Right to Housing

English: Homeless veteran in New York

English: Homeless veteran in New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This program is sponsored by the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty andwill be shown Dec. 10th:

More on Tiny Homes for the Homeless

Gee, more tiny homes.

Speaking of Characters — Vic Jones

Q: How did you come up with the character Vic Jones in Brain Sections?

A: Vic was vaguely based on someone I knew at the homeless shelter, but I had to fill in a lot of details myself. I copied a lot of his speech patterns and what I thought his thinking processes were. Just the basics, the real person kept his ‘cards close to the vest’ and I didn’t get to know him well until after I wrote the book.

Q: Did you start out writing with a clear idea about what was going to happen in the story or did it just evolve?

A: I didn’t do an outline or anything like that. It was more a project to do as I sat up at night trying not to fall asleep when I was on the streets, so I was very loose about what the plot was going to be. Each time I’d write a scene, I had some idea about how it was to unfold and I would try to leave some tangle that needed solving in the next writing session. It gave me something to muse on during the day.

Q: In a few words, describe Vic Jones.

A: He is a responsible guy that gets no help, initially, in saving his friend from this quirky zombie experiment. Maybe it can be chalked up to pure stubbornness, but he then gets into all kinds of disguises and meets up with some strange characters in his quest to save his friend. He is a hero, because he never gives up trying and has a strong sense of what is fair and what is unfair.

Q: I think the parts of the book where he is interacting with his co-worker, Emily Walters, and his some-time girlfriend, Wanda Cummings, are the most hilarious. The scenes where he is oiling Miss Emily’s office chair and asking Wanda about how to pick up guys when he is dressed in drag are incredibly funny.

A: Yeah. I wanted to make some of the scenes light to balance out some of the seriousness of the message of the novel. Emily and Wanda are good examples of females that are repressing some of their real selves, and Vic is kind of blindsided by what these women reveal about themselves to him. He’s kind of old-fashioned, so his reactions to certain situations were amusing.

Q: Where did the idea for Vic’s friend, Teddy, come from?

A: Vic was such a serious guy that he needed a comical side kick. Teddy was great for me, because, when a scene would start to slow down, I’d just have Teddy show up and cause some kind of ruckus.

Q: Some writers talk about character transitions and how their protagonist evolves over the course of the story. Did Vic Jones change from what he was like as the story progressed?

A: I think Vic was solid to begin with, so I didn’t want to change that. But, along the way, Vic developed a more flexible attitude about life’s possibilities and became more accepting of the things that can’t be controlled. I think he matured a bit.

Q: Why did you write Brain Sections?

A: I wanted to show the interactions between homeless people, the support and craziness, and between the homeless and those who have never been homeless. To see out of the eyes of someone who never quite fit in and lost all he had, looking at those who in some ways have lost themselves in order to keep their positions in life. And I also wanted to show life in the homeless shelter and on the streets in a realistic way, from the view point of the homeless.

Q: Is there a sequel in the works?

A: I’ve done an outline about how Vic gets to put some of his ideas about improving the shelter into action. Of course, there will be opposition and conflict to his ideas, but that’s what makes fiction interesting.

Shelters: Why the Homeless Avoid Them

This is a good read about why homeless people avoid living in shelters:

In my experience, shelters are extremely filthy and crowded. I end up with respiratory problems and have to go on an inhaler to catch my breath when I lived in shelters. There is also an increased risk of catching TB and Hepatitis in shelters.

One of my friends told me recently that a shelter he knows of gets deliveries of cleaning supplies, but hardly uses those and the stock keeps piling up– until a staffer carts some away for home use. Don’t get me wrong, wouldn’t want to clean up any icky mess that someone carelessly left, but if you catch them in the act, glove them up and give them a mop and pail. Otherwise, they won’t learn to respect the place they are living in.

The Happy Hobo: Keeping clean and fit.

Clothes dryer at East Hotel Hamburg, Germany.

Clothes dryer at East Hotel Hamburg, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You are about to get your Phd in Hobology:

1)      Doing Laundry. This can be a hassle, but the happy hobo is a clean hobo (well, as much as possible). If you can find cheap laundry facilities in your area, try to use them. Seventy-five cents for a wash and a dollar for a dryer load is not unheard of, you just have to know where to look. Some places are verboten for me to do a load on the premises, but at 75 cents, sometimes it is worth it to take a risk. There are cheap washers and dryers in retirement complexes and at hospital apartments for patient families that can be discretely used. If questioned, just mention doing laundry for a sick family member. If your clothes are confiscated, sheepishly ask for the soggy articles back and listen to their dire warnings against ever doing that again. Wait a few months before you lather, rinse and repeat, again. To do your laundry free in a sink is possible for a small load. (Don’t slosh water on the floor. The janitor will hate you.) If you can’t plug the sink, wash your few pieces of clothing in a plastic bag. Just dampen clothes with soapy water and massage the bag until the soap gets everywhere on the clothes. Rinse a few times and air dry your duds in a safe place for about half a day. If you have a dryer available, toss the damp clothes in and run it for 20 minutes or so. A dryer that takes a quarter for 10 or 20 minutes of drying time is ideal.

2)   Keep your feet and legs in good condition. I know, you are not auditioning for the Rockettes. But, most homeless people develop nasty leg conditions for two reasons: They don’t lay down a few hours a day and they move around carrying or pushing a lot of stuff. If you have ever crossed the USA in a Greyhound bus, you would know about leg swelling (edema) because of sitting too long. That’s what happens when people are homeless. Sometimes, they are afraid of the big nasty security guard, so they sleep sitting up instead of laying down. Big mistake. The fluid that needs to be eliminated from your body pools in the extremities and causes swelling. Everyone needs to lay flat for a few hours a day, to get this fluid out of the blood stream and into the kidneys where it can be safely expelled as urine. If the fluid builds up for too long, nasty conditions can develop. Be smart and get some lay down time. Your body needs it.

Well, that’s it. Now you too can be a happy hobo.

The Homeless Artist – An Unexpected Teacher

Here is a beautiful post:

The Homeless Artist – An Unexpected Teacher.

For Those of You Who are Volunteering to Serve Thanksgiving Dinner Tomorrow…

Thanksgiving dinner served in Boston

Thanksgiving dinner served in Boston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great post titled the Soup Kitchen:

Quote of the day: “Even if life is difficult, it is good.”

Is There a Shut Down of This Blog in the Works?

Well, it was bound to happen. Got a notice from WordPress that there has been a complaint about this blogs violation of one of the terms of service agreements. They will get back to me about what it is I am (supposedly) in violation of, until then, expect a shut down and look for me on Blogger, if it happens. Too bad, I love WordPress. Near as I can figure, the violation might be about advertising to sell my book (the Amazon Affiliate book — one book — that I recommend can’t be it, can it? I thought WordPress was okay with those…) or it could be this post, that had just come out on the day of the notice:

From the Happy Hobo series:

Working to get off the streets. This has to be a constant in your life, or your future will be bleak. Get a P.O. Box and send in applications for low-cost housing and assistance. Can’t get a P.O. Box without a physical address? Oh, those bureaucrats do try to keep people down, don’t they? If you keep being persistent, you will get a mailing address. A few tips: Paying for the box over the internet at their USPS website (credit card required), or wandering in to an out of the way post office and being able to rent the box on the spot. Use your old address on your ID with a straight face. Not that I’m telling you to circumvent the law, but the rules should not inadvertently punish the innocent.

In my view, I was just pointing out a huge loophole in the system (you must provide a physical address to get a P.O. box) that is supposed to halt international terrorism, but ends up punishing the homeless. It would be nice if the agencies that are dealing with the homeless could provide a letter stating that their client needs an address  to get mail and that letter could be used at the post office as verification to get a P.O. box to receive their mail (A discount on the annual P.O. box fees — $120 a year in some areas — would be nice too, but the postal service is in the red, so forget about that.), and then inadvertently punishing the down-and-out would not be the issue here.

Another reason for the red-flagging could be a certain “sore-loserman” has sniffed around to find an excuse to silence this blog. In that case, tough nuggets, baby. I stand by my post.

Oh, and by the way, have a Happy Thanksgiving. Be truly grateful for all God’s gifts. I am.

The Happy Hobo Continues…

Tips on how to keep the shirt on your back and getting past the HR department ogres:

1)      Free or cheap clothes and stuff. Free clothes: Ask at charities (sometimes food pantry’s give out clothes too), dumpster diving (a good way to get cheap furniture too), relatives and friends cast off’s, and one of the perks of living in a shelter (maybe the only one) is that they give out free clothes. Careful though, the other freebie seekers can get nasty. Cheap clothes: Thrift shops, consignment stores. Hey, I don’t mind the smell, when I can get designer clothes for $3.50 a piece. After a while you’ll develop an eye for the good stuff. Make sure it is in good condition and that the fabric in washable (Dry clean? Not on my budget). Tip: Go at the end of the month or on weekdays, the crowds are thinner.

2)      Having no physical address to put on an employment application can be a problem. You looked sharp at the interview and breezed through those tough questions. But now you are worried that the old physical address that you put on the application just won’t cut it. Nothing like having your grumpy ex-landlord’s scrawl over a piece of mail announcing “NO LONGER AT THIS ADDRESS.” You can handle this situation two ways: A) Use a friend’s or relative’s street address on your applications, until you get settled. Or B) Look below the street address line, there sometimes is a mailing address line. Use this for your P.O. Box address. Tell them that your mail delivery person is near retirement and keeps mis-throwing your mail, or that the mail thieves in the neighborhood are making off with your important mail (use this if you don’t care that they know you live in a high-crime area, or hell, you might drum up sympathy). Granted some lazy or mean administrative assistant may “out” you by using the first address on the application. But since you already warned them that your mail situation is dodgy, just breezily state the tiresome reasons for using the second address and leave it at that. To find out more, they would have to go to the street address themselves and check if you really live there. Most people don’t want to go to that trouble and, if they did, you probably wouldn’t want to work for them anyway. How anal.