Yesterday I wrote a blog here about being an at-risk homeless entrepreneur. In short, I shared that my car shut down while I was going 60 mph on the highway this weekend, we managed to get to the side of the road and within thirty minutes the car was gone.
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The police took it. For three years (which I consider to be long-term homeless since the average life-span of homelessness is 3-4 months) this car was my house, carrying all of my belongings or providing a place for my daughter and I to sleep.
The world of being homeless is awful, and unless you have been homeless you have absolutely no idea how to combat the issue. Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post took a stab at it today, and while I am happy to find that there was an article written about the overcrowded make-shift shelter that is D.C. General Hospital, I am disappointed that she could not find one expert to talk about how to overcome homelessness.
Her article only made us aware that there are 600 young children who are homeless. She did not offer a call to action, and she even highlighted what most people without experience mention, that it’s the homeless person’s fault that they are homeless in the first place. So much for offering a solution.
In her article she somewhat contradicts her statement that,
No, this is not a world full of innocents. The D.C. General shelter is a showcase of bad decisions, social ills and generations of defeat. – Petula Dvorak, The Washington Post article “600 Homeless children in D.C. and no one seems to care”
She offered us examples of a married woman, and man who were working at McDonald’s and Walmart respectively when hours were cut and no benefits were offered. As I said yesterday, it makes no sense for me to go get a job for minimum wage because it will not solve my problem, and it does not prevent homelessness.
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Housing prevents homelessness, and it has been proven that housing people actually saves the government boat loads of money. Homeless people are more likely to get employed once they are housed too.
The other thing I find disappointing about the article is that we don’t know the real demographic of the people who are in this shelter. How many of them have AIDS and can’t afford medicine? How many of them are suffering internally because of a mental illness, or other issues that can date back to being sexually abused?
Homelessness is deeper than the surface and I’m proud of the person who was too “embarrassed” as the writer stated to give their name. What benefit did they have to do so? Did you offer these people any kind of help when you wrote their story? Did you get them out of there?
What about the conditions of the shelter? Are there rats jumping over these children at night? And, why are we only concerned with the children? Are you intending to have some saviors come in and take these children from their parents?
An article friday said that D.C. is the most literate city in the United States. Are these people literate? One young woman you mentioned was a Howard University student. Did you offer her support in finding employment? I am clearly literate, and lack of capital mixed with other circumstances lead to my personal crisis. I lost my business, my home foreclosed and we were left with our car.
I do not see how the article in the Washington Post does anything to end homelessness, calling the community to action. It sounds more like gossip that will take place around the water cooler, and on social networks. If you read some of the comments below the article it will utterly disgust you.
Washington Post, before you decide to allow one of your “columnists” to write an article about the plight of homelessness, you need to make sure that the article does not make a mockery of the men and women that are being written about.
About 4 years ago I volunteered with an organization that was supporting women in the shelter at the former DC General Hospital. I am not a stranger to the area but could not find the shelter entrance on the campus that also houses DC Jail and other medical and mental health services.
After a few calls and directions I was lead across a parking lot and loading dock then behind a building to the women’s shelter entrance. The pathway behind the building led to a courtyard with one street light and a row of tinted glass windows and doors. Not a safe place for single, vulnerable women trying to get their lives back on track.
The shelter was housed in the former cafeteria. The glass doors were tinted but breakable by anyone intent on doing harm. There was a crack in the door and tape had been placed on it. When I entered the old, dark cafeteria I was stuck by the dozens of run down bunk beds shoved into such a small space.
I recall counting well over 50 bunk beds. The women were literally living on top of each other. There was less than two feet between each old bunk bed. The living arrangement was not welcoming, motivating, or safe.- Nicki Sanders, MSW The Teen Toolbox
At the end of the article contact information was offered. I don’t want to contact Petula Dvorak, because I already know that she ended her relationship with these hurting people when she received what was needed for her story. How do I help them? You did not offer a way for us to support them.
Tell me, why did it make sense to Petula Dvorak that the intake worker would be dumb enough to want the telephone number of an abusive boyfriend to verify the last residence of a homeless person? Does that not offer access to an individual who can be harmed or killed in a domestic violence dispute?
Sullivan said shelter officials wanted a list of everyone she’s lived with in the past three years before they’d let her and her baby in while it was snowing outside. So she gave them that and the intake counselors called those people — be they abusive boyfriends or angry landlords — “no less than 20 times.” – The Washington Post article “600 Homeless children in D.C. and no one seems to care”
Does that not offer personal information to someone who the victim fears could gain access to her? Even if the situation were not violent, most people don’t really want their ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend to know that they have fallen on disappointing times.
Homelessness is deeper than an article. I feel mocked and I want an apology. Washington DC is the home of the National Coalition for the Homeless. I am from here, and I am stationed here. All they had to do was google something related to homelessness, and it is very likely that one of my articles like One Horrible Myth About Homelessness would have come up as several have gone viral in the past.
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For those who care, there are many reasons why people become homeless. I have added a few links in this article for you to understand why and how people become homeless, and how to develop compassion in order to support them in overcoming their situation.
At DC General Hospital another article captured Mayor Vincent Gray’s thoughts in a statement:
The Legal Clinic reported that the General Hospital has had heat outages in many common areas and rooms since Christmas. “One client, who had an infant daughter, reported that she had been requesting a space heater from staff for three weeks to no avail,” the advocacy organization stated. She was not moved to a room with heat until the organization confronted city’s housing department about the problem.
Families have also reported that the building is “infested with mice, bedbugs, and water bugs. Some families also reported being bitten by spiders.”
This humanitarian catastrophe has been met by city officials with indifference and denial. Mayor Gray, questioned by Washington Post reporter Courtland Milloy about the Legal Clinic findings, declared, “I’m over at that shelter all the time, and I don’t think anybody can credibly say that we aren’t doing things to help the homeless.”
“I haven’t seen any bedbugs,” Gray said. “I’m always interacting with those young people over there and, frankly, I’ve never seen any evidence of what that advocacy group is talking about.” – World Socialist Website
If you are homeless and you need:
- someone to talk to,
- someone to walk you through overcoming homelessness,
- someone to find you alternative housing solutions
- someone to negotiate housing alternative that you have found
or something not listed here, this is my husband and my life’s work. We met in a homeless shelter. We have an extraordinary love story, meeting in an unthinkable place. We understand that no two homeless situations are the same, and whatever we can do to support you, we will. Later this year, we plan to officially launch the Rapha Response Group.
Rapha Response Group is a boutique agency offering an alternative shelter solution for homeless individuals seeking transitional housing. We offer a matchmaking service between an individual or family willing to foster hope, healing and temporary housing to homeless teens, veterans, individuals, and families.
We provide training to both the hosting individual or family on the nuances of homelessness, and training, support groups and individual supportive case work for the homeless individuals who we help find affordable and alternative housing. The host families receive a small stipend for their contribution to ending homelessness in their community.
If you are a person:
- with resources for homeless people and want to be added to our database, please connect with us at 202.717.7377 (RESS)
- with access to a larger platform to generate interest, connections, speaking opportunities or media to help end homelessness please call us at: 202.717.7377 (RESS)
Dvorak thought she was writing an article about those poor children who are homeless but she missed an opportunity to talk about why these people are there and how these people can be supported in overcoming the barriers that may keep them chronically homeless.
Ressurrection Graves is a child sexual abuse expert and H.E.A.L.E.R. She is an author and professional speaker on topics surrounding child sexual abuse and homelessness. She is available for speaking engagements and interviews by calling 202.717.7377 (RESS) or emailing: ressurrection dot wordpress at yahoo dot com.
I am so sorry for the obstacles you have faced but please know I hold you as a hero, and one of great intelligence, strength, and courage. Since 1994, I was a business owner with 13 employees and had created the most recognized adult missing person agency in the country. As an expert in the field of missing persons, I worked regularly with Montel, the John Walsh Show, CNN, USA Today, Lifetime Television, USA Network just to name a few. In 2009, a bad merger decision along with the decline in the economy put my daughter and me on the edge, unemployed I was struggling to keep a roof over our head. Eventually we were homeless bouncing to homes of family members and friends (which I know we were fortunate to have at the time). We stabilized again, that is, until my child was the victim of a violent crime in 2011 and it changed our world. The stress of the previous years, the trauma my child experienced, the threats to our lives, and the re-trauma watching my child deal with such horror kicked my own PTSD that I had struggled to manage my entire life into high gear and knocked me to my knees.
Again, we began a spiraling decline toward homelessness. Working within the public eye and media for twenty years I resorted to the only thing I knew might help and told our story to the local media after I was handed a 5-day eviction notice. Though the stories provided some short-term emergency assistance, it did not provide the solution. I could not think while facing crisis, I became depressed and even considered hospitalization but I could not place my teenage daughter in a position of not having a parent to support her. Knowing my potential if I were not facing consistent housing crisis, I asked for help from community agencies and churches to no avail. I did not qualify for many of the housing programs because I was not already homeless, we were not yet in a shelter, I had not just been released from jail or a psychiatric hospital, and I was not a substance abuser. Without meeting that criteria, we fell through the cracks because I was a mother who lost her company in a merger gone bad, managing PTSD, and traumatized by violent crime.
Even though I was founder and CEO of a national nonprofit that contracted a $1 million annual grant with the Department of Justice, my experience didn’t help me in my job search. You see, I was a woman who had dropped out of school in the eighth grade, who lived on the streets, who struggled in my early life with PTSD, drugs, and crime. I left that life behind in 1986 and with pure determination; I then became a self-made successful business owner and community leader. However, this experience did not help me in my job search. I did not have a Master’s Degree. I had a GED. I had the experience of running an entire agency but did not qualify for entry-level jobs I had applied.
Discouraged, I was not only facing homelessness again but also hopelessness. People are very quick to assume how they would handle a situation they have never experienced, quick to judge, quick to expect one should be able to rebuild their life within a month. People do not realize everyone has a story, and some are utterly heart breaking. Crisis contributed to our homelessness and let me be the first to say it is not a choice. I was not asking for a handout; we needed a hand-up. I felt stigmatized, misunderstood, and though the well-intended platitudes meant to encourage me only made me feel more like a failure. Not even our friends and family understood, many we have not heard from since.
The good news is, an agency called Recovery Innovations stepped up and found a Community Building program that worked with my property owner so we did not lose our apartment. The agency has also provided me with encouragement, support, and training certifications in a new field of work (keeping in mind I had only known one job for twenty years). Our slide took three years and finally someone understood rebuilding life does not happen overnight and without support. Ressurrection, you are correct – housing is the KEY!
Despite your own battles, you have the strength to empower others. That is a HERO in my book. Know you are appreciated for who you are and all that you do. Hugs! Kym L. Pasqualini
Kym, you are amazing! My daughter and I just read your comment and I must say you are a gifted writer. I thank you for sharing your story here. Homelessness does not end in one night, and it is necessary in most cases to have support even after housing because of barriers to employment and other things condusive to making and reclaiming life for yourself. My husband is a veteran so I’ve learned quite a bit about PTSD because of the veterans that we serve. I have no idea where you are in the world, but I am inspired and would be honored to connect with you. I have shared my story in book form, and I speak on specific topics surrounding child sexual abuse and homelessness. I do not count this meeting by chance. We have alot more in common than homelessness. Please feel free to email me so that we can connect. BE. Extraordinary, Ressurrection
Thank you for the thoughtful response to Petula’s article. Perhaps your blog presents the perfect opportunity to share some of the ways in which people can help! One organization I can think of that helps the children and families directly is the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project – check out our website to see what they do: http://www.playtimeproject.org Maybe their website can also shed some light on the conditions the families are facing.
I can imagine you can also find other great organizations to which the average citizen can give back.
All the best to you and yours!
My name is Ressurrection Graves but thank you. I was hoping people would leave comments with information on how to help the homeless. I welome it. Thanks, Res
There is ONLY ONE WAY to help the homeless— provide enough public housing complexes INSTEAD of shelters as “transitional” bases. Many use shelters as if they are their permanent residences. Instead, permament supportive housing can be used temporarily, in lieu of shelters, as “transitional bases” where those who have the capability can work on getting their lives together and advancing themselves beyond that level of subsistence into the “market-rate world” and those who can’t at least WILL have a PERMANENT supportive base to meet their needs instead of depending on charity from the streets.
I want it clear that I do NOT advocate the “right of housing” for EVERYBODY— such as those who can but don’t want to work OR those who merely want to work at unnecessary menial labor jobs such as tickettaker at the movie theater. I want to see public subsidized housing for the disable who need it, the incapaciated poor elderly, the low-wage worker who does NECESSARY jobs in the service of the community, and the poor who are in training for sufficient-paying skilled NECESSARY work and need housing to continue their education so they can become self-sufficient and contribute simultaneoulsy to the maintenance or the improvement of the community.
How to do this is for the unique civic structure of the District of Columbia to conjoin HUD in cooperation with the municipal housing authority to fund the provision and maintenance of such complexes. My political views have actually led me to believe that government-subsidized housing is only legitimate at the LOCAL level and is NOT a county, State, OR Federal responsibility. But according to the US Constitution, the Federal government is the ONLY valid authority for the District and IF it is going to allow a city political structure to operate as delegate in that capacity for it then city AS WELL AS Federal assistance should be involved in this effort!! In DC it would not legally matter from which governmental level the source of funding derived but the Fed has the greater resources and is the responsible supervisor for the municipal. Instead of a severance issue, BOTH need to be coordinated to work together pooling resources to end the problem for those worthy of it being solved for them! I do not pity criminals who have messed up their lives and then want the society they preyed on to help them out as “remediation”. I pity THOSE who have messed up lives who didn’t do it OR couldn’t preevent it from being doen TO THEM. It’s the victims/prey that need the help; not the predators for being (temporary) victors!!
Money spent on public permanently-based supportive housing would be saved from the wasted expenditure of throwing it into “shelter-holes” which many use as rent-free “flophouses” while they don’t work, don’t try to, and continue collecting other social service benefits without an excuse other than plain laziness! The way to seperate the “wheat” from the “chaff” is to begin a massive program of qualifying people for public housing subsistence and then providing the housing to settle them in according to the priority of need described in the classifications above: disabled; elderly incapacitated; low-wage vital job worker serving a need of the community; and then, those-in-training. No one can argue that even the MOST BASIC of residence accomodations, such as an efficiency-style unit I rent from Sanford Capital Properties at The Fairmont House (market-rate valued at $1300 per month!) is not better than a shelter dorm!
My residence (which I rent through the HUD Section 8 Housing voucher program) has carpeting; but it’s really an unnecessary dust and dirt collector. Rugs would suffice.
A wall unit heater/air-conditioner is sufficient. I have it for the cooler but the apartment is so old it uses radiators!
One full-appliance bathroom would be suitable for a family, though some privacy would of course have to be inconvenienced; but when you’ve washed, pissed, and shat amongst strangers what does THAT matter among relatives?!
And of course the unit would come with a full-appliance kitchen. Sleepers would have to make due in the living room area.
Thus you can see I am NOT advocating public housing as a subsitute for “real-life” market-rate residential living but as a basic and decent subsistence-level support for those WHO DESERVE BETTER than shelters and who will either work their way OUT of this level to a higher one or will be forced by their own limitations to stay and thus will NOT need more anyway since unable to manage it. But they will ALWAYS have clean, solid, efficiently furnished and sufficiently avaiable space in which to carry on their debilitated lives. It sure beats a motel (the PRACTICAL EQUIVALENT!) which the government is currently paying for many families to stay in as “housing” but with the uncertainty of management termination. And YOU KNOW it sure as hell beats some
shelter; ESPECIALLY the “makeshift” variety!
The proposal is OBVIOUSLY NOT new. It was the way of HUD in the 1960’s and 70’s and some would even argue it is just a throwback to the “good times” ghetto tenement situation of those decades. MAYBE it is. But WHAT is the alternative?? Proliferation of the ever-escalating and precarious shelter-city?? IF people who WANT AND NEED housing are not given it, THEY WILL FIND A WAY TO MAKE IT OR GET IT SOMEHOW SOMEPLACE WITHOUT REGARD FOR CONSEQUENCES!!
There is now no rational reason to fear that the “projects” will become ghetto tenements, as many did, as bad or worse (IF possible) than the shelters and “camps”. In this increasingly (over)security conscious age there are not only video surveillance cameras but motion-detectors and wall-unit audio recorders and security-coded entrances and even HOUSING POLICE!! Neighbors themselves are virtually spies or informants with their cell-phone/I-pod cameras!!
I don’t know about any of you, but as someone who has been INvoluntarily homeless while poor and debilitated several times in the course of a decade in several different States, when it comes to the choice of public/private shelter or public/private housing, I prefer the LATTER.
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