Tuesday, July 18, 2017

SNR article meanders in the midst of treating homeless people badly


Cover of  7/13/17 SNR
An article about homeless folk in the July 15 Sacramento News & Review is a big, bad mess of a thing that doesn’t even seem to have any kind of point it wants to make. It is written by longtime SNR writer on matters homeless, Raheem F. Hosseini, and appears on page 11 of the 7/13/17 issue of SNR under the title “Point of Shame: Sacramento’s unsheltered homeless population explodes by 110 percent.”
The thing that is dealt with as the problem is that there are thousands more homeless people in the county than was anticipated from the Homeless Counts that were conducted in January 2013 and January 2015. The latest bi-annual count – in January 2017 – is, for no reason that is explained, accepted as accurate – or, at least, roughly as accurate as something as curious as a county Homeless Count can be when the “objects” of the count are human beings that frequently move around a lot, thus making counting them as easy and straightforward as determining how many stray cats there are in the county.
In what I think to be a foolish error, Hosseini treats the issue of the perceived-as-a-very-high number of homeless folk in the county in an alarmist manner. He writes, “Most alarmingly, the number of homeless people without access to any indoor shelter exploded 110 percent.”
Consider. If a survey of Mexican immigrants in Sacramento County determined that there had been a robust increase in people so defined, would it be defensible to report that “the count of Mexican immigrants ‘exploded’?” Unless the Sacramento News & Review has joined the Alt-Right, the incendiary use of the word “exploded“ was dunderheaded, as opposed to hate-based. A copy editor or whatever Editor in Chief last came through the revolving door should have caught and corrected the mistake – that is, assuming he’s not Steve Bannon.
The Sacramento News and Review goes through Editors at a rate commensurate with the rate that the band Spinal Tap goes through drummers. You’d think, what with the Bee in a spiraling decline, that SNR would try to “step up,” rather than fall on its face. Now is the time for SNR to expand what topics it writes about, thus to steal readers from the fast declining $1.50-an-issue-on-weekdays daily. Too, SNR could take some of the Bee's advertiser. I would like it if SNR suddenly had ads for new cars and pancake houses instead of just marijuana and masturbatory phone-call services.
I think that the poor performances of Ryan Loofbourrow (Sac Steps Forward Director) and Sac Mayor Steinberg is the targeted shame-worthy behavior that the article is intending to point toward. But while each leader exhibits shame to a degree, neither has any intention of falling on his sword. So, there will be no repercussions. Loofbourrow and Steinberg will each treat matters as just another glitch that happens and gets forgotten until the next ugly glitch pops into view before it gets religated to fade on the far side of forgetfulness.

The Squirrelly business

Another problem area of the article is weirdness in how some sentences were constructed.
In the piece's first paragraph, Hosseini writes "Several feet away, under an already warm sun, someone tried to get the applause going, banging thick palms together like rocks."
Huh? For starters, the sun is a star that is always hot. IT doesn't warm up during the day. As for the "banging thick palms" thing, I suspect that Hosseini is meaning to suggest that people were clapping but were not enthusiastic in their effort. Otherwise, I am stumped.

A follow-up to Hosseini's piece may be indicated. Hosseini gets into the weeds a wee bit to account for the survey-count problems of the last five years, but someone like Cosmo Garvin could nail what the problems are such to put matters in position for the best possible future for the Homeless Count and for homeless folk.
 ----

The last paragraph in the piece is treated as something solemn.  L&F Advocacy Director Joan Burke tells people to "put themselves in the shoes of a homeless person. 'Some people will actually be in danger. Some will be cited for illegal camping. I believe none of them  will have a  [restful] night.'"
Really!? NONE of them will have a restful night. I think that what is revealed, here, is that Joan has never been a homeless person. A lot of people may not be highly comfortable in the spot where they choose to sleep, but the matter of being tired and needing sleep results in people getting sleep and, usually, waking up and finding that they are satisfactorily rested and ready for the morning.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Three quotes, one from Einstein another from Dave -- or brother Glenn -- of Dave's Killer Bread, and the third comes from Orwell

Three quotes came at me and I liked them so much I've determined I must share them.

The first is the beginning of something written by Albert Einstein that comes to me from a short podcast episode from 60-second science.

It goes thus,
Striving for social justice is the most valuable thing to do in life. -- Einstein
Einstein was primarily speaking about the treatment of black Americans, just after World War II ended. He knew that black students at Princeton, where Einstein was a resident scholar, were mistreated in ways that reminded him of the continuing troubles of Jews in Europe.

I still hope to find the paper or book where the Einstein quote first appeared.

I did find the book "How to Think Like Einstein" that includes the quote and provides some valuable information.
"How to Think..." dates the quote in 1934, which is, of course before WWII, rather than after it. There is bit more information about Einstein's liberal sympathies with humanity if you click the link, above.
Dave -- or, more likely, his brother Glenn -- has some important things to say on the packaging of the many varieties of Dave's Killer Bread nutritious and delicious bread products.

Here's what the bread wrappers have to say...
15 years in prison.

That's a tough way to find yourself. Dave Dahl realized he was in the wrong game and knew he had more to offer. His brother, Glenn, say a change in him and gave Dave a second chance by welcoming him back to the family bakery. Dave set out to make a loaf like no other -- the most nutritious organic, whole-grain bread -- and the result is what he called killer bread.

Dave's Killer Bread is built on the belief that everyone is capable of greatness. What began as one man's journey has turned into so much more. Today, one-third of the employees at our Oregon bakery have a criminal background, and we have witnessed first-hand how stable employment sparks personal transformation.

While "Housing First" is the framework for improving the lives of homeless people, employment is a vital second step for many. Dave got his job, easily -- from his bro. There are many, many guys and gals who are now homeless in Sacramento who could use work to fully get their lives turned around. I hope employers will give some homeless people opportunities for employment.

This last bit comes from George Orwell's book "Down and Out in Paris and London." It's the last paragraph in chapter 3:
And there is another feeling that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone who has been hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs—and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Latest from the Bee: Downtown is on Edge

An article in the June 28, 2017, Bee is quite disturbing. It's title is "'Rash of violent and aggressive behavior' has downtown on edge." The reporter who wrote the piece is the Bee's best, Ryan Lillis.

Of course, the bad behavior is attributed to homeless people downtown.

Those cited in the story as being upset about what all is going on are Steve Hansen, who represents the downtown area on the City Council; "key downtown and midtown business leaders"; Mayor Darrell Steinberg; Mike Testa, who will soon take over as President and CEO of the Visit Sacramento tourism board; Michael Ault, who leads the Downtown Sacramento Partnership business group; and Councilman Jay Schenirer, who called a press conference to protest a "wave of violence" that is occurring in Oak Park.

Testa is quoted in the article, saying, "Perception is such an important thing in our business [i.e., encouraging people to visit Sacramento]; ... it hasn't been an issue [before] the way it is now."

Ault told Lillis that the city and private sector had invested too much time and money into downtown Sacramento in recent years "for this trend to continue."

He further said, "What's taken place over the last several months -- the uptick in aggressive behavior -- has been an absolute turn of events. Now is not the time for us to back off in managing the environment down here. We can't tolerate this behavior."

Typically, this blog acts in defense of homeless folk, but from the disturbing many instances of aggression and violence -- including what was going on along the American River Parkway ten days or so ago, clearly some things need to be done immediately, and perhaps continually, until it is possible for things to settle down.

What must not be forgotten is the need for homeless people to have places to go in the daytime and at night. Making the downtown and midtown safer must not turn into a big wave of activity by police to harrass homeless folk. I hope that Sacramento has learned that a brutal and bullying police force is counterproductive. There is a lot else that the police and City leaders can do that would truly make the city a safe and happy place that does not involve borderline saddhism.

In this blog, I have suggested several times [ See "The thing that distinguishes our species from others is only this: We Contemplate the Future" ]  that we should get homeless people who have long been left on the street and in shelters to get jazzed about a good and happy future they can have once they are in housing.

Recent scientific research informs us that unlike other animals, we cogitate on what our future might be. That is what our brains should be doing: Directing our thoughts toward less troublesome times that will open up in the future.

If we want fewer homeless people drinking and drugging and behaving in an anti-social manner, how can we encourage that to happen? BY PROVIDING HAPPY ALTERNATIVE things for them to do that relate to a future that they will want to live to see.



Monday, May 29, 2017

Homeless guy sleeping on the sidewalk

The man was sound asleep on the sidewalk.


I took a quick picture of a man sleeping on the sidewalk when I walked past him on 9th Street, just up from Rite Aid, downtown. It was a very hot day, in the early afternoon, on the day just before Monday when Memorial Day.is celebrated.

Was he a homeless veteran? I don't know. Someone that I once knew when I was homeless, fully dependent on homeless-charity services? I can have known him; but he was not someone I recognized.

I didn't try to awaken him -- though, perhaps I should have. And perhaps I should have called someone to pick him up and -- maybe -- take him away to the drunk tank, where drunk or not they could clean him up.

I am often not good at knowing what to do. And, like many, I am apt to default to a decision of doing nothing. "He'll be alright," I can tell myself. "He's sleeping and is possibly in great need of rest."

His pants were soiled. Possibly, he'd gotten quite drunk the night before.

At his back was what looked like a three-gallon jug of milk. I left a small $1 box of oat biscuits next to the milk jug. And walked off.

---

It is, no doubt, common for people to pass by a homeless man and to try to suppose how he got to be the way he is. Was he once an attorney? a soldier? a dependable employee at a warehouse? Was he once married to a girl named Sue?

Was he a child who had a very hard time understanding what they tried to teach him in elementary school. Were his parents brutal? negligent at helping him?

We can suppose and suppose and suppose, but never get into his brain and know what his life has been like or how he can now be aided such to put him on a quick road to happiness.

----

There should be a lottery, open to all the sad-seeming homeless people in Sacramento. The winner gets a trip to Paris to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower. And a trip to Rome to eat amazing Italian food. Plus a whole year of being subjected to all sorts of fun and merriment. The lucky homeless winner of the lottery won't have a single minute that is wasted with a thought of having to think up something to do. And friends. We can give the homeless lottery winner friends, galore, with each new friend having been screened such to be especially appropriate for the needs and interests of the lottery winner.

At the end of the year, we can hope that the homeless lottery winner will be joyful and fully recovered from ever again being depressed or lonely or eager to buy a big bottle of vodka at Rite Aid. Right?

We can fix things, can't we? Isn't that what we hear screaming in our ear? This fine homeless man, here. Can't we help? Isn't the only thing that we can do to help is to have him win the lottery and climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower?

Monday, May 22, 2017

The desperate Bee's bullshit story about homeless people at Central branch

I think the Bee has determined that the only way that it might survive terrible financial decisions it has made in recent years is to go full-bore elitist, throwing its weight – its light weight – in with Piglet, the Arena, and making the public fund the Kings.

The New York Times and the Washington Post are spectacularly far beyond the Bee’s reach as bastions of Great Journalism, so the little buzzing Bee has determined that attacking homeless people is a good tactic to aid it in staying marginally relevant to people’s lives.

First World News Channel has picked up the Bee’s recent story “Homeless are Central Library’s most frequent patrons – but not for the books.” That title – the same one the Bee used – is a double-whammy false-information headline. For starters, it’s not based on any assembled evidence that homeless people are using the bathrooms at the Sacramento Public Library’s Central branch to any notable huge degree. It’s not Fake News, but it is Faked News by the irresponsible Bee reporter A. Chabria (and her headline writer and some dysfunctional editor, if there was one).

I am frequently at the Central branch; I, most often, write my blog from there. I think I can fully accurately report that homeless people, just like branch managers and Library Directors and Joyce Terhaar, go to the bathroom at a number of instances that comports with the felt need to go to the bathroom – no more, no less.

As for the homeless opening books, I have written in the past about homeless people recommending novels or genres of books to their friends. Science Fiction and fantasy books have spent months being popular among homeless readers. I forget many of the authors, but some of the guys were trading popular war novels back and forth with their friends. Can’t say I know much about what female homeless people read. Some of the guys have spent months reading Western novels. There are times when I was heavily into short stories, reading everything I could written by T.C. Boyle and a contemporary of Boyle’s whose name I forget.

The homeless, likely more-so than any other group, are into reading magazines and newspapers the library provides. There are guys that devour science magazines to learn more about curious animals and our ever-expanding knowledge about outerspace.

And in the current day, there are some of us who use the mags, papers and internet to stay abreast of the latest Trump horror stories.

A couple days after the Bee’s bullshit story broke, I talked to several librarians on Central branch’s third floor. One was timid to say much of anything; I can’t attribute this, exactly, but my sense of what the person was saying was that it was not fully safe for librarians to say much about news stories. The Library’s leaders were covetous of having that task. Another of the librarians, was mildly aware of bathroom noise, at times, and said he/she very much enjoyed his/her work – very much including his/her always positive interactions with homeless people.

There was more in the story about human feces left in the parameter of the Central branch building. This happens because homeless people have no place to be -- and, yet they still have the need to vacate their bowels when there is no appropriate place for doing that in the dark of night, with every business being closed and unwelcoming.

Poverty isn't a Lack of Character

Ted Talk by Rutger Bregman, given in April in Vancouver. The video is a mere 15 minutes. And offers a lot of interesting information, including a solution to the poverty problem.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The thing that distinguishes our species from others is only this: We Contemplate the Future

Scientists have come to learn something important and fundamental about our species. Unlike other animals, we cogitate on what our future might be.

In an opinion piece in the current New York Times issue of its Sunday Review [for 5/21/17], we are told by Psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center, and John Tierney, a New York Times journalist, that "We aren't built to live in the moment" and that "what best distinguishes our species from all others is that our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society. It usually lifts our spirits, but it’s also the source of most depression and anxiety, whether we’re evaluating our own lives or worrying about the nation."

"[W]e thrive by considering our prospects," the Times piece tells us. "The power of prospection [anticipation, foresight] is what makes us wise. Looking into the future, consciously and unconsciously, is a central function of our large brain, as psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered — rather belatedly, because for the past century most researchers have assumed that we’re prisoners of the past and the present."

Further, we're told ...
Psychoanalysts believed that treating patients was a matter of unearthing and confronting the past. Even when cognitive psychology emerged, it focused on the past and present — on memory and perception. But it is increasingly clear that the mind is mainly drawn to the future, not driven by the past. Behavior, memory and perception can’t be understood without appreciating the central role of prospection: the generation and evaluation of mental representations of possible futures. We learn not by storing static records but by continually retouching memories and imagining future possibilities. Our brain sees the world not by processing every pixel in a scene but by focusing on the unexpected.
Our emotions are less reactions to the present than guides to future behavior. Therapists are exploring new ways to treat depression now that they see it as primarily not because of past traumas and present stresses but because of skewed visions of what lies ahead.
While the mayor of Sacramento and the Bee's lead editorial writer, Marcos Breton, focus on human feces left next to buildings by homeless people, downtown, likely we and they should be focusing on the possible futures of many homeless people that are getting lost in the slumber of having nothing they want to do. We can see individuals wrapped up in blankets, sleeping their day away on sidewalks, downtown, and under freeway overpasses.

I would say that these are people who need to be invigorated and have a parade of possibilities presented to them of what their future can be. It is the antidote to poverty. George Orwell said, "The essence of poverty is that it annihilates the future." Thus, it is our task to dust off the future, shine a light on it, and return it to them!


You don't save lives only by keeping people's bodies alive; we have to create hope and prospects for a merciful and endearing future whirling around in "lost" people's heads.

The great majority of prominent philosophers in our time and throughout history have been men. But two extremely prominent philosophers of the current time are women, Susan R. Wolf and Vallerie Tiberius. Wolf's concentration is on morality and the philosophy of action. Wolf's most-recent book is "Meaning in Life and Why it Matters" -- a splendid book that encourages people to explore what they might most want in life.

The focus of Tiberius's work has been "a practical, empirical approach to philosophical questions, trying to show how these disciplines can improve the world for the better." Tiberius's most recent book is "The Reflective Life."

We have some terrific sociologists in Sacramento. One is Claudia Dias whom the great James Bradley talked about with me not long before he died, hailing her excellence. Perhaps she could talk to our slumberous homeless brethren about their lives and inspire them to seek valiant, engaged futures.

We simply must do something.