Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Loaves & Fishes's misdirecting May newsletter

In their lastest donation-seeking newsletter, Loaves & Fishes misleads its "friend[s] and supporter[s]" by trotting out that now-discreditted construct that homelessness in Sacramento is being beseiged by a tsunami of bewildered families that have been dumped onto the street.

This is especially troubling since Loaves played a part in crafting the Hooverville whooper in the first place with actions that it took in February.

The newsletter refers to the January, 2009, county-homeless count, that was done by the Department of Human Assistance, and says this:

The numbers are staggering! There is a 14% increase of homeless families compared to last year’s count! There are over 2,800 men, women and children who are homeless any given night! Last years’ count there was only 2,678. Of those 2,800 homeless folks only 1,600 of them found shelter. The rest are sleeping outside. Even more staggering– of those sleeping outside, 77% are NOT chronically homeless, which means that they have been homeless less than one year and are most likely NOT disabled.
With numbers in the thousands appearing in the paragraph, readers would never suspect that the "staggering" 14% increase in homeless families represents exactly 24 in number. AND, that if one excluded the increase in those who are tucked away, being cared for in transitional housing, there was actually a DECREASE in homeless families, in emergency shelters or on the street, of 12 families.

Yes, that's right. There was a DECREASE from January 2008 to January 2009 of truly homeless families in Sacramento county. Since the paragraph refers to homeless who "found shelter" or "are sleeping outside," one would think that that is what the stats are that Loaves & Fishes is refering to – but not so.

Utilizing the art of misdirection, donors and potential donors are here being intentionally misinformed by Loaves & Fishes. I know that sounds like a tough charge, but Loaves & Fishes was informed that their abuse of this data was misleading, but chose to use it in the way they have, anyway.

As for the "even more staggering" high count of not-chronically-homeless people sleeping outside, it is worrisome that Loaves & Fishes chooses to do what it often does, demean those who are esconsed in homelessness and deserve services and attention at least on a par with other categories of homeless people. Included in high proportion of those who are chronically homeless are a large proportion of people who are schizophrenic or have other mental illnesses and have been long-neglected by our look-the-other-way society.

Indeed, sometimes when it suits Loaves & Fishes to beat the donor-motivating drum, they are most likely to picture chronically homeless people in their literature, and pluck cloyingly hard at heartstrings.

The Feb+Mar+Apr international media blitz re homelessness in Sacramento occured because Loaves & Fishes, the Oprah Show, and others, helped to create the wholly false impression that Sacramento had a full-fledged new Hooverville within yodelling distance of its downtown. While others have caught wind of the truth, L&F continues to cut with that same old discredited saw. And hopes to profit from the misdirection, too. Shame on you, Loaves & Fishes. What you're doing is deceitful.

Their newsletter also says this:
The Overflow shelter will now shelter almost 200 homeless folks. But where will they go after June 30th? St John’s Shelter for women and children is still turning away 200 calls each day for emergency shelter. Salvation Army still has an average of 80 men on the “Waiting List” to get into the shelter any give night. DO NOT let other news fool you about providing enough shelter and housing for these folks!
SacHo – which is not the "other news" the newsletter refers to, btw – is greatly concerned about what happens to the homeless after June 30. Indeed, the homeless displaced from emergency shelters may be many more than 200, due to cuts by the county in funding others of VOA's shelters.

But Loaves & Fishes should know better than to use misdirection with respect to the count of people on waiting lists to inflame concern about homeless people's well-being. People on waiting lists are usually NOT people now living on the street. People who have stayed a good while at the Overflow shelter are required to be on the Salvation Army waiting list to keep their bed at Overflow, for example. St. John's is a program, and not just a shelter in the true sense of the word. Many of the women on the waiting list there are wanting to "move up" from the emergency shelter where they are now staying, or to exit a difficult home situation.

Shame, shame on you, Loaves & Fishes. You choose the low road of truthiness when the high road of truthfulness is easiest, morally correct and better for everybody in the longrun.

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