Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A shelter idea

Tomorrow at 10AM Sister Libby of Loaves & Fishes and officials from the local chapter of Volunteers of America will be holding a "press conference" at L&F's Delany Center parking lot to rev-up demand that the city and, particularly, the county provide funding for shelter space for our metropolis's homeless. Loaves & Fishes, today, ballyhooed the "press conference" for the benefit of denizens of its facility to stir up attendance tomorrow. [There's a substantial threat of loss of beds, as of July 1.]

Since SacHo ardently wants what's best for us homeless – practical shelter and aid to uplift us all into position to again be thriving and productive citizens – we, mostly, want L&F and VOA to succeed with their effort tommorrow. But we mustn't be fooled: the county has a staggeringly large deficit and the homeless aren't a political force. [There is some hope, though, that via an end-around, stimulus money for mostly-new programs will, somehow, "free-up" funds for shelter for the esconced homeless.]

One necessary component to get the whole homeless-aid situation turned around, though, is reform of Loaves & Fishes and Volunteers of America, themselves.

Loaves & Fishes has long been identified, and properly so, as an "enabling" organization – "homeless daycare." While the organization can be pivotal toward aiding homeless people to pull they lives together and set them on a path of happiness and productivity, it is very often, too, an obstacle and frustration for homeless folk because of its unreliable hours of operations and services.

Homeless people find their lives wasting away, walking in circles, at the L&F complex, or stuck in the tarpit of Friendship Park, waiting for the narrow, specific time in a day when a needed service might be offered.

Volunteers of America has become a bloated bureaucratic nightmare that gobbles up homeless people's time. Its administration of Winter shelter has been condemnable, amounting to a ~16-hour daily lockup of people forced by circumstance to have to stay there.

Volunteers of America promised great improvement to Winter shelter when the city provided a massive infusion of funds to expand it and keep it going three months beyond its March 31 close. There were no significant (or even noticible) improvements. Same old; same old.

But here's an idea. Loaves & Fishes a few months ago tore down a building on its property that was being used, in part, as a kennel. Today, the space is just dirt surrounded by a fence. That space, a good fractional part of an acre, would be perfect for a small tent city. You want shelter, Sister Libby? YOU provide it – at least in part. You can talk the talk (when the cameras are rolling and there's no danger of arrest); but can you walk the walk?

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