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The push for shelter this winter moves forward

I met with an aid with the mayor's office yesterday, whom has recently been assigned responsibilities to understand and try, mightily, to address many of the needs of us homeless people in the city and county. She is a member of the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness, and if I understood correctly, is now the leader/co-ordinator of the committee since Andrew Rosskamm, who had had that role, has returned to Harvard, following the terminus of his fellowship.

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I have great concern about what will happen this winter to provide shelter for those who, due to the cold season's many frosty nights, must come indoors to sleep to be safe and well. We need to boost the number of shelter beds in the winter by approximately 200, now that the county is dirt poor and will not be funding VOA's terrible Winter Shelter, also known as Overflow.

I am happy to say that the aid I met with was attentive and interested in the concerns I expressed and seemed fully motivated to try to make things happen.

The core of what I presented to her was The Four Ideas -- four means of creating shelter space that are cheap and basic. With both the city and county ravaged by the suffering economy, there is perhaps next-to-nothing they can do to fund an expensive, complicated program. This year is one where we must muddle through. There are advantages to this, though. A basic shelter is what many, many homeless people want and need rather than expensive time-devouring jail-like shelters like those VOA likes to run and profit from. [VOA pays it's national director in excess of $300,000/yr. Sheesh, what a racket.]

The Four Ideas, which first appeared in the August 8 blogpost "Winter of Our Discount Tent," are these:

Idea 1: We need a doable plan for a small "safe ground"/legal encampment, restricted to just the winter months. At this late date, with all the government and police obstacles in front of us, a more-permanent and larger "safe ground" isn't achievable. It will need to be small and cheap with a small number of campers all of whom are not partiers with substance-abuse problems. Frankly, the fenced-in area between the Union Gospel Mission and the shelter at 470 Bannon might be a perfect location, with the fence and gate recently put in place around the property being helpful for the encampment! Another prime possible location is the site of the raised building on the Loaves & Fishes facility.

Idea 2: We need to find a vacant building, perhaps a warehouse proximate to Loaves & Fishes that can be cheaply rented and made ready to provide shelter for perhaps a hundred men. The shelter should be basic: just "in at 8-dinner-sleep-breakfast-0ut at 6." No ups; no extras.

Idea 3: In April, 2004, an article in the Bee, "Mission wants to add beds - The faith-based shelter would have to obtain a special permit to house more homeless men," [A Sac library card is likely necessary to access this article.] tells us the Union Gospel Mission wanted to petition the city to increase their shelter from the 86 beds the mission now provides to 250! The city/county should allow UGM and other shelters to increase the number of people they take care of during the winter of 2009-2010.

Idea 4: In Placer county, a network of churches allow homeless people to sleep at their establishments on a rotating basis. It's a "nomadic model of care [that is] used successfully in many other parts of the country." They call their program The Gathering Inn which uses 23 churches to serve 50 people. Likely, something on that model can be organized for this coming winter for our county's homeless.

Possibly, even with good luck in abundance, each of the Ideas will allow shelter for only 50 people. BUT, this is the year when we must cobble together what solution to the winter problem we can.

Of course I am hopeful that other ideas with come forward. With the high vacancy rate in the city, it is possible that apartment space, or, even, office space might be rented for the winter to provide shelter.

If something doesn't happen, truly, I have concerns that many will suffer and some weak person, or several, will perish in the chill of a night that dips down into the 30s. Remember, 2009 is also going to be the year when H1N1 might ravage the world, killing tens if not hundreds of thousands. Homeless people are particularly vulnerable to disease and its worst affects.

The Strange Mr. Farris Plagerizes SacHo

In a blogpost at the website of the nonprofit he created just as Oprahmania had descended on Homeless World Sacramento, Val Jon Farris put up a message on August 21 that plagerizes a blogpost that I wrote and posted to SacHo on August 11.

Farris's blogpost reads thus:

August 21 - Positive Movementby valjon 21. August 2009 08:53

The past two weeks I’ve been working to learn as much as I can about the behind the scenes proceedings with the Sacramento task force set up determine if a Safe ground project is feasible for the cities homeless population. It seems that our work (including iCare America and a group of other service-based organizations) may be paying off. After submitting extensive research data and my personal experiences of how other legal encampments have been working in the greater northwest to the Task Force it appears to have made some positive difference. The first bit of news is that Mayor Johnson decided to spend the night with members of a newly established group of campers called SafeGround, who live in a clandestine encampment that fully disappears every morning. The mayor brought the media with him. Specifically, KTXL Fox40 News to document the experience.

The purpose behind the mayor's effort hasn't been stated expressly, but it is believed that he wants to demonstrate his concern for the homeless who are suffering in today's economy. It is appreciated within the city's wider homeless community that the mayor has taken an interest in SafeGround, a non-legal encampment of about 50 persons that is striving earnestly to be very clean, self sustaining and alcohol-and-drug free. Safe Ground may be a beta effort that will inform the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness what can be achieved in creating a legal, workable neighborhood-friendly homeless camp.

The Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness – led by Andrew Rosskamm, who is at work for the mayor for a few months as part of a Harvard fellowship was the main point of contact I interfaced with over the last few weeks and he put together the proposal for the creation of a legal encampment that is being called Stepping Stone. While it’s only a 50-member community now being considered for development in April, 2010 it’s a start. And although the process is slow it appears to be moving in the direction that I and many of my peers in the community envision. With your continued care, support and intent we can make it happen here in Sacramento and then promote it nationwide. What better way to demonstrate that who we are is so much greater than the pettiness, apathy and fear that seems to be so pronounced in our nation.

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If you look at the August 11 SacHo blogpost "Mayor's Homeless Task Force envisions legal homeless encampment next spring," you will see that 'the middle' of the SacHo blogpost has been 'ripped off,' nearly word-for-word by the weasel Val Jon Farris.

Val Jon Farris's only purpose in associating with the Sacramento homeless community is to try to make money for himself by devious means. He is a huckster and rip-off artist. He is "author" of the 1999 book Inca Fire: Light of the Masters, a knock-off of The Celestine Prophecy, which was a best-seller in 1994 and 1995. Farris is also involved with a faked newscast on channel 10 last March; you can read about that, and see the video that proves the news was falsified in the SacHo post "More News on Farris." People should run away from Mr. Farris and his dubious nonprofit iCare-America like they would skunks and diptheria.

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