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Winter shelter: the lost central idea

Part of the problem with winter shelter this year is that there are people trying to secure a motel-stay voucher to improve their personal situation. These people are understandably wanting to "move up" in the shelter they have to something more comfortable and that allows greater freedom. Or, as is the case with many solo men who have SSI, to have winter-shelter funds cover hotel/motel costs that they were previously paying, such that yet more of their money is freed-up to buy alcohol, crystal meth, marijuana or a woman for the night or whatever.

I thought the central idea of "winter shelter" was to bring people in out of the elements, in off the streets, out of the cold and storms, and (for many women) away from the dangers of being out on the street at night.

For the rest of us homeless who aren't highly vulnerable to bad health effects of being on the street every once in a while, the 'risk' of being stuck out in a storm should be shared.

But that is just not happening this year. For everybody, the agencies dispensing the vouchers or running the extra-seasonal shelters and for homeless people seeking accommodations, its a Grand Giveaway [as if in a game-show setting] to the most personable guests.  Some get nearly everything; the rest fight for the scraps.

At Loaves & Fishes, people who have gotten wind of the whispers show up at a certain time to gather the bounty provided by SAEHC. This is all getting done by being an insider, by having the contacts and by being conveniently "Johnny on the Spot."

The mentally ill, the retarded, the most wholly destitute and vulnerable ― who are disconnected from things because their whole world is the mean streets ― are pushed aside while the many gate crashers, line jumpers and sociopaths in Homeless World reep the best of the freebies. In the past, with respect to winter shelter at least, the crashers, jumpers and sociopaths weren't automatically getting the lion's share of everything.


OneFathersLove said…
I have been hearing more and more about the secrecy of the tent cities and other places that provide winter shelter for the homeless. Something really should be done to advocate for the homeless to have organizations announce their availability of bed space. These organizations that offer the bed space can have their resources listed and announced for free , therefore, they have no excuse.
What it is going to take is a group of homeless individuals and families along with volunteers from the community to protest in front of the places that are selectively handing out bed spaces to the people they want to have the beds. Doing so will interrupt the funding sources of these programs until they begin to provide their services the way that they claim to.
-Sacramento Community Family Resources
Tom Armstrong said…

It is a dicy question: "What is to be done about homeless-help agencies that misbehave?"

"Interrupting their funding sources" too directly can do longterm damage and end up in cutbacks to services that the homeless need.

I am hopeful that the city and county will stop relying on the usual major homeless-aid agencies, and their leaders, so exclusively. The agencies end up on the committees that direct government money to themselves. There is inadequate oversight.

The media in our metropolis never say a negative word about Loaves & Fishes, for example, and use Libby Fernandez and Joan Burke of that organization as spokespeople far too often when homelessness comes up as a topic. Our media needs to broaden their horizons and report objectively, putting out the truth whatever it is.

The media should not act as tame and willing public-relations conduits for homeless-help agencies.
OneFathersLove said…
I agree that the media needs to present both sides of what goes on in our community. We have all seen the Salvation Army kettle drive on TV, which never displays the exploitation that goes on behind the kettle. Here is a phone number to the Salvation Army lawsuit settlement that plays a recording that is very interesting to listen to: 888-955-2704. I recently published a story in the Sacramento Press and wanted to write again about homeless shelters that exploit there own clients. Your contribution to such a story would make a big difference. I also need a few good photos to go with it if you have any. Here is a link to a story I recently published.
Tom Armstrong said…
Victor (aka OneFathersLove),

Here a direct link to your Sacramento Press story: "Hope to the Holidays for Sacramento Families."

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