Sunday, February 13, 2011

Breton touts Supervisor Serna and Cottage Housing

Marcos Breton [sent to me as a 'shared photo' from Sacramento Connect]
Sac Bee columnist Marcos Breton hadn't written about homelessness for something like two years.  Today, after that long lag in offering up some words on Homeless World, he chirped words of praise for new county supervisor Phil Serna, who gathered funds to shelter the American River Parkway exiles who had been evicted from their tents in ARP this weekend.

In his column, "Phil Serna full of tough love for homeless campers,"  Cottage Housing gets a heap of praise.

Serna is quoted saying "It's a clean and sober environment, and there is testing to make sure of it."

No, that's not quite right:  There is testing which catches a lot of people not being clean and sober. But, sure, the testing also deters much use of alcohol and drugs.

Also, Serna is quoted saying this:  "Services are offered. People are assisted in clearing their warrants, in dealing with their disabilities, in getting their kids back."

Yes.  There are services, but they are much much reduced from what they've been and many of the requirements of Cottage Housing have been unproductive.  The harsh economy and the recognition that many programs were just run-arounds was causal for a big cutback.

Indeed, before he abruptly quit as president of Cottage Housing, Inc., Robert Tobin was on a tear cutting out the pointless programs and wanting to foreshorten people's stays in Cottage Housing.

For a spell, about a year ago, I would go to Side-by-Side meetings which were hosted by a Buddhist fellow I knew, Mark.  [Side-by-Side is 'its own thing,' independent of Loaves & Fishes and all else but with offices at L&F's Friendship Park] Often, people from Cottage Housing would come in with their cards that they needed to complete, which gave proof that they'd met a requirement to go to a certain number of meetings each week.  It was not uncommon for someone to come to a Side-by-Side meeting, often in the middle of it, stay for five minutes, ask for the card to be signed, and then leave.  Certainly, many people were conscientious, and would stay for the duration of any meeting they attended, but others were just "feeding the beast," being minimalist in doing what was required, which was for them a pointless run-around.

Homeless people, in good economic times, are put to the task of going to meetings that aren't meant for them and in no manner have any function at improving their lives.  It is the pure madness of a Communist country that happens in the middle of Sacramento.


Hooray for whatever programs there are that really help homeless people — but the truth is that there aren't that many of those.

I know it sounds all New Agey for me to get Wilberian on y'all, but I am going to do that.  There are stage of psychosocial development that many people have charted.  One of the more advanced stages -- called the Green Meme in Spiral Dynamics and in an early version of Ken Wilber's system -- is where almost all the executives in the homeless-services industry are. Green Meme is very cool -- except that, in Don Beck's words, when it turns mean "it absorbs rather than contributes."

Here a quote from Beck, which sounds plenty goofy when you don't know the color code, but I think it is understandable nonetheless, so here it is [just realize that the "noble savages" are what this "mean" version of the Green Meme really thinks of homeless people]:
…[what] this negative version of GREEN does is to destroy the capacity of ORANGE and BLUE social and economic systems to actually address the gaps that GREEN itself has identified. It destroys ORANGE economic structures. And it also destroys BLUE authoritarian systems, which are necessary to control RED, as we can see all too clearly in the example of Zimbabwe today. It therefore becomes counterproductive. It makes things worse. It relieves RED of the responsibility to learn discipline and purpose in BLUE-ORANGE, because it loves the indigenous people but tends to read into them greater complexity, as it sees them as "noble savages." And in destroying the authoritarian, purifying systems in BLUE and ORANGE, there's the flooding of the RED undisciplined, egocentric, impulsive behavior into the GREEN zone, both in one's self and in societies. And it is this unhealthy meshing of RED and GREEN, in which strong egocentric narcissism combines with pontifications about humanity and equality, that becomes the breeding ground for what Ken Wilber and I call the "Mean Green Meme."
Like I say, it sounds goofy, but basically what Beck says here is exactly what we see play out in Sacramento. The Mean Green Meme's efforts at absolute egalitarianism creates endless process and meetings that carry little if any meaning. Homeless people become trapped in a world of madness, with metrics mostly nonexistant. There is often nothing to show the foolhardiness of the endeavors.

So, Serna and Marcos trot out the idea of Cottage Housing and its array of programs as the solution to all the ills of homelessness -- but it's not and it's been around and it hasn't been.

I'm not saying that SafeGround makes any sense. It hasn't shown any real success at anything other than determination and money raising. But there is a fount of energy in all that and if it can be converted to more-meaningful activities to transform lives that would be terrific. I just don't see how that can be done.

Like anyone, homeless people need control over their own lives. And from that start, only then can things happen. BUT, SafeGround isn't much of an example of homeless people beginning to control and be responsible for their own lives. The Board of Directors of SafeGround is the usual crowd of interlocking-board-(and bored) people who are squishy-to-a-fault liberal functionaries that believe in screaming and complaining and pretty much nothing else [well, except for money raising and empire building]. And homeless people are all pretty much pawns to all this.

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