I am forever disgusted that "the truth" of what homelessness in Sacramento is like, and what undergirds the politics, and what the skanky homeless-help charities are like, never gets to the public. Instead, the public gets from the charities and the Bee and SNR bleetings that the homeless are pathetic or secret Jesuses or a crowd of children or all viscious psychopaths. Whatever works to represent the homeless in a way to make coffers overflow or stoke sympathy or entice the weary (and should be wary!) public is used, the truth be damned.
The hopeless Bee, today, in another of its Board Editorials from Fantasyland, "Editorial: Don't forget homeless women and children," laudably writes about mothers and kids (yes, solo homeless men do, indeed, get too much of what attention there is), but at the center of it all are fake "statistics."
From the ed:
…housing for poor families remains in desperately short supply. As [Michele] Steeb [CEO of St. John's shelter] and [Chet] Hewitt [president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation] wrote [in a Bee Viewpoints piece Wednesday], St. John's shelter turns away 320 women and children every day. The county's two other shelters that cater to mothers and fathers with children, Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center and Volunteers of America, report similar upticks in the number of families they must turn away every night as well.That 320 figure is wholly bogus.
As I wrote as a comment to today's editorial:
The "statistic" "St. John's shelter turns away 320 women and children every day" is misleading and a concoction -- with an emphasis on the 'con’ part. There is not a hoard of whimpering people standing outside St. John's every morning and Michele Steeb jolly well knows this and the Bee is journalistically irresponsible to suppose anything like it is true and to fail to verify – really, “correct” -- that false claim. Ms. Steeb and the Bee, each, have an obligation to the public to present information that helps Sacramentans see the truth of what’s going on – not to fake facts or the situation to stoke public sympathy for homeless people and funnel donations to Ms. Steeb’s or any other charity in the homeless-“help” industry.And then I found this in my email archives. From April of 2009, Michele Steeb wrote the following to me with respect to her report of a high "turn away" number:
That 320 figure almost certainly represents people on a waiting list. While some of these women and children may be in desperate situations, many are certainly adequately housed or in OK shelters but hope to make a lateral or upgrade move to St. John’s in the future. Other people are OK, but maintain their spot on the waiting list because it’s easy to do and because they like to keep their options open. Too, there are sure to be women and children reduced to living in their car or on the streets who “jump the waiting list,” and get into St. John’s or receive motel vouchers.
J’accuse: The homeless-“help” industry needs to stop using untruth and skanky marketing techniques to fill its coffers. And it would if the Bee would do its job by ferreting out the truth of what the homeless circumstance is and report on what the charity industry that uses homeless people as props is really like. Just because they surround themselves with homeless people does not mean that homeless-charity executives are angels. Indeed, most are are the furthest thing from angels. The very furtherest thing.
The great tragedy -- and it very much is a tragedy; homeless people die on the street; mentally ill people die early, very often from hypertension-related reasons; drugs and alcohol drag people to the grave -- is that if the public had access to the truth of the circumstance of homelessness and what 'the life' feels like, this understanding would motivate a tsunami of real (and less expensive) help to bring meaning and happiness to suffering people's lives.
Hi, Tom. Thank you for your email. The numbers you are referencing can be qualified as follows. There are ~300 women and children who are requesting a place today at St. John's. Yes, some are on the waiting list at other shelters, and some are in other shelters currently, but given that we are a program that assists families in getting back on their feet, versus a true shelter, we know there are folks who are expressly interested in on our Program. We would need to manually go through the list to try and determine how many are on the street, or living in their storage unit, or living in their car to provide you with those numbers, and btw, that information changes minute by minute. Someone on the street can get in touch with an old friend who says, "You can stay with me until a place opens up in the Shelter..." Moreover, just because someone is in a home doesn't mean they are safe. Many of the families on our waiting list are waiting to escape violent situations... or are staying with family/friends having escaped, but are in a temporary situation. Does this answer your question? Michele Steeb Executive DirectorMichele Steeb: You stink.
Update: Today, Jan 13, 2012, a link to this post was sent to the Editorial Board which consists of the following Bee staffers: Rex Babin, Cheryl Dell, Stuart Leavenworth, Pia Lopez, Dan Morain, Gary Reed, Foon Rhee, Ginger Rutland, and Joyce Terhaar.