Wednesday, December 10, 2014

10 Myths About Homelessness


1. Most homeless people are middle-aged men.

For many, the word “homeless” conjures up images of scraggly men standing on street corners holding cardboard signs. The face of homelessness is changing. In fact, the fastest growing segments of the homeless population are women and families with children. The average age of America's homeless is nine (9) years old.

2. Homeless people need to “just get a job”.

Getting a job is a challenge for most people in these days, and incredibly difficult for a homeless person. Most lack clean clothes, showers, transportation, a permanent address and phone number. Others have a criminal past, learning disabilities and lack of education that holds them down. Even if they find work, their low income often cannot sustain them.

3. Homeless people are dangerous.

Homelessness is often associated with drugs, alcohol, violence and crime. So yes, life on the streets can be perilous for homeless men and women. But very few crimes are committed by homeless people against those of us who try to help them. At Arlington Life Shelter, the attitude we see most often from homeless men and women is gratitude.

4. Homeless people are lazy.

Surviving on the street takes more work than we realize. Homeless men and women are often sleep-deprived, cold, wet, and sick. Their minds, hearts and bodies are exhausted. Though help is available, they may have no idea where to begin navigating the maze of social service agencies and bureaucracy. With no transportation and little money, they can spend all day getting to food and maybe an appointment before they need to search for a safe place to sleep. And they do this while lugging their precious few possessions along with them in a bag or backpack. It is not a life of ease.

5. People are homeless by choice.

No one starts life with a goal of becoming homeless. People lose jobs and then housing. Women run away to the street to escape domestic violence. Many people have experienced significant trauma and simply cannot cope with life. Others struggle with mental illness, depression or post-traumatic stress. Yes, poor choices can contribute to homelessness. But outside circumstances strongly influence those choices.

6. If homeless people wanted to, they could pull themselves out of it.

Once a man or woman loses a job or a home, getting those things back can feel nearly impossible. Imagine trying to get a job when you have no address to put on a resume, no phone number, no shower and no clean-pressed clothes. Often, things like legal issues, criminal history, mental illness, physical and emotional health hinder progress even more.

7. Providing food and shelter only enables people to remain homeless.

Food and shelter are essentials for life. By offering these and other outreach services, like showers, laundry, restrooms and mail service, we build relationships with people in need. Then we’re able to offer them something more through our recovery programs, like counseling, addiction recovery, emotional healing, education, life skills and job training.

8. If we provide sufficient affordable housing, homelessness will end.

Putting a roof over the head of a deeply hurting person will not heal emotional wounds, break addiction, create relational stability or establish healthy life skills. Housing can help people who are homeless due to poverty. But it can be a shallow and temporary solution for the many people who are homeless because they are unable to function in a “normal” life.

9. Homelessness will never happen to me.

Talk to the hundreds of homeless men and women we serve each day and they’ll tell you that they never intended or expected to become homeless. They’ve had solid jobs, houses and families. But at some point, life fell apart. They are desperate for a way back home.

10. Homelessness will never end.

Many U.S. cities have established ambitious goals with 10-year plans to end homelessness. While these plans to provide housing and better centralized services to homeless people are important in reducing the scope and duration of homelessness, they will not completely eliminate it everywhere for all time. But homelessness does end—one life at a time. With your help, we continue to restore the lives of hurting men, women and children every day.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Transportation and Being Homeless

Just this past October the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, The “T”, announced that they would being eliminating one of their fare programs that was put in place to assist the homeless and low income people here by October of 2015. In general what this program did was to provide free bus passes to those in need.

While they expressed several reasons for the elimination of the program, some of which i have a problem with, what concerns me most is the impact this will have on the homeless community.
Recently, there was a “Transportation Summit” that was put on by the Tarrant Area Homeless Coalition. Basically it was held to let people in the homeless community express their concerns or opinions about the elimination of the free fare program. There were many concerns discussed but what it really boiled down to was in order to accomplish anything to end that person’s homelessness, transportation to and from various parts of Ft Worth is a major consideration. Here is a short list of some of the more popular / necessary destinations.
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1. JPS Hospital for specialty medical appointments, medication pick-ups at the pharmacy or getting to the Urgent Care unit at the hospital when the local JPS clinic is closed or not an option.

2. Texas Workforce Commission for the obvious… job hunting and training.

3. Social Security Administration for anything related to Social Security that requires a personal visit, which is most things that affect a homeless individual.

4. Texas Department of Public Safety to replace lost or stolen identification cards.

Even though there is now and has been for many years the free fare program, getting a day pass for the bus was not guaranteed. There was and is a limited number of passes available from the various sources on any given day. In addition, you needed a good reason before you could get a daily pass such as a verifiable medical appointment, job interview or some other real need.

While I was still homeless, my access to free bus passes was either non-existent or more hassle than it was worth because I did not have ready access to a case manager or other source. In almost every case I walked everywhere I needed to be. Luckily, even at 60+ years old I was and still am in pretty good shape so walking wasn’t anything more than an annoyance or just plain time consuming. For example, I would walk to the hospital, when I needed those services, a distance of about 4 miles one way then walk back which took 2 to 3 hours round trip not counting time at the hospital. When I was still on probation I had to walk 11 miles one way which, more often that not, meant that I left my camp at 4am just to arrive in time for my appointment which was usually around 8am.

For a large number of homeless people walking is not an option. They just can’t. Mostly it’s because they have physical issues that prevent them from walking any kind of distance. For others it may mean leaving the shelter early in the morning, missing any meals they would normally have gotten at the shelter and if the distance from the shelter was far enough they may not return in time to check in for a bed that night or miss curfew.

With all the other barriers that make it difficult to recover from being homeless, taking away a vital service such as free bus transportation will only prevent, not aid in, the elimination of the homeless problem. In fact, if you think about it and carry the thought of no free bus transportation through to the end, only more harm will result in their lives. The idea here is to help those in need, not keep them down or make their lives even more difficult.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Returning...

Homeless in Ft Worth has returned home...
I know many of you remember this place / site and for those of you who are new to this format, welcome.

Feel free to read through the archives and as things progress I will be reposting things from the other site to this one and posting new material.

To the right is a box you can fill out with your email address to receive updates via email, please feel free to do so.

Once again, welcome to the new / old Homeless in Ft Worth

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Final Home For HIFW

Homeless in Ft Worth is now live and well on a new host with a permanent name. The new address is http://www.homelessinftworth.com . Please bookmark the new site and I will see you there.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New Look

In the last posting I talked about the site upgrade I'm in the process of getting done. Well as of today I have officially gone LIVE with the new blog / web site. You can find the new site at homelessinftworth.mzzhost.com. Please click on the link and then bookmark the new pages.

Thanks and enjoy the new Homeless in Ft Worth.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A New Look

As some of you may know, I've been spending time working on a couple of projects. The first project has actually been helping me earn a few dollars each month. That is, of course a street newspaper called "The Journey". If you hadn't already heard, I write a regular column for the paper and do some staff work. What helps me earn some cash is selling copies of the paper. My personal subscriber list is beginning to grow with most people purchasing 10 to 20 copies of the paper at a time to take to work or church or just give away to friends and neighbors. This is the concept behind the paper. It is written about homelessness and it gives a poor or homeless person an opportunity to earn a few dollars with each issue. I you are interested in purchasing copies for yourself or become part of my regular customer list just send an email to me at gkirksr@gmail.com.

On another front, the other project that I have been working on is a complete change in the style and format of this blog as well as it's associated web site. Actually I am combining the two and moving them to another server. I've been working on this particular project for almost two months writing the code that makes the site run, straining my eyes looking at this small screen and loving every minute of it no matter how frustrating it gets when something doesn't work right. For those who are curious go to homelessinftworth.mzzhost.com and take a sneak peak. There is not much content there and I am still testing some things. As soon as my budget will allow, I intend to purchase my own domain name for the new site to make finding it easier.

While all of this is going on I will continue to post articles, commentary and my general ramblings here as usual. When it is time to move to the new site I will make sure everyone knows. Lastly, I'm still on the lookout for a replacement laptop. As many of you know, my Dell laptop with it's high speed dual core processor finally bit the dust. Currently I am using a borrowed netbook and mostly need something with a bit more power to handle my programming, testing and editing chores. Let me know if anything comes up.

This year is turning out to be a very good year for me. I have met a lot of people and I am developing new friends. My thanks and prayers go out to all of you who have shown me your love, concern and even friendship.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Ending the Homeless Lifestyle



Ending the Homeless Lifestyle

That’s exactly what homelessness is for most people on the street, a lifestyle. Much like any other lifestyle, the homeless lifestyle has a negative aspect that can and in most cases, does entangle people. In some of those cases, for a very long time. In a way, the homeless lifestyle can be considered an addiction. Like all addictions, whether mental or physical, the homeless lifestyle is not broken nor left behind without a lot of effort and pain.

One common misconception is that if you take the homeless person out of the homeless environment and place them in an environment that is closer to what is considered “normal” then the problem or addiction will solve itself. Just like trying to keep alcohol away from an alcoholic does not cure alcoholism, keeping a homeless person away from the streets does not cure that person’s homelessness.

Each homeless person is homeless for a reason. Financial problems, problems with family, problems with keeping a job, addictions and other issues contribute to that person becoming and embracing the homeless lifestyle.

Personally, I like using the addiction example because in order to eliminate an active addiction one must eliminate or at least have an active plan to fix the underlying problems that the addiction is covering up.
I fought alcoholism and failed many times before I really knew that I had to address all my issues. I’d fought my homelessness with the same lack of success. An alcoholic cannot just stop, nor can a homeless person just stop being homeless. There’s much more to a persons homeless problems than just getting them off the street and into housing or just giving them some sort of income and expect them to fix themselves. That is the path to failure.

In my case, I had to deal with alcoholism, drug abuse and a whole host of personal issues that were preventing me from dealing with any of my deeper issues. These were the very same issues that were either directly or indirectly keeping me homeless. Which meant that I had to deal with them all and not just a few of the easier issues before I could even consider making whatever changes necessary to get me out of this camp and my homeless situation. Not an easy proposition, nor something that would be accomplished overnight. I’ve been at it for more than 5 years and only just now can I see any daylight at the end of the tunnel. That’s not to say that I am completely ready to leave my homeless lifestyle but if I had the opportunity to make the change today I would have a better, if fact almost certain, chance to succeed.

The reason I bring this up is that by getting a homeless person into a home or apartment, by providing them with an income either from a job or some sort of assistance, will not break that person’s homeless cycle. It is almost a certainty that without dealing with the underlying issues that caused that person to adopt the homeless lifestyle in the first place, he or she will certainly fail and return to the street.

We are all unique, complex individuals and there is no one size fits all solution to our homelessness problem. My solution will not work for anybody else. The only thing we have in common is that it takes time. A lot of time. All of us require something different in the way of treatment, help or education to eliminate our personal addiction to homelessness before the housing and income issues can be addressed.