Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Homeless Count +

Well it’s that time of year again for the annual homeless count where a point in time count of the area homeless population is taken. This count is necessary for federal funding of homeless programs, grants and other federal assistance. The counting of the people in the shelters is relatively easy as the count takes place after check-in time or curfew. The hard part of the count is locating, waking them up (the count takes place generally between 9pm and 1am) and then filling out a questionnaire on each camper found or if the person is unwilling, just count him or her.

Locating camps in the dark and often in an unfamiliar part of town is a huge problem for those who will be doing the count. Some camps are so well hidden that it would be difficult to locate them even in the daylight. On top of that, the weather is predicted to be cold with freezing rain which means that the survey teams will be less likely to search for the camps very hard.

The idea of having the count done at this time of year is that it is thought that most people who do not normally go to the shelters will do so that night. Especially during bad weather. So all in all with the weather, the uncertainty of going into certain areas and just plain being uncomfortable will mean that the people doing the count will miss the unsheltered homeless people who are still out and will not be counted. That’s just the way it is.

Now on to a slightly different topic.

Over this past year I have noticed an increase in the number of camps. For example, in the area where my camp once was there has been 1000% increase in the number of people. From 2 or 3 people to over 30. Other areas that I see or visit are showing similar increases. Now some of this is because other camps have been closed down and those people just moved, but overall I do see an increase in the unsheltered homeless population.

With the three major homeless shelters running at or near capacity, living in a tent encampment is probably the only realistic option for many people. Also the shelter rules, crowding and just plain discomfort with living in a shelter makes a camp look pretty good.

In the past I’ve mentioned micro or tiny home communities for homeless people as one option to get folks into housing and to help the overcrowding situation in the shelters. The other day I ran into another option a major city is looking to implement in order to assist the homeless people “right now”. What they are proposing is to establish 3 camp areas with appropriate services, such as those found in any basic campground that will accommodate up to 100 camps in each area. The catch is that each area must be managed by a church group or other responsible sponsor and certain rules of behavior will have to be maintained by the residents.

I like this option. Not only will it help the overcrowding in the shelters if done correctly, setting up legal encampments with appropriate services will go a long way to ease the problem of illegal camps and the mess that tends to accompany them.

With the amount of wooded or open land within the Ft Worth city limits, setting up several managed encampments would be fairly easy, relatively cheap especially when you consider the money spent by the city doing illegal camp clean up and finally much safer in terms of health and physical security for the residents.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Giving



Well here it is the holiday season once again. I can with authority tell you that things are exciting on Lancaster Ave and around the homeless district. This weekend has seen large numbers of people and groups come into the area to distribute presents and other goodies to the homeless folks in the area. Food, clothing, winter coats, hats, socks, hygiene supplies and all sorts of other items are being distributed. Even a secret Santa turned up with envelopes of cash for some.

With that being said, this is only one time of year where giving abounds and in all honesty, homelessness is a year round condition. Yes it feels good to receive things, especially needed things, during this time of year.

The problem is that with the end of the holiday season, so ends the giving many of you do as well. Why not instead of doing a once a year feel good exercise establish a pattern of giving to the homeless year round.

Talk to your neighbors, to your church or set up your own group of people and do a “drive” a few times a year. Money is good too. Instead of going to the homeless district, contact the shelters and outreach organizations to distribute the items and money for you. They will do it fairly and make the best use of your donations.

Everybody knows about the shelters and truthfully they have the largest need because they serve the bulk of the homeless population. The ones that are forgotten or fall through the cracks are the homeless people who do not stay in the shelters. The campers or the ones who live in abandoned buildings, in their cars and under bridges. In many ways these are the people most in need of your assistance. I too was one of these people and more often than not I fell through the cracks of the system too.

Getting things to those unsheltered people is simple too. There are organizations who are more than happy to take your contributions and make sure they are distributed fairly and evenly as well.

One organization of note who works with the unsheltered homeless is the Catholic Charities Street Outreach team or SOS team. They make contact with many of the unsheltered homeless by going into the camps and other places where those who do not go to the shelters live.

Another outreach team is The Tarrant County Hands of Hope. This is another group who work with the unsheltered homeless mostly in north Ft Worth and the northern suburbs. They too go into the camps and under bridges to help those they find.

1st Street Methodist Mission is another example of an organization who works with those who are unsheltered. While they serve all homeless people, many of the unsheltered use their services. Not only that but Catholic Charities SOS, the MHMR PATH team and the JPS Hospital outreach teams are present on the days 1st Street is open to the homeless.

Beautiful Feet Ministries is also a good place to send items or donations for the unsheltered homeless. This organization is open 7 days a week providing meals and other needed supplies to those who live in the area. They also have a free medical clinic and other services.

There are many other organizations around and the ones I spoke of are only a few that I personally am familiar with from my homeless years living in a camp. By donating to them on a year round basis you can be assured that your donations are fairly and equally given to those who most need our love and caring.

If you wish to make donations to any of these organizations or wish to know more about them, feel free to contact me at homelessinftw@live.com or leave a comment here on the blog with a way for me to contact you or forward the information to you.



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.
\
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.