Friday, August 31, 2012

Labor Day, Politics and Other Trivia

I've been concentrating this week on my Project Five-Star Blog, but I wanted to say a few words on everything that's happened over the last few days and will happen in the next few.

For the most part, I have been staying at the Healing Place of Wake County, as part of their emergency 'overnight' guests. The way it works is that those that want to stay there wait outside the SWSC at around 4pm, when a van comes to pick them up. I've seen upwards of 30 people waiting for that van, which I've seen hold up to 15 people. Two trips. And when I say the van holds up to 15 people, that's in the back. Imagine cramming that many people in the back of a van. I don't have to imagine, I've lived through it. And lived through the smell of that many people crammed together. Thankfully the trip only lasts 7-8 minutes tops.

Once we're there, we stand in line to check in, hand over our bags/backpacks to be thoroughly searched, and then hand over our ID's so that we can get a mattress with sheets and a blanket tucked inside the mattress. Then we have to find a bare spot on the floor to plunk down our mattress.

The best part of the visit comes at dinner, which is markedly better than at SWSC. I've seen half a chicken being served, though not all the time. They have a salad bar, and actual chairs as opposed to the benches at SWSC.

Sadly, the worst part of the visit for me is the floor. At SWSC the floor has a little 'give'. At the Healing Place, it's literally hard as a rock. Every time I've stayed there I wake up around 3am and my ribs hurt so bad I can't get back to sleep. It's that hard. Other than that, I'd love to stay there until I get into the program at SWSC.

Speaking of which, there are still more than a hundred names on the list to get into the program, and I'm far down that list. I go to the meetings every Monday, even though I risk not getting a bed that night. Even with a hundred names on the list, not everyone shows up for the meeting, for several reasons: First, if your name is low on the list, you probably won't get in unless you've never been in the program before. New guys get priority. Second, each person getting into the program is tested for drugs and alcohol. This has never been a problem for me, but it seems quite a few guys still have issues with it.

Management allows them to stay on the list while they get themselves clean, but that means that though over a hundred names are on the list, maybe 25 show up, and this is why I show up too, because that increases my chances.

So I will continue to risk not having a bed so I can get a 'permanent' bed at SWSC.

Labor Day is coming and that means picnics, barbecues and having fun for the average person. For the homeless, it means temptation, it means the libraries are closed and it means the buses won't run. Heaven help you if you have to work on Labor Day. But SWSC is not uncaring in this regard. The shelter will be open during the day, as it is Saturdays and Sundays, and homeless men will pour in. I will be one of them, taking advantage of their recently added wifi. Tuesday it goes back to normal and most people will be kicked out during the day.

On a final note, the Republican National Convention met this week, despite the threat of a hurricane. My only thoughts on the subject are: Who the hell invited Clint Eastwood? The man's getting a bit too senile of you ask me.

On their platform, I will say this: Romney seemed more concerned with how President Obama is affecting Romney and his family than how he is affecting others. He cares first about Romney, then his family, then his fellow rich people, and everyone else will be left behind if Romney takes office. Please don't let this happen. I can only hope that I can get Project Five-Star up and running before that happens. Because I know I won't get any help from the people who 'Built This.'

Yesterday I picked up an application for Reduced Bus Fare on the CAT system. It seems that being homeless is considered being temporarily disabled when it comes to bus fare. I will be taking advantage of this. I just wish being homeless was a disability for SSI, but then, everyone would want it. *Sigh*

I've been looking at all my options this week. I've been applying for jobs and not hearing from any of them. I've been thinking about my writing, but not much else. I've been putting some effort into Project Five-Star but that is so much work and right now there is little gain in it.

The bottom line is I need to concentrate on the things that will get me out of this situation, and after weighing my options, I plan to dive head first into my writing this weekend. And then once that's done I'll dive head first into promoting it. Because writing doesn't sell itself. And that's the really sad part.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Can Walk, But...

Here is yet another health update.

Since I had to turn in my rental car on July 20, 2012, I have been carrying my belongings in a backpack, and for a while some extra clothes in a big black garbage bag. The bag has since bit the dust as it became too unwieldy to walk around with.

I had a bus pass for the first 31 days after dropping off the car, so my walk time was minimal. Then the bus pass expired. And I had to walk everywhere, carrying the backpack. Now you know why I got rid of the bag.

The backpack weighs, at the present time, around 50 pounds. It has my computer, my camera, the charging equipment for both and one full change of clothes and several extra pairs of underwear and socks.

I found, over the last few days, that my knee can pretty much hold up under the weight, but not without some discomfort and pain. The shoulder is much the same way.

I can walk pretty normal, but with a limp. The knee, when I first get up after an extended time sitting, is stiff and the limp is more pronounced. But it is the feeling of the knee that concerns me, because whether it's stiff or not, it always feels like it could buckle on me at any time.

This is especially freaking if I'm stepping down from a bus or van and the step is a large one. I have been known to stumble forward a little when landing on the right leg. I can't step down on my left leg, because the right knee feels even stranger when I try to bend it more than about halfway. It's like a pressure on my knee, when I walk on it, when I stand on it, and when I step down on it. It's extremely uncomfortable, and I'm worried that one of these days I'm going to go head-over-heels because I can't properly balance myself.

And when that happens the results could be catastrophic. Thankfully I try to be as slow and careful as I can when stepping down, even ticking some people off, but it's my health, not your time that I'm worried about. Stuff it.

The shoulder only hurts when I move it certain ways, and like the old joke, I don't do that. I test it every once in a while, but it really hasn't improved much in the last two months.

This week I plan to look into Vocational Rehab. We'll see what they can do for me. Other than that I will continue to look for the kinds of jobs I can do (desk jobs), to write when I can and have the muse, and to work on raising funds for Project Five-Star. One of these things has to pay off!

Edit: I've been asked why I don't use a cane. Two reasons: First, the cost is beyond my means, second, I would have to hold it in my right hand. One of the things I neglected to mention was that I've had issues with my hands cramping up when I hold something heavy for more than a few seconds. That had as much to do with dumping my bag of clothes as anything else. I'd be really worried that I'd drop  the cane or worse, need to lean on it for support and my hand/arm gives away. So no cane for now. But thanks for asking!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Reality of Being Homeless

I've chronicled my problems with homelessness off and on on this blog. I've suggested ideas for helping that situation based on my own experiences. I call it Project Five-Star. I even wrote a book on it. I've sold a few, and given away hundreds, yet the message doesn't get passed on somehow.

I searched for ways to raise money and found Go Fund Me. I advertised that link on Twitter, Facebook and G+. I have not received any donations yet, though my updates on that site clearly state what I want to accomplish with the first $100,000.

Perhaps people are wary of my spending habits. So sue me for wanting to better myself and start my own business. And by the way, Mike's News Hangout is slowing making money. But it's like 50 cents a day, instead of the $50 a day I need to continue working. I have no doubt that it will eventually grow, but for now, I'll take what I can get.

But Project Five-Star not only helps me, it helps others, stuck in the cycle. I had a conversation with a couple of them while waiting for space in the shelter tonight. None of us got in. One man gets into the program and winds up getting kicked out on a regular basis. He has no qualms about it. He doesn't want to be in the program, but it's the only way to get a bed every night. This man suffered a stroke some time ago and speaks slowly, but clearly. He's been homeless 10 years, and the other man commented: "But don't they know that? Why are you in the streets still?"

The simple truth is no one wants to help the chronically homeless and/or addicted, because it's throwing money away.

Tonight I sit on a bench in Downtown Raleigh, afraid to sleep because I'll either be robbed or shaken awake by a cop. The deputy at SWSC tossed us off the property when it became apparent there were no more beds. I don't blame them, they are just doing a job.

So what can YOU do about this problem?

That's right - YOU! I've done my best to explain what goes on in a shelter. I've provided a means to help. So why aren't you helping? What must I do to get you to donate to Project Five-Star?

The riots that have sparked revolutions all over the Middle East were touched off by a man burning himself to death. I don't want to go to that extreme to bring attention to the problem of homeless people all over our country. But why does it take such a violent act, and groups like Occupy Wall Street to get the attention of people?

The simple truth is no act should be necessary. I was riding the R-Line this afternoon, where a small TV played an even smaller picture of 'Let's Make a Deal' when I saw an ad on that TV that said 'If a panhandler gets aggressive, call 911.' Or something to that affect. If was sponsored by a group at The group suggests instead of giving your money to panhandlers, you give it to the Raleigh Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army and other non-profit organizations.

I do not normally like panhandlers. I'm trying hard not to be one, but being hungry and tired from a day's walk can drive a man to extremes. Salvation Army does not have a men's shelter. I have never been to the Raleigh Rescue Mission, because I prefer my shelters to be non-religious. I had my fill of the Rescue Mission in Roanoke, and I've described that elsewhere. (Shudders)

But getting back to the panhandlers, The community wants to take the money out of the hands of panhandlers, and put it in the hands of shelters. I don't necessarily agree with that, but if you're going to donate, donate to an organization that will attempt actual Real Change: Project Five-Star.

I've seen a few people leave the shelter and not come back. A good friend of mine left last Fall and I haven't seen him since. That's a good thing. Yet I've also seen a lot of people who were at the shelter when I left the last time, and are still there now. Some are looking for permanent homes. Some are looking for jobs. Some are there for the free bed and food. I'd have to say most of them are like that.

I was going to write a piece on the revolving door of the shelter, but that's not fair. A few people are churned out each week so a new batch can get in (mostly the same people), but most of them are there, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. The last time I was in the program I was there over a year, looking for a job every day until my accident.

Project Five Star is designed to be a short-term way of providing training to those that are homeless. Yes, I'd like to provide them with shelter and a little money while they train. I know the realities of getting enough money for that, which is why I put in the ability for us to raise our own money through providing services that will give the participants real world experience, and money they can save for permanent housing once they find that permanent job.

Short-term. SWSC is trying to do something too, but I have my doubts about whether it's truly the short-term they want.

So do you want your money to go to someplace that provides a bed and dinner and nothing else, or to a county-sponsored shelter that's trying to do the right thing but is leaving men out every night?

Or do you want to give to something that eventually will provide both?

You decide. And please decide now. Winter is coming!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"...and all it cost was the life of one minor character."

Back when I had money, I invested $75 in's Prime feature, which among other things lets me stream live video from a variety of sources, including movies and TV shows.

Being a would-be screenwriter, I am always looking for ways to improve my scripts, so I have been watching various TV shows over the last few months. In the last few weeks I have rediscovered 'The West Wing,' a show about a fictional President of the United States, Jeb Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen.

I have watched the season in order, so as not to break continuity, and I reached the end of season 2 just yesterday.

Before I continue, a bit of background on the series might be useful. President Bartlett has MS, but has hidden it from the public. Up until the second to last show of season 2, only 16 other people knew about his condition, including his doctor wife, who had been treating him. He had made a deal with her that he would only serve one term as president.

Now, as we come to the end of season two, his secret is about to come out, and he faces a choice of whether to run again and face the ire of not only his wife, but likely the Republicans and his own party. Not to mention the fact that he or his wife could face perjury charges because of mistakes made along the way, and impeachment too.

Into all this drama, we have a hostage situation in a foreign country. It is an extremely tense time and the drama is palpable.

Then, at the end of the second to last episode, the president's secretary, Mrs. Lanningham, is killed by a drunk driver.

My first thoughts on hearing that was 'WTF?' What on earth would make writers kill off a sweet old lady like that just as the drama of everything else was reaching a climax? I mean, really?!

As a writer I couldn't see the point of killing off a character like that. So it was with a degree of indignation that I watched the next episode, 'Two Cathedrals.' By the end of that episode, hell, even a quarter of the way through it, I was in tears. It takes a lot to make me cry.

We see Jeb at Mrs. Lanningham's funeral, and after it's over, he asks for some time alone in the cathedral, where he blames God and his lying about MS for her death and for everything else that has gone wrong. Then he tells God he can have the Vice President as the next candidate and leaves.

A tropical storm is now showering rain, lightning and thunder on the Capitol. President Bartlett asks one of his aides if this was unusual for May, and was told it had never happened before. He adds this to his list of things he blames God for, and when he is left alone in the Oval Office, the windows fly open suddenly and it storms and rains. He calls for Mrs. Lanningham out of habit and there she is.

She chastises him for blaming God for her death and tells him if he wants to blame anyone but himself for his problems, and the choice he has to make, then she doesn't want to know him. Then she's gone and the president is soaked.

He now goes before a press conference to discuss his disease and of course, the first question asked is 'are you going to run again?' He pauses, asks to repeat the question and then puts his hands in his pocket, having made up his mind, and then the camera fades.

Now, as I said, through most of this episode I was in tears, and since I was in the library at the time, I must have looked and sounded strange, but I couldn't help myself.

That was the single best episode of any program that I have ever seen, and all it cost was the life of a minor character.

I have to wonder, in whatever writing I do in the future, could I do that? Could I kill off someone small and unimportant to set up the best writing I could do?

I just don't know.