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 promoterealchange.com. 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!