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"WHAT? Phoenix has NO veterans who are homeless?"

Phoenix last month was credited as the first city to end chronic homelessness among military veterans, part of a nationwide push.
Skip to the end for that story, or just go Google -- 's why I quoted that.

And now the beginning I wrote before I happened upon today's happy-tearsiest story:

Probably five minutes before I clicked to publish yesterday's diary, I saw more articles about "the homeless," that homogeneous mass we all know and too many people ignore.

Coincidentally, around this time of year, groups all over the country count how many people in their areas are homeless so money can be either appropriated or fought for on behalf of people whose address is a park bench or a shelter.

I didn't know that event was looming when I wrote Cold. I just ... you see so many pictures from warm showing cold, and what about the people who can't get to the warm and don't have a camera to display the cold?

Today and for the next week or so -- the event has different names in different places, and the counts all seem to be taking place around now -- we will find out roughly how many people in America are homeless, according to the best efforts of the tens of thousands of volunteers who count them.

Ever see a company brag about how much money it pays its employees? No, not a government agency saying a job pays between seventy-five thousand and ninety-three thousand dollars. A company bragging about pay below the senior executive level -- even bragging about how much its custodial workers make.

Aside from CEOs, financial analysts and celebrities, nobody talks about how much people get paid. Nobody brags about it publicly.

Companies will hire for whatever position that requires two to five years of experience and a degree in whatever talk about their robust benefits, including gym membership and free underground parking and a 401(K) and bagels and fruit and all. But you have to get to the interview or offer stage to find out how much the job pays. It's even funnier when companies require a salary history and compensation requirement to be so much as considered -- "we're not going to tell you what this job pays, but we'd really like to know how much we can get away with not paying you."

So sites like exist for people to anonymously tell the public what they make so you can do the work and find out if the company with an opening in your area will pay worth a damn or if you should just not even bother writing the introduction letter.

About fifty years ago, the situation was similar in one field, whose employers' management discouraged discussion of compensation and even lied to employees about what their better-performing co-workers were earning to dissuade them from trying to command more money.

The situation was actually worse than that -- getting a similar job in the field, but for a different employer, was difficult and sometimes impossible, if memory serves -- but the point is that this discouraged communication fostered extremely low worker wages. Once things opened up, workers' pay increased significantly, to the point where this employee recently --

And now you mouse over the URL and discover I'm talking about Major League Baseball, home of the old Reserve Clause, which Curt Flood fought.

Now, imagine the National Teacher of the Year signing a contract and imagine it being on the news. Imagine a research scientist at Eli Lilly making the news with a contract signing.

Imagine a librarian at Yale bragging about how much she was making.

Imagine a Yale library cleaner bragging about how much he was making.

For that to happen, companies would have to bid for employees. I understand the economics of why that won't happen -- we don't have a worker shortage -- but imagine that ethos in just one company.

It would spread. Other area companies would brag about not the perks -- $30 toward a gym membership is great, but give me that $30 and let me use it for what I need (and I realize I just supported a libertarian argument) -- but the wages.

A company that did that could pick from a far larger pool of willing, eager employees. And it could change the way we think about employment.

Companies could go further by bragging about not just how much they paid their workers but how much they had improved their communities.

"We repaired the run-down Robinson Middle School." That's a hell of a reason to join a company.

"We have a satellite location in Ghana and employees there make twice the daily rate." Sign me the fuck up for an interview.

"We employ the people in this area who used to be homeless."

The PR alone boggles the mind. And of course, companies do things like this. Grocery stores give away lots of product for the tax writeoff. One former employer publishes deceased veterans' obituaries for free if they can't pay.

But imagine a company being partly responsible for keeping everyone warm, clothed and fed. People would buy stuff they didn't even need just to support that effort.

Before I started giving food to food banks, we had more food than we needed, but we were saving it up because we were still paying down some nontrivial debt -- roughly five thousand dollars in medical and moving expenses. So when we got something for eighty percent off, we kept it because we would be eating it.

After about four months of that, ... we had a sizable amount of food. Our couponing could back then have supported two families.

One day, as I was walking into a grocery store for what I call corporate raiding -- I walked in with coupons and walked out having used some of the coupons and spent about eight cents on roughly twelve dollars worth of groceries -- I saw a man walk up to the store, far from any doorway, and just stand there. I figured him for homeless and resolved to give him food when I got back out.

He was gone.

That night, I put an assortment of food in my car that could be eaten without a can opener or a pot of water or whatever. Just open and eat. For weeks, nobody gave me the chance to give the food away.

Then, one afternoon in call it October, I was getting gas and a woman who looked homeless walked up to me and asked if I had money.

I did not. (I did, but not for her.)

"But I have food," I offered as she walked past. I opened my trunk to reveal jelly, canned vegetables, canned pineapple, a box of crackers, oatmeal, a can of spaghetti and meatballs and canned chunky soup.

She surveyed the free food.

"Do you eat this stuff?" she asked me.

Why no, I didn't say, I bought these individual canned items in case I came upon a homeless person at a gas station.

"Sure do," I said, trying to help her understand I was not trying to drug and kidnap her.

"I guess I'll take the soup," she said, plucking it and going on her way.

When I related this story to some friends and relatives that day, they suggested that her decision-making skills were perhaps not optimal, given the situation. Maybe she was mentally ill or just didn't trust strangers with food in their car trunks.

One of those relatives put me in touch with a local food bank. I don't really like discussing how much I've donated because I don't want to seem like I'm bragging, but I know what I do well that can help people who are poor, so I don't give charities money. I give them product.

The problem is not just money. It's everything leading up to the part where the money isn't enough.

It's the undiagnosed, poorly treated and barely medicated mental illness that makes a person who is homeless unreliable.

It's the physical disability that insurance doesn't cover, leading to bills on top of bills, and finally the last person says no, and the person becomes homeless.

It's the socially promoted woman -- and she was my student when I was a tutor in college -- who can't add negative numbers yet somehow has to pay her dead husband's cancer bills. She was narrowly homeful.

Nobody wakes up one morning and goes oops, can't pay rent for some strange reason. The less money you have, the more you know how much you don't have. We never budgeted harder than when we were living on unemployment and half a salary.

It's preventive social care. Part of it was addressed by the Affordable Care Act. Part of it is being addressed by the VA, but good luck getting a claim there through within a year, and meanwhile, have fun paying for whatever.

Part of it is overwhelming the people who take underpaid positions because they want to help. They see a burning house -- a situation that requires intervention beyond their training and means -- and they can't do what they want to do, which is what we want to do, which is to right the situation.

Righting the situation, helping people who are homeless get back on their feet -- or as close as practical, because some people who are homeless can't care for themselves -- takes a lot of work. Advocacy, fundraising, donations, volunteering in shelters and coordinating relief efforts.

And it takes the brutal, impossibly rewarding, naked-truth work of going out into the cold to count, as two Kossacks are doing.

How you help is your decision. Play to your strengths. Play to your passion. People who are homeless come from piles of backgrounds, whether queer youth or single parents or elderly people or people with pets or veterans.

Phoenix has no homeless veterans, thanks in part to the stimulus:

Q: How did you address it?

A: I know the stimulus program was much debated and criticized, but the ability to have housing was in part caused by the fact that HUD and the VA allowed for additional vouchers because of the stimulus -- housing vouchers that allowed cities like Phoenix to have the amount of housing necessary to get the veterans immediately into a housing situation.

This is where this diary ends. Read that article. Forward it to your elected officials. Let's help every American who is homeless get warm, safe and a place of their own.

Originally posted to iampunha on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 05:21 PM PST.

Also republished by Kossacks for the Homeless Person and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  For one view of the difference housing (21+ / 0-)

    the homeless can make, check out my friend Gus. Gus has a long, sad story but thanks to the HUD/VASH housing program he's indoors and is putting a life together one piece at a time.

    War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

    by DaNang65 on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 05:51:32 PM PST

  •  Excellent work! Our condo complex (13+ / 0-)

    here in Santa Fe apparently has two vets who were formerly homeless living in it.   Think this part of the President's initiatives but not sure.

    Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

    by divineorder on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 06:41:09 PM PST

  •  I live in Lubbock; in Abilene, (14+ / 0-)

    where there is a fairly substantial non-tent-city-resident  homeless population, a giant building is empty (I expect it'll go to public auction or like some of its predecessors get turned into a city/county facility site). For at least two years, it's been "for lease / for sale" with no takers.
    It's not in a rough part of town. It's in a residential zone.

    Why can't we put some of our unemployed / underemployed folks to work converting vacant buildings into SRO housing, for those who need it?

    We could spend the same dollar and meet two needs ...

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 07:09:34 PM PST

  •  FYI: Homelessness and brain injury (11+ / 0-)
    What’s this got to do with homelessness? Just this: the VA’s first large-scale study of homeless veterans, released in 2012, found that over half of the newly homeless diagnosed with mental disorders had received that diagnosis before homelessness. The VA’s Inspector General (IG) said, “Presence of mental disorders (substance-related disorders and/or mental illness) is the strongest predictor of becoming homeless after discharge from active duty.”

    That’s from the horse’s mouth. Strongest predictor. It gets worse. Here’s the IG later in the same report: “…about half of the newly homeless occurred after 3 years discharged from active duty.” So what we’re looking at is vets returning home, trying to transition back into civilian life—jobs, school, families—while they’re dealing with the effects of PTSD and/or TBI. Say they give it three years. And then, for many, the wheels come off.

    It looks to me like homelessness is the last stop on this PTSD/TBI train ride, not the first...

    Read more here: Why Are So Many Veterans Homeless?

    Also see:

    Traumatic Brain Injury Among Homeless Persons

    Identifying Brain Injury in State Juvenile Justice, Corrections, and Homeless Populations

  •  Compassion in action! (5+ / 0-)

    America's LAST HOPE: vote the GOP OUT in 2014 elections. MAKE them LOSE the House Majority and reduce their numbers in the Senate. Democrats move America forward - Republicans take us backward and are KILLING OUR NATION!

    by dagnome on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 11:19:53 PM PST

  •  Yipeeee! (6+ / 0-)

    As a person born in Phx. I've been aware of the migrant and migrant homeless population for years.  They tried all the Repug things like making sitting illegal, tents illegal, busing them out of town etc.  Not a lot to be proud of.  Currently my 86 yr old mother and 33 year old niece are helping co-ordinate services and housing on the West side of town.  They will be thrilled that someone actually paid attention to the fact that, at the height of the Recession when foreclosure flight was rampant in PHX, there were FOURTEEN empty houses for every single man, woman and child who were homeless in the area!  I hope some of them are living in the busted and abandoned development they put in the fields behind my mom in 2008.

    ~Arianna_Editrix-- I willingly accept Cassandra’s fate, To speak the truth, altho’ believ’d too late

    by Arianna Editrix on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 12:02:28 AM PST

  •  Utah had a policy a few years back (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sturunner, 2dot

    No homeless anybody.  Get them all free housing and the rest will follow.  My understanding (from NPR) is that it was approximately 74% effective.

    When the United States becomes a low wage country, only bobbleheads shall go forth from American soil.

    by amyzex on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 11:42:43 AM PST

  •  About today's street count in Tucson (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    iampunha, FarWestGirl

    Newspaper story here. The teevee coverage has aired, but isn't on the website yet.

    I didn't mention that the team I worked with today included the Mayor (plus two police guards), a teevee crew, and a newspaper reporter and photographer. We were supposed to keep it on the down low.

    I'm in the denim in the pic with the dog. The story speaks for itself.

    War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

    by DaNang65 on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 07:20:02 PM PST

    •  Thank you. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaNang65, FarWestGirl

      In another city and another year, you might have counted one of my uncles. He disappeared in 1979, and we thought he was dead for more than a decade. A family friend found him panhandling in Baltimore in 1994.

      He got help, got off the street. A friend helped him take better care of himself. He had insurance through DoD.

      He died in a hospital of lung cancer about two months ago.

      Warm :)

      "Homeless veteran" should be an oxymoron.
      "Please know that I accept you and yours with no need for explanation of [any] kind." -Translator

      by iampunha on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 07:41:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Every one of these folks is somebody's uncle, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        or aunt, father or mother, son or daughter. Fortunately there's only so much breaking a heart can do hearing their stories.

        We were privileged today to have the Mayor personally completing the four page interview with several of the homeless. He didn't treat this as a photo op, but stayed out there interviewing with us until we'd completed that entire camp area.

        He's been talking up the drive to end homelessness at public events for some time now, albeit in the dry, numbers driven language of a city official. He's got skin in the game now, real faces attached to real stories, with the stench of squalor strong in his nostrils.

        I watched the man as he interacted with the least of our citizens. Today's experience will stay with him.

        War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

        by DaNang65 on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 08:07:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Tell him about how Phoenix did it. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DaNang65, FarWestGirl

          If he sees a path to success, he can talk to the people who did it and find out what the reporter didn't know to ask, etc.

          "Homeless veteran" should be an oxymoron.
          "Please know that I accept you and yours with no need for explanation of [any] kind." -Translator

          by iampunha on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 08:52:32 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I hate to do this, especially after just reading (0+ / 0-)

            your beautiful tribute to your father, but Phoenix didn't really end veterans homelessness. What they did was draw an incredibly tight set of definitions around data a couple of years old, and ended that.

            I know, I'm only two hours down the road. I Co-Chair volunteers for the Tucson StandDown, the whole purpose of which is to bring homeless veterans "in". I work a couple of hours a day on our next one, 28 Feb, 1,2 Mar (military calendar).

            To their great credit the Mayor of Phoenix secured a very large sum of money and dedicated it to the task. They did a whole lot of good.

            There's a lot of veterans sleeping on the streets of Phoenix tonight.  This is daunting work.

            War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

            by DaNang65 on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 09:13:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I had a bad feeling (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              the "chronically homeless" part was a legal definition that was more definition and less help.

              No worries in re: latest diary. Doing a proper job means acknowledging when the job isn't done yet. And progress is good, but not done means what it looks like.

              "Homeless veteran" should be an oxymoron.
              "Please know that I accept you and yours with no need for explanation of [any] kind." -Translator

              by iampunha on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 09:41:02 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Bingo! (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Chronic homelessness is defined by statute and regulation, the operative definition being

                Under the Department of Housing and Urban Development's definition, a chronically homeless individual is someone who has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or who has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years and has a disability. A family with an adult member who meets this description would also be considered chronically homeless. (source)
                That's after you get past the definition of what is a veteran. There's an excellent 18 page treatment of that subject by a Congressional study group that unfortunately I've lost the citation to. Suffice to say that for purposes of VA eligibility, and therefore almost any "homeless veteran" program it all begins with at least a General discharge under honorable conditions and at least 181 continuous days of active duty.

                The National Guard, which has put in yeoman service in the most recent wars, notoriously husbands that 181 continuous days barrier.

                The single exception I know of is the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program which is open to anyone with better than a Dishonorable Discharge, which can only result from conviction by a General Court Martial (the highest of three grades of courts martial, reserved for the most grievous offenses). SSVF is administered not by the VA but by grants to local agencies such as behavioral health or the Red Cross.

                What's most problematic about these narrow definitions, particularly in the case of younger, newer, veterans returned from Afghanistan or Iraq is that the very ones most at risk for homelessness, those with behavioral problems resulting from PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and/or, usually and, substance abuse issues, manifested themselves while still in uniform and resulted in less than honorable discharges, what is commonly known as "bad paper."

                These veterans are usually ineligible for any VA services unless and until they prove a service connection or get their discharges upgraded, a cumbersome process at best.

                War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

                by DaNang65 on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 11:07:32 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I found a definition (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  that's functionally six pages and change. Maybe it will jog your memory of the location of the 18-pager.


                  This is sobering.

                  We have so much more work to do.

                  "Homeless veteran" should be an oxymoron.
                  "Please know that I accept you and yours with no need for explanation of [any] kind." -Translator

                  by iampunha on Fri Jan 24, 2014 at 11:49:21 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  "We have so much more work to do." (0+ / 0-)

                    Thank you, my point in a nutshell. Just last night I attended the regular Friday night peer group for homeless and at risk veterans. I'm a regular, unofficial facilitator there and everyone had already seen the local tv news show on the street count and knew of my involvement.

                    As is usual, we began by introducing ourselves and, for this week, were to state something we looked forward to. All I could think to say was "I look forward to the day we go out for a street count and can't find any homeless."

                    I should live so long.

                    War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

                    by DaNang65 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 07:47:25 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

  •  CostCo. (0+ / 0-)


    Ever see a company brag about how much money it pays its employees? No, not a government agency saying a job pays between seventy-five thousand and ninety-three thousand dollars. A company bragging about pay below the senior executive level -- even bragging about how much its custodial workers make.

    Aside from CEOs, financial analysts and celebrities, nobody talks about how much people get paid. Nobody brags about it publicly.


    As utterly profit-addicted as Wal-Mart/Sam's Club is, CostCo is not.


    Since people are not ashamed to work there, CostCo also does well competitively. Stock price has more than doubled over the last 5 years. Up 120+%.

    (Walmart has gone up 50%.)

    "I hesitate to agree with Ted Nugent...."

    by waterstreet2013 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 02:18:29 PM PST

    •  I've known about CostCo. :) (0+ / 0-)

      It's the exception. My friends keep sharing photos of the CEO that talk about how much money employees there make. It's lovely.

      I would love to shop there, but coupons don't mesh well with that store.

      "Homeless veteran" should be an oxymoron.
      "Please know that I accept you and yours with no need for explanation of [any] kind." -Translator

      by iampunha on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 03:15:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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