Child Support Debt Creates Obstacles to Stability

By Brian Davis

     “It sure does not pay to go back to work for some of the men in the shelter who have these huge child support debts,” one homeless shelter director said. Michael Gibbs who pays child support was not sure that the motive of the local child support agency was to help children as much just to collect funds.

     Mary Denihan, Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Public Information officer, said “We are always looking at the best interest of the child. The child needs to eat and needs to have a roof over their head.” She said they work with the parent who has custody of the child and those without custody who pays the support, but their primary concern is for the health and welfare of the children. Her agency has a huge concern for homeless people, and characterized the problems associated with homeless people and child support as “overwhelming and almost insurmountable.”

     For the last 20 years, child support enforcement activities have become a vital part of the welfare system in the United States. To offset the huge costs the states and federal government spends on Aid to Dependent Children (now Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), states have received broad powers to enforce support orders. The biggest change took place in 1998 in Ohio, when mandatory paternity was established and enforcement was expanded. The 1998 law allowed state licenses (medical, law, and social work licenses) to be held until the individual comes into compliance with a support order. They can put liens on property and seize property.

     Denihan said that they would do more seizures if they had space to keep cars, boats and other items. The County can even collect on the debt from a person’s estate after their death.

     Some of the problems associated with homeless people in the child support system include a lack of address, which makes it difficult to collect from non-custodial parents and pay the custodial parents. Denihan said that the key is that homeless people come in and work with CSEA so that they do not develop this huge debt. Those homeless who do not have an income still must pay a minimum of $50 per month. Denihan urged homeless service providers especially those who work with men to send their clients into the CSEA office if they work with men who are non-custodial parents.

     For women with children who happen to be homeless and receive child support, the agency has a hard time issuing a check to people without an address. In the past CSEA could cut a check while a mother waited. The state has taken over the role of sending out checks, which makes it more difficult for the local agency to work with homeless families. Also, if a parent receives cash assistance from Human Services that amount is subtracted from their support check. So if a woman receives $250 in welfare and her former spouse pays $200 for child support, the mother gets $196 from the CSEA office and $54 from the welfare department.

     Gibbs said that it was positive to go after dead beat dads, but he feels the system really hurts those trying to live up to their obligations. He has seen a high turnover among caseworkers, and he says, “everyone seems to pass the buck.” He definitely saw a lot of people who felt that it was not worth working while he was homeless. Gibbs feels that there should be a mediated settlement over what the child needs instead of a formula allocation ordered from an outside entity. “I think fathers would be more willing to comply if they had more say in the process,” Gibbs said.

     Recently, Gibbs got a second job to help pay his support requirements, and CSEA sent notification to his employer that he must pay the same amount he was paying with his full time job. This meant that he got a second job to pick up extra cash, and was told he had to double his payments to CSEA. Denihan said that this had to be an error in the system, and said he should contact his worker to adjust the order. Denihan guaranteed help to those who keep their workers informed about their status.

     Denihan acknowledged that the Child Support Enforcement Agency is not forgiving of mistakes, and has become more successful at collecting from those attempting to dodge their obligations. They recently introduced a wanted poster for those with the most debt to the child support, which has led to more exposure of the what the county is calling “dead beat parents.” Denihan said that her agency has one of the better staff retention rates in the County.

     The County is working with the Urban League to help with employment barriers for non-custodial parents. They try to help homeless people with referrals to job centers, but do not have much they can offer those without a job or a house. Any derivation of the formula developed by CSEA has to come from a court. They will help men establish paternity if there is a question, and they attempt to protect the parents from being exploited by an angry spouse. “It is no longer acceptable to financially abandon your family,” according to Denihan.

     A homeless person has huge barriers to overcome with regard to housing, finding a job, and rebuilding a credit history, but one of the often overlooked obstacles is getting back into compliance with their child support. They often need social workers and or legal assistance to navigate through this complicated system. One of the goals of Denihan and the workers at CSEA is to adjust the maxim "the only thing sure in life is death and taxes" to include child support.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #43, July-August 2000

 

 

Cleveland Athletes Give Proceeds to NEOCH

By Kelly Burd

           For Local Ultimate Frisbee players and NEOCH, June 17 and 18 marked the merging on a favorite sport and an important cause.  After travelling across the nation for years to play in Ultimate tournaments, the athletes decided it was time to host a tournament locally.  They named it No Surf in Cleveland after a popular song from the 1970’s and decided to invest the events to a worthwhile organization.  Ultimate players Damon Taylor suggested they give their profits to NEOCH, where he had worked in 1996-97 as a VISTA staff member.

             Ultimate is a two-team sport played on a field with end zones.  The disc is passed forward among teammates, and unless intercepted by the other team or dropped, scores a point when someone catches it across the end zone.  Although the playing fields were muddy and the weather perpetually wet, spirits were high as players laced up and began their games.  By Sunday, the results were in:  winners were SPPF, a woman’s team from Athens, Ohio, and Heartland, a men’s team with players from various Ohio towns.

             NEOCH staff went to the tournament over the weekend to help set up the event and to provide literature and volunteer forms about our organization.  “Within a week we should know how much we have collected for NEOCH,” says Russ Miller, a No Surf organizer and Ultimate player.  “The tournament and the (following) party were great successes, and we see this event being an annual thrill for Cleveland Ultimate and all our attendees.  And hopefully for NEOCH as well!”

             Author’s note:  Special thanks to those who made the No Surf Possible and have chosen to support NEOCH and its mission:  Marc Anievas, Scott Crabtree, Catherine Goetsch, Ian Hoffman, Frank Kearney, Tom Keller, Susan Peine, Gene Rogers, Beth Salemi, Jim Szpak, Damon Taylor, Tami Thomas, Dave Vislocky, and the participants and supporters of Cleveland Ultimate Frisbee.

 Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #43, July-August 2000

Cuyahoga County Gambling With our Children’s Future

Editorial

By Brian Davis

             In 1997 welfare ended, just as President Clinton promised.  Oho developed one of the more draconian plans in the country.  We adopted a three -year limit instead of a federal five - year rule.  We did not adopt state-mandated exemptions as other states did for those with domestic violence or other barriers.  We did not adopt exemptions so that people in high unemployment areas could collect food stamps.  Ohio adopted a very strict sanctions policy that sanctioned children from their parent’s errors and sanctions food stamps.  We also did not allow a family to receive a check when they came into compliance after sanction.  The family had to serve out their sanction even if they came back into compliance the day after the sanction started.

             Then in Cuyahoga County, we developed a plan that is harmful to our most venerable.  Our County Commissioners refused to see the harm that this legislation is doing to our community.  They do not see the huge amount of money that has left our neighborhoods.  They do not see the instability this legislation has caused in our family’s housing and medical care.  They have silenced opposition to welfare reform by giving out $36 million in funds to non-profits that used to go directly to clients.  Now they are jerking families around with a game of chicken by refusing to acknowledge the need for exemptions for some families.

             All these decisions fly in the face of statistics.  We have not created enough jobs in Ohio or Cuyahoga County to meet the number of people leaving the rolls.  Our urban communities are not seeing the prosperity of other areas of the state.  Those leaving the welfare rolls are not for the most part better off.  Those leaving do not have health insurance, they do not have wages that lift them out of poverty and they face very tenuous housing situations.  Child poverty has increased in every county in Ohio in the 1990s/

             The County is allowed to exempt 20% of the population on welfare for the last month.  The Commissioners are refusing to announce an exemption policy because “they want all families to succeed.”  They feel that if they declare an exemption there will be no incentive for these families to leave cash assistance.  They have until the middle of August to notify the State of which families will be eligible for an exemption.  The state has 7,500 families who will most likely hit their three-year limit in October with Cuyahoga County home to almost haft of those families (3,500). 

             The county has interviewed all 3,500 families over the last two months in an attempt to intervene before the deadline.  They have also picked up the pace in sanctioning families.  If they give a three-month sanction to 1,000 families who were going to reach their limit in October then those families will not reach their lifetime limit until three months late (January).  Other counties have had huge sanctioning programs since 1997, which will mean a greater staggering of those who reach their lifetime limit.

             The tragedy is that the families who have done everything that they were told to do and have lived by all the rules will also face a massive cut in their income in October.  There are a sizable population of the 3,500 who work full time and a majority that work full or part time, but still must collect a check.  These families cannot a job that pays a non-poverty wage, and take a smaller check from the welfare office but depend on that income.  They went to work, lived by all the rules, but their government refused to require their employer pay them a living wage, and is going to turn around and throw them off in October.  This will save the county $50-$100 a month per family, but will have huge societal costs in the future with increased experience in juvenile justice, housing support, child welfare and Medicare.

             These families will hang on for a couple of months by moving in with family members, but will increasing destabilize and disintegrate until the children are taken or they willingly give up custody.  We have already seen a 200% increase in the number of children in the foster care or adoption system in the last three years.  It is going to be a tragic Christmas in Cuyahoga County.  Because the shelter system is already full, they will not show up in the shelters.  The emergency food system will be taxed.  Survival will trump the health care needs of the family.  The schools will be disrupted, and our neighborhoods will see more money disappear that supports businesses.

             We urge the County to use the 20% exemption to exempt those families working and those without stable housing.  We urge the state to at lease debate these issues by allowing a committee hearing on time limits.  We urge the Department of Human Services to deliver to the legislature a report on the impact of welfare reform on poverty in Ohio.  Finally, we urge someone to corner the County Commissioners and force them to look in your eyes and tell you that welfare reform has not hurt children in our County.  If it has, then why are they not recommending secession from the State of Ohio?  We entrusted them to do no harm and they have not kept that oath.

 Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #43, July-August 2000

Homeless Campers in Eugene

By Bridget Reilly

           My camper remained in the Public Works parking lot for sex months.  This was a cherished milestone for me, but it was clearly not meant to be the end of the read for me and John.  He thought of it as merely a way-station, a place he would rest at only too briefly before itching a move on to something better.  It soon became clear that this place wouldn’t be acceptable to him for a very long, as there was too much noise from the train yard across the street as well as the heavy traffic that prevented him from getting proper sleep.  And he was very slow to comprehend why I seemed content to linger here indefinitely.

             I couldn’t picture myself having something even better than this little island of security, after all the years I had fought for it while having much less.  I didn’t know I could hope for more than being a homeless journalist who rarely gets paid for her work; I had been stuck on that plateau for so long.  If there could really be any thing better for me than that, I would be only too relieved and glad to find out.

             John gave up his space after a few months, as the noise had become intolerable to him; he went back to his old routine of frequently going to the woods to have some peace and quite.  Then in March I was able to move my camper to another city-owned parking lot in a much more convenient and civilized neighborhood downtown.  Our relationship continued on an off-and-on basis, as we had some other heavy personal issues to sort out, besides the stress of being homeless, before we could commit to being a full-time couple and planning for marriage.

             At the present time my camper is still in the same parking lot where it has been for almost a year, but I am spending much of my time in Crow, where John is renting his parent’s house while they are gone for the winter.  We are now officially engaged and starting to make serious wedding plans, although our future is still uncertain as to where we will live together as a couple, and how we will finance it.  Our dream is to find some little piece of land in the country that we can start buying while we begin building our own house, living our of our campers parked on that land until the house is finished.  Maybe we will ask for a down payment on such land as a wedding present.  Having a taste of life in the country, I feel it’s definitely time for me to move beyond that urban “homeless camper” existence and simply insist on something better.

 To use our great artistic gifts, and claim a share of wealth,

And have some comfort in our lives, and also keep our health

It is our birthright, after all, to claim the things we need,

So please, just help us find a way that we may yet succeed!!!!

                  To explain more of where this feeling comes from I will back tract a little.  During the early days of our courtship, John had taken me on a tour of the places in the countryside southwest of Eugene where he liked to hangout, and that also represented a good chunk of his family history.  He was not one of those homeless nomads who had migrated to Oregon from elsewhere, like I was.  He had grown up in Crow, and was descended from a good chunk of his family of Applegate Trail pioneers who had established themselves here a century and a half ago.  So he knew this whole area like the back of his hand.

             He showed me some places of his childhood; the School that he’d attended, and a very impressive cemetery where all his McCulloch ancestors were buried, the exclusive property of the clan.  It was all a rather awesome chunk of Oregon history that I’d never known existed beyond the borders of Eugene.

             But unfortunately the McCullochs are no longer landowners and there was no property left for John to inherit; that was why he was now among the ranks of the homeless “orphans” and had to join that community of camper’s industrial West Eugene, where we first met.  It was so strangely unjust, yet we would not be a couple today if the case had been otherwise. 

             The refreshing images of all those lovely green hills and farmlands remain in my mind’s eye as we pulled back into the cul-de-sac where my camper was where my camper was parked.  These drab industrial surroundings were quite depressing by comparison, and I began to appreciate better John’s need for those frequent retreats.  I was to see a lot more of the countryside in the coming months, and this little foretaste had been pleasant indeed.

             As our relationship continued, it became more clear to me that I would also become a rural Oregonian, as I know I wanted to stay with him.  We had began looking for some place in the country where we could perhaps relocate ourselves.  One day we went on another long drive even deeper into the farm country, dipping south into the Lorane area where we visited some of John’s friends who lived on two different farms.  He was putting out feelers for someone who might let us park both of our campers on their land, but so far no such invitation was forthcoming as long as we could not afford to pay much rent.

             Later that summer we attended his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  This event was at Crow-Applegate Church of the Nazarene, and it was here that I met many of his large extended clan, most of whom still lived in the area.  While I sat next to his mother having a piece of cake, she said we could go to their house and take a shower.  This was the first time I saw the mobile home on Vaughn Road where I am sitting right now.

             I loved that place and thought it would be heaven to live here.  The rural surroundings were so peaceful; we could never be his relaxed in the city.  I sate in a chair on the side porch and gazed at the soothing view of the green back yard while John took his shower.  I wished we could bask in this county atmosphere forever.  I am definitely a country person in my blood; even though I’ve always lived in cities and towns, all my ancestors were farmers of some kind of country folk, land this sort of place still feels more natural and right to me than any other.  I wouldn’t mind marrying into a clan of “hillbillies” to be a part of all this.

             Now back to the present.  As I am writing this is February 2000.  Almost three years have passed since the time represented in the beginning of this saga, and I have made great progress in my life in the way of personal growth since my battle for homeless rights began over a decade ago.  The program allowing campers to part their vehicles in parking lots is still in effect, though it is still only serving a fraction of Eugene’s homeless population.  It is also set to end in June of this year, after which it will have to be either re-funded, replaced by some other program or simply discontinued.  The city has had to admit that this program is working very well overall and has caused very little trouble for the neighborhood residents.  But there is still the question, what next?  Was it our intention to live in vehicles parked in city parking lots for the rest of our lives? Don’t we have any other plans?

             For many of us car-campers it has been very hard to conceive of having anything better than merely being left alone to continue in our accustomed lifestyles.  We are just grateful that the cops aren’t bothering us anymore.  Had it not been for all of John’s gently nudges, I might still be mentally on same plateau myself, but as it is, many things in my life have slowly changed for the better, and I am beginning to hope that we might find our way to a real life in which we can actually thrive, instead of merely treading water day-by-day.

            And this is where the NIMBYism sage ends, on a relatively happy not for me as compared to many of the other homeless who are less fortunate.  My life, which was previously so barren and bleak, is now permeated with the sweet sensation of love!  And John and I are looking at a future together in which we may yet heal our wounds from the past.  It has been a long and agonizing journey, but we are both survivors and are determined to enjo the years that remain for us.  It is ironic that, in a sense, we can thank the NIMBYs of Eugene for having pushed us into each others arms

 The End

  Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 43-July-August, 2000

 

Homeless Man Shot Out of Anger Not Fear

By Clora Hogan

Reprinted from Endless Choices Dallas Texas.

             In the wee hours of the morning on November 15, 1999, William “New York” Long pushed his shopping cart down Colson Street in East Dallas as he rummaged through trash.  It is not uncommon in Dallas to have people, not just homeless, rummage through the trash left out on the curb. 

             Long was known to sell scrap metal and copper tubing he found while sifting through other people’s trash.  His good fortune in finding two abandoned rusted out refrigerators soon became deadly for Long.

             Neighbors were awakened and annoyed by the stomping and banking noise made by Long as he tried to strip the copper wire and tubing from one of the junked refrigerators.  One neighbor, Robert Sanchez, 48, put an end to the noise and to Long.  After shouting racial slurs at Long, he went to his second floor window and shot Long with a 12-guage shot gun.

             A Dallas officer working in the area told jurors that he saw two homeless men looking at trash left out for pickup near Colson and Reiger St.  “ They were not breaking the law, so I went on,” the officer said, “Homeless people are know to recycle metal.”

             Matthew Armstrong, a neighbor across the street from Sanchez’s home, testified in court that he was still awake when the noise started.  He heard racial slurs yelled at the man on the street.  Armstrong told jurors that Long was not argumentative or angry during the verbal confrontation with Sanchez.  This was contrary to the volunteer statement given by Sanchez at the police station after the shooting.  In the statement, Sanchez said the victim pointed something toward the house, yelled and cursed at him.  Police said that Long had no gun.

             After hearing the first shot Armstrong called 911.  While dialing, he heard the second shot and the screams of pain coming from the man lying in the street.

             During the trial, it was stated that Sanchez had experienced many confrontations in the past with homeless people in the area.  Police stated that there were no 911 calls from the Sanchez home to report any such incidents.  He had used his shotgun before the scare off his undesirable homeless neighbors.

             Armstrong was not an advocate for homeless people.  When the defense attorney asked if he liked homeless people Armstrong said that “he’d just as soon not have them (the Homeless) in his neighborhood.  Armstrong told police what he saw, and the details about the night William “New York” Long was murdered.

             Long had met Armstrong in the past when he approached and asked Armstrong for work.  Armstrong did not have work to offer, and instead offered a few dollars.  Long refused the handout saying, “No thanks just let me know if you ever have work I can do.”

             A former neighbor of Robert Sanchez also testified during the trial.  Hilda Van Wormer knew both Long and Sanchez.  She identified Long’s body for the police.  Van Wormer, like Sanchez repaired old homes.  They would both rummage through trash items to use for repairs.  However, they did not rummage in the wee hours of the morning, as Long had done that night.

             Van Wormer claimed New York Long as a friend.  She said, “U saw him almost every day, he became my friend.”  She knew he drank too much, but he did not show up for work drunk.

             Sanchez’s attorneys told jurors of Long’s previous arrest record.  Long was convicted only one time and spent one year in jail.  The defense attorney continually attacked Long’s credibility by describing him as a homeless man with a criminal history.  Sanchez’s attorney also attacked Victory Long, William Long’s daughter and her tears in court as phony.

             Victoria Long attended the trial, taking a leave from the Air National Guard from her home in Virginia.  She was angry.  The defense attorney said Victoria Long’s tears were because he father had left her when she was 17 and not over his death. Victoria Long said, “He (the defense attorney) didn’t know me or my father.  How could he say that?”

             Sanchez was found guilty of criminal negligent homicide, which means no more than six months in jail.  Sanchez did not testify.  Prosecutor, Fred Burns, in his closing statement, said, “The law protects everybody.  Justice is blind.  Everybody should be protected, even William McKinley Long.”  He told the jury, “Your voice sends a message do you want to send?  Not fear, but anger and frustration caused the death of William “New York” Long.”

             The jury returned a guilty verdict for criminal negligent homicide setting aside the charge of murder.           

  Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #43, July-August 2000

 

LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS:

WOMEN WILL NO LONGER SLEEP ON THE FLOOR

             The County intends to replace the existing overflow shelter for women in Cleveland currently operated by Cornerstone Connection in affiliation with First United Methodist Church.  The Homeless Grapevine has run stories critical of the current overflow shelter, and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has lobbied for a new facility for years.  The overflow shelter is open from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and is located in the basement of the church.  Women sleep on mats that are cleaned on an infrequent basis and can pull a blanket from a pile of community blankets.

             Three social service providers have submitted requests to replace the overflow shelters with an emergency shelter that meet the state regulations for shelters.  Murtis Taylor, Catholic Charities, and Cornerstone Connections have all submitted proposals.

NEOCH is attempting to assure that homeless are involved in the selection of a new provider.

 THE REST OF THE STORY

             The City of Cleveland sued Associated Estates Corporation of Cleveland over a large number of housing code violations.  After years of legal maneuvering, AEC, one of Cleveland’s largest landlords, agreed to settle the suit.  They agreed to make the repairs and pay $100.00 in punitive damages to a local non-profit to settle the suit.

             The City Community Development office identified the Cleveland Tenants Organization as the logical recipient of the funds.  CTO fights for the rights of tenants and organizes tenants so that they are not exploited by landlords.  Mayor Michael White stepped in and wanted the money to go to St. Herman’s House of Hospitality emergency shelter.  Reports indicated White had heard that the shelters needs major renovation.  The local Office of Homeless Services had never indicated renovation of St. Herman’s as propriety in the community.

             Again, The Homeless Grapevine has featured articles about St. Herman’s shelter.  NEOCH was critical of proselytizing that takes place at the shelter.  Currently, St. Herman’s is a private shelter that does not receive public money, and therefore is not under City or County oversight.  NEOCH wrote a letter in opposition to the settlement going to St. Herman’s.

             In late May, Judge Raymond Pianka stepped in, and asked for an alternative to St. Herman’s receiving the funds.  First Step Alliance, a furniture bank for newly housed individuals, Golden Age Centers for senior citizens, the Alliance of Cleveland HUD tenants, and Longwood Concerned Residents all split the settlement.

 THEFT BY THE STATE

             Betty went to the Laundromat to wash her clothes and then she went to get food.  When she got back everything she owned was gone.  The Ohio Department of Transportation came by with a huge dump truck and cleaned up all of Betty’s stuff including a bag with all her identification and money.  ODOT is responsible for maintenance of bridges that cross over a road or freeway.  They receive periodic complaints about homeless people staying under freeway overpasses.

             NEOCH protested these sweeps of homeless people’s stuff without warning.  In other cities, homeless coalitions have successfully sued municipalities over the illegal seizure of homeless people’s belongings, and the city or state had to pay for the confiscated items.  An agreement was reached by which ODOT would give warning to outreach workers before they sent a dump truck.

  Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #43, July-August 2000

 

St. Herman’s rules Make it Difficult for Displaced

By John Cartwright

             The first time that I heard about St. Herman’s House of Hospitality, I didn’t know what to expect.  The expectations that I had of the place were the same as I had when I visited the Abby of Gesthemene in Trappist, Kentucky.  I thought that it would be a place where I could talk to someone about the things that were going on in my life.  I further thought that it would be a place where I could talk to someone about the things that there would be a little stimulation of both the body and the body and the spirit there.  I did not expect to find it to be just another religious organization without any enlightenment or understanding of anything that was different from the platitudes that were offered to me by other Christian organizations.

             I was disappointed to find that it was just another pray for stay church with a message the same as any other place. I found that this was only a place of help if you were willing to buy into the Christian aspect of the place, which since I am a Buddhist I was not able to enter into without any reservations.

            One incident in particular still sticks in my mind and has left me with a bad taste for the place, I asked “Father Abbott” one day if I could have a conversation with him about some things that were bothering me about the place.  I am still waiting to talk to him.

             I wonder how the Good Father there would have felt if, when he wanted someone to talk to, he were ignored?  I wonder if he would have come away from that non-conversation with a good feeling about the place?  I further wonder if he would even want to be there if he were forced to listen to a religious service that he had no idea as to what it was about?

             It also might just be that I had a feeling in this place that there was little freedom to associate with the people who I wished to associate with.

             I may also be that I possibly might like to be free to do what I want to do without having to be back to a certain place or lose my place to stay that night.

             Or, it might just be that I am used to being my own person.  I am free to practice my own beliefs in a much freer style within the discipline of the beliefs and norms of the faith with which I adhere.  Or if might be all of the above.  In short, the reasons that I have given may or may not be the real reasons for the way that I react to things in general.

             I find it objectionable to have to tell someone else what I am going to do on such and such a day.  I also find it objectionable to have to sign and carry a pass written out previous to my leaving somewhere that has to be signed by someone at the place where I visit.

             I also find it objectionable to have to sit through a religious ceremony that I have but little interest in, nor any desire with which to learn anything about.  I feel that such things are personal and should be left up to the individual as to whether he/she is going to or not do anything about his or her personal life or belief system.

             I object to being told that the faith that I practice is worthless and that I am following something that, due to the ignorance of the person telling me this, they do not want to explore themselves.  I think that it is up to the individual to seek out that which he or she finds to be their own truth.  I was not able to do that at the Saint Herman of Alaska Monastery.

             I particularly did not enjoy the sanctimonious little outburst from a staff member there.  I remember, rather un-fondly, one day when I was in the middle of doing some research at the library, and the staff person went absolutely ballistic about my “wasting my time” at the library all day long.

             The verbal abuse from that person I shall never forget.  I thought that it was one of the more stupid and ignorantly passing parts of the stay that I had there at the monastery.  A shelter stay that I will look upon as ignominious in both aspect and content indeed.

             Not only did this staff member gripe to me about my having the audacity to request something like that, but he ranted and raved about me to other who were trying to sleep for the better part of 90 minutes. 

             The total raison d’êtres for my being in a homeless shelter is that I am looking to get out the homeless system by getting a job.  I am also looking for continuing education and/or being around sensible people who are really trying to accomplish something with their lives.  I want to change things for myself for the better and for the people around me who really count.

             At bottom, there is no one box wherein all of humanity neatly fits.  Each philosophy or religion has its individual adherents.  It is not possible in all circumstances to come to a Christian solution to a problem.  The reason for this is that everybody is not Christian nor will they ever be in the world of reality ever be so.  This is probably for the better in the long run.  A particular set of solutions is not the best of answers to all problems.

             Please, those of you who are a position of responsibility in such matters understand this:  Not all people who are in homeless shelters need to be converted.  Not all people in homeless shelters have alcohol problems.  Not all people in homeless shelters have criminal records or convictions.  Not all people in homeless shelters have mental issues unless you count those who have the mentality to question the way that things are going in shelters.  And finally not all of us are the liars that you think we are.

             Granted, there is always a reason for a person being homeless, but the reason or reasons may not be related to anything that is pat and set in someone’s mind as all the good reasons for being in the state of homelessness.  And, finally, the day does not end for some of us homeless persons at the time of the day you or your organizations delair that it does.

 Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #43, July-August 2000