Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Echos of Irony in the Library of Congress

Ornate. Impressive. Unparalleled. Historic. Ironic.

Last week, after a grueling but good day of getting kids in front of congresspersons to talk about how sucky homelessness is (because the kids know firsthand), the gang HEAR US transported from PA for the event were headed for the subway station. The 16-year-old girl, Ashley, asked if we could stop in the Library of Congress.

I was tired, but agreeable, and everyone seemed to want this detour, so I said sure. Ironically, for all my trips to DC, for my history of being a stellar library club member in high school, and my love of books, I've never been to the Library of Congress.

It was late, about 4:30, and they closed at 5, but we were right there. The kids scattered within eye-shot, and were being good. Leslie, one of the 2 moms in our group, and I ended up standing together--first marveling at the astounding beauty and history before us--then talking about her and her family's fall from housed to house-less.

The story was as unique as everyone's, stereotypes be damned. Homelessness happens to all kinds of folks. Her life was as "normal" as could be. She's educated, has a work history deserving of a congressional medal of honor, and she's tried to do the right thing for her kids.

The thread that seems to flow through lives of those without homes is a string of bad luck. Health problems, mechanical failures of a car, and unscrupulous employers seemed to do the trick for her. From housed and independent to unhoused and dependent on others, teetering on a thin-ice support system, her tumble into the vortex of homelessness was in many ways ironic.

What struck me, as she quietly laid out to me how her life shattered, was the irony--her story would make a good book. She's telling this tale in the palatial surroundings of the Library of Congress, where her kids romped enthusiastically, marveling at this massive tribute to knowledge--teeming with volumes of every kind of information. But we evidently lack the wisdom needed to address homelessness.

As we talked, Ashley copied all of the quotes high on the walls in the Great Hall, including:
Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586),
Arcadia (1590)
Teachers have reminded students time after time: our noble thoughts keep us from being alone. But thoughts are not enough. We need to act upon them--at least the noble ones.

Maybe, in our quest for learning, we ignore what we have before us. TMI? We know more than we need to know to make the world right, or at least to provide the bridge between the nomadic lives millions find themselves in and a secure, basic existence that would be a welcomed improvement.

Perhaps our next Capitol event should be a one-on-one Library of Congress tour with Members of Congress led by an expert in homelessness--the parent, youth or kid who can explain how they got into this situation, and be wise enough to point to the path out of it.

By the time the tour ended it would be perfectly clear--those elected officials accompanied by noble thoughts, and those who should be left alone.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Heart-Warming Effort to Battle Ferocious Freezing

After 7 days of no electric hook-ups, I'd (almost) kill for one.With the cold (temps dropping to 20s) spell coming my way, I was quite happy that the OH state park I aimed at was open this late in the year. Electricity. Yay!

My discomfort without the electrical connection is relatively minor. I have Genny, the push-of-a-button generator (read about high end generators!) that provides what I need. Aside from the obvious environmental drawback, it rumbles loudly under my bed when I kick it on in the early morning, disturbing my last hour or so of sleep. I use Genny minimally, but I'm a big wuss when it comes to being cold, so I endure the noise and guilt for the heat. (photo from 11/10 in Denver at the NAEHCY conference)

Warmth is harder for some people to come by, especially those whose resources teeter on non-existent. As Old Man Winter descends upon us, millions of low-income Americans shiver, no, make that suffer. They just can't afford heat. Or they make dreadful decisions to get heat--skip medications, cut back on food, or worse, use dangerous heating alternatives. Paltry government weatherization programs barely patch the needs of holey households.

30 Year LIHEAP Funding History
For the past 30 years, government funds help income-eligible households pay some sky-high bills (a nice subsidy to utilities). LIHEAP, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, scatters approximately $5 billion across the country although not everyone who needs it gets LIHEAP, and piles of red tape are included. Learn more about LIHEAP

Under the guise of hard times, our government claims it can't afford to continue funding this program at previous (inadequate) levels--when more people need help. The President and Congress planned to slash funding by more than half to a frightening $2.57 billion. Some folks will freeze. Others will die. The combination of poverty and winter is deadly. Read the US Fire Marshall's daily residential fire fatality report if you doubt me.

A couple years ago I delved into the behind-the-scenes story of 3 women and 6 young children who died in what was the "worst fatal fire to strike Mississippi." While their deaths weren't attributed to faulty heating, I discovered hard times, aka poverty, at the core. I began reading the fire fatalities report until it became too overwhelming.

Up in the great state of Maine, winter's playground if you can afford to stay warm, thousands of households will endure months of brutal cold thanks to the ongoing "generosity" of poor people who (unwillingly) help government balance its budget.

Not if Super-Mainers Stephen and Tabitha King have anything to do with it! Yes, SK of horror novel fame, and his wife, Bangor residents and owners of the delightfully liberal talk radio station WZON. 

Pat LaMarche, my good friend and co-host of WZON's  Pulse Morning Show with Don Cookson, is moving into that little blip of a structure at the end of their "fancy" radio station building (photo, right) during the week of Thanksgiving as a gimmick to raise money for freezing Mainers.

Before she can come out, she has to collect $70,000 worth of pledges that the Kings will match! All money will be distributed to cash-strapped Maine residents for heating bills. And, publicity maven that LaMarche is, she'll likely push this issue all the way to Congress, where it can easily be fixed by compassionate budgeteers.

A bipartisan letter is being circulated by Senators concerned about the well-being of their constituents. Urge your US Senator to sign this letter that calls for funding LIHEAP at last year's $5.1 billion level. (Click this link and go to the "Find Your Senators" link on the top right of the page.)

When all is said and done, I'll put my money on Pat and the Kings. They've already warmed my chilly heart with their willingness to help.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bugging Me is Easy

What gives the little brown flying insect, the size of a pin and a non-biter, the power to annoy the snot out of me? I've been trying to figure it out as I make my way eastward on my 7th cross-country trip for HEAR US, my unconventional nonprofit organization that gives voice and visibility to homeless kids.

This little varmint appeared the other day, I think the product of a grungy Indiana truck stop. For one thing it reminds me of floaters, that phenomenon that makes if appear that a bug is flying around your head. I'm not imagining it. I've seen this teensy bugger close up, and even took a few good swings at it, but it laughed as it scooted away. 

Yeah, since it's been with me all week, I've decided, Buddhist style, to see what opportunity it brings. Little bug. Big possibilities for self discovery! I won't go into all the personal junk. But suffice to say I could fill a few gigabytes with revelations about my, um, faults.

One fascinating aspect about this pinhead-sized visitor that made me shake my head at myself was how I almost got caught up in swatting it--OK, killing it--as it flitted by the windshield as I was driving. Picture the wreck (hopefully no injuries) and me crawling out to talk to the police officer. I, uh, was trying to kill this non-lethal bug  this * big. 

I admit, I let little things annoy me. I can lose sight of the big picture by getting distracted by something really stupid, aptly represented by this tiny creature.

Then we have the glaring issue of violence--how I gleefully would KILL this harmless little insect. It probably eats poisonous spiders or vampires or something. I want to kill it because it doesn't belong in, um, pristine Tillie??? Uh oh. Not a balanced approach to life.

Now I can take a swing at the things that annoy me in life. I'll spend energy on the more significant, like getting HUD to change their policies that threaten to cause homelessness for vulnerable families guilty of nothing more than being mired in poverty.

All of that from this little bug that continues to float imperviously around, knowing that I'm a lousy shot when it comes to killing something I've become fond of over this past week.

It's the little lessons that teach me the most. Wonder what my homework will be?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

From The Help! Obama Needs a Tillie Tour

The Help has hit middle class America, perhaps just in time. I accompanied 2 northerner friends the other night to watch what has to be one of the more promising movies of the summer. At least I recognized its title, having read the book a few years ago.

Watching, as I did while reading, I couldn't help but be caught up in memories of Minnie Sanchez (sp?), pictured here. While growing up in the South, Pompano Beach, FL, in the early 60s, with hard-working parents who needed help watching their 5, um, precocious kids. We were under Minnie's capable supervision who for $1 an hour got to rein us wild ones in while cooking and cleaning.

As a now sorta mature adult, I reflect on Minnie's role in shaping my character. I give her huge credit for my value system. She gets no blame for my flaws. In addition to keeping the 5 of us out of the emergency room or juvie hall, she managed to do the fried chicken thing much like Minnie in the movie. And raised her 13 children, with a husband that I have no recollection of, and a dog, Did-He-Bite-Cha, in a small concrete block house on the edge of town.

The Help identifies "acceptable" slavery of the 20th Century, which continues in different ways today. Although the film is a refresher course for how far we've come in overt race relations, it raises the third-rail issues of racism and classism that still ravage the poor and bottom layer of the middle class today. Don't hit that delete button yet.

Sure, we've made progress on issues like minimum wage, working conditions, and even let people of color sit on any seat in the bus. But looking at options for the transportation-challenged segment of the population, I'd suggest buses, adequate sidewalks and bike trails, as the Atlanta area (and many communities) demonstrate, have a long way to go.

A blatant case of who-cares-about-the-poor blues can be seen in the case where Raquel Nelson failed to keep her 4-year-old boy in check as she, with 2 other children and a load of groceries, tried to return to their public housing abode on foot, crossing a 5-lane highway with no pedestrian accommodations. Horribly, the little boy was struck and killed in front of them by an impaired, inebriated driver. He got less jail time than the courts gave her. Read Yolanda Pierce's post about it...and share my outrage.

Barbara Ehrenreich, acclaimed author of Nickeled and Dimed, recently penned an update to her insightful and accurate book which came out in 2001. Ehrenreich reflects, "The most shocking thing I learned from my research on the fate of the working poor in the recession was the extent to which poverty has indeed been criminalized in America." It's another book, Barbara.

I'm disgusted, but not surprised, by the righteous, misguided indignation of opinion-spewers who parrot the Heritage Foundation's recent much-skewed dismissal of poverty in this country.  And mean ol' Governors like Scott (FL), Walker (WI) and Snyder (MI), continue to do their fair share fueling the anti-poor, kick-the-dog venom we witness everywhere today. Nice.

No matter that many of the ranters are in the endangered middle class, as pointed out in Donald Beck's thoughtful article in Atlantic Magazine. He suggests, "Yet if that period [post-war 20th century] was unusually kind to the middle class, the one we are now in the midst of appears unusually cruel."

Which brings me back to The Help. Most folks cringed at the mean-spirited treatment the colored maids got by their entitlement-distorted masters and mistresses (is that the right word?!). Hopefully our collective progress on socially acceptable behavior makes the most flagrant, unfair actions, well, wrong.

But I'd suggest that today's version of The Help could include the wage-slaves and unemployed, homeless families and those facing foreclosure, ex-offenders and petty criminals, welfare parent and undocumented immigrant. They could, I'm afraid, all write of their disdain for their situations and their distaste for society's priorities. But we've closed libraries and emasculated public education, out-priced television and internet access and enfeebled public broadcasting, and removed pens and papers from the incarcerated while compromising access to higher education.

Help! Now's when I wish I had a big ol' rabid dog named Did-He-Bite-Cha. But Minnie's ghost wouldn't let me do what I'm thinking....guess I'll have to be nice and offer Obama a real tour of America. Wanna ride shotgun with me? Bring your gas credit card.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

When You're Hot, You're Hot

 I'm hotter than the "hotties."

I'm certifiably hot. By choice (a combination of practicality and preference) I’ve cast my lot with the air conditioning “have-nots,” swimming in sweat during this sultry summer as I sleep in my toaster oven motorhome. My lifestyle inspires perplexed looks from friends and acquaintances who generously offer a guest bedroom which I graciously refuse. “Tillie,” my RV, is my humble home. When I can reduce my carbon footprint I do. And I don't appreciate the AC's sound of a helicopter landing on my rooftop while my propane tank gets empty. So I sweat in solidarity with the homeless families I advocate for.

The puzzlement of friends is one thing. The cluelessness of those who obliviously surround themselves with climate control comfort is another. Their world is far from mind in so many ways. And that’s OK, though I can vacillate between resentment and jealousy depending on my discomfort. My tactile experience helps me understand why folks are hot and bothered about the debt debacle. But I am far from the only one sweating.

A senior citizen, Arlene, a nurse by profession, bought a modest townhouse many years ago. A spiraling turn of events leaves her now painfully infirm, and the AC unit in her home broken for 3 years. She's so broke she can't fix it, nor can she take her ailing dog to the vet. Arlene, by my way of thinking, is one of the millions of folks who don't factor into the Beltway decisions on how money is spent. She and her sick dog sweat and no one seems able to do anything. It costs money. We don't have any.

Intra and inter party frustration abounds, spreading like Super Bowl fever to the “fans” of Beck, Bernie, Biden, Barack and company. Save, spend, tax, trickle-up, trickle-down, stimulate, slash, all represent positions that adherents will righteously fight for, despite the consequences. Convinced of their “solution,” their opponents become the enemy. No ground for understanding or compromise. And no regard for those like Arlene who suffer day in and day out.

Riling up the “troops,” hateful half-truths spew over airwaves and internet, firing up supporters and foes or repelling the silent, frustrated electorate. Differences become magnified, intensified like the brutal heat of an unreasonably scorching summer day. It’s these differences that hold a key to understanding.

Many people who live in climate-controlled comfort don’t understand, or perhaps appreciate, those who cannot or will not choose that lifestyle. The groups become, by virtue of weather protection, isolated. Resentment builds. Entitlement surges. Righteousness spews. And differences are exaggerated. 

Runners who sweat smugly think they understand, and a bootstraps mentality usually results. See, I do something, I sweat, I shower and go to work in my nice air conditioned office. You too should do this. 

Those who live in perma-chilled areas (where are they so I can go there?!) don't get it, this talk of sweat-induced stickiness. Those who live in jungle-like climates and have adapted nicely to their underwear being wet all the time think we're wusses.

The haves, those with access to ample AC, can lose connections with those who toss and turn on humid nights. Stink and sweat separates. Disdain grows. 

Now I don't begin to believe that our economic malaise is simply a difference between those who stay cool and those who don't. But the key to compromise is understanding. And until you walk the mile, or sweat the bucket-load, you don't understand the other person's perspective. If you don't understand a group of people, um, like those in poverty, you're not gonna give a rat's ass about their well-being.

One of the many humbling lessons I've learned as I lean into my 7th year of Tillie-living is that I need to sharpen my understanding of those who are different than me--the pristine, sweat-free policy makers who have deemed the impoverished masses in this country to be doomed to misery.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Heat Changes Things on the Road

Unbelievable! I've finished my 6th year of traveling under the HEAR US banner. I start noticing patterns (that I forget as the year goes on). Winter is tough in an RV (and even tougher when you have less going than I do), but summer...well, it's another animal. Toasty Tillie (L) becomes the mobile version of a toaster oven.

When I walk out of an air conditioned building I cringe as the blast of heat and its brow-drenching humidity hits me. I long for winter. Did I just write that??! I'm the one who dislikes bone-chilling blustery winter weather. Happy medium, anyone?

Somehow I missed the in-between this year. I traveled from the verdant Pacific Northwest to good ol' Illinois just as IL soared into a mid-90s heat wave. Fortunately, I have options of cooler/warmer places to be. I have money that buys meals so I can linger in the few food establishments I'm known to frequent.

So, what about those who lack options to escape heat, cold and other weather realities? My experiences only make me more aware of kids and adults without a place to be day or night. I meet them everywhere. Ironically, I continually find more pleasant "have-nots" than "have-lots."

Nationwide, a shattering budget-crunch saga is closing one of the vital resources for homeless and impoverished people--libraries. Across our land, the one place that lets unconnected adults and kids log on to the Internet, ask for help finding information, hold a book in their hands, escape inclement weather while catching up on news, study with friends, attend enriching events for free...libraries... are slashing hours and closing. Even I've been kicked out of libraries because of reduced hours.

The heat goes on...and people do their best to survive despite massive efforts to oppress and impoverish them. When I sweat or shiver, it brings me in touch with those who can't escape the ravages of weather or the injustices of the economy. Losing touch would make me part of the problem.

The insane heat of budget deliberations in DC and state capitals reminds me that none of us will escape the blistering heat of injustice. So I guess I better spruce up Tillie the best I can and get ready for another year on the road. Makes me appreciate the generous supporters of this unconventional nonprofit organization. We're going to need all the help we can get.
I try not to bug you, but let me mention: If you can give, we're happy for either monthly donors--and it doesn't need to be a lot, or folks who buy our useful "stuff." Thanks!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Clueless? Confused? Cruel?

I walked around a swanky Portland, OR mall, seething. The irony of me parking Tillie in swanky mall parking lots, my grungy, road-weary motorhome/office bearing signage referring to homelessness, usually makes me chuckle. Not tonight.

Earlier I had a conversation with a long-time friend who is, um, worlds apart from me in some ways. She's a financial planner. I'm a former shelter director turned national activist-filmmaker for homeless families and youth. Our paths crossed at the shelter I ran. "Jackie" led her church's group of volunteers who served on a monthly basis.

The conversation that has me (still) seething was irrelevant, except when Jackie sorta snapped at me as I expressed hesitation to raise postage on our HEAR US stuff because, well, I don't want to gouge our customers. "The economy isn't doing as bad as people say," snarled my Republican friend, who went on to say if people would be hurt by tossing another buck for postage, well...and I'm not sure what she may have said after that. My ears shut down.

Perhaps I hang with the "wrong" folks, skewing my perspective about how well the economy is doing. After all, here in OR where I spent several days last week rubbing shoulders with people who work for the schools or run homeless shelters, I can't tell you the number of conversations I had with people who themselves or someone close to them was losing their job, having hours cut or some version of financial suffering.

Walking to Borders (one of the chain's still-open stores) to grab 2 paperbacks I was looking for, I searched for the economic lens to change my vision. This outdoor mall was not brimming with consumers. The conversation between 2 Borders' employees was about schedule cuts. I stood in line with families that seemed to be doing OK. At least the mall wasn't filled with stores that have gone out of business.

I saw a security guard, one of those underpaid deceptive bastions of safety, and resisted the urge to ask him if all was well with his financial status.

My morning news read included a story about quality teachers and their paltry pay scale. One respected teacher goes from school to a part-time job which gets him home after 11 at night. It's the only way he can make ends meet for his family, a sacrifice to say the least, for him, his family, and I suspect his students.

The workers in this tony mall probably would argue the "good economy" theory. I often wonder what the Whole Foods' associates think as they package meat costing more than their paycheck and handing it to a clueless customer. Sure, they're happy for their jobs, but the gap between what they earn and what they need to survive, much less get ahead grows, along with it disenchantment.

My perspective of the economy may be colored by a few numeric indicators:
  • The number of children in this country living in poverty is at a record high, 25%. I see kids living in poverty and what it does to them. Not pretty.
  • The number of foreclosures and related evictions continues to skyrocket, with millions losing their homes--their American Dreams--each year. The emotional (and other) damage that occurs when a household is sinking into foreclosure is, well, ugly.
  • The number of kids in school who have no homes is well over a million, with school districts nationwide reporting numbers doubling. This number has shot up during our economic (boom, bust, you pick).
  • The number of homeless infants and toddlers spending their formative years without a home is at least hundreds of thousands, probably over a million (the subject of our new documentary, "Littlest Nomads," that I'm filming this month).
  • The number of people on waiting lists for subsidized housing is off the charts--waits up to 10 years, meaning housing insecurity and increased risk of homelessness.
  • The number of people turned away from shelters, or not finding shelters at all, is not accurately documented by government entities, but anecdotal accounts from a variety of sources confirm homelessness is on the significant, tragic rise.
  • The number of shuttered businesses and "For Sale by Owner" signs I've seen as I've traversed this nation's backroads is incalculable.Trust me. It's huge, and under-reported.
I could continue. but that list was therapeutic...for me.

Being right, as I sure I am, is no prize. It causes me to wonder about my friend Jackie and countless other clueless, confused, and sometimes cruel people. Is it Darwinian denial? Or is it a concerted effort to wish away poverty and homelessness just by saying it ain't so?

Seems to me we should get a good public relations firm to convince people that poverty and homelessness are alive and well. The message--in the many forms we've tried to present it--doesn't seem to be working. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

In a World of Hurt-Opportunity and Solidarity

No one likes to suffer. And some of us don't like to see others suffer. That's why I do what I do (activist for homeless families and youth). I'd have to say my friend Christi Parsons nailed it right when she said I'm someone who likes "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," (19th century Chicago humorist Finley Peter Dunne). So my abhorrence to suffering does have some caveats.

I don't know if it's just the hyper quantity (and hyping) of news we get nowadays, or if it's my hyper sensitivity to it. But it seems that globally we have an overabundance of stupidity and greed, to pick 2 most obvious characteristics. Having brushed up against those 2 un-virtues in Calhoun, GA last week, I'm still seething. 

This link will fill you in on what you need to know about the 2 legislators who allegedly caused the Oglethorpe Inn, a rundown "motel" to go belly-up pushing 80 people to the streets. Fortunately, 3 women spearheaded incredible efforts to find at least temporary housing for the displaced--families with kids and single men and women. Most people rely on government disability payments for their income, not enough to afford a regular place to live, security deposits, etc., one reason why they're in this dire situation.

The people hurt by this upheaval, in many cases, were the most vulnerable folks in Calhoun. They've been chewed up and spat out by society. Some are so broken--physically and mentally--that it hurt me to see them hurting so bad. Even their pets were hurting. It was profoundly sad to witness. Even sadder to experience firsthand.

What seems to be a positive turn, with all the protests going on in this land and across the seas, the powerless are starting to find their voices, and their shoes, and their protest signs. I hope it's not too late. Some of us have been begging people to take a stand against injustice and greed for years. We're all slow to jump on something that seems remote to us, like homelessness.

But with homelessness spreading like kudzu in urban and non-urban areas alike; with greedy bankers and mortgage lenders creating housing havoc and global economic mayhem; with employment shriveling like a baby too long in bathwater; and with union wages and benefits, health care and mental health services being slashed so budgets can be "bogus-balanced"...homelessness is getting an unwanted second look by many.

I'm not saying this is a good thing--that homelessness is now more real to more people than ever--but it does make it easier to inspire action. That's what I'm hoping, that you're willing to act. Here are 3 simple petitions (don't even need to get up!) that will collectively nudge some positive action:
  • Help bring some "hurt" to those who allegedly caused the motel to shut down. LINK
  • Get President Obama to invite me to the White House to screen our powerful new documentary, "on the edge," 7 women's stories about their homelessness. LINK 2
  • Urge Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) to focus his humorous wrath on the city leaders of Gainesville, FL so they'll lift the inane feeding limit on their soup kitchen. LINK 3 
 If this isn't enough--get out and act. Here are some suggestions:
  • Volunteer and/or support your local shelter or program that helps vulnerable families, youth and adults.
  • Collect needed items (new socks and undies are always needed) on a regular basis (don't wait for holidays, or make up your own holiday!).
  • Follow the HEAR US Compassion Epidemic page and share the call to action. 
  • Get copies of on the edge and My Own Four Walls. Watch them. Get groups to see them. 
  • Sign up for the free, no-hassle HEAR US e-newsletter, and share it with friends.
Seems to me we need to get off our collective duffs before they get kicked 6 ways to Sunday. Probably good to remember that unless you're one of the few uber-rich, a category that I'm not in, you're in danger of the things you most fear. There. Feel better now? I just shared the affliction!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

'All Things Being Equal' -- Huh?

All things being equal. What a bogus concept that is!

Case in point: Calhoun, GA, a small town (15,000) in the northwest part of this diverse state. Someone figured, all things being equal, that mismanaging a motel that housed about 80 men, women and children who previously lost their housing wouldn't matter. So very wrong...!

I got a desperate SOS from my McKinney-Vento friends in this community. They knew I had been hanging out in Georgia. They just found out that the Oglethorpe Inn, a nondescript motel on the edge of an Interstate ramp, had the power shut off and people needed to find alternative housing ASAP. HELP! I was in Illinois at the time, planning to fly back to Tillie in GA and then head south. Change of plans.

I seethed as I flew. I seethed as my sister drove me to pick up Tillie. I seethed as I scooted across the state, heading to Calhoun. Arriving too late to do anything Saturday night, I prepped and hit the ground running on Sunday. Met with Roberta and Stacey, confirming my worst fears, but being totally impressed with their stalwart efforts (along with their teammate, Vicky). These three super-heroines were making sure everyone had a place to stay, at least temporarily, while better arrangements could be made. Despite their best efforts, all things are not credit histories, felony records, pets, stuff, lack of transportation, and other seemingly insurmountable barriers to rehousing dozens of income-challenged, fragile, frazzled folks.

Tillie and I headed over to the Oglethorpe. I knew a couple people there from our previous visit under the Southern (Dis)Comfort banner. It took only moments for these beleaguered folks to respond kindly to my camera-bearing presence. Yup. The same people being displaced by the dastardly deeds of a deacon of a church (also a state senator) and his business partner, a member of Congress. All things being equal...I'll take the "least functional" homeless folks on my team any day! Their stories need to be told, and justice needs to be done.

The convoluted story (still evolving, I hope) boils down to these assumedly responsible (the bank gave them a $2.2 mil loan) elected officials dumping the motel and its responsibilities on a hapless guy who may have stumbled in his efforts...resulting in the motel being shut down. All things being equal, it should have been fine...but it's not.

As a result of all things not being equal, 80 folks were forced to pack up their meager possessions and relocate to a variety of other places. No shelter in town for homeless families, and a limited one for men, so it's not like they had options. The 3 angels set about raising money to pop folks in motels or to pay for (very affordable, if you get the drift) apartments. By Monday, the deadline, all had been placed.

My take on the deal has the 2 legislators responsible for the bulk of the consequences that displaced the most vulnerable people in their community. And as a believer in "personal responsibility," I'm calling on those responsible to make things right. Here's my petition you can sign to add muscle to my challenge to them to do right, our meager effort to make all things equal....

It's my hope that those who should know better will discover that all things aren't equal for people who've experienced more than their share of lumps. That's why our government needs to be there to help...not hurt...because all things are not equal.

It seems to me that those of us who have any wherewithal to level the playing field, aka make all things equal, will have our work cut out for us, now more than ever. Fighting bogus bullies could be a full-time job!