Monthly Archives: December 2013

Max’s Journal 12/31/2013

By Max R. Weller

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for that sort of fluff . . .

I’ve had some fun using a new toy called a meme generator, and posting the images here or to Facebook as a quick and attention-grabbing way to comment on various topics:

5td3nBetter to have donated your cash to worthy causes for living animals.

5t799Protest against Walmart Neighborhood Market

5rrs9Time to end the drama. Go back to your class or retire, Prof. Adler.

5sin1The Man with No Name doesn’t like transients, either.

5rsdpJoy Eckstine Redstone and Jim Budd circa 2009.

5syxgEdwina Salazar, executive director, is the real Scrooge.

5rlvrHard to believe she’s been on the cover of SI’s Swimsuit Issue twice.

5nqdrDemocratic Party talking points.

5sz95City of Boulder Registered Sex Offenders

5t85aI could use a hot toddy for my lingering cold.

5szm2Could Diogenes find a single honest man in Boulder, CO?

5nkamHelle Thorning-Schmidt

Wishing for a safe, prosperous, and Happy New Year to all!

Nonprofit Scrooge of the Year for 2013: Longmont’s OUR Center

By Max R. Weller

602126_10151505376987148_779260725_nExecutive Director Edwina Salazar (on right) accepts another donation of $$$

Sometime in 2012, the powers-that-be at Longmont’s OUR Center decided to end emergency overnight sheltering for homeless adult men and women, and focus instead on fundraising for a new facility dedicated to so-called transitional living. This change took place on January 1st of this year.

The Times-Call published a puff piece on March 9th about the new aim of this nonprofit, featuring a gentleman named Doug Branstetter. Read Longmont’s OUR Center offers a fresh start for those struggling , homeless. This was more than the Homeless Philosopher could stand to let pass without a challenge. So, I became involved in an online debate in the comments following the story:

homelessphilosopher: The fact is that many chronically homeless people will not succeed in transitional living programs.

What does the OUR Center do with them, since it no longer offers emergency overnight sheltering? It puts them on a bus to Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, which has already reached its capacity of 160 on most winter nights, so they wind up going to a network of churches and a synagogue operated by Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow.

Longmont should be taking care of its own, in view of the fact that the 2012 MDHI Point-in-Time Report counted more homeless people in Longmont than in Boulder! Ever heard of Lora Wilkerson? She’s the homeless woman who died of exposure in a Longmont city park on or about January 2, 2013.

stine1221: The truth is that the increase in the numbers of homeless people in Longmont in the 2012 Point-In-Time Survey largely reflect homeless families with children – not individuals. The OUR Center has always been and continues to be actively involved in sheltering families with children. In addition, Longmont continues to operate its own Warming Center system which is coordinated by Agape Family Services. At the same time, the Longmont community supports the Boulder Shelter — which is our regional shelter — with funding and other support. Again, the loss of Ms. Wilkerson was indeed a tragic event. However, there are many facts about her death which have never been released to the public — including the fact that she did not at the time of her death or in the years before it, utilize any Warming Center or shelter because she had a place to stay. It really is vital with issues like this to find out the real story before spreading misinformation to the public.

homelessphilosopher: Unfortunately, the OUR Center’s choice to end emergency overnight sheltering puts many chronically homeless people in Longmont, CO at risk. Future deaths can be expected. It’s far more important to understand the need for providing a minimal level of emergency sheltering/services FIRST, especially since referring homeless folks to Boulder Shelter is not a viable answer when that facility is already at its 160-person capacity. Let’s not play blame the victim here, please — who knows whether Ms. Wilkerson might still be alive if only the OUR Center had been open?

Indeed, Agape deserves credit for picking up a small portion of the slack, but it’s only a small portion. According to press accounts, they have room for 50 overnight guests. Boulder Shelter for the Homeless is taking in 160 almost every night, and Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow over 100 at their network of churches and a synagogue. Since the 2012 MDHI Point-in-Time Report counted many more homeless people in Longmont than in Boulder, why is the latter city expected to house the former city’s overflow? Please explain the logic behind this policy adopted by the OUR Center.

stine1221: The reasons for the decision to close the OUR Center’s Warming Center have been widely communicated over the last year to all those directly involved as well as to the community at large.

It is really sad that one man’s amazing and inspirational story is being used to try to stir up controversy. At this point, the focus needs to go back to where it belongs – which is on celebrating Doug and his wonderful story of transformation.

homelessphilosopher: Sadder still that his success story is being exploited as a fundraising tool.

Not much glory nor many $$$ in emergency overnight sheltering/services for the chronically homeless, the most vulnerable among us.

DougBranstetter: Future Deaths Can be Expected.
The OUR Center is the one fighting for the Homeless. At the OUR Center, all of the people who are homeless or at risk are welcome to be a part of the recovery program. As a person who has been homeless, to me the OUR Center saved my life. I became homeless after I was a victim of Identity Theft. That is when I found the OUR Center, a place where I could get warm, free food, and use the telephone. My life was turned upside down; I lost my job, and all of my personal property. After getting out of the hospital all I had were the close on my back. I was starving, wet and sick. No one wanted to be around me, everyone assumed that what ever happened to me I deserved. I all most dyed. I had never had so much trouble before in my life; I had no idea what to do. I was HOMELESS overnight and I believed I was going to die. That is when I found myself at the doors of the OUR Center, free food, heat, other who seemed to be in somewhat of the same suctions that I found myself in. A placed where the only question they asked me was are you hungry?
Reverend Sandy Steward, approached me, (for those that do not know Reverend Steward she might be 5’8 a very small woman, and I am loud, ugly, frighten, and an old man.) and asked if I would tell her my store about how I found my way to the OUR Center. So I yelled my story to her thinking that like me she could not hear me, and when I was done she told me that she (the OUR Center) could help me, but it might get worse before it would get better. Reverend Steward took me over to the servicing line so that I could eat lunch, after you eat come back to the Homeless Shelter and I will help you with some other things, maybe some other close, a shower, and some food to take with me. That night I sleep in the park, in the cold rain. I tried to sleep all I could think of was what am I going to do, I have lost everything in my life, and I have nowhere to go. In the morning I walked down to the OUR Center, there was hot coffee, oatmeal, and rolls, as I eat a small voice asked how I was, I all most thought that she was talking to someone else. Reverend Steward said to me that she would like to help me recover.
That was how I started my recovery from Identity Theft and Homelessness. I did whatever I was asked to do follow the steps, get a Colorado Identification, apply for food stamps, and apply at Social Service. I also filled out a volunteer application to work at the OUR Center. At this time there was not a homeless shelter at all I was on my own. I worked the steps to my own recovery, which the OUR Center has proved to work. I am just one. It is up to the homeless person where they want to stay, drunk in the park, or on the river, or in those eighty dollar a nights hotels. I chose not to return to drinking, but to fight to help myself and others to recover from homelessness. I pray for my friends who are homeless and are suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, I hope that they will reach their bottom and return to a life that they can be productive in. I worked to get the OUR Center to open the Warming Center, in the beginning I worked 90 hours a week to support it, and I would have worked more if the warming center would have worked out, but it did not people were abusing the warming center and other clients. Having a place to just use to sleep in out of the cold is not ok for anyone. I would hope that jobs could open up for our homeless even if they were only small paying jobs. I think that would be one way for the homeless to gain their own respect back to make their own way in Longmont, if not work for cash how about for a night in one of those hotels. I know that as a small city like Longmont it is hard to see people down on their luck. However, each one of our homeless has the potential to do better so let’s find a way to help them be all they can be, on their own with the help of programs like The OUR Center, H.O.P.E., Agape, and others.
I would like to thank all of the people who volunteer and work to find solutions to helping Longmont’s homeless. I pray that none of us have to be homeless. I pray that we all can work on helping each other homeless or not.
God said, “Love your enemy as I have loved you.”
If using my store helps even one person recover from homelessness then I am all for it. I pray that I might be able to do more. O yea, I am learning to read and write. There are also others that want people to succeed, it is just that the OUR Center is the one that you think is not doing a good job.
Chronically complaining is not how we need to get thing done. We need to pull together as one.
Thank You All
Doug Branstetter
If I can I will.

homelessphilosopher: Just so we’ll understand each other, Mr. Branstetter, I applaud your success story and I have no objection to anyone participating in a “program” in a sincere attempt to better their life circumstances. I’ve been in six different types of programs, run by both public and private organizations, in the decade that I’ve been homeless. I’ve also volunteered and been employed by homeless shelter/services providers. You, sir, are the exception to what I’ve observed as the rule among the majority of any program’s clients (including myself): they fail to gain any long-term benefit from it. You deserve congratulations and best wishes for the future!

However, offering a transitional living program AND emergency overnight shelter to the chronically homeless — despite all of their problems — are not mutually exclusive approaches. It would be more accurate to call them complementary ways to address homelessness.

Programs aren’t for the majority of homeless who are only “on the streets” for a short time due to circumstances which are resolved in a month or two, nor are they helpful to substance abusers who have no desire to get clean and sober.

I know all about the negative aspects of emergency overnight shelters from extensive firsthand experience in several cities, including Boulder, CO. Now, I prefer to live outdoors year-round rather than put up with the worst-behaved transients. It’s a physically challenging lifestyle, but I get an occasional “vacation” indoors with caring and generous friends.

A civilized society simply does NOT allow homeless people to die on the streets. Longmont’s OUR Center, together with faith-based groups there, should be doing far more to deal with the chronically homeless who are the most vulnerable among us. Very few want to change, but that’s beside the point. Providing hot meals, clothing, showers and laundry facilities, etc. are very basic humanitarian gestures — providing warm and dry shelter overnight during wintertime can SAVE LIVES.

Boulder’s resources are stretched to the breaking point by all of the transients from Denver and elsewhere. As I’ve said, it’s unconscionable for Longmont’s OUR Center to put homeless people on a bus to Boulder!

BOTTOM LINE: Keeping an emergency overnight shelter open during the wintertime will not affect the transitional living program in any way; in fact, Boulder Shelter’s program clients typically come from those homeless people using the men’s and women’s emergency dorms.

Again, best wishes to you, Doug!

djshinyjules: I have had the pleasure of knowing Doug for many years. This man truly has a heart of gold. I just wanted to congratulate him on all he has accomplished. Thank you Doug for being such a great friend, you are truly one of a kind. Best Wishes and God Bless you. The Long Family

Citizen5150: Mr. Brandstetter is a very nice man, but I used to serve lunch with my church many years ago at the Our Center and I think the newspaper omitted the part about alcohol in the story. I thought that was curious. If it is the truth why leave that out? Mr. Brandstetter should take credit for getting sober. I also wonder why the Our Center is using such an old story. Mr. Brandstetter has been recovered and helping others for years now. Have there been no other success stories from this organization that are more recent? By the looks of the increasing number of homeless on the streets I am guessing not.

——————————————————————————————————

During the Great Flood in September, the entire population of Lyons, CO was evacuated. Did this catastrophe prompt the OUR Center to open a temporary emergency overnight shelter for flood evacuees? No! I blogged about it in this post: Kudos to Longmont’s LifeBridge Church; OUR Center is MIA. Copied below in its entirety:

Read the Times-Call story of flood evacuees from Lyons finding emergency overnight shelter and other assistance at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, CO. Quoting from the article below:

The church, which had sought community donations earlier in the day, was by 2 p.m. asking the public to quit bringing donations. The only items still needed were cots.

“If people ask, we’re good with lunch stuff, and dinner’s covered,” Jay Ewing, one of the church’s pastors, told a group of volunteers at about 11:30 a.m.

“And no more bread, please,” he added as a cart full of loaves was loaded up and taken into the church.

Dinner is being donated by Oskar Blues tonight.

“They’ll cook up a nice dinner for them and that’s awesome,” Ewing said. “We need cots — that’s the biggest thing.”

He said the church had received about 700 evacuees by midday . . .

This is truly what charitable giving is all about. It gladdens the heart of even an old curmudgeon like the Homeless Philosopher.

What can we say about a secular nonprofit in Longmont which takes in millions of dollars every year, but isn’t providing any emergency overnight shelter for flood victims and opens its food pantry to Longmont residents only? We can say two things: 1) it’s called the OUR Center; and 2) its executive director is Edwina Salazar.

BTW, the OUR Center also ended wintertime overnight sheltering last January, deciding instead to put the homeless people they used to serve on the RTD bus over to Boulder Shelter for the Homeless.

Even as an agnostic, there’s no doubt in my mind about which organization deserves financial support from the public.

—————————————————————————————————-

There you have it. When you think of the OUR Center in the future, just picture Old Ebenezer as he was before he gained spiritual redemption:

scrooge

‘Sean Christopher Jackson, sexually violent predator . . .’

By Max R. Weller

See the report from the Daily Camera.

Sean Christopher Jackson

Most people knew right away that it was some bum from the nearby Boulder Shelter for the Homeless who attempted the carjacking, and I posted a comment to that effect following the original report of the crime:

This comment has been deleted by the administrator.

Then, the suspect was identified by the DC in the updated story and I posted another comment. It’s the first time i’ve ever gotten +100 from other readers for a comment I left following an online DC story:

The Daily Camera deleted a comment I left yesterday on their website, in which I speculated that the carjacker came from Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. What do you have to say now, DC?

What is a Sexually Violent Predator? Here’s the definition from Colorado Revised Statutes (copied from the LexisNexis website):

TITLE 18. CRIMINAL CODE
ARTICLE 3. OFFENSES AGAINST THE PERSON
PART 4. UNLAWFUL SEXUAL BEHAVIOR

C.R.S. 18-3-414.5 (2013)

18-3-414.5. Sexually violent predators – assessment – annual report

(1) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:

(a) “Sexually violent predator” means an offender:

(I) Who is eighteen years of age or older as of the date the offense is committed or who is less than eighteen years of age as of the date the offense is committed but is tried as an adult pursuant to section 19-2-517 or 19-2-518, C.R.S.;

(II) Who has been convicted on or after July 1, 1999, of one of the following offenses, or of an attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit one of the following offenses, committed on or after July 1, 1997:

(A) Sexual assault, in violation of section 18-3-402 or sexual assault in the first degree, in violation of section 18-3-402, as it existed prior to July 1, 2000;

(B) Sexual assault in the second degree, in violation of section 18-3-403, as it existed prior to July 1, 2000;

(C) Unlawful sexual contact, in violation of section 18-3-404 (1.5) or (2) or sexual assault in the third degree, in violation of section 18-3-404 (1.5) or (2), as it existed prior to July 1, 2000;

(D) Sexual assault on a child, in violation of section 18-3-405; or

(E) Sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, in violation of section 18-3-405.3;

(III) Whose victim was a stranger to the offender or a person with whom the offender established or promoted a relationship primarily for the purpose of sexual victimization; and

(IV) Who, based upon the results of a risk assessment screening instrument developed by the division of criminal justice in consultation with and approved by the sex offender management board established pursuant to section 16-11.7-103 (1), C.R.S., is likely to subsequently commit one or more of the offenses specified in subparagraph (II) of this paragraph (a) under the circumstances described in subparagraph (III) of this paragraph (a) . . .

There’s more, but this should give you the idea. You might sum it up by saying that the Sexually Violent Predator is a type of sex offender who lacks a conscience and is at high risk for reoffending. Case in point: Sean Christopher Jackson.

It’s NOT an arbitrary label; there’s a lengthy assessment made according to this document from the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board.

The real problem here is the choice of Boulder Shelter for the Homeless to accept sex offenders as clients just as a matter of policy — there is NO law requiring BSH to do so. It’s a travesty of compassion, and a threat to the safety of the neighborhood. Even worse, homeless victims of sexual abuse who stay at BSH are in close proximity to registered sex offenders, they’re aware of it, and it increases their level of anxiety — as if homelessness by itself isn’t enough of a struggle.

Back in early 2010, I observed a couple of the Transition Program child molesters trolling for schoolkids on the SKIP bus as we rode downtown. A day or two later, I saw the same two pedophiles in front of the Main Library at 1001 Arapahoe, and one of ’em had a cute little toy animal sitting on his shoulder. I promptly reported what I observed to both Boulder Public Library staff and Boulder PD, and everyone in authority kept close watch on the pervs from that time onward.

I say this to ALL of Boulder Shelter’s generous donors: You have the leverage, by withholding further financial support, to demand that executive director Greg Harms and the board of directors resign immediately. Clearly, they are lacking in any common sense by allowing the facility to be a refuge for incorrigible sex offenders. I believe it’s obvious that new leadership is needed, if this misguided policy is to be changed.

It’s probably too much to expect that the Boulder City Council would actually put some pressure on the local shelter/services industry to do the right thing . . . BCC continues to be MIA on the issue of perverts at our homeless shelter.

What will the New Year of 2014 bring to Boulder, CO?

By Max R. Weller

I’m not here to be Pollyanna. The Homeless Philosopher calls it as he sees it.

The spate of violent crime in 2013 involving the homeless as both victims and perpetrators in Boulder and its environs is alarming. The do-gooders don’t acknowledge their role in creating this hostile environment, where the bad actors lack any self-control and act out their rage without fear of consequences. And more of ’em keep arriving in our fair city every day!

5qgrg

The biggest problem with the local homeless shelter/services industry is a lack of oversight by Boulder City Council — which has simply given over the issue of homelessness to the private nonprofits like Boulder Shelter for the Homeless and Bridge House, along with the quasi-governmental Boulder Housing Partners. Hard to understand, in view of city council members’ micromanagement of almost every other issue facing Boulder, CO.

You say you want to be able to take the family to Central Park and enjoy a leisurely stroll along Boulder Creek Path? Maybe visit the nearby Main Library at 1001 Arapahoe, or Pearl Street Mall just a couple blocks away? We know you can’t do so without being harassed by bums, most of whom have no ties to Boulder, and come here during the course of the year to grab all of the Free Stuff being handed out at various charitable venues. I overhear their conversations in the morning at BSH where I go to take a shower:

Bum #1: Man, let’s go to Deacons’ Closet and get some more clothes this Thursday.

Bum #2: Cool! I don’t like doing laundry. I need new pants, a couple of shirts, maybe some boots, another coat . . .

Bum #3: Then we’ll go to Bridge House for lunch. Sometimes they have gear to give away, too. We can hang out at the library after that. Watch porn on the computers, take a nap . . .

Bum #1: You ever stay at a warming center? I hear they don’t have as many rules there.

Bum #2: We can stay there, then catch the SKIP bus up here in the morning for breakfast. If you tell the driver you’re disabled, it only costs $1.10, and I always tell him my dog is a service animal, too.

(Bums laughing)

Bum #3: You ever fly a sign on the corner over there (pointing toward N. Broadway & U.S. 36)?

Bum #1: I tried it, but all I got was granola bars and dirty looks. A couple of drivers asked me where Max was — who’s he?

Bum#2: That’s the asshole who writes the blog. He hates the homeless, always telling us to go back to Denver. I’m not from Denver — I’m a traveler.

Bum #3: Somebody should beat his ass! Hey, where did you get that sleeping bag?

Bum #1: I got it from Boulder County Cares the other night, when they drove me to detox. You remember, I passed out on the sidewalk in front of the strip club next door. I wasn’t bothering anybody, they just walked around me, but the cops came and I don’t remember much after that until the next morning.

Bum #2: What were you doing in front of the titty bar?

Bum #1: I got drunk inside, paid for several lap dances, and spent my whole crazy check — $700!

(Bums laughing again)

Bum #3: I think I might get into the Transition Program here. I need a break from the streets, long enough to recuperate.

Bum #2: I don’t know, man, there’s a lot of perverts in that program.

Bum #1: What, you’ve never screwed a 14-year-old girl? Get ’em drunk, they’ll do anything!

(Bums laughing some more)

Boulder Shelter staff member: Guys, I’m hearing some inappropriate  conversation here. If it continues, I’ll have to give you a Warning. And if I still hear it after that, I’ll have to consequence you.

Bums in unison: What the f*** is a consequence?

^^ Of course, this is a composite of statements I’ve overheard at various times from homeless clients and staff at BSH, but it serves to give you a good idea of the bums’ mindset.

5qiwp

I see no reason NOT to believe that things are bound to get worse, much worse, in 2014.

“Bowling for Bums: My Life as a Charity Whore” — an excerpt

(Copied from Chapter Nine, “At Least People in Prison Have Some Place to Sleep”)

By A. Price

There is a Poor House in Longmont. Except unlike its counterparts in 19th century London, you aren’t allowed to sleep there overnight. No matter how poor you may be, unlike a real 19th century Poor House, in Longmont you are tossed out on your ass at 4 pm — no matter the weather.

The Poor House actually used to let homeless adults sleep inside if it was snowing or the temperature dropped below 20 degrees, but once they launched their four million dollar capital campaign to purchase a bigger building, they kicked the homeless out the door.

Apparently homeless people sleeping on cots in a snow storm makes a bad impression to major donors being enticed to support a nonprofit agency whose mission is assistance and self-sufficiency services for the poor. What? Say that again?

After I started doing time at the Poor House myself as a paid staff member, something strange began to happen. I started to think about what I was doing and began to wonder how the money I raised was spent.

I also caught myself putting on a little too much lipstick and digging out those little short skirts hiding in my closet.

Special Events are one of the nonprofit industry’s dirty little secrets. Take the Poor House Gala: It took three weeks for the volunteer gala committee to decide between the white cloth or the gold cloth napkins for the annual fundraising event. I was voting for the white. They came with the ballroom. The gold would cost $400 more to rent and honestly felt scratchy on my lips. The committee went with the gold and I had to add that to my bottom line.

After all I was working for the Poor House and the Poor House was supposed to be Longmont’s ticket to self-sufficiency. Perhaps the gold napkins would make a difference after all.

It’s a given that nonprofit marketing claim that all “proceeds” of a charity event go directly to benefiting the population they serve. At best, the national average is about 50% of every donated dollar raised through special events go directly to support programming.

That formula doesn’t take into account the paid staff time to organize the event. The 50% formula just accounts for direct costs like the ballroom rental, caterer, entertainment, etc. The hidden costs eat up much more of the proceeds than what appears on the spreadsheets.

Too often the cost of putting on the event, renting the space, catering the food, etc. eats up all the proceeds. And that’s still not counting staff time.

Sometimes the event doesn’t even clear its costs and nonprofits must spend money from the general fund to cover the tab. So not only doesn’t that charity benefit ticket actually help orphans or puppies, but it may require the use of other donated funds just to pay for a party.

Knowing what I know didn’t stop me from diving right in planning all those parties.

My first day on the job, one of the case workers was fired. Later I heard through the grape vine that she had reported the Poor House to the Colorado Department of Labor.

The Executive Director had been forcing staff to put in unpaid overtime under the guise of volunteer time. “Volunteer Time” primarily meant setting up and tearing down expensive fundraising events. She had been doing it for years.

There was a score card of staff “volunteer time.” If you didn’t clock in your required “volunteer hours” you would face the consequences. A couple weeks after the caseworker was fired the staff got a convoluted email saying that we were not now and had never been forced to volunteer, but that if we loved our jobs, if we loved poor people and if we didn’t want to become poor ourselves, then volunteering would always be appreciated.

“Let them eat Cake,” the queen said before she chopped off more heads.

A couple weeks after the Great Colorado Flood the headlines of the local paper proclaimed, “Local Nonprofits Fight for Flood Relief Dollars.” Well-meaning individuals and businesses are still raising flood donation dollars and giving the money, not to the people directly affected by the flood, but to the nonprofit middle man, or woman. The nonprofits aren’t providing any special support for flood victims. If the flood has cost you your job, ruined your home and destroyed your car, now you can get in line with all the other poor people who also need a hand. The Poor House is laughing all the way to the bank (emphasis is mine — MRW).

Recently there was a photo in the local paper of a Poor House employee standing in a room with donated clothing piled 15 feet high. He knows that most of those donations are cast offs that even a Dickensian rag and bone man wouldn’t take. It’s his job to take most of that stuff directly to the dumpsters after dark. He also knows that a photo of a humble janitor surrounded by others’ cast off generosity is bound to lead to more generosity in the form of real cash money.

The Great Colorado Flood will lift the sinking ship that the Poor House has become. While the mistress of the Poor House is seen as the queen of compassion, Mother Theresa of the high plains, turned wet lands, what she really is a scoundrel that would play well in almost any Dickens novel.

How did things work around the Poor House?

Every week day, while the employees hurry in the back door, a long line of low income or no income people form at the front door.

Even before the flood, people turned to the Poor House for free food boxes, eviction prevention, emergency utility shut off, social security appeal letters, and the other daily crises that defines what it means to be poor. People living in substandard housing or worse, homeless, came in daily to sign up for the waiting list of the waiting list to get on the official waiting list for housing vouchers.

You read that right: Two waiting lists before a person could get on the master waiting list. As it stands right now, it takes about five years from when you first get on a list until your case comes up for review. Some of the people who put their name on the lists manage to find someplace to live on their own. Some die before their name is called. Some age out of the original list, and now have to wait on a different list for low income senior housing, yet to be built, before they die too (emphasis is mine — MRW).

The first hurdle at the Poor House was proving that a) You are poor enough to receive assistance, b) You live in Longmont, c) You aren’t too poor to be beyond help, because if you were too poor you wouldn’t fit well in the self-sufficiency matrix.

If you are too poor the Poor House will probably give you a one-time only bag of emergency food, but won’t want to assign you a case number and add you to the client list.

The Poor House prides itself on being able to move people from vulnerability to self-sufficiency. Case workers don’t want to start with lost causes because it looks bad for their statistics.

So, despite all of the fundraising, the galas with the scratchy over budget napkins, the donor appeal letters, and the community food drives, if you were poor and needed help, the first hurdle was to prove to the gate keeper that you were just the right amount of poor to get in the door.

We promise donors that your donation will save lives and change the world one donation at a time. We don’t tell you that only some poor people qualify. We don’t tell you that most of what we say is a lie.

There were also other groups trying to get in through The Poor House Door: criminals and welfare recipients.

In Colorado and many other states, people convicted of anything from shoplifting to aggravated assault could often reduce their prison sentences and fines by volunteering at nonprofits willing to let them “work” off their time. The Poor House wouldn’t take child molesters or pot smokers. Everybody else pretty much got in.

It was the same thing with the Colorado Work Force or Welfare Recipients. In order to qualify for financial assistance or Food Stamps in Colorado, most adults have to put in as much as 35 hours a week “Volunteering” for a nonprofit organization. These individuals are also supposed to spend 20 or 30 hours per week looking for jobs or engaged in job training activities.

Both the Community Service criminal volunteers and the Welfare volunteers were funneled into the food warehouse and the federally funded soup kitchen. They were assigned hard time regardless of their age or ability. Sixty year old women with bad hips would work alongside 20 year old punks doing community service “Time” for rolling a bum or driving 80 miles an hour, drunk, in a school zone. No mercy. Do your time or your “time sheet” wouldn’t get signed.

And if that sixty year old woman, trying to survive on food stamps, wanted some help signing up for heat assistance or eviction prevention, she’d have to get in the back of that long line that formed at 8 am and ran until 4 pm.

The one perk of this “volunteer” assignment was people were allowed to eat either breakfast or lunch at the soup kitchen free of charge. The food, also prepared by volunteers, was usually pretty good and met the caloric thresholds outlined by the federal government. The “volunteers” forced to work for free to avoid jail time or an empty refrigerator, cleaned toilets, stocked the food pantry, cooked the meals and handed out food to people who are lucky enough to make it past the scrutiny at the front door.

Usually this is what the volunteers gave to the people who had food vouchers: two cans of soup, two cans of vegetables, one can of fruit, half dozen eggs, when available, and one loaf of day old bread. This was the standard issue for a family of four for one week. If they were still poor the following week, they could get back in line and start the whole process again (emphasis is mine — MRW).

If the family had young children, they could also qualify for extra fruit and a jar of peanut butter once in a while. And once a month each household received a can of USDA protein, which meant anything from a can of spam to a can of of spaghettios in meat sauce.

Throughout the year the Poor House is inundated by literally tons of donated food. Both large scale farmers and backyard gardeners bring in hundreds of pounds of fresh produce. A small amount of that produce was set out on trays for clients to take home. The rest was used to make the meals served in the soup kitchen.

Thanks to the conscripted labor of the court and state mandated volunteers, the Poor House got hundreds of hours of free labor each week, saving the organization thousands of dollars in payroll.

However, if you read the marketing and PR materials, the constantly growing demand for services led to higher staffing costs to try to meet the growing need. But in fact in 2013, four caseworkers left or were let go by the Poor House. These four caseworkers were replaced by only two new staff people and the workload for all of them increased exponentially.

And also in 2013, the Development Department increased from one full-time and one part-time staff member to now four full-time workers. Staffing decisions can be a great indicator of a nonprofit’s priorities. Offering less assistance to the poor, increasing the caseload of a shrinking direct services staff while increasing the budget to hire more fundraisers, says a lot about a nonprofit organization.

And that’s what the Poor House did.

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I can highly recommend this informative book. I received my copy as a Christmas gift from Santa’s helpers; you can get one from Amazon.com.

— MRW

The Gift of the Magi

By O. Henry

gift-of-the-magi

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation–as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value–the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do–oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?”

At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make him think I am still pretty.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two–and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

“Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again–you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice– what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you–sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year–what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs–the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims–just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.