Monthly Archives: January 2015

The truth, for a change

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

(Originally published on 12/9/2012).

By Max R. Weller

It had been quite a while since I did the arithmetic for myself, but here is the latest calculation from a speech given by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Quoting below:

“Just last year, total federal and state spending on means-tested programs came to over one trillion dollars. What does that mean in practical terms? For that amount of money, you could give every single poor American a check for $20,000 – every man, woman and child,” said Ryan in a speech at the Jack Kemp Award ceremony . . . 

“Instead, we just spent all that money trying to fight poverty through government programs, and now what do we have to show for it? Today 46 million people are living in poverty. During the last four years, the number of people on food stamps has gone up by 15 million,” Ryan said.

“Medicaid is reaching a breaking point, and one out of every four students fails to earn a high school diploma. In our major cities across America, half of our kids don’t graduate, half,” he added.

Ryan pointed out that 48 years after President Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty in 1964, “poverty is winning.”

So, what is the real motivation for continuing the failed welfare state policies? I think it’s the lust for POWER, concentrated in the hands of those running the government, from the POTUS down to the most humble bureaucrat. In this case, of course, More Poor People = More Power; there is no incentive to win the so-called War on Poverty, because those in government would be putting themselves out of work! We see the same thing on a smaller scale with Boulder, CO’s homeless shelter/services industry: More Homeless People (including transients from Denver and elsewhere) = More Money for various programs which are failing to end homelessness.

I consider this to be a great evil committed by our political leaders. And it’s not only poor people being exploited by the welfare state at taxpayers’ expense — look at corporate welfare, especially the General Motors bailout. Obama’s plan to bypass the ordinary course of bankruptcy for GM (in which court-supervised reorganization would have been premised on a sound business plan), resulted in lots of workers at GM’s suppliers getting f***ed over in favor of UAW workers at the automaker itself. Shares of GM which were, in effect, purchased by the taxpayers have lost half of their value, and there is no reasonable expectation that GM will ever reimburse the costs associated with the bailout in view of its historically low market share at this point. BTW, Ford never received a penny from Uncle Sugar and didn’t need it — that’s called good management in the free enterprise system.

Legitimate concerns of the federal government (and states, counties, cities, school districts, etc.) include providing a safety net for the poorest, most vulnerable among us. But NOBODY in their right mind, setting aside politics, believes that individual poor men, poor women, and poor children in America each received $20,000 worth of real help from government programs last year. Most of the $$$ disappeared down the bureaucratic rabbit hole.

It’s a travesty of compassion for the poor, and a full employment program for apparatchiks.

‘Cha Cha Spinrad: Educate the police about bikes’

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

ChaChaSpinrad_Headshot

Ms. Spinrad

Read her letter-to-the-editor in the Daily Camera, copied below in its entirety:

A week ago Thursday around 9 a.m. I was biking east on Baseline and the bike lane was filled with snow and ice from the snow plows, a typical situation for bike lanes to be in after it snows. I was volunteering for Boulder Food Rescue, a local nonprofit that takes produce that grocery stores would otherwise discard and distributes it to people who don’t have much access to healthy food. The organization is centered around bike transportation. On Thursday I was carrying 300 pounds of food to the Bridge House, an organization that employs homeless people to cook for those who need warm meals.

Knowing my rights under Colorado state law, section 42-4-1412, which states, “A bicyclist shall not be expected or required to ride over or through hazards at the edge of a roadway,” I decided to use the right-most car lane, which was clear of snow and ice. It was not only easier to bike in, but much safer. There were two general purpose lanes in each direction, and plenty of space for the few cars on the road to pass me.

A police officer in an SUV was stopped at a light between Mohawk and Foothills. As I biked past, he rolled down his window and ordered me to get into the unusable snow-filled bike lane and “stop impeding the flow of traffic.” I and other cyclists have to deal with entitled drivers all the time, but our police are supposed to be looking out for everyone’s safety. Boulder needs to educate its police about the rights of all users to use our streets. The city’s Transportation Master Plan puts a priority on encouraging walking and biking. Let’s make sure our police are on the same page!

Cha Cha Spinrad

Boulder

My two cents, copied from the DC website:

OMG! Cha Cha might have been delayed in taking donated food to Bridge House to help feed the transients from Denver and elsewhere!

POLICE BRUTALITY! Let’s have another lie-down-in-the-street protest!

How can something like this happen in Boulder, CO? 

Seriously, folks, do you believe that this skinny chick is hauling 300 pounds of food with her bike?

A story with each picture

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

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Boulder Shelter for the Homeless has the most lazy Transition Program residents in America, which is why you see volunteers from the community or a Boulder County Jail work crew doing chores like this (and their laziness also accounts for the awful filthy conditions inside this facility).

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Sounds like a good job, tending goats grazing on Rocky Flats.

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Remember the homeless guy who ran for BCC in 2011? The one sponsored by Bridge House, who withdrew because a blogger raised questions about his mental health? Same thing as Luke Chrisco . . .

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Are you thinking of donating to Bridge House? Think about who you might be helping.

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Today, it’s homeless women arriving on RTD.

Taser Fire

I find all of the stats on my blog interesting, but sometimes I’m left to scratch my head. There’s something called Search Engine Terms, and this morning somebody was looking for “why not to huff paint thinner” — and the (unidentified) search engine referred them to my blog. WTF? I don’t recall writing about that subject before, and I know as much as most other people, no more: IT WILL FRY YOUR BRAIN!

That’s all for today, folks . . .

‘The American Welfare State’

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

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Homeless Philosopher

It’s a real challenge to find figures that accurately reflect overall per capita spending on the poor and homeless in our country. The link I’m providing today is from a study done by the Cato institute and published on April 11, 2012: The American Welfare State: How We Spend Nearly $1 Trillion a Year Fighting Poverty — and Fail. An excerpt follows:

News that the poverty rate has risen to 15.1 percent of Americans, the highest level in nearly a decade, has set off a predictable round of calls for increased government spending on social welfare programs. Yet this year the federal government will spend more than $668 billion on at least 126 different programs to fight poverty. And that does not even begin to count welfare spending by state and local governments, which adds $284 billion to that figure. In total, the United States spends nearly $1 trillion every year to fight poverty. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three. (Emphasis is mine).

Welfare spending increased significantly under President George W. Bush and has exploded under President Barack Obama. In fact, since President Obama took office, federal welfare spending has increased by 41 percent, more than $193 billion per year. Despite this government largess, more than 46 million americans continue to live in poverty. Despite nearly $15 trillion in total welfare spending since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964, the poverty rate is perilously close to where we began more than 40 years ago.

Clearly we are doing something wrong. Throwing money at the problem has neither reduced poverty nor made the poor self-sufficient. It is time to reevaluate our approach to fighting poverty. We should focus less on making poverty more comfortable and more on creating the prosperity that will get people out of poverty . . .

This policy analysis by Michael Tanner is 24 pages packed with info, and well worth your time to carefully read and consider it.

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Boulder, CO’s homeless shelter/services industry turns its back on “Tiny Houses”

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

Read the Guest Opinion in the Daily Camera written by Greg Harms, executive director of Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. A reminder: More than half of the single men and women housed in the emergency overnight dorms at this facility are transients from Denver and elsewhere, with no ties to Boulder, and BSH is also one of the few shelters in America nowadays which accepts registered sex offenders.

Copied here in its entirety:

Much has been written about the homeless deaths in Boulder in 2014. The Camera deemed it the third-biggest news story of the year. In 2014, eight homeless people died “unattended,” meaning they were found outside. But these eight people were only part of the story. A total of 23 people were remembered at the annual Boulder homeless memorial in late December. Some of these individuals passed away in the hospital, some in hospice, some at friends’ homes and some at BOHO or the Boulder Shelter. The reality is, however, that the total number of homeless people who died in Boulder in 2014, to the best of our ability to count them, was about the same as it has been in past years.

When anyone dies prematurely, it is sad; especially for those of us who work hard to try to prevent these deaths. Local service providers strive to offer the best combination of life-saving and stability programs possible but we have limited resources and we cannot force services on anyone. Nor would we want to. Years of experience has shown us that there is no substitute for individual motivation as the basis for change.

Recently, a guest opinion expressed ” A plea for year-round shelter for the homeless” (Daily Camera, Dec. 31). Currently, from October to May, the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless provides 160 nightly beds for those without a place to sleep. Likewise, BOHO, utilizing faith-based buildings, offers overflow accommodations during the same winter months.

Although it may not be well publicized, there are also several summer sheltering options for the homeless in Boulder. The Boulder Shelter provides 65 beds a night during the summer through its Transition and First Step Programs. In addition, BOHO has been providing two summer sheltering options in conjunction with several faith organizations; one of which is exclusively for homeless women.

It is true that all of these summer programs have some basic requirements for admission and they are not the kind of drop-in services that are available during the winter months. However, these requirements are in place not only to provide needed safety and structure for clients but also to help prevent Boulder from becoming an even more attractive place for people traveling in the summer.

The Boulder Shelter for the Homeless has significantly expanded services over the last few years. These additions, however, have focused on permanent solutions for homeless people (like the newly-opened facility at 1175 Lee Hill) rather than adding more temporary shelter beds. This approach is in accordance with national evidence-based practices and with The Boulder County 10-Year Plan to Address Homelessness.

Homelessness is a complex issue. Providing services to this population is also complex. I believe our community does a good job at providing an array of appropriate services for our poorest neighbors. Can we improve and expand on these offerings? Of course, but we want to do our best to minimize any unintended consequences and focus our limited resources on the programs that are the most effective for our clients and the community.

Greg Harms is executive director of the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless.

> My online comment following this piece on the DC website follows:

See what progressive cities across the country are doing in re homelessness: http://www.shareable.net/blog/11-tiny-house-villa…

Nary a peep about building a “Tiny House Community” from Boulder, CO’s homeless shelter/services industry.

Consider that each one of the 31 units for single adults in the Housing First project at 1175 Lee Hill cost well over $200,000 — but OM Build in Madison, WI can turn out a tiny house with the same amenities for only $5,000!

Really, do the people running things here want to “end homelessness” or not?

I might add that Mr. Harms has over 90,000 reasons to support the status quo; these reasons being dollars in his annual salary . . .

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Greg Harms (C), Betsey Martens (R), and facilitator with mic (L) ready to cut off public discussion of the 1175 Lee Hill project.

At times, fighting this battle gets very lonely and discouraging for the Homeless Philosopher. I can be as stubborn as anyone on the other side, however, even without the incentive of Big Money.

> Addendum: BSH recently posted the folowing blurb on their Facebook page:

By the numbers, here’s what the Shelter accomplished last year. Ah, but it’s what those numbers represent, lives saved and changed, that really matters.
• Provided 39,904 bed nights of shelter
• Provided 4,380 bed nights of transitional housing
• Provided over 8,000 bed nights of permanent supportive housing (in partnership with Boulder Housing Partners)
• Made over 3,800 contacts of street outreach (Boulder County Cares)
• Served 1,204 unduplicated clients
• Served over 95,000 hot meals
• Provided over 15,000 morning service contacts

It’s more funny math, and I had to respond:

“Provided over 15,000 morning service contacts” you say? I know something about this, because I’m frequently standing outside at 6AM. NEVER have I seen more than a dozen or so others waiting with me (and usually a lot fewer) — a far cry from the average of 40+ it would require to make a total of 15,000 over the course of a year. I don’t mind being counted for a hot meal that I NEVER eat in the morning, but I object to imaginary people coming to BSH for morning services.

‘Volunteers help with annual homeless count in Colorado Springs’

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

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See the story, with video, from Colorado Springs. Quoting from it below:

The annual count determines how much funding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will give to local homeless resources.

And yet, there is no end in sight to homelessness despite all of the $$$ being given to the homeless shelter/services industry, which consists of both government agencies and charitable nonprofits. When you calculate just how many dollars, from both public and private sources, are spent per capita in any city across America, it’s a shocking figure: Tens-of-thousands of dollars annually on behalf of each homeless person.

Remember my former slogan on this blog: DONATING TO A NONPROFIT IS NOT THE SAME AS HELPING THE HOMELESS. Neither is paying taxes to fund the myriad of government social services the same as helping the homeless . . .

I’m glad that I boycotted this homeless “census” in 2015, just as I’ve done in previous years.

Update on Housing First in Anchorage, AK

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

I’ve blogged about Karluk Manor before; that’s the Housing First facility in Anchorage, AK which opened in December, 2011 — and serves as a model of sorts for 1175 Lee Hill here in Boulder, CO.

The Alaska Dispatch News has an interesting series on chronic alcoholics on the streets in Anchorage, and the last installment is The search for solutions. Quoting from it here:

At the 48-unit Karluk Manor, street alcoholics in Anchorage can move in exactly as they are, without a requirement to quit drinking. The facility seeks to find and house the most vulnerable among a group of homeless veterans that police, fire and public safety authorities refer to as the “Top 200” – top in volume of public resources consumed in the form of trips to the sleep-off center, jail, emergency rooms and the shelters.

Karluk Manor is Anchorage’s first “Housing First” project, an approach that’s gaining traction nationwide.

Among the core principles of Housing First is that housing is a basic human right, not a reward. Proponents say when a person leaves the chaos of the streets, the stability of a home is more likely to make life changes possible. “Harm reduction” is another tenet of the philosophy: In practice, it means trying to get people to make incrementally healthier changes, such as switching, perhaps, from liquor to beer.

Initial results of a two-year study of Karluk Manor by the Institute for  Circumpolar Health Studies at the University of Alaska Anchorage suggest that people who live at Karluk are drinking less alcohol, less frequently, than before they moved in, said David Driscoll, the director of the institute.

Researchers found that the Karluk residents also spend more time doing activities that require concentration such as crossword puzzles, or physical activity. Public safety costs per tenant also plummeted, according to the study, from an average combined cost to the Anchorage Police Department, the Anchorage Fire Department and the Anchorage Safety Patrol of more than $3,500 per person to just more than $1,500.

Jail and shelter nights were also reduced, according to the preliminary data.

Nationally, studies of other projects have shown that Housing First, pioneered in Los Angeles and New York more than 20 years ago, stabilizes clients’ lives and saves money, Driscoll said.

The model is gaining acceptance even among federal agencies. In 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs adopted the approach for its homeless programs.

> More funny math which does NOT take into account the millions of dollars spent to convert the former Red Roof Inn into Karluk Manor.

Continuing excerpt:

Expect to see more such projects in Anchorage: Housing First is now the model preferred by federal funders such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Detractors say Karluk Manor offers no real incentive for alcoholics to change their ways. Some have questioned the morality of providing severely addicted people a place to drink, likening the project to a “hospice” or even “assisted suicide.”

> The Homeless Philosopher certainly agrees with the paragraph immediately above. One resident reports that he drinks less now, only one fifth of vodka a day. He’s still killing himself, maybe at a slower pace (and maybe not), but killing himself nonetheless.

Excerpt concludes:

Karluk Manor’s manager Colleen Ackerman said it is understood that most people who live there won’t stop drinking. Frequently, they have been through every other program available without success.

Karluk uses a system that ranks applicants on their vulnerability. The people who score the highest get the apartments. Some of the people who live at Karluk have needed to move into assisted living because of alcoholism-related dementia, Ackerman said.

For some, Karluk will be the last place they live. Since the facility opened, 11 residents have died — some inside the facility, and some elsewhere.

“This is really the end of the road for a lot of them, sadly,” she said.

> 11 residents dead in a little more than 3 years, since this Housing First facility opened.

Comment by J.H. following the ADN article online:

“I’m glad they didn’t have this free housing back when I was a drunk and starting to lose everything. I might never have quit. To have a free apartment and still be allowed to keep drinking . . . It would have been a dream come true back then. A dream from Satan, that is. But I was lucky. No one enabled me in that manner.”

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