Up Close and Personal

Forty days and forty nights in another woman’s shoes can put a blister on your heel that makes you want to sit down and never walk again. She’s too tired to sleep and too broken to know where to start picking up the pieces, but she keeps moving because to do otherwise would be deadly. This is not fiction. It is reality. Here at home, on our watch, an urban, suburban, rural, cross-cultural, multi-generational population across America is experiencing homelessness at an alarming rate.

In just one day in 2015, over 31,500 adults and children fleeing domestic violence found refuge in a domestic violence emergency shelter or transitional housing program.

  • That same day, domestic violence programs were unable to meet over 12,197 requests for services because of a lack of funding, staffing, or other resources.
  • Sixty-three percent (7,728) of unmet requests were for housing. Emergency shelter and transitional housing continue to be the most urgent unmet needs for domestic violence survivors.

Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence. (2016). Domestic Violence Counts 2015-A 24-hour census of domestic violence shelters and servicesWashington, DC.

This is unconscionable. This is unacceptable. This is my job. Each day for the last forty days, I have been trying to wrap my head around all of the moving parts of the juggernaut that seems to have bumfuzzled us to the tune of billions of dollars over the span of decades. Non-profit agencies and faith-based organizations dedicated to serving the needs of individuals and families in chronic crisis are tasked with stretching every dollar with Herculean strength while gently tip-toeing through a public health minefield.

Slogans and good intentions are not enough to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in our communities. We need better tools, clearly defined and manageable objectives, and money. Lots of money. 

Stewardship is a word that gets a lot of air time in the non-profit sector, where the line of people in need of assistance is longer than the cue for Space Mountain. Grant makers, government grants in particular, require non-profits to disperse cash on hand up front and submit supporting documentation for review and approval before being reimbursed. This is one reason why those who donate faithfully to the charity of their choice are highly valued by direct service providers. WE LOVE SMALL DONATIONS MOST OF ALL should be stamped on the letterhead of every non-profit that relies on individual donors to keep the lights on.

These are the things one thinks about at 2a.m. when revenue generation is part of their job description. Staff development, board engagement, community involvement, partner agency collaboration, and that overarching performance measurement – a single success story duplicated client after client, program after program, year after budget-wrenching year – make up the sum total of my thoughts these days. It is an honor and privilege to serve. I leave you with this:

In 2014, Family Violence Prevention and Services grantees reported 196,467 unmet requests for shelter—a 13% increase over those reported in 2010. This represents a count of the number of unmet requests for shelter due to programs being at capacity.

Source: Family Violence Prevention & Services Program, Family & Youth Services Bureau. (2015). Domestic Violence Services Provided by State and Tribal Grantees. Washington, DC.

The need for safe housing and the economic resources to maintain safe housing are two of the most pressing concerns among abused women who are planning to or have recently left abusers.

Source: Clough, A., Draughon, J. E., Njie-Carr, V., Rollins, C., & Glass, N. (2014).

Having housing made everything else possible”: Affordable, safe and stable housing for women survivors of violence. Qualitative Social Work, 13(5), 671-688.

P.S. If you support an agency that serves individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness, thank you. We cannot succeed without you.

 

 

The Wait Is Over

Even in a world where fraud, force, and coercion place lives in jeopardy every day, there are still ideals in which I firmly believe – compassion, integrity, peace. What we believe is proven by what we do, and I believe the best way to memorialize those who died for the freedoms we hold dear is by a coordinated effort to feed, house, and educate all children everywhere so that humanity might someday realize the dream for which so many have sacrificed their lives.

IMG_3856[1]

For those who have sent words of encouragement, you’ll be pleased to know that I start my new job in a few days. I couldn’t be happier. It was worth the wait. The future is now.

Dream Job

Those who read posts other than Friday Fictioneers know the job search process that consumes my every waking (sometimes sleeping) moment. It’s been an odd year since I graduated. Come to think of it, my entire work life has been odd. So, there’s no reason to believe what lies ahead will be much different. Until then, there’s the writing.

Friday Fictioneers is one of the bright spots, in addition to my garden, that keeps me sane. Sort of. My story this week is one of frustration and reality. Thanks to Rochelle and Roger and all of the other writers. You can read their stories here.

inside-the-diner
Copyright Roger Bultot

Service Without A Smile

They could have just paid their server and left, never to return, but NOOOO! Gerard always caught the wrong end of the customer service stick. How did the kitchen seem to know to make a major screw up when he was in the middle of running payroll or doing the grocery order? If only he’d gone to college, he’d be an up-market gentleman with clients worth millions. Instead his days were spent consoling white collar foodies whose eggs were over cooked, directing tourists to the lady’s room, or shooing divers from the dumpster. Damn his loyalty to the family business!

Dear Class of 2017, Fix The World Why Don’t Ya

The future is in front of you. Well, duh! If you think that statement is a no-brainer, here’s another one. Your diploma, whether you got it for free or spent tens of thousands of dollars, will only get you so far. You’ll have to be fearless and inexhaustible to make a splash. Want to be a big fish in a little pond? Good luck. That pond is fully stocked with mediocrity and hypocrisy. Want to be a little fish in a big pond? Good luck. That pond is full of piranha and garbage and toxins.

So, what’s a shiny new graduate to do? Better not expect trigger warnings. It’s a swim at your own risk world out there. If you plan to strap on some Kevlar and dive in, be prepared to sink. Sure, battling it out against seasoned professionals who are simply trying to keep their heads above water won’t be that hard. Some of them already have one foot out the door. It’s the ones who are still paying off their student loans who are your real competition. Of course, there are also some who have their kid’s college to worry about, and they are the fiercest, so it might not be so easy after all. Experienced workers have seen the future. They know they can’t get ahead of it.

What you need is useful information. Well, here it is…

Generations who came before you made enormous progress toward solving the problems of disease and poverty and the “isms” that plague humanity. Some of them died trying. Corruption, greed, and ignorance still contribute to chronic crisis for too many. Slavery still exists, sometimes in plain sight. Substance abuse, child abuse, and spousal abuse permeate all socioeconomic and cultural classifications in all nations. Homelessness and food scarcity, behavioral and mental disorders, and, yes, drug dependency affect an ever increasing number of the world’s population. The world is old. Its inhabitants are aging. No matter how much you spend to delay the inevitable, no anti-aging gimmick will change that fact.

It’s all up to you now to fix this screwed up world. Good luck with that!

Waltzing Through The Storm

As the job search continues, dirt under my nails makes me feel productive. A constant reminder that while I may need to scrub up at a moments notice, life is in the doing. Pulling weeds and planting seeds, a metaphor for life to be sure, keeps me grounded and gives me purpose. These humble tasks are important. Removing obstacles, cultivating relationships, sharing the fruits of our labor – this is work, this is life.

FLOWERPOWER (2)
Wake Up and Smell the Awesome!