Thursday, May 7th, 2015 -( 14°C / 57°F & Sunny and warm @10:15 here in Atlantic Canada )-
Moe in February of 2006 – Hanging out atop the hideout we got for Sasha, who died of a heart attack after being with us for less than three months. Sasha was a bit timid and Domino was much bigger than she was and he played a little too rough for her.
— Yesterday was my cousin-in-law Joe’s birthday.
— Also yesterday, & totally unrelated to Joe’s birthday, my stomach was sore. fter a while I felt a bit like I might be sick if I tried to do too much, and defined ‘too much’ as ‘trying to do any more than I already had, folding up a big tarp and moving it under the section of unfinished plywood roof that had blown off the frame I was building around the steel yard shed. -The plan was to finish building a protective wood shed for our firewood, outside the steel tool shed. Because we couldn’t finish the woodshed before we were inundated with snow last winter, and because the second part of my pension is in orbit somewhere, we couldn’t afford another cord of firewood, so it cost us at least $300 more a month to heat our house which meant we couldn’t pay a couple other bills which meant- anxiety for mon amour fou.
— Last night I dreamed I was doing yoga stomach lifts. I dreamed that I remembered having done stomach lifts the day or night before and I wondered if that was why my stomach hurt. (Probably not- my stomach probably hurt from crying over our cat’s death, crying to the point where I burst into coughing fits, which probably strained my stomach muscles.) Today I wondered if part of the reason I took Domino’s death so hard was I saw him suffering through his last couple days. Maybe that hurt me more than it did him. He complained, meowing mournfully just a little bit louder than he did when he was upset because a door was closed and doors just shouldn’t be closed. That’s part of many cats’ philosophy. Some doors should never be closed. Some doors should always be closed, but some should never be closed. He also meowed fairly loudly and stared at things that maybe he could see and we couldn’t, halfway up the wall in the living room and other spots around the house.
— Last night before we went to bed, Cathi told me she’d found a photo of Moe from 2004, so maybe he was a couple years older than the “8 years old” she’d reported online somewhere a couple days ago. I went digging through old blogs and found evidence back as far as 2005 and she checked out her old bravenet blog and found the passage she’d written there and posted in April of 2004, the day after she brought Moe home from the shelter. -( my stepdaughter, Cathi’s daughter, Erin, had fallen in love with Max a scrappy little British grey cat, partially because he was an older cat and she was worried that nobody would want him. I’m really not sure of all the details, but I think we were in the Ottawa animal shelter to pick up Max when one of us blurted out the fact that Sasha had died of a heart attack shortly after we brought her home. The right person at the shelter heard that and told us she would give us a voucher good for a replacement for Sasha. We brightened, asked about possible replacements who might be there that day, and we were introduced to Moe, who’d been left off outside the shelter, who seemed to like and get along with all the other animals in the shelter, but who had a cough and needed to be ‘fixed’. Before they ‘fixed’ him they carried him around and brought him up to the doors of several other cages, he said hello and didn’t pick any fights with any of the cats there. Cathi remembered that they handed Moe to Erin and he leaned on her shoulder and gave her a hug. Cathi believes we have a photo of that somewhere on her backup drive. Anyway, I’m about to copy and paste the entry that Cathi found last night. )-
I don’t think this will print itself twice here, but I better check to make sure.
The rain has stopped, but it’s a cool cool wind that blows. Oh well, it was still a lovely day. Yesterday was also a lovely day, and with it came the happy arrival of Tigger, the cat formerly known as Morris (for lack of a name), now healthy and happy and anxious to be away from cages. The trip home was fun; he delighted in sticking one red-haired nose out the holes and talking to me the whole way.
At first he was happy to be segregated in the bedroom, lying in front of the windows watching the world go by. But it wasn’t long before he made the great escape through my legs to rush out and then, with Domino meowing at him through the vent outside, Jim figured we might as well introduce them. There was no hissing, no howling, just a sniff of noses and Domino going shrug and turning around and going downstairs. This looked hopefull. So a few more breakout attempts by Tigger resulted in one very fast cat finally making a break for it and exploring his surroundings. He loves the windows, and he Domino had some minor “words” when he went down into Domino’s lair in the basement. So, back to the bedroom. This wasn’t Tigger’s idea of fun though, so after an hour or so of “scratch scratch scratch knock knock knock!” out he went again. Domino was waiting for him, belly up in the hall and when he was let out, Domino led him downstairs.
Last night to give Domino a break, Jim stayed with Domino behind a closed door downstairs, Tigger stayed upstairs with me, walking across my keyboard, knocking down photos off the piano (he learned that is a loud and clunky thing to do, hasn’t been up there since), played with little guy’s puzzle, played the piano, and spent several happy visits on my lap giving me hugs. He does give good hugs.
And last night, against his will, back behind closed doors in the bedroom. He was up on the bed, curled up between my legs (exactly the same way one of my other cats used to ), and then, on the pillow above my head, purring purring purring. That’s how I fell asleep, to the wonderful sounds of cat purring. Did you know that the frequency of cat purr is supposed to be very healing?
Anyway, that lasted until about 6:30 with Domino outside meowing, Tigger inside knocking on the door, so okay, out again. I know, you’re supposed to keep them separate, but these fellows like each other, both are up to date on shots, Tigger is healthy again so I wasn’t too worried. All day today we have had two cats following each other around the house, wrestling (they are so cute doing that, no teeth, no claws, just literally wrestling), sharing Domino’s futon, admiring the birds together, complete with Domino cleaning Tigger. Yes, I think we have two buddies – Domino is still dominant (he did try his hissing routine and Tigger didn’t bat an eye at it, so Domino is happy), Tigger is so happy-go-lucky and friendly, he’s just happy hanging out and playing. All is well with the world, and Domino is also a much happier fellow today . He really did miss having another cat around.
Other than that, well, we checked out some garage sales, drove over to Galletta (very neat little town), plan to go back and check out the flea market tomorrow. Jim has been busy building cat perches with carpet reminants (some given free, some pieces 50 cents from a new store here); was a little too cool to work on the yard like I had planned, but maybe later in the week.
Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 -( 20°C / 68°F & we still have that one small patch of snow here in Atlantic Canada at 3:48 pm )-
Orange Moe and stripey-spotty Domino enjoying their nice sunny window spot in Arnprior, 2007 -ish.
— My sister had a poster in the late 60’s / early 70’s that had several examples of how child development shapes the future of that child. – If a child lives with criticism he learns to be nasty to others. If a child lives with encouragement he learns self esteem.— & so on.
— If a child lives with pets he or she learns something valuable. I forget what that was.
— I can’t find that version, but this appears to be the original: Maybe there was a picture of a child playing with a happy puppy or something.
Children Learn What They Live (1969)
BY DOROTHY LAW NOLTE
If a child lives with criticism, He learns to condemn. If a child lives with hostility, He learns to fight. If a child lives with ridicule, He learns to be shy. If a child lives with shame, He learns to feel guilty. If a child lives with tolerance, He learns to be patient. If a child lives with encouragement, He learns confidence. If a child lives with praise, He learns to appreciate. If a child lives with fairness, He learns justice. If a child lives with security, He learns to have faith. If a child lives with approval, He learns to like himself. If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, He learns to find love in the world.
— But pets certainly teach us something, including unconditional love. And right now, in deep mourning for Domino, because the life that used to be here, isn’t any more, it’s hard to understand or believe that this love and joy is worth the pain of separation. And I know through and through that we don’t just stop being when death occurs.
Monday, May 4th, 2015 -(11°C / 52°F deceptively sunny and bright at 10:45 am in our little corner of Atlantic Canada )-
Not the last photo we ever took of Domino. I didn’t post this one before because it showed how pudgy he became.
— Twice I got to choose a pet. In sixth grade I rode with my father when he drove a friend of his up to the vet in Trumbull to pick up a pet who’d needed extra care there. I asked my father if we could ask if the vet knew of any dogs up for adoption, he’d had a couple drinks earlier and he said, “Sure-” so I did and the vet just happened to have a fairly large young mongrel, white with brown spots, named ‘Reno’ who came ran me all around the parking lot on the end of a rope tied to his collar and then came home with us. We couldn’t let him run wild through our neighborhood so we tied him outside a couple times a day. He learned that a few short loud barking sessions would get him inside in a hurry. One next door neighbor complained. Dad took Reno back to the vet after we’d had him maybe a little more than a week. — I think I was just about 30, back living with my parents again on the advice of a spiritual Yogi. Working evenings in the post office. My sister Sharon and her first husband, Charlie, had puppies and offered me one. I knew that they wouldn’t live very long if I said, “No thanks-” and I wanted them both, but chose a female and named her “Lucky” My mother complained that she didn’t want to be the one who got stuck taking care of another puppy. I told her I was perfectly capable of taking care of her and didn’t mind at all. Another case of within a week, Mom and Dad jumped in the car to go visit my sister and took the puppy back with them. Brother in law Charlie shot both puppies shortly after that and shocked my mother, who didn’t believe me when I’d said that that could happen. Other than that, any time a pet came into my life it came because somebody else wanted it or somebody had to give it away. An undocked Doberman in New York state, Named ‘Rooster’ had scared a kid off a bicycle when he wanted to play with her and the kid’s parents threatened legal actions. I kept Rooster on property I was trying to buy up there and the neighbors made a big stink, I gave Rooster to a future Vet who believed there were ‘papers’ available. The Vet and another friend of mine contacted the woman I’d gotten Rooster from and learned that, yes, somebody had papers, but they weren’t quite legitimate and would have cost real money and a bit of moral quicksand that a future Vet didn’t want to deal with. The dog was a pure bred Doberman who hadn’t been registered at birth and the person with the papers registering phantom pups and charging people with questionable intent an unreasonable amount of money for those papers. And, my friends didn’t think they wanted to try to trust anybody like that. Other friends in New York had to get rid of a cat. I couldn’t have a cat where I was staying, another friend said he would take the cat and keep him for me until I had a place where I could take him back. Okay, well that cat caught feline leukemia very shortly thereafter and wasted away to almost nothing in a couple weeks. My life in New york fell apart shortly after that and my father asked me to move back home and help him out, so I did.
— One stray cat came and found me. She’d been in a fight and the first time I saw her one eye was a mess. I’d never been a cat person before this. But that cat found me every time I was in the depths of teen aged angst and depression. She got killed in the road while I was either in Vermont or away in the Navy. She was special. Every pet has been special. Trixie used to fall asleep in my lap as a wobbly puppy. It nearly killed me to see her in the dog pound after the same neighbor that complained about Reno complained that Trixie was digging up his back yard. A couple weeks after Trixie disappeared from the dog pound that neighbor came over and screamed at me that if we didn’t get rid of that dog he was going to call the cops on us, he’d seen it the day before digging up his back yard again. If I had the power to kill with my mind that guy would have exploded then and there. Thank God I don’t?
— And, other than that, any time a pet came into my life it was somebody else’s idea and somebody else’s choice. But every one of them has been magical and special. When his doctor told my father he might be allergic to pet hair mom asked Sharon in Vermont when I was staying up there if she could take him. When we conferred with her husband and he reluctantlay agreed, we called back and said, “Yes!” And we were told it was too late. Flipper was gone. Too many pets were ripped out of my life by selfish adults. When Max the gray cat died last November, that was rough. We had seen him gradually wasting away and then in the last couple days he went quickly. Erin, my step daughter who had fallen in love with Max, especially because he was ‘older’ when they saw him in the cage in the animal shelter display at a pet store, thought that nobody would want him because he was an older cat. So she gotr him and brought him to Mississauga, then Ottawa, then up to Pembroke when she was going to University up there. Then she transferred to WEstern Ontario University in London, Ontario, and Max stayed with us for a while. Then her future husband turned out to be extremely allergic to cats so Max stayed with us until the end. She came here to see him one last time and he went downhill really fast while she was here, he went that night. That was rough.
— Maybe every time a pet leaves us is going to be rougher.
April 21st, 2015 – We’d heard that the white deer, the mother, who had been coming around with her mottled white and brown offspring had been hit by a bus and killed last winter. I think we’ve seen her and we’ve also seen this one, a younger deer, seen through the rain on the window here. Life renews itself. Earth abides. Silly people and their silly ideas fade away but love and joy and everything good about life is still here. Sometimes interrupted by brief periods of grief. There’s at least one more deer beneath the treem to the left of these guys.
— Argh! And thank you for the facebook messages of support and sympathy.
Easter Monday, 06 April, 2015. -( -18°C / 0°F with Sparkly snow and ice in the trees @ 8:00 am )-
I’ve seen more spectacular visions of sunlight hitting ice and snow on the branches of trees, but Eek! I’m not used to 5 and 10 centimeters / 2 to 4 inches of snow at this time of the year. Global Warming? Climate Change? Or Mother Nature fighting back against a species that threatens all life on Earth? (Us?) But it is pretty.
— We had +56°F / +13°C weather on Good Friday. I watched a documentary on how many fish and how much other ocean life is disappearing from our oceans and remembered Edgar Cayce explaining that the dinosaurs had to go because they threatened all other life on the planet, and when a species or group of species threatens all other life on a planet – it has to go – & that triggers an extinction event. Life insurance ain’t gonna help ya, dud, I mean ‘dude’, or maybe I do mean ‘dud’-
I haven’t shoveled since the last couple inches of snow fell, on – um – Friday into Saturday? First it didn’t look like it might be a rain event, then it looked like it would not amount to anything ‘worth writing home about’ Then it looked like we might get the 8 inches / 20 cm that had been predicted- Then mid afternoon on Sunday / Easter Sunday we were pelted with maybe ten minutes of what looked like a genunine blizzard which, instead of dumping a foot of snow on us, just kind of yawned and wandered off into the depths of questionable memories, feeling like, ‘hey – did that really happen?’ – Shrug –
— I have an insistant orange cat threatening to tear down the office door if I don’t stop everything and feed him right now. I’ll be back-
Not my prettiest photo – This was taken from inside our porch. The interesting shapes on the lower left are chunks of ice we pulled down from the roof on Friday, covered with a little bit of snow. The plastic is still up on the windows and has trapped moisture here and there, or just made spots blurry. But almost all of the should-be-horizontal top bit of the lawn swing is visible out there, showing off its lack of horizontal-ness. I think the bar that the awning has pivoted on is about five feet or more above the ground. There is at least four feet of snow out there covering most of the ground.
— So, the cats have been fed, the dog has been out and back in, he lasted about two minutes before he began complaining that he wanted back in, which did not give me enough time to fill his bowl with ‘dry food’ after making sure he had pleanty of clean wet water. Then the cats had to pace back and forth and remind me that I could be shredded for less of a crime against cat-kind than taking too long to feed the cats and give them their favourite treats.
— Did I tell you that Easter Monday is a Holiday up here? Tell the cats I deserve a day off, see how far we can get with that one.
Good Friday, 03 April, 2015 -( +12°C / +54°F & Sunny & Bright @ 3:30 pm in Atlantic Canada )-
~~~~~~~ Happy Birthday, Cathi ~~~~~~~
Jassper taking Cathi for a Happy Birthday walk beside what’s left of the great wall of snow three quarters of the way up our street here. 03 April, 2015.
Jassper being himself at the turn-around up at the end of our street. 03 April, 2015
Cathi and Jassper, maybe halfway up the street. Jassper thought she’d like to meander from side to side while he strained to smell something – interesting? 03 April, 2015
Cathi’s Photo. She took this shot from the ‘turnaround’ at the top end of our street. 03 April, 2015
Jassper and me, where we watched Cathi get creative with the camera and Jassper was thinking he should roll around in the snow again.
— It was, and still is, a beautiful day up here in the great white north. 54°F / +12°C on this Good Friday. Cathi thought it would be fun to take Jassper for a nice hoof session up the road and back. Our always over enthusiastic Labrador perrenial puppy ( “puppy-horse”?) bounded all around the kitchen when she reached for the leash and then, of course did everything he could to make it difficult for the two of us together to get that leash with it’s nose piece over his head. Then he tried to scrape it off and/or wiggle out of it when he wasn’t trying to pull our arms out of their sockets all the way up and back. He did make it through 2 years of ‘obedience?’ lessons, but then allowed himself to be spoiled wrotten by a house guest. It did not take long for somebody to wipe most of the ‘good dog’ training away.
— Besides allowing ourselves to be dragged up and down the street with various stops along the way to check out interesting smells and roll around in snow and ice, Cathi and I did spend maybe half an hour chopping the last bits of ice from the porch roof over-hang.
Birthday girl and stubborn dog, on a beautiful day while the clouds roll in. 03 April, 2015.
— We now have a possible 20 cm / 8 or 9 inches of snow tomorrow and another possible 10 cm / 4 inches? of snow on Monday. —> Easter Monday is a Holiday up here, and so was today.
Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 -( -9°C / +16°F – With light ‘Snow-Globe’ snow falling at 11:30 am in Atlantic Canada )-
2 young deer seen through plastic from Cathi’s Zen Corner on March 16th.
— This is Cathi’s and my 13th Anniversary – based on our first face to face meeting. Seems impossible that it was thirteen years ago tonight that I caught a glimpse of her before she unchained the hotel door and decided I didn’t look like a serial killer and let me in. That glimpse filled me with “Holy [snar] – On a scale of 1 through 10 – She’s a 15. And I feel like a 5, and that might be stretching it quite a bit.” After driving from Fairfield County, Connecticut, up through and across New York State, crossing at Niagara Falls and finding the right hotel – close to her home territory – close enough to her home so if she took one look at me and wanted to run away screaming, she didn’t have that far to go – And if felt like it took me a whole lot longer than I expected to drive from 34 miles East of New York City to Buffalo and up to Niagara Falls, cross the border – and get a little bit lost in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada – I think I felt more like a “2” on the 1 through 10 scale. But, miraculously, she didn’t see it that way – and that one first hug probably saved my life, in more ways than one. I am definitely a lot happier than I imagined I ever could be. — I have this problem — fifteen or twenty minutes after meeting anybody I pretty much ‘know’ all the ‘reasons’ why a close, loving relationship with this or that person could never possibly work, unless I ignore the pain of dealing with intolerable attacks on my most precious sensibilities and sensitivities – or something like that. And I never saw, heard, of felt a hint of any irreconcilable differences between us. This was, and continues to be – magical.
— Today is also my cousin Debi’s Birthday –
— I was up early this morning, doing computer schnarr in my office here. And, glancing a bit to the left as the world outside’s detail emerged from the dark background that was all our ‘deer-cam’ / security camera could see earlier as it was pointed toward the back of the house and more precisely, the hill where the ‘committee’ of deer show up when they’re starving enough to come near humans who have, suspiciously enough, tossed oats or day old bread their way, and don’t smell like gunpowder… The light dusting of snow we got overnight looked like hallmark card material and I thought I better grab my camera and take some photos while wandering around in a reverie about thirteen years zipping by in a land that is not always this white on white – and holy cow, how can this be?
— At 7:30 this morning it was warmer, more like -1°C / +30°F . And Moe, the orange cat and a half, had been driving me nuts trying to scratch down the barrier that keeps him out of the office where he would be driving me even crazier, trying to scratch away any skin on my legs in his campaign to convince me that my job as a human is to serve the cats, which means I have to drop everything and either feed them until they explode or pet them until they let me know they’ve had enough by turning around and shredding my hand with one incredible quick bat of a paw before they bound away and meet and crack jokes about how they drew blood on those stupid humans they keep around for amusement.
Hallmark cards? Currier & Ives? Picturesque?
— Either Currier and Ives or the quality control freaks at Hallmark would ‘photoshop’ the slight imperfections out before signing their names to scenes like the one above. It was barely snowing and warm enough this morning so I didn’t get the ‘unreal’ feeling that sometimes approaches ‘suspended animation’. There are times when I look at these trees and the macrocosm around them and feel like I’m looking at something in a terrarium or a museum display.
March 18th, my father’s birthday. I was trying to capture the feel of the snow’s texture. – That and the depth it had blown since I’d shoveled it a few hours earlier.
Almost the exact same shot. I stared at both of these and compared them to see if either one ‘told the story’ any better than the other. I changed my mind several times.
— Last Sunday – ‘during’ -, and Monday – ‘after’ – Sunday’s ‘Ides of March Blizzard’, I was barely able to stand the cold and the whipping wind and felt something like overwhelmed past the breaking point by the task of digging out the driveway. My fingers felt like they’d been hit by hammers and burned with aggravated ‘pins and needles’ for quite a while every time I came in and tried to warm up. — Wednesday’s snowfall was almost a ‘why bother?’ but when I did wake up enough to jump up and check outside, I saw that the delightful snow plows had left us just enough of a ridge – two and a half feet tall? – at the end of the driveway to make it impossible to get out of the driveway, and they’d also managed to swing by fast enough to throw a pile of snow more like four feet high where I had valiantly struggled to slice into the six foot high mountain along the driveway so we could actually get in and out – but for whatever reason, I felt a whole lot better on Wednesday than I did on Monday – more like I had sunshine inside my head and could feel love for the whole universe even while digging down and tossing shovel loads of snow up over my head. — oh, the snow-blower went on strike last week. It’s either frozen or needs a new widget to fix the gizmos that tell it to move after you put the shifter into either ‘Forward’ or ‘Reverse’ with its various gradations of power or speed or whatever those degrees between neutral and ‘all the way’ mean.
Yes, the mountain of snow blown and shoveled from the driveway is higher than the van.
— I took almost 40 photos this morning and some of them are more interesting than others. Of course, that’s subjective. Last night’s storm brought rain to Halifax and the southern extremities of New Brunswick. The local news people are warning people with flat roofs – businesses or whatever – to check and clear their roofs of snow before warming temperatures and rain adds weight to the already incredible amounts of snow on many rooftops up here. Several buildings have collapsed this winter, including at least one barn that was nothing like flat – and that collapse killed several of one farmer’s best milk cows. This is our second winter in this area and people are telling us that this is unusual – and some of the climate change believers are saying, “Get used to it – even worse might be coming in the near future.” And some conspiracy believers are pointing at HAARP and explaining in scientific terms that what HAARP does is block the usual flow of moisture, creates droughts in California and send the ‘weather’ up and over their blockage and exacerbates the polar vortex nonsense that brings these previously unbelievable dumps of snow here in our little corner of reality.
This shot was taken from across the road, and maybe five yards or meters to the east- a different angle, but you can see the other side of the mountain here, and maybe recognize the jeep that began to emerge from beneath the snow piled around and on top of it.
— Here’s where the world begins to look like ‘white on white beside white against white’ and you don’t want a white car or a white house, because you might not be able to find it when the definition of snow-blind takes on a few new shades of – white – meaning. I probably should have ‘enhanced’ the above photo, but I don’t know if that would have only tortured PhotoShop – which is a noble enough endeavor – because when all the values are ‘white’ it’s hard to see what you’re doing – or trying to do.
A few steps farther east from the whiteness and this is our local cedar tree, a variation that seems to be really local. We had a hard time identifying it when we first got here.
— As I’ve been wondering if this entry or ‘post’ has gone over the line into ‘overkill’ I think there were a couple more photos here worth ‘sharing’. The above is one of them. Last winter I think a couple deer were able to get under this tree and maybe chew on a couple of evergreen bits – They’re not exactly needles. This year the deer can’t get anywhere near this tree. At least not in the past couple months.
“Deer Cam” – I like the “Q-See” brand, the colours are really good. Most other security cameras are way off. Maybe the idea there was – you should have to pay some geek from the company an extra hundred bucks to invade your privacy, ‘case’ your home for valuables, & then maybe adjust something esoteric to get the colours closer to reality, and make you feel like an idiot in the process. Oh, the black tape is electrical tape mixed in with duct tape. Helps me feel like a real do it yourselfer.
— I took this photo this morning and thought as I took it and again as I uploaded it from the SD card, that it looks like it could have been taken any time during the year.
We built this frame around and above the steel shed as a place to store our firewood. Looks like this year’s snow broke the frame, I think the middle and back pieces of wood are both broken. 🙁
— Yeah, you can see the snow that blew in around the shed and covered the last of our firewood before even more snow broke the frame there. 🙁
Two out of 42 photos this morning had either bits of snow reflecting the flash that I didn’t notice went off or we got our usual dose of ‘orbs’ These are a bit too golden or yellow to feel like reflected flash to me. I don’t know, what do you think?
— There are a lot of birch trees just to the right out of this shot, I actually did take several shots of those birches, and a couple more shots of evergreens looking picturesque or artsy – Maybe I’ll torture you with those some other time.
Cats in Cathi’s ‘Zen Corner’ – which is a bit more crowded this winter than usual, with the plant shelves from our mini greenhouse coming inside this year. Domino on the chair is wondering why Moe is inspecting my shoes so closely. Maybe he thinks a mouse might run out? & Oh, my pants on the chair to the left, got really wet while I was shoveling, and here they are almost fully dry.
— Domino, the stripey – spotty Bengal rescue on the chair – spent the first year and a half since we moved here hiding out in ‘his’ bedroom. Now we’ve been trying to move his food out so he has to get brave and explore the world beyond his self imposed boundaries? And he’s strutting around and pulling stuff out of cradenzas and acting like he owns the place and if we’re nice, he’ll let us stay here with him. I couldn’t finish this monologue without bringing the cats into it. I might have already mentioned the orange guy, but here he is, staring at my running shoes, and I have no idea what he finds so fascinating about my shoes either, but he likes to try to get between my feet and whatever shoes I’m trying to put on, quite often. One of these days I might tell you that he almost looks like he’s grinning after sniffing my feet when they come out of shoes, the sweatier and stinkier the better. One of these days, I just might figure out cats. Then I probably will need a straight jacket.
— Happy Anniversary, Cathi, Traditionally, I’m supposed to give you something made of lace? The modernists think I should give you ‘textile furs’ instead. Last year’s ‘modern’ gift would have been Pearls – If I had any pearls of wisdom, would that count? So would a ‘textile fur’ be a ‘fake fur’? Um, I’m sorry, but I can’t think of any pearls of wisdom to elucidate that with.
Thursday, March 5th, 2015: -(-3°C / +27°F @ 6:17 am in Atlantic Canada )- It’s my friend, Lyn’s Birthday. 🙂
— At 2:34 am I woke up hearing what sounded like a fairly loud crack in the frame of the bed on my side. I thought the mattress might have settled down into a better fit or something. Then at 2:43 am I heard our First Nations / Native American drum go thunk like somebody hit it with a rubber coated drum stick. This was a more normal sounding ‘thunk’ than usual. I thought this ‘felt’ like a Yoga Master, said ‘Thank You-” and tried to listen/ strain my senses -inner and outer senses- to receive any kind of message that might be connected to that thunk. At 4:09 there was another thunk on the drum, this one was more like what we get a lot, like somebody striking a tightly stretched drum head with a stick near the edge, I said “Thank You-” again and fell asleep reaching for whatever message could have been connected to this thunk. I did have a string of dreams that felt like they were related to exploring a computer game world.
— I got more sleep than usual over night, more restful than usual? Didn’t wake up as often.
— When I woke up around 6 am I thought I should get up and write down the times and descriptions of the cracks and thunks I’d heard. I came into the office here and discovered that “Firefox’s plug in container has crashed again” and I “Need to restart firefox” This happens a lot. But while I was restarting firefox I lost a bunch of details from my dreams, so now they’re just sketchy memories. The cats were also loudly complaining that they hadn’t had any treats in a couple hours and they didn’t think that this was at all acceptable.
— Yesterday: The final episode from season 3 of Continuum was broadcast on show case up here. We now have to wait for the promised 6 episode last season that will tie up all the loose ends to this evolving story of time travel and the complications of trying to change history to avoid the nasty consequences of a surveillance state. The third season ended with one hell of a monkey wrench after the characters thought they had safely fixed their problem.
— And Cathi was happy that there were a lot of interesting programs last night, X company, about Canada’s World War II spy program, among them.
— & ugh, yesterday at 6:18 pm when I began to worry about Cathi not being home yet, I looked outside and learned that the driveway had a nasty high ridge (two and a half feet high?) of hard packed icy snow that some snow plow had plugged the end of the driveway with since the last time I’d checked. I groaned and went out and shoveled until she got home. No, she hadn’t ended up in a ditch- No, the van hadn’t died halfway home somewhere. Her work load is so crazy that she needed to stay a couple hours late to get through as much as she could.
— I did not drop dead from frantically shovelling through that yucky icy snow ridge. My back muscles were screaming at me though.
— It’s 6:45 am and the world outside is glowing a very strange blueish colour. Maybe I did wake up happily in a positive paralle dimension?
Special Edition? Tuesday, 17 February, 2015 – Why we should have ended homelessness a long time ago:
This tweet led me to the story below. —jim w—
End Homelessness? – Copied and Pasted from an article in Mother Jones – March/April 2015 Issue – “Room for Improvement/Clean up cities. Give the homeless a place to live. And save money too? The shockingly simple, surprising cost-effective solution that won over a bunch of conservatives in Utah.” by Scott Carrier – w/Photos by Jim McAuley
It’s early December, 10:30 in the morning, and Rene Zepeda is driving a Volunteers of America minivan around Salt Lake City, looking for reclusive homeless people, those camping out next to the railroad tracks or down by the river or up in the foothills. The winter has been unseasonably warm so far—it’s 60 degrees today—but the cold weather is coming and the van is stacked with sleeping bags, warm coats, thermal underwear, socks, boots, hats, hand warmers, protein bars, nutrition drinks, canned goods. By the end of the day, Rene says, it will all be gone.
These supplies make life a little easier for people who live outside, but Rene’s main goal is to develop a relationship of trust with them, and act as a bridge to get them off the street. “I want to get them into homes,” Rene says. “I tell them, ‘I’m working for you. I want to get you out of the homeless situation.'”
And he does. He and all the other people who work with the homeless here have perhaps the best track record in the country. In the past nine years, Utah has decreased the number of homeless by 72 percent—largely by finding and building apartments where they can live, permanently, with no strings attached. It’s a program, or more accurately a philosophy, called Housing First.
Scott Nowlin, 60, was homeless for 20 years before he was given a home as part of Utah’s Housing First program.
One of the two phones on the dash starts ringing. “Outreach, this is Rene.” He’s upbeat, the voice you want to hear if you’re in trouble. “Do you want to meet at the motel? Or the 7-Eleven?” he asks. “Okay, we’ll be there in five minutes.”
Five days ago, William Miller, 63, was diagnosed with liver cancer at St. Mary’s Hospital in Reno, Nevada. The next day a friend put him on the train to Salt Lake City, hoping the Latter Day Saints Hospital might help. For the past two nights he’s been sleeping under a freeway viaduct. He vomits when he wakes up in the morning and has gone through two sets of clothes due to diarrhea. Yesterday he went to the LDS Hospital for a checkup and slept for five and a half hours in a bathroom. Now he’s sitting on the back of the van in a motel parking lot. A friend staying at the motel let him take a shower in his room, but then William started feeling weak, so he called Rene.
“I’m one that rarely gets sick,” he says. “It takes a lot to get me down, but I’m all out of everything.”
He has bushy sideburns and a lot of hair sticking out from a beanie and looks as if he was once much bigger than he is now, like he’s shrinking inside oversized clothes.
“I had two cups of Jell-O yesterday. My buddy got me a cup of coffee and a couple of doughnuts, but I’m gagging and throwing up everything. I’m nodding out talking to people, and that’s not good.”
Rene helps William get in the passenger seat and drives him to the Fourth Street Clinic, which provides free care for the homeless and is where Rene used to work as an AmeriCorps volunteer. He knows the system and trusts the doctors and nurses. William gets out of the van and walks inside very slowly and sits down in the waiting room. Rene checks him in. “I’m a tough old bird,” William says to me. “I ain’t never had something like this. I’m just weak as all get out, and in a lot of pain.”
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Then he nods off.
The next stop is at a camp next to the railroad tracks. A 57-year-old man and a 41-year-old woman are living in a three-man dome tent covered with plastic tarps. Patrick says he’s doing okay, even though he’s had two strokes this year and has two tumors on his left lung and walks with a cane.
“My legs are going out. I’m sure it’s from camping out. We were living in the hills for two years,” he says. “My girlfriend, Charmaine, is talking about killing herself she’s in so much pain.” Charmaine is a heroin addict who suffers from diabetes, grand mal seizures, cirrhosis, and heart attacks. “When we lived in the foothills we both got bit by poisonous spiders,” she says, showing me a three-inch scar above her swollen right ankle. “The doctor tried to cut out the infection, but he accidently cut my calf muscle.”
She walks slowly, with a limp. As Rene is getting Charmaine in the van, Patrick takes him aside and asks if maybe Rene could get her into one of the subsidized apartments for chronically homeless people.
“If she comes back here she’ll die,” he says. “Especially with the cold weather coming.”
Rene tells him he’ll look into it.
On the way to the Fourth Street Clinic, I ask Charmaine how many times she’s been to an emergency room or clinic this year.
He lost his job, home, and kids to drug use. Now Patrick Bartholomew is clean and has full custody. “I can talk about my story now,” he says. “For a long time I couldn’t.”
“More times than I can count,” she says.
By the end of the day, Rene has met with 12 homeless people, all with drug and alcohol problems, many requiring medical help, all needing the sleeping bags, warm clothes, food, and supplies that he hands out. As the sun sets we head back to the office with an empty van.
“I do it for the money and glamour,” he says, laughing. “No, I mean you cross a line and you really can’t go back, ’cause you just know this is out here.” We could, as a country, look at the root causes of homelessness and try to fix them. One of the main causes is that a lot of people can’t afford a place to live. They don’t have enough money to pay rent, even for the cheapest dives available. Prices are rising, inventory is extremely tight, and the upshot is, as a new report by the Urban Institute finds, that there’s only 29 affordable units available for every 100 extremely low-income households. So we could create more jobs, redistribute the wealth, improve education, socialize health carebasically redesign our political and economic systems to make sure everybody can afford a roof over their heads.
Instead of this, we do one of two things: We stick our heads in the sand or try to find bandages for the symptoms. This story is about how Utah has found a third way.
To understand how the state did that it helps to know that homeless-service advocates roughly divide their clients into two groups: those who will be homeless for only a few weeks or a couple of months, and those who are “chronically homeless,” meaning they have been without a place to live for more than a year, and have other problems—mental illness or substance abuse or other debilitating damage. The vast majority, 85 percent, of the nation’s estimated 580,000 homeless are of the temporary variety, mainly men but also women and whole families who spend relatively short periods of time sleeping in shelters or cars, then get their lives together and, despite an economy increasingly stacked against them, find a place to live, somehow. However, the remaining 15 percent, the chronically homeless, fill up the shelters night after night and spend a lot of time in emergency rooms and jails. This is expensive—costing between $30,000 and $50,000 per person per year according to the Interagency Council on Homelessness. And there are a few people in every city, like Reno’s infamous “Million-Dollar Murray,” who really bust the bank. So in recent years, both local and federal efforts to solve the homelessness epidemic have concentrated on the chronic population, currently about 84,000 nationwide.
In 2005, approximately 2,000 of these chronically homeless people lived in the state of Utah, mainly in and around Salt Lake City. Many different agencies and groups—governmental and nonprofit, charitable and religious—worked to get them back on their feet and off the streets. But the numbers and costs just kept going up.
The model for dealing with the chronically homeless at that time, both here and in most places across the nation, was to get them “ready” for housing by guiding them through drug rehabilitation programs or mental-health counseling, or both. If and when they stopped drinking or doing drugs or acting crazy, they were given heavily subsidized housing on the condition that they stay clean and relatively sane. This model, sometimes called “linear residential treatment” or “continuum of care,” seemed to be a good idea, but it didn’t work very well because relatively few chronically homeless people ever completed the work required to become “ready,” and those who did often could not stay clean or stop having mental episodes, so they lost their apartments and became homeless again.
In 1992, a psychologist at New York University named Sam Tsemberis decided to test a new model. His idea was to just give the chronically homeless a place to live, on a permanent basis, without making them pass any tests or attend any programs or fill out any forms.
“Okay,” Tsemberis recalls thinking, “they’re schizophrenic, alcoholic, traumatized, brain damaged. What if we don’t make them pass any tests or fill out any forms? They aren’t any good at that stuff. Inability to pass tests and fill out forms was a large part of how they ended up homeless in the first place. Why not just give them a place to live and offer them free counseling and therapy, health care, and let them decide if they want to participate? Why not treat chronically homeless people as human beings and members of our community who have a basic right to housing and health care?”
Tsemberis and his associates, a group called Pathways to Housing, ran a large test in which they provided apartments to 242 chronically homeless individuals, no questions asked. In their apartments they could drink, take drugs, and suffer mental breakdowns, as long as they didn’t hurt anyone or bother their neighbors. If they needed and wanted to go to rehab or detox, these services were provided. If they needed and wanted medical care, it was also provided. But it was up to the client to decide what services and care to participate in.
The results were remarkable. After five years, 88 percent of the clients were still in their apartments, and the cost of caring for them in their own homes was a little less than what it would have cost to take care of them on the street. A subsequent study of 4,679 New York City homeless with severe mental illness found that each cost an average of $40,449 a year in emergency room, shelter, and other expenses to the system, and that getting those individuals in supportive housing saved an average of $16,282. Soon other cities such as Seattle and Portland, Maine, as well as states like Rhode Island and Illinois, ran their own tests with similar results. Denver found that emergency-service costs alone went down 73 percent for people put in Housing First, for a savings of $31,545 per person; detox visits went down 82 percent, for an additional savings of $8,732. By 2003, Housing First had been embraced by the Bush administration.
Still, the new paradigm was slow to catch on. Old practices are sometimes hard to give up, even when they don’t work. When Housing First was initially proposed in Salt Lake City, some homeless advocates thought the new model would be a disaster. Also, it would be hard to sell the ultra-conservative Utah Legislature on giving free homes to drug addicts and alcoholics. And the Legislature would have to back the idea because even though most of the funding for new construction would come from the federal government, the state would have to pick up the balance and find ways to plan, build, and manage the new units. And where are you going to put them? Not in my backyard.
This is when two men who’d worked with the homeless in Utah for many years—Matt Minkevitch, executive director of the largest shelter in Salt Lake City, and Kerry Bate, executive director of the Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake—started scheming.
“We got together and decided we needed Lloyd Pendleton,” Minkevitch said.
Pendleton was then an executive manager for the LDS Church Welfare Department, and he had a reputation for solving difficult managerial problems both in the United States and overseas. He’d also been involved in helping out with homeless projects in Salt Lake City, organizing volunteers, and donating food from the Bishop’s Storehouse. Dedicated to providing emergency and disaster assistance around the world as well as supplying basic material necessities to church members in need of assistance, the Church Welfare Department is like a large corporation in itself. It has 52 farms, 13 food-processing plants, and 135 storehouses. It also makes furniture like mattresses, tables, and dressers. If you’re a member of the church and you lose your job, your house, and all your money, you can go to your bishop and he’ll give you a place to live, some food, some money, and set you up with a job…no questions asked. All you have to do in return is some community service and try to follow the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. A system very much like Housing First—give them what they need, then work on their problems.
Minkevitch and Bate believed if they could get Pendleton to come on as the director of Utah’s Task Force on Homelessness he could mobilize the LDS, unite the different homeless-service providers, and sell the Housing First paradigm to the Legislature. Minkevitch’s agency had a close relationship with LDS leaders; the church had been a big donor for his shelter, The Road Home. Bate had worked with Lt. Gov. Olene Walker, who had just ascended to the governorship when Mike Leavitt was appointed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. He asked her to write a letter to LDS elders, requesting that they “loan” Pendleton to the state. She did, and the church leaders said yes. It was a perfect marriage between church and state.
Once Pendleton took over the task force, he traveled to other cities to study their homeless programs. But he didn’t see anything he thought would work, at least in Utah. “I wasn’t willing to go to the Legislature until we could tell them we had a new goal and a new vision,” he said.
Then, in 2005, after a conference in Las Vegas, Pendleton shared an airport shuttle ride with Tsemberis and got a firsthand account of the Housing First trial. Tsemberis bore his testimony, as the Mormons would say, about the transformative power of giving someone a home.
Kim Hansen moved into Grace Mary Manor in 2014, after 15 years of homelessness. Hansen, who once owned a restaurant, now runs the kitchen at another homeless residence.
“Going from homelessness into a home changes a person’s psychological identity from outcast to member of the community,” Tsemberis says. The old model “was well intentioned but misinformed. It is a long stairway that required sobriety and required stability in order to get into housing. So many people could never achieve that while on the street. You actually need housing to achieve sobriety and stability, not the other way around. But that was the system that was there. Some people called it a housing readiness industry, because all these programs were in business to improve people to get them ready for housing. Improve their character, improve their behavior, improve their moral standing. There is also this attitude about poor people, like somehow they brought this upon themselves by not behaving right.” By contrast, he adds, “Housing First provides a new sense of belonging that is reinforced in every interaction with new neighbors and other community members. We operate with the belief that housing is a basic right. Everyone on the streets deserves a home. He or she should not have to earn it, or prove they are ready or worthy.”
When I asked Pendleton if that struck a chord because Housing First seemed akin to the LDS Church Welfare Department, he was careful to insist that “the Mormon church is no different than other Christian churches in this way.” Whatever, he was sold. Lloyd Pendleton is 74 years old, fit and spry with silver hair and pale-blue eyes that have the penetrating and somewhat mesmerizing stare of a border collie. He grew up relatively poor on a dairy farm and cattle ranch in a remote desert of western Utah and maybe has some cow dog in him.
“As a kid,” he says, “I was expected to do everything on the farm, from building fences to chopping wood to milking the cows. Every year I was given a new pair of work boots and a new pair of Levi’s. That was all my family could afford.”
He earned an MBA from Brigham Young University and was hired straight out of school by the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. “I remember my first day on the job, sitting at a table in the corporate headquarters, looking around and realizing everyone else had gone to Harvard or Yale, and I was just a country hick from Utah. It was intimidating, for sure, but I thought, ‘No one here can outwork me.'”
At Ford, Pendleton began to hone what he calls the “champion method” for getting results. Champions, according to Pendleton, have stamina, enthusiasm, a sense of humor, and they focus on solutions rather than process. Getting stuff done is more important than having meetings. A perfect meeting for Pendleton amounts to him clasping his hands and saying, “Let’s get going and not waste any more time.”
Pendleton asked Tsemberis to come speak to the state task force, which he did, twice. Then Pendleton called a meeting of “all the dogs in the fight” and announced that they were going to run a Housing First trial in Salt Lake City. He told them to come up with the names of 25 chronically homeless people, “the worst of the worst,” and they were going to give them apartments scattered around the city, no questions asked. If it worked for them, it would work for everybody.
“I didn’t want any ‘creaming,'” Pendleton said. “We needed to be able to trust the results.”
Many of the people in the room were uncomfortable with Pendleton’s idea. They were case managers and shelter directors and city housing officials who worked with “the worst of the worst” every day and knew they had serious personal problems—terrible alcoholism, dementia, paranoid schizophrenia. Something bad was sure to happen. There could be lawsuits. And who would be responsible? No, they thought, it will not work.
Pendleton, however, did not want to hear complaints. This was a small-scale trial, and he only wanted them to answer one question: “What do you need to get this done?”
So they did it. They ended up with 17 people and gave them apartments, health care, and services. They took people without a home and made them part of a neighborhood. And it worked, surprisingly well. After nearly two years, 14 were still in their apartments (the other three died), and they are still there today. They haven’t caused problems for themselves or their neighbors, Pendleton says.
The cost of housing and caring for the 17 people, over the first two years, was more than expected because many needed serious medical care and spent some time in hospitals. They were, however, the worst of the worst. Pendleton felt confident that, averaged out over the whole homeless population and over a period of years, they were looking at a break-even proposition or better—it would cost no more to house the homeless and treat them in their homes than it would to cover the cost of shelter stays, jail time, and emergency room visits if they were left on the street. And those “cashable” savings wouldn’t even include less quantifiable benefits for the rest of the state’s residents: reduced wait times at ERs, faster police response times, cleaner streets.
This is when Pendleton announced a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness in Utah by 2015. But finding scattered-site housing wasn’t going to cut it. To house 2,000 chronically homeless people, they would build five new apartment complexes. Around 90 percent of the construction money would come from the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, which gives tax credits to large financial corporations that provide financing for housing authorities or nonprofits to build low-income housing—an average 6 percent profit on their investment. It’s a rather complicated and circuitous route, but it’s politically easier than getting lawmakers to allocate billions for poor people. The remaining 10 percent of construction costs would come from state taxes and charitable organizations. Most of the rent and maintenance on the units would come from federal Section 8 housing subsidies—and, at the time, Utah was fortunate enough not to have a long waiting list. On-site services, such as counseling, would largely be paid for by state and county general-fund dollars.
It took the task force only four years to build five new apartment buildings with units for 1,000 individuals and families. That, and an additional 500 scattered-site units, reduced the number of chronically homeless by almost three-quarters. And nine years into the 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness, Pendleton estimates that Utah’s Housing First program cost between $10,000 and $12,000 per person, about half of the $20,000 it cost to treat and care for homeless people on the street. As anyone who’s followed social services can tell you, however, cheery annual reports can hide a world of dysfunction. So I go to see for myself.
Sunrise Metro was the first apartment complex built following the 2005 pilot study. It has 100 one-bedroom units for single residents, many of whom are veterans. Mark Eugene Hudgins is 58 years old and has brain damage. When I first start talking to him, I wonder if he’s been drinking.
“I always get hassled because I sound a little drunk,” he says. “My brain works a little slow. They drilled a hole in it.”
He had a motorcycle accident in Santa Ana, California, the year after graduating from high school. After that he spent 22 months in the Navy, then worked as a groundskeeper for the aerial field photography office of the Department of Agriculture for 13 or 14 years. He says he was homeless for five years before he came here, but he’s not sure: “My memory is a little fuzzy.”
“This is a nice place to live,” he says. “I put up with them and they put up with me, and it’s a good deal. I like it here.”
While we talk, two other residents come up to listen. One is in a wheelchair. His name is John Dahlsrud, 63, and he says he’s had MS for 45 years. The other guy looks like a weary Santa Claus—Paul Stephenson, 62, a Navy vet who lived for three years in the bushes behind a car dealership.
“The caseworkers are good,” Paul says. “They take us bowling on Saturdays. The apartment pays for one game, we pay for the second game.”
“They let you do what you want,” John adds, “as long as you keep things down to a minimum and don’t run up and down the halls naked.”
“Utilities are included, except for cable,” Paul says. “They gave everybody a free cellphone with 250 minutes a month. We get a pool table, a pingpong table, 60-inch television, eight recliner rockers. They give us food boxes once a month. I got 22 cans of tuna fish last month. There’s nothing to complain about.”
They each receive about $800 a month in Supplemental Security Income, and pay a third of that toward their rent. (The balance is paid via federal vouchers, along with some Utah funds.)
Over at Grace Mary Manor, I am given a tour by the county housing authority’s Kerry Bate—one of the men who helped persuade the LDS church to loan Pendleton to the task force. Grace Mary Manor is home to 84 formerly homeless individuals with disabling conditions such as brain damage, cancer, and dementia. You have to have a swipe card or get buzzed in at the front door, and there’s a front desk manager during the day and an off-duty sheriff at night. Bate explains that one of the biggest problems in giving homeless people a place to live is that they often want to bring their friends in off the street—they feel guilty. So there are rules to limit such visitations.
“It gives the people who live here a way out,” Bate says. “They can blame it on us.”
Tom Pinkerton, 67, from Red River, South Dakota, has cancer of the esophagus. He needs to have surgery, but first has to gain 10 to 20 pounds to make it through the anesthesia. (He has since passed away.) Howard Kelly, 44, from Denton, Texas, has brain damage from falling out of a car when he was a kid. David Simmons, 39, from Texas, was living under a bridge before coming here. I’m no doctor, but I’d guess he has some mental-health problems. Lorraine Levi says she’s “over 50.” Her boyfriend beat her up and broke her back. She needs surgery and is on strong doses of pain meds.
“The average person at Grace Mary was homeless for eight years before coming here, so their health condition is really poor,” Bate says.
On the third floor there’s a library with big leather chairs, nice wooden tables, and a portrait of Grace Mary Gallivan hanging above the fireplace. She died in 2000. Her father was a manager of a silver mine in Park City, and her husband was publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune. Her family foundation put up $600,000 for the construction of the apartment complex, matched by the foundation of the heirs to Utah’s first multimillionaire, David Eccles, who built one of the biggest banks in the West. From a window in the library you can look outside and see a gazebo for picnics and a volleyball court with evenly raked sand.
Bate introduces me to Steven Roach and Kay Luther, young caseworkers who check in on their clients every day to see what they need. They take them to the Fourth Street Clinic and Valley Mental Health, bring food from the food banks—pretty much anything they can do to help.
“The point is to have a service person on-site,” Bate says. “So if Sally Jo is having a crisis, we got somebody here who can help. Their goal isn’t to take everybody off the street and repair them and turn them into middle-class America. Their goal is to make sure they stay housed.”
“We have a guy who goes out to sleep in the park every month, and we have to go get him, talk him into coming back,” Roach says.
“There’s no mandate for participation in substance abuse or mental-health care, but we can certainly encourage it,” Luther says. “We had one guy who got completely clean from heroin and is off working in a furniture store.”
Bate shows me an empty apartment, a fairly spartan studio with linoleum floors, new sheets on the bed, the kitchen stocked with canned food, silverware, plates, etc.
“The church donated all of this,” Bate says. “Before we opened up, volunteers from the local Mormon ward came over and assembled all the furniture. It was overwhelming. For the first several years we were open, the LDS church made weekly food deliveries—everything from meat to butter and cheese. It wasn’t just dried beans—it was good stuff.” (The Utah Food Bank now makes weekly deliveries.)
I ask him if this is why the programs work so well in Utah—because of church donations.
“If the LDS church was not into it, the money would be missed, for sure,” he says, “but it’s church leadership that’s immensely important. If the word gets out that the church is behind something, it removes a lot of barriers.”
“Why do you think they do it?” I ask.
“Oh,” he says, “I think they believe all that stuff in the New Testament about helping the poor. That’s kind of crazy for a religion, I know, but I think they take it quite seriously.”
“Do you think you can meet the goal of eliminating chronic homelessness in Utah by 2015?” I ask.
“Yes,” Bate says, “we have a little less than 272 remaining unhoused, and that’s a number you can wrap your head around. Not like California and other places.”
“So do you think your success can be duplicated in other places?”
“I think it can be duplicated,” he replies. “San Francisco has Silicon Valley. Seattle has Bill Gates. Almost all of our larger cities have local philanthropic organizations that can help a lot with funding and building community support.” And that’s the question, isn’t it? Can Housing First scale to areas where land and services are expensive, where NIMBYs are accordingly more powerful, places where the full organizational zeal and experience of the LDS church aren’t in evidence, and where data about the benefits of offering the homeless a permanent residence might not withstand the whims of politicians? In New York City, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled out a well-regarded Housing First program focusing on mentally ill individuals. But he then gutted housing subsidies for the general homeless population, including families, after saying he thought they promoted passivity instead of “client responsibility.” Today, homelessness is the highest since the Great Depression, with 60,000 New Yorkers—including 26,000 children—on the streets, in the subway tunnels, and in the city’s sprawling network of 255 shelters, conveniently located far from the playgrounds of the 1 percent. “Every month I get a paper from Welfare saying how much they just paid for me and my two kids to stay in our one room in this shelter. $3,444! Every month!” one exasperated mom told The New Yorker. “Give me $900 and I’ll find me and my kids an apartment, I promise you.” The new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has pledged to reinvest in supportive and affordable housing, but 1 in 5 residents now live below the poverty line, and demand is high.
But the real test case might be California, where 20 percent of the nation’s homeless live. Los Angeles has 34,393 homeless people, more than a quarter of whom are chronically so. San Francisco has 6,408 homeless, Santa Clara County—home to San Jose and the greater Silicon Valley—has 7,567, and housing costs are among the highest in the nation. It takes three minimum-wage jobs to pay for an average one-bedroom apartment there. Tax credits for construction and Section 8 vouchers for rent don’t come close to the actual costs.
That’s the dilemma facing Jennifer Loving, the executive director of Destination: Home, a public-private partnership spearheading Santa Clara’s Housing First program. As in Utah, the leaders of Santa Clara’s initiative were able to marshal different agencies, nonprofits, and private groups, unifying their vision and goals to house the chronically homeless. “At first, it was tough to move out of the shelter way of doing things. It was new to all sit around the same table and change the way the system responds to homelessness,” Loving says.
Like Pendleton, they addressed the chronically homeless cases first. In 2011, in conjunction with a national effort called 100,000 Homes, they began a trial to house 1,000 people who’d been homeless for an average of 18 years and estimated to cost the system upward of $60,000 a year. “Our motto was, ‘Whatever it takes,'” Loving says. “We built the plane as we were flying it.” That meant lots of innovation along the way, such as creating a $100,000 flex fund to do things like pay off small dings on people’s credit, so they could qualify for vouchers and establish rental history: “So if Bob has an eight-year-old violation on his credit history, we’d just pay that off,” Loving says.
By the end of 2014, they had housed 840 people in apartments scattered around the county. The remaining 100 or so have rental subsidies but can’t find a place to live due to exceptionally high occupancy rates. Still, the trial was considered a big success—in part because supported housing only cost an estimated $25,000 per person—and Santa Clara County has now officially adoptÂed the Housing First model. “We made a system out of nothing, and we used it like an assembly line to house people,” Loving says. “And the only thing in our way is the high cost of housing stock.”
So now they’re embarking on a five-year plan to house the county’s remaining 6,000 homeless. First, they’ve launched an extensive study on exactly how much homelessness actually costs taxpayers. Those costs are very hard to determine: There are so many agencies involved—hospitals, jails, police, detox centers, mental-health clinics, shelters, service providers—and they all keep separate records, separate sets of data used for separate purposes, all run on separate pieces of software. “Each department has an information system and a team that looks at the data,” says Ky Le, director of the Office of Supportive Housing for Santa Clara. “They have small teams who know their data best, how it’s configured and why, what’s accurate and what’s not.” Ky says that merging datasets has been “a tremendous effort,” but by integrating and analyzing it, Santa Clara hopes to better understand who’s already a “frequent flier” of clinics and jails, and, more tantalizingly, to develop an early warning system for who is likely to become one, and how they can be housed and cared for in the most cost-effective manner.
New housing needs to be found, or built, but with the market so tight, finding housing—any housing—is a huge challenge, one made worse when Gov. Jerry Brown slashed all $1.7 billion of the state’s redevelopment funds during the 2011 budget crisis. (Those funds have not rematerialized now that California has a huge budget surplus.) So they’re getting creative—”tiny homes, pod housing, stackable—we’re looking at it all,” Loving says. And they’re employing creative financing efforts, like “pay-for-success” bonds, in which investors (mostly foundations) would stake the construction funds and get a small return if the savings materialize for the county.
After a year and a half on the streets of Salt Lake City, Madeline Wesson, 63, moved into Grace Mary Manor when it opened. Seven years later, it’s still home.
Advocates estimate it could take up to a billion dollars, half from grants and philanthropy, the other half in the form of county land and services. “The work we’re going to be doing in the next year,” Loving says, “is determining where and how to create new units and how much they are going to cost and where we can get the resources from—whether it’s private or public money. The money is all here. We have eBay, Adobe, Applied Materials, Google.” The hope is that the emphasis on quantified efficiency will persuade tech firms and billionaires obsessed with metrics that Housing First is a solid civic investment. “It’s fascinating because we have this problem we could totally solve if we wanted to,” Loving says. “We solve complicated problems all the time, right? Silicon Valley is an example of solving complicated problems all the time.”
If places as different—economically, demographically, politically—as Salt Lake City and Santa Clara County can make Housing First work, is there any place that can’t? To be sure, the return on investment will vary, depending on how you count the various benefits of fewer people living in the streets, clogging emergency rooms, and crowding jails. But the overall equation is clear: “Ironically, ending homelessness is actually cheaper than continuing to treat the problem. This would not only benefit the people who are homeless; it would be healing for the rest of us to live in a more compassionate and just nation,” Tsemberis says. “It’s not a matter of whether we know how to fix the problem. Homelessness is not a disease like cancer or Alzheimer’s where we don’t yet have a cure. We have the cure for homelessness—it’s housing. What we lack is political will.”
Saturday, 14 February, 2015 -( -15°C / +5°F & just a few early flakes dancing around in Atlantic Canada @ 11:10 pm )-
— I took Jassper le Boof – our too smart for our own good hundred and twenty five pound Labrador Retriever for a bit of a walk up the street at about 9 pm. It was a bit nippy. When we got about halfway up the shortish street we live on here, we noticed that the snow banks were piled up taller than me (I’m 6′ 3″ tall) and wondered how tall those walls will be after tomorrows projected monster storm. We got a break last week, after three or four major snow events in two weeks. I thought we got almost as much snow in those two weeks as we did in most of last winter. Maybe I didn’t count the April Fool’s Day blizzard in that. After all, April’s supposed to be in the springtime, right? Jassper is a handful. We took him to puppy school and we were doing fairly well with an almost well behaved, over-enthusiastic brute of a dog -but not quite as brutish as ‘Bear’ a Newfoundland dog maybe one and a half times Jassper’s size, who acted like he would bite Jassper’s head off if he tried to get too friendly without Bear initiating the friendliness, and Bear had a thing for a cute, comparatively little Cocker Spaniel and didn’t want Jassper to get any ideas about being friendly with her… But anyway. We had a ‘guest’ visit for a couple weeks that turned into a couple years and he blew most of Jassper’s training out the window. I spent 75% of our walk calling out, “Slow down- Take it easy!” “Easy!” “NO! Let’s not go there-” “No- Don’t even think about entering that little dog’s territory-” “Easy-” “NO- you don’t want to dig anything up there-” “No, you can’t eat that-” “Easy- Easy-” “Slow down-” And the second half of our walk was down hill and I had to constantly rein him in, hold him back and do my best not to slip on the hard packed snow and bits of ice- But we survived and enthusiastic to a fault perennial puppy got home and had a couple treats and went through his, “Okay- I’ll pretend it’s time for bed- I get another treat for that, right?” Routine, and he went into his crate, we closed the door, and pulled down the sheet that used to keep him safe and quiet all night, but now lasts maybe twenty minutes if we’re lucky. Then we dealt with two cats who keep trying to demand their evening routine a few minutes earlier every day-
— The first few snow flakes showed up on our ‘security’/deer cam at about 9:30. And it’s acting like the first few scouts from an incredibly massive army of invading snow people, zooming in, looking around, blowing off to check out the neighbourhood for choice locations to land and set up sites for mind blowing communities of intrusive snow flake beings.
— My co-editor in the blogged news world is already dealing with heavy snowfall in “Upper New York State” and we might skip our issue tonight- but we’ve been a bit sporadic lately due to ‘widespread flu outbreak’ red filled areas of the Map of the USA, and Both Cathi and I have been battered by something- be it a weird cold or flu or combination of the above-
— So I’ll look through the famous birthdays on February 14th and list a few below:
February 14th: 1572-Hans Christoph Haiden, composer. 1818- Frederick Douglass, African-American abolitionist/lecturer/editor (exact year unknown). 1894-Jack Benny, [Benjamin Kubelski], Waukegan Ill, “Oh! Rochester!”. 1896-Arthur Milne [Edward Arthur Milne], Hull Yorkshire, English Astrophysicist (kinematic relativity). 1902 –Thelma Ritter, Brooklyn New York, American actress (Miracle on 34th Street). 1913 –James Pike, bishop (Beyond Anxiety), born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma & Jimmy Hoffa, Teamsters leader who disappeared in 1975 & Mel Allen, Birmingham Alabama, American sportscaster (voice of NY Yankees). 1916-Edward Platt, Staten Island NY, actor (Chief-Get Smart). 1921-Hugh Downs, Akron Oh, TV journalist (20/20, Concentration). 1922-Murray “the K” Kaufman, NYC DJ (5th Beatle). 1929 or 1931-Vic Morrow, American actor, Bronx NY, (Combat, Roots, Twilight Zone the Movie) (d. 1982). 1934-Florence Henderson, Dale Ind, actress/singer (Carol-Brady Bunch). 1943-Eric Anderson, vocalist (Avalanche, Be True to You), born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 1944- Carl Bernstein,Washington Post investigative reporter (Watergate). 1945-Gregory Hines, actor/dancer (White Nights, Taps), born in NYC, New York. 1948-… Teller, Phila, magician (Penn & Teller). 1960-Meg Tilly, [Margaret], actress (Big Chill, Impulse), born in Los Angeles, California 1963-Zach Galligan, actor (Gremlins), born in NYC, New York. }
— && That’s more than I expected to write here tonight-
— Good Night, Sweet Dreams- Hope you had a wonderful Valentines’ Day —jim w—
Thursday, February 5th, 2015 -( -4°C / +25°F & very snow globe like outside right now in Atlatic Canada )- Today would have been my uncle Bob’s birthday.
Un-retouched Photo of our driveway this morning at just after 8 am. This would have been the first almost normal snowfall in two weeks of ‘Major Events’, which included at least two verified blizzards. We only got about 4 inches so far, which used to be enough to cancel school while I was growing up in southern New England. But the delightful people who plow the streets cut a little deeper into what they left behind last week and gave me a hip deep mountain to attack with a snow blower this morning. Hip deep on me is about 40 inches when I’m wearing boots.
Almost the same shot as above, but I was standing on a bit of an embankment / snow-bank, and the flash kicked in.
A couple days ago I took a photo of the Jeep’s mirror. This is the same mirror this morning, with the van still in the driveway for comparison?
Like I’ve said a couple times in the last week. This could have been a snow fort beyond my wildest dreams as a kid.
Looking back along the path from where we feed deer through the winter.
The lawn swing is pretty much buried in Cathi’s ‘Zen Corner’ That’s about four feet of snow everywhere. Last year we got clobbered with a lot more snow than they’re used to getting up here. This year we got as much snow as we got all last year, pretty much in two and a half weeks.
The shed we keep the snowblower in- Is more than six feet tall and pretty much buried in wind blown snow. & the snow cave beside it where we keep our firewood more or less out of the weather? Next year we’ll have to make our wood shed a little more weather proof.
“Artsy” Shot of everygreens at the top of a stone-wall-reinforced hill. Ya can’t see the wall, can you, not with four feet of snow that’s beeh whipped up and blown around a bit.
— Okay, well both Cathi and I are aching and feeling like we’re being attacked by some kind of flu or virus, or are they both more or less the same thing? So, in keeping with our “Picture’s worth a thousand words-” I should leave this as it is and post it. The weather forecast called for another five cm or two to three more inches? this afternoon, and possibly another big storm over the weekend? Any insanely rich people out there want a truckload of snow for some tropical birthday party?
I began this life about 50 miles East of New York City, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and would probably be a suicide statistic if it wasn't for the 'Real' friends I made in Vermont, New Hampshire & upper New York State. Being creative and sensitive has its ups and downs - mostly up lately- loving life and love in Atlantic Canada. :)