Conundrum

I have reached a point where continuing most likely will expose the organization in this blog and with that may have consequences for people living there. Not that I want to gamble with their well-being, but for my own sake I have to keep on writing. Thinking about the members on the board of directors it can also have repercussions for me and my family. But if I can make a difference in just one person’s life it would be worth it, regardless of what follows. That sounds so cliché, but that is what life is all about, isn’t it, pursuing that one moment where we can step out and distinguish ourselves from the crowd.

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Homeless people are needed

Homeless people are “homeless”, not coatless or sandwichless!  Sure, they do need temporarily help with clothing and food, but beyond that I have not seen one donor coming back “hey, I got a place for you to stay”. Why is that?

Those in need and those wanting to help have entered into a symbiotic relationship. On one side the needy have their short-term need answered by receiving a free coat and a sandwich and on the other the person providing the coat and sandwich feels good about handing out donations.

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Why nobody speaks out

Homeless  people are well aware that their well-being and safety depend on other people and contrary to common believe, most are  not “looking” for free handouts, but for a little help in getting back on their feet. Being aware that your fate is at the mercy of another person, having observed people being put down and thrown out of a shelter for no reason at all, you learn fast not to bring attention to yourself. After all, the only place you can go after being expelled from a shelter is the street. And you heard stories about life on the street. You also know that once you are put out by one shelter, you are going to be labeled a trouble maker by the next, word travels fast within the homeless community and rumors travel even faster.

Lets say Mrs. A has been banned by shelter 1 because she dared to ask for an umbrella while having to leave the shelter on a rainy morning because the shelter closes its doors at 6 a.m. every day until intake later in the afternoon. Mrs. A was told there are no umbrellas so she asked for a garbage bag. “We have no money to give you all garbage bags for free, this is a homeless shelter. Do you know what is costs to keep the lights on and the TV running all day? Don’t you enjoy your shower every day? Do you have any idea how hard I work to make sure you are loved and eat every day? Isn’t that enough for you? Now you want a garbage bag, you ungrateful woman! Why don’t you try to get one from shelter 2 and see how they treat you. Don’t you ever come back here!”

Everyone standing around and witnessing the event would not dare to tell the truth, everyone would agree Mrs. A had it coming and deserved to be barred. Self-preservation – because you never know who would hear what you say and whom they would tell. By the time Mrs. A got to shelter 2 or shelter 3 the news of her “ungrateful attack” on the director of shelter 1 was common knowledge.

Of course, this event never took place, the director was never at the shelter before 9 a.m., long after the homeless had left for the day, but the elements used are not fictional at all.

When you are desperate the lines between wrong and right easily become fuzzy and you are willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

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Setting examples I

I remember several years ago the then executive director instructing the special assistant to falsify a drug test, which by the way were always targeted (never random, always aimed at a specific person) and used to intimidate and ban people. In this case the director did not approve of a black man wanting to date a white woman and decided to create circumstances that allowed expelling him from the shelter. “God marked us differently so we know and don’t mix, he wants us to stay pure”, was this directors conviction. Mentioning evolution would be answered with “well, no monkey has evolved in front of me yet”.

In another case a man was accused of having rented a storage unit to store things he supposedly stole from the shelter. There was no evidence, no witness to this accusation…  the whole story was conceived and carefully coordinated in the directors office to expel the man and tell him if he complained a report would be filed with the police “and who do you think they will believe? A homeless guy or me?”. This poor man had “dared” on several occasions to point out unfair and unjust treatment of several homeless people and no one questioned the director, ever.

Then there were several people, one man and one woman in particular, who could get away with just about anything. Nothing was done when they came in high on drugs, drunk, they could take whatever they wanted from donations, eat whenever they wanted, come and go as they saw fit – simply because they would inform the director of everything that was said and done within the general  shelter population. On a weekly basis these people would be paid with money allocated for people who worked odd jobs around the shelter – money that was donated in good faith by a person, a business, a church, a foundation.

….. to be continued

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Conflict of interest

The saga continues now that “The Keep” has a new executive director. One of the new sub-directors brought in a federal organization to help the homeless. Turns out, in granting access to the homeless population within “The Keep” a $20,000 scholarship debt was forgiven which the sub-director would have had to pay back. Of course, afterwards a point was made on how much the organization would benefit the homeless population with the services it provides. The only one that benefited was the one who just “lost” a $20,000 debt. Three days after the executive director’s assistant pointed out the conflict of interest and the executive director admitted “he might have known about the debt”, the assistant was fired.

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What to do with $500,000

Claiming your donations are being used to help the homeless is not always the truth. Half a million dollars could pay the rent for how many people for how long? That amount recently was paid to the retiring executive director by the board of directors of “The Keep”. Of course there was a non-disclosure agreement attached to the money, but that was violated the first day the outgoing executive had a hardcopy. The outgoing executive had expected a million dollars and was very upset about getting “only” half, showing the contract to everyone who would listen and with that violating the terms, but the board of directors went ahead and paid anyway. “The Keep”, claiming to care for the homeless will reimburse medical supplement insurance cost for the retiree as well.

However, the homeless people working at the “The Keep” receive a stipend every two weeks under the pretense they are being trained. The truth is that these homeless people are being exploited, there is no training and the positions they hold should be filled with employees. Matter of fact, most of the people running “The Keep” are homeless people paid via stipend, denying them lawful employee rights and protection.

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