The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Living on the Street in Los Angeles, Islamabad, Nairobi, Rio and London June 24, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

 

Living on the Street in Los Angeles, Islamabad, Nairobi, Rio and London

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02tmcvp

What is it like to live on the streets? An estimated 100 million people are homeless around the world. And those are the ones who are counted; a similar number is not thought to be part of any official statistic. To get a sense of what their lives are like, World Have Your Say spent time on the streets of Los Angeles, Islamabad, Nairobi, Rio and London to hear a series of intimate and revealing personal stories.

Shanaz is living in a small tent in Islamabad with her husband and seven children. “We just survive,” she says. “What am I supposed to expect for the future of my children?”

“I’ve got a nice little spot on the street,” Brant explains. He has been living on Skid Row in LA for 16 years, on and off. “I appreciate what I have.”

In Nairobi, they meet a woman who went from drug user to doctor. “Growing up as a street child I saw how health was an issue. I saw it as a platform to solve some of those problems. People can be moved from the street; you can never take away their hope. ”

 

 

“Give Me a Shot of Anything” April 6, 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

“Give Me a Shot of Anything:  House Calls to the Homeless”

I find these video clips to be riveting.  What do you think?

Night Time House Calls

http://www.givemeashotofanything.com/#!videos/vstc6=night-time-house-calls

Trailer

http://www.givemeashotofanything.com/#!videos/vstc6=extended-teaser

The Film Maker

http://www.givemeashotofanything.com/#!videos/vstc6=newfilmmakers

The Website

http://www.givemeashotofanything.com/#!

Boston Health Care for the Homeless

http://www.bhchp.org

 

The Video: Death on Skid Row March 3, 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

 

The Video:  Death on Skid Row

I have just watched the video of a homeless, mentally ill man being shot to death by Los Angeles police.  Regardless of what the investigation about this death reveals as to cause and fault, this is one of the saddest, most terrifying pieces of film I’ve ever seen.  People, we gotta’ change some things.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/02/lapd-shooting-cops-gun_n_6787310.html

 

Tonight at the Post Office October 14, 2014

Filed under: Cold-Weather Policy,homelessness — Karen Shafer @ 9:29 pm

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

 

Tonight at the Post Office

I walked into the local post office this evening to drop a package in the bin, and a young woman was sitting by the door on a blue plastic mail tub turned upside down. She was packed for travel — her belongings in disposable sacks — but she didn’t appear to be going anywhere. It’s unusual for anyone to be hanging out in the p. o., and as I left the lobby, I said to her, “Is everything OK?” “Not really,” she answered. Me: “Do you need some help?” She: “Yes, but I don’t suppose you’ll be able to do anything.” I’ve been out of the “homeless business” for several years, but, as things happen, the h.b. doesn’t let me go, probably because people without homes are everywhere.

 

“So what’s going on?” I asked her. “I need a place to stay for a couple of nights,” she answered, “I’m about to be out of a place to live.” She made it sound immediate and temporary, but I wondered if it was and asked, “Are you sleeping out tonight?” — not a good idea for anyone, and never for a woman alone. She said yes. “I know a few people I can call who help people who are homeless…” I hesitated, “I don’t know if you are…” “I am,” she replied. “Well, let me go to my car and get my phone and make a couple of calls,” I responded. “If I don’t reach anyone, I will give you some numbers to try later if you have a mobile.” “I do,” she said.

 

I asked her first about the local shelters, and she knew the ropes — too late to get in. I mentioned the possibility of emergency beds opening at midnight for overload, but she said that would only happen if the temperature was below freezing. “Should be 40 degrees,” I commented, for no reason, as it’s in the 70’s here today.

 

As I got back into my car and reached for my phone, I felt in a hurry — I was doing errands on my To Do List, and was running behind schedule. “Oh, no you don’t,” I chastised myself for feeling that there was anything more urgent than this lost young woman who had crossed my path. One of the things I’ve learned since being out of touch with “the street” the past few years is that one forgets… about what matters, about how it never is Us and Them, about the primacy of Now. We want life to be slick and smooth, and every cultural message around us tells us that is should be… but it isn’t.

 

I knew who to call — friends who run organizations helping unhoused people — and the first call I made was the right one. “Karen! How are you?” said my friend, who was still at work at 9 P.M. and still answering her phone. We exchanged regrets about not having dinner in a while, and I told her the situation, asking, “Can you find a place for her?” “If it’s an emergency,” she said. This woman always comes through for people in trouble as no one else does. “How will she get here?” my friend asked. “I don’t do this any more,” I said, “but I think I’m just going to bring her. We’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

 

I used to take strangers in my car from time to time, but I’ve stopped for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it started to feel like not-the-right-thing for me to do. But most importantly, my eleven-year-old granddaughter, who is very wise, learned about it and asked me just last week if I did it still. When I said not usually, she replied, “Good, I don’t think you should.” I trust her judgment.

 

Back in the p. o. lobby and ignoring that judgment, I told Lakita, “I’ve found you a place, and I’ll take you there if you want to go.” She hesitated and asked where it was. I told her — “Not the best neighborhood, I know, but you’ll be safe there” — but she shook her head. “OK,” I said, “then here are the numbers of some people who can maybe help you tomorrow. If you get in trouble tonight, I think it’s safe these days to call the Dallas Police — didn’t always used to be, but I think things are better.” “Oh, they know me,” she smiled, “It depends on who’s on duty.” “So I’ve heard,” I smiled back. Gallows humor.

 

“Best of luck,” I told her. “Thank you,” she said, and I left the building.

 

As I walked to my car, Lakita opened the door of the post office and called out to me, “If I could, I’d give you the world!” I replied, “Right back atcha’!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bear Witness September 3, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bear Witness

          “Bear witness to injustices that result in poor health, and work to remove those injustices and build health equity.  This is what healers owe society.  And this is what our society desperately needs at this moment in time.”

                                     ~~  Jessie M Gaeta, M.D.,  Medical Director of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program

                                                Commencement Address, Boston University School of Medicine Convocation, 2013

 

You Can’t… August 26, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

 

Wise Words From Someone Who Knows…

“You can’t preach [the Gospel] to someone who is starving.

You can’t entertain people who are dying.”

~~  Pastor Karen Dudley, Founder and Senior Pastor, Dallas International Street Church

 

Cold Feet March 20, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

 

Cold Feet

by Karen Shafer

 

Although it’s cold here on the New England lake where I’m staying with my family — in the thirties — the weather has not stopped my ten-year-old grandson, Louis, from organizing family rowing parties on the lake the past two days.  It goes without saying that he’s the ship’s captain, which is almost certainly a motivating factor for any ten-year-old.  He’s enthusiastic about being in charge and even got his mother to go out rowing this morning when it was 29 degrees!

 

As a family, we’ve rowed across the lake twice this weekend and staked our claim, like settlers, on the shore of an island or promontory, which my grandson has dubbed ‘New Louis.’  (Please don’t tell the people in the waterside mansions up the hill from where we landed that new settlers have arrived:  they no doubt think they own the land.)  Today when he, his eight-year-old sister, Anna, his father and I made ‘the crossing’, it was 37 degrees and also quite windy — and we were rowing into the cold wind and against the waves.  At times, it seemed seemed to me that we were either going backwards or sitting still in the middle of the lake, paddling our hardest, and I thought, “Hmm, making this crossing yesterday was really fun, but this is starting to feel a little like actual work.”

 

Eventually, though, we gained the coast of New Louis and clambered ashore — or rather, they leaped, and I crawled.  While the other three first scrambled up a pine tree that had been blown over and uprooted to a 45-degree angle by a recent storm, then went off hiking, I sat on a wall, regretting the fact that I’d left my winter boots in Boston.  My feet in tennis shoes and cotton socks had gotten damp from water in the bottom of the boat, and how cold they now felt became the full focus of my attention, delighted though I was with the outing and with our newly conquered territory.

 

I soon figured out that, though the temperature was in the mid-thirties, if I took off my damp socks and shoes and sat barefoot with my feet under a pile of dry leaves and grass, my feet were warmer and I was more comfortable than I was sitting in wet shoes.  I hung my damp socks on a branch to ‘dry’ and piled more dry pine needles over the ‘nest’ into which I’d pushed my feet.  Chastising myself for being a wimp and a whiner did nothing to erase the fact that nothing seemed more important to me than how cold my feet felt.  And I had only been out in the wind and damp for about forty-five minutes… an hour max.

 

As I sat on the wall pondering what a softie I’ve become in middle age, I began to think of our homeless brothers and sisters, out on the street in similar weather and that which is much more severe.  I remembered how, in times past when I’ve been around homeless people in the winter, there’s nothing they’ve seemed to need more — and nothing which is more often lacking — than clean dry socks and shoes, and I recalled how charities serving the homeless population often emphasize this.  Being in New England, I thought of sock drives sponsored by the Boston Red Sox.  I vowed that the next time I show up at a service provider which helps homeless people, I’ll do so with at least a pack if not an armload of white athletic socks…  and I wistfully and pitifully imagined borrowing one of those pairs of socks for myself at that moment, just until we got back to the house.

 

My family came back from their hike, and we rowed back across the lake… with the wind this time, and in a quarter of the time, thank goodness.  I did more reflecting as we paddled;  the rhythm of the oars moving through the water was conducive to it.  I thought about how comfort-dependent I am, especially as I get older — and, indeed, what comfortable lives most of us middle-class Americans live.  How pampered we are, and how miserable it must be to be homeless, living on the street, and know that you are facing hours, days of cold, wet feet.  How does one cope with that?

 

We reached the small sandy beach in front of the house where we are staying, pulled the rowboat onto shore, traversed the yard and entered the lovely, warm, dry house.  I rushed straight to my slippers and greeted them with a sense of appreciation and affection I’d forgotten I could feel for shoes.

 

KS