Friday, February 27, 2015

Enough is Enough

Unless you've been totally unplugged for the last year, you've heard a lot about relationship and sexual abuse. Athletes and celebrities committing abuse, campus rapes, and poor handling of these crimes by our  institutions we turn to for justice. Collectively we're calling for more awareness and improved response. It's as if our whole society looked around and with one voice said, "Enough is Enough."

Well today Governor Cuomo used those very words.  Stating the shocking statistic that, "New York State now has more schools being investigated for sexual assault than any state in the nation", Cuomo called for new standards for colleges in responding  to sexual assault on campus. Watch the Enough is Enough video to learn more.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nancy and Kenneth-- two reasons to find the solution

"Just having our doors open is saving lives", those were the words of Marla Price, Executive Director of the St. John Center, a drop in program to help the homeless. Yesterday I posted an article about Code Blue Saratoga that was launched last winter because after the tragic death of Nancy Pitts. Today I read an article about a homeless man in Kentucky who died recently on the streets. His name was Kenneth Winfield. He was 49 year sold. He struggled with mental illness and addiction, but had been working with the St. John Center for years. He had a girlfriend and plans to marry her.

According to the USA Today article, back in November he'd asked for assistance in finding an apartment, crying, 'Please help me find an apartment. I don't want to die out there."   He'd applied for supportive housing, but vouchers were limited and he didn't score as vulnerable enough to be prioritized.

Price offers her  solution to homelessness- having affordable housing and adequate case management services. It seems things aren't all that different in Kentucky than Saratoga County. Here the wait for Section 8 housing can be as long as 6-7 years. Right now two of Saratoga County's three Section 8 providers have closed their application lists, simply because their waiting lists are already overloaded. We need to look beyond just winter emergency shelters to the root causes of homelessness if we're to discover solutions that will take us beyond the spring thaw. As Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said, "We should be thinking of the homeless 365 days a year."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What's the difference?

Today I saw this eye-opening short video that shows how something as simple as a haircut can break the barriers we have between homeless people and everyone else. As I was watching the video filmed in California one big difference our homeless local people contend with kept resonating with me.

Just about every casual conversation these days starts with a comment about being sick of winter- the cold, the snow, the mess. We had these conversations 5  years ago, and we'll have them again  next year and the next; winter here in the northeast feels like it lasts forever. But as I shiver rushing from my warm house into my heated car, I pause momentarily to imagine what it would be like to be outside 24/7. In winters past, we didn't have  Code Blue, a low demand shelter so people without homes could have refuge from the biting cold of winter. Code Blue Saratoga started last winter after one woman's tragic death from exposure to the elements. 

The number of people homeless in the winter in Saratoga County far exceeded our initial estimates, when we projected that perhaps 12-15 people would need  shelter. Code Blue regularly has 40-50 guests and offers dinner for about 10 more each night. The dedicated Code Blue volunteers haven't had much of a break; with the long cold spell and high snowfall, the shelter has had only a couple of nights they weren't open this year. I hate to break the news but winter isn't over yet...and those volunteers could use some help. For information about how  just a few hours and of your time to bring safety, warmth, dignity and companionship to our neighbors  we pass each day on the streets, visit the Code Blue website.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Purple and Red

Valebntine's Day may have already passed, but our focus is still on hearts. Here are 2 great reasons to get your heart beating this Sunday. Join us for some exercise, laughter, music... and raise awareness and funds to support programs addressing domestic violence and heart disease.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Every Picture is a Story

Brandon began the Humans of New York project as a visual display of NYC's inhabitants. However, he relates that several months into the project the people's quotes and stories  began to emerge and joined with their pictures. The result is now a vibrant blog and a New York Times best selling book.

Survivors of relationship and sexual abuse often wear their scars inside; we see neither how they were  were damaged nor how they overcame the trauma  and healed. It's interesting to read just a few sentences next to a photo that tell us so much about that journey to freedom from abuse.

Every day at Wellspring  we  hear survivors struggling with decisions that are similar to this woman's story of confusion, self-blame and wanting to do what's best for her unborn child.

“He put me in the hospital when I was pregnant with her. The next day he started crying, begging for forgiveness. He said: ‘I’m so sorry, I was drunk, I need you so much.’ So I took him back. The next time it happened, he managed to convince me that it was my fault. He said that he wouldn’t have gotten so angry if I had paid more attention to him. So I started thinking that I could be better. Then it happened again. Honestly, I stayed with him so much longer than I should have because I was afraid of becoming the stereotype of a single black mother.”
This woman's 120 lbs of solid muscle represents her path to rebuilding her confidence and support system.

"My children’s father was physically and emotionally abusive, so by the time I left him I had very low self-confidence. I needed something to boost my ego. One day I saw some firefighters handing out recruitment material on the street so I decided to give it a try. All the female recruits trained together, because we had to work harder than the men to pass the test. We trained for six months, three hours a day. I’d go straight from my job to the training sessions. I’d bring my kids with me, and when it was my turn to do the drills, the other women would take turns passing them around. At the end of the six months, I was 120 pounds of solid mass, and I passed the test easily. I never became a firefighter, but those women are still my friends.”

Friday, February 6, 2015

Connecting Galas and Homelessness

Yesterday I met with Look TV's, Jesse Jackson.What started out as a conversation about the Bartenders' Ball, turned to more serious topics as we talked about how funds from charitable events like the Bartenders' Ball support vital services. Jesse was surprised to hear that on just one day last year- in Saratoga County alone- we had 90+ teens 'couch surfing' because they were homeless and another 119 kids in families that didn't have stable homes. Those stats really hit home, as recently Jesse had spoken with a teen who hitchhikes to school some mornings (sometimes almost 20 miles) because he's sleeping in a different place each night.

As we're all complaining about the cold  and snowy weather as we travel from our warm homes to our cars, it's a real wake up call that we've got people in our community without homes and without heat.