Thursday, October 6, 2016

Update from Samaritan House

Warmest Greetings from Samaritan House. 
I am writing to you now because at some point in the past you have graciously supported Samaritan House or you have shown an interest in Samaritan House and the mission of helping homeless people in the Flathead Valley.  The Samaritan House has very seldom sent such a letter as this but recently a very unexpected event has obligated us to send out a very special request.  Please let me explain. 
Samaritan House was recently among one of the many HUD funded programs across the country serving homelessness whose grant funding was not renewed for 2016.  Many of these HUD funded programs that lost this type of funding are now facing the extremely difficult task of finding alternative funding, downsizing or even closing. 
I am pleased to tell you that Samaritan House is not in the category of downsizing or closing and is in no way threatened in our pursuit of ending homelessness in the Flathead Valley.  That being said, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this grant funding was an annual source of $56,624. This funding was used to provide housing for people in need. Additionally, the Emergency Food and Shelter Program that is administered locally by United Way is not going to be renewed.  This funding was an annual source of $5,400 - $7,000 and was used to provide food for the kitchen/cafeteria. The loss of this money is a heavy hit to our budget. 
There are other funding sources available to fill the gap left by the loss of this grant and they are being pursued vigorously.  Please note however that even if they do get funded they will not be available until mid-2017 and thus the purpose of this letter.  Quite simply we are humbly asking your assistance in allowing us to continue the work ahead of us until this new funding is in place. 
In terms of investment, Samaritan House can be viewed as a good choice.  Samaritan House serves approximately 1,350 local homeless people every year, sheltering around 78 people every night.  Programs at Samaritan House have excellent outcomes.  86% of the people served at Samaritan House are no longer homeless when they move on from the shelter compared to 72% as a notional standard for other homeless programs. 
The Montana winter is fast approaching and the number of people we serve will quickly escalate because of this.  If you would like to donate toward the approaching winter season and provide assistance to help Samaritan House get through the grant funding gap please send your donation to:
Samaritan House
124 9th Ave West
Kalispell, MT 59901
Donations can also be made online at our website:
Or at our blog:
We acknowledge that many of you have already donated in 2016 and for that we are very appreciative. 
Thank you so much for your willingness to touch the lives of people we serve.  We could not do this work without your help. 
Chris Krager, Executive Director
Samaritan House 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Approaching Season

The weather is turning. This morning I actually had to debate whether or not to wear a hoodie when I went to the grocery store. The leaves will be changing soon and the days will get shorter and if you are homeless, maybe you are considering if you are going to migrate somewhere warmer or stick around the Flathead. Some people will continue in homelessness while others will find themselves facing it for the first time for a myriad of reasons.

At Samaritan House, we want to do our best to provide some guidelines that will hopefully be helpful whether or not you are chronically or newly homeless or whether you are staying in Kalispell or leaving for warmer locations.

If circumstances have rendered you homeless, you will find yourself having to stand in long lines, answer uncomfortable questions, and possibly even face the disapproving glares of passers-by as you begin sorting through various social services.

Do not be disheartened or embarrassed by these realities, and learn to overcome your pride whenever it stands in the way of improving your situation. After all, many people that opine about homelessness have never experienced it, and therefore have no idea what it is really like to be homeless. Don’t be embarrassed about your situation and refuse to seek out and accept help from others.

Sometimes, help doesn’t come as quickly as would ideally be the case, and people out on the streets with nowhere to go should prepare themselves for whatever situation may present itself, especially poor meteorological conditions. There is nothing worse than being homeless during the winter months, and having a notion of how to protect yourself from the elements will be key to your survival. Consider the following steps:

·         Dress with as many layers as possible. Put the thinnest layers, like an undershirt, closest to your skin, and keep the thickest layers, like a winter coat, on the very outside.

·         This applies to pants and socks as well. Tuck in as many of the layers as possible into your pants, except for your outer coat.

·         Cover your head with a thick hat; somewhere around 80% of the body’s heat is lost through the top of the head, so cover it!

·         Stay dry at all costs, as getting wet—especially with so many layers—can leach the warmth right out of your body.

·         Seek shelter, and remember that Samaritan House is only a phone call or visit away.

Beyond all these measures, it’s important never to lose heart: many people get stuck in the condition of homeless because they enter a vicious cycle of depression and substance abuse. Keep yourself proactive, and allow other people to help you—though do not allow yourself to be taken advantage of.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Back to School Needs!

Returning to school is an exhilarating time for children. Many get to see old friends and compare summer vacation stories while others participate in fall sports and activities. And as much as I hate to admit it, by the time summer ended I was usually so tired of my parents (I later learned the sentiment was more than mutual), I was happy and ready to head back to the classroom.  But for the estimated 1.3 million homeless students in America, this time of year can be a daunting experience; something most of us know nothing about and while we might feel sympathetic, we aren’t empathetic.  

Samaritan House has been helping homeless children for 26 years, and our work has given us insight into their unique challenges and ways to help them prepare for school. For children living in emergency shelter, temporary housing, or on the streets, the uncertainty of living arrangements can cause deep anxiety and stress. Worries about hunger, clothing and shame dominate the lives of young children and youth whose families are in transition. Frequent isolation can also lead to emotional and behavioral issues—obstacles that would be crushing for adults. But we expect our homeless students to function in school alongside their peers.

Nationwide, we are facing a serious and legitimate problem as the number of homeless students in public schools has doubled since before the recession of 2008. Many families continue to struggle financially and school costs continue to rise: The cost of sending a child back to school is up to $673 for the average family, says the National Retail Federation, an increase of 54.8 percent over the last 10 years. So, you can double or triple that total if you have more than one kid in school. 

One way to help alleviate this cost for homeless families is to donate school supplies. If you would like to help, here is a list of some supplies that would be very helpful. You can drop any items off at our office… thanks so much!!

Backpacks                               Glue sticks                  Construction paper                Calculators
Number 2 pencils                   Colored pencils          Sharpies                                  Folders           
Spiral notebooks                    Scissors                        Markers                                  Pens
3 and 5 ring binders               Loose- leaf paper        Crayons                                  Graph paper
Erasers                                     Highlighters              

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gandhi's 7 Deadly Sins (4-7)

4. Commerce Without Morality
Without morality in commerce we are saying it is fine to cheat, lie, steal, and sell products that are not as advertised. In our country we have laws against what is called ‘bait and switch’, which basically means you are bringing someone to a store on false pretenses in order to sell them a product other than advertised. Luring people in under false pretences is unethical and therefore lacking in morality. There are many other important dimensions of morality in commerce.  

There are no limits to the ways in which merchants of one kind or another can find to take advantage of others. I would ask you however, to consider that the lack of morality in commerce can run both ways. If there were no market for human trafficking, no market for weapons, there would be no reason for anyone to trade in those commodities. In order to avoid commerce without morality we must make sure that each individual's circumstances are such that they need not stoop to levels that allow them to degrade themselves and others by seeking to find their financial well-being in immoral commerce.

5. Science Without Humanity
Science without humanity is at the root of a million different issues.  Individuals both fear and lack trust in one another's motives. Without trust in one another's humanity and motivation, it is natural to question the possibility of others using science for purposes that are less than humane. Humanity in science to me means we are using science for the betterment of the human and world condition. For too many years we have used science to advance human desires without being concerned about the human consequences. This is challenging because the time it takes to know and understand the repercussions of our actions many not even be visible within the span of a single human generation. Science with humanity is science that seeks to better human existence.

6. Worship Without Sacrifice
Sacrifice is a word we are hearing a lot lately. For me, worship without sacrifice means not being challenged, not having to put anything aside in order to be in community. This conveys putting my desires aside for the greater good of those around me accepting a calling to serve rather than to be served. That which is greater than ourselves is essential to the health of worship. We must put aside ourselves, not at the expense of our individual well being but rather because we can become part of something much greater than any one begin alone can be when we join all of our hopes and dreams, visions and skills together.

7. Politics Without Principle
We are smack-dab in the middle of a chaotic election season, and while I have my doubts about the use of principles; I know that without principles our political world is turned upside down and inside out. When we have politics without principle we have deceit and lies, we have individuals who seek to lift themselves up by using and abusing others.

 The key to politics with principles is keeping our eyes on the objectives and not straying from that true course. I believe politics are not just about what happens on the national scene, but it is also about how we deal with one another. Politics are in the office, in the neighborhood and in the places we work and call our is important that we know what principles we hold dear and live them in all the political circumstances of our lives.

So, there you have it, Gandhi’s ideas regarding a few things that impact us in all areas of our lives. I hope you were able to glean some helpful insight from this because I am constantly challenged by these ideas.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gandhi's 7 Deadly Sins (1-3)

Gandhi was an incredible man who worked tirelessly to advocate for peace and non-violent resistance. He devised a list of 7 deadly social sins that contribute to not only the downfall of society, but also to the death of humanity. I want to spend some time dissecting these ideas because I think they are incredible and make sense in a time when hope seems like a disintegrating idea. Here is a brief synopsis of his ideas that can give us all pause to stop and think about how we live our lives.  Here are Gandhi’s 7 deadly sins:

1. Wealth Without Work
This refers to getting something for nothing and it’s one of my personal pet peeves. There are many people who have attained wealth without work, by inheritance or corrupt practices who use their wealth only for personal gain and even personal excess. This relates to a dangerous sense of entitlement because the person did not have to strive for or attain any level of sacrifice in order to obtain the wealth. Wealth without work often leads to an inability to comprehend the true meaning and value of one's possessions, or the labors of others. We have created a disposable society that has difficulty in really understanding that material goods have value. Possessions are disposable because there is no understanding of the work necessary to attain the riches that are needed to acquire those items.

2. Pleasure Without Conscience
This addresses many of the same concerns connected to wealth without work. When we expect to have luxury as a matter of course, as a matter of entitlement, with no effort expended to receive or earn what we have, we tend to ignore the cost of our pleasure to the providers of basic services. Many people spend their entire careers laboring hard for minimum wages to indulge the pleasures of the wealthy who barely notice their existence. Often this means we do not give proper respect or value to those people’s lives and the work they do in the world.

Pleasure without conscience is much of what has allowed drug lords, and drug dealers to do their work at the expense of others. It is also what allows the drug abuser to use without awareness of the sacrifice and chaos that it is necessary for their pleasure. As we start looking at what the costs of our advances as a society have been at the expense of our planet we see the real ramifications of our pleasures without conscience.

3. Knowledge without Character
Knowledge without character means that you can use your knowledge for harm and manipulation. It is character that allows us the strength to do what is right and to hold ourselves and others accountable. Character also calls us to responsibility when we are wrong or to admit when knowledge has changed, and therefore our basis for decision making must change. It is a willingness to humble ourselves enough to admit when we are wrong. True character is a complicated thing that requires us to remain open to changes in and around us that will inform and continue the expansion of our knowledge base. Knowledge is not static and therefore true character must accept change if not welcome it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

An Unexamined Life is not Worth Living

Next week I am going to propose a few ideas on how we can make tangible changes in our own lives that can have positive consequences for the rest of society. But, instead of jumping right into things, here are some questions we can ask ourselves in context with how we live and what we believe.

I would love to have some feedback so if any of you would like to leave comments regarding any of these questions, I will be happy to publish your answers so we can all see that we are in this together. So, here they are… 7 deadly questions as a prelude to next week’s topic.

1. Do we expect and require others in the community to contribute to social problems for the sake of helping or because they want something out of it?

2. Do we care about the morality involved with the different types of solutions offered?

3. Are morality and ethics valued above money and social advancement?

4. Do we believe that “the ends don’t always justify the means,” no matter how lofty the intended purpose might be?

5. Do we clearly see the difference between leadership based on principles verses leadership based on pandering to the desires of the populace?

6. Is humanity’s value more than merely its contributions to technical or educational advancements?

7. Do we place doctrines and dogmas above care and compassion for others?
Think about these because we will revisit them once we get through next week's ideas!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Sympathy or Empathy... Which do we Need?

Over the next two weeks I am going to focus on some huge ideas that might not seem directly related to homelessness (be patient… they are). But I hope you will see the method to my madness by the time this little experiment is over. Maybe I’m burnt out on politicians offering bluster without substance. Perhaps I am disappointed there are so many people who like to observe problems without ever really addressing them. Or it could be that sometimes I lose my own way because even though I never forget what I’m fighting for, I allow myself to get frustrated and want to give up.

So, it appears I am writing to myself more than anyone else. Let’s start here: with our own understanding of what it means to even perceive the problems facing others and how we respond. I want to address two ideas we are all familiar with but might get confused, sympathy and empathy.

Sympathy and empathy both describe how we feel towards a specific situation but they have different implications. With sympathy you feel for the person; you’re sorry for them or pity them, but you don’t specifically understand what they’re feeling. Sometimes you’re left with little choice but to feel sympathetic because we really can’t understand the plight or predicament of someone else. It takes imagination, work, or possibly a similar experience to get to empathy.

Empathy is best described as feeling with the person. Notice the difference between ‘for’ and ‘with’. To an extent you are placing yourself in that person’s place, have a good sense of what they feel, and understand their feelings as much as you can. It may be impossible to be fully empathetic because each individual's reactions, thoughts and feelings to tragedy are going to be unique. But the idea of empathy implies a much more active process. Instead of feeling sorry for, you’re sorry with and have clothed yourself in the mantle of someone else’s emotional reactions.

It is easy to feel sympathetic to someone else’s difficulties. We can definitely pity others who have lost a loved one, undergone significant trauma, or faced terribly difficult times. Empathy suggests you’re in it with them, you can imagine what it is to be in their shoes, and you are together with them in emotional turmoil and loss. The need for true empathy gives rise to many groups of people who are encountering huge losses.

Frequently, what a person in grief really needs to hear is “I’ve done that too," "I totally get what you’re saying," or "I had the exact same thoughts," from someone else.  These are all expressions of empathy. What they tend not to want to hear is “I’m so sorry for you,” an expression of sympathy that makes them feel alone and isolated in their grief. I think we can make the move from sympathy to empathy and when we do, we embrace the beginning stages of affecting true change.