Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why 'Samaritan' House?

Samaritan House.

I really like the name of our organization. In a day and age of racism and xenophobia and a thousand other social ills, it is nice to focus on one of the bravest and most inspirational stories ever written. Our goal is to define ourselves by aligning and identifying with this epic tale, so here it is… in case you weren’t aware of why claim this name or if you’ve simply forgotten just how truly transformational this story is.

The legend of the Good Samaritan tells of a man traveling from one city to another, and while on the way he is robbed of everything he had, including his clothing, and is beaten to within an inch of his life. The road was treacherously winding and was a favorite hideout of robbers and thieves. A religious leader soon happens upon the injured man shows no love or compassion. He intentionally refuses to help the man by passing on the other side of the road so as not to get involved. If there was anyone who would have had a moral obligation to help the man, it would have been this guy. By nature of his position, he was to be a person of compassion, desiring to help others. Unfortunately, “love” was not a word for him that required action on the behalf of someone else.

The next person to pass by was a man who understood the laws of the city, country, and culture. Intellectually, he was brilliant and comprehended all the scenarios involved with the situation. But he does exactly what the religious leader did: he passes by without showing any compassion. Again, he would have known the law, but he also failed to show the injured man compassion.

The next person to come by is the Samaritan, the one least likely to have shown compassion for the man. Samaritans were considered low class by the town the injured man was from. There were numerous political and religious and cultural differences that the two societies fought over and it was not uncommon for people from each respective town to hate the other. Samaritans were actually looked down upon by people from the other town.


The amazing thing is none of this made any difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man’s race or religion. The “Good Samaritan” saw only a person in dire need of assistance, and assist him he did, above and beyond the minimum required. He dresses the man’s wounds with wine (to disinfect) and oil (to sooth the pain). He puts the man on his animal and takes him to an inn for a time of healing and pays the innkeeper with his own money. He then goes beyond common decency and tells the innkeeper to take good care of the man, and he would pay for any extra expenses on his return trip. The Samaritan saw his neighbor as anyone who was in need.

This story is thousands of years old but it asks some pointed questions that can help us examine our own thoughts about people who are different from us. About people we disagree with. About people we judge. About people we don’t even like.

We should care for and respect others regardless of their race or religion or whether they are homeless or have 3 summer homes on the lake; the criterion is need. If they need and we have the supply, then we are to give generously and freely, without expectation of return. The lessons of the Good Samaritan are vital to anyone who claims to care about the homeless, or people in general. We should set aside our prejudice and show love and compassion for anyone we encounter.


This is what Samaritan House means to us.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Homelessness and the Apocalypse

A timeless debate has raged since humanity first put reed to papyrus: does art influence how we live our daily lives or does life influence what society creates? It’s the proverbial ‘chicken or egg’ argument. I know this doesn’t seem like a typical article for a blog on homelessness, but if you bear with me, I’d like to (attempt to) draw a parallel between apocalypse entertainment and the reality of homelessness. I am going to take some creative liberties but will remain as true as I can to my premise: The homeless are characters in a genre that is not afforded commercial breaks.

 My extensive research involves comparing and contrasting years of being a zombie fanboy with years of work with social services focusing on homelessness. I’m not sure how many times I will be afforded an opportunity to combine my devotion to Cormac McCarthy or The Walking Dead (television AND graphic novels) with proper advocacy for the homeless. I better do this while I can.

 A fantastic apocalyptic story has the ability to thrust a person into an immediate world of chaos with little or no explanation of how the world ended up such a calamitous state. An occasional back-story might be offered but it is little more than contextual fodder. It doesn’t really matter how things happened, just that they are happening. Our protagonists are not given a great deal of time to reflect on the fact that the world, as they knew it, faded into oblivion because they are forced to deal with ever-evolving dangers that place them smack dab into a different world they thought they would grow old and retire in. And speaking of that world…

 Any chance at a long life during the apocalypse depends on a few things, most important of which might be shelter. There are varying schools of thought on this matter, so to be fair I will present the two main theories people like to argue about. The first option is to live the life of a nomad, trusting few and interacting with even fewer. These people believe safety is synonymous with mobility. They carry possess only what they can carry and are skeptical about dealing with others. They survive day to day by living off whatever resources they can muster. The other method of survival involves communal dwelling with people who are in the same situation. These are relationships bred out of reciprocated necessity and people will bond together because there might be safety in numbers even if none of these people would have even spoken to one another before the apocalypse.  

 Another component of this genre is how people cope with having lost everything that was important to them and helped define them as individuals. The intense loss of loved ones and careers and friends and summer homes and iPhones is always a competing storyline that runs parallel to finding new reasons to live; forging a new life in a world that has cannibalized itself. Imagine having no reminders of the past… no photos or finger-painted pictures or pics to scroll through. All the past events in your life are now committed to nothing more than memory.

 The final aspect of an amazing ‘end-of-the-world’ creation is the consummate struggle between hope and despair. Will the main characters create a reason to exist and move forward or will they allow themselves to be swallowed into a nihilistic abyss and simply give up? This plot is different for each person and there are no hard and fast rules as to which will happen for each respective person in an apocalypse. But this might be the fundamental transcendent issue that defines whether a person lives or dies. Hope. The off-chance that life can get better and a new future might be resurrected from the ashes of a civilization which no longer exists as it once did.

 And if you aren’t sure what I was referencing… homelessness or the apocalypse, then perhaps its fair to say that one writer’s creation is another person’s reality.

 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Importance of Literacy

A couple days ago I had to install a program on my computer and after nearly an hour and a half of frustrated failure, I gave up. I am not the smartest guy on the planet, but I am also not the village idiot. The problem with this issue was that I simply didn’t know the language required to install what I needed.

Not knowing how to interpret...or read... the instructions rendered me useless in completing my task. I began thinking about what it must be like for many of our homeless residents, children and adults, who have poor reading comprehension because school was not a priority while they were just trying to live day to day. I did some research and discovered some startling facts about illiteracy and its effect upon those who struggle with reading. 
Widespread illiteracy not only leads to lower education and employment rates, it is also linked to increased crime and incarceration and a high social and economic cost. Most people think of literacy as a simple question of being able to read. But while a young child who can work her way through a basic picture book is considered to have age-appropriate literacy levels, an adult who can only read at the most fundamental level is still functionally illiterate.

The world requires that adults not only be able to read and understand basic texts, but also be able to function in the workplace, pay bills, understand legal and financial documents and navigate technology - not to mention the advanced reading comprehension skills required to pursue postsecondary education and the opportunities that come with it.

As a result, when we talk about the effects of illiteracy on society, we're talking primarily about what happens when you have a large number of adults whose literacy skills are too low to perform normal, day-to-day tasks. However, it is worth keeping in mind that childhood illiteracy is, of course, directly correlated to adult illiteracy.
In 2003, the United Nations launched the United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) with the slogan, 'Literacy is freedom.' Operating under the premise that 'literacy is a human right,' the initiative aims to improve literacy efforts, increase global literacy levels and reduce poverty.

According to the UNLD: 14% and 24% of U.S. adults performed at the lowest level for all three scales, a figure echoed by the National Adult Literacy Survey. So what effect does this have on society in the United States?  On average, adults at the lowest levels of literacy:

      * Earn about $230-$245 per week
      * Work only 18-19 weeks each year
      * Are more than three times as likely to receive food stamps (17%-19% as compared to 4% of those who read at the highest levels).

       * Are almost ten times more likely to be living below the poverty line (41%-44% as compared to 4%-8%) .

        * Between 31% and 40% of prisoners read at the lowest literacy level, which is at least ten percentage points worse than the national average.
        * Only four percent to seven percent of the prison population reads at the highest two literacy levels, compared to 18% to 21% of the rest of the population.

Illiteracy can be closely correlated with low earnings and high incarceration rates. Individuals who cannot read struggle to function in society, which can cripple their lives and increase the burden on state prisons and economic support systems.
Although illiteracy seems like an overwhelming problem, there are many things that individuals can do to help. You can help prevent illiteracy by becoming a tutor at a nearby school or offering literacy support at a local school or community center. You can also help adults overcome literacy challenges by volunteering at an adult basic education center where you can teach adults to read and help them with basic life skills.

Individuals who want to spend more time working on this issue may consider getting involved with their communities to address this issue. Students who would like to devote themselves to fighting illiteracy may be interested in degrees in education, public administration or social work.
You can view statistics from the UNLD, IALS and NALS via UNESCO (www.unesco.org), the National Center for Education Statistics (www.nces.ed.gov) and the U.S. Census Bureau

Monday, May 16, 2016

Read This

Did you know that 14% of U.S. adults struggle to read medicine labels, maps, or names on a ballot. Their families are plagued by poverty because they cannot read a job application or understand their children's report cards. In America there are over 550,000 families with young children that are homeless. These homeless children are put at a higher risk for not becoming literate, simply because of their living conditions.

Because of how homeless resources are acquired, many children are moved around frequently. The lack of a consistent home environment and the placement in a homeless shelter or foster home can restrict early literacy development. To compound matters, moving around frequently can also make it hard for homeless children to attend school regularly, make ties with teachers and acquire basic reading skills at a young age.
Becoming a literate adult is a huge leg up in escaping poverty and homelessness. Sadly, being a homeless child makes the odds of becoming a literate adult that much slimmer. The exact causes of illiteracy in America are so varied and vast it would be hard to give just one answer to how we got where we are today. But, it clearly has a strong link to socio-economic standing.

We all know children who face the challenges of poverty are at a disadvantage. In fact, children who have not been well-fed or well-nurtured, are less healthy and subsequently less ready to learn than their peers. Ultimately the effects of these early setbacks can be seen well into adulthood. Additionally, it is also shown that struggling readers from low-income families are 13 times less likely to complete high school than their peers who can read proficiently. Not graduating high school can put a damper on ambitious career plans, and makes it that much harder to break out of the poverty level.

When schools close up shop for the summer, many children lose their daily access to books. Not engaging with books and learning on a daily basis cause most children to lose up to one month of taught knowledge, and disadvantaged students often are the most affected.
During the elementary school years, children who have limited access to summer reading at libraries often fall behind their peers as they advance academically, especially in literacy and comprehension. Instilling summer reading habits can play a critical role in providing a foundation for success later down the road.

Finally, it boils down to common sense – more access to books means more reading. And, more reading means children write better, spell better, have larger vocabularies and a greater understanding of grammar. All of these positive results of reading add up to academic success and have a compounding effect as children grow and develop.
Kofi Anon once said, “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”

Literacy is not a luxury; it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens. I will have more this week on the importance and relation of literacy skills to the homeless.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Difficulties of Teen Preganancy

There are many reasons teens run away and choose to become homeless rather than remain housed. Domestic violence and abuse is one of the leading causes to propel a kid out of their circumstances and live a life they never thought was a possibility. But another reason many teenage girls leave home is because they become pregnant and do not have supportive families to stand with them.  The difficulties facing teen mothers can be monumental.

Teenage pregnancy is a serious social problem. According to the March of Dimes, about three in 10 teenage girls become pregnant before the age of 20. While many of these pregnancies end in abortion or adoption, teen girls who do decide to keep their babies face many challenges. Although less is known about teen fathers, research indicates that they, too, face problems associated with being parents.

Pregnant teens are more likely to suffer complications during pregnancy. Their babies are more likely to experience premature birth, low birth weight or other serious health problems. These issues put babies at a greater risk of suffering newborn health problems, disability or death.

Teen parents often find that caring for a child makes it difficult for them to continue their schooling. According to StayTeen.org, more than half of teen mothers never graduate from high school, and fewer than 2 percent have graduated from college by the time they’re 30. This problem is not confined to teen mothers: as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy notes, research suggests that teen fathers also do not receive as much education as their peers.

Lack of schooling makes it more difficult for teen mothers to find and keep well-paying jobs. According to the March of Dimes, more than 75 percent of unmarried teen mothers go on welfare within five years of having their first baby. Teen fathers also experience annual earning losses of 10 to 15 percent, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Pregnancy and parenting can strain the relationships between teen parents. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, eight out of 10 teen fathers do not marry the mother of their first child. Becoming a teen parent also seems to have long-term implications for marriage: in comparison to people who did not have babies as teens, teen parents are significantly less likely to be married by the age of 35.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, depression is common among pregnant teens. Teen parents may feel guilty or anxious about the future. Teen parents are also more likely to subject their children to abuse and neglect because they feel overwhelmed by their unfamiliar, ever-demanding roles as parents.

Teen parents also face problems in regards to the success of their children. Children born to teen parents earn lower standardized test scores and are more likely to drop out of high school. According to StayTeen.org, daughters born to teen mothers are three times as likely to also become teen mothers, while sons are twice as likely to go to prison.
Parenting is difficult enough when an entire village is helping raise a child. But when a mother is left on her own to raise a baby, the  challenges increase exponentially.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Get a Job...no wait... A Career

One complaint I have heard leveled at the homeless numerous times over the years is that they should just go out and ‘Get a job.’ I understand the implication and justification for this line of thinking, but the interesting thing is that many of the people who say this don’t have jobs, themselves. They have careers.

Almost everyone in their lives comes to point of differentiating a job from a career. This point is believed to the key point in a person’s life, where they take an active decision of what they want to for the rest of their life. There is this famous quote by Confucius which states, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  Many people often confuse a job from a career, believing them to be the same thing as both of them are done in the exchange of money. However, these are two different terms and should not be confused.

Jobs are activities that are performed in exchange of a monetary value. A job is often short-term and only done as a person requires money to live. Jobs do not make a significant impact to society of the person’s life and are commonly short-term. If a person is unhappy with a job, they tend to move on to a better one. There are also various different types of jobs including full-time, part-time, seasonal, temporary, odd jobs and self-employment. Jobs also depending on the type it is may require a specialized study. The hours of the job also depend on the type of job it is, it can range from an hour to 9 hours.

Careers are different as they almost always last a life-time. Oxford Dictionary defines ‘career’ as, “course or progress through life (or a distinct portion of life).” This is broader compared to jobs and can also encompass a number of jobs that a person has done in their lives. It also requires specialized studies, training or formal education to have a career. The term ‘career’ became popular in the late 20th century, when a wide range of choices allowed a person to plan and design a career that he/she may have.

Jobs and career are different in almost every sense. Where job is considered just as a person who puts time and energy in return of money, career is considered as something a person puts his heart and soul into. Jobs are also changeable, where a person who is working as a salesman could be hired as a manager or a CEO. However, career is something that a person does his whole live, the person would be in management services, which would be a career. Best example for the difference between a job and career is a doctor. Being a doctor would be the individual’s career; however he may have served over 30 hospitals. Each time the doctor changed a hospital, he would change his job, but he would always remain a doctor. Careers are also not specified to providing monetary benefit, if a person wishes to become a volunteer or a social helper, he/she may not always get money for what they do.

Jobs are important in the aspect that a person needs money to live in this world; however careers are what make and break a person as they decide what kind of a person he/she is. They define the person, while a job just defines a post. It is always important to pick a career that a person will truly love, as it is difficult to change it frequently. At Samaritan House, it is our desire and intention to place our residents into positions where they can pursue careers and not bounce from job to job.



 

Job

Career

Definition

Jobs are often activities that are done in exchange for money.

Career is something that a person wishes to have, though it could also be done in exchange of money.

Requires

Depending on the type of job it may or may not require extra studies.

Careers most often require a person to take up specialized studies.

Risk

Jobs are considered as safe, where a person does not take risks and just does what he has to in exchange for money.

Career is something where a person is willing to take risks and will to exceed for himself and the people he/she is working with.

Time

Jobs are usually short term, though some people may stick to it because of security.

Careers are usually long term and often take up half or more of a person’s life.

Income

Job gives the employee an income.

Career may or may not give the employee an income, depends on the job.

Contribution to society

Jobs often contribute little to society only in terms of unemployment and employment rates, along with moving of cash.

Careers contribute high value as social change/progress may be possible.

Image Courtesy: academy.justjobs.com, pstcc.edu

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Investing in our Elders

I have written a great deal about child hunger on this blog because it is an important issue and confounds even the wisest of people in regards to how anyone should be hungry in America. Children are helpless and often at the mercy of their caregivers so it seems especially cruel that they should deal with hunger. But there is another demographic that is not often talked about in relation to hunger; an entire cohort that is just as effected, rarely discussed, and absolutely in need of advocates.

Nearly four million seniors are malnourished in the United States, according to The American Academy of Family Physicians. While this number is staggering, it’s not surprising. The reasons range from changing taste buds, to the physical demands of preparing meals, a lack of companionship in some cases and even dental problems that make it uncomfortable to eat. Seniors face numerous challenges when it comes to maintaining a nutritious diet. Most of us have an elderly loved one in our lives so these statistics are a reminder that we must understand the issues associated with eating well and how we can help. This should transcend the theoretical because it affects us all.

When taking stock of your loved one’s health, pantries and refrigerators are a good place to start. If they are bare or contain old food, this could be a clue about the way they are eating.

An unusual amount of weight loss or weight gain can also be a sign of malnourishment. Check the fit of their clothing; you may find it’s excessively loose or tight. Other signs include unnatural-looking and excessive bruises and wounds that take a long time heal, which can point to a lack of proper food consumption. Education and encouragement can make a difference for seniors who may be struggling. If appetites are low, it is important that meals are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients. Consider incorporating these five essential nutrients and vitamins when planning meals.

Folic Acid helps to decrease the buildup of high blood levels which can put seniors at risk for heart disease and other chronic illnesses. It is also needed for proper red blood cell production. Foods high in folic acid include: spinach, asparagus, lentils and many fortified breakfast cereals.

B12 helps our bodies synthesize protein and aids in mental function. Many older adults can no longer absorb enough, so increasing B12 rich foods and adding a vitamin supplement should be considered. Recommended foods are: turkey, chicken, beef, eggs, milk, baked salmon, clams, mussels and crab.

The body’s need for vitamin C increases with age. Seniors should incorporate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, broccoli, red bell pepper and potatoes are all rich in vitamin C.

As we age, vitamin D can’t synthesize in the skin as quickly, but fortunately levels can be boosted by eating foods with quantities like oatmeal, fortified cereal, egg yolk, canned pink salmon, sardines or mackerel, cow’s milk or soy milk and orange juice fortified with vitamin D.


Fatty Acids play a central role in reducing inflammation in the body. The best source is fish, which should be consumed at least two times a week. Flax seeds are also rich in essential fatty acids and can be sprinkled on to a number of dishes, including salads, cereals and smoothies.


Last but not least, seniors need to stay hydrated and should have nine 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day. Water is best.

Regardless of age, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can be difficult. Whether grocery shopping together or assisting in meal planning, supporting a loved one can have a big impact on his or her choices and quality of life — and maybe your own as well.