Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Not New Year Re-soul-utions

I'm not a big fan of those lists that try and sum up the end of the year by ranking things. We spend countless hours listing the pros and cons of everything from favorite foods to least likable movie stars. Politicians, musical acts, and sports teams all get their own Top 10 lists during this bizarre time of year that asks us to reflect back on what is important. Sometimes its a bit absurd, really. Will making a list of the year's best television pet food commercials help me look forward into the new year with any real advantage?

To be honest, I'm also not too keen on end of the year reflections. They seem arbitrary. What happens if I start slacking off around mid-October but have decided that January 1st is the day I'm going to clean everything up? Do I get free pass for two and a half months to just hang out and revel in whatever deficiency I am floundering in? After all... the resolutions don't begin until January. Admittedly, it is a bad mix when a person doesn't like end of the year lists and arbitrary start dates, so what can be done? I must begin the year in Grinch-like fashion and snub my nose at these traditions.

Or, I can try to readjust my thinking to capture the spirit of these lists and embrace the reason we make resolutions. No reason to toss the holiday baby out with the yuletide bathwater.

The idea behind a list of 'favorite things' is so that we can find enjoyment by recalling events that make us happy. It's fine to look at what other people have accomplished if we can also recognize the achievements in our own lives. And its not a competition. There is no sense in comparing your life story with everyone else's. Measure your own accolades and be proud of your life. The choices you have made have led to where you are and there is no point in lamenting lost time. If you regret some of your prior decisions, then do what it takes to not repeat them. If you are content, then be thankful and move forward. But I would argue that all of us have something to look fondly and reflect upon. Focus on these. Remember that you do not live in isolation and your life has meaning and importance to others. This world is a better place with you in it.

Hopefully, we can skip the second issue. If we chose to only live well and make proper decisions because a certain date on the calendar unfurls, then we have bigger issues to address than charity to all humanity. Perhaps a medical check up might be in order. I encourage us all to begin today... this second (well, at least after you finish this article). Dig deep into the recesses of your being and don't wait until January 1st. Do your best to not only improve your own life, but take the necessary steps to make life better for others. Your actions are important and help play a pivotal role in the world around you. Encounter a resolution of the soul, and not just the season.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thanks so Much!

The Holidays are the busiest times of the year for Samaritan House. It seems we get stretched and turned around every which way and sometimes don't know if we are coming or going. They say that many hands make light work, but what are you to do if there is a lack of many hands?

You rely on volunteers and support from the community.

Over the past few weeks we have been incredibly blessed by so many of you. The phones rang off the hook and we used as many helpers as we could. You, in the community, have helped us by donating time and resources. You have brought gifts for people you will never meet out of the goodness of you heart.

You have served meals and relinquished your valuable holiday time so that others could be blessed. We, at Samaritan House, do our best to accommodate our residents but it would be nearly impossible without your help. Thank you so much for everything and we truly appreciate this entire community and all our friends and families that are so supportive.

Happy Holidays, from everyone at Samaritan House.

Friday, December 21, 2012

You Will Make A Difference!

Christmas will be here in less than 3 weeks. I write that as an irrefutable fact, but also with a little surprise and amazement tossed in for good measure. Is it really that time of year again? I feel like I just deflated the oversized Santa on my lawn and dumped the tree that sacrificed its life so I could have an indoor climbing post for my cat. As for the lights... Well, they stay up year round.

Many of you are calling and inquiring about how you can help Samaritan House for the holidays. For this we are truly grateful, because we can use a great deal of it right now. Every year we do our best to provide some items for our residents at Christmas. This year is no different and I have included some information that, hopefully, will be helpful if you wish to participate this year. We are trying our best to round up these things for those who will be spending Christmas with us. In addition to the list below, we also have children in the shelter who we are trying to buy some toys for. If you are interested in helping out, please call Cary at 257-5801.

27 men 12 women
 Warm Socks
Hand Warmers foot warmers
Chap Stick
Foot Powder
Instant Coffee Packets
Hot Coco Packets
Cider packets
Disposable razors
Perfume/cologne/body spray
playing cards/card games
cribbage games
shampoo conditioner
body wash
Ice Walkers
Face lotion body lotion
Laundry soap

 For many years you have been a source of blessing and strength to our residents and we ask that you would consider helping us once again. We are in need of these items for gift bags that we are trying to assemble by Christmas. There is still plenty of time to help if you want to donate any of these or even bring in a financial donation, all of which are tax deductible. Thank you so much and we appreciate all you do for us.

Monday, December 17, 2012

National Homeless Persons Memorial Day - December 21

December is a time for reflection and remembrance. We gather with friends and family to look back on everything that happened and what is still to come. December 21 is a special day to many because it marks the Winter Solstice, in which we have the least amount of daylight for any day throughout the year.

In Kalispell, Samaritan House will be hosting it's second annual Homeless Rememberance Day, in conjunction with the National Homeless Person's Rememberance Day. We will join together with more than 150 other cities across the country, including Billings, Missoula and Helena. On this day with the fewest hours of sunlight, Executive Director Chris Krager will read a roll call to honor every homeless person who died in Montana over the past year. Words will be spoken by various community members and there will be a time set aside for anyone who wishes to make a statement of honor for those who have passed.

The memorial ceremony is open to the community and will begin at noon in Depot Park. Coffee and chilli will be served and the entire service will last roughly 45 minutes. 

For more information, please call 257-5801. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Hearts and Thoughts...

Samaritan House is heartbroken by the events that transpired in Connecticut today. All of our thoughts go out to the entire community of Newtown and to the families of everyone who is living in the midst of this tragedy. This senseless act of violence begs us to treasure those around us and to hold close the loved ones in our own lives.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to Save a Life (Blood Drive)

Imagine the world’s lamest superhero. I’m not sure what this person’s (lack of) power might entail, but it would be largely ineffective. He or she likely has no comic books named after them, either. Perhaps this person’s lone claim to notoriety is that they have never saved anyone. Well, here is your chance to do something more monumental than the world’s lamest superhero. In fact, I am presenting you with the opportunity to do something quite heroic…

On Wednesday, December 19th, you can play a part in saving someone’s life.

Samaritan House will be hosting a blood drive with the Red Cross and we still have opportunities to sign up from 2pm until 5pm. For more information, call Cary at 257-5801. The blood drive will be at the Samaritan House Administrative Center located at 1110 2nd Street West in Kalispell.

You don’t have to be a superhero to save someone. You will do nicely…just the way you are.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Help Portrait 2012 at Samaritan House

Samaritan House will be hosting a Help Portrait event at the Administrative Center on December 8th.
Help Portrait is a movement of photographers who are using their time, equipment and expertise to give back to those who are less fortunate. It provides a way for someone who otherwise could not afford a professional quality framed portrait.

Here are the details:

Help Portrait
December 8th, 2012
1 pm - 5 pm
Samaritan House Administrative Center
1110 2nd St West
Kalispell, MT
Lunch will be provided
a limited amount of hair and makeup assistance will be provided

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Roller Derby to the Rescue!

Do you ever have one of those moments when you wonder if life is playing a joke on you? You look around to see if anyone is laughing or snickering but everyone else is plodding away, stone-faced and focused.

A couple weeks ago I was in my office when I received a phone call from a woman claiming to have an offer that seemed to good to be true. She told me that Samaritan House had been chosen to receive the proceeds of an event her organization was holding. I kept waiting for the cruel punchline because there always seems to be some sort of catch. And there was.

In this instance, the catch was that we would not only receive some money, but we would also be able to go and watch some roller derby. She asked if we were interested.

Seriously? Receiving some much-needed funds AND getting to watch women's roller derby? I was on board before she even finished her sentence. I would also like to invite the entire Valley (and beyond) to come out and watch. All the information is on the flyer but I will reiterate just because this has put me in such a great mood:

Time: Doors open at 6pm and the derby begins at 7pm
Place: Flathead County Fairgrounds
When: Saturday, December 8th
Cost $5

Thank you to Flathead Valley Roller Derby for their kindness. All the proceeds raised from this event will go to Samaritan House and be used to further address the needs of homelessness in Kalispell. We are humbled by this act of generosity and hope to see all of you there!

Friday, November 23, 2012

To all who helped...

Samaritan House would like to thank everyone who helped make the Thanksgiving meals at our shelter possible. So many of you volunteered and we could not have done anything without your contributions and generosity. If you contacted us about volunteering but we had already filled all the slots, then please keep us in mind as we now turn our attention toward Christmas and the holiday season.

There will be many opportunities in a few different areas as we now undertake and shift our focus toward December and the impending new year. If you are interested in helping, please call us at 257-5801 or 257-5284. Again, thank you for everything!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy GivingThanks Day

Thanksgiving needs to be a way of life and not just a special day we circle on the calendar once a year. Its easy for us to get caught up in the event of Thanksgiving, but do we really remember to give thanks? Is it a meal or a lifestyle? Often, we cruise into this day on autopilot; we are captured by the routine and structure of the day to the point that we can strangle the meaning.

Start cooking a day or two before...invite people over and then spend 4 hours trying to get them to football... oogle over the parade... fall asleep... wake up and hope everyone is gone.

Now, it's unfair for me categorize this as the total Thanksgiving experience for everyone. I am making assumptions and setting up a huge straw man. My point, however, is that we sometimes unintentionally forget to be thankful because we are consumed by the day rather than the idea. So, I thought I would try to go back in time and remember what it was like to view Thanksgiving as a child. It didn't work so I did the next best thing... I interviewed an eight year old child to get her thoughts on this day.

What do you think about when you hear the word 'Thanksgiving?'
I think about food. I get excited because at school we make crafts. I think about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans and how it was in the olden days.

What does it mean to be thankful?
To be grateful and to be happy you have the stuff you do. Be glad that I have the life that I'm living. I am thankful to be alive and have a wonderful life and to help my dad, mom and brother.

Are we perpetuating a culture that has made a distinction between the Day and the Concept? Even at an early age and with no prompting, this child has already begun to divorce Thanksgiving from Giving Thanks. It doesn't have to be this way. My hope that we can do more to foster a thankful attitude all year. We have so much to be thankful for that we don't need to pay homage for just a 24 hour period. We can do more by embracing more.

So, on behalf of all of us at Samaritan House, have a happy GivingThanks year!

Monday, November 19, 2012

What if the Mayans are Right?

People love controversy and intrigue and nothing goes better with a cup of coffee on Monday morning than a doomsday prediction that excuses us from having to do any Holiday shopping. I'm referring to the idea that the world will end on December 21, 2012, as the Mayan Long Count calendar allegedly predicts some type of catastrophic event for all of humanity. Of course there is a slight problem with this apocalyptic scenario: the Mayans didn't really predict this and much of the hubbub is a result of conspiratists and very poor historical interpretation. Sorry to ruin your day by predicting the world will go on! As much as I can guarantee anything, I have a very good feeling the sun will rise again on December 22 and we will be forced to endure fruitcake and bad sweaters and Johnny Cash's horrible rendition of The Little Drummer Boy.

But, what if the world was ending in just a few short weeks? I was originally going to slant this article to discuss the contributions we make to society. It was going to be the typical Knute Rockne-Tony Robbins motivational blog asking us to look around and take inventory of what we have (and haven't) accomplished. However, upon further review, I think this is a line of thinking I will save for another day. We can examine ourselves later this year but I still want to focus on how we would feel if we knew we had limited days left on this planet.

There would be two main feelings involved with this idea. The first would entail some sort of sadness and possible regret. If life was ending then everything we have worked so hard for would be gone. Our homes and cars and friends and family...adios. So many of us have led great and happy lives and we would be devastated if it all went away. We want life to continue. That's not to say there have been no hardships or difficult times. Everyone experiences those moments when life is not easy and we feel like abandoning hope. But then we collect ourselves and move on. Forward. Endure. Reap the benefits. We wish for life to continue because we see it is worth living.

There are some, though, that do not feel this way. To them, the end of the world would signify a conclusion to pain and suffering. They have no assets to miss or family to mourn for. The calamity has outweighed the beauty and regression has become a way of life. For people in this camp, despair becomes the default setting of every daily activity. Indifference. Numbness. Deal with the consequences.

At Samaritan House we have both types of people. This should be no surprise because we are really a microcosm of the Flathead Valley. Many of our residents plow forward with anticipation of a better future and are receiving the help to reach this goal. But we also have other residents who question the future and their role in it. It would be easier if the world ended because they see no solution or scenario in which things end well. These brothers and sisters are also making a deliberate choice and one that might be braver than the other lot. In spite of their circumstance they are allowing us (and you) to play a role in their story. We offer them dignity and hope because we believe life can improve. Things will get better.

Every donation you make is another dollar that goes not just toward material or financial costs. Yes, you are helping keep the lights on and food on the tables, but it is so much more than that. You are literally saving lives by providing a reason for our residents to move forward and dare to believe. We cannot do this without your help and as the Holiday season approaches, please keep us in mind if you would like to contribute not just in the economic aspect of Samaritan House, but also toward the business of providing hope. Thanks for all you do for us.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So Now What?

The election is over. No more political ads or phone calls interrupting dinner. I can watch TV without fearing the comericals will devolve into an "I'm rubber, you're glue" prepubescent insult-fest. Samaritan House does not endorse people nor campaign for people. I realize our readers and supporters have all different views and beliefs and we are thankful for each one of them. This blog, however, is not to comment on the election or the results. There are plenty of people weighing in with commentaries and opinions who are far more intelligent than I.

I would rather spend my time allotted with you to inform you that no matter what happened last last night, we all woke up this morning and the homeless issue is just as fresh and pertinent as it was 24 hours ago. Today I choose to make a difference in the lives of people who have no one advocating for them. Today you are reading this blog because you care and want to help. Next  week (November 10-18) is National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week and I am doing some campaigning of my own. Each day Samaritan House will focus on a particular donation item that we need. Thank you, in advance, for supporting your local homeless shelter. We are located at 124 9th Avenue West in Kalispell. Any and all items are appreciated and receipts for tax deductions are available.

Monday: Food items
- Wild game (must be professionally processed to meat health standards)
- Frozen food (no more than 3 months old)
- Meat and Cheese (fresh or frozen)
- Milk (fresh or frozen)

Tuesday: Items of warmth
- Hand warmers
- Feet warmers
- Socks, scarves, hats
- Metal shoe attachments for walking on ice

Wednesday: Cleaning supplies
- Windex, 409
- Bleach, detergent
- Laundry soap, dish soap
- Disposable gloves (large and medium)

Thursday: Toiletries
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels, paper plates

Friday: Monetary donations
- Any cash donations are very appreciated

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Giving Thanks.

November is synonymous with Thanksgiving for many people. And, depending on a person's beliefs, Thanksgiving is filled with all manner of emotion and reflection. It means certain things to different individuals and no two people really acknowledge it the same way. We have all heard the traditional narrative that depicts the original Thanksgiving in 1607 in Virginia. But here is something you may not have realized:

In America, Thanksgiving was not officially recognized until Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863. Right smack dab in the middle of the War Between the States, when things were not going well and the nation needed a boost because it was being ripped to shreds. It was a calculated event to foster morale and unity in a time when society was being devastated. Until then, Thanksgiving was largely an afterthought of some historic event that happened 256 years prior. I apologize if some euphoric bubbles were burst with this information, but it doesn't demean the day at all. In fact, there now seems to be a little motivation for some personal application that might have been lacking in our own lives. Should we only be thankful when things are going well? I suspect not.

Thanksgiving at Samaritan House is a surreal event because it is shared between people who have much and people who have nothing. Many of our residents are living in the midst of their own private wars and will choose to be thankful in spite of their situations. Without realizing it, they are reflecting the original idea of this day and what it entailed for the entire nation when there was, seemingly, little to be thankful for. It is an internal condition that disallows sorrow and bitterness from uprooting hope and charity. It is not measured by income or which side of Main Street a person calls home. That's if they have even have a home at all.

I know its still a few weeks away but my goal is to remind us that there is one unifying factor that bonds all of us together in spite of economics and religion and politics and unenviable circumstances. The one right we all have is to hope for a better tomorrow. That will mean different things to each person reading this and I won't attempt to qualify what is important and what is trivial; you can make that decision on your own. But I hope you can find a way to rise above your circumstances and not only believe that things can get better, but that you can help them improve for others. Thanksgiving is not just a day to be thankful. It is a proactive event that should inspire us throughout the entire year to realize we are not bound by our circumstances and there is always something we can do to relate to others.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Our hearts and thoughts are with those on the east coast who are enduring calamity and distress as a result of storm Sandy. I was up a great deal last night watching the news and it the damage caused by this event will take years to recover from. Manhattan looked like the setting for an apocalyptic film. I kept waiting for the zombies to roll out.

The loss of life and property will continue to mount as people evacuate the city and are forced to leave behind parts of their lives that they may never get back. I spent some time at Ground Zero shortly after the September 11th attack and was overcome by the resilience and determination of so many people I met and worked with. What is unfolding right now will met head-on and I do not doubt the outcome from Sandy will be no different. It will be difficult but people will do what it takes to rebuild their lives. Many people went to hotels farther out of the city while others have abdicated their homes to stay with friends or families. Others are confined to, and reliant upon, emergency shelters.

But there is also a demographic that is seldom reported on. According to the 2012 New York City Department of Homeless Services, there were 3,262 unsheltered people living on the streets in New York City. While we do not typically attach a home to the homeless, it is important to remember that these individuals were also caught up in the malaise. Our thoughts are with them and their families, as well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Half the Battle?

When I was a kid there was a popular cartoon that had a specific way it ended each episode. One of the main protagonists would offer up a quick (and very self-evident) observation while a befuddled child would stand there, amazed, as the following phrase was uttered, "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle." After hearing this life-altering revelation, I would finish my breakfast and amble outside to face the day armed with this secret knowledge straight from the lotus blossom.

Fast forward a few (okay...I'm being generous)  years later and I still am intrigued by the role knowledge and information plays in our lives. I saw the movie Argo this weekend and, because it is based on real events, I knew what was going to happen and how the tale would end. Regardless of what I knew, I still found myself becoming very tense while viewing situations in which I knew the inevitable outcome. While knowing the result might have been half the battle, I still grew uneasy. On the drive home I was thinking about how absurd it was that I allowed my self to become so unhinged at certain moments.

For the past three days I have been trying to reconcile the difference between whether knowing something is going to happen makes it easier when said event actually happens. It makes sense that if we are aware of how certain events will unfold, we can feel better prepared  for the outcome. This works great in Hollywood where swell looking people with impeccable hairlines and winning smiles can project snappy cliches that inspire the audience to cheer out loud and applaud (if you saw Rocky IV...the one with the Russian... this makes sense). But what about what transpires in real life? What about when the script involved is the one we write every day?

I knew it would be cold today and some people would be sleeping outside. In this case, knowing seemed to have a defeatist quality. It is depressing to understand that not everyone has housing. In this instance just knowing something does very little. I know the weather is steadily on the downward plunge so the question now becomes how do I apply this knowledge in a way that is helpful? Knowing something is neither helpful nor harmful unless that knowledge is either applied or ignored. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of generosity I have seen from many of our blog readers. You have moved from 'knowing what to do' to 'doing what is beneficial.' And for that, Samaritan House is thankful. The homeless of Kalispell is thankful.

We are currently collecting coats, sleeping bags, blankets, wool socks, boots, and any other items that can help keep a person warm as October passes the baton to November. So many of you have called to volunteer and we are appreciative of how you have responded to what is going on. If you don't have the time to physically help, then please remember that any donation (material or financial) is tax deductible and will be greatly appreciated. Lastly, if anyone is interested in helping out with Thanksgiving dinner, please feel free to drop us a line.

Knowing that we have the support of the community is more than half the battle. It feels like we can see the end of the war.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Cost of Homelessness

"Homelessness is a multi layered issue." 

This is a sentiment that has been echoed more than a few times in this blog. What we see on the surface, the people, is merely one representation of what it means to be homeless. Lately, I have been focusing a great deal on the various ramifications of homelessness to the individual who is caught up in this cycle. There are health and safety concerns as well and issues of mental well being and emotional aspects that can be debilitating. The physical problems presented can be overwhelming and crippling on their own.

I have also brought up some social qualifiers that point out homelessness is not just an individual problem and that society bears some responsibility for creating certain conditions that perpetuate poverty and homelessness. It is true that poor decisions can lead to poverty and homelessness, but more often than not, a person ends up homeless as a result of conditions beyond their control. So, if this is a communal problem, then what is the actual cost to a community when homelessness is not addressed adequately? If we peel back the layers of the onion, what will we find? After doing some research, I found a few interesting tidbits conveying the economic cost of homelessness on society.

A recent study conducted by the Partnership to End Long Term Homelessness reported that 150,000 chronically homeless people in the US costs nearly $11 billion per year in public funds. If these individuals could be permanently housed, the expense would drop to $7.8 billion. The New York Coalition for the Homeless estimates that the cost of permanently housing a person can be as little as $12,500 a year. Currently, there are only a few permanent residency projects across the US. Samaritan House is doing its part in the community by offering affordable permanent housing. Besides offering a competent Veteran's program and emergency temporary shelter, we are doing what we can to alleviate the financial burden of homelessness in Kalispell.

So much of what we do is hidden from the public eye. Sometimes we have a fundraiser or participate in a coordinated effort to accomplish something with other social services providers. Our case managers and administrative staff work tirelessly to coordinate and facilitate our residents so they can receive lost benefits or find what is missing to help them reintegrate into society. Our shelter workers provide continuous care and perform the day to day duties that no one ever sees but everyone always needs. It is a team effort and everyone plays a part and operates within a certain role.

But our goal is to do more than just assist the people who come to us for help. We want them to be able to turn their lives around and break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, but our main objective is to see them housed in some capacity. To end homelessness requires a solution that involves providing housing. People often ask what we, at Samaritan House, do. The answer usually depends on the day and even the hour, at times! 

But, one thing remains paramount to our role in the community. We try to cut the cost of money spent on services that could be helped by providing affordable housing. This is just one of the ways we are trying to do our part.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thank You!

Separating life into different compartments is easy for some people while others find it next to impossible. We go about our days wearing a million different hats...parent, son or daughter, spouse, employee, lion tamer... Okay, that last one is really cool and I've yet to meet one so I am throwing it out there. My point is many of us let certain aspects of our life drift into other areas. We might be thinking of a report that is due while we're at our child's soccer practice. Maybe the drama at work never really fully rescinds as we settle down to watch some TV or read a book. Work and play and hobbies all hover around our periphery and melt into one big entangled existence.

I've spoken to many of our Samaritan House staff and it is safe to conclude that much of what we see and deal with on a daily basis is hard to leave at work. Especially when it comes to homelessness and children. For me, it is one of the most heartbreaking ideas that any child would be faced with being homeless. Think back to your childhood and remember how life was crazy enough if you were part of a family that loved you, cared for you, and supported you. Some of us had an upbringing that was less than ideal and provided its own unique hardships. Now imagine what it must feel like to be a homeless 8 year old celebrating your birthday in a shelter. Not something most of us encountered.

A while ago I wrote a blog asking people to consider sending money that was specifically earmarked for children's birthdays. Someone sent in $25 and we were able to help a mother purchase a few things for her child. Thank you so much to the individual who helped us out. Because of your generosity, a young child was able to receive some presents on their birthday.

Right now we have 9 kids at Samaritan House and I am making another appeal for anyone interested in sending a specifically marked donation just for birthdays. I am not asking for a certain amount and I am thankful that our readers have been so generous in the past with various things we have asked for. While its never totally possible to leave our work at home, some nights we go to sleep a bit easier knowing we have made a tangible difference in a child's life in a very simple way.

Our address is:
124 9th Ave West

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Happy WHD!!!!

Yes, it is that time of year once again... I know it seems like only yesterday that we celebrated the last one of these. Have 365 days really peeled off the calendar so quickly? I feel like I just took down all the banners and streamers and cleaned the Chex Mix out from my couch cushions. We live in a society that likes to commemorate everything and I am almost embarrassed about the amount of coverage today has received. Can everyone say, "media over saturation!"

The traffic was so congested this morning (probably because the city was getting ready for the parade) that I almost turned around and drove home. I know its a bit sacrilegious to get angry on such a hallowed and important day, but I'm only human. I calmed my inner hulk by relaxing and reflecting on the previous WHD celebrations I've attended. Each generation has a few moments that stand out to them... those instances when you remember exactly what you were doing when something monumental occurred. Doesn't this sum up last year's WHD for many of us?

So, as much as I would like to stay on here and nerd-it-up by writing a long blog, I have places to go and people to celebrate with. My time is short this morning because I refuse to let this office desk rob me of one more moment of World Homeless Day, 2012. Thanks for doing your part to remember the homeless on this day. I know you have donations to make and people to reach out to, so I will let you go on with your day.

Tomorrow we can all go back to our regular lives!

For more information on National World Homeless Day:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Semantics of Homelessness

Recently I had a conversation with a person I respect very much and I raised the idea of homelessness as a disease. I was referring to the notion that being homeless transcended the dictionary definition of this word but my friend wouldn't accept it as a valid description. We argued for a while and came to the shared conclusion that, while disease might be a bit edgy and unnerving, homelessness might better be characterized as a disability. I think they simply wanted to end the conversation with me (this happens a lot) so they feigned agreement and slipped out the back door.

But I thought about it a bit longer and I think I was wrong. Homelessness is not so much a disability as it is a disabler. It disarms people on multiple levels. It steals dignity and self respect as much as it kills hope and presents tangible physical difficulties. If a person is caught in its clutches long enough it does disable them from functioning in society as well as in isolation. It is the great segregator as much as it forces people together to try and cope with a life of communal dependence. There are official definitions and classifications of homelessness that would cure an insomniac, but the more we try to capture it with a definition, the more it seeps out of our neatly constructed box and becomes an 8 year old living under the bridge with her mom. 

Words can't feel when the temperature dips below freezing.

So, as autumn begins its methodical descent into early winter, here are some conditions that many of our homeless brothers and sisters face. We can haggle over definitions and terms and the arrangement of letters that make us feel more comfortable, but I also ask that we remember that the effects of homelessness on a person are much more than a case of semantics.

Cold Injury
This is especially important in the northwestern United States and Canada and is the result of being without proper protection from the cold.

Cardio-Respiratory diseases
Many suffer from upper respiratory problems or chronic physical illnesses such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure.

TB is highly infectious and common among those in shelters and in the streets. The rate of TB among homeless people is at least a hundred times greater than the average for the general population.

Skin diseases
Homeless people are predisposed to skin problems and edema resulting from malnourishment, poor circulation, ill-fitting shoes, cuts and dirty clothing.

Nutritional deficiencies
Because of poor nutrition and lack of care, a high percentage of homeless persons have dental problems and suffer from malnourishment, which increases the risk of infectious diseases and gastrointestinal disorders.

Sleep deprivation. 
For most people sleeping is difficult in the noisy atmosphere of shelters. Sleep disorders cause irritability, apathy and behavioral impairment. Children are especially affected.

Health problems of children and youths
Children in emergency shelters have emotional and developmental difficulties and most are unable to do well in school. These children have a rate of chronic disease twice as high as that of their more stable peers. They can suffer from upper respiratory infections, traumas and skin disorders, lice infestation, chronic problems with eyes, ears and teeth, along with malnutrition, gastrointestinal disorders, genito-urinary difficulties and sexually transmitted diseases.

Mental Illness
There are evident links among homelessness, mental health and public policies relating to the care or mentally ill people. It is generally accepted that about one third of all homeless people have serious and chronic forms of mental illness. Half of them experience hopelessness and despair because of their conditions and one in six attempt suicide.

Physical and sexual assault
Life on the streets is violent. Physical assaults and muggings are common, and these attacks precipitate health problems. Women and children are especially vulnerable. The rate of sexual assaults to homeless women is twenty times higher that for women in general.

Drug dependency
Between 10 and 15% of homeless males abuse drugs and among them there is a high occurrence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, venereal disease, skin ailments, bruises, lacerations and injuries resulting from violence.

*Some information courtesy of National Coalition for the Homeless

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shortened Days

I love England. It's a quirky little place where they speak with all sorts of wonderful accents and I can throw a stone in any direction and hit a shoppe that sells fish and chips. I've spent  some time there and have family there, as well. Great music and history and all sorts of other reasons for me to enjoy our British friends across the pond and be thankful for their existence. I will forgive them for the Spice Girls because they also give us Everton Football (soccer, for the Yanks reading this).

This morning I was thankful for England for a different reason. I read a report from a British university in Sheffield that stated the average homeless person in the United Kingdom has a lifespan of 30 years less than a housed person. This prompted me to do some investigation of American homelessness and I found some staggering numbers. It's hard to get concrete numbers because different studies and surveys produce varied answers, but I averaged a few sources and this is what I discovered:

I averaged men and women together, and a conservative estimate is that a homeless person in America has a life span of 54 years. The life expectancy of a housed American is roughly 77 years. I'm not a mathematician but I think that adds up to more than two decades of life for the housed. Think about that for a minute. I usually like to elaborate on an idea or offer some commentary, but I'm going to stop now because I  feel this merits a moment of silence.

...actually 23 years worth.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Eminem is Wrong.

I miss mix tapes. When I was a kid there was nothing more laborious, yet fulfilling, than loading a blank cassette tape into Deck A of my boom box while Deck B became host to The Cure, U2, Public Enemy, and The Pixies. Times have evolved and mix tapes have given way to iTunes playlists. The concept is the same...multiple songs by varied artists, but I guess I just miss the mechanics and the sound of actual fast-forwarding. Anyway, I was driving to work this morning and an Eminem song I've heard a thousand times came on and some of the lyrics seeped in and I found myself reexamining them. I apologize if you don't know who this artist is, or if you do not care for his music.My point is not to endorse him, but rather to provide some context for this blog.

You better lose yourself in the music
The moment, you own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime

This is a common theme in literature, art, entertainment, and life, really. Make the best of what comes our way because we only get one chance in life to capitalize on the moment. If we somehow screw things up, we are doomed to a life of deserved misery. This seems inspirational and it has allowed Hallmark Television to exist by pumping out thousands of made-for-TV movies with Alyssa Milano and any combination of the surviving Golden Girls. But is this idea right? Should we only get one chance to defining moment that either ensnares or catapults us to greater things? I think we have all had moments where we wonder if life can get any better. But we also have times of catastrophic failure that we do not want to be defined by.

Most of our residents are at the lowest (or one of the lowest) points in their lives. For whatever reason, they find themselves at Samaritan House and in some stage of trying to piece their lives back together. They are often broken and despondent and most definitely feel that their 'opportunity' has passed them by. If we truly only have one chance in life to accomplish greatness, then perhaps they are correct. But I can't subscribe to this.

As we were working on our State of Homelessness in Kalispell report, I kept thinking that there had to be some type of redemptive process for the homeless. This attitude of 'one shot is all you get' prevails in too many sectors of society. There is a tendency to think the homeless deserve their circumstances because they failed at life. We lose patience with people we think have squandered opportunities that others have succeeded in. I see this attitude as detrimental to addressing the issue of homelessness in the Valley. We need to be a community that offers the services mentioned in previous blogs, but these services must be offered out of a restorative anticipation that people can turn their lives around and not viewed as a handout or platform for judgement.

We all have had help in some form or another. How quickly we can forget that. Life is not baseball and we should get more than 3 strikes till we're out.

Monday, September 24, 2012


I love this time of year... nothing screams Autumn like constant political bombardment from pundits and lobbyists and Super PACs. Its enough to make Charlie Brown crawl inside the Great Pumpkin and seal himself off from the rest of the world for a few months. Everyone is in the promising mood and  the number of election signs have finally surpassed roadside deer.

So, in climate of realpolitik where everyone is offering an answer to life, the universe, and everything else, Samaritan House is seeking to provide some suggestions that put the 'soul' into solutions. Here is a nonpartisan template on how  Kalispell can continue to make progress in addressing the needs of its homeless brothers and sisters. This is a continuation of what we have been discussing over the past few weeks.

Homelessness is not just in Kalispell. It is a national problem and, therefore, requires a national solution. Poverty must be addressed at the federal level to ensure the poor throughout the nation will receive equal benefits and services. Homelessness needs to be attacked nationally to deal with the structural problems that cause poverty locally.

Practical Steps in Addressing Homelessness in Kalispell

Analyze the characteristics of people who are or could potentially become homeless. Determine which essential services are most needed and the best way to deliver these services. Essential services can include assistance in obtaining benefits, getting housing, improving daily living skills, transportation, connecting with support groups, nutritional counseling, obtaining clothing, vocational help, child care, and education.

Design programs that put able adults or families into permanent housing as soon as possible. Provide job training for a minimum of one year after placement, and services such as mental health and substance abuse support, if needed. Create a community resource development strategy.

Provide education to homeless people on financial management, credit counseling, and overcoming bad credit histories. Educate and negotiate with landlords in order to prevent evictions.

Create housing trust funds and rental assistance programs, and provide access to funding for short-term needs such as moving expenses, security deposits, and paying rent arrears.

Ensure that people transitioning from a temporary shelter have housing, job training, transportation, mental and general health care, and case management.

Measure the outcomes of services provided to the homeless. Evaluate whether the programs meet their needs. Create a planning and evaluation process that assures input from the community and stakeholders as well as measurements of the progress of the program.

Hold frequent meetings with key players in program implementation such as funding sources, service providers, and skilled and diplomatic administrative staff in order to coordinate services. Make a long term commitment to initiatives to end homelessness.

Provide information on your organization's homeless initiatives to local government programs. Homeless people usually qualify for various types of public assistance, so public agencies must coordinate various services and refer clients to homeless programs. Encourage various agencies to create an inter-agency initiative to end homelessness.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


So, it's been a while since my last post and you have my sincerest apologies. Much has happened over the past two weeks and trying to condense it all into a few sentences is difficult. Anyway, here is a brief synopsis of the unfoldings at Samaritan House.

Last night (September 19) Samaritan House hosted a Kalispell Chamber of Commerce Unwind event and welcomed community members and other organizations at our Administration Center. Close to 150 people meandered their way through our large dining area, feasting upon selected dishes featured in our cookbook, Come To Our Table. Executive Director, Chris Krager, shared the heart behind Samaritan House and showed a gripping  video presentation made by one of the Flathead Valley's up and coming film makers.

We also unveiled a report we have been diligently working on, called The State of Homelessness in Kalispell, Montana in 2012. This comprehensive report addresses the causes of homelessness specific to Kalispell while also presenting some practical information on how we, as a community, can address this issue. We have these reports at our Administration Center (1110 2nd Street West) if anyone is interested in stopping by and picking one up. Here is a brief excerpt from the introduction and soon I will post some more regarding the solutions.

The last thing this world needs is another list of problems without an offer of hope, which seems to be a fleeting idea these days. Sometimes even the best intentions can become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of problems facing us. This report attempts to provide more than a list of the issues regarding homelessness. We want to shine a light on this communal problem, but we also desire to offer some practical proposals. Homelessness is a social issue that affects everyone and requires both a personal and societal response.
As we begin a dialogue addressing the disease of homelessness in Kalispell, it would be beneficial to diagnose this epidemic for what it is: a social problem. Until we can come to terms with and then admit that homelessness is perpetuated by structures in society, we will simply be spinning our wheels with misinformation from a faulty platform. Homelessness has precursors and the pattern of a person’s homelessness reveals possible solutions indicating how we can intervene or reduce potential and future episodes.
We want to dispel some of the myths associated with Homelessness.  As a human, the only thing more devastating than allowing others to rob us of our dignity is when we forbid ourselves the opportunity to see ourselves in a dignified light. This happens when we construct a faulty ideal of what composes dignity based on the untruth of what dignity isn't. In other words, we let other people decide what is and isn't dignified and we contour our own values to accommodate them rather than stay true to what we believe. Dignity is lost before it was ever found because there is no standard of self respect. The stigmas attached to homelessness are the initial barriers to seeing the homeless as equal brothers and sisters.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Friend or Foe?

I recently came across some information that surprised me. I like it when this happens because it's always nice to realize that no matter how smart I think I am, there is always more to learn. Usually my wife and kids remind me of this, so it was especially comforting to expose my own ignorance regarding some work-related info all by myself! Ah, the joys of a lazy Sunday. And anyway, the Steelers don't play until later tonight so I had some time on my hands.

At Samaritan House we are working on a project that deals with addressing homelessness in Kalispell. This should be a no-brainer, right? I mean, what else would we be doing with our time? So, in researching this current (not yet released) project, I expected to evaluate different variations of the same information I usually come across. I was sifting through some of the causes and effects of homelessness in Kalispell when I discovered something that I didn't know: According to the Montana Homeless Survey from 201l, the leading cause of homelessness in Kalispell was displacement due to conflicts with friends or family. Loss of employment was the number two cause.

More people were homeless in the Valley as a result of having no place to go after they were somehow embroiled in a conflict where they were currently living. I was surprised because I surely thought economic issues would have been the highest but I double checked the figures and saw that I was reading them correctly. When a person encounters such a level of  hostility that they choose the streets over remaining in that situation, it says a great deal about the fragility of relationship and the necessity of a reliable support network. Conflict within a home can arise for any number of reasons. Substance or chemical abuse, domestic violence, criminal activity... The list is infinite. But for whatever reasons, whether they are legitimate or spurious, the leading cause of homelessness in Kalispell fell under this very category. 

In an ideal world friends and family would be able to support those in need without any entanglements. If a problem surfaces, the person in need could rely on those around him or her for an inexhaustible amount of time and resources. But the real world doesn't work this way. Many of us have a difficult enough time taking care of ourselves and those in our immediate lives without the added responsibility of others. So what happens when unforeseen circumstances propel others in need into our midst?

Even the kindest and most benevolent of people can run thin on patience or, more commonly, resources when they are forced to look after someone else. And even if the intention is to help, come hell or high water, it doesn't mean they are qualified to provide a long-term solution. So, the person receiving the help eventually wears out their welcome or the situation escalates into something no longer manageable, so they have no recourse but to leave, rendering them homeless.

Someone once said that, "knowledge is power," but I think, in this case, knowledge is nothing more than revelation. And what we do with this information is up to us.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Social Problem

Its Labor Day, so I thought it might be an appropriate time to pay homage to the American worker by discussing the importance of sustainable employment. For most of us, the mere fact that we are working signifies a stark contrast between ourselves and the homeless. No matter how difficult our situations become, our lives differ from our homeless brothers and sisters in many ways.

As we begin a dialogue discussing some solutions for addressing the disease of homelessness in Kalispell, it would be beneficial to diagnose this epidemic for what it is: a social problem. Until we can come to terms with and then admit that homelessness is perpetuated by structures in society, we will simply be spinning our wheels with misinformation from a faulty platform. Homelessness has precursors and the pattern of a person’s homelessness reveals possible solutions indicating how we can intervene or reduce potential and future episodes.

Those who are experiencing homelessness for the first time are usually stunned and immobilized by the ordeal. The American dream is not supposed to require Ambien so it can be avoided. There are many times when the episodically homeless become overwhelmed and slips into a catatonic state of denial or depression when all they might need is a basic remedy such as rental assistance, help negotiating with a landlord, or a referral to public benefits or services. The chronically homeless, however, are more likely to require considerably more support for sustained periods of time.

In Montana, there is a homeless survey that is helpful in deciphering the proportion of people displaying a particular pattern of homelessness. Nationally, some surveys indicate that close to a quarter of homeless people report being continuously homeless for at least five years, and about one-fourth say they have drifted in and out of homelessness numerous times. But after that, everyone else reports they are experiencing a first or second episode, which usually lasts less than a year, and in some cases, only a few weeks or months.

Information covering longer periods (one year) captures the plight of those experiencing short-term crises who escape homelessness as well as the additional people entering short-term homelessness.  The problem is that the recidivism rates are high and the hopeful exodus from homelessness ends up being a brief hiatus because the structures of society have not changed. People who weather these episodes tend to leave and return, while the chronically homeless remain without housing or services for the entire period.

One national commentary on the situation says, "By the end of the year, chronically homeless people will make up a smaller proportion of the homeless population during the year than at a single point in time. Conversely, those with very short spells will account for a higher proportion of the population over a year’s time than on any given day. The experience of the past 15 years indicates that the number of very poor people driven into homelessness for at least short periods has not diminished significantly. Families with children are still a large part of the mix. Over the past 15 years, the resources of the homeless service system, which gives people in desperate circumstances a place to go for help, have also increased. While essential, these services make visible and undeniable the severity of structural factors currently operating to produce homelessness."

Homelessness can not be addressed properly unless the structures perpetuating it change. But, how does this happen....?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Elephant in the Living Room

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines a chronically homeless person as someone who has been continuously homeless for over one year. In 2009 it was estimated that 23% of homeless Americans fell under this category. While current numbers have dipped to 12-15%,  the number of homeless Americans, overall, has increased.
Under 18 yrs old
18 to 20 yrs old
21 to 30 yrs old
31 to 50 yrs old
51 to 61 yrs old
62 to 64 yrs old
Over 65 yrs old
Incomplete Info

According to the 2011 Montana Homeless Survey, over 800 people sought services for homelessness last year in Kalipsell. The previous year's survey registered 722, so the numbers went up. And this only represents those individuals who took the time to participate in the survey because many many people did not respond or their information was too incomplete to use. I did some research and the population of Kalispell is just under 20,000. This means that close to 4 percent of the population was classified as homeless.
Or, another way to examine the situation is: 1 out of every 25 people in Kalispell, statistically speaking, was homeless. This is not an epidemic limited to New York or Los Angeles. This is Kalispell. Montana. The last great place? Not for everyone.
 Do you know 25 people? Do you have 25 friends or family members in Kalispell? For so many of us the issue of homelessness is disconnected from our daily life because it seems like a foreign issue or a reality that would never touch us here in the Valley. Homelessness has become the elephant in the living room. But how do we combat a condition that ensnares people in cycles? We need solutions based in longevity and sustainability. Quick-fixes and aid without a long-term plan will only slap a bandage on a gaping wound. If homelessness can be thought of as a disease, then what remedies can be provided?
Kalispell must be willing to ensure housing within reasonable price ranges. Education is another piece of this puzzle that can lead to jobs and careers that provide living-wage opportunities. When an individual has the chance to acquire the appropriate tools, then he or she can begin to construct a life that transcends living hand-to-mouth. Employers must be willing to take a chance by hiring those who have either escaped the talons of poverty or are doing their best to scale that mountain.
This is not a partisan problem or a dilemma relegated to politics. This is a human problem and I believe the people of Kalispell can help in numerous ways.
…which will be the next topic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

TGI...T (Tuesday?)

Tuesday is strange and possibly the most neglected and least-talked about day of the week. Everyone hates Monday and Wednesday gets some press because it marks the middle of most work weeks. Thursday now hosts college football games on ESPN (okay, a bit of a reach) and Friday is hallowed for signifying the completion of five consecutive days of labor and toil.
But Tuesday? Blech…
I thought I would try to elevate the status of this latch-key day by attempting to write something informative about homelessness. And, instead of tackling the enormity of this issue all in one incredibly incompetent blog, perhaps the best way is to start at the beginning. What is homelessness and who is homeless? The government acknowledges two basic types of homelessness: chronic and episodic.
Chronic homelessness is more of the stereotypical idea that many people carry around with them. This term evokes images of a grizzled man or woman coiled up under a bridge with their belongings entombed in a shopping cart or a cardboard box. They seem to want little interaction with others and often refuse the assistance of organizations that offer services. We tend to cross to the other side of the street when they approach us. We use them as cautionary tales to instill principles in our own children. Many suffer from mental illness. But did you know that this is only a small fraction of the actual homeless population?
The other type of homelessness recognized by the government is episodic. This is the much larger demographic and these individuals more than likely ended up homeless because of circumstances beyond their control. Life was grand on Monday and then unfathomable by Friday. Death, unpaid bills, foreclosure, abuse… the reasons are often as relative as the person. We walk right beside these people on a crowded street. They are not singled out. They go to third grade with your child.
Homelessness is a multilayered phenomenon and over the next few weeks I want to explore the different facets of what it means to be homeless and the implications for not only the individual, but the entire community. I guess I figured Tuesday was as good a day as any to begin.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I am having a standoff with my calendar. It still (for a few more fleeting days) reads 'August' but recently the mornings have been impersonating mid-September. The universe is coaxing me into wearing a jacket but I refuse to bow to its wishes. The season is changing and with it comes more than a meteorological discussion. The homeless demographic of Kalispell is fluid by nature, but the transformation in the weather signifies the beginning of the end for many transient or migrational sign holders. Executive Director Chris Krager explored this topic in an excellent feature.

Our residents at Samaritan House are asked not to hold signs and usually comply with this request. Chances are, the individuals you have seen at various fixed locations (sometimes at the entrances to certain stores or intersections) are not living at Samaritan House. Many people have different philosophies regarding how to interact with sign holders. No matter what your personal ethos dictates, you have probably been placed in that awkward situation when the traffic light stops you dead in your tracks right next to a sign holder. Your car idles there, with a trunk full of groceries or other items, as the individual outside your window looks over and silently invades your personal space without moving a muscle. 

This recently happened to someone I know. She is a very compassionate woman but is also blessed with a keen sense of intuition. As her car was stopped, she rolled down down her window and offered the homeless gentleman some fruit, which he indignantly refused. She apologized and told him she figured he could use some food since his sign proclaimed he was hungry. He moved to another location. Her intention was not act as an investigative journalist or to entrap someone who was trying to scam the public; she just wanted to give a hungry guy some something to eat.

I won't tell you how to respond to sign holders but I would like to express my sadness and frustration when those who are legitimately in need are denigrated because other (less scrupulous) people have decided to feign homelessness to make money by exploiting this situation. The faux-homeless migrational sign holders will soon be moving on to warmer environments as the temperature drops but those who are truly homeless will still be among us. My point is that we should not dismiss or marginalize the genuine need or cause of homelessness in Kalispell because we are irritated with impostors. I also warn caution against labeling all sign holders as fraudulent... some are truly homeless with corresponding needs.

So, as the Flathead Valley evolves into the beginning stages of a Northwestern Winter Wonderland, please be mindful that not everything is as it seems to the naked eye. Until we can create a system and environment that addresses the causes of homelessness, we will be forced to try and be as proactive as we can, while often being held hostage to misconceptions and appearances. Always use discretion and wisdom, but not without compassion and understanding. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Birthday?

Birthdays can be a wonderful time in a person’s life no matter what age they celebrate. Children get pampered and feel special while adults pretend they don’t like the attention lavished upon them. We fuss and fawn all over someone simply because they debuted on planet earth on a certain day and year. We like researching and cross-referencing our birthdays to see if we share our day with anyone who was featured on either Entertainment Tonight or TMZ. We like to fib about our age sometimes so we can get back the occasional lost year. I think it’s a safe assumption that the majority of Americans love their birthday (mine is in October…hint, hint) and the personal 24 hour holiday it ushers in.

I recently read about a couple nonprofit organizations that provide birthdays for homeless children. One is in New England and the other is in Washington. Sometimes it seems that all the great ideas come from other places. After I read the articles, I wanted to kick myself because this idea was not some unfathomable concept or mind-blowingly revolutionary concept that defies logic. Rather, it is an idea based in simple human kindness and a recognition that sometimes it’s just nice to do something for others. Ugh… I had the same feeling of despair that I felt when I didn’t market my idea for what would have become the Snuggie!

A few months ago we had a six year old staying at the shelter on her birthday. This was made known to me only because her mother mentioned it in passing as they were heading out the door. I think I mumbled an obligatory birthday blessing and then went about my day saving the world. A few hours later, after I returned home for the day, my daughter received a birthday invitation to a party for one of her friends. She was annoyingly excited and I was equally perturbed that yet another one of her friends decided to be born in such close proximity to the other 4 kids that had also sent invitations to their parties. Then another thought pushed its way to the front of my mind…

I recalled my passing conversation with the mother and her daughter earlier that day and realized that (unlike humanity) not all birthdays are created equal. I wondered if there was something I could do that would not be construed as patronizing or embarrassing and might help other kids have a decent party. Many of our families at the shelter are in a difficult situation and can’t afford to spend extra money or resources on things like birthday parties for their kids. Those of us who are not homeless are sometimes quick to set the standard on what the homeless should and should not spend their money on. We quickly devise a category of wants and needs and become indignant when we feel people with little income are ‘wasting’ their money on frivolity. Fair enough and there is validity to that argument.

…I just don’t think birthdays should be included in that category. Try rationalizing the economy with an 8 year old who received a coloring book and some socks for his birthday.

My intent is to set up a specific account at Samaritan House just for children’s birthdays. Any money sent in and earmarked for this will be spent only for providing some resources for a party. Some balloons, a cake, maybe a couple streamers and an age-appropriate gift. I am petitioning you to please participate in this. You can even donate items if you do not want to send money. I think birthdays should not be limited to children with fixed addresses.