Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last Post of the Year!!!

Disclaimer: the views expressed in this blog do not reflect my own resolutions. I am neither disciplined nor committed enough to think of, compile, or list any ideas for 2015. The goals listed below were taken from a national survey but the commentary provided is my own and I cannot blame anyone else. So, without further adieu...

New Years Resolution #1) Spend More Time with Family & Friends.
This is a great idea if your family's last name is Brady or Banks (think Fresh Prince) and a laugh-track accompanied all the hilarious hijinks you encountered each day. However, most of us live more in a 'Roseanne' type of world that forces us to accept and others, warts and all. Find the good things to focus on and remember love is often more of a decision than emotion.

New Years Resolution #2) Fit in Fitness.
Ah, the irony and hypocrisy as I write this from my recliner. The importance of exercise will yield short and long term benefits. And I promise to partake in this glorious idea as soon as I am finished with this blog (and the football game I am watching is over).

New Years Resolution #3) Tame the Bulge.
Like peas and carrots or meat and potatoes, this resolution partners with the above-mentioned goal to increase our quality of life. Perhaps we should supersize fewer things this year and remember that, while inner beauty is definitely more important than its outer counterpart, it is still okay to take pride in our appearance.

New Years Resolution #4) Quit Smoking.
Um... Nothing witty to add here. Just stop smoking so you can live a longer and healthier life. Also, how many world class decathletes do you know who smoke 2 packs a day? Also, this is great advice if you want to be a world class decathlete.

New Years Resolution #5) Enjoy Life More.
Jump. Run. Sing. Paint. Cook. Dance. Write. Hike. Swim. Debate. Learn. Stop being afraid and realize this is the only life you have and if you live an inhibited existence, you are robbing yourself. Do something that surprises everyone you know and makes them scratch their collective heads while trying to figure out what is wrong with you (by the way... NOTHING).

New Years Resolution #6) Quit Drinking Too Much.
Not trying to be preachy here, but the effects of alcohol abuse are devastating on the entire community.

New Years Resolution #7) Get Out of Debt.
Okay, this one is easier said than done, but at least take steps toward this. What are the things in our lives we can reprioritize? Think before spending. Is something a want or a need? Just because something is on QVC or an Amazon Daily Deal does not mean you have to have it. Remember that Snuggie collecting dust in your closet?

New Years Resolution #8) Learn Something New.
I'll even help you with this one! Try learning a different language because you will have an endless amount of fun once you bump into the one other person in the Valley who speaks Swahili. However, if languages are not your forte, then stretch yourself by being a continual learner in another area.

New Years Resolution #9) Help Others.
Not because its a tax deduction or looks good on a résumé. Not so you can tell others about your exploits or benevolence. Help others because you have, at one time and to some degree, received help and now its time to remember that. Help others because they have innate value as human beings and it is the right thing to do.

New Years Resolution #10) Get Organized.
Wow. This one is no fun. What kind of sick and twisted person values organization over chaos!? I suggest you begin with your sock drawer and master that black hole before moving on to greater and grander efforts. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day.

So, there you have it. A list worthy of mounting on any refrigerator and ignoring until the spring, when its time to purge the doors and hang takeout menus and your kid's school art projects. But, whatever resolutions you make... Happy New Year, from the staff at Samaritan House!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Worthy Resolution

If you know anything about youth homelessness, you know that we’re still a long way from ending it. But looking back on 2014, you can also see that we have advanced, slowly but surely, in the right direction. While communities around the country still struggle with mounting a youth-inclusive Point-in-Time Count, we’ve seen more commitment at the federal level, from both legislators and agencies. Though the slow pace can be frustrating, momentum is building, and we’ve got many reasons to be hopeful for the future.

One of the persistent obstacles to developing solutions to youth homelessness is the difficulty in obtaining an accurate count of homeless youth. In 2013, communities finally included unaccompanied youth in their Point-in-Time (PIT) counts, which meant we were finally able to include homeless youth in our 2014 State of Homelessness report. The 2014 PIT Count was not perfect, but some communities did a fantastic job.

This year also marked the 40th anniversary of the 1974 Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), the only piece of federal legislation devoted exclusively to youth homelessness. The Act expired in September 2013, but this year Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote legislation that would not just reauthorize it, but improve upon it. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill, but reauthorization is unlikely to happen this congressional session.

At the Department of Health and Human Services, the Families and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) proposed significant changes to RHYA programs that would increase their capacity to serve homeless youth as well as their flexibility in providing services and coordinating with communities. FYSB also released findings from its study of youth served by street outreach programs in 11 cities and facilitated an inspiring #BecauseofRHYA social media campaign to highlight the impact of RHYA in its 40th anniversary year.

At the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), officials provided some much needed clarity on HUD’s eligibility criteria for homeless children and youth that described conditions by which a homeless youth’s housing circumstances may qualify him or her for HUD homeless assistance services.

No doubt about it, as we move into 2015, we still have so much work to do. (This country still doesn’t have anywhere near enough shelter beds to keep homeless youth off the streets.) But we are seeing the commitment to end youth homelessness growing all across the country, influenced, led, and informed by the voices of homeless youth themselves. It is an exciting time to be doing this work, and we look forward to even more progress in the New Year. Thousands of homeless kids around the country deserve it!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Samaritan House wishes a very merry Christmas and happy Chanukah to everyone in Kalispell, the Flahead Valley, and beyond. Please take this day to reflect upon all the things we have to be grateful for and to appreciate the kindness extolled to us by others.

Enjoy the people in your lives who bring you joy and comfort and remember those who have come and gone but still remain in your heart. We are honored tho stand with you as the Flathead Valley's ambassador to the homeless and we thank you for all you've done for us over this past year.

So, on behalf of Samaritan House's staff and residents, please have a wonderful holiday season.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Eve

The apartment on the corner was sparsely decorated. Aside from a couch, small breakfast table, and a used dresser, there was nothing of significance. Each evening when the sun retired, the streetlight silently stood sentry on the corner and illuminated her bedroom with the only consistency she knew.

She wrangled together a daily schedule that allowed her to shuffle between two jobs while still making time for her two children. Without the help of her mom, she would need childcare that she couldn't afford and every saved dime allowed her to give her kids the Christmas she wanted them to have. This year the holidays were a mixed blessing. A new start in life was represented by the apartment they called home. Having spent the better part of the year in a shelter, she now appreciated things she never noticed before. Hangers and coffee tables and working refrigerators; everything was seen through a new grid this Christmas.

The lessons learned through deprivation had blossomed into a life of true charity and thankfulness. People threw around Yuletide slogans like life vests on a sinking ship, but these mantras were truly important and genuine to her.

Peace on earth was not merely political. Every time she tucked her children into bed she experienced a sense of peace and satisfaction no treaty could ever broker. Being together was a gift and providing for them meant she was breaking a cycle of dependence upon others.

Happy holidays were not limited to superficial exchanges passed along crowed streets. The joy she experienced transcended receipts and wrapping paper. It came from within because it was not tied to material possessions that would eventually need to be replaced.

Goodwill to mankind was not a wish, but a reality. It was up to her to perpetuate this idea. If the world was going to be a better place then she would have to do her part because relying on others was too risky. This philosophy of kindness would be taught and passed down to her own children.

The nightlight in the bedroom of the sparsely decorated apartment finally went out as Eve reflected on all that was important to her as she drifted to sleep. Christmas and the holiday season were encapsulated not by reindeer or mistletoe or Frosty reruns.

The true meaning of charity and peace and goodwill were tucked into bed in the next room. Values passed down.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Homeless Veterans

Every year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities across the country do a one-night count of its sheltered homeless population, and every other year requires that communities conduct a count of the unsheltered population.

The idea is to figure out where homelessness is going up and where it’s going down. This gives us a sense which communities are most effective in fighting homelessness, as well as where we should target our resources in order to make the biggest impact. The count includes data on a variety of subpopulations, including adults, youth, families, and veterans.

This country is an incredible place to live, largely, because of the contributions and sacrifices of our veterans. Samaritan House is proud of its programs dedicated to housing and assisting Montana's veterans. Here’s a quick a look at what the recently released 2014 data says about trends in veteran homelessness, nationally.

On a single night in January 2014, nearly 50,000 veterans were homeless. That’s about 9 percent of the total homeless population.

From 2013 to 2014, the number of homeless veterans decreased nationally by 10.5 percent, with 28 states reducing their total veteran populations.

The national rate of veteran homelessness decreased: in 2013, there were 27.3 homeless veterans for every 10,000 veterans; in 2014, there were 25.5 homeless veterans for every 10,000 veterans. The decrease in homeless veterans was the largest decrease of any subpopulation counted!

In 2014, 36 percent of all homeless veterans were unsheltered, meaning they were sleeping in a place unfit for human habitation (such as on the street or in an abandoned building). Because the national rate of unsheltered homelessness is 31 percent, that means that homeless veterans tend to be unsheltered more frequently than the general homeless population.

As America pushes forward in the effort to end veteran homelessness, each state must play a role. According to the Montana Homeless Survey, there were approximately 2,396 homeless veterans (and families) on the 2013 point-in-time survey. This number is representative of the entire state, from Glacier to Wibeaux. And while we hope to see a complete and total end to veteran homelessness, we understand that the process will take time.

Thank you for partnering with us as we take this challenge. Every donation and contribution you make is helpful and appreciated. Please help us give back to those who have already given so much to this country and our state.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Working Toward a Goal

2014 is living on borrowed time. As this year fades into the next, many of us begin to reflect on what has happen in our lives and what we want to change. Resolutions take center stage as we think about how to live differently; how to improve our situations. Something very important to us, at Samaritan House, is making sure hunger does not keep a crippling grasp of Montanans.

In 2013, 5 percent of households served by Feeding America programs, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization, were homeless, and 27 percent of households served by Feeding America’s meal programs—such as kitchens and shelters—were homeless. The same year, The United States Conference of Mayors’ Hunger and Homelessness Survey found that 9 percent of all people who accessed food assistance in 25 cities across the country were homeless.

These figures might give you the impression that not very many homeless people receive food assistance, but consider this: less than 1 percent (0.19 percent to be precise) of all people in America is homeless, according to the 2014 Point-in-Time-Count. That means that the homeless population is drastically overrepresented among people who access food assistance.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that people who are homeless also tend to be hungry. According to the 2013 Hunger and Homelessness Survey and the National Coalition for the Homeless, many of the risk factors for hunger are the same as those that contribute to homelessness:

High cost of housing
Low wages
Medical or health care costs

In other words, homelessness and hunger often go hand-in-hand. So, while it is important to remember during the holidays that many people don’t know where their next meal is coming from, it’s just as important to remember this year-round. Neither homelessness nor hunger are seasonal.

Want to help alleviate hunger for members of this community. This becomes a reality when people people donate and stand beside us. We appreciate all manner of donations and there is still plenty of time to contribute this year. Both housing and food are necessities for all people, and we must work together to continue fighting to end homelessness and hunger.

-thanks to National Alliance to end Homelessness.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Power of Java

I was watching NBC's "The Voice" a few nights ago while kicking around a few ideas for the blog. First... Don't judge me. Inspiration comes from the the craziest places and who cares if I pretend that Pharrell, Blake, and I are best friends. Anyway, back to my original point: inspiration.

After a while, I was ready to give up on this venture switch to ESPN (not for inspiration, though. I just needed a few basketball scores) as Carson Daly made an announcement catching my attention. A global coffee chain was hosting a contest and the prize was one free food or drink item every day for the next 30 years. Interesting. I did some research, found the menu for this business, and then extrapolated a few numbers. To give a larger sample size, I've listed the least and most expensive items. Oh, did I mention there would be 10 lucky winners?

A child's chocolate milk at $1 a day, every day for 30 years = $10,950.
If all ten winners ordered nothing but this item, the total would equal $109,500.

Several drinks were listed at $4.25. One of these, every day for 30 years = $46,537.50.
If the ten winners ordered only these items, the total would be $465,375.

As someone who has worked with nonprofits for a significant portion of my adult life, my first thought was either of those sums would make an incredible difference to any social service provider. Instead of fueling the coffee habits for a group of over-caffeinated hipsters, this money should be given to nobler causes impacting the lives of people in need. But then, after doing more research, I discovered this corporation annually gives millions of dollars to organizations across America. They are doing their part and have earned the right to spend their profits however they see fit.

My focus turned inward. Maybe I should stop waiting for large national corporations to save the day, and perhaps I could do more, myself.

Its easy to channel ire and righteous indignation at large companies because they are impersonal entities. But what if I examine my own (in)actions with that same searing introspection? Are there things in my own life I could do without in order to help others? I'm not talking about plunging head first into a life of total self-deprivation. I don't need to forsake all manner of material comforts. But maybe there are a few things I could scale back on while putting that cash towards other causes.

A few dollars here, and a couple cents there... If stashed away and saved over the duration of a month or year... Would certainly be a blessing to organizations who are constantly scrambling to raise money. Perhaps this is something you might consider and pledge toward Samaritan House. And while I can't promise you will ever win a contest that awards you several thousand coffees over the course of the next 3 decades, I promise you can save lives by skipping an occasional cup of joe every now and then.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rural Homelessness

Many people think of homelessness as an urban phenomenon because homeless people are greater in number and more visible in larger cities. If you've spent time in a major American city, it makes sense that the public perception of homelessness has an urban face.

We are in Montana, where the largest city has a little over 100,000 and Kalispell weighs in with around 20,000. We are not exactly known as an urban Mecca. The town of Ismay, in Custer County, had only 19 people at the 2010 census. And even though we lack large cities and massive metropolitan centers, homelessness is just as pervasive in rural areas not only here in Big Sky county, but in smaller communities around the country.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Geography of Homelessness report, there are approximately 14 homeless people on average for every 10,000 people in rural areas, compared with 29 homeless people out of every 10,000 in urban areas.

The same factors that contribute to urban homelessness also lead to rural homelessness. These are a lack of affordable housing and inadequate income, which can be difficult issues no matter where a person lives. Scarcity of affordable places to live combined with wages lower than what are needed to survive are not exclusive to larger cities and can lead to rural homelessness. But there are added problems facing people in small cities and towns that city-dwellers are not faced with.

Perhaps the most distinguishing factor of rural homelessness is access to services. Unlike in urban areas, many rural homeless assistance systems lack the infrastructure to provide quick, comprehensive care to those experiencing homelessness. Reasons for this difference abound, including lack of available affordable housing, limited transportation methods, and the tendency for federal programs to focus on urban areas. Per population, rural areas also tend to have higher rates of poverty, only compounding the risk of becoming and staying homeless in those areas.

In other words, the isolated nature of many Montana communities make it difficult to recover from homelessness. We are doing our best at Samaritan House to use the resources at our disposal in Flathead County, which is one of the larger populated areas in the state. Some of our residents come from smaller towns in the Northwest and moving to our area was a step in their process for escaping homelessness. With your help and donations, we can assist these individuals and families who are doing their best to improve their situation.

Statistics and information courtesy of National Alliance to End Homelessness and

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Turkeys and Firetrucks

A few days before Thanksgiving, I took a team of middle schoolers to a volunteer fire department to help the local Auxiliary committee assemble baskets of donated food. The goal was to spend a few hours sorting the food into boxes that would be delivered to families to use for Thanksgiving dinner. Please be advised that taking a group of 11-14 year olds ANYWHERE is not for the faint of heart and should be done only with extreme caution.

After I finagled all the phones and personal tablets, the next step was to split the kids into groups based not upon maximum work output as much as they were designed to keep them from physically injuring themselves or others. But, I can't complain too much because every one of these students had volunteered and happily agreed to help out on one of their days off. Apparently, they found something more worthwhile than Call of Duty or Minecraft.

First, we unloaded the food from fire trucks before unpacking everything onto several tables. Everyone was boisterous and youthful energy chimed through the firehall. Yeah, basically it was really loud. The kids were laughing and joking and genuinely enthused to be helping people they would never meet. It was very refreshing to watch them work because they hadn't figured out that helping others must be a sobering and somber experience. These kids actually had the audacity to enjoy themselves while they crammed boxes and containers into baskets.

Eventually, we finished and and the parents began arriving to collect their kids. While waiting, I had an opportunity to talk to the students and get some feedback. Most of the kids found an old soccer ball and an impromptu game broke out in the parking lot. But while the hilarity and good times ensued, I spoke with one young lady who opted out of soccer in favor of spending some long-lost quality time with her phone. She intermittently shared her experience and typed a million miles an hour as I asked her why she wanted to help.

After a few seconds, she lowered her hands (even the one with the phone seemingly welded to it) and looked up at me. In the most "matter of fact" way, she answered me in a tone that told me I must have asked the dumbest question imaginable. With a tenderness and sympathy reserved for most senile people, she summed up her motive in a simple sentence:

"I wanted to do this because it was the right thing to do."

From the mouth of babes.

Friday, November 28, 2014


Every year a we find cause to celebrate and hashtag more things.

We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give. This day stems the tide of shopping and aims to help others by donating. All over the world, people will be giving to nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving their communities, and we would be humbled and appreciative if you would consider becoming part of this worldwide movement of charity and kindness.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. At Samaritan House, we rely heavily upon donations and the generous financial contributions of the community. As the end of the year approaches, it is definitely NOT TOO LATE for you to contribute financially to our cause. As the end of the year approaches, financial donations are more important than ever for our operation.

Many of you hosted Thanksgiving dinners and brunches and football-viewing parties for others. These events take a considerable amount of planning and resources and financial considerations. And while your cousin Robert might seemingly appear out of nowhere to feast on your giblets and lounge on your sofa, the food you provided came at a calculated cost. Now, imagine stretching your dinner over 365 days and instead of just cousin Robert, the entire city of Kalispell shows up.

This year we housed over 900 people and served close to 32,000 meals.

It is a nonstop challenge to raise money and every dollar helps. Please consider playing a role in saving the lives of others by providing assistance and donating. Contributions are tax-deductible and will be used to combat homelessness by allowing us to continually serve the Flathead Valley's homeless population by providing food and housing.

Thank you so much for everything you do for us and we are blessed to be in a community that shares our common goals of addressing homelessness while providing dignity to those who need assistance. But we cannot do this alone and are relying on your help. If you would like to donate, please call our office for more information or just drop by. Either way, you can help make a difference in the lives of individuals and families you will never meet, but who need help.

Let us make GivingTuesday a day that will change the course of other people's lives forever. Thank you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Mornings With Sheryl Crow

Bleary-eyed, I plopped into my car this morning. Routine has an unassuming way of displacing motivation. I was about to turn the ignition over and make the short trek to work, just like every other Monday. Thanksgiving will be here in few days and sometimes I feel like I have nothing to write that would be even remotely festive.

But then, just as all all hope was abandoning me and as I was ready to resign myself to a fruitless and unproductive morning, Sheryl Crow came on the radio and saved my hide. As I was struggling to invent some Thanksgiving inspiration, a line from her song graced my vehicle and planted itself in my brain. My biggest fear was that I would forget the words or mess them up before I arrived at my desk.

If that happens, then this entire blog takes an entirely different turn and might end up being a hostile barb toward Lance Armstrong. You see, I do do not have the best short-term memory and while I drove the legal speed limit the rest of the way to work, I kept mumbling the lyrics over and over with devout repition. I would not allow stoplights nor railroad crossings to rob me of this idea!

"It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got."

Thanks, Sheryl.

This short, but powerful line summed up everything I wanted to day but lacked the ability to produce. As Thanksgiving hovers right on our doorstep, this is the sentiment I would like to embody not just for the day, but for the rest of my life. Wanting what I have is the definition of gratitude.

It is so easy to look outside our home, neighborhood, and zip code and desire the life or possessions of others. But am I able to find contentment with what I have? Have I the ability to look squarely upon my own circumstances and find the grace to accept and applaud what I have collected over the years? If I can, Thanksgiving evolves from an event to a lifestyle. There will always be people who have more (and less) than I have. And while it is fine and dandy to want to improve my situation, that improvement should not be done at the expense of gratitude.

So, this Thanksgiving, please look around and count the blessings you do have. I promise they are there if you just take inventory of what you have rather than longing for what you don't.

On behalf of Samaritan House, please have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Take A Picture

Colloquial phrases are interesting. These regional ways of saying things can be endearing if the message is positive, or very alienating if the connotation is negative. Where I grew up, if a person stared too long at someone else, the intrusive viewer was often met with a curt, "Take a picture, it'll last longer."

Hint, hint... Stop staring because its rude.

For a child, this is easier said than done. I don't think kids stare with the intention of being mean or creating awkward situations. Instead, many children are naturally curious and things they don't understand attract their attention. Not to gawk, but to process.

Especially, when they see someone who doesn't look like them…

The school at their lunch table with no lunch. The older gentleman with the crooked haircut and shabby army jacket. The lady wearing clothes from the thrift store. A hungry man holding a sign declaring his exasperation for the rest of the world to see.

Take a picture, it will last longer.

Only, it won't.

Back in the day, taking pictures meant carrying around a small, but clunky device that held film. Now, snapping a picture is second nature to anyone with a smartphone or tablet. Kodak has been replaced by Kardashian. Today, we live in a viral world where social media dictates and drives our habits and daily trajectories. The scenes we see are snapped, downloaded, posted, reposted, and liked in a matter of seconds. We have become experts at viewing life in a detached mode of bystanding. Taking pictures does not last as long as it used to because we probably delete 20 for every one we keep.

It's the pictures we internalize and hold captive in our minds that truly transform our lives. Those moments we see something that becomes inescapable because of the context. We don't just recall the homeless lady on the corner, but we can feel the wind whipping against our face. We remember we were hungry as we walked past her on our way to lunch. We empathize every time we close our eyes and resurrect the image. We don't gawk... We process.

But then what? These tangible memories are wasted unless we use them as motivation to help others move forward. If you are reading this blog, then you have some interest in helping eliminate homelessness in Kalispell and the surrounding areas. But what are you doing besides reading? How can we take and channel a desire to do right into a proactive way of living?

Maybe we should all take more pictures.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dollars and Sense

I thought it might be interesting to research wages in America. I know... and you're probably right... I need a hobby. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of meeting all sorts of people in Montana.

We live in a bizzaro and surreal state where you might bump into a professional athlete or movie star at the grocery store before passing a homeless sign holder as you drive away. In Montana, worth is determined by character and integrity, and not by how much a person makes. I've met multi-millionaires who were humble beyond belief and I've rubbed shoulders with people in the dollar menu line who had no business being as arrogant as they were. People deserve respect because of who they are and not because of what now much they make.

In the economy at large, civilian compensation is increasing at an annual rate of 1.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average U.S. wage in 2012 was $42,498, according to the Social Security Administration. I thought this was interesting because it encompassed a large sample pool. I furthered my research to look at a few narrower categories.

The yearly average salary for a professional baseball player is $3.39 million, according to the Major League Baseball Players Association. This takes in account the disparity between the highest paid player (a few made $25 million) and the league minimum of $480,000. So, if there are 162 games in a season, the average player gets $1,400 each time he adjusts himself if he adjusts himself 15 times a game over the course of one season. Nice gig if you can get it.

Nationally, high school teachers average $46,345. Again, this meeds to be examined a little more closely because teachers working more than 20 years average close to $58,000 while the average for a first year teacher is $36,000. In Montana, the average starting teaching salary is $26,734. I think you should go find a teacher and hug him or her.

The beginning salary for a police officer in one of Montana's largest cities is $45,841.By the time that officer retires he or she will make close to $61,000. These dedicated public servants regularly put their lives on the line, so I'm reluctant to say there is ever a wage that equals the risk they incur every day.

An electrician in Big Sky country can pull in $53,000, annually. I would like to take this portion of the blog to address the misconception that a person needs to graduate from a 4 year college or university to make a successful living: Um, no... Not necessarily. This industry combines hands-on training with exhaustive technical training.

Large transnational box stores are some of the largest employers in Montana, as well as the rest of America. These megastores provide groceries, vision care, as well as any item a person could ever need. Based upon their 34 hour (full-time) work week, being a cashier at one of the largest national chains will earn a person $15,576. Working hard for almost $27,000 less than the national average demands respect, admiration, and an admittance that some things need to change.

Whatever you make, please understand your value as a person is not tied to that dollar amount. No matter which pay scale you cling to, or how many years toy have been serving those around you, what makes you an invaluable part of the community is your treatment of others.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thanksgiving Items Needed

Thanksgiving is one our favorite days of the year. It is an opportunity to serve our residents and, in turn, have our lives touched by them. The preparation for this amazing day has already begun and we are planning on serving more than 40 people this year. Here is a list of items we need in order to continue making this day special for so many of our homeless residents.

Lots of turkeys!
cranberry sauce
turkey gravy
pies of all kinds
pie crust
brown sugar
chocolate pudding mix
banana pudding mix
cool whip
dinner rolls
pumpkin pie spice
green beans

You can call our office for more information, or feel free to bring any donations by. Thank you so much for all your help in making this holiday one to remember.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

John Tesh's Secret Plan to Rule the World

I am not a John Tesh fan.

He might be an amazing man, and he has never done anything that warrants my vitriolic ire. The more I think about this, the reason fueling my dislike is petty and juvenile. It's his voice.

His calm and soothing voice trickles over the radio as he dispenses wisdom like he's Socrates while we drive around running errands and scratching off to-do lists during peak driving hours. He has the voice of an angel and I wholeheartedly believe he is trying to lull us into a hypnotic trance and brainwash us into becoming his disciples. Now, I cannot prove any of this and have absolutely no scientific research to back my paranoia, but it's a working theory. A few weeks ago I was severely alarmed.

I was trapped at a stoplight one afternoon as he lazily and melodically tried to cast his spell within my car. He was talking about the next "gotta have" item about to be unleashed upon the American public. He raved about the usefulness and utilitarian genius of this item and declared its necessity as a foregone conclusion. I eagerly awaited the announcement of such an epically global device; something benefiting all of humanity and ushering in the dawn of a better age. White-knuckled, I strained to hear the pronouncement as the light swapped red for green and he giddily said that by next summer every American must have a...

...Giorgio Armani handbag.

Ugh. I feared it was going to be something along that line of thinking. My frustration with America's disconnect between what people want and what people ran a gauntlet of emotions as I continued on my drive. I will admit sometimes I take things too seriously and I know this can drive people nuts. But I am truly saddened by the existence of a whole demographic of people whose biggest fear is that they won't have this man-purse before their neighbors. It truly is a 'gotta have it' for them because they are so out of touch with the genuine needs haunting so many people.

Please don't misunderstand my intention. I am not railing against luxurious things or expensive items that many people enjoy. I am not trying to brow-beat anyone into selling off everything they have and going all Oscar Schindler... pawning personal items to fund charitable or humanitarian endeavors. Actually, I am proud proponent of people enjoying the nice things they have earned and worked for. Effort and industry should be rewarded.

But what rankles and infuriates me is the spirit behind these types of attitudes: the messages smugly stating such a warped sense of priority. We live in a society that perpetuates the cosmopolitan ideology of a few who attempt to speak for the humbled perspective of the many. Most Montanans would echo the sentiment that we don't need a $3,000 hand bag. We need an economy that provides jobs and livable wages. We need businesses who fuel our community. We need to feel safe in public and comfortable in private. We need people willing to help others because it is the right thing to do and not because it looks good in the press. We need a proper sense of what need actually means.

Sorry, John Tesh... I suppose I should take issue with the message and not the messenger.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thank You to our Veterans

In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words:

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

One of the reasons I can type this blog is because I live in a nation valuing my right to speak and write freely. I am afforded this immeasurable right because so many people have sacrificed to provide me with this opportunity. At Samaritan House, we understand the importance our US Veterans play in our daily lives. We would like to take this chance to honor them for their commitment to this country, as well as Montana.

In 2009, the federal government committed to ending veteran homelessness in the U.S. by the end of 2015. Since 2010, there has been a 33 percent decrease in the number of homeless veterans. According to data collected during the 2014 Point-in-Time Count, 49,933 veterans experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2014. That estimate represents a 14 percent decline compared to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2013 estimate, and a 33 percent decline compared to its 2010 estimate.

The veteran homelessness population is made up of veterans who served in several different conflicts, ranging from World War II to the recent conflicts. Though research indicates that veterans who served in the late Vietnam and post-Vietnam era are at greatest risk of homelessness, veterans returning from the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq often have severe disabilities, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that are known to be correlated with homelessness. And as the military evolves, so too do the challenges. Homeless women veterans, for instance, are far more common now than in any other time in the past.

On this day, we humbly ask that you not only take time to honor those who served our country, but that you would also ask yourself how you can play a role in helping those who return home and find themselves homeless.

Extra information courtesy of the National Alliance to End Homelessness

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ramblin' Man

Montana's cowboy culture has always valued a good cattle-drive tune. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I've tried to incorporate this valued heritage from a homeless perspective. For the record, I am not a professional songwriter, so please take this with a huge grain of salt!!!

Ramblin' Man

Pack my bags, time to go,
Outta here...lets hit the road.
Wherever I been, been there long enough,
I'm off, my friend, before I'm out of luck.
I move too slow to try and outrun life,
Take the road less-traveled, then hang a right.

Never been lost, but sure been misplaced,
Never looked back to where my roots are traced.
Never counted hurdles or things I've faced,
Never challenged honor to cause disgrace.

Lonely roads, and highway signs,
Exit ramps mark my good times.
Been alone a while and hung out with myself,
Don't need many friends when you got your health.
Seen places I shouldn't while I ate with kings,
Watched the sun in the winter, crossed bridges with wings.

Always had a focus but never made real plans,
Aways worked hard, felt the dirt in my hands.
Always have love, long as I'll always have land,
Always be known as a Ramblin' Man.

Curt Lamm

Monday, November 3, 2014

Not Quite Thanksgiving...

What has four wheels and carries a turkey?

Unless you own a turkey farm, chances are that the bird in your oven took a spin in a shopping cart. Most of us don't think twice about using a shopping cart (except when it has a squeaky wheel).

On the streets, a shopping cart is called a "buggy." When I was homeless, I avoided "pushing a buggy" as long as I could. When that day finally came - when I had to get something from point A to Point B and had no other option but to use a shopping cart - I could no longer be in denial about my situation. I was homeless. As you can imagine, accepting that reality was devastating.

You would think that pushing a buggy on the street is as easy as it is in the grocery store parking lot. I assure you it's not. I had worked a week in a temp job and was able to pay for a SRO (single room occupancy hotel) in North Hollywood. When my money ran out they rolled me up and I had to take my stuff to my storage unit a few miles away. My first challenge was finding a cart. Then, I filled it up and started the long trek, but found going over the curbs extremely difficult. I manhandled the cart over each curb for about a half a mile and I was exhausted. It was very humiliating; people drove by laughing at me.

Right when I was about to give up I saw a mother across the street with her baby carriage and she turned the thing around to go over the curbs. Wow! Was it really that simple? Sure enough, on each street curb I turned my buggy around to backup over the curb. It worked and I was well on my way to becoming a seasoned homeless person.

That day was really a low point of my life. Maybe one of the lowest. I wish I could put into words how crushing it was to my sense of worth. Accepting that I was homeless meant that I had to also accept I may never get out of homelessness. But I was one of the lucky ones.

Thanksgiving is a time when we take a moment to be grateful. Today, I am grateful for people like you who care about the issue of homelessness. It was someone just like you that supported the organization that helped me get off the streets. It was someone just like you that clothed me and fed me until I was able to fend for myself. It was someone just like you that gave me a chance to dream again and a chance to become a normal, housed person again.

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of people on the streets, pushing a buggy, homeless, and hopeless. They need someone to give them a chance.

I don't know you, except for two things: you're sitting at a computer and you care about homelessness (there is no other possible explanation for you to be reading a blog about homeless issues than you have a heart for people). Even if you are not a religious person please take a moment today to pray in your own way for the invisible people out there who are sleeping in the streets, in their cars, or in a state of poverty that should not exist in this great country of ours.

I hope you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for keeping the conversation of homelessness and poverty going. Together we can affect change and make a difference in the world.

-Mark Horvath, Invisible People.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Living With PTSD

Veterans are important to Samaritan House, and providing housing and other services to our returning soldiers have always been a high priority. Our Veteran's programs offer an environment of tranquility and an atmosphere conducive to the individual needs of each person. Transitioning back into civilian life can be difficult for a number of reasons, and for Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, this assimilation can be nearly impossible without the appropriate amount of help and support.

For the families of Veterans with PTSD, sometimes confusion, frustration, and fear accompany the joy, hope and enthusiasm of having their loved one home. Learning about PTSD can make the transition easier and help all parties understand each other in deeper and more meaningful ways. PTSD can make somebody hard to be with. Living with someone who is easily startled, has nightmares, and often avoids social situations can take a toll on the most caring family. Early research on PTSD has shown the harmful impact of PTSD on families.

This research showed that Vietnam Veterans have more marital problems and family violence. Their partners have more distress. Their children have more behavior problems than do those of Veterans without PTSD. Veterans with the most severe symptoms had families with the worst functioning.

How does PTSD have such a negative effect? It may be because those suffering with PTSD have a hard time feeling emotions. They may feel detached from others. This can cause problems in personal relationships, and may even lead to behavior problems in their children. The numbing and avoidance that occurs with PTSD is linked with lower satisfaction in parenting.

You may feel sorry for your loved one's suffering. This may help your loved one know that you sympathize with him or her. However, be careful that you are not treating him or her like a permanently disabled person. With help, he or she can feel better.

PTSD can make someone seem like a different person. If you believe your family member no longer has the traits you loved, it may be hard to feel good about them. The best way to avoid negative feelings is to educate yourself about PTSD. Even if your loved one refuses treatment, you will probably benefit from some support. If you care for a family member with PTSD also see Partners of Veterans with PTSD.

Avoidance is one of the symptoms of PTSD. Those with PTSD avoid situations and reminders of their trauma. As a family member, you may be avoiding the same things as your loved one. Or, you may be afraid of his or her reaction to certain cues. One possible solution is to do some social activities, but let your family member stay home if he or she wishes. However, he or she might be so afraid for your safety that you also can't go out. If so, seek professional help.

If you feel responsible for your family member's happiness, you might feel guilty when you can't make a difference. You could also be angry if he or she can't keep a job or drinks too much, or because he or she is angry or irritable. You and your loved one must get past this anger and guilt by understanding that the feelings are no one's fault.

Family members may feel hurt, alienated, or discouraged because your loved one has not been able to overcome the effects of the trauma. Family members frequently devote themselves totally to those they care for and, in the process, neglect their own needs.
Social support is extremely important for preventing and helping with PTSD. It is important for family members to take care of themselves; both for their own good and to help the person dealing with PTSD.

Information courtesy of National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Monday, October 27, 2014

How To Get Better and Not Break the Bank!

Autumn in Montana is fickle. One day, the clouds will be scarce and the sun will grace us with it's presence and a 70 degree, beautiful day. Twenty-four hours later we are scrambling for our hoodies and jackets while we scrape the flat from our windshields. We face a problematic meteorological dilemma that would perplex Nostradamus.

This time of year is often accompanied by sniffles, coughs, chills, and a whole slew of symptoms indicating August has left the building. And since finances are tight for most if us, multiple trips to the doctor or pharmacy can become expensive and time consuming. So, here are some home-remedies that might be helpful in the pocketbook. For the record, I am not a doctor, so if you believe you are seriously ill, please seek medical treatment. But, I hope you might find some of these helpful!

1. Think Steam
When you have a cold or the flu, steam is your friend because it helps open your airways. Boil water and pour it in a large bowl containing at least two teaspoons of shaved ginger. Drape a towel over your head, lower it until you’re right over the bowl, and breathe in the gingered steam. You can also do this with Vick’s Vapor Rub. Simply drop a heaping spoonful of the balm into the boiling water and stir it until it dissolves. Again, breathe in the steam.

2. Eat Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Why does chicken noodle soup help heal you when you’re sick? Well, doctors and scientists aren’t really sure. Some think that the hot chicken soup can improve the function of cilia, which are the tiny projections on your lungs that help protect you from foreign bacteria. The soup can also help strengthen the movement of your white blood cells, which fight disease. The broth also gives your body much-needed hydration.

3. Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger helps stimulate the nerves that lead to mucus production. If you have a scratchy throat, or dry, irritated nasal cavities, then slice some fresh ginger and put it in a tea strainer. Pour in some boiling water and let the ginger steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Humidify
Keep your home as humid as possible during the winter months. And when you get sick, run a humidifier wherever you’re resting. This will also help your nasal cavities feel better.

5. Stifle That Cough
If you have a persistent, dry cough, reach for the honey. Mix a tablespoon of honey with fresh lemon juice and half a cup of hot water. This can also help a sore throat feel better. Remember though, you should only try to stifle a cough if it’s dry and persistent. If you’re coughing up mucus, then don’t try to stifle it. The more junk you can cough up, the quicker you’ll get better.

6. If You Can Stand It, Reach for the Garlic
So, you might only want to try this one if you’re home alone, but garlic is a well-known natural remedy for colds and flu. Why? Garlic has strong antiseptic and antispasmodic properties. In English, this means that garlic is a natural antibiotic and will help you stop coughing. Its oil will also help open up your respiratory passages and can even help lower your fever. When you’re sick, garlic is good. To make a soup, chop 3 to 4 cloves of garlic and boil them in one cup of water. After it has boiled, strain off the garlic and drink the broth. Another perk? You won’t have to worry about vampires until you get better.

7. Drink, Drink, Drink

When you have the flu, you often get a fever. Although you may curse your high temperature, keep in mind that the fever is your body’s way of trying to kill the virus that has made you sick. The hotter you are, the harder it is for that virus to thrive.
Having a fever means that it’s that much easier for you to get dehydrated. You need to drink water and fruit juice constantly. Having enough moisture in your system will also help ensure that your coughs are productive (that is, the liquids can make mucus easier to cough up).

8. Reach for the Mustard

This remedy is going to sound positively medieval, but the Discovery Channel claims it works because mustard is loaded with anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, people have been using mustard to help cure colds as far back as Ancient Roman times. I’m willing to give it a try next time I get sick.

Make a mustard plaster by mixing 1 tablespoon of mustard with 2 to 4 tablespoons of flour. Then, mix in one egg white and enough warm water to form a paste.
Next, on a clean handkerchief or cotton cloth (big enough to cover the chest area) smear on the mustard just like you’d smear it on a sandwich. Then, put another piece of cloth on top of it.
Now, rub some olive oil on the patient’s chest and lay the mustard cloth sandwich on top. Leave the wrap on the chest for a few minutes, but make sure you check on it. Believe it or not, mustard burns the skin. After a few minutes take off the wrap and wipe off any mustard residue.

Tips courtesy of Heather Levin,

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Delicious Reminder!

Sometimes revisiting the past can be tough. We tend to be forward-moving creatures who don't enjoy looking back as much as we anticipate riding off into the sunset. So, please humor me as I delve into the past and happily use this time remind you about our previously released cookbook, Come To Our Table.

This wonderful collection provides you with an opportunity to peruse some of the best recipes in the Flathead Valley. What began as a fundraising idea, evolved into a collaboration of pooled recipes from more than 20 different local eateries, restaurants, cafés, and established businesses. Many chefs donated their personal restaurant recipes, all for the cause to help combat homelessness in Kalispell.

Interspersed with facts about homelessness in Montana, Come To Our Table might be the most important cookbook you ever purchase. The money raised is used toward defraying and offsetting our daily operational costs at Samaritan House. Every dollar made allows us to channel and redistribute our funds into other areas where we can practically work toward providing services to our residents.

At over 100 pages, this book contains nearly 150 of the most incredible recipes broken into the following categories: breakfast, appetizers, breads, soups, salads, dressings, sauces, pasta, rice, casseroles, meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, and desserts. The cost is $20 and you can pick one up at our office or call 257-5801 for more information.

With the holidays approaching, our cookbook would make a wonderful present for anyone wanting to contribute to a great cause.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dean Martin and the Homeless

The old song croons, "Everybody loves somebody, sometime."

But, what if the phrasing was a little different and a space wedged itself between 'some' and 'body'? The whole idea would be wrecked because the concept changes as somebody becomes some body. And what looks like an autocorrect incident actually redefines the entire concept, forcing us to examine how we look at people who make us uncomfortable. Context is everything when we decide whether to treat people as bodies, just occupying space, or if we can remember they have a past, present, and future.

The single mom in the grocery store.

The the older gentleman in the public library.

The middle-aged woman behind the register taking your order.

Do we view the homeless in our area as mere bodies that melt into the scenery and background? Sometimes it is difficult to adjust our vision and allow ourselves to see others as 'somebodies' instead of some bodies. I don't think we intentionally try to be calloused or mean-spirited but we become so accustomed to the homeless around us, we don't recognize them as people as much as we think of them as being props in the community. We lose sight to the idea of context; each person having their own story and deserving the recognition and dignity we give to others who aren't holding signs at intersections.

And I don't write this from a heightened sense of awareness or judgement. I would love to say this is something I don't struggle with, but that would not be entirely true. No matter who we are, stereotypes and predispositions often cloud our perspectives and we rarely realize it. We become inoculated with the conditions surrounding as we forget others are not statistics, but living, breathing individuals who have their own stories. Society conditions us to place worth on a person's accomplishments and not usually their innate value. We see people as bodies. But how many times have others been gracious to us in times when grace is the last thing we deserve? We are treated as somebody.

We can learn a lot from autocorrect and Dean Martin.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Door Nuber 11

John came from very humble beginnings. His parents were divorced when he was just two years old, and by the age of nine he and his brothers were selling Christmas cards and newspapers in order to make ends meet. At first John’s big dream was to simply get a job where he could make $150 a week so that he could make a small house payment and drive a good used car. Here is how John describes his struggles through life:

“I was homeless twice in my life, mainly because I was too proud to ask anybody for help. In my early twenties I was divorced from my first wife. I had my son; I had no place to live. I went out and collected Coke bottles at night. I’d cash them in at the drugstore. You’d only get two or three cents in those days. We lived off a very skimpy diet in those days, rice, potatoes, cereal, macaroni and cheese or canned soup, but we lived.”

Despite his struggles, John persisted. When he left the Navy he started honing his sales skills by selling encyclopedias, then copy machine and then insurance. Eventually he became a circulation manager for Time Inc. In 1971 he stated working for Redken Laboratories, the leading professional salon product company in the U.S. at the time. In 1980 he joined forces with Paul Mitchell, an influential hair designer, and introduced the concept of hair setting and styling as part of their professional hair care system. The company was started with only $700, some of which he had to borrow.

Initially John Paul Mitchell Systems faced many challenges. Even the famous black and white packaging that became a key part of their brand came out of their lack of funds to use color ink. Initially the company consisted of a post office box and an answering machine. A female friend with a British accent produced the message recording to convey that there was, indeed, an office. Through persistence and hard work John and his partner removed each barrier as they came up:

“We should have gone bankrupt perhaps 50 times during the first year.”

Today John Paul Mitchell Systems is a $800 million business selling more than 90 products that are sold through 25 distributors within the United States to approximately 90,000 hair salons. Internationally, John Paul Mitchell Systems works with distributors in 73 countries that supply thousands of hair salons.

So what is John’s success secret? He explains it succinctly:

“I have said many times, the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people do a lot of the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do. Like when the door is slammed in your face ten times. You go to door number 11 with just as much enthusiasm. It is during the toughest times that you do what others will say, oh my God, this is too tough."

All of John’s success was conquered through a set of beliefs that we can all learn from:

“Whatever you do, if you do it better than anyone else, it’s amazing how things just start falling your way. Also, regarding balance, do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

Courtesy of

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

From Broken to BBQ

With so many dreary and depressing stories in the media, this week I want to focus on a couple success stories dealing with formerly homeless people. I understand these tales might not be typical or abundant, but I believe they are important. The moment a person loses hope, life takes a different trajectory and can become unbearable. So perhaps this first story can provide some inspiration and remind us to hold on and persevere in the face of difficult odds.

Frederick Waller told Nashville's News 2 he once lived on a couch under some trees while doing and selling drugs.

"I've gone from living under the trees, to in a house with trees all around it," he said.

Waller spent the last 30 years in and out of prison on drug related charges. The last time he walked out of the state prison, Waller was a brand new man.

"One of the things I knew I didn't have experience in was working. I had never really had a job," Waller explained.

He continued, "I had to learn how to go about that. So I went to Goodwill and Goodwill really helped me to understand the workplace."

Waller enrolled in Goodwill Career Solutions last December where he learned enough about computers and business that he went out and started his own BBQ drive-thru.

"I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to work for myself. So I decided I wanted to open this place up and I did," Waller said, standing by the smoker at Ooh Wee BBQ on Jefferson Street.

"I always thought I was a wise man," Waller said adding, "But I proved it otherwise. Now I'm trying to prove I am a wise man by doing things productive."

Waller said his new business is off to a "fairly good start" but that he knows it will get better. He is working to open a second location in west Nashville.

Waller was recently honored by Goodwill for his success.

Courtesy of

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Three Strikes

This is my third attempt at a topic. Since what you read is the final draft, I thought I would allow you a brief glimpse of what transpires before I tidy things up and punch the "publish draft" icon.

Originally, I was nearly 400 words into a treatise about Columbus Day, but I realized it had no correlation to my main point and I was forcing the issue simply because that day is nearly upon us. Next, I made it through two paragraphs based on my recent viewing of the movie Rudy. And while the story is heartwarming and inspirational (like my blog surely would have been), I am an ardent anti-Notre Dame fan, so I could not work past my juvenile and irrational biases. Yes... I am that petty, sometimes.

So, here we are. Some people would say the third time is the charm. This is a curious phrase and from what I've read, its origin dates back to an old English custom declaring if a person was still alive after 2 attempts at being hanged, they were allowed to live. There are other possibilities for this phrase, ranging from Shakespeare to thoughts found in the Hebrew Talmud, but I really like the hanging antidote and since I'm the one writing this, I'll stick with it.

Others argue, "three strikes and you're out." Again, there are a few possibilities for this phrase, but because baseball's playoffs are upon us, let's stay with the tried truism of America's historically favorite pastime (beware, though... Soccer is gaining) indicating three failed attempts at securing a base hit leads to an out. And three outs culminates in the end of an inning!

So, which person are you?

Do you live under the auspice and fear that perpetual failure will lead to a forfeiture of your dreams? Are you worrying so much about not doing the right things, that you are crippling your creative efforts because you are afraid of making a mistake? People are quick to remind you of previous calamitous ventures and you are even quicker to beat them to the punch and chastise yourself.

Or, do you live in the freedom and elation that accompanies the notion that the best ideas and efforts are often the result of multiple failures and frustrations? Do you realize that you've fallen several times but focus on the times you pick yourself up and carry on because its the right thing to do. People are quick to point out your shortcomings and you smile, thank then, and then move on with steadfast determination because you understand fortitude trumps apathy.

How we respond to what life hurls at us defines much of who we are. Do we fold and allow ourselves to drown in our circumstances or do we risk the vulnerability of reaching for greatness and pushing ourselves in spite of what's happening around us? The world is a better place when its populated with people who aren't afraid to be messy. People who know that success is raised from the ashes of failure.

And speaking of failure... If only I could think of something to write about.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Role Models

A few years ago there was a commercial featuring a prominent basketball star named Charles Barkley. To provide a little context, all you need to know is Barkley was renowned for his tough, physical play. He often would be assessed flagrant fouls for his hard-nosed antics, and he inspired countless other basketball players to emulate his actions. The commercial was centered around a controversial phrase in which Barkley reiterated, "I am not a role model." He was paid to be an athlete and presenting an acceptable code of behavior or ethics for kids to watch was not his responsibility.

Maybe he's right.

A few years ago I would have argued it was his responsibility and athletes should be mandated to behave in a manner worthy of copying. Perhaps its because I'm older (and more cynical) but my views are changing. Are there athletes (and musicians, actors, authors, etc) out there who are bastions of decency and morality? Sure. But it's not their job to raise my kids. That task falls to me and I must become the one they look to for guidance and inspiration.

Over the years I've met many incredible people who spent time residing at Samaritan House. Countless families have moved in and out of our family housing units and those parents and guardians do their best to raise their kids with ethics, empathy, and a moral compass designed to inspire positive behavior. One of the most important things we can do is not let our socioeconomic station in life become an excuse for poor parenting. Teaching right from wrong is not dependent upon our tax bracket.

Celebrities are easy scapegoats because their lives unfold in a world with virtually no privacy. When they succeed or fail, it is often in real time. But their job is to entertain and not to be the voice for decency and reason. Instead of pawning our responsibilities as parents and caregivers to sports stars, we need to be accountable for what we are teaching those who look up to us.

The importance of our family housing quarters cannot be underestimated. While they are not luxurious, they do provide a stable place for families to get back on their feet. Families have a place they can stay, rent-free, so they can save money to elevate themselves out of the depths of homelessness. Parents and children are given an opportunity to spend time together so that positive values can be taught and enforced.

We can argue the validity of celebrities as role models all day. But I prefer a world in which families take ownership of creating the strong bonds that will contribute to society.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Damage of Violence part II

Child maltreatment includes all types of abuse and neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caregiver, or another person in a custodial role (e.g., clergy, coach, teacher). There are four common types of abuse.

• Physical abuse is the use of intentional physical force, such as hitting, kicking, shaking, burning or other show of force against a child.
• Sexual abuse involves engaging a child in sexual acts. It includes fondling, rape, and exposing a child to other sexual activities.
• Emotional abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being. Examples include name calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love, and threatening.
Neglect is the failure to meet a child’s basic needs. These needs include housing, food, clothing, education, and access to medical care.

Why is child maltreatment a public health problem?
The few cases of abuse or neglect we see in the news are only a small part of the problem. Many cases are not reported to police or social services. What we do know is that:

1,640 children died in the United States in 2012 from abuse and neglect.
• 686,000 children were found to be victims of maltreatment by child protective services in 2012.
The total lifetime economic burden resulting from new cases of fatal and nonfatal child maltreatment in the United States is approximately $124 billion.

How does child maltreatment affect health?
Child maltreatment has a negative effect on health. Abused children often suffer physical injuries including cuts, bruises, burns, and broken bones. In addition, maltreatment causes stress that can disrupt early brain development. Extreme stress can harm the development of the nervous and immune systems. As a result, children who are abused or neglected are at higher risk for health problems as adults. These problems include alcoholism, depression, drug abuse, eating disorders, obesity, high-risk sexual behaviors, smoking, suicide, and certain chronic diseases.

Who is at risk for child maltreatment?
Some factors can increase the risk for abuse or neglect. The presence of these factors does not always mean that maltreatment will occur. Children are never to blame for the harm others do to them.
Age.Children under 4 years of age are at greatest risk for severe injury and death from abuse.
Family environment. Abuse and neglect can occur in families where there is a great deal of stress. The stress can result from a family history of violence, drug or alcohol abuse, poverty, and chronic health problems. Families that do not have nearby friends, relatives, and other social support are also at risk.
Community. Poverty, on-going community violence, and weak connections between neighbors are related to a higher risk for child abuse and neglect.

Note: statistics courtesy of

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Damage of Violence

A few nights ago I spent nearly 2 hours watching television, switching the channels back and forth between various sports and news networks. The content was nearly interchangeable as the main stories focused on two NFL players who are being scrutinized for alleged domestic violence; one for knocking his fiancé out and the other for bearing his four-year old child with a switch until there were marks left on the child's legs.

My fifth grade daughter was in the room, drawing. Finally, after a few minutes, she spoke up and asked why these men would hurt people they were supposed to love and protect. It's a simple question with no solitary answer. I'm not going to comment on why a man would beat a woman or child (or another man) except to say that the individual committing the violence is a coward and degenerate and the act is indefensible. There is NO justifiable reason to knock out a woman with a deliberate punch to the face or to beat a child with an foreign object until the child bleeds. Or at all.

If these instances can draw attention to issues of domestic violence, then perhaps people who wouldn't regularly pay attention or care might be stirred to do something. In the coming days, I will post some statistics and data relating to domestic violence in America. Many of our residents have been victims of this topic and some have chosen to leave their situations and face the prospects of homelessness rather than continue to have their lives (and the lives of their children in many cases) threatened.

When you donate to Samaritan House, you are helping people you will never meet, but who are embracing an uncertain future rather than remain in violent situations. Please take some time to consider how you might play a role in changing the lives of people dealing with an issue that too often places an emphasis on the violent perpetrator and not the innocent victims.

Thursday, September 25, 2014



Recently, I was speaking to a group of middle school students who were writing essays about this issue and a young lady asked me if there was a space between the words 'home' and 'less.' I answered her and then continued with the topic, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking about her question. It wasn't particularly profound and her intent was not to provoke a larger discussion; she had a spelling question, plain and simple.

But the more I thought about the phrasing, I began to realize there is a gap between the the two words. It has nothing to do with the spelling and everything to do with the perception. Being homeless and home-less are two very different things.

Home-less implies the problem is a lack of housing. This is easily identifiable and actually not difficult to address or solve. If a family or individual is home-less, the issue is remedied by providing or helping them secure a home. On a base level, the intimate variables are removed and the narrative is less about people and more focused on habitats. Drywall and foundations are needed. If a physical structure can be built, the problem of being home-less goes away. Home-lessness is characterized by building permits and zoning regulations and solved by construction projects and housewarming parties. If this were the brunt of the conversation, we could well be on our way to ending an American epidemic.

Unfortunately, homelessness lacks the hyphen or open space separating the two words. Homelessness is a snare often predicated upon a set of circumstances not easily fixed. Its systemic nature can engulf entire generations, making self-reliance impossible even if it desired. Children born into poverty have a higher likelihood of not finishing high school. The high dropout rate can be accomplished by illegal activity and higher instances of single-parent households. When kids don't finish school, college becomes unlikely and lower-paying jobs become a reality.

Homelessness and poverty can be cyclical because they are handed down from one generation to the next. Living paycheck to paycheck is difficult enough, and when finances are depleted unexpectedly due to any number of emergencies, homelessness is only a step away. This problem is not absolved with any brick and mortar dwelling. Addressing the conditions causing poverty... lack of education, expensive health care, abysmal living wage conditions, just to name a few... will be the key to eliminating homelessness.

I'm thankful for occasional spelling errors because they make me think.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Eating Cheaply!

Many of our residents are forced to shop and cook on a budget. And while frugality might be a relative term, I did some research to see if I could find some hearty meals at at an inexpensive cost. I realize prices may vary and it might take coupons to reach the target for these 3 meals, but the overall price-point for each meal is still very affordable, especially when each meal serves 6 to 8 people. Enjoy!

And for more great meals, please feel free to call Samaritan House and inquire about our cookbook, Come to the Table.

Chicken Pot Pie
Pie Crusts for two pies ($1)
4 T. Butter ($.50)
1/4 cup Flour ($.02)
1 tsp. salt ($.05)
1/2 tsp. thyme ($.05)
1/2 tsp. pepper ($.05)
2 c. chicken broth (free)
1/2 c. milk ($.07)
2 cups chicken, cooked and cubed ($2)
3 large potatoes diced and boiled for about 10 minutes ($1)
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables ($1)

Preheat oven to 400. Line 2 pie plates with crust. Melt butter in a large skillet over low heat and stir in flour, and seasonings. Cook until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in milk and broth. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly for one minute. Stir in chicken and veggies. Pour half of each mixture into each pie crust. Top with the second pie crust. Bake on cookie sheet 40-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Price for two large pies $5.74, serves 8

Chicken Noodle Soup
1 tablespoon butter ($.10)
2/3 cup chopped onion ($.25)
2/3 cup chopped celery ($.25)
3 cups chicken broth (free)
2 cups chopped chicken ($2)
3 cups egg noodles ($.30)
1-1/3 cups sliced carrots ($.40)
1 teaspoon dried basil ($.05)
1 teaspoon dried oregano ($.05)
salt and pepper to taste ($.05)

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Cook onion and celery in butter until just tender, 5 minutes. Pour in broth and stir in chicken, noodles, carrots, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add water until all the ingredients are covered with liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes before serving. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread.

Total cost for soup $3.45, serves 8

Mexican Skillet
1/2 cup chopped onion ($.20)
1 TBS olive oil ($.25)
1 TBS minced garlic ($.10)
Chopped chicken breast (I would use whatever I had leftover from the whole chicken)
1 can corn, drained ($.50)
1 can black beans, drained ($.50)
3 cups cooked brown or white rice (when making your rice decrease the amount of water by about 1/2 cup and add 1 cup of salsa) ($.50)

Coat large frying pan with olive oil. Saute onions and garlic. Add chicken, beans and corn. When everything has been heated through add the cooked rice. Serve immediately. Top with sour cream, or serve with shredded jack cheese on a tortilla.

Total cost for Mexican Skillet $2.05, serves 6 to 8

*Recipes courtesy of Toni at The Happy Housewife.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reality Bites

There is an old adage that declares,"perception is reality." The gist of the message relays the sentiment that what you see is what you get. I am not a big fan of this philosophy because it eliminates the context surrounding a situation. Over the years, I've learned when dealing with people there is much more to a person than what befalls my eyes. And while it might be human nature to judge by appearances, understanding the entirety of a person's story allows us to see that reality is just part of a journey.

We see an old man napping in a chair at the public library. His eyes are closed and his breathing is even and measured. His hands are folded on his lap. We deduce he is simply wasting time until the library closes and he is force to leave the sanctuary provided to him by taxpayer money. The reality is that he has been up since the early morning hours, waiting for a computer to become available so he can work on his résumé. After 3 hours, a spot opened up and he meticulously tidied up the final few lines of a paper that will hopefully allow him reentry into the job market.

We see an thirty-something woman on the bus with two unruly kids making life miserable for everyone else. She blankly stares forward while the children tug at each other and disrupt the silence that usually accompanies the ride. It is apparent the vacant manner of her detached reality is due to a drug habit she refuses to address. The reality is that her husband died two weeks ago and her world has been thrown into a nightmarish existence of grief, shock, and weighted responsibility. The bus ride allows her to save money on gas that she now must contribute toward day care so she can work a second job.

We see a person holding a sign. The tattered cardboard declares he his hungry and homeless and would be happy to work for a meal. His shadow casts a long silhouette as the sun melts behind the storefronts and change rattles around in his tin can with each pitied deposit. The reality is that he served 2 tours and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Assimilating back into civilian life has been chaotic and debilitating. He worked long hours at a mill but was unable to receive the treatment he needed so his employment was terminated.

Perception is not reality.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Importance of Adaptation

My battery is nearly depleted. I'm frantically punching the keys to produce a few lines before my screen goes black and ends my time. The little icon in the upper corner of my screen is straddling the line between solidity and blinking. Any second it might turn red to warn me that I'm in single digits. What an inopportune time for me to take a minute or two and reminisce about the good 'ol days when all my writing originated on a Brother 3000 Word Processor with a pop-up screen and a floppy disc.

I suppose I could have drawn from a thousand memories to make an analogy about how quickly time passes and we must deal with deal with change. For some reason it seems appropriate to stick with this one. I love writing and the evolution of this process has forced me adapt to the technology involved and accept that nostalgia has been replaced with necessity. Fortunately, I have been afforded the opportunities and abilities to change with the times and keep current with the trends in this field. Writing on my tablet is now my default setting and is as normal and comfortable as the huge PCs I hid behind in the 1990s.

According to my battery, I now have 8% to convey my point.

Adapting to ever-changing technology is difficult for many of the elderly homeless. While many of us have the advantage of taking classes or utilizing on the job training, this is not the case for people who live a transient or unsettled existence. A lack of education proves difficult to overcome because they lack the very basic skills needed to even apply for educational opportunities. It is a horrific experience when a person feels so far behind normal, daily trends that they give up and withdraw from trying to find a career and settle for a job.

And while I believe honest work is noble and any legal means of making money contributes to society, many elderly homeless must settle for low-paying jobs because they are intimidated by technology and don't believe they possess the ability to assimilate into a contemporary workforce.

... 4% left.

It is important for the elderly to receive adequate training so they can improve their chances to find work that will allow them to make enough to do more than merely survive. It is important for our elderly to be able to change with the times and not have to settle for jobs that do not put them in positions to succeed and flourish.

Just because I'm running out of time doesn't mean they have to.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Last Best Place

Montana is an amazing place. The lure of the Treasure State beckons anyone willing to work hard in order to earn a well-deserved amount of recreation. We have a history rooted in progressive ideas and blue-collar determination. For many, Montana has been a place to escape other environments, while others flock here looking for inclusive communities to fill a longing in their lives. Big Sky country is territorially massive, yet personally intimate.

Lately, I have noticed Montana has garnered quite a national following due to quite a few television shows. There have been reality show winners, bounty hunters, zombie hunters, mountain men, doomsday preppers, and restaurant makeovers all making their respective cases to entertain and inform the rest of the country about life in Montana. Dare we say that a state once lauded for seclusion and privacy has become a trendy piece of the national Americana pie?

The Last Best Place is morphing into the First Destination Place and I think we have an amazing opportunity to showcase our tenacity toward eliminating homelessness. And Kalispell has an excellent forum to lead this charge. As the homeless make their way into the Flathead Valley and settle in before winter settles upon us, Samaritan House does all it can to help be as prepared as possible. There are fewer things as potentially brutal as a harsh Montana winter night so we welcome all donations that will help us equip our residents and those who are merely passing through and need a place to stay for a while due to unforeseen circumstances.

We are continually humbled by the generosity of this community and we appreciate every donation that enables us to keep the lights and heat on. We are thankful for all the contributions allowing us to put food on the table. As temperatures slowly begin to drop and each night feels a little cooler than the one before, we are thankful for what Montanans truly are.

After the cameras have turned off and the television producers wrap up their final shoots of the season, the heart of this state continues to shine. In situations of true need and dire circumstances, we can count on each other for help. Thank you for all you do for Samaritan House.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Open For Business

Advertising is a tricky game. We live in a society where businesses and firms do all they can to wrestle sales away from the competition. What separates the really great companies from others is an ability to create a desire for a product and then wrap it in a catchy slogan or memorable jingle. Something that gets caught in our head and simply will not go away no matter how badly we try to forget it. An important goal in marketing is to show others they need what you have.

Recently, I was driving through a city (which shall remain nameless but could literally be Anywhere, USA) when I noticed a building with 13 enormous letters plastered to the front. Advertising, right? If a business is going to mount 2 large words across the front of its building, it should entice passer-byers to stop and check it out.

So I did.

Upon entering, I immediately realized I was the victim of a classic bait-and-switch operation and what was unfolding in front of me was nothing like the advertised slogan outside. My expectations were not met and if I had paid an entrance fee, I would have demanded it back. There were quite a few people milling around, talking to the employees, but no one else seemed as indignant as I was. They were obviously tricked into stopping by and needed someone of my ilk to show them they had been bamboozled.

After several failed attempts at starting conversations, I grew weary because no one was paying attention to me. It was almost like they were ignoring me. What a lousy business model.

Eventually, I cornered one of the employees and began to direct my ire at him. I told him they could not slather that slogan across their building because it was misleading. I told him they were creating false expectations. I told him they were promising something that was not realistic and people deserved better than to arrive and have their dreams crushed. I painted such a logical and rational argument for my case that Lincoln and Douglas were both doing 360s in their respective graves, applauding my efforts.

I was the champion of the people that afternoon and there was certainly no way the employee could squirm his way out of my grasp. I looked forward to the foolishness of his impending response. But then he explained something that floored me.

The slogan, he said, applied to the employees more than those who came inside. It was the people working there who could not escape the immeasurable grasp of the motto. The very patrons who showed up because of the slogan often (and usually unintentionally) were the ones who advanced the company mantra. While the 13 large letters served as a beacon to attract people, it was the employees who benefited from their interaction with the public. The man went on to tell me quite a few stories about how his life had been changed simply because he worked there. He felt indebted to those coming in because those coming in enriched his life.

As I drove away a few hours later, the backwards slogan in my rear view mirror stated an old slogan that I now viewed with a fresh perspective:

Rescue Mission.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Labor of Days

Does it seem a bit odd to celebrate a day honoring labor by not working? And, extrapolating one absurd idea by piggybacking it onto a blog dedicated to the plight of many people who are historically unemployed, seems even stranger. Right?

Not so fast, my friend. In fact, Labor Day is the ideal day to remember those around us who are looking for work. The whole notion and history of this holiday screams redemption as it pays homage to some of the greatest American attributes: tenacity, morality, and a right to self-determination. This amazing day arose from the ashes of one of our darkest eras- the throes of an impersonal Industrial Revolution- that valued profit and economic wealth over human dignity, safety, and the right to make a fair wage.

In the late 1800s, most Americans worked 12-hour days for six or seven days in order to scrape together a meager living. And in spite of restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 worked in textile mills, factories and coal mines across the country, eking out a fraction of what the adults made. Immigrants were also victim of a vicious labor structure that enslaved them once they began running up debts to company stores and tenement slumlords. In addition to these factors, workers also faced unsafe working conditions with few sanitary facilities or breaks.

After a series of reforms were finally made, built upon the backs of progressive agents, strikes, riots, and countless protests, change finally came and working conditions slowly improved as the beginning of the 20th century dawned. Things were far from perfect (and still are) but were heading in the right direction. All because people refused to accept a system that held them captive rather than providing financial freedom. And today we celebrate Labor Day as a reminder that we do not have to live in a world run by puppeteers who pull our strings and make us dance to their own symphonies. If we truly want to improve our situations, we have resources and access to tools to do so.

We can vote. We can look out for each other. We can chip away at the obstacles creating homelessness. We can present an opportunity for others to have a future based on what was accomplished in the past.

With high unemployment being a major contributing factor to homelessness in America, it is our hope that children born into cycles of homelessness can also rise above their environments. The right to a good education and proper nutrition is just the beginning of a world that does not have to be debilitating. College or career training must be a realistic hope and goal if future generations are to raise their own flags on their own Labor Days.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


When I was a kid, I loved reading comic books and the people I looked up to the most were fictional characters dedicated to saving the world. All sorts of (super)humans possessing all manner of powers. I would get lost in the stories and plots and no matter how hard I closed my eyes and attempted to wish their existence into reality, that world vaporized whenever I closed the book and I was rudely used back into the real world.

Trends come and go in cycles and the past few years have seen a major resurgence of the whole comic book hero genre. The silver screen is once more churning out reincarnated versions of old heroes and iconic figures are coming out of retirement to entertain old fans while captivating new ones. Movies offer us a form of escapism, a way to immerse ourselves into a different universe for a few hours. And superhero flicks allow us to imagine a world where evil is confronted by amazing (but often flawed) people who are doing their best to resolve difficult situations in less than 2 hours.

I think one of the defining moments when our adolescence becomes a little less childlike is when we stop believing in these types of heroes. Something changes in us when we admit that no one is going to ride in and save the day; Gotham is vulnerable and we are saddened by the memory of saviors who never really existed in the first place. We realize if this world is going to be saved then we are the ones who need to do it.

And doesn't that really make US the superheroes?

As I grew older, my heroes began to evolve into people who held much less glamorous roles. Wolverine was replaced by food bank workers and Spider-Man took a back seat to the volunteers at the homeless shelter. The men and women I know working in social services truly deserve the accolades I once lauded upon the characters from my comic books. They are heroes because they are affecting change in a world mired in a stagnant state. They don't wear capes or masks or have retractable claws, but they go to battle every day on behalf of people who need help.

And that is the gist of the superhero mythology, right? Seemingly normal people who take on monstrous tasks to assist others. In a way, all of us can take a turn or two at living this lifestyle. Whether we volunteer or donate money or simply fill a specific need we see in our community, we can truly change people's lives.

And that is a super thing.

Monday, August 25, 2014


I am not a doctor. I've never played one on television and, if I'm honest, I didn't even particularly enjoy Doogie Howser when I was a kid. Most medical shows confused me with their barrage of technical and medical terms. The only time I ever really understood anything when I watched E.R. was when someone would manically shout, "STAT!" when they needed something immediately.

Recently, I was at a conference when the keynote speaker stated something that really caught my attention. He didn't bog his lecture down with tedious terminology and for that, I am thankful. He was talking about how trauma effects the brain's ability to make clear decisions. And even though he was speaking in an educational context, the application and connection to homelessness is relevant. Homelessness is an existence mired in trauma and stress. The very nature of a transient lifestyle demands instability as the one constant that can be expected.

Long periods of homelessness can wear down an individual's ability to assess life and make decisions that are beneficial. Rather than having the coping mechanisms that afford clarity of thought, constant stress can lead to an erosion of some of the brain's most important functions. It is easy to pass judgment on people who's situations make no sense to us. Many times we see chronically homeless men and women and wonder how they let themselves fall into such ruts.

But if we reexamine this attitude and take into account the amount of stress and trauma one might experience living a life of extended homelessness, perhaps we can find some empathy. Especially when we consider homeless children and the impact these factors can have toward debilitating their own decision-making. The cognitive ability of children is a fluid process and the brain requires the right conditions if it is going to develop properly. Poor nutrition and lack of sleep are two factors that can hinder a child's thought process, and by adding trauma or stress to the equation, many homeless children face an uphill battle.

Stability is just one tool that can contribute to a less stressful life for people children. Simple things like knowing there will be enough food for breakfast and money to cover rent and utilities can ease the mind and reduce the chaos. Our hope at Samaritan House is to have an environment conducive to playing a role that eliminates stress for all our residents. We do our best to move past clichés and actually provide a place where people can regroup, refocus, and then relaunch back into society.

So, it seems all of us can play an integral role in helping others even if we have never been a doctor or even played one on TV.

Monday, August 18, 2014

School Daze

Throughout the annuls of time, there have been three words that most kids have dreaded more than any other. Three little words that have struck fear into the hearts and minds of children from New Mexico to Nepal; from Alabama to Algeria; from Kalispell to Kalamazoo:

Back. To. School.

We can argue how educational strategies have evolved over the years and how the intent, purpose, and function of schools have morphed. But no matter how and why the logistics and semantics change, it seems most kids are just not as excited as their parents when late August rolls around and they are hoarded back into classrooms for another 9-month term.

Kids don't like school because it limits their autonomy and freedom. It forces structure and demands they follow a regiment and schedule that they have been unlearning since the last bell rang in May. Just when they get the hang of 'doing nothing,' it is suddenly time to abdicate their summer thrones and march toward the gallows of Geometry and Social Studies. Now, to be fair, I will admit there are some kids who enjoy school and can't (secretly) wait for the summer to end so they can (secretly) hit the books again. But these children are the outliers and not the norm. I was NOT one of these kids.

Over the years, I've found that many homeless kids often look forward to school for the very reason other kids dread it. For children who are accustomed to the chaos and unpredictability of a homeless lifestyle, the stability and regiment of school offers comfort. For exactly 8 hours a day, these kids know they will have access to functioning restrooms, hot food, education, structure, companionship, and protection. Imagine a world where nothing is permanent and then insert a block of time where you could have access to mentorship and dignity. For some kids, 'back to school' means reemergence into society.

It is important to have good schools and teachers who care about more than their lesson plans. After-school programs can even extend opportunities to children who might not get the chance to participate in activities suck as sports or music or art. Schools become an instrumental part of the community because they can foster hope and a sense of purpose in children who have been been void of such sentiment. Going back to school for some kids is one of the greatest experiences of their life. Weird. I never would have imagined that a few years ago.

... Who knows what I will imagine a few years from now?