June 1, 2008

The Sacramento Homeless Connect [Part 2 of 3]

This is the second part in a series about the May 31, 2008, Sacramento Homeless Connect held at CalExpo. See, also, Part 1.
Inside the CalExpo building, that is used as a shelter for homeless people during the cold winter season, there was a lot of activity as homeless and other poor people spoke with the services expert at the dozens of stations that were set up. Both the experts and the homeless/poor I spoke with were happy about the contact and information flow, feeling that a lot of good was coming from it all that would manifest in bettering many homeless people's lives.

I wasn't able to talk to people manning [and womanning] the busiest stations -- those that addressed medical conditions and housing needs -- but experts and staff at others of the stations were happy to talk with me as availability permitted.

Homeward Street Journal

Paula of the Homeward Street Journal told me of her bi-monthly paper and how it helps the homeless.

First of all, homeless people are invited to sell the paper on the street and keep all proceeds. The paper itself [Eight pages, reduced-broadsheet size for the May-&-June issue] both informs homeless people of activities and services for them and about political matters related to homelessness in the Sacramento area and beyond.

The paper is also very helpful at educating Sacramentans unaffected by poverty of issues that relate to the difficult lives of those living on the street and in shelters.

In addition to writing for Homeward Street Journal, Paula serves on boards and committees to help homeless people. She told me that the Ending Chronic Homelessness Initiative Collaberative in its first year of a ten-year run was very pleased to have exceeded its first-year goal in placing people in housing.

DHA - VOA - Aid in Kind

A woman whose name I failed to get and man named George were at a station at the event told me a little about Aid-in-Kind housing and the benefits for persons who sign up for that program.

[more to come]

The Art and Ethos of Bicycle Maintenance

One of two stations on the parking lot offered repair and tips and tools for homeless/poor people with two-wheel machines.

Jeremy of Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen talked to me a little about his day at the CalExpo event and the non-profit business, for which he is a member of the Board of Directors and acts as a volunteer and the "event co-ordinator." At about 1pm, I was told that two dozen people had visited the station -- staffed by three volunteers -- for aid or information. Later, when I passed by, yet more people were making use of the information, human help and tools at hand.

Jeremy told me the goal of Bicycle Kitchen was to promote bicycle use, generally, and to teach and help people to take care of and repair their own bikes. The back of a card Jeremy gave me says that nobody who visits BK is "denied service for lack of funds." The mission of Bicycle Kitchen is thus: "By providing free and low-cost bicycles and maintenence education, we promote cycling as a reliable, low-cost mode of transportation for everyone." Headquarters of Bicycle Kitchen can be found at 36th & Broadway in Sacramento. It's the place to go to keep your speedy machine in good operating condition.

Pet Corral

Another station located on the parking lot offered care for event-goers' animal friends [aka, pets].

I was told [and saw that] only three pets -- all mid-sized dogs -- were turned over to the corral for kennel care. The animals were made happy and comfortable by the four pampering staff members onhand.

The volunteers were each wearing a red Wooff T-shirt. W.O.O.F.F stands for "Welfare Of Our Furry Friends," a Sacramento-area non-profit organization and has as its mission to look after the wellbeing of animals of the homeless. Its services, including kennel care, are well known to animal "owners" in Loaves' Friendship Park.

Table Nearest the Door

To the left as one entered the event complex were two women at a table that was covered with stacks of brochures and a bin of oatmeal cookies.

The ladies told me the brochure getting the most attention was "Rapid HIV Testing" which touts the 99%-accurate HIV Rapid Test. From a swabbing at the gum line, you can learn in less than 40 minutes if you (or a partner or potential partner) has HIV antibodies. Unhappily, this test for antibodies is not the same as a test for the HIV virus, itself.

The test really only indicates if the person tested contracted HIV six or more months ago. More recent exposure to HIV can be too soon for one's body to develop the horde of antibodies that try to combat the infection.

To my mind, the rapid test is of limited value, but the oatmeal cookies were fully good.

Event goers were invited, at the triage stage, to be tested for the HIV virus itself -- with one of the tested persons, chosen at random, receiving a $50 gift card [from Safeway, I think it was]. I didn't look into it to learn how nor how quickly results were reported.

Food and Music

There was a bodacious quantity of great foot and great music supplied in the area in back of the Winter Shelter. The earliest of eaters received a fat, full roaster chicken breast and generous helpings of potato salad and beans and a third of a cob of corn, plus a delicious brownie. [Food is of heightened importance to the homeless, as you may already know.] Later in the day, some of the portions diminished [half-breasts!] or changed [bring in the spanish rice and nachos!] in apparent response to the bigger-that-anticipated-turnout of event goers.

There were two major complaints: One, that the seating area was very inadequate. Also, that if you left your plate of food briefly, you might find that an event vounteer can have put it in the trash.

Music was supplied by Guitar Mac and the Blues Express who got wholly positive reviews from the crowd. I agree; they were terrific. Too, it was a perfect choice of musical genre and the sound level was just right, in the Goldylocks middle. Not to loud; not to soft.

The Gift Bag

One wholly popular item that got rave approval from event goers was the gift bag that was given out to everyone upon leaving. A ~six-gallon-sized bag, branded "Salvation Army," was filled with a lot of good non-expired boxes and cans of food, a pair of socks, a water bottle and first-aid kit. Yowza Salvation Army.
[more to come]


solitaire said...

Be safe, Tom.

With metta,

G said...

Seems there's a lot of people helping out the homeless in your part of the world, Tom. That some of the things they do are imperfect is of course a part of this imperfect world, but there's much there to be grateful for, isn't there? Kindness & compassion can transcend the cultural, racial, religious & other barriers between us.

It would be good to read of how your thoughts regarding Buddhism have developed/changed since becoming homeless. In a way, you're like a wandering ascetic in India or Thailand. The following question arises in response to this point: apart from the basic four requisites, what else are you seeking on your journey, Tom?

Be well,
G at 'Buddha Space'.

RSpaula said...

It took me awhile to comment because I had to join blogspot and didn't know how to without starting my own blog.

These are great summaries of the Sac Homeless Connect activities. And thanks for linking us (Homeward). I put a link to your blog on shoc.wikispaces.com because this is such a great resource on homelessness and good writing. Thanks for all your effort.

Tom said...


Oops. I wasn't aware that commenting was restricted. I've fixed things such that now anyone may comment.

Thanks for your kind words -- both at Sac. Homeless Connect and above -- and for the fresh link!

-- Tom

Phil from Trike said...

Best of luck to you, Tom. Sounds like you're connected with the people you need to be in Sacramento.

Tom said...

Fuck you, Phil.

G said...

"Fuck you" - is that a kind of koan?!

Be well in the Dharma, everyone,