Category Archives: homeless

Military Tradition – History of Veterans Abused, Discarded

The history of this country’s treatment of its veterans has been dismal, starting with the very beginning of the country.

Revolutionary War

The Continental Congress of 1776 sought to encourage enlistments and curtail desertions with the nation’s first pension law. It granted half pay for life in cases of loss of limb or other serious disability.   But they had no money or authority so they left it to the states with lackluster success.  Only about 3,000 Revolutionary War veterans ever drew any pension, and it was limited to those who had been disabled and the payments were quite low.

A new principle for veterans benefits, providing pensions on the basis of need (indigent), was introduced in the 1818 Service Pension Law. The law provided that every person who had served in the War for Independence and was in need of assistance would receive a fixed pension for life. The rate was $20 a month for officers and $8 a month for enlisted men.

The problem was that the pensioner had to prove that he was indigent and many never received a penny. In 1858 Congress authorized half-pay pensions to veterans’ widows and to their orphan children until they reached the age of 16, generally paying $4.00 to $10.00 a month depending on rank of the veteran.

Civil War

By 1868 New York Governor Reuben E. Fenton (“the soldier’s friend”) remarked that homeless veterans in New York State “numbered by the thousands.”

After the Civil War, veterans organized to seek increased benefits. The Grand Army of the Republic, consisting of Union veterans of the Civil War, was the largest veterans organization emerging from the war.

Until 1890, Civil War pensions were granted only to servicemen discharged because of illness or disability attributable to military service.

The Dependent Pension Act of 1890 substantially broadened the scope of eligibility, providing pensions to veterans incapable of manual labor.  (Photo courtesy VA Dept.)

World War I

“The Veteran’s Bureau,” a columnist wrote in 1925, “has probably made wrecks of more men since the war than the war itself took in dead and maimed.”

After Dec. 24, 1919, all claims and payments arising from disability or death from World War I were regarded as compensation rather than pension. This was reversed in March 1933, when all payments to veterans were again regarded as pensions. It was not until World War II that the distinction between compensation and pension again was used.

The first director of the Veteran’s Bureau was relieved as director within two years and was later sentenced to prison and fined on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government on hospital contracts.

After returning from the Great War, many veterans faced destitution and did all they could to survive.  In 1924 Congress passed the World War Adjustment Compensation Act, giving one dollar a day for service and 25 cents more for service overseas.  There was a catch:  If it was more than $50.00 it was issued in certificate form not payable for 20 years and not over $1500.00.

The veteran’s called these “bonus” certificates and marched on Washington, (see last 2 pictures above), some 15,000 by some estimates.   They demanded immediate payments.   They camped wherever they could. Some slept in abandoned buildings or erected tents. But many lived in makeshift shacks along the mudflats of the Anacostia River. With no sanitation facilities, living conditions quickly deteriorated in the “shanty town.

The bonus marches revealed serious shortcomings in how America cared for her defenders as they transitioned from military to civilian life.  As a result, Congress passed the GI Bill of Rights.  (Photo Courtesy VA Dept)

In 1933 Congress enacted the Economy Act which repealed all laws giving benefits for veterans and gave the authority to Roosevelt who radically created new acts that radically reduced veteran’s benefits.

World War II

In 1946, the VA had beds for about 82,000 patients but the VA rolls swelled to 15 million in just a few months and the hospitals were virtually all swamped.  There were 26,000 non service related cases also on the waiting list. The VA was building new hospitals but had money for only 12,000 more beds.  They came too few too late.

Health problems associated with atomic radiation also have received belated attention. The Radiation-Exposed Veterans Compensation Act of 1988 authorized disability compensation for veterans suffering from a number of diseases associated with radiation, 42 years after the exposure!

This specifically included veterans claiming exposure to atomic radiation during the detonation of nuclear test devices or during the U.S. occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki between September 11, 1945, and July 1, 1946

Korean War

Photo Lulu Vision Creative Commons License     Find it Here

The Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1952, called the Korean GI Bill, provided unemployment insurance, job placement, home loans and mustering-out benefits similar to those offered World War II veterans. The Korean GI Bill made several changes, however, in education benefits, reducing financial benefits generally and imposing new restrictions.

The effect of the changes was that the benefit no longer completely covered the cost of the veteran’s education.

Vietnam War

Photo eroksCom Creative Commons License  Find it here

A major difference of Vietnam-era veterans from those of earlier wars was the larger percentage of disabled.  Advances in airlift and medical treatment saved the lives of many who would have died in earlier wars.   There were issues of Agent Orange which took many years to address.  At first, the only allowable claims related to Agent Orange were for a skin rash, chloracne.  The VA waited until 1991 to recognize for claim purposes two other ailments, soft-tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  (Photo Courtesy erokCom (Creative Commons License)

Vientnam veterans make up the preponderance of homeless veterans.   42% of the homeless veterans served in Vietnam.  Many more served during the conflict but in non combat areas.

Many of these suffer from PTSD, alcohol and drug related illnesses that have not been properly addressed by the VA.  The VA still claims that PTSD has no relationship to military service.

Gulf War

Gulf War Vet

(Photo: Northwestfloridaonline.com)

Gulf War veterans are among the new faces of homeless veterans.

Afganistan and Iraq

News Headline: New York– Americans were dismayed to learn that soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq — “fallen heroes” were being warehoused in Building 18, a rat-and roach infested satellite of the Armu’s Walter Reed Medical Center.

(Photo courtesy big gray mare A creative commons license
Find it here

In addition, injured veterans are going bankrupt and losing their homes because the Veterans Administration (V.A.) holds up their benefit checks for years on end.

The men and women who fight for our country deserve better.

Is this any way to “support our troops?”

Update March 2010:

A Start

Source Politifact

VA secretary announces plans for more housing vouchers at Homeless Veterans Summit

Updated: Monday, January 4th, 2010 | By Robert Farley

On July 30, 2009, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., introduced the “Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act of 2009.” The bill would authorize a major increase in the number of vouchers available annually for homeless veterans through the VA Supported Housing Program. Specifically, the bill would increase the number of vouchers available to 30,000 in 2010, and then 10,000 more a year until 2014, when 60,000 vouchers would be available. The bill now sits in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

On Nov. 3, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki convened the first-ever Homeless Veteran Summit in Washington, during which he unveiled an ambitious plan to establish new programs and enhance existing ones with the goal of ending homelessness among veterans over the next five years.

Oldtimer

Note: Some of the history information and early pictures came from the VA History website, later pictures came from recent posts and news articles, with attribution to sources.  Link to Creative Commons License information.

For All Homeless Veterans Articles

Recovering Flooded Homes – The Process

When the rains come in too much abundance we sometimes find ourselves watching water rise up through the floorboards.   A woman told me recently that they saw the water rising outside and her husband tried to sandbag the doors and thought that would help.  Instead, they were surprised that the water just came up through the floor all around them as if the walls were not even there.   I told her that if the floor had not let the water through, it would have lifted like a boat and simply floated away.

Insurance   

Floodwaters are usually defined as water that touches the ground before it enters the house.  That flooded basement where water came through the cement blocks will not be covered by homeowners insurance.    You must have a separate flood insurance policy to be covered.   Water that came through a hole in the roof or window that was caused by falling branches or wind generally are covered by homeowners insurance.  

Apparently flood insurance  is sold in at least three varieties.  One that covers the house itself, one that covers only the contents (designed for renters) and one that covers the house and contents.  Most mortgage companies only require the first.   If you have flood insurance check to see if your furniture, carpets, clothing are covered or you may be in for a nasty surprise.  

What are the problems involved?

Every home is affected differently by flooding.  It depends on the type of construction and the height of the water in the house and whether it has been breached or moved by strong winds or moving water.

Breached homes (hit by floating debris or windstorm) and those pushed off of foundations have a high probability of requiring professional help or becoming not repairable.  

All homes affected by flooding have one overriding problem:   Water essentially ruins everything that it touches that is not waterproof.   Drywall, carpets, furniture (particularly fabric covered), clothing, anything made of paper or cardboard, family documents, pressed wood such as found in inexpensive cabinets and flooring, and electronics all can be expected to be headed to the dump.   

Most wiring, plumbing and some appliances survive, as does most of the framing if dried out soon and thoroughly enough.   You should be aware that floodwater damaged homes can have lingering  problems that may show up weeks, months, and even years later.   If not properly dried out, you can have a “sick” house, one that is harboring mold, mildew and other toxins that affect those living there.   Don’t take shortcuts. 

Recovery Time Varies

You will notice that in areas where there is heavy flooding, some homes come back to life in a matter of weeks and others linger for a year or more and those often end up being removed entirely.  If the home is salvageable, it is essential that work begin immediately and that a logical step by step process be followed.   The suggestions here should  help get a house recovered in the minimum time required to do it right.

 Much of this article assumes the damage has been done and the waters have subsided.   It is by no means all inclusive, but it is an efficient process to get your life back on track.   It will take several weeks at best for even the lightest hit homes.   Two months are about average for homes with water that rises above the baseboards.

Types of people affected.   In my experience working on more than a dozen homes as a volunteer after hurricane Dennis in 2005, there are three categories of people affected.   I’m going to address the rest of this article directly to them:

Renters.  You should immediately contact your insurance company to seen if you have renter’s insurance that covers floods and then find a dry place to rent.  You may also be eligible for assistance.  Contact your local Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, or other prominent local service agency and see what is available.   They should be able to direct you to a shelter until you get that dry place to rent.  Some will be able to give rental assistance.   Notify your church and your friends.   

You should know that bedding, stuffed furniture and electronics (TV etc) that have gotten wet in floodwaters are almost never salvageable.    Most lightly soiled clothing can be saved.  Do not take anything wet into your new apartment.  Take clothing to a commercial laundry and/or dry cleaners first.   Dry the furniture you are trying to save carefully and remove all traces of mud.   Put everything into storage until you find a new apartment.  Consider volunteering to help your landlord or neighbors.

Landlords are those that have tenants in the house that was flooded.  If you are a landlord, you should be aware that you will not get much priority in restoring your property except with paid contractors unless there are extenuating circumstances.   You should first contact your insurance company and see if you are covered with flood insurance and follow their directions if you are.   Let your church and your friends know.  You should then contact local service providers, such as the Red Cross, for assistance with relocating your tenants but don’t expect to receive much more than referral of volunteers (who also want to help homeowners first).   If you are old, infirm or disabled and this is your only source of income, then I expect volunteers to flock to help.  

Homeowners are people who both own and live in the house that was flooded.  Homeowners without flood insurance will have natural priority with service agencies and volunteers.   If your flood insurance does not cover the contents,  you may need assistance in replacing your personal property even if the insurance replaces your drywall for you.   Everyone wants to get you back into your own home.  You should first contact your insurance company and see if you are covered with flood insurance and to what extent (home only, home and contents) and follow their directions if you are.    Let your church and friends know.   

You should contact your local disaster relief agencies and service providers such as the Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, etc.  in your area for assistance in locating volunteers to assist in recovering your house.   The disaster relief agency may assist you in acquiring  federal and/or state funding to help pay for some of the costs.    If  you do have flood insurance, then the volunteers should only be asked to help with the emergency part of the cleanup such as removal of furniture, etc. as the insurance will take care of the bulk of the work.    If the contents are not covered, let the volunteer agency know and they may try to help secure donations to get you by.

As a homeowner without insurance, you will get the highest priority for assistance from volunteer agencies, depending on actual need.  Some will assign case workers to work with you to help determine the need.   If you have insurance, the need will naturally be less.   If you are uninsured, elderly or with several children, you will go to the top of the list.   If you are a retired banker, able-bodied and have good financial resources you will end up lower in the stack or left to hire your own contractor..    

Damage Varies House to House.

What kind of damage can occur varies from house to house even in the same neighborhood.   Some may be on concrete slabs and others sitting on cement blocks.  Some may have basements and others not.  Some may be further up the hill and get small amounts in the crawl space or onto the walking surface, while others may be up to the rooftops.  Some may have pressed wood siding, others brick.  Everything causes variations in the damage done and the cost of restoring the house.

Utilities and Government Actions

Condemned Sign Posted. You can expect your city or county code and health departments to pay a visit and may put a condemned sign and yellow tape on the door to your property.  That does not mean your house  has to be torn down or can’t be fixed.  It means you can’t live in it until they agree it is safe to do so.  You should make an appointment with them and be ready to outline your restoration process.   They will usually let you go inside and begin cleanup operations.  

You should be aware that there is a process whereby a house or neighborhood can be condemned and removed.   It does happen when the damage is so severe that it cannot be repaired or the risk of being flooded again is too high, often after repeated floods.   It is a long process and involves the government purchase of the land at fair market value. 

Utilities Turned Off.  You will also find that the various utilities will likely turn off the power at the pole and gas and water at the street or the meter.   They may even remove the gas or electric meter.   This is for your safety.  You won’t need them to begin cleaning the place up.  If you have equipment you need to use  (a commercial dehumidifier, for example) you can ask for an inspection of your wiring and they may restore it. 

Otherwise you can ask your utility for a “construction” or “temporary” meter and they will put one in your front yard that you can use to run power equipment.  Interior wiring, including light switches and outlets are not usually harmed by flooding waters.  This is because the circuit breakers often save them (and you).   Your local inspectors will look at them before they let you restore poser.

The Recovery Process

Concrete Slab Construction   Houses built on concrete slabs usually fare the best in the long run.  However they may also have the deepest water in their homes.  The furnaces and ductwork are usually above the floor and are more easily cleaned or replaced and since there is no crawl space, the flooring will not likely be damaged other than carpet and loose tiles or any wood flooring on the slab.

Crawl Space  and Basement Construction:  Houses built with craw spaces have a whole range of additional troubles.  Standing floodwater in the crawlspace or  basement will quickly cook up a brew of mold and mildew that will take a commercial service to kill it, if it can be done at all.   You need to work fast to avoid serious problems.

Often the furnace is under the house or at least the ductwork and usually both will be full of water even if the water did not reach the walking surface.   In addition, the sub floor (layer under your exposed floor) is often pressed-wood that has aged and will soak up water and begin to rapidly deteriorate.  It is a difficult and dangerous environment to work in and it should be professionally dried out before entering.

All Houses: 

Must-Do-Immediately Tasks

This list includes everything down to cabinet removal and sometimes power restoration, but it is critical to do it quickly.  A lot of this is do-it-yourself level work but get all the help you can get   It will take 4 to 10 people to just clean out the house.  20 would be a blessing and can be done in a few hours. 

Everyone should be equipped with gloves, mask, long sleeves, long pants and shoes with non slip soles and cover the entire foot.   There should be hand sanitizer available and lots of paper towels.   This can be a dangerous job from the standpoint that there may be hidden broken glass, exposed nails as the drywall is removed, and critters looking for refuge as well as toxins already brewing.

Explain safety rules and the process.  Start the day by outlining the safety considerations, then explain the process so that overzealous helpers do not get carried away and get ahead of the curve.   Ripping off the drywall before you take off the door and window trim and the switch covers can add to the expense of recovery.   Piling things in front of the doors  or walkways and interior traffic patterns will just slow things down for everyone.   Request that any nails in boards be bent over and turned down when thrown on the pile.  Boards to be saved that have nails sticking out should be placed separately out of all walk patterns, preferably standing in a garage corner or tucked against an exterior wall.  

The following instructions include all types of construction.   The object is to get everything wet out of the house ASAPThis includes furniture, interior doors,  carpets, baseboards and drywall to the extent it got wet.   Be aware that you may have problems not considered here.   Open all the windows and doors when you have workers on the site.   Keep the windows partially open until the house is dry.

Get the furniture and other belongings out of the house, or at least off the floor that was flooded.   Tag salvageable items and/or stand at the door to direct those things you want to try to save to a separate area well out-of-the-way, preferably dry like a carport.   You will want to put anything salvageable into dry storage, but clean and dry them first.  If the water made the carpet wet or if you can detect a moldy smell, it is not likely to be salvageable.   If there is the least doubt, you should get a professional cleaner to look at them first

Wet carpets from floodwater have tiny microbes and spores galore that will fester over time and promote sickness later, even when well dried.  Wet carpet will slow down your progress by a week or more if you keep it in the house.   Pull it up as soon as possible and also remove the padding and take it all out to the curb.  Most communities will do free pickup of flood damaged debris

In almost all cases the baseboard and wet drywall will need to be removed to prevent mold from growing inside the wall.. 

Remove the baseboards first.  If done carefully, some baseboards can be saved in a dry place.   However, old wet wood will often split.   Removal should be done with a flat iron pry bar, not a hammer.  Sometimes you can punch a hole in the drywall and simply pry the baseboard off with the pry bar.   Number the baseboards if you plan to try to save them so that you can put them back in the same place 

Remove the electrical trim plates.   Put them away in your car or a drawer somewhere with the screws or plan to buy new ones.   They have to be removed to replace the drywall later, so put them away now.

 Remove the interior trim on all doors and windows – number and save the trim.   Removing the trim will aid in removing the drywall and will also open up spaces for captured moisture in the hidden spaces in the casing to escape.  You may get the wet drywall out easily with the trim still on, but you won’t be able to get the new drywall in with the trim still in place, so remove it now..

Remove the interior doors and casings.  Number them and  remove to a dry place (garage or corner of a carport, for example) to aid in drying them out and to protect them.  Use a saws-all to cut the nails through the casing shims if you have power, else pry carefully in stages all around using the flat iron.   Doors with laminated wood facing (Luan) should be thrown out as they will just come apart later.  Hollow core panel doors will sometimes separate but sometimes can be glued back after they are thoroughly dry.

Remove the wet drywall.   Find the highest wet drywall level and go at least 4 inches above that.  Try to select a point 1, 2, or 4 feet from the floor to make your new drywall go further. draw a chalk line at that level, cut and remove the drywall from there down.   This is best done with a drywall hand saw.  Make the cuts at a shallow angle as there may be wires or even pipes or  air conditioner lines in the wall.  I don’t recommend a ”saws-all” except in the hands of someone very capable and careful.  I’ve seen a lot of cut wiring and pipes that greatly increase the cost of repairs.  It is an easy job with a good drywall hand saw.   If the cut does not follow the line carefully, it will slow up replacement later.  

If the water level was above 4 feet, remove all the drywall.  If the level is below 18 inches, take out the bottom 2 feet.  If below 8 inches take out the bottom foot.  Go higher if the drywall feels damp less than 4 inches from the lines mentioned here.   Doing this in 1, 2 or 4 foot increments will reduce the amount of drywall you have to buy and reinstall because the sheets are easily cut to narrower widths and will go further.  Take out all the drywall in a line all around the house.  Don’t forget the closets as they will be the worst to mildew.

Punch a hole in one of the wall cavities with a hammer or prybar below your cut line.  Grab the sheetrock with your hand and pull it off and have it carried outside onto a portion of the driveway.   Often sheetrock will come off in large sheets. 

Remove the nails.  Have someone come behind as each wall is cleared and pull the drywall nails and remove any screws.   Put them into a bag or can for disposal later.  Nails that break off can often just  be driven in flat.   Have someone check the studs by running the edge of their hammer up and down them and along the bottom plate to detect any missed ones.   Nails left on the wall will be snags for anyone working close by and will cause damage to new sheetrock if not noticed in time.   May as well be systematic and find them all now.

Remove all bottom cabinets.  Remove the bottom cabinets in the kitchen and bath, but start with the counter tops.   Counter tops will usually have screws underneath that you can find (use a flashlight) from the open areas underneath, often in corners and near the middle.  These hold the top to the cabinet.   Sometimes there is also putty.  Remove these screws, cut along the caulk along the back edges of the splash board.   

Verify that the water is turned off at the meter, disconnect the faucet lines and, if necessary, remove the cutoff  valves under the sink.    Take out the trap and tape a plastic bag over the drain line.   Remove the countertop by using a 3-in-one tool or flat iron prybar to lift the front and pull it away from the wall.   Decide if you want it saved or not. 

Remove the bottom cabinets.    If you desire to salvage them, look behind the drawers and inside the back and remove any screws you can find that are holding them to the wall.  Usually there will also be screws hidden behind the door edges in the front frame that hold the cabinets to each other unless they are built as one unit. 

Remove all the screws and then use a sharp drywall knife to cut through any caulk between the cabinet and the wall.  Slowly pry the back of the cabinet from the wall with a flat iron all around in stages so as to detect any missed screws.   Older cabinets are often below the floor level as new layers of vinyl have been added over the years.  They are seldom nailed to the floors,   Tilt them forward and lift them up with a prybar.

Usually you will end up finding that the cabinets cannot be saved, but it is worth a try.    Be aware that most modern cabinets have significant amounts of pressed wood and will harbor mold even if they don’t deteriorate during the flood.   The cabinets must be removed to get to the drywall behind them and to the open spaces below them anyway.    If the cabinets look good and the pressed wood has not deteriorated, Kiltz the back and bottoms of the cabinets (inside too if possible)   to reduce the chance of mold and mildew later.

In my experience any cabinet that is no longer sold as a “standard” cabinet will also require you to remove and replace the top cabinets as well.  Might as well do it, although I’ve managed to save two sets of top cabinets out of maybe 10 or 12 houses I’ve worked on. 

 Inspect the sub floor from the basement or crawlspace if you can get in there.   At least look at the area over the crawl space door.   If the sub floor is coming apart you will have to remove all of your flooring to get to it, remove and replace it all.   I was in one house as we were removing carpet and someone broke through the floor.   No injuries but the floor under the carpet was simply pressed wood (OSB) and was falling apart (it had termite damage too). 

Houses with crawl spaces will usually require professional help.  At the least, any trapped water needs to be drained from under there.  This can be done by carrying in dry dirt to fill pockets of standing water, and by using sump pumps for sunken areas of the crawl space and basements.  

Often the fuse panels and laundry are in basement areas. Furnaces are often in basements and many times in crawl spaces.   Duct work can still be filled with toxic water and must be cleaned or removed.  If it is flexible duct work, punch holes in the bottom of low spots, let the water drain, then remove them and replace with new duct work after the house has been dried out.   A commercial dehumidifier and/or large blowers will be required to dry the basement or craw spaces completely.  Any moisture remaining will just promote mold and fungi growth.

Mold and mildew will begin to grow on wet wood in the crawl spaces very quickly!  You will see white spots and some with “hairs”.  Black mold is the most dangerous and should be avoided completely.   It will take commercial products made for the purpose to kill them.  A thinned bleach spray will also work, but the danger to non-professionals doing this job is very high and loss of vision, lung and skin problems can be very serious.    Vapors from cleansers will seep into the living areas and can be dangerous to anyone working above.   Let everything dry and air out completely after using them.   Professionals have the tools and the safety clothing and hoods to do this with no danger.

Get power restored.  With any luck you can do that while you are still doing demolition  if an electrician and the inspector agree.   If not, there will be a point where you have finished the demolition where you can have an electrician and/or government inspector verify the safety of your house for electrical purposes. 

That inspection may allow you to restore power.    If the power system of your house  is heavily damaged, consider asking the power company to install a temporary meter and pole in your yard.   The point is that you need power to run fans and dehumidifiers to aid in the drying out process.  

Drying it out.  (1 to 3 weeks)  Many governments require you to be inspected to verify that the house is dry enough to begin reconstruction.   This means you can’t begin installing the new drywall until they say you can.   If you get ahead of your inspection curve, you may be required to remove the drywall, inspect and replace it again.   Work with your inspectors.  They are your friends looking out for your safety.

Be aware that some cities and counties require the drying out process to be at least two weeks before they will inspect it.   Ask them.   If the wood is obviously dry you may get them to make an exception based on hardship.   For your own good, it must be completely dry.  Be nice to them at all times,  very, very nice. particularly if you need some sort of exception, because they can make it easy or hard.  They are nice people anyway, just doing their jobs but they don’t have time to argue with you.   I am not and never have been an inspector if you are wondering.  I’m just going from experience.    Ask them what they expect you to do.  It is ok to negotiate some and tell them why it is important to you , but don’t argue.  Kiss of death.   Besides there are good reasons for allowing wood to dry for a minimum amount of time.

Keep the screened windows open during dry weather and open the doors as much as you  can.  I’m not recommending that the doors be left open when no one is there.  Close the windows partway up and lock them into place with a nail if necessary.  Move the equipment around until the wood is obviously very dry, not “kinda” or almost dry.  

Rebuilding – Get an inspection.   Your inspector will want to check the dryness of your home, and will also want to look at the wiring and pipes that will be hidden later.  If you had to have your flooring removed, then you will need them to look at the framing there too.   Install the flooring if necessary and have it inspected.  These inspections are for your own good.  Always insist a contractor get a permit.   While your inspector is there, ask him or her if they want to see the drywall nail pattern before you paint.  Some do.

Drywall first.    Once your inspectors give the ok, start putting up the drywall.  Recheck the studs and bottom plates for overlooked nails first.    Lay it sideways and make sure the thickness is the same.  We had one house with a mixture of ½ inch and 5/8 inch drywall and some volunteers put in all ½ inch.   I had to come behind them and replace a lot of it.   5/8 is typically used as firewall material, sometimes found in and outside furnace closets and walls that divide two apartments. and in flue chases. 

Be aware that you can now buy “paperless” drywall.  This is moisture resistant and does not provide anything for mold to grow on.  It uses a fiberglass backing instead of  paper.  It costs more but if you have a damp basement that you choose to not waterproof, then use the paperless drywall material.  Use “green rock” water resistant drywall in bathrooms.

Lift the drywall off the floor by the thickness of a scrap piece of drywall so the bottom never touches the floor.  This reduces the chance that mopping or minor leaks or knocked over mop buckets will damage your new drywall later.   The gap will be covered by the baseboard.   Try to fit the drywall close to your cut line.   Use a sharp edge or sanding block/rasp to remove rough edges and humps to get  a tight fit.

Tape, mud and sand your joints.  It usually takes 3 coats done over 3 days.   A good drywall man can do this at little cost and you will never see the joint.   Be aware that most off-the- street “expert drywall installers” may never have worked on drywall before, they just need a job or saw it being done somewhere.   They will not do the job you need.    Almost anyone can paint, but drywall mudding requires some experience.   Get references and only use someone who does it for a living, a professional.   A poorly done job will haunt you forever.  Every line will show.

When the drywall is finished – all 3 coats and sanding – run your hands over all the joints.  If you can feel the joint, it will show when painted.  Fix it. 

Prepare the door casings for reinstallation.   I don’t recommend knocking the nails back through the wood.  Use vice-grips to pull them out the other side (the side that never shows) or use a metal-cutting blade to cut them off flush with the wood (easiest).  Pull any that have heads showing on the edge of a board where the trim was peeled off, or drive them in flush.   Throw away the old nails and use new ones.  Knocking them back out always damages the wood.  The heads are embedded and split out ugly chunks of wood.  

 Install the doors.  Then begin reinstalling the door casing and window and exterior door trim.  Make use of the numbers you put on them when they were removed.  Most will fit back easily where they came from.  How the door closes and whether or not they stand still when opened is dependent on the door and its casings all being perfectly vertical.    Make absolutely certain that the door casings are vertical.  Use shims to get both sides vertical and spaced so that there is about 1/8 inch gap on each edge of the door, sides and top.  Do the base boards last or you will have trouble installing the door trim.

Install the kitchen and bathroom cabinets.   Do not install the baseboards on cabinet walls until you have the cabinets installed exactly as you want them.   Put the tops on last.   Make certain that plumbing hasn’t been damaged or clogged with debris before hooking the faucets and drains up.  You may want to replace the valves under the sinks with new ones.

Caulkaround all the new trim and new cabinets next to the drywall.   Use paintable caulk for everything.  Some caulk just will not take paint and will look bad when you are done.   Read the labels to be certain it is paintable.  Latex is good.   Sometimes large boxes of donated caulk show up.  Be aware it sometimes is donated because it has started to harden or is a non paintable stock that is moving slow.   They are a write-off for the company but not useful to you.   Don’t use it if it is hardening or wrong type.

Inspection?  Some inspectors want to look at the nail pattern in your drywall before you paint.   This applies mostly to new houses but you should check with them first.

Sand, fill nail holes, and Paint everything,    Painting is to beautify and protect your work.    Too often the paint is slapped on walls and wood work that are not ready and the beauty part is lost.   Visually inspect every piece of wood for nail pops and sink the heads with a nail punch.   Fill the heads with wood putty.   Sand any areas that have paint chips and thin coat  (even drywall mud will work) anything you can feel is rough with your bare hands, let dry and then sand again.  Prime the filled areas and all new drywall.

 Install carpets.  Let your carpet supplier do this for you.   Most people do not have the skills required.  After all this work, why have carpet with twisted with obvious wrinkles and loose areas showing?   People will think you just reused your old carpet.   Get it done right.

Get a final inspection and move back in.

Whew!  Get that flood insurance now!   

 It will cost you only a few hundred bucks a year.   Our area has had two 100 (plus) year floods in 4 years.   Three in 45 years.   It will happen again.  

Note:  there are at least 3 types of flood insurance.  One for the house, a rider or separate insurance for the contents, and one for contents only.   Most mortgage companies and any federally assisted mortgage requires flood insurance on the house (only) if  if it is in the FEMA designated 100 year flood zone.   This insurance can be purchased by anyone outside the flood zone, usually at a greatly reduced price.  Be aware that it does not protect the contents unless you purchase that additional flood insurance.  

It is my understanding that there  is a 30 day waiting period for flood insurance to go into effect.    You can’t hear a hurricane is coming and then decide to get flood insurance protection at the last minute.

Your homeowner’s policy does not cover flood damage to your home or its contents.   You may see words that seem to cover it, but those apply to water coming through the roof or from broken pipes inside the house, not anything that comes through a patio door, seeps under a wall or pours out of a crack in a wall from the outside because by definition, those waters touched the ground first and thus are flood waters not covered.

You may live high up on a hillside with one side of your finished basement or downstairs area embedded against fill dirt.   The nearest flood zone maybe 400 feet below you.    However, if you develop a leak in your block wall and your carpet and drywall, clothing, furniture, electronics, etc. get wet, your homeowner’s policy will not cover it.  Water that touches the ground first is considered flood waters even if it was not an overflow from a stream.    So get flood insurance for at least the contents of your home.   If your downstairs area has drywall, consider getting flood insurance for your home as well.  It is cheaper if you are not in a designated flood zone.

If you own and live in a flood zone or rent to someone and furnish  the carpet, etc, get flood insurance for both the house and contents in addition to homeowner’s insurance.

Renters can get flood insurance on their personal property.   If you rent and your apartment gets flooded, you need to have that flood insurance on your property.   The landlord is not liable in almost all cases. 

I hope you were reading this just-in-case.  If you are affected by a flooded house, my prayers go with you.  Take care.   Remember things are different case by case.  I do hope that this helped you in some small way.

Oldtimer

Good News – Ask the right question!

Ask the right question. 

 Al was frustrated.  We were frustrated, even his case manager at MUST was frustrated.  The new transitional housing program was due to start April 1 but to get in, Al needed to prove his eligibility and he needed his DD-14.  The deadline was just a few days away.   It was already March 26.   He had his application in for months.  He had his request for his DD-14 copy in for months.  Nothing was happening.  His case manager had even faxed in a copy of the application papers.   No response.   It looked pretty bleak as nothing was happening at the VA.

No DD-14 on the way and no good reason why.  I don’t know the details other than this:  Al said he had been conferencing with his case manager on Wednesday and they were both lamenting that nothing seemed to be working.  Then Al happened to mention that he has a birthday coming up in a few months and he “needed to get his VA drivers license renewed”.   Just a simple off-the-wall comment to pass the time.

The case manager said something like:  “WHAT did you just say?!!!… You have a VA drivers license?… Let me see it!”  “This is all you need for proof… you are in!”.

It turns out that no one had asked the right question.  

You don’t get a veterans driver’s license without a DD-14  and it requires a certificate of eligibility from the VA to get the licence.  The existence of the driver’s license was all that has been needed all along.  Now Al is going into transitional housing on April 1.  It was an alert case manager that finally saved the day.  It would have been easy to not notice the remark.  None of us trying to help him knew.  No one at the VA asked whether he had a veterans driver’s license.   Al didn’t know it would suffice.   Only the alert case manager caught the significance.   Thank you Michael Laird of MUST ministries.  

Al once had his separation papers and has since lost them.  That happens to homeless veterans a lot.    He qualified for his veteran’s drivers license some time ago and has maintained it current.    

So much trouble and so much delay for lack of the right question.  So if any of you veterans are having trouble getting a copy of your separation papers and you have a veterans drivers license, pull it out!   You may have a shortcut!

We have something special planned for Al, but don’t go hinting, as it is a surprise.

Oldtimer

PS:  This is what the GA DMV says:

Veterans

Veterans receive a free license until they reach the age of 65. Then they must renew their licenses every five years and are required to pass a vision test each renewal period.

You’ll need to provide a copy of your separation papers, showing your honorable discharge, to your county’s Department of Veterans Service to receive your certificate of eligibility. Present this certificate to your local driver’s license office to receive your free license.”

  

Good News, Good News!

Good News Today

There was particularly good news to report today.    Our homeless friends Al J. and Steve W. have both been assigned a place to live, but we are not talking just a shelter here!  They are excited, I mean really excited.  So is the group at our church that has been working with them so very long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Al, surprised by the flash.

Al is a homeless veteran.  He had been living in the woods for quite some time.  When our small group first met him he was resistant to the idea of moving out of the woods.   He was heavily bearded with wild long hair and looked pretty ragged.   “I like it here,” he said.    Of course, it was not true.  Later he admitted that he was resigned to living in the woods and never expected to get out.   “I like it here” was just a way of coping.

That was before several families in our Church began to develop real relationships with the homeless they were feeding breakfast to on Sunday mornings.    By relationships, I mean friendships, and true bonds.   This extended beyond just providing food and supplies, beyond inviting them to Church, Sunday School and Wednesday night dinners.   It included true friendships and love for fellow man. 

When Al complained that “I smell,” and said he was uncomfortable in church looking like a tramp, Scott and Pat took him to their home where he showered and put on newly cleaned clothes.   Scott then took him to his son’s hair salon where he was treated like royalty and given a full shampoo, shave and haircut to the astonishment of other customers.    How do you want your hair today, Sir?  Does that look ok, Sir?   

Al looked like and felt like a new man.  Transformed, ready at last to come out of the woods, ready to not be homeless any more.    Somehow he has managed to maintain his neat appearnce despite continuous living in the deep woods.   The homeless ministry team followed through and helped Al get his VA papers.  He said he did not even know he was elgible for help through the VA.   The ministry team managed to get him signed up for the new veteran’s transitional housing program at MUST.   The papers, however, were a long time coming.  Far too long.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two pictures of Steve.

 

 

 

Steve turns out to be an energetic worker, jack of all trades, experienced in all sorts of construction work.  I know.  He has worked for several families in our church and for me.  

I found that he is an excellent carpenter and never slows down.   When he runs out of a job, he picks up a broom or rake, or starts the next phase.   He is also very dependable and has an excellent outlook on life.   I found out that he is experienced in renovation of old houses and had once owned a house just two blocks from the one my wife grew up in.  He gave it up to his wife and began a long downward spiral from there to homelessness. 

When we first met Steve, he lived in a tarp in a pine thicket between two buildings.  After the police raids in the area and Dominic froze to death, he applied to MUST Ministries for entry into their resident’s progam and was eventually accepted.   He said he “did not want to end up like Dominic”.   Steve is the one in the video talking about Dominic that I posted a few weeks ago.    He and Al have attended Sunday School, Church services and Wednesday night dinners almost every week.  That is a bible he is carrying in the left picture above.

Members of our church sponsored Steve and Al to a family church retreat over a recent weekend.  Al said it was the “most fun I’ve had since I was a child”.  Steve said it was a “wonderful experience”.

 Well, the good news came from both of them today.  Al has been accepted into a veteran’s transitional housing program and Steve into a supportive housing program.  Both through MUST Ministries.    Both start April 1.    Our homeless ministry team is planning to have a dinner for them in celebration.  It will be quite a celebration and with many thanks to God for His Grace.

It has turned out to be a great day.  God is good!  

 

 

 

 

Homeless Menders

Menders is mentioned in the title, what is Menders?

Menders is a new mission within the homeless service community that intends to make a real difference for the homeless by providing crisis intervention, jobs, training, homes, and support in a unique way that goes far beyond just shelter and food.   Menders is a non-denominational service organization working closely with local religious ministries and secular agencies for support and guidance.  Menders has grown out of Macland Presbyterian Church (MPC) of Powder Springs Georgia, but believes that all faiths recognize a duty to help the homeless and poor and therefore welcomes all who desire to help. 

To be certain you understand, as an elder at MPC and one of the founding families, I’m coming at Menders from a Christian perspective and the MPC chapter will be supportave of the Christian faith, but open to all who wish to help.   I fully realize that Christians do not have a patent on caring, nor on giving, nor on compassion, nor on a commitment from our faith to serve the needy and the homeless.   So I’ve decided to keep Menders open to chapters from all faiths.   That means that if a synagogue or a mosque or any one of the many other denominations of the Christian faith, or a purely secular group comes along that wants to help, they will be fully welcomed.    The homeless and the needy need all the help they can get.  

What is the mission of Menders?

Menders’ mission is based on the belief that we are expected to feed and shelter the poor and homeless and so desire to do so in a way that resolves the problem, not just salve over it.   Menders belives that traditional shelter and food programs do not offer a way out of homelessness and often just perpetuate it. 

The mission therefore is to make a difference in reducing homelessness by practicing active homelessness prevention through crisis intervention and counseling within the spirit of a loving community and, for those already homeless, to actively develop a program to provide jobs and real homes for as many as possible through renovation of buildings and older homes for their exclusive use.  The primary goal is that no one is required to rough sleep or go hungry, the secondary goal is to remove the homeless from homelessness into a productive lifestyle in safe sturdy housing.

The elements of the Menders program include:

    •         Menders Rehab for the Homeless (the cornerstone project of Menders)   

    •         Active homeless prevention through crisis intervention (absolutely critical)

    •         Help Hotline (who do you call?)

    •         No Rough Sleeping (bridges are not bedrooms) 

    •         Spiritual Guidance (keeping commandments)

    •         Counseling (a must have)

    •         Food Depots and Diners (no one should ever go hungry)

    •         Shelters (will always be needed)

The role of Menders is explained for each of these below.  The reader must recognize that established Menders Partners necessarily perform many of these elements, as Menders does not wish to duplicate established organizations.   I’ve identified Menders Partners with (MP) meaning another agency will be enlisted to partner with Menders to perform the function.

√       Rehab for the Homeless Program (MENDERS). This is the cornerstone project of Menders.  Menders provides a program for the rehabilitation of houses and other buildings for the use of the homeless.   Homes that are in disrepair, or even on the verge of condemnation, are purchased or leased for the purpose of providing work and shelter for people recruited out of shelters and among the rough sleeping homeless. These houses are sometimes purchased through condemned property sales in conjunction with local governments, or purchased or leased from property owners that, for one reason or another, have failed to maintain the property.

Every city has houses that have fallen into disrepair to the extent that they are eyesores or even a danger in the community.   Some of these can be salvaged, but only with much labor and cost beyond the ability of the current owner.   Menders evaluates and acquires rights to select houses, then recruits labor from the homeless utilizing recommendations from shelters and pay them full wages, allows them to live in the houses (free, or for a token rent from their wages) while they work on them, in the hopes that many will take the opportunity to bootstrap themselves to a point where they can feel enabled to work their way back into the mainstream employed.  

Some homes are in such a state of disrepair that they cannot be safely lived in.  Menders  puts up homeless in liveable and safe homes only.  However, work crews from these liveable homes are utilized to bring up nearby condemned houses to a safe and sturdy condition with certificates of occupancy, and then Menders enlists other homeless to live there and bring the homes up to salable condition.

Menders uses volunteer Site Project Managers (SPM) and select Crew Leaders (CL) from the Menders pool of volunteers in charge of each project.  Eventually, some of the former homeless become crew leaders or even SPMs.  Menders solicits volunteers from the community through churches and other organizations to work alongside on these projects in a teaching, encouragement, and spiritual guidance mode in addition to helping in the mending of a house.   Many of these are trained SPM and CLs from Habitat for Humanity sponsor organizations.

There are many skilled tradesmen within the homeless community that can do carpentry, plumbing, and other repairs that will do the bulk of the work.  However, whatever a homeless person can contribute, whether it is just picking up around the neighborhood, or painting the fence is sufficient for selection, in the belief that training, counseling, and spiritual encouragement will prevail on them to grow into self-sufficiency.    Menders insists that everyone take better care of the grounds than any other property on the street so that the neighbors will be pleased that they are there.   Menders workers do not admit to being homeless and report that they work for Menders.  Each project is kept very low profile and closely monitored as there are often neighbors that will not want them there.

Menders provides the funding to buy or lease houses at nominal costs due to their deteriorated conditions, pay the live-in workers (no longer jobless and no longer homeless), plus find donations of materials, tools and special expertise, then bring the houses up to code and into marketable condition.  Menders will eventually sell or sublet the houses and use the proceeds to buy or lease more properties, maintaining a non-profit status at all times.   Those that can be placed in other jobs will receive aid for apartments (MP) of their own, and others moved into the next house to be rebuilt

Where we can’t buy a property, we approach rental property owners with “a proposal that they can’t refuse.”   Some absentee owners are faced with an overwhelming list of housing violations that are too numerous and too costly to fix, so the owner is on the verge of losing the property to condemnation.  Menders approach the owner with a proposal that Menders will renovate and maintain it, even possibly pay the back taxes, in return for a rent free lease for a fixed number of years, or with a provision for repayment based on an increased sales price or increase in appraisal value.  The number of years leased would be determined by the estimated cost of repair.

Menders work with housing code enforcement authorities to make emergency rehabilitation measures for safe habitation (including water, heat and power)  necessary to gain a certificate of occupancy (CO).  Until the CO is received, the Mender’s workers will live elsewhere.

Menders asks various crafts to volunteer for those tasks where the workers do not have the skills and certificates needed for specialized or dangerous work (such as gas plumbing, electrical, or roofing on steeply pitched roofs.

√       Active Homeless Prevention through Crisis intervention (MP).  Homeless prevention by crisis intervention is not only compassionate, but also crucial to reducing the numbers of homeless.   It can be the most economical way to achieve the overall goal.   If we can prevent any one new homeless situation from developing, we can likely keep individuals employed and entire families off of welfare and out of shelters.  

Menders believes that a single act of intervention that prevents an eviction and gives the family a chance to get over an illness, a temporary job loss situation, or other disaster that may have precipitated the situation, can prevent months of extreme hardship leading to possible deadly illness, family breakup, lost schooling, welfare, and numerous other problems and hardships that might have otherwise led to homelessness.

There are many families living on the edge of poverty where loss of a home or apartment, for lack of a single rent payment that can’t be caught up, can lead to an ever downward spiral that is totally unnecessary.   Menders recognizes that crisis intervention should be for real crisis situations, not long term care, and will support crisis intervention by promoting Help Hotlines: 

√       Help Hotline (MP).  Who do you call?  Many in crisis situations do not belong to a church and have no idea where they can get help.   In recognition of the need of a dedicated phone number in each area that anyone can call 24 hours a day, Menders will enlist agencies that already perform the function or have standby operators that will answer hot-line calls from people in crisis situations.   These operators will provide referral service to organizations in their community that can provide the type of intervention aid needed.   The operators will also provide referrals to area churches, synagogues, and charitable agencies.  They do not make decisions as to worthiness, nor do they provide counseling.   Every call gets referred (preferably transferred) somewhere.  In many areas of the United States, the referral agency will be a 211 operator.

Agencies working with Menders are encouraged to make additional referrals when other problems surface during handling a case.  No agency will be allowed to say “we can’t help you” without adding, “but we know who can!”

√       No rough sleeping.  Rough sleeping means living in tents, sleeping bags, lean-tos, abandoned buildings, cardboard boxes or under bridges.   Menders believes that well run shelters (MP) provide a more intense, structured, first step to recovery than possible by a work program alone and will refer prospects seeking work to the shelters when there is no available opening in a Menders sponsored house.  Menders will focus on renovation of homes for the homeless using homeless labor wherever possible, but use sheltered homeless only where those same homeless will have an existing or future place in that house once it receives a CO.

Menders attempts to empty those and other participating shelters as fast as possible, so as to free up space in the shelters for other homeless by employing and relocating sheltered people to homes under renovation.    However, there are homeless that adamantly resist shelters for one reason or another, and Menders will try to find a place for everyone even if it means bringing them into a Menders rebuilding project early.

√       Spiritual Guidance (MP).   Area religious organizations are encouraged to establish a sponsorship of at least one member of those passing through a Menders program.   The desire is to bring each person into a faith community.  However, it is not a requirement for a client homeless person or family to participate in a religious program in order to receive aid from Menders.

√       Counseling (MP). Menders believes that it does little good to provide food and shelter if the problems leading to the need are not addressed.  Many of the homeless are mentally ill.  Many others have personal and medical problems (alcohol, drugs, relationships, etc) that are the result of, or perhaps precipitated by, crisis situations that led to the homelessness, or its risk, in the first place.   Menders believes that counseling must be available to assist every homeless person, to at least rebuild self-esteem, and whenever possible, provide whatever guidance is needed, including spiritual guidance.  Menders uses existing agencies and encourages various other clinics to volunteer time and resources, but does not engage in counseling activities itself. 

 Homelessness often becomes a reality for those that cannot manage finances, relationships (particularly marriages), jobs (or lack thereof), health problems (both physical and mental health), or a myriad of other problems (such as gambling, sex, drugs or alcohol), which would overwhelm many of us if we had the same problems.  Menders will encourage agencies to sort out and handle problems that can be solved by counseling.   Many counseling agencies already exist in most communities, and Menders will help the homeless participate in their programs.  

√       Food Depots and Diners (MP).   There will always be a need for food for those that cannot afford it, or have health problems that make it difficult or impossible to obtain or prepare meals for themselves.   The supporters of Menders are directed to be compassionate and feed the needy.   Our hearts won’t allow people to starve.  Yet people do starve – all over the world.   We lose people to hunger even in our own community, a problem Menders hopes to help solve with the crisis intervention hot line to help people that don’t know where to turn for the next meal and through active homeless prevention measures. 

Food banks and kitchens are available in many areas already.  Menders enlists any food bank and kitchen that is willing to help, rather than attempt to set one up on our own.

√       Shelters (MP).   Most shelters also feed their clients.  Some shelters provide counseling, job placement, hot meals and other support.  Others provide only the basics or are seasonal.  Menders enlists all shelters for program participants, use them as a source of temporary placement, and encourages organizations to create or fund new shelters, but does not operate a shelter under its name.  

However, Menders believes that the homeless need to be moved out of shelters wherever possible into self-sufficiency.   Those shelters that provide counseling, job placement and ongoing support are to be encouraged and supported to the highest degree and would be the prime source of referrals for the Menders Rehab for the Homeless Program.

How are you able to help?

Donate.  You can donate through Paypal by clicking on the Menders icon below or in the sidebar.   You may also donate by writing a check to: 

Macland Presbyterian Church, Homeless program.  

Mail to:

Macland Presbyterian Church, 3615 Macland Road • Powder Springs, Ga • 30127-1336 

No proceeds from these donations go to MPC operating programs or any program other than for the homeless. 

Help the Homeless – Donate to Menders!

  Mender’s Logo  Click Here to make a Paypal Donation to Menders

Founded by Oldtimer.

Please note:  This is a start-up program.  We need your donations and support to begin this program.  

Meeting with Police Chief Fruitful

Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn and Zone Commander Marty Ferrell met with Oldtimer and with homeless advocate Jeff Straka, both of Macland Presbyterian Church,  today on neutral ground, the Atlanta Bread Company.

Left to right:  Commander Marty Ferrell, Chief of Police Dan Flynn,  Jeff Straka

(photo by Oldtimer, not shown)

The hour long meeting over coffee was very fruitful, with both sides coming away feeling quite good about the progress made in reducing the tension over the homeless situation.   The chief seemed very interested in addressing the homeless problems in a caring and proactive manner and not only listened to what we had to say, but offered suggestions of his own that did not involve harsh treatment of the homeless.

I offered the chief details of the shelter shortage for emergency shelter, tansitional and supportive housing and he was a bit taken aback as to how needful this area is for more homeless support.   I also gave him talleys from 211 call records that showed there were more than 2000 calls last year seeking shelter and transitional housing in our community.  Jeff gave him a book to read on homeless and he agreed to read it. 

He agreed that the recent homeless sweeps were the result of perhaps only 3 or 4 individuals that had been involved in serious criminal activity along with a more visible presence of the homeless in recent months.   All of that raised the level of complaints to the point that they felt they had to take action, but that the vast majority of the affected homeless were not involved in criminal activity, but just caught in the middle.  

He assured us that the police would not in the future make any general comments about the homeless that might cast them in a bad light, or lump them into the same category as those causing the problems.    He realizes the need for treatment for substance abuse and mental illness among the homeless, but does not have a solution for it.

We all agreed that criminals that may be hiding among the homeless should be rooted out and dealt with.  The Chief did say that they would concentrate on solving specific crimes involving the homeless and resolving specific complaints and not target those who merely happen to be homeless.  He assured us that his officers will show compassion to those that are not otherwise breaking the law.   He asked Jeff and I to call him or Commander Ferrell anytime we felt that the police had mistreated the homeless and they would investigate it.

The police will still have to respond to complaints, but did accept our suggestion that homeless advocates be alerted prior to any future sweeps and allow advocates to accompany them and collect tents and personal belongings and transport them to storage for the affected homeless to pick up rather than haul it to the dump.  I had suggested that we would look into how we might implement it.

He proposed a possible program similar to one in Savannah where he had been chief before coming to Marietta, one in which a person or team assigned by the police would be proactive in case work for the homeless that they encounter as the result of complaints (where no criminal activity is involved).  The caseworker would help locate needed services for the homeless rather than just run them off or put them in jail overnight.  He suggested that such a program would pursue stronger punishment for the ones that commit more serious offences and more leniency for those merely complained about that not involved in criminal activity.  He suggested that such a program might help many get off the streets.

Jeff proposed that our chuch establish an educational forum on the homeless for the community at large, including service providers, other churches, police and homeless within the community to address these problems.  The chief said they would attend as long as they were productive and not “shouting matches,” something we would not have allowed anyway.  Jeff is looking into bringing guests from other cities that have successfully addresed these problems.

I suggested a particular job program for the homeless that would require some cooperation from the police and the chief seemed very receptive but did not think they could help fund it.  More on that later if we can get it off the ground.

Jeff in his special shirt 

Oldtimer 

    

One Cold Night, Four Homeless Deaths in Atlanta

Four Homeless Deaths in one night! 

Atlanta’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported 4 homeless deaths, including 2 women and 2 men, all found Saturday morning in Atlanta, after a rain followed by temperatures  below freezing.

The newspaper reported that all were found in separate locations, but three were in the same police precinct.   One was found on a back porch of a townhouse, one on English Ave, one in a park and one under a bridge.

The paper quotes Anita Beaty, of the Task Force for the Homeless,   “I’ve never heard of that (4 dead in one night).  This is the worst tragedy for us. This is exactly what we’re working so hard to avoid.  People who live outside more than they live inside are more fragile physically.   It wears down their immune system.”

 “The most difficult to find are often the most fragile.  If they are sick or have been outside for a very long time, sometimes they are disoriented and don’t know what to do and where to go for help.  It’s a terribly sad day and a terrible comment on our society that people would live that way and be forced to die like that,”

It is this situation that the homeless in our county find themselves in.   It appears that the situation of our homeless has been even worse because, unlike Atlanta, there are no large shelter operations in Cobb County, what little shelter we have are full, and our local authorities seem to have confisticated and hauled off much of the winter gear these poor people had.   

Here are some statistics from the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office in the category of Homeless Deaths for 2006, the latest year reported (Fulton County includes Atlanta):

SECTION IX: Special Topics
Table 30: Deaths Among the Homeless
Certified (AJ) deaths among the homeless, manner and cause code by sex and race*, 2006 (n=32)

 

Notice that there were only 2 hypothermia-Exogenous exposure deaths in 2006, whereas we had 4 in just one day last week (subject to autopsy). 

Fulton County’s 32 homeless deaths in 2006 break down like this:

Accident:   13 deaths 41% of total (includes hypothermia)

Homicide:  2 deaths 6% of total

Natural:      12 deaths 37% of total  (Notice only 1 death due to drug/alcohol)

Suicide:         3 deaths 9% of total

Undetermined:  2 deaths 6% of total

2005 data showed 27 deaths, 2 from hypothermia, no homicides.

2004 data showed  52 deaths, 2 from hypothermia, 6 homicides.   2004 was definitely a bad year, with 24 listed as natural causes.

Incomplete Data:

Keep in mind these totals do not include deaths that occur under medical care, nor those that die in secluded corners, including dumpsters that are never found.  Various homeless shelters report much higher numbers.  In fact, I talked to the Cobb Medical Examiner’s office today and they do not keep any count for statistics on homeless deaths because there is no credible way to determine if someone that dies is homeless.   They have no count breakdown for homeless deaths in 2006.   Other than Dominic, they have no record of any others recently. 

According to a study by the National Health Care For the Homeless Council, titled “Premature Mortality in Homeless Populations: A Review of the Literature:”

The Atlanta studies engendered a fierce debate over the number of homeless deaths that occurred in Fulton County. While the ME found an average of 40 deaths per year, shelter information from Atlanta identified 188 deaths during 1991.

Are you warm tonight?   Stay warm.  Consider donating clothes, sweaters, blankets to the homeless.  They won’t be warm but maybe they won’t freeze to death.