Category Archives: Politics

Marietta Homeless Steve Talks About Mark

Steve is one of the recently evicted Homeless.  Below is a video of him talking about Mark, the mentally ill homeless man behind the mound of dirt (see the earlier account about Mark here). The conversation took place in a dinner meeting at Macland Presbyterian Church along with two other homeless evictees and members of the church.  The video was made Wednesday, January 30, 2008.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR7UnZ-LYX8] 

(video by Oldtimer – which explains the quality)

Here is a fairly close transcript in case you have some trouble hearing it.  Comments in (_) are mine:

Steve:

Mark…. you know… Mark.  Mark’s a good guy. Mark’s an educated guy.  Mark is a guy that is losing his mind.  His wife brought him over on 41 (nearby highway), dropped him off about four, four and a half years ago.  And he’s still sitting there, waiting on her and his kids to come back and pick him up.   Mark goes months and months and months without a shower.  Mark’s a good guy… you know? 

Well they made him move off that, his mound where he’d stayed four and a half months, you know right there by the fence by MUST.  Well, he had no where to go, so he moved down the walkway (by EMC?).  Today, he had a bed and bunch of blankets, pillows and everything, and he was just laying there just waiting on his wife to come back and get him.

Today the Marietta City and I don’t know who else it was, came and left him there and took all his blankets and left him there with no no warmth at all.  

So, if something doesn’t happen to him tonight, it might be the night of the next Dominic, you know.  He don’t have nothing except a coat and toboggan for cover.

A few minutes later Steve was saying he was going by there later that night and take him something (inaudible) to help him.  As I mentioned in the earlier post, other homeless people had been bringing Mark blankets, clothes and sack lunches and leaving them for him.   The compassion of the homeless is infinitely greater than that of the city that proudly touts “The All-American City” Award in 2006 from the National Civic League, and a “City of Excellence” in 2002 among others in vaious years.

Way to go!  Take the blankets right off a mentally ill man and just leave him there to possibly freeze to death!

The Notice

The trespass notice from the Marietta Police. 

Eviction Notice by MPD

Actually, Marietta has no local law regarding trespassing.   There is a state law (cited above) that reads as follows:

Trespass – O.C.G.A. 16-7-21

A person commits criminal trespass when he does one of five things: 1) intentionally causes damage to the property of another without his consent and the damage is less than $500.00; 2) knowingly and maliciously interferes with possession or use of the property of another; 3) enters upon the property of another person for any unlawful purpose; 4) enters upon the property of another person after receiving notice from the owner that such entry is forbidden; or 5) remains upon the property of another person after receiving notice from the owner to depart.

Punishment: Misdemeanor, with up to 12 months to serve.

I’m certain that the property owner has the right to forbid entry to anyone and to demand that they leave at any time if already there.  That is as it should be.  Owners putting up trespass signs is also normal practice.   Trash removal is not part of the trespass law.  Who can say who put the trash there over a period of years?

But I don’t understand.  The owner was never present and the first 3 don’t seem to apply.  I would like to see one of these owner/police agreements to see whether the police were made agents of the owner and also know if any of the owners ever saw the notice or understood how the agreement would be used.   I know that refusal to obey a direct order to a policeman will get you in a heap of trouble, but this?  

I think I remember once signing such an agreement many years ago because there were hoods selling CDs in my parking lot that would leave only after I asked them to, then would come back.  The police would not do anything in my absence without the agreement.  I would never in this world approve it being used to evict the homeless.

A Host of Friends by a Homeless Friend

A Poem by a Homeless Friend 

You have heard of me speaking of “Al”, one of our homeless friends, a veteran and a fine man, one of those evicted by Marietta on the eve of the coldest night of the year.  Held at gunpoint while receiving the eviction notice.  Despite the donated hat, he is an army veteran and loves his country.   Al turns out to be quite a poet.  He wrote one for our  missional team. 

Al Jorden, A homeless friend
Al Jordan, our homeless friend

“A HOST OF FRIENDS”

Friends are like an undying breed of loving hearts and caring needs
Hope of giving and sharing things
that only faith in each other brings
A friend is there night and day
to help chase your doubts away
So in my heart I know God is with me till the end.
So that is why I have a Host of Friends. — Al
 

City of Marietta Response

I had planned, indeed promised the Mayor, to post the city of Marietta’s response to the problems related to the homeless camps which I finally received yesterday.  I had also promised to critique it. 

However, I found so many holes in that response that in all decency, I’m asking the Mayor to withdraw it.  I’ll send him a private copy detailing the many errors and let him decide if he wants me to publish it.   I take no joy in such a critique.  It is after 3 AM here so he will have to give me a few hours rest before I send it.

The problems with the response are leagon and obvious to the casual observer. 

Oldtimer

Tables Turned – Homeless hater now Homeless

I find this story very interesting.  A woman with a beach-front duplex near the Ulehawa Beach park in Hawaii  was fed up with the homeless encampment across the road from her.   Marianne Beaman  had lived there for 9 years. 

“I was mad about it, believe me,” she said. “All this noise … and all the drugs and alcohol at either end of the park.”

Today, she resides in that encampment, in a tent less than 50 yards from the duplex she and her husband, Bert, rented for nine years.

“I lived right there in that very house,” she said, pointing to the beachfront property. “We made the hop from right there to right here. We’ve seen it from both sides.”

Now the city is closing the park for a week beginning February 10, 2008, so that it can evict the homeless permanently from the park.    Now Marianne is concerned about losing yet another place to live.  Yet another systematic homeless eviction process by another city with no place to send the displaced.   The Beamans had never been homeless before their landlord decided to convert their duplex unit into a vacation rental a while back. Six months ago, the couple and their two dogs began an anxious and reluctant occupation of Nani Kai Beach.

“At first we said, ‘We’re not going to move to the beach, we’re going to find a place to live,’ ” Marianne Beaman said. “My husband works. I’m on Social Security. But, we could not find a place we could afford. We don’t have any relatives here we can live with. So, finally we used our savings to build a shelter that would protect us from the weather.

“Now, we don’t have any idea where we’re supposed to go.”

Hopefully this will never happen to any of our Marietta city leaders nor to any of our readers.  But it does happen to tens of thousands of people nearly every month that never had a clue that it could happen to them.   It has happened to perhaps thousands of people in our small city, considering that the homed/homeless situation has considerable turnover in their makeup.  For every homeless person, there are likely 8 to 10 that have gone before them.  

The program director of MUST Ministries has said he thinks there are as many as 1000 homeless men and women unsheltered in Cobb County Georgia at this very moment. 

The last homeless count I’m aware of found only 330 unsheltered in January 2006.  The truth may lie somewhere between as it a simple fact that there is no way a small group of housed volunteers can find a homeless man in the woods if he is not interested in being found.  And none of them are.   We know of about 150 that are fed breakfast on Sunday mornings in one small area of Marietta.   This is an area that is sparsely populated by the homeless because the camping areas are almost non existent compared to south of the city and in the county.

MUST and their free lunch program is a draw to be sure, but the fact is, only a very few of the city’s homeless live near there for lack of cover.  It is an industrial and business area with crisscrossing roads and very few areas with trees and shrubs to hide campsites. 

Someone once said  that we all, each and every one of us are at most only two tragedies from homelessness.   It could be a family illness coupled with a job loss or any number of similar situations, including fire, earthquake, storm, abandonment, death of loved one, mental illness, service in war, or simply a landlord deciding to use his property in a different manner as the Beamans found out.   Also we all know that foreclosure is forcing hundreds of thousands out of their homes.   Couple that with another unfortunate event and many of these will be homeless.  Unexpectedly and unwillingly homeless through no fault of their own.  

Combinations of these unexpected events can push almost anyone into homelessness at any time.   Not drugs, not alcohol, not laziness, not gambling, not any of those things.  Think about it.  Many of the homeless in the woods near your neighborhood are just plain people like yourself that have hit a couple of speed bumps in their life too many. 

Repeat after me:  “There but for the Grace of God, go I”.  Say it 3 times.

But then, what does Marietta Care?   If you have read any of the 6 or 7 previous posts, the answer is that the City That Doesn’t Care cares nothing about the homeless!  They have sent the Storm Troupers to roust them out and dump their life support systems into the garbage trucks. 

In the dead of winter.  On the eave of the two coldest nights of the year.  Even with snow on the ground.  Without their blankets, without their tents, without their backpacks, even some without their shoes.   Yes, even the mentally ill who have no idea what is happening have been run over.    Jack-Legged Storm Troupers?  Maybe not quite that bad, but the homeless say it was not too far from it.  Heartless, certain.   Some of our police did not like the action taken, but each and every one knows they must do their duty.   When the Mayor says go, when the Council says clean them out… no choice.  None indeed.  Even our veterans, our homeless heroes.  Out.  Out. Out!  You left some trash.  You made somebody’s employee nervous when she saw you standing under a bridge the other day.  Out!  

This is the same shamefull city counsil that refused the VFW the right to give out flags alongside their float on Veteran’s day while the Mayor rode up front in grand style!  Now our homeless veteran friends clearly understand how Marietta supports our troups.  Particularly those in need.  Al, Perry OUT!  Take your flags with you!

So says Marietta, The City That Doesn’t Care!

Oldtimer

Our fight for the homeless, some stories

This is a long post, and  in it I will tell some interesting stories about the homeless we’ve met and love as friends.  But I need to say something up front about our city leaders.  In my last post I listed the names and email addresses of City officials.  The intent was not to harass these individuals, but to express only our outrage at the actions of a City That Doesn’t Care, or to express support if that is your desire, over the death of Dominic.

All of these City Council men and women, the City Manager, and the Mayor are good and honorable people and should be treated with dignity for the office they hold and as caring people.  Keep in mind that Mayor Dunaway has no voting power except in a tie, even though he wields enormous power in other ways within the city, as any mayor does.

Our fight is with the collective body that  makes up the whole, the Council and leadership of a city that would not listen to the cries that warned them that great harm and deaths would occur if they sent these people away from their homes in the dead of winter.  Some of our homeless did die, frozen to death.  The city leaders read our request beforehand and the Mayor phoned me that they would go forward with their evictions even though snow and freezing temperatures was forcast.  Representatives of the city attended a meeting at a local shelter and said the same thing.  And Dominic is dead, and it appears there are others.

So express outrage yes, but call them names, no, threats, no.   Express your own feelings either way on the subject, but stay calm.   It is the city itself to blame, not the individuals who might have raised a voice but was voted down or failed to raise a voice when it would have meant something, perhaps not realizing the impact on the lives of hundreds of people, perhaps thinking the warning of possible harm or death was an overstatement when it was not.      

Having said that, let me give you a few little stories on some of these men and women that we have learned how to be friends with.  Now here is a disclaimer: I am a member of this church we call Macland Presbyterian, an elder, now on  the session and a 3 year member of the Mission team.   But I don’t have any first hand, hands-on experience with the particular homeless we are talking about other than meeting them as they came to our church and sitting down to talk with them.  Whenever I say “we” I mean our team that has been working with them.

Missional team

Several families doing missional outreach have been doing all the cooking, serving, bible study and outreach for our church.  They have paid for food out of their own pockets, taken winter clothing and other things for the homeless, brought them back to church and taken them to restaurants, had coffee and broken bread with them, brought them to Church in their own cars, stored their belongings when displaced, done bible study with them.   I’ve only supplied a little support here and there.  They have been doing the work.  I’m relating what they have told me about our friends.

Having said that too, let me tell you something about what I know from Pat and Scott and Jeff, and Jason about their encounters with the friends they have been serving.  I just want you to know that this is not first hand knowledge, but it has struck my heart and I will be much more closely involved from now on.  I know some of these names are not the real names.  But the stories are real, the men are real, the hardships and problems they illustrate are real.

Perry and his gold coin offering

One of these men, a homeless veteran is Perry.  Perry has been described by Pat as “having an entourage of people swirling around him in his head always talking to him.”   Perry came to our church among the first two to accept our invitation to visit.  Pat and Scott picked him up.  During one sermon our Pastor  was talking about the woman who gave all she had, a penny, and what a wonderful thing that was. 

Perry got up in the middle of the sermon and started for the pulpit.  Scott caught up with him and asked what his intentions were.  “I’m going to make an offering”.  “But wait, there is a time for that later”, said Scott.  “But I want to give now!”  So Perry took his Chucky Cheese gold token to the alter and placed it on the corner of the choir railing, and returned to his seat just beaming!  Grinning from ear to ear.  Gave all he had, real gold to him.

I don’t know what happened to Perry when the evictions came.   I think that he had dissappeared.  We know of one death, Dominic, and we know that there is likely more – I learned today that the medical examiner sent a homeless person to a funeral home near our church who was apparently found in the same lot we were serving, but Dominic had been found somewhere else.

Mark and his mound of dirt, compassion among the homeless 

There is another victim that we have recently identified as Mark.   Mark was first found by our little missional team some weeks ago.   Mark was laying behind a large mound of dirt, flat on the ground with piles of donated clothing, blankets, tarps and other stuff on each side of him.  Much of it donated by other homeless in the camps.  

Mark clearly wanted to die but somehow was not successful.  He was on the ground with his thin shirt unbuttoned, no jacket, no shoes, no covering and was unresponsive.  Our group called 911 and an emergency van showed up, prodded his foot, asked him a couple of questions, determined he was alive and that he did not want to go with them.  The crew left with these words:  “We can’t make someone go that doesn’t want to go.” 

Other homeless were bringing Mark sack lunches and most of the time the lunches were just left there uneaten the next day.  He would take neigther food nor drink from us.   He was never seen to move from that spot by any of our team over a period of weeks, and he never changed clothes.   We have since learned that Mark survived the cold, but this past week, our homeless friend Steve told us that the police and others came back Wednesday of last week and took his bedding, blankes and other things.   See my video where Steve talks about Mark, how he became homeless and why he was staying right where he was.    He was not aware he was being subjected to eviction.  He would not have been responsive to the police or anyone that approached him.  He was unable.  (Updated on February 2, 2008 to insert new information).

The aloof man and his broken trust

There is another I’ll call “Aloof” who showed up when they first started feeding breakfast.  We noticed a man standing like a statue with his back to the breakfast line about a block away.   Although invited, he did not move while we were there.  The following week, he had turned around and was facing the other men and women enjoying a breakfast feast, but still did not approach, still a block away.    (Since MUST feeds a lunch to the unsheltered homeless 5 days a week, our team chose to go on Sunday mornings to fill in).

The   third week he moved half way to the chow line.  The fourth, half way again, always standing like a post during the entire time our team was on site.  The fifth he had moved up to where he was just outside the line but could see the food clearly. 

Finally he began joining the line.  We had gained his trust.   Then the city came the next week and destroyed the little life support that he had.  His hidden camp taken away and all trust dragged to the dump in a garbage truck with his belongings.

Some of the others 

Then there are Steve and Don who lived under a nearby bridge.  And a different Al than ours that had a girlfriend.   And “our” Al who is indeed a veteran who has been working almost from the beginning to get his life back in order to get off the streets.

What I’m trying to say is that although our Al and Steve and Dave/Don have been mentioned in earlier posts a number of times, this story is not just about them, nor is it just about veterans, nor is it any way about us! 

What this all about 

It is about a city leadership that never took the time to learn that these are real, actual human beings in their care who have issues to be sure, but most are honest, decent citizens that have fallen on the hard times that, but for the grace of God, go I.  It is about a city that paints all homeless men in one brush.  If one did a crime, then paint them all guilty.  They are faceless, nameless, scum to be run out of the city.  They are trash to be swept away.

It is about a City That Doesn’t Care that decided that, with the homeless count coming up that they just did not want the world to know that they did not have a place to put them.  The goal was to run them out of town to reduce the numbers, achieve a goal of homeless reduction.  The goal was to let the secretary that saw what looked like a homeless man down the block know that the city was protecting her.   To let the business man that had a female worker nervous because she saw a homeless man standing under a bridge on the way to her office know that she would not have to look the other way any more – he would be gone.   To let the voters know the city was removing all the homeless because 1 or 2 were thought to be part of a crime wave in another part of the city.  To let the voters know that all laws will be strictly enforced – unless it was convenient to look the other way.  But for homeless, strictly enforced.

It is about a city that chose to evict the homeless from the only home they have had for years on the eave of the two coldest nights of the year – driven out in fear, leaving even their glasses, shoes, sleeping bags and tents behind to be thrown into garbage trucks by a City That Doesn’t Care.   A city that supplies no support services other than law enforcement.  A city that relies on the county morgue to front the $400 to pay for the burial of victims of their lack of concern for the welfare of another human being.

It is about human dignity when down and out.  About trust when trust is vital but not allowed.  About compassion, love and hope in a world that seems to have none. 

It is about our Lord who told us to serve our neighbor, who said in the parable of the sheep and goats:

Matthew 25:44-46   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’   45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

What did Paul say about the Apostles? 

1 Corinthians 4:11  To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.

I wonder how many angels were present among the homeless to test us?  Who is marked as a sheep and whom a goat?  Who among us will our Lord not know?

 Oldtimer

Meet the Mayor and Council of the City That Doesn’t Care

Mayor and Council of Marietta Georgia 

City That Doesn’t Care

Mayor Dunaway is the one in the red tie.  He is one of the good ol’ boys of the community.

Left to Right in top picture with email addresses at popular request:

Holly Marie Walquist – Ward 3  hwalquist@mariettaga.gov

Irvan Alan Pearlberg – Ward 4  ipearlberg@mariettaga.gov

Rev. Anthony Coleman – Ward 5 acoleman@mariettaga.gov

Mayor Bill Dunaway  BDunaway@mariettaga.gov

Griffin Chalfant – Ward 2 gchalfant@mariettaga.gov

Annette Lewis – Ward 1 alewis@mariettaga.gov

Jim King – Ward 6 jimking@mariettaga.gov

Philip M. Goldstein-Ward 7 pgoldstein@mariettaga.gov

Ward 1 includes the site featured in the AJC article today “Marietta police clear out homeless” written by Yolanda Rodriguez  There you can find a gallery of pictures.

Ward 5 includes the site featured in most of my articles. It includes the area our homeless veteran friend Al and the recently deceased Dominic lived.

Oldtimer

Evicted Marietta Homeless man froze to death

A homeless man given eviction notices by a heartless City of Marietta has frozen to death in the sub freezing weather we had this week.   Dominic was one of our many homeless friends.   Sadly Now dead. 

The city has taken the trouble to cut up the tents and pile sleeping bags and all the lifelong remaining possessions in garbage trucks to be hauled away.   There is video and as soon as I find the right software, I’ll post it.   The local channel 2 WSB ran shots showing a few of the homeless camps with police cutting up a tent full of belongings.

The Mayor Dunaway of the City That Doesn’t Care (aka Marietta, Georgia) has achieved a reduction in the homeless count the hard way.   Poor Dominic.  The Mayor and Council sentenced him to death without cause.  The MPD were the executioners.

Dominic had holed up behind a liquor store and died fleeing the City With No Heart. 

Shame on Marietta.  They were warned that this would happen and refused to delay until better weather came along.  Unfortunately this is likely only the first of many.

Shame Marietta!

Rest in Peace Dominic

may God give you peace

 

Clinic Wins Legal Victories for the Homeless

Clinic Wins Legal Victories for the Homeless

Oldtimer’s comment.   It appears to me the City of Marietta is on shakey ground. St. Louis was fined $80,000 for merely forcing the homeless off the streets during holiday celebrations and other times without probable cause.   I know that in addition to the city’s forceful eviction of an entire population from the city that is going on today in The City That Doesn’t Care, they also did a systematic sweep around the city before and during the Christmas season so that tourists and merry makers could use the square without encountering the homeless.

You can find the rest of this story here for the inital story in 2004 when the lawsuit was filed  and here for the present story announcing the win.

Update: Federal Lawsuit Settlement Reached – On October 12, 2005, the School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic settled a federal lawsuit it brought on behalf of homeless men and women in St. Louis. Continue reading

City routinely breaks own laws, but no exceptions for homeless

The City That Doesn’t Care (aka Marietta, Georgia) routinely breaks or does not enforce many of its own laws.  Laws that have often been highly publicized but still selectively enforced, if enforced at all.   Homelessness is not one of them.  That crime is enforced.  

I grew up in this city.  I’ve lived here since 1945.  I’ve always loved it here.  Presently I live in the county outside, but own property within the city.   My wife graduated with the Mayor, one of the councilmen once worked for me at Lockheed, I’ve known others for decades.  My children and grandchildren went to school with some of theirs. 

I respect them all, but Marietta, we have a problem.  This was once a city that cared, it was once a city of respect, it was once a “gem” city.  Now it is a disgrace on many fronts.   Particularly with regards to the homeless.  Also with regards to enforcing the laws on themselves.  I know the city has won many awards.  I also know what the city did not tell the award committees.  Will you tell them about the death of Dominic? Continue reading

When Laws Should not be Enforced

Oldtimer’s comment, added on the 25th:  I warned the Mayor on the 21st, he called me on the 22d, I posted this article on the 23d,  and today I found out that Dominic, a homeless friend was found frozen to death huddled behind a local business on the 22d.  It means the Mayor likely already knew about the death when he said NO! to the moritorium and delay until warmer weather.  Now read the whole story and my warnings.  I predict we will find homeless people dead in various hiding places until spring.  Our Mayor and his Council are directly responsible for not heeding the numerous warnings from the community!  They cut up their tents, put their sleeping bags and clothing in garbage trucks and sent them into 19 degree weather to die.  The remainder is from Jan 23, 2008:

The Mayor of the City That Doesn’t Care (aka Marietta, Georgia) called me yesterday.  Make no mistake our Mayor does care and cares deeply!  We had a long and good discussion and he gave me full permission to report what he has said and he said all the right things.   He is sympathetic to the problem and supportive of our mission to help the homeless, including those that are being evicted from the meager existence they call home, whether cardboard box, blue tarp, or simply a sleeping bag under a bush.

He expressed appreciation for what we and and our mission team are doing and called it “good ministry”.  

The gist of it all, however, is that the unhoused homeless people have to be out by Wednesday (today) and there will be no exceptions and no delays due to the weather.  

He assured me that the city does not have any access to helicopters and no money to rent one if we did.  That a helicopter was going to be used to hunt down the homeless was just a rumor that developed among the homeless after a meeting of a police commander with the nearby MUST ministries.  MUST has been hosting some 75 residents and feeding the unhoused a meal each weekday.   (The homeless were not invited to the meeting, but thought they were.)  The city also met with the “Mad Housers” which is a group of saints that build simple structures for the homeless.  The city is graciously allowing the Mad Housers to leave the structures in place until they have time to move them. 

Essentially the Mayor said that all homeless camping in Marietta will be sent packing and if they don’t go they will be immediately arrested.  

It was my understanding that all homeless camped on private property that have the permission of the property owner can stay, but the health department will be called to determine if there are suitable sanitary facilities, and whether the campsite is safely habitable.  If not, they will be ordered out and arrested if they refuse the order.  

He suggested that some private property owners might allow them to camp, but the health department will be required to check out the property.   The Mayor seems sympathetic but admitted he has had to call the police in the past about his own property (warehouse nearby) due to homeless camping behind it resulting in concern and complaints from female staff entering and leaving the building. 

How it started:   The Mayor said that the problem started with a series of burglaries that were traced to a homeless person.  They had his picture and went to all the camps to find him, but he had absconded, already left town for parts unknown. 

However the camps on right of ways and on public and private property which they found in the heat of the hunt are illegal and the City can’t NOT enforce the law, and now that the police know where they are, they must be removed, period, no matter the consequences.  End of story.

OK, herein lies a problem for my sensibilities. 

If a law that must be enforced  will bring about, or is likely to bring about. or may bring about serious harm or death of an individual, should that law not be swiftly amended or not enforced when those situations arise? Continue reading

Marietta Georgia – No compassion for homeless – NONE

The City of Marietta is evicting homeless from within our city limits.  Al, our homeless veteran friend that our church is trying its best to help reports that he and his friends, which are mostly homeless veterans, have been given notice to move “south”, meaning out of Marietta and toward Atlanta.

We have been helping Al and some of his friends in numerous ways.  Pat (see an earlier story on Pat here and her husband Scott and a few others in our church have been serving breakfast Sunday Mornings and later bringing some to our church for bible study and services, often treating them to lunch afterward.  Scott put Al in a hotel during the cold snap and the group has been taking supplies and clothing to them. 

Al has been faithful in attending, and as a result has taken to the idea that he can get out of this.  He no longer looks homeless, is neat, trimmed and dressed in his best clothes.  However, despite the information, forms, trips to the VA, Al still has not received his papers or his VA card.  He is still homeless.  He has said he has now committed to getting off the streets but has no place to go.

Above is one of the homeless camps being evicted by the City of Marietta.  This is an old photo taken from the air, but it also the site of Als current camp.   Believe it or not, this was found by use of the Hit and Visitor Map to the right of this blog.  It has zoom and several modes, including hybrid (satellite and road labeling), airborne, and “bird’s eye”.  I used the hybrid mode in zoom to find the general area, then switched to bird’s eye and quickly found his camp and 2 other camps.   Try it in your area (bird’s eye is not available in all areas, mostly metropolitan areas around large cities like Atlanta).  Look for blue tarps in mostly wooded areas.  Let me know if you find any. 

Now comes the City of Marietta.  They have systematically attacked the homeless camps within their city and have now worked their way to Als camp.  They did give them a little prior notice.  They were told that they are trespassing (wooded right of way of city) have to be packed up and moved out by Monday.  

Guess What?  Its snowing in Georgia.  The ground is covered.  A few will accept winter shelter but the beds are full.   They are totally dependent on MUST ministries a few blocks from their camp for food which MUST serves once a day on weekdays.   Nothing on weekends.

Moving means a miles long treck instead of a block or so walk.   The plan is obvious, make the homeless either seek shelter or get out.  Unfortunatly there are not enough beds to go around.  Not nearly enough.  So the plan is equally obvious – get out of our city

The city should provide facilities for these homeless before making them move.  They don’t.  They depend on MUST Ministries and a few other shelters that they have forced into industrial zones and have for the most part squelched expansion of facilities.  

Our city has decided to take the cheaper route – run them out of our city before they cost us money!  It also has another up side for the city:  Next year the homeless count will show another “remarkable” drop and no one will have to cook the books by redefining the homeless or unfinding any.  

Al works when he can find a job.  He doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs, has no noticeable mental problems.  He is a true walking hero with no place to go and our VA is not doing its duty.  Nor the VFW, nor our heartless City of Marietta.   He has fallen through the cracks and it makes me want to cry.

MUST Ministries, a block away from Al, serves Al a noon meal every week day. and  recently announced receiving grant money to set up transitional housing for veterans.   I’m sure they are hearing of the problem, but its been most of a week now since I left a message there for the program manager and sent a email inquiring about the program.  No response to the email and no returned call, and I know the guy, so he must be “out of pocket”.    MUST does do a wonderful job of helping feed and house the homeless and works tirelessly to serve them. 

Another mission, New Hope Missions reports that they are being swamped with homeless in the same desperate condition as Al.  New Hope serves about 125 breakfast and conducts services on Sunday and about half come from the area being evicted.  Some of them have to be out Wednesday.  Al has to be out Monday.

This is how not to minister to the homeless 

City of Marietta GA:  Shame!

Oldtimer

The ‘equal opportunity war’ bring equal opportunity trauma

Much of the information below was gleaned from a well written USA Today story entitled Mental toll of war hitting female servicemembers.   Early in the story the writer tells about Master Sgt. Cindy Rathbun who began losing hair in clumps within 3 weeks of arriving in Iraq.   She is now enrolled in the first group of a new Women’s Trauma Recovery Program which is a 60 to 90 day program for female warriors. 

Cindy is suffering from the stress and trauma of war, but also from sexual trauma from prior to her deployment by a military superior.

Some tidbits of information directly from the article cited:

More than 182,000 women have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the surrounding region — about 11% of U.S. troops deployed, the Pentagon says.

That dwarfs the 7,500 who served mostly as nurses in Vietnam and the nearly 41,000 women deployed during the brief Gulf War.

Although some of those women suffered PTSD, few saw actual fighting or were subjected to the stress of multiple deployments.

In Iraq, “there are no lines, so anybody that deploys is in a war zone,” Rathbun says. “Females are combat veterans as well as guys.”

 To be sure, women are barred from ground jobs, technically assigned to support roles, but guess what?   Those support roles include guarding checkpoints, driving supply convoys and searching women in neighborhood patrols.   Dangerous duty just the same. 

Attacks come from IED’s, mortars, and suicide attacks on checkpoints as well as from enemy fighters.   The stress is there.  The fear is there.  The fatigue is there, the unknown is there, the worry about the home folks is there.  Death and destruction are evident every day.   More than 100 of our female warriors have died and almost 600 wounded.

 More from the article cited:

The ranks of psychologically wounded from this war are far larger. In 2006, nearly 3,800 women diagnosed with PTSD were treated by the VA. They accounted for 14% of a total 27,000 recent veterans treated for PTSD last year.

In June, the Defense Department’s Mental Health Task Force reported that the number of women suffering from combat trauma might be higher than reported. It cited “a potential barrier” for women needing mental-health treatment as “their need to show the emotional strength expected of military members.”

The report also said that after leaving the military, “many women no longer see themselves as veterans” and might not associate psychological symptoms with their time in the war zone.

Did you notice that?  Women represent 11% of the deployed but have 14% of the cases, even though the DoD thinks they are under reported.  Battle lines or not, they are being affected at a much higher rate than men, some possibly due to MST, Military Sexual Trauma that was being diagnosed and treated as PTSD.

Here is a link to Oldtimer’s PTSD Videos which includes a video on MST.

It is about time that this problem is being addressed early in the process for our returning heroes.   Our warriors are the best and deserve the best, black, white, male and female.    

Wear the uniform, deserve the best

Our programs should never be just about the men. 

It should be about our heroes.

Oldtimer

VA overrates its success stories

VA overrates its success stories

This problem was first brought to light by an article written by Chris Adams that appeared in the Ledger Enquirer in an article printed May 11, 2007.  

The McClatchy Newspapers study shows that the VA has “habitually exaggerated” its success stories in ways that would assure Congress that the agency is doing a good job of caring for our soldier heroes.   The indented areas below are details taken from the article linked above.  Large portions of the original article are omitted and others paraphrased.  You should take the time to read the original article in its entirety to get all the details.  

The agency has touted how quickly veterans get in for appointments, but its own inspector general found that scheduling records have been manipulated repeatedly.

For example, on Oct. 2, 2003, a veteran was referred to an ophthalmology clinic. On May 3, 2004, a scheduler created an appointment, saying the “desired date” was June 21. The appointment was scheduled for June 23, the inspector general said.

Actual waiting time: 264 days. Reported waiting time: two days. Some schedulers even kept “informal waiting lists” to consult when they were ready to make formal appointments.

The VA boasted that its customer service ratings are 10 points higher than those of private-sector hospitals, but the survey it cited shows a far smaller gap.

The article details how that the gap narrows to 3 points (still favorable but not nearly 10 points higher) when adjusted to the same conditions.  

Regarding the key issue of PTSD treatment, the VA said this about the PTSD treatment teams: “There are over 200 of them,” Dr. Michael Kussman told a congressional subcommittee. He indicated that they were in all of the agency’s roughly 155 hospitals.

When McClatchy asked for more detail, the VA said that about 40 hospitals didn’t have the specialized units known as “PTSD clinical teams.” Committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate and experts within the VA have encouraged the agency to put those teams into every hospital.  

Dr. Jonathan Perlin, then the top VA health official, said in a radio interview that RAND “compared VA care to 12 other health-care organizations, some of the best in the country,” and found VA superior. Studies such as RAND’s showed the agency’s care to be “the best that you can get in the country,” he said.

Kussman wrote in a statement to McClatchy earlier this year that RAND “recently” reported that veterans “receive better health care than any other patients in America.”

The VA’s public affairs department wrote in a magazine that the study “was conducted by the RAND Corporation, an independent think tank,” as well as researchers from two universities.

Those are pretty lofty statements, but as it turns out, the RAND study was neither fully independent nor all that recent. A VA grant helped pay for it. Two of its main authors had received VA career-development awards, and four of its nine listed authors were affiliated with the agency, according to the study’s documentation.

It was published in 2004 but used data from 1997 to 1999, when the system treated far fewer patients than it does now.  In additon, the “12 other health care organization” were not organizations at all but 12 health care regions under many mixed organizational entities.

Once again, we see some deliberate misleading statements from the VA, often directly to Congress.  Yet they seem to get away with it.  

Oldtimer

Barack Obama: Veterans/Poverty Headlines and Video

Barack and Veterans Issues

Ok, I’m not trying to influence any votes here, nor run off any readers.  It’s just that I’m impressed with what I’ve heard said by Senator Obama regarding homelessness and veterans and what the press and veterans advocates have said.  I don’t know if you have seen them.   He does have the advantage of being a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committe.   I acknowledge that there are other important issues than veterans and homelessness to consider in a campaign, but that is what we are about here, so that is my focus.

I do have an couple of links to the Clinton side.  There is an equal-time segment at the bottom that will give you a look see between the top two Democratic candidates on veterans issues.   I may come back with more of this and feature a Republican or two later.  We will see how this plays out with my readers first.  Are you interested in politics?

BarackObamadotcom  (Video) Dinner with Barack Obama:  Four grassroots donors talk to Barack Obama about veterans and poverty during dinner.

I’ve mentioned Obama and Veterans in a previous post where he discusses his plan to improve veterans care and help get the homeless veterans off the streets as reported by a wire service.

Here are a few more headlines and links on this subject:

SEN. OBAMA: VETERANS ADMINISTRATION DENIED HEALTH CARE SERVICES TO NEARLY 9,000 ILLINOIS VETERANS IN 2005

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) today announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied health care to 8,944 Illinois veterans last year as part of a Bush Administration cost-cutting policy begun in 2003. Nationally, more than 260,000 veterans were denied access to VA hospitals, clinics and medications in Fiscal
Year 2005

Clinton v. Obama, Veterans Version

The tit-for-tat between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama has expanded to new territory:   veterans benefits.

This week, the “Commission on Care of America’s Wounded Warriors” issued recommendations for improving treatment for veterans who return injured from the front. Clinton and Obama responded the way members of Congress often do to government reports – with legislative language.  

(…)  explains different positions

Obama, McCaskill sponsor bill on care for veterans

Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are sponsoring legislation to improve the lives of recovering veterans at Walter Reed, while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a cosponsor of the Obama-McCaskill legislation, said that he would explore ways to direct new funds to Walter Reed and make immediate improvements to its veteran housing.

Barack Obama Honors Sacrifice of America’s Veterans

Barack Obama has a record of helping the heroes who defend our nation today and the veterans who fought in years past. As a grandson of a World War II veteran who went to college on the G.I. Bill and a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Obama has successfully reached out to Republicans and Democrats to pass laws to combat homelessness among veterans, improve care for troops recovering from injuries, ease the transition of new veterans into society, and make the disability benefits process more equitable.

Veterans Issues  From Obama’s website

Homeless Veterans

Every year, 400,000 veterans across the country, including an estimated 38,000 in Chicago, spend some time living on the streets. Senator Obama has been a leader in fighting homelessness among veterans. He authored the Sheltering All Veterans Everywhere Act (SAVE Act) to strengthen and expand federal homeless veteran programs that serve over 100,000 homeless veterans annually. During the debate on the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, Senator Obama passed an amendment to increase funding for homeless veterans programs by $40 million. These funds would benefit programs that provide food, clothing, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and employment and housing assistance to homeless veterans.

Working with Senators Akaka and Craig, Senator Obama passed legislation in December 2006 to provide comprehensive services and affordable housing options to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development and nonprofit organizations. This legislation was signed into law and is modeled on parts of the SAVE Act and the Homes for Heroes Act, a measure that Senator Obama had previously authored.

Benefits Disparities

The Bush Administration’s approach to handling veterans’ health care ignores the reality of increasing demands on the VA, and the additional burden placed on veterans. The Administration has established a means test for VA health care eligibility, and it has banned hundreds of thousands of veterans – some who make as little as $30,000 a year – from enrolling in the system. These changes affect both older and younger veterans, and Senator Obama has opposed them, fighting instead for greater funding for veterans’ health care.

Greater Funding for Veterans Health Care

In January 2007, Senator Obama reintroduced the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act to improve the VA’s planning process to avoid budget shortfalls in the future. The bill requires the VA and the Department of Defense to work together and share data so that we know precisely how many troops will be returning home and entering the VA system.

Food for Recovering Soldiers

Senator Obama introduced an amendment that became law providing food services to wounded veterans receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services at military hospitals. Previously, service members receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services in a medical hospital for more than 90 days were required to pay for their meals.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
 

Senator Obama fought a VA proposal that would have required a reexamination of all Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) cases in which full benefits were granted. He and Senator Durbin passed an amendment that became law preventing the VA from conducting a review of cases, without first providing Congress with a complete report regarding the implementation of such review. In November 2005, the VA announced that it was abandoning its planned review.

Senator Obama passed an amendment to ensure that all service members returning from Iraq are properly screened for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBI is being called the signature injury of the Iraq war. The blast from improvised explosive devices can jar the brain, causing bruising or permanent damage. Concussions can have huge health effects including slowed thinking, headaches, memory loss, sleep disturbance, attention and concentration deficits, and irritability.

Easing the Transition to the VA

Senator Obama passed an amendment that became law requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to report to Congress on the delayed development of an electronic medical records system compatible with the VA’s electronic medical records system. DOD’s delay in developing such a system has created obstacles for service members transitioning into the VA health care system.

Part of the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act, which Senator Obama reintroduced in January 2007, would help veterans transition from the DOD health system to the VA system by extending the window in which new veterans can get mental health care from two years to five years. The Lane Evans bill also would improve transition services for members of the National Guard and Reserves.

For Equal Time’s sake:

Compare Senator Obama’s site with Senator Clinton’s site, both on Veterans Issues.

Oldtimer