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Ministering to the Homeless 2

A Ministry in the Cold, With a Gospel of Propane
Find and read the rest of this very moving story here:

Jose Adrian Tenahua is in an encampment of homeless people in Ocean County, N.J.;  A minister has been visiting several sites a week to supply the residents with propane. Photo by Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Written By KAREEM FAHIM

 LAKEWOOD, N.J., Feb. 8 — The minister pulled his large blue bus into a parking lot a half-mile from Exit 82 on the Garden State Parkway, behind a Boater’s World and a McDonald’s. Stepping out, he plunged into the frozen backwoods, where he came upon several tents zipped up tight against the frigid wind. In the back of the bus, the minister carried bulging gray metal cans filled with gallons of relief. For the homeless who have settled here, by mucky streams or in thickets of scrub pine, in sight of cellphone towers and gas stations but on the edges of survival, his gift of propane is all that prevents them from falling off.The propane is little salve for most of their problems, like the loneliness and the boredom, the mental disorders and the substance abuse. Yet when the minister, Steven A. Brigham, called out, “Are you home?” a tent flap quickly unzipped to reveal a man with a teardrop tattoo next to one eye.“I need propane,” said the man, Brett Bartholomew, after they caught up for a minute. “I’m down to my last two tanks. I’m using them now.”

It is a ritual Mr. Brigham performs several times a week — more when the temperature drops — in a kind of propane ministry he has built since 2003 that now serves 44 homeless men and women scattered in nine encampments in the Ocean County communities of Lakewood and two neighboring towns on the Jersey Shore.

Mr. Brigham, who started working with the homeless six years ago, gave the Mexicans a communal tent, where they sit together and eat meals they make in a giant turkey cooker. A dozen yards away, through littered undergrowth, there is a shantytown of black residents, who have lived in the wilderness for years.

The four people who live under the power lines are white. Ronnie Banks, who is black, used to live there, but after being taunted with a racial epithet, he moved to Mr. Bartholomew’s camp.

Mr. Banks, a recovering addict, said he had served time in prison for dealing drugs. His tent is, in the ramshackle, patchwork world of the camps, nearly spotless. There are teddy bears on his bed and pink carnations next to it. He said he was close with his 13 children; one daughter works just down the road. His tent sits alone, at the opposite end of a rise that allows him and Mr. Bartholomew to watch over the path that leads to their homes.

The woods around them are filled with trash. Residents of the homes nearby complain about their presence. “This is the safest place for me right now,” Mr. Banks said.

(…)

THIS is what ministering to the homeless means!

Winter is coming, It is already cold,

Soon to be Cold to the Bone.

Please volunteer somewhere!

News Flash! Army Reports on Delayed PTSD

Delayed PTSD, Depression,

Family Conflict Data Revealed

Picture by AlyssaAS

Picture by icolman (Creative Commons License – Find it Here)

This study reported in Army.Mil/News found that out of 88,000 returning Iraq war soldiers given Post-Deployment Health Assessments (PDHA), only 4 to 5% of the soldiers assessed in the 18 months prior to Dec 2006 were found to have PTSD, but 3 to 6 months later that number jumped to 20.3 % for active duty soldiers and to an alarming 42.4% for reserve-component soldiers.

We are talking about the same soldiers, delayed PTSD symptoms.   There were other delayed complications/symptoms.  Reported depression symptoms doubled and family conflicts rose from 3.5 to 14 % active duty and from 4.2 to 21.2 % for reserve-component soldiers.

Here is the report:

Army Study Finds Delayed Combat Stress Reporting

Nov 14, 2007
BY Elizabeth M. Lorge

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 14, 2007) – In a study that will appear in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” Wednesday, Army medical officials examined increased Soldier-reported mental-health concerns in mandatory post-deployment health screenings.

Cols. Charles Milliken, M.D. and Charles W. Hoge, M.D., two of the study’s authors, found that between the initial Post-Deployment Health Assessment and the Post-Deployment Health Re-assessment three to six months later, Soldiers are more likely to report signs of post-combat stress and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“These efforts are about taking better care of Soldiers,”said Col. Milliken, the principal investigator at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience during a media roundtable at the Pentagon Friday. “What we’re hoping to do with the screenings is detect mental health problems while they are still small, simple and temporary. When these problems get bigger and more complicated, they are much harder to treat and it increases the likelihood that they will become a chronic, long-term problem.”

The study examined the assessments of 88,235 Iraq veterans completed between June 1, 2005 and December 31, 2006, and found that while only 4 to 5 percent of Soldiers were referred for mental healthcare on the PDHA, three to six months later that number jumped to 20.3 percent for active-duty Soldiers and 42.4 percent for reserve-component Soldiers.

The second set of numbers encompasses the PDHA, PDHRA and Soldiers who were under mental-health care because of self-referral or employee-assistance referrals. According to Col. Milliken, these Soldiers were not necessarily diagnosed with PTSD, but they were exhibiting symptoms that were serious enough that a medical provider wanted to have them evaluated.

Similarly, symptoms of depression reported on the PDHA rose from 5 percent to 10 percent on the PDHRA.

The highest jump the study found between the PDHA and PDHRA were reports of conflict with family and friends. This rose from 3.5 to 14 percent for active-duty Soldiers and 4.2 to 21.1 percent for reserve-component Soldiers.

Although the study didn’t examine causes and effects, Brig. Gen. Stephen L. Jones, assistant surgeon general for force protection, who has deployed twice, suggested Friday that the PDHA numbers may simply be skewed because Soldiers are so happy to go home and haven’t yet interacted with their families.

“When you come back, you’re feeling great, almost euphoric. You don’t have any problems in the world. You’re just glad to be home. And then over the next three-four weeks, you re-establish relationships with your family and the normal stress everybody feels when they return home starts to surface. This is a normal, adaptive response and we would expect the stress levels at home to go up,” he said.

The disparity between active and Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers was a bit more challenging for the study’s authors, especially because they determined that combat exposure for Reserve and National Guard Soldiers was virtually identical to that of active-duty Soldiers, and they reported more physical health concerns as well.

Col. Milliken believes this may be due to the differences in health coverage for reserve-component and active-duty Soldiers. Active-duty Soldiers can go to sick call any time, so he said they may not feel as pressed to report every little concern, but Reserve and National Guard Soldiers only have six months of TRICARE coverage when they return and two years of Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. After that, the VA will pay for service-related injuries or illnesses, if they are documented on forms like the PDHRA.

The PDHRA adds a question about alcohol use, and while 11.8 percent of Soldiers admitted that they might be misusing it, only 0.2 percent of these were referred for a treatment program and still fewer were seen within 90 days.

While acknowledging the Army has a long way to go when it comes to alcohol treatment, and sight the lack of confidentiality as a real roadblock, both Brig. Gen. Jones and Col. Milliken said they were encouraged that so many Soldiers were even willing to report that they had a problem, because the PDHRA becomes part of a Soldier’s permanent medical record.

They also believe that the Army’s efforts to reduce the stigma around PTSD and seeking mental-health assistance, including the chain-teaching and Battlemind programs, are working.

“I think this study shows that we’ve done a pretty good job of reducing the stigma,” said Brig. Gen. Jones. “There’s several factors. Number one: the fact that over half the Soldiers who seek behavioral-health counseling do so within 30 days of the survey and do so on their own. They go in on their own and ask for the counseling. I think the response we’ve gotten to our Soldiers stepping up and saying yeah, I’d like some help is another indication that we’ve helped reduce that stigma.”

Oldtimer’s note:  The picture above is not part of the article.  Taken at the Korean War Memorial, it was released under creative commons license by icolman

Homeless mobile homes

Mobile Homes

Photo by Zervas Creative Commons License  Find it Here

Photo by davetron5000 Creative Commons License   Find it Here

Oldtimer’s Comment: Homeless people have to take advantage of every shopping cart they can find.   Anything left behind will be gone when they come back, so everything is either worn or carried somehow from place to place.  Often the cart/homes double as trucks to move found goods to someplace where a few cents can be earned.   More power to them.

I am grateful for the photographers that offered these as creative commons.

They are still out there!

Oldtimer

GPD – Grant and Per Diem Program for Homeless Vets

GPD Transitional Housing Program

for Homeless Veterans

The GAO did a study of the Grant and Per Diem Program in 2005 and reported it in late 2006.  The information below came chiefly from that study – a 59 page PDF file.

GPD flowchartThe Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD)–VA’s major transitional housing program for homeless veterans–spent about $67 million in fiscal year 2005. It became VA’s largest program for homeless veterans after fiscal year 2002, when VA began to increase GPD program capacity and phase out national funding for the more costly contracted residential treatment-another of VA’s transitional housing programs. To operate the GPD program at the local level, nonprofit and public agencies compete for grants. The program provides two basic types of grants-capital grants to pay for the buildings that house homeless veterans and per diem grants for the day-to-day operational expenses.

 cup of coffeecup of coffed quote

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                    

Capital grants cover up to 65 percent of housing acquisition, construction, or renovation costs and require that agencies receiving the grants cover the remaining costs through other funding sources. Generally, agencies that have received capital grants are considered for subsequent per diem grants, so that the VA investment can be realized and the buildings can provide operational beds.

Per diem grants support the operations of about 300 GPD providers nationwide. The per diem grants pay a fixed dollar amount for each day an authorized bed is occupied by an eligible veteran up to the maximum number of beds allowed by the grant. Generally under this grant, VA does not pay for empty beds.

VA makes payments after an agency has housed the veteran, on a cost reimbursement basis, and the agency may use the payments to offset operating costs, such as staff salaries and utilities.  By law, the per diem reimbursement cannot exceed a fixed rate, which was $29.31 per person per day in 2006.  Reimbursement may be lower for providers receiving funds for the same purpose from other sources.

On a limited basis, special needs grants are available to cover the additional costs of serving women, frail elderly, terminally ill, or chronically mentally ill veterans. Although the primary focus of the GPD program is housing, grants may also be used for transport or to operate daytime service centers that do not provide overnight accommodations. 

 According to VA, in fiscal year 2005, GPD grants supported about 75 vans that were used to conduct outreach and transport homeless veterans to medical and other appointments. Also, 23 service centers were operating with GPD support.

Barracks Style Bunk BedsMost GPD providers have 50 or fewer beds available for homeless veterans, with the majority of providers having 25 or fewer.  Accommodations vary and may range from rooms in multistory buildings in the inner city to rooms in detached homes in suburban residential neighborhoods. Veterans may sleep in barracks-style bunk beds in a room shared by several other participants or may have their own rooms.

In fiscal year 2005, VA had the capacity to house about 8,000 veterans on any given night. However, over the course of the year, because some veterans completed the program in a matter of months and others left before completion, VA was able to admit about 16,600 veterans into the program. 

Homeless vets per yearOldtimer’s Comments:  The GAO found that the VA’s GPD program was the VA’s largest homeless program beginning in 2005, spending $67 million on 194,000 veterans, a whopping 94 cents a day per homeless veteran – you can’t buy a vet a cup of coffee for that.   It assigned a van to outreach more than 2500 homeless vets per van.   It provided support to 23 service centers with an average of 25  or fewer beds, something like 600 beds total while in actuality much of the money went to vans and administrative costs, so the figure per vet is quite low. 

The curious thing about the chart above, provided by the GAO, is the sudden disconnect between 2003 and 2004.   A sudden loss of 121,000 homeless vets in one year!  The VA says it “improved its counting methods,” now relying on the Continuum of Care program under HUD.   The CoC program is a count of all homeless.  Unfortunately, there is no consistent query relating to veterans in their survey.   There is no consistant directive requiring VA centers to use a particular counting method.  The GAO says that, “in 2005, more than twice as many local VA officials used HUD counts as was the case in 2003.”  That indicates some do and some don’t.   No one knows within tens of thousands how many homeless veterans there are.

Considering The VA has capacity to house 8000 veterans on any given night in 2005, the other 186,000 homeless veterans on those same nights had to fend for themselves.  Considering that 8000 beds times $29.31 per night means the VA should have spent $85 million on the bedded veterans over a year’s time, but could not as they only had $67 million to spend, much of which went to the vans and overhead.  Obviously there were considerable empty beds during the year due to underfunding or inefficient turnover in available beds.

More on this report later.

Oldtimer

Click here for all homeless veteran posts 

Common Myths About Youth Homelessness

Myth: IT’S FUN. Youth on the street may say it is completely their choice to be homeless. They may say they just want to hang with their friends. This is a good way to maintain dignity or avoid talking about personal issues. When trust is built with someone who is really able to provide help, the stories of sexual abuse, abandonment, and other trauma invariably come out. Life on the streets is anything but fun. It is a constant looking over your shoulder, guarding all your belongings from theft, looking for food, dry clothing and shelter, and continually feeling insults and nasty looks from passers by.

Myth: MOST ARE RUNAWAYS Many youth run away from home, and many runaway reports are filed with the police. Few of those runaways stay out for more than one or two nights and fewer still become homeless. Only 2-8% of youth served in homeless youth shelters have a runaway report filed on them.

Myth: YOUTH DON’T WANT SERVICES. Most youth do want help.  They want to have a normal life, go to school, start a career, develop relationships.  They just don’t know how with the limited resources available to them.  Many services are difficult or impossible to access without a parent’s signature, proper identification, medical insurance, etc. Others have long waiting lists.

Waiting lists are difficult to use when the youth are moving around each night. Many homeless youth are distrustful of adults and social services.  As much as they want a better life, they may be afraid to engage in services or cynical about the likelihood of getting real help. They have been let down a lot. But if trust can be slowly built, most do engage in services when they are available, and often do very well.

The above items were found on the Seattle Human Services Website.

Oldtimer’s Comment:  Click for all Homeless Youth articles

Habitat Build 2007 Slide Show and Pictures

May 6th, 2007 · No Comments

PCCH Habitat LogoPresbyterian Coalition Habitat for Humanity Slide Show of all the pictures made by Oldtimer at the Dinner on the Slab, May 4, 2007.

Slideshow:  Dinner on the Slab

Presbyterian Coalition Habitat for Humanity Slide Show of all the pictures made by Oldtimer on the First Day of Build, May 5, 2007

Slideshow: First Day of Build 

Slideshow: Second Day of Build   May 12, 2007

PCCH Website

The morning started out just like last week.  It had rained hard overnight, but the site was not particularly muddy and very little water remained on the concrete slab.   As usual we had our pep talk, our safety talk and our introductions to the crew leaders.   These little talks are needed each time because there are always new people showing up that could not get there on previous build days.

The goal for the day was to safely put up the roof trusses, deck  and tarpaper the roof, wrap the house and install all the windows and doors.    Short summary:  Mission almost accomplished.  The deck didn’t get finished and it is not tarpapered.

First Truss installedFirst truss Someone had come in during the previous week and put up safety poles at one end of the house.  Probably Jeff, the Site Project Manager (SPM) and the “Gray Ghosts”.   That allows the first roof trust to have something to rest against and to tie to because it is the key to having all the trusses line up properly as they go up.  All the other trusses are tied back to the first one.  Thus the safety poles serve to stabilize the trusses all the way across and assure none of them fall over and start a deadly domino reaction.    The Gray Ghosts, by the way are an organized group, usually retired builders and handymen, that come in mid week and repair anything that is put up wrong and/or was not finished.  They are volunteers that work one or two days a week to make cetain that builds proceed smoothly.   Since they are usually unseen by the volunteers, they are in effect ghosts.   They usually come at the invitation of the SPM. 

The trusses were shipped stacked and nailed together.   I had the job of separating them and marking the trusses for alignment purposes.  That consists of making a mark on one end of each truss at the 14 inch mark for the purpose of setting the overhang.   Each truss also had a mark at 47 inches from each outside edge of the slope for the purpose of setting the first 4×8 row of decking boards.

“Wyze Guys” The first truss was lifted by a crew of 6 or 7 people and one end slid up onto the front wall using the forked “Ys”  poles shown next to the window.   Jeff likes to call the pole holders “Wise/Wyze Guys”.   Often the Wise Guys were women.  The truss is shoved forward and the poles moved back as the truss went over the wall.   Some Wise Guys went inside and helped lift the truss over obstacles such as interior walls until the truss spanned the entire house.   One person at the other end was positioned to align the 14 inch mark with the wall.   Men on the inside lifted the truss into position on the wall and against the safety pole and then shifted as necessary to get the proper alignment.  The truss rests outside of the blocking put in the previous week and firmly against the poles.

nailing the first truss to the safety poleFinally it was nailed securely into place.   Each of the remaining trusses were hefted up in a similar fashion.  One “safety man” had the job of making sure that no one working on the top side was caught between an incoming truss and walls or trusses already in place.  Thankfully no one got hurt.    Special jigs hold the tops of the trusses exactly two feet apart and keep them from falling over.   Usually long 1×4 boards are nailed truss to truss across the top edge to ensure they do not separate or fall over.   These are removed as the decking 4×8 sheets of OSB go up.  This year we also had metal truss spacers that remain permanently.

truss spacers in placeThe picture at the left shows the spacer jigs on the first two trusses and the smaller metal truss spacers on the rest.   1×4 boards were added later as the number of trusses began to worry us about safety.   If one of these trusses fall over they might all fall over and someone would definitely get badly hurt.   We don’t take chances on Habitat builds.

The last trussThe last truss. The last truss was lifted entirely from the outside of the building.  I think this is the most dangerous point of any build.   The last truss is heavier than all the others due to the added OSB on the end, and it has to be raised straight up into position.  The technique is to get it positioned below the wall and then lift it to the top of waiting stepladders.   Wise Guys steady the truss against the wall and the ladder men climb the ladders to get a higher grip.  Finally the whole thing is lifted into position.  It could easily slip off the 1.5 inch ledge it sits on and it could also easily tip too far toward the other trusses and leverage itself off the ledge or with real tragic results tip backward and fall on the whole crew.   Thankfully it went smoothly. 

The truss is firmly nailed along the blocking on that end of the house and the tops joined with spacer jigs and then 1×4 boards tieing them firmly together.

Marking StudsOther things going on.  Even before the first truss went up, there was a crew set up to wrap the house in a waterproof wrap.  In this case Tyvek.  It seems as if it is a rule that this stuff always goes on upside down.   It actually depends on which direction you choose to wrap the house.   Right to left, right side up.  Left to right, upside down.  Guess which way everyone goes.    Once the wrap is started, another crew begins marking the studs on the edge of the slab and marking vertical lines on the wrap.  These are so the siding nailers can Window being installedfind the studs easily.    Also once the wrap is started, the window installers go to work.  Each window is set into place and nailed in.  Then someone comes behind them and puts on vertical and horizontal strips of tape to seal the window edges from any chance of  leaking.  There is a strict procedure on the order of installing the strips.

Decking  A deck crew is started on each end of the house.  It starts with two people working within the trusses reach down to pull up 4×8 sheets of decking.   The placement of the first sheet is critical.  It determines the angle at which the entire roof runs from one side to the other.  Get it a 1/8 of an inch too high on one end and by the time you put 8 sheets down, the roof is a full roof deckinginch out of alignment on the other end.   Several attempts to use the 47 inch marks (gives 1 inch overhang) gave bad alignment due to the rafters being shifted ever so slightly from one to the next.  Finally a string was snapped from one end to the other and the first sheet was properly aligned on that.   The decking proceeds from one end of the house to the other, then by rows above that.  Soon there are 4 to 6 people on the roof working above the first row.

close up of the actionThe porch and storage/laundry roofs use small trusses that span their length.  Once the trusses get to the edge of the main roof, the remainder of these smaller roofs are “stick built”, meaning they are constructed using hammer and nail.   Once a deck is completed a crew begins covering it with tarpaper.   We didn’t get that far today.

The porch beam got another “do-over” because one was cut a little too short and the other was cut a little too long.    A little work with a saw-all by Jim Miller fixed it all up.

picture from PCCHThis Oldtimer cut out about here (picture above), with the roof less than half decked.  The previous week I was so pooped I could hardly keep my eyes open going home.  Sorry guys I left a little early.  Boss’s orders.  You don’t keep a bride 48 years without knowing when to say OK!

There are 35 photos from build day 2 in the slide show at the link at the beginning of this piece.   Take a look. The two earlier slide shows are also linked in case you missed them.  The last (end of day) picture came from the PCCH website blog.

Our next build on May 19th, 2007.  If you are in the Cobb County, Georgia area, come on by.  We can shore put you to work.   We will teach you how to roof and side a house.  Shingles and Hardi Plank lessons here!  Go to the PCCH website for directions and map.

Click to see all Habitat Articles by Oldtimer