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    Changing the Conversation

    Courage in Times of Chaos

    I was asked recently to give a talk to a group of homeless service providers and advocates on “Courage in Times of Uncertainty.” In preparing, I realized there was no way I could address that subject. I believe fundamentally that we are not in times of uncertainty, but times of chaos. Each day in America, the headlines overwhelm us. Horrific school shootings. Escalating threats of nuclear war. Tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. People dying daily from opiate overdoses. Profound disrespect for women, immigrants, people of color, and LGBTQ people. Willful ignorance about climate change. Rampant homelessness and a public that has become used to it.


    In the face of such chaos, our national leaders have abdicated their responsibility to guide and protect the nation and its people. In some cases, they are guilty of neglect. In just as many, they are guilty of cheerleading race hatred and dissension. In other words, it is not just that they refuse to fix the problem; they are the problem.

    How should we respond?

    It is all too easy to feel paralyzed—to wait, to bide our time—but we do not have that luxury. It is critical not to be discouraged. There is too much work to do.

    Homeless Memorials: Remembering & Re-dedicating

    For those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice on December 21 marks the longest night of the year. It has been marked by a rich history of gathering and revelry. Communities traditionally came together to keep a spark of hope alive for a new and brighter tomorrow--literally and metaphorically.

    Today, in cities across the country, the Winter Solstice marks a different sort of gathering--one of remembrance, respect, solidarity, and responsibility. We remember those individuals, children, mothers, daughters, sons, and fathers we lost to homelessness and poverty--those we failed to help.

    Ending Houselessness is not Ending Homelessness

    End Homelessness

    I recently came across a well-researched online article on homelessness in the United States, and the potential for us to end this problem – if we just had a little more political will to fully fund the housing subsidies needed to sweep the streets clean of the chronically homeless population.

    While I am generally pleased to see any journalistic attention paid to this daunting and commonly ignored social blight, I worry about the incompleteness of the conversation.

    First, who are we talking about?

    Elders in Recovery: Locked in Poverty and Out of a Home

    With over 50 years of mental health recovery, I was flourishing. In my mid-fifties, I had my first full time job in years. I was working using knowledge and experiences from academic training and my personal recovery. I felt secure in my ability to overcome life challenges. I was proud of the effort I invested in my recovery and my work with a group of knowledgeable and passionate folks helping others overcome the challenges of homelessness, mental illness, trauma, and substance abuse.

    Insecurity – Stories of Growing Up


    Security. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. I grew up in a home marked by addiction, dysfunction, and for a period of time, poverty. While I knew my parents loved me, my father’s alcoholism set the tone for much of my childhood. As I got older, left home, and engaged in my own much healthier relationships, I thought I had escaped unscathed. In many ways, my sibling took away some of the more common traits of being raised by an alcoholic parent, but I didn’t seem to carry these with me.

    Federal Commitment Necessary to End Homelessness

    It is very difficult to live on the edge, the periphery of being housed while others make life and death decisions based on available dollars—focusing primarily on money rather than safety and quality of life. An exclusive group of federal legislators allocate funds for services and supports to end homelessness. Being dependent on housing subsidies subject to periodic budget cuts while the elite holders of the purse strings are economically secure is very hard to digest and tolerate.

    Not One Child. Not One Night.

    To kick-off Homelessness Awareness Month, we are posting this blog by Ellen Bassuk, MD that originally appeared on Huffington Post on October 8, 2015 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-l-bassuk/not-one-child-not-one-nig_b_8258580.html.

    How can it be in a country as affluent as the United States that 2.5 million children are homeless each year? Although the numbers are climbing, family homelessness is absent from our nation's agenda.

    What Kind of Cities Do We Want?

    Steven Samra’s report on the impact of gentrification on homeless and unstably housed people in Nashville is echoed by stories from cities across the world. The decision by the owner to sell the James Roberson apartment building, a 124 unit, Section 8 eligible residence in downtown Nashville, is a symptom of pervasive forces re-shaping urban environments. If we wish to respond meaningfully to these changes it is important to acknowledge that the shape of our cities, like any other human endeavor, is guided by a series of intentional practices. These practices are made. However, if we act, they can be unmade and different practices installed. The question is, what kind of city do we want?

    On the Streets, in the Storm

    On Tuesday January 27th, as the blizzard went on and most were inside keeping warm, I was reflecting on Jeff’s words and decided to take a walk in the snow. This is what I found.

    Monday night during winter storm Juno, in the shadow of one of Boston’s wealthiest neighborhoods, someone stayed behind this dumpster.

    In cities and towns around the country, individuals and families seeking shelter and safety out of sight, down alleyways, in abandoned buildings and tunnels, under bridges, on crates in drainage pipes, on our sidewalks and at our very feet have become commonplace. We call this “homelessness,” yet this term is empty because it does not transpose onto our hearts the reality of suffering and resilience that take place. Empathy requires context.

    Hospital Readmission Penalties – Cutting Resources for Patients Who Need Them Most?

    Over a year ago I worked with a research group that had secured NIH funding to better understand the 30-day readmission rates at minority-serving hospitals across the country. I interviewed Chief Quality Officers, Chief Medical Officers, case mangers, and others in public, private, and teaching hospitals with a high minority patient population.

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