Sunday, November 9, 2014

Announcing: the Single Step Project to End Homelessness.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...

In my previous blog article, I sketched the outline for the Single Step Project, now I would like to share with you how this will work.

On January 1, 2015 I will begin walking daily to raise funds and awareness for homelessness. The first walks will primarily take place in my hometown, but they will be carefully mapped, documented and blogged. Over the course of 2015, I will complete a minimum of 1,000 miles, partially at home, but partially at various events to bring awareness to the cause.

100% of what is pledged through the online fundraising will be sent to various organizations that serve the homeless. The only monies I will receive will be appearance and speaking fees, and I will only accept what is needed to cover travel expenses.

It will work similar to the old "walkathons" I remember from my youth. Supporters will pledge an amount per mile and this will be the primary funding source. Because it is a 1,000 mile trip, remember a pledge of 1 cent per mile is a $10 pledge.

Although I will be walking beyond 1,000 miles, the 1,000 mile barrier is symbolic, and I am only asking for pledge support for the first 1,000 miles, although I welcome additional support.
All pledges will be recognized on the Facebook page and, ultimately, the website. In addition, I am providing an extra incentive for those who are able to contribute more. I am acquiring a shopping cart that I will be pushing at various events, and I will hang signs with the names of all sponsors who can contribute 25 cents per mile ($250) or more.

I will publicize my walks at various events and encourage you to join me in this adventure. This will be a challenging, yet exciting journey and I look forward to sharing it with you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Single Step to Eliminate Homelessness in 2015

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...

For the last few weeks, I have been walking to get back in shape. Looking at my walking schedule, it occurred to me that, with consistency and determination, I can walk 1000 miles in a year.

And so I am deciding to make it count.

As of January 1, I will begin walking to a goal of 1,000 miles for 2015, and I'm asking my readers to help make it count to help end homelessness. I will launch a crowdsourced campaign where you can pledge to the campaign by the mile (a penny per mile is a $10 commitment). If I come short of the goal, I will refund the money, but this is something I can do.

All monies raised through the crowdsourced campaign will be donated directly to charities that serve the homeless population. In addition, I will be available for speaking engagements and appearances (such as 5k run/walk events), and will donate anything in excess of travel and lodging expense to the charities. I am looking for corporate sponsors as well as individual sponsors, so if you have any connections with corporations that might be interested in the project, feel free to send me the info.

The plans I have for the event are rather elaborate, but I would prefer to unveil them closer to the launch. Stay tuned; in the coming weeks I will launch a Facebook page, and will start unveiling the project over the next few weeks.

What you can do:

1. Share this and other links to promote the project.

2. Consider inviting me to speak in your community on the issue of homelessness for love offerings.

3. Walk with me during parts of my journey. I will keep a detailed journal of events so that supporters can walk alongside.

4. Speak with your representatives about the urgent need to change our approach to the homeless and abolish laws meant to criminalize homelessness (such as bans on sleeping in public and prohibiting charitable organizations from feeding the homeless).

Thank you in advance for your support. With your help, we will make a difference.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

So Many Great Organizations, So Little Time

As we are beginning the push to fund Hobo's List, let me say without reservation that I know you have a lot of great and worthy organizations competing for contributions. I understand that, and it's a big part of the reason that I want to get Hobo's List up to full speed.

Once we are fully funded, it will enable us to feature various charities, to help you to understand what they are doing, as well as to steer needy individuals to their resources. The website redesign will include features on some of the various charities.

Through the time I have researched for Hobo's List, I have been overwhelmed by just how widespread the support network truly is. But a lot of these resources go unused because people do not know about them. Recently, for instance, I drove a hitchhiker to a medium sized community, where we drove around and looked to find a shelter for him for the night. There was none listed on the Internet, or in the resources we were able to find, but in the morning, he found that there was indeed a shelter. It would have served both him and the community better if we had that information at our fingertips the night before.

Once the startup funding has been obtained, it will be my final crowdfunding campaign for Hobo's List. We have a plan going forward to keep the ball rolling through merchandise sales and contributions, a little bit at a time. But first, we need to get to the point where full time attention can be devoted to that cause.

I really don't like fundraising a great deal, but this is a very important project to me, and I'm coming to grips with the reality that the only way it can survive is if I can get the word out to more people. There is, I believe, a great deal of organic support for what is being done; what I need to do is go out and find it.

And so I ask you to share this to everyone you know. Ask me questions. Make suggestions. At this point, I am very open to new ideas about how to help people understand what it is that I am doing and while it is so important. In the meantime, look at the website we have in place. The forums link is broken, but that is something we hope to fix. Download the pdf's on the site and look at the resources we have available. Our goal is to complete the resource gathering, and have resources available in all 50 states. But we do need help to continue.

Our fundraising site can be found at: The goal of $25,000 may seem ambitious, but the startup cost includes hiring out marketing and web development so that I can personally concentrate on resource gathering and research to create a more complete catalog. I ask you to share as you are able, and could use some suggestions for incentives that might drive donations more reliably.

If someone can crowdsource money to make potato salad, I'm sure I can crowdsource this!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hobo's List Launch and Awareness Campaign

We've been dormant for awhile, and wish to express our apologies. But the good news is, that is about to change in a big way!

As we celebrate the 2nd anniversary of Hobo's List, we've realized the need to make a few changes. Traditionally, we've been a one person shop, attempting to do the web development and marketing campaign in  a part time capacity, while trying to juggle all of that with a career. As much as we hate the appeal for funding, we have realized it a necessary evil to exist in our society.

To that end, we are retooling our GoFundMe campaign to be the launch and awareness campaign. The five year goal includes:

  • Development of a searchable database that can be integrated with the website
  • App development to search for resources in your community from your mobile device
  • Multilingual support
  • Vehicles and resources to assist in travel and research.
I realize there are many worthy projects that solicit your time and attention, but ask that you consider us in your giving. It's also important to note that many of our resources are nonprofit organizations, and may have resources available for immigrants and refugees, in addition to the homeless and poor population.

To contribute to the launch and awareness campaigns, please go to our GoFundMe campaign page

Friday, June 27, 2014

We Don't Really LOVE the Homeless!

Don't believe me?

OK, I get that. That's a very strong statement, a bold one, and, I am sure, offensive to many Christians who sincerely strive to be everything that God wants them to be. And so I get why some would be angry. But hear me out.

Try this sometime: go to a megachurch and watch the various people who come in the door. Not just any megachurch; go to one with a strong outreach to the impoverished.

You will first notice school cafeteria rules apply: the clicques form almost instantly. If someone is new to the church, curiousity usually encourages regulars to get to know them, but once the "new" wears off, they each settle into their own cliques. You simply don't find the families of factory workers sitting side by side with the families of bankers.

But when someone who is homeless, or appears so, walks in, the difference becomes outright disturbing. The regular begins to talk above the homeless person, and immediately goes into "fix it" mode. This is well intentioned, but the message is clear: while we love you "as you are", we don't mean "as you are"; we mean "on the road to where we intend you to be". Not just the homeless get this, but sometimes people on the working class side of things get it as well.

The result is catastrophic for a lot of struggling families: buying into the lie that where they are is simply not acceptable, they indenture themselves, they go into deep debt, they do everything they can to be like "those" people; the ones in the front row, the ones with the pastor's favor and encouragement. And the homeless who are satisfied with where they are slink off, wondering what happened to the love and compassion of Christianity they've heard so much about.

I've seen it happen a lot of times. In conservative circles, "suggestions" are often made to families who are living hand to mouth. I put it in quotes because I have seen firsthand what happens when these "suggestions" are not followed. For two years, I was a news carrier as my primary occupation. The reason was simple: I generally netted $15-20 an hour for halftime work; a very good wage in a town where they were few and far between. And yet, I was constantly harassed by police officers, by well meaning people in the community who would constantly ask how I could live off of what I did, as if that was frankly any of their business.

I'm not saying there not exceptions among the people in the congregations. There are; I have seen them. But I will say the exceptions are generally atypical, and in some cases, discouraged by their home fellowships.

True love is not guided by a sense of "fixing" someone. In my case, I have long hair. That is an obstacle for some., But it's not something I am going to change just because it makes YOU uncomfortable. If it ever makes ME uncomfortable, off it goes. But as for you, well, I've found that not being dressed to the nines and wearing my hair long is a real good way to find pout who is friend and who is fake.

True love, Christian love, is guided by a sense of fellowship. A sense of genuine caring. In the case of the poor and homeless, your priorities are not their priorities. You may worry why their kids don't have socks, while they are worried about replacing the bald tires on their only form of transportation. You may question why they are unkempt, while they are simply trying to find a safe place to sleep for the night.

So if we want to change the situation for the homeless, we must first change it for ourselves. They're not an audience for the rock band that we call a "worship team"; they're not an outlet for our outdated cans of hominy and beets, and they're not a tool to make us feel good when we go to church the next Sunday. Unless they are first and foremost our friends and neighbors, then, brothers and sisters, we are doing it wrong.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

"But They'll Only Spend it on Drugs!"

I'm going to step on a few toes here. But I'm getting surprisingly good at that and may need to add that to the existing skillsets on my resume!

I read with interest an article on a Chinese tycoon that took out a newspaper ad offering a free meal and $300 for New York's homeless. He came through on the meal, but the promised money never went to the homeless directly. Instead, it went straight to the New York Rescue Mission.

Now, to be completely fair to the tycoon, he did actually make good on his promise; the money that he contributed to the rescue mission exceeded the amount he would have paid out per head directly. And yes, it still was a remarkably cool gesture on his part.

But he fell victim to a well travelled and common lie, one that gets under my skin with every telling. The lie is that the poor are irresponsible; that the money you give them will only go to drugs and alcohol. More often, it goes to diapers, gas, or the heating bill, but the lie that the poor will abuse our good faith is one that started, I believe, to keep people comfortable in their greed.

Nobody argues to slash the salary of a rich man, justifying it by saying "oh, he'll only spend it on caviar". Nobody looks down on the middle class, saying "they'll only spend it on Call of Duty". It is only the poor who can expect to have every purchase scrutinized, every financial decision judged by those who deem themselves their societal "betters".

And while I don't appreciate folks who claim to speak for Jesus, and would not presume to do so, I can say with reasonable certainty that He would probably not be too keen on those who judge the poor unworthy of their assistance because of stereotypes.

What someone who has never been poor fails to understand is there are some times when cash is the only answer. When you have to drive 60 miles to get to a job site, surprisingly, tracts aren't going to get there (and will probably clog your fuel line!). That 40 year old can of beets from the back of your pantry produces a surprisingly small amount of heat energy to stave off the cold of a winter's night. And the 1970's Nehru jacket that you donated to Goodwill cannot be exchanged at the local pharmacy for the badly needed prescription.

I'm not saying to throw all caution to the wind, and certainly good judgement is not out of place. But, please, examine your hearts, and ask whether your failure to give is driven by compassion for that poor man down the streets or rather by the impending cancellation of your Netflix subscription.

The sobering reality in giving is that we ALL can do more. I'm not putting myself above ANYONE in this discussion. But the only way we WILL do more is to be honest with ourselves and stop peddling the lies that keep us from doing so.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Lessons from the Road

One of the reasons Hobo's List has been dormant is that ever present reality in our society: lack of money. I simply haven't been making it in any real sense.

And so I have hit the road to find work, a modern day Okie, feeling much like a migrant worker, except the work I do is in Information Technology. You can follow my blog, "High Tech Migrant" to keep up with my progress in this regard.

Although I am still decidedly a greenhorn, living on the road has been an educational experience, and I have to say that I am discovering a side of society we don't often discuss. Thankfully, the research I have done on this site has armed me with a large cache of resources, and I haven't had to become a mendicant, depending solely on the kindness of strangers. As well, I have the fortunate resource of our family 15 passenger van, which is being made into a part time RV.

As I look on the modern day Hoovervilles that spring up in WalMart parking lots, I am decidedly grateful for what I have. I am hoping that once I am established, I can help others on the road to network more efficiently, share resources, and possibly even build a rudimentary transit network to both help others on the road and help bring in a little gas money.

When I started on the road, I had the illusion of simply pulling in and doing a cleanup and quick change in the WalMart bathroom. That's easier said than done; unless you go in at 2AM, you have to handle the constant ingress and egress of WalMart patrons, and you usually should cleanup first and change when you're back in your vehicle, as carrying items in and out of WalMart triggers security, and since you're camped in the parking lot, you definitely want that. In fact, my cardinal rules for WalMart camping at the moment are:
  • Spend money there. Like a lot of you, I tend to have very mixed feelings on WalMart. I am grateful that so many open their parking lots to people who need a place to overnight. You don't have to spend much, but please, be a good guest. It's best for everyone.
  • Be inconspicuous: Like most aspects of homelessness (even temporary homelessness, such as migrant work), it's best to be invisible. Bringing an armful of clothes into the store will not endear you to the staff.
  • Go into the store as little as possible: part of the above rule, you want to be seen in the store, but not TOO much. Too much time inside will trigger security. On a recent road trip, I dealt with the reality of being underprepared for freezing temperatures, and needed regular trips inside to warm up. I was able to breakaway to a friend's house for a night to take the heat off, but you could see that management was getting VERY irritated as the night wore on, although they didn't directly confront me. Which brings me to my next point:
  • Be aware of the conditions. Know the weather forecast. Use the library if you have to, just know the weather and prepare for it. In my case, my saving grace was two fleeces that had not gotten pulled out of the van the past winter when I purchased a supply for the homeless. I definitely stupidly put myself in a dangerous position, something I don't intend to repeat.
Good general rules for being a rubber tramp are to carry water both for drinking and hygiene (again, I have mixed feelings about plastic, but am saving gallon jugs for hygiene and water bottles for drinking. An efficient sponge bath can be had with fewer than five gallons).

I'm still learning how to find places to inconspicuously bathe, but am thinking of trying both a freshwater and greywater bucket on the road so that I can do so in the privacy of my own van.