Sunday, July 10, 2011

Where Is Home?

It doesn't get any better, kid

We're all runaways, looking for a home. Some find one, some don't. It's the difference between living and dying.

I was watching Fraidy Cat Carl bow up in a conversation the other day. Carl, a short black guy with Short Man's Syndrome if I've ever seen a case, but that's not his worst problem, he came to the shelter like that. Now that he's a part of the big, bad homeless jungle, he's playing a part in his mind on how he should act. He's Mr. Badass but he doesn't realize we're secretly laughing at him a lot of the time. He's like the guy in Stripes who insisted he only be referred to as "Psycho". He wants you to fear him because he fears you.

He's playing a role, running away.

Deborah is a woman from Northern Dallas hoping to find meaning in her life donating items to us. I'm not judging here, just observing. When I watch her unload the back of her overly large SUV I can see she's doing it partly out of sincerity and partly out of a forced duty. But ever since some of us were brought up to do some contract labor on her house I've known she's a runaway too. She's hiding in her marriage. At first, I highly envied her that because it seems so much more preferable than the humiliating shelter.

But like the Eagles said, every form of refuge has its price and I saw in her eyes that look I know so well, pleading for a life saver to be thrown her way. That was a moment of revelation for me: that someone living in a quarter of a million dollar home could have the same look as a homeless person. "Jesus!" I thought. "Is there anywhere that's safe?"

I got just one word for you, Carl: "Boo!"

There are two faces to the homeless and rarely are both portrayed at once. Some make a sympathetic case and try to point out only innocent victims. Does this mean we don't help the "guilty" victims? Some point out only the desperate nature of our plight and the desperate acts sure to follow. But what know they of the community that forms when perilous times come? That oftentimes unspoken bond is the only thing many of us have to hold on to.

The whole world is running away. The homeless are on the frontlines, on the very cutting edge of society, showing which way the wind blows. Our soldiers fight yesterday's battles, our politicians represent our fear of ourselves, and the world cries out for change without having to change. But I live in a spot where the lies are revealed, the true war never ceases and empty promises hold no sway. It's hard to hide yourself from those whom you've crucified.

If we look at the man elected to lead us I see someone who is of two minds. On one hand he needs to believe he's a good and liberal man. On the other hand is intruding reality. To be liberal, to be fair and honest and just to your fellow man one must be nonjudgemental. But here is a man who confuses having no judgement as to what's right and wrong with being nonjudgemental. The more he tries to force that lie down his throat the grayer his hair gets. He's a homeless runaway too, living in the most famous house of all.

"Where is home again?"

And what of those who've given their lives over to greed? It's not a question of how much is enough. It takes endless resources to stay on the run. All those suited up little men hiding behind keyboards manipulating numbers and lives with keystrokes more devastating than any bomb are building their wealth by wasting their lives. And few are those who wouldn't trade places with them. Let's runaway in style!

What I'd like to ask is what we're all running away from. I don't call those who risk death as being brave. I call those who risk life as being brave. It's interesting to see all the different reactions to those who receive the Scarlet 'H'. Anger is universal but it's in the solutions we seek where the soul is revealed. Some want to return death for death (um *cough*), some just want out and pretend it never happened, some demand change - but only while they are in the line of fire. Few want to admit we've made a world that cannot be trusted.

Where is home? Is it in money? Is it in a church building? Is it in military means? Is it where nature cannot strike? Or is it only in our hearts? People with no home in their hearts will wreck their planet beyond repair looking for that home. There's only one possible home: and that is love.

OK, so the video doesn't age that well.


For America's "99ers," jobs crisis is hard to escape

SEWELL, New Jersey (Reuters) - Mary Kay Coyne has just filed what she says is her 1,862nd job application since being thrown out of work three years ago.

She is one of millions of Americans whose unemployment benefits have expired -- after 99 weeks in many states -- as the United States suffers its highest level of long-term unemployment since 1948.

Coyne had to move in with a friend after benefit payments ran out last year. Now she gets by on Medicaid -- U.S. health insurance for the poor -- and food stamps, contributing what little she can to her friend's household costs.

"You're 56-years old and you feel like you are sitting on a big pile of nothing," said Coyne, who spends about four hours a day sending out resumes.

"For the better part of a year, I have something sitting on my chest. It's not a medical condition. It is that pressure of 'Is this going to end, when is this going to end?'"

Unlike in much of Europe, the safety net of the U.S. welfare system times out for the long-term unemployed. The federal government and many states have provided extra help for those caught up in the worst labor market in decades but the U.S. debt crisis rules out further extension of the programs.

...In 2010, an estimated 3.9 million unemployed Americans exhausted unemployment benefits, according to the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group that campaigns for lower-wage workers.

More than 14 percent of the U.S. unemployed have been out of a job for 99 weeks, or longer.

The Labor Department’s report on Friday showed that the unemployment rate climbed to a six-month high of 9.2 percent in June.

Many so-called "99ers" subsist on social services like food stamps and Medicaid, programs now in danger of deep cuts demanded by many Republicans in Congress in exchange for allowing the federal government to go deeper into debt.

"An increase in demand for social services is what you would expect in a downturn of this magnitude and so the fact that they are cutting the social safety net is quite perplexing," said Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the University of California at Berkeley. "We've just never seen (long-term unemployment) at these levels, period."

Forty six percent of those looking for work have been jobless for six months or more and the average length of job searches that eventually result in a hiring has doubled to 10 weeks between 2007 and 2010.

...Just as the United States prepares to tighten its belt and deal with its fiscal crisis, demand for key aid programs has never been higher.

The number of Americans signed up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- which provides food stamps -- has reached its highest level since it began in 1939. One in seven Americans now receive aid from the program.

Medicaid enrollment as of 2010 surpassed 68.2 million, its highest level in the program's history.

Cuts to these programs now seem inevitable as states struggle to plug budget gaps and lawmakers on Capital Hill turn their attention to the budget deficit.

The White House has reportedly agreed to $100 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next 10 years. Some House Republicans want cuts of more than seven times that amount.

Last week, federal stimulus programs providing billions of dollars for state Medicaid programs ran out.

The cuts are piling on the pressure for the long-term unemployed.

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