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    t3 Threads: Changing the Conversation

    Staying Grounded When the World Is Triggering

    The events of the past few weeks have left me sputtering with rage. Plenty has been said about the political, sociological, and moral side of our federal government’s proceedings. I don’t want to speak to that right now. I want to speak to you.

    For those of us with trauma histories, for those of us who are women/sexual minorities, for those of us who feel injustice deeply, for those of us who are decent human beings - these are incredibly difficult times. We have to take care of ourselves and one another.

    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.

    Chaos.

    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.

    Doing Better for Veterans

    As we celebrate and honor our nation’s Veterans, many businesses will offer discounts and free coffee or meals to those who have served in the military. While these are nice gestures, it isn’t enough.

    The 2016 annual homeless assessment report from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that 39,471 Veterans are homeless on any given night, 9 percent of whom are women. It also estimates that roughly 45 percent of Veterans experiencing homelessness are African-American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4 percent and 3.4 percent respectively of the Veteran population. Other research shows that Veterans spend an average of nearly 6 years homeless, compared to 4 years for non-Veterans.

    Our country is experiencing an extreme shortage of affordable housing and jobs paying livable incomes as well as barriers in access to health care—all of which contribute to homelessness. In addition, a large number of displaced and at-risk Veterans live with lingering effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance use, which can be compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some Veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. Approximately 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are eligible for disability compensation. However, the average wait for a disability claim to be processed is eight months, and the benefit can be as little as $127 per month.

    Too Much Hatred, Too Much Violence

    It is with great sadness, and with great anger, that I write a few brief words about the tragic shooting Sunday night in Las Vegas. At least 59 people have been reported dead and more than 500 injured, making it the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

    We should all hold the victims and their loved ones in our thoughts, in our hearts, in our minds, in our prayers, in our silence...not just today, but in the days ahead and in the years ahead. We should hold alongside them all victims of past shootings--Pulse Nightclub, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mother Emanuel Church, and all the others. Long after these events leave the front page of the nation's papers and the crawlers across the bottom of the TV screens, family and friends of those dead continue to mourn. The accumulation of pain and loss is staggering.

    Racism & Homelessness: Justice is Not Something You Pray For. It’s Something You Implement.

     

    These remarks were delivered by Marc Dones [MD] and Jeff Olivet [JO] of the Center for Social Innovation at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington, DC on July 18, 2017 in response to U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s address.

    MD: Data drives specific and appropriate responses. And our national understanding of homelessness has been missing a critical dimension. There is a blind spot in our collective analysis, and therefore in our collective response. Our local and national strategies to end homelessness have not acknowledged the racial realities of homelessness—that structural racism is a major driver of homelessness. [Read more about "Fixing the Structural Causes of Homelessness."]

    Closing the Chapter: A Man’s Recovery Journey with his Dog

    Hello old friend. We're here in this most beautiful and familiar place, you and I, sharing a quiet moment together in the yard. For 15 years, we've been sitting with each other, side by side. I've stroked your now fully-greyed head every day, and still it rises in anticipation of each new soft caress of my hand. You're close to leaving, I know. You're preparing me—in the most loving and compassionate ways—and as usual, putting to rest for me any argument about the intelligence of your species. I know you know, and I know you understand all the things I must now do for you to keep you safe, comfortable, and happy until you tell me it's time.

    As I sit here with you, I'm taken back to our first meeting. You were a tiny thing, terrified of the noise and bizarre surroundings of the animal shelter. I know this terror, I have spent time in similar places, and our shared lived experience of this trauma bound us instantly. I saw you, your eyes met mine, and instantly, we knew…kindred spirits. Remember when the lady asked us if we needed time to "bond" before you went home with me? Oh, how we silently laughed as I told her, "We've already taken care of that."

    Coming Together to Address Racism & Homelessness

    This blog is the transcript of a talk delivered by Jeff Olivet in San Francisco on October 17, 2016 at the kickoff of the Center for Social Innovation’s national racism and homelessness initiative, SPARC (Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities).

    When I began as a street outreach worker two decades ago, I was told that homelessness was a problem of affordable housing. It certainly is that. I was also told it was a problem with access to mental health care, addiction treatment, and healthcare for all. In some ways, it certainly is that also. The impression we got was that homelessness was somehow a type of person, a personal failing, or a choice...all of the stereotypes that each of you hears in your everyday work.

    It soon became very clear to me that there is something more going on.

    Open Our Eyes, Open Our Mouths: Do Something about Racism & Homelessness

    This blog is taken from a transcript of a talk given by Jeff Olivet at the African Meeting House in Boston on April 14, 2016, in which Jeff was joined by Marc Dones from the Center for Social Innovation and Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Monica Bharel.

    We Have a Problem
    What an amazing thing to be in this place. A place where powerful voices and powerful leaders and powerful thinkers and powerful activists have changed the world...abolished slavery...fought for equality and human rights. It is a profound experience to stand up here at this podium. And it’s hard for me to say, but I’m here to tell you that we’ve got a problem. We got a problem that we don’t talk about a lot, so we’re going to talk about it now.

    Making the Case for Peer Providers

    Once a person is assigned a stigmatizing label, they are often seen as “less than” and in need of fixing for the remainder of their lives. Members of the larger society often see individual recovery as only partially effective or non-existent. These erroneous conclusions do not go away--no matter how successful or how accomplished the individual may be. These views can be mitigated by the inclusion of peer providers in various key roles.

    Peer providers help employers, colleagues, other peers, and services users by example. They use their recovery experiences to make systems of care more focused on the needs of individuals. Peer providers increase the effectiveness of efforts to eliminate stigma in medical and behavioral health care settings.

    4 Simple Ways to End Homelessness

    Our national consciousness has shifted in recent years from “managing homelessness” to “ending homelessness.” Federal, state, and local policies have focused on specific subgroups, such as veterans, people experiencing “chronic homelessness,” and, more recently, families and youth. In many communities, these efforts have been useful in bringing together new partners, galvanizing public and private support, and shaping public awareness of what it takes to end homelessness.

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