Writing exercise (strictly optional! :)

H. C. Covington (ach1@sprynet.com)
Sat, 27 Dec 1997 00:24:43 -0600

WB -- one definition for the term "Poverty Pimps" : Those who use the poor
for their own finical gain.
While I have used the term in past discussions on a local or individual
basis, mostly to get attention of those NOT listening, there are some real
basic issues on the table here.  One, to have a "Pimp" we need a
"Prostitute" and a "John" to be available.  Now please note that I did not
use the term "Whore" or the politically correct term "Promiscuous" but I
used the term Prostitute.  One who performs a service for a willing
"purchaser" where either or both parties are represented by an agent

So, Yes I have seen many Homeless People and Formerly Homeless persons
prostitute themselves to each other, to street pimps and to (with) agencies
and organizations that use them to obtain funds, materials, buildings of
which only 20% or 30% actually goes to help the poor.  For the past several
years, I have personally worked to address this in our community.  What I
found was that our marches, accusations and "street attacks" made those
same organizations stronger and increased their local support.  In the last
several years, we have found that building collaborative efforts
(co-laboring together) where agencies and organizations hold each other
accountable on a local or regional basis is more productive.  To do that,
many of us had to be willing to work WITH the offending agencies while we
helped guide the change that was needed.

Many of those we called Poverty Pimps were formed and built on an
"entitlement mindset" from the 1960's and did not know any other way of
operating as they were (are) co-dependent on the poor.  That was the only
way they knew to keep their jobs and the majority of the employees were
(are) the poor or near poor themselves.  Many of the Community Action
Agencies in the South fit this model very well, and as their funding is
shifting away from "entitlement programs" they will continue to grow and
change more in the new millennium.  Remember that many programs were set up
to "hire the poor or homeless" even if they did not have the skill or
ability to aquire the skills.  In the matter of the CAP agencies, many of
them ended up with 200 to 300 employees when other non profit agencies were
doing a similar amount of work with 25 to 40 employees.  Were they wrong?
I do not know.  They fulfilled the mission they were given in the 1960's
during the War on Poverty, so where are they now?  They are trying to serve
those that need help and to keep their jobs and support their families.  In
which order, I no longer wish to debate.

As another on this forum suggested, as a formerly homeless person I have
gone about to build up existing organizations and to create others that
fill gaps left by the traditional providers of services to the Homeless.
We have also set some examples in our own operation in using willing (self
supporting) volunteers that want to help and then held our administrative
and overhead cost to under 6% of our operating budget since 1992.  YES,
that means that out of every $100 we raise, $94.00 goes into direct
service, training, housing, transportation, building, etc.  By doing that,
we have been able to challenge EVERY local charity and homeless provider to
match or even better us in their operations.

Now, with respect to organizations like the National Coalition For the
Homeless, we too had some concerns several years ago.  Our concerns were
somewhat short sighted as we thought that the solutions to homelessness
were better addressed on the local or State level and that we in the
smaller towns and cities could not impact the national homeless
population.... there were just to many of us...

While I still hold some of that opinion, during the last five years, I have
seen the impact that NCH has had on the national picture and during the
last year watched first hand at the results in Washington that have
occurred even in our rural area by working with NCH as best we could.  The
individuals and the organization of the National Coalition for the Homeless
are some the finest I have seen in my 15 long years of recovery and
advocacy with homeless issues.  I have now been on both sides of the table
and have seen the fight by many who try to divide us as we gain more
influence with mainstream society in order to change what IS to what SHOULD
be.  NCH is a major and an effective player in this battle with the
homeless all across this great country.  They use every dollar of support
they receive very wisely and they have a solid reputation with those in the
world of Government and the world of Philanthropy.  They have been and are
continuing to be a very valuable voice for the homeless men, women, and
children of America.

Personally and corporately we consider the NCH our friends, our advocates
and our brothers and sisters in seeking peace and justice with and for all
of our people.  When I have had questions or concerns, they have been
ready, willing and able to answer them.  When I have disagreed with a
particular direction or tact, we have be able to express our concerns and
even to agree to disagree from time to time, but I found that to be the
very fabric of co-laboring and working together to solve the local and the
national problems in the chronic poverty and homeless communities.

If you are not satisfied with what is being done, offer your ideas your
efforts and/or your support so more can be done.  If that does not fit your
style, then begin to work with a few others locally and set up a Homeless
Recovery Center that will challenge others locally and nationally to follow
your lead.

Our regional Homeless Coalition decided in 1997 that in 1998 we were going
back to the basics with those that have not joined the collaboration in
past years with an old message:  Lead, Follow, or get out of the way!

So to those of you that are not willing to lead or follow, please do not
use your energy and resources to only hinder those that are opening doors
and providing new opportunities to other homeless folks  that have decided
to enter into Full Life Recovery from homelessness and not just be
maintained IN homelessness in 1998 -2000.

The future is not about fighting over how to split up the pie into more
equal, but smaller pieces in the poor community.  The future is about
making ways to create more pies to be shared among our people.  AND, if you
don't know this, it takes "dough" to be able to make a crust for the new
pie.  No matter how much or how little you have right now, where you are

Use what you have to build-up and not to tear down or to destroy, you will
be amazed at what happens to you and to the others around you.

H. C. Sonny Covington @ I CAN! America
Lafayette -  New Iberia, LA  70563-1722
(318) 364-6239  Fax 318-367-9141