Re: Feet to the Fire

Virginia Sellner (
Fri, 28 May 1999 17:29:31 -0600 (MDT)

>To: Anitra Freeman <>
>From: (Virginia Sellner)
>Subject: Re: Feet to the Fire
>Nah, he does not have a guilt button-- but maybe he needs one -- where is
your article Tom for our web page and in July for our StreetViews
publication?  What about Sonny?  What about Catalina?  What about anyone
else.  We are going to post those on our page -- send me some more --
Anitra's is there already.
>>Tom's been bugging me for this ever since he find out I wrote it.  So
>>although I have been up all night and was hoping to catch a nap before
>>StreetWrites workshop I am holding my poor little eyelids up and
>>forwarding this right *now*.  Do you have any guilt buttons, Tom? :)
>>Advocates and activists at [NCH]
>>National Homeless Summit [May 1-4]
>>raise the bar for government
>>by Anitra Freeman
>>reprinted from Real Change
>>Vol 6, Number 10, May 1999
>>[Seattle, Washington's street newspaper]
>>I'll never be able to tell you everything about the National Summit on
>>Homelessness in Washington, D.C.  The National Coalition for the Homeless
>>gathered up over 600 homeless advocates and activists, including a couple
>>hundred homeless and formerly homeless people, and workshopped, paneled,
>>and inundated us for three days on housing, health, human rights, livable
>>income, education, veterans issues, and other aspects of homelessness and
>>ending of it.
>>Back in my getting-paid-for-computer-work days, I attended a few business
>>conferences -- long, leisurely breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, then
>>everybody goes out partying.  I have now attended four non-profit
>>conferences -- where you get run from pillar to post on half a donut and a
>>plate of cold chicken.  I would like to know who came up with the formula,
>>"The less we pay you, the harder you have to work?"
>>Maybe that explains the reception given Andrew Cuomo.  Everybody was
>>already pretty ragged and brain-soaked when we gathered together to hear
>>the head of HUD, the United States Secretary for Housing, tell us that
>>poverty is fundamentally about injustice, and that homelessness can only be
>>solved by getting down into the trenches.  Well, that's good, we go for
>>that, we're in the trenches, we stood up and cheered him.  Then he said
>>that the government -- he and other people getting paid $100,000 a year and
>>up -- can't do any more to solve homelessness unless we who are in the
>>trenches "work harder".  That got less applause.
>>When he opened for questions, he got grilled over the barriers that HUD's
>>complex paperwork creates for grassroots housing programs and homeless
>>housing applicants.  In response to criticism of the Clinton
>>Administration, he took his feet that had been held to the fire and stuck
>>them in his mouth to cool off -- he told 600 homeless advocates and
>>activists that "welfare reform has had no negative impact on homeless
>>people."  I swear he was running when he hit the back exit.
>>After the ritual sacrifice of the HUD Secretary, we returned to the less
>>exciting business of workshops and networking.  Other highlights included:
>>I've exchanged a lot of Virtual Hugs by email, now I got to exchange some
>>in person.  Two of those hugged were Tom Boland and Catherine Rhodes from
>>the Homeless People's Network list <>.  HPN is an
>>email list where a hundred or so homeless and formerly homeless people
>>discuss everything from immediate survival to setting up shelters, to
>>ending homeless, from our own perspective.  Tom, Catherine, and I went out
>>to dinner the first night with a few others -- and "talked shop," about
>>setting up shelters, ending homelessness and immediate survival in
>>Washington, D.C.
>>I was very pleasantly surprised by Washington, D.C.  It was as clean, calm,
>>and safe-feeling, even at night, as Iíve found Canadian cities to be.  Not
>>all equal to the reputation that drove my room-mate to cancel and go home
>>when she found she would have to travel ten minutes at night because we
>>were lodged in a different hotel than the conference was being held in.
>>One evening, Catherine and I went downtown.  A local homeless man attending
>>the conference guided us to "the best feed intown," where several nuns
>>served about twenty homeless men.  (I never saw an apparently homeless
>>woman.  They seemed even more invisible than in Seattle.)  The nuns were
>>from Mother Theresa's order, come over from Calcutta to minister to the
>>poor Americans.
>>All of us from HPN were in the workshop on self-advocacy, listening to the
>>stories of other formerly homeless people, several of whom also spoke in a
>>panel given for the entire 600 in attendance.  Each story was a refutation
>>of the individualist credo that people can make it out of any circumstances
>>on their own with enough True Grit.  All of these people had the support of
>>a community -- often a community of formerly homeless people -- reaching
>>back to help others as they were once helped.
>>Our own Tim Harris was on a panel on homeless encampments (as well as
>>another on starting street newspapers), reporting on Seattle's experience
>>and the SHARE/WHEEL encampment proposal.  In addition, we heard about
>>encampments in Aurora, Illinois(successful for 14 years); Ft. Lauderdale,
>>Florida, and Broward County, Texas.  Other panelists agreed that the
>>elements of WHEEL and SHARE identified in our proposal as necessary would
>>indeed create a workable camp.  Seattle Department of Human Services head
>>Venneria Knox was there taking notes, as was Lisa Whitter, legislative
>>assistant for City Council  member Peter Steinbrueck.
>>I decided to concentrate on housing workshops because even I -- the founder
>>of Over-Commitment Anonymous -- knew that I couldnít cover "everything".
>>(There were 9 different workshops going at any particular time, except when
>>we were all gathered for a special speaker.)  Housing -- not just the need
>>for it, but the complexities of policy and law and funding and construction
>>that go into actually getting it -- is such a brainbreaking issue that most
>>people don't want to even deal with it unless they're getting paid for it.
>>Everyone I spoke to  at the conference agreed that we could increase the
>>amount of housing by simply cutting the amount of paperwork.  When I got
>>home, I heard the exciting news that HUD is actually simplifying the
>>housing paperwork, cutting out 22 steps in the process.
>>This conference was excellent.  I learned a lot that will help us locally
>>with Dorothy Day House, with Tent City, with expanding our other housing
>>and resources.  I was able to give other folks information about setting up
>>new shelters, about organizing groups like WHEEL and StreetWrites, I will
>>probably be visiting San Francisco to help them with their computer
>>workshop.  But I do have a dream for something more:  a national conference
>>on the order of the Homeless Women's Forum, where Andrew Cuomo and his
>>brothers and sisters in government come simply to listen, to hear the
>>"folks in the trenches" tell "them" what kind of hard work still needs to
>>be done.
>>In the meantime, we're setting them an example to catch up to.
>>Okay, there were 40 of the rest of you there.  Where's your 2 cents? :)
>>/ Anitra L. Freeman /
>>"Never doubt that a small group of imperfect people can improve the
>>world--indeed they are the only ones who ever have." not Margaret Mead

Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless
P. O. Box 1232
Cheyenne, WY 82003-1232
Located at 910 Central Ave. Upstairs
(307) 634-8499 PHONE