Archive for the 'Columns' Category

In the Works: Legislative Roundup

4/26/2011                 Blazejewski bill would aid investment in social ventures

STATE HOUSE – Social ventures – privately-funded companies seeking to serve a public good – are a growing trend in new business formation. Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski has submitted a piece of legislation that would help Rhode Island become a national leader in this emerging economic sector.

“With many students graduating from our colleges and universities with a focus on entrepreneurship and community service, Rhode Island is well-positioned to become the Silicon Valley of the social venture movement,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence, East Providence). “As a tool for economic development, it is critical that we aid investment and foster growth in these socially responsible businesses.”

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4/26/2011                 Bill would recoup lost revenue from companies getting tax credits that relocate out of RI       Continue reading ‘In the Works: Legislative Roundup’

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Homeless Experience and Grief

By Chandra L Stone, M.S. ED., NCC

It is a sad fact that when one looks at grief, one does not see much about the homeless population in the literature or in research. Often, these people have such high levels of grief and trauma resulting from crisis situations like abuse, bad choices resulting in self-esteem issues, home loss, not being able to support onself, incarceration or other consequences. When you look at the homeless population with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it can show a sad state of affairs.

Even if the person manages to find a homeless shelter, often the time period for stay and policies around stays negate the ability to remain for any length of time and get assistance on issues that made this person susceptible to become homeless. Only their physiological needs are met and only for short periods of time. Even if a transitional home with a longer stay is found, regardless of the best intentions of those running the facilities, these people often do not get their safety needs met. They know that at any time they could be thrown out if they break the rules.  They also know that the time of stay is limited. When leaving transitional facilities the homeless do not maintain the support structure that was built.  They are often embarassed by the fact that they were homeless. This negates the ability to even think about belonging and needs being met as they hide that part of themselves. Thus there can even be grief about not being able to be open about oneself. While that is not always the case with people in transition, it is more often than not. Continue reading ‘Homeless Experience and Grief’

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Warning Signs of Suicide Risk

By The Samaritans
Most people who are feeling depressed or desperate enough to consider suicide give clues to how they’re feeling. You can be the first step towards help for someone you care about by learning to recognize these clues to suicide risk.

Verbal Signs

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How to Get “Self-Control” Over the Urges and Cravings of a Bad Habit

Self-control is what you build up, develop, create and learn by controlling your behavior repeatedly. We should regard self-control as a skill. It is not a character trait or a thing you either have or don’t have that decides if you can control your behavior If someone says, “I have no self-control over my drinking or drugging, or eating sweets or whatever,” it might be asked, “Are you well practiced at resisting your urges or opportunities to use or to overeat the wrong things?” The answer would likely be, “No.” This person is well practiced at giving in to those urges and opportunities to use. (No criticism from me! I did this for years and years.)

Getting control over your urges and opportunities is like getting control over a bicycle or roller skates or anything else. You’re not going to start out as an expert. You will get control of it only by forcing yourself at first to act differently than you feel! It looks like the bike should fall over, and it may feel very difficult or strange, but by practicing over and over, you learn to ride the bike! So the reason people correctly “feel” that they don’t have self-control is because they haven’t been practicing what would give it to them. In this case, the skill is in resisting urges or opportunities to use. Continue reading ‘How to Get “Self-Control” Over the Urges and Cravings of a Bad Habit’

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Specialty Homeless Courts: Bringing Justice to the Streets

By Amy Goins

Homeless individuals are often cited for minor violations such as sleeping in public places, public drinking or solicitation. While these infractions seem minor, they are all considered criminal offenses. These small violations could be easily resolved, but homeless individuals who are unfamiliar with court processes and are focused on getting food and shelter on a daily basis, may intentionally or inadvertently miss court dates. As a result, they end up facing additional fines or even arrests arising out of the missed court appearance and a small problem becomes a much larger one.

To address the unique circumstances and difficulties of homeless people with minor criminal violations, some states have developed a homeless court program. The movement to create homeless courts originated in 1989 in California. The Superior Court there began holding special sessions at local homeless shelters to help homeless people resolve misdemeanor charges against them. Since that time, California has expanded its program and other states have developed similar homeless court programs. According to the American Bar Association, homeless courts exist in Michigan, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Utah and Washington. Continue reading ‘Specialty Homeless Courts: Bringing Justice to the Streets’

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You Are What You Eat

By William Harter
Are you satisfied with what you see in the mirror? Have you tried to diet and just can’t lose weight or gain it back too soon? Are you often tired or out of breath? Maybe you need to change your way of eating.

Does your breakfast consist of coffee with two or more spoonfuls of sugar? Or maybe a donut or pastry? No wonder you are tired by mid-morning. A carbohydrate-only diet forces your body to react and process those foods fast, taking energy from you and letting you down a few hours later. You had few proteins and vitamins. Two hours later, you want a lift and reach for more coffee and junk food. Again, the wrong thing.

Try a 4 oz. fruit juice, high fiber cereal or eggs and low-fat yogurt or milk for a few days and see if you still need that “10 o’clock pick up.” The first few days your body may not like the change and still want the “10 o’clock junk” but you can train yourself. Keep at it! Continue reading ‘You Are What You Eat’

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I Will Survive

By Joseph Perry

Shelter constituents say: A lot of things had to go wrong that created the mess in our lives.

Case managers to constituents: I don’t want you to go from one problem to another.

Shelter constituents must be able to turn their lives around and reveal the best of who they are and what they aspire to be.

Constituents must put mistakes behind them. They can’t change the past and can’t change any thing that has happened, but they have the opportunity for a fresh start. It depends on whether they are willing to learn. A few more life lessons won’t cure their problem, but will create improvement. Continue reading ‘I Will Survive’

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Legislation Aimed at Helping Homeless

By K. Sherman

Legislation pending in the Rhode Island Senate would make it easier for homeless individuals to obtain driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards from the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Senator Harold Metts, a Democrat who represents Providence in the Rhode Island Senate, introduced the legislation in February.  Known as Senate Bill 220, it would require all applicants for driver’s licenses and identification cards to present an identity document, a document with the applicant’s signature, and two documents providing proof of residency in Rhode Island.

Some documents, such as a passport, can be presented under more than one of these categories.  Examples of identify documents include a birth certificate, a passport, or a valid driver’s license from another state.   Continue reading ‘Legislation Aimed at Helping Homeless’

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Are We Going To Do It Right?

By Joseph Perry

This is more work that remains to be done; the search process to find solutions for constituents should begin now.

The homeless community leaders unanimously voted to develop a few proposals and request a meeting with the R.I. Shelter System leaders to discuss these processes and begin the process to find solution to the shelter constituents problems. Continue reading ‘Are We Going To Do It Right?’

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My First Love

By Jim Goulet

My first love in childhood was nature.  In my childhood my family moved around a lot.  From age three to five, I lived in the projects in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. I had trouble fitting in with the other children, since I was shy and dreamy, so I turned to nature.

I would go into the woods behind the Project buildings and explore the rich landscapes of soft mosses and beautifully delicate little blue and white flowers.  I would keep these adventures to myself, since others (even my family), would not understand the joy I felt in exploring this secret world of nature.  I felt that these walks in the woods brought me such relief and were a refuge from my wounded childhood. Continue reading ‘My First Love’

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The Philosophers’ Stone

By Francisco Gonzalez

I am privileged to have been given a column to write — especially on topics of philosophy… and why philosophy? What does that have to do with Homelessness?

Philosophy is the reason homeless men and women keep on living despite their hardships. They have discovered some gem of meaning that gives them hope: this gem is akin to the Philosopher’s Stone, from which the name of my column is derived.

In the despair of their night, in the embarrassment of a filthy shelter, in the agony of placing children in foster homes, or the giving away of beloved pets, or losing friends to the death-grip of winter—they endure it all because of philosophy; they have learned to turn lead into gold. Continue reading ‘The Philosophers’ Stone’

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2011: Let’s Get This Right

By Joseph Perry

The turmoil within the shelters is all the proof we need, that the shelter’s climate is out of control. But when the staff leaders talk, there are a few constituents who don’t listen.

The shelter staff leader should not be shy about taking charge and passing along advice to other staff members. The staff can bridge the steep challenges they face, by renewing their own spirit and rebuild it within a strong vision firmly set on creating a better shelter.

Staff must have the willingness to engage in honest thoughtful dialogue with constituents, it is not a weakness and compromise, is not a failure. Continue reading ’2011: Let’s Get This Right’

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Legal: Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

By Kristen Sherman

This article is the third in a multipart series on looking for housing and renters’ rights. In Part Three of this series, we provide an overview of tenants’ legal rights and responsibilities.

Tenant Rights

All renters are entitled to and should expect certain basic amenities from their landlord. These amenities include access to utilities, working heating, plumbing, and electrical systems, and lighted common areas.

In addition, tenants are entitled to safe, unobstructed access to their property, clean, adequate trash storage, and exterior locking doors. Landlords must provide tenants with adequate ventilation and must ensure that their properties are free from infestation. Continue reading ‘Legal: Tenant Rights and Responsibilities’

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The Naked Truth

By Joseph Perry

Many of the constituents entering the shelter are old, sick and have been impoverished.  Some of them are now terrified to be in the shelter.

A case manager must remain a master of making more with less and use their skills and knowledge to help others in need.

Some of the missteps may backfire on them.  It would appear that they are arguing the wrong side of a number of issues the constituents have, but the reality is they don’t understand what the issues really are…

The shelter manager must demand reflection on the flaws of the state shelter system message and culture that has permitted the failures in the shelters. Continue reading ‘The Naked Truth’

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Nowhere to Go: Dead-Ends

By Joseph Perry

Constituents get out of a shelter with little if any support on the outside, facing one dead end after another. They go back out and find themselves back in the same situation, in an abandoned house and eating out of a garbage can.

Many of them return to impoverished neighborhoods, and are trapped once again in a cycle of homelessness, incarceration, health and mental crises.  More often then not, constituents find themselves back in prison or jail for parole violation and quality of life crimes.      Continue reading ‘Nowhere to Go: Dead-Ends’

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Anchors Away!!

By Jim Gillen

As the leaves begin to turn and the chill is in the air, fall is always an interesting time for me.

Looking back on the most successful Recovery Month in the State’s history, there are so many memories and people to thank. We are fortunate to have the support of the Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH). Big thumbs up to Director Craig Stenning and his staff.

So, as the seasons change (and they always do!) fall was always intriguing and sometimes scary. It was a time when the new school year was in full effect, the days were shorter and that hinky feeling of fall and the knowledge that winter was right behind it were very powerful images for me growing up. Continue reading ‘Anchors Away!!’

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Things to Consider When Looking for Housing

By Kristen Sherman, Esq.

We understand that for most readers, few things are more important than finding safe, stable, and affordable housing. This article is the first in a multi-part series on looking for housing and renters’ rights. Part one discusses practical issues relating to searching for a home or apartment and negotiating a lease. Part Two will provide an overview of renters’ legal rights under applicable state and federal law.

The largest issue for renters is often affordability.  As a general rule of thumb, renters should aim to spend no more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Unfortunately, affordable housing in Rhode Island is scarce, and it may be difficult to find an apartment you can afford. Rhode Island Housing, located at 44 Washington Street in Providence, can provide information on rental assistance programs. You may qualify for public housing or Section 8 rental vouchers. There may be waiting lists for these programs, however, and you may find it necessary to rent an apartment without financial assistance.

Once you have selected an apartment and are ready to move in, inspect the property and make a detailed checklist of the apartment’s condition. This checklist should cover both the interior and the exterior of the apartment. Walk through the apartment and take notes on the condition of every area and feature, taking care to note anything that is damaged or moldy. If you have access to a camera, take pictures of the apartment in its current condition. If you discover problems, prepare a list and have the landlord sign it so that he or she does not later try to charge you for damage that was already present. The lease should be specific as to whether the items of damage are going to be left “as is” or whether the landlord must make repairs.

Before you sign a lease, make certain that you understand what you are renting. Leases are legally enforceable contracts. Read the document in its entirety and make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the lease. For example, read carefully to determine what services (cable, internet, heat, hot water) are either included in the rent or available. Ask the landlord for an estimate of these monthly costs or interview one or more of the other tenants. Talking to existing tenants about their experiences with the landlord and the building is a good way to avoid a bad rental situation. Also, inquire as to the availability of other services such as snow removal, trash pickup, building maintenance and upkeep of outdoor common areas. If you can help with some of these services, you may be able to ask for a reduced rent.

Make certain that you understand your options for terminating the lease. Look carefully at the lease provisions relating to the amount of advance notice required to terminate the lease and the refund of any security deposit. The landlord should be required to refund your deposit within a certain period of time. Be wary of other hidden fees or charges that a landlord may try to assess upon termination such as cleaning fees.

Another question to ask is whether you are allowed to sublet the apartment to another tenant if for some reason you cannot stay there for the entire lease period. Most landlords will allow you to sublet. If the lease agreement does not specifically allow you to sublet, ask the landlord if he or she can include this provision in the lease. Unless you can get another tenant to take your place, the landlord may claim that you owe lost rent for the remaining term under the lease.

We hope this information will assist you in searching for a suitable place to live. Next month’s article will provide an overview of renters’ rights under state and federal law.

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2011–I’m Serious

By Joseph Perry

Why trouble has a way of finding constituents – they make a lot of poor decisions. They have had many chances and it’s time constituents got their act together.

I am a formerly homeless person who states that constituents make a lot of poor decision when it comes to the people that they surround themselves with.  The constituents are not familiar with the company that surrounds them, but nine times out of 10 when they get into trouble, it’s not them, it’s the people that surround them. Continue reading ’2011–I’m Serious’

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RICH Report: Record Demand for Emergency Winter Shelter Expected

By Taylor Ellowitz and Julio Roman

Shelters across the state are reporting that they are at capacity or are overloaded.  With colder months ahead and the increase in need for emergency shelter that comes along with them, we at the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless are working to prepare for what is shaping up to be a winter with the largest need for emergency shelter in our state’s history.

The Coalition, along with our partners at the RI Homeless Advocacy Project, our member agencies, the state’s Office of Housing & Community Development, and other allies are working to advocate for earlier and more comprehensive planning to meet the needs for winter shelter this year. Areas of concern are: families, unsheltered individuals, chronic homeless individuals that live in the more urban areas and a new population of very young men that have recently been noted in the shelter system. Continue reading ‘RICH Report: Record Demand for Emergency Winter Shelter Expected’

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Die — Or Go To Prison

By William K. Harter

Roger Bryant was up in years.  He had been a heavy smoker.  He also had cancer.  Due to the cancer, he had a lung removed and had to give up smoking.  Later, he had half of his other lung removed.  Cancer returned again.  There was nothing they could do for him this time.

Roger was also in prison in R.I. at the ACI.  It costs $38,000 a year to keep a person in prison.

Some inmates, like Roger, require hospitalization.  Being a prisoner, that requires a Correctional Officer (CO) to be at his bedside every hour of the day to prevent his escaping while he is chained to the bed in a hospital.  Of course, that is overtime pay, 24 hours a day.

But RI has a loophole.  It is called Medical Parole.  Continue reading ‘Die — Or Go To Prison’

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