Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The unknown seeds

As we embark on a new year, we are getting a lot of questions about what we are doing. I can never give a simple explanation.  I think the reason that tend to be so long winded is that I do not want to be pigeon-holed into being just one thing.  I have said it before and I will say it again, the solutions to the world's problems will not come from one thing.  They will come from cooperation and unity.  They will come from the establishment of a foundation and building on that foundation, branching from it, and growing. 

I get a lot of joy from helping the homeless. I can do that because I use other likes and interests to help me help them.  I love to cook.  I love to garden.  I love working with the environment.  I like politics and meeting new people.   All of these things, and so many more tie into what The Waiverly Projects are.  They are me doing what I like doing, so that I can help others and teach things to my daughter.  What is it that you want to do?  Who are your projects for?

So now, these unknown seeds have been planted.  I am often out and about, meeting new people and doing new things, but most of all, I am both learning and teaching (more learning THAN teaching).  Recently, we began working on biochar expirements.  For those who do not know, Biochar is burning carbon based material (which comprises most of our waste) in a low oxygen environment.  The resulting blackened char (similar to charcoal) is ground up and added back to the soil.  It does nothing to the soil alone, but as an addition to the soil, it draws helpful nutrients and micro-organisms.  It also aids in water retention for the plants.  Most of all, it takes all that carbon that would otherwise go into the atmosphere and puts it back into the ground.  Forget reducing your carbon footprint, this process is carbon negative, so it theoretically erases your footprint altogether.

How does this help?  We are building a community garden with soil comprised mainly of sand and clay.  With Biochar and compost we are able to turn orange clay and sand into a nutrient rich growing medium.  It is very stable and has the same properties that most compost and petroleum based fertilizers use, but it is much better for the soil over time.

So, where there was nothing, we see that there is potential, with work and planning, for something.  Garbage becomes compost...An abandoned lot in Doraville, GA becomes a garden...wasted wood and carbon rich waste that would have gone into landfills, becomes biochar...seeds will become plants and plants will yield food for those who need it.

I said all of that to say this, once the seeds are planted we do not, in this case, know what will grow.  We know that with nurturing and loving care, something will emerge and we hope that something will be something positive and become the seeds again for something else to grow.  So when people ask me what The Waiverly Projects are all about, I can honestly say, I do not know...yet. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Remix

I am truly happy about the way things have gone this year.  2010 has had some stops and starts, and things that have been good and bad, but overall, we have our foot in the door and things are moving!
So, when we look at what is going in in the next week (nothing for us) with the holidays, I think it is a good thing to look back at a few of the more salient occurances of the past year.  We started late in the year with all of the things that we are doing.  So as we approach the new year, we have a sort of a jumping off point, where the problems and goals are defined.  We have seen our limitations and we know where our skills are.  We are looking forward to a great 2011.

Somethings need to be remembered though.  For whatever milestones and dates we are marking, we should keep in mind that there are people for whom homelessness is a day in, day out toil.  So for all the things that we are doing, we see that one thing that someone said to me after Thanksgiving, "The next day, we were hungry again."  So, I think we need to keep that in mind while we go into our daily work.  Thank you all and may you all have a wonderful new year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Outcomes...

Today is a bitter sweet day.  Our "intern" has left us.  Thankfully, it is because he has gotten another, better paying job!  These are the moments for which I live.  These are the simple moments.  These are the moments and the times when you realize that all it took to make a difference was something simple.  The bottom line is that we didn't do much.  He did all the hard work and yes, he is still without a home but in a few weeks, at least he will have a paycheck.

Things that are on the horizon for The Waiverly Projects....
The Blend Talent Show at Peachtree and Pine (http://www.theblendatlanta.blogspot.com/)
We are still working on the Art in Agriculture project (http://www.just1acre.blogspot.com/)
Winnie Mae's is assembling a crew to work on a wedding in March.  Our client wants a socially responsible wedding and has hired us to do the cake and the catering.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A new job!

This morning we had a marathon of meetings and I was set for a horribly long day.  There are often times when you wake up and wonder why you would want to walk outside on a cold day like this.  Yesterday, we broke ground on the Genesis project and my back was killing me.  Needless to say, I was not looking forward to the day ahead.  At 8:45, there was a soft know at my door and there was someone who made it all worthwhile. 
Two weeks ago, we hired a young man who is homeless and struggling to find a job.  He had been working by raking leaves on a daily basis for about 20 dollars a day.  We met during my Month on the Street and I spoke with him at length during a couple of long nights.  So, we decided to give him a shot.  There was not a lot that we could do, but the amazing thing is that he did not want much nor did he need it to be off an running.
We gave him a Starbuck's card and a mission and he took to it immediately.  I am not one to have a personal assistant, but this man (not a kid at 18), contacted me daily asking what he could do.  I would tell him that there really was not a lot that we had for him to do.  I told him that we would really need someone to help out with running errands.  I asked him to show up at 9 a.m. on Friday and over the course of the week told him to do something here and there, offered him a chance to use my computer to apply for other jobs.  I loaded and tracked his Starbucks card.  He used it to buy coffee to keep him going and for one other thing.

He showed up at my door this morning 15 minutes early with a double tall soy, raspberry, no whip, mocha and a stack of flyers that I had asked him to make earlier in the week.  I am going to go ahead and say it, Employee of the Month.

We took the train into Little Five Points and sat for a while talking about what we are going to do with the day.  Not a great deal was on the table, passing out flyers and talking to people and we would pay him $10 per hour for about 4 hours of work.

The great thing is that while I was working at this particular Starbucks, a manager was talking to me about the interview I had done some weeks ago and she said that she would hire someone homeless if she could find the right person.  It was then I said, "Have I got a guy for you..." 

We shall see.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Home again, home again...

It is so good to be back in the real world, bills and all.  There is no rest for the wicked, though.  We are happy with the progress that we are making.  The interesting thing is that the end of Month on the Street is not an ending.  We are just heading into another phase.  If nothing else, we have added to our mission with the start of the new Art in Agriculture project.  The beautiful thing about The Waiverly Projects is that they encompass a wide area of well...areas that are all designed to improve the world a little. 
   Our installation is designed to bring the beauty of the world out with a practical purpose.  We want to create an entire acre of green space.  It is pretty simple when you think about it.  Look around.  Take a moment to notice all of the disused places where, with a little time and effort, there could be green, life producing, life enhancing...life!  Abandoned lots, odd corners, and barren spots in your backyard, there are so many places that can be greened!  An acre is about the size of a football field with the end zones cut off.  I can see about that much just looking out of my window.
   On top of all of that, we see so many people, mainly kids, who have no idea where their food comes from.  The average meal originates about 1100 miles away and by the time it reaches us, it has been injected and modified in so many ways that it only moderately resembles what it began as. 
  
   On top of all of that...Fresh air!  So please follow along as we go on this new journey.  We are still working on Winnie Mae's.  We will still be doing Week on the Street in January...We will still be working on all of our goals!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The last day!!!! One night to go.

So, we have come to the end of this adventure.  It was really very interesting and I learned a lot more than I thought I could or would.  In the future, I will update this blog every week, but that is not to say that there is not a lot going on.  In fact, the fact that I am moving it to a weekly thing shows that there is a LOT going on and I do not even have the time to write this on a daily basis.

I may have seen too much.
   The goal was attained, I guess.  I was able to see what really goes on out here and I wonder how much I can put into this posting without offending people.  This is something that must be said and these are things that must be known.  I have seen people shoot up, smoking crack pipes...I have seen people offer and accept $10 for oral sex.  Dumpster diving, robbery, I have seen a lot but I do not think I have seen it all.  Some days the sadness is overwhelming and I think I have seen too much.  So when I read about people spending one night out, or two, I tend to think maybe more than a night or two  is needed.

   The idea behind Winnie Mae's and The Waiverly Project as a whole is to find links and find solutions to problems.  Real solutions.  Winnie Mae's and social entrepeneurism in general is about.  The idea is simplicity.  That means using realistic and sustainable means to advance the cause.  Donations do not seem to be the way to go for the future.  People seem too constrained by the economy and for that matter, their own ideology about homelessness.  If we want to find long term, serious solutions to this problem, we have to find ways to tie into the economy.  Donations and social programs may not be the means for a long term solution, in my humble opinion.

Give a man a fish...
    Giving two or three dollars to those we pass on the street is not the solution either.  The old maxim about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish is quite literally true here.   When you give a person a few coins on the street, they may be able to eat lunch or something cheap but hours later, they will be hungry again.  That was the main thing that people on the street want everyone to know, it seems, is that Thanksgiving and Christmas are nice, but the next day and maybe even hours later, they are hungry again.

Shelters
   One person advised me not to even go to shelters.  I have heard nothing but bad things about shelters for some reason.  People say that they have been robbed and attacked in shelters because the bad guys tend to go where the weak and vulnerable are to take advantage of them.  The people who run them work hard and have the best of intentions, but the fear that the homeless have is what goes on when the guards and the police turn their back.  Those who would do harm, know that those who would do good cannot look out all the time.  One person told me that he was robbed for his phone at gunpoint.

Lifers 
   Some people have been out here for years.  They sit and they talk about the younger people who are out here and they see themselves when they were young.  They wish someone had grabbed them before they became part of "the life".  It is such a devided group...good guys, bad guys...those with homes, those without and sometimes, there are those who have decided that they will be out here for the rest of their lives. 


   There are those who have mental problems and these need to be addressed and it is sad to have seen so many.  Survival is hard enough without the spectre of dealing with a world that does not make sense.

If I can sum it up...
   If I could  just sum it up it up, I think what is needed is aggressive attack on homelessness.  People who want to help need to get out there and dedicate to it.  We need a concerted effort.  We need to attack the causes of poverty.  Ironically, I think a down economy is the best time to do it.  As this tide of recovery rises, it has the power to lift some of the smaller ships that are bobbing on the water. It is not going to be easy.  Nothing worth doing ever is and that which needs to be done rarely is...In my humble opinion. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"We were hungry the next day..." Day 28, Two to go!

I talked to a lot of people this weekend.  When they find out what I am doing and why, they tend to get pretty excited.  When I spoke to people on Friday morning, though, they were happy for the "feed" on Thanksgiving day and very thankful.  The major sentiment of that next day was, "We were hungry the next day..."  Shawn was upset that it was a Friday and he could not rake leaves to get money for food, nor could he go to the day labor place and get a job there for the day.  I think the main thing that we need to remember is that there 363 other days in the year aside from Thanksgiving and Christmas...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Light...! Day 26...5 to go

I see a light at the end of the tunnel and I can only imagine how that would feel for someone who is in the same boat as I but worse.  I mean to say that if there is someone out there who somehow and for some reason fell, I can only imagine what it would feel like to know that you are on the verge of a life off of the street.  To be able to return to a place that is warm and comfortable and all your own, would have to be fantastic.  
With everything that we have done this month, in these 26 days, I have been motivated by the bad and seeking to keep others from having to go through what I have gone through voluntarily, but now I see that I can be motivated by the good of wanting to see someone go through it and come out of the other side. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Taking Thanksgiving Off...Day 24 continued...

I hope that everyone is enjoying their turkey day.  When I first started this, I did not give a lot of thought to what I would be doing on Thanksgiving.  To be honest, the thought didn't even really cross my mind when I committed to this. Most Thanksgivings I can be found in front of the TV full of food and happy.  Not so this year.
   Still, I feel as though I have worked really very hard and if nothing else, I am going to take the day off and reflect on what has happened, and what we would like to see happen.  I have no doubt that we can make Winnie Mae's happen.  Using companies like Fare Start (http://www.farestart.org/) and Street Bean Espresso (http://www.streetbeanespresso.org/)  as templates, we can do the same with Winnie Mae's.
   The major thing to keep in mind is that we are not reinventing the wheel.  What we would like to do is not incredibly unusual and it has been done a thousand times before.  When we add the relatively new component of hiring homeless and at risk youth, we see that something as basic as a first job, can make a world of difference in a person's life. 
   So, that being said, we want and need your support to get this done.  Please help. "Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

The good, long day...six days to go.

   So, we are figuring things out and we are doing some good today on this day before Thanksgiving.  Last night, I slept in the park in the crook of a tree's roots.  Cloaked in the fog and haze of the night, my sleep was only broken by the occasional drop of rainwater or the sound of voices passing in the darkness.  Still, I slept.
   I heard this morning, as I was sitting drinking coffee, someone saying that all the homeless are scamming people.  I heard the story about the guy who makes $45,000 a year and just begs for money in his spare time.  The guy who got robbed by people at the shelter that he volunteered at.  I think at this point, I have heard it all. 
   I am not saying that there are not some scammers out there.  I have been robbed since coming out here, though I was not around when my stuff was taken.  Perhaps it was even the people that I was trying to help.  Who knows.  Who cares.  It is only stuff.  I guess my point is that the homeless are just like every other group of people on the planet.  There are good and there are bad.  Spending the night in the wind and rain like I have, leaves me with only one conclusion:  whatever your belief about what is going on, there are people suffering.
   It is horrible out here.  That is all.  There are people who aer out here for various reasons, bad economy, drugs, alcohol, but whatever the reason, we are talking about human beings and our fellow human beings are sleeping in puddles of cold water.
   We have a long day ahead of us, interview with Fox5 and then dinner at Standup for Kids!  I am going to post twice today to keep people updated on what is going on because these are the reasons we do it. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Momentum...Day 23...one week to go.

We are drawing to the end of this and I am thankful.  I am nowhere near giving up.   I like meeting people and getting out on the street, but there comes a time when  we have to sit behind a desk and make some phone calls, mail some things, and do the annoying paperwork! This morning I met with the city planner of Doraville, Scott Haeberlin.  We are moving forward.  Progress is being made at every turn and we have that greatest of things...momentum!  So, with seven days to go in this, we can see that this is not the end but just a passing the next phase. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cans…Day 20, 11 to go
Ok, yes a simple metaphor and delightful double entendre, but I could not help it. We are drawing to the end of this whole thing and yes we can. I will not hit my original goal. I believe that goes without saying. The great thing is that we are now bold of spirit and I think that is more of the issue.


I now hate the site of beer and beer cans. I hate the smell of stale beer, soda, and overly fruity energy/alcoholic beverages that have been lying around for days or weeks. Still, I know that each can that I pick up and crush goes to a good cause. If I don’t get it, it will be wrapped up in a plastic bag and buried under tons of garbage. I could give up. I could do without the smell of stale beer at the end of the day; and the annoyance of having to cart them from spot to spot. Every ounce counts, though and every can that I can get, I will.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Simple...day 19, 11 to go.

Today is simple...I am alive and well and all is good.  It is good to be thankful for the simple things.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Apex and the Nadir...Day 18...12 days to go.

We are at the apex, or the highest point of this whole thing, and simultaneously, the nadir, or lowest point.  This weekend will be hideously busy and the following week, will be incredibly meaningful.  This whole thing, every minute, every hour has been meaningful to a lot of people, but for many more, there is an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality.  I have touched on this before in my other posts, but I think that thing that gets me most is simply the fact that we tend to forget things and people when they are not right in front of us; that without some extreme action bringing it to light and nearly stinging our senses with its reality, we lose sight of what is going on.  The homeless do not disappear because you do not see them,
   So, as we enter the last phase of this, the point where it is all downhill (for me anyway), I am trying to keep that in mind.  The next weeks will see some amazing things.  Let's not forget what made the apex so great.  Let's not forget that there are people in their nadir.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cynicism...Day 17, 13 days to go.

We can do this.  Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.--Margaret Mead.
I am tired of people saying there will never be a solution. 
I am tired of people saying this cannot be done. 
I am tired of people saying that I am wasting my time.
I am tired.
We have shot ourselves in the foot before leaving the gate is we believe that people are only out to scam us.
Join me out here.
We can do this.
We must do this.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In the wake...Day 16 on the street, two weeks to go.

   They say that the entire compendium of human knowledge now doubles every five years or less now and things become faster and faster every moment.  This thought came to me as I wondered about how we might educate people and get them into better jobs.  I thought about the gap that exists between myself and my older brothers as far as computers go, and how my daughter has to now remind me of things that I have forgotten or never knew.
   I am a techy, too.  So what about those who are homeless?  One would be hard pressed to get more out of the loop.  I sit here, with my netbook and my smartphone and I tap and twitter, while just outside the door there is someone who has little or no idea what I am doing or how. 
   The scene replays itself over and over again, all around the country, everyday.  Most libraries open at nine or ten a.m. and there is a mad rush for the computers.  People will check their e-mail, catch up with loved ones, news, and music, etc.  Most places only accept job applications on line now.  So, when, at most, one has about 2 hours on the computer, how do you keep up with the world?  The clock begins to tick as soon as they sit down and they are probably kicked off after the first hour and then they have to wait again, at the end of the line for their next hour.
   Even this scenario assumes that they have a library card.  Most places require that you have some form of mail that proves you live in the county in order to get a library card and that precious two hours on the computer. 
   Assume that you have your own laptop and you are homeless.  The chances are that you will have to find Wi-Fi.  Wi-Fi and power are often very scarce when the library is not open. Even when it is open, there is a shortage of power and signal strength. 
   I tend to take these things for granted.  My router sits in the corner of my dinky little studio apartment, but it is there.  I can check my e-mail on my phone.  I can keep up with twitter and even watch tv shows commercial free.  It is imperative that we be able to get more information to those who need it.  It is that simple, otherwise, they are left in the wake as the wealth of human knowledge doubles.

Cold and rainy...Day 15 and 16...14 days to go.

I skipped blogging yesterday because it was rainy and nasty outside.  One of my largest problems was keeping everything dry, namely, myself.  Water is so pervasive. It gets everywhere and into everything and when things get wet in a moment, they get cold and they stay wet for a long time.  The shivering stays...the cold invades.
I think the thing that frustrates me most is that we let people do this.  We let people huddle in corners, trying to stay dry and warm.  I saw so many people running through the night with all their posessions in a trash bag.  I sat there, waiting for the sun to rise.  I had about an hour of sleep.  We are waiting for the sun to come out, in more ways than one.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pride goeth...Day14...16 to go.

Pride goeth before destruction...and a haughty spirit before a fall."  Proverbs 16:18
I rarely quote the Bible, but today I found that this one proverb was very appropriate.  The reason being is that I have spent the majority of the morning digging for cans.  Starting early this morning and leading on late into the night, I am and will be digging through the garbage and filth for cans to turn in to further advance The Waiverly Projects and Winnie Mae's.  Pride goeth before destruction is pretty self explanatory.
I don't expect a lot of cash from my efforts.  It is more based on principle than anything else.  Looking at the facts aluminum is infinitely recyclable and it requires 95% less energy to recycle the cans than to find and process new aluminum.  Moreover, every ounce of aluminum that I get, that we bring in to be melted down, would have gone into regular trash; buried beneath tons of other garbage.  I mean it when I say that every ounce counts. 
I get some strange looks from this whole thing.  They are looks that I am sure that a lot of men and women get when they are on the street and they are not good.  They are looks of pity and revulsion.  How do many men and women on the street deal with that?   It takes some getting used to.  It takes some strength of the individual to look at how others perceive you, and work out how much of their perception feeds into who you are, and then to say their perception does not matter.  On a daily basis, you have to perceive yourself as a person of value or the streets will eat you alive.  Your pride must go.  You have to let go of your pride to ask for money, for food, for help.  Your pride must go.  When people look at me that way, as I emerge dirty and disheveled from behind the building, I want to scream that I am a highly educated man!!!  I speak 3 languages and I know a lot about wine!!!  I am a witty dinner companion!!!  I want to find them when this whole thing is over and say, see?  How many of us would lose our minds if we did not have ourselves to tell us we are people of value.  How many of us would be able to go on?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wellness...(day 13, 17 days to go)

I never really thought about getting sick or hurt, at least not on a daily basis.  Of course, people think about something, maybe, happening, but rarely something big.  Yesterday, while collecting cans, I tripped and twisted my ankle.  Sure, it is fine now, but just to think, how would I or an other homeless person, deal with a twisted ankle.  There are services out there, but they are not as immediate, nor are they as in depth as they could be.  From all reports, it's a bit like a triage mentality where the goal is to patch them up and get them back out.  So, for the remainder of this adventure, I have one motto..."Don't get sick!"

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Thanksgiving will...? (Day 12, 18 days to go!)

This Thanksgiving will...?  I am trying to figure out how I will fill in that blank.  I know that it is a little ways off and with the heat, it does not really feel like the Holidays quite yet.  When we started planning this thing, I hadn't really thought about it.  I knew that Thanksgiving would be on the horizon, but I had really just thought about doing dinner at Standup For Kids the night before.  Still, until I started remembering what I was doing last year, I did not think about what I would be doing this year. 
   Last year was a blur for many reasons.  First, I was living in Seattle and planning my move to the East Coast.  I was planning on spending the majority of December with my daughter, moving out of my apartment, and really just focusing on saying goodbye to all of my friends by Thanksgiving party hopping.  I felt the true essence of the holidays at that point.
   It goes without saying that this year will be quite a different experience, but I still think that I will feel the true essence of the holiday.  Where ever I am, I will be thinking about the things for which I am thankful, my daughter and all of the friends who have helped me through this.   I have come to appreciate what it means to have something, to own something, to be relaxed and secure in one's own skin. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"How are you doing?" Do we really want an answer?...Day 11, 19 days to go.

 

"Hey, how are you doing?"
I say this so many times and in response to every greeting that I get.  I rarely think about what it actually means.  It is often such a rote, rhetorical response but lately, I have been considering what it actually means and what it actually means to say this to a person who has no home and no food. 
Someone asked me this today and they really meant it.  They knew what I was doing and why, and they asked me with genuine care.  I explained everything that I was going through and how it really feels to be homeless.  It is uncomfortable and not just in the way that makes one mildly annoyed but in a way that could potentially drive one crazy.
The military uses sleep deprivation and temperature extremes to test its soldiers, and moreover to torture inmates.  I am not trying to make light of the situation, but try going two or three days with a light on in the room with the window open so you can hear the traffic all around.  Then wake up at 5 a.m., knowing that you have to be away from your position before the "enemy" can see you.
I have now done both and it is really eerie to see the similarities between being in the Army on an FTX, and being homeless.  Sleep deprivation, carrying everything you own/need on your back, changing position for fear of being discovered.  Homelessness tests you and makes you hyper aware of your surroundings.
So, the next time someone says, "hello" to me, I will make sure to take stock before I simply reply, "how are you doing?" so flippantly, because when we ask, we also have to ask if we really want an answer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is Not Sexy...Day 10, 20 to go

Last night, I was walking away from my television intereview and I was thinking about how much this experience has changed me and where it is headed.  I was struck by who I was at one point.  Well dressed and clean cut...Dapper, even.  There has been a definite change in me and I am no longer "sexy".
I was informed that the interview was not going to air that night and may sometime in the future. There is an addage in the news business, "if it bleeds, it leads" and there was nothing exigent about what I was doing, so I did not make it on TV.  The irritation came in the fact that there are people suffering and there is a need and we can do something about it.  The problem is, that it is not "sexy" enough. 
This is hard work.  There are people who do this, day in and day out.  For those who work in this business, it is hard work.  The day to day things that people do to help people is hard work and because it is boring, it does not get on TV.  Unless someone is getting shot, or set on fire, they do not make the news.
Jon Shirek is a nice guy and made me feel completely at ease during my interview and truly cared about what was going on.  I think that I got the point of what I was trying to do across on camera.  i was disheveled and tired, but that is to be expected.  The problem is, that there was nothing happening.  The day to day of what we are trying to do is not sexy.  Does someone have to set themselves on fire to get the point across?



But this is why I do what I do...because someone "lives" here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Looking around right outside the door...Day 8, 21 days to go.

Looking around.
Yesterday, I went looking for cans and talking to people in the Chamblee area.  While looking around, I saw my apartment and was tempted to go in.  After 8 days on the streets, I am in desperate need of some rest and recuperation.  I was reminded that would be cheating and that I need to stay focused.
I let my mind wander and wonder about what it would be like not to have the keys at all and walking past your old home and seeing someone else in it.  Someone watching a tv where your couch used to be.  I have always had some sort of home.  I have always had some place to go.  What would it be like to stand outside of a hose that used to be yours.
Then I thought about my neighbor, sitting watching tv and having no idea that I was on the sidewalk outside.  How many of us forget about the people outside and what is happening beyond our front door.  I have seen some strange things just this week alone. 
I have seen someone light up a crack pipe...
I have seen someone shoot up, something and fall shivering into sleep.
...all outside of someone's front door.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Winnie Mae's day 6...24 days to go!

   Social entrepeneurism is the wave of the future.  It hast to be.  We are coming out of a horrible recession.  People do not have the money to give to charities, but if we look at this as an opportunity rather than a misfortrune, a great deal of good can come for the future.  This is a great chance for people to create new ways to change their circumstances and earn money rather than sit on the corner asking people for money as they pass.
   Winnie Mae's is a simple concept; don't give us your money, let us earn it.  Let us create oppurtunity for people who wish to better themselves, to learn more about the work force, and more about themselves.  Winnie Mae's will teach underpriveledged and homeless youth basic service skills, basic kitchen skills, and maybe more importantly than either of those, life skills.  So please help with your donations.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We got work to do...Month on the Street Day 3...27 days to go.

Forget the rousing choruses of what it means to be an American, where we our going as a nation, who we are, apple pie and waving flags.  Forget these things for just one moment and concentrate on what it means to be an American when it is not election day, when it is not the Fourth of July. 
   The bottom line is that we have work to do.  We have work to do, not the elected officials, not someone else, us. There are people starving, without work, sick, crimes being committed, people who need education, children who have problems, elderly who have problems, and everyone in between.  We are the ones we have been waiting for...We have work to do.
 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Month on the street, Day 2...28 to go."There is no God!"

I spent the night walking around and got a little sleep on a bench outside of the Borders on Peachtree.  It was just as I thought it would be; bright and loud.   A couple of my friends had mentioned that they had been robbed or been associated with someone who had been and I was a little fearful given what I was doing.  Oddly, the yellow/orange halogen lights, the passing cars, and the distant sirens are not what kept me awake.
   Earlier in the evening, I was at the MARTA station in Five Points in Atlanta.  It is the center of town and the hub of the train system.  There, waiting for a train, was a homeless guy in an old camo jacket with a couple of days beard growth, and he was "preaching" in the corner.  Softly and basically, just talking.
   Also waiting for the bus was a group of others, a couple may have been drunk coming from or going to somewhere, who knows.  What kept me awake all night was one of these guys telling the homeless guy "There is no God!" and turning to his friends and laughing.
video
  Even if you do not believe in God, is that any reason to rob someone of their hope...especially if it is someone who is clinging to that hope as he goes to sleep at night while you go home to your warm bed?  To his credit, the homeless man went to him and shook his hand.  Still, is this how we treat the least among us?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Month on the street, Day 1

Ok, so the sun is going down and it is just a little chillier outside.  I remember some pretty basic things from the first Week on the Street and I am keeping them in mind.  Still, it is odd the way a day after stepping back inside, almost everything is forgotten, but now that I am about to do it again, for a longer period of time, it is all coming back and it is all scary once again.
   The last time, it was uncomfortable.  The heat was unbearable during the day and the cold was just a little too cold at night.  You get sore and tired from moving around all day frustrated from breathing recycled air in the library. 
  Last night I got to sleep in a warm bed, and tonight, I have no idea where I am going to go or even where I can go.  It will be cold.  It will be dark, but still light and it will never be entirely quiet.  There will always be cars passing.  There will always be bugs and horns and talking.  Despite how miserable it will be, it will still be too short.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exhausted...

Exhausted, but going to sleep the sleep of the just.  Working everyday to do some good in the world is its own reward.  Whatever may or may not happen with this month's week on the street, I can honestly say that I gave this and all of the Waiverly Projects my all attention, including many all nighters.  I can't help but remind myself that it is getting harder for others out there.  It is a little chillier, and a little harder to find a good place to sleep.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Imagine...

Think about all of the things that you learned from your parents.  Try to imagine a life without that knowledge.  Try to imagine not learning how to drive from your parents or not being able to even think about going to the prom.  Think about all of the things that you hated, but are thankful for (curfews, eating right, doing your homework, etc.)
Combine with that the idea of being ostricized and bullied for not having a home, not having the coolest clothes or a new pair of shoes.  This is what homeless youth go through.  More often than not, the relationship with their parents is bad or non-existent.  This is what today's homeless youth goes through.
Why do we allow these children to start off backwards?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Together...

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.
Mohandas Gandhi
We often find that it can be the grandest gesture or the most benign act that can set in motion the changing of the world.  So on that note, we are going to be doing something a little different.
Looking for cans!  We are out to recycle every aluminum can in Atlanta all in an effort to raise money for The Waiverly Projects....So hang on to the Red Bull can, or put that sixer of PBR cans aside for us.  We will take anything aluminum.  Contact Eli at Elimontgomery@live.com or Jenn at Kukiesnmilk@gmail.com and let us take those cans because every ounce counts!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Slow Turning of the World...

I think that one of the greatest curses that comes with human knowledge is that of the passage of time.  We are able to recognize the slow turning of the world, and it's wide sweep around the sun, and who knows what the sun is spinning around. The Earth does what it is going to do and but the human part of it, the man made beauracracy is what sometimes takes the fun out of it. 
   We often think of fall as the time of year when everything goes to sleep and this is not true.  It is just the time when things take place behind closed doors or deep underground. Consider it practice and preparation for the big show to come.  Any farmer can tell you that the work does not stop when the last tomato is off the vine.   Since we are no longer a strictly agrarian society, it is easy to forget that things continue to happen after that first leaf hits the ground, or after the first frost.
   I said all of that because, as I sit and go blind on paperwork and applications of so many sorts, to rest my eyes, I will often take a moment to glance outside and wish I was there.  It is not without these moments that things get done.  We hope to bring about a lot of change in the spring, but it is these moment behind the scenes and deep underground that bring change.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When "I" becomes "We" or I Am Not Crazy

There is a point in any project, when the kernel of an idea that was rattling around in your head becomes a real and true thing in the world.  There is a point where what was only a flight of fancy or a doodle in the margins of a notebook, takes shape.  Those moments, when they are realized, are heart warming,  Even more heartwarming, is when you look around and see that others are sharing it with you.  There is a moment when the "I" of your world, become "We".
   I would say the great thing when that moment comes is a certain validation.  Those moments come with the realization that you are not crazy or, at the very least, you are surrounded by people who are just as crazy as you. 
   I write this as an open letter to those who have dared to be crazy with me.  Whether it is has been by rolling up your sleeves and digging in, or by simply nodding along while I ranted.  There are great things coming up in the next few months and hopefully years after that and if you look at my earlier blogs, you know why I am doing this.  I just want to thank you for coming on the journey with me and I invite you to invite others along with us!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Mission to Compost!

     It’s a few degrees cooler and it is getting just a little darker just a little earlier. I haven’t been bitten by anything in couple of days, so it appears the mosquitoes have had their fill and are off to other places. Fall is most definitely on the way, even though it is not here yet. Still, my mind is on spring.
I have taken a few running starts at a good compost pile. When I live in Seattle, I had a pretty good little garden going on the back deck of our duplex. I was in a tomato phase then (I still am) and even though that space did not have really good sun and it was a struggle battling with the bugs to keep it organic, there was nothing better than the thought of leaving work and going to that war. It was at this time of year, when I felt a little regret, as the leaves began to fade and brown replaced green, but I looked forward to a whole new battle: COMPOST!
     I am the first to admit that I like the idea, but I have no idea what I am doing. I have gotten far enough into a good pile to see steam rising on a cold winter morning when I lifted the tarp. I loved watching the needle on the thermometer climb to a triumphant 140 degrees.
     I think I am enamored with the circle of life. Things that were once dinner worthy being broken down and returned to nature. Egg shells and coffee grounds that were the refuse from a hasty breakfast, were now slowly giving structure and texture to my pile. The bugs that I detest in the summer sought refuge in my pile and some were forming a network of tunnels and highways where rotting bread was being hauled to and fro.
     I even tried vermicomposting. If you lay a piece of cardboard on pretty much any area of land on a cool night, by the morning there will be bright red worms under it that will work to devour your garbage and provide you will great fertilizer in a few weeks. They are more of a challenge. You never want to drown them in food nor do you want to starve them to death. Worm farms are a lot of work.
With composting the process is simple. Keep it semi-aerated and as wet as a damp sponge. Keep flipping the pile and don’t let it get too hot, nor too cold and in a little while, you have a rich brown/black mixture that will work wonders on you garden in the spring; or so I am told.
     I must admit, I have never gotten that far. A good garden is a sign of man’s civilization. You are saying, “I am here and I have managed to tame one little spot of God’s planet.” I am often tempted to beat my chest when I have planted something. I have never been able to make it that far. This is the drawback to a mobile life. I am rarely in one spot for the length of that circle of life. I guess that is why I am so very excited about this project.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just1Acre

Just1Acre
A few years ago, some friends of mine and I were walking around Bellevue, a city just outside of Seattle, Washington. The main thing that we noticed were the gaping holes in the ground. We were told that the average “footprint” of the average building in Bellevue and Seattle is about an acre. An Acre is about the size of a football field without the end zones. We counted 18 of them.
We did not and do not have a large problem with the buildings themselves. We are not against progress at all. As a matter of fact, in that progress we can see a lot of opportunity and that is the point of Just1Acre. When these new buildings are being built, emerging from these huge holes like trees of metal and glass, they block out the sun and create a new skyline for the city. We just feel that it could have been done with more of a not to the environment.
With 18 acres and more to come in the future, we are conquering more land than we are saving but above all we feel that the solutions are simple and have the potential to be very helpful and therapeutic. With these huge buildings could also come a rooftop garden. The balconies and open areas could be very therapeutic for the people who live there, even picking fresh basil from your windowsill. A lot of people do not understand how simple this can be.
The major idea of Just1Acre is to spread understanding. The goals and ideas are simple and easily done and that is what J1A is all about. So please, follow along!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Waiverly Projects...

I have to say that I really like that we are forming a group and taking on quite a few new challenges. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citzens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."--Margaret Mead.



Week on the Street



From November 8-15 I will live on the streets of Atlanta to bring awareness and services to the homelessness. There are numerous things in place to help the homeless but they often do not know they are available.








Just1Acre
Just1Acre is about reclaiming one acre of urban land and turning it green. We are gathering a group of a concerned individuals across the country to retake area that has gone to disuse or covered with concrete. We are looking to reclaim a cumulative one acre here. A square foot here, a yard or two there, and we will soon have an acre.





Bears and Books
We are working to make 50 bears and offer them with 50 books for 50 kids who really deserve them this Christmas.








UsVsThem
UsVsThem is working to throw events to bring awareness and funding to various local charities.






Please follow as we get these projects underway and if you choose, make a donation in the box to the right.  It is all for a great cause!







Craft Hope Spreading seeds of hope one stitch at a time

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Last Night...

It is helpful to say “they” and “them” and “their” instead of “we” and “us” and “our”. It is amazing the amount of power that we give to words. By defining the homeless as something other than ourselves, we give ourselves some breathing room. They are not us. They are something different. They are another group entirely.

Some of them make it easier for us by striving to be something other; to be something different. They embrace their “other”-ness by becoming what we have beheld as wrong and bad and different and, most of all, worst of all, worthy of our pity. With signs held not high, but low in manner that connotes weakness, they ask for your change because they are a vet, or they need to get home, or they need a cup of coffee, or a myriad of other reasons. For a while, the trend was honesty. Signs read “Fuck it, I need a beer” and “Need money for weed!” We rewarded their honesty with a giggle and the change that was in our pocket, happy that they had told the truth. It was their truth but it was not the truth.

So, it is really a nice little arrangement. They put on their show. They audition. They size us up too. One person told me that the best way to get someone is when they are a couple and they look to be on a date. The guy is often willing to give some change because he wants to look good in front of his date. Another is to ask for specific amounts like two quarters. If the person was going to give any money at all, there is no way they would pull out a pile of change from their pocket, extract two quarters and give just that. It is likely they will give all of it.

We play the game too. We walk in a wide circle around them so as not to be close enough to ask. We walk still enough to not jiggle the change in our pocket, or we carry no change at all specifically for that reason; so we can pat our pants as we walk by and give sad little glance. Emerging from restaurants we proffer leftovers, not thinking that anyone would not want to eat the picked over remains of your dinner. Some will take it readily but most will decline. When they decline, we say, “See, you must not have been hungry.”

These games are all well and good, but they are not the truth. Little Sally holding the sign is not trying to get back home to Nebraska. Leftovers and spare change even with the best of intentions will not get someone off the street. The most shocking truth of all is that this part, this face of homelessness that we see everyday, it is all just theater.

Most estimates put the number of homeless in Atlanta at between 15,000 and 22,000. The variance is based on what one could consider homeless. High estimates place people who are moving in and out of hotels and people who live with relatives as homeless rather than in transition. Still, even at the low end of the estimate, I saw about 100 homeless give or take. So we should be asking ourselves, where are the other 14,900 plus, and why are they not in the street asking for money?

My guess would be pride. A number of the people I saw curled up in corners or going to huddle in cars were just plodding away, day in and day out, trying to make things happen in their lives. They were waiting for the library to open so they could check the want ads and their e-mail to see if anything had come in. They were standing in line outside of staffing places waiting for a job. They were standing in line at food banks so they did not have to beg for money for food. The vast majority of the homeless were simply trying to get their lives on track or back on track.

Ironically it is pride that often keeps people on the street and that street goes both ways. A lot of the services that are available to people go unused. They do not want to talk to a counselor about their problem. They feel they have it under control or they are embarrassed that it even got to this point, even if it was due to circumstances beyond their control.

We see also that the organizations that can help and even those mandated to help by the government do not reach those they are supposed to be helping. It is overcoming that pride that will solve this problem. There need to be people out there, on the streets, bringing these people out of the cold, reversing the stigma, and helping them to solve their problems. It is especially important for youth because their most available inlet into the system has become the police when it could be as simple as someone handing out a flyer.



I would say that my overall assessment is that the homeless in Atlanta are simply people who have problems and they need help, even the scammers, but the stop gap measures are not going to do it. If we are talking about the man or woman, boy or girl sitting outside of the restaurant begging for change, they likely do not need a meal, but perhaps drug or alcohol counseling. The man in the corner talking to himself likely does not need change, but perhaps medication of another sort. The core problem of why they are out there needs to be solved. I do not think this will come as a surprise to anyone. We have the tools, we just need the resolve.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What in the world I am doing?

   Ok, so a while ago I sat with my daughter and I asked her how she was doing.  Her answer was, "Horrible."  As a father, I could see the genuine concern in her eyes and I asked her what was wrong and she said, "everything."  Few men are willing to engage in such a debate with a 14 year-old girl who is very intelligent, but I could not resist.
   My daughter was sad.  She told me about all of the things that were bothering her.  She was very precise as far as all of the things that were bothering her.  She was sad that we are a nation at war.  She was sad that there was a global warming and homelessness.  She was frustrated that there were certain cities she could not live in because she could not breathe the air.  She asked why there were these things and many more.  More importantly, she asked me what I was going to do about it.
   I am sad that I do not have more to offer my daughter.  I am sad that I cannot give her everything that she wants.  So what are my responsibilities to her and what are your responsibilities to your children and our legacy to the future in general?  I believe that we have the greatest responsibility to give them what they need.
   The Waiverly Project is about just that; changing the world for my daughter and others changing the world for their children.  Our children deserve a better world than the world that we had and have now.  How do we do this?  I tend to vibe with the idea that to focus on one thing that you are passionate about is commendable.  To dedicate your life to the erradication of some negative ideal, or the implementation of some positive action is commendable.  I, however, have chosen to go another route. 
   I think that it is important that we look at all sides of the world, so to speak.  I think it is important that I look at and do what I can about well, everything.  Robert Browning has said that "man's reach should exceed his graps, else what is a Heaven for?"  We cannot do the work alone, nor can we do it all within one generation.  The work will be ongoing and will continue for generations to come. 
   I think it is imperative that we at times look at the world as a whole.  I think we must take on the construction of the new world with a vigor that our children deserve.  I think that we have to work very hard, especially in this day and age, to provide for our children a solid world of tomorrow.
   I think that everything is connected.  Everything in our world is linked in some way, shape, form, and fashion and The Waiverly Project is my way of raising awareness of these links.  The Waiverly Project is my way of raising awareness of the things that make this world work and raising awareness of the things that are destroying it.  The Waiverly Project is my way of raising my daughter.
    The Waiverly Project seeks to support non-profit organizations that help change the world in positive ways.  It does this by creating special events, projects, networking, and raising awareness and funds for people and companies that are doing amazing things in amazing ways and on a personal note, learning about them.  I know some amazing people and my daughter is at the top of that list.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How to be Homeless...Part 1

At this point, I am not where many people are or would be at this point if this were a real thing. I sit in the AC while the Southern sun blazes outside. I have just finished eating a doughnut from the Dunkins up the road and I am drinking coffee from Starbucks. Still, where are the people now who really will be homeless this time next week. How many people are sitting right now, pouring over a mound of bills wondering what they are going to do for food and shelter this time next week?


As a sometimes writer, I have always been more facinated by what causes a story to unfold and what happens after the close of a story than the story itself. What were the events that led up to where we the viewer or reader enters the story. When one sees a man on the street, digging through the trash, we think for a moment about what may have led him there whether it be drugs, alcohol, mental illness or something of the like. Then the thought is gone. Whatever it is, it has to be said that it is something more complicated than that.

In all honesty, this part is hard and scary and I know that I will face quite a few challenges in the next week. Will they be as many and as deep as someone who has no or very little chance of changing their circumstance. I can back out at any moment, but the person who is truly in this situation, 4 days prior to being homeless, is slowly watching the options dwindle, waiting for the knock at the door and wondering what calls they can make. They know that the moment is coming and they are looking around, trying to figure out what they can take with them and what can be left behind.

Some people have deeper and different problems than that. We can say that there is a person for whom the world does not make sense and at this time, they are dealing with it, but how? This person does not know how to deal with what is going on and the people around them do not know how to deal with them. Often, like a filter, they are slowly wicked away from the all that they know and see as familiar. They may have started in a loving family, and then, with the onset of tragedy and or mental illness, they are drawn away from that family, that security. So, then the slide continues to cheap apartments, group homes, shelters and various permutations thereof until finally, the street. Through various institutions that do not or cannot take the time to get to know them, and in essence, place a band-aid on a bullet wound by medicating or simply staying the problem until finally the person is sleeping in the street,

I am an avid camper and outdoorsman, I am sure it will not be the same. I feel like I am cheating, when I walk around Atlanta and I look at all the places where I could "hide" and sleep safely. It is not cheating, really is it? How many people walking around me are thinking the same thing. How many more people around me are week from being on the street?