The Litter Guy

From The Toronto Sun.

Marc the Litter Guy needed money to pay the rent but he didn’t want to panhandle.

So the 30-year-old got some garbage bags and put a sign on his back saying he was cleaning Toronto for donations.

“I needed to make my own job, so I thought I’d go around and clean the streets. I wear a sign — it tells what I’m doing and asks for donations — but I don’t ask for money verbally, I leave it up to people,” said Marc, who has been picking up about 80 bags of garbage a day for the past 11 months.

Marc was struggling to get work as a day labourer and was tired of lining up at 4:30 a.m every day looking for a job that wasn’t there.

“I can have crappy days where I don’t make minimum wage, but some days I can make $10 an hour,” he said.

Marc has some specific areas where he works, and it’s not uncommon for businesses to donate garbage bags and give him a few bucks to clean up their areas.

Marc is talking to faculty at the University of Toronto about starting a pilot project, where panhandlers could meet at the university and then disperse with garbage bags to different locales.

“I just think this is a viable option for panhandlers and it is good for the city,” he said.

It is commonplace for many panhandlers to stake out the same corner every day to beg for money.

“I think this guy has a great idea,” said Robin MacDonald, a customer at Starbucks on King St. E.

“Here you have a guy who doesn’t bother people and he gives back. I wouldn’t mind giving my change to him.”

In response to complaints about panhandlers, the city is looking into whether downtown beggars who are not homeless need help in making use of social programs.

The executive committee has met with restaurant and other business owners who are frustrated with panhandlers on downtown streets.


latimes.com A tranquil retreat in the foothills of the San Fernando Valley gives Olga Koleshchuk the chance to rebuild her life after fleeing an abusive boyfriend.

Koleshchuk and her 8-year-old son, Daniel, are among six mothers and their 15 children — as well as nearly two dozen elderly women — who are living at Hope Gardens Family Center, a transitional housing site for women and children that opened two weeks ago north of Lake View Terrace.

On any given day, about 90,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles County, and 40% are women and children, according to relief agencies.

The mission, through a comprehensive program aimed at training the women for jobs, expects the families to make the transition from homelessness to renting their own places within 12 to 36 months, said Andy Bales, chief operating officer at the mission.

Early on, the idea for Hope Gardens generated opposition from residents of Kagel Canyon, about a mile away, and other local communities. Vocal neighbors complained about the risk of fire and said the center would attract crime and drugs and lower property values.

Opponents flooded county Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s office with letters and phone calls criticizing the plan. After Union Rescue Mission officials agreed to hire more security guards, install smokeless ashtrays and slowly phase in the number of residents, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission approved Hope Gardens’ permit in May.

Ethel Brooks, 31, moved to Hope Gardens last week with her three boys — Joshua, 9, Kweashad, 7, and Ethan, 1 — after bouncing from friends’ apartments to relatives’ homes after her divorce left her destitute. She acknowledges that her own weaknesses also played a role in her family’s financial troubles.

“We’re not all junkies and ho’s,” Brooks said. “It’s about making bad choices. Here, we’re learning about budgeting and managing money so we don’t make those bad choices anymore.”

For the first time in five years, she said, she has a chance to get an education, find a job and work while her children are being cared for in a safe environment.

One of the greatest problems homeless mothers face, several women said, is their inability to afford day care on their low wages. Often they have to give up their jobs to care for their children, which sends them into homelessness.

Brooks said she is interested in becoming a pharmacy technician or getting a job in the accounting or auditing department of a large company.

After they land jobs, the women have to give a portion of their salaries to Hope Gardens for their housing costs and set aside part of their pay for savings so they can eventually rent a place of their own. Continue Reading »

ONTARIO – An outdoor living space for the homeless opened last week in an isolated, untraveled area of vacant lots more than 500 feet from any other structure.

Photo Gallery: Homeless in Ontario
New Video: Homeless camp, City of Ontario

It was set up by the city at minimal cost to address the growing encampment of homeless people near the city’s Amtrak station at Euclid Avenue and Holt Boulevard, said Bob Heitzman, the city’s assistant city manager.

“We could have just said, `Move on to somewhere else,”‘ Heitzman said. “In this case, we said move on and gave them another location to go to.”

The new site, with a city-provided portable toilet and running water, has become the new home for about 20 homeless people since opening on Friday.

“It’s not illegal to be homeless, and it’s not illegal to be in town,” Mayor Paul Leon said. “They have expressed a desire for some kind of accommodations that would fit their wishes to have a place where they can be and not be imposed upon.

“We don’t have any other place that we could set up and say, `Here’s a spot.’ But that’s a spot that we could do that with at this time.”

The homeless encampment near the Amtrak station was established about six months ago at the city’s urging, said Rick Ritchey, 40, one of the homeless people who moved from the station to the new site.

About 30 people were living there when police came on Friday, told the homeless people about the new living space and said “in a roundabout way” that they had to leave the Amtrak site, said Rod Vaughn, one of the homeless people.

“They wanted us out of sight and out of mind, which we didn’t mind,” said Ritchey, who has been homeless off and on for 10 years.

The living space is at Cucamonga Avenue and Jefferson Street, in an area just west of L.A./Ontario International Airport that was formerly a residential area.

The city purchased the residential lots from owners through a voluntary program established after the airport opened, Heitzman said.

The area encompasses several full blocks, and in recent years people have used it as an illegal dumping site. The area is peppered with large “no dumping” signs.

Homeless people at the site say they like the new living space. It is now filled with bags, suitcases, tents, mattresses and other camping equipment. Continue Reading »

By Bryan Chambers
The Herald-Dispatch
HUNTINGTON — Whether it was substance abuse, mental illness or job loss that led them to a life on the streets, it really didn’t matter.

What mattered to several social workers Friday underneath a sun-drenched picnic shelter at Harris Riverfront Park was finding the park’s homeless population a permanent place to live.

The outreach effort was the beginning of a multi-agency approach to dissuade the homeless from setting up camp in or near the park and transforming it into a safe and clean recreational haven for Tri-State residents.

City workers Monday morning will enter a densely wooded strip of riverbank known as “Tent City” between the western end of the park and the Robert C. Byrd Bridge and begin dismantling tent encampments and clearing the area of brush. Social service workers estimate 20 to 30 people live in the wooded area.

The cleanup will be followed by an increased law enforcement presence at the park.

Friday’s outreach effort was part of a new initiative among a few social service agencies called Housing First, said John Mendez, director of the Coalition for the Homeless. It focuses on finding housing for homeless people first before other problems such as substance abuse or mental illness are addressed.

“Some folks have lived here along the riverbank for some time, so this is their comfort zone,” said John Mendez, director of the Coalition for the Homeless. “We’re expressing to them that they deserve a roof over their head and that we are committed to helping them do that.”

Mendez said the Heistad House, a new six-unit home for the chronically homeless, is a prime example. The Coalition opened the home this week when six people who were living along the riverbank moved into it.

“Those six people had a combined total of 40 to 50 years of homelessness,” Mendez said. “That all ended this week.”

Joining the Coalition for the Homeless were the Huntington City Mission, Huntington Housing Authority, Prestera Center, Turning Point Apostolic Ministries and Volunteers of America, an outreach program for homeless veterans.

The groups were able to convince 11 people to apply for permanent housing and assisted 10 more with followup work on existing applications. Most of the applicants live along the riverbank, Mendez said.

Not all agencies helping the homeless at the park on Friday agreed that dismantling Tent City and keeping homeless people out of the park is the best plan of action.

“I support finding these people permanent housing but, short-term, I don’t know what the answer is,” said Fred Ray, pastor of Turning Point Apostolic Ministries. “We can’t find these people housing today. It could be three to six months. In the meantime, they’re going to end up somewhere else on the streets. At least here at the riverfront they are contained.”

Ray said he has been coming to the riverfront to feed homeless people every Tuesday and Thursday for the past year. On average, he will feed about 20 people, though the numbers have been as high as 50 in recent weeks, he said. He will continue that routine, despite the city’s efforts to keep homeless people out of the park.

“If the city thinks that targeting homeless people is going to curtail a safety problem down here, they’re fooling themselves,” said Ray’s wife, Lisa. “This place is a major drop-off point for drugs.”


Teens try a night of homelessness
They find out how ‘others feel’

For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/05/07

Parishioners arriving for Sunday morning Mass at St. Peter Chanel last weekend were greeted by rather scruffy looking, homeless-for-one-night teens begging for money.

The plan called for youth group members to camp out on the church lawn the night before, sleeping in cardboard boxes to get an idea of what it’s like to be homeless. An electrical storm forced the group inside for about six hours.

The no-frills activity also served as a fund-raiser for a nonprofit initiative that provides temporary housing for at-risk, homeless and underprivileged children. Joy of Living Programs for Youth and Families, Inc., (www.tjol.faithweb.com) currently cares for 36 children in three homes in College Park and Newnan.

The 21 participants at St. Peter Chanel raised $1,750 to install heating and air conditioning in one of the homes.

The teens are “so comfortable all the time, it’s nice to give them a taste of how others feel,” said Megan Busch, youth coordinator for the Roswell church.

The campers were instructed to bring only a pillow and sleeping bag. Appliance-size boxes from Home Depot provided shelter. Breakfast was a snack served from a “soup kitchen table.”

Busch said the young people recently returned from a mission trip to Bluffton, S.C., where they spent their time in homes that had no air conditioning. They were eager to participate in another mission activity, she said, especially something that helps “another family live a little bit more comfortably.”


Dallas’ Street Church will meet you where you are, even if it’s in a crack house
Published: June 28, 2007

Fifteen years ago while leading a church service for incarcerated women in a dirty room in the Dallas County Jail, Pastor Karen Dudley noticed a familiar face in the crowd. Dudley had first seen the woman a year earlier at another prison. At the time, the woman had been living as a crack addict and prostitute. Upon her release, she’d given Dudley a call, and the two had become friends. The woman had moved back to East Texas to live with her family, where she joined a local church. Her life seemed to have taken a turn for the better.

But now she was back in prison. Dudley’s heart sank as she looked out from behind the lectern and saw that the woman was right back where she’d started. “Lord, if you’re real,” Dudley prayed, “that lady can be delivered.” At that moment, Dudley envisioned an inner-city church that would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help people like this woman make a lasting change.

Today that church is a reality. Called Dallas International Street Church, it is located in South Dallas on Clarence Street in an old brick structure that used to be a 12-unit apartment complex near boarded-up buildings and crack houses. Underneath a nearby bridge, a small colony of homeless people sleep in cardboard boxes. Dallas International Street Church redefines church as many of us know it. The congregation is almost entirely made up of homeless people, and the church staff are almost all former drug addicts.

Dudley believes the mission of the street church is to reach out to the needy in whatever way they can. Sometimes that means helping people obtain documents and identification that they’ve lost, such as birth certificates, picture IDs or Social Security cards. Or it might involve giving someone a place to sleep, getting them counseling or helping them obtain a GED. “If we can make one person’s life a little bit better, we’re going to do that without question,” Dudley says. “If they want to make a change, then I want to help them make a change.”

The church plays a small but significant role in combating homelessness in Dallas. According to the most recent statistics, the homeless population in Dallas County is somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000. That number includes individuals living in temporary housing such as shelters and motels as well as those living on the streets and in homeless encampments. Some homeless advocates, however, doubt the accuracy of these counts.

In 2006, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty conducted a survey of 224 cities to evaluate how they treated their homeless populations. Dallas was ranked one of the worst because of several laws the city has targeted at the homeless population.

Panhandling, for instance, is now prohibited across the city from sunset to sunrise, and under a new ordinance, good Samaritans who feed the homeless outside of city-approved locations can be fined anywhere from $200 to $2,000. The city also has a ban on sleeping in public, and it regularly bulldozes homeless encampments.

But the city is attempting to change its image. The Dallas Homeless Assistance Center is scheduled to open next March. At this $21 million facility, which features 100 beds for short-term use as well as an outdoor pavilion where 300 people can sleep, the homeless can take a shower, get a hot meal and get access to job training and treatment for drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness.

Jeremy Gregg, director of development at Central Dallas Ministries, believes the most important thing a city can do to deal with homelessness is to provide affordable housing, particularly single-room-occupancy units, or SROs. He says the Street Church and other small nonprofits like it are best at addressing the immediate needs of the homeless, such as food, clothing and shelter. But Gregg says ending homelessness in Dallas will require more than any one organization can accomplish on its own.

“I’m just grateful for the little, minute thing that I get to do everyday,” Dudley says.

Every week Dallas International Street Church serves more than 1,000 meals and hands out enough clothing to fill 20 to 30 garbage bags. Dudley networks with several other ministries and nonprofits in order to treat the “whole person.” If someone comes to the church strung out on drugs, the church will take them to Homeward Bound Inc., which has 14- to 21-day residential drug detox as well as an outpatient program. The church staff is also attuned to spiritual needs. It operates a Christian 12-step program as well as daily Bible studies and nightly church services to get people on the path to spiritual healing.

Soon after someone enters the program, Dudley likes to get them involved in serving. She sees this as one of the most important components of recovery: learning to give back. Sometimes men and women in the program find themselves serving food or handing out clothing to people they smoked crack with only the week before.

Dudley recognizes that change is a process. “It doesn’t come overnight,” she says. “Hearts have been hardened because of the things that they have been through. It’s hard to learn to trust again.”

Ronnie Perkins, the praise and worship leader at Street Church, says the church has changed his life. He was one of the first men to be helped by Dudley after she started the church nearly 10 years ago. In 1987, Perkins’ partner died of AIDS, and Perkins learned that he’d contracted HIV. Shortly thereafter he found himself abandoned by friends and family. Then he discovered a new friend, crack cocaine. By the time he met Dudley, he weighed only 125 pounds (he now weighs 175) and often slept on the loading dock of a seldom-used building. Perkins says, “I was tore up from the floor up. It was hard for me to go back to the traditional church, because I was so messed up and I didn’t know if they were going to accept me. But the church here will accept you just the way you are. We’ll build you up from where you are.”

Dudley sees herself as an unlikely candidate for this kind of work. She grew up in a little country town in Oklahoma. She had an ordinary upbringing and never got into drugs or alcohol. But Dudley has a tenacity that drives her to see hurting people’s lives changed. The church staff tells stories of how she’s walked into crack houses to pull her people out when they’ve had a relapse. “These are not drunks and bums and crackheads,” Dudley says. “They’re people with the same hopes and dreams that you and I have.”

Mobile Loaves And Fishes