Monday, February 21, 2011

Metro Santa Cruz ~ Letters ~May 5 - 12, 1999

Live Through This!
by Karen Brock

letter published in Metro Santa Cruz, May 5 - 12, 1999,
in response to the article, Helter Shelter

..."I have been homeless; I
have slept on beaches, in
abandoned houses, in fields,
tents, cars, shelters, without
water or electricity, and have
felt very lost, alone and powerless."

-Karen Brock
, client advocate
to homeless people

After speaking with the monitors at ISSP and talking with several clients, I feel it is my obligation as client advocate to speak up on your biased article against our agency ("Helter Shelter," April 14).

Posing as a homeless client to get your half truth was not only deceitful, but you took the spot in a church group which deprived a real homeless female the right to sleep at the church, have a good meal and have social interaction with the wonderful volunteers who care enough to serve our homeless clients.

The comment you make about the church volunteers praying for us was rude and uncalled for. Believe me, if you were really homeless, you would appreciate their prayers and their time. I pray that none of the church volunteers or the clergy believe what you wrote, as the consequences could lead to no more church groups, no more hot meals, no volunteers, no safe place for any client to sleep.

I know that many of our monitors are insulted by your implication that they are drinking at the churches, and not doing the best job they can. I hope you take a good long look at your journalism and be sure not to implicate all because of a few who definitely failed at their job and are no longer employed here.

For the record, I am fond of Smokey and I feel very bad about what happened to him. It was cruel and definitely unfair. However, for you to imply that because he spoke his mind about this agency, that we had anything to do with his injuries, is totally ridiculous.

If you are wondering why I keep saying we, it is because I have been homeless; I have slept on beaches, in abandoned houses, in fields, tents, cars, shelters, without water or electricity, and have felt very lost, alone and powerless.

When you're waiting in line at the supermarket, the bank and gas station, do not presume you ever knew how homelessness felt unless you have lived it for more than two days for a news story.

Karen Brock
Homeless services Center

Linda's Hearth notes: Here's a story that I have great photos (somewhere) to support. ahh...someday! I learned a lot from Karen. Saw grown men cry when she had to move away. Karen was a wonderful and inspiring client advocate whom I got to know a little, while also working with her sister at another nonprofit. And I find her letter as encouraging now as it was when I first spotted it in the local weekly.

BTW, this earlier version of Homeless Services Center was ahead of the curve then, with a viable model of wrap-around service for homeless people of all ages, which is crucial for those who have been sidelined for longer periods of time, or who are ill, disabled, pregnant, in need of health care, coping skills, or who are otherwise unable to do everything themselves.

The jargon is "support services", and this can include everything from condoms or a bus pass, to a full-time trusted ally helping arrange safe passage into a Dept of Vocational Rehab (then) or Prop 36 recovery (nowadays). If you are in need of help with thing as yet unnamed, ask your client support or tenant support person to describe what they're good at, and start sharing and if you fel some trust, negotiate as an equal partner from there. At least in our County, the providers have a healthy and active network and I have seen magic happen.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Folks Expected to be Invisible Night and Day


Let's set the record straight about

Safe Ground's goals and motives

Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 11A

Over the last two years, since the Safe Ground movement emerged out of the rubble of Sacramento's infamous tent city, much has been written about Safe Ground. Most of it suffers from the stereotypic misperceptions that all homeless persons are pathological, have little value as human beings and a prevalent misunderstanding of the Safe Ground objectives.

Safe Ground is about people seeking to help themselves while trying to survive without many of the benefits of society and about providing Sacramento with a model solution that can be cost effectively repeated elsewhere. Safe Ground is not about living in tents on the American River Parkway. We are there only until we have other options.

Safe Ground was formed when a group of homeless persons got together for self improvement and self protection, and to find freedom from drugs, alcohol and violence. It formed a coalition with advocates for the homeless and started to give serious thought to why the current solutions to homelessness were not succeeding. In early 2010, Safe Ground Sacramento Inc. was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation.

In 2009, the official street count by the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistancehealth insurance and access to medication, personal belongings and credit. placed the number of homeless people on the streets each night – after shelters were full and affordable housing resources exhausted – at 1,200. We are talking about the people hardest hit by the economic recession, those that have lost jobs,

The homeless live in extreme poverty, often struggling with a damaged sense of self worth and little hope for their future. Safe Ground asks why we have policies that work to drive these people into submission rather than policies that help lift them out of despair.

The Safe Ground model community will contain 40 to 60 sleeping cabins, at a projected cost of less than $10,000 per cabin. Each is a sleeping cabin, not a garden shed – ADA-compliant cabins with beds, storage for personal property, room for a pet and some basic furniture. We continue to look at designs that optimize the use of passive solar solutions and limited electrical service to contain costs.

Safe Ground is supported by volunteer professionals who have worked with our homeless leaders to design the sleeping cabins and community buildings, which will contain sanitation facilities (restrooms, showers and laundry), a community kitchen and dining facilities, and meeting rooms to house outreach services. Safe Ground will seek private funding through grants, private donations and an adopt-a-cabin effort.

The city of Sacramento has stepped up and is actively working with us. Safe Ground experts have narrowed the original city list of 2.5- to 5-acre parcels down to six, and city officials are reviewing those properties. Safe Ground is optimistic that the acquisition of a parcel for the prototype Safe Ground community is near; however, our sense of urgency is increasing as time passes.

Regarding the current situation on the American River Parkway, recent homeless sweeps forced all campers to relocate. In justifying this harassment of the campers, the county announced the provision of 32 additional Salvation Army shelter beds for 60 days and a 30-day extension to the winter sanctuary program. The 32 beds were offered to Safe Ground campers, even though the shelter facility had 166 men and 80 women on an existing waiting list. Safe Ground ethically rejected taking priority over the 246 people already on the waiting list, instead sending only those who are most vulnerable.

While we applaud the efforts of the county supervisor who raised donations, it is not a solution. It is not the kind of creative, out-of-the-box thinking required to develop a solution to homelessness. Instead, admittedly, the county's law enforcement action is driven by the desire to relieve political pressure.

Safe Ground is about a real solution, a transitional housing community with a hub-and-spoke services system, for real people who are suffering right here in our Sacramento community today. We call that a humane approach – a just and proper solution. Safe Ground is anxious to continue to partner with the city and county, as well as private and nonprofit organizations, to achieve mutually acceptable solutions.

Homeless people deserve it, all people do.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Stephen Watters is the executive director of Safe Ground Sacramento Inc.

For more information about Safe Ground, go to

Monday, February 14, 2011 on Valentine Vibes

'What's Love Got To Do With It?'

Valentine's Day Tidbits

Where do we find enduring love?
Answer: Oxytocin.


Low serotonin and endorphins.

In fact, our loved ones are actually present in our brains - In today's Delancy Place excerpt - Valentine's Day tidbits. Where do we find enduring love? Answer: Oxytocin. Infidelity? Testosterone. Heartbreak? Low serotonin and endorphins.

Our loved ones are actually present in our brains - neurochemically - and when lost it results in chemical trauma for the brain: "An American study of over four thousand men found that husbands with high testosterone levels were 43 percent more likely to get divorced and 38 percent more likely to have extramarital affairs than men with lower levels. They were also 50 percent less likely to get married at all.

Men with the least amounts oftestosterone were more likely to get married and to stay married, maybe because low testosterone levels make men calmer, less aggressive, less intense, and more cooperative. "The desire to commit to someone is strongly linked to ... oxytocin. ... Oxytocin is released by the pituitary gland and acts on the ovaries and testes to regulate reproduction.

Researchers suspect that this hormone is important for forming close social bonds. The levels of this chemical rise when couples watch romantic movies, hug, or hold hands. Prairie voles, when injected with oxytocin, pair much faster than normally. Blocking oxytocin prevents them from bonding in a normal way. This is similar in humans, because couples bond to certain characteristics in each other. This is why you are attracted to the same type of man or woman repeatedly.

In general, levels of oxytocin are lower in men, except after an orgasm, where they are raised more than 500 percent. This may explain why men feel very sleepy after an orgasm. This is the same hormone released in babies during breast-feeding, which makes them sleepy as well.

"Oxytocin is also related to the feelings of closeness and 'being in love' when you have regular sex, for several reasons. First, the skin is sensitized by oxytocin, encouraging affection and touching behavior. Then, oxytocin levels rise during subsequent touching and eventually even with the anticipation of being touched. Oxytocin increases during sexual activity, peaks at orgasm, and stays elevated for a period of time after intercourse. ...

In addition, there is an amnesic effect created by oxytocin during sex and orgasm that blocks negative memories people have about each other for a period of time. The same amnesic effect occurs from the release of oxytocin during childbirth, while a mother is nursing, to help her forget the labor pain, and also during long, stressful nights spent with a newborn so that she can bond to her baby with positive feelings and love.

Higher oxytocin levels are also associated with an increased feeling of trust, according to a landmark study by Michael Kosfeld and colleagues from Switzerland published in the journal Nature. "Intranasal oxytocin was found to increase trust. Men who inhale a nasal spray spiked with oxytocin give more money to partners in a risky investment game than do men who sniff a spray containing a placebo. This substance fosters the trust needed for friendship, love, families, economic transactions, and political networks."

According to the study's authors, "Oxytocin specifically affects an individual's willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions." ...

"What happens in the brain when you lose someone you love? Why do we hurt, long, even obsess about the other person? When we love someone, they come to live in the emotional or limbic centers of our brains. He or she actually occupies nerve-cell pathways and physically lives in the neurons and synapses of the brain.

"When we lose someone, either through death, divorce, moves, or breakups, our brain starts to get confused and disoriented. Since the person lives in the neuronal connections, we expect to see her, hear her, feel her, and touch her. When we cannot hold her or talk to her as we usually do, the brain centers where she lives becomes inflamed looking for her."

Overactivity in the limbic brain has been associated with depression and low serotonin levels, which is why we have trouble sleeping, feel obsessed, lose our appetites, want to isolate ourselves, and lose the joy we have about life. A deficit in endorphins, which modulate pain and pleasure pathways in the brain, also occurs, which may be responsible for the physical pain we feel during a breakup."

Author: Daniel G. Amen, M.D. Title: The Brain in Love: 12 Lessons to Enhance Your Love Life
Publisher: Three Rivers PressDate: Copyright 2007 by Daniel G. Amen, M.D.Pages: 64-68 is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Julia Vinograd's Step Into My Parlour

Portrait of a Street Hustler

When he leans against a brick wall
the wall cringes and the bricks whimper,
His angry hands are ready to crush
at any moment. Or caress.
Young, with lips that are always soft
no matter how hard he glares.
the suna nd the moon are only yapping dogs
he'll kick away if they don't behave
and if he could afford the right kind of boots.
Other people exist to feed his low-slung jeans
and hopefully not to talk too much.
Night licks the inside of his wrists
when he lights a cigarette slowly,
in case someone's watching.
All clock numbers are in his torn pockets
where hands tell time but who can tell him anything?
A shrug rides his shoulder like a renaissance falcon.
Terrorists crashing buildings are too far away.
And too lonely. He'll be the sea storming
all over a little room and anyone in his way.
Sharks surface at his collarbones.
Treacherous undertow drags bodies down by the hair.
Merchant ships and suits smash against rocks.
He tried to pose with a newspaper once
outside the coffeehouse,
but it hid too much of his face.

Step into My Parlor is one of Julia Vinograd's fifty or more books of poetry. She writes about people on the urban landscape with an enchanting and penetrating eye. I love her way with image and metaaphor. I met Vinograd once, in Berkeley I believe. I have this week been gifted with this 2002 book and so far like every poem here....

Linda's Hearth will probably feature future selections from this book.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Powerful 'Left' Needs to Grow ~ ~ ~ Video Link

Check out this important audio ~~

Building a powerful Left in the United States, featuring audio with Normal Solomon, Ralph Nader, Cornell West, Noam Chomsky.

This URL comes to Linda's Hearth from my FaceBook friend, Terri Lee. If you check it out, I'd love some diverse feedback to share here. As a supporter of the Green Party's nonviolent, not-kissing-Capitalism-as-Religion agenda, I feel we need to learn more and more from the silenced and erased voices, in our Nation and in our history. -Linda