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