Tuesday, July 19, 2016

American Politics Are The Greatest of Evils

What was a field of 22 presidential candidates (five Democrats and 17 Republicans) has now been narrowed down to just two finalists with one of them in the midst of his party's convention today on July 19th, 2016. (I'm sure he was pleased to see the welcome committee.) However, I'm firmly convinced that the world is going to Hell in a hand basket when I consider how a psychopath like Donald Trump has knocked off 16 other GOP contenders and out-maneuvered scores of other people in his party who sought to stop his advance. He is now set to become his party's official nominee.

Let's face it: Donald Trump is a man who is just chock full of contradictions and conflicts. Two of his three wives including his current wife were born in Communist nations and his own grandparents immigrated to this country from Germany; but, Donald has spoken against Muslim and Mexican immigrants. He lies constantly; but, wants to sue media outlets that tell the ugly truths about him. He knows nothing about making policies; but, is applying for a job that involves much policy-making. He has praised various dictators; but, he wants to become the president of a democracy. He has said that he would instruct the military to use torture methods worse than waterboarding, in spite of the Geneva Convention. He wants to do "the head-chopping thing" that Hercules was told to quit after it didn't work against the Hydra; because, that's what ISIS does. He wants to kill the families of terrorists, though the military brass has said they would disobey such orders. What's more i that they might even stage a successful coup. Evidently, he likes to exact cruel and unusual punishments upon people -- even those who had nothing to do with the wrongs committed by their kin. Maybe his logic is that, if enough people do something often enough, then it's no longer unusual -- though it might still be cruel.

One of the less dramatic contradictions within the Trump camp is the fact that the wife of the official 2016 GOP nominee borrowed heavily from a speech made by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2008. Evidently, Melania Trump couldn't find a well-written speech that was done by a Republican first lady; so, she didn't mind reaching across the political aisle like so many politicians said they would do. Maybe Melania should be his chief adviser instead of his adult sons and daughters. She's a neat mixture of European Communism and of American, bipartisan plagiarism. She might even brief her husband on recent events in Turkey while assuring the idiot-in-chief that the attempted coup will not have a negative bearing on this Thanksgiving's feast. (Then again, the bird flu DID hit Turkey first. God's got a sense of humor.)

During her conversation with him, she should point out that Recep Tayyip Erdogan was democratically elected as president of Turkey and that he seems to promote the use of harsh tactics by government only when there is enough public support -- as was the case following the coup attempt. Similar things can be said about Vladimir Putin -- if to a lesser degree. That said, maybe she can convince him to be a bit more tactful by waiting until he's in office -- God forbid -- before unleashing his full fury. At least that would have been a smart move for a presidential candidate if he hadn't already let the cat out of the bag. All of this brings us to yet another seeming contradiction in that Donald Trump knows a lot about and even lauds various dictators; but, doesn't have time to read up on past U.S. presidents. But I must give credit where the credit is due. I have to give it to Donald for realizing that Bush 43 taking us into Iraq was indeed a mistake and that Saddam Hussein was keeping the lid on the pressure cooker -- a lid that has since been blown off and has yet to be replaced. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

In spite of his occasional foray into the realm of the sensible, any reasonable person would have to conclude that Donald Trump should not have gotten as far as he has. This says something terrible about Americans -- voting Americans for checking Trump's name at the ballot box and non-voting people for not voting. Then again, maybe America is willing to give up its freedoms in the name of security -- to reconstitute itself.

Now for the other finalist. In the eyes of many Americans, Hillary Clinton is not a much better choice insomuch as she was sending sensitive information from a personal e-mail account using a private server -- with just over 100 messages having contained classified information. That information might have gotten into the hands of America's enemies -- a group that's growing by the day. Secretary Clinton's failings might have contributed to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. Her recklessness pales in comparison to the fact that the Bush administration illegally deleted 5,000,000 e-mails and saw 13 American embassy attacks resulting in 60 deaths. While I, like Bernie Sanders, wish people would "shut up about the e-mails already", I can't give Ms. Clinton a pass on having voted to go to war in Iraq. Even a person who didn't foresee us igniting a powder keg should have known that it doesn't make sense to go to war with a country because you don't like the fact that they have nuclear weapons. War is when those weapons get used (the most anyway). In hindsight we can see that the Iraq War destroyed more lives than it improved and that, as Trump would tell you, it led to the creation of ISIS which gave us another reason for war.

Where does all of this leave us??? Well, if we assume that most people -- even most U.S. presidential candidates -- are good people and we complain that the two worst candidates are left out of 22, that means that one evil person eliminated four and another eliminated 16. I guess that makes evil a more powerful force than good. Maybe it just means that our political system is designed in such a way that evil prevails within it. Either way, this country's got much bigger problems than the fact that Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will end up becoming president. We've got a broken system. Even so, if I had to choose from just these two, I'd take Hillary over Trump any day. But, after her inauguration, I'd continue to push for systemic change. In the grand scheme of things, a Republican first lady plagiarizing the words of a Democratic first lady might be the best thing that has happened this campaign season.

(Note: I just learned that an unknown named Lawrence Lessig also ran as a Democratic, making for six Democratic candidates.)

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Speech To Be made in Philadelphia During the Democratic National Convention

(At events organized by activists and advocates)

I, Eric Sheptock, will be in Philadelphia, PA during the week of the Democratic national Convention. I've been asked to speak about homelessness. Though I tend to speak off the cuff, here are some thoughts that I'll convey at organized events and elsewhere while in our nation's first capital:

The Black Panther Party which celebrates its 50th anniversary this October was begun in response to police brutality in Oakland, CA in 1966. They created armed resistance to a corrupt police force; but, like Hamas, Hezbollah and Fatah, they transitioned into affording social services to the poor – namely school breakfast to Black children. They also began to teach people about the negative effects of capitalism and racial inequality. In short, they were stopped dead in their tracks by J. Edgar Hoover whose most effective tactic was having the feds to offer school meals without the ideology. The effects of discouraging the poor from doing any critical thinking still linger a half century later. That's why some of us make it a point to participate in social theory study groups and/or to encourage those who are angered by the current state of America and its treatment of the non-wealthy to do so themselves (or at least to think critically – not just emotionally – about various atrocities being perpetrated upon the poor in 2016).

Politicians who control the big guns, candidates who want to control the big guns and those who choose to ignore the fact that unarmed people who were marching across a bridge or complying with police orders were still hurt and killed by police are now telling us to remain calm and peaceful. Let's add in the fact that slavery was ended with a war. Then those who could no longer enslave Blacks resorted to Jim Crow Law. Immediately after that, Nixon began mass incarceration in 1972 only to resign a few years later in an effort not to end up in prison alongside the Blacks who were there thanks to his policies. While I'm not suggesting that Blacks today resort to violence, I AM juxtaposing what I believe are some of the most pertinent facts when discussing the plight of the nation's poor (most of whom are actually White).

1 – One of the worst and most overt forms of systemic oppression that has been perpetrated by the wealthy and influential in this country was only ended with violence – the Civil War (an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp”, I might add).

2 – Remaining non-violent in the face of police brutality, though it might have prevented further casualties, has neither guaranteed that an encounter with police would not lead to death nor guaranteed that the issues being raised by the poor would be fully and adequately addressed.

3 – What powerful people fear the most is a well-educated base of poor and oppressed people who have a viable social theory, suitable critical thinking skills and an ability to put forth their demands with a concerted effort.

Now, as a preacher might say, “Let us prey.....on that fear”.

Here we are today confronting the same issues that the BPP was confronting in 1966 -- more than two years before my birth, two years after the death of Medgar Evers and a year and a half before the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther king, Jr. We're gathered in the shadow of the Democratic National Convention which was held in Charleston, SC in 2012 where homeless people were pushed out of extended-stay hotels in order to accommodate the convention crowd and so that hoteliers could gouge prices. However, it stands to reason that most or all of those gathered here today – including Yours Truly – are from a third party, of which there are many. Go figure. We're not here because we figure that the Democrats will do any more for the poor than the Republicans will do. After all, both major parties are part of the capitalist system. Being the movement people that we are, we all know these two things quite intuitively:

1 – Our purpose and goal is to effect positive social change irrespective of party affiliation – ours or that of the next occupant of the White House.

2 – We own whoever wins on November 8th.

You might come to this space as a homeless advocate. You might advocate for access to nutritious food. You might be fighting to preserve public housing. You might work to end one or more of our wars so that, As MLK, Jr. suggested, the money our government spends decimating other countries can be put to better use caring for the needy here at home. No matter what brings you here, we are all united in common cause against the atrocities of capitalism and to promote the creation of a system that ensures that all able-bodied people can afford the necessities of life with the pay they earn while the elderly and disabled are cared for.

I'm a homeless advocate who lives in Washington, DC where there were at least 8,350 homeless people as of January 2016. That's up 1,052 or 14.4% from 7,298 homeless people in January 2015. I might add that there was also a significant jump from 2013 when we counted 6,859 homeless people to 2014 when there were at least 7,748 homeless people in the capital of the most powerful nation on Earth.

I was bothered in June 2014 when, at the quarterly meeting of DC's Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH), there was no discussion by committee members of the substantial one-year increase in homeless people – the numbers having been published in May. I became suspicious that local officials were trying to sweep their failures under the rug. The non-profit that normally does the report-out told me that they weren't asked to do their usual presentation. Go figure. To be fair, the ICH was going through a transition at the time. With all that's happened since June 2014, that matter is water under the bridge and we have bigger fish to fry – if we can ever catch them and kill them.

In 2016 a reason was given for the increase. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser who took office in 2015 changed the draconian policies of her predecessor by granting families greater access to shelter. This, in turn, led to homeless families who needed shelter before 2015 coming out of the woodwork. While I don't doubt that possibility, whether the newly homeless are entering shelter immediately after being evicted from their most recent rental or by way of Mom's couch is of less consequence than the fact that they now need shelter in the short term and affordable housing in the long term. That said, it hurts the poor any time that any government focuses on blaming the previous administration, saving face and making excuses rather than charting a path forward and figuring out how to solve a social ill. To put it another way, the government shouldn't focus too much on asking when those who present at shelter became homeless – in 2014 or 2015. They should be trying to assess the total current need – of those in shelter, those on the streets and those who are couch surfing. Government should then consider how to ensure that ALL such people are housed and that everyone has access to affordable housing – no matter what year they became homeless.

That brings me to the good news and to some ideas as to what we as a movement can do to effect the positive change that we so strongly desire and so urgently need. The first bit of good news is that DC Government, the local advocates, the non-profits and the council have begun to move in a direction that might actually end homelessness in DC by the end of 2020 – assuming that a number of things work out as predicted for the next four years. The locals there were able to develop a somewhat comprehensive plan only because of federal laws and programs such as Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act (WIOA), Veterans' Administration Supportive Housing (VASH) and the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act. With the HEARTH Act of 2009 mandating that municipalities find ways to reduce homelessness and WIOA (which was signed by Obama on July 22nd, 2014) mandating that municipalities serve those who have barriers to employment by connecting them to living-wage jobs, this means that the Obama administration has given us something to build our demands on. The movement can find ways to leverage existing laws before demanding that our officials create better laws. Let's not reinvent the wheel.

At the same time, let's not operate under any illusion that the powers that be will readily bend to the will of the electorate. As Frederick Douglass told us, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will”. Let's use the “gunboat diplomacy” of Teddy Roosevelt who said, “Speak softly; but, carry a big stick”. The movement needs to have a threat to hold over the heads of those in power. I can think of a number of such threats. Some of them actually fall within the constraints of the law. We can start by developing a shared vision for society; but, government won't feel all that threatened by a room full of people reading and discussing Plato's Republic. We can organize; but, we may find ourselves going up against the likes of J. Edgar Hoover or Congressman Joseph McCarthy. We can show ourselves to have some staying power; but, should always be cognizant of the fact that the fire hoses and dogs of the 1960's have been replaced with militarized police forces. In any instance, I strongly believe that, no matter who wins on November 8th, those who supported the loser will partake in a rebellion which could turn into a full-on revolution. We who are already socially and politically conscience need to make sure that, when that energy is created, that it is geared toward realizing our goals and that it doesn't fizzle out until those goals have been reached. As an old man recently told me, “You've got to be ready to stand up for what you believe in; and, once you've won, you have to be prepared to hold on to what you've got”.

Are you ready???

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

BRUTAL HONESTY: Blacks Are Victims of J. Edgar Hoover and Capitalism

 Republished from 7/12/16:

Let's be BRUTALLY HONEST; lay aside any emotions and take a good, hard, rational look at what led up to the Dallas massacre. I've been thinking about it a lot and this is my second blog post on the matter in the five days since Private First Class (E3) Micah Xavier Johnson shot 12 Dallas law enforcement officers, killing five. In the minds of some -- but not all -- people he went from being a military hero to being a criminal zero when he transitioned from shooting at foreigners in Afghanistan to shooting at cops in America. Now some people are wondering why Private Johnson chose to shoot cops in a city that has not been in the national media for its police brutality and killing of unarmed Black men. I assure you that there are many in Afghanistan who still don't know why we decimated THEIR country when we didn't find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, when Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan and when most people in that country neither know nor care what the World Trade Center IS or that it was attacked. So, why is it that we glorify violence when it's perpetrated upon other countries by the U.S. military but we ostracize our soldiers when they return to stateside and kill the pillars of capitalism -- an oppressive and exploitative system that permeates the world??? (BTW, militarism is one aspect of Fascism.)

We ask "Why?" when Americans are killed; but, we blindly accept it when our military is given orders to destroy another nation in the name of American security. We call it "patriotism". Many soldiers have come back to America and spoken of the atrocities they were made to perpetrate upon innocent people (or to witness) and about how they found out that the war was not for the reasons stated by our American politicians. Private Micah Johnson's mother told media that her son had indeed made the latter claim.

Now the media is inclined to try and prove that Private Johnson was mentally ill in order to discredit his claim in an attempt to hide the ugly truth about our government's motives for going to war. While I can't speak to the issue of his mental state, it stands to reason that any mental illness that he might have suffered from began to manifest while he was deployed and possibly even as a direct result of that deployment. After all, there is documented proof that military service drives many people crazy -- making the U.S. Government something in the way of a "Frankenstein Factory" that is mass-producing monsters -- some of whom get "treatment" by way of a cop's service revolver or heavy artillery afforded to police by the military. (Hey, we can't let a perfectly good tank go to waste!!! The silver lining here is that they aren't using these tanks on FOREIGN civilians.)

If Private Johnson was indeed the military-manufactured "monster" that the media is portraying him to be, I'd have to say that he was a monster with a mind and a good point. He spoke to police negotiators for several hours. The public doesn't know the majority of what he said, though we have the DPD's biased, slanted summation. We DO know that Private Johnson was angry about the unjustified deaths by police of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and others -- MANY OTHERS. We DO know that, even if he didn't actually read THIS BLOG POST of mine, he used the sensibilities mentioned therein. After all, he spent several months preparing for July 7th. We DO know that racial tensions that have been building up for centuries and were never adequately dealt with after Jim Crow have come back to haunt us. We DO know that, even in death, Private Johnson is forcing the conversation that should have been taking place decades ago -- forcing the much-needed, difficult and long overdue conversation about racial inequality and the negative effects of Capitalism (particularly on Black Americans).

I've spoken to a number of people since the shooting and have been ever so slightly surprised at some of what I've heard. As indicated in my previous post, some people (including at least one preacher) have said, "I don't condone it; but, I understand it". People have expressed how angry they are that the media is doing so much coverage of the police officers that were killed while seeming to have forgotten about the unarmed Black men whose deaths by crooked cops were, in fact, the reasons for the Dallas Shooting. I've even heard a Caucasian man say that he had absolutely no sympathy for the police officers who died; insomuch as, they're part of a corrupt system (sometimes, I might add, falling victim to THEIR OWN carelessness and stupidity.). And, finally, I've heard folk say that a person who becomes a police officer should know that the possibility of dying in the line of duty goes with the territory -- as Ofcr. Ashley Guindon learned when she was killed by Army Staff Sergeant Ron Hamilton on her first day on the job. I'm not surprised that people are thinking this way; but rather, that they're throwing off the constraints put on our freedoms by the Patriot Act (and other incremental policy changes that somewhat underhandedly remove our freedoms) by  voicing their BRUTALLY HONEST opinions.

While I agree with all of the people whom I quoted above, I'd like to notice what those whom I don't agree with have said too. Let's bear in mind that the "Right" can be wrong and most often is, as indicated by the 2016 presidential campaign. Our most learned right-wing politicians and pundits are the ones saying that Obama instigated the Dallas massacre, that members of the Black Lives Matter Movement are like the KKK and that BLM is putting targets on the backs of police. If this is the best that the right has to offer, I'd hate to see their worst, as the Dallas massacre probably would pale by comparison.

I won't belabor the topic any longer of how hyperbolic and irrational American capitalists are; as, one needs only to watch Donald Trump or Fox News in order to get a feel for that. However, I'd like to remind people of a capitalist tactic that was used against Blacks 50 years ago and is still reaping results. The Black Panthers formed in response to police brutality in Oakland, California in 1966. Again, there was police brutality in Oakland in 1966. Then, much like Hezbollah, Fatah and other groups that have been labeled "radical" by the U.S. Government, the Black Panthers transitioned from defending an oppressed people to offering social services and programs of social uplift -- namely the "Free Breakfast for School Children" program. The Black Panthers realized that Black children weren't doing well in their studies because they weren't eating well. However, in addition to feeding the children, the Panthers were also teaching about the science of society and the negative impact of U.S. capitalism on Black Americans. J. Edgar Hoover didn't like that Black children were being taught to think critically about our society and how it holds poor people and Blacks in low regard. So, he did various things to stop the Black Panthers. J. Edgar Hoover didn't want the children to eat up the truth and the views of the BPP along with their breakfast. So, the head of a law enforcement agency began pushing for the creation of a federal school meal program. I often put forth J. Edgar Hoover's promotion of school meals sans the ideology as the worst thing to ever be done to Black Americans. Sadly, some of us continue to accept sustenance without the critical thinking -- even refusing to join a rally or protest that is meant to make known the plight of Black Americans, foster understanding and move us toward society-wide solutions. It's because people might lose their HUD housing voucher or food stamps which are being diminished anyway. They're like frogs in a pot of water that's being brought to a boil very slowly. Sad. (Exploitation evidently yields a high ROI.)

So while Dallas indeed has NOT been the scene of any high-profile killings by police in recent history, the city IS still a part of the capitalist scheme of things, not to speak of the fact that it is in proximity to Private Johnson's home. It's also safe to assume that Micah Johnson understood that all U.S. police -- even the ones who haven't murdered Black men -- are part of the corrupt system of capitalism.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Blacks, Blues, Blasts and Blame: Shootings of Unarmed Suspects Creates Armed Resistance

 "I don't condone it; but, I understand it." 

-- Various people responding to the 7/7/16 Dallas Massacre

No sooner had I written about how "It's a madder, madder, madder, madder world" when we had a week of murders by White police of Black men who either did not have guns drawn or were even complying with orders from ofcrs. JERONIMO YANEZ and JOSEPH KAUSER. Then, fed up by White police shooting and killing unarmed Black men, MICAH JOHNSON (and possibly others) used the sniper skills afforded him by the U.S. military to kill A DOMESTIC ENEMY. Apparently, unlike American active-duty soldiers, he and any accomplices he might have had were good marksmen who didn't kill any civilians. Taken together with what we know about the DC Sniper and how he was possibly upset that he was flunked in sniper school (having only been designated an "expert shooter") or may have had a host of reasons for being upset, I suppose the military will develop a more stringent psychiatric evaluation for its sniper school candidates -- in much the same way that it developed more stringent combat readiness tests for both sexes around the same time that it opened all combat positions to women.

Military policies and practices aside, the mass shooting of 12 Dallas police officers resulting in the deaths of five on July 7th, 2016 may very well be the official start of the revolution that Gil Scott Heron told us would not be televised. It's definitely "The Big Payback". Then again, maybe the revolution began in March 2015 when dozens of Black Panthers marched through Austin, Texas with their guns drawn calling for the killing of pigs. No matter what incident or point in time you choose to put forth as the start of the revolution, the fact remains that racial tensions are extremely high and a tempest is brewing -- a tempest that government should have seen coming -- even if President Obama won't say it in no uncertain terms or clearly acknowledge that it's "Blacks" (as opposed to "a certain segment of our fellow citizenry") who are not being treated as equals.

In the two years since Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri (though he might not have been completely innocent of any wrongdoing), there have been numerous executions by White police of clearly unarmed Black men. A telling video exists showing Walter Scott being shot in the back as he ran and then showing the guilty officer planting a weapon on his corpse. But these unjustified shootings by police didn't start in 2014 -- not by any means. Let's think back to 1999 when NYC cops shot at Amadou Diallo 41 times from close range -- only hitting him 19 times -- as Mr. Diallo retrieved his wallet in an act of compliance toward the police. As Bruce "the Boss" Springsteen might say, "Same song, different verse".  What's more is that, after mortally wounding a "suspect", police often deny medical attention to their victims. This raises serious questions as to whether or not many cops even see their Black victims as humans.

All things considered, we're now beginning to see a tit-for-tat take place. Blacks see that we are being treated unfairly and killed indiscriminately by trigger-happy cops. In response, the Black Panthers have encouraged violence against cops and Micah Johnson pulled it off. Now police are on high alert and Capitol Hill was put on lock-down just hours after the Dallas massacre, though for a different and relatively insignificant reason. It's worth noting that U.S. Capitol Police have gotten and acted on word of false security threats from DC's fictional and satirical newspaper, The Onion, on multiple occasions -- much to the humor of the intelligent life forms in the city. That said, what they perceive to be a threat is not necessarily anything that would scare a rational human. Even so, police nationwide DO have logical reasons to be afraid - to be very afraid. There's no telling where the next sniper bullet will come from. That, in turn, gives Black Americans more of a reason to fear the police insomuch as those who used to kill us for the color of our skin now have a more legitimate reason for killing us -- our retaliatory violence. That leaves one to wonder when and how the madness will end. Some would say we all should take a long deep breath, calm down and talk diplomatically. I'll take things a bit further.

WE MUST HAVE THE HARD CONVERSATIONS. We must talk about the implicit bias that drives the life-altering decisions made by police, judges, employers and others in our society. The racists have become less straightforward in how they speak of Blacks. They're politically correct these days, which makes it harder to detect their racist behavior. However, the outcomes of their racist decisions are the same -- and often the outcome is an unjustified death. We need to realize that Micah Johnson was considered a hero by many Americans when he served in the military and was willing to kill non-Americans; but, quickly lost that standing with some people when he killed five officers. That said, it's not just those with badges who are determining which lives are valuable. I'll dare say that the majority of Americans value some lives more than others. It's the American way.

If we fail to have the hard conversations, we can't expect to have peace. After the 1968 riots, people calmed down. Forty-eight years later the Black race is not much better off. When Baltimore erupted into riots in 2015 following the police murder of Freddie Gray, public officials began to talk about offering economic opportunity to poor and long-neglected communities. Where did that conversation go??? As Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will." If poor and oppressed people don't stand up for themselves and hold their ground at any cost, then the powers that be will figure that they don't have to keep their word. We must organize for power, be in it for the long haul and find ways to hurt those in power. That hurt can be as simple as hitting them in the pocket as was done with the Boycotts and sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement. But there must be some form of pain and discomfort that is imparted to the vanguards of the capitalist system who treat poor, Black people as though we were sub-human. What's more is that, if Blacks, Whites and others who have resources and privilege don't come together in an organized way that enables us to get the types of reparations that are most sensible for this day and age, then we'll just see more of these massacres of police and the tit-for-tat described above.

But let's be clear: Blacks are getting the message that White Capitalists are going to screw us one way or the other. First there was slavery. Then there was Jim Crow Law. Then there was mass incarceration and racial profiling which led to jail time. Now we aren't even making it to booking. We're being executed on the streets of America. Then, given the jurisprudence of court cases wherein the vast majority of police officers who shoot unarmed suspects are not taken to trial and fewer are convicted, it all just seems so unfair. Right??? However, this perception of unfairness can be turned into a teachable moment in that it doesn't make sense for us to apply to a system for redress of grievances when that system has never regarded our lives very highly in the first place. As we seek resolution of any matter from the oppressor, we give that oppressor another opportunity to mistreat us. So, Blacks along with our non-Black sympathizers and supporters need to put our heads together so as to devise a set of demands that causes the powers that be to feel forced to comply and we need to give them the strong impression that we won't let up -- that we'll do whatever we see fit to do in order to improve the state of the American Negro for once and for all. Let's also address the socioeconomic issues that tend to boil over into these explosive situations. Just having people calm down is not enough. It's a good first step. Let's not stop there.

Let us ensure that BLACKS are not killed unjustifiably by the boys in BLUE and vice versa. If we stop BLASTing each other, then there won't be any BLAME to go around. 

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Clinton vs Trump: It's a madder, madder, madder, madder world!!!

In this post I'll attempt to show patterns and draw parallels between several major events of the past 100 years on either side of the Atlantic. I hope to provoke thoughts about lessons that the world should have learned by now. I'll also make some political predictions – things that I hope for as well as unfavorable things that I foresee happening:

It's a madder, madder, madder, madder world. That truth is especially evident when one looks at the last 100 years – from World War I right up to Brexit and the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign season. The logic of the world's most learned political elites has been turned on its head time and time again – leaving any reasonable person to wonder if there's any hope of us voting for and/or appointing a set of leaders who can display a sufficient level of geopolitical sanity and if it's possible for those who don't come from privileged backgrounds to do any better. After all, numerous entertainers have brought their gift for making people laugh into the three-ring circus of government in the U.S. and in South America.

In 1916 we were in the middle of World War I (which was known as “The World War” until 1939). The political establishment of 1918 figured that, after the World War, we would never have a conflict of that magnitude again. Everyone had learned some hard lessons and no one would allow their political disagreements to get that out of hand again. Woodrow Wilson said that World War I was the "war to end all wars". Then World War II happened and his logic was turned on its head. He erroneously assumed that long memories and a desire for peace would prevail. Then, in 1939, with Wilson having died 15 years earlier, the world learned that he was actually wrong.

During and after World War II various nations came together to form the United Nations – a body that would ensure a lasting peace. We see where that got us. Though the lesson here is not as clear, I'll venture a guess and say that I believe that it was a desire to avoid the establishment of a geo-totalitarian regime like the one that might have arisen had our German general and American forces not defeated the German forces on Normandy Beach. That, in turn, led to the architects of the United Nations writing impotence into the rules. We've become so afraid of autocracy that we sometimes don't give those charged with keeping the peace enough authority to get their jobs done. At least, that's my personal summation of the matter.

Sadly, the populace that abhors any form of autocracy also abhors the deep thought that it is necessary for us to exhibit if we are not to have a dictator or any type of centralized power.

Let's not forget that, between the world wars, the Great Depression began and that German Chancellor Adolf Hitler was seen as a hero after expelling the Belgian forces from Germany – Belgium having occupied Germany in order to exact payment of war debt from them. (Their famous waffles weren't enough to convince Hitler to let them stay.)

With war spurring the creation of jobs both during and after the conflict, the conclusion of World War II led to there being an economic boom the world over. This period of prosperity ended abruptly with the Oil Crisis of 1973. The European Union was conceived by Winston Churchill (1874 to 1965) and the concept described by him in a 1946 speech. The concept was developed piecemeal over the next 47 years into what we now know as the European Union, having established its headquarters in Brussels Belgium in 1958. It has since grown to include 28-member nations – a number that could shrink considerably in coming years as a result of the fallout from Brexit – even if the vote is reversed by another referendum (which I guess they'll call “re-Brentrance”). I don't know if the Europeans were eyeing the impotence of the United Nations and therefore attempting to form a more authoritative and effective body; but, the crafters of the European Union ensured that it was able to increase its power and influence – metamorphosing from a mere economic institution into a political one. Now many Europeans are concerned that the E.U. has become a succubus that is constantly usurping the federal authority and national identity of its member nations.

It would seem that the world is objectively longing for something between the impotence of the U.N. and the attempted totalitarianism of the E.U. In any instance, seemingly opposite political arrangements have proven to be inadequate – the impotent one sitting relatively unchallenged in New York City while the more assertive one is railed against vehemently on the other side of the pond. Maybe this is why the American government doesn't give its citizens the right to hold national referendums. Were Americans to elect to end our United Nations membership, it stands to reason that the U.N. would not be able to pay all of its bills. That's not to speak of the fact that the acronym would contain innuendo: “Usexit” (You sex it).

Let's also tease out the fickle aspect within the thinking of the British voters who changed their minds within hours of casting their votes. Howbeit, Americans are no better than those in Mother England insomuch as we complain about the officials that we elected and then, out of spite, vote for the other party – the one we were dissatisfied with four to eight years earlier, even though that party hasn't changed its ways. Let's also factor in how the political and economic pundits were telling investors not to panic or sell off all of their stock – not to let emotion rule the day. (Yep, they told people not to get emotional. Imagine that.) Even so, the NYSE graph resembled a roller coaster on the Friday after the Brexit vote – one whose steep decline would be more fun if it really were a ride at an amusement park than it probably was for Wall Street corporations that day. All of this emotion and indecision among citizens gives politicians occasion to claim that they are “saving us from ourselves” when they decide FOR us rather than initiating national referendums. It also begs the question: “Who's crazier, the politicians or the populace???”.

DONALD TRUMP, though he's not a full-fledged politician yet (and hopefully NEVER WILL BE), can help us answer that question. Millions of Americans have voted for him in the primaries, though he probably won't survive the general election (or the month of August, if God answers my prayer). But the fact remains that many people have thrown their support behind the presumptive GOP nominee, though they are retracting that support in lieu of the reality of a Clinton (maybe even a Clinton/Sanders) presidency. It stands to reason that many voters went temporarily insane and voted with their emotions. Then Trump became the Captain Planet of insanity by becoming “their insanity combined”. Now the voters are thinking more clearly and Trump is noticeably crazier. Question answered.

There's a good chance that more voters will come to their senses; that Trump will continue to get crazier (taking their madness unto himself and relieving them of it); that Clinton's lead over Trump in the polls will persist and even increase and that she'll pick Bernie Sanders as her veep. All of this would slow the pace at which insanity tightens its grip on the political structure of the most powerful nation on Earth. Let's face it: An insane government with big guns is a scarier thought than ISIS. Once Trump is effectively eliminated, we'll be left to wonder exactly how Clinton will lead – whether by emotion like what manifested on Wall Street after the Brexit vote or by rationale which I hope more closely resembles that of President Obama than it does that of Bush 43 or the Tea Party (that ultra-hyperbolic group whose e-mails I read when I need a good laugh).

I'm guessing that, no matter how Hillary Clinton leads the country and the free world, she'll be screwed (even if the excitement of becoming the nation's first “First Man” proves to be too much for Bill's heart and he transitions to the Great White House in the Sky during her transition to the presidency). If calm rationale prevails, then women will complain that she became our first female president only to forsake her femininity and govern like a man – in much the same way that they complained about her not pulling the “woman card” during her 2008 campaign. If Hillary Clinton puts her emotion front and center, then large numbers of men will blame any misstep of hers on emotion and use her presidency to build their case against feminine/emotional leadership in high places (the U.S. presidency being different than any other leadership post in the world). The battle of the sexes could be taken to new heights and the gender equality which I support and promote could be pushed back to pre-Eleanor Roosevelt times. Nonetheless, Ms. Clinton won't be able to claim that she was judged unfairly, being as our first Afro-American president continues to receive favorable ratings more than seven years into his administration. That lends itself to the notions that our “Affirmative-Action presidencies” (Black, female etc) are not examined under a different light than other presidencies and that pollsters DO, in fact, take nto consideration any extenuating circumstances that a commander(ette)-in-chief is faced with. (Many people – myself included – were concerned in 2009 that Obama would be judged unfairly by polls and historians for failing to do the impossible after being dealt a bad hand by his predecessor.)

Even as president Clinton's inauguration in and of itself will do more to affect the political direction of the world than all of her policy decisions combined, so also her choice of a vice president will do more to change the political landscape of the country than all of his initiatives combined. I hope and suspect that Ms. Clinton will settle on Bernie Sanders as her running mate. Furthermore, having an openly-Socialist veep who she charges with developing Wall Street regulations and social service reforms might just be her saving grace in light of how I expect other men to judge her. Add to this the fact that some American women don't support us having a female president – not because they think that she couldn't do the job; but rather, because they don't think she'd be respected by other players on the international stage. Tapping Sanders for the VP post would qualify as a rational decision with infinite return and guarantee that she'd go down in history as one of the better presidents of our time – even if she governs by emotion.

In all honesty, I expect a number of social ills and other societal issues to come to a head in 2017. Clinton's inauguration will cause the battle of the sexes to grow to pandemic proportions and force all of us to more deliberately define and discuss the gender differences that overshadow many of our interactions. Those who supported Trump will likely show themselves to be sore losers and a more imminent threat than the Tea Party or ISIS. Millions of poor people will be emboldened by our Socialist “President of the Senate” to demand change – making him very popular and relevant domestically while his boss gets pummeled on the world stage by a geopolitical establishment which placed the impenetrable, reinforced glass ceiling right above the heads of Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel. The Senate elections of 2016 and 2018 as well as the House elections of 2018 will likely result in the Democrats occupying at least 60% of both houses – making it relatively easy for current DC Mayor Muriel Bowser to continue the social service reforms of the late Bernie Sanders beginning in early 2019 (though she'll do poorly on Wall Street regulations and give up almost immediately).

At the risk of seeming as crazy as Trump and his supporters, I'll go so far as to guess that, while it will be Bowser's successor at the Wilson Building who restarts the conversation around the fate of the city's CCNV shelter some time in 2020, the issue will haunt her in 2023 as the city tries to move forward on its planned closure and the locals who were emboldened by the Sanders vice presidency begin to inundate President Bowser with their demands that the completed Capitol Crossing development across the road not be allowed to push the poor to the fringes. I have faith that Muriel Bowser will make the right choice as she finishes out the last two years (minus a day) of Clinton's second term and goes on to do two more full terms – becoming the longest-serving president since term limits were instituted in 1951.

At any rate, I expect that the world will see the emergence of full-on geopolitical madness clearly by 2020 and that three years thereafter our first Afro-American female president will long for the mess that Obama inherited over the one that the late Clinton left her with. However, it's been said that “Every dark cloud has a silver lining” and the silver lining here seems to be that the 25% of Americans who are having some discernible struggle with sanity will be further emboldened – going from discussing their mental conditions on social media to coming out of the closet via talk shows and public events on the county fairgrounds. They'll be able to point to the late (and thankfully, silent) Donald Trump as an accomplished person from their group. Who wouldn't come out of the closet with such an iconic figure to uphold as one of their own??? There'd be no reason to be ashamed. After all, it's a madder, madder, madder, madder world.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Death of Donald Trump

I apologize if the title gave you any false hope. I have no Earthly reason to believe that Donald J. Trump will die in the foreseeable future. [Sob!!!] I surely am not taking any steps to bring about his death. Though it would make many Americans ecstatic, it would also ensure that the (not-so-) Secret Service pays me a visit -- guns drawn. That said, this blog post is purely hypothetical and intended to give Americans and the world a ray of hope amidst all of the political and socioeconomic turmoil of our day.

[Just to be clear, I foresee a Clinton/Sanders presidency beginning in 2017 (which I predicted at least six months before the mass media) and Bernie spending his last two years on Earth formulating Wall Street regulations and social service reforms. Let's hope.....and VOTE. After all, a Sanders vice-presidency might have a positive trickle-down effect that makes it easier for DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and other mayors to end homelessness in their respective cities.]

I'm not aware of Donald Trump having any chronic physical illnesses (though he's got a legion of demons and enough mental illness to make Norman Bates envious). Then again he IS filthy rich and nearing 70 years old. So, he's probably got gout, high blood pressure and a few other ailments. One can only hope. However, I'm not banking on any of the conditions that he might have taking him out before November 8th or even January 20th. I'm trusting God to finish off Donald Trump by the end of August 2016. Seriously. Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that God and/or personified wisdom will laugh at the calamity of evildoers. Proverbs chapter 1 also warns against being greedy and money-hungry. Add to that the fact that a New Testament couple was slain in the church for lying about their finances rather than keeping their money and withdrawing from the church/Jesus like the rich, young ruler did.

For those who think that God is all love, won't laugh at calamity and surely won't bring it, just read Job chapter 1 and Revelation chapter 6. In the book of Job we see that God mentioned Job during His conversation with Satan and then He allowed Satan to kill most of Job's family and all of his livestock -- all over a bet. In Revelation chapter 6 we see that God will send various calamities upon the world in the form of the four horsemen and that "Hades follows close behind". God's propensity for sending calamity and then laughing about it gives me hope -- the hope that He'll decimate the Republican Party by ending the life of Donald Trump in August 2016.

Let's face it: Donald Trump is a loose cannon who, if elected in November, would send shock waves throughout the world. (Let's hope that this is not God's preferred calamity for the world.) Whether Trump wins or loses, the GOP is bound to become more fractured -- the only question there being whether this deeper division will be due to the party failing to regain the White House or due to Trump's policy decisions as president (the latter of which he has failed to adequately articulate hereto now). A Trump presidency would foster more racial tensions -- with Mexicans because of his proposal to build "The Great Wall of America" (taking one from the Chinese playbook) and with Afro-Americans because of the likelihood that he'll destroy the social safety net without creating a clear path to housing-wage jobs for all able-bodied poor people As is the case with Hillary, his election alone would carry more messages and spur more actions by the full American political establishment than anything that he might say or do once inaugurated -- his stance on Blacks notwithstanding. We can be relatively sure that, even as many in the U.K. and Kenya took an interest in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the Muslim world will be watching the election in November 2016 and determining how they'll respond to a Trump presidency. I'm sure that response won't be very nice. Celebrities and personal friends have said they would leave the country if Trump were elected. (They really should stay and use their resources to finance an anti-Trump revolution -- not abandon the poor.)

So much for the troubles that a Trump presidency would create. Let's consider the benefits of a Trump death AFTER the Republican National Convention but BEFORE November 8th. Were it to happen too close to November 8th, it could lead to the demise of the GOP. [Hooray!!!] However, we wouldn't get to watch them run about frantically in an effort to replace the late Donald J(ackass) Trump. Oh how I love the sound of that....."the late Donald J(ackass) Trump". The GOP would just kind of roll over and die in terms of the 2016 presidential race. They'd then try unsuccessfully to regroup and to retain -- even gain -- seats in the House of Reps in 2018. I'd rather see it happen in August -- the month after the convention.

Were Trump the kick the bucket in August -- the one being used by una Mejicana to scrub the floors of his mansion -- in August, this would send the GOP into a tailspin for a number of reasons. They'd have to consider whether or not to call simultaneous "emergency primaries" in all 50 states and in all U.S. territories; because, were the party leadership and GOP establishment to choose a new candidate without involving the base in the decision, it would deepen the intra-party tensions that were created by the establishment and leadership speaking out against a demagogue who is loved by the GOP base. The GOP would almost have to redo the primaries by mid-October; and, I'd love to watch them scramble.

Then there's the matter of the 16th and final GOP candidate to get knocked off by Trump -- the one who has a missile named after him and wants to carpet-bomb ISIS into oblivion. I guess Ted Cruz doesn't realize that the carpet-bombed Muslims would go down in history as martyrs whose deaths would be avenged by the even larger number of replacements. Cruz,like Trump, is disliked by the party establishment and only got less than 25% of the GOP delegates to boot -- Trump having gotten about 60% If he were brought back by the party only because Trump was dead, he'd have a bone to pick with the establishment, the party leadership and the party base. He'd be verbally carpet-bombing all of the people whom he had previously hoped would support him. That would be so much fun to watch.

Now let's hypothesize about someone other than Ted Cruz. The Republicans might turn to a governor or senator who previously was not in the 2016 race and try to sell this person to the nation in less than three months -- not an easy feat. It would, no doubt, be a pro forma effort and a space holder as the party braces for major 2018 losses in the House.

A Trump death in August wouldn't only affect the GOP (and possibly lead to it splitting into two parties, thereby giving us the three-or-so party system we need). It would force Hillary to change her talking points, being as she'd be facing off with a different candidate. That's the easy part. Once the GOP becomes completely and irreversibly irrelevant, the Dems are bound to have a lot more in-fighting. (Every time people com together and defeat a common enemy, the winners then begin fighting each other soon thereafter. It's the way o the world.) This eventual Democratic in-fighting (an oxymoron, by all means) might even lead to them splitting as well. Depending on whether the more closely aligned factions of either party choose to remain separate or to combine, we could have three or four parties when all is said and done. Anything greater than two is better than what we currently have; as, it eliminates this idea of simply voting for the other party when one dissatisfies you. People would have to actually THINK about which party they support out of the two or more parties that don't currently have the White House or the majority of Congress. They couldn't just flip-flop anymore. They'd have to THINK about why they are throwing their support behind the party of their choice. It would no longer be as simple as saying "This is the party that didn't screw me around for the last four to six years". They'd have to be able to articulate why, after dismissing the party in power, they chose this remaining party over that one. Having at least three parties eliminates the "politics of 'No'" and forces people to THINK more proactively and affirmatively about their choices. And to think that all of this could happen as a result of Trump dying by the end of August. A Trump death could be the best thing to happen to the country and the world. This is my prayer. AMEN.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

DC's Mayor Bowser Has A Feasible Plan to End Homelessness – Maybe.

I would like to congratulate all homeless advocates, non-profits, council members and administration officials who had anything to do with the city committing at least $22.16M to housing at least 2,431 homeless DC residents in Fiscal Year 2017. If the calculations that I list below are correct AND if we were to maintain the same level of funding through the end of Fiscal Year 2020 (adjusting the baseline budget for inflation), then the city could conceivably house 9,724 homeless people in the next four fiscal years (FY 17 thru 20). That's 1,374 more than the 8,350 homeless people that DC had as of January 2016. THAT'S PROGRESS!!!!!

I calculated that as many as 1,122 of the 2,431 people that the city could house in FY 17 are able-bodied adults. Most or all of these adults would need to use the services of the Dept. Of Employment Services' Project Empowerment program. However, Project Empowerment served 585 people in FY 15 and not all of them were homeless. This represents A CAPACITY PROBLEM.

DC Government has several reasons to want to bring the housing efforts of DHS together with the employment efforts of DOES, not the least of which is the federal legislation known as the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act or WIOA. This legislation requires municipalities to do better at connecting hard-to-employ people to jobs. This group includes the homeless.

Another reason for DC Government to want to adjoin these efforts is that doing so would increase the likelihood of the able-bodied people whom the city houses in 2017 will remain housed for a long time thereafter. Let's not forget that connecting capable people to housing-wage jobs which they maintain for many years thereafter is just “the right thing to do”.

Other reasons include the fact that several administrations since 2004 have worked on ending homelessness. Additionally, the most recent 5-year plan to end homelessness (adopted in 2015) states that in DC a housing wage is $28.25 per hour for the average-priced rental – c. $1,500/month. (I would add that this figure is for a full-time worker who is not supporting a spouse or children.) What's more is that the city now has a deputy mayor of greater economic opportunity and she is working hard to connect poor people to living-wage ($13.85 per hour) or housing wage jobs – which I'm not entirely sure. I don't think anyone in or connected to the social service arena wants DC Government to fail in this capacity. I sure don't.

When I get the updated figures concerning the percentage of Project Empowerment program participants are homeless, then I'll be able to give a figure at to the total number of clients that the program would need to have a capacity to serve annually in order for DOES to fulfill its role of connecting recently-housed A-bods to living/housing-wage jobs. If we assume that two-thirds of PE clients are homeless, then PE would need to have a capacity to serve at least 1,683 people per year in order to keep up with the rate at which A-bods are connected to housing.

Housing for those who make a “living wage” but not a “housing wage”:
which implies that they're living somewhere other than in housing...
which means they're homeless while employed...

It is not realistic to think that the majority of the 1,122 able-bodied homeless adults who might get connected to employment in FY 17 are going to make at least $28.25 per hour or afford a $1,500 rental. It has been brought to my attention that there are single room occupancies and 400 sq. ft. units that can go for $650 per month which is one-third of $1,950. A person working 160 hours per month at $12.50 per hour makes $2,000 gross monthly pay. This might be a more REALISTIC EMPLOYMENT/HOUSING GOAL.

Short-Term Asks and Considerations:

With 1,122 of the 1,547 or 72.53% of the homeless adults who will be housed in 2017 being able-bodied, this is indicative of a systemic shift toward splitting our attention and housing resources between the most vulnerable and least vulnerable homeless as opposed to focusing only on the former group – the able-bodied parents of course having vulnerable children. Now that the administration is beginning to do things that I support and have (along with others) called for over the past 10 years, I am committing myself wholeheartedly to doing all that I can to help and to push things to the next level.

It is with that idea in mind that I offer this write-up in its entirety and the simplified asks in this section as a template for our efforts over the next year ending on June 9th, 2017. Since the FY 17 budget for housing the homeless looks positive but the city's ability to make able-bodied homeless people self-sufficient seems to be insufficient, this combination of truths plays right into the focus of myself and some of my associates who are currently emphasizing living-wage jobs and affordable housing for able-bodied homeless people. Our short-term goals should be as follows:

1 – PROGRAM CAPACITY: Beginning now (June 9th, 2016), look at the capacity that DC Gov's Dept. Of Employment Services (DOES) has through the Project Empowerment Program and other programs to connect homeless people to jobs that will enable them to remain housed (without further government assistance thereafter). Consider the prospects for increasing the capacity of all such programs so that they can absorb homeless A-bods as they are housed (while continuing to assist people who are not known to have experienced homelessness). I'm guessing that at least 1,683 people would need to be served through project Empowerment annually in order to meet our goals; but, am prepared to have my figures disputed.

Maybe item #1 could be a topic at the June 21st meeting at DOES (for which participation is limited to those who received invites to the May 18th meeting).

2 – Also beginning now, DOES could work with DHS to develop a more intentional and well thought out “housing first” initiative that focuses on housing A-bods and then guarantees that DOES will connect them to living-wage jobs within a reasonable time frame. This differs from Rapid Re-housing insomuch as the client doesn't have to prove that they have the ability to become self-sufficient within 18 months,as is the case with RRH. It instead puts the onus on DOES to adjust the department's programs so as to guarantee that DOES has the ability to adequately help the homeless A-bods.

3 – Implement any changes that can be implemented in the remaining months of FY 16 – expansions and improvements of program models. Document the successes and failures of these programs. Determine what additional resources and permissions are needed from the DC Council and the mayor, respectively.

4 – Ask the mayor for such permissions ASAP and prepare any necessary pertinent budget requests and adjustments beginning now and going into the 2017 budget season for the FY 18 budget.

*The items listed above are just ideas that are meant to get the conversation moving. Quickly.*

Below are explanations as to how I arrived at the above figures and of the facts that I gathered from other sources in order to do my math.

I was happy to see what was printed on the quarter sheet that we received at the June 7th ICH “Singles CAHP” (Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement) committee meeting. It said:

"Highlights from FY 17 Budget:

$6.8M for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) to serve 425 individuals

$1.7M for Targeted Affordable housing (TAH) to serve 141 individuals

$3.9M to help just over 200 families through TAH

Maintains last year's funding for Rapid Rehousing to serve 350 individuals and 284 families."
[End of quote]

I, Eric Sheptock, juxtaposed figures from the aforementioned quarter sheet with numbers from the 2016 Point-in-Time Homeless Enumeration Fact Sheet (not to be confused with the regional figures) and did some additional math using the latter document so as to figure out that:

4,667 members of homeless families minus 2,722 children equals 1,945 adults, the latter comprising about 41.68% of the total homeless family make-up.

4,667 family members divided by 1,491 families comes out to about 3.13 people per family.

Budget Math:

$6.8M divided by 425 people is $16,000 per (disabled) person.

$1.7M divided by 141 people is $12,056.74 per person.

$3.9M divided by 200+ families is less than $19,500 per family (less than $6,500 per person).

[$12,056.74 times 350 individuals is about $4.22M
$19,500 times 284 families is about $5.54M
Maintained funding” was about $9.76M.]

If so, the total is about $22.16M.

Number of People Served:

As per the homeless point-in-time count, there are about 3.13 people per family, up from 3.07 last year. That means that 200 families translates to 626 people and 284 families translates to 889 people for a total of 1,515 people in families that will be served by the FY 17 budget.

With 41.68% of homeless family members being adults of which a negligible percentage are disabled, that means 631 of the 1,515 family members are able-bodied adults.

There are 916 single adults who will be served by this pot of money (425 plus 141 plus 350) of which 425 are disabled and 491 are able-bodied.

The total number of people housed by the FY 17 budget is 2,431 of which about 425 are disabled. That means that 631 A-bod parents plus 491 A-bod individuals give us 1,122 people who will need some assistance finding housing-wage jobs in 2017.

(Project Empowerment served 585 people last year.)

DOES needs to more than double its capacity to assist 1,100+ homeless people in one year through Project Empowerment, if they are going to be part of the mayor's 5-year plan to end homelessness. (Not all of the 585 were homeless.) I'm assuming that the city will try to connect all of the A-bods it houses in 2017 to jobs in that same year. It kind of makes sense. This goes to what we often say at meetings about "connecting all of the dots”. If DHS is going to house 1,100+ A-bod homeless people in one year, then DOES needs to assist at least that many homeless people at getting jobs as they exit homelessness each year -- at least that many (not counting the housed/never homeless people they help). How they do it is another conversation. We have a minimum goal to shoot for.


The title says that “DC has a feasible plan to end homelessness.....maybe”. As the late,great fighter Muhammad Ali said, “Every fighter has a plan.....until he gets hit”. In lieu of the fact that DC has been trying for 12 years to end homelessness, it would be extremely ignorant of me not to consider what might go wrong. The grim possibilities include but are not limited to the following:

1 – There could be a massive influx of homeless people into Washington, DC between December 2016 and June 2017. There might also be tenuously-housed people from other states who come here during that time frame and get stuck. 2017 is an inauguration year and we are poised to have our first ever female president and openly-Socialist vice president.

There are homeless people who come to DC in connection to every inauguration as per a recently-retired outreach worker. I had an interesting interaction with one such person in 2009 and witnessed her getting surrounded by Secret Service agents after she told them who she was. I never heard from or saw her again. Unless Travelers' Aid comes to the rescue, this influx could drive up the number of homeless people. That's not to speak of locals who have and will become homeless following the January 2016 homeless count.

That said, I expect a higher-than-usual influx of homeless people for the upcoming inauguration – some coming to congratulate Ms. Clinton and others coming to tell her how that they believe a woman shouldn't be president. (I personally promote equality, so long as we don't lower the bar for women. As Ms. USA 2016 said, “Women are as tough as men”.)

2 – We're counting on the DC Council to maintain at least the FY 17 baseline budget with adjustments for inflation factored in all the way through FY 20. This is not guaranteed.

3 – We're counting on DOES' programs to keep pace with the number of homeless A-bods who get housed. WIOA almost guarantees that they'll succeed in this respect. However, it is a tall order and there are a lot of moving parts to keep up with.

4 – There are a lot of variables which include the number of people who can be expected to enter homelessness between now and the end of 2020 as well as the number of homeless people who can be expected to complete any employment program.

That said, keep hope alive.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Eric Sheptock's Exit From Homelessness: Can He Push City to Improve???

I might be out of the CCNV Shelter and out of homelessness altogether within a month; but, I know not to count my chicken wings before they're fried...err to count my chickens before they're hatched. However, it could prove to be a bitter-sweet deal insomuch as I might forfeit any opportunity I might've had to enter housing that is created when the CCNV Shelter whose future I helped build conversation around is closed -- a process that might start in 2020 or so and be completed by December 2023.

[City Officials met with shelter residents on April 27th, 2016 and said that no closure is planned. However, the homeless have expressed doubt about such statements in lieu of the construction of five buildings across the road. With Capitol Crossing slated to be finished in 2025 and the developer aiming for a 2023 finish, the current city administration (2015 to 2019) need not worry themselves with closing CCNV yet. After all, the parking lot and the land under the shelter are currently worth about $80M -- a value that will increase sharply when the 2.2M sq. ft., $1.3B project across the road is completed.

BTW, two women's shelters totaling 200 beds were relocated from the CCNV building to Chinatown and the building's 250 hypothermia-season beds are also closed, decreasing the buildings census from a 1,350-person max to approx. 900 now. DC Central Kitchen (one of three non-shelter services in the building) is considering moving to Crummell School in NE DC.]

I surely don't plan to remain at the shelter for another four to seven years just so that I can benefit from an effort that I was part of. In that respect, I'm not forfeiting much -- if anything. It's the anticipated "improvements" in people's attitudes toward me that make it bitter-sweet. I've had pleasant conversation with perfect strangers who then ask what I do for a living. In spite of our first 15-20 minutes having been pleasant and them having had no apprehensions about me, they take two steps back when they find out that I'm homeless. Their whole demeanor changes and all of our pleasant conversation doesn't count for anything. They find an excuse to leave abruptly. Whether it was due to them thinking I was creating all of that conversation as a lead-in to a request for money or as part of a set-up whereby to rob them is beyond me. I don't do either.

That said, I don't want to hear anything that resembles a person having "greater respect" for me after I'm out of shelter. That's especially true for those whom I've known for a long time -- service providers and fellow advocates alike. Were anyone to suggest that they think more highly of me once I'm out of CCNV, I'd be tempted to have them count their sheep so I can "smack the FLOCK out of them". I'm the same man whether I'm housed or homeless (for better or for worse).

The story of my exit goes as such: I used to work at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL (May 1988 to Feb. 1994). I was a freight handler who drove a small train similar to those used at airports to load baggage on planes. I drove out trash and dirty linen and drove in new supplies and clean linen. I also emptied the trash and linen chutes and burned amputated body parts along with other blood and guts in the incinerator until it was torn down in 1992 and we began shipping our contaminated trash to Deland, FL. With truth often being stranger than fiction, I'll say that my attempt to help a female employee who I'd figured out was the victim of repeated sexual violation led to me walking off of that job on February 14th, 1994 (the day before my 25th birthday). I'm now eligible for a modest retirement lump sum -- enough to get me out of homelessness for six months anyway.

Fortunately, I didn't have to leave my brain on the kitchen counter when I exited my last rental in Gainesville. Therefore, I still have my ability to manage my affairs (business and marital). I've already begun to seek out social services that will allow me to stretch the money beyond six months while guaranteeing that I'll increase my income during that same time period and will be able to maintain the rental indefinitely. Knowing that I have this money coming has me in planning mode. In spite of having had several bouts with homelessness over the past 22 years (and several other jobs), my brain is still fully intact and functional -- minus the 2.5% that my biological mother chipped off when I was eight months old. (I did five years in foster care and then got adopted by Caucasians, rendering me an "Oreo".)

As far as I know, there is no city program that will assist with rent beyond 18 months. Rapid Rehousing will assist for up to 18 months and an applicant must have a sure path to stability in order to even qualify for assistance. The federal version of Rapid Rehousing was only available to those who had become homeless as a result of the then-recent economic downturn and who would not need assistance beyond 18 months. The local program (which borrows the same name but is an altogether different animal) doesn't require that an applicant be newly-homeless; but, DOES require that they have a sure path forward. As soon as I can guarantee that I'll be able to maintain the rental after the lump sum is gone, I plan to pack the remainder of my belongings (having moved some to storage in early May) and to hightail it out of CCNV. How I create the guarantee of a steady income depends on the combination of what more I learn about city services if and when my calls are returned and what day labor or other odd jobs I am able to get connected to. (I currently do odd jobs and occasional speaking engagements.) BTW, I've begun pricing rentals.

All of this news, of course, begs the question: "What about the advocacy that I've done since mid-June 2006???" The short answer is: "I don't plan to quit". To be quite honest, I'll do my best to use my exit from homelessness as a way to pressure the city into creating similar opportunities for other high-functioning homeless people. If I can take MY money and use it responsibly (it being considerably less than the $10,000-plus that the city spends annually on EACH homeless individual), then it stands to reason that others can do the same. It might behoove DC Government to pay six months' rent in SRO's (single room occupancies) for a select few homeless people who exhibit the ability to manage their affairs and who remain compliant with individual programs that are designed by case management and geared toward increasing the person's income so as to keep them out of shelter indefinitely.

After all, local service providers will tell you quite unabashedly that, while it costs less to house a family or a disabled individual than it does to shelter them, it actually costs less to shelter an able-bodied individual than it does to house them. Maybe if we can present an alternative for single A-bods that counters the cost logic, then the city will make the shift it promised over the summer of 2008 that it would eventually make. As DC constructed its local version of Permanent Supportive Housing from April to September 2008, it was said that they would start by focusing on housing the "most vulnerable" homeless who have mental and physical disabilities. The Fenty administration said that there would be a shift in future years to also assisting the "least vulnerable" homeless with their living-wage employment challenges. (Some of the administrators from 2008 are still around.) In lieu of the fact that it's been almost eight years and of WIOA it's about time we made that shift. Maybe my exit from homelessness will prove to be permanent and serve as the springboard for how to effectively assist other homeless singles. I'll do my best to ensure both.

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