60 Minutes 2011 reports on family homelessness are must-sees

They titled the report, “The Hard Times Generation” and it was a revealing look at families fighting homelessness.

60 Minutes: 14 minute video: “Hard Times Generation: Families living in cars”:

60 Minutes: 2 minute video: “Something with a roof: Scott Pelley asks homeless students to describe their ideal homes, they have only a few modest requests: a roof, a bed and most importantly, their families.”:

Read the story behind the report.

Related Stories:

CityPaper: “One Occupy legacy: it gave the homeless cover to live in public.”

Metafilter: “Inequality highest in thirty years across most of the developed world.”

Esquire: “Income Inequality Is a Symptom, Not the Disease”

thestateman: “Census shows 1 in 2 people are poor or low-income”

NYTimes.com: “How Anger Took Elites by Surprise”

NYTimes: “Camps Are Cleared, but ‘99 Percent’ Still Occupies the Lexicon”

CSMonitor: “Homeless children at record high in US. Can the trend be reversed?”

Billy Bragg: “Billy Bragg: The biggest enemy we face is… the deadly lure of cynicism”

Salon: “How 2011 became the year of compassion”

NYTimes on lack of child care pushing some to choose Welfare

The numbers of those on Welfare have been dropping steadily since the 90s. Those numbers look to be rising again as cuts in services that provide tools for those wanting to climb the ladder are being slashed. NYTimes: “Cuts to Child Care Subsidy Thwart More Job Seekers”:

Last month, she lost her job as a hair stylist after her improvised network of baby sitters frequently failed her, forcing her to miss shifts. She qualifies for a state-run subsidized child care program. But like many other states, Arizona has slashed that program over the last year, relegating Ms. Wallace’s daughter, Alaya, to a waiting list of nearly 11,000 eligible children.

Despite a substantial increase in federal support for subsidized child care, which has enabled some states to stave off cuts, others have trimmed support, and most have failed to keep pace with rising demand, according to poverty experts and federal officials.

That has left swelling numbers of low-income families struggling to reconcile the demands of work and parenting, just as they confront one of the toughest job markets in decades.

America’s homeless generation

60 Minutes recently ran a segment revealing the stories of children in America who are fighting to survive homelessness. It is a must watch. A painful watch.

60 Minutes: Homeless children: the hard times generation

Be sure to check out the followup on how the report was produced: The hidden America

Must reading about Kensington at Philly.com

The Inquirer recently wrapped up a series about the struggles faced in Kensington and Philadelphia’s First Congressional District – the 2nd hungriest in the nation: “Hunger in the First”:

Following this series, no doubt brought on by the horror of the Kensington strangler, was a greater spotlight cast by the papers on the neighborhood that included a great set of independent articles:

All are worth reading.

An article that introduces us to a new news effort coming *from* Kensington deserves a special shout out because it is efforts like this that point us towards the future or news and maybe the neighborhood itself: “Philadelphia duo bring Internet attention to Kensington’s woes”. That duo is Richie Antipuna and Heather Barton and their video series can be found on Blip.tv.

I just had to round up these articles and post them to one page since the subject matter was so related. Now if there was a place to discuss these stories collectively. Reddit’s Philadelphia sub-reddit perhaps? That feels wrong. The stories need an official home someplace where people from the neighborhood and outside the neighborhood can discuss them collectively. Why do I care about that? Because when people connect over subject matter that is when ideas can take shape and action can take place.

Philadelphia Lt. Raymond Evers: “It’s a high-risk area”

Tonight comes news of another murder in Kensington. Philadelphia Inquirer: “Police find woman’s body in Kensington”.

While Center City Philadelphia is continuing a Renaissance that started in the 90s, for those living in many neighborhoods in Philly, life has not improved and in many respects, has gotten worst. Philadelphia’s challenge over the next decade is to keep growing the positive momentum that is taking place here and making sure it reaches all its neighborhoods, all its people. This is going to have to happen in a city whose state no longer has advocates in its assembly. It will be more difficult than people imagine.

newsworks.org: “Former prostitute talks about streets of Kensington”

Many who are politically motivated try and summarize the problems that neighborhoods like Kensington are soaked in to simple catch phrases and causes, but the problems are many fold. Just follow some of the terrible comments posted in this great, nuanced piece from the Inquirer “The Drugs Dilemma”.

There are some that doubt Philly has made all that much progress over the last 15 or so years. There is more than enough evidence it has (see the thoughts of Kristen Lee, and there was no way you could walk away from attending TEDXPhilly and know otherwise).

You could always describe Philly, accurately, as a city of neighborhoods. Each with its own character, accent, customs, and peoples. What we need to work to avoid is a far greater and in this case tragic divide. One of hope.


Lyrics: Kensington

“Alternative journalism documenting Fishtown and Kensington”

David Kessler: “Shadow World”

Daily Beast: “The Kensington Avenue Strangler”

I didn’t know who to go to for help – hunger in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Inquirer profiles the lives of families going hungry in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, home of a few of my old neighborhoods, Kensington, Fishtown, Frankford in Philadelphia: “A Portrait of Hunger”.

There is no excuse for letting anyone go hungry in the richest country in the world. None. The article points to three main culprits: a lack of paying work, a lack of guidance to services that can help, and the bureaucratic complexity of applying for those services as root causes.

It was the same for us when I was growing up and when I was out on the streets, sleeping on trains, I didn’t know who to go to for help, or how.

The comments posted on the article really go far in showing how low our culture has become in kicking people when they are down and blaming them entirely for their circumstances.

We’re all in this together. For some great commentary on this, check out Susie Madrak’s latest post. Like her I can still remember when my family needed help. I can remember being in line for a block of cheese at Bridge and Pratt. I remember all too well the chuckles of some at school due to the quality of my Salvation Army and Goodwill bought clothes. I remember the Salvation Army Santa Claus visiting the family to drop off some toys to make our Christmas brighter.

None of us are 100% self made and choosing to belabor that some people need help, instead of offering TO help, does no one any good. Please, if you are able, find some way, any way, to lend a hand.



Cradles to Crayons

United Way

Project H.O.M.E.

Salvation Army

Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County

Recent HBO Documentary, “Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County”, is a must see. It is a must see because it helps reveal the struggles of the working poor, by letting the children who are experiencing it speak for themselves.

It’s on Comcast, On Demand under Premium Channels – > HBO – > Documentaries – > Short Films, and on Fancast.

YouTube: “HBO Documentary Films: Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County Trailer (HBO)”:

What is ‘the American Dream’?

The conventional wisdom is that ‘The American Dream’ is a goal and aspiration on the part of Americans for some form of ‘conventional’ middle class life: a house, 2 kids, a car, one day retirement.

Never trust conventional wisdom.

The American Dream is about income mobility, meritocracy, and choice. The idea that, with enough hard work, with investment of time and passion, you can make a living for yourself, take care of your family, if you choose to have one, and one day retire, if you choose to. That you can climb from your station in life to a different rung, given energy and effort, again if you choose to. That if you live your life in accordance to responsibilities and goals, things will improve for you, your family and community.

The promotion of the Dream was good for business, it was good for our communities, it was good for ourselves (that is, of course, if you remembered what you were working for instead of some long sought carrot). Our environment took a massive hit, but that could have been resolved without what is taking place right now, by emphasizing and reemphasizing responsibility and consequences. As it stands, things are just getting worst on that score, Dream or no.

Friend and co-worker, Jack, once in chatting with me said that I can take a list with “American Dream” on it and check it off – Complete. I was taken aback. Really? But yesterday was a window into that.

Saturday, I got the chance to hang out with my neighbors and some friends (hi Howard!) at a block party we held. It wasn’t one of those events that were required because we didn’t know one another – just the opposite – it happened because folks on the block have gotten to know one another. There were police officers, office workers, engineers, firemen, medical technicians, masons, carpenters and more among us. Our families played games, we ate, we danced, we got along with one another and grew a few stitches closer.

Some present at the party are amidst a fight to find a way back into workforce before their dream takes a hit. I thought about them, and I wondered about the future for my daughter, my wife, myself.

Just a short while ago I was working night shift at 7-11, a few blocks from where I now work, falling behind on my bills. And earlier from that, I dealt with getting thrown from home from a mother’s boyfriend who had enough of children around him, and ended up sleeping on the train. I’ve come very, very far. But it is such a quick slope back into a struggle to survive the next day.

For an increasing number of Americans, the kind of income and class mobility I experienced is further and further out of reach, and for many who have achieved it, fears grow:

FT.com: Edward Luce: “The crisis of middle-class America”

HuffingtonPost.com: Laura Bassett: “Dwindling Retirement Savings ‘Undiscussed Explosive Bomb’ Of Recession”

Guardian: Paul Harris: “Jobless millions signal death of the American dream for many”

Metafilter: “Desperation”

Add to this how the “Great Recession” is speeding up the decay of infrastructure required to support the day to day and you find a whirlpool dragging everything into it:

NYTimes: “Governments Go to Extremes as the Downturn Wears On”

And yes, this story is an old one. It has been written before, and will be written again. But are there new elements in play?

Metafilter: “Rich get richer, poor get poorer…” (2005)

NYTimes: “Class and the American Dream” (2005)

Barbara Ehrenreich: “Nickle and Dimed” (2001)

Barlett and Steele “America: Whole Stole the Dream? The Have-Mores and Have-Lesses” (1996)

What about the children? Well it *is* about them. And it’s about you.

So far, I have been able to provide a better life for my daughter than that was provided me. Richelle and I are building a platform that she can choose where to take flight from when the day is right. She has childhood friends, a stable home with lots of structured and unstructured play time, lots of singing, dancing, crafting, family and love. Especially love. This is part of the Dream, being able to provide a better life for our children, if so choosing, and I count my lucky stars I am able to do so.

People tell me I have my own hard work to thank for this, and I did work hard, but there is much more. You can’t discount the time or place I was born to, the people I’ve met along the way who have given a helping hand or advice, and the health I’ve been blessed with. When I look around me I realize my journey, from generational poverty to the middle class, is rare, and increasingly so.

Change the rules of the game.

It looks sometimes that George Carlin was right, that it’s called ‘The American Dream‘ for a reason.

Well, one of my earliest bosses in programming, Pat, a fellow who became first a true mentor, then a friend, had pinned to his cubicle wall the following from Peter Senge:

The committed person brings an energy, passion, and excitement that cannot be generated if you are only compliant, even genuinely compliant.

The committed person doesn’t play by the rules of the game. He is responsible for the game.

If the rules of the game stand in the way of achieving the vision, he will find ways to change the rules.

A group of people truly committed to a common vision is an awesome force. They can accomplish the seemingly impossible.

Call me naive but I believe in this.

If ever there was a time to get involved, it is now. And there are ways to make difference, whether they be mentoring someone like myself, volunteering time to help those less fortunate, by becoming a more conscious consumer, or by applying skills in a way to build tools and infrastructure for the foundation that all this requires:

Code For America

Clay Johnson: “Don’t Let the Municipal Crisis Go to Waste”

Ushahidi and Swift River

Crisis Commons Wiki

Tim O’Reilly: “What is Gov 2.0? Come find out”

This was the first block party on our block. My neighbors did a terrific job organizing this and it turned out fantastic. If the Dream does require me to be asleep to see it, then yesterday never happened, surrounded by great neighbors, great friends, and great family.

Making a difference – Jeff Campbell and Hungry for Music

NPR.org: “Instruments Of Good: The Healing Power Of Music”:

Another fan of Campbell’s work is singer/songwriter Peter Case. “When I was a kid,” Case says, “my guitar was like a piece of wood off a burning ship: I clung to it with all my strength and it saved me during rough times. Hungry for Music is doing important work, steering kids to instruments, and providing them to those who otherwise couldn’t get them. I think lives are being turned around by this, just like mine was.”


Hungry For Music

Pepsi Refresh Project: Get 10,000 free musical instruments to 10,000 underprivileged kids