September 2009

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Homeless Ted

My brother Ted runs a day center for at-risk seniors, many of whom are homeless. He recently lost a big chunk of funding. DRCOG (the Denver Regional Council of Governments) lost 13% of its own funding. Instead of cutting grants by 13% for every organization they help, DRCOG instead cut all funding for some of their grantees, including Senior Support Services. As a consequence, my brother’s small non-profit organization lost $75,000 in funding. Ever since, they have been struggling to find other sources of funding. To protest
the cut in funding, Ted has gone on a homeless strike. He is describing his experiences as a homeless person in his blog: http://tedshomelessstrike.blogspot.com. If you would like to donate to his organization, please go here: Senior Support Services.

With the help of my sister and mother, I put together an entry for his blog called, “The Family Perspective.” I am cross-posting that entry here–

Guest Blog: The Family Perspective

Ted’s brother Will here. As Ted’s family, we have gotten a taste of what it’s like to have a homeless relative. I didn’t know quite what to expect when Ted announced he was going on this homeless strike. On the one hand I thought it would be fun, a camping experience within the city limits of Denver. On the other hand, I did worry about him being exposed to dangerous situations.

Our mom says, “My feelings alternate between pride, sorrow, and fear. I am so proud that Ted cares so much about his clients and the help Senior Support Services is able to give them. I am sorrowful that Ted has to struggle in the cold and damp to find some place to lie down. I fear the other people out there who might harm him.” Ted’s sister Sarah said, “When Ted first announced to me his plans to go homeless, my immediate gut reaction was deep concern. As I had time to chew on it, I begin to feel a sense of pride for my brother’s sense of conviction. And one thing I knew…he would not give up.”

When Ted began this journey, what I did not expect as his brother is that I would become so aware of the weather. Now I believe probably nobody in America thinks so much about the weather as a homeless person. I would guess farmers and meteorologists are tied for second and in a very close third come the family members of the homeless. Many of Ted’s friends and family, including me, have thought about Ted out in the elements as they are getting into their warm beds. Even people who don’t know Ted but have heard about his homeless strike have commented to all of us about having these thoughts.

As Sarah put it the other day, “Homelessness takes on a personal note when you know someone who is sleeping out in the cold, rain or snow. In a show of solidarity, my eight year old son has set up his own homeless shelter in our living room and has finally convinced me to let him spend the night there. I have been amazed and appreciative of the response to Ted’s homeless strike. Several people have said they thought of Ted as they snuggled in their warm beds–believe me, so have I. Tonight, as Ted and thousands of other homeless people face their coldest, snowiest night in months, we cannot help but have them on our minds.”

The other thing about Ted’s homeless strike that I did not expect is what a great physical challenge being homeless has been for him. Ted is a great athlete. He plays rugby, telemarks and mountain bikes in the Colorado Rockies, and has little problem taking long hiking and camping trips away from all the comforts of civilization. Yet homelessness has been physical challenge for him. It did not help that in addition to not getting any sleep he has gotten flu-like symptoms. And the stress of searching for a good and safe place to sleep must be considered part of the physical challenge.

Last Sunday, Ted was planning on coming over to my house to watch the Bronco game. When I spoke to him on his cell phone, he sounded more tired than I ever remember him being. He was too tired to bike to my house and he seemed sick. He sounded terrible, maybe as sick as he has been since he got malaria while in the Peace Corps.

Our mom reports, “Sunday night I talked Ted into coming over for some leftover stir-fry chicken, because I wanted to be sure he had a good meal. He ate very little, for Ted, and looked thoroughly drained. He went upstairs to take a shower. A while later I heard him say he would lie down for a few minutes. Half an hour later I went upstairs to put a cover over him because he was lying on top of the guest bed. He was sound asleep, but was startled and jumped when I put the cover on him. Later I learned that he was actually ill. At 10:30 p.m. I went up to see if he was awake, because I knew he would be very disappointed if he slept through the night. He was hot, even though it was a cool night and his cover was very light. He said he would get up in a minute. Shortly he finished dressing and shouldered a huge, awkward duffle bag, picked up his bike on the front porch and I saw the ghostly play of the bike light as he laboriously pedaled away in the dark.”

Our mom summed up our feelings about Ted’s homeless experience well by saying, “In the cosmic scheme of things man struggles to find shelter and feed himself and his loved ones. Being homeless is a giant step backward, and the rules don’t allow man to build himself a shelter, the most basic human instinct.”

I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything since June. This summer has flown by and I don’t have much to show for it. That seems to be the way of summers and time generally. I can’t believe I’m 40 already. What the hell have I been doing for the last 20 years? Not much apparently.

So I was watching President Obama’s speech to the schoolkids, the one that has conservative commentators going apeshit. I think Obama was sending me a subliminal message in Morse code with his eyelid blinking. I don’t know Morse code but deep down I knew. I just knew. Here is what he told me: “I was born in Kenya. Now is the time to activate the double-secret collectivist program. Prepare your tractors.”

Ah, elections are so much easier when Republicans are acting like idiots. I suppose at some point there will be a resurgence of intellectual conservatism and that will be a good thing because Democrats will have to up their game to. But there are no signs of intellectual conservatism showing its face anytime soon. For now we just have Beck, Limbaugh, birthers, creationists and other assorted nimrods.