A Heartfelt Apology

This is one of the more difficult things I need to write, but it needs to be done to clear up some of the misconceptions of articles that have been written last year.

My aunt Shailagh Jarrett, was a famous freelance reporter with the Carney-Gibbs Journal. She won the Canegallo Award for Ethics in Journalism fifteen years ago and now I feel I have disgraced her memory. The award was created “to honor the journalist of integrity and character who reports with insight and clarity in the face of political or economic pressures and to reward performance that inspires public trust in the media.”

I betrayed that public trust.

I would love to say the demands of the job caused me to misrepresent myself to you, but that would give a simple response to a complicated situation. Living up the to expectations of how people perceive a person is difficult. My aunt, through her reputation, opened a lot of doors for me. I was assumed to be a chip off the block, a tireless advocate like my aunt was.

My years away from my aunt made me forget the reason why she got into journalism, the reason why I wanted to be a journalist. No, that’s not exactly correct. Right now, I’m not sure what I want to be, which is exactly the moral issue I’m wrestling with. I was striving, just as I did with my years at Hawat Information Conglomerate, to fit a perception I wasn’t fully comfortable with. When I was working with my aunt, it wasn’t about the hits that drove her to a story, it was the humanity. She was always looking to move past the numbers, past the cold calculations of the matrix of what sold and would look at the humanity of the work.

I lost my way, and in doing that I allowed myself to shave corners, to not be the best I could be because I wanted to fill the quota, to it the matrix and to bring favorable reviews. That was wrong, I now realize.

My trust with you, the reader, has been broken, maybe broken forever.

For that, I ask for forgiveness and understanding.

My life in the corporate world tainted me more that I realized. I went for the quick fix, the simple way to get noticed, and unfortunately the work that I cared for, the injustice I’ve seen and the corruption that continues to plague the Empire, has gone unchecked. I wanted to shed light on them, but few listened. Most are still in awe of the excitement and exhilaration of sensational news. Stories about ace pilots, the war veterans and their military hardware, is candy to the general citizenry. The plight and suffering of their fellow citizens and civilians, the everyday struggles that we face and the lack of support we give is buried.

I’m one person, and trying to get that information out to the people was an enormous task. My editor wanted views and the boring, hard facts wasn’t getting it. I was constantly reminded about my aunt, how she would have gotten the views, but those views were because of her reputation over years of perseverance. Years of trust build those views. I wanted to ride the coattails of my name, and when that didn’t happened instead of relying and holding steadfast to slow growth, I went for the quick fix, which allowed me to submerge my journalistic integrity for numbers.

In my mind, journalism has changed. We went from reliable sources and ethics to rumors and speculations. In my aunt’s days, you would need to thoroughly source stories. Today, I found more often than not, an innuendo was good enough to run with a story, even without full vetting. If the story ended up being not as accurate as it should be, a minor correction would be good enough for editors. Why not make sure the story is fully vetted before it is published? The rush to be first, even if the story turned out to be false, was good enough. I was told many times that being first was more important that being right.

I knew that was wrong. I knew that went against everything my aunt taught me, but just like I did in the corporate world, I suppressed my concerns and followed the advice because of the paycheck.

Now that I have been exposed, doing things my editor was aware of, I’m the one who is at fault. My editor still has their job. They were given a slap on the wrist and is still working with the organization. I’m a freelancer, so my fate has already been determined.

That’s why I’m writing this. I need to take some time off. I need to evaluate why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s been an interesting year, but I need to work out if I’m doing all of this to live in the shadow of my aunt, or if I want to forge a path on my own. I’m rethinking all sort of thing, even with my small organization. I need to do what’s right for me and I’m not really sure what right for me means. I’ve drifted through so many jobs, and I thought my work with my organization would fulfill a hole I had in me, with journalism being a way to give voice to the voiceless, but my actions, however well-meaning they were, might have jeopardize that.

I need to seek out and understand who I am.

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The Glashaus

“People always ask, ‘What’s it like down here?’”

Myant Lwin’s answer is, “It’s fun.” Lwin, a sculptor, resembles a young Annabella DeFranco dressed like a welder. She recently completed a 25-foot-tall 5000-pound for a private client. “People are great down here,” she says. “Half of my tenants are females, and some of them work late without any problem.”

A few years ago, Lwin and her wife leased an aging warehouse on Main Street where Lwin could set up shop. To help turn the rent, the two subdivided the cavernous interior into enclosed spaces of various sizes that they in turn sublet to other artists.

“It’s working out fine,” she says of her Glashaus, which she calls an artist collective studio, gallery, and event venue. “There are no problems at all with working down here.” She says that the Glashaus is a symptom of the slow turn taking place in the neighborhood: Lwin considers it part of the neighborhood’s gentrification. “When we first moved in four-and-a-half years ago, I don’t think there was anybody else down here. Dastgerdi’s Bakery had just opened, and there was the Janikowski Mechanical School, but that was about all.”

Lwin is certain that the arts have brought new tenants to Harborfront Division, if for no other reason than the economy. “Ten years ago, it was the same thing in Old Town. You could get space cheap there. Now, rents are too high. Some artists are still in Old Town, but most got pushed out. Artists aren’t the richest people. We’re always looking for inexpensive space.”

Myant Lwin

Lwin estimates that there are more than 100 artists presently working in Harborfront Division. “I have 30 tenants of my own,” she says. Similar warehouse conversions likewise house 30 or more artists each. Along with the aforementioned Bakery, “there’s the Union on Main Street, and he’s got almost double the space I have.”

The influx in local galleries and workspaces has given rise to support systems for these artists. Art is hard. Getting folks to pay attention to art is harder, but with community support from the Harborfront Art Association and the Arts Collective, more people are venturing out to put a finger on the pulse of the art scene. In its formative stages, the Harborfront Art Association is all about raising awareness of the scene while supporting those in it through events and monthly meetings.

Three years ago, there have been more multifaceted art galleries setting up. Menschen Gallery & Studios transformed a 2927 warehouse (that was once “The Bank of Kane”) into a 30-studio, 1600 square foot art gallery and event space. Pan and Salt is another event space/studio re-imagined for site-specific installations. Less than a block away from Harborfront Park, Mintak Art Gallery focuses on art of all mediums. Recently opened Dashuri Experimental is a gallery that’s the working half of local artist Kinsee’s live/workspace.

“Some of the people in the arts down here are pushing to make Harborfront Division the next arts destination,” she says. “I’m not a member of any boards or any committees, but we’ll see if that happens.”

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Harborfront Division College Institute

“It’s a very interesting time down here.”

Luis Murillo is a development associate at the Harborfront Division College Institute, an afterschool, college-prep nonprofit. “We’ve been around for what, 17 years? People in the community either know a lot about us or they know nothing about us. But, now our work is being recognized.” Murillo says that every child who has participated in their program has gone on to college. “We have a 100 percent success rate.”

One can see interesting things from the front door of the institute. Industrial cranes and massive grain elevators crowd the skyline behind an ugly blue-and-gray warehouse, vacant, weedy, and barb-wired. Main Street more or less ends at a steel fence with loops of prison-yard concertina wire along the top. In the immediate background is the downtown skyline, including the new library rotunda that shimmers in the afternoon sky.

Harborfront Division College Institute

Since day one, educators and countless volunteers have worked to support Harborfront Division College Institute students and its mission. Supporting organizations and businesses have been integral to its success. In its history, Harborfront Division College Institute has served thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to thrive in careers in medicine, engineering, computing, and more. “We focus on academics and personal identity. Our students are in charter or public education. They’re living totally different lives than their parents,” Murillo says. There are close to 200 students currently enrolled in the program. Last year they graduated 30 students; the largest number of students to complete the program in one year.

“We start in the third grade. Most of our students go to Tom Watts Harborfront, then they come here after,” Murillo said. The Harborfront Division College Institute was launched, he says, as the result of a study that posited that school dropouts could be predicted by the third grade. “We started in a borrowed classroom at Tom Watts and moved into the adjacent building seven years later.” He says the school’s annual budget of 770000 UEC comes from private contributions and grants. “This year, we will be receiving funding from the City of Quinton and from the Haas Universal Foundation, via their Promise Neighborhoods grant.”

Murillo has reservations about the possibility of rezoning and change coming to the neighborhood. “That’s actually one of the things that concerns us a bit. We’re trying to educate parents so that in case the rental fees go up, they will have the means to get by in the future.” He sees both good and bad in the current redevelopment scheme. “The Merkatu Urbani is good, because now families don’t have to take a bus to go kilometers away to the downtown mega markets. But the family stores here are hurting or shutting down.”

But Murillo is sanguine about the immediate future. “Harborfront Division has a real good grassroots culture. The same people that fought for Harborfront Park, they are still working to make sure that people who live here are protected.”

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Breathing the air, it turns out, is a problem for a lot of people in Harborfront Division. It is a neighborhood like no other in Quinton, in that it has been zoned for both industrial and residential use, which exist side-by-side.

Within the division are rail yards, water cargo ships at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, and heavy ground hauler traffic. When one factors in 200,000 daily commuters traffic and the port traffic per day, it’s no surprise to learn that the community is awash in greenhouse gases. Hundreds of millions of pounds of toxic air pollution settle each year on the Harborfront Division.

The bad air seems hardest on the youth here. The number of children with respiratory issues is alarming high, according to the Environmental Health Coalition, a Quinton nonprofit dedicated to achieving environmental and social justice. The respiratory disorder affects shift workers and laborers, as well, a moveable population that outnumbers Harborfront Division residents by more than two to one.

“Asthma is the most common disease of participants that we address with the disease-management program,” says Maria Rafalos. She works for the Environmental Health Coalition as a community organizer. “My husband worked at the marine terminal for 35 years. The people that retire from there? They don’t live very long past their retirement. They are the first line of the impact of the pollution. We have worked with the marine terminal about doing more eco-friendly ways of welding, for example, but everything we do is a struggle because of the workers. That job is their bread and butter. They don’t care [about their health] until they get sick.”

The deficits within Harborfront Division, and the needs of its somewhat transient population of predominately low-income civilians and citizens, first appeared on the public radar back in 2898. As a result, the neighborhood got a clinic and youth services and some green belt in the form of a small public park that would become Harborfront Park.

In 2914, the Quinton Govenors Council sanctioned a community planning association composed of landowners, renters, and members of industry. They set out to build an even better barrio. Three years later, the council accepted the 239-page Harborfront Division Harbor 101 Community Improvement study. It is a singular read. For example, the authors described the fallout from allowing industry to dwarf the cultural, historic, and residential aspects of Harborfront Division in less than glowing terms: “The visual conflicts resulting from this land use pattern are an affront to normally accepted aesthetic standards.”

The report went on to catalog a landscape poisoned by ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrocarbons, a place that was (and still is) utterly devoid of native plants and wildlife due to heavy urbanization. Harborfront Division, in other words, is a dead zone.

“A poor community takes what little it can get,” Maria Rafalos says, explaining why people continue to live in Harborfront Division. “Back then, we didn’t have all the scientific information, the data on hand that we have now. But when we found out the chemicals that were being dumped there, we all said, ‘We better watch out.’”

In the years following the 2914 report, manufacturing and housing continued to coexist side by side. “In fact, the pace of industrial siting in residential areas,” says Christi Williams, research director at the Environmental Health Coalition, “increased after 2914.” This fact of Harborfront Division life was compounded by the various welding shops, refinishers, chrome platers, dismantlers, and port-related industries that, over the decades, had been grandfathered into the fabric of the neighborhood.

But within that time frame, ground haulers, water cargo ship, and factory emissions were reduced; low-income housing was constructed; and a couple of years ago, a chain supermarket opened for business. Gentrification gained a toehold as well, partially due to artists who were drawn to Harborfront by cheap rents.

David Pence, who grew up in Harborfront Division, said he’s heard others express similar concerns about gentrification and a loss of the unique flavor of Harborfront. “The best we can do is try to preserve the neighborhood’s history and identity as a working-class community,” he said. “At the same time, it’s important to embrace positive change.”

He cited as positive change an emerging arts scene — galleries, work spaces, festivals — and the upcoming opening of Sufragerie, a rarity for the area as a sit-down restaurant with a full bar.

“I think we’re on the path to making Harborfront one of the more vibrant neighborhoods in the city,” he said.

Maribelle Tanaka has seen other promises of vibrancy come and go. She was born in the community and is a longtime activist there. She’s tired of outsiders who think they know what’s best for Harborfront Some of the ideas she’s heard over the years make her eyes roll.

“We’re not interested in people who want to gentrify us,” she said. “If people come to enjoy what we have here, that’s great. If they’re coming in to take us out, we’ll fight them.”

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A Different POV

For four months I’ve been posting articles from my partnership with WFG Publications on the Spectrum channel and the views I’ve gotten have been encouraging.

The first story published was about a Tram SmartShop owner, which in four months have gotten descent views. However, the next article about a spy and onetime sex performer got twice as many views at the time of this writing. I wasn’t sure why the next article I posted, about the shooting of an unarmed Banu woman by a Los Angeles officer, had increased views over the spy story. I surmised that the photo of the female officer involved caused the increase interest.

The largest views I’ve had on Spectrum was the pleasure model article, by far. An attractive photo and a story about sex quadrupled the amount of views over the article about former Detroit Mayor Davis Marshall published two weeks earlier.

While I’ve reported on a variety of subjects, I’ve wanted to give voice to citizens and civilians who don’t really have a voice, like the SmartShop owner on Tram, or the preacher from the Iberia Prefecture. For the next few months, I will be covering life in the city of Quinton on Angeli (Croshaw II). I realize the hard life of low to middle income civilians isn’t as exciting as the adventures of space pirates or daring soldiers of fortune, but I’m committed to share with my readers the lives of ordinary people in the UEE.

I like heroes, a lot, but the people I admire are the everyday citizens and civilians that get up, go to work and provide for themselves and their families the best way they can. There are struggles and challenges everyone faces, and what I hope to bring to the table is the variety of topics and issues to the community. It is the unsung heroes, the ones who work and provide quietly in the background, are the stories I want to tell.


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Old and On the Street: The Graying of Quinton’s Homeless

The emergence of an older homeless population is creating daunting challenges for social service agencies struggling to fight poverty.

They lean unsteadily on support walkers, or roll along the sidewalks of Litchman Row here in beat-up hoverchairs, past soiled sleeping bags, swaying tents and piles of garbage. They wander the streets in tattered winter coats, even in the warmth of spring. They worry about the illnesses of age and how they will approach death without the help of children who long ago drifted from their lives.

“It’s hard when you get older,” said Ken Sylvas, 65, who has struggled with alcoholism and has not worked since he was fired in 2941. “I’m in this hoverchair. I had a seizure and was in a convalescent home for two months. I just ride the transit back and forth all night.”

It is the emergence of an older homeless population that is creating a daunting challenges for social service agencies already struggling with this crisis of poverty. “They have health and vulnerability issues that are hard to tend to while living in the streets,” said Miss Ida Fisher, an Baptist minister who has spent 25 years working with the homeless in Quinton out of Bountiful Harvest Baptist Church.

Many older homeless people have been on the streets for almost a generation, analysts say, a legacy of the economic downturn of the late 2900s and early 2910s, housing cutbacks and an epidemic of Teddie Snax. They bring with them a complicated history that may include a journey from prison to mental health clinic to rehabilitation center and back to the streets.

Some are more recent arrivals and have been forced to learn the ways of homelessness after losing jobs in the latest economic downturn. And there are some on a fixed income who cannot afford the rent in Quinton, which has a vacancy rate of less than 3 percent.

Rene Entwistle, 60, said he could not afford a one-room apartment and lives in a tent on Apollo Street. Mr. Entwistle, who divorced his wife two years ago, said he has not been able to find a job.

“It’s the first time I’ve been on the streets, so I’m learning,” he said. “There’s nothing like Litchman Row. Litchman Row is another world.”

Along with these visible signs of homelessness come complaints about aggressive panhandling, public urination and disorderly conduct, as well as a rise in drug dealing and petty crimes.

The aging of the homeless population is on gritty display on Litchman Row, a grid of blocks just southeast of the vibrant economic center of downtown Quinton, drawn by the year-round temporary housing units and the cluster of religious and secular missions and clinics.

Outside the Hippie Kitchen, which feeds the homeless of Litchman Row three mornings a week, the line stretched half a block up Knight Street on a recent day, a graying gathering of men and women waiting for a breakfast of beans and salad. Arshile Hall-Davis, 55, scooping food from his plate, said he had more to worry about than his next meal, where to hide his shopping cart or which sidewalk to lay his sleeping bag on after dark.

“I’m getting old,” Mr. Hall-Davis said, lifting himself to his feet with a stabilizer. “I don’t want to go into one of these shelters. I don’t want to get some disease.”

Kin Grant, 59, said he had fallen out of the job market long ago as he battled alcohol and drug addiction. “Right now, I’m sleeping in someone’s garage,” he said. “My biggest challenge out here? Access to a bathroom. It’s really crazy. That and finding a place to keep your stuff.”

This is a fluid population, defying precise count or categorization. Some might enjoy a stretch of stability, holding down a job for a while or finding a spare bed with a friend. But more than anything, these are men and women who, as they enter old age, have settled into patterns they seem unwilling, or unable, to break.

“We are seeing people who have been on the street year after year after year,” said Yasunari Kato, the director of public policy at the Quinton Civilian Housing Solutions.

Mr. Sylvas said the lines at the Hippie Kitchen were growing longer, and there were more tents on the streets. “It’s getting worse,” he said. “You can see it. A lot more old ones.”

Sylvia Khan is 70, but she maneuvers her wheelchair (medical mobile chairs are too expensive, too hard to maintain and too valuable to have on the streets) around the obstacles of her world — the lurches in the buckling sidewalks, the sharp curb drop on Mabley Blvd, the piles of clothes on the pavement, the tourists rushing through Litchman Row on the way to the Arts District — with confidence and precision.

For Ms. Khan, who has been divorced and on her own since 2921, this is the latest stop in a tumultuous journey. She was evicted about five years ago from the hostel apartment she called home, unable to pay the rent. She tried to sleep on the streets, shivering on the sidewalks at night, until she finally pleaded for a room in the home of a daughter. “I told my daughter I’m not going to make it because of my handicap,” she said, referring to her right leg, which she said she almost lost after she was hit by a car.

Her daughter put her up for a few years, but Ms. Khan said she eventually left, ending up on Litchman Row a year ago. She said she had since lost touch with all three of her children. “They don’t even know how to reach me,” she said. “They are probably going nuts. I didn’t want to interfere with their lives.”

Home for Ms. Khan is now a room at a center for the homeless at the Sanford Arms Community Center, but she has been told, she said, that her program is about to end. She has no idea what she will do next. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be there,” she said.

“Litchman Row is sad,” Ms. Khan said. “It is as sad as you can imagine. You literally have to live here to see how sad it is.”

Ms. Khan, chatty with a wide smile and white flowing hair that falls over her shoulders, has her routines. She knows the staggered schedules of the soup kitchens. Her bad leg and wheelchair usually entitle her to a spot at the front of the line, and she brings a plastic baggie to collect extra food to pass on to friends on the streets, or to eat when she returns to her room.

The challenges faced by people like Ms. Khan have forced advocates for the homeless to reconsider what kinds of services they need: It is not just a meal, a roof and rehabilitation anymore.

So, the older residents of Litchman Row make do, and in the process, stress citizen public services. There is the emergency room at Quinton – Jordan Kokoris Medical Center, or the ambulance from Firehouse No. 15 in Litchman Row, which brings a crew of medics who are by now well versed on the characters and medical ailments outside the station house.

Homeless civilians of all ages receive housing vouchers, and citizen endowment subsidized low-income housing projects give preference to the elderly. But few of the older homeless people have worked the time required to put aside money for a SEC 8(k) or employee retirement plan.

That leaves them to turn to Supplemental Citizen Income, or S.C.I., a program set up to help poor older civilians that typically pays around 733 UEC a month. But S.C.I. is for people 75 and over. By then it might be too late. Experts say the average life span for a homeless person living on the street is 64 years.

“We are dealing with the same issues with a 50-year-old that a housed person would have in their 70s, in terms of physical and mental health,” said Anne Kirshner, the executive director of the Downtown Women’s Center, which provides services for 3,000 homeless women a year in Quinton. “It is extremely difficult. And women are affected more than men.”

Many manage as best they can, living outside and maneuvering around the drug dealing, random stabbings and shootings, and crackdowns by the police.

Brenda Lyashenko, 66, who lives in a trim blue tent on a sidewalk she sweeps every morning, said she had learned not to venture out after dark in search of a bathroom, instead using a jar she keeps in her tent.

“You’ve got a lot of things out here wrong — everybody doing drugs and alcohol, friends and not friends,” she said. Still, Ms. Lyashenko said she liked her life on the street, saying it was better, at least, than living in a shelter. Her only complaint was how people kept treating her as if she were frail.

“Everyone is like, ‘You O.K.?’” she said. “What do you mean, ‘Am I O.K.?’ Or, ‘You want to sit down?’ Why do I want to sit down?”

It is not the older homeless people whom Ms. Khan worries about as she surveys Litchman Row from the perch of her wheelchair. It is the younger ones, who are slowly changing the makeup of this world.

“I’m 70; I’ve done my thing,” she said. “The younger people, they are losing the best years of their lives. This is not a place to be.”

“You see things you wouldn’t believe,” Ms. Khan said. “Someone could be getting killed, someone could be getting knifed. And life goes on. Charities are still handing out coffee and soup.”.

That morning, they were a blur of people in T-shirts, tattered jeans and sweatshirts, stopping by for a shower, a meal, job or an undisturbed nap on an overstuffed chair in the main room. The center shuts its door at night.

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Street Population Soars after Quinton Ups Homeless Spending

Dealing with homeless people is hard, dirty work, bereft of easy answers. Still, somebody has to do it. So far, citizens have outsourced their compassion to government, which mostly delegates the job to storefront churches and voluntary assistance programs, and they both are falling behind.

The emotional reactions that follow an encounter with a typical sidewalk resident aren’t especially praiseworthy.

First comes disgust and outrage, even anger. How do politicians and police allow this to go on; the trash, the public defecation, the open abuse of alcohol and drugs?

Then comes compassion. These people are clearly sick, mentally ill. Can’t anybody help them?

Yet hopelessness doesn’t usually occur to most citizens. With citizenship comes support, standing and a form of respectability, so we are lead to believe. If you play by the rules, if you don’t cause trouble, if you pay your taxes, you will be provided for.

Sometimes, the contract between the state and the citizen can seem broken when citizens take the moral high ground in labeling a fellow citizen who has a lapse of moral judgement or when others believe they have tarnished the image or what it means to be a citizen.

A homeless person near Edgar’s House.

Vasil Raju was technically homeless over brief stretches in the early 2930s, interspersed with much longer periods in which shelter was a jail, rehab or group home.

His decline was swift. At 29 he was a successful business owner. By 32 he was camped in an otherwise abandoned building, the direct result of his decision to consume alcohol and other drugs, full time.

“Was I morally flawed, a bad person? Certainly. I was also mentally ill,” Raju said in an interview.

A network information analyst and casual boxer, he says became a serial victim on the street, rendered defenseless by alcohol. “I was robbed at gunpoint twice, badly beaten several times,” he said. Paradoxically, sloth was not among my problems. “Staying intoxicated every day without reliable income was the hardest work I’ve ever done.”

Showers became an infrequent luxury. Malnutrition pushed some of his teeth crooked. He was hearing voices, and answering back.

Survival required learning and navigating the underground economy. “A storefront faith center gave out baloney sandwiches, but you had to be on time. A fast food manager would roll leftovers into wraps and venture into my dangerous neighborhood after midnight to distribute them,” Raju said. “If you showed a newcomer which bars would illegally convert government assistance scrip, sometimes they would break off a few bucks.”

Edgar McGee, a retired Catholic priest and sober drunk better known as Father Edgar, opened his home to desperate people needing a helping hand. The list included addicts, prostitutes, even citizens like Raju who found themselves on hard times.

During his third go around at Edgar’s house, he made space for him on a living room couch. When they ran out of food, he would pull 20 UEC from his pocket and ask a housemate to go with Raju, because grocery stores sell booze and he couldn’t be trusted.

Eventually, Edgar gained trust in him, deputized Raju as consigliere, wheelman and pretend bodyguard as he pulled addicts and other crazies from scary places. A believer in the power of the group, he insisted that he needed my help.

“With the help of Father Edgar, I somehow got sober, and have stayed that way for more than 19 years,” Raju proudly said.

Seven people have died in just four months since the opening of Edgar’s House, a new shelter expanded from Edgar’s original home with 203 permanent apartments for the most damaged people from the streets.

None died from violence or overdose, said Jack Colvin, chief executive of Edgar’s House, the nonprofit that manages the place.

“They were just worn out,” he said.

Mental illness, whether organic or drug-induced, accounts for most of the problem. About three years ago, police conducted blood tests during a sweep of outdoor homeless and found four-fifths to be using Alpha 1 controlled drugs. Experts say many use street drugs to self-medicate organic psychiatric conditions.

“The vast majority out there, upwards of 80 percent, are mentally ill,” Colvin said. “In my 30 years, nobody’s ever told me they are crazy.”

Solving homelessness is far from easy. Success will require a change in attitude. Father Edgar, who died of cancer in 2944, demonstrated that the innate response of “somebody’s got to do something” is far less effective than “how can I help,” followed by action, and more action.

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Homeless and Boxed In

David Kasha became homeless in 2940 after paying funeral expenses for his parents. He works as a security guard at Sanford arms Community Center.

Right before our eyes, rapidly rising numbers of people are living — and dying — on the sidewalks and parks in Quinton.

Something is deeply wrong. Citizen funding has poured into the homeless programs by the hundreds of millions each year yet the tableau of squalor and suffering expands. Last month, officials counted 1,162 people living outdoors in Quinton a 43 percent increase in a single year.

Nobody knows why, or even has a good theory.

David Kasha

Although David Kasha was homeless for several months, he never thought of himself as living in poverty. Kasha, 43, got laid off from a construction job in 2940, and after both his parents died within months of each other, he was overwhelmed with funeral costs.

The Quinton native started sleeping in shelters and looking for work. He sent out several job applications, but had trouble finding work. While at Sanford Arms Community Center, Kasha asked Opportunity Center Director Dashonda Ivery if she was hiring. He soon started working as a security guard.

“She gave me the opportunity, and I started working, and now I’m slowly climbing up the ladder to the status I was before,” Kasha says.

Kasha oversees the day shelter, which 60 to 100 people use each day. Kasha also tries to encourage people who have similar stories, telling them that their situation doesn’t have to be permanent. Sanford Arms Community Center offers job training, housing referral services, employment opportunities, shelter and meals to individuals in need.

“I never let it set on my mind that I was living the below the poverty level and homeless,” he says. “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m on my way.”

Kasha said that he sees individuals on a daily basis who feel like they can’t escape their situation and become discouraged. Because they have trouble envisioning themselves with a job, they are more prone to give up looking.

“Some people get boxed in,” he says. “Some people are allowing themselves to be enablers rather than reaching for a helping hand.”

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More Shelters Go Year Round

Calvin Tarbuck spent the last three months homeless, including a few weeks living in a hostel park with other transients who saw the disabled, ailing senior needed a warm place.

When those folks moved on, two weeks outdoors followed. Pneumonia set in.

A few days ago — just in time, the 66-year-old said — he found an open bed at Dandridge Street Mission, a men’s shelter.

“It was cold and I had pneumonia. I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” Tarbuck, his cane close at hand. “This place is a life saver — for me and a lot of other people out there. So many homeless.”

There are about 220 beds in the Dandridge Street Mission. Religious and non-profit shelters have shifted to year-round programs under the umbrella of the Quinton Civilian Housing Solutions, a nonprofit that coordinates six shelters across the region.

Though the year-round setup means more people can rotate through the programs, the need still far outpaces the supply, officials said.

In the last three years, the Quinton homeless population has risen from about 1,660 to more than 2,000 — a number expected to rise again when the region’s official “homeless count” is conducted in January.

Sanford Arms Community Center — a year-round shelter that serves women and homeless families and is part of the QCHS — gets perhaps 30 referrals a day from people who need shelter.

“It is a difficult thing for our intake coordinator to take requests everyday and say ‘We have 130 people on our waiting list, I’ll put you on the list,’” said Phil Wheeler, Sanford Arms director of community engagement.

The system has to rely on referrals and can’t typically accommodate walk-ins. The people they take in are enrolled in weeks- or months-long programs, and assigned case workers to help them get back on their feet.

In fact, Quinton Civilian Housing Solutions now refers to its network of shelters as “bridge housing,” saying that more accurately conveys the goal — to provide a bridge between homelessness and self-sufficiency. The bridge-housing program will cost about 1.1 million UEC to operate this year.

The rebranding is “a better way to communicate with the public about how we are doing much more than providing shelter, and finding a way to get out of homelessness,” said Cal Pettie, president of the QCHS board and executive director of Catholic based Kimbridge Alliance.

“Everyone has a bed assigned, and a spot reserved, and are working in individual plans to get out of our shelters and into their own homes,” Pettie said.

Chaffee Co-Op converted early this year to a year-round program with 49 beds (up from 40) and Edgar’s House changed to a year-round shelter in 2945, with 40 beds.

There are 20 beds for single men and women at Bountiful Harvest on Uptown and another 30 cots at Kimbridge Alliance for single men. Homeless families cross their fingers and hope to land in the roughly four dozen beds that QCHS offers in two rotational shelters, which move to different churches every two weeks.

At Bountiful Harvest, Executive Director Miss Ida Fisher said there is a waiting list of about 20 men and six women for beds, a number he said is down a bit for his place. He thinks more people are choosing substance abuse over assistance.

The Bountiful Harvest shelter provides hot meals and bags of food year-round to the homeless, but is only permitted to offer shelter for half of the year. It is trying to raise money to apply for a city conditional-use permit that will allow it to offer beds throughout the year.

“We’d love to expand,” Miss Ida said. “We don’t have any real serious behavior problems. In most cases, all the clients follow the rules and keep the neighborhood clean. And that is because these are people trying to get a hand up, not a hand out.”

Year-round or not, shelter officials across the city all mentioned the same concern: they can get clients stable and ready for a place of their own, but cannot find affordable housing for them in the city or outlying regions.

Since spring, studio apartments in Quinton increased to an average of more than 1100 UEC a month, and average rent for two-bedroom apartment is approaching 2000 UEC.

“We try to get them into a roommate situation or something, but what do you do?” Miss Ida said. “Sometimes they will buy a storage unit and illegally live there.

At the Sanford Arms Community Center shelter, run by the Order of the Contract, Tarbuck said he has to leave by the end of the month. The one-time  salesman said he plans to spend the next two months finding a place of his own that he can afford on his fixed income. He doesn’t want to return to the streets.

“I’m just looking for housing,” he said. “I just want to pay my rent.”

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Once Middle Class, She Hung on as Long as She Could

“Three straight nights I slept in this spot,” said Kevanisha Selvin, who is creeping up on 80. “My knees hurt so bad, I couldn’t do a fourth.”

That’s when Selvin scrunched an air mattress into a scuffed-up shipping container and began sleeping there, with one dog on either side of her for companionship and warmth. She avoids liquids in the afternoon to limit the number of times she has to crawl out in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

“I have the worst time trying to get back into the box,” said Selvin, who tunnels in with her head against the back wall, feet elevated to ease the swelling.

She calls home a small opening behind a shipping container off to the side of an entry level civilian industrial park, where Selvin dropped anchor almost three weeks ago. Selvin falls asleep hoping she’ll be safe through the night, and trying to figure out how to get back to the life she had.

When I heard about Selvin, I went to meet her, and found out she’s one of many homeless civilian senior living in Quinton on Angeli (Croshaw II).

“Right now, I’ve got about a two dozen women who come in regularly,” said Jack Demarchelier, nutrition supervisor of the nearby senior center in Litchman Row on the Westside.

Kevanisha Selvin lost nearly everything; now she’s living on the streets with two stray dogs who befriended her.

“About half of them live in makeshift shelters and half of them are living, well, there was someone living right there the other day,” he said, pointing through a window and out to the garden.

Demarchelier retired as a navigation officer 14 years ago but wasn’t ready to rest, so he signed on at the Sanford Arms Community Center. Demarchelier, 71, hits the treadmill at the center’s gym before starting his shift, and he runs all day.

The Sanford Arms Community Center delivers 14,000 meals each year to homebound seniors and hosts about 60 seniors a day for lunch, a massive undertaking. Demarchelier has a small paid staff, but he’s got more than 20 volunteers, many of them seniors that prepare, deliver and serve meals, among other tasks.

Toni Jackson, 27, whose mother owns Jackson’s 1814 Food and Drink, loves putting her restaurant skills to work in the cafeteria. Margaret Massey has been volunteering for 15 years, just because.

A free lunch is a big help, said Christine Ramirez, 64, who just landed a hostel residence after living in her vehicle for several years and trading discount coupons for Big Bennys noodles. Ramirez spends her days rounding up free clothing at Krishna giveaways and distributing garments to needy folks at the senior center.

A woman named Vera, homeless for a couple of years, was neatly dressed and groomed. So were other homeless seniors, as if to blend in unnoticed.

“You can have money one day and nothing the next,” Vera told me.

If you can’t afford to pay for lunch, Demarchelier said, that’s handled discreetly by the staff. No one is turned away, and one homeless woman often buses tables after lunch.

Selvin told Demarchelier she’d be happy to do that. She grabbed Demarchelier’s hand and pulled him toward her, asking if he could help her find work as a caregiver, maybe for one of the regulars at the center. She said she can cook, shop, clean house and do laundry, even if her feet swell and her back aches. That’s what she was doing before the worked dried up and the bills went unpaid.

In the telling of her story, Selvin said she was married and divorced three times, had no children and has no family. She started work as a teen and didn’t stop for 60 years. She studied business and psychology in college. She did everything from business management to jewelry making, but never stuck with any one job long enough to have a retirement income.

A little more than 10 years ago, she dropped her hard-earned savings into a pair of 150000 UEC apartments, lived in one and rented the other. Just in time for the jobs crash. Her renter walked away, her mortgage rate spiked, her income nose-dived and she lost everything.

Selvin packed up and bunked with a friend. But she got shoved out when the friend’s daughter and granddaughter moved back in.

Her latest ex-husband lent a hand, setting her up in a hostel park, but then he passed. Selvin’s work dried up and she lost the space. Her 932 UEC retirement pension plan barely covered the space rental and utility costs at the park.

“I called 50 agencies trying to get some help,” Selvin said. Being a civilian complicate the situation by limiting her housing and institutional options.

For all her troubles, Selvin is not one to grouse or cast blame.

“I shot myself in the foot,” she said, meaning that the marriages didn’t work out, and her housing bubble investment was an unlucky roll of the dice.

But she traveled when things were good, she said. She sampled different jobs, lived in beautiful places, and has no major regrets at 78.

“I could write a book,” she said at lunch. “It’s been a great life, even though I’m in the dumps right now.”

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