Monthly Archives: June 2015

Obama Phone

This is the common name given to the Lifeline Assistance program. The program is designed to give telephone service to those who need a telephone but can not afford to own one. Not everyone qualifies for the Lifeline Assistance program. However, if you’re struggling financially, if you already take part in another state or federal assistance program, or if your income is low enough, you may be one of the fortunate ones who do.

The next time that you get a bill from your telephone provider, take a look at the list of government fees that are charged. You will probably find a fee called “universal lifeline” or something like that name.

The program provides for a partial subsidy on a land-line telephone. These phones are connected to the telephone network by a dedicated wire. In the dark days of telephone service, perhaps back to the time when President Woodrow Wilson was in office, this was your only method of a telephone. Then, there were many competing telephone companies. At that time, the it was difficult to get a telephone; not because it cost so much, but because there were too many competing companies that the interconnect and interoperability was becoming impossible.

Back during the time of Franklin Roosevelt, the Federal Communications Commission was created. This group, identified simply as the FCC, regulated the telephone industry, the radio industry, and later the television industry. If you had a telephone company or telephone service, your government regulators were the FCC. They controlled what service you received, and regulated the prices that you paid for the service.

During the time of Ronald Reagan, the FCC created the first Lifeline Assistance Program. It just offered a subsidy for land-line service since cell phone service was not yet available. There were mobile phones but were very primitive compared to today’s standards. (I had one. It was quite large and was not something that you just “slipped” into a pocket. I carried it in my briefcase. But, like most everyone else, I too had a land-line telephone which is what I normally used because the quality was far superior.)

Then came Bill Clinton’s tenure. During that time, congress authorized a subsidy for land-line telephones under the new name “Universal Lifeline Assistance”. Now, people could actually start to get money to pay for the telephone service. It was basically at this time that the act started to help people.

Now we come to President Obama, and what is commonly called the “Obama Phone” act. It is called Obama Phone because it has so rapidly during his administration to over 20 million needy families. Today, you can get a partial credit for a land-line phone or a free cell phone under the plan. Why free cell phone and only a partial subsidy for a land-line phone? Because, a cell phone actually costs less than a land-line phone to the telephone company. They don’t need to string wires to your telephone. Your cell phone provides the interconnect to the telephone network directly. In addition, the telephone company may limit the amount of time that is actually available on the plan. Some limit the time to 250 minutes, or about 4 hours, per month.

The original provider to offer free cell phones to those people who are financially impoverished, the poor and homeless, is Safeline Wireless. The company is in Tennessee. All that you needed to do was show that you are either receiving Medicaid, Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income you qualify for the help under the federal law. However, the state regulates the programs as well. This means that it will vary from state to state. Some states will go above that and demand that the program be open to those on other programs, such as California’s Medical, CalWORKs, or GAIN programs, Oklahoma’s OK Sales Tax Relief, or Massachusetts’ MassHealth. Each state also determines the income level under which you qualify. For example, a family of six in Hawaii can earn as much as $62,249 per year and still qualify. (The cost of living is higher in Hawaii and Alaska, so the figures are higher as a result.)

If you qualify in California, you can get your one free telephone for a family from Safelink Wireless, a subsidiary of TracPhone, Assurance WirelessBudget Mobile or Reachout Wireless.

Like some other government subsidy programs, this one too is not without its share of fraud. Companies were signing people up for this service who did not qualify just to get the subsidy from the government.

But, for the most part, the program runs well and helped those to have telephone service. Today, in this shrinking world, you must reach people. It is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity. And, since the homeless never seem to have a single home, a cell phone is the best method of reaching them while they wander under the stars.

Be good for goodness sake

Here is a small bit of wisdom from Mother Theresa. It is something to consider, from one human soul to another. …

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best that you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

‘Git A Job!

Recently I heard someone yell “‘Git a job![sic] to a homeless person who was standing on the corner, panhandling for money. The man just rolled down his automobile’s side window and yelled to the person to go find work.

I am sure that the person who exclaimed the phrase has a job. It is probably a menial job, but a job none the less. Perhaps that is all that the person could find a job himself. It would have been better if the person just did not say anything and drove by the homeless man on the corner without giving him a second glance.

But, to tell the homeless person to find a job is pretty useless. I hope that the driver felt better saying that. He needs help and pity. He certainly needs a dose of compassion and understanding. It did nothing to the person looking for help, except perhaps devalue him.

This piece is about such an attitude. It is about work. I do believe that the only real way to get out of being homeless is to find a job. You need to find a job that pays you a wage, even if that wage is the federal minimum wage. And once you are hired for a job, you need to keep the job.

To find a job you need to do a few things.

  • You must want to have a job. If you don’t want a job, you won’t find one.
  • There must be work available for you to find a job. If everyone is unemployed then you will probably be unemployed as well.
  • If the job requires some skills, then you need to have the skills. You can’t apply for the job as an airplane pilot if you can’t fly an airplane.
  • You need to clean up your “act”, and be presentable, courteous, polite, well-spoken.
  • It will take a bit of time to research the organizations for which you are applying; their needs, markets, products, services, etc.
  • You need to show up on time for the interview.
  • You can’t give up at the first failure. You need to keep looking. Remember that the race was won by the tortoise, not the hare.

Now, all of that is common sense in finding a job. All of those items are just making a good first impression on people. They are not hard for someone who really wants a job.

With a job, you get some self-esteem. You get some level of pride. You get an income that will pay for rent, food, and other necessities. Besides, it occupies your day. It takes you off the street. With a job, you are no longer homeless.

We will help with some of the items that I listed. We will give you nice, presentable, clothing if we have it. We will help you with some of the research. We will even, at times, drive you to the interview. But, we can’t help you if you don’t want a job or are going to be rude about asking for the job.

It seems that many of the homeless people just don’t want a job in the first place. Some of the homeless people have had jobs. They were terminated due to anger issues or the simple fact that they just didn’t want to work. Those people we can’t help with employment. They will forever be homeless.

The other issue is that once you find a job, you need to keep the job. You can’t be terminated from the job. To keep a job the person must be conscientious and have a desire to work. You need to show up, on time and be ready to do a day’s work for a day’s pay. To many of the homeless, that is almost too much to ask.

In many cases, the homeless person is mentally ill. I do not mean that he is the next “Jack the Ripper”, but that if you talked to him or her you would wonder if the person was living on the same planet as you. For those people, there is no hope. No one will offer them employment. They couldn’t keep it even if was given to them.

Like life in a ghetto, the homeless live from one government hand-out to the next. They rely upon Social Security to give them a welfare income.

But, telling someone to get a job, or as it was phrased to “git” a job, is useless. Of course, it says something about the person making that comment as well. It defined him. It put him in a class of people who are barely literate themselves. It will keep him a paycheck or two or three from being homeless himself.

So, in the end, I guess that this leads us to the one inescapable truth. Our organization, or one like it, will be needed for the foreseeable future. I truly wish that we would be phased out due to lack of need.

Updates, Oh Blessed Updates

It is nice when things work well for updates to the software system. Unfortunately, when you have the hosting company do the update for you, automatically, then things just don’t seem to work the way that they were designed to work.

Last night the hosting company, DreamHost, updated the CMS that we use. (CMS is “techno-speak” for “Content Management System”, or the software that runs this site.) It is called WordPress if you are curious and haven’t looked at the bottom of the pages.

Well, today, when I checked the site it just did not work. “Oh, great!” I thought. Now, I have to totally re-install everything. We have backups for all the data but it is still a mess re-installing things.

Fortunately, they kept the original pre-update copies around and I just swapped them. I will still need to do the update, but I will do it on my own when I have the time to do it this weekend.

This means that the site may be down for a few hours this weekend. I am sorry about that. But, we do try to keep things current and that means that the updates need to be performed as needed.

There Be Weeds!

OK, so I can’t sound like James Doohan (“Scotty” on Star Trek IV “The Voyage Home”). But, just pretend it is with his voice. I am writing this piece on Tuesday, the 2nd of June. What I want to write about is the board meeting that the organization held last night.

We (I filled in for my wife who was out ill) spent most of the meeting talking about the new place in Roseville for Sunday service. It seems that most of the issues about the place have been addressed, with hopefully a trivial change. We all agreed, in principle, to accept the city’s offer of a different site for Sunday. It still needs to have the contract signed.

The city is offering us a four-year lease on a piece of property to be used one day a week. The property is located at Berry Street and Reserve Drive. It is across the street from the Cemetery and down the street from two high schools.

At the present time, it is nothing but a big patch of “unwanted plants”, or what we would call weeds. They have agreed to clear most of the weeds from the property; offer a pad or some such surface so that we are not trying to plow through a mud pasture when it rains, and that is basically the limit.

It seems that the city bureaucracy does not believe in toilets. Now, I do not know what the people in the city manager’s office use for this item that is still so well known to this author. Perhaps they just hold it until they explode! I do not know. But, the city doesn’t put in toilets in their parks any longer. There are toilets in the older parks, but nothing in anything new. So, I guess that it means that the people who come there will need to relieve themselves on the street curbs; possibly in front of the occupied houses. Such action may be illegal. I can’t say since I am not an attorney.

Until the city can do the work, they have agreed to “look the other way” when it comes to the park. We will continue to serve in the park until the city has prepared the lot for use. That should take a few weeks. Once that is completed then we will have a new home for Sundays. We will no longer serve in the park.

While we are not welcome there, as an organization, the homeless people that we serve are. Perhaps there is some irony in that.