Category Archives: Opinion

Homeless Housing Of The Future

I’ve never been homeless. I think it would be important to ask homeless people what THEY want before we start building things or spending more money, or sending them off to prison somewhere.

The reason I say that, is I know one woman – who HAS a job and a cat – who was priced out of her apartment and she was living in a tent in a friends’ backyard over the winter. What she needed was an apartment in Portland that didn’t raise the rent above the salary she could afford and that allowed pets. So the person I knew who was homeless didn’t need a lot of fussing…she just needed a wage and housing that matched…which had matched no problem until the landlords decided to up their pricing to compete with the fancy new buildings being built.

Currently she’s living in an art studio downtown. I wonder with all the air bnb people, if there could be a similar website that could match up compatible people to rent rooms in homes? Again, the homeless person I know is a normal person, with a job, a pet, who actively volunteers her time in the community, etc. who could be your neighbor. How many homeless are like this? Why don’t we find out by asking them, and letting them help create a solution for them that matches, say, elderly homeowners with cats and a boarder with cats, where the boarder not only pays rent, but can help around the house? Building community, instead of creating an ‘us/them’ paradigm of ‘look at those homeless people – can’t we just sweep them, blow them up, or cart them off so we don’t have to look at them?’

Yes, some people might need more helps than others, but at least one leg of the situation is individuals and families that have jobs, have a community around them, but for whatever reason (raised housing costs without a raise from their employer? Unexpected medical bills? A new baby? A death of the main breadwinner? Investments disappearing that they were living off of? Job loss? Parents getting new jobs across the country but the high school teen wanting to finish out his/her senior year etc.) the money they have doesn’t match the housing they are in. Sometimes this is only temporary. To keep a person/family in their familiar neighborhood while they get the money matched up to their living situation seems like it would be easier to get a footing back up with minimum displacement.  And how can we make this a mutual helping, instead of shaming?  How can it be cost effective, where the person looking for a home, and the person who has space, can mutually help each other?

Another affordable housing idea that might work as a collaboration between businesses, government, and renters, is to work out a collaboration where the working tenant pays no more than 25% of their gross monthly salary towards their rent, with the stipulation that they also contribute a talent or skill that benefits the other renters.  Examples could include an accountant could lead a monthly money management seminar to interested tenants (and guests?), a grocery worker could bring leftover packaged or nearly expired food to share with tenants,  a young mother could hold a monthly clothing and toy exchange amongst tenants.  This gifting of abundance from tenants would create added community benefit, helping to mutually uplift all tenants not only financially but emotionally, and helping to lessen dependence on overworked government social services.  As tenants get pay raises or move to higher wage jobs, their percentage paid towards rent would raise as well.  As tenants make new like-minded friends and as their pay raises, they may decide to move out of this housing and into other non-subsidized housing, thus freeing up the space for new tenants.  This would help retain quality employees for low-wage area businesses, and the businesses could write off the percentage of rent not covered by their employee paycheck as a tax write-off/employee benefit.  The city could contribute by allowing already built apartment complexes in various neighborhoods close to the businesses to be utilized for this venture.  This way no new buildings need to be planned and built, saving time and money.

One of the things my friend told me was she was thinking of fixing up a truck and living out of that, so at least she’d have a safe mobile place for her cat and herself, where all her stuff was safe and she could lock it etc. The living small movement is afoot, partly because some people are tired of owning too much stuff, but partly because people can’t afford to store stuff/move stuff and because housing prices are so high. So maybe another option would be affordable trailer parks where people can live within their means, leave when they want to and take all their stuff with them if they get a new job or new opportunity? Just trying to brainstorm options where people feel they have a bit more control then being forced/herded like cattle by people/government officials who haven’t even talked to them.

People support that which they help to create. People who for -whatever reasons- can’t currently afford housing should be part of the leadership team in planning local homeless housing options, job training options, new innovations etc.  I would think that if I were homeless, I’d have to know /learn all kinds of survival hacks (necessity is the mother of invention).  We should be utilizing the brainpower of those who know what it’s like to be homeless, in helping to create the most cost effective, mutually helpful for society, community building affordable living situations.  And who knows?  The businesses who partner with experienced homeless people might create a whole new world of marketable invention$.

By Barb Hughes

Practical Solutions To End Rape Culture

Upon thinking about the Brock Turner case and how to deal with the underlying rape culture, I’ve come up with some practical solutions.

1. A rape kit needs to be a part of everybody’s first aid kit, right alongside bandaids and aspirin *. Since 1 in 5 women experience rape (I’m not sure what the numbers are for men), this is such a common occurance we all need to be prepared because it will inevitably happen to us or someone we know as things currently stand.

2. All children need to be educated about consent, starting from an early age. (No, you can’t play with Trisha’s doll unless Trisha says you can. No you can’t touch Ben’s private parts – those don’t belong to you, etc.)

3. All teenagers through adults need to be clearly taught what consent and respect for others means, and the legal consequences of not respecting others boundaries. (I think overall social and kindness practices used to be taught in class as ‘citizenship’ or ‘social studies’ or something like that? But this would add the meaning of consent to the mix as well.)

4. All teenagers and adults need to be taught that assault is assault, and consent is consent – that a person (in this case, the rapist) doesn’t get to decide that someone else ‘wanted’ it. He can only say that HE ‘wanted it’. And if the other person was asleep, or drunk, or said no, or was unable to respond, or was vulnerable (a child, special needs, an employee afraid of losing their job, physically ill, mentally ill, etc.) then they CAN’T legally give consent. Meaning, even if *you* were ‘just getting 20 minutes of action’ using the vagina etc. of another person, if that other person didn’t want your ‘action’, that is called rape and you will be prosecuted.

5. The legal system will clearly define the above (i.e. consent, assault, personal responsibility, personal autonomy) so that there is no doubt as to the meaning of consent, assault, and that personhood rights belong to each individual concerning his or her OWN body.

By Barb Hughes

PS. This discussion is personal for me as my daughter was raped and went through much the same things Brock Turner put his victim through – and many of you/your friends/family have experienced the same thing. Honest education, legal protections, and creative and proactive medicine can help.

*I just discovered this jewelry that is proactive to set off a loud alarm, text friends/family/contacts of your location, and dial 911 all at the touch of a button.  It’s called Roar Jewelry. Part of the purchase price also goes to educating children in empathy, so that the rape culture cycle ends.

Money and Fame

We’ve been conditioned to believe that ‘winner takes all’ and ‘if I have money/fame, THEN I’ll be secure, I’ll have friends/be popular, have meaning and feel accomplishment in my life’.

 

This video leaves with a question at the end.  I would add an additional question:

What do I have in abundance?

Often we don’t see our own abilities as worthwhile/abundant because they’re not reflected back as valued in society.  As we wrestle with personal values and the simple things that sustain us – quietly sharing the things we DO have in abundance – the result is joy.  Appreciating what we have begins by not judging ourselves that we aren’t rich/famous/thin/successful enough.  At first our personal abundance may look silly or useless, but sit with the tiny simplicity of it, and it may take on a life of its own, crafting a way to bring joy not just to us but to others.

Here’s an example of a simple abundance from my own life.

Our house breeds clothes.  When the kids were small  I set up a clothes and stuff swap for entertainment in our home.  We moved what we wanted to other rooms, and set up marked areas with signage so guests would know where to place their unwanted things for swapping.

It was hoot! Fun was had by all as friends and family brought over things they didn’t need and we socialized and swapped. The kids pretty much stayed in the toy room and found new toys to take home, the parents socialized and found things we needed, I was able to clear out clutter we didn’t need anymore and found things we could use.  I found a creative and socially fun use for my abundance.  It brought me joy.

My abundance (clothes and stuff that seems to breed in the attic) wasn’t money, or fame, or power.  It was ‘just’ clothes and stuff.  It was something simple. I started looking for ways to be creative with what I saw as my abundance.

To make a long story short, after years of experimenting I created Swap Positive– started with the simple abundance of extra clothes.

Sharing abundance gives joy.

What do you have extra in your life?  What do you have a lot of?  What is your abundance? Are you someone who can’t wipe the smile off your face?  Do you have way too many empty toilet paper tubes?  Do you get a thrill from constantly holding babies?  If you give away your extra, what kind of joy will you bring to yourself and to others? If you smile at people it could make a positive difference in their day.  Maybe a local preschool would love those toilet paper tubes for the ongoing projects they have, and appreciate your steady supply?  A hospital might need someone to hold premie newborns, or a church/school/clinic nursery might appreciate your skills so young mothers can get a short refreshing breather. What you see as ‘not really anything’, or maybe even feel guilty about, might be what you have in abundance.  Realizing and using your abundance creatively could make all the difference in how you see yourself and your place in this world.  Being rich, famous, and powerful doesn’t bring joy, but maybe having too many toilet paper tubes or egg cartons might be the beginning of a new chapter of joy and giving in your life?

Barb

Honoring Tomb-time

With Easter and stories of new life and resurrection on our minds, I wanted to explore a side of Easter that I’ve never heard discussed before.

I saw a comment on facebook from a friend of mine that said:

“Sick. Depressed. More than I can handle”.

Without having context to that comment, it got me to thinking.  How many of us have felt that way at one time or another? It sucks. Sometimes life gets sucked out and so it just sucks. Lack of health sucks. Trying to keep a smile on sucks. Having a person/pet you love die sucks. Getting out of bed sucks. Watching people just not ‘get it’ sucks. Not being able to do anything about it sucks. Not having energy sucks. About the only things that don’t suck at times might include:

1. the love and kindness of a spouse who cares/close family who will listen and not judge

2. soft organic flannel sheets

3. Hyberbole and a half dark humor

I wonder if sometimes ‘hitting bottom’ might possibly be compared to a place like Christ in the tomb: cold, dark, quiet, a suspended life. And that’s OK. It’s OK to be buried for awhile. In fact, maybe that’s part of the Easter Story? Maybe instead of rushing to the resurrection, maybe it’s OK to be in the tomb? Maybe it’s not a ‘fault’ to be in the tomb? Maybe it’s just part of a – can I say it – healthy life to be in the tomb?  Even if we don’t know how long it will last?  Especially if we don’t know how long it will last?

Yes, resurrection does come, and we celebrate that, but maybe there is also a place to respect the times in our lives that represent tombs?  Why do we fear the cold, dark, quiet, suspended times?  Is it because in American culture those are seen as ‘weak’, or ‘useless’, or ‘bad’, or ‘unproductive’…and we feel shamed for them?  What would happen if those times of depression/grief, or “tomb-time”, had a different, purposeful meaning in our culture?  Do other cultures have a place of respect for those times in a person’s life?

How can we incorporate a safe, honorable, and healthy place for those -including ourselves – who are experiencing tomb-time?  If we had a different perspective, maybe we wouldn’t feel the cultural need to deny, try to cheer-lead it away, or shame it?  Maybe tomb-time is an important part of a healthy life?

Some possible resources: the book Tear Soup , online helps from Tear Soup.

Barb

Four Steps To Economic Recovery

The news is full of articles trying to figure out a way to save America:  how to bring back the middle class, create jobs, help stop the disparity between the few rich at the top and the majority falling (or fearful of falling) toward poverty, and what to do about increasing homelessness and food insecurity.  American society seems gripped in fear, as many young people wrestle with college debt and little or no living wage work prospects.  Middle managers in their 40’s/50’s/60’s have been downsized/laid off, and haunt monthly job fairs featuring door-t0-door commission sales work (to try to reach those who don’t want to open their doors to strangers and/or don’t have money/need to purchase their products anyway).  An undergirding of fear is sweeping our nation just under the surface for those of wealth (and those hanging on by their fingernails to their wealth), a daily reality for many more.

The conversation is here.  People are awake and aware that this growing soup of problems are encroaching on us as a society, not just ‘the fringe others’.  This involves all of us.  Some of us who have not yet lost our job/home/health respond with self-protective denial.  Some of us in frustration and fear blame the ‘other’.  Some of us become clinically depressed and use pain medication/drink/drugs to hide.

I believe there is a practical way to turn this poverty of economy and spirit around. Here’s my idea outline for a Four Step Plan To Economic Recovery:

  1.  Living wage jobs provided by the very corporations and businesses that have taken living wage jobs away, as well as innovative business models such as B-Corporations and worker cooperatives that balance wages, community building, and benefits with profits.
  2. Mortgage companies/banks/developers et all to sell/rent housing that is affordable to wages earned in area said housing/businesses reside.  Seed Seattle is an example of an organization creating partnerships and inspiring investments in affordable housing, arts, and economic development.
  3. Medical health care that actually provides health benefit – not high priced/high deductible insurance that doesn’t cover any type of actual care.
  4. Education tied with industry jobs, so instead of graduating with a 4 year degree and $30,000-$200,000 of debt and no income/job in sight, the education/training is included in most businesses/jobs as part of the training package of said business/job. This would also be helpful for those re-entering the workforce and those who’s jobs have changed/no longer exist.

These four steps would in practical ways help turn the economy around with innovative business and industry leading the way by creating living wage jobs and incorporating training and benefits back into the business model.  Add to that affordable housing, fanning innovation, creating community building opportunities, rebuilding a middle class and giving tangible tools to bring disenfranchised into the middle class, and the result would be uplifting all of American society for a better future.

Barb Hughes 2013    Barb Hughes

Book: Journey of Souls: Case Studies Of Life Between Lives

journeyofsoulsWhether religious or not, this is a fascinating look into an unexplored possibility of what happens after death. I enjoyed the example of the creator/source being an active and living presence in our lives – here and in the hereafter- as opposed to the current working definition that tends to separate the creator as the big judge outside that has created a hierarchy of painful separation through rules, rewards, and punishments.

Author Michael Newton PH.D has a background as a counseling psychologist, master hypnotherapist, teacher, and researcher. This book covers such topics as How it feels to die, What you see and feel right after death, When and where you learn to recognize soul mates on earth, Different levels of souls- beginning/intermediate/and advanced, What happens to “disturbed” souls, and The purpose of life and manifestation of a Creator.

If you’re able and willing to stretch your mind and imagination, enjoy this fresh look at the age old idea of ‘what happens after we die?’.

Are Bronies changing the face of masculinity?

Are the qualities of friendship, fun, working together, inclusiveness, and kindness ONLY male traits; female traits; or are they human traits?

These hero’s are making the world a happier, kinder, more inclusive place; creating 3D men (instead of men chained in a 2D world box of destruction, disfunction, and distance).