Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bigger Vision Community Shelter

Bigger Vision Community Shelter Donation Page

The Bigger Vision Community Shelter does not receive any government funds to operate this important homeless resource in Athens, GA.  All funding is provided by donations from people like you!  Make a donation today via PayPal, Credit or Debit Card, by clicking through the link above, and tell them Gabe sent you!

Latest Update: February 14, 2017

I guess it couldn't be any more fitting than for me to make an update on this page on February 14 since it was February 14 of 2016, a year ago, I checked into the Bigger Vision Community Shelter again, for the second Winter season.  That came and went, and here we are in 2017 where I've just recently checked out of the Bigger Vision Community Shelter, after spending the last few months there in what has thankfully been a mild winter so far.  Usually by now, we've had more cold air, if it's going to be cold and I'm sure we'll get another cold snap, this is shaping up to be a very mild winter, which is really great for those who live outside.

As the homeless represent less than half of half of one percent of the total population in greater Athens, GA, they are somewhat insignificant, yet very noticeable, more so than the 1% of the people who control all the money in the world.  Maybe you see them more often than you think, but in most cases it's easy to spot a homeless person.  The wealthy pretty much all look alike too, but you can't tell the difference between a billionaire and a millionaire can you?  You can generally tell the difference between someone who has a place to live and someone who doesn't, but that's no hard fast rule either.  Though, I think it is safe to say most homeless people look alike too.  As for me, nobody every believes I'm homeless on appearance.  That has a lot to do with the fact that I bathe and groom myself as I always have, just for the past few years I've done it in public restrooms.

Most of the homeless prefer to either dress tough looking, or they tend to carry a lot of stuff around.  I live in the middle, on the lily pad, neither too far left, or right.  The lily pad is plenty big enough to stay on, but if you go to far one way, or the other, you end up in the "soup".  You can always get back on, but many "choose" to stay in the "soup".  In actuality, it took this journey through homelessness for me to find my lily pad.  I never actually had one before.  I'd heard about them in different ways.  People would say, "Stay centered", or "Stay in control", or even "Walk in the spirit", but none of that really made sense.  Staying centered was a first step in the direction because it made me look to my center of balance a term used among athletes, often referring to a low center of balance that many running backs have compared to the giants who may be trying to tackle them, but I could understand that language, which developed into a lily pad.

If you don't get anything else out of living outside, you should get a reconnection with nature.  I'm not trying to get all Celtic on you here, because nature is everywhere and cannot be limited to the Celts, but being in tune with nature is something our world needs.  We have lost touch with the earth and as I have come to see, we don't have an economy, or life at all without an environment.  We all know this, even when we drive our cars to the convenience store just a mile away.  Not a single one of us can control the 1% and how they run this world, but if they persist on relying on petroleum as our chief energy source, then the least any of us can do is walk to the convenience store instead of driving.  So, make the world a better place by simply taking a walk.

Maybe, one day soon, world leaders will think past their pocket books and realize they won't have pocket books if they destroy the earth.  Maybe they don't care and the greed is that strong.  We can still walk a mile to the store.  Maybe they found another planet to destroy and are going to take off and leave us all behind, but logically speaking why wouldn't they want to take care of this place first, especially when all evidence known to the public says planet Earth is it.  There isn't anything within our reach to go to to escape what is already poised to be a paradise depending on the way we treat it.  It's no different with our own bodies.  Why don't you find any obese vegans?

What does that have to do with Bigger Vision?  Well, I am not a vegan, but given the choice I largely eat a vegetarian diet of dried fruits and nuts, beans and vegetables, like raw carrots, my favorite.  I hate cooked carrots, but I love raw carrots.  I need more vegetables, but food is often something that I have carried around with me and trail mix and carrots are as easier to transport as a pint of whiskey.  Yet, if you put down a plate of fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, and green beans, I'm going to eat it and enjoy it!

So, call me a hypocrite, but I'm not vegetarian.  So, when Jeb Blasevich, a tight end with the DAWGS brought by not one, not two, but three sacks full of burgers and chicken breast sandwiches, I partook and ate with all thanksgiving.  This is completely consistent with my beliefs that we should 'eat whatever is set before us with joy and thanksgiving'.  Veganism, and vegetarianism often lead to attitudes on par with religious fanatics, but of opposing views.  So, once again, I try to stay in the middle of the road on diet.  I realize the horrible food that is consumed by much of the public and have seen the effects of it on people especially from their fit youths to adulthood when the metabolism begins to slow but eating habits remain the same.  The truth be known, my decisions on what I eat go back to my teens when I did weight training six days a week and nutrition was a top priority for me.  So this is not something I just started thinking about, but my decision to eat largely vegetarian is probably mostly because of convenience.

If you are homeless, even if you don't look like it, there are still no grocery stores within a short walk of downtown, which is my kibbutz, minus the agriculture, except what is sold at the Daily Food Co-op that also takes food stamps!  I started eating there for convenience, and ended up feeling much better as a result.  I don't get the food stamps anymore, but I still go to the co-op.  This is a case where the social safety net led to an improved life, and though it has taken years it has been for the good.  It's amazing how poverty will either make you, or break you, but it is a decision.  At least in America, you get a shot!  Everyone gets a blank canvass.

But, Mr. Blasevich did us an honor and I feasted for several days on this blessing.  I do not know if he did this on his own, or through the team, but he's the only one who showed up to deliver the goods.  I was not there, but Joe Junior was.  I'm trying to get him to send me a photo so I can post it with this BLAHG entry.  Point being, I just wanted to say thanks!  And, if nobody else does that let me do it for them here, because though the "guests" of Bigger Vision may be "poor" by American standards, we truly eat like kings, and it's only because of people like Jeb Blasevich, and the house mother Alzeena Johnson also of Timothy Road Baptist Church.  Several church groups serve it up at Bigger Vision, including the Episcopals, Catholics and Cornerstone who also recently hosted something called the Compassion Experiences just this weekend.

While at the highest estimate, the homeless represent just half of half of one percent of the overall population of Athens, people realize it's still hard for people to get out off the bottom rung.  I will not lie.  Some people are content and have made a lifestyle choice.   My eyes have been opened to a lot through this experience.  I have concluded, we definitely need a welfare state, but we also need welfare reform.  More on that later, but don't ever judge a book by it's cover.  Likewise, the world is short on compassion, but don't give your money to beggars on the streets.  Money does not solve their problems.  It only enables them, I assure you.  As for those who are not drug addicts the up hill battle out of life on the streets is tough, and people do need a leg up because self-sufficiency is a lie.  It takes a village.  However, the state route is not the answer either unless you want to continue propagating bullsh*t.  More on that later, but all these people are not mentally ill... only about half of them.  If things don't make sense, just remind yourself Donald Trump is the president, and then it should be clear.  Nothing makes sense.

So, I attended the Compassion Experience at Cornerstone with my friend I call Fruit Loops, just this weekend.  We are both in complete agreement that we should not let the fruit loops make us fruit loops.  Plus, she likes Fruit Loops and is a light weight who catches a buzz of of breakfast cereal!  And, welcome to America the land of the Fruit Loops which unless we do something about "reproductive rights" they will continue to multiply!!!  Fruit Loops doesn't like that idea, but I am convinced of it, even though it is probably the case that the vast majority of these folks are castrated by circumstances, yet they still get "married" even though they can't afford a place to live.  Happy Tuesday the 14th!  If this is what love is I hope the gays will redefine that too just like they do everything else to fit their mindsets.  What this country could really use is a moratorium on any new laws because we already have plenty of them to not make any sense.  I guess the attitude is to throw another log on the fire, even though you might want to go to bed!

As it turned out the Compassion Experience was not exactly what I had expected.  I thought there were going to be actual people from villages around the world that represent what true poverty is.  What I wanted to do was gather up all the drunken bums and beggars and take them to this thing so they could see people who have a real reason to beg.  What I wanted to do is what I've always wanted to do and have always tried to do is cut through the bullsh*t instead of embracing.  So, when I hear Make America Great Again, I say Make America Grateful Again!

But, they don't want that... the powers that be. I really don't think they do.  If we had gratefulness, people would stop wanting more when they have enough.  People would stop buying houses and cars they don't need.  People would live modestly... the way we once did, not too long ago actually.  So, is it leadership in general that demands every growing profits thereby constantly driving us into the marketplace to buy stuff, or is it our current and modern leadership?  I believe it's the latter who view this as the harvest mode where you gather up all the fruit of the financial planting before the fields return to fallow.  This is the game.

The game moves around, from Rome throughout the globe until, we start looking for other planets to exploit.  It doesn't make any sense to me, but that doesn't make me socialist.  It makes me believe the game can last forever, if it is played with modesty rather than blowing up the bubble until it pops.  They once thought the earth was flat.  Now, we think the universe is expanding.  What if it's not?  What if it's just morphing, expanding here and there, retracting there and here all at the same time on the edges of space and time and we live in the middle, in liminality?  In other words, what if what they tell us is wrong and the earth is not flat?

The game ends for those who get wrapped up in one way of doing things.  Companies go bankrupt.  People commit suicide because of such losses, but when adaptation called, they so often wanted to remain the same, resisting change as much as people are resisting Trump and the same old game that preserves him, but isn't doing much for anybody else except making them jump for carrots.  I just get mine from the Daily Food Co-op!  The burgers... are from the DAWGS!  Thanks Jeb!  It takes a TEAM, Together Everyone Achieves More.

November 10, 2016

Happy Marines Birthday!  It was this day in 1775 the Marines were born.  Tomorrow is Veterans Day.  Yesterday, was election day.  No matter who you voted for, the fact remains that these guys served their country, as screwed up as it may be, it still beats the heck out of some third world country where poor people don't have soup kitchens, clean facilities for showers, laundry and at this time of year as the weather turns cold, and especially, overnight shelter.  Ironically, even some veterans stay at the Bigger Vision Community Shelter as well.

It now approaches two years since I was released from jail.  It took nearly a year to recover physically from a six month stint in jail.  Part of that was my own fault because I didn't exercise at all during that time.  The other part of that is that jail is not the healthiest of environments.  You can hardly do a cardio vascular workout, although it is possible from jumping jacks, and the food is less than healthy, causing many people severe constipation, and digestive problems that can lead to a host of other health problems if one remains incarcerated for lengthy periods of time.

Beyond that, in October of 2015, I broke my arm, my wrist to be exact.  Needless to say, it was a rough time since being released to the streets again.  After repeated requests for assistance and help to get prepared for release, only to be ignored, I... as were many people "ignored" and basically left to ourselves again to make things right.  So, when you hear those complain of they system, I have learned first hand, they are often justified in their complaints.  That's why I voted for Dolly Parton!  Just kidding, but I did NOT vote for either of the two primary candidates.

The good news, is I did recover and have recently found a good job, one in which I believe holds more opportunity.  I am fortunate because I do have an education, and I have some brains.  Call it "street science", but I've learned much during this time and experience.

And, I did survive!  I was even at Bigger Vision for Valentine's Day of 2016 of this year too.  It has be become "homeless" sweet home for me and several others during the cooler months.  But, again, as a reminder and a request, Bigger Vision is funded by donations from people like you.  We might not end homelessness today, but we can still make improvements as we aim to make the world a better place, even for those who have fallen on hard times.  Your giving is what makes that possible.

So, once again, please click thru the link provided above to donate today!  Bigger Vision DOES NOT currently receive any government subsidies.  So, as it is with giving beyond a tithe, your offerings are are what keep us afloat.

After speaking with Andrew Wilkin, the Executive Director of Bigger Vision, I learned that the goal is to get 1,000 people to donate $20 each which will not only fund the current efforts of Bigger Vision but help to take it to the next level.  So, please contribute if you can.

Special thanks to the ladies of Timothy Road Baptist Church for serving it up last night!  There is a different group each night, most returning repeatedly throughout the season.  This is all coordinated by a woman by the name of Alzeena Johnson who as been involved for years.  For the three years I have been a "guest" at Bigger Vision she has never failed to see that there was food to be served, even at times on very short notice.  Thanks to all the churches and organizations that provide these meals, and thanks to Alzeen Johnson for seeing to it that it happens.  Also, thanks Alzeen for those thermal sleeves you threw me last night.  I'm wearing them right now!

Also, special thanks to three sisters from UGA's Delta Zeta, Madison Dooley, Ashley Moses, and Ashley Nicoletti.  Madison told me when I asked her if she was part of an organization, 'No, I was just passing by one time last year and I stopped in to find out about Bigger Vision".  Since then, she and her "sisters" acting independently of Delta Zeta, volunteer their time to come and serve the less fortunate in the community.  Other groups come in at various times, but I've yet to record the names of all those that contribute.  It makes a difference!

I also spoke with a young woman, a student by the name of Mackenzie.  She and her boyfriend, a veteran, were also there to volunteer.  I thought perhaps she was part of the UGA Public Interest Practicum, but she was not, though there is such a thing and it offers legal "direction", not counsel, to those on the lower socio-economic tier of our society.  Honorable mention to Emily Shannon a UGA law student who guided me through some recent legal challenges that ended up making a big difference in my life and the ability to climb to a higher tier and take care of the things I need to take care of.

Mackenzie on the other hand is a student at UGA for social work.  Joel, her associate is a regular volunteer at Bigger Vision.  We had some good talks.  As my mind usual does, I recalled "Joel" to be a book in the Bible.  The other night was laundry night.  So, as my clothes were being washed I went upstairs to read the book of Joel, a very short book in the Bible where locusts devour the land in four different waves, as I recall.  The first wave ate almost everything, and what they didn't eat the next wave ate and so on through the different waves of the locust interlopers.

If they were Bicycle Locusts they could have gone to Bi-Lo and just had some beans, but that is a whole 'nuther story.  Actually, it's a poem that I co-wrote with someone very special several years ago.  We laughed a lot during the process and we weren't even drinking!  But, the good news of the book of Joel is that even though the land was devoured and the armies darkened the skies so that neither the sun, nor the stars could be seen, the fruit of the land including the vine from which comes the wine, and branches of the olive trees from which come the oil, were restored!

But, as I told Mackenzie, in the jail house there are plenty of preachers, and plenty of religious material to read.  But, in terms of equipping people for life on the outside, there is very little to be offered.  It made me ask the question, why isn't there an IN-REACH program offered by social workers.  Certainly, if you are a Believer, the eternal soul of a human being is of the greatest importance, but what about our time here?  Shouldn't we be equipping people and lifting them up, instead of continually shoving people through this revolving door of imprisonment and probation violations?  Just a thought, but we have plenty of religion in the world.  What we need is ACTION!

Bigger Vision is a place of ACTION, and so is Action Ministries.  Without Action, I might not have found the job I found.  Action Ministries provides a computer lab for public access including Microsoft Office.  So, you can build a resume and send it out. I already had the resume, but sending it was made very easy.  That coupled with my Obama phone got me the job, and as I told Madison Dooley last night, the key to success for anyone on the streets is to maximize opportunities.  They may be infrequent and far between, but that usually is because we fail to notice them.  A keen awareness of these opportunities is necessary if someone is going to find their way off the streets.  I've been on them for the past eight years, and you hardly see anybody get off.  It's the same parade day, after day, after day...

So, with that being said, let me wrap this up by re-emphasizing the value of a place like Bigger Vision.  We may not be able to take a shower and do laundry in an hour like someone with a place of their own, but keeping clean is far from impossible for street people.  There are those who do not take care of themselves, but that is their own doing, and is also the state of very few people on the streets of Athens, GA.  You cannot starve to death here unless you allow it, and there isn't any excuse for being filthy, but it still takes more than sheer will to recover.  Someone has to VOTE for you; maybe not in an election, but in support.

If we are going to edify one another, then this is one way for some of you to do just that.  That's a VOTE we need, the "guests" of Bigger Vision!  January hasn't even gotten here yet, and from the looks of things, this is going to be a cold winter.  So, no matter who you voted for, who won, or who lost.... neither one of them are going to solve our problems for us.  As guests of Bigger Vision it is our responsibility to make the most of our opportunities.  As contributors to our success, you can help us solve our own problems!

Thank you all!



Original Post: November 29, 2015

On February 14th, 2015, I was released from jail after serving a six month sentence for a non-violent crime, I refer to as a failure to pay my bills...

Having lost my apartment, and without a place to go, and after several years on the streets of Athens, Ga prior to that, I found my way to the Bigger Vision Community Shelter.  It was humbling to say the least, especially after years of espousing self-sufficiency, voting Republican, and trying to find my way out of the big mess that had become my life.  Without Bigger Vision, I am sure I would have frozen to death, or at least been very cold.

Having spent the first two years of my homeless journey couch hopping and staying with friends, the time allowance for situations like that is limited.  Unfortunately, I found myself stuck in Athens, with a college degree, and that's about it, except for the clothes on my back.  Thankfully, other resources exist in this town as well, including the Sparrow's Nest which has a clothes closet open Mondays thru Wednesdays. Without valuable resources like these, many of the homeless would either be dead, or look like vagabonds. Most people I meet have a very hard time believing I am homeless, but it is true.

Many of you may wish death upon the homeless, and I can certainly attest to the fact that many are mannerless and without dignity, but there are substantially more that simply CANNOT get out of the mess they are in without help.  Resources like Bigger Vision enable one to maintain his, or her dignity and provide showers and laundry so that while you are on your journey through homelessness, you can still be presentable when it comes to finding work, which is also very hard for most to do especially in a college town where jobs are for kids, and MOST of the homeless are hardly skilled with computers and other skills that would enable them to find lucrative work.  And, lest I forget, the working poor which are very present in this "community".

As for myself, I have skills that should afford me ample opportunities for high earning potential, but jobs of that caliber are very limited in Athens.  Without the things most people almost take for granted these days, like a car, and a place to live, your daily life is consumed with keeping clean, and finding nourishment.  This occupies the vast majority of the time homeless people spend during a day.  What may take you an hour to do in terms of laundry and bathing, can take four or five hours for a homeless person to do, and then we tend to walk A LOT.

It is not as simple as many people will say to simply "GET A JOB".  From first hand observation, and experience, I can tell you for some who might even be mentally challenged, it is closer to impossible than not.

For what it's worth, help if you can by clicking through the link above to the DONATION page for Bigger Vision.  People really need your help!


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