Friday, November 5, 2010
3500 miles. 2 bikes. 1 movie.
Sarah Connette, James Johnson and Jon Springfield set out this summer on a cross-country bicycle trip to answer the question: How can we most effectively house the chronically homeless?
Come watch our documentary about the trans-American journey exploring homelessness and housing issues. Challenge your perceptions of urban poverty and learn about Charlotte's most innovative housing initiative.
Monday, November 15th
5:00 - 6:30 p.m.
Davidson College 900 Room
We'd love to see you there!
Saturday, July 24, 2010
1 flat tire. (...on the last day...)
11 consecutive days without a shower.
12 pounds of peanut butter.
16 host churches.
17 hours of documentary footage.
18 feet - the vertical leap of a mountain lion. (look it up!!)
21 NBA finals/World Cup games watched.
64 days on the road.
85 residents housed in Moore Place.
100s of people talked with/interviewed/exchanged ideas/questioned/challenged/learned from.
500 granola bars.
7,000 homeless individuals in Charlotte NC.
22,260 minutes on the bike.
2,552,547 wheel rotations.
2,000,000+ individuals experiencing homelessness in 2009 (HUD).
And as for fundraising:
According to Urban Ministry Center, you've helped us raise around $13,000. We are in awe of your generosity
Thanks to everyone who has supported us along our journey with places to stay, conversation, home cooked meals, donations, friendship and encouragement. We'd also like to give a huge thank you to the Bonner Community Fund for funding this. We can't thank you enough!
Do da maf,
Monday, July 19, 2010
The Pacific is the most beautiful thing. After 3,500 miles of talking about ending in Anacortes, it was surreal to see Anacortes city limit signs. We had a great salt-water swim, set our sore legs down and watched the ferries roll out, talked about sleeping in beds, remembered all the states we'd biked through and relished the moment. It still hasn't quite sunk in that we're finished biking and won't be waking up tomorrow to another 70 mile ride.
We drove down to Lexi's house in Seattle and met up with Elinor and her dad for dinner. It's been so nice to just rest and hang out in a home! And not sit on a bike seat.
This evening we went to Tent City 4 at Lake Washington United Methodist Church. It's one of several temporary encampments for people who are homeless in Seattle. We helped serve dinner (salmon burgers!) for several dozen of the hundred or so residents, who are preparing to move on Saturday to a different church lawn as their 90-day limit expires. It's been great sitting and talking with the people here. James and Jon are staying in the Hilton, a 20 person shelter with bedding made of milk crates. Sarah is in the QueenDome which she shares with one other young woman. The people living here are very diverse but all very friendly and willing to share their stories. Each person has a paper plat above their bedding, on which is written their wake up time so that they can catch the bus to make it to work or wherever they need to be. Ours will be set bright and early so we can grab some coffee and talk with people as they head off on their day.
Let's do that again,
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Made it to Twisp. Our trusty van finally broke down and we had to have her towed from Loup Loup Pass, but once her new parts get in tomorrow morning we'll be all set. In the meantime we have a loaner oldsmobile boat with maroon velvet interior and suspension smooth as chamois butter. We might keep it instead - is that cool, mom?
Here is a link to an article Sarah and Jon wrote at the behest of Davidson's chapter of the Roosevelt Institute - it more clearly articulates our research regarding Housing First:
I think we need more bass...
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
But first. Spain won the world cup. And we watched it. We watched it in a bar in Sandpoint, Idaho. A guy we met told us that an octopus in Germany had predicted the win. We’re not really sure what that means, but we’re pretty sure we could beat that octopus in a game of soccer. Unless it was underwater. Or if it were underwater foosball. Yikes.
One morning in Sandpoint, we woke up to the sounds of a stranger approaching our tent. A dark shadow loomed over the entrance of our peaceful nest, grabbed our shoes and darted off. I (James) caught the shoe bandit red-footed. It was a crazy old lady in jogging attire. She said,“You aren’t supposed to be camping here!,” giggled maniacally, dropped the shoes and jogged off. Later on, she called the police on us (since we were camping in a public park). The officer was very understanding since we weren’t causing any trouble. And later that day we found a giant chair and sat in it.
From Sandpoint we battled the wind to Colville, WA where we ate huckleberry ice-cream (75 cents a scoop!) and dined at the popular local watering hole, The Acorn Saloon and Feeding Station. We also may or may not have stormed an unsuspecting RV park and showered…for the first time in…10 days. From Colville we rode to Tonasket, flying down the final 6% downhill grades a-whoopin and a-hollerin to the sagebrush, sunset hills, dismissive horses and each other. In the great town of Tonasket, we met the greatest people ever on the planet. Ivetta and Gene have welcomed us into their home with open arms, hot showers, summer sausage, zucchini bread and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. We just couldn’t resist staying with them another glorious day.
It’s hard to believe we only have…THREE DAYS LEFT UNTIL ANACORTES….and then another day into Seattle.
It’s your birthday tomorrow? WE CELEBRATE TONIGHT!!
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
We've battled stiff winds from the west for the past few days, but we're finally starting to see some trees and even some hills (mountains? Rockies?) looming in the distance. Jon did his first century (100 miles) and James has been taking turns on the bike daily. "Lupe Fiasco makes things way easier," says James. World Cup soccer matches in the early afternoon also means early, early alarms to finish a day's ride and find a bar. Was anyone else as heartbroken as we were about Ghana's loss?
Most of the last week we've been in Indian Reservations, and its been interesting to hear about life in a reservation. One pastor we stayed with in Wolf Point MT (who also owns a gun shop, awesome) told us about the racial tensions and all the problems that stem from a lack of jobs and the erosion of a culture. Poplar MT, in the Fort Peck Reservation, has the highest crime rate and homicide rate per capita in the country. (We had planned to camp there but after hearing that rolled on through). Homelessness is also a big problem on the reservations, but isn't as visible as in other places - many families "double-up" in houses with relatives; a two bedroom house with over fifteen people isn't uncommon.
The whole trip, but the last week in particular, we've had great luck using church's facilities. The hospitality and generosity of pastors has been incredible. In Glasgow MT we had full run of a church with a kitchen, showers, flat screen TV, ping pong and pool tables, an indoor basketball court.... not exactly roughing it...
Three days until Glacier National Park!
Wanna go pick some more daisies?
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I think every state we enter is our new favorite (except Indiana, no offense), and Wisconsin's rolling hills and National Wildlife Refuges were awesome. There were also some unnervingly long cave/tunnels, which were even scarier for Jon as he made his way through alone as Sarah rested her knee.
Turns out, one of volunteers we met at the Catholic Worker House recommended a toy store where we stopped the next day, en route to Red Wing. He had even called ahead to let them know we were coming. They welcomed us with free carousel rides and we took an extended lunch break to watch the llamas (?) and play a round of mini-golf. By the time we left, this had already been posted at the entrance to LARK toy store.
Also, in Red Wing, we found the World's Largest Boot.
So now we have a break from biking and have scheduled interviews at some of the Twin Cities' organizations working with homelessness. We're now headed over to Catholic Ministries to help serve lunch, and then interview some of the service providers on their staff. 3 days, 7 interviews!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I have had the great pleasure of riding with the Homeless Cycle team for over 24 hours straight, giving me an insight into what the daily lives of these courageous Davidson students is like while they are on the road. For all of you trusty followers of the blog, the ones who support the Homeless Cycle website every day (and this one especially goes out to all you Blog-O-Moms…) I am going to give you the 7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Homeless Cycle.
1) The team carries not only their bicycles in the van, but also one banjo, one mandolin, one guitar, one harmonica, and possibly one fiddle. The team has written such great hits as “Go To Sleep Ya Little Johnny”, “Don’t Need Know Peanut But the Butter”, and “Cuz I’m A Yeti”. More serious tunes that show the band’s softer side include the loosely titled “Cartographers”, a song about home written on the road.
2) The Homeless Cycle will never listen to Taylor Swift the same way again due to some avant garde performance art in Chicago.
3) Once the crew took cover from the rain in Indiana under a bank drive-thru and practiced stepping, not realizing that security cameras likely witnessed the entire performance.
4) On the second day of actual travel, two unnamed crew members biked off with the key to the van, leaving the unnamed driver stranded at the Lincoln Memorial. Several forms of public transportation reunited James with the key at the Reston Virginia Pizza Hut. A special thanks to Karen for reminding us that Pizza Hut is an establishment we all can trust.
5) The Homeless Cycle finds stretching very important. So important, it takes almost an hour each morning for the bikers to be ready to hit the trail. They have plans to release a “Stretching of the Homeless Cycle Calendar: Spandex Addition.”
6) The Fourth member of the Homeless Cycle is Bruce, the Australian guiding compass of light. Some may call Bruce a GPS. We just call him a robo-friend.
7) Common phrases include “I Slaapp Da Bass, Mon”, “Where is Bruce taking us?”, “So…You guys ready to go?” and “It’s not Kermit the frog, it Aaron Neville!”
Thanks to Sarah, Jon, and James for teaching me about homelessness in my own city and letting me live vicariously through their van lifestyle. If I could, I'd do it all over again.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Monday we began a whirlwind tour of interviews across Chicago – Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Alliance to End Homelessness, the Pierce Foundation, Housing Action Illinois, and Housing Opportunities for Women. We talked to a number of people on the street and heard some powerful (sometimes tearful) stories. These days are more exhausting than the biking days, by far.
Britt Shawver, director of Housing Opportunities for Women (HOW), has been incredibly helpful in informing our research from her wealth of experience with housing initiatives. She’ll also be joining us for the first leg of the journey tomorrow as we bike towards Milwaukee! James and Molly will drive up in the Sag Wag. The fambly keeps growing.
“Wait, where’d the clam-shell go?”
Saturday, June 5, 2010
We rolled into Chicago yesterday - there's good news for weekend recreationists, because Rollerblading is back in style. According to further research on the Lakefront Trail, so is Biking in Jeans and Sweating Through Collared Shirts. We're staying in Kim's place just outside the city, and David took us out to a great Ethiopian dinner followed by a Taize worship service. We're heading to off to volunteer at Good News Partners, and wanted to leave you with this quote from Neil from National Coalition for the Homeless in DC. More soon!
“So should someone be all better before they get into housing? I think all you have to do is walk up and down the street of your average city and ask yourself the question, ‘Do you think everyone who lives in all these units of housing are ALL BETTER’? And the answer’s probably no. They’re probably pretty typical. Some are wrestling with addiction, some have demons……Our philosophy is that everyone belongs in housing and housing is a human right. Who deserves to go into housing first? And the answer is we all deserve to go into housing. So do the chronically homeless deserve to go into housing before the family with little kids? Does the family with little kids deserve to go before the US military veteran? So you’ve got to ask yourself the question, there’s all these populations and there’s this hierarchy that we as a society have created that says on a compassion scale, the people who have long beards…are kind of pitiful, and the mother with the young child, let’s put them next….So we have this weird dynamic with the unhoused where we assign them a rating on the pity scale but rank them somewhere on this hierarchy of need and the reality is we’re all in need of housing and we ought to flatline that hierarchy. We ought to say everyone is in need of housing and it’s not really for us to say who is more pitiful than another person. Our job is to get people housing. It’s not our job to sit and judge if someone’s deserving of housing or not. I certainly wouldn’t want to be judged on your ranking of how I live my life and I certainly wouldn’t want to do that to someone else either.”
Thursday, June 3, 2010
5:45 Wake up, brush teeth
5:55 Thunderstorm starts
8:30 Get on bikes
9:45 Chased by large, barking dog
10:45 Chased by large, silent dog (really scary)
12:30 See James and Van in distance, relieved to be so close to lunch. Turns out to be 2 and a half miles away. Thanks, Indiana.
2:00/3:00 Time change - hello Central Time!!
3:15 Second storm starts rolling in.
3:30 Arrive in Renssalaer
5:00 Meet up with Sarah, Elinor, Catherine and Josh at Devon's Family Diner!
Here we come Chi-town,
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Today was a big 70-miler so we're beat.
Look forward to more elaboration later...but just know that we had homemade tacos and horchata from a very nice doña in Logansport, IN.
Thinking of family and friends back home!
Saturday, May 29, 2010
The basic understanding of the Housing First approach is that it provides the most vulnerable of the homeless population with housing without requiring prior treatment. However, as this initiative is still evolving, there also isn't a single definition of Housing First. Some programs specifically target single mothers with children, others house individuals dealing with alcohol abuse, others house a more heterogeneous population, and different projects have different levels and types of services which complement the housing.
We are fundraising for Charlotte's first Housing First project, Moore Place, which is a supportive housing project for the chronically homeless - so it's not your typical shelter model. Moore Place will have 85 apartments, on-site case management and 24-hour security. The idea is that housing those most vulnerable is a more stable, sustainable solution than expecting them to eventually transition from an emergency shelter to real housing. For the most vulnerable who have real barriers to self-sufficiency, making this leap while living on the streets is next to impossible.
There are several angles one can take in advocating for Housing First - one can view housing as a human right which must be protected and fulfilled, or one can make the economic argument that housing for the chronically homeless actually saves the city money, on aggregate, that isn't spent on emergency services like hospital and jail visits (Moore Place is expected to save Charlotte $2 million in its first year alone), and finally, one can't deny the practical, nothing-else-has-really-worked evidence from decades of observing housing strategies across the country.
Various pilot programs across the country have experimented with Housing First models and have found success in effectively housing the homeless. Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) in Seattle sought to implement Housing First principles into a housing development of 25 apartments in 1997. Based on the success of this model, they expanded it in 2005 by creating 1811 Eastlake, which provides supportive housing for 75 men and women living with chronic alcohol addictions. 24/7 services include health care services, case management, and mental health/chemical dependency treatment. A 2009 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that this model saved taxpayers $4 million in one year. The longer they had been housed, the greater the reductions in cost of services as well as the greater the reduction of alcoholism. Other cities have launched similar projects; a Housing First program in Portland led to a 70 percent drop in the city's chronic homeless population when augmented with outreach staff and support services. Moore Place in Charlotte is modeled after these successful Housing First projects.
It's a controversial idea - Robert Egger observes that those who object say, "It's crazy. You're putting a crack addict in an apartment." As he goes on to point out, however, all innovative ideas run against the grain of societal expectations and take time to be accepted as alternative solutions to the present problem. The present reality, in this case, is one where tens of thousands sleep outside night after night and without the stability provided by housing are unable to find and maintain work, medicate serious mental illness, or address drug addiction. Once people have a stable roof over their heads, it is arguably easier to then treat mental illness or addiction.
The fact that Moore Place is on track to have raised it's needed $10 million by the groundbreaking date later this year - in a recession, all leveraged from private donors - is remarkable, but not an end in itself. As a pilot program, its success will allow for other Housing First models to be built in Charlotte with federal, state, and municipal grants. The funding aspect is something we hope to explore with one of our interviews in Chicago with Denis Pierce, founder and board president of the Pierce Foundation, about their experience in supporting Housing First initiatives and their evaluation mechanisms to determine the success and continued support of various housing projects. We will also be talking with the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Housing Action Illinois in addition to our service at Good News Partners, where we will be working with kids who live in transitional housing.
We would love to hear your thoughts, opinions and suggestions as we prepare for our upcoming interviews in Chicago! Feel free to comment or email us at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com.
children of the corn,
We've really enjoyed Amish country. We realized that we had entered a different world when we found ourselves drafting behind a line of horse and buggies amidst the rolling corn and wheat fields. Jon stopped and bought some fresh brown eggs from his new Mennonite friend Clayton. When Clayton asked if he was a local, Jon (and his beard) felt flattered. Really really good eggs, though.
We stopped with Sarah's friend Emily in Mount Vernon where we had the Best mac and cheese ever and tried to make fainting goats faint. They wouldn't. But fainting goats are one of Jon's favorite animals, so that made him happy anyways.
Mount Vernon to Marion OH was flat. We're getting ready for lots of corn and sky for the next week's cycling. Today is a rest day in Marion, which means taking full advantage of Cici's all you can eat pizza. Reaching Marion also means we're at the 500 MILE MARK! And we've raised over $3,000 - getting close to our $5,000 goal! Thanks everyone for your contributions and support.
8 wheels, 4 pedals, 3 thugs,
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
But first...we met up with Judi and Steve, a sweet couple who live near Clairton, PA, and they took us out for some authentic Pittsburgh cheese steak sandwiches. We watched some basketball over at their place and then spent the night at their parents' house.
We set out for Steubenville, OH on a stretch of trails that eventually became pretty remote, muddy and ROCKY. Ouch. Once in Steubenville we hit up an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. We also spotted a "laser car wash" and had fun talking in robot voices about robot-run businesses. Like barbershops. "We will cut your hair with LASERSsss" (robot voice). We asked a Lutheran church if we could camp out on their property and watched half of a Thai action film on a laptop under the stars.
From Steubenville we headed west to New Philly, OH, Home of the Fightin' Quakers, where we met up with our dear friend Ben Behrendt and his family. On the way, Sarah ran over a snake on her bike. Scary. This trail was one of the TOP 10 PLACES IN THE NATION...to see fall foliage...:( We're eager for more superlatives.
Love from Ohio,
Monday, May 24, 2010
The Great Allegheny Passage is a beautiful 150-mile trail that connects Cumberland, MD and Pittsburgh, PA. Much of it was built over old railways. It runs through the forest with abundant ferns and wildflowers lining the sides, creeks running down to the river, and CHIPMUNKS racing to and fro. Love those chipmunks.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Sarah carried the torch for the second half of Thursday's ride after Jon's knee was acting up. Sarah found herself in the middle of nowhere on beautiful rolling hills that merited stopping for strawberries. James and Jon toured the "Redneck Mall" (Puneet, ask James about The Shirt) and set up camp in Hancock. It's a cool little one-stoplight town with a shady, surreptitious "campsite" just off main street which we filled with music, books, sleeping bags, bacon, and eggs.
Today, both cyclists set out on the C&O trail which was bumpy but beautiful. 50 miles of gravel and mud meant great views of the Potomac but a new appreciation for blacktop. The trail included the half-mile Paw Paw Tunnel through the mountain.
Meanwhile, James got an old-man haircut at the barbershop. This is pre-haircut. Stay tuned for post-haircut pictures.
peanut, butter, jelly (respectively),
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
We are staying with friends of Sarah's mom's friend, and they have been incredibly welcoming and generous to the three of us. Can't beat a home-cooked meal on the back porch, a hot shower, caring new friends enthusiastic about showing kindness to strangers, 2 roly-poly cats and a pop-up RV to sleep in! Also the neighbors have a penny farthing bike that we earnestly hope to ride, but probably not very far.
Tuesday we had interviews with the National Alliance to End Homelessness and Robert Egger. Both were great. Robert took us down to his "shagadelic" office in DC central kitchen where he told of us of his inspiration while trekking in India, his drive to challenge the status quo - likening the groundbreaking ideas of the non-profit sector to the Ramones in an extended metaphor - and generally was a cool (and incredibly insightful) dude.
Great day of riding, more to come!