Friday, November 5, 2010

The Homeless Cycle: The Movie

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
Dinner provided!

We'd love to see you there!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Homeless Cycle by the Numbers

As our final post, we'd like to do some rithmatic. But who's counting?

1 flat tire. (...on the last day...)
11 consecutive days without a shower.
12 pounds of peanut butter.
13 states.
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.
350 sandwiches.
500 granola bars.
3,500 miles.
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

Songs from the road

A song, written by Jon, performed by Jon and Sarah, set to footage of Montana.

La la laaaaaaaaaWASHINGTON.

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

Dear Glacier National Park,

I don't know how to say this. Sometimes when we're together, I just can't find the right words. I get so nervous. So weak in the knees. Well... those three days we spent together were magical. I'll never forget you. No other national park will ever compare. Call me?

But seriously, the mountains, the waterfalls, the glaciers, the wildlife...we were pretty much always in awe of the beauty surrounding us. Jon ascended the infamous Logan Pass while Sarah and James hiked through the snow to Hidden Lake and saw some mountain goats! Sarah and Jon later hiked up steep slopes to Mt. Brown Lookout, which gave incredible views of the snow-capped mountain ranges. Best. Hike. Ever. The next day Jon and Sarah rode down the other side from Logan Pass. Jon rigged up a flip-cam to his helmet ("HELMETCAM!") and captured the breathtaking descent and views from Going-to-the-Sun Road while Sarah whooped and hollered for miles. Best. Ride. Ever.

We have also fallen in love with western Montana. We try to swim in the cold, clear snow-melt rivers whenever possible, and that water sure does feel good on our knees. Jon floated down river with his newfound life jacket and had to bail when the river started getting rough. We're pretty proud of the giant mug of hot chocolate that we concocted in Eureka, MT. Eureka! Last night in the small town of Troy, MT we happened upon a Christian Bikers' (motorcyclists, that is) Revival/Convention: "Born to Die Motorcycle Ministry." They welcomed us to stay for some venison, music and preachin. It was interesting to hear the perspective of people ministering to biker "clubs" (aka gangs) in an effort to get people to "repent" and clean up their lives. Although intimidating at first, these self-proclaimed "spiritual soldiers" with their leather jackets and handlebar mustaches were welcoming and friendly. Despite being hardcore Christians, they certainly hadn't lost any of the roughness of biker gangs - "Anyone who claims to be a Christian in the clubs but is a hypocrite, I'd take their cut and then their bike. If that wasn't enough, I'd shoot em in the kneecap, for fun." (...) We certainly heard some controversial messages from the preachers, and had interesting conversations later over Huckleberry shakes about judgment, evangelizing, moral relativism, community, religion.... and then watched a campy Japanese action film.

Great day to be a wampuscat,

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Just a quick note- we headed out of Glacier National Park this morning, en route to Sandpoint, ID. All is well- Glacier is AMAZING!!

From de Montana mountains,

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Homeless Cycle: America Edition

Having seen over two thousand, five hundred miles of the United States, at this point, on July 4th, we can safely say: we love America. And nothing expresses this love for America more than sitting on Havre, MT's town green, eating fried chicken and apple pie and watching a terrible cover band play Freebird. We now have some Artillery Shells With Comet Tails and Magical Roman Candles and are going to head towards the highest bluff we can find in these great Montana plains.

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

What you talkin bout Williston (ND)

Brief update on adventures in North Dakota:

-In a coffee shop in Fargo, we saw "the wife that gets kidnapped" in the Coen brothers' movie Fargo.
-We met a sweet couple in Cooperstown that took us out for burgers and shakes and gave us a tour of the town in their green Buick LaSabre. It's a slow, nice town with a lot of grain silos. Even the turn signals click more slowly. Ca-chik. Ca-chik. Ca-chik.
-The pastor of a church in Devil's Lake let us stay inside when there were flash flood warnings for the county. This church had an indoor basketball area, DDR (Dance Dance Revolution), a kitchen and a shower.
-We've started running into other cross-country cyclists. We got a tip to avoid a 40 mile radius around Saco, Montana since it is apparently swarming with mosquitos as "dense as the cartoons."
-To get through windy expanses of North Dakota, we started a new relay "leg" method of riding...James is even taking a turn sometimes!
-We've battled headwinds up to 30 miles per hour. And won.
-We just et a bid supper et gramma sharon's all-you-ken-et country cookin buffet.

Don't you just wish you had a giant hair dryer?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

We're in North Dakota! connection...bad....static...zzzzzzz

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Twin City Whirlwinds

As tornadoes rolled through Minnesota, we conducted a whirlwind of interviews in the Twin Cities. We started out by serving lunch on Thursday at Catholic Charities...we donned hair nets and dished up lasagna, beans, fruit and salads to the families streaming into the lunchroom. We talked with a Housing First manager at a different branch and then with a recommended "Housing First guru" head of the SARA (Single Adult Rental Assistance) Program at Simpson Housing Services. The next morning we spoke with Julie Manworren, Executive Director at Simpson, and she walked us through one of the shelters they run. Simpson is unique in that it has emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing for single adults, and subsidized rental assistance for families- I recommend reading their mission! One big takeaway from our conversation with Julie was her call for our generation to not accept the "normalization" of homelessness.

We then headed to Wilder Research, part of the Wilder Foundation that does community research, to talk about the information they gather about homelessness in state-wide surveys administered every 3 years. Here are some interesting numbers from the 2009 study compared to 3 years ago:
-25% increase in numbers of people experiencing homelessness
-46% increase in numbers of homeless youth
-African Americans (4% of MN adult population but 41% of homeless pop.) and American Indians (1% of MN adult pop. but 11% of homeless pop.)are significantly over-represented in the homeless population
-3/4 of the homeless report at least one of the following major health issues: mental illness, substance abuse or a chronic physical health condition

Our next stop was Cabrini Partnership, a permanent supportive housing organization implementing Housing First to build a very devoted community. Usually we meet with only one to several people at once, but we sat around a big table in their kitchen and heard stories, one by one, from about 15 folks- including the Executive Director, case workers, other staff, and tenants. It was a unique opportunity to talk to so many people at once! They even shared root beer floats with us... :)

We ended up the day briefly talking with Cathy ten Broeke, who has been instrumental in advocacy and community leadership in the Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness. She has also done some incredible photography about homelessness- check out her work!

Saturday we stopped by a bike shop to get a "QuickFit" to help make some adjustments with cleat positions, seat height, etc, which will hopefully alleviate some of our knee-related woes. We talked and laughed with Arnold, a Vietnam veteran, for about 2 and 1/2 hours about his life and thoughts on everything from "flop houses" to Mitch McConnell. And big news: James and Sarah cleaned and organized the van, which had accumulated all sorts of surprises! It is now fit for human habitation again. Now we head into the wind towards FARGO, ND...

Westward Ho(pefully),

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Crossing into Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Hello. Much has happened since we last spoke! Where to begin?

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.
But Minnesota might be our new favorite. We stayed in Winona at a Catholic Worker House, which is a really incredible place where people who are homeless or in between housing can meet daily in the afternoon for "hospitality" - games, cards, conversation - and do laundry or have a hot meal. Guests can stay overnight for several weeks at a time as they look for jobs and places to stay. We had great conversations with the people staying there, and even got a dry place to sleep in the unoccupied rooms! The House struck a chord with all of us, but especially James; talking to Dan, the live-in volunteer, we learned about the combination of direct service, direct action advocacy work, and sustainable good-stewardship communal living that they practice, working in the backyard garden, providing community for those that have none, and feeding and housing those who need a bit of help.

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.

We made it into Saint Paul yesterday and are staying with Jon's aunt and uncle. Last night we backtracked to Eau Claire, WI to see NC-based band Megafaun play in their former hometown. Sam Quinn from the Everbodyfields opened with some solo material (!). He looked exhausted and the bar, which was pretty packed at this point, kind of talked over him and his guitar and I think he might have fallen asleep on stage. But when Megafaun got on and struck the first sweet, sweet banjo notes of 'Longest Day', the grungy House of Rock bar was the most still and quiet it's probably ever been. Megafaun is unfortunately often known mainly as 'former bandmates of Bon Iver' but, man, their folk-rock and mountain-man harmonies which soar overtop intricate guitar and banjo work - so often deconstructed into experimental electronic soundscapes, only to slowly gather form as they funnel the sound-fragments into the next song - put us in an hour long trance as we stood stage-side. Afterwards, after talking to the bandmembers, Jon noticed that Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, was hanging out across the room. After a really awkward, "Hi Justin, Ireallylikeyourmusic," they talked for a bit and turns out Justin is one of the nicest, most humble guys you could meet.

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!

In the house like furniture,

Western Wisconsin

a post in pictures:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Milwaukee to Madison to Sauk City WI

Well hi there, dontcha know. We've now left all the Sufjan Stevens-states and have entered the wholesome, wholesome land of Wisconsin, with great accents and great cheese.
Molly and the Greenings hosted us and filled us with Thai food at their lovely home north of Chicago. After a long 76 miles to Milwaukee, we met up with Sarah's aunt, uncle and cousin. Thanks to Aunt Sarah for the homemade lasagna, Uncle Jim for biking with us in and out of Milwaukee, and Will for his expertise in bike mechanics!

Biking into Madison included the 52-mile long Glacial Drumlin Bike Path that led us through marshes and was often lined with wildflowers and woodland creatures. We had the pleasure of staying with Brianna Deutsch from Davidson before we headed out for Sauk City. After some World Cup soccer and beans and rice by the river, we're ready to hit the hay.

Children of the cheese,

This Just In: The Greening Family offered to match all funds we raise between Milwaukee and Minneapolis (up to $500)! We reach Minneapolis on June 16th, which means you have four days to go!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About the Homeless Cycle

(A guest blog post by Molly Greening.)

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.

With love,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Saturday was our first full day in Chicago, and we drove over to Good News Partners to hang out with kids living in the Jonquil Hotel, a transitional housing development. We finger-painted, played with Legos, blew bubbles, played freeze tag. It was a great two hours. It was also Banana Split Day.

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?”


A Safe Place

In Chicago, our eyes were opened to a different aspect of homelessness that we had not come across in D.C. We learned that Chicago has large numbers of homeless youth (15,000 youth experience homelessness every year in the city), and that within this demographic many of these youth identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender). Many have severed ties completely with their families, who may have kicked them out or not accepted them. Some form their own families out on the street to cope, and many experience violence and instability daily. Through our connection with Lakeview Presbyterian Church, we heard about Cafe Pride, a Friday night social space held in the basement of the church. Around 40-50 youth will come regularly, some from as far as 2 hours away by train, just to hang out, be themselves, and belong to a community that cares about who they are. We also walked through the Center on Halsted, a state-of-the-art LGBT community center that offers social spaces, learning areas, various resources, programs and services, community organizations that serve the LGBT community. Check it out!

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

Logansport to Renssalaer to Crown Point, Indiana

Our Wednesday: (leaving Logansport, IN)

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!
We spent last night camped out with the Jackson WY bound (or bust!) roadtrippers who brought word from the world outside of rural Midwest towns. It was really great hanging out. Really really great. Much too soon we got back on our bikes and headed towards Crown Point, 40 miles south of Chicago. James met up with his Lady who took the train down from Chicago, so our van-driver-sandwich-maker-errand-runner-camera-operator-best-guy-to-have-on-a-trip-like-this will be MIA for the next 4 or 5 days. But we're getting excited for our interviews and filming in the windy city!

Here we come Chi-town,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lima to Bluffton to Logansport, IN

INDIANA...has a lot of corn. We pretty much are always passing corn. Or commenting on how much taller or shorter or greener it looks than the other corn. A little girl was playing her trumpet on the Ohio-Indiana border, so we asked her to take our picture. Soon after, Indiana welcomed us with a massive thunderstorm. Also we are getting practice sprinting away from dogs!
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

More about Housing First and Moore Place

As we sit in Panera in the middle of Ohio and review our tape from DC and prepare for interviews in Chicago, we figured some of you might want to know more about Housing First and our research.

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,, and

children of the corn,

New Philadelphia to Mount Vernon to Marion, OH

The world is slowly but steadily flattening out. Thursday was Ohio's last-gasp attempt to keep us in the mountains with some rolling (read: vertical) hills, but even those grew smaller as we traveled towards Mount Vernon, OH.

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

Clairton to Steubenville to New Philadelphia

Woo! Guess how many states we have been in...that's right. FIVE! The latest to make the illustrious list are West Virginia and Ohio.
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 see fall foliage...:( We're eager for more superlatives.

Here's one:

Love from Ohio,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Frostberg MD - Ohiopyle PA

Maryland is great. We took a rest day in Cumberland and ate hotdogs and watched soccer and went bowling and watched basketball. But sometimes, you have to say, "you know, Maryland, you've been great, but it's time to move on."

Yesterday we crossed the state line (state No. 3!) to Pennsylvania and James took a turn on the bike. James has a new appreciation for biking and for the comfort of his driver's seat in the van.
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.
We had a fun time staying with our new friend Sarah at her house near Ohiopyle. Sarah is a chef. Yum.

Yakkity yak, please talk back,

Friday, May 21, 2010

Days 4 and 5: Frederick to Hancock to Frostburg, MD

We've made it to Frostberg, MD. It's graduation eve at Frostberg State University, which means it's hard to sleep. But seriously, a big thanks to Sarah's friend Danielle, she's great.

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

Days Two and Three: D.C. and D.C. to Frederick, MD

Greetings from Mark and Dottie's house in Frederick, MD! We set out from the Lincoln Memorial - apparently you can't bring bikes this near Lincoln... The 64 miles were long, but the W&OD Rail Trail (35 miles) was gorgeous and the bike path passed through a lot of cute little towns. The rest of the way to Frederick passed through bucolic meadows, pastures, farms and fields. It was another great day of riding, although we realized we need to start packing about 7-8 sandwiches because we wuz HUNGRRYYY!

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!