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!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day One: Annapolis, MD to Washington, D.C.

Hello from Kyle Konrad's pad on G Street in D.C.! We've made it to the capitol, and are hanging out dry and inside. According to "Rainy, windy storm set to impact Northeast." As we waterproof our gear and prepare to be "impacted," we're surviving, somehow, with hot breakfast (oh James....), couches, showers....

The trip started in Annapolis, MD. We made the drive safely thanks to Bruce (Australian GPS system- thanks, Elinor!!) and Mitch (Hedberg). After a 4 hour nap in the back of the van, we were ready to go bright and early. Back tire = dipped in Chesapeake Bay (it counts!), rain gear on, and we're off. It was rainy and trafficky but a great 40 miles. Saw llamas, "World's Largest BBQ Pit", and were tempted by a dark, dusty, neon-lettered palm reading shack. Sarah "First Blood" Connette had a bit of trouble unclipping her bike shoes at stops (Timber!), but we made it to National Coalition for the Homeless feeling great, if a little soggy. We found James napping in NCH's parking lot. He had eaten the sandwiches he had made for us. James made new ones (he is the best) and we brought out the banjo, guitar and mandolin for a little pickin' and picnickin'.

Today we continue the string of interviews we started yesterday, stopping by National Alliance to End Homelessness and DC Central Kitchen to talk with Robert Egger. Tomorrow afternoon we'll head towards Frederick, MD for Day 2 Of Riding.

Drive slow homey,

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Countdown Begins

On Monday morning (IN THREE DAYS?!), we will begin our adventure from Annapolis, MD. We hope to dip one tire in the Atlantic and complete our journey in July by dipping the other in the Pacific when we reach the West Coast. It's hard to believe May 17th is almost here, after so much planning and training. We have been training on the beautiful country roads around Davidson, so we might miss the cows next week when we're riding through urban areas. We're working to get everything organized- including our support van (a.k.a. the Wombat), supplies, gear, contacts, our exact route (errr...) and camera equipment. We will arrive in D.C. on Monday afternoon and will be in the city until May 20th. We have set up interviews with National Coalition for the Homeless, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Robert Egger at D.C. Central Kitchen, and HUD (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development). We will also be interviewing some people who are homeless in the city.
Feel free to contact us with any suggestions, questions or concerns! We look forward to sharing our journey with you.