Archive for the ‘contributors’ Category

SHELTER has a new home

SHELTER has a new home. We’ve moved the site over here: http://thesheltermovie.

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Wildfire Promotions is the latest SHELTER sponsor

Wildfire Promotions has jumped in to underwrite the cost of an online promotion for our SHELTER logo contest.  The contest is going on now with an active call for entries. If you’d like to enter – or know someone who would – the closing date for entries is October 1.

We’re looking for a logo for the SHELTER movie.  If yours wins, the grand prize is a $250 gift certificate from Blick Art Materials.  The logo will become part of the promotional materials for the movie, so it will be seen everywhere. The runner up logo designer will receive a $50 Starbucks gift card.

Thanks, Wildfire, for helping out!   If you want to enter the contest, click here for an entry form.  More information about the contest can be found here.

Haiti Rebuild: The Last Responders

Written by Cameron Sinclair, Co-founder of Architecture for Humanity and the Open Architecture Network

Live from Port au Prince

Tonight you’ll see every journalist report ‘live from Port-au-Prince’. They will review the devastation, highlight the heroes and question the rebuilding process, all in a six minute segment. Then we will be onto the oil spill, the terrorist attacks in Uganda, the last minute goal in the World Cup and other issues facing of the world. A number of reporters have been on the ground every day since the quake, they aren’t going anywhere. Truly dedicated individuals that continue to file reports, interview families and chase up government officials and aid agencies despite the appetite for this story growing weak. We will get a blip during the elections, especially if their is violence, but this may be it for major reporting. Remember Katrina? That was on US soil and how often we hear about that after the first year. Like Katrina, this is a five year process, one rife with hurdles and tough choices.

It’s time for the last responders
Six months ago this week I wrote an internal plan for long-term reconstruction for Haiti and, after some discussion, decided to make it public. Within days of posting it [on The Huffington Post] it was tweeted hundreds of times. This is the eighth time my organization has been a part of a post-disaster reconstruction program and, given that we had spent time in Haiti pre-quake, I felt it was important to set expectations. As we raised funds and began to initiate projects, I wanted donors, partners and community stakeholders to understand that we were not in for the “quick fix” or a “number of people served” response, we’re in for the long term.  We are the last responders.

In the plan I noted six months as the transition point from recovery to reconstruction. This is the time of the last responders, the motley crew of hundreds of building and water/sanitation professionals who work for years after the last major news outlet has left. As the thousands of NGOs will be whittled down to a few hundred, hopefully local groups, including social entrepreneurs, NGOs and small businesses, should feature as the predominant player in the reconstruction process. They don’t just need to, they have to. While the international community can add capacity and play an important support role to truly move out of the “aid culture” the ownership needs to be Haitian led. The fourth phase, economic development, will only work if the foundation of reconstruction is regionally based.

They were the first, they will also be the last
In the moments after the quake, long before the first convoy crossed the border of the Dominican Republic, the true first responders were the Haitian people. Those lucky enough to escape injury did not run to the hills, they ran to the screaming. They went into fallen structures and clawed out those trapped underneath the rubble, they consoled those who had lost their loved ones. Never, ever underestimate the resilience of a people struck by monumental disaster. The despair in their eyes was for the collective, not the individual.

As the world’s community responded, those affected were incredibly grateful. As shock gave way to need and need gave way to a a desire to return to normalcy, anger crept into the voices of those looking a way to get out of the tent cities. This anger is understandable. Imagine being a carpenter now living in a tent by the airport. Every day you sit with your family watching SUVs snarled in a traffic jam outside. Fumes from the idling cars fill the air. You keep hearing false expectations that everything will be back to normal in less than a year and all the solutions will be imported, from shipping container housing to modular solutions – no need for lots of carpenters or masons.

This carpenter is the key to rebuilding Haiti. We need to push, demand and fight to move into this last responder phase. One in which equal partnerships are formed with local architects, engineers and builders. One where we think pragmatically about what gets built, homes that are not only safe but support LOCAL jobs. We should be building vocational training facilities that utilize the reconstruction as a mechanism for sustainability. [in partnership with AIDG we assessed thousands of homes and trained hundreds of local masons] The underlying point here is jobs, jobs, jobs. Let’s put the work into working it out.

Next Generation Leadership
Beyond economic stability and safe housing, the most important structures that needs to be built are schools. This will be a sector that Architecture for Humanity, my organization, will focus on. I believe our greatest impact will come from building not only a school of the future but for the future of Haiti. Not only incorporating digital inclusion, off the grid technologies and new teaching methodologies but empowering and supporting existing vocations. Every school must be led by Haitian organizations and built in a sustainable manner (financially and architecturally). These schools are dawn to dusk buildings and will become centers in revitalized communities.

Over the last few months teams of probono designers on the ground have developed and revised prototypes and we’ve formed relationships with a number of existing schools and made dozens of site visits. However we may have funds available to build a few more of these community anchors. Primarily funded via Students Rebuild, a $500,000 match for schools that are fundraising for Haiti around the world, we’ve developed a Request for Proposal (rfp) process to ensure the building and rebuilding of Haitian led schools. (if you are looking to have your school funded, you can log onto our site. We have an open process)

No Ego, No Logo
One last point. In the last ten years we’ve never put our name on a building, we’ve never put one of our donors either. No, it’s not because we are cheap (fiscally responsible), it is much more important reason.

Working in community led reconstruction you rip away any local ownership by sticking a fancy logo on the building. As if you to say “This building is yours but just remember, we built it – and please remember it every day.” I know the reason why people do it but the community knows who donated it and the builders know who funded the building. If you’d like to donate, please don’t expect to see your name on the building. See your compassion in those who the building will serve.

To donate to Architecture for Humanity, click here.

Follow Cameron Sinclair on Twitter.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. Thank you to Architecture for Humanity for allowing us to share it on SHELTER.

Architecture for Humanity – Earthquake Resistant Schools

The SHELTER blog has started a partnership with Architecture for Humanity.  We’ll have the opportunity to update you on the great work AFH is doing here and abroad.  Look for Q&A’s with project managers, notes about design contests and news from AFH.  Here’s an article to start us off. You can find the original post by Karl Johnson at the Architecture for Humanity website.

Members of Architecture for Humanity found themselves in the East Bay late last week, holding a structures workshop for Earth Day. The beneficiaries of this exercise: a dozen middle school students. The AfH team presented principles of earthquake-resistant design and distributed kits of parts (cardboard sites, sized applicator sticks and jujubes) and programs for a school.

This pilot exercise might find extended life as part of a school-design curriculum being developed by Architecture for Humanity and StudentsRebuild is an international program facilitating middle and high school student teams raising money for permanent school construction in Haiti. The curriculum will teach the teams the process of designing and building a school in Haiti, including a unit on structural design for earthquakes and hurricanes. The lessons will be accompanied by interactive conferencing with building professionals supported by Global Nomads Group.

Thanks to Diana Bianchini at Di Moda Public Relations for facilitating this.  Follow her on Twitter at dimodapr.

War and Homelessness

Written by Bob Ballard of the Hearts of Fire Project

I am attending the LA Rally To End The Wars tomorrow. To me, if you are interested in the homeless and want to help them, you should also be interested in ending our wars. Why?

1) the huge amount of money expended on Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere would be available to house people and provide desperately needed services. With just a fraction of the money we spend on these wars, everyone in the U.S. could be housed and fed.

2) many of the people on our streets are veterans of wars who come back to this country mentally, emotionally and physically damaged. About 20% of the homeless are veterans.

3) fear and separation between people is fortified and promoted by war. This fear and separation in our hearts allows us to ignore our fellow men and women in need and avoid acknowledging that we are all one human family.

If you are in or near Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington, D.C. this Saturday, March 20, please come out and join us.

Fade to black – Is government leveraging homeless agencies out of business?

Written by Joel John Roberts

I sometimes long for the heydays when nonprofit homeless agencies flourished. It was in the 1980s; I was just becoming an adult.

Most of the homeless organizations in the Los Angeles region were created in that decade when compassionate and generous people—many from faith groups—created shelters, food banks, and transitional housing programs in response to the growing homeless population.

If you’re familiar with nonprofits in Los Angeles, you’ve certainly heard of Chrysalis, Beyond Shelter, PATH, and LA Family Housing. All agencies that started in the 1980s. Those were the days when hearts were moved, and purse strings opened. When even the federal government began to invest significant resources into addressing homelessness.

Those were the days… But reminiscing will get us nowhere.

Closed SignA few decades later, during the worst economy since the Great Depression, and oh how times have changed. We are entrenched in an environment of scarcity that sometimes pits typically good-hearted people and groups against each other. Competing for dwindling funds is becoming as harsh as the Coca Cola and Pepsi rivalry.

But hawking cans of carbonized sugar water is so much more insignificant than promoting programs that save people’s lives.

The days of free flowing government funding for homeless programs are over. Even when the latest federal stimulus program pumped in $1.5 billion into homeless prevention programs. Why? Because there is a catch.

Let me explain.

In most of today’s government funding programs, there is a quiet policy of “serve now, pay later.” Basically, private homeless agencies that win a contract to house or serve homeless people have to perform their services first, then bill for those services a month later. That means an agency pays salaries and operating expenses for a month, then waits a month or two to get paid.

Let me explain this in basic terms—nonprofit organizations have become the “line of credit” for government funding. For some agencies it could run as much as $50,000 to $300,000, plus interest if the agency is borrowing the funds.

Here’s another catch. Contract execution means payment delays. Every year, a contract has to be renewed and executed. It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it takes months for renewed contracts to be executed, while agencies are not allowed to receive payments during that time. Can’t get paid if there’s no signed contract. But housing and services have to continue. You don’t shut down your shelter or housing program for a few months until a contract is signed. No one with any moral character is going to put homeless people back on the streets while they wait for a contract to be executed.

And then there’s this. Many, if not all government homeless programs now require a cash match. If you receive $100 dollars of government funds, you have to match that with $10 to $25 of private funding. It makes sense in a perfect world. Leverage public funds with private dollars.

But when every level of government funding requires this, many agencies just can’t afford to receive such funding. Especially when separate government agencies won’t allow an agency to use other government sources as leverage.

Let me put it this way. You have public funding to support 80 beds, only if you can find private support for 20 beds. But if you cannot fund 20 beds, then all 100 beds go away.

Cash match, is more like game, set, and match. Where government wins, and private agencies lose. And most importantly, there are less resources for hurting people on our streets.

Many organizations in Los Angeles, like GLASS and Women’s Care Cottage, have shut down their operations because of this.

You could say this is just the result of the survival of the fittest agency, but let’s get real. This is not about how many nonprofit agencies can survive. This is about how many people we can save from the streets.

This is not a debate on whether government funding should help hurting people, or whether the private community should. This is about people suffering on our streets.

And while there are still people languishing in alleys, parks, and along our freeways… then our society should do everything it can to help them off.

That means dispelling ideals, and just allow the funds that are already approved, to house and serve homeless people. Whether a nonprofit agency can leverage those funds or not.

Otherwise, more and more organizations created by compassionate community members will just fade to black.

(Pic from

Fewer homeless people in Santa Monica, according to homeless count

Good numbers on the homeless population are hard to come by.  But a recent count of the homeless in Santa Monica found that, for the second year running,  there are fewer persons on the streets.  Many thanks to editor Jorge Casuso for allowing us to post a link to the article below.

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout News

February 23, 2010 –For the second consecutive year, the number of homeless in Santa Monica has gone down. That is according to a Homeless Count conducted last month. The results were presented at last night’s Social Services Commission meeting.

Read the whole article here.

Motor Home Housing Launch Huge Success


L-R: Ed, Mikey, Bob, Maria, Victoria & Connor

Written by Bob Ballard of the Hearts Of Fire Project

Wow! What an amazing day we had at the launch of our new Motor Home Housing Program. This past Saturday, January 30 we awarded a motor home to Maria Pollack and her son Mikey at a ceremony hosted by Regalo Virgin Olive Oil. Representatives from three local newspapers covered the event as well as the local access TV station. More links to those stories at the end of this article.

Maria and her son were overjoyed when they saw the motor home; tears rolled down her face as she expressed her gratitude to everyone involved. Ed and Connie Bermudez donated the RV a few weeks ago. Ed wanted it to go to a homeless family. It was his generosity that started the program.

Victoria Stratton is Maria’s friend and sponsor. Victoria volunteers with Casa Esperanza homeless shelter in Santa Barbara where she heard about our program. She contacted me and told me about Maria and her son Mikey. Like many homeless people, Maria is employed but doesn’t earn enough money to rent an apartment or even buy a car. Maria met Victoria at church a year or so ago and they became friends. In addition to connecting Maria with our program, Victoria is providing a private parking place for the motor home on her property.

More families have contacted us who want to participate in this program. We are looking for more late model motor homes in good shape and people to help us give them a second life.  We are also need places to store the RV’s temporarily while we get them ready to distribute to homeless families. If you can help, please call our toll free message line at 877-827-2012 or email us at

Media Links for further information:

Ventura County Star

Ventura County Reporter

Video (courtesy of Barrett Productions)

38 Years. Tired. Ready. Don’t Say He Doesn’t Want To Be Housed.

Written by Joel John Roberts, CEO of PATH Partners.

I spend most of my days sitting in meetings. Talking on the phone. Sorting through emails. Conversing with people. Planning. Designing. Managing. Hoping.

It’s my job. Helping people.

Some people think it’s just busy work. Other people think it’s inspirational. God’s work, they say.

What do I think? It’s the reason for my being. My calling. My destiny. I don’t see it as a choice. It’s my mandate. It doesn’t matter what other people think.

So I walk into another meeting today. Not expecting much. Just another exercise of checking off items on an agenda. Introductions. Done. Preview of agenda. Done. First item…

…but this is a different gathering. The table is surrounded by outreach workers. Their purpose is to convince people living on the streets that they need help. They need to overcome their barriers. They need housing.

Wait. That’s my job too. Take off the tie and oxford shoes. And I look like an educated social worker.

It’s my job. Helping people.

The list on the table is filled with people we surveyed on the streets of Long Beach back in July. It’s a laundry list of hurting people. One has a terminal illness. Another fights demons in his soul. A few are drowning their existence with liquid poison. One is a product of a broken foster care system.

The facilitator of the meeting swipes a yellow highlighter over the name of one gentleman on the list. He has been living on the streets for 38 years. Yes, 38 years. He has cancer, and a few other stereotypical struggles that many visible homeless people encounter.

But this conversation is different. The police officer has convinced a landlord to allow this man to rent an apartment. The social worker has found subsidized rent. They go down a verbal list of other assistance.

“He’s tired,” says the social worker. “He’s ready. He wants a home. A roof over his head.” 38 years on the streets. And he’s ready. It’s practically a miracle. Even this jaded nonprofit executive is impressed.

The conversation turns to a discussion on how to get the furniture. The dishes. The linens. All the things that make a house a home. 38 years on the streets, and a group of people are planning what will be in the kitchen cabinets. Amazing.

No celebrations. No congratulations at the table. There are a few hundred other people we are also trying to reach. Too much work. Almost overwhelming.

But today was a good day. At least a hopeful day. Take away the tie and the oxford shoes, and I’m basically a social worker, a social engineer. Not an executive.

It’s my job. Helping people.

Can’t forget that.


Joel John Roberts is the CEO of PATH Partners, a nonprofit organization which helps communities integrate services with housing. He blogs regularly on inforUm, an online journal dedicated to housing, poverty and homelessness.

Out of sight jigsaws, and sushi…

Here is a new guest post from a contributor from the UK who publishes her blog under the name WanderingScribe. Her post tells of some interesting connections she’s made. For those who missed our earlier re-post of her blog, she’s described her situation this way:

For the past five months I have been living alone in a car at the edge of the woods — jobless and homeless and totally unable to find a way out. I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I can’t scream loudly enough, alI I can do is write. So here I am laying down tracks…hopefully the start of an online paper trail out of here.

Her blog was ‘discovered’ and, as she writes,”I eventually got a publishing deal and made it out of my car to write a book about it… Miracles do happen.” Her book is titled Abandoned and can be purchased at Doubleday and Amazon.

Written by WanderingScribe

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

It seems only yesterday that I wrote in here that I had given up chocolate for Lent…Well, I’ve done it again…Chocolate AND coffee this year, so my nerves are on fire — constant red alert. Only another 35 days to go though (apparently Sundays don’t count as Lenten days!).

Anyway, I really can’t believe that it has rolled around again, and that Lent is here. Time has just slipped away.

I should be keeping an eye on time…making sure it doesn’t just pass me by. It is not just me saying that, apparently it was a direct message from angels for me. So I was told anyway…

When I got back in touch with my dad (Brendan) again, the time just before I ended up living in my car, he heard about a woman in Ireland who was a mystic and received messages from angels. He got in touch with her. I don’t know to this day what he said to her, but he had her telephone number and urged me to call her, saying she would be expecting my call. I didn’t know what to say, and wasn’t going to, but one day, feeling very foolish, I found myself dialing her number.

A softly spoken Irish lady answered, but it clearly wasn’t a good time for her — I think she was in a hurry to pick one of her children up from somewhere (yes, she also has children and lives in a modern house in a modern part of Ireland). She said she had received a message for me though — that the angels had given her a message saying that I had many talents (haven’t we all!) that I was in danger of wasting, and that time was running out. She said she was very busy and couldn’t talk but that I should give her my address and that she would write to me with the message.

I thought she was fobbing me off, but I gave her my address in Newcastle anyway and a few weeks later a letter did arrive. It took up only one side of paper and repeated the message from the angels: saying that they stressed that I needed to be particularly careful about time, and not to let it slip past. Which at the time I thought was a very strange message, even though that is what I have always tended to do in my life. I was a bit disappointed in a way, of all the things that angels could tell you…especially me in the lost and fragile state I was in at the time. She also gave me the name of my two guardian angels. Names which weren’t in English, but which, even though I was skeptical of the whole thing, I still found a bit disturbing seeing written down in the letter.She said all I needed to do was call the name and ask them to come down and they would. I remember rolling the sounds around my tongue and for a few days finding myself silently saying them. But then I got frightened of what I was doing and tried to forget them — which, unfortunately, I have now succeeded in doing. (Though I think I still have the letter somewhere.)

I’d never met this woman myself. All I knew was her name, and her voice…

Then yesterday, in a local bookshop, I squeezed past a couple pushing a toddler in a buggy, and as I did so knocked up against one of the bookcases. A display book, standing face-out on the edge of one of the shelves, threatened to topple. It was a new hardback book with a very nice light cover. As I reached up to straighten it, I instinctively read the title and then my eyes shot up to the author – because suddenly I knew who it was. It was her. The woman with the message for me from the angels. She has a book out, an autobiography called Angels In My Hair. Her name is Lorna Bryne, and she is apparently Kosher — for those who believe.

Brendan still has her telephone number and gave it to me again yesterday when I told him. Though I wouldn’t dare call her again. But how odd…Time did run out for me in the end and I ended up in my car. So in a way the message was right. And then I wrote an autobiography. An autobiography which was there right at the right time in publishing in a way. And now the person who gave me that message has written her autobiography too – with many more books to come it seems. It gave me shivers standing there in the bookshop holding it in my hands. Kind of…sort of…in a way…mysterious…

You can get yourself in a state of mind where things start to feel like proof. As if someone is laying a trail… constantly saying: Now do you believe? Now do you …? Now…? How about this time..?

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