Homeless Veteran, Jim Wolf, Wins The Day! Building Community Based Resources…

Homeless veteran amazing transformation…

Jim Wolf

“U.S. Army veteran Jim Wolf hasn’t had an ideal life since returning home. He has struggled with poverty, homelessness, and alcoholism for decades, but two months ago he volunteered to undergo a physical transformation for Degage Ministries, a charity that aims to help veterans who have fallen on hard times and transform their lives.”

How many more “Jim Wolf’s” could we save? No doubt in my mind, 10s of 1000s more could be saved, if they were kept in our communities to thrive. And, not wind up in jail, hospital or worse…

https://www.degageministries.org/

Let’s see how Degage Ministries builds community collaborations to save lives. This non-profit business model is paving the way by building a community based partnership to save the lives of millions who suffer on the streets and die young.

We can duplicate this success story all over America. No one needs to reinvent anything. All we need to do, as a community, is love each other enough to care about others in need.

Transforming Lives, Restoring Hope

“Dégagé Ministries offers help and hope to homeless and disadvantaged individuals in our community.”

Dégagé’s goal is to assure that every man and woman we serve, knows that he/she is not alone.

Too many hardships exist in life and none of us are exempt from them.

For those 400-500 individuals servee daily at Dégagé, many of whom are homeless and low-income, the hardships can be overwhelming. Loss of shelter, loss of employment, loss of a loved one, loss of control and loss of opportunity is incalculable.

Most of us have food on the table, a beer or toke, and a TV to watch NFL Monday Night Football. And with due respect, most dont know what Jim Wolf or any of the 1000s of veterans like him go through.

Believe me when I say, “it is inhumane to put humans in jail when they are sick and need from their community.” There is no empathy or compassion to leave your brothers and sisters hanging out on the side street next to Starbucks in Newport, Oregon or anywhere else in America.

The homeless are by and large, good and decent people who care about each other just like the rest of us. They suffer, just like the rest of us with serious physical and behavior health problems.

The homeless live with emotional pain along with other health care issues, that go unattended. These health care problems get far worse when there is no proactive community based services to help them.

It also no surprise to me to have learned while working with my colleagues in Lincoln County and elsewhere, the cost is enormous. Federal, State, County and local municipalities all pay big without community based services.

There is one worse case example I know about awhile back. A homeless man visited the local hospital ER about once a week for emergency care for almost one year. The cost of care was upwards of $1million!

Sadly and tragically, this man was found dead in the parking lot of a local supermarket early one morning. This scenario repeats itself all over America, each and everyday of our lives.

These are the forgotten ones. Your, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, and dear friends are in the mix. These are the ones who are alone. There is no love in this, sadly and tragically.

In my view, it’s inhumane to expect humans to survive on the streets, without a home or food on the table. Our furry friends cannot survive long without food and shelter either.

Imagine what it might be like for you if left homeless tomorrow… Or, How would you feel if your neighbors furry loved one was lost. Imagine, your 6 month old Golden Doodle lost on the streets alone somewhere in the dark…

Degage’s programming is designed to address immediate and long-term needs such as overnight respite for women in crisis, food, referral services and hygiene facilities. And, with these hardships, they lose much more. Many feel unworthy and hopeless. Society has looked down upon them, or they have been rejected after repeatedly trying to move forward on their own…

One local non-profit I have had the privilege to work with over the years is CHANCE, Albany, Oregon. CHANCE serves three counties in Oregon, Linn, Benton, and Lincoln. LBL for short.

https://www.chancerecovery.org/m/

For our region, we have built a ‘public private partnership’ that funds community based partners, including law enforcement, county behavioral health and public health, healthcare providers, federal, state, county and local municipalities. Yes, it’s a long list.

www.stepuptogether.org is the business model. Please bookmark as a reference and resource, especially County .gov officials.

https://www.chancerecovery.org/m/

All 3000 Counties in America either do the Degage’ and CHANCE models or are ramp-up with smaller steps to get ready for action. This is the future.

That’s why it is critical to transform communities to fit the criteria for funding and sustainability of such an enormous undertaking. Too many communities have old business models that serve as “barriers.” The hard part is breaking down barriers…

“It’s a very tall order,” a colleague told me in 2016. She also said, “many have tried and failed.” “Steve, we can do this, I know! I believed her, and we did, indeed, make it happen. I know this too…

We made it happened because we loved our community and each other. This is who we are, a community that loves and cares for our most vulnerable citizens.

This is who we are!

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate…and, aspiring artisan.
My neighbor, down on the Bayfront, Newport, Oregon

“Annie” Goes Home to a New Mom…and Loving Home…

“Annie” and Mom, Laura…my sis…

Annie waits for me to get up, make my coffee, sit in my chair for a bit and leads me to her dish. She knows kindness and love…

Annie is a very loving kitty who rescured me awhile ago when I needed her the most. She wanted me to be her mom, I know…

Annie knows when she is loved, and when she isn’t. She knows her new mom loves her with all her heart and soul. Kitty’s know. Annie knows this, I know this too…

I asked myself why anyone would push a kitty or doggie with their boot out the door. “I hate her,” the man said while Annie looked at me with her sad eyes. It was so sad I cried, and cried again and again…

It’s very sad when furry loved ones are abused and abandoned. It is just as sad when children are treated this way too…

I think there is anger and hate in the hearts and souls of others who’s pain hurts other souls who love. For with hate there is no love…

Annie, abandoned with three other kitties in a dirty house. She was pooping and peeing everywhere, and so confused and scared.

“Why?” I kept asking myself. “Why would another human abandon a kind soul, a helpless furry loved one?” I cried again…

“Why!” I screamed with pain in my heart and soul. “Why!” I cried again putting my head down to pick up Annie to hug her so…

Annie felt loved again, I know. I felt her little heart pounding as she started purring in my lap. She felt loved again, I know. She looked up at me and said, “thank you, mom,” with a kindness and love I so needed then…

We took Annie home with us, while the other kitties were taken to a new loving home too. She looked at me with with happy eyes when we were home with her home to her new family, a loving home indeed. Annie knows this too…

For a family who loves is a family to love. Annie is home again. She is loved again…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate…and aspiring artisan.

Vulnerable Citizens in Communities Everywhere Suffer in Silence While We Are Distracted by Politics and Divisiveness…


This is a loving homeless family living in Newport, Oregon.. Lincoln County cares. My neighbors, your neighbors, maybe loved ones. We look out after our friends and neighbors who need it the most. We work hard to give them hope for a new day. This is a popular spot for safe gatherings in Newport, Oregon in Lincoln County on the Central Coast.

Imagine

How does the current, and very concerning political environment the past 4 years in America threaten public safety and health, especially the most vulnerable citizens?

What does this vitriol and anger say to you?

These questions can only be answered from your soul, your moral compass, and your faith…not politics. The answers come from building friendships and bonds with your community by caring about each other.

Imagine the millions of most vulnerable American citizens dying on the steets of communiies everywhere because they don’t have access to “whole patient” health care like most of us?

I can tell you with this story of love told as ‘fiction’ based on true events from my personal and professional experiences…

I know of a case of a homeless veteran in Lincoln County Oregon in 2018. I was knee deep in doing consulting work at the time for the larger community in Lincoln County Oregon

The story begins with a young Marine vet who served in Iraq during the initial invasion in 2002. This decent and patriotic man, named, Jake, served America in the early days of the Iraq invasion following 9/11.

Jake was a kid when when he experienced the aftermath of the Oklahoma City Bombing of a federal building 25 years ago. From that moment on Jake wanted to serve America.

Jake dreamed being a US Marine, a warrior just like his Pop, a WWII hero who served in the Pacific for all of the war. He felt the passion and duty to protect his homeland and the free world. It was his time to serve, to step up, to join so many others who were disgusted and heartbroken from 9/11…

Military family legacy…

Jake’s father also served during Pearl Harbor, WWII, and Korean War. His pop was a highly decorated Master Chief Boatswain Mate (BMC) who was a hardened combat veteran, His father was also sick and his family was sick from all of the horrific truama. and for too long. Jake inhaled the pain from his profoundly dysfunctional childhood. But he became a strong warrior early in his life and learned how to survive and thrive.

Jake was injured physically and emotionally in Iraq right after the initial invasion while clearing the way for the American occupation. He experienced what most combat vets didn’t know or understand much about back then, let alone “Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).”

Jake returns home to Oklahoma City in 2004…

Jake, a US Marine hero, returned home to Oklahoma City with little or no ‘warm handoff’ when transitioned out of the Marines. You know, “go in peace young man, you served your country with pride, we got your 6, get married, start a family.” It never worked out that way for Jake. His experience after returning home had no resembance to what he thought. No heroes welcome or a support group that seemed impossible for him to sort out anywary. TBI symptoms and PTSD was a dangerous mix as we all know well now in 2020. The VA health care system was just beginning to research TBI back then.

Help eluded Jake. He couldn’t comprehend on how to navigate the complicated VA health care system. Jake felt no one understood or show empathy for the constant pain and distress he was feeling, with little or no sleep, nightmares, guilt, never ending stuff. His family didn’t know what to do either,.

His father, mother, siblings and friends seemed to distance themselves. He did like to hang out in the old town with other homeless vets he could talk to and get high. Jake was around friends who loved him for who he was., brothers in arms. Friends who asked him what happened, not what is wrong. They told the stories of warriors and of healing, comraderie, and trust. And the love of brothers protecting each other. “I got your, six, bro!” Jake loved to play his mandolin and sing while hanging out with other homeless vets. His battle buddies sang with him and danced on the street.

Jake knew he was getting sicker. He blamed himself for this too. But he dreamed of better days. Jake wanted to move on. It was now or never, he thought.

Looking west for a new start…

Jake felt alone in Oklahome City. It didn’t feel like home anymore. His behavior was irractic and unstable. His family and friends appeared distant and didn’t want to be close to hime. Jake had a hard time articulating how he felt. He was disowned and left homeless on the streets the city he used to call home. So, Jake set out on the road for a new start, and hope for the future. Jake was a Marine, a warrior who served his nation. He never give up.

He stopped along the way in towns that touched his soul, tugged his heart. Jake was a survivor, a warrior. He dreamed of finding a community where people cared about each other, no matter what, or who you are. He wanted to be loved. He wanted a chance to get better and get to work. Maybe meet the right person and and start family, a dog and cat too.

Lincoln County Oregon 2017...

Jake, landed in Lincoln County Oregon a few years later after thumbing rides across America from Oklahoma City for what seemed like a never ending journey. He struggled to build a life until he ended his journey on the Oregon coast, like so many veterans who discovery the clean air and the beauty of this stunning coastal place he could only dream about before. He loved it from the very first moment walking along Nye Beach, in Newport, Oregon. He felt the souls of kindred spirits just like him. He didn’t feel alone anymore.

Jake’s health kept getting worse over time. He couldn’t get off drugs and alcohol. He loved his new home in Lincoln County. Jake found the home he dreamed of for so long. Newport, Oregon was a community that cared about all of us not just some of us. He was hugged, loved, and cared for as best as our community could provide with stretched resources. Jake tried hard… But his mind and body could not hold up anymore.

Jake was so sick, he was taken to the hospital emergency room more than 40 times during a 12 month period. Jake had VA benefits and a monthly stipend. But he wanted to live on the streets. He never became comfortable with treatment and recovery programs like some other friends he knew.

We find ourselves as a community of care givers helpless in the end when our citizens who suffer the most don’t make it. It’s a choice that some who suffer with TBI, PTSD, substance abuse, depression, severe anxiety, and worst case psychotic episodes, are unable to function on their own.

It’s still our duty to take care of the most vulnerable among us no matter what. We try to save lives everyday, but sometimes fail, but not in our hearts and souls. We keep trying and never give up. Just like Jake, we are warriors too.

Jake knew the community he called home loved him anyway. Hanging out on the street and the beach, close to community based peer support, shelter from the cold, and food when he was hungry got him through most days. Jake was loved and hugged, kept safe as possible.

A life cut short…

Jake, was an American hero, the son of a WWI hero, a father, a brother, a dear friend, a forgotten Marine warrior, who served America with pride and honor, and was awarded a Purple Heart. Jake, tragically, couldn’t get a decent continuum of care soon enough to save himself.

America failed Jake and his family. Jake was alone as a veteran then, and he is not alone in 2020. A patriot until the end, Jake was found one morning dead in the north end of the parking lot at PJ’s, the popular grocery store on the corner of 101`and hwy 20 where he came into town from a journey across America’s southwest. PJ’s welcomed the homeless, donating food and bottled water. Newport, Oregon was Jake’s America. Lincoln County is my America!

This heart breaking story happens all too often in America everywhere, in all 3000 counties across America. We can do better. We live with too many suicides because of the lack of access to health care services for the most vulnerable. Sadly, we know also that each day 22 veterans complete suicide. Communities everywhere are measured on how well we serve the most vulnerable members of our community. Sometimes we fall down on the job and it hurts. It hurts all of us… It hurts the hearts and souls of America.

I know my friends and colleagues feel the same way in Lincoln County Oregon as I do. How we take care of the most vulnerable citizens in our communities is a reflection of who we are as Americans… Good and decent souls with empathy, compassion, humanity and humility. We wouldn’t have it any other way, not ever…

This is my America! That’s why we love living in Lincoln County Oregon! My family’s home for 15 years now.

Lincoln County is not distracted from what is at the heart and soul of our community and America. I’m confident all 3000 counties in America aren’t distracted either.

Steve Sparks, US Navy vet, Author, Blogger; Member, Lincoln County Oregon, Mental Health Advisory Committee; Member, Trauma Informed Oregon (TIO) Steering Committee

Northwest Coastal Housing… Public private partnerships provide critical services to the most vulnerable citizens…

Yaquina Breezeyouth

Reflection with NWCH Executive Director

Sheila Stiley, Executive Director, Northwest Coastal Housing

I recently heard a few words that have caused me to pause and reflect.  Reflection on me as a person, our organization and those we serve.  We are a nonprofit organization…..there is a real definition, but in our world, it means a lot is expected on very minimal means.  So, what makes an nonprofit tick?

“Some of the best movements start with sorrow” (Luke Frechette).  That is how most nonprofits begin.  A grass roots organization started by a need, a desire, a burden.  A great sorrow that fills every fiber of a being.  Let’s face it, homelessness, poverty, widows and orphans, hunger, many things that have always been and could continue down the ages, yet, this sorrow to make a difference and impact for change overtakes us.  For us, that is building housing that is affordable for those who need a place to call home.  It is incorporating services into housing and calling it “Housing with a heart” so those less fortunate have opportunity for success.  How many of you came from this background?  If I am to be transparent and honest, I would say I did too.

When I look back over my childhood, I remember the good things (I have been told I am weird).  Our family goes back 7 generations here on the coast.  I am proud of the history and enrichment they provided to our community.  I remember living here at the beach, and spending summers with my grandmother on the farm.  I remember running, playing, laughing, learning, fishing, camping, youth group, hide-and-go-seek, and riding bikes.  But that was not my whole story.

Pictured: Sheila Stiley (on left), mother Sandy and younger sister Jenny

I am the child of a teen mom.  My father was 8 years older and fresh out of the military.  Both my parents came from dysfunctional families leading to alcoholism, drug use and domestic violence.  I spent many of my growing up years in a mobile home park where I made lifelong friendships in a rural community.  I remember being embarrassed when my mom bought all the turkey burger she could, filling a basket, because it was cheap and food stamps were a part of my everyday life.  I wore second hand clothes, was teased and bullied mercilessly in multiple schools, and worked side by side with my mom picking strawberries and garlic in the fields in order to get new clothes off layaway from K-Mart.  I remember when we spent a week in a domestic violence shelter, only to return to my father after he put my moms dog down.  I remember when my mom and I left again, only to be stalked for 3 years by my father and not seeing my younger sister during that time.  I remember everything…..

So, you see, I am just a normal person working a job, but I have this burden, this sorrow to make an impact.  Sure, maybe it stems from my upbringing, but one thing I do know.  This work in affordable housing development is needed.  It is challenging, it is difficult and it takes funding to do it.  That trailer park, that affordable housing, shaped me into who I am today.  One who is giving back and fighting for opportunities and successes for others.  So, I make no apologies when I say, we need your help.  Our organization is developing and preserving housing for the less fortunate and at risk populations, but our operations are beginning to dwindle substantially during this COVID-19 crisis.

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday.  Please, if you feel a burden, a sorrow to house those that are in need, please consider donating to our organization, Northwest Coastal Housing.  Together, we can make a difference, because everyone deserves a place to call home.

Click here to make a donation to Northwest Coastal Housing

Plight of Homeless Military Children…A Testimonial by Jenny Green, Depoe Bay, Oregon

Jenny Green
Children’s Advocate, photographer of rain forests ‘n sea…
https://www.facebook.com/jenny.green.3762
“Jack” King of The Rain Forest
and Jenny’s best friend and furry loved one…

Photo by Captain Hopes Kids…

My Experience as a Former Military Child Who Became Homeless… by Jenny Green

Close to 10 years ago now, little did I know that I would befriend someone who shares somewhat similar experiences from childhood as me.  Although these experiences are generations apart, they are rooted from the same source…both our fathers experienced PTSD from war.

My friend Steve’s father suffered PTSD from WWII and Korean War, while my father suffers PTSD from Vietnam. I am glad I am friends with Steve; he helped me to realize that I am not the only one out there with effects from a family members fight with this dilemma.

Now I know that I am not my own little island in the sea of humanity, there are many of us islands. I was fortunate enough as a child to live in Italy and Germany as a military brat. Dad was active duty and a Vietnam vet with USMC and later enlisted with the U.S. Army.

What I didn’t realize then, was that he had PTSD. When he would yell, scream, and smack me around I thought it was normal, in fact, to me it was a simple fact of life.

What I also didn’t realize, was how my Dad’s PTSD affected my Mom as well. She would go to work early, come home late, and work many weekends for the Stars and Strips Newspaper; staying away from Dad as much as possible.

I did not know my mother, and she did not know me, and the only thing I knew of my Dad was the abuse and anger he had towards me. That was my life ’till I was almost 10 years old, then the apple cart was turned upside down, we moved back from overseas.  

Dad divorced Mom about a year and a half after we returned leaving us in southern Indiana, and Dad left for good to Michigan. Once Mom realized he was never coming back, the monster she had harbored came out with a vengeance, secondary PTSD.

When Dad left, I was lucky enough to be at my Grandmother’s house, as she took us in for six months. Mom slept 14 to 18 hours a day, only getting up to go to use the bathroom, and then back to bed to either sleep or lie there and cry.

Finally my Grandmother had enough of us being in her house and forced my Mom and I out, leaving us at a public housing office. After a few nights in a shelter, we were placed in a small public housing apartment called, “White Court” in New Albany, Indiana.

I thought this move was going to help give my Mom momentum with having a fresh start. Indeed this was not the case, her PTSD got worse.

I had to wear the same pair of socks for 8 months; they smelled like ammonia, were caked with filth and were literally plastered to my feet. When I had shoes, I walked out of them at the toes and wear them for months in that condition.

My jeans and t-shirt were stained with wearing them for weeks straight day and night, as I did not have night pajamas. There was no washer and dryer, no laundry mat in walking distance, and she would not buy soap or a bucket to wash clothes.                            

There was never any food in the house. If there was something in the fridge it was usually what someone was tossing out because it was spoiling.

I was at least lucky to have free lunch from my elementary school, so I knew I could have a meal once a day during the school year. I relied on that food, as it was literally all I had in my life.

I hated summers because I would miss out on the lunches from school and would scrap together meager meals of stale hamburger buns and souring bologna, bologna so soured that there was a white pasty film on it that I would scrap off.

It was during one of these summers, when I was 12 about to be 13, and had to attend summer school, that Mom closed the door to me. It was my last day of elementary school, when I got home all the doors and windows were locked and Mom was not answering.

I sat on the porch till 10pm wondering what had happened, asking neighbors if they had seen anyone at the apartment, nothing. I went to a 5th grade friend’s house, but her family did not want anything to do with stained clothed, ammonia smelling kid; they told me to leave and not return. 

Under the glow of the dim street light I slept on the porch that night.  The next morning I walked downtown to the amphitheater next to the Ohio River. I would sleep in and around this amphitheater for the next three months.

Summer school did not serve lunch, so at night for food I would dig in the dumpsters of the local restaurants after they had closed. I remember eating half eaten fried chicken legs, macaroni salad with my fingers, licking pie filling off of paper plates, and using old napkins with lipstick stains smeared on them.  

I remember being afraid to sleep outside at night; so I would walk around town, watch the trains, or sit and listen to the coal barges and tugs going up and down the Ohio River till dawn.

I was also afraid of the local law enforcement, as I was scared of getting in trouble for being homeless and filthy. I did not know at the time that they would actually have helped me.

I kept going home every other day and knocking on the door and no one ever answered, even though I could see the mail was picked up and curtains were moved. The day 7th grade started, again I went back home and knocked on the door.

To my surprise my mom answered the door. Dark circles under her eyes, dirty clothes, and matted hair is how she greeted me. I asked where she had been, and all she could say was that she had been busy.

I told her 7th grade started today and I need her to go register me for school at the junior high, she agreed and we walked to school. I walked into the office with the same jeans, t-shirt, socks, and shoes I had been wearing for four months since the end of April, as people are staring at us I get registered for school and receive my class schedule. 

Second period was pre-algebra, and I hated math but I did not know that my life was about to change. I met my best friend Tracy, she didn’t care what I looked like or smelled like.

In fact, later in the school year her Mom and Dad invited me over to their house as often as I wanted. They fed me, washed my clothes, and let me shower. By 8th grade I was living in their house. Mom still had custody of me but she allowed for my move. I was in their household ’till just after high school graduation with a 3.75 GPA, college bound, clean clothes and good food.  Someone had finally given me a chance to survive, and I thrived… 

*****  

Jenny’s testimonial was first published in January 2014. Thank you Jenny for all you do for our community! We are kindred spirits!

Your friend always,

Steve Sparks

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate. And Jenny Green’s pal…
Jenny ‘n Steve share a deep love for the rain forest,
and the sea, in Depoe Bay, Oregon

My latest book stars “Jack” King of The Rain Forest in several of the 55 short stories. Download this inspirational ebook, full of kindness in love. Get Kindle app on your device…