This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Modeling the Last Mile to Feed the Homeless part 2

This is the second blog post concerning the Financial Modeling for the Social Sector course from Philanthropy University powered by the Berkeley Hass School of Business and there still isn’t anything yet about the financial model itself. We are still defining the boundaries, elements and relationships of the systems with which we are dealing. We still need to better understand this larger environment in which we hope to implement our financially viable and sustainable enterprise to help address the needs of the homeless.

It has been shown that one of the most financially effective and sustainable remedies to address homelessness is providing homes rather than continually providing services which while necessary in the short run do not make a significant enough of an impact to bring about needed change in the long run. Salt Lake City six years ago started a project to provide housing for every homeless person, Austin Tx did something similar, also a study coming out of Calhoun County, Michigan asserted, “The most ironic obstacle to implementing the fundamental solution was the community’s very success in providing temporary shelters and supports.”

However, while building homes may be one of the best remedies for homelessness, lack of a home is not, I will propose, the primary etiology of the detrimental afflictions of homelessness and those afflictions are acute in nature. 

I am going to suggest that it is a lack of community, separation from deeply structured community, from that social relationship network that can be defined as civil society. In exploring those relationships, I came up with a rough cut term, community-less-ness. A weakness of this argument is that the reality of such a social structure can be taken for granted by most of us. In numerous cases, we can make decisions to bypass such relationships but remain, even if only subconsciously, confident that they will be available if we need them. This includes those community relationships that we forge through our economic transactions. This is again a model which does not encompass the truth of homelessness and is wrong, but it could provide what could be considered an important insight.

It becomes all the more evident in the manner in which we use the problems with our food wastage as a means of addressing the feeding of the needy and the homeless.

Food pantries mainly store non-perishable items for access by needy individuals or families either for free or at very low cost. Food trucks mainly distribute perishable or soon to perish items to food banks and shelters  making food preparation an important component. Feeding the needy though is very different from feeding the homeless, especially those in camps or on the streets.
As said before, although the Portland food distribution system is available to the homeless, it is not necessarily accessible by them. The local pantries will gladly bend over backwards for a person with no address.

“But that homeless person has to figure out a way to get the groceries back to camp or shelter and the street person is limited to what he can carry on a daily basis. It is very limited what kind of healthy ‘walking food’ the pantries carry”. - Jo

Another shortcoming with homeless food distribution then besides a lack of choices is an inability to keep food fresh once it is distributed because it is given in quantities too large to be used in a timely enough manner. 
Currently, as Jo explains, “They don't have much choice in food so they end up with five loaves of bread that go bad before they can use it.”
There is then the issue of transporting the food as most of that food has to be refrigerated and/or cooked.
Jo can plan on hitting each pantry at least once a month, whether they call her or not as they always find groceries for her to take. On any given day one can determine the hours of operation for a given pantry. When Jo put together a list of all the local food outlets, she was thinking that the homeless could use a copy for themselves. That way they would know such things as that there are two pantries that one can only frequent every ninety days. To help out with this, I created an online map of Jo’s Portland Food Network.
The need for multiple pick ups comes from going to all Harvest Shares and Community Baskets and stopping at multiple pantries when the pantries call with food for not less than 50 people. That food goes to waste if they can't figure out a way to distribute elsewhere. 

There is also an entity called Gleaners which provides mostly fruit and vegetables that are not fit for resale as they will have some sort of blemish or a shipment did not arrive in time making Gleaners the beneficiary. That is then free food if one works several hours as a volunteer to help sort the food. 
“I usually bring several homeless to the Gleaners to volunteer and then we fill up my van,” - Jo.
This Financial Model with Jo seeks to further expand food delivery to the camps and street people. In keeping with the philosophy of an ABCD approach, the homeless are part of the solution.
Street people might be nearby for a meal and then not in the area for the next three days or more. They know where the soup kitchens are and usually get one meal a day there. 

Homeless campers usually don't get to soup kitchens unless they are very close. Homeless camps have no refrigeration, and limited cooking facilities. Local churches deliver hot food most of which is nutritious a couple times a week. Some people volunteer to cook a meal for 25 or 30 in their own homes and then deliver them. While it is amazing how many churches walk into a camp and hand out food, it is not consistent. They go to only the camps and not to find people on the streets.

Groceries could include canned goods as they can be stored in camps but street homeless do not want to carry it around. The street homeless like to have "walking food,” stuff like health bars, and fruit roll ups and bags of tiny carrots to put in their pockets to carry around. 

One idea then was to provide carry around food such as a protein bar and raisins as a fruit, maybe a package of healthy chips. The homeless also don't get vitamins.

Jo wanted more than a nutritious meal served at one time, thinking of the meal and also some walking food for later. 

“My thinking is anyone who came up to the window to be served, got a high energy protein bar. A soup with vegetables and fiber in it. (we now have a littering issue with that soup bowl. I wonder if the soups could be served in an edible bread bowl) The bar they can take with them and eat at another time.” 

That way they would at least eating one meal a day other than at the soup kitchens or churches delivering meals, which would be more than they are eating now.  - Jo

There are two other possible sources to acquire food within the Oregon Food system.  SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can be seen as a first line of defense in fighting hunger serving 20% of Oregonians, at an average benefit of about $130 per month. Oregon tops nation in food stamps at 20% of its population, compared say to California at 9.7% of its population.  Food stamp usage Is high in Oregon because more eligible Oregonian use the program compared to other states due to large extended efforts to sign people up and in part because of the time Oregon has had taken to recover from the recession. Under the SNAP/Food Stamp Program homelessness have rights but they still need to verify their identity. 

The other possibility is Farmers Markets, many of which accept SNAP benefits as a means of payment. They then use funds to match SNAP clients' purchasing power, dollar-for-dollar, up to $10. This means that SNAP participants could get $20 worth of produce and unprepared foods at a farmers market by spending $10 in benefits. The Double Up Food Bucks program works with participating Farmers' Markets throughout Oregon in matching SNAP benefits up to the $10 at their markets.  This, however, is more helpful to those who are needy but still structurally within the community both economically and socially than it is for the homeless.

Next Part 3

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