Tiny Houses for the Homeless

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Last year I blogged about Homeless Shelters. There is a huge problem in Bakersfield with the Homeless shelter, they don’t have enough room for all the homeless people. I’ve spoken with several homeless people about going to the homeless shelter and they have all told me that they’ve tried, and that it’s always full. How can a city not have enough room for all the homeless?

I’ve been going to physical therapy because I broke my leg in December. A few weeks ago we left PT and decided to go to John’s Burgers for lunch, and we saw a homeless man who was camped out across the street with a lawn chair, and he had a shopping cart towering above him. My partner decided that he was going to buy him 2 burgers, fries and a drink. So we left the drive-thru and drove across the street and he parked the car in the parking lot. He got out of the car to give him his food and I stayed in the car because I was still using crutches and the wheelchair.

He came back to the car and told me that the homeless man had all of the belongings that he was able to take with him when he became homeless. He also had several bags of cans and bottles for recycling. But what was most surprising is that he said to my partner “You mean to tell me that you saw me and you thought enough about me to buy me food?” He was practically in tears. We’ve fed many homeless people who seemed ungrateful for the food because they wanted money instead. It was refreshing to actually have someone feel surprised and say thank you.

In my previous blog post about homeless shelters, I said that I wish I had the money to build a shelter with those Japanese hotel containers that are stackable with twin beds in them. But, I’ve been watching several shows where people build tiny houses for themselves. They’re like trailers and RV’s, but they are the shape of an actual house with an upstairs loft for their bed. There’s also another upstairs loft on the opposite side for storage, or some people have built an upstairs loft for their entertainment with a couch and TV along with their video collection. I even saw one that was their kids bedroom.

There have been many articles about cities building tiny house communities specifically for homeless people, like the image above. They are about the size of a shed, but they are big enough for 1 person to live in. I mean think about it, if you were homeless, where would you feel most safe? Sleeping on a lawn chair on the sidewalk, or sleeping in one of these shed sized houses? At least in a tiny house you know your stuff is safe because it’s under lock and key, and I’m sure a tiny house community has a community bathroom similar to a trailer park bathroom with showers so they can stay clean.

I’ve had a fantasy that my book sold so many copies that I became rich, but instead of buying a huge mansion for myself like most rich people do, I would stay in the house we live in now, and spend that money on building a tiny house park specifically for homeless people with that trailer park bathroom. The park would have an actual address and each tiny house would have a number, sort of like an apartment number so they can fill out an application so they can get a job and get back on their feet. Once they have enough money saved up in the bank, they can get an apartment and they can get back to a normal life again.

My tiny houses wouldn’t just be a shed sized tiny house, it would have electricity powered by solar panels so they could keep their cell phones charged. You can get a free phone now with unlimited talk and text and 250mb of data per month. It’s probably a cheap flip phone, but it’s a phone that homeless people can use. My tiny houses would also have an actual bed in there so they don’t have to sleep on the floor, and a tv mounted on the wall with the very basic cable, and of course the park would have free Wi-fi for all. Oh and a small fridge and a microwave, and I would also build like a store with a food bank for them, and a laundry mat, and they would all get 3 meals per day. I was actually thinking that I could build a restaurant that they could work in and they could eat for free 3 times a day, and there would be actual paying customers who would donate money on top of their meals to help me so I don’t go from rich to rags and end in living there myself lol.

But… it’s all just a dream since I am not rich.

I was homeless and I lived in the Salvation Army homeless shelter for half a year when I was 17 years old. It wasn’t fun, but they gave me an address and phone number so that I could fill out applications to get a job. When their homeless shelter program ended in May, they helped me rent a room in someone’s house. That’s what I would like to do for the homeless people who cannot get in the shelter.

It’s really unfair to live in a world filled with empty houses and empty apartments, and you can’t live there because you got fired from your job and lost everything, or your parents kicked you out of their house because you were gay. It’s difficult for a homeless person to get a job when they don’t have an address and phone number, or they don’t have the means to take a shower and their clothes are filthy, or they don’t even own a pair of shoes. I’ve seen a homeless guy who didn’t even have any shoes, and I gave him my own shoes.

We live in a tough world, and someone has to make a difference. I can’t do it because I don’t have the money. I could do it if people bought my book. Heck, you don’t even have to buy my book if you have a Kindle with Amazon Prime because it’s free to read for Prime and Kindle Unlimited users. Kindle’s are so cheap now, you can buy a 7″ Kindle Fire with 8GB for only $49.99 and if you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get it fast with free 2 day shipping. So help me help the homeless, buy my book, or read it for free on a Kindle.

Homeless Shelters

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homelessFacebook is a wonderful tool. It’s not just a place for friends and family to keep in touch, it’s also a place where you learn new things, and this is no exception. Someone posted this picture along with a huge lesson learned from her experience as a homeless person for a day. You know the old saying, don’t judge a man until you have walked a day in his shoes, well, she literally walked in a homeless person’s shoes. Well, her own shoes, but… well… you know.

I’m not going to post her entire text because it’s a bit long, so here is the link.

You know, I was homeless when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s. At age 15 I was kicked out of our families home, which was a travel trailer in a trailer park. I lived with a guy who I went to school with and his brother in a VERY tiny trailer for about 6 months. I was homeless again just 2 months after I turned 17 because my mother couldn’t handle me being gay. The deets are in my book. I lived in a motel for several years after that. It’s not easy being homeless.

When I was homeless, I dreamed of the day when I could finally write my book and become so rich that I would buy or build a big building to run a homeless shelter. Not just a homeless shelter for all the gay kids who have been kicked out of the house for being gay, but also for anyone who was homeless and needed a place to stay. The homeless shelter I lived in when I was 17 was run by the Salvation Army. I came out of the closet to one of the volunteers who warned me to keep my mouth shut, because if anyone found out that I was gay, they would kick me out of the homeless shelter. I was already homeless, and the homeless shelter would make me even more homeless? I never thought it was possible to be more homeless, but I guess I was wrong.

So, my dream would be that not only all the regular straight homeless people could live in my shelter, but all the LGBTQIA kids and adults could live there. EVERYONE is welcome, even pets. And your religion doesn’t matter, you can be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist or whatever floats your boat, I don’t care, as long as you don’t push it on anyone else.

Even though I didn’t quite make that much money from my book, I still have hope that one day my dream might come true. Never stop dreaming kids, because you never know if your wish will become a reality.

After reading the Facebook post, my dream of building a homeless shelter has evolved a bit. Instead of just supplying a shelter like the one I lived in where all the homeless people had to sleep on cots, I’ve decided that since this is just a dream, I might as well dream big.

japanese capsule hotelYou know those capsule hotels in Japan? This is what I would want for my homeless shelter. A cot is uncomfortable, believe me, I know. I think a capsule hotel (with doors of course) is the best thing because it gives them a more comfortable bed to sleep on and it also gives them some privacy. The shelter I lived in wouldn’t allow couples to share a private room, we all had to sleep in one room all in our own cot. I think this is more respectful to couples who want to sleep on the same bed in a private rooms. The beds would also be available for those who have to sleep during the day because they may have night jobs, or perhaps they’ve been awake during the night for so many years that they can’t possibly sleep at night.

The shelter would be open 24/7 so that people would have a nice air conditioned place to spend the hot summer days and the cold winter days indoors. There would also be a diner type of space where the homeless people could have 3 decent meals. There would also be public bathrooms with private shower stalls, and no one would be told they can’t use the bathroom because they are transgender either. EVERYONE has the right to go to the bathroom and take a shower in a private stall without being hassled. I’d have a thrift store space where people could pick out clothing to replace their old torn worn out clothes and to help them get a job in, and of course free laundry facilities so they will always have clean clothes.

And yes I thought about who would clean the capsules and cook and serve the food and clean the bathrooms and keep the entire place clean. Every homeless person is welcome to stay, and they are also welcome to work to pay for their room and board. Of course if they cannot work because they are disabled, that’s fine too, no pressure. There would be donation drives to help pay for the gas, electricity, water, cable, wi-fi and food, obviously. My book sales would pay for the startup, but then the rest would come from donations.

I spoke with a homeless guy at the grocery store one night. He asked for money and I told him I didn’t have any and he copped an attitude with me. He thought that I thought I was better than he was and I told him no, that I knew what he was going through. We talked and I found out that the reason he isn’t in the shelter is because there aren’t enough beds there. He told me that there are way too many people at the shelter and that not enough people were able to be helped, and it was raining that night too, so I felt really sorry for him. That’s the reason I still dream of this shelter. It’s just not fair that there are so many homeless people with absolutely no chance of getting a decent bed, shower, clean clothes and a decent meal.

I think about this every time I eat and every time I get in the shower and every time I lay down on my mattress to go to bed at night. All I can say is it is just not fair.

Anyway, this is just a dream and it’ll have to stay a dream since I don’t have that kind of money. I don’t see any other rich people stepping up to make this happen, and Bakersfield has a lot of rich people. Too bad they don’t share my dream.

Many people think that ALL gay people have an agenda. My agenda is to just live my life like everyone deserves, and I guess I do have an agenda, I’d like for homeless people to live decent lives too. Everyone deserves a roof and a hot shower and a hot meal. Is that too much to ask?

I haven’t stopped dreaming of writing fantasy fiction, and perhaps that will be what brings the money in, but I won’t hold my breath.

A conversation and a response about The Salvation Army’s anti-gay policies

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Yesterday I was happy to participate in a live web conversation via Google Plus Hangouts with the Huffington Post Live.  You can see that conversation here.  I also added the video directly to my blog here.

I was able to tell my story about what happened to me 30 years ago when I was in the 6th and 7th grade about how they excluded me from Sunday School with the other children by giving me Sunday School in a little room.  I also shared my story about what happened to me 25 years ago when I was homeless and in the Salvation Army homeless shelter and when I came out of the closet to one of the volunteers who told me to never ever speak of it because the church would kick me out of the shelter if they found out.

Today I got an email from the producer (I don’t know if she’s a producer, but happy promotion day to you lol) of the show asking for my permission to pass along my email address to a communications director for the Salvation Army who was concerned about what happened to me.  I gave my permission and it wasn’t too long before I got the email.  Here it is.

Dear Michel,

Thank you for providing your contact information. You shared some time last evening with Major George Hood on the web broadcast hosted by Huffington Post . We were concerned by your account of not receiving help from the organization.  We have made a commitment to review such circumstances. So we can research this incident and follow up as necessary, we were wondering if it would be possible for you to provide us with more details, including names of Salvation Army personnel involved, specific dates and locations surrounding the events.

We are sorry for any pain this may have caused you. Thank you for any information you can provide.

Thank you again and take care,

Jennifer

It was nice to receive an email from them wanting to resolve what had happened to me, but the wounds have healed and I have moved on with my life.  I only share my story because it happened and people sometimes need to hear the negative things that people went through in their lives, which is why I wrote my memoir.

I responded:

Dear Jennifer,

Although I did feel hurt and pain back then and over the years, the wounds have healed and I have moved on, but still thought it was helpful to share my story anyway.  

The incident that happened when I was a child happened 30 years ago.  I don’t have any names or addresses or any other information because I was just a child.  I was driven and I never paid any attention to where the church was.  So in that case I really cannot provide any information.  It happened so long ago that I’m sure those who were involved are either not living or aren’t with the church so the point is moot.

The second incident was with the Salvation Army in Simi Valley of which I again don’t have any names or dates except that it happened 25 years ago from January to May of 1988.  Again, the wounds have long since healed and I just wanted to share my story of what happened.

I don’t find it necessary to hold anyone responsible because I don’t want anyone to get into any trouble.

Susan who was also in that show needs more resolution than I do because her story was 2 years ago.  So I think if anyone should be helped it should be her and not me.

Thanks for your concern,

Michel McDonald

“Diary of a Gay Nerd: Life After Child Abuse, It Gets Better!”

She did respond again telling me that she was happy that the wounds have healed and that I have moved on.

One thing that irritated me in the show was Major Hood’s statement that gays are allowed in the church, as long as they NEVER HAVE SEX!!!  I wasn’t on there to argue with anyone or to cause a ruckus, and by the time I got to speak I had totally forgotten that he had said that.  Karel and I both had a reaction of laughter when he said that that was not seen in the show, and the reason we laughed is because it’s such a ridiculous thing for anyone to say.

You simply cannot tell someone that it is okay for them to go to their church as long as you don’t have sex.  That’s preposterous.  First of all, it’s none of the church’s business who is doing what behind closed doors, so telling someone they can’t have sex is just the dumbest thing ever.

So if you are gay and you go to their church and you tell them or they found out that you were sexually active, are they going to kick you out of the church?  Isn’t that still discrimination?  Yes it is!  So how can he say they don’t discriminate if they still kick you out for being sexually active?  Discrimination is still discrimination.

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say about that.  I want to keep my blood pressure down.  I just wanted to do a follow up of the experience and to show the conversation I had with the Salvation Army.

The experience with the show on Huffington Post Live was awesome and I would do it again in a heartbeat if asked.

By the way, I won’t tell you not to donate money to them because they do help people.  But what I would like to suggest is that if you are a member of the LGBT community and you would like to make a donation, please make it to an organization that needs your money more than a church that probably gets billions of dollars every Christmas.  I donated 30% of my books profits to 3 charities (so they each got 10%) which are the Bakersfield Gay and Lesbian Center, who by the way is hanging on by a string, they need donations desperately, way more than the Salvation Army does.  The Bakersfield AIDS Project “Ricky’s Retreat” which is a hospice run by an amazing woman Audrey Chavez.  And PFLAG Bakersfield which I encourage everyone who is LGBT and/or friendly to join.  So if you can spare some money, please donate it to a charity that actually needs the money.

Thank you for reading.