Thursday, December 22, 2011

Humanitarian Concept: Homeless Camps In State Parks

Hello All,

It seems during this period of America's Great Recession we're watching history repeat itself. In regards to America's Great Depression plight to a lesser degree in the rise of homelessness. Specifically families and thus children entering poverty for the first time in their collective lives. The CBS "60 Minutes" segment showcasing a single father and his 2 kids living out of a delivery truck in Orange County, Florida. Explained it all from that one families testimonial symbolically representing countless others in America.

Case in point the city of Saint Petersburg Florida in the county of Pinellas. Had the 2007 national public relations disaster of an impromptu tent city built by the homeless being torn down. By police with razor box cutters shredding private property tents on public city park land. I bet many drew parallels of the terrorists aggression of 9/11 using razor box cutters to hi-jack the airliners. But I digress. Afterwards that same year in 2007 the local Catholic Church Diocese used their own private property to open up a 250 tent city of their own. With regulated controls put in place for the proper governance of such a homeless shelter facility run by the Church.

I myself proposed a blog concept back in December 2007 called the "Community Homeless Campus" as one potential solution.

Now back in the Fall season of this year 2011 again the city of Saint Petersburg has opened up a 500 bed homeless shelter facility calling it "Safe Harbor". It mirrors some of the elements of my own homeless solution concept of December 2007 on this very blog site.

Here is a link to an Associated Press article dated September 5th 2011 discussing the new "Safe Harbor" facility:

My concept today is similar to my former concept of the "Homeless Community Campus". However this one is set in preexisting State Parks with full facility campgrounds. The Florida State Park system consists of 160 wondrous and unique environments not seen anywhere else on this world of ours. Fifty plus of which of these State Parks include full facility campgrounds for traditional camping and RV (Recreational vehicle) electrical hook-ups.

What I am proposing as a pilot program to see if the model can be replicated elsewhere in the United States State or National Parks inventory. Is to allot a percentage of these full facility campgrounds that includes: public bathrooms, showers, laundry machines, public telephones, electrical hook-ups, and most likely a nature center. Say as an example here in Florida in my county of Sarasota the Oscar Scherer State Park would qualify.

The "Oscar Scherer" State Park has 94 campground and RV mix of slots for campers under reservations with a fee to utilize. Where selected volunteers at 3 to 6 month stints are given a free campground slot to make sure the campgrounds facilities are well maintained. Under my proposed Homeless Camps in State Parks concept solution. Via a program run by the local county and applicable State agencies. Such as: State Parks Management, Health & Family Services, Veterans Affairs, County Commissioners, etc... Where homeless families and individuals that may qualify that are under the supervision of case workers. Receive temporary housing via camp sites and RV campers from the program in lieu of making the pledge to improve their lives overall. Such as finding a permanent housing solution elsewhere and maintaining a steady income with a job placement.

The homeless population best served are those families and individuals through no fault of their own now find themselves homeless during this "Great Recession" period. Instead of them getting permanently stuck into homelessness cycles they receive public and private social services assistance. To dislodge such an unfortunate circumstance they are finding themselves within currently. Case workers assisting the homeless members or clients of this proposed program. Would make sure the clients are utilizing local free medical clinics, children are in public schools and receiving the free school meal programs (breakfast / lunch), are on food stamps, have access to counseling services, higher education be it a vocational school (grants / scholarships), are utilizing the local county job resource center, have access to transportation be it public transit or otherwise, religious services if so desired, etc... Everything that may be needed in the basic needs of any dignified person living in our present day society.

On the part of the homeless member / client of this proposed program. There would be no public smoking / drinking within the campgrounds or State Park itself. No violence, which would would be a near automatic ejection from this program. A nightly curfew would be put in place. Any homeless client with substance abuse addiction must be fully engaged in their own outlined sobriety. Such as receiving access to substance abuse counseling, and be enrolled in a 12 Step self-help program and have a designated sponsor. All homeless clients would be required to help the State Park Rangers in maintaining the overall park. Not unlike the WPA (Works Progress Administration) of the late 1930's and early 1940's during the Franklin Roosevelt presidency. Homeless participates may even earn themselves minimum wage and get access to other grants and scholarships for higher education. All homeless clients would receive a crash course in camping and outdoors man survival skills. Homeless individuals would be furnished with camping equipment be it a tent and other miscellaneous camping gear. Homeless families would be allotted a RV (Recreational Vehicle) camper with access to an electrical hook-up. Not unlike the victims of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina received from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Where individuals and families were placed within camper trailer parks or situated next to their former devastated residential property.

If this temporary housing solution proves successful after its initial pilot program implementation. It can be transplanted to other States in the Union. Where the customary user fee's the State Parks would collect from visitors and campers. Would be paid for through a block grant for this homeless temporary housing program. Besides the added boon of homeless members in the program. Aiding under supervision State Park officials in maintaining the parks they'll live within for a time. This is a proposed dignified solution for the new working poor that have found themselves homeless. To be able in our meritocracy society to climb right out of it and back into the middle class as productive citizens. Let's hope for all of us novel and applicable solutions are mandated to fix this social crisis not only in America, but across the world. If America is to lead the world by example as a model Democracy, it best start with the most vulnerable in our own society.

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