Benny's World

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sad Diary by a Former JRE Supporter

Today I was visiting the Daily Kos, and saw Refinish69 posting on a GLBT diary. Refinish69 used to publish the most awesome YT's about JRE and his campaign. I waved to him, but he didn't "wave" back.

Now I know why. He's homeless.

Here's part of a diary he wrote at Kos recently. It is part of a series he is writing at one of the branch libraries to give anyone a sense of what it is like to be homeless.

Hard times have hit us all at one time or another. We have seen the high unemployment numbers and the dismal forecast for economy in America. I never thought as a college graduate I would have an inside view of the day to day struggles of the homeless but I am there and will share my experiences so that people might gain a better insight and understanding of the plight we are facing in America.

I have been unemployed since March of 2008. Without unemployment benefits, I took to couch surfing and doing odd jobs for cash. Once the 2008 general elections were over and a new era in American History began, I started a new journey of my own. I spent a few weeks in a weekly motel that cost enough per week that I could have rented an apartment if I had not been evicted back in June. I realized that not only had I run out of money but I had also run out of options. I finally had to admit I needed more help than was available and I would have to take drastic steps. I moved my computer and many possessions that would not fit in a rolling suitcase and left them with a friend. I spent one last night on another friend’s sofa and then I was truly on the streets and homeless.

I arrived at Sally (The Salvation Army) and found out they do a raffle every morning for beds that become available in the men’s dorm. I was there at 8:45 am and waited as I watched more and more men file in hoping to get a bed for Wednesday night. The counselor came out and asked how many men were there for a bed. 15 men ranging in age from 18 to 70 raised their hands. The counselor said they only had two beds. As he walked around the room with a hat with 15 slips of paper, he informed us if we got a number we had a bed but if not we would have to try again the next day. I was not one of the lucky ones.

Realizing I had to do something I started asking questions and was told that I could try the lottery at ARCH (Austin Resource Center for the Homeless) at 6pm. I took my rolling suitcase and Netroots nation bag and headed over to ARCH to ask questions. I had to wait in line to get in and then have my bags go through an x-ray security machine like the ones they sue at the airport and then file through a metal detector. I went to the desk and asked what I need to do and to verify times for the lottery. I was also informed that if the temperature was below 40 degrees, they would allow more people to stay. The first night I was lucky enough to draw a number which meant I could sleep on a mat on the floor in the lobby of ARCH. One the lottery was over I was led into the building and told I would have to take a shower. The ARCH does not provide towels and since I had not thought to back one, I had to dry off with paper towels. I was then given a thin pallet to sleep on. Well, I would not exactly call it sleeping.

The second installment is here.

Refinish69 is truly having to work through many places to get assistance. He appears to be getting it, but so many appointments and so little time. It must be lonely and at times maddening.

This shouldn't be this way in our America.

God bless him, and I hope he finds his way off the streets soon. I only wish John Edwards was in advisory position to advocate for people like him. Many more will continue to slide into the ditch.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adios Paul Weyrich

From Kevin Drum:

Paul M. Weyrich, 66, who helped found the Heritage Foundation and at one time was one of Washington's most visible conservatives, died this morning. At his death, he was president and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

Heritage announced this morning: "Paul M. Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and first president of The Heritage Foundation, died this morning around 1 a.m. He was 66 years old. Weyrich was a good friend to many of us at Heritage, a true leader and a man of unbending principle. He won Heritage's prestigious Clare Boothe Luce Award in 2005. Weyrich will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, including son Steve, who currently works at Heritage."

I'm not a fan of the Heritage Center, but I do like its Index of Economic Freedom.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Helping Hands in the Spirit of John and Elizabeth Edwards

(photo courtesy of

JRE may be out of the public spotlight most of the time. However, his campaign's spirit of helping others in a time of need lives on in many of us.

BW readers may remember that I work in a university library. It is a long standing tradition for our library to organize some type of event at holiday time to assist others in need during this time of the year. Last year library staff were very generous with a food drive for the Food Bank. At my institution, the Faculty Staff Assistance Program, FSAP, compiles a list of the most needy families they have assisted through the year. FSAP contacts these families for a 'wish list' for the holidays, and then individual campus units and departments are asked to sponsor a family. Wish list items are collected in the units, and then presented to the family before the holiday break. What's nice is the FSAP keeps the family names anonymous and confidential. My library decided to "adopt" a family.

Our unit's "family's" father is an employee who has been battling lung cancer and other health issues. He is currently unable to work and has undergone surgery just two weeks ago for another condition. Doctors are unable to start a cancer treatment regimen until other issues are resolved and he is stronger. The employee lives with his wife and two sons, ages 11 and 23. Both sons have cerebral palsy and are wheel-chair bound. The mother stays home with her sons to manage their health care.

As you might surmise from reading their story, finances are tight, and the prospects for the holiday are not bright. This family has only one full time employee income, and that member is now unable to work. FSAP supplied us this family's wish list, which was so modest. All they wanted was a Bears sweatshirt, some socks, underwear, and chocolate covered cherries for each person.

Our library raised enough not only to buy gift cards for their underwear and socks, many employees bought the boxes of the candy too. In addition, we raised over $2k in cash to give to them. Librarians are not wealthy at all, but we have big hearts. Tomorrow I will be helping out to wrap the presents.

One of my buddies whom I met through John Edwards' campaign said that her family is buying personal hygiene items and some cuddly toy bears for some folks at a nursing home as often seniors only get $30 monthly to buy such things and certainly, the bear would cheer up anyone. She and her family are offering a great helping hand too.

I wish John and Elizabeth would start another OneCorps to continue the much needed work to be done for the working poor or just helping our communities. I know Elizabeth talked about this when we were on the phone with her back in February, but so much has happened since then.

The spirit of John and Elizabeth Edwards: they had the right ideas, and there is so much we can do lift people up on a local level.

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