Monday, June 15, 2015

Digital Inclusion? Exclusion? Just not funded

RantWoman directs readers to for updates on SHAREWHEEL's educational campaigns around funding for homeless services and mental health treatment as well as other affordable housing issues.

SHARE is one of the most efficient providers of safe places to sleep in the entire homeless services pantheon. RantWoman was thinking about this while listening to a meeting agenda item featuring lots of ...public / private partnership... RantWoman is still thinking about what that means in terms of finding support for what SHARE does.

Perhaps RantWoman should just cut to the chase: antWoman has heard complaints about people needing to participate in a computerized tracking system to qualify for many homelessness services in King County. This is a mandate from the federal government. RantWoman very much wishes there were flexibility about how to address need for data collection and efforts to connect people with the right resources.

RantWoman is sensitive to people's privacy considerations.
RantWoman can cite a number of examples of "bureaucratic miracle cure" once there is not data for some piece or another of a network of resources, presto the problem has gone away.

RantWoman is highly sympathetic to people affected by endless cutting of budgets for services and imposition of punitive hoops for people to jump through in order to access the pitiful shreds of safety net remaining.


RantWoman has read media accounts of shelter resources that are consistently underused because there are some kind of bureaucratic barriers between the shelter resources and the people who need them and qualify for them. RantWoman is unclear whether the computerized tracking system SHARE is objecting to is part of the problem. RantWoman naively would think that a good computerized tracking system SHOULD help match people needing shelter with shelter options, should identify places where rules might need to be adjusted, and SHOULD offer data upon which people can make adjustments about how people are directed to housing resources. RantWoman thinks it is a problem if that is not what is occurring.

More to the point, RantWoman thinks at least SOME of the desired measurement of people's access to information, information dissemination, and efficient links between available services and people in need COULD be accomplished by ditching the database and working with social media. It would take some creativity and community building, but RantWoman thinks there should be serious possibilities!

RantWoman does not at all want to minimize issues of digital inclusion, access to technology, capacity to pay one's wireless bill, maintain a laptop, or find one's way to a library and / or free Wifi. But RantWoman can also supply anecdotal evidence that access to mobile technology including laptops, Wifi and Smartphones go a very long way to ease the burden of homelessness.

One of RantWoman's main data points: RantWoman is massaging some points about digital inclusion and the SHARE group that sleeps on the floor at RantWoman's faith community. At RantWoman's faith community, the SHARE group sleeps in the worship space. This is not particularly that RantWoman's faith community is all holy about providing a quiet sane place to sleep; it just works out that the worship space works best for other reasons than that it turns out also to be a really good place to sleep.

There is Wifi available and several of the group have laptop computers. Because SHARE is self-managed, there is NO tolerance for all kinds of rule violations. As a result, people feel safer. The ones who have technology share SOME information with others. RantWoman has anecdotal information about people whose lives at least stabilize, about the journey some manage out of homelessness, and she has one gut wrenching story of someone, probably in some respects typical of many someones, who could not make it work.

RantWoman dedicates this post to a guy named Jim who hung around RantWoman's faith community on Sundays for several months a couple summers ago.

Jim's two prized possessions were his laptop or MacBook, RantWoman is unclear which and his bicycle, upon which he probably stored everything else he owned. Jim was maybe a few bricks off a full load. He needed to talk about firearms and frequently spoke about representatives of the various places trying to help him in less than polite, considerably less than respectful terms.

Early in RantWoman's acquaintance with Jim she learned that he was recovering from detached retina surgery. RantWoman remembers that experience as MISERABLE and she had an apartment, a cat, a massage chair to rest her head in so the gas bubble could paste the retina back where it was supposed to be.

Jim on the other hand was  holding things together using some kind of ice pack when he could get ice, managing pain with Vicodin while trying to get around on his bicycle. No he did not want to leave his bicycle somewhere and take the bus because he was afraid of having his bicycle stolen. No he did not want to go to a shelter because he was afraid of getting his laptop stolen. No he did not want ... and non he did not want... and again the unhelpful lines of thinking and conversation.

RantWoman does not remember whether he mentioned any contact with SHARE; RantWoman suspects he probably could not have held it together to participate in SHARE's self-management processes. One of RantWoman's last couple encounters with Jim involved him having to have another medical procedure, the kind of procedure that says there is no hope that recovery which would have been possible with the right attention to basic needs will occur. The next news RantWoman learned was that Jim, now almost totally blind in the affected eye and not doing really well in the other eye was returning to his home in the Midwest.

RantWoman guesses there are LOTS of Jims who pass through our medical and social services networks. RantWoman notes that other skills besides writing software are probably needed to work with people like Jim.

RantWoman thinks it is a shame when one mandate about data collection is getting in the way of some homeless people getting the right services. On the other hand, RantWoman would really like data about the consequences of inadequate services to result in better use of resources!

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