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* the faces of our homeless

Our church does a variety of things to try to be a good neighbor. One of them is to participate in a program called Project Hope where a collection of churches each provide a month of housing for about 15 homeless, mostly children and their parent(s). February is the month our congregation does this. I do a very minimal amount of work related to this by sleeping over a night or two each year as we have volunteers present when the families are there overnight from about 6pm to 730am (the program takes them to another location during the day). In so doing I have the opportunity to gain even just little glimpses of the faces and new insights about the lives of a few of our nation’s homeless. One year this included a mom who was 9 months pregnant (I was relieved to not have any extra excitement that night). Or a dad with a one- and a two-year-old (mom no longer part of the picture), patiently getting them up and ready and fed before the Sunday morning bus picked them up.

These are our folks, people. They have no more interest in being homeless than we would. But Section 8 housing, which was designed for low-income people, is so backed up most of the waiting lists are closed at this point. As in “don’t bother to even try.” The vacancy rate of apartments in the Twin Cities is less than 2.5%. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is over $1,200. The benefit for what used to be called “Welfare-to-Work” is less than $400 and hasn’t been adjusted in 30 years. Back then that was enough to rent a one bedroom apartment. You can do the math now.

One way to measure the success of a society is how well the wealthy are doing. By that standard we could hardly do any better. Another way is to determine how well a society takes care of its own people, especially those who are struggling. By this standard, not so much. As here in Minnesota about 50% of our homeless are children 5 years old and younger.

We can do better. We must do better.

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* Searching

I am searching for more work again. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again. I teach part-time for Augsburg University so I’m open to anything from full- to part-time.

There are some searches I enjoy. Things like Easter candy. Or for or with my granddaughters. Or my wife when I was waiting for her in Paris when she flew in from the States.

There are other searches I don’t enjoy. Like looking for a new job. Which I am in the middle of right now. I’ve done this before so should be fairly good at it. And I think I am as far as researching what’s out there and getting resumes revised and sent out. In terms of networking, not so much. Which is problematic. So I’m working on getting better at that part of it all. But the overall process just isn’t much fun. Lots and lots of applications out at present with so far nothing but either silence or rejections in return. After a while, which is hard to determine, silences turn into “no’s.” Overall I don’t find this process to be a big confidence builder. And quite a bit of work with not much in return.

Of course, I am now 61, earned a Ph.D. a while back and am eclectic so have done a variety of things instead of just specializing in one so each of those things has implications. On the other hand, I have lots of experience, am well educated and experienced in a field which is quite broad (Adult Education) and have done a variety of things so can apply for work in a variety of areas. So we’ll see.

Instead of the below list for me it is: What are the possiblities? Resume an honest explanation of how my experience relates to this? Eventually an interview to something. And finally, can I afford not to say yes?

Of course, something will connect eventually but waiting is not something I enjoy till it does.

* What do Tiggers do best? (part II)

Hard to believe my first post about this was back in August! But I did sense what was coming correctly. At the end of October my 2+ years at NAMI came to an end. Very disappointing as I worked hard for them, did some very good work and had a lot of people both within NAMI and with the communities I was working with who supported me in what I was doing and were frustrated that my time with them had come to an end. None of which was acknowledged by the powers that be when all was said and done. But it’s done which I’m thankful for as it had gotten to be a lousy place for me to be in terms of how I was being treated. Which is what my family kept telling me. Along with, “Just leave.” Which I didn’t do.

What do Tiggers do best? Bounce. So here I am bouncing. As I wait for what comes next. What I need to find is Tigger’s self-assurance. And the smile!

* On writing

I am beginning to do something I haven’t done much so far in my life–writing. It was part of high school and then my first two years of college but then I started engineering and for the next 4 years not so much. However, when I went back to school the last time it became most of what I did for the next 4 years (that and reading and a whole lot of thinking as well).

By far the biggest writing I’ve done thus far in my life was my dissertation which was an enormous amount of work. While I can’t argue what I did was stupendous, it was good enough for me to earn my PhD. And I do think represented my best work possible at that time.

Now these days my writing is mostly of resumes. Lots of them again. Approaching 30 or so? Each a lot of work as I seek to customize each one and the accompanying cover letter for the job I’m for which I’m applying. Each a work of hope and faith that one of them will yield what I am looking for which is a new place to work. The need is to keep in mind that this will happen. Even if the reality is thus far it’s only been “no’s.” Even if the reality is days feel like weeks on this end of the process.

And so the writing continues. Where will it get me? That’s still to be seen.

* reflections on the concept of “purple squirrels”

I learned a new word several years ago from one of my students–“purple squirrel.” It may help explain at least some of the reason between he and I we’d by then unsuccessfully applied for over 350 carefully selected jobs with customized resumes and cover letters, all without success… According to Wikipedia, “‘Purple squirrel’ is a term used by employment recruiters to describe a job candidate with precisely the right education, set of experiences, and range of qualifications that perfectly fits a job’s requirements…. The implication is that over-specification of the requirements makes a perfect candidate as hard to find as a purple squirrel.” During a downturn in the economy or for any field for which there are too many highly qualified candidates, this may reflect just how picky recruiters can be for the person they are looking for to fill a job. It’s not so much of a deal for all of those of us who are viewed as neither purple nor probably in some cases even squirrels.

In a world of leaner organizations a “purple squirrel … could immediately handle all the expansive [and wider] variety of responsibilities of a job description with no training, and would allow businesses to function with [even doing more with] fewer workers,” at least theoretically. 

On the other hand, some words of hope as Junge (2012) also argues there are also those who argue “the effort seeking them is often wasted… and that being more open to candidates that don’t have all the skills, or retraining existing employees, are sensible alternatives to an over-long search.” In fact, no less than Elon Musk wrote in 2012 that organizations not look for “purple squirrels.”  

So here I am. As someone who is eclectic, more of a utility player, I am need of the someone who is looking for that. Where art thou?!

[For more information see Google recruiter’s Michael B. Junge (2012). Purple Squirrel: Stand Out, Land Interviews, and Master the Modern Job Market.]

* On this little thing called “feeling (de)valued” – part 3

So fresh out of having been “devalued” out of your last organization plus the other disheartening things listed in part 2 of this series, then you get to the joyous (NOT!) setting of working to figure out what comes next? This also is not fun as for many of us mere mortals, the world doesn’t just line up at your door to ask you to work for them. So resumes go out (which is fine) but requests for interviews don’t then come back (which is not). Instead, you wait to hear or when you do it’s a “thank you, but no.” None of this is helped by the reality that while you would like an answer to your resume tomorrow, the process used by many organizations may mean it’s up to a month or even more given how slowly their wheels turn on this process. So what feels like an increasingly giant devaluation process continues. Sort of like waves working on a sand castle.

Where “sand castle” is a good word as one shouldn’t say “I’m unemployed,” but instead something like “I’m living with a downturn in employment at present.” Your employment isn’t hopefully your entire life but instead just a part of it. Just as you were part of one sand castle, now you need to be looking for the next one that comes into focus.

But the above is ever so much easier to write than to live!

* On this little thing called “feeling (de)valued” – part 2

So you’ve been clearly shown you are not valued and have been told you’re not wanted anymore. What comes next?
It’s not a whole lot of laughs as out the door you go. Having worked hard to take away your sense of value, this also instantly takes away:

  • a sense of value (this is ongoing) as you realize you weren’t viewed as useful enough to be kept around anymore.
  • what for me is an important network of friends as in coworkers. Friendships don’t necessarily end but most of them fade away, some of them amazingly fast. As in were they ever there? Assurances that we’ll get together don’t actually happen. Most don’t send a message. Most of those who do quickly stop sending them.
  • another network of professional contacts as your email account is zapped.
  • a place to go to each day with things to do.
  • in a society where so much expectation is placed on having someplace to work and so much shame placed on not working, a growing sense of shame as the time between jobs grows longer.
  • This feeling grows as sincere efforts to explain how you could be of value to various organizations are met with at best polite indications of how skilled the applicants were who applied to this job.