Thursday, February 26, 2015

From Robots to Humans

Long Hair Dan
We spend a lot of time formulating a structure for our students. One that's organized with all the paths laid out. One that explains what needs to be done, how to succeed, what options to take into consideration.

Students move from class to class with the sound of a tone. They sit. They listen. They write. They study what needs to be studied and they pass the test. Success!

We've drained so much autonomy from them, they don't know how to adapt. We've organized such a rigid system, they wait for our instructions, then they react. We tell them how to do it, then they do it, our way.

They sit back and listen, then move.

That's not Project HOPE. When the students ask how to do it, we tell them to figure it how. "Do it however you think it should be done."

"Should I put mustard on the sandwiches?" "Would you like to put mustard on the sandwich?" "I don't know."

It takes a lot on Project HOPE to rewire the students. They wait for us to tell them what to say to our friends on the streets, but we encourage them to take the lead, make the decisions, run the show.

It's tough. It's not normal. And we like that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Thursday, February 5, 2015



In search for a tent in the woods.
A lot of people out there need help. You focus on one of them, the others fall. You focus on five of them, the others fall. You spread your efforts to give a little to all of them, and you end up improving nothing, just maintaining.

We grapple with this reality all the time, but we've come to accept it as reality. We might help someone in the short term, but in the long run, they're in the same state. We might give a smile to someone, and they might take that with them to their next challenge, so they haven't fallen, but they haven't climbed necessarily either.

So we sit in a van deflated and frustrated sometimes, wondering to each other, "What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Does it even matter?" And even though these questions tear into our heads at times, our hearts seem to prevail most often. But is that such a good thing?

Friday, January 30, 2015

How do you know when you see a lot of people?

Cody asked for candles. "They really help, man." He lives in a tent in the woods.

Adam's faced looked pummeled. He wore no glasses either. Apparently, he got jumped. A guy asked him for a dollar, and when he said that he couldn't help, the guy knocked him from behind. A poor guy beat up a poor guy for a dollar.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


This is a different world. You've had a fight with your only friend because she asked for money to pay for utilities. She spent too much on drugs.

This is a different world. You have a home, but you traveled downtown for food because you have limited resources. It's 8 PM and you need to get back home. It'll take two buses and one hour to go four miles.

This is a different world. You've been laid off because of the recent slow down in business. Your sitting in your home in the dark. You can't pay your utilities.

This is a different world. You need ten blankets, one girlfriend, and two cats to stay warm tonight. You live in a tent in the woods.

I could either step in for a visit or turn away.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Feast and Famine

Some cocoa before snuggling into his tent.
Shawn stood cold at our window and told jokes ... of course. He works construction and paints during the summer, but the winter weather frowns upon such work, so Shawn goes hungry.

"That's life," Shawn said with a shrug.

That's life? I thought.

Is that life?

Shawn continued, "Some days are feast and some days are famine. Feast, famine, feast, famine, feast, famine, famine, famine, famine, famine."

Is that life? For a lot of us, it is life.

He walked to the back of the van to tell the kids a joke.


It was another sub-zero night. Many wanted to spend the night indoors, and we helped some make that a reality (Thanks Peter Maurin Center)

However, Josh was going to spend another night in his tent. He claims to have pounds of blankets, and a girlfriend to snuggle up with ... if she doesn't take up all the room. He acted as if he were lying there squished and stiff because of all the room his girlfriend took.

Another forgotten veteran. Ignored to invisibility.