Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hit That Rap

"When I get my powers."
Stopped at Frank's Place for the first time in a while and dropped of some food and a space heater. Frank watches over a dozen guys or more, trying his best to keep them out of trouble and find them a job. It's one of those tiny efforts to help our struggling Akronites.

We got talking after HOPE about what was the best strategy to dealing with people who are homeless. Different cities confront it differently.

Akron has placed its weight behind the Haven, which during the cold months, is packed with men lying on mats.

Jason told us about an effort in Denver to build a large apartment complex in downtown to help the people who are homeless. The city decided to take the issue on itself, show it had some interest in the people, give them a feeling of self worth.

Should there be more smaller pockets of "Havens" around that speak specifically to the small group they cater to? Is a one-size-fits-all approach comprehensive enough?

We didn't know the answer, but we figured there were dozens of combinations. Getting anything in motion seems to be the most difficult bit.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Frustrations Felt

Chester yearns for San Diego

There's a lot of space under the Y-Bridge. For years it's been a forgotten, untended void in Akron.

But is it a void?

Not really. It's actually a temporary residence of some of our Project HOPE friends.

Last night, current Y-Bridge residents told us that they were informed that the area will soon be cleared for a parking lot

The layout and population under the bridge changes quite frequently. There's been Wednesdays when we've visited a dozen buddies down there, and other times we've visited one lone tent.

The wooded area in the region is prime real estate for people who are camping -- it's close to the downtown amenities -- the library, Salvation Army, soup kitchens, and the lot.

Mama hands us some Christmas cards.
Over the years, the people living in the tents have been pushed further and further from downtown as a sort of answer to homelessness.

I think it was last year when the Beacon ran stories about how the people on the corners flying a sign were a danger, a nuisance, and all out scam.

We like to demonize the poor or make them invisible -- that seems to be our answer homelessness.

No doubt, not everybody is pleasant. Not everybody is truthful. Not everybody is friendly. But these facts are universal no matter what class your judging.

Sure, I get frustrated with some of our HOPE friends from time to time. I've even quarreled with some. I do the same with other friends or coworkers, but it doesn't mean I dump on them or forget about them.

I also have students in class who I find difficult and who consistently don't want to put forth any effort, but I don't give up on them and focus on just the easy students; though, that would make my job easier.


I handed out a one-time bus pass last night to a buddy. He said, "Well, this will get me half way to work. I have to make a bus switch along the way." I handed him another. The dude wants to work, but he owns no vehicle and is bound to the bus route. Few of us would put up with such inconvenience.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Today is the most important day of the year.

Alley. Before the football.

Allan and his Thursday night matinee. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gropin' Mouse

First, Michael Douglas ordered milk. Mr. Weiss suggested the drive thru on Arlington.

I had never been to a drive through before with a van full of students to order milk before. So, I thought it was a great idea.

And man, did we save time. We drove into the MJ Drive Thru,

"Do you have milk?"

"Blue or red?"

"Um, blue. Let's go Democratic milk."

In no time, I was forking over four of Fox's bucks and holding a gallon of blue labelled milk -- 2%.

We had time before our 7:17 PM appointed meeting with Michael Douglas in the back alley of the Mayflower, so we decided to visit the library to distribute some Project HOPE Thanksgiving Dinner fliers. Mrs. Weiss gave the students some hats she had knitted, and off our little ones went, into the library.

While the kids made their way through the library, I helped out Allan and Betsy with food and hand lotion.

The kids came back successful, delivered fliers, hats, and conversation.


We made our way to Jimmy's eventually to try to help with his Internet problems, worked on it for a while, but didn't succeed. Something with the router, we thought in the end.

While some of the kids worked on Jimmy's computer, he introduced the rest of us to his family by pointing to people in a newly hung picture on his wall. The family reunion photo had been taken this summer at his sister's house. What a great shot. What a great show of family union.

Friday, November 14, 2014


Batball. It's complicated.
Part of the goal of Project HOPE is placing students in a situation where they're in the spotlight, where they have to decide, where they have to adapt -- they're the teacher, we're the observers.

Students often have difficulty with this. We spend so much of our time making sure the school day and lessons are so structured and organized that the students don't have the opportunity to work through the disorganization that is real life.

Sometimes we challenge our students on Project HOPE to come up with creative names for themselves or "what if you were a color?" questions. Their first reaction to to ask for the rules or for clarifications, and our first response is "No, there are no rules. You decide."

Last night we placed a lot of responsibility on the students. They distributed all the food in the alleyway. They told people to wait for seconds until everyone else was served. They carried the conversations.

The thing is, the kids can do it, and they do a great job. The hard part is convincing them that it's okay to do or that they can do it at all.

This is one of my favorite parts of Project HOPE. Students are placed in the driver's seat. Students learn by having to adapt. Students are faced with the oddity of reality.

There are no classrooms out on Project HOPE. There are no rules, and the reality is what the kids make of it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sniper Diaper

There was a line shouted by a distant soldier from the film A Bridge Too Far that my younger mind thought went, "Sniper diaper!" Well, that's not the line. Actually, it could be. I'm not really sure, but given my older knowledge of World War II, I've never come across any information on battle diapers.

So, I began talking to a fellow short guy last night, and after some initial hilarity, he said, "Well, being short didn't hurt my ability in Iraq to take out my sniper target from a mile away." Wow. I couldn't quite beat that one. Maybe my ability to drink coffee? I can do that pretty well for a short guy.

For the next 20 minutes, he told us of his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. He mentioned this gun and that gun, all of which went in one ear and out the other. The kids seemed to recognize the models.

"So, how do you hit something from that far away?" I asked.

He rattled off a list of important factors, "You have to take into consideration the curvature of the earth, the humidity, the . . . the . . ." Way too much for me to understand. The curvature of the earth?!

This dude, now on the streets, was once responsible to taking out high-level military personnel in Saddam Hussein's guard. He was responsible for gathering intelligence that would lead his team to targets.

"What do you feel when you take out a target as a sniper?" a news correspondent once asked a colleague of his.

"The recoil."