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wellstone dem's Journal - Archives
Posted by wellstone dem in General Discussion
Fri Dec 24th 2010, 07:28 PM
I work for a non-profit agency that serves the poor. What we specifically do, does not matter for this story.

In October, we began working with a mentally ill homeless man to get him housing.

He did not want people to know he was mentally ill. He would not go to a shelter, because of what that did to his mental illness. He refused to sign the releases necessary to get the medical records that we could use to prove his disability and then get him into subsidized housing. One co-worker told me that she could read a paper he was holding, and could see the language we needed to get him housing, but he wouldn't give her the paper.

Co-workers met with him, and talked with him, and never judged him. He kept coming to the office, and staff kept telling him what we needed. In November, it was getting cold, and one day I met him at the doorway, he'd stepped into our building to get warm. I got him a cup of coffee and asked him if my co-workers were treating him well. He told me the people in our office were good people, but that he did not have housing. I told him, "You are right, they are good people. You can trust them." And he was warm for the morning, but didn't have housing.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, another co-worker came to me and asked if it was o.k. to pay for a room. He said, "I'm not doing it for him. I won't sleep at night, knowing he is outside when I'm supposed to be celebrating Thanksgiving." More than one of my co-workers kicked in a few dollars, and he had housing that weekend.

But he still did not have a home.

Last week, on Tuesday, I got to the office a bit early, because I had a meeting. He was sitting outside the door to our office suite, shivering. I told him I would get him hot coffee. As I said that, yet another co-worker brought a space heater and a blanket. He told us that when he had got back to his shelter under the bridge that he had found mice in his sleeping bag. He had tried to get blankets or another sleeping bag from other sources, but could not sleep and could not keep warm.

I went to my meeting, where directors of many non-profits were in attendance. As we introduced ourselves, we were supposed to say something about our work but were asked to select something that provided optimism in this difficult time. I told them that after talking with the man without a home, that I didn't think would have housing, I could not be optimistic.

But on Thursday, the staff person who had worked with him on almost a daily basis for 6 weeks, got word that a property manager for housing for the disabled was willing to accept a signed document from a doctor, without the details of the disability. This man still needed the money for his damage deposit and first month/s rent, but if he had it, he could move in on Friday.

And on Friday she came to the office and found that office staff had raised the money, and had brought in sheets and pillow cases, towels, and dishes, and groceries. One person had an extra bed. Someone brought a coffee maker. There were chairs in the basement that were put in storage when other chairs were donated. Everything was to help make sure this man did not just have housing, that he would have a home.

But when we brought the items we had collected, we found that he had a recliner, a table and two chairs already in the apartment. And there were groceries in his cupboard. He had moved into the apartment with nothing, and others in the apartment building saw that, and they called their kids or friends, and "a TV is on the way too." While we were there, the on-site managers brought a pizza.

This man gave us a tour of the apartment before we left, and then he thanked one of the primary staff people in private. She told me that he started to cry, and didn't want to join the rest of us with tears in his eyes.

That night we had our office holiday party. One of our staff brought me an ornament of a pig with wings. She said, "At the start of the week, we all would have said that pigs would fly before "____" had housing, so I guess pigs must be flying today."

So on this Christmas Eve, I am so grateful for flying pigs.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate that holiday. Peace to all.
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Posted by wellstone dem in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Sun Oct 24th 2010, 10:27 AM
I was out doorknocking to help Tarryl Clark to defeat Michele Bachmann. A man driving by pulled over and asked who I was campaigning for. I mentioned Tarryl and a local candidate. It was clear he was not supporting the local candidate so I asked about Tarryl. He asked about what she thought about 'the Somalis'. (This area has one of the highest population of refugees from the Somali Civil war in the county. All legal immigrants)

I asked him why he was concerned about that issue. He told me that "All the Somali's come over here and none of them work, it's not like when our people came over" I told him I didn't think that was true, that a man worked in my office who had been here leess than a year, and as soon as he came, all he wanted to ddo was work. He told me that man was the exception. I told him I didn't think that was true as there were many Somali applicants for the job and that I had met other somali's who talked about how hard it was to find work. He told me, "Well then he took a job from a regular American." I replied, "And that's probably what happened when my great grandfather came over, he took a job that someone else could have had." Well, that kind of stumped him. And I had to move on to more productive campaigning so I said, "You should talk to the man I work with. He might change your mind." And the man responded, "I wouldn't talk with any of them."
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Posted by wellstone dem in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Sep 13th 2010, 09:44 PM
I was in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office and I sat with my client--who is an immigrant, with a staff person from our office--who is an immigrant, surrounded by people from Asia, from Africa, from Europe, and from the Americas--all immigrants and all (except our staff person) waiting to take their citizenship test. And as I waited I saw people exiting after their interview with huge smiles on their faces, one man who had entered when we did turned and waived at us and gave a giant grin. (He had come in alone, and had no one else with whom to celebrate.) These people were so happy to know they would soon be American citizens.

And as I sat there, a picture came up on CNN which was playing in the waiting area which showed a man wearing a t-shirt that said, "Immigrants are like sperm, millions get in and only one works." And my joy turned to shame and embarrassment.

I wish, I wish there were more kindness in this world.
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Posted by wellstone dem in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Fri Jul 03rd 2009, 11:37 AM
Why I'm proud of Minnesota and how we handled this amazingly close election.


#1 We have same day registration at the polls
#2 We have an automatic recount where the election is within 1%
#3 We have a paper trail of all ballots cast
#4 Our secretary of state, a democrat, appointed 2 republican appointed judges, one independent appointed judge, and one elected judge (non-partisan election) to the canvassing board.
#5 The recount process was open to the public, my county broadcast it's count on the web
#6 The canvassing board process was open to the public and webcast
#7 Every challenged ballot was posted on the web
#8 Every ruling of the canvassing board was posted on the web--I could look at the ballot and see the ruling.
#9 Every paper filed in court has been posted on the web.
#10 Much of the original recount was completed during one of the snowiest winters in Minnesota history-not one day was missed because of the weather.
#11 The District Court challenge was heard by 3 judges, one appointed by a Republican Governor, another by a Democratic Governor, the third by an Independent Governor.
#12 The District Court judges reviewed evidence that could have been piled 21 feet high. (I talked to one of the judges from the panel on Sunday.)
#13 The District Court trial was all webcast.
#14 Despite the volume of evidence, the District Court ruled in 3 months, a unanimous decision, despite the multi-party affiliation of the panel.
#15 The Minnesota Supreme Court argument was webcast.
#16 The Minnesota Supreme Court, consisting of 3 GOP appointees, and 2 independent appointees, AND NO DEMOCRATS, ruled unanimously, affirming the lower court decision. (Compare to Gore v. Bush judges)
#17 Although the process took a bit of time, it was transparent and thorough. No one who has paid attention can credibly argue with the result. And when you think that the difference was 300 out of 3,000,000 votes, perhaps taking a bit of time to make sure it was accurate and lawful wasn't so bad.

Congratulations Senator Franken.
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Posted by wellstone dem in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Jul 01st 2009, 08:33 PM
#1 We have same day registration at the polls
#2 We have an automatic recount where the election is within 1%
#3 We have a paper trail of ballots cast
#4 Our secretary of state, a democrat, appointed 2 republican appointed judges, one independent appointed judge, and one elected judge (non-partisan election) to the canvassing board.
#5 The recount process was open to the public, my county broadcast it's count on the web
#6 The canvassing board process was open to the public and webcast
#7 Every challenged ballot was posted on the web
#8 Every ruling of the canvassing board was posted on the web
#9 Every paper filed in court has been posted on the web
#10 Much of the original recount was completed during one of the snowiest winters in Minnesota history-not one day was missed because of the weather.
#11 The District Court challenge was heard by 3 judges, one appointed by a Republican Governor, another by a Democratic Governor, the third by an Independent Governor.
#12 The District Court judges reviewed evidence that could have been piled 21 feet high. (I talked to one of the judges from the panel on Sunday.)
#13 The District Court trial was all webcast.
#14 Despite the volume of evidence, the District Court ruled in 3 months, a unanimous decision, despite the multi-party affiliation of the panel.
#15 The Minnesota Supreme Court argument was webcast.
#16 The Minnesota Supreme Court, consisting of 3 GOP appointees, and 2 independent appointees, AND NO DEMOCRATS, ruled unanimously, affirming the lower court decision. (Compare to Gore v. Bush judges)
#17 Although the process took a bit of time, it was transparent and thorough. No one who has paid attention can credibly argue with the result. And when you think that the difference was 300 out of 3,000,000 votes, perhaps taking a bit of time to make sure it was accurate and lawful wasn't so bad.

Congratulations Senator Franken.
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Posted by wellstone dem in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Tue Jun 30th 2009, 08:15 PM
#1 We have same day registration at the polls
#2 We have an automatic recount where the election is within 1%
#3 We have a paper trail of ballots case
#4 Our secretary of state appointed 2 republican appointed judges, one independent appointed judge, and one elected judge (non-partisan election) to the canvassing board.
#5 The recount process was open to the public, my county broadcast it's count on the web
#6 The canvassing board process was open to the public and webcast
#7 Every challenged ballot was posted on the web
#8 Every ruling of the canvassing board was posted on the web
#9 Every paper filed in court has been posted on the web
#10 Much of the original recount was completed during one of the snowiest winters in Minnesota history-not one day was missed because of the weather.
#11 The District Court challenge was heard by 3 judges, one appointed by a Republican Governor, another by a Democratic Governor, the third by an Independent Governor.
#12 The District Court judges reviewed evidence that could have been piled 21 feet high. (I talked to one of the judges from the panel on Sunday.)
#13 The District Court trial was all webcast.
#14 Despite the volume of evidence, the District Court ruled in 3 months, a unanimous decision despite the multi-party affiliation of the panel.
#15 The Minnesota Supreme Court Case was webcast.
#16 The Minnesota Supreme Court, consisting of 3 GOP appointees, and 2 independent appointees, ruled unanimously, affirming the lower court decision. (Compare to Gore v. Bush judges)
#17 Although the process took a bit of time, it was transparent and thorough. No one who has paid attention can credibly argue with the result. And when you think that the difference was 300 out of 3,000,000 votes, perhaps taking a bit of time to make sure it was accurate and lawful wasn't so bad.

Congratulations Senator Franken.
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Posted by wellstone dem in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Fri Feb 27th 2009, 07:38 PM
the kids who got made fun of for the clothes they wore, and then, when their mom got a good job and was able to go off of assistance and (after several pay checks able to buy them some "name" tennis shoes) who heard, "Hey, welfare kids aren't supposed to wear shoes like those."

For the parents who volunteer at one food shelf, and then go to another to get help because of how we shame those in need.

For the parents who wear "poor looking" clothes when they go to the grocery store so that the clerk won't make comments about how nice they dress when the use food stamps.

For the woman in line ahead of my co-worker who was using food stamps when the women behind my co-worker said, "Must be nice to have food stamps to buy ice cream bar." That woman had the courage to respond, "It sure is nice. And tonight when your kids go the football game, think of my kids who have to stay home because we can't afford for them to go. And Saturday, when your kids go to the movies, think of my kids, playing in the park because we can't afford a movie. And Sunday, when you take your family to brunch, think of my kids, because that's the day we will have our ice cream bar. All weekend, I will have reminded them, 'On Sunday, we get our ice cream bar.'"

And for my daughter who was called, "the foster kid" until I adopted her.

Thank you for a beautiful post.
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Posted by wellstone dem in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Sat Feb 14th 2009, 05:44 PM
It was a hell of a week at work. Monday, a co-worker was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. On Wednesday, I learned that a major funding source was lost for one of the offices of the non-profit for whom I work. On Monday I will be telling the people who work in that office, all wonderful people dedicated to serving the poor, that come October they may not have a job.

But the real kicker was on Friday. In way of explanation, I'm a lawyer. A co-worker came to my office and said a good friend was there and she had just found out that her husband was physically abusing her children. So I went to talk with her. We talked through the options as my co-worker held her friend and as the woman sobbed. We talked through how to keep her kids safe, and to keep her safe. And then she said, "I feel so guilty, all I'm thinking about is what am I going to do with him not there to provide child care."

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST "What am I going to do with him not there to provide child care."

In a just world, I would have been able to say, "Here's the number of a sliding fee day care program." But I couldn't do that.

Now I'm crying, as I write this.

I told told her that she shouldn't feel guilty, she was trying to figure out how to keep her kids safe, and how to feed her kids too. I told her that we would work with her to find out if she could get child care help. I told her we would help her get any public assistance she qualified for. And that she could get child support. And I made sure she would be safe this weekend, and gave her a notepad, so that she could write down every question she had, and then speak with me on Monday. And I gave her my cell phone number. But I'm wondering too, how will she be able to afford child care.

There are no words.

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Posted by wellstone dem in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Fri Jan 23rd 2009, 09:10 PM
It was Martin Luther King Day. A day off. I had to work, but no one else was there. But then there was the community meeting. The announcement included a statement "what if you had the chance to talk with homeless people, people who volunteer at food shelves, a legal aid lawyer, ..." Well, that was that, someone from our office had to go and the only volunteer would have had to bring a 2 year old, so I told her to stay home, that I needed to honor MLK. (Usually I stay home and feel guilty.)

So I went, I hate soup at a table filled with men who lived in transitional housing. Usually, I'm across the desk from the poor. But here I was at a table, eating great soup and a great slice of bread. They told me about the transitional housing and the programs and their appreciation for the help and the wish to have their own place. We then were told to create new groups around particular issues such as "homelessness" "affordable housing" "how we spend our time" "social security" etc.

I wanted to to go home, but after there were way to many people ended up back at my original table, with most of the original men and a few others. The talk about affordable housing ended up being a discussion about how hard it is for people with some past housing problems, with a felony, or bad credit to find housing. Those of us with homes listened. Then someone said, "But what can we do?" And another person said, "There should be a law..." And pretty soon we ended up with 3 pretty good ideas.

#1. We should have a three strikes policy that gives landlords who will rent to people with a less than perfect rental history, a tax break...but also requires the tenant to work to clean up past problems (follow probation, pay back rent--even a little.)

#2. Have a time limit on how far back a LL can look in deciding not to rent to someone. (So no evictions after two or three years should count as a clean record.)

#3. More folks who can advocate on behalf of the poor. (And that wasn't even my idea.)

And this all came from listening to the poor. I know some legislators, and some lobbyists for the poor, and they are getting letters from me.
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All those doors, the African-American woman who said "She's here about Obama!!!", the elderly white woman who at first said that she had heard Obama would only be for the blacks, but when I asked her what she thought, she told me about her African-American son-in-law and her bi-racial grandson, the elderly woman who told me the last time she voted republican was when she voted for Eisenhower--and her husband who said, "You never told me you voted for Eisenhower." The woman on the phone who said, "I've been waiting for someone to call, I wanted a call so much so that I could say, 'yes, I'm voting for Obama." And the woman on election night who, once the election was called, came up to me and said, "I don't know you, but I have to hug someone." It was all about today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
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All those doors, the African-American woman who said "She's here about Obama!!!", the elderly black woman who at first said that she had heard Obama would only be for the blacks, but when I asked her what she thought, she told me about her African-American son-in-law and her bi-racial grandson, the elderly woman who told me the last time she voted republican was when she voted for Eisenhower--and her husband who said, "You never told me you voted for Eisenhower." It was all about today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
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http://www.theuptake.org /


#1 We have same day registration
#2 We have an automatic recount where the election is within 1%
#3 We have a paper trail
#4 Our secretary of state appointed 2 republican appointed judges, one independent appointed judge, and one elected judge to the canvassing board.
#5 The recount process was open to the public, my county broadcast it's count on the web
#6 The canvassing board process has been open to the public and webcast
#7 Every challenged ballot was posted on the web
#8 Every ruling of the canvassing board was posted on the web
#9 Every paper filed in court has been posted on the web
#10 Much of this has been completed during one of the snowiest winters in Minnesota history.
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Posted by wellstone dem in Poverty
Sat Jan 03rd 2009, 09:49 AM
My dad was 1st in his high school class in North Dakota, or course that first out of four. His family lost their farm during the depression. After graduation, he became an oil truck driver in Western North Dakota. He tried to enlist, but his teeth and eyes were too bad, but once Pearl Harbor was attacked, he was drafted. Before going overseas he was in Florida. He was taking a bus one day, and a pregnant black woman got on the bus. He stood up to give her his seat and the bus driver yelled, "Sit down boy!" The woman said, "Don't make no trouble white boy." Dad got off at the next stop and walked to town.

Dad served in India. At the end of the war (having converted to Catholicism in India), he returned to North Dakota. A parish priest helped him enroll in a Catholic College in Minnesota. As his Dad tried to find transportation to Minnesota, one man said that farmers weren't supposed to go to college. Grandpa just got mad, and found another way. Dad made it to college a week after classes started. (He met my mom in college.) Dad graduated, taught high school English for two years, then joined the education department of the college. He taught child development (taking his kids to class as demonstrations of the different stages of development or arrested development) and eventually human relations.

I read an interview done with my dad, by a masters level student doing a paper on changes in education. Even back in the 70s, Dad was talking about the importance of the "common good" in structuring our communities.

Dad's 89 now, oh how I love that man.
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Posted by wellstone dem in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Fri Jan 02nd 2009, 04:25 PM


Yesterday I went to visit a woman in the hospital. She is near death. Her caregiver, an adult foster care provider, for the last 15 years of her life is a woman, Joan, who has serious health problems herself. I first got to know Joan, nearly 30 years ago. Joan, had grown up in poverty, and had eventually found her calling as a community service worker with a Community Action Program. There was no homeless shelter in our community, so when the police found someone who needed housing, they called Joan. She would give these strangers shelter in her home. I'm a fairly decent human being, but I'm not that good.

Joan had a tough life. She's had at least 3 husbands since I've known her. Her most recent husband died a few years ago. Joan's in her 60s or 70s now. She called me because the woman she has cared for is at a point where someone needs to decide about the machines that are used to keep her alive. So I went to the hospital and bought a cup of soup for Joan, and we talked about these tough decisions. I didn't to anything more, but when I left Joan said she felt more calm inside.

This is just one story of a woman who has spent her life, a very hard life, making the way easier for others.

I will try to do the same for even one month. What a world we could create if we all did this.
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Posted by wellstone dem in Poverty
Sat Dec 06th 2008, 07:41 PM
and because I'm a single mom, I brought my 10 year old daughter with me. She worked on homework, while I talked to 3 or 4 people about their legal problems. When we left, I asked her what she thought. She said, "But they didn't look like homeless people, they just looked like us." We talked about how they are like us.

If people would spend more time looking for ways we are the same, rather than ways we are different, we might be more willing to give folks the help they really need.
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