Detroit police program launches to help alleviate officers’ job-related stress

MAY 11, 2014 AT 6:31 PM

By George Hunter

The Detroit News


Detroit— In a city often described as a war zone, police officials have launched a program to help cops deal with a condition best known for afflicting soldiers fighting overseas: post-traumatic stress disorder.

The first phase of the program kicked off last month, when 20 officers underwent training to recognize the symptoms of PTSD. On May 5, doctors trained Detroit Police Command staff about identifying problems associated with stress.

“This is a unique approach — the officers are driving this,” Assistant Chief James White said. “This isn’t going to be the command staff forcing officers into anything; it’s about keeping good people good.”

The program is in its early stages, and police officials are awaiting doctors’ input before implementing protocols to help officers deal with PTSD, First Assistant Chief Lashinda Houser said.

“One of the components will be peer-to-peer assistance,” Houser said. “Sometimes officers may not feel comfortable talking to commanders, but they’d probably be more likely to open up to each other.”

John Marx, director of the Law Enforcement Survival Institute, a Colorado-based consulting and training organization that focuses on police stress-related problems, said PTSD treatment for cops is “an evolving issue.”

“Officer stress isn’t anything new, but these stress-related issues are becoming more recognizable,” said Marx, who served as a police officer for 23 years.

“In the past, I think we’ve always placed our attention elsewhere, so I’m thrilled to see more emphasis being put on this issue, because lots of officers see some terrible things over the course of their careers.”

Detroit Police Sgt. Javier Chapa said he’s seen his share of horrors during his 21 years on the force — and suffered the emotional fallout.

“Some of the crimes we see … getting shot at — it can cause serious stress,” said Chapa, who works in the Organized Theft Unit and serves as a crisis negotiator, after years of working on the Gang Squad and in various precincts.

“I’ve seen people decapitated, cut in half, babies killed. Some things you just can’t get out of your head.

“I’ve suffered from stress-related symptoms throughout my career,” Chapa said. “My hair has fallen out. I’ve had anxiety attacks. I drank heavily for a few years. I didn’t know what PTSD was then, but I knew something wasn’t right.”

Chapa said he’s had friends on the force commit suicide or turn to alcohol. Many of them, he said, are reluctant to ask for help.

“A lot of officers might have a hard time admitting they have a problem, because they might think they’d be viewed as weak,” he said. “Police officers think they should be in control of their emotions, so it’s hard for them to admit they’ve got a problem.”

Job-related stress for officers leads to domestic violence, alcoholism, divorce and, some believe, higher suicide rates than the general population.

The National Center for Women & Policing reported last year that two studies found at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, compared to 10 percent of families in the general population. And some studies suggest suicide rates among police officers are as much as three times the national average, although some have questioned that data.

Chapa said he was able to overcome his emotional issues by first admitting he had a problem.

“There came a time where I stopped being a victim and said I needed to take control of my life,” he said.

“I’ve been sober for nine years. It helps to talk about what you’re going through. If you don’t, all that stress builds up, and there’s no way to release it — and then the wheels fall off.”


From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140511/METRO01/305110007#ixzz31hwfayDN

Post-traumatic stress disorder: The flames inside firefighters’ minds

by The Calgary Journal

How the mental illness is affecting our first-line responders

firefighter-thumbnailIt was a call he says he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

There had been a crash involving a child and a vehicle — and Darren, a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department, or CFD, since 2000, was one of the first on scene.

Darren, who asked not to use his real name due to the sensitivity of the story, said the child had been dragged by the vehicle and was conscious the whole time.

He remembers the boy asking him if he was going to die.

Professional firefighting is considered one of the most dangerous and stressful occupations. These first responders attend not only fire-related incidents, but are also trained emergency medical technicians. The events they witness on a daily basis would leave most people in shock.

Fire departments across Canada have seen an increase in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms among firefighters and have decided that more needs to be done to combat this mental health issue.

But accurate statistics regarding how big of an issue this really is are hard to come by.

Which is why in September 2011, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) unanimously passed a resolution to lobby the federal government to create a committee examining the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder and its subsequent addictions within fire services personnel across the country, as well as to provide funding for treatment services.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, is a term closely associated with military personnel, a mental health issue most civilians perceive as something that couldn’t possibly affect them.firefighter1Post-traumatic stress disorder affects one in 10 people.
Photo by: Tessa Clayton

It’s caused by a traumatic event, called a stressor, that involves death or serious injury to oneself or others — things like violent personal assault, car accidents, natural disasters and military combat are all listed stressors by the Canadian Mental Health Association. They cause the individual so much anxiety that it can become difficult for them to lead a normal life.

But PTSD can hit closer to home than we realize.

It’s a well-known issue within the RCMP. A Globe and Mail article published in August 2011, citing statistics provided by Veterans Affairs Canada, stated more than 1,700 Mounties were receiving post-traumatic stress disorder pensions — up from 1,437 in 2010 and 1,239 in 2009.

And it’s expected that when our Canadian soldiers return from military missions overseas, a certain percentage of them will eventually be diagnosed with PTSD.

That begs the question: if our national police force and military members are expected to suffer from this disorder, what does the local situation look like when it comes to first-responders who attend critical incidents on a daily basis?

The images in your head

Post-traumatic stress disorder is one type of several anxiety disorders that affects one in 10 people, making it the most common mental health problem, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

The disorder is very individualistic — what affects one person may have no effect on another whatsoever and can be compounded. However, there are common symptoms: re-living the event through memories, nightmares or flashbacks, avoidance and emotional numbing, increased alertness and aggression or insomnia. It can also lead to drug or alcohol addiction, depression or other illnesses.

Darren recalls two specific incidents that left him not “feeling right.”

It was the second incident involving the child who had been hit and dragged by a vehicle roughly three years ago that really affected him, he said.

Darren said he specifically remembers the details of the boy asking him if he was going to die.

“And then he reached up and actually touched my face, so I’m trying to comfort him but trying not to tell him ‘yes’ or ‘no,'” Darren said, adding that at that time in his career he’d attended other medical and fire-related calls where people had died on scene.

“As much training as you can be given ahead of time there’s nothing that trains you or prepares you for that type of situation.”

Due to Freedom of Information laws, Darren wasn’t able to track down the boy to find out how he was doing, or if he had even survived, which made dealing with the situation worse.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the incident continued to bother Darren — he said he wasn’t sleeping well and became more irritable.

He was working a shift with a member of the critical incident stress team when he took the first step to dealing with the issue. The two friends sat and talked about the incident and through the other member Darren was able to find an external counsellor who he received further help from. He said he did eventually find out through unofficial channels that the boy did survive.

Darren never received an official diagnosis, but his counsellor suggested he might have been suffering from PTSD.

The ‘rescue mindset’

Fire departments across Canada have measures in place to help those who may be affected by a particular call — resources such as critical incidence response teams to provide debriefing, counseling and physicians for further referrals — which are mostly covered by employee health benefits.

But despite the range of services available to those who may be struggling, the actual numbers of how many members access these is relatively unknown, due to the sensitivity of the issues at hand and confidentiality concerns.

Ian Crosby, co-ordinator of the wellness and fitness centre for the CFD, said only one to two per cent of their members are officially diagnosed with PTSD each year.

But he said he believes the actual number of members who may be affected is much higher.

“It’s pretty hard to say how many people we have affected and how many are out there that we have no knowledge of,” Crosby said.

The CFD has more than 1,360 members now — 91 per cent of those in uniform — making it the third largest department in Canada.

He said he believes there are two main reasons behind a firefighter’s lack of willingness to come forward: the stigma attached to mental health issues and the “rescue mindset” found in emergency services.

“There’s that stigma attached to it I think, in the general population anyway, but in emergency services I think it’s compounded even further,” Crosby explained.

“You’re dealing with people that tend to have a ‘rescue mindset,’ where you’re helping others and not necessarily looking to whatever issues you might be having internally. You tend to kind of put that aside.”

And while this attitude is courageous, it can be dangerous as well.

Dr. Cory Wowk, a physician at the CFD’s wellness and fitness centre, said he and his colleagues treat firefighters with some element of a mental health issue at the centre almost every day. While this doesn’t mean full-blown PTSD, even a minor diagnosis of mild depression “may play a role of some PTSD stuff in the past.”

Implications of PTSD on the job depends on the severity of the issue, he said, because it can hinder firefighters from performing at top level, cause poor sleep, lower concentration skills, and increase irritability. Only in extreme cases is a leave of absence given, as Wowk said these factors often affect the firefighter’s quality of life more than their job, and as such are still able to work effectively.

But the biggest hurdle is that PTSD is a very personal issue.

Most firefighters are “self-medicating,” meaning they prefer to deal with emotions and other stresses on their own, another cultural aspect that makes getting help difficult.

This means that more often than not, mental health issues within fire departments go unreported and undiagnosed — making it harder for medical professionals to provide the help that firefighters need.

The most in-depth study done on mental health within fire services was back in 1986 by researchers from the U.S. Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. They wanted to identify potential workplace stressors, assess psychological distress and problems with alcohol abuse to help find out if there was a relationship between the three.

firefighter3Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include: re-living the event through memories, nightmares or flashbacks, avoidance and emotional numbing, increased alertness and aggression, and insomnia.Photo courtesy of: Jeremy Schoustal

“Results of this study suggest that over one third of the firefighters surveyed were experiencing significant psychological distress,” the report stated. The authors also concluded “it is significant that the firefighters surveyed scored poorly on all measures of mental health in comparison with the results of other published studies utilizing these instruments in community or occupational settings.”

In 2009, a joint study by the University of Ottawa and University of Washington focused specifically on PTSD and duty-related trauma within fire services in Canada and the United States. In Canada, 625 firefighters were surveyed.

The study suggests that 1.2 per cent of the Canadian community male population had PTSD, while 17.3 per cent of the Canadian firefighters surveyed were found to have the disorder.

The same figure in the study showed that Canadian firefighters fit right between the percentages of Vietnam-era veterans overall and those wounded in combat who had been diagnosed with PTSD (15.2 and 20 per cent respectively).

The study went on to say that 85 per cent of the Canadian firefighters had at least one traumatic-incident exposure within the past year, based on categories such as “serious injury accidents excluding nonfatal motor vehicle accidents” and “civilian fire fatalities”.

Dr. Wowk said he had a recent discussion with a CFD firefighter who was wondering if he maybe had PTSD.

“I think his answers probably give us the answer: He said he’s seen 20 — and he could count them, 20 kids exactly — that had died on his time on the job that he’s seen, and he said he could picture pretty much every one of their faces,” he shared. “That’s something that’s shocking even to me, and I’m used to dealing with some of this stuff.”

“But we don’t think of these things and these front-line workers and the things they see and do and have to live with.”

No ‘cookie-cutter’ solution

Darren said that seeing the counsellor helped, but from time to time he still finds himself thinking about the incident. He has stopped seeing his counsellor, but said he still experiences some anxiety when he attends or hears about calls involving pedestrians and vehicles — something he doesn’t think will ever go away.

There are certain criteria that must be met in order to receive a PTSD diagnosis, the most significant either witnessing or being part of an event that includes serious injury or death.

Other criteria include intense feelings of helplessness or horror, reluctance to enter similar situations and flashbacks. Despite this, Dr. Wowk said physicians sometimes need to use their own personal judgment because not everyone displays symptoms in the same way.

“Each individual can present a little bit variable so I think sometimes it (PTSD) can be difficult to recognize,” he said, adding that how easily a diagnosis is made depends a lot on how forthcoming the individual is about the feelings they’re experiencing.

Dr. Wowk said firefighters may not recognize the symptoms because they feel these events and feelings are a part of the job they have to deal with, even though “in reality, these can be very traumatizing events that people experience and repeatedly experience.”

Darren is an exception — he said he was able to identify that something wasn’t quite right after the incident due to previous training courses he had taken, which made getting help easier for him and probably prevented things from getting worse.

He said his biggest concern was that if he was constantly being distracted by memories of the incident he would be putting those working with and under him at risk — a chance he wasn’t willing to take.

“You can’t hesitate — you have a fraction of a second to make a decision that’s going to affect someone’s life,” Darren explained.

“I had to make sure I was focused on what I was doing and not thinking about this thing. I didn’t want to be responsible for someone else [getting hurt] because I wasn’t paying attention, I wasn’t at the top of my game.”

Dr. Wowk said he feels there is a large majority of people diagnosed with PTSD after other things have happened in terms of relationships, depression, alcoholism or trouble sleeping, acting as red flags for another issue at hand.

That was the case for Jeff Mack, a 26-year veteran currently with the Fredericton Fire Department in New Brunswick.

In February 2005, Mack attended a structure fire with his partner. Despite textbook execution on their behalf, his partner fell through the floor to where the fire had started. When he fell, he knocked off Mack’s oxygen mask, rendering him semi-unconscious. As he came to, his partner was screaming for the hose line to fight the fire, and when they tried to radio in a mayday call the batteries were dead, meaning Mack had to leave his partner in the burning building to get help.

The two survived with smoke inhalation, but that six-minute window changed Mack’s life forever.

He said he started exhibiting symptoms of PTSD almost immediately — he was fearful of going back to work, his drinking went through the roof, he wasn’t sleeping, lost interest in almost everything, and developed anger issues. He said he attended a debriefing session after the incident, and a month after the fire he sought counseling.

Within a year, Mack was seeing a psychologist who diagnosed him with PTSD and chronic alcoholism.

“My best buddy was my beer bottle — that’s all I wanted. That was my comfort, that was my sanity,” he said.

Mack attended two 28-day addiction rehabilitation programs in 2007 and 2008, relapsing both times. He deteriorated physically and spent time in jail for driving under the influence. He was losing his family, had a workplace intervention, was placed on light duty and then sick leave. The psychologist told him he had to get his alcohol addiction treated before they could move forward with his PTSD treatment.

But Mack had already been through all of the municipal and provincial support systems in place, and wasn’t getting better. He was given one last shot through the show “Intervention,” which airs on A&E, in 2008. He agreed to follow through with this olive branch and spent four and a half months in Nanaimo, B.C. at the Edgewood Addiction Treatment Centre, considered a critical care hospital in the province. He was told at that point he would have had roughly three months to live before he died from his alcohol abuse.

Treatment for PTSD can be expensive — according to Ian Crosby, depending on how severe the issue has become it can cost roughly $200 an hour to see a psychologist and $1,500 a month to treat other addictions or illnesses. Some services are only offered in certain places, like Mack’s intense rehabilitation in Nanaimo.

“It depends in terms of how long you’re looking at treatment and again, it’s very variable,” said Dr. Wowk.

“It’s very individual so the treatment is going to be very individualized … There’s no cookie cutter way of doing things.”

Support systems in place

Mack received the treatment he needed for both his alcohol addiction and PTSD at Edgewood, and said he believes he’s one of the lucky ones. So does Deputy Chief Dan McCoy from Kennebecasis Valley, N.B.firefighter2A joint U.S. – Canadian study found that 17.3 percent of Canadian firefighters had post-traumatic stress disorder. 
Photo by: Tessa Clayton

“There is no avenue available for most municipal fire departments, union or non, or especially any volunteers dealing with this — there’s nothing out there to help them with this problem,” he stated.

He said most employee assistance programs can provide only very little in means of treatment, and most of that is not in-depth enough to treat PTSD.

The Calgary Fire Department has three physicians at their wellness centre, all part-time staff, and only one specializes in mental health. These physicians were brought on board in 2005.

Within the CFD budget, there is no line specifically for PTSD, or even counseling services. Crosby said this is because the department has critical incident response teams, which provide immediate assistance after an event if someone of higher rank feels debriefing is necessary, or when requested.

Within the department’s benefit plan there is assistance for behavioural health, but whether or not the individual accesses it is up to them.

The Calgary Police Service and EMS have similar structures in place, although in some areas they are more robust.

In every sector, all official debriefings are voluntary — meaning that the debrief must be specifically requested after an incident, it’s never mandatory. This is because what constitutes as “traumatic” is different for every individual, said all three spokespersons.

Looking to the future

However, all aspects of PTSD and issues surrounding it have become more prevalent within the fire community over the years.

Besides debriefing teams and other resources, the CFD launched a pilot project in January 2011 that aims to provide funding for members who physicians feel should pursue counselling immediately or are already in counselling, extending financial help for things not covered by their benefit plan.

This is being funded by the department’s medical budget, and as far as Crosby knows, is the only program in place in the country.

While this is helpful, Darren said he thinks more needs to be done to make sure members are aware of services available through the program. He still feels that peer debriefs are more effective because of the relationships already in place between CFD members as opposed to members and doctors and wishes that officers had more training about how to deal with individuals after a critical incident.

The fact that the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs has recognized PTSD as an issue that needs more attention is another big step forward.

“We’re already behind the eight-ball because of our line of work so if you’re medicating like I did that’s [addiction] what the result is,” Mack said.

“Help us — we should be at work healthy and alert, not suffering from what we experience in our job. What we experience in our job makes us sick, this we know, we can’t ignore it.”

In an email, CAFC president Rob Simonds said the decision behind the approval of the resolution was based on concerns that firefighters across Canada are suffering from PTSD, “in some instances with little or no support mechanisms in place to support their need.”

“Accordingly, the CAFC would like the government to take the lead on developing a benchmarking program (in concert with our provincial and territorial leaders) to assess how prevalent the issue is in our country.”

Lobbying for anything at the federal level takes time and patience; results can take years to materialize. The most recent big issue the CAFC lobbied for was a tax credit for volunteer firefighters, which was passed in June 2011 after 10 years of hard work, said a news release on their website.

But due to the “complexities and challenges of collecting and collating the data,” the CAFC is unsure when they will have a proposal for the government.

Not ‘a part of the job’

While departments wait for that date, those within the service are doing what they can to help those who may be affected.

The view that there’s a “chink in the armour,” and that counselling and speaking out is a sign of weakness is an important issue all involved are trying to tackle.

Both Darren and Mack say that their own experiences have made them more aware of and attentive to their co-workers who may be suffering from PTSD and subsequent addictions.

“It probably makes me a little more sensitive to other things that have happened to people or other calls I go on, [to] make sure that ‘Hey, you guys are good?'” Darren explained.

Because his experience was played out on a TV show, Mack was prepared for the publicity he would receive. He said he thinks this made him more comfortable to do his presentation for groups about PTSD and addiction.

His personal story and resulting national committee and funding idea was the main push behind the resolution submitted by the New Brunswick Association of Fire Chiefs to the CAFC last year.

Mack said part of his biggest problem after his fire was the next thing that could happen — death. At the time he thought his partner wasn’t going to come out of the building alive and he said he wasn’t prepared to experience the next worst thing, causing him to back away from the job he loved. That incident was the one that finally popped his cork.

He explained that he felt ashamed of himself because he felt he no longer fit the profile of how a firefighter should act and feel, which is neither healthy nor accurate, he said.

“It’s the biggest crock of bull that I ever fell into and that’s still the mindset out there right now,” he stated.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about the fire chiefs and what I’ve been trying to do for the past two years: to get this mindset cleared up so that firefighters no longer think that we’re supposed to go and experience these traumatic events and be unaffected.”

He doesn’t expect or want the public to change their perceptions of firefighters, but he does want those within the service to realize that they really are no different from everyone else.

“We’re human beings at the end of the day and at the end of the day if we’ve seen something that human beings aren’t meant to go through then we have to be honest with ourselves and say, ‘That sucked.’ And take a minute to say it’s OK to feel this way, this is normal and I shouldn’t feel guilty about feeling bad or out of sorts,” he said.

“That’s why I don’t look back, when I do these presentations, I’m not embarrassed, I’m not ashamed — I’m actually grateful I did go through that because if those things hadn’t happened, I’d still be an alcoholic and I’d still be messed up from not dealing with all these other traumatic events.”

Also see: Brotherhood environment helps volunteer firefighters cope with job stress



Tiny Houses: A Big Idea to End Homelessness



Advocates tackling the nation’s homeless problem are thinking small.

In Austin, Texas, a village of 200 tiny houses is being built for the homeless. In upstate New York, Rochester Greenovation has designed a prototype for small-scale individualized shelters. “Homeless No More Survival Pods” have been built in Utah, micro-pods in Florida, miniature homes in Wisconsin and mini mobile houses in California.

The “Tiny House Movement,” once an architectural component to a downsized life, is now becoming something much bigger: an escape from chronic homelessness.

“This is a plan that could revolutionize the housing movement in the United States,” declares Alan Graham, 58, a Texas activist who says his self-founded organization, Community First, has already lifted 100 homeless people off the streets.

“The city of Austin loves us,” he says. “They think we’re on the verge of breaking the code.”

A woman is seen in a shelter built by California artist Gregory Kloehn.BRIAN J REYNOLDS

A woman is seen in a shelter built by California artist Gregory Kloehn in Oakland.

Occupy Madison, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement based in Madison, Wis., finished building its first fully functional tiny house last month. The 98-square-foot structure, complete with a bed, toilet and tiny kitchen, will serve as a template for 40 homes to follow, says Brenda Konkel, an Occupy Madison board member. It is hoped that the project, which depends on volunteer labor and community donations, eventually will end homelessness in their city.

“I think this is a solution for now,” says Konkel. “Our first house cost $5,000 to make, and we did it without asking for government help.”

But California artist Gregory Kloehn, 43, says there’s an even cheaper and faster way. For the past several years, Kloehn has singlehandedly built small, portable homes using salvaged materials he finds on the street. His cost? Less than $100 each.

“Stuff people just throw away on the street can give someone a viable home,” says Kloehn, whose environmentally friendly structures are made of everything from wooden pallets to refrigerator parts. Kloehn’s unique, whimsical designs are both artistic (“I make them cute and funny”) and practical (“I want them to work well, be strong and watertight.”)

“Now, I can roll my house down the street. Now the police don’t give me a hard time. I keep my house clean and I have no problems.”

Most importantly, each Kloehn design is a thoughtful response to the problems faced daily by the homeless people in his community. For example, Oakland’s public safety laws require municipal workers to periodically sweep up and destroy the belongings of people living on the streets, something Kloehn hopes to circumvent with his mobile home designs.

“I was sleeping outside on the freeway for two or three years,” recalls Oakland resident Cathryn Estelle Copeland, 39. “I was using cardboard for a cover. The police come there sometimes. If you don’t move fast enough they just take your stuff away.”

Copeland says having a tiny house changed her life.

“Now, I can roll my house down the street. Now the police don’t give me a hard time. I keep my house clean and I have no problems.”

Breaking the cycle

While billions of taxpayer dollars are allocated each year to support shelters and social service initiatives, homelessness remains a persistent problem in the U.S. In 2013, an estimated 610,000 people slept without shelter every night, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Advocates contend that not enough effort is made to break the cycle of homelessness, while too much money is spent on punishing behavior related to it. A 2011 report published by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty says local governments routinely criminalize activities that go hand-in-hand with living on the street, such as sleeping in public spaces and loitering. Incarceration costs taxpayers$34,480 per inmate per year, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

“Homeless people spend excessive time in jail or prison, often for petty offenses such as loitering,” stated a 2011 Utah government report. “The penal system frequently serves as emergency shelter for the chronically homeless, at far greater cost than other more appropriate options.”

California artist Gregory Kloehn, who builds small portable homes using salvaged materials, says an inexpensive structure is a way to keep someone safe and out of jail.BRIAN J REYNOLDS

California artist Gregory Kloen, who builds small portable homes using salvaged materials, says an inexpensive structure is a way to keep someone safe and out of jail.

An inexpensive structure like a micro-pod – with insulation, a small bed and a place to store belongings – is a good, temporary solution to keep a person warm, safe and out of jail, says Kloehn.

“Does it have merit as a solution to homelessness? As far as giving people a shelter, yeah, definitely. Is it a solution to homelessness? It’s an answer. An attempt.”

Historically, measures that offer temporary respite from homelessness have often failed, because the problems that cause it – poverty, addiction, mental and/or physical illness – are often chronic. But recent evidence shows that access to social services combined with the safety and security of a permanent home can be effective in breaking the cycle of chronic homelessness.

For instance, Utah’s “Housing First” program, which gives free, permanent “no strings attached” apartments to the chronically homeless, claims to be on track to eradicate the problem. The 8-year pilot program, which costs $11,000 per apartment annually, has a reported 74 percent success rate.

While some people believe individual micro-houses could provide the same benefit, others say turning the fantasy into a reality isn’t easy.

San Jose Looks at Using Vacant Motels to Address Homeless Issue

San Jose is considering using vacant motels and hotels as long-term housing for the city’s large homeless population, NBC Bay Area reported.

The city has struggled to find a solution to helping get the more than 4,700 homeless people off the streets and into shelter. Officials are now looking at the possibility of working with non-profits to lease rooms and allow the homeless to stay in vacant motels and hotels.

“The idea is if someone can get housed, they can then move out of homelessness, out of temporary housing and into a permanent job,” Councilwoman Rose Hererra said. “And that’s really what we’re after here.”

Transgender Rights Repeal Misses November BallotHererra chairs a committee which began discussing the new homeless plan on Monday

“Again, it’s a pilot,” she said. “We don’t have to keep going in this direction, but we want to try this because we think there’s some potential benefits.”

It would take about $40 per person, per day to fund the plan, which city leaders said is cheaper than running shelters. To house 60 people would cost about $1 million annually.

Supporters said the number of affordable housing options are shrinking as the homeless population grows and shelters are often full.

The plan would call for non-profits to offer up rooms to homeless people for up to five years, along with services to help them find jobs and permanent housing.

San Jose officials said about 100 homeless people have publicly-funded vouchers for subsidized housing, but cannot find places that will accept them.

But not everyone is on board with spending tax dollars on the plan.

“These motels are already located in a high-crime area — prostitution, illegal drugs, dumping,” said Aurelia Sanchez, who lives near some of the vacant motels being considered by the city. “

Dave Treslow is another resident who opposes the plan.

“I would urge you to kick this back,” he said. “Tell them to do their homework so we can start to solve this problem.”

— NBC Bay Area


How do we respond when someone tells us, “I love you anyway”?

by Kail Walker


“I love you anyway…..”  That is a message that many of us struggle to hear when we encounter it.  Our ability to experience intimacy with others is directly linked to our ability to believe that we are someone worth being intimate with.  Unfortunately, too many of us maintain a carefully groomed list of the reasons why we don’t qualify as a partner.  The specifics of those lists differ from person to person but certain themes are common: guilt we carry from our past, our perceived limitations as a lover, and the harsh words spoken by others that we have we come to believe as truths about who we are.


So what do we do with our list when someone in our lives decides to take a chance on us and love us in spite of our flaws and our scars?  How do we respond when someone tells us, “I love you anyway”?  The answer is we try.  We try to set our list aside and don’t argue our eligibility.  We try to get out of the way and let them. Perhaps slowly and just a little bit at a time, but we try.


The fact of the matter is that our lists have lied to us.  Our lists have told us that the trauma, the scars, and the hurt that we have been subjected to set us apart from the rest of humanity.  The fact of the matter is that nothing could be further from the truth.  To be human is to be broken.  If there is one single trait that unites all of mankind it is that we are all, every one last one of us, damaged goods.  Some might read this statement as discouraging but it is not – it is freeing.  If we understand that there is no standard, no prerequisite of perfection, for us to qualify to be worthy of love and affection then we come to understand the reality of the situation:  we are damaged, broken, and hurt and so is everyone else.  This includes the person reaching out to us and saying, “I love you anyway.”


This is the real, honest truth:  the people who are reaching out to us are damaged too.  Their experiences may not be mirror images of our own but that doesn’t change the fact that life has taken a toll on them as well.  We need to realize that when we cut ourselves off from intimacy we are hurting those who are trying to care for us even more than we are hurting ourselves.  We may think that we are saving them from the inevitable disappointment of finding out how screwed up we really are, but what we are actually communicating is that we don’t trust them to see who we are and not run away.  With that in mind, let us call a spade a spade – do we really think that they don’t already know?  Few of us are very good at hiding the truth about our wounds no matter how hard we try.  If someone has been around us enough to care for us and want to reach out then they probably have some idea that we are flawed, hurting, and need to heal; just like them.


Intimacy is not reserved for perfect people in perfect circumstances because those people simply don’t exist.  Instead, intimacy belongs to those who share their struggles with others.  Intimacy is experienced by those of us who are messed up but still allow themselves to care and be cared for by other imperfect people.  True intimacy is a process of growing and overcoming together. 



Given the amount of time and energy that most of us have dedicated to collecting our list of shortcomings it is unreasonable to expect the influence of our lists to disappear in an instant.  That being said, we absolutely must believe that it is possible and it is attainable to live beyond our lists.  By lettings others take a chance on us, we take a chance on them, and we take a chance on ourselves. A little at a time, step by step, we begin to become more than our hurt and our list stops ruling our lives.  As that happens, isolation is replaced by freedom, connection, and intimacy.

Community Matters

Speaking your truth matters. The bottled up anxiety, daily depression and shame we sit with, as caregivers, don’t do us any favors. Without a clear-cut job description many of us are left feeling like we’re supposed to do it all, sacrifice everything and not say a peep. Sounds reasonable enough. Sarcasm aside, this type of go-it-alone martyrdom simply isn’t sustainable. While reaching out to friends, family and neighbors to help should be the norm, sometimes schedules get blundered and we’re left back at square one again, until now.


As the Internet grows, so do the resources for caregivers. The Caregiver Space is an online community where caregivers can go to unwind and safely express and cope with the ball of emotions that their work stirs up. There’s no shame or judgment speaking your truth here—it’s actually the only thing we ask of you.


Logging into this community enables you to broach tough topics in a safe space. Unlike some sites, this community welcomes all caregivers. Members have access to discussion boards to vent, reflect and discuss most topics under the sun. Even when your friends, family and neighbors feel inaccessible, this is a community you can come to count on. While experiencing emotions like stress, anxiety, guilt, frustration and anger are valid, holding onto them ultimately undermine our overall health.


As a man, I’m all too familiar with the cultural credos to stuff emotions and act stoic in the face of adversity. But I’m no aspiring John Wayne and when I do show up as a caregiver I want to come from a place of love, patience and understanding. Holding onto the other emotions muddy my ability show up fully. Whether you’re a husband, brother, boyfriend or uncle, know that caregiving doesn’t discriminate against gender. We’re all liable to be asked to step in and care for someone important in our lives. Making room to stay emotionally healthy is the only way to keep caregiving from turning into a toxic relationship we resent.


Just like starting a new job, signing up for the gym, or moving to a new city—it helps to know someone who’s been there before. Your online relationships offer a reassuring hand on your shoulder, a community full of people who’ve already been there, fighting to do it all.


You can find the community you most relate to on the discussion boards but also more privately through one on one messaging and chats. Each week there are also topical facilitated chats led by mental health professionals. For the days when all you need is a place to quietly pour out emotions on the page, a personal blog is another feature at a member’s disposal.


Caregivers often face a steep learning curve when it comes to factoring their own health into their care responsibilities. The Caregiver Space now makes a point of producing articles, videos and programs designed to address caregivers’ needs. From physical fitness and mental health to proper sleep, therapeutic journaling, nutrition and bereavement, the non-profit staff makes efforts to provide relevant information you can digest easily and quickly.


Caregiving doesn’t have to set the stage for burnout and with the right community, you can trust you won’t have to go there.


Jonah Okun is the development director at The Caregiver Space. He holds a degree in Comparative Digital Communication and Happiness Studies. An avid investigator of the effectiveness new technologies have breeding healthy relationships, Mr. Okun spends his days exploring ways to bring meaningful support to the online caregiver community. A competitive pool player and avid poet for over a decade, he finds new inspiration and opportunities daily in Brooklyn where he calls home.

ENC organization plans to shelter male human trafficking victims

Posted: Jan 31, 2014 2:11 PM PSTUpdated: Jan 31, 2014 2:36 PM PST

By Maria Satira, Weekend Anchor – email
GREENVILLE, N.C. -Human trafficking is a growing problem in the United States and it’s getting the attention of North Carolinians.

Governor McCrory declared this week Human Trafficking Awareness Week.

In the past six years, there have been 1,700 calls from people in North Carolina reporting possible human trafficking. While we often think of girls as the victims of trafficking, local organizations are working to spread awareness and support for the many boys who are being sold over and over again.

Trafficking is broken down into two categories: forced labor and sex. Victims are sometimes runaways or children sold by family members. Since 2007, North Carolina has identified more than 300 potential trafficking cases.

“We usually think it’s happening to girls but it’s actually happening to boys too, here in America, in the streets of America,” said Chris Smith.

Smith is the co-founder and president of Restore One. It’s a non-profit in Greenville that provides recovery programs to boys who are survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking. Through funding and help from volunteers, they’re getting ready to break ground on the state’s first shelter to help male victims.

“A lot of these boys their whole life are run away youth have been on the street,” said Smith. ‘They haven’t fostered that culture of family and have never seen how family is and how that operates.”

In addition to housing, The Anchor House will include classrooms, counseling rooms and outdoor recreation. This is something the group Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now says is a step in the right direction.

“We want to let the public know that this is happening and to stop accepting it. To stop developing this culture that it’s ok to pay for children for sex,” said founder of ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now, Pam Strickland.

Strickland says North Carolina is ranked in the top ten states for human trafficking.

“The victims don’t self identify,” said Strickland. “They’re hard to find.”

Those are the victims who The Anchor House is hoping to help.

“A lot of the boys and men we have spoken with, it’s not only been about their pain, suffering and trauma they’ve gone through, it’s also about their success that they’re receiving in life through them overcoming this.”

Safety is the number one priority for The Anchor House so its exact location in eastern North Carolina is confidential.

Construction on The Anchor House will begin this spring and phase one will be done by the end of the year.

Click these links to learn more about The Anchor House and Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now.

Find your voice and advocate.


Posted JAN 6 2014 by REESY in  with 1 COMMENT


Whenever you speak for or against anything, you advocate.

Advocating in our world is two fold.

For your partner:

When your loved one is in prison, you must advocate for them. Be their voice. Be present in the process. How? Educate yourself about the legal process and the facility. Know the names of unit managers, counselors and decision makers. Knowledge is the foundation you stand on when dealing with prison officials and working towards and end goal.

It’s your voice that keeps your loved one relevant. You are their good will ambassador—the keeper of the name. It’s through you that people will get to know your loved one. If people like you, they are generally willing to extend that courtesy to your loved one, regardless of their location. But, the biggest way you advocate is to society.

For the world:

Whether you like it or not, because you are in this position, you are now an educator to those around you. Use your life and this experience to teach others about this world and hopefully change one mind.

Find your voice and advocate.


How do you advocate for your partner?
What are some ways you can advocate more?

Gang Targeted in San Diego Sex Trafficking Charges

Gang Targeted in San Diego Sex Trafficking Charges

SAN DIEGO January 9, 2014 (AP)

Seventeen people were arrested Wednesday in California, Arizona and New Jersey under an indictment that accuses a San Diego-based street gang of running a vast prostitution ring.

The gang based in San Diego’s increasingly gentrified North Park neighborhood operated a prostitution ring spanning 46 cities in 23 states, recruiting women and girls by promising luxurious lifestyles, prosecutors said. Gang members allegedly branded the women with tattoos and bar codes and traded them among themselves.

The indictment charges 24 San Diego residents, ages 22 to 36, with racketeering conspiracy. Prosecutors said they belong to a predominantly black gang called “BMS,” which traces its origins to the early 1990s.

Four defendants were in custody before Wednesday’s sweep by the FBI and San Diego police. Three others were at-large.

“The kind of sex trafficking described in this indictment is nothing less than modern-day slavery,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “Unfortunately, more gangs are expanding from traditional pursuits like drug dealing into this lucrative business.”

The U.S. attorney’s office said authorities have offered assistance to 60 female victims, including 11 children.

The gang allegedly recruited prostitutes on San Diego’s El Cajon Boulevard or through social media. The indictment says the women and girls delivered their earnings to their pimps in exchange for protection, food, housing, clothing and cars.

“Pimps known for controlling their prostitutes through force were considered ‘gorilla pimps,’ while those who convinced their prostitutes to abide by the rules without violence are ‘finesse pimps,'” the indictment states.

Many defendants were scheduled to make initial court appearances Thursday in San Diego. Court documents do not list defense attorneys.

Prostitution, porn linked to human trafficking



LONDON — Some Canadians have their “moral compasses screwed up” on the issues of pornography and prostitution, an RCMP officer who monitors human trafficking said in London yesterday.

If you use prostitutes or buy pornography, “you’re probably supporting human trafficking,” said retired superintendent Marty Van Doren.

And if you buy cheap knockoff products from abroad, you’re probably supporting human trafficking, too, Van Doren told participants in a one-day conference held by the Salvation Army.

Knockoffs are often made by poorly paid child labourers, sometimes sold into servitude, said Van Doren, human trafficking co-ordinator for Ontario division.

And make no mistake about it, most prostitutes are lured or forced into the life, he said.

“Are they victims? — yeah, absolutely,” Van Doren said.

The most vulnerable, economically challenged, socially dislocated women are often drawn into prostitution with promises of a better life, he said.

Instead, they find themselves abused and exploited by profiteers who beat them with “pimp sticks” (coat hangars) and other means, threaten them and sometimes brand them with lit cigarettes, scarring or tattoos, Van Doren said.

About 90% of visible sex trade workers in Canada are aboriginal girls under age 18, he said. “They’re sold like cattle and moved from city to city.”

Foreign women brought to Canada by sex merchants often enter the country illegally, he said. They don’t have identification papers, they can’t speak our language and they’re tightly controlled.

The United Nations estimates 10 million women, girls and boys are victims of the international sex trade, investigative journalist Victor Malarek, author of two books on the subject, told the conference.

An estimated 800,000 women a year are trafficked from country to country for sexual purposes, said Malarek.

Malarek, a Canadian newspaper and television journalist, has become a passionate defender of the victims of sex trafficking and a busy speaker on the subject.

“I’ve drawn a line in the sand on this and a lot of people don’t like it. I believe that when you see abuse, you have to take a strong stand.”

Malarek has called johns who buy sex and people soft on pornography “bozos” and “idiots.”

Pornography fuels prostitution and prostitution fuels the sex trade, he said.

Malarek opposes both decriminalizing prostitution and legalizing it.

Decriminalizing it would mean “it’s open season on women and children” for sexual exploitation, he said, and legalizing it hasn’t eliminated criminal activity in other countries.

Ruth Gillingham of the Salvation Army, a corrections and justice services worker who helped organize the one-day conference, said her work puts her in direct contact with sex trade workers.

“The majority are poor. They come from broken homes. Some have mental illnesses and drug and alcohol addictions.”

Joe Matyas is a Free Press reporter. joe.matyas@sunmedia.ca