homeless survey, Key West and Florida Keys, and other opportunities for non-critical thinking

Jesus with leper

the homeless man Jesus consoles a leper

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In today’s Key West Citizen – www.keysnews.com – is a letter to the editor from someone who gets Jesus. I believe the letter’s title probably was supplied by the Citizen.

We must stop stereotyping, insulting human beings

My family and I have owned a home in Key West since 2000. We all love it here.

A pet peeve of mine is being taken for granted. I would give you the last bite of my Key lime pie, just don’t expect me to do it. Though I am often of two minds, the one that usually wins is the one on the left. I am unabashedly a bleeding-heart liberal.

Twice in the past two weeks here in Key West we came upon two people lying in the street. Out of concern, we called 911. We have seen examples of homelessness and need where we have another home in the Virginia/Washington, D.C. area. We believe seeing someone lying in the street leaves no time for analysis.

I often hear talk about 47 percent of our country’s population being “takers.” This figure amazes me. Could there possibly be veterans, the disabled, mentally ill, senior citizens and children as part of that 47 percent? This is stereotyping often followed by terms that are demeaning and denigrating.

One politician quoted the Bible: “If ye shall not work, ye shall not eat.” Perhaps she should watch someone less fortunate die right in front of her.

I’ve always tried to follow Jesus’ teachings and the simple, compelling words: “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brethren, that you do unto me.” How can anyone say they follow Jesus’ teachings then demean other human beings?

There have to be better answers than stereotyping and insulting our fellow human beings.

Elaine Montgomery

Key West and Reston, Va.

Also in the Citizen today is a report on the homeless survey being done this morning. My comments in italics.

homeless apprenension

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Volunteers hit streets to survey homeless
Survival kits distributed to needy as count takes place in city
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff

Matt Massoud has assigned himself an early shift for today’s daylong homeless census. He’ll start before daybreak at the downtown Key West docks, awaiting liveaboards coming ashore.

“I’ll be out by first light,” Massoud said Monday morning, after the eighth volunteer training session held by organizers this month. “Last year, I was a little too late. Most folks coming into the docks are coming to work, otherwise they wouldn’t come in. You’ve got to get them before they get to their jobs.”

Men or women living on derelict vessels moored offshore, or unregistered vessels without pumpout service, are considered homeless by the definitions outlined in the Point in Time survey, results of which will go to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Massoud, 35, a case manager for Monroe County Social Services, is part of the volunteer effort that will scour the Florida Keys today in search of an accurate, informed count of the homeless population.

Volunteers will hand out “survival kits,” plastic bags containing a toothbrush, deodorant, a tiny bar of soap, toothpaste and a granola bar or two.

When I lived on the street in Key West, to me, a survival kit would include granola bars, money, antibiotic cream, decent shoes, if I didn’t have decent shoes, a reliable used bicycle, if I didn’t have a bicycle, a blanket, if I didn’t have a blanket, clothes, if I didn’t have clothes, a place to shower daily, if I didn’t have a place to shower, a place to lay down my head at night without being in danger of catching a horrible disease or being robbed or beaten up or kept awake by drunks or harassed and even jailed by police for sleeping.

Staffed by volunteers and directed by nonprofit leaders through the Monroe Continuum of Care agency, the Point in Time survey costs less than $1,000 to conduct, said coordinator Stephanie Kaple, a staff member at Florida Keys Outreach Coalition.

“We need to go out and make people’s voices heard,” Kaple told about 22 volunteers gathered Monday at FKOC offices on Patterson Avenue. “We need everyone who needs to be surveyed, surveyed. This is an expensive issue that needs to be addressed.”

Isn’t another reason for this survey that non-profits which deal with homeless people need the homeless numbers so they can get grants and government funding to keep the non-profits in business and their employees paid?

Kaple said she has been getting calls lately from people who say they are homeless, one living in a car, and they want to make sure they are counted.

There are a lot more people than one living in vehicles in and around Key West.

Volunteers will count from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. today, hitting the mangroves, shelters, downtown streets and spots beneath bridges and in secluded corners.

Also try the area around the golf course, beaches, parks and Mallory Pier.

Sheriff’s office staff will conduct the surveys at jails countywide, and volunteers will check out libraries and hospitals.

Figures won’t be available for about seven to 10 days, said Kaple.

The January 2013 count found a total of 658 homeless men, women and children in Monroe County.

The Point in Time census is not simply a counting exercise. Volunteers will carry clipboards, stacked with surveys, that ask a number of questions intended to help nonprofits gauge the needs of the homeless.

“Some of these questions really do impact lives,” Kaple told the volunteers. “They may seem personal. We ask if they’ve been in foster care because that might be the question that saves somebody’s life and keeps them out of homelessness.”

The foster care comment needs further explanation to make sense to me.

The Keys’ homeless population is likely as varied as any other subset, Kaple said.

“Some people think of the guys drinking in front of the Walgreens, asking us to get them a beer,” Kaple said. “I’m also extremely concerned about the families with children calling us because they’re facing eviction, and veterans who can’t get up and down the Keys for services.”

Disabled homeless veterans can get up and down the Keys, there is cheap public transportation they can use, which many people use who are not homeless. Disabled homeless veterans get benefit checks each month, so they can afford such transportation. Ask disabled homeless veterans what they do with their monthly checks, what do they buy with that money? That may tell you more about them than other questions you ask them. Ask disabled homeless veterans how they now feel about the war in which they fought? Perhaps their answers might be valuable for America deciding to fight future wars.

Kaple gave as another example a liveaboard diagnosed with cancer who can no longer live “on the hook.”

Politically, the homeless issue has divided residents of Key West over the past few years.

Since 2012, the City Commission has gone from approving a resolution for a new 24-hour shelter to a majority now opposing one.

The City Commission did not listen to people in Key West, who knew the homeless terrain. The City Commission reacted to their own prejudices and to the prejudices of angry constituents. The City Commission listened to a self-proclaimed homeless guru from Texas, whose glowing record, as he presented it, later turned out to be not so glowing, as news reports in areas where he came from and went elsewhere revealed. He inflated the number of homeless people in Key West by maybe half. He misrepresented his homeless turnaround numbers. He did not reveal “graduates” from his homeless programs elsewhere were being put in government or grant-funded subsidized housing, and were receiving other benefits, and were not living independently. He did not even deal with the very high relapse rate for narcotics addicts – booze is a narcotic. Most homeless people in the Key West area, including homeless Veterans, are narcotics addicts. Far more mainstream people in the area are narcotics addicts.

Massoud said he will finish his assigned area and then make himself available to the census organizers for the rest of the day.

Originally from Utica, N.Y., Massoud is a graduate of Marist College who landed in the Keys in 2004 with the Coast Guard. At his job, Massoud sees homeless people daily.

“We have a walk-in prescription assistance program and it’s predominantly homeless people,” he said. “It’s a one-time assistance thing, usually to help somebody who lost insurance and has yet to apply for Medicaid.”

How about someone who has contracted MRSA and cannot afford the massive antibiotic treatment needed to get rid of it altogether? How about someone bitten by a brown recluse spider, who will die even sooner than someone with MRSA, if the antibiotic treatment is not administered? How about someone with pneumonia? What’s insurance or Medicaid got to do with it, if they are dying?

Massoud said he will spend the day approaching people and asking if they are homeless.

“You get some who for sure are, but they don’t want to admit it,” Massoud said. Last year, he waited at the downtown parking garage for homeless men to return to sleep there.

“And they wouldn’t come because they knew we were doing the count,” he said.

They didn’t come, because they didn’t want you to tell anyone that was where they slept at night, because, next thing, the cops would know and come get them while they were sleeping.

Overall, the 2013 homeless census was a fine experience for him, Massoud said.

“Everyone was very good; there were a few people that didn’t want to be bothered again,” he said. “But they wanted the survival kit.”

Does anyone having to do with “the survival kit” ever ask homeless people what they need in a survival kit? Besides physical necessities, how about a new body? How about a new mind? How about a new soul? In the case of homeless families, or homeless single parents, with a child or children, how about a place to live inside, instead of outside or in a vehicle? Or, how about a safe legal place to park their vehicle at night? How about a safe legal place for any homeless person living in his/her vehicle, to park it at night? How about Key West gets serious about being “one human family”? Oh, my pardon. If homeless people only would accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they would stop being homeless, right? I, and many homeless people in Key West, heard that plenty of times from church people who were serving us meals at Higgs Beach. Church people, who did not know they themselves were as homeless as the people they were feeding.

Jesus wept

On a lighter note, Alex Symington’s latest poke-fest in Key West the Newspaper – www.thebluepaper.com:

Alex Symington



Note: Unfortunately my attempted mountaintop retreat from the world was a bust and I was forced to cut it short. Who I thought was a Yogi Zen master turned out to be a delusional manic depressive failed hedge fund manager that had lost his mind when some bubble or other burst leaving him penniless or was he a time share pitch man? I never did figure it out…So I came back home and decided to see a shrink instead. 

New Leaf

I have been given strict instructions by my therapist, Dr. Heisenberg, that I am no longer allowed to research and chronicle any negative local, national or global issues. I was told, if I must write about something, it should be on light and happy topics that lift the spirit, no matter how Pollyannaishly delusional I think they are. I am paying this guy $ 250 an hour so I am heeding his advice. Then let us tackle some soft friendly issues together, shall we? The sun did come up and as Annie tells us, it will come up tomorrow. That is comforting to a guy like me. Here I have been focusing on the likelihood of it rising one day only to illuminate a barren Mars-like landscape that was once our blue and green planet due to our blind love affair with fossil fuel and pathological consumption of natural resources. Oops, sorry. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is my new mantra.

In order to turn over a new leaf and placidly enjoy daily life as the bovine enjoy cud, I need to get with the program(s), literally. There is a whole new world of mindless diversions I have not yet taken advantage of. I am woefully lacking in exposure to, what is called, “Reality TV”. Many good Americans fine succor in these small screen wonders with curious titles such as “Duck Dynasty” and “Pawn Wars”. Up until now I have been unaware of the fascinating anthropological expeditions into the land of the “Jersey Shore” and been remiss in not “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”!  I am just a little baffled by the program titled “Biggest Loser”.  Is that about the show or the viewers? Never mind. Oh, that’s a good mantra, too. “Never Mind”

Other important small screen offerings are commercials. The advertising seems to be limited to two main products, cars and drugs. I constantly need to be reminded (short attention span is a common effect of the disengaged) that I simply must own an Audi-Lexus-Cadillac-Mercedes car. I really should have bought several as Christmas presents for my friends and family as illustrated by the giant holiday bows on the tops of all the shiny cars in front of the big snow covered mansions.  The fact I don’t have the money to buy one Cadillac, let alone several, has caused me to develop a severe case of low self esteem which isn’t good for my new “the-glass-is-half-full” rosy outlook. Fortunately for me the TV reminds me the good people of Big Pharm have oodles of drugs that I can ask my doctor about. Legal drugs that will help me cope and set me on the path to Pleasant Valley, but may cause cancer and thoughts of suicide. I must ask Dr. Heisenberg, what’s up with that.

To further enhance my new found tranquility I should also be taking advantage of all the new technologies developed for the sole purpose to distract and gobble up any spare time we might otherwise employ for free and critical thought. I keep hearing of entertaining time killers with delightful names like, “Angry Birds” and “Candy Crush”. Apparently I can, not only play these at home on my PC, but I can take them with me wherever I go with my “Smart Phone” or “Tablet”. Then I can join the millions of my fellow mellows as we become engrossed in the world of angry birds and completely ignore each other on the street, in restaurants, bars or any other places where the public might congregate. It’s probably best we don’t talk to each other because we might violate the recently altered first amendment that clearly states the illegality of gathering in public for any reason. Right?

Dr. Heisenberg was most adamant that I refrain from watching any news programs that risk exposing me to data not sanctioned by the security and surveillance state. Truth and facts are such a buzz kill. For my own good, I should only be exposed to infotainment that is an essential ingredient in my new approach to a happier way of life. All I need focus on is which celebs look the best and worst at the beach, who has been seen with whom and the critical question, is Kim Kardashian’s caboose starting to sag? That never-ending stream of safe soft core celebrity “journalism” porn that drones on hypnotically, but does not upset my new found ataraxis. You know, the important stuff, the stuff that will keep me docile and compliant and blissfully ignorant. It is already working. I am feeling so much better. I am feeling so much happier. I am feeling so much better. I am feeling so much happier. Have a nice day and support the troops. Smiley face, heart.


  1. but but but mr symington
    the sun doesn’t rise….the horizon falls! everybody knows that!

    and please don’t get stuck on them ‘reality’ shows since there is very little reality to them other then some weird freakish behavior coming from mentally empty drones doing detrimental things and calling it life.

    whatever you do avoid any commercials as you would the plague. they are all mindless and will fry any healthy brain cells on contact unless your in the market for a vacuum cleaner.

    as for games on your pc ‘just say no’. unless you have a proclivity toward butchering the guy down the block. if not the blood lust is not for you.

    and the news programs on msm [main stream media] are just infomercials in disguise and not to be trusted whatsoever so stay far far away from them for your mental health of course.

    follow these simple guidelines and i just know your life will be much happier.
    thats $125 please and no i don’t iron nor wash windows.

    a little levity for cheers.

  2. I’m slow at times, but it does seem, Alex, that you did your Jedi training in the Coyote sector of the dog star solar system, yes?

    Or was it Loki you studied under?

    I’d hate to be your psychiatrist. I’d have to have full major medical coverage and a burial policy, no telling when I would drop nearly, or totally, dead because of the shrinking dispensed by you.

  3. So, you have been to the top of the mountain and you did not like it. What you did not realize was the guy you saw at the top was only two heartbeats away from being an elected jerk in DC. Ask your psych if he would donate to a toilet paper foundation because the only real thing we have left is the power to wipe our own ass. Welcome back.

  4. Yeah, well, maybe Alex is sitting on the top of the mountain but don’t know it, or he knows it but ain’t letting on cause he likes yanking other people’s chains which is similar to twisting their tails. I think maybe Alex still has the power to still do plenty of those funnies.

And this goody from a No Name Key amiga:

politics penalty

and a few penalties for participating in politics, besides being lampooned and/or attacked with words,

Sloan in collarSloan on the beach


Sloan Bashinsky


About Sloan

That's what this website is about, also goodmorningkeywest.com and goodmorningbirmingham.com. If you can't get a publisher to take on your wacky musing, you do it yourself.
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