just another day in paradise (as Key West bills itself) – old vs. new homeless people, two very different kinds of homeless surveys, bubba justice for the uninformed and poorly represented

ship of fools

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I put up a new permanent page at www.goodmorningkeywest.com today: “Life is a strange tale, far stranger than Key West, where it is said the weird turn pro: A gospel of Jesus and a reincarnation of Paul”, which you should be able to reach by clicking on its title in the header above. It also was posted as an article at www.goodomorningbirmingham.com, and you should be able to open it there by clicking on this link anytime: a gospel of Jesus, a reincarnation of Paul

It’s kinda long, you might wish to bring provisions to tide you over.

Back down on Key Weird, from a fellow who’s been weighing in hard recently, who for many years spent time here living in his van:



I agree that there are those people who’s souls are damaged beyond repair. The how is often easy to determine, divorce, loss of employment, loss of family, loss of home, addictions, etc. But then one needs to ask, Why? Why did this tragic event in their life send them off the deep end? Is it because they are inherently weak of mind? Were they mentally damaged from a childhood experience? Do they suffer from being bipolar? There are probable as many reason as there are stars in the sky. Some real and some imagined.

I have two people who were very close to me who fit the category of damaged. One was some one I hired 30 years ago. He worked on the assembly line until he finished his degree in electronic engineering. He transferred to engineering and within a few years was the top design engineer for the company. Six years ago his wife divorced him. (I don’t blame her) Up until then he rarely drank more than a few beers. Now he’s a raging alcoholic living with his sister. He won’t accept help. He is dieing and he knows it. He says he likes to drink.

The other is a lady I’ve known for 25 years. She inherited a house in Illinois, sold it and moved to Arizona where she bought a house for 274K. Her mortgage was only for 55K. Because she couldn’t keep out of the wine bottle(she would drink a five liter box every two days) no one would hire her. Again she would not accept help from family or friends. She has lost the house, and everything she owns. Even her family doesn’t know where she is.

Why did two people I know let something send them over the edge? Why would they not want help? I believe, as I think you do, there are some who are beyond help. There are so many more extremely intelligent human beings who are not beyond help but are too indifferent about themselves and their situation to care, and they make excuses for being where they are. What goes on in a persons mind to do this to themselves? Since my divorce in 1990 I’ve had my “battles with the bottle”. Two DUI’s in three years.(should have been 6 or 7) I soon realized I was headed down the wrong road and feeling sorry for myself for losing my family.

If we knew the WHY? maybe then we would know how to help. What are the underlying reasons for the collapse? I have helped many in my 61 years any many have helped me. Maybe I’m damaged because I can’t get my mind around why this happens to people, or maybe I’m being insensitive through my own ignorance. Either way I do know you can’t help some one who won’t help themselves.

Kurt Wagner

I wrote back:
Hi, Ken, thanks for your thoughts and questions, which probably are shared to some or a great degree by many people.

When I first started attending KW city commission meetings, maybe the fall of 2002, I told the commissioners and mayor that only God could change street people – back then, that’s what most homeless people in KW west were. They had lived on the street a while, they were used to it, institutionalized to it.

I was not believed, but I kept saying it from time to time at city commission meetings. I was not guessing, I had lived in the midst of street people off and on for over two years, as one of them, which is very different from living in a vehicle. I talked with a lot of them about a lot of things. While some of them were just resting, eventually to return to mainstream, most were not on vacation. This was their way life. It became so because mainstream did not work for them anymore.

Yes, there were many reasons for that slide from mainstream to living on the street. Knowing the reasons changes nothing. Talking with them about the reasons changed nothing. They were in the grip of something far beyond my ability to do anything about. Many were addicts, some were not. All were deeply injured in their souls, which is not the mind but their link with God.

I later heard someone who took Dorothy Sherman’s place running the soup kitchen on Flagler, after Dorothy died, say, “It is our job to feed homeless people, it is God’s job to change them.” The very same thing I had told the city commission quite a few times, and would tell the city commission quite a few more times.

Alas, many people who get into rescue work are seriously soul-wounded themselves, and in trying to rescue people in dire straights, they really are trying to rescue themselves.

A fellow I know pretty well in KW fitted that pattern. He and his wife, after talking with me about it, I warned them not to expect a happy outcome, took in a homeless woman I knew pretty well. It went okay for a little while, then the dysfunction in the man and the homeless woman clashed and she was told to leave. I was not surprised even though I wished it had turned out differently.

I suppose trying to save homeless people, retrieve them back into mainstream, can be likened to evangelists trying to save souls for Jesus. In both camps, you have mature “social workers” and immature “social workers”. The mature “social workers” know the odds are slim, but it is their calling and they honor it. The immature (deeply soul-wounded) “social workers” are desperate to save because they are trying to save themselves – many are fanatics, others are neurotics, both kinds are as bad off, or worse off, than the people they are trying to save.

Imagine one of them trying to save me, because even today I am unable to make a living wage from what I am pretty good doing, because it is not permitted for me to do that, the angels are blocking it, or something beyond my control is blocking it.

Hell, Ken, they could gang up on me by the dozens, they could baptize me 100 times, they could inject me with hormones, or with anti-depressants, or with Ritalin. They could shame me. (Try to shame me) They could hypnotize me. The women could promise to fuck my brains out, if … They could sprinkle holy water on me. Hell, they would get more done going to the Green Parrot and getting drunk, and then to a motel room and all getting naked in a pile and having at it.

But yes, sometimes something happens and someone down in a deep dark, or black, hole decides no mas, it’s time for a change. Perhaps that is triggered by something said by someone else. Sometimes it is triggered by something not explainable. Sometimes by a dream. Sometimes by a voice. Sometimes by a sign. It does have to come from within, even if provoked from without.

FKOC and Samuel’s House leave the light on and the door open for any down and out, even almost for the count, to come inside and try to turn it all around. They let out in the city that they are there for that, they do outreach, but they do not push, they do not force, which, sadly, has been the mindset in city hall. A mindset held by most mainstream people. A mindset as entrenched and rigid as any long-term street person is entrenched and rigid, as any heroin or booze addict is entrenched and rigid.

Many people do not know, or do not believe, that I had a long, intense, deep period of training in psychospiritual diagnosis and healing. I was a “patient” and I was a therapist in training. Then, I was a therapist. The training continued, as did the internal healing, mostly administered by supernatural beings, because this arena simply is beyond modern mental health’s pay grade, so to speak. It is closer to religion’s pay grade, but religion is geared to collecting souls, instead of passing them on to God to fix, or not.

I lived with street people. I talked with them, laughed with them, cried with them, fought (verbally) with them. I tried to help them with reason, with insights, with every trick in my book. So, when I see Mayor Cates talk about a transformational homeless shelter, returning street people, that’s the target you understand, not the new homeless, to respectable mainstream living, I want to scream. I want to grab him and shake him.

What he needs to be doing, what this entire city needs to be doing, what all citird need to be doing, is everything possible to help the new homeless return to mainstream, before they become the old homeless, and are so far down in the hole that the odds of them ever getting out of it, if you don’t factor in God, are darn close to zero.

Saying God helps them who help themselves is a cop out, or worse, for people way down in that hole. Saying God helps them who help themselves to new homeless, who did everything they knew short of robbing banks or sticking up convenience stores to not go homeless, is just plain wrong. New homeless need help to help themselves, otherwise they would not have become homeless.

It’s so very easy to preach down to people, when you are not down there with them wondering what in the hell happened that put you down there with them? Well, something in you was broken and finally it quit running. Just like happened to the other people down in the hole with you. Just like happened to people who used to live in state mental hospitals before they were closed. Something was broken deep inside of all of them and finally it quit working and they no longer were able to out-muscle it, will their way out of it.

Imagine telling a man with one leg to run a 26 mile Marathon. That’s about like telling most street people I have known that they can get off the street anytime they want. That’s about like telling me I can make a living wage. Might as well tell it to a tree or a rock. Aw, but if only they accepted Jesus and Lord and Savior, that would fix it :-). I bet I can only count on the fingers of one of my hands the street people I have known who were not saved by Jesus. Same for the addicts I have known. Same for the certified psychotic people I have known.

The two attachments not come to mind.’

KrishnamurtiCarl Jung

It is a fact, homeless people are mainstream’s shadow, the spiritual sense, and the best way to end homelessness therefore, in fact the only way, short of killing all homeless people, is for mainstream to make the changes needed so people do not end up all fucked up inside and doing what the two women you described ended up doing to themselves.

I imagine that solution also will require an Act of God :-) Meanwhile, perhaps mainstream needs to cop to being part of the problem, instead of blaming all of the problem on the people who broke down first and went homeless, insane, into addiction.

And, yes, law and order is nice, and homeless people who pose threats to themselves and other homeless people and mainstream people need to be dealt with, just like mainstream people who pose threats need to be dealt with.

America’s homeless problem is tiny compared to what I saw on the outskirts of Mumbai, India in 2000. Homeless people dressed in rags, lying or sitting side by side on mats, flatten paper boxes, mud, as far as I could see from the road between the airport and the city. Preview of coming attractions in USA? Your guess as good as mine. :-)

I need a break, this rocky horse needs to rest a bit :-)


Meanwhile, in today’s Key West Citizen – www.keysnews.com

homeless census

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
‘Let’s make everyone count’
Nonprofits, volunteers survey homeless across Keys
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff

Shannon Shannon, a 43-year-old woman who would rather sleep in her girlfriend’s car than the city’s overnight shelter, says she is down but not out.

“I’m just trying to save up money to leave,” Shannon told the stranger asking her a list of questions as part of Tuesday’s Point in Time homeless census, done nationwide.

“I do have a little bit of education,” said Shannon, who digs into her purse for her I.D. when asked a second time her full name. “I was an office administrator for seven years.”

Shannon was just one of the hundreds of homeless individuals interviewed Tuesday by the 77 volunteers who combed the streets, shelters, libraries and the waters of the Florida Keys to conduct the census run by the Monroe County Continuum of Care agency.

Last year’s census determined there were 658 homeless individuals in the county.

The results of this year’s census will help determine grants for homeless services in Monroe County, and help nonprofits in the Keys plan services based on the needs captured in the survey.

The motto of this year’s census is “Let’s Make Everyone Count.” Instead of merely counting men, women and children without permanent shelter, the Continuum of Care sent people into the streets carrying clipboards, ready to approach strangers who fit the definition.

“I didn’t meet one belligerent one,” said Mayor Craig Cates, who observed volunteers doing surveys at Mallory Square, Caroline Street and then at the beaches off Atlantic Boulevard. “They were all very nice. A few of them introduced themselves, and we talked awhile. They’re all people. They’ve got issues. They’re happy to be in Key West, and they like the people. Some can’t work; some don’t want to work.”

Numbers from Tuesday’s 24-hour counting period will take at least a week to process, said census organizer Stephanie Kaple, whose day job is finding shelter for homeless families.

“We don’t want to rush anything,” said Kaple, who started Tuesday opening up an office of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition on Patterson Avenue at 5:30 a.m. “We want to make sure it is clear and accurate.”

The census is “self-reporting,” Kaple said, when asked about its accuracy. People could say they’re not homeless when they are under the federal government’s definition of substandard or unstable housing, she said.

“It’s the best way we have found to do it at this time,” Kaple said.

Mindy McKenzie, deputy director of Samuel’s House, didn’t ask the “Are you homeless” question to the liveaboards she found Tuesday while on the Key West Police Department’s boat with her survey team, which interviewed about 50 people.

“People were very cooperative,” McKenzie said, as she arrived at Patterson Avenue to drop off the surveys.

City Commissioner Tony Yaniz, the only elected official in the county who attended a volunteer training session, was also on the police boat. When the team came across a woman who only spoke Spanish, Yaniz was able to talk to her, McKenzie said.

“It’s a long day because they want to talk,” McKenzie said of the liveaboards. “They don’t see a lot of people.”

Many of those surveyed in Key West on Tuesday had heard about the homeless census from the news, and dutifully complied to the questioning, which took about 10 minutes per for Shannon to complete.

Without complaint, Shannon candidly described her homeless state while waiting to eat a hot meal at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen, 2706 Flagler Ave.

A divorce a year ago started the financial spiral that left her without a real roof over her head, she said. She said she’s been an office manager, co-owned a business, and is planning to take a certified nursing assistant course soon.

But on Tuesday, she was stuck without a safe home, having received help from programs such as the soup kitchen, Star of the Sea outreach mission on Stock Island, the domestic abuse shelter, and the city’s bunkhouse — Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS).

Shannon would rather sleep in a borrowed car than at KOTS.

“Not due to staff, the staff is great,” she said. “It’s frightening, the aspect of safeness.”

She also can’t stay in most local shelters because she has two dogs, which for now are being cared for by the Florida Keys SPCA’s Faith program.

“I don’t have children, so they are my babies,” Shannon said, seated at the open-air soup kitchen, where behind her a man was sleeping sitting up, and two seats down a shirtless man was listening to a portable radio and smiling.

“I’ve had them for 9 and 11 years,” Shannon said of her dogs. “I don’t go anywhere without them.”

Shannon has a girlfriend in Key West, but Angelina Fernandez lives with her grown daughter, and there isn’t always room to stay, they both said.

“It’s hard,” Fernandez said, after declining the census volunteer’s request, saying she has a place to stay. “She’s going through a lot.”

Snippets of conversation pop up as Shannon answers the questions for a census volunteer, and a second volunteer speaks with someone else nearby.

A few tables over a woman loudly says, “He’s been sober a week!”

A gray-haired man with a beard is telling somebody that if it weren’t for “the Mexicans and Haitians taking all the jobs,” life would be easier for folks like himself.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” replied a younger man in glasses, who cursed a lot and apologized to a woman nearby for his language. He said he has lived in Key West for 16 years, and lost a $20-an-hour job recently. He ticks off a list of things he had once — a motorcycle, a car.

“I’ve been at the soup kitchen four times in my life,” he said, as if defending himself in an argument. He wouldn’t give his name to a reporter.

And he wouldn’t participate in the survey.


That’s one kind of homeless survey.

My own homeless survey, a little of which I described to Kurt Wagner, was a different kind of homeless survey.

If Mayor Cates, Tony Yaniz and other mainstream people named in the Citizen article want to get a real picture of what is going on in the various homeless circles in Key West, they need to take a week off from everything they are doing, and I mean everything, and be homeless for a week in Key West, mingling with homeless people during the day, sleeping nights at KOTS, eating daily at the soup kitchen on Flagler Avenue, getting around on foot, bicycles or city buses. If they do that, they will complete their homeless survey and will know what they are dealing with. Then, maybe they will see they are focused on the wrong end of the elephant. Maybe they will see they need to focus on helping the new homeless before they become the old homeless.

Let FKOC and Samuel’s House and local dry out/rehab operations leave the light on and the door open for the old homeless, who are moved to try to turn their lives around, while the city provides the old homeless a safe shelter where they can bathe and sleep. Leave the soup kitchen alone, it ain’t broke, don’t need fixing. Use city police to regulate homeless people who are not nice and polite, who actually are physical or health threats. There are such homeless people, just like their are many, many more mainstream people who are threats. Charles Eimers’ family would say there are Key West police officers who are threats. Open this link – Investigation or Cover-up? – and read it and the earlier articles in the trailing link at www.thebluepaper.com, to see what happened to Emiers on Thanksgiving Day in Key West, his last day on this world, because he was suspected of living in his PT Cruiser.

Just another day in paradise.

Last night, I pedaled my bicycle up to Stock Island to visit Alyssa in the county jail.


I wrote about Alyssa before. She was jailed the first time for sleeping on Smathers Beach. The second time for being with a fellow who stole a cell phone on Smathers Beach, after she told the cops what she had seen the fellow do (her story). She got out on bond posted by her family, and was staying at FKOC. As soon as FKOC’s doors opened each morning, she was out of there, headed for Duval Street. Standing on private property with friends, a few or less feet from Duval Street, they all were arrested and jailed for trespass. Her bond was revoked. She got time served for sleeping on the beach and trespass. She remains in the pokey for the cell phone.

Just before reaching the turn off to the jail, I bumped into a homeless woman I have been getting to know somewhat. According to her story, she is one of those people who did everything right in the US mid-west. Education, family, children, job. But her marriage blew up, she lost her home, she lost her job, she ran out of money, and she came to Key West to survive. Erika Biddle knows this woman and told me that she went into St. Peter’s Episcopal Church one day and the woman was playing the piano beautifuly, or maybe it was the organ.

The woman asked me for a dollar last night, for food. All she had was a bag of potato chips. I asked why she didn’t eat at the soup kitchen? She said she used to eat there, but now she has a volunteer job and her work hours overlap when the soup kitchen serves at 4 p.m. daily. She is hoping to get on regularly where she does volunteer work, and be paid. I said she needs to tell the people where she does volunteer work that they need to give her a sandwich and milk when she’s there, since she cannot eat at the soup kitchen and work for them. She said she didn’t want to appear ungrateful. I said tell them Sloan said they need feed her, since she cannot eat at the soup kitchen and do volunteer work for them. She seemed reluctant. I gave her $10.

She asked if I knew if there was room at KOTS? I said probably, the weather was warm. I asked if she had gotten in the week before when I saw here there? It was cold that night. She said yes, but sometimes she can’t get in and has to scramble. She asked me where my stuff was? I said I didn’t live like that any more. I had told her when we had first met that I had lived on the street in Key West. I said how that stopped was a long story. She said she was glad I didn’t live that way any more. I was glad, too, wished she didn’t live that way. I headed on to the jail to see Alyssa.

I didn’t get to see Alyssa. A nurse was in her unit giving medicine to various inmates and the guard who would have brought Alyssa to the visiting room had to stay with the nurse to protect her in case an inmate attacked her. I waited half hour for the nurse to get finished, but still no Alyssa. I’d had a dream before dawn yesterday of being in a situation where everything was all screwed up, nothing I did worked. Then, Key West Attorney Hugh Morgan was in the dream. He told me to tighten my grip on the situation, narrow my focus.

I figured that dream was about Alyssa, because I’d already told her and her mother about Hugh Morgan. Hugh is a Conch. He has a daughter maybe 10 years older than Alyssa. He is a seasoned trial lawyer. He his respected in the Key West bar. He is respected by local judges. He is a tenacious advocate. Conchs use him when they are charged with crimes. Before Hugh practiced law, he was a U.S. Magistrate. He handled lots of criminal arraignments of defendants charged with violating US criminal laws.

At the jail last night, I figured the rest of the Hugh dream, everything was all messed up, was about my not getting to see Alyssa.

Just another day in paradise.

I pedaled my bicycle back down to Key West, stopping off at Daddy Bones yummy BBQ right behind Checkers on North Roosevelt Blvd. Their cook was sitting out front with Pat, whose fellow Mike is one of the owners. The cook had been at the jail to see her “brother”. She had been there last Tuesday night, too. Her “brother” is her very old friend, he is like her brother. He is charged with murder. He has been in that jail two years, and has not been tried. He is charged with beating a young Venezuelaean gay man to death near the Braizilain restaurant in Key West.

The “brother’s” story is, he was in an establishment with other people, and on his way out, the Venzuealean man left, too. Outside, the Venezuelaean man was accosted by several men who had business with him. He owed them money. They apparently were drug dealers. They started roughing him up. The Daddy Bones cook’s “brother” stepped in to defend the Venezuelaean, and one of the men drew a pistol and asked the cook’s “brother” if he wanted some of that, or did he want to leave what was none of this business. He left what was none of his business.

His mother’s birthday was approaching. He went far north to be there with her. He was arrested there for fleeing a murder, and was brought back to Key West. He was given a $500,000 bond, but was unable to come with the $50,000 the bail bondsman required. So, he stayed in jail.

Further according to the Daddy Bones cook,

The only evidence of any connection with the murder is one drop of blood on her “brother’s” shoe. Sor far, the lab report on the one drop of blood has not come back. A local lawyer was hired. He has run up a $50,000 bill. The case has been continued many times. It is set for some kind of motion, but the State Attorney wants it continued again.

The State Attorney’s witness, who probably did the killing, he worked in the place where her “brother worked”, where her “brother” came out of with the soon to be dead young Venzuelaean, was had upped and moved to the mainland right after the killing. He was known to be a tough customer. He might be the drug gang’s ringleader. Maybe the State doesn’t know where he is, can’t prosecute without him.

At this point in the story, I asked the Daddy Bones cook, what in the hell did local this lawyer do for $50,000? Did he file a motion for a speedy trial? Did he press hard for the case to be dismissed for want of prosecution? What in the hell is this local lawyer doing? I said any lawyer I know would have raised bloody hell about this case not being timely prosecuted. Maybe the reason the State Attorney keeps putting the case off  because she doesn’t want the shit sued out of her and Key West by the Daddy Bones cook’s “brother”. That’s a huge damage suit, I said, if the case is dismissed by the court. Huge.

I told the cook she needed to go see Hugh Morgan about the case, tell her Sloan sent her. I said Hugh can talk with her about the case, since she is not really the defendant’s brother and she had nothing to do with hiring the lawyer who had run up the $50,000 bill. Normally, lawyers are not supposed to speak with clients of other lawyers, but the cook is not that lawyer’s client; his client is the defendant and the defendant’s mother, who hired him to represent her son.

The cook didn’t seem eager to go see Hugh Morgan.

I wonder if Alyssa’s mother will take my advice headed her way later today in an email, that she read today’s post, and then she contact Hugh Morgan about becoming her daughter’s lawyer in the cell phone case. I know from Alyssa that her parents are well off. I know from Alyssa and from her mother that they already paid another local lawyer a lot of money, and that lawyer wants out of Alyssa’s case because she got put back in jail on the trespass charge.

Although that lawyer should return the unused portion of the fee, in all events, my opinion, because of the Hugh Morgan dream, if Alyssa’s parents don’t hire Hugh, they, and Alyssa, will end up wishing they had. Key West is no place anyone not from there wants to be tried for a crime, especially if they are innocent.

Just another day in paradise.

Sloan at Coco's

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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