Monday, May 24, 2010

Officially Unchallenged

In my latest Public Records Act request I tried to measure the "size of the spill" when it comes to the Board of Supervisors concern for homeless families. After a good deal of banter about 849 "high-threshold, sub-population restricted beds" I began to suspect that available might not mean funded.

Knowing that the federal government provides the money for the Cold Weather shelter (the Armories) and knowing that marriage license surcharges fund domestic violence shelters, it seemed fair to ask what the County does for the homeless, since that's the level of government charged with the responsibility!

It is clear from the answers disclosed by Kelly Lupro, Director of Homeless Prevention that our Supervisors do nothing for the homeless aside from taking credit for the Armory and Domestic Violence funds, both of which are raised elsewhere. I told Ms. Lupro I could see not one County penny even for homeless toddlers until December 2010.

On May 6, I told Ms. Lupro, "Unless you refute this assertion, I will insert it as "officially unchallenged" into all my public statements and appearances. As a Director, you represent the Board, and I will be making this accusation at their electoral and public appearances, citing, or course, this email. If there is a source of funding for emergency beds for homeless children, please consider that question a public records request."

I'm posting this because there has been no such refutation. There has been no refutation because the fifth richest County in the nation has decided to keep every penny, regardless of how little it might cost to shield a child from harm, and us from Censure. I don't know how much shame I decided to feel, but indignation comes easy.

I trust that a number of voters will likewise let their indignation decide against the incumbents.

When the SOP is double speak and the reality is so singularly evil, there's no way these bums deserve a third strike. Please join me in voting them out.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Compulsory Christian Service in Chicago

A thank you to the Archdiocese of Chicago, the sole respondent to our plea for help...

Fr. Richard Hynes, Director
Department of Evangelization, Catechesis, and Worship
Archdiocese of Chicago

I wish to commend you to our Lord for help in time of trouble. I wrote to ten archdioceses and ten dioceses, including my own. Only Chicago responded, and two gentlemen from your diocese each contributed valuable insights.

First I'd like to single out M. Paul McCaughey, who hasn't really needed compulsory Christian service except when merging single gender schools, so I'd like to propose that we all follow his leadership. Anything he chooses to send me will become part of our Roundtable on Service.

Second I'd like to mention Nicholas Lund-Molfese, who recalled for me a great Peter Maurin story about honoring the volunteer spirit: Our co-founder was removing boulders from a roadway while his companions observed his labors while laying about. Peter said nothing, understanding that turning the other cheek meant silence. Mr. Lund-Molfese also pointed out quite correctly that much of modern education is compulsory, and must be.

Since in education we are dealing with those, however temporarily, who know not what they do, nor their proper motive in learning, compulsion seems appropriate. To me this would tend to indicate a need for a review of the catechesis surrounding confirmation. If we assume that as yet unformed Catholics need to be compelled to learn to behave in accord with the Greatest Commandment, should I not wonder aloud if their experience with compulsion has resulted in the ongoing need for compulsion on the part of all but a few adults.

Why don't most confirmed Catholics serve either the Church or the poor?

If, like Peter Maurin, we do the work ourselves, so as not to deny others the opportunity to volunteer, we will obviously have few companions. The companions we lack will be dissuaded by the arduous nature of the work or from a refusal of Grace, but the constitution of the human person and the efficacy of grace are for Him to modify.

Peter, in his exquisite sensitivity and tremendous compassion, eschewed even a simple plea for help. How much does ignorance on the part of the student require us to resort to compulsion? Are adult Catholics uneducated about the primacy of our only commandment and the meaning of the Good Samaritan? Couldn't compulsion actually be part of the way the normal person learns to ignore Christ because of an adolescent recalcitrance to be ordered about? It is a busy and conflicted time for human children, a time where maturity comes in part from refusing to follow certain leads.

How often do we tell students that Christ, and not the educational institution requires this service? Are we not then acting in the stead of the bank guard who puts the non-Christmas Club patrons in the long line for deposits? The Bank is Christ and the interest is Heaven - how could the intervention of the well-intentioned guard not sully the waters of salvation?

Father, I know full well that the Church begun by Christ is no bank guard; moreover I trust that the Deposit of Faith that I received from her is utterly trustworthy. I love the Christmas club!

I question, however, whether that Deposit includes compulsory service hours. Perhaps we should err on the side of caution, and not ourselves narrow the path to Christ.

I am, however, persuaded to move to Chicago!

God love you and keep you all.

Dwight Smith,
Catholic Worker

Friday, May 21, 2010

Multi-Million Dollar Homeless Help Program Ignored?

Today was an important day for the families of the mentally ill in Santa Ana. Senator Correa, my personal hero in the Senate, asked for our input and I'd like to share most of the issues I shared with him. I'm not sure I can forgive an ongoing tragedy perpetrated upon homeless children, so I have decided to bring certain facts to light in order that those children neglected might one day obtain the redress which could make their forgiveness possible.

To wit:

I have grave misgivings about the way Prop.63 funds were used by the OC Board of Supervisors and by Providence Corporation.

Virtually all the families housed at the Catholic Worker in December 2007 were temporarily sheltered at the Armory when our bathroom floors forced a renovation. Two months later Ms. Kelly Lupro, OC Director of Homeless Prevention, asked to "transfer" over 100 people back to my back yard. When I declined, saying six years of abdication was enough, one or more children in each family were found to conform to Prop. 63 guidelines, qualifying the families that had stayed here for the Renew Program.

While it is my understanding that Renew was intended for the exhausted caregivers of profoundly mentally ill children, it is probably far too expensive to serve as a substitute for the armory. That expense will only multiply when the Program is applied to the homeless, drug-addicted criminal parents of fairly normal children.

The people I cared for for six years for a little under $600,000.00, none of it government money, have now cost the State over $2,300,000.00 for only half that time, and with less than half the families remaining.

I was unaware that the boundary of Prop. 63 had been stretched all the way to simple "homeless prevention." I was on the steering committee and I know we never intended for the law to remedy the situation of the ordinary homeless family. No such outreach was ever conducted, police agencies were never so advised, the voters didn't know or intend for this to be shelter program. It was, first and foremost, a housing first initiative for the mentally ill.

Had the program been used properly, the children of drug addicts would not be receiving family therapy while high. If you examine a geographic distribution of intake on the Renewal Program as funded by Prop. 63, you will find a statistically impossible concentration of 316 Cypress as a prior address.

This is because the OC Board, then as now, is adamant about not sheltering children.

At this moment, while CSA is still claiming 849 emergency shelter beds in the OC, and has so advised first responders, there are really only 183 beds funded, and these are all domestic violence beds. Non-profit does not mean not-paid! Not paid = not available. But a recent Public Records Act reply from Mr. Montoya, the Records Manager for the OC Healthcare Agency revealed that the primary intake requirement for Renew was simple homelessness.

So why aren't the homeless families we currently meet every day being accepted by Project Renew under the "homeless prevention" provisions of OC's version of Prop. 63?

Because it's cheaper to lie to the voters and make up both numbers and motives that will promote the political futures of the incumbent Supervisors - who tarnish the very designation Republican by their steadfast reluctance to extend any help whatsoever save the most minimal, while adorning their offices and their resume with lies stripped from the hands of hungry kids.

I've retained counsel to examine evidence collected from a witness for a potential false claims act against the Board and it's agents. Please pray for this effort.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Compelling Christian Service

Yesterday I sent the following email to Fr. Horan, whom I'm hoping has the conscience to be embarrassed at the mess we've made out of "service hours" in the OC. Whenever you find Catholic kids paying through the nose to do exactly the same things convicted juvenile delinquents do, you know you've arrived at the neglected trash heap of educational innovation!

Dear Fr. Horan,

We're the Catholic Worker House of Hospitality here in Orange County, California. We're also the grateful recipients of the work of many volunteers who join us each day. With the current risk of traveling in Mexico, destinations shifted, and we experienced an overwhelming increase in the number of students seeking "service hours." While Catholic schools locally seemed to have initiated the practice in the OC, it has now spread everywhere. We're worried about compulsory Christian service.

We are averaging 1000 compulsory volunteer hours each week, and we are asking everyone we can find to help us "rethink" service hours. More properly, we're looking for for someone, a priest, a youth minister or director of education who has tackled this problem theologically: What would Jesus have us do with service hours?

Our prayers and reflections thus far have yielded some insights, but little, at least here in the OC, in the way of policy directions:

  • In some fashion, the student is often the poorest person in the process.
  • Most of our problems as Catholic Workers are with the compulsory nature of hours.
  • Little pedagogy accompanies the demand for hours.
  • Hours seemed to be valued alike regardless of their value to the poor, the student, the school or to Christ.
  • Once hours are initiated at a school, almost no re-visiting of the process takes place.
  • The mechanics of the process invites cheating and fraud; some hours here are sold.
  • The level of support given to students and parents is not commensurate with the fees paid to the school - the hours are an afterthought, yet still compulsory.

Clearly, assigning students a number of hours and threatening to suspend their graduation is not in the best tradition of Catholic Education.

We are desperate for your thoughts, however fragmentary, on anything that could make compulsory service more consistent with Catholic Social Justice teachings. We hope you forgive the unsolicited nature of the request. We're casting our bread upon the waters.

We wait in joyful hope...

Br. Dwight Smith, O.S.F.
OC Catholic Worker
See also:

Whenever I write to ordained men about serious issues, I balance the probability I'll be ignored against the two years it took me to become a professed third order Franciscan. I need all the support I can get, especially from the Saint of all Creation.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


In this most foolish attempt to reveal and transform the inner work of the O.C. Catholic Worker, we'd (well, really just Dwight at the moment) like to share the faith questions that undergird the priorities we assign to the work we try to do every day. By soliciting reflection and addition to our own attempts at understanding orthopraxis, we hope to arrive at a deposit of experience which might prove useful to Catholic Workers in the future.

The foolish part is the risk that in revealing those favorites to which we assign a lesser priority, we will alienate those who have been so favored. This is our necessary answer to cleave from our deposit of lived faith the chaff of privilege, puritanism and positive thinking.

We are here for a very brief time, and very few persons have regretted a faithful attempt to live as if someone or something else was more important. We will attempt to understand, as do all Christians, how to live in the light of the centrality of forgiveness to the Lord's Prayer and the fleeting nature of our earthly lives.

The idea of our ownership of virtually anything might well be a blasphemy that denies God it's forgiving use, as well as denying God the rent owed as the Creator of all. The very idea that the oceans or the atmosphere can be polluted because no earthly claim to their purity has yet been ajudicated is the central maddening social sin of our time.

It is time that we seek God's forgiveness and pay the rent on this place. In so doing we will find that forgiveness, in all its encompassing providence, is the rent.