The Many Faces of Homelessness
My Journey-Lisa Miller-Baldwin
December 3, 2012
Today marks the second day of my world being drastically changed due to a house fire! I am now considered homeless. The state of shock and disbelief that has accompanied this newly found state has been minimized by my faith in God, and great family support! Unfortunately the many families I serve lack family support and/or was prevented from staying with family due to lease occupancy clauses, not to mention lacking the monetary support to adequately provide for their families. Many faces of homelessness becomes erased by societal biases and misconceptions. Fortunately for me, I have insurance, but regrettably many homeless families lack these inevitable lifelines. So to expand further, let me share briefly about myself. I operate the Wonderfully Made Homeless Home, a small homeless shelter providing services and support with women and children that are homeless. I have served many families impacted by homelessness ranging from loss of employment, evictions, house fires, familial problems, and the list goes on. I now, as the shelter’s Director am faced with lying my head to a pillow that is not MY OWN! Oh! What a difference a day can make!
McKinney-Vento Definition of "Homeless"
Subtitle B of Title VII of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (Title X, Part C, of the No Child Left Behind Act) defines "homeless" as follows:
The term "homeless:
(A) means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (within the meaning of section 103(a)(1)); and
(B) includes--(i) individuals who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement.
Today I will not fret over my loss, but what is to gain by this new experience. I have so much to be thankful for and realize even if you cannot see the silver lining on your cloud, God can for he is the very source of the light you seek.
Let's Occupy Voting Booths in 2012
Guest columnist: Lisa Baldwin
There are MANY disgruntled Americans concerning the state of our union. But are they willing to visit the polls to express their discontent? If change is going to occur it must begin with us!! There are new voting laws for 2012 and we must arm ourselves with weapons that will not negate our right to vote!! How to Register
You must fill out a voter registration application form. Voter registration applications are available at your County Election Board, post offices, tag agencies, libraries and many other public locations. You will be offered a voter registration application when you get your driver's license and when you apply for assistance at some government agencies. Oklahoman's you may download an application form
You must sign and date the oath printed on the form. When you sign the voter registration application form, you swear that you are eligible to register to vote. Changing Your Registration
If you need to change your name, your address or your political affiliation, you must fill out another voter registration application form. You may change your registration at any time with one exception. You may not change your political affiliation during the period from June 1 through August 31, inclusive, in any even-numbered year. The last day on which you may change your political affiliation before the closed period is May 31; the first day on which you may change your political affiliation after the closed period is September 1. Submitting Your Application
You may mail your voter registration application to the State Election Board. The card is already addressed, but you must add a first-class postage stamp. If you fill out your voter registration application form at a tag agency when you get your driver's license or when you apply for assistance at a government agency, the agency will mail the form to the State Election Board for you. Voter Identification Card
You do not become a registered voter until the county election board in the county where you reside has approved your application. When your application is approved, the county election board will mail a voter identification card to you. Your voter identification card lists your name, address, political affiliation and the polling place for your voting precinct. When you receive your voter identification card, look at it carefully and report any errors to the county election board immediately. Keep your voter identification card in a safe place and always take it with you when you go to vote.
If your voter registration application cannot be approved, you will receive a letter from the county election board. The letter will tell you why your application was not approved and explain the steps you need to take to become registered. You may be able to return the letter with some additional information, or you may need to fill out and send in another voter registration application form. Closed Primary System
Oklahoma has a closed primary
system. Only voters who are registered members of a recognized political party may vote for the party's candidates in primary and runoff primary elections. Registered Independent voters may be eligible to vote in party's primaries and runoff primaries if authorized by the party.
However, nonpartisan judicial offices, state questions and county questions often are included in primary elections. All registered voters, including Independents, are entitled to receive those ballots. At general elections, all voters receive the same ballot and may vote for any candidate or question on the ballot. When to Register
You may submit your voter registration application form at any time. However, voter identification cards cannot be issued during the 24 days prior to an election. If your registration application is received by the county election board during the 24 days before an election, you will not receive your voter identification card until after the election. If you will become 18 during the 60 days before an election, you may apply for voter registration between 25 and 60 days before the election.NEW LAW
The proof of identity law requires every voter who votes in person at the precinct polling place or during early voting at the County Election Board to show proof of identity before receiving a ballot. A document used for proof of identity for voting must have been issued by the United States government, the State of Oklahoma, or a federally recognized tribal government.
The law requires any document used for proof of identity for voting to contain the following information:
- the name of the person to whom it was issued
- a photograph of the person to whom it was issued
- an expiration date that is after the date of the election
The law also requires the voter's name on the proof of identity document to "substantially conform" to the voter's name in the Precinct Registry. In other words, your name on your proof of identity must match your name in the Precinct Registry.
The following documents may be used for proof of identity for voting:
Empowered Magazine adamantly requests that you go to your area polling booth and cast your vote!! This will EMPOWER your world!!!
- an Oklahoma driver license
- a State Identification Card*
- a passport
- a military identification
BLIND JUSTICE OR BLIND JUSTICES?
It is a sad fact of life that here, in the 21st century, the contributions of women in the workforce are still valued less than that of men. Paying women less for the same work simply because of their gender was indefensible in the 1950's, but with the changes in our culture over the intervening time, it is absolutely reprehensible now. Women have established (although they shouldn't have needed to) that they are as capable as men in virtually every aspect of life, taking positions of authority and power wherever they can find a crack in the glass ceiling. Yet certain sectors of our society are still wallowing in the delusional machismo of the past, and defending the false superiority of males despite the evidence.
The last resort for women, or any other group facing such backward-thinking discrimination, is the courts. You know, the place where justice is blind, and the little people can go and have their voice heard on an equal playing field with the big businessmen. Our legal system was intended to protect the vulnerable from the powerful, to hold all of us to the same standard. Unfortunately, the legal system has one flaw. It's populated by people. And people are imperfect.
The US Supreme Court proved this imperfection with their recent decision against two women who brought a sexual discrimination suit against Wal-Mart, alleging that the retail giant routinely pays female employees less than males, and denies women promotions in favor of men. The women who took the bold step of suing their employers were seeking class action status for their suit, which would allow them to seek justice not just for themselves, but for the 1.5 million women working for the company who shared their experiences.
The court ruled that it was unfair to expect Wal-Mart to defend its personnel decisions in so many cases at once, and denied the class action distinction of the suit, forcing these women to bring their suits individually. But what sense does it make to force individuals to prove, independently, that Wal-Mart supports a gender bias in their employment decisions across the board? Isn't it logical that a large, wealthy corporation should have the resources to present an effective case in their defense of such a basic issue? If they are innocent of the allegations, wouldn't it be easier for them to put forth a categorical denial, and produce evidence to support it? And isn't it more unfair to pit individuals, with far less resources, against such a financial powerhouse?
Shame on you, so-called Justices. When we fail to protect the weak from the strong, we condemn ourselves to remain savages that much longer, and thwart the march of our society toward a more civilized ideal. When the highest court in the land fails to fulfill its basic duty, what message does that send to us all?
A Reminder: Time is Short!
I've been on my real job less than a month now, and I've spent a lot of time lately enjoying meeting my new co-workers. I like meeting new people, particularly the colorful types, the ones like me who have opinions and like to share them with anyone who looks like they might listen.
I met one such fellow, an opinionated old cuss, just last week. He was from my parents' generation, not quite old enough to retire, but old enough that the fear of being fired for speaking his mind no longer haunted his thoughts. You could tell from the glint in his eye that he relished that freedom, and I liked him immediately. He was chatting with my supervisor that day, speaking of his time in the Army (three tours in Vietnam), speaking of patriotism and unapologetically offering his graphic opinions of those who would dare desecrate our flag in his presence, and then turning the conversation to his upbringing in rural Eastern Oklahoma.
I couldn't help but jump in, and asked him where exactly. It turned out he and I hailed from the same home town. In fact, his uncle had owned a bait shop about three blocks down the road from the service station my dad had owned when I was a tot. I was happy to find some kinship with this grizzled veteran, and as we parted, I looked forward to many more colorful chats with him in the future.
Then, my new company decided they needed me to work at a different location, where my new supervisor just happens to be this man's daughter. She has the spark of his fire, and you can see the marks of his character in hers – honesty, integrity, a strong work ethic, all the qualities one would expect from someone raised in that man's home.
Which is why I was surprised when she was late to work this morning. I dismissed it, and imagined she probably had good reason to be late. Then one of my new coworkers arrived and broke the news. She wouldn't be coming in today, or the rest of the week, because her father had been one of the people killed by the tornadoes that struck the state yesterday.
Sometimes reality slaps you in the face, just to remind you what's important. Time is not an infinite commodity, and there's no gauge to tell you when the tank is running low. Use the time you have wisely, spend it on things that are important, and treasure what you have.
It was an honor to meet you, sir.
A Prescription for Disaster
“Tell your doctor immediately if you develop any muscle cramps or weakness, as this could be a sign of a rare but serious side effect.” You've heard it before. You know, on those commercials on TV, the ones for those cholesterol medicines. Yes, you've heard it, probably so many times you don't even notice it. But I notice it. You better believe I do. You see, I've seen the “rare but serious side effect” in action. It's a horrendous condition called rhabdomyolysis, and it's not nearly as innocuous as the smooth-talking marketing folks make it sound. It nearly killed my wife a year and a half ago, and left her so helpless for several months following her experience that I was forced to abandon my job to care for her and our children. Without an income, we came maddeningly close to losing our home, and now we are left in so much debt that bankruptcy is likely going to be our only option. All because of a little pill. I'm not terribly old, but I remember a time when advertisements were not allowed for prescription medications. The idea behind that ban was simple and sound. Prescription medications are supposed to be administered only to people who really need them, while advertisements are designed to create a demand for a product in order to reach a wide customer base. Therefore, advertisements for prescription medications are inappropriate. But we have them now. They're all over the place, television, radio, magazines, newspapers, the internet, every form of media that features commercials carries them. Everywhere we turn, we are informed of a magic potion that will cure our ills, provided it doesn't kill us first. You see, those side effects that the commercials mention in passing are the very reason you're not allowed to go down to the corner drug store and buy these medications over the counter. They can be very dangerous, and should only be used if you really need them. But if the people who really need these medications were the only people buying them, the pharmaceutical industry wouldn't be making the obscene amounts of money they are now. And then they wouldn't be able to pay for an army of lobbyists to convince our lawmakers to allow them to advertise their products on our TV's and in our magazines, so they can make even more money, to pay lobbyists to convince our lawmakers to block our access to cheaper medications from other countries, and to limit pharmaceutical companies' legal liability for the damage their products do to their users, and to loosen restrictions on bringing new and more dangerous drugs to the American public.
Well, I suggest a new disclaimer for these commercials. “Tell your legislator immediately if you experience any righteous indignation, as this could be a sign of a rare but serious defeat in their next election.” Money buys access, but votes buy attention. 
To read more about it, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhabdomyolysis
Is Fair really Fair with Social Security?
There's no denying it. Our country is in one heck of a financial pickle. Our feckless, whoops! I mean fearless, leaders in Washington are all crying out that we must fix the budget and that some tough choices have to be made. Too bad those tough choices are going to be made tough on the little guys, not the guys making the choices. Did you know that the median net worth of a US Congressman is just shy of $1 million? That means that just under one-half of all our lawmakers on the federal level are millionaires. Do you think they are in touch with the average American? Do you think they have your interests at heart? For decades, Social Security has been in the crosshairs of budget-balancing legislators, because Social Security is a huge program that looks like it is eating up the majority of our budget. But in reality, while the federal government spends a whopping huge chunk of money each year on Social Security, it takes in nearly as much as it spends from the Social Security payroll tax. It's true that there is a shortfall, and that the general budget has to cover that gap. But there's an easy way to fix that shortfall. There is a cap on the Social Security tax, a maximum wage beyond which Social Security cannot touch your earnings. Politicians have opposed abolishing that gap, claiming that it would hurt middle-class families. Oddly, though, that cap currently stands at $106,800. Would you consider someone earning $1,000,000 or more a year to be middle-class? Even then, why should people who earn more than that amount be exempt from paying their fair share? After all, they're the ones complaining about the “unfair” progressive income tax rates they have to pay, and calling for a “flat tax”. So why is it fair for them to be exempt from the majority of their Social Security taxes? “According to Stephen Goss, the SSA's chief actuary, lifting the cap while giving commensurate benefit hikes to high-income taxpayers once they retire would cover 93% of the SSA's projected shortfall in Social Security revenues over the next 75 years. Removing the cap without raising those benefits would actually produce a surplus in the system over the same period—even if the economy creeps along as the SSA predicts it will.” So why don't our Congressmen do it? Well, if you want to see the faces of the people who would lose money in the deal, all you have to do is attend one of those $5,000-a-plate fundraisers our politicians like to have. If you want to see who would benefit, well, you'd have to go someplace else. It's time to take our politicians to task, and make them work for the people who vote for them, not the people who pay for their campaigns.
“Capitol Gain: Why Washington is closer to Wall Street than Main Street” graph. 
I'm tired of all these headlines, aren't you? Well, I refuse to write another one. We all know what's going on in D.C. The government is shutting down. Once again, the boys on Capitol Hill are making political maneuvering and social agendas a priority over the real-life concerns of Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public. Haven't we had just about enough of this? The Democrats are screaming, “Republicans are holding America hostage by threatening to shut down the government unless the Senate passes a budget loaded with their extreme right-wing social agenda. As a result our troops won’t get paid and 800,000 people, including many law enforcement officers, will lose their paychecks over political pandering.” Meanwhile, the Republicans are shouting that the Democrats must consent to spending cuts to keep the country out of bankruptcy. There are a lot of fingers pointing both directions, but none pointing to compromise. So who wins and who loses? The winners are uncertain, but you can be certain that among the losers are us, the little guys, no matter how this pans out.
The bone of contention in the budget battle is the Republican plan to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, both pet projects of the Democratic party. Democrats contend that these programs provide valuable services to the public, and in particular to the economically disadvantaged. Republicans contend that these programs garner enough funds from other sources that they are not dependent on federal funds to continue their functions. Who's right? Who's wrong? Who cares? The difference between the two sides on spending cuts is merely a fraction of 1 percent of the overall budget. So why all the fuss?
The problem is that the people who are able to get themselves elected to office in our society are necessarily image-conscious and self-aggrandizing, with egos that dwarf the national debt. They let personal pride and party loyalty get in the way of doing the right thing. And why do they act this way? Because we, the voting public, let them get away with it. We elect these people based on big talk and impressive posturing, and we get the same old partisan bickering every time.
So what's the answer? I wish I could say it was easy. But the only answer I see, the only way to get people in office that care about issues and not party platforms, is to scrap both political parties altogether. The system is broken beyond repair, and this latest embarrassment only serves to illustrate that fact more than ever. Cronyism, backroom deals, underhanded “campaign contributions”, and special interest lobby groups are strangling our process of governance and killing our nation, and this slow death can only be averted if the masses begin to take notice, dig beneath the hype, examine the real motivations of our candidates, and take a proactive stance in democracy. Take your nation back, people, but for yourselves, not for another political movement. http://www.dscc.org/act?action_KEY=169