California Offers Free ID to Homeless People


By Christine Schanes / The OB Rag

As of July 1st, a homeless person, child or youth born in the State of California can get a free certified birth certificate from the county of their birth. And as of January 1, 2016, a homeless person, child or youth will be able to get a free new or replacement California photo identification card from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

These public records fee waivers were provided during the 2013-14 California legislative session by the passage of Assembly Bill 1733 whose primary author was former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and whose joint authors were Speaker of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins and Assemblymember Brian Maienschein.   [Read more…]

Homelessness: Does A Dollar Make A Difference?

By Christine Schanes

Every day many of us see a homeless person holding a sign or a cup begging for money. The kind-hearted people among us often give spare change or a dollar to this homeless person. However, we may ask ourselves, “Will a dollar make a difference in the life we’ve just touched?”

Yes, a financial gift of any amount does make a difference – a number of differences, in fact. With our contribution, the homeless person will be able to accumulate enough money to purchase the basic necessities of life – food, clothing and shelter. Further, by reaching out to the homeless person, we show that we care, which uplifts his/her spirits. And our generosity expands our own feelings of compassion which science has shown positively affects our immune system.   [Read more…]

Helping Homeless People Die Indoors

By Christine Schanes

There is one certainty in life – we are all going to die. How and where we die are the only issues.

Will we die quickly or have a lingering death? We don’t know. However, most of us housed people are pretty sure we will die indoors in some health facility or in our own home. In fact, some of us buy insurance so that we are assured of the particular standard of care and facility we prefer in our last days.

However, what about unsheltered homeless people? They live outside and very likely will die outside.

How do I know this? Because over the past several years I have been involved in the end of life care for three homeless friends. I’ve written about Bobby Ojala who passed in late August 2012 and Susan Hunt who died twelve days later in early September. But, Karen Lee Creeden was the first homeless person I helped die indoors.   [Read more…]

Homelessness: NIMBYism

NIMBY is the abbreviation of the phrase, “Not In My BackYard.” It is a term used to describe the negative emotional reaction that some of us experience when we fear that other people, who belong in a group other than the group to which we align ourselves, may live near or among us.

NIMBYism is the term used as a noun as in the sentence, “Group homes for people with severe mental challenges are not welcome in this neighborhood because of the NIMBYism of its residents.”

The focus of NIMBYism can be any race, economic class or any basis upon which similarly situated people can be distinguished from other groups.

The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that the first known use of this term was in 1980. However, the negative emotional response to people unlike ourselves living in our neighborhoods developed long before its use in everyday parlance.   [Read more…]

Why I Became a Volunteer Coordinator for the 2013 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count

I didn’t expect my life to change as a result of my research for articles about homelessness for The Huffington Post. But that’s exactly what happened.

In the course of my research, I contacted several lead agencies of Continuums of Care (CoCs) in California to learn about their responsibilities.

As you may know, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires each Continuum of Care (CoC), a group of service providers with a lead agency, to conduct a biennial Count during the last ten days of January, of homeless people living within its geographical area. Some CoCs, including the one in San Diego, California, conduct their Counts annually even though they are not required by HUD to do so.

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Calling 5,000 People to Volunteer in Los Angeles, CA! Please Visit

It’s time to volunteer, get trained and help count homeless people!

The 2013 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, directed by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), consists of counting homeless people within the City and County of Los Angeles, excluding Long Beach, Pasadena and Glendale that conduct their own counts. In order to accomplish the nation’s largest local census count of homeless people in scale and scope, LAHSA needs 5,000 volunteers. So LAHSA needs you NOW!   [Read more…]

Homelessness Myth #25: Here a Homeless, There a Homeless

For some time now, we have been aware of homelessness in our midst. In the 50’s, we called people without homes, “hobos.” The hobos were generally men who we believed chose the free and easy lifestyle of riding railroad cars and doing odd jobs for housed country folk in exchange for sandwiches.

In fact, the lives of hobos were romanticized through movies, including “Emperor of the North,” staring Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine.

Today, the fastest growing segment of the homeless population is families, including single mothers with their children. I don’t know anyone who believes that families choose a homeless lifestyle. There is nothing free and easy about their homelessness. And there are no romantic movies being made about their plight.   [Read more…]

“Thank You For Helping Susan Hunt”

On Saturday, August 25th, in San Diego, Susan Hunt, a 61 year old woman, was struck by a car driven by a 69 year old man.

In the accident, Susan hit her head and suffered severe brain trauma. She was on life-support at Scripps Hospital until yesterday, when, following her previously stated wishes, extraordinary measures were removed. Within fifteen minutes thereof, Susan died peacefully.

Susan had been homeless for over 10 years.   [Read more…]

Homelessness: The Children of Hawaii Sing

Would you appreciate the opportunity to be inspired? Do yourself a favor and watch this video, Dream What Could Be Done, sung by children of Lanai High and Elementary School (LHES) Fifth Grade Class of 2020 under the direction of Matt Glickstein, educational assistant for the Department of Education, State of Hawaii:

(Go inside for the video.) Some of the children share their thoughts on homelessness.

“There’s always something you can do.” – KA

“If homeless people have no homes, we will build a home for them. We will help the kids get an education. We will help the adults to get jobs so they can make money.” – KK   [Read more…]

Homelessness in San Diego: My Friend, Bobby

Last night, my friend, Bobby, died. A San Diego, CA native, Robert Eugene Ojala, 56 years old, was homeless. Bobby was grateful for the hospital and residential hospice care he received which enabled him to spend his last several weeks indoors and free of
pain. After run-ins with the law, Bobby found Jesus and changed his attitude about life.   [Read more…]

Homelessness: Love, Sex, Companionship

“Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.” – His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium

In the above quotation, His Holiness points out the importance of having positive relationships with other people. Among the positive ways we may relate to others is through love, intimacy and companionship. But, do homeless people have these relationships? I asked homeless people about this topic and I thank them for their responses that follow.
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Homelessness: Man’s Inhumanity to Man

There is no question that every political issue has at least two sides – the pros and the cons. Issues involving homelessness are no different. However, when weighing the impact of both sides of homelessness issues, often one side appears to have a greater impact upon humanity than the other. In other words, in analyzing the issues of homelessness, the sides are not necessarily even. In fact, sometimes the impact of the political decisions relating to homelessness can be cruel.

For example, there are municipal ordinances in many cities prohibiting sleeping on public land, including beaches and parks. On the positive side, these laws protect public property from overuse – an important goal so that members of these communities can continue to share open spaces. However, homeless people may experience the impact of these laws as depriving them of a legal place to sleep.   [Read more…]

Homelessness Myth#24: They All Frequent Bars

We’re all aware that the United States economy is going through some hard times. A number of businesses are experiencing financial down turns. Some housed people believe that all homeless people spend a great deal of time hanging out in bars and, by their very presence in those bars, negatively impact those businesses.

But do all homeless people really hang out in bars? To answer this question, I asked a number of people who have experienced homelessness whether they frequent bars and, if so, what have their experiences have been.   [Read more…]

The New Morena District Certified Farmers’ Market

The new Morena District Certified Farmers’ Market opened Tuesday, June 19, 2012, from 3 – 7pm with 75 booths exhibiting the wares of 45 vendors to the delight of a crowd estimated by Brian Beevers, Market Manager, to be approximately 3,000 people! Among those attending were Lori Zapf, Republican, Member of San Diego City Council representing the Sixth District.

Vendors included local merchants of coffee, fruits, vegetables, baskets, nuts, berries, prepared foods, including BBQ, fresh drinks, flowers, clothing, fish, roasted corn, cupcakes, pasta, jams, object d’art, honey, plants, olives and bread. Two musicians played guitar and a percussion instrument.   [Read more…]

An Open Letter to My Daughter, Carrie

Four years ago, “my daughter Carrie,” was arrested for being in this country illegally. Along with her older brother and younger sister, Carrie had been brought here as a young child by her biological parents who entered the United States legally. The family had fled Guatemala because of civil unrest in their native land and her father with his family had been welcomed in the United States for that reason.

Over the years, the family grew by two additional children who, born in the United States, were automatically citizens.

Carrie’s mother tried repeatedly to get her three oldest children their own paperwork showing that they were legally independent of their parents. Her last effort included paying $1,500 to an immigration attorney to help her children get their documentation. Unfortunately, her attorney died before informing her of his progress or sharing his files with anyone else. Repeated attempts to find out what he accomplished, if anything, were unsuccessful.   [Read more…]

Homelessness and Hand-to-Hand Combat

Violence: Is it caused by nature or nurture? I have often wondered why people hit each other in physical, hand-to-hand fights. And when people are homeless, living bereft of everything, why doesn’t the fighting stop?

To find out about the nature of violence among homeless people, I asked a 48 year old disabled man who lives on the streets why he fights. I thank him for the candor:   [Read more…]

Homelessness Myth #23: They Have Too Much Food To Eat

“They have too much food to eat.”

Really? Do some housed people really believe that homeless people have too much food to eat? Actually, yes. And they provide what they consider the evidence:

“Of course they have too much food to eat. See how fat they are!”

This myth leaves me stunned because I believe its falsehood is obvious. I’ve had the privilege to work with people in need for over twenty years. Sadly, in all of that time, I have never known a homeless person who was able to eat three healthy meals a day. Really. As we all know, obesity is an American epidemic. Whether we are housed or homeless, many authorities agree that our diet of high-calorie, unhealthy foods contributes to our obesity.   [Read more…]

Why We Should Care About the Death of Kelly Thomas

by Christine Schanes

At around 8:30 pm the evening of July 5, 2011, Kelly Thomas, a 37 year old, mentally ill homeless man, was in the parking lot of the Fullerton bus depot when he was approached by police officers. Approximately 33 minutes later, Kelly was unconscious and taken to the hospital where five days later he was pronounced dead.

What happened in that bus depot parking lot? Can we learn anything from the death of Kelly Thomas? Why should we care about the death of one homeless person?   [Read more…]