Archive for the Dollhouse and Jobs Category

MFIP Cuts? GA safe for now.

Posted in Dollhouse and homeless, Dollhouse and Jobs, Save Dollhouse, Saving Dollhouse on April 26, 2010 by toresimonsen

As regular readers know, I am not currently on GA. In my case, it does not seem necessary.

I found out today that the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee released its proposed budget. I heard about this by chance while at Central Lutheran Church. There was a table with flyers. I picked one up.

I decided to head over to the capital. Getting there was not easy. I had to pay for a bus fare to get to the capital. I am not sure how many people in a similar situation will be able to get to the capital. The Basillica would not provide tokens to get to the capital and there did not appear to be any coordinated effort to get people from Minneapolis there. For example, the organizers from Stand Together Minnesota focused on outreach at drop-in centers in St. Paul.

There are some budget cuts coming. At the time being, the current budget proposes no cuts to the $203 general assistance program. In a somewhat unusual move, the cuts are being made to the MFIP program which supports families.

The MFIP program is being impacted. The current proposal is to cut $9.5 million from MFIP. The eligibility requirements for MFIP have been reduced to 110% from 115% (so you must be poorer to qualify). There is also a reduction in asset values. Cars can only be valued up to $7,500. The old limit was $15,000.

A handful of people wearing supportive stickers regarding MFIP were walking around the capital.

Public testimony on the proposed cuts is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. at the capital tomorrow.

As for me, I spent most of my time to try to conduct outreach to save Dollhouse. I handed out materials to various people at the capital about Dollhouse.

Minnesota Legal Market

Posted in 1, Dollhouse and Jobs with tags , , on April 21, 2010 by toresimonsen

I ran into an old law school classmate yesterday. We spoke briefly. He seems to be doing well. He made partner a few years ago. We caught up about a few things and he mentioned that the legal market in Minnesota remains brutal. As far as he sees it, the Minnesota market cannot sustain four law schools.

I tend to agree that the Twin Cities is too small a market for the number of law schools it has. While it may not be better anywhere else, it is hard to imagine it could be much worse. The staggering student loan debt levels combined with a weak economy and a glut in lawyers can crush anyone.

Even if you do find work, it can be stressful and full of long hours. Many lawyers find themselves in unhealthy work environments with little satisfaction and few job alternatives.

I certainly over the years tried to avail myself of many opportunities in the legal profession. I received few opportunities. Nevertheless, I do not miss the opportunity to practice law.

Window Washer Protest

Posted in 1, Dollhouse and Jobs with tags on April 5, 2010 by toresimonsen

There was an arrest in a protest at Gaviidae Commons in downtown Minneapolis today. Window washers are protesting what they say are unsafe working conditions. According to the window washers there have been 3 deaths in the last 2 years. They want to work, but not unsafely.

I took some video footage of the protest which I compiled here.

Homeless Connections.

Posted in 1, Dollhouse and homeless, Dollhouse and Jobs, Save Dollhouse, Saving Dollhouse with tags on March 29, 2010 by toresimonsen

I attended project Homeless Connect at the Minneapolis Convention center. It began at 10:00 a.m. I got there about 10:15 a.m.

There were many happy volunteers, social service agencies, and government workers in attendance.

I stood in line for a while to get assigned a guide. It is a typical role for a volunteer. Usually, they do a short intake in which they asked you the same tired questions and then try to figure out what you will need. My guide was a very nice young woman who was studying public health issues and looking for a new job this summer. We parted ways at lunch, in part, because I knew that too many services would not be forthcoming and her volunteer opportunity could be more productive with someone else.

As my stay at Our Savior shelter ends tonight, securing some kind of housing was my first priority. I already knew that housing issues would not likely get resolved. Too many programs require either mental illness or chemical dependency problems to get into. Others programs requires some kind of government assistance to qualify for. One odd pre-requisite for assisstance is the one that requires at least one year of homelessness. As expected, nothing was going to work for me. I spoke to Robert from Simpson shelter and explained I would go to the lottery to try to win a waitlist spot tonight.

Discussions with the William Mitchell legal clinic proved more fruitful. In my discussions with legal clinic staff, they made several constructive suggestions for handling a specific issue.

Volunteers from Willliam Mitchell Law School

Even more interesting is the possibility that one organization said they might have the discretionary funds to pay my parking ticket in Los Angeles. I cannot imagine that my parking tickets are greater than other peoples needs.

I got a very nice haircut from Pam who works at a salon in General Mills. I had to wait hours to get my haircut, but finally they worked me into the rotation. Scissor cuts moved faster than buzz cuts. I also reminded people that Tracy Muse is cutting hair at St. Stephen’s shelter. Tracy is cutting hair on Mondays starting at 3:30 pm. He only takes up to 6 people, so sign up and get there early.

Technology issues remain a mixed bag. Margaret from Branch 3 employment center informed me that the computer situation has not changed. (I left her with Linux distros on CDs for anyone who wants to install them on an old laptop- be sure to back up your files.) Ed from TCVM indicated no progress has been made on the internet cafe idea, but it is still being kicked around.

On site at Project homeless connect, a computer lab was set up for making resumes. It was constantly busy. As for internet access, the on site internet cafe closed early. It was supposed to be in the room next to the telephones.

The job fair had a handful of employers there. Doherty Staffing solutions, Hilton Minneapolis, Hyatt Regency, Kraus Anderson Construction company, the Mall of America, Marquette Hotel, and Sheraton Hotel had a presence at the site. Not too many employers in light of the number of homeless people in attendance.

On the transportation front, the MTC did not provide any free bus fares or cards. One bright spot, Minneapolis Public Schools did have some one fare rides in the Education section.

As for me, the sad truth is that I will not, in all likelihood, have adequate shelter beginning tomorrow. The emergency shelters at Tramp Camp and Harbor lights are only good for staying warm- not good sleep or showering.

The lottery did not go well last night. The place was brimming with unmet needs, despite the project homeless connect earlier in the day. At present, I am only eligible for waitlist stays because you become ineligible after each 28 day stay for a period of 28 days. I attended the lottery and did not get on the waitlist.

I spent my last night at OurSavior and must now return to the emergency shelters (either Tramp Camp, Dorothy Day in St. Paul, or SafeBay). None of these options is good. There is no locker in SafeBay or Tramp Camp on the first floor making it a risky environment. At the same time, I find the showers inadequate at these locations. I currently have all of my things packed around with me. I can store a few items at Our Savior, but not until 6pm. I had to do my laundry before obtaining storage- no point in not having clean clothes or storing dirty ones. (As regular readers know, locker storage is a critical unmet need for homeless people.)

Of course, I conducted as much outreach as I could under the circumstances. Thank you to all who listened.
Please help save Dollhouse.

Here are the links to save the show:


Save Dollhouse by signing the TNT petition online to save Dollhouse.


Save Dollhouse by sending TNT EMAILS to save Dollhouse.

The twitition to save Dollhouse is here!

Sidewalk Cart Vendors- Mobile Vending Part 3

Posted in Dollhouse and Jobs with tags , on March 24, 2010 by toresimonsen

This is a long summary of the Regulatory, Energy, and Environment committee and the Transportation and Public Works committee chaired by Elizabeth Glidden.

As explained at the end, the committees chose to add an effective date of May 1, 2010 as well as work with businesses on a task force to shape the proposal.

This was described as a public meeting on sidewalk cart vendors.

Doug Cress gave the overview of the sidewalk food units. This expands the use of sidewalk food units in the Downtown Improvement District. It is billed as an opportunity to expand their businesses.

Doug Cress claims that the ordinance is long overdue.

Linda Roberts begins the Powerpoint presentation that was at the last two meetings. The Powerpoint presentation is available online. It is for current food business licenses.

As I have noted in previous posts, the permitting process requires the consent of the adjacent business owners.

The application requires a location review that requires a review of the location to make sure that traffic on the sidewalk will not be impeded.

Fifteen major cities already have mobile food vending processes. Linda Roberts claims that there is widespread support for the proposal. She noted that there is some concern the proposal could challenge brick and mortar units. Linda Roberts raps up her presentation.

Doug Cress goes over the major concerns that have been expressed about mobile vendors.

Council member Lillegren begins to ask some questions. First question is why the cap at only 25 mobile vendors operated.

Linda Roberts feels that 25 was a good starting point and that it was a manageable limit.

Lillegren asks a second question is why limit it to only one mobile vendor per parking lot?

Linda Roberts said that the limit is to foster both the sale of food and allow for the flow of traffic. They did not want parking lots converted into food malls.

Lillegren asks about the provision of requiring the mobile vendor to obey the lawful order of a police officer to leave.

Linda Roberts believes that the provision is for purposes of managing accidents or other safety events.

Lillegren feels that the provision is unclear on that point.

Lillegren asks about the provisions concerning whether there is an appeals process built into the license application.

Linda Roberts says there is due process built into all licensing applications.

Mr. Nelson clarifies the legal matter.

There is a discussion about whether the fee is in the proposal and it is determined that it is the proposed fee.

Counsel member Hofstede asks a clarifying question about whether there is sufficient staff to manage the program.

Linda Roberts believes there is.

Council member Hofstede is concerned about the 100 foot zone of refuge and the vendors responsibility.

Linda Roberts explains they will be responsible for litter within 100 feet of their unit.

There is nothing specific about recycling in the ordinance.

Council member Schiff asks about recycling and power sources.

Linda Roberts says very little discussion has been made about recycling. As to the typical power source it is typically through generators.

The public hearing is opened.

Carla Juneska

Carla Juneska is the first to speak. She is in favor of the ordinance. She is a food lover. She feels mobile vendors have been successful in other parts of the city.

Jason Adkins

Jason Adkins represents the Institute for Justice as an attorney. They feel mobile vending is a unique means of getting a foothold in the economy. The government should be removing barriers to market entry. Jason Adkins believes the proposal could bring economic development, but cautions against using the proposal as a gimmick. The current proposal is not citywide, does not allow food trucks on city streets, has arbitrary one per parking lot limits, and is limited only pre-existing license holders. It requires the consent of the adjacent property owner. Jason Adkins recommends looking at Milwaulkee’s regime.

Tim Mahoney

Tim Mahoney gives a speech. He is the warehouse district Business association representative and owner of the Loon Cafe. He wants to form a task force to answer questions about the mobile food vendors. There are many questions about the effects of mobile food vendors. Tim Mahoney believes that by joining with the council, a successful compromise proposal could be reached. He is asking to form a task force because he feels people have not been given enough information about the proposal. Tim Mahoney wants more time to get it right.

Tore Simonsen (31:29)

A resident of Our Savior, homeless shelter. I am speaking about the need for the adjacent business owners consent. It would undermine the proposal. The property is in public trust, so why do we need the consent of the adjacent property owners? There would be a decline and co-option of public space for private benefit which is problematic.

Val Barnes and Selvine Sedeki

Val Barnes feels it is a great idea which is long overdue. Feels she got a lot of good information from council member Goodman’s office. She expresses concern that the council has already decided who were twenty-five street cart vendors are. She feels that it is a wonderful opportunity for small businesses. She wants to see this proposal implemented online so that people will know how the proposal is implemented. She wonders how hard it will be to become one of the twenty-five and whether the opportunities will ever extend to non-licensed businesses.

Ryan McKenzie

Ryan McKenzie shares many of Tim Mahoney. Wonders what will keep the big corporations from buying into the deal. Ryan McKenzie does not feel there is a need for more fast food.

Sarah Harris

Represents downtown improvement district and wants to see the proposal done right. She wants to activate the streets and get people in the office buildings and on to the streets.

Corey Sax

Corey Sax works with Pizza Lucce. Corey Sax feels it is a great idea and is not opposing it. Corey Sax is likewise concerned about big chains coming in and taking advantage of the downtown. Corey Sax is very concerned that allowing one vendor per parking lot will add to the late night chaos. Corey Sax wants a task force.

Erika Straight

Erika Straight runs Foxy Falafel. She feels mobile vending is a great opportunity. She feels that people will eventually notice other businesses through street vending. She feels that street food is a great culture.

Council Lillegren asks if she has a primary food license. She does not. The question becomes would Foxy Falafel qualify for street vending? The answer is that any food license would qualify.

Patty Soskin

Patty Soskin is from the other side of the river and would love the opportunity to have a mobile food vending opportunity. Patty Soskin is willing to pay extra for the opportunity.

Peter Kirian

Partner in the local and Kirian’s Irish pub. He is a huge supporter of the proposal but feels that the businesses want more of a voice in the process.

Mickey Carlson

She is speaking for Chef Shack. Mickey Carlson wants to make the point that street food will increase the visibility of the other brick and mortar shops and restaraunts. Mickey Carlson also reiterates that street vendors are very responsible. Street vendors pick up trash. Chef Shack does recycle and has compostable packaging.. Chef Shack is opposed to granting licenses only to existing brick and mortar establishments. Chef Shack wants the street vending license to grow and revolutionize without prerequisites. The mobile vendors will bring people into the area.

David Cavenat

David Cavenat is a fan of food carts but is concerned as a property owner. There are vacancies on Hennnepin. As a taxpayer, he is concerned about having to compete with people who are not paying the same tax burden. He is worried that low cost carts will push out tenants. He wants to spend more time to work on the proposal.

Cynthia Curtis

Cynthia Curtis is with Hell’s Kitchen. She has a foot in both camps. She wants to do a Hell-On-Wheels mobile vending unit. She has a lot of questions. She understands that it will take a lot of work to get a mobile vending unit ready to go. She is worried about missing the boat. She is not ready to roll because the first email she received was on March 12, despite the months of rumors. She is also concerned about the noise of generators. Can the property owners charge rent? She is also worried about the short notice. She wants 30 days for a task force.

Kate Summers

Kate Summers is a local foodie and present in the blogging community. She has heard about this for months. Many people have heard about the proposal for months. She loves food and loves attending farmers market. She goes to Mill City farmer’s market and Spoon River for breakfast. The idea of coming into downtown Minneapolis for street vending is appealing to her. She feels street vending is the only thing missing from Minneapolis street culture.

Christina Cavenat

She is wondering if the 25 vendors always get the spot or if they need to get one each year?

Sandra Presley Patterson

Sandra Patterson has a question. What type of vehicle is acceptable? Is it something that is already attached to something with an engine or is it a trailer or a small food cart? What does it mean to be associated with a kitchen?

The public hearing is closed at this point and the council and staff are asked to answer some concerns.

The committee begins working backwards on questions and concerns.

First question is about what type of vehicle is acceptable under the ordinance. The staff feels it should be open, but that is mobile. It is not to be stationary. It could be a trailer, but mobile. It could be a truck or a trailer, but must be self-contained.

Council member Colvin Roy wonders how can a trailer be considered a self-contained unit?

Staff feels that a trailer would need to be able to move out within a reasonable time.

Council member Colvin Roy as is the reasonableness going to be addressed in the licensing process?

Staff feels they would have to address the issue in the licensing process.

The next question addressed is how do you define if it is associated with a commercial kitchen?

The base license is defined as any type of food license, including alcohol licenses. It is very broad.

It is explained that anything which is pre-prepared would have to be prepared within the confines of the commercial kitchen.

Council member Lilligren loves the idea of mobile food vendors and increases access for people who do not have a full scale kitchen.

The idea of having a tie to a commissary is something which could be considered, but is prohibited.

Council member Reich wants information about the power sources. The staff explains that they do not want the mobile vendors to tap into the grid, but be powered by their own generators.

Staff is then pressed on the issue regarding the noise of the generators. Vendors would have to follow existing noise ordinances.

Council member Schiff notes that quiet generators probably would not qualify under the existing ordinances. The goal is that generators would power those located on public property but private property could be governed by separate agreements.

Council member Hofstedt asks about the start up costs associated with start up vendors.

The staff indicates that costs vary. It really seems to range from $25,000 to several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Council member Hofstedt: That is just start up cost. This does not include on-going concerns, such as insurance.

The discussion turns to the hours of operation which are only until 10 pm for vendors near residences or mixed use residences.

Council member Gordon wants to clarify the issue of power sources again.

Staff tries to clarify that if the mobile vendors is located on private property it might be able to draw from private property. There is confusion regarding whether this is allowed or not. It needs further review.

Council member Schiff asks why shut the food service off at midnight?

Staff felt that it was a starting point for the proposal. There is discussion about security concerns and crowd control from the police.

The discussion turns to the awarding of the 25 permits.

Staff felt that the 25 spots are consistent with other ordinances with caps. The staff feels the downtown region is limited by space itself.

The permits will be awarded on a first come first serve basis. They will expire by April 1 of the following year.

How will renewals be granted? It is first come first serve.

Council member Glidden wonders if this will create huge lines? Glidden is also concerned about the possibility of 25 hotdog vendors?

Staff does not feel that there will be a huge concert style line. Staff felt that first come first serve was the best way to do that even for renewals. They looked at lottery systems and bid systems. The staff is open to other ideas, but feels first come first serve is the best system for now.

There has been no predetermination of the businesses that will get the permit. In addition to that, the mobile vendor application must be complete before you people get into the que for a license.

Council member Hofestedt shares the concerns and feels that the application process should be reviewed.

Licensed establishment outside of city boundaries are not currently eligible. Council member Glidden believes it might happen in another iteration of the bill.

There is discussion about the impact of fast food vendors. The staff says that they are not limiting the type of establishments that can apply for a license. The lawyers have equal protection and commerce clause concerns regarding mobile vendors and prohibiting certain types of establishments.

Council member Hofstedt raises the issue of the possibility of a task force.

Staff is trying to get this done expediently, but feels that state laws will be in place by April. Staff would like to keep the process moving forward.

Council Gordon wants to know why the short time frame is so important.

Staff wished they could be ready for the Twins opener, but it simply isn’t possible. There is no definite time line for this proposal, but they want to get it done quickly.

Council Gordon emphasizes a slower process might help. Council Gordon also suggests perhaps passing the resolution and then meeting with the warehouse district to address their concerns.

The issue of saleability of consent comes to light. Council Colvin Roy asks if the consent is saleable.

The staff says the consent requirement could be stricken. The staff says they are not sure if they

The policy reason is to provide sources of input for established businesses. From a legal perspective, the city does not own the streets and sidewalks. It is owned by the adjacent property owners with an easement for the public right of way. It will also insulate the city from a regulatory taking claim or an inverse condemnation claim. Legal staff advises the council to include it.

Council Coven Roy is curious as to why they cannot prevent the sale of consent. Can it be a civil offense to charge for such permission?

Staff says it could be included.

Council member Schiff wonders do they need permission first as part of the application process?

According to staff applicants need to have permission first.

Council member Quincy asks if they can move locations?

Staff would require any move to meet the same guidelines of consent and consideration of process.

Council member Liligren wants to explore the issue of control of a public right of way and ceding it to private interests. It seems rare to cede control of the public right of way.

Liligren asks can the private property owner withdraw the consent during the year?

Once the vehicle gets the permission, the permission will run its term. If there was an issue, it would hopefully be resolved through city officials. If push came to shove, the licensee could finish out there license term.

Council Liligren asks about external signage. What are we talking about external signage?

Staff says a sandwich board or external to the vehicle is external signage.

Council Liligren loves the idea of expanding it beyond downtown. Council Liligren is concerned this may not be the right ordinance. Council Liligren is hoping it is a low cost gateway for new businesses and feels that limiting it to existing businesses is too restrictive.

Public meeting is adjourned.

The proposal is moved forward without recommendation. Council member Colvin Roy wants to shape a task force.

Council member Glidden wants an amendment for an effective date of May 1, 2010. The amendment proposes.

The pieces returned to the author are 1A and 1C. 1B moves forward without recommendation. 1B will have an effective date of May 1, 2010.

Staff will be given direction to convene a task force with businesses regarding food cart vendors and include a report back about recycling.

Our Savior Job Club- BYOC

Posted in Dollhouse and homeless, Dollhouse and Jobs, Dollhouse and Linux with tags , , on March 23, 2010 by toresimonsen

I attended Our Savior’s job club last night. Basically, the job club is focused on resume writing and online applications.

Unfortunately, the computer lab at Our Savior appears inadequate for the job. The computer I was working on did not have any Microsoft Office products on it. I suggested they put OpenOffice on the machines. The computer also did not have Adobe Acrobat reader. I was able to read the resume I had on my USB by uploading it to my GoogleDocs account. Such a measure is not practical.

There was no way, I could use the machine to effectively create a resume. WordPad was the most advanced program on there.

In the meantime, the computer lab was being redesigned to avoid perceived threats to “security”. Most people will wonder what threats to security there could possibly be to a homeless shelter computer. The computers are dilapitated and have no important information on them. Most people simply want to be able to use the computers to their fullest abilities as a way of communicating with the rest of the world to advance their own opportunities. People are interested in social networking and job seeking and creative endeavors. As IT continues to focus on security it overlooks functionality and the machines are increasingly useless. Job sites get blocked, documents do not get created, and connections are not made.

It remains unexplained why there is not an emphasis on making sure that people can use the machines to the fullest extent possible rather than an emphasis on simply restricting use in response to phantom threats.

Soon, Our Savior Job Club will basically be BYOC or forget it. Of course, I’ve always maintained they overlook the obvious solution of USB bootable systems which would allow for some user flexibilty while bypassing many security concerns…

Our Savior Summary

Posted in Dollhouse and cancer, Dollhouse and homeless, Dollhouse and Jobs, Dollhouse and Linux, Dollhouse and Mental Health Issues with tags , , , , , , on March 20, 2010 by toresimonsen

I have just over one week left at Our Savior’s Shelter. The experience has been fairly decent compared to other shelters. In terms of the shelters I have experienced so far, each one has its own advantages and disadvantages.

The free to stay shelters I have stayed at include Tramp Camp on Currie, Harbor Lights Safe Bay, and Dorothy Day in St. Paul. Of the free emergency shelters I have been to, I feel that Dorothy Day in St. Paul was the best. The food was not great. It required a breathalyzer at check in. Nevertheless, you can rent a locker there and the spacing for the mats on the floor was fairly decent.

Tramp Camp is not a very good place to stay in the free to stay category. The following refers to the free to stay elements at Tramp camp. The food is not great. On the first floor there are no lockers. It is crowded. You sleep on a mat on the floor. You have to get there early enough to get a bed. Sometimes there is no room at Tramp camp. If it does fill up and then your only choice is to go to Safe Bay next door.

Safe Bay remains the worst place for free to stay. The following is an assessment of the free to stay area of the shelter known as Safe Bay. In the free to stay portion, there are no lockers to secure your possessions. You can get a blanket if you give them some form of identification. The food is not great, some have called it a “nutritional” line. You cannot go back for seconds and the food service tends to be earlier in the evening than at other places like St. Stephens, Simpson’s shelters, or Our Savior. People note that they feel hungry again at night when they eat so early. Safe Bay has no privacy in the bathrooms. The bathrooms are generally very crowded in the morning. Most people note the lack of doors or curtains on bathroom facilities. Conditions at Safe Bay are very crowded. There is almost no spacing between the matts. It is very hard to get sleep at Safe Bay. You sleep in a crowded room with a lot of other people. There is always some activity to disturb you. You worry about the security of your possessions because you cannot lock them up and must keep everything on you. There are no extras at the shelter- there is no television, no computer room, and no exercise equipment (none of the shelters I have stayed at has provided any exercise equipment). It remains the free to stay shelter of last resort.

In light of that, let us look briefly at Our Savior.

Our Savior is much nicer as shelter environments go. It opens at 6 p.m. And you must be out by 7:00 a.m. The latest you can check in is 10 pm, unless you have a work exemption.

You are allowed to leave Our Savior and check back in later. It is not like some shelters which require you to stay after you check in. Unfortunately, there is not much to do in the immediate area after 7:30 pm, so most people tend to stay in after they check in for dinner.

Volunteers provide food for the shelter. They are usually church groups. For the most part, the selection alternates between easy to prepare Mexican dishes (burritos, tacos) and pasta dishes (Lasagna, etc…) Dinner is served at 7 pm.

Breakfasts are much more complicated. You only have half an hour to eat and use the bathroom after the 6:00 a.m. wake up. The kitchen and bathroom close at 6:30 a.m. With everyone rushing around in the morning, you can get traffic jams during the early morning, especially with the sink area. Most of the time, your options are breakfast bars, bread (peanut butter etc…) or cereal. I usually opt for the cereal. Once in a while, a volunteer group will serve a “hot breakfast” which is usually an eggs or omelets and sausages. It can vary depending on the group. One time, a group came in and there hot breakfast was cold. Although they subsequently reheated the breakfast, many people had to eat their breakfast cold owing to the time constraints. This was a rare exception, however, to an otherwise acceptable breakfast service. The weakest part of breakfast appears to be the constant spoon shortage in the morning. People opting to have coffee compete with people having cereal and spoon shortages routinely occur in the morning.

The shelter does not require you to leave until 7:00 a.m. Most people do not have a place to go before 7:00 a.m. Branch 3 of Catholic Charities opens at 7:00 a.m. and is a likely destination. A 7:30 departure time would allow people to take advantage of Branch 3 second shift much more readily. If you get to Branch 3 for the 7:00 a.m. breakfast service, you will have to wait outside between 7:30-8:00 a.m. to re-enter after breakfast. It is much better to arrive for the second shift, where the wait time is only for the post breakfast clean up (usually ten minutes).

Most people may be unaware that the shelters are closed during the day. This means most homeless people end up at the library (opens at 10 a.m. weekdays), Branch 3 (opens at 7:00 a.m. weekdays), or a job center (openings vary by location).

It is not clear why the shelters, including Our Savior, are so insistent on early departure times when there are very few destinations for people to go to. On the weekends, it is especially tough for people as most places, including the skyways, do not open early. Sunday is particularly problematic with a 12 pm. library opening in the downtown area and Branch 3 being closed entirely. I keep recommending people opt for coffee on the weekends at a location, like Dunn Brothers on 3rd Avenue, which allows for free refills of coffee and limited computer access. In any event, on a weekday, the usual goal is to get into the skyway as quickly as possible and find a destination. I recommend the law library at the Hennepin County Government Center. It is on the 24th floor and opens at 8:00 a.m. You can get limited computer access as well as read a newspaper. It is a good place to spend until 10:00 a.m. when the regular library opens.

Our Savior has a computer lab which is open whenever there is a volunteer to staff it. The computers are very old and the internet access is very slow. Not surprisingly, the computers have limited functionality. They do allow guests to use the printer liberally. Some computers have Adobe readers and others do not. Currently, one computer is broken down. I find my Asus 1005 PEB is a much better machine than the ones available.

Our Saviors could improve peoples access to the computers. The computers themselves are very slow and outdated. The software offering is not first rate. Allowing Knoppix USB bootable systems (or other linux USB bootable systems) would overcome security concerns and improve user flexibilty. The computer lab should be open everyday. For the most part, most users do not experience significant technical difficulties and simply opening the lab would be nice.

Second, Our Saviors could expand the ability of people to use their own technology. People should be able to access wifi networks at the shelter. It is inconceivable why free wi-fi networks are not offered at the shelters. Currently, at our Savior, at least two of us could benefit from wi-fi access at the shelter.

The shelter also has a photocopy machine and fax machine. Guests can use the photocopy machine upon request.

A phone line is downstairs and people can use it for up to 15 minutes.

Our Savior also has a visiting doctor once a week. In addition to that, other visitors may also arrive to provide additional services. Since I have been there, at least one county worker has come by.

You can do laundry for $1 at Our Savior. The laundry schedules are very competitive. You may have to settle for a 3:00 am laundry time if you are unlucky.

To get into Our Savior, you need to win a place at the lottery. The lottery occurs on Monday night at Simpson shelter. You need to arrive no later than 6:30 pm to be eligible for a bed. Simpson and St. Stephens have a policy of 28 days on and 28 days off. That is, you can win a bed for 28 days, but then are not eligible for the subsequent 28 days. Our Savior by contrast has a policy of 28 days on, but 60 days off. This means after your 28 days are up, you are not eligible for another 28 days.

Unlike other shelters, you can get a 28 day bed through the wait list. At Simpson and St. Stephen’s, wait listed people only get a stay for one week. At Our Savior, the wait list stay can be for the full 28 days. Although it is unlikely that you will get in owing to the lack of beds, as the week goes on, your chances of getting a bed dramatically improve. Amazingly enough, last night so few people were calling in that there were beds available and no one to take them. At Our Savior, you must call in every night to be eligible for a bed. My guess is that as the weather gets better, the shelters in general will empty out as people will prefer to stay in less restrictive environments outdoors.

You do get assigned a case manager at Our Savior. If you get a job and reach certain savings goals, you can extend your stay. Most of the programs I am aware of target ex-felons, veterans, or chemically or mentally ill people. It is not clear how much over-reporting of chemical and mental illness occurs. My guess is it is substantial as people are trying to fit themselves into benefits boxes in the absence of alternatives. My guess is the number of “mentally ill” and “chemically dependent” homeless people would drop dramatically if programs were offered to regular people. What I am suggesting is that the data on homelessness people is being skewed by the absence of social programs for people without mental illness or chemically dependent people.

Our Savior does have a job club. It meets semi-regularly on Monday and Thursday. I have not been able to attend the club. I tried to attend it on a Monday, but it was not happening that particular Monday. Monday is a strange day in any case for the shelter staff to have job club meetings as it is also the day of the lottery. It would make more sense to have the events on Wednesdays or Fridays (Tuesdays and Thursdays are late nights at the library- 8 pm close). Ideally, Saturday and Sunday would also be a great day for job clubs as it is very hard to get any job club services on the weekends in the Twin Cities. Places like the workforce center and PPL are closed. I am still not sure why there are no job sites open on the weekend.

Sex segregation is the general rule. The men and the women sleep in separate wings of the shelter. There is no ability to enter the opposing wings. Women are not allowed in the men’s wing and vice-versa. Men and women do encounter each other in the common areas, such as the kitchen and television room.

Chores. Each bed gets assigned a chore to do. For the most part, these are simple things that involve sweeping, emptying garbage cans, or cleaning a specific area. The chores usually take a short amount of time to do. I have the night chore of sweeping and mopping the men’s bathroom on Weds. Thurs. Friday. In the morning, most people perform their chores between 6:30-7:00 a.m. (after kitchen/bathroom) system.

There are a lot of rules at Our Savior. Violation of rules can result in strikes. Three strikes and you are out of luck. There is a process for challenging strikes, but I am not sure how effective that is. You can get a strike for seemingly trivial violations.

I have only seen a few people be immediately thrown out for disturbances. Most of the time, staff asks them to leave. If they offer resistance, the staff policy appears to be to call the police. In general, the staff is friendly.

Our Savior follows the trend of widespread surveillance. There are cameras in the hallway and common areas that monitor everything. The staff watches two large monitors in the entry room. Each monitor has multiple camera feeds. Ocassionally, a loud voice will proclaim, “Please get out of the kitchen” if someone is in the kitchen.

Grayson Barber (PERSONAL INFORMATION IN GOVERNMENT RECORDS: PROTECTING THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN PRIVACY, St. Louis Public Law Review) includes an interesting discussion of the effects of constant surveillance by George Kateb.

“One is crudely treated as interesting and even as presumptively or potentially guilty, no matter how law abiding one is. . . . . . . . One is placed under constant suspicion just by being placed under constant watchfulness and subjected to the implicit interrogation that exists when the accumulated information on oneself is seen as a set of integrated answers that add up to a helpless, an unauthored autobiography. Such a loss of innocence . . . . . . . is so massive that the insult involved constitutes an assault on the personhood or human status of every individual.” George Kateb, On Being Watched and Known, 68 SOCIAL RES. 269, 275 (2001) at 274-75.

Our Savior also engages in the destructive practice of random breathalyzers. Although it is important for people not to be disturbed by drunk roommates, it is not clear why shelters cannot limit their testing to people who show actual signs of intoxication rather than conduct random breath tests of everyone.

Our Savior has an internal smoking room. The smoking room is next to the dining area. While allowing smoking, Our Savior also promotes smoking cessation programs.

On the issue of sleep, Our Savior does a fair job compared to other shelters. The rooms are usually shared with one to three other people. This means you do not have the constant interruption in sleep that occurs at places like Tramp Camp or Safe Harbor. In Safe Harbor, one feels almost constantly sleep deprived. Safe Harbor is nothing more than a place to stay warm. At Our Savior, sleep is at least possible.

Nationally, there has been a crackdown on people sleeping in public. For a brief time, the ninth circuit attempted to follow Robinson in challenging the city anti-sleep ordinances, but the decision was ultimately vacated by agreement of the parties. (I refer here to the decision in Jones v. City of Los Angeles). In my opinion, the decision placed too much emphasis on whether or not there was shelter space and not enough emphasis on whether or not you could actually get sleep at the shelters. That is, in my opinion, the focus should be on whether or not you are likely to be sleep deprived rather than on whether or not you are being sheltered because as Safebay demonstrates, the two are not necessarily connected.

I recently saw someone removed from the main area of the library for trying to sleep on the property. Sleep is a valuable and hard to get commodity for homeless people- finding a place to sleep during the day to make up for a poor nights sleep would be invaluable. (Some have suggested Branch 3, but it seems far too noisy and only offers chairs).

Storage at Our Savior is fairly decent compared to other shelters. You get a locker which is much more expansive than most lockers. It is the largest locker I have had in any shelter settings. You can also store things under the bed (unsecured).

Our Savior does provide you with soap, a toothbrush, basic toiletries, and even some laundry soap at check in. Like most shelters, it does no provide a toothbrush holder or offer hard cover glasses cases.

The shower configuration is okay. There are four showers behind a curtain. Each shower has its own shower curtain. Generally, people can undress behind the main curtain and then get behind the shower curtain before getting completely undressed. There are curtains on the showers affording some privacy. (In Los Angeles, it was group showers at Union Gospel Mission, for example. There is very little privacy at Safe Harbor). (St. Stephen’s and Simpson both have more privacy in their showering options.) The water at Our Savior is much too hot. It takes time to adjust to the very hot water.

On the weekdays, the lights go out at 10 pm. For the most part, your sleep will depend on your roommates but many are as tired as you are by the end of the day. The wake up is an early 6:00 a.m. This may not seem strange to people who get up to go to work, but understand, there are few places homeless people need or even can be very early in the morning. On some days, when it is extremely cold, the shelters will allow a slightly later departure time. However, there are plenty of cold, windy, and rainy days, when you will be outside at 7:00 a.m. It is at least a 20 minute walk to the nearest skyway- usually at the convention center.

You are allowed a few nights out. You can tell staff you will not be and will not lose your bed twice during the 28 days. You must stay at the shelter your first two nights.

Television viewing generally occurs after dinner time and before 10 pm. You can stay up until 11 pm on some days, like Friday. Our Savior does have cable. Women get to pick the show certain nights and men other nights. The shelter has some movies on DVD which you can watch upon request.

Some resident art hangs in a hallway, but I’m not sure what other cultural amenities exist.

Our Savior did have a short community meeting with shelter residents. The community meeting did not provide for extensive feedback. Instead people were told to make comments in the suggestion box. I am not sure how effective this is. I also feel that the relatively short stays do not encourage systemic reform as most people will be gone before they can make or implement changes.

In general, like the rest of the shelter system, Our Saviors does not seem to broadly encourage the input of “clients” or residence in the administration of its programs. Most programs in general would do better if they understood the residence needs better. It is also driven by staff intensive administrative concepts and a traditional shelter organizational and operational technique which seems expensive and outmoded in light of what might be achieved more effectively at less cost. If there was more emphasis on self-direction and less on homeless monitoring and management, the environment would be healthier.

That’s my quick assessment of Our Savior.