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Village Square: Homeless. Dinner at the Square Recap!

Last week a sellout crowd of over 130 community members participated in the season finale of Village Square Sacramento’s Dinner at the Square: Homeless. A serious conversation about a serious problem.

Liana Luna, Ryan Loofbourrow, Michele Steeb, Mark Merin and Jack Gallagher.

Liana Luna, Ryan Loofbourrow, Michele Steeb, Mark Merin and Jack Gallagher.

What we heard:

The speakers articulated that individuals experiencing homelessness comes in many shapes and sizes. Causes include unemployment, unaffordable housing, detachment from a support network, addictions, mental health issues and domestic violence.

DSC_0179The potential solutions range from offering vacant lots that are within walking distance to services as a location for legal camping, to using a data-driven coordinated systems approach to match housing and client needs, to offering job training and paths to self-sustainability, to providing better awareness of existing programs.

Tension points included “Not In My Backyard” reactions to homeless camping locations, providing housing before dealing with addictions and a support network can be a recipe for disaster for families, we don’t know what kind of housing is needed.

DSC_0180While a one size fits all solution may not work for our full homeless population, the existing network is fragmented with barriers to entry into shelters and other housing.

“It was powerful to hear someone who had lived with the experience of being homeless explain that we can do a better job of fighting the fragmentation among the service providers that sometimes prevent men and women and their children from receiving the supportive services they need to break the cycle,” said Veronica Blake, CEO of the Placer Community Foundation and Valley Vision Executive Committee Member.

Participants shared:

Convo7“One of the key learnings we’ve had is we’re talking not about ‘homeless people’ but about individuals. We call them by name and get to know them. It’s not a ‘problem,’ it’s a number of people that found themselves in a set of circumstances that need some support.”

“Why does it take an earthquake or hurricane for us to provide shelter and housing? Why can’t we do this for people currently living on the street?”

These are just some of the leading take aways.  We hope to see you at a future event!



How do we end homelessness?

Homelessness impacts many of our communities.

Tough problems require broad understandings and responses. What conditions must be in place to end homelessness? Village Square speakers share these thoughts –hear more April 30th:

As far as what will get us out of this situation, a source of funds (a .01% tax for the homeless would virtually solve the problem), ordinances that facilitate solutions; the creation of “safe grounds” where homeless can stay and leave their belongings while they address the problems they have which caused or contributed to their homelessness.

I feel like if we were able to have shelters that follow the lead of loaves & fishes and other organizations that do not have to abide by the governments rules and were able to house families without those restrictions of family size and or mandatory income we would at least make a small impact in our own community.    

Learn more and join the conversation on April 30th. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets! Early bird pricing ends April 24th.



Ending homelessness. What are the points of tension?

The homeless in our communities are parents, brothers, sisters, youth, veterans, neighbors and former professionals. While many agree our communities would benefit from ending homelessness, there are varying perspectives on how to solve this community-wide challenge.

What are the points of tension? Village Square speakers share these thoughts –hear more April 30th:

There are many different interests and they do not share the same priorities. They also don’t have the same understanding of homelessness: Who are homeless or likely to become homeless? What caused their homelessness and what will get them out of their present state? What will prevent or minimize homelessness in the future?

The biggest tensions are funding and regulations on how the funding is used or who is eligible for these funds since there are different kinds of homeless, i.e. families, vets & mentally ill. There are too many variables but only one qualification line. 

Learn more and join the conversation on April 30th. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets! Early bird pricing ends April 24th.



Why the Village Square will be hosting an “Asteroids Club”

Since the beginning of our organization six years ago, we have been in endless pursuit of the best ways to draw people together in meaningful, real and civil conversation. We’ve had great success. Our Dinner at the Square series is almost always sold out, drawing about 175 people every time. Take-out Tuesday programs, including our hyperlocal forum Our Town have been standing-room only. And Faith, Food, Friday has been a unique (and we think profound) addition to our community fabric that we’re really proud to be associated with.

But there has always been something missing – a forum that grabs a hold of intractable challenging issues that are the source of enduring divisiveness and makes real progress on the issue. That challenge has truly flummoxed us. It’s a hard thing to do without making civility a casualty of the effort. Enter The Asteroids Club, a concept I first heard of after Jon Haidt and Steve Seibert were in the same car together for six hours (imagine a brew of deep and out-of-the-box thinking that gets so electric that it’s virtually pinging off the car doors).

The Asteroids Club has all the trappings of the things we know already works: People engaging who are politically diverse but have an existing and enduring relationships, a few rules that keep the forum safe for disagreement, breaking bread together and a commitment to not taking things too seriously – to laugh whenever possible.

But it adds critical concepts that we have since learned, largely through our study of Jon’s work (oh ok, our groupie-like devotion to his work) confirmed 100% by the direct experiences with the challenges we’ve faced. The Asteroids Club speaks to the intuitive “elephant” that is the source of the vast majority of human decision-making rather than the rational “rider” who functions more like the elephant’s press secretary, offering post-hoc rationalizations rather than true objective reasoning. Almost every forum that ever existed invites riders, not elephants. The Asteroids Club makes its central theme the reciprocity that is one of the lovely aspects of basic human nature – “I’ll help you deflect your asteroid, if you help me deflect mine.” Finally, the concept clearly expresses that ultimately it is common threat more than common ground that really brings human beings together. And boy do we have real common threats.

We’re so excited about the Asteroids Club, we told Jon we’d help it come to fruition. You can find our first Asteroids Club event online here. You can even use our user-editable We the Wiki website to easily create a webpage for your own public Asteroids Club event. Find directions for creating your event page at the bottom of this page. Feel free to call us and we’ll help you set up your page inside 15 minutes! Find us at (850) 264-8785 or asteroidsclub@tothevillagesquare.org.



Common Threats? We have them.

It’s really a curious state of affairs that we seem to be so incapable of finding common ground in today’s divisive political slugfest. The uber-partisans remind me a lot of two toddlers fighting intensely over possession of a plastic toy as their tussling moves them ever closer to a busy roadway. No matter how oblivious they are to it, that busy roadway exists and the cars are whizzing by. The toddlers are not really attending to the higher priority problem because of how intent they are about the toy. And these two young lads (let’s face it, they’re probably boys) factually have incredible common ground, their fate is likely the same and may even rest in each others’ hands. Ironic since they haven’t the vaguest idea this is true, trapped as they are in their zero sum game of winning that darn toy. And their failure to see it may well seal their fate.

I make the comparison not just because after spending six years trying to heal the partisan divide, it makes me feel good to call partisan leadership children (and it does make me feel really good). The comparison works because boy do we have real problems, enduring problems, problems that are growing bigger by the day, problems we are applying precious little sustained effort to solve. Like the poor unsuspecting kiddos near the highway, we’re too busy attending to the transient and intense squabble.

The other dynamic is that we’re spending all our time talking – at an ever-increasing decibel level – about the common threat that we see, while threat warnings that come from the opposite side of the aisle barely register as a blip. It’s time to harness “the power of and” – a concept we broke out early on when we noticed the either-or thinking run amok. Both threats can be – and probably are – true. When about 50% of a society it deeply concerned about a coming threat, isn’t it worth our time to at least really listen?

Enter The Asteroid Club, a concept we’re finding genius. America’s looming problems may as well be asteroids, as they are hurtling at us through time, heading straight toward an impact that looks certain to about half of us on planet earth. Pick your asteroid, whether it’s climate change, entitlement spending affecting the deficit and financial stability, the growing divide between rich and poor, or the dissolution of the family. There is substantial data to suggest that each (probably among others) is a legitimate asteroid and they’re heading our way.

Our common threats IS our common ground. And we’d better get busy noticing the asteroids. At the Village Square, we’re going to.

— Liz Joyner



Jonathan Haidt on why we should “think asteroids”

When Dr. Haidt was in Florida this month, he spoke at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at University of Florida. They did this videotaped interview that features an important concept he shared with us: if we want to succeed in these conversations, we need to think common threats more than common ground. We need to think asteroids.



Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair: California and Bust

If there is such a thing as Village Square required reading, this is it. It describes a reality coming to a city near you that we either grapple with now or we live its consequences later. I guess we pick. Please share this one on social media. Michael Lewis argues (convincingly) in November’s Vanity Fair that it is ultimately America’s hometowns and states who will bear the brunt of the Congressional failure to govern either by raising taxes or cutting spending or both. I hope I live in a city and state that gets this sooner rather than later. Read all »



CEOs have had enough with partisan antics

First Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz asked other companies to boycott making political contributions until Washington begins to function. Now CEOs are meeting to discuss just how bad it is. Here are a couple more CEO quotes:

‘I’ve been in business for over thirty years. I’ve never seen a time when there’s been more zero sum game mentality in the United States among political parties. If you were a business person looking at this and you saw two people arguing like that, you would say “I don’t want to do business with any of those guys.” ‘ — Robert Johnson, BET founder, interview with CBS News

“When a country is in trouble, you can’t have a polarized political process.” — Muhtar Kent, CEO Coca-Cola (he said that it’s almost easier to do business in China)

Source: This Week with Christianne Amanpour



No Labels’ David Walker on budget crisis



Mary Ann Lindley: “Americana at its most beguiling”

Tallahassee Democrat: “A story so bizarre it’s got to be true,” is the billing given for this Tuesday’s Florida Recount Reunion that The Village Square is hosting downtown. It’s been — how could it be? — a full decade since that historically indecisive presidential election brought the world to our feet here in the Florida capital. Quite literally, for 37 days, the foot of the Capitol and Supreme Court building on Duval Street took on the appearance of a camp site with breezy white tents shielding camera equipment and TV Read all »



Restoring Sanity Rally Signage

One of the pre-made signs Jon Stewart is suggesting for his “Restoring Sanity” rally…



Good Village Square-ish discussion on economic policy and the Great Depression

Sadly, this is still relevant today. If you’re like me, the competing partisan versions of what caused (and what pulled us out of) the depression are mind boggling. Like everything else, it’s as if we’ve been living in entirely different versions of reality. Here Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter and Council of Foreign Relations’ Amity Shlaes have a real conversation. Shlaes was just on Glenn Beck Friday where they didn’t have a real conversation.

This is a particularly interesting video because it took place just before our current economic nosedive.



Bill Moyers: Advice for the tea party movement

Bill Moyers on yesterday’s Bill Moyers Journal offers up some advice (you can watch a video clip of the same content here):

With all due respect, we can only wish those tea party activists who gathered this week were not so single-minded about just who’s responsible for their troubles, real and imagined. They’re up in arms, so to speak, against big government, especially the Obama administration.

But if they thought this through, they’d be joining forces with other grassroots Americans who will soon be demonstrating in Washington and elsewhere against high finance, taking on Wall Street and the country’s biggest banks.

The original Tea Party, remember, wasn’t directed just against the British redcoats. Colonial patriots also took aim at the East India Company. That was the joint-stock enterprise originally chartered by the first Queen Elizabeth. Over the years, the government granted them special rights and privileges, which the owners turned into a monopoly over trade, including tea.

It may seem a stretch from tea to credit default swaps, but the principle is the same: when enormous private wealth goes unchecked, regular folks get hurt – badly. That’s what happened in 2008 when the monied interests led us up the garden path to the great collapse.

Suppose the Tea Party folk had dropped by those Senate hearings this week looking into the failure of Washington Mutual. That’s the bank that went belly up during the meltdown in September 2008. It was the largest such failure in American history.

(Photo credit.)