Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · From homeless to...
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From homeless to hopefull...Thomas Humphrey

Anne Stanton - March 16th, 2009
From homeless to hopefull...Thomas Humphrey
Anne Stanton 3/16/09

Nine years ago, Thomas Humphrey’s luck began to turn south.
First, a relative was sexually assaulted twice by a star football player from a wealthy Traverse City family. The teen was convicted, but received less than a year of jail time.
Humphrey, a roofer in the area for decades, said the assault sent him into a downward spiritual spiral. He lost faith in the judicial system and became despondent.
Then he took on a substantial mortgage -- which he was unable to pay -- and had to foreclose on his home. He declared bankruptcy and was living on the edge when a traumatic head injury clinched his place among the homeless in Traverse City.
“You look around at how pretty this place is and what a nice town it is. People like me are in between all those pretty scenes,” he said.
Humphrey, 48, is no longer homeless. Today he feels strong enough to talk about his ongoing journey from the economic dregs of the city. He is a tall, lanky man with craggy features and reddish hair; he has a rich baritone voice, but often draws a blank when trying to remember something. “I used to be young, but now I’m ancient,” he said, laughing.
Humphrey said he has regained his dignity and self respect, but he’ll never get his memory back. (The dates and details of this article are largely based on the daily journal of his dad, Wade Humphrey.) But at least he has an advocate in Marley Navin, who has also lost her life savings due to the effects of multiple sclerosis.
Navin has never been homeless. In fact, she’s helped the homeless through the Safe Harbor program, and wonders how people can horde their wealth while others suffer.
She and Humphrey and a group of artists have formed a loose-knit cooperative that periodically sells their wares down at the former Rail Road Depot complex on Woodmere Street in Traverse City under a banner, “The Art Station,” a sign handcrafted by Humphrey.
She and Humphrey tell a compelling story of reaching bottom and then pulling themselves back up with art, the generosity of others, and the love they have for each other.

After the assault of his relative, Humphrey became depressed and work slowed down. By the spring of 2003, he had no savings and was behind on his truck payments and taxes. He lived on 5 1/2 acres on River Road in a trailer and thought he could consolidate his debt by borrowing on the equity of his land for which he owed only $8,800.
He talked to Dan Giroux of Crest Financial and Bill Clous of Eastwood Construction, for whom he had done roofing work. He was told his property was worth $50,000 to $60,000, and with the help of a lender (who is now out of business), and Humphrey’s sweat equity, Eastwood Custom Homes could build him a house he could afford.
But Humphrey said he had bad credit. No problem. The lender could use his parent’s credit and income record and mortgage the house in their name. Rose and Wade Humphrey were retired on a fixed income with two grandchildren to care for, but reluctantly agreed to sign off on a loan.
Ultimately, the deal ended in a stormy three-hour closing, with bad feelings all around.
Thereafter, Humphrey lost his roofing work with Clous. He was unable to pay the $177,000 mortgage and was forced to sell the house and declare bankruptcy a year later, even losing his truck, which was repossessed.

After Humphrey lost the house, he temporarily moved to Florida to help rebuild homes after a hurricane. He found a job and lived in a tent in the back of a 7-Eleven. When the company he worked for dissolved, he moved back to Traverse City and took a job in the spring of 2005 on a dynamite crew with Great Lakes Geophysical, an oil exploration company.
He and three others traveled to different sites, including federal land, looking for oil. Humphrey lived out of his van in between jobs.
One night, after a hard day spent working in West Virginia, the crew went to a restaurant and bar and met some women. One young woman went back to the motel with three of the men on the crew.
“At two in the morning, I heard her screaming rape. I knocked on the door and said there were some apologies required. Arguing went back and forth, and I got sucker-punched by one of the crew, a 260-pound guy who’d spent a lot of time in prison.”
Humphrey was hospitalized for four days.
“We saw the hospital papers and there was a lot of damage done to Humphrey,” Rose said. “The right eye was knocked almost completely out of the socket. Ribs broken, something that happened in the jaw.”
The company lost its contract because of the incident, Humphrey said.
“I was told it was after hours and don’t even come looking for worker’s comp,” Humphrey said. “This is what I get for being a nice guy.”

Humphrey thought he’d heal up and get on with life. That winter, when he returned to Traverse City, he had no home and no money. His buddy said he could park his van at his business, Sweetwater Drilling, and plug a small portable heater for the van into an outdoor outlet.
“At this time, I was low. I was eating four times a week – wherever I could eat, whatever money I had. The only thing I kept was my gym membership at the Grand Traverse Resort, which is handy to take a shower. Really warms you up after a night in the van, and it costs less than a shower at the gas station.”
He took a bus to visit his parents in January, and they were shocked at his appearance.
“He had lost 20 pounds. His stomach was distended. He wasn’t sleeping and couldn’t keep anything down. He was living on lots of water and milk. I knew something was very wrong,” Rose said.
His cousin, Steve, offered him work on a roofing job, but it ended with Humphrey collapsing from a petite mal seizure.
Rose took her son to the doctor, who diagnosed him with profound memory loss and considerable brain damage. “He recommended that Humphrey get on disability because he’d never be able to work a steady job again.”
Humphrey said he applied for permanent disability, but was denied. He wasn’t able to navigate the paperwork or office visits. He couldn’t remember the dates or where he’d place a piece of paper.

His parents, who were stretched, themselves for money, sent him what they could for food. Humphrey was nearly starving in March when he heard of a porch roofing job for $100. He arrived at the job cold and hungry. He walked to the top of the ladder with a bundle of shingles and fell—his one foot slamming into his ankle and nearly breaking it.
“I just laid there at the bottom in pain and cried for awhile. Then I tried to hop up the ladder. I carried up 15 bundles of shingles and nailed them down. So I could eat again. It was the only way to get a hundred bucks. Because that’s what life is like. You do what you have to do.”
After that, Humphrey went down to the Father Fred Foundation and was able to get a $160 monthly voucher for food within 10 minutes. “It doesn’t cover paper products or anything like that, but you can live on $160 a month for food.”
Later that spring, he woke up from his van and went to a 7-eleven to get some coffee.
“I love those people at 7-eleven on 14th Street. But the next thing you know the cops are saying, ‘Come with us.” I’d been standing there for 20 minutes drooling. I didn’t fall over. I just stood there.”
That was a warm-up to a gran mal seizure in July. The medical staff couldn’t believe Humphrey survived the seizure, which lasted two-and-a-half days. He woke up thinking he was a five-year-old riding a bike on a cracked sidewalk. When he was fully conscious, he realized he was a middle-aged man without a long-term memory.

Humphrey received medication for his seizures, and hoped it would prevent future problems. The doctor ordered him not to drive, but he did anyway. “Throughout all this time, I can’t get a government dime except for Medicaid. So what do you do? Do you lay in a gutter and die? I went to work.”
But the decision cost him. He was driving down River Road and “woke up” driving 40 miles per hour. He thought he’d hit something and parked the van. He vowed to never drive again. A week and a half later, six deputies drove up to arrest him for hitting a little boy on a bike, who required 16 stitches in his head. Humphrey said he told deputies that he had suffered a seizure. The deputies tore up his van trying to find evidence of drugs, finding none.
Humphrey estimates that his trial lasted three minutes, and his public defender appeared to never have looked at the file. Humphrey believes the judge assumed he was driving drunk and ordered a six-month jail sentence, a $1,000 fine, and required him to attend meetings at Alcoholics Anonymous.
And that’s where he met Marley Navin.

Humphrey only spent a month in jail, opting to serve out the rest of his sentence in what’s called a T-house or a transition house. These homes are sprinkled throughout Traverse City and Grand Traverse County. Humphrey shared a single one-bathroom house with up to a dozen other men, with four or five on bunks in a room.
During a move to one T-house, he found a box of copper scraps he had collected on his roofing jobs and forgot about. To while away the time, he started making golden spiral outdoor mobiles. Unbeknownst to him, his roofing cousin, Steve, started playing with copper scraps, too. “He made a Petoskey stone with copper rays to make a flower and sold it for $150. He said, ‘Now my wife is going to have to respect me. I’m an artist!’”
Humphrey’s work became more elaborate as he expanded his work to collages, signs, and ornaments. A friend joked with him that he had joined the ranks of the starving artists, only he starved first and then became an artist.
To escape the cramped quarters of the T-house, he’d ride his bike and attend one AA meeting after another.
He met Navin one July evening last year outside of the AA town hall, and they couldn’t stop talking. She had her own troubles. A former occupational therapist, she had lost her job after working 25 years with the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District. She felt that the symptoms from multiple sclerosis and family pressures led to a decline in her ability to multi-task. She recently lost another job with Michigan Home Health Care and now lives on a third of her income.
She, too, turned to art for solace with a group of several other women. They made yarn dye from ferns and wildflowers and knit meditation rugs, wall hangings, and purses. She was impressed when Humphrey told her he had been accepted into an upcoming art show in Elk Rapids. But on the night before the show, Humphrey had a gran mal seizure. She had only known him for a week.
“All of a sudden, he looks way to one side, stares into space and starts waving his whole arm. He was on the couch. He’s thrashing for four to five minutes. I thought, ‘I hardly know him. What am I going to do?’”

Navin took him to the emergency room, but he was determined to get out of there. “He said, ‘We are going to the art fair.’ Well, his levels were back up, and he was desperate for dollars. So we set up in Elk Rapids, as if we’d always done this. And all of a sudden, he got things into the gallery, he’s connecting with people, and it started evolving from there.”
Navin, Humphrey and his cousin Steve began selling their art outside as part of the City Market every Saturday, and eventually held two indoor shows before Christmas. They held another event, “Hearts for the Arts,” in February with a group of about a dozen artists.
“For me it was huge,” Humphrey said. “Now I’m not a dude hitching down the road, pulling a trinket and selling it for ten bucks. I’m an artist!”
Meanwhile, Humphrey has kept taking odd jobs and Navin has formed a business to help the elderly. She also hopes to find work as a “hospice clown”—“I met the real life Patch Adams, and I was inspired,” she said.
All this experience has given them some perspective on what this town could do better to help the homeless. With the Safe Harbor program, area churches now take turns providing overnight shelter for the homeless, giving them mats to lie on and a hearty meal to eat. But that requires the homeless move to a new place each week; it would be great if they could have just one place, Navin said.
But what about the Goodwill Inn?
“Goodwill Inn can’t do it all, and they’re so far out of town and always maxed out. Why can’t we have a men and women’s shelter in town?”

It would also be nice to give the homeless a warm place with a computer and phone during the day to help the homeless find jobs. And people like Humphrey need someone to advocate for them to obtain disability.
“It’s outrageous this man isn’t on disability right now,” Navin said.
The other drawback is that medical help seems to be a patchwork effort. “We need someone or some agency to help coordinate all the services for the homeless,” she said.
Humphrey is no longer homeless. He lives with Navin, who hopes to help Humphrey sort out the maze of paperwork for permanent disability. And Humphrey helps Navin get a more frugal mindset and live within a budget. “I’ve learned you can live pretty comfortably with hardly anything,” he said.
Humphrey now something considers himself the luckiest ex-homeless guy in the world.
“Since I’ve been in the bottom, I’ve got kicked and walked on a lot. People think you’re dirt when you’re homeless; they make judgments and they don’t even know your story. I‘ve got an extraordinary amount of sympathy for everyone around here.”
He also has tremendous gratitude for every person who has helped the homeless by giving money, food, or a free ride. Humphrey said he doesn’t believe in God, but his life has gained meaning from this experience.
“Quite honestly, I believe in love. If there’s anything divine in this world, it would be that. Compassion and love.”
Editors note: To reach Thomas Humphrey for work, his art, or both, call

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