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Letters 07-25-2016

Remember Bush-Cheney Does anyone remember George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? They were president and vice president a mere eight years ago. Does anyone out there remember the way things were at the end of their duo? It was terrible...

Mass Shootings And Gun Control The largest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred December 29,1890, when 297 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in South Dakota were murdered by federal agents and members of the 7th Cavalry who had come to confiscate their firearms “for their own safety and protection.” The slaughter began after the majority of the Sioux had peacefully turned in their firearms...

Families Need Representation When one party dominates the Michigan administration and legislature, half of Michigan families are not represented on the important issues that face our state. When a policy affects the non-voting K-12 students, they too are left out, especially when it comes to graduation requirements...

Raise The Minimum Wage I wanted to offer a different perspective on the issue of raising the minimum wage. The argument that raising the minimum wage will result in job loss is a bogus scare tactic. The need for labor will not change, just the cost of it, which will be passed on to the consumer, as it always has...

Make Cherryland Respect Renewable Cherryland Electric is about to change their net metering policy. In a nutshell, they want to buy the electricity from those of us who produce clean renewable electric at a rate far below the rate they buy electricity from other sources. They believe very few people have an interest in renewable energy...

Settled Science Climate change science is based on the accumulated evidence gained from studying the greenhouse effect for 200 years. The greenhouse effect keeps our planet 50 degrees warmer due to heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that Earth will warm as concentrations of greenhouse gases increase...

Home · Articles · News · Features · The Homeless Game:
. . . .

The Homeless Game:

Tom Carr - February 7th, 2011
The Homeless Game: Board game puts players in touch with a harsh reality
By Tom Carr
Liz Coon moves her piece on the game board and finds she’s become
homeless because of domestic violence. The game board directs her to
the Goodwill Inn, a shelter in Traverse City.
That’s not really how she became homeless, though Coon can relate to
the end result.
“I had no money to rent an apartment with and I was on disability for
a stomach surgery,” she said. “So I called (Goodwill Inn) and they
said I qualified to come in and stay, which was very nice.”
Coon is one of five people who played a demonstration of the game they
call Ups and Downs. Four of the players are homeless and one was for
six years until recently.
Their reasons run the gamut: Divorce, medical problems, drinking, job loss.

SHARED EXPERIENCE
John Daniels, who volunteers at the shelter, had asked several
residents to design a game based on their experiences.
The exercise was to portray their stories in a fun, creative way.
“When we were developing this game, the idea was starting at the
ground level of having a place, but being able to fall into
homelessness or climb all the way out of it,” he said.
Different residents created different versions. One game, etched on a
pizza box, imitated Monopoly.
The version the group has adopted and continues to refine is designed
after the children’s game Chutes and Ladders.
But this is not child’s play.
With a roll of the die, players ascend ladders that reflect the goals
people often must achieve to climb out of their predicament. Players
advance upward toward the winning square by getting a job or finding
an affordable car.
Or maybe they obtain a Bridge card – the 21st century equivalent of
food stamps – to reduce their basic living expenses.
On the other hand, they may land on a square that signifies going
through a divorce, getting laid off, getting drunk or fighting with
roommates.
Land on one of those, and a player slides back downward toward living
in a homeless shelter.
Or worse yet, living out of a car.

MOVING FORWARD
Tom Ockert, who worked on versions of the game, explains:
“You’ve got to keep everything moving forward,” he said. “It’s easy to
fall into the structure of depression.”
For some, it’s drinking and drugs. Even without those vices, self-pity
can take hold.
“Then you’re just putting every forward step that you wanted to make
in the background because you had this craving or this feeling of
depression that your life has lost its value,” he said.
The players laugh as they learn of their fictional fates.
Yet they’ve all lived the game.
Ockert became homeless after financial problems brought on by illness.
He spent the last several years alternating between the shelter,
winter nights on church meeting-room floors and staying at friends’
homes.
He finally has a subsidized apartment and praised the gameboard’s realism.
“Homelessness is a lot of chance,” he said. “If you’re active, out and
trying to look for a job, something could knock you out. Like if you
get too wet, and your pants start chaffing you or something. And then
you’re feeling ill and disabled or whatever. And you go to apply for a
job. And you’re wet and sore, and you’re not in your best joyful mood
to encourage an employer to hire you.”

NOBODY CAME
Peter Horrom retired in May after a 30-year career in the Army,
including seven tours in Iraq.
Peter said that when he retired, he made arrangements to have family
and church members show up at the airport.
Nobody came.
“It was like after midnight when I came here,” he said. “I got here to
Goodwill Inn about 2 in the morning. I had to do all the paperwork and
process.”
He’s been staying at the shelter ever since, hoping his pension kicks in soon.
At least he knows his situation should be temporary.
Still, waiting is a reality for people without a home, says Ockert.
He was on a waiting list for two and a half years to get into his apartment.
“You’re waiting to get your Bridge card. You’re waiting in lines to
take a shower,” he said.
So the game has made it difficult to obtain some of the things they
wait for in real life. Like an identification card or a checking
account.
Daniels plans to make several copies of the game.
He wants to have community groups play it with the designers to help
them better understand the issues.
Lynn Cifka, homeless after a divorce and medical problems, said
developing the game has benefitted her already.
“It’s helped my self-esteem a little bit because I like being creative
anyways,” she said. “And just trying to get out there to educate
people. To say, ‘This is our situation’.”

 
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