Letters

Letters 08-03-2015

Real Brownfields Deserve Dollars I read with interest the story on Brownfield development dollars in the July 20 issue. I applaud Dan Lathrop and other county commissioners who voted “No” on the Randolph Street project...

Hopping Mad Carlin Smith is hopping mad (“Will You Get Mad With Me?” 7-20-15). Somebody filed a fraudulent return using his identity, and he’s not alone. The AP estimates the government “pays more than $5 billion annually in fraudulent tax refunds.” Well, many of us have been hopping mad for years. This is because the number one tool Congress has used to fix this problem has been to cut the IRS budget –by $1.2 billion in the last 5 years...

Just Grumbling, No Solutions Mark Pontoni’s grumblings [recent Northern Express column] tell us much about him and virtually nothing about those he chooses to denigrate. We do learn that Pontoni may be the perfect political candidate. He’s arrogant, opinionated and obviously dimwitted...

A Racist Symbol I have to respond to Gordon Lee Dean’s letter claiming that the confederate battle flag is just a symbol of southern heritage and should not be banned from state displays. The heritage it represents was the treasonous effort to continue slavery by seceding from a democratic nation unwilling to maintain such a consummate evil...

Not So Thanks I would like to thank the individual who ran into and knocked over my Triumph motorcycle while it was parked at Lowe’s in TC on Friday the 24th. The $3,000 worth of damage was greatly appreciated. The big dent in the gas tank under the completely destroyed chrome badge was an especially nice touch...

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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