Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Answering Michele 

How will you deal with HIPAA and confidentiality in this setting?

HIPAA doesn't apply to us because we are not providing health care services, only resources where people can go for health care, not too much different from a directory.  HIPAA is "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act", and we are not a health insurance company, not a health clinic or hospital, nursing home, or medical savings account agaency for the homeless.  There are other services better suited to that, and we only provide names and addresses of such agencies.  We aren't going to have access to what health problems the homeless for whom we provide information and assistance have, nor will we be in a position to treat them.  We will not have health information on individuals, nor information which could be used to identify an individual (Subtitle F, Sec 1711, Paragraph 6).

That could change in the future, but that's the way it is now.

How heavily will you be advertising that your bakery will be there to help provide assistance to the homeless, and how will you deal with the "stigma" and stereotyping of homelessness and homeless people?

We will deal with the "stigma" and stereotyping of the homeless through stories and for those who allow it, their personal history of how they became homeless, and with follow up stories of how they found homes again.   The best way to combat the stigma is to remove it from rumor and innuendo and offer facts - surveys, studies on the homeless, newspaper clippings, and so on that are publicly available information will be put in an easy to access format.  Where possible and with permission, we will put faces to the homeless.  Our website will have links to the blogs and websites of homeless people, and to resources.  We'll maintain a scrapbook of stories about the homeless, their fall and their rise.   Making the information personal and accessible will go a way in dispelling many of these negative stereotypes.

Much of the advertising will be done among the homeless themselves through the use of the coupon books redeemable for a meal and through the care bags we distribute to the homeless.  Much of the rest of the advertising for it will be in the store itself and on the website we haven't yet put up. Very little will be paid for advertising.  How many homeless do you know who own a TV and have the leisure to watch what they want?  Or a radio of their own?  Paid for advertising isn't going to reach the people we want to help.

The advertising we will pay for will draw customers to the Cracked Cauldron where they can choose to see and read what we are doing to help our community.  Personal interaction leaves a more lasting impression.  If they thumb through the scrapbooks, read the bulletin boards, take away a few brochures, visit the website, it will mean more to them.  If they choose to help,  they will feel more involved and responsible - and we think that's a good thing.

The in-store advertising will consist of the information area set up with brochures offering various resources to the homeless, the history book about the homeless people (containing newspaper stories, surveys, studies on the homeless, and individual stories of those who allow us to offer them), a brochure giving information on how individuals can combat homelessness, and how to avoid it themselves, brochures on how to live well on very little, and we'll keep a list of landlords and locations where homeless can get low-rent housing.  We'll also have a notice at the register that customers can sponsor a meal or a coupon book of meals for the homeless.  And we'll have brochures for groups to start and run their own "Sandwich Saturdays" type programs.   Personal involvement and personal responsibility.

As the resources get used more, we have space to add in classes on money management, debt resolution, legal assistance, and uptraining for those who are unemployed.  Most of the homeless we are targeting for help (at least initially) are the ones who aren't necessarily serviced by local agencies, as they concentrate on long-term homeless, the generational poor and homeless, the rebound homeless, and so on.

Also, what services are you competing with in OK?

"Competing" is the wrong word to use here.  There are far more people in need of assistance than all the combined agencies can provide.  In this area, it's not a "you're taking away our customers" so much as "great - the more help the better!"  There is no single area relating to homelessness that isn't currently overwhelmed with need, and that need is increasing, not decreasing.

Is there anyone providing similar assistance you might be a)competing with and/or b)or that can give you advise/help, etc since they are already doing this type of program?

We've searched (casually) for 14 years for services to assist the type of employed homeless we are targeting, and more rigorously for the last 3 years, and we've seen the employed homeless rise sharply - far faster than available services can assist:  from less than 10% to over 38%.  Local services are increasing to help the long-term homeless at the expense of the recently and still employed homeless.  57% of the teens who are homeless are employed, and this is also a severely under-addressed issue locally.  Approximately 40% of the people who seek shelter have been turned away at least once because there isn't room, over 40% of the homeless receive no government assistance (either by choice, they don't know they qualify, or because they don't qualify),  more than 30% are on wait lists for government housing.

We've been in correspondence with various homeless people (and been there ourselves briefly), and studied local surveys regarding homeless people and have compiled a prioritized list of the top 10 needs:
  job training or re-training - 71.9%,
deposit waivers and affordable housing - 61.3%,
service aquisition assistance - 60.8%,
public shelters - 59.8%, 
financial management planning and advice - 59.1 %,
time management skills - 48.8%,
health care - 48.7%,
drug, alcohol abuse, or mental health counseling - 48.7%,
daycare services - 39.0%,
government/Section 8 housing - 16.1%. 

We will be addressing 5 of the top 6 needs.

Since we will be listing various agencies which provide other and more services, we can hardly ignore them.  They've provided a lot of the incentive to do what we are doing.

Finally (I know, it is nosy and intrusive, but I am really interested in how you are handling all this, as these are problems we face here) Will you be serving ex-prison populations, and are you looking for grants for the opening from the homeless side of funding?

No grants.  This is mostly because grants will bog us down in paperwork and special requirements that we aren't equipped to handle, in addition to the paperwork we already know we'll have to keep for tax purposes. The Cracked Cauldron will start with just 3 full time employees and 4 part time, and their focus will be to make the bakery successful so it can afford to support the charity.  The charity must be able to operate seamlessly with the business initially without hiring help specifically to run the charity side.  Five years from now, we will be in a different position, and we have plans to re-evaluate the progress and needs of both the business side and the charity side of the Cracked Cauldron.

As for ex-prisoners, I don't see where this would make a tremendous difference - if they are employed and homeless, they will still need help finding services and getting housed - and maybe eating during that time.  At this time and point in what we offer, there is no need to draw attention to a person's past so much as their future.  We can't change what they did, we can only help them into the future.

If it's employment they are seeking, they will have to adhere to the same standards as any other employee as well as to any restrictions on their parole or after-prison living.

Of course, ex-prisoners may already know far more about what services are available to them and what restrictions are imposed upon them, and not need anything we offer, rendering this a moot question.

We've already stated we aren't equipped to provide beds, drug/alcohol/mental counseling, health care, or day care services, although we will provide lists of those agencies which do provide such services.

Our goal, right now, is to help with the group of homeless often termed "non-recurring, acute", and we refer to as the employed homeless.  We also want to reach people before they become homeless so they never experience it.  Far too many people are living one or two or three paychecks away from being homeless.  They've succumbed to the  lure of ready credit cards, and the trap of those "payday" loan agencies, living far beyond their means because they think they have to.  That's why we will also provide lists of places they can have fun for little or no money, and eat very inexpensively.

People need to be able to indulge, but they also need to live, and we hope to provide a way for them to do both.

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