Thanks to you The Cooperative Feeding Program was able to send 1000 Broward County kids back to school last week with brand new backpacks filled with school supplies.  A number of these families are homeless and also needed help accessing addittional resources for new uniforms and immunizations.  Many of you donated school supplies your own children selected while picking out their own supplies.  It was great to see all of you who dropped off backpacks and supplies.   Of course we also have to thank those of you who helped us purchase more supplies by donating or buying virtual supplies through our Changing The Present site.

Thanks again.  We couldn’t do it without you!

OK, so 2010 seems pretty far off and the census doesn’t really compare to the Olympics as far as the excitement factor, but try to pay attention anyway 🙂

Every 10 years we count heads. Head counting is important for a lot of reasons, but Broward County officials would like to remind you that a lot of federal funding decisions are based on census numbers. Essentially federal and state government uses the census to determine fun things like total population of an area (which also determines your representation in government), and demographics like age, gender, and race. It’s one of the ways they decide things like which areas need more social services funding assistance, who needs more public transportation and who needs to build more schools or senior day cares.

Just in case you were thinking of not participating, here are a few things you need to know:

* Census Day is April 1, 2010. Plenty of time to find a pencil.

* It’s easy peasy…the short questionnaire will be sent to all addresses in Broward County and you just pop it back in the mail when you are done. Here in Broward County special teams will be reaching out to populations that are often missed – the homeless, those in transitional housing or group facilities, shut ins etc. Cooperative Feeding is serving on the committee, so be sure to let us know if you are worried about being missed.

* Census data is protected for 72 years. What does that mean for you? No authority or organization, including Immigration, the IRS or the President of the United States, is going to know how you answered your census form and come looking for you. Unless of course you don’t return your census form. Then the Census Bureau will actually come looking for you. Oh, the irony.

* Census data really does impact the level of services our county can offer. This is a way to be sure that you and your loved ones are counted and that services are in place should you ever need them.

* The census is uber-American. It is mandated under the U.S. Constitution and there is nothing more American than that!

During the Great Depression, the homeless and down-and-out ended up living in shantytowns or tent cities. They were called Hoovervilles, after the president who lorded over the economic collapse, Herbert Hoover.

Certainly we’d never slip back to that reality. Right?

After all, we’re the living-large culture. Two TVs and three PCs in every home.

But at some point you begin to wonder … Manufacturing collapse. Housing collapse. Banking collapse.


How far are we, really, from Bushvilles?

We may already be seeing the first ones.

But our modern version of a shantytown is much different than those from the last century. Hey, the average middle-class American couldn’t survive in a tent unless it had central air, a Wii and plasma TV. With remote.

Tents would never do.

The 21st century Bushvilles are full of the very symbol of American middle-class abundance: cars.

Tony Santa Barbara, Calif., has opened 12 car lots where the newly homeless can safely park at night. The lots are open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and are monitored by a homeless advocacy group to make sure they’re safe and secure.

“The way that the economy is going, it’s just amazing the people that are becoming homeless,” Nancy Kapp, a lot coordinator, told CNN. “It’s hit the middle class.”

Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is an only-in-California thing. We’re seeing the same middle-class migration to homelessness here.

“All of our beds are full and they’re not full of people you think of when you say, ‘homeless,'” said Sally Gress, spokeswoman with the Salvation Army in Broward. “One section of beds that were hardly ever full before was our section for single women. Now those beds are almost always full.”

They’re full of the working homeless. Secretaries and teachers. People getting salaries that no longer keep up with housing, insurance, food, utilities and gas.

“We offer rent and mortgage assistance,” Gress said. “And before, the calls were always for help with rent. Now, the calls are for mortgage assistance. And they’re coming from all over the place.”

And, of course, with tighter family budgets, there’s also been a drop in giving. In a report by Christian fundraising group Dunham and Co., 46 percent of Christian adults said they had reduced charitable contributions.

Even those at the higher end have been affected. Thirty-one percent of those making more than $100,000 said the economy was stifling their charity.

Another perfect storm in this season of economic hurricanes.

And we’re just beginning to feel the damaging storm surge.

“It’s just now starting to affect people with higher incomes,” Gress said. “It almost makes you think it could happen to just about anybody who loses a job.”

So now, more than ever, it’s time for those of us who aren’t living out of our car, or a cardboard box, to step it up.

And I’m not talking about handing your wallet to the alcoholic vagrant on the corner.

It’s about supporting already-established programs such as the Broward Coalition to End Homelessness and the Salvation Army in both Broward and Palm Beach counties.

You don’t have to be rich. Every Thursday morning this summer, my wife has been taking our kids to work at the Cooperative Feeding Program.

The kiddos complained at first, but have come to enjoy it. It didn’t hurt that they were allowed to dole out the desserts.

Besides, feeling a sense of purpose through service can be addictive.

Particularly when the people you’re helping don’t look so different from you.

Ralph De La Cruz can be reached at or 954-356-4727 and 561-243-6522.

PS – In case you are wondering –  no Cooperative Feeding did not know that one of our volunteer’s spouses was a Sun-Sentinel columnist.  He mentioned us all on his onsies….Sure is one small world……


Police say teens beat homeless Ohio man to death

Fri Jun 27, 2:10 AM ET

CLEVELAND – A group of teenagers beat a homeless man to death as passers-by slowed to watch the attack, some of which was caught on videotape, police said.

Anthony Waters, 42, suffered a lacerated spleen and broken ribs during the attack Wednesday night and died at a hospital, police said.

“The pack mentality going on in the city of Cleveland must end,” police Commander Calvin Williams said Thursday at a news conference where he urged the attackers to come forward.

Portions of the attack were caught on a surveillance camera outside a towing company on the city’s east side. Police said the videotape shows passing cars slowing to watch three teens attack Waters until he staggered into the parking lot, where he was assisted by employees of the towing company.

“It was just horrifying the way he looked,” said Marlo Massey, Waters’ sister, who saw her brother’s body after the attack. “They beat him to death and I just can’t stop thinking what was on his mind while it was happening.”

Waters suffered from blunt abdominal trauma, a head injury and damaged internal organs, the Cuyahoga County coroner said.

The attackers, who appeared to be between the ages of 14 to 17, robbed Waters of a music player and headphones, police said. No arrests have been made.

Waters was a welder by trade but had been staying at a Cleveland-area homeless shelter, said Paul Eadeh, a friend.

“He’s a good guy, a hardworking person,” Eadeh said. “He was just trying to make some money to eat and to live.”

Eadeh said Waters worked odd jobs for him at a beverage store.

The National School Lunch Program provides free or reduced cost lunches for thousands of children in Broward County.  In fact 49% of all students in the county are eligible for the program.  That’s over 104,000 children.  For some this may be the only guaranteed, nutritious meal they have for the day.  Now that schools are closed theyhave lost access to that and their families have to find other ways to feed them.  With rising food costs and limited job opportunities the simple act of giving your kids summer lunch – a ham and cheese or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a slice of pizza or some mac and cheese – they’ve become items to be budgeted, worried over.  As you enjoy your summer fun, keep these kids in mind.  Keep an eye out for those 2 for 1 sales….1 for you…1 for your local food pantry to share with a needy family.

There are some programs available this summer for lunches.  If you or someone you know needs help feeding their children this summer, click here for sites and guidelines and of course families can turn to Cooperative Feeding for help. 

Define it

April 24, 2008

funny dog pictures

How many of you looked at this picture and thought get a job, get rid of the dog or go home to your folks? How many of you looked at it and thought these two need help, who can help them? If you are in the second group Cooperative Feeding can help and so can you by volunteering, doing food drives (which can include pet food) or just by spreading the word. If you are in the first group, maybe you need to come spend a little time with us in the food pantry or community kitchen and look at how you define home, need, unconditional.

Looking at this picture we can’t really know anything about this person or his furry companion, but I’m sure we all look at it, make assumptions, and react. None of us know what has brought them here, what other options they might have, or where “here” even is and that’s rather the point. You don’t know.

What I find most intriguing about this picture is that it raises the idea of defining homelessness and what homeless persons (the furry sort too) need or want. I think most Americans think of the homeless rather like this picture. The truth might surprise you.

Many of our homeless clients you would walk by on the street and never know they were living in their car, sleeping on friends’ couches, staying in one of the county’s shelters or living on the streets. Then there are those that have shelter, but worry each month if they will lose it, or perhaps they live with family or in a motel. Not technically homeless, but definitely not housing secure and they too often find themselves not paying utilities or buying food so that they can pay the rent.

They often have jobs, education, families. A health emergency, an accident, a bad decision, an addiction… things that could happen to any of us move them from living pay check to pay check to needing public assistance or being out on the streets. Sometimes what they need isn’t what you think. It could be that getting food stamps would have been enough to put food on the table and pay the rent. Maybe mental health counseling would help them move forward and maybe a beloved dog is what is giving them the stability and love they need to make it through one more day.

Maybe just a bag of dog food a month and a hot meal a day would help these two make it through life a little easier. Maybe just a kind word directing them to a place like Cooperative Feeding is all they need to help re-define home. They seem to have the unconditional part down pretty well.

Help the Homeless Month Decree

On December 29, 2007 Governor, Charlie Crist declared January “Help the Homeless” month in Florida. Here’s 5 fast ways you can make a difference.

1. Clean out your closet. Can you imagine going to fill out applications and the only thing you have to wear is what you’ve been wearing for a few days? You may not wear those khakis, polos, and jeans any longer but they are the perfect thing for someone who is trying to get a job. Clean clothing – especially work wear, men’s clothes, socks and shoes are always in big demand. Drop them off at CFP and help someone get a job.

2. Open up your schedule. Come volunteer with us and bring your friends, co-workers and families. Volunteering isn’t just good for the cause, it’s good for you! Call Chris, our Volunteer Coordinator, at 954.792.2328 or e-mail him – and find out about all the great opportunities there are. Think you’re too busy to come to our site? There are loads of ways you can help from home, your office or place of worship.

3. Get informed. Homelessness is a complicated issue, but there are answers. Jump on our website for information on how it affects our community. Click here to see some national stats and information.

4. Talk it up. Put all that good information gathering to use! In our society we often try to hide poverty and homelessness. Bring it out into the open by discussing the statistics, causes and possible solutions with your family, friends and people you meet. You may be surprised by people’s opinions or experiences.

5. Vote. It’s a bit early, but by starting today you can impact the next election. Find out where your legislators stand on the issue and what they are doing to help. Call and e-mail them with your comments on what you want to see done or not done. Ask them to sponsor legislation, back upcoming bills for positive change and get involved. Start an e-mail campaign and invite everyone you know to join in. The more your elected officials hear about an issue, the more they’ll know to take notice. By election day they should have a full plan of action to help those who are on the streets now and to prevent future generations from getting there.