New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Signs of the Times

February 01, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Politics, Randall Amster

Reflections on a Society in Turmoil

by Randall Amster

Today we are confronted with a convergence of crises that is unparalleled in recent memory. Overtly discriminatory policies, the elevation of oppressive ideologies, ignorance and disregard as political virtues — these are among the hallmarks of this moment. As outrageous as this is, it is also important to remember that none of this exists in a vacuum, and that to some extent these patterns have been with us in various forms for a long time. In considering the cultural context for navigating contemporary challenges, I am drawn to recollections from not long ago…

Exiting a natural foods store in the southwest a few years ago, I noticed a person flying a sign on the side of the road. It was apparently a young woman, complete with piercings and other hallmarks of the disheveled look that is sometimes known as “crusty” or “gutter punk” in many cities. What stood out for me, indelibly in this case (in addition to the feelings I experience any time I see someone asking for help in such a manner) was the language on her sign, composed of three words in all: Broke. Hungry. Ugly. (more…)

Outside the Public Senses

March 27, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Guest Author

He Hated Her for Who (S)He Was…

by Lily Liu

The long-awaited river flowed from her, streaming into the dirt as if it had been destined to breathe life into the chrysanthemums creeping from the ground. Relief filled her body as the tension dripped out, joining nature’s soil through its earthly movement.

He watched her from behind a sea of glass. Comfortable, yet irritated at the faint smell of lemon air purifier wafting from the restrooms down the hall, he wished the lemon smell, and the smells they meant to cover, could be contained. Those things weren’t meant for the public nose.

She rocked, singing joyous prayer into the passing wind. Each note warmed her throat as she sought expression, as she felt her happiness ooze from her lips. She swung her arms outward with the wings of the nearby pigeons who, startled by the outbreak of song, were flapping in chaos.

Still watching, he thanked the sea of glass for breaking sound. He preferred the predictable tics of his desk clock, the steady buzz of the pure fluorescent lighting, the controlled tapping of his shoes against his desk. Spontaneous emotions were meant for dramatic effect at friendly gatherings. Public displays of self ought to be acts of refinery. Only premeditated proverbs for the public ear. (more…)

Community Support

January 31, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Family, Pat LaMarche

‘Housing First’ Doesn’t Work Alone

by Pat LaMarche

Homeless advocates from 36 states are gathering this week at the Beyond Housing Conference sponsored by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH). Institute President and CEO, Ralph DaCosta Nunez, opened the conference by explaining the agency’s intent when they named the event. Nunez said, “There is a lot of misunderstanding about this issue,” that goes beyond homelessness.

Nunez should know. He served as Mayor Koch’s Deputy Director when New York City first started tackling the issue of homeless families. He explained that the city’s initial approach was a rush to find housing. Families burned out by their homes, or those who lost housing after paying a big medical bill were relatively easy to help. And the numbers were workable. Thirty years ago there were 800 families a year. Nunez said they worked with their re-housing model, but when that number jumped to 5000, they realized the problem wasn’t going to “go away.” It wasn’t even going to “level off.” Additionally, and because of a change in direction the federal government took in the 1980s, the situation of homelessness went from a problem to a catastrophe. Today, there are 12,155 homeless families in New York City. Nunez told the group, “Tonight, 55,000 men, women and children will sleep in shelters all across the city.” (more…)

A Christmas Story

December 20, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Pat LaMarche

What Would Mary Do?

by Pat LaMarche

The Black Friday numbers came in a week or so ago. Shopping’s down, spending’s down and the per capita expenditures are down. Retail spin-doctors cite a whole host of reasons the numbers might be headed south. Nestled in among the, “Gee Virginia, don’t depend on Santa Claus,” rallying cries is the supposition that it might just be because — according to the National Retail Federation — “consumers report they expect to have tight budgets this year, despite a recovering economy.”

Tight budgets? I’ll say.

An April 2013, My Budget 360 report entitled, “US Household income continues to fall in midst of recovery,” states that over the past five years or “since the recession started, household income is down 7.3 percent.” And the cost of living over the same period went up about the same. Heck, according to Bloomberg News, the cost of living went up 2.3 percentin 2012 alone. So as resources get ever dearer and purchases outstrip consumers’ grasp, it’s likely more and more people in the United States will find it difficult to play Santa at all this year. (more…)

Herculean Efforts

November 26, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Family, Pat LaMarche

Honoring Commitments to the Homeless, and Ourselves

by Pat LaMarche

I’m not homeless, but every now and then I take to the streets in some far-flung part of the United States and live in a fashion similar to the one lived by many people experiencing homelessness.

Like many folks without a home, sometimes I travel alone, but I’m often with others.  Two weeks ago I shoved off on my latest trip with my dear friend, Diane Nilan.   Nilan’s an advocate for homeless kids and the executive director of Hear Us, a charity she started 9 years ago hoping to shed light on our nation’s greatest shame.

I love Diane Nilan.  She’s selfless and that’s an amazing thing to watch.  She’s held body and soul together — living on the road in an RV all these years — for the same reasons the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask over your own face before you attempt to help somebody else. (more…)

An Art Form

September 30, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Pat LaMarche

Homeless Advocates Gather to Promote Cooperation

by Pat LaMarche

The Texas Conference on Ending Homelessness was held last week in Austin. More than 400 homeless advocates — from shelter directors to student liaisons — came together to update their certifications, learn from each other, and recharge their spent fuel cells.

AFTS11 7606 Bennie Mjumbe SorrellsKen Martin, executive director of the Texas Homeless Network, was encouraged by their near record turnout in the face of budget cuts and an increasing demand on overtaxed service providers. The economic downturn over the last half-decade — since the stock market crashed in October of 2008 — has caused an uptick in homelessness all across the nation. Because agencies have to do more with less, Martin and his organization provided free booth space to not for profit agencies hoping to interface with the advocates who attended the conference.

Art from the Streets is one of those not-for-profit groups.

Founded by a couple of artists in the 1990s, Art from the Streets is preparing to host its 21st art show and sale this November. Homeless artists from Austin have been creating and selling their work with encouragement and materials provided by Art from the Streets. Only recently an official 501(c)3 charity, all paper, canvas, and pigment mediums came from donors who hadn’t even gotten a tax break for their contributions. (more…)

Life Story

March 13, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Economy, Pat LaMarche

A Woman Struggles with Poverty, Race, and Education in America

by Pat LaMarche

I had lunch this week with a woman who was homeless for a number of years. She’s in Section 8 housing now with a slumlord who doesn’t fix what breaks and has ignored the cockroaches that move from rental unit to rental unit easier than a breeze on a cool night. No surprise there, as breezes don’t have legs and the ability to seek out moisture and food.

She’s found two prospective places and hopes to move, but the federal housing inspectors haven’t given her the okay yet, so she struggles to tolerate her home. She reached out to me because she’s in a bit of trouble and she needs some help. (more…)