New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


A World Like That…

March 02, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Family, Pat LaMarche, Politics

Reflections on Poverty and Possibility from the 2013 EPIC Journey

by Pat LaMarche

When Diane Nilan and I first met several years ago in a campground in South Central Pennsylvania, I had no idea that we’d team up to try and change the hearts and minds of people who don’t know much about homelessness. I sought her out simply because I was writing a weekly column for Maine’s largest daily newspaper, The Bangor Daily News. Tiger Woods had just smashed up his car and blown up his career and I was looking for a real hero — I wanted folks to see the difference.

I stumbled upon this little-known woman who had, at that time, been ramming the roads in an RV for five years. Her mission was to create documentaries that allowed folks to learn the truth about homeless kids and their families. She has many films to her credit; My Own Four Walls is my personal favorite. All you see and hear (with the exception of a few encouraging tones from Diane) are children. Children tell their story. And if you’ve got a dry eye after that movie, it’s time for an EKG. Her second film, a feature-length ditty, tells the story of seven women and their kids. You may not need a hanky at the end of that show, but you’ll definitely know that something’s terribly wrong with the way we treat the poor. (You can get info on Diane’s films and watch trailers, etc. at her website.) (more…)

Homeless Students

February 23, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Pat LaMarche

EPIC Journey Does ‘Reality Check’ with Next Generation of Teachers

by Pat LaMarche

{Editor’s Note: NCV Contributor Pat LaMarche is on a journey to explore homelessness and poverty in the U.S. NCV will post updates from her travels…}

Austin, Texas (home of the University of Texas) gave us the opportunity to speak to scores of social work students about the rapidly rising number of folks with nowhere to live. Our visit early in the week to New Mexico State University likewise gave us an opportunity to discuss two-on-seven with a handful of education doctoral candidates, the world in which they’ll be teaching.

It’s not that every one of the students in either school was hell bent on working with the homeless. But with the number of homeless school children in the nation at more than a million (according to the U.S. Department of Education) and poverty on the rise, if these scholars want to work in the United States, they’re going to be working with the homeless. (more…)

Up from the Depths

February 09, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Pat LaMarche

A Homeless Veteran Strives to Escape LA’s Skid Row

by Pat LaMarche

{Editor’s Note: NCV Contributor Pat LaMarche is on a journey to explore homelessness and poverty in the U.S. NCV will post updates from her travels…}

We’ve parked the RV we’re using to travel our 5000 miles through the nation’s impoverished communities at my cousin’s place. Frank lives in San Marino, California. Google says Frank’s house is 12.9 miles from Skid Row. Moving back and forth between the two locations, it becomes more and more difficult to believe that’s true.

One thing that is true is that it almost never rains here. Months will go by without a single drop. So why are the streets in San Marino and Skid Row wet? Well, in San Marino they water the lawns. And, if you suspend your 21st century concept of sanitation for a few minutes, you can figure out what’s happening on the streets of the nation’s unofficial homeless capital. (more…)

Babes of Wrath

January 26, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Pat LaMarche

A Journey into the Deep-Seated Poverty of America

by Pat LaMarche

{Editor’s Note: NCV Contributor Pat LaMarche embarks on an epic journey, rekindling the spirit of Steinbeck’s fictional Joad family to explore issues of homelessness and poverty in the U.S. We’ll present Pat’s reflections from the road as she and her intrepid traveling companion continue on the journey…}

This week I started out on a 5000-mile journey through the inner city shelters, backwoods camps, and forgotten hideaways of our nation’s poorest people. I’ll meet babies, toddlers, school kids, drop outs, drug addicts, minimum wage earners, former home owners, veterans, the elderly and more. But I won’t do it alone. I’m traveling from Little Rock, Arkansas to Los Angeles and all the way back to Asheville, North Carolina with a hero friend of mine. This is my third trip traveling through the wealthiest nation and into the world of the homeless, and it’ll last a little more than a month. It’s my friend’s first trip, but she’s been on it for more than eight years. (more…)

Fitting the Bill

October 01, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Pat LaMarche

An Example of Selflessness for Society to Embrace

by Pat LaMarche 

I met Bill because — well frankly — because he fit the bill. He was a recovering alcoholic who had been homeless off and on for a decade, maybe longer. Bill was a former broadcast professional turned Wall Street tycoon who shattered his own existence with addiction. He eventually cleaned up his act so entirely that he landed a job in one of the shelters he’d gone to for protection when he couldn’t protect himself. He counseled others — drawing from his own experiences — and encouraged them to live a better more productive life.

I’m fortunate to be a people person. I love being with all sorts of people and I believe everyone is equal in measure while admittedly not equal in opportunity. But Bill had it all. Looking into his face the very first time we met I was first struck by his good looks: looks that had weathered into a different but still striking kind of handsome. He was witty and smart and compassionate and I knew instantly why he had been recommended to serve on a panel to dispel society’s misconceptions about the poor. Bill wasn’t going to lie to anyone about anything. He’d stopped lying to others maybe the same moment that he’d stopped lying to himself. (more…)

The Homeless Bach

February 21, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Pat LaMarche

‘Can Anyone Spare a Pair of Bootstraps?’

by Pat LaMarche

In June of 2009 PBS predicted that — according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness — “The recession will force 1.5 million more people into homelessness over the next two years.” That was 1.5 million MORE people. That makes best estimates for the number of homeless people in the U.S. anywhere from three to five million. The same PBS story says that 1.5 million of the overall total are children.

These numbers are so large that it’s difficult to imagine the typical homeless person. Because homelessness is at such epidemic proportions, there is nothing typical about the conditions, circumstances, or character of the homeless.

So rather than try and imagine the entire spectrum — from aging military veteran to colicky new born — let’s just talk about one of these newer homeless folks.

Allow me to introduce a man who became homeless as a result of our nation’s economic downturn. He’s one of those million and a half extra folks added to the already existing crowd experiencing chronic homelessness. Only recently and unexpectedly, this gent found that he couldn’t keep his bills paid and a roof over his head for the first time in his life. (more…)

Five Reasons to Serve

January 11, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Economy, Nipun Mehta

What Doing for Others Does for Ourselves

by Nipun Mehta

At the height of the dot-com boom in 1999, a few tech-savvy friends and I walked into a homeless shelter to give without any strings attached. Our motivation?  We just wanted to serve, and quickly discovered that such a practice of selfless giving is something that we all have access to, no matter who we are or what we do.

Our trip to the homeless shelter led to us building a website for them at no charge. That experiment in giving blossomed into an organization called ServiceSpace, which went on to develop and gift websites to thousands of small nonprofits. But the ripples didn’t stop there. ServiceSpace has now evolved into a remarkable incubator for dozens of projects, including an online good news portal, “Smile Cards” that spread kindness, and a gift-economy restaurant in Berkeley and rickshaw in India — all touching millions of people. (more…)