New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


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…)

Who’s Responsible?

February 02, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Pat LaMarche

‘Step Up’ Program Could Lessen Youth Incarceration

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…}

Photo: be careful my loved ones.  do not read my upcoming stories unless you have a rebar reinforced heart and a stupid filter on your brain.According to the Equal Justice Initiative, more than 70,000 children are doing time in either juvenile or adult facilities. During our EPIC Journey, the Babes of Wrath tour of the places poor people live, we stopped into the Coconino Juvenile detention facility in Flagstaff, Arizona.

First of all, I can’t say enough good about the staff that work with the inmates in that county kids’ jail. Everyone — from Bryon Matsuda, the Director of Juvenile Services, to the guards who escorted the kids from their classes to their cells — treated these kids with dignity and respect. Secondly, they’ve got a whole different way of incarcerating children there. They use a model invented by Matsuda — who willingly shares credit with his best friend and his “higher power” — that helps kids to “Step Up” and out of the situation that landed them in jail in the first place. (more…)

A Gospel of Wealth

December 28, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Making Eye Contact with the Poverty in Our Midst

by Robert C. Koehler

“I’m pregnant,” she said.

Well, OK. She wanted $4. I could have done the “pretend not to see you” thing. Taking that option is part of life these days, especially in Chicago. She’d been standing in the middle of the intersection, trying to get money so that — if she was to be believed — she and her daughter could get dinner at the McDonald’s on the corner. When the light changed, she came over to me. I was out for a walk. It was a beautiful, cold December night.

This is what I’d been thinking: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” It was a quote from one of my favorite writers, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and at times it feels true — such as when I’m walking through my vibrant, unpredictable neighborhood. Suddenly nothing is ordinary or banal, nothing is to be blown off. Oh, the humanity. (more…)

The Needy Rich

August 07, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Pat LaMarche

Always Wanting Something to Help Them Get Ahead

by Pat LaMarche

Some guy asked me for help the other day. Considering the time I spend hanging with homeless folks that sentence likely wouldn’t surprise anyone. But this guy wasn’t homeless. In fact he’s not even poor. He’s got it “going on” with a great job and he’s well educated. He came from a good family and was sent to the finest schools. He got a great college education back in the day when I got mine. Back when all four years of private higher ed was cheaper than one year is now.

Seems his brains and good looks, comfortable station and high profile job just can’t get him what he really needs to move ahead. What can I do for a guy like that? I mean for all intents and purposes he and I are peers. In fact we even do the exact same job; we’re both talk radio hosts. We literally got our broadcasting start in the same small market, although he was a little before my time. (more…)

Debt of Gratitude

February 22, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Randall Amster

Less Earning, More Learning

by Randall Amster

I’d like to share a story, a personal story, a common story, an American story. For nearly two decades, I have carried the burden of a crushing student loan debt, well over six figures and impossible for me to fathom paying off in this lifetime. While I have written before about debt in a more generalized sense — advocating for a “Jubilee” as the ultimate stimulus and a chance for all of us to start anew — I’ve never connected it publicly to my own plight. The reasons are complex, but have to do with fear, fear of vulnerability, fear of judgment. I suspect that many people burdened by debt feel similarly and are often constrained to bear the pressures silently.

My story is relatively straightforward. I attended a private college (majoring in physics and astronomy, which did not yield any obvious career potential for me) and then a private law school. After clerking for a federal judge for a year, I was hired in the fall of 1992 to work at a large corporate law firm in mid-town Manhattan, complete with the accoutrements of privilege and compensation. I seemingly “had it all,” at least on the outside, and any rumblings of discontent — after a lifetime of being a working-class person — seemed somehow ungrateful. (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…)