Sunday
Nov012009

News Briefs: No Camping: Rough Sleepers Get the Boot From Boulder

Published November 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 10

by Sarah Eckhoff

photo by Adrian Diubaldo

A woman rests outside the Carriage House in Boulder.

Jon Garrett carries his home on his shoulders. Every night he hopes to find a place where he can lay his head away from biting wind or cold rain. And at least four times in his almost two-year stint of homelessness, he has been wakened by law enforcement ready to convict him for this illegal activity.

Boulder Revised Code 5-6-10, Camping or lodging on property without consent, states that “no person shall camp within any park, parkway, recreation area, open space, or other public property” without first obtaining permission from the owner, supervisory officer or city manager. This means that from sunset to one hour after sunrise, any person carrying out “daily activities” such as eating, sleeping or seeking protection from the elements in a way other than clothing can be arrested.

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Sunday
Nov012009

News Briefs: Just an American Girl

Published November 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 10

The Mattel toy company has caused a media-stir with the release earlier this year of a homeless doll. The American Girl Store released Gwen Thompson, the newest in its long line of expensive dolls—each one retails for around $95. Part of the popularity of the brand lies in the intricate back-story that accompanies each doll.

Gwen’s back-story? After her father walked out on them, Gwen and her mother fell on hard times and the two ended up living in a car. While some customers have complained on the American Girl website that Gwen doesn’t come with very many accessories, some additions, such as the violin that Gwen enjoys playing in the book that introduced her, can be purchased separately at the American Girls store. You can also purchase a sleeping bag for Gwen for $26, or just cover her with newspaper. Prospective buyers should also be aware that Gwen can easily borrow the old outfits of American Girl Dolls they already own.

The Manitou Messenger of St. Olaf College listed a full Winter Gwen ensemble concept: Patchy Socks: $16, Oversized Coat: $40, Knit Cap: $24, Hand-me-Down Boots: $30

Gwen Thompson is not the first doll to be marketed as “homeless.” In 1965, Hasbro introduced Little Miss No Name, who came with her own burlap sack dress and a removable plastic teardrop. Little Miss No Name was quickly discontinued.

-- Sarah Harvey

Sunday
Nov012009

News Briefs: Homeless Health Goes Hi-Tech

Published November 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 10

The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced $2 million in grants for two health information technology initiatives in Colorado. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless received $1,865,625 to implement electronic health records (EHRs), while the Colorado Community Managed Care Network, which serves 62 clinics in Colorado, received $250,000 to improve existing electronic health records. The CCH’s Stout Street Clinic has been operating in downtown Denver for almost 25 years, delivering healthcare to the homeless. The CCMCN’s patients are low-income and primarily medically underserved. Senators Mark Udal and Michael Bennet applauded the announcement of the grants, saying that the money will cut health care costs and reduce medical errors in Colorado, and also lead to better outcomes for the thousands of patients the two organizations serve every year. Detractors of EHRs warn that the electronic systems are not as efficient as they have been touted to be, and have led to misclassifications of illnesses by limiting diagnosis to check boxes on a form. The grants are part of $27.8 million in total grants announced in late September by the Department of Health and Human Services and provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

-- Sarah Harvey

Sunday
Nov012009

Beyond Denver: Turning Junk Mail into Art

Published November 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 10

by Alecia D. McKenzie

PARIS, France - Like everyone else, Barbara Hashimoto hated the junk mail coming in through the door. Until she decided one day that it could be transformed into art and lessons about the environment.
Hashimoto, a U.S.-born, Japanese-trained artist, has created “The Junk Mail Experiment,” in which huge quantities of unsolicited advertising mail are shredded into temporary installation art and eventually into sculptures. The “Experiment” is currently on view in Paris and in Chicago.

“I was working in a firm and was amazed at how much junk mail we received,” says Hashimoto, a slim dark-haired woman who speaks passionately about her work.

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Thursday
Oct012009

Personal Profile: Laying Tracks with Jack McConaha

Published October 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 9

by William Hillyard

´╗┐Jack McConaha answered my knock in a white t-shirt.  “Come on in; have a seat,” he said.  “Say hello to the kids.”  

His ‘kids,’ two toy poodles, yipped at me from the side of the king-size bed that practically fills the windowless living room of his sprawling Wonder Valley cabin.  The dogs’ bed and food and water bowls sat in the rumpled covers.  The whoosh of the swamp coolers covered the room with a blanket of white noise, reducing the TV at the foot of the bed to a murmur.  

Jack disappeared to finish dressing.  “Must have picked up a nail,” he shouted from deep within the warren of the house.  “I checked the air in my tires this morning and one was a little low.”  It seemed he was continuing a conversation that had begun before I arrived.   “Don’t matter,” he went on, “it’s just down a couple of pounds.”  

Chatting constantly, he told me he doesn’t like the Firestone tires that came on his new patrol Jeep.  He’s going to replace them, he said; get BF Goodriches—they self-seal if you get a puncture.

Jack reentered the room dressed for his desert patrol; summer weight camouflaged fatigues—Marine Corp issue—draped from his short, stout frame, a 40-caliber Smith and Wesson on his hip.  The tin badge on his breast designated him “Captain of Security.”

Jack’s hand, resting on the grip of his pistol, showed the faint scars of the welding accident that earned him his lifetime of disability checks, the money he has lived on for his nearly 40 years in Wonder Valley.  

He came to this hardscrabble desert enclave when it was still largely peopled by pioneering “jackrabbit homesteaders” brought to this area by the Small Tract Homestead Act of 1938, which carved Wonder Valley into five acre parcels free for the taking.  All you had to do was to “prove up” your parcel: clear the land, build a cabin.  When Jack arrived here in the early 1970s, some four thousand cabins flecked this remote patch of desert.  These days only a thousand or so still stand—and half of those sit vacant.  The remaining few house the snowbirds and retirees, artists and writers, drifters and squatters that live out here along Wonder Valley’s nearly 400 miles of washboard roads.

Jack volunteered as a fireman when he first arrived; even did a stint as chief of the area’s small all-volunteer brigade.  Now he’s the one-man security force patrolling the valley’s lonely roads.  Some people come to these abandoned cabins and empty desert from “down below,” from L.A. and that mess down there by the coast, to cook up drugs or dump a dead body or just wander out into the saltbush scrub and blow their own brains out.  Jack told me about the Wonder Valley man he came upon, standing in the sandy lane, bashing his wife’s head with a rock. He told me about the meth labs he busted, the all night stakeouts, the search and rescues.  He told me about the people he’s helped, how they tell him how much they appreciate what he does.  He talked of the commendations he’d been awarded, citations, newspaper clippings, the luminaries he met in the line of duty as the self-appointed guardian of this remote corner of the Mojave Desert.  

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