On today's show, we are welcoming Teresa DeCrescenzo, who is the executive director of GLASS Youth and Family Services, based in Burbank, Calif. She wrote an opinion piece titled "Where's the Bailout for Nonprofits?" that first appeared in the Los Angeles Times and then reprinted in the Daily Camera Boulder.
by Teresa DeCrescenzo
I am a social worker, not an economist, and what I know is this: The stock market is in free fall, financial organizations are being bailed out and the Detroit automakers might yet get financial help from Washington, D.C. But what about those of us in the nonprofit world? Where's our bailout?
Nonprofits depend on government funding and the generosity of business and individual giving, and those of us in the health-care field are facing the bleakest of landscapes. Where is the storm of media coverage, the persuasive rhetoric, the public outcry to save critically needed services, such as child care, assisted living, home health care and hospital services? Who is documenting our agony? Where are the desperately needed cash infusions to help us restructure in this troubled economy?
My child-care agency, supported largely by government contracts -- federal and state dollars partially matched by county funds -- went nine years without an increase in the rate of funding it receives. During those years, the cost of a child-care worker rose from $23,000 a year to $29,000 a year. Multiply that figure by our 100 child-care workers, and we are facing a $600,000 shortfall in just one job category. No industry in the public or private sector could have survived nine years of flat funding.
How will we make up that shortfall? Fundraising? Unlikely, in this economy. And investment losses have had a profoundly negative effect on endowed organizations. We need a bailout.
Earlier this year, the venerable River Oak Center for Children in Northern California announced the closure of its 42-year-old residential facility. Calling the closure heartbreaking, River Oak President Mary Hargrave said that the nonprofit agency has lost money on the residential care facility for years -- $1 million last year alone. In October, Kids First Foundation closed its residential child-care site in Los Angeles. Hathaway Children's Village, Vista del Mar, Hollygrove and other Los Angeles-area agencies have either eliminated or cut back the number of residential beds available.
State and county officials claim that foster homes and kinship care can absorb the children no longer in residential care. A national study, however, found that foster parents are paid less than the cost to kennel a dog, according to a 2007 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of foster parents and the children they serve.
Unlike some of the executives whose companies are getting bailed out, I have never received a bonus, although I did lend my pension money to my agency a few years ago to stave off insolvency. That money is all gone now. Maybe I could serve as a role model for the guys getting the $20-million golden handshakes. They could give back a couple of million to help their companies survive.
American Express has just informed me that the $100,000 balance on my corporate credit card is now my personal responsibility. That balance represents payments to house homeless children in $40-a-night motels while case managers searched for permanent housing for them. American Express said something about all corporate chief executives being personal guarantors of the company charges. I never really thought of myself as a corporate CEO. They even took away my accumulated points, despite the fact that the points were earned from fully paid card balances. Those miles are the only way I can afford to travel. Unlike the Big Three automakers, I don't have a corporate jet.
Sometime soon -- probably within the next 60 days -- our agency will file for bankruptcy protection. Nearly 200 employees, including child-care workers, case managers and social workers, could lose their jobs. The hundreds of children we serve will lose the protection we have provided for them. They are homeless, abused, abandoned and neglected. It would take $3 million to $4 million to save the day. That's million, not billion.
Where's my bailout?
© 2008 The Daily Camera
In 1962 there was a sixteen-year-old kid who had to survive in the streets of this city, terrified.
He was a confused kid in a lot ways. He read Hemingway, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Spinoza, Bertrand Russell and Marx. He was a non-violent warrior in the civil rights movement who experienced the terror of violence by white mobs and cops. He was also a street corner boy. A jitterbug with his 20-inch pant cuffs with pleats, banlon shirts and porkpie hats. Drinking wine, shooting nine ball, looking for parties, talking shit and sometimes getting into trouble. All over the place he was, in the midst of violence but not violent, going for bad because you had to and standing up even when you knew you would be hurt. You had no choice on the corner.
This kid hung out on the Heights, the next neighborhood over was the Junction. Now the boys on the corner from the Heights and the Junction knew each other, didn’t war, walked through each other’s zones, intermingled and went to the same parties often but had different corners they owned and different pool halls and basketball courts they played on.
One day he went into Arundal’s Ice Cream parlor on the Boulevard, that long stretch of street that connected the two corners. Arundals was in Heights territory. They always had better spots on the Heights. Big Hand Bey and Blue Eyed Plu and the some of the boys from the Junction were hanging out there. As was custom, this kid walked up to Bey, a titular top dog from the Junction, and held out his hand palm down to slap five with Bey. Bey didn’t offer his hand, just a glare with a broke down mug that signified something was up and it wasn’t good. The other boys with him just postured and stared.
So, this kid knew something bad was going on and that these guys meant him some harm for some reason. He remembered just months before when Big Hand Bey beat down Blue Eyed Plu into submission on the corner. It was a bad beating but Plu now ran with Bey. At this point discretion was the better part of valor and that ice cream soda could wait a while.
Later that day he went over to the elementary school yard where the boys from the Heights hung to talk, play basketball, shoot craps and do whatever. When he got there Ronald said he should split because Bey and them had been up here earlier looking for him with a .45. All the brothers in the yard turned their backs on him, because he was a marked man and no one would stand with him.
It was a terrifying moment. He was alone. He turned to his walking partners Scott and Methu. They called Phillip Methu because he looked so much older than everyone else. Methu was short for Methuselah. Even though he was 16 he could pass for 21 and often bought the wine and malt liquor everyone loved. Methu was scared of no one.
At any rate, he turned to Methu and Scott and to his best friend Little Billy for help. He knew Scott and Methu would stand, or he hoped they would. Little Billy had taught him how to dance, fight with a knife, talk to girls and survive the streets. There was a deep bond between the two. All three said they would stand with him, as would Taz and Jerry. Taz was Ronald’s brother. Where Ronald was mean and a terror, Taz was sensitive, smart but a brave stand up guy and Jerry was cool. Always dressed cool, knew how win the ladies over and was a damn good boxer and a bit country to boot. Against Bey and them that wasn’t many guys but you knew they had your back.
They said we need a war council, so they all met at his house. To his surprise two of the older heads on the corner who were also two of the baddest boys around, period, Benny Lee and Meathead, showed up at the council that was held in the basement of his house.
Most of them thought that the only way to avoid a throw down with a much bigger force was to have him fight Big Hand Bey straight up, one on one. That was a terrifying thought. Bey was big, strong and bad. He had seem him fight before and knew that he could not win and would be badly beaten in a face off with Bey. He knew he may have no other choice.
If it came down to it on the corner or at a party everyone would throw down with him, come whatever. He knew they would stand with him, have his back, but his loyalty to them did not want to put them through it. The meaning of real and true friendship was defined as never before. That definition would define his life from that moment on.
He couldn’t understand why all this was happening? What was it? What had he done to incur the wrath of Bey and those boys!?
A few weeks earlier everyone had thrown in some money to buy some wine and malt liquor up at the bowing alley. This boy, Binky, took the money to buy everything. When he returned empty handed he gave some of the money back to everyone but him. So he said to Binky, where is my dollar? Binky said he wasn’t going to give him his dollar. Fuck you, Binky said. So, he said, Boy you are going to give me my money back. As Binky took off his coat he knocked him out with a flurry of punches. Then took a dollar from Binky’s pocket and walked away. He thought he was cool but Binky was one of Bey’s boys.
Then there was that night a month or so before when there was a party over on Bentalou. One of those blue lights in the basement parties. He was slow dancing with this girl who this other boy wanted but he kept on with her. He pulled her not the other dude. They went off together but the other boy threatened to fuck him up. He payed that no mind, the girl was just too fine, phat and willing to be with him to worry about that threat. Didn’t know the boy but he might have been one of Bey’s boys, he thought.
Or, was it because he was white? The only white boy on the corner, there weren’t too many like him. An easy mark for many … boys who did not like him, the cops or other white folks who saw him as a traitor and a freak.
Probably it was all of that but being white didn’t help … did not help at all …
One night he was going to visit his girl friend. The same girl he met at the party. Beatrice, really beautiful girl who was down from Harlem for the summer to visit her aunt. It was late. He was walking down a street with few lights but a peaceful, warm, quiet night. Earlier, he was going to go to a dance at the hall in his neighborhood but Scott and Methu said the Junction boys were there and it be best if he did not go. So, he split to see Bea.
As he walked a couple of blocks past the club on a residential street, a car slowed down. He could feel it sliding slowly over his left shoulder. He was aware of it, very conscious of everything around him, then a shot rang out, then another. The boys in that car were shooting at him.
He took the hat from this head and ran hard. Through the bushes, leaping a fence, another shot rang out, he leapt another fence was then faced by a Doberman, but he kept running, the Doberman hard at his heals, but he leapt another fence over into an alley as another shot rang out. He hid, then ran, then crept, knowing they were driving around looking for him. He saw them, but hid in the shadows behind a garage in a dark alleyway.
Then he made a dash for it down the alleys, around the corner and down another alley. He got to Bea’s crib, banged on the door, she answered, he pushed her inside, panting and out of breath, disheveled, socks falling down around his shoes, pants torn, drenched in sweat and fear. He spent the night there in her basement curled up beside her.
Little Billy had given him a switchblade. He wanted a gun. He carried the switchblade everywhere. At night he would walk with it open, up his sleeve. The handle of the knife rested in his palm, the blade resting on the underside of his forearm as he bopped with that pimp walk that was how you did back in the day. He was keenly aware of every shadow, every movement and would walk out into the street when he got to alleyways. He would turn to look down the alley, always terrified, always nervous and jumpy, leaping with fear at the slightest abnormality or sound.
One night he was coming home from a party. Scott and Methu peeled off to head in the opposite direction to their homes, Taz and Jerry walked a way but then they too left, walking west to get to their houses. He was once again alone for the next seven blocks to his house, switchblade open against the sweat of his forearm, head pounding with fear that made the eyes and throat dry and tight.
As he passed an alleyway he sensed some movement. A figure darted out, grabbed his left arm, spun him around. Then another figure punched him hard in the right side of his head, sent him twirling, almost losing his feet from under him. They were on him. The switchblade slid down his palm twisting the blade end out, He lashed out stabbing and slashing blindly as fists swung around him. He felt the knife hit something hard then soft, it was sickening sensation. He kept slashing and stabbing, one boy fell to the ground, and a knife skidded from his grasp down the alley. The other boy staggered back down the alley. He heard screaming and moaning as he glanced at the scene before turning on his heel to run. Run, he ran hard, scared, not stopping for blocks until he got to his house. The knife still in his hands as opened the front door. He ran to the phone, dialed the Operator, said two boys were stabbed in an ally, then hung up the phone quickly. He stumbled into his room, falling into his bed. His hands were covered with blood, his shirtsleeves were red with blood, blood all over his clothes.
What the fuck had he done. What was he going to do? Had he just killed someone? What was he going to do?
I stayed awake all night thinking about those boys. Did I kill somebody?! What was going to happen next. I knew they would find me, my hat was in the alley, they would snitch, one of them would die. I would go to jail forever, no one could save me, just like no one, not my parents, not the cops and not my brothers on the street could save me from the Junction.
I could not get this story of my past out of my head after reading about that 14-year-old child who was stabbed and killed at Lemmel Middle School on Friday. My first reaction was wondering what happened. What fear drove them to carry weapons? What madness lived under the reason for the killing?
At first people were saying it was gang-related. Now, one of the stories surrounding this young man’s death is that he was a bully and the kid who killed him was one of his victims. The child who did the stabbing turned himself into the police.
Many people do not understand the fear that so many of our children in the inner cities of America live with every day of their lives. I would venture to say that the vast majority of young people who carry weapons, be they knives or guns or clubs, do so out of fear and self-protection. You have to live with a mask of neutrality and fearlessness on your face at all times. That joy of youth that so many children in our nation enjoy cannot be allowed to blossom for most inner city kids. When gentleness can be a weakness, the hard cover you are forced to wear keeps the joy at bay.
So, if it is true that the poor boy who died was a bully, and this kid who stabbed him then turned himself in was in a corner with no where to go but slashing his way to escape, then what should our response be as a society who judges actions of others like this?
What do we do with this boy who took a life perhaps defending his own in a world where no one can protect you but yourself? What are we as a society and our government willing to do to invest in these children to be able to learn, live and find joy in their schools? Will we send an army of counselors and therapists into that school to help the children and their teaches cope with what just happened? Will we teach alternatives to violence? Will we invest in recreation centers staffed with counselors to reach out to street kids? Will we invest in the green economy to put their parents to work so we can build stable families?
Can we show we care? Can we build a society that cares enough to put people to work, to eliminate poverty and invest in our children the way we do highways, McMansions and prisons?
We can if we have the will. We can’t lose another child to the streets.
Last night, I went to my daughter Chelsea’s home to watch the returns. She was having a watch party. It was the perfect venue for that night for many reasons. Chelsea’s mom, Sayida Stone, my first wife and a dear friend, is African American. Chelsea is a Black woman, a mixed race child of America. She has three children, my grand children. Their father, Ebon, a schoolteacher, martial artist and musician, is Afro-Italian-Puerto Rican. From the beginning, Chelsea was deeply moved by Obama’s candidacy. It was their time, it was their day, and it is their time now.
Chelsea’s sister, Alana, her mom’s daughter with her husband who is Jamaican, is 21 years old, a brilliant artist and a junior at MICA. I call her my daughter once removed, she calls me Saba, which is Hebrew for grandfather. Alana was there with a dozen of her classmates. Young, African American, Latino, Asian, mixed race and white who worked for this campaign, who believed in this message of hope.
Chelsea’s friends who were there ranged from 28 to their early forties, every color of the American rainbow. Her mom, her husband Jenel, and others of our generation were there, as well.
The feeling in her home was electric and explosive, but explosive with peace and hope. When Obama was announced the next President of the Untied States of America, there was a pandemonium of joy, screaming, shouting, hugging, singing and champagne corks popping.
I looked around realizing this was their day. These young people believed so deeply and were so full of what the future might bring to us all.
While watching television it was hard not to notice the contrast between the Obama supporters in Grant Park in Chicago and the McCain supporters. Obama’s in a public park with thousands of people of every generation and race in America and McCain’s in a private club for the wealthy and all, well not all, but almost all, white.
This was an election of the two Americas from which we were born and in which we still live. Our great nation has no state religion. Our state religion is our democracy, our belief in freedom and liberty. The USA was founded on liberty and slavery in the same breath. Imagine that and think about that for a moment. Liberty and slavery are the foundations of our nation. The roots of the contradiction and the hope that dwell uneasily together in our nation’s soul were alive and palpable last night in this election.
Maybe the tenor is about to change. Race and racism hurt America. It is a deep wound in the Black American spirit. It is a burden of pain in white America, as well.
The man who was voted in to become the 44th President of the United States of America may be changing the tenor and tone of our nation. In the spirit of the civil rights warriors, he was unbowed and non-violent in his stand against his tormentors in this campaign. When Barack Obama was faced with lies and low blows dealt by his opponents, the Republican Party and their independent advocates, he responded with dignity, strength and love. So many of his supporters screamed that he should fight back, blow for blow and spit in their eye. Barack Obama chose to hold his head and his sense of morality and ethics high, so he kept walking straight ahead amidst the verbal blows and lies. He set a standard for his supporters and the America he believes in. The roots of that way of responding politically come from Martin Luther King, the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s that they gave birth to and that gave birth to them. It bodes well for what we may be able to do in America together.
I am not naïve about the difficulty that lies ahead of us. Barack Obama is not the savior; he is the embodiment of hope for many Americans. The struggle is now on to define our future. We can now fight for something rather than against it. We will have a seat at the table for the debate on our nation’s future. We have serious work ahead of us.
Good gumbo, too, last night... A gumbo of America in the room, a gumbo of America who voted Obama, and a great gumbo in the pot.
Here are some thoughts written late last night by CEM intern and UMBC student Stavros Halkias. We'd like to encourage everyone to send in their post-election thoughts. Post comments here, email us at email@example.com, or call us on the air today between 5-6pm at 410-319-8888.
Voting for the first time in my life was legitimately exciting. From the moment I entered my polling place, which happened to be my elementary school, I was overcome with emotion. In the building where I first learned what the office of the president was, I would have a hand in choosing the next person to occupy that office. Even better, I was supporting a candidate I actually believed in and held incredible hopes for. My nerves and elation were held together by an overarching sense of purpose. I was part of a societal change, with my ballot serving as tangible proof. Why can’t I feel like this everyday? Why can’t every day be Election Day?
Despite these feelings, as I walked out of that polling station I couldn’t help but wonder “What’s next?” Barack Obama had the kind of campaign and following that was unprecedented in this nation’s history. His campaign deposed Democratic royalty in the primaries, broke all kinds of fundraising records, and truly inspired vast numbers of people for the first time in decades. The sobering realization I came to was that campaigns and administrations are two very different things. Historically, the energy campaigns create largely dies after the immediate goal of election is met. We can’t allow that to happen this time. All the people who voted for Barack Obama on Tuesday, all the people that were part of the historic movement for change in our country, must challenge themselves further. To borrow a few words from the President elect’s victory speech, “This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.”
So, don’t let things go back to the way they were before Barack came along. Don't rely solely on his administration to make change. Let Barack Obama's election be the beginning--not the end--of your efforts. Become more civically involved. Start helping your community in any way you can. Identify problems and work towards them yourself. Volunteer. Tutor at-risk youth. Protest injustice. Support more change-minded politicians. Study social change movements. Do something! Take the energy you put into the campaign and move it to your community, don’t let it go to waste. Don’t just get excited and wait for change-- make change and make everyday Election Day.