The Global Bridge Foundation wants to do its part to turn the history of mankind on its head. It is time for the wealthiest country to acknowledge the poor and give them work opportunities. We mustn’t keep seeing them in inaccurate stereotypes as unmotivated but giving them a chance to contribute and use their potential. As revealed through micro-finance in the world, the poor are very motivated to work, they just haven’t been given realistic job opportunities. The wealthy simply becoming wealthier, and not reaching out to those that need it the most with job creation has created the infrastructure for pollution. By not serving the needs of the poor we have and will continue to divide societies throughout the world forever. When societies are divided, that is the perfect fertile ground for terrorism. So you see, it is much bigger than just bringing the bottom up. The work that Robert and Dave have been doing with The Global Bridge Foundation on the issue of homelessness in L.A. county has given them both great cautious optimism. Much more so than most of us realize, the homelessness crisis is solvable. In this episode, Robert will present a variety of options to serve the needs of the homeless in a holistic and long-term way. He highlights some of the organizations that are at the forefront of this progress toward bringing realistic hope to everyone in the streets and those of us that are heartbroken seeing our society’s maladies right in front of us as we walk or drive by. This may seem like a grandiose claim, but you will see how we can economically and humanely give job opportunities, and housing and help the environment all at the same time. Robert and Dave are excited to share their passion with you and bring forward a project just about to come to fruition. If you feel inspired by this episode, we encourage you to continue the conversation at The Global Bridge Foundation and to reach out to the media and your local politicians.
Mentioned in this episode
The People Concern
Hope for the Homeless
West Coast Care
Marina Airport Counseling Center
The Global Bridge Foundation
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast
The Missing Conversation, Episode 73.
Robert Strock (00:04):
It’s always been viewed as, well we don’t want to give money away to the poor and throw it down the drain. No, the poor are very motivated to work. We’re giving opportunity to the most motivated class, teaching them how to farm, teaching them how to do alternative energy. When we have communities like this that are taught these skills, hopefully, when you get a glimpse of that, you’ll feel something like the inspiration that’s being presented.
In this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view, your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation, and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock (01:09):
I’m particularly grateful for you joining us for this episode of The Missing Conversation because it’s so dear to my heart what we at The Global Bridge have been doing with the homeless situation and how incredibly optimistic the potential is. Much more so than most of us realize, or maybe virtually all of us realize. And today we’re going to, what The Global Bridge Foundation is doing currently and presenting a variety of options to serve the needs of the homeless that truly brings realistic hope to everyone in the streets and those of us that are heartbroken, seeing our society’s maladies right in front of us as we walk or driveby every day. We’re attempting to be a source of bringing the bottom economic sector up. Now that may sound like a really grandiose claim, but you will see a presentation of how we can economically and humanely give job opportunities, housing, and really help the environment all at the same time.
This crisis is solvable and truly with a grateful series of partnerships with other foundations and programs, we’re gonna be presenting a collection of alternatives that will elucidate what can be done to create options for everyone who’s suffering from this fate. We’ll address in this series changes needed in government regulations, creating a broader, more accurate perception of the wide variety of homeless individuals and what they’re really like, alternative low-cost housing, creating food, new work opportunities, a deep sense of community, something that is heart-centered and specializing in the multiple approaches for both temporary and permanent shelter. This will be a composite that has been shared amongst many other CEOs in the homeless field and there’s a wide consensus that this will be our best hope to really serve those that are in the greatest need. I hope that you will be a resource to spread the word, to understand, to contribute, and to bring a genuine hope to this issue that can move, from the seemingly unsolvable to a humane and humanistic care for everyone within five years in the United States.
The main issue that has to be resolved is a mandate from the government giving proportional responsibility from the counties that are currently being overwhelmed by homeless populations. Now that is but one of several changes that we’re going to be proposing that are required to take the pressure off of local politicians and allowing the human beings in the streets to live their potential with support from multiple services. I assure you if you pay close attention that you’ll see that this is utterly solvable. Before we go deeper into it, I’d like to introduce Dave, my partner at The Global Bridge Foundation and dearest friend for over 50 years.
Robert, thank you. And as always, I, I just wanna reflect how much of a passion this has been and I think sometimes you mention that, but in, in real life in terms of time and energy and thought processes and thinking through things and gathering really from the very beginning the people necessary to address these issues from nothing, from just you feeling inspired and then bringing these people together, collecting all the things that are the best and wisest ways to go forward. And I just really wanna express my appreciation for these last few years and seeing what you will describe as a project that’s about to come to fruition.
Robert Strock (05:11):
Thanks so much. And all I can say is when I first approached it I thought, well, maybe we can create a project that will be a little bit duplicable, but it’s turned out to be much, much more than that. It’s something that is so scalable throughout California that as we talked about in the last episode, and I really hope that any of you that are listening today will go to the last episode where we really focused on the tangible changes that need to be made in so many areas from government laws, from permanent supportive housing definition from the federal government to taking the responsibility and pressure off of local politicians and having it be mandated that each community needs to participate, each city needs to participate, and any county that has a homeless problem. And the many different areas where we can save costs from counseling, from housing, from where the land is, from how the government can come in.
There are so many ways that we touched on how it’s solvable and today we’re gonna really focus on how Global Bridge has started a local project and has spawned extra support for five other programs that are already deeply embedded in the crisis and have been actively working for decades. So the vision of Global Bridge from the beginning was really one of bringing the bottom economic sector of the United States up and that includes low income, as well as homelessness, even though we’re gonna be dominantly focusing on homelessness. But as you’ll see a couple of the programs that we’re supporting are low-income housing, as well, with the same feasible solution. So I’m asking you as you listen to contemplate what’s your potential to contribute in your way, whether it’s having conversations with your friends, whether it’s asking other people that may have connections to listen to these two episodes in whatever way possible.
Because this is something that once a certain quantum mass sees the relative simplicity of the 8 or 10 key changes that it will be inspiring for you. So I wanna mention before I go into the depth of this, that to the best of my knowledge, no powerful countries have ever dominantly really looked at the poorest of the poor of their country and given great resources to them. And we have a chance to be the first country and we’re starting off locally in LA County. It’s probably the hardest place in the country to start because the regulations are so strict and yet we’ve made progress to where we’re on the verge of having a complete breakthrough with a cooperation of LA County Planning and other county agencies which we’re very grateful for. And the sub-issue that I want to point to is, because this focus has not been on bringing the bottom up, that’s been part of what’s created global warming.
When when you look at the wealthy trying to be wealthier, that’s created the infrastructure to create the pollution that we have, instead of actually serving the needs of the poor. And by not serving the needs of the poor, we divide societies throughout the world forever. And when the societies are divided, that’s the perfect fertile ground for terrorism. So it’s much bigger than just bringing the bottom up. It’s also reducing the likelihood for terrorism if this can be spread throughout the world. It’s also one of the keys to uniting societies into a sense of community in the country. And it lessens the dangers of nuclear war. It lessens the dangers of the loss of democracy because the poor are empowered and they’re being given not just money, but they’re being given the opportunity to work. And as has been shown through microfinance in the world, the poor are very motivated to work, they just haven’t been given the opportunity to work.
So part of the keys of what we’re gonna be revealing in Global Bridges’ work and what it’s doing, but on a global scale going into the laws that need to change and the priorities that need to change to allow this to happen. So it’s possible for all of us to contribute in our own unique way by spreading the word. I’m gonna continue with naming a few of the examples that already exist in the country that are practicing some of the principles that we’re talking about that we really went into in much more detail in the last episode. The People Concern, which is the agency that Global Bridge has most dedicated its energy into because they saw a very, very similar vision that we did and asked us to partner with them and to look for providing the opportunity to buy land and to have it be enough land to create a work opportunity for the homeless, teaching them how to do what’s called regenerative agriculture.
And for those of you that don’t know what regenerative agriculture is, it’s a type of agriculture that is like organic, but it’s even more organic than organic farming. And it does not till the soil and throw away the top soil. It doesn’t use traditional means. It actually uses animals to help their plotting on the ground and basically replaces tilling machines and so that soil is fertilized. And The People Concern saw this opportunity and asked us to join them. Now they already have a program that is in Lancaster where they practiced one of the key principles, which is a reduction in cost of the facility by using a type of construction that reduced the cost from approximately, at that time, $700,000 a unit to about $300,000 a unit. So they, they were already using alternative construction. They also have practiced a lot of the principles of community building, of a cinema, of adding enjoyable features that would make it desirable for the homeless community to really be able to not only grow and have mental health facilities, but to be able to enjoy themselves while they’re doing it.
The other one that’s outside of Austin, Texas, that’s probably the closest independent example in a number of features is a community called Community First. And they have a couple of hundred acres where they have started with bringing food trucks in the middle of Austin and they said, hey, would you be interested in joining a community that’s gonna have trailers and micro houses and alternative types of structures and we’re gonna teach you how to contribute using whatever skills you can to build our community. And they actually did something even more ambitious than what we’re talking about. They took the chronically homeless and brought them into one facility, but because it was a community and not a facility that was compact, that the spaciousness of it became so desirable and the love and the alternative type of mental health they brought to it has now succeeded for 5 to 10 years.
And they had a hour and a half documentary movie, which Global Bridge gave a contribution toward, which was shown all the way through PBS internationally that showed a community of long-term homeless people living together in harmony because they had six or seven different employment alternatives. They were basically bringing love to the community, mentoring, and all these work opportunities and a contribution to the community and a real assumption of their goodwill. And I would encourage all of you to go to the Community First website that comes out of Austin, Texas and look for Community First, a home for the homeless and look at that community cuz it’s an example. It’s the best example I know of in the United States. A separate program that exists in Trieste, Italy, does the same kind of thing, not so much with the alternative type of housing, but with a central focus on bringing in everyone who’s homeless in their community and making a space for them and treating them in such a humane way.
They’ve basically been able to find a way to integrate them into a community that is breathtaking. And if anybody has a chance to visit Trieste, Italy, that is something that is really worth doing. And by the way, 8 or 10 people from Los Angeles County went to Trieste to try to gain some understanding. So the seeds of Trieste are in LA County. Global Bridge program has a special program that we’ve done for 20 years that hands out healthcare kits and warm clothing and sleeping bags to the homeless, yearly. And we’ve been doing that for a long time in partnership with two close friends. And this is an example of building a sense of community. And during that we have taken the time to interview the people, asking them would they be motivated to go to a program if they had dignified housing, if they had a work opportunity, if they had a place that was safe, if they felt cared for.
And the answer was a clear yes. Now there’s been a lot of misinformation that’s been passed around that, well, you know the homeless, they wouldn’t even be motivated. This is stereotyping of course they’ve never been offered, with the exception of a couple of programs that I’ve mentioned, they’ve never been offered a place that’s spacious or where they feel at home, where they know they can stay there for life. Now there are a number of programs that are existing that are really good interim programs that are worthy of mention that are throughout the state of California. Hope for the Homeless is a wonderful program in the San Fernando Valley and throughout Los Angeles. And there are a number of others, Life Moves in Northern California where they’re interim housing and there’s a place for interim housing, but we need to not kick the can down the road.
We need to have a second plan. So our focus is really very dominantly on permanent housing. Part of what’s occurred is that in the effort to find a facility, we found 125 acre parcel in LA County and we located it and the owner was so turned on by the project that she took the property off the market for quite a while and we’ve now locked it up for the whole end of 2023 and we’re gonna be submitting our final application for approval. We’re virtually sure we’re going to be approved because we’ve already gone through what is called the one-stop shop, which is all the county agencies giving us their requirements. And we hired a team of eight people run by the Red Brick Solution and their consultants where they’re experts in the areas from governmental relations to hydrologists all the regulations that are needed for the county to approve a program.
So we’ve been going at this for two years and I’ve been at it from the beginning. We’ve located this facility, we hired this group of eight and one of the eight is a grant writer. And the grant writer has been doing this for 30 years and was utterly inspired to expand beyond just our program but including our program. She’s written one grant and has two other grants that are gonna pay for the development costs, the acquisition of the land and the ongoing full cost of the housing and the infrastructure that’s needed. And we’re well underway with the grants for that. And we have a very high degree of confidence that all of that’s gonna come through. Now the head of planning, which is really the key of why we have the optimism. We approached two years ago and we said we need to have the farm worker housing exemption that allows for housing in agricultural zoning.
It’s the only thing that allows for housing. We need to have the housing be suitable for the homeless. And her words were, it’s about fucking time that somebody did something in the county that was for the homeless, which was the first time we had any high-level politician really be passionately behind us. And she said, yeah, we’ll provide housing but it’ll have to be bunk bed housing. And we told her, well that’s not gonna work for the homeless. They’re not gonna feel a sense of community if they’re in bunk bed housing. She said, well, let me get back to you in a day. Came back a day later changing the rules and said, well we can give you three-bedroom housing. Said, well, how many bathrooms? She said, well you can have a couple bathrooms. Well that’s fantastic. We were utterly blissed out that she was really open to that.
And then that led, when we hired what we now call the group of eight that are part of the red brick solutions, when we told them, they said, that’s the only reason why we’re willing to work with you cuz LA County is known for killing projects like this left, right and center. And so you’re going with the hardest possible place that you can start with. Now our grant writer, being as inspired as she was, wrote these first few grants and then we approached her and said, well what about going to a few of the other agencies and looking for a couple of other programs outside of California of course. And Global Bridge offered to pay for the grant writing. And so Share, which is one of the key programs in Los Angeles, has a couple million dollar grant that it’s well underway and it’s the application’s already been submitted and we’re waiting for the next month or two for the approval for that grant to expand what they’re doing.
Now, one of the things they’re doing, which is really inspiring that no other program to the best of my knowledge is doing and certainly not at their scale, is they’re using existing housing that’s available that are 10 bedroom, 6 bath duplexes. And they’re renting them because they don’t have the funds which Global Bridge gave a contribution toward because as we talked about in the last episode, they can’t be approved of funding because they’re in a configuration of a real estate structure that isn’t the one bedroom, for one person model. They’re using two people in a bedroom. And so they’re having 20 people in this 10 bedroom, 6 bath facility. So they’ve had to work within a very, very small budget and rely on donations from private foundations and they’re housing 500 people. So we’ve given a grant to them to expand their model, which is a fantastic model.
And they’re using a case worker that is taking care of all the needs in each program and they’re having to parlay the services in a very economical way. Think of how far that could go, having those kinds of programs, have adequate funding, so the services can be even more expanded. It’s a miraculous thing. They’ve been able to do it on one-fifth of the funding of what the other facilities have. So we’re expanding that model. And then we have another program that is also one of the premier programs called West Coast Care. And West Coast Care is patrolling the beaches and their focus is on uniting the beach community of homeless with their families whenever possible, which they’ve been successful at uniting over a thousand people a year with some of their original family members to be taken in. And they’re connecting them with facilities all throughout LA County and are a central resource and perhaps the most respected of every program because they don’t have a facility to be taken away.
They are really unique in patrolling the beach and connecting people with their families and all the other resources. So we’ve given a grant to them. In addition, we’ve given another grant to the largest employer in Georgia that is employing 170 people that otherwise would be homeless to learn regenerative agriculture. And they’ve been training 600 people so far to do regenerative agriculture and employing that their largest employer in the poorest county in the country. And so we thought they would go with housing first was that if they had farm worker housing, they would have to bring in other farms housing on their land. So they’re looking to change that law. So what they wanted and what we’re funding for them is a training facility for the whole country to come to and be able to have it be a unique training program that has a central area for training and then residential housing and a 52 week a year training program.
So we’re waiting week to week for that one. They have received multiple, multiple millions of dollars of grants because of their work, which for those of you that are familiar with grant applying, it’s like banks, the grant funders on the government agencies are gonna give the grants to the people that are the most successful, just like banks are gonna give you a loan if you’re more successful. So the areas that we’ve gone to that have been applying for the grants are all people that are reputable that have a long history of success. So we’re starting off with the most optimistic grants with people who have the credibility so that the grant government programs are much more likely to give them the grants. And the last program that we funded so far is in Kentucky in the Appalachian Mountains. And they have a 7,000 acre facility that are not only teaching regenerative agriculture but reforestation and also something called ecosystem restoration, which I won’t go into the long version, but regenerative agriculture, for those of you that don’t really get it, it’s a way of of not tilling the soil so you don’t take the topsoil.
So it actually is the healthiest food and the healthiest condition of the soil that will bring carbon down from the atmosphere. And so they are applying for funds for housing, for their workers, that will be doing reforestation, regenerative agriculture and ecosystem restoration. So those are all in process right now. Now some of the programs that are helping us currently in both the program to be but also in other programs that we have already funded grants are the Marina Airport Counseling Center, which is a training program for marriage family therapist interns. And they are running groups for the homeless and they are costing about $15 an hour for their supervision fees. And they are incredibly well respected program for marriage family therapists, very hard to get into. And as it turns out, our main program that we’re gonna be going more into, a couple of their key mental health professionals were trained at the Marine Airport Counseling Center.
Another program that’s primed and ready for working with us is called, Grid Alternatives. Their mission is to train people how to install solar only for people that are in poverty. So they’re incredibly excited and again, it’s part of the future alternative for bringing the bottom up to have programs of how to install solar or how to install a solar field to go into the electrical grid, as well as regenerative agriculture, on the job training for homeless facilities, as well as low-income housing. Another program that we’re working with and we actually have partnered with is an organization called Every Table. Every Table is an organization that is a B corporation that is serving $5 meals in the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles and started several years ago. And they are serving the needs of the poor to be able to have $5 meals in their neighborhood that have premium nutrition.
Getting back to our project, it’s 125 acres and what we’ve been outlining and we’re ready to present is architectural drawings of modular housing that will be three-bedroom, one-bath or two-bath housing or one-bedroom, one-bath modular housing or tiny homes. And we haven’t decided, because the laws on the part of LA County haven’t been finally determined, but we know one way or the other were going to be able to have the drawings be for one type of housing or the other. We also will be utilizing the mental health services of programs like Marina Airport Counseling Center and others. And now with Zoom we can afford to use every counseling center, cuz we’re gonna have a computer center. We have five dwellings that have been approved by the county to be able to be built, in addition to what was 12 units.
When we had this initial conversation with the planner, I wanna add to what I said earlier. She said we could have 12 units for our project. And I asked, is that 12 units, per parcel, or 12 units per project? And she said, well, it’s actually 12 units, per parcel. Well, we have four parcels; well then you can have 48, 3 bedroom units. And at that point it was clear it was three bedroom, two bath units, but now it’s clear we may have to have three, 450 square foot units side-by-side-by-side instead of the three bedroom, two bath units. But one way or the other will make it work. So she was flexible enough to allow it to be 48 units, which was quite extraordinary. One of the key features here is we need to make sure that permanent supportive housing will fund us, which is why we have this dilemma.
Permanent supportive housing is from the federal government, to the state government, to the local counties or cities, and they require one-bedroom, one bath and a kitchen in the bedroom. If we need to do that, we will do that. If not, we are hoping we’re gonna be introducing a whole new model of a three-bedroom, two-bath unit that we believe will be creating a sense of community rather than having everyone have to live alone. I can’t possibly tell you how exciting and inspiring it is to have a project that we are working on in LA County. Not so much because of the project itself, although that in itself is inspiring. But for John Maceri, the head of The People Concern and I, right from the beginning, we saw the scalability, how easy it was gonna be to be copied by other organizations once the approval was given to have agricultural land, have this type of housing and not be bunk room housing, but to be able to be either these 450 square foot units that have a bedroom and a bath or the three bedroom, two bath housing that that’s gonna open the door for all of California.
It’s also gonna be a tip-off for other states. And we fully believe that once this approval happens and there’s the rush to be trained, to be housed, to be cared for, that this is gonna be something that’s going to be utterly desirable both for the CEOs throughout California, but throughout the United States and the homeless population. Because there’s never been a model where it’s going to be taking into consideration so many elements with the cooperation of the county agencies that are the most strict county agencies. One of the other features that is so exciting is the sense of community, the sense of building a cinema theater, the sense of building in shuffleboard, the sense of asking the people, what would you like most for enjoyment here? How would this be more of a sense of community, the sense of it being led by the people, as much as the administrators. The sense of love for community, and getting a whiff of what this model does for the scalability and how this can bring the bottom up.
It’s an even easier task when you look at what this can mean for low-income housing. Imagine any city in the country being able to parlay this model of low-income housing and job training and job opportunities. This is not a giveaway, this is a job opportunity that exists on agricultural land. And the good news is, in approximately half of the states in the country, they don’t have zoning, they don’t have planning requirements. So it’s gonna be doable without all of these impediments, but the model needs to be created. Global Bridge is prepared with this grant writer to write as much as we can afford. To spawn this until it’s really spawning itself and we utterly believe it just needs a kickstart. And all of you that are listening out there, hopefully you are gathering the enthusiasm and the passion for bringing the bottom sector of our economic strata in the United States.
And finally giving them work opportunities. And if you have any experience with a poorer class, they are clamoring for work opportunities. The closest to our political spectrum in the dialogue gets to it largely is the middle class. Now we talk about the middle class quite a bit in our community. That’s the politically popular thing because they’re the ones that vote. But guess what, when we have communities that we’re the lower class, guess whether they’re gonna be voting, guess, whether they’re gonna be informed, guess whether they’re gonna have a computer center and not just money being given to them? No, we’re teaching them how to farm. We’re teaching them how to do alternative energy or clean energy. And when we have communities like this that are taught these skills and you see the motivation level is so high, it’s even higher in my view than the upper class.
It’s always been viewed as, well, we don’t want to give money away to the poor and throw it down the drain. No, we’re giving opportunity to the most motivated class, which is a very high percentage. Now we’re dealing with the homeless and in this episode we’re largely dealing with Los Angeles County, this 125 acre parcel and let’s just say the highest functioning end of the homeless community. So we’re starting with the easiest end of the homeless population, but low-income would be a lot easier than even that. So if you get a feel for this and you get a feel for our project, and you can see the scalability, the expansiveness that can come from this, we ask for your support, in whatever that way that’s possible. And we’re not primarily asking for economic support, we’re asking for support to get this message, if you’re connected to a politician, if you are a politician, get it to them.
Have them listen to these two episodes. Be inspired by just a few tweaks of the law, by a few tweaks of how the housing is going. By having a few tweaks of how mental health is presented. The whole system and prioritization can be changed, in the long run with the homeless population. It’s actually gonna cost less money to administrate these facilities, when you consider the revenue they’re gonna develop, whether it’s through energy or the income they’re gonna develop. And you add the $3,000 a month cost in California that would be less but still significant in other states, you realize this is gonna be affordable for the whole country. This is not gonna be an endless drain that we can’t afford. When you get a glimpse of that, then hopefully you’ll feel something like the inspiration that’s being presented. So I truly hope that you gain the vision of bringing the bottom up, not by a giveaway, but by giving a work opportunity and by freeing us, and I include myself as one of the fortunate upper middle class or above.
By giving us the opportunity to contribute, imagine how good it feels to be part of the solution, to actually contribute to this, to the people that are starving, that are suffering the most in our country. We wanna turn the history of mankind on its head where the wealthiest country is actually serving the poor and giving them opportunities and are seeing them not in a stereotypical fashion as unmotivated, but are giving them a chance to work. So I truly thank you for spreading this word, for listening as attentively as you have, and may we all do our part to make this be true for our country and our world.
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