Wednesday, July 31, 2019

5 ~ Fox in the Trees

     The Wise Web Woman at The Other Side of Sixty has been hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of July 2019. This rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
     Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds

     Blaze's ingenious idea involved purchasing vacant and abandoned shopping centers that were a blight on communities and repurposing them in a way that made them living centers for the homeless, especially those that spent time living in the subway during the winter months.  The large anchor chain store (most often grocery stores) would be transformed into two levels of one-room "studio" apartments, each with a small shower stall bathroom and kitchenette.  What had previously been a refrigerated section in the rear of the store would become a common laundry facility for the residents.

     The smaller stores that had formed the shopping center would become a variety of different business, health, and educational offices designed to train the residents in an employable skill so that they could reenter society.  Residents would receive health care (physical and mental) to ensure that they would be in better health, and without question, assist in helping them maintain sobriety if necessary.  

     Once trained, residents would be employed at one of the businesses that made up the center in order to get actual work experience that could then be put on a resume or used for reference.  They would be given money management classes and savings accounts at a small bank branch that would make up one of the smaller stores.  Residents would also be trained in how to use a computer and provided with library cards to access public use terminals to assist in educational assignments.

     Residents (in a step up from sleeping on a bench) would be given one-year rent-free apartments as long as they were making efforts and progress towards becoming self-sufficient, fully functional, contributing members of society.  At the end of the year, they could remain at the facility, however, would be responsible for paying rent and "utility payments" for up to another two years.  These funds would be set aside in an investment account in the resident's name.  

     At the end of the two years, these funds would be used to assist in purchasing a home through Habitat for Humanity, which they would also be required to help build, and establishing new utility services for the person.  They could also be used to purchase a used vehicle to assist them in getting to and from work.  Residents would be helped to find work outside of the center, and since many of the homeless are disabled and/or veterans, many employers were willing to hire them for the tax breaks they would receive or the Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Plan points they would receive.
     By making the centers non-profit and designed to assist the communities in revitalizing neighborhoods and helping people get back on their feet, the foundation would be able to utilize tax breaks in purchasing the properties.  They would also be able to apply for and receive federal and state grants for education, health care, and employment opportunities for the residents.

     Residents of the centers would be given a voice in their communities and encouraged to vote, and contribute to public meetings that had an impact on how future centers were created, organized, and run.  Their experiences, both in and out of the centers, would be crucial in making sure that the foundation met the needs of all involved.

     Blaze knew that the first center purchased would need to be the model for all others, and it was from his experience of living on the streets that made him certain this was something every large city would benefit from.  He wondered how different his life might have been if he'd had access to such a facility when he was 15 and sleeping in the fishmongers' dumpsters to hide him from some of the homeless he'd met on the streets.

     Homeless shelters that just provided a cot and a meal did nothing to help educate him on how to be self-sufficient.  If anything, they taught him how to be comfortable sleeping in everything he owned, how to be satisfied with just one small meal a day, and how to fight for his life when attacked in the dark.  

     Runaway teens, such as he had been, would not only have a safe environment to live, but they would be given simple life skills that he hadn't learned until he met Kendall.  Things like opening a bank account, writing a check, establishing utilities in his name, filling out a job application or writing a resume.  They would be taught how to cook simple meals for themselves, do laundry, and the chore Blaze still hated the most ... how to fold a fitted sheet.

     Kendall had sat quietly while Blaze presented his idea to him, occasionally nodding his head in agreement, or shaking his head in sad disbelief at some of the things Blaze had endured on the streets.  He had been blown away by Blaze's conviction and enthusiasm for the concept of being able to help other homeless teens.

     "You can't even conceive how many young girls I met who had left an abusive situation at home only to be pulled in by a pimp promising protection who just got them hooked on a needle and turned them out for tricks.  Girls who believed that was all they would ever be worth because of what had happened to them at home, and then brainwashed by the pimps to believe they still deserved to be treated that way.

     "Or the vets who couldn't cope with their PTSD and thought it would be easier to just disappear on the streets rather than put their families through their nightmares.  Only to find out that life on the streets only made the PTSD worse because they were now constantly living in fear of getting busted, or trying to find a meal.  I mean, it was just a new demon on their back that was joining forces with the other demons to make them even more paranoid.  I met some who were so out of touch with reality that they thought they were still in Iraq."

     Kendall stood and watched the sun come up over the horizon.  The two men had been talking all night, yet neither of them seemed exhausted.  In fact, Kendall had never felt more alive and with a purpose than he did at this moment.  What Blaze had proposed was not just brilliant, but something that made him feel like their meeting all those years ago was more than just a coincidence.  It was fate.  He couldn't wait for the opportunity to share the idea with his father.

     "Pretty stupid idea, huh?"

     "What?  No!  Not at all!  In fact, I think it is incredible.  Monday morning I want us to sit down in my office with one of my assistants and start getting it all in writing and doing all the research on what it would entail to make it happen.  I don't want my father to find any loophole or glitch that will keep it from coming to fruition."


    "Dead seriously.  We've got a lot of work to do.  The board meets again in three weeks, and I want to have a flawless proposal to present to them at that meeting."  Kendall grinned at Blaze, and the two men laughed again.

     Sitting back in the trees in the shadows, the fox nodded and turned to go back to his den and family.

     He didn't see the man standing behind a tree a few yards away, silently watching Kendall and Blaze.


  1. What a great story, I am riveted and a brilliant plan for abandoned shopping malls. I do wish this was reality. So many homeless.


    1. It is a twist on my Master's thesis that I used as the first chapter in Trooper's Run. Only there it was a simple doggy day care in the grocery store anchor store, and then the smaller stores were all "dog" related stores ~ DIY dog wash, bakery & coffee shop, local crafts store & vet's office.

  2. Wow, what an idea! Whoever is watching, well, i hope it doesn't mean trouble but i'm betting it does.

  3. I wish, with all my heart and soul that every city and every country would adopt Blaze's idea.

  4. Some excellent ideas if only we had a Blaze and Kendall handy to set them to working.


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