In the book Eat Pray Love, the author says that every city has a word that describes it.  For her, Rome’s word was sex (because of the sexy people, sexy clothes, sexy art, Venice, passion, etc, etc.). I agree that places and people can be summed up in one word.

When I first came to Atlanta, I would have said that Atlanta’s word is glamour.  Atlanta and its people seem to thrive on the new, the shiny, the glitzy. Atlanta is a town that seems in a constant state of renewal. It tears itself down, and rebuilds itself into the newest thing.  I often walk through the halls of Atlanta malls and feel underdressed because so many people dress like they are on their way to a music video set or a night club or a movie premiere. Designer clothes, fancy shoes, well-coifed hair; Atlantans are beautiful.

Now having lived in Atlanta for a year now, I’ve adjusted my word for Atlanta. Don’t get me wrong, I still think that Atlanta and its inhabitants are glamorous, but I know it is more than that.  Atlanta is more than glamour.  Atlanta is about style. Atlanta is trendy in a lot of ways, chasing the newest hip “it” thing, but I’ve never known a group of people better able to transform normal shirts, skirts, dresses and pants into a fashion statement.  The city oozes artistic creativity and its people believe in expressing their personal creative style. Sometimes that means sequins and heels.  Other times that means afros, sun dresses, and colorful tattoos. Or locs, ripped jeans and chains. Or bald heads, pencil skirts and ruffles. Either way, it looks so cool!

While creativity, at times, starts with a blank canvas when it comes to clothes, you have to buy them somewhere. How hard would it be to express your personal style while wearing clothes that are sold in chains like NY and Company, Macys, Aeropostale, H&M or Charlotte Russe? Pretty hard. That’s why Atlanta’s uber fabulous boutiques, regional chains, (and those who write about Atlanta style) and online marketplaces are so important.  So when I saw my old college friend posting her unique handmade clothes and accessories on Etsy and Facebook, I wholeheartedly approved. Here’s to finding more ways to express my own Atlanta style.

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What are the possibilities when building a community from scratch?

Last week I got the opportunity to participate in the Naked Development Forum hosted by Serenbe and Kalu Yala.  The entire day was focused on exploring the different ways to answer the question: How does one build community?

I attended a session led by Ed Everett (who is the city manager responsible for the awesomeness that is downtown Redwood City). In groups of 4-5, Ed asked us to think of all the ways that community is built, from the ground up. My small group had a really great brainstorm.  We talked about ways to force people to see each other; the importance of sidewalks and public meetings spaces, we discussed how one could implement a social gateway, we debated how one convinces community members to have a commitment to the community, we liked the idea of having food and culture centered celebrations. Interestingly enough, as we went around the room to the different groups, we found that everyone had a lot of the same type of ideas.

What can one do to build a community where none currently exists? We all seemed to realize that the best way to build community is to connect early and often, and to make connection easy.

How can you do this in your community?

*Create spaces where people can connect– Are there public meeting rooms, quads, town squares, gazebos, picnic tables, park benches, fountains, shade trees, church fellowship halls, rotary halls, sidewalks, front porches.

*Create events where people can connect– Festivals, block parties, cook-outs, community gardens, public movie showings, concerts, book readings, small dinner parties, sleepovers for children, vacation bible school, open houses, neighborhood meetings.

*Create community buy-in– Make sure everyone is invested in the success of the community, and wants to be a part of an active connected community. This creates a snowball where the community expects a level of interaction from the members.

Community Takes All Kinds

I had lunch last week with a friend from high school. He also works for state government, in a building a block from my building.  We decided to meet on the corner and walk to a nearby deli.  On the way to the deli, we were approached no less than 3 times by homeless men asking for money or food.  My friend is a pretty big guy, so I let him do the talking. He politely told them all, no sir, we didn’t have any money.  The men would shuffle off, returning to sit under the trees that line some of the downtown streets.

I, of course, felt guilty because I didn’t bring my Doritos.

The first thing I noticed when we entered the deli was the sign on the door that said “No Begging.”  I should have taken a picture, but I didn’t think of it at the time.

We ordered and sat in a booth by the window.  Outside the deli, I could see a small group of homeless men. I’m sure they were asking incoming deli customers for money for food because most people either breezed by them without stopping or stopped momentarily before continuing on their way. Every so often, I would see someone bring in one or two of the homeless men in  and order them food. I also saw people order food and take it outside to them.

It was nice to see generosity in action.

My friend and I had a lot to talk about.  We were heavily engrossed in our conversation when a man approached us and asked us for money for food. My friend was very polite the first few times it happened. By the fourth time, he just shooed them away.

I sat there numbly eating my fried cheese. I was frustrated because I wanted to be left alone to enjoy my lunch with my friend.  I was frustrated because, despite the sign on the door, none of the deli employees seemed bothered by the homeless people begging inside the store.  I’m sure it was an everyday occurrence for them.

By the time lunch was over, all I could think about was how  confused I felt. I felt bad because the homeless people ruined my lunch. I felt bad because of the number of homeless people wandering in and out of that restaurant. I felt bad because I couldn’t help them all. I felt bad because I realized that the few things that I do for the homeless are a drop in the bucket when compared to the need.

I should have given myself a break.  The nature of community isn’t that some of us do all the work. It is that ALL of us do some of the work.  For some that means participating in the community garden, hosting a block party or having a friendly conversation with your new neighbors. For others it means picking up the trash off the sidewalk, buying lunch for a homeless person or volunteering at your neighborhood community center.

Big or small, we each have a part to play and a need to fill. Our communities need all of us to be involved. The good thing about community is that there is room for all of us.

Why I Carry Doritos Even Though I Don’t Eat Them

Once my homeless lady friend asked me for food instead of money I scoured my home in search of potential food items that we wouldn’t miss.  My family doesn’t have much money, so there isn’t much extra.

I often buy those potato chip multipack with Lays, Fritos, Cheetoos, Sun Chips and Doritos. I noticed that my family often leaves the Doritos behind long after the other varieties have been gobbled.  I started grabbing a few bags of Doritos, just in case she, or some other hungry person asked me for food again.

The act of carrying Doritos around made me much more aware of people who might be hungry. Two months after I started carrying them, I was approached at a gas station by an older gentlemen. He told me that he was hungry, but he didn’t want my money,  He knew the store had sandwiches for a $1.50.  He asked if I would go into the store and buy him a sandwich.

Since I was paying at the pump with my credit card, I told him that I wouldn’t buy him a sandwich. As he turned to walk away, I remembered my Doritos. I gave the man a couple of bags, and wished him a good day.  As I got into my car to go home, I saw another person hand the man a sandwich from the store. He smiled, waved at both of us, and held up his food proudly. I was so happy to have aided in feeding him.

Where Do The Homeless Go In The Winter?

This past winter was one of the hardest that Atlanta had ever seen. During the flooding rains, icings, and snow and wind storms, I worried about my homeless lady friend. Weeks went by and I thought maybe she’d found a shelter and was no longer on the street.

Eventually I saw her again, and I asked her where she’d been. She shrugged. I asked her where she lived when the weather got cold. She pointed to one of the tent cities under a nearby overpass.  I asked her if she would go to a shelter if I could find her one.  She shrugged, it seemed that she hadn’t considered going to a homeless shelter on her own and was resigned to life as she knew it.

I did some research, expecting to find at least a few shelters downtown. With all downtown’s homeless, I was sure that someone, some non-profit or church group saw the overwhelming need and had a safe place for homeless people to live in the winter months.

I also thought that homeless shelters would be built in central locations near public transit and other government social services.

I was wrong. There was a men’s shelter downtown, but they had a hard time staying in compliance of city ordinances. This economic crisis hit them hard.  They had no water for a while, and were, at least briefly, shut down.  There was one shelter for women and children, but it was at least 10 miles from downtown. I can’t imagine why a homeless shelter would be built in the suburbs away from public transit. I’ve never even seen a homeless person in Atlanta’s mostly wealthy suburbs.

I must admit that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of chauffeuring my new friend to a shelter. And who knew if she’d even get in or be willing to stay? She was used to downtown, and with her mental problems I wasn’t sure how she’d adapt to the ‘burbs.

I called the shelter anyway, and learned that she would have to call first and go through their intake process before she could be driven there. (Call how? On the magic payphones that exist downtown that don’t take any money? Or was she supposed to whip out the cell phone that she could afford on her homeless salary?) The person that I talked to at the shelter didn’t think that my homeless friend had a good chance of being admitted as the shelter mostly catered to women with small children.

Still, I gave my homeless friend the number to the shelter along with a bag of chips that I’d saved for her.  While we were huddled in a walkway, she asked me to cover her while she adjusted herself.  Out of one of the folds of her clothes, she pulled out a little change purse.  I saw a couple of one dollar bills and a few quarters and dimes.  She was so protective of her money, and she knew just how to hide it. I can’t imagine the harshness of the life she lives. She not only has to deal with the whims of the weather, she also contends with the brutality of her fellow humans. Yet, I could tell she was comfortable with her current surroundings and those with whom she lived under I-75. Somehow, I didn’t think she would be calling the homeless shelter in the suburbs.

We All Should Be So Angry

This morning I heard a radio clip of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed getting angry during a board meeting. He and the board were discussing how to save money and balance the budget.  The mayor got angry because Board members were insinuating that he would wants reduce city employee pensions. But in the clip (which I can’t find) the mayor goes on to say that reforming the employee pension program could save the city millions of dollars and that the budget HAS to be balanced. Between the lines: We gotta find the money somewhere, and there’s a big pile of it hiding under those ridiculous [my word] pensions.

As I listened to the “angry clip” and the accompanying news cast, I shook my head and smiled. Over the past (almost) year and the summer of 2009 that I’ve spent in the Atlanta area, I have heard similar (and worse) news casts about then Mayor Shirley Franklin.  Mayor Franklin got a lot of flack about being angry, confrontational and mean to the press.  The flack is warranted, Mayor Shirley was angry.  But I believe she had every right to be.

Atlanta, like governments and business around the world, is facing tremendous financial insecurity.  Money is tight (and getting tighter). Leaders are in the precarious position of having to make unpopular decisions about what programs stay and what programs need to be cut to keep the bohemeth afloat.

During her years as mayor, Ms. Franklin was no newbie to budgetary shortfalls. When she was elected, Atlanta had a budget deficit that she reversed by enacting an unpopular tax increase. Unfortunately, the recession has placed a dark light on Mayor Franklin’s budgetary prowess.  I remember watching the news months ago as Mayor Franklin gave very clear and rational cost cutting and saving recommendations to City Countil and the public.  I remember her saying something very similar to what Mayor Reed said this morning: No one wants to make cuts, but the budget has to be balanced. Spending has to stop. City Council balked from her recommendation, at least in part because several of them were up for re-election and at least two of them wanted to run for Franklin’s role.  [This is why I HATE the strong mayor system, but that’s for another day, another post,].

I never blamed Mayor Franklin for being angry, she was making hard, unpopular decisions and she was under a lot of pressure. One doesn’t need an MPA to realize that if money is short, something has to give. The decision of what goes and what stays isn’t an easy one, but those decisions are EXACTLY what elected officials in strong mayor cities are elected to make.

I was frustrated right along with Mayor Franklin when she couldn’t get a consensus of city council members to collaborate on solutions to keep Atlanta out of the red. It was like they preferred to do nothing, rather than do something that stepped on someone pet project.

Based on the time that Mayor Franklin had with her council, I wasn’t surprised to hear that City Council already turning on Mayor Reed. I’m glad he did not let their gibes slide.

My advice to Mayor Reed? Have a clear, rational decision making process, keep the public informed on what you’re doing and why, don’t shy away from making the hard decisions, and feel free to call your city council out when they lock you down.  And please, don’t be afraid to get angry. Altanta has big problems, and we should all be angry at inaction or worse, elected officials with their heads in the sand who’d rather point fingers than do something.

My Friend, the Homeless Lady

When I first started working in downtown Atlanta, on my drive to work, I noticed the tent cities that were under the overpasses.  While walking between state government buildings, I saw and was sometimes accosted by the downtown homeless.

There are a couple of churches where half a dozen homeless men loiter on the front steps and the Department of Human Resources [where some of my work is done] is surrounded by the homeless and begging. I learned quickly which routes were safer.

I was, and still am, extremely awkward around homeless people. It makes me uncomfortable to talk to them, as more often than not, they are mentally ill, fighting their own internal and external demons. I never know what to say, as I can rarely figure out what they talk about. When they ask me for money, I feel guilty but I adamantly refuse.

The first homeless person that I connected with was this little old (at least she looks old) white lady that sometimes hangs about the state government buildings.  The first time I saw her I was taken aback. She doesn’t belong on the streets. Her speak pattern makes be believe that she’s developmentally delayed. I wonder where her family is and how she fell through society’s cracks.

She, like most other homeless people, asked me for money. At first, I told her no just like I told all the others. For days, weeks, months, she asked me for money.  Every day I refused.

One day when she asked and I refused to give her money, she asked me if I had any food to share.  I was so surprised that I stopped in my tracks.

I immediately went to my lunch bag and gave her everything that didn’t need to be cooked. I think I gave her apple sauce, another piece of fruit and a bag of chips.  This was around the holidays, and I knew there would be food around the office. When I got to my office, I fixed her a plate and went back outside to give it to her, but she was gone.

After that, I thought about her every morning when I made my lunch. I packed my normal lunch and a little something extra for her. Just in case I saw her.  More often than not, especially as the weather got frigid, she wouldn’t be around when I would enter and leave the building. But I was ready for her.

Homeless in the City

I’m surprised by the differences in the ways that homelessness and homeless people are treated. In the past year, I’ve become acutely aware of the visible homeless in the cities that I’m in. Over the past year, I’ve observed the way the homeless are treated in Atlanta, Nashville and San Francisco.

In San Francisco, the homeless are mostly quiet as they lay on any available surface (even the front lawn and steps of City Hall). Based on what I saw and heard while I was there, San Francisco has done a lot to make homeless people feel… comfortable. As I wandered around the city I saw homeless shelters and soup kitchens everywhere. I was impressed that there were so many resources available for the homeless population.

Nashville’s homeless fit the stereotype that you expect to see in “show biz” cities. Many of the homeless were performers in some way. The majority were musicians of some sort; the streets were alive with the sounds of the homeless playing guitars, harmonicas, trumpets and saxophones and singing the blues. One man had a dog that did tricks; he had a box set up for money that he said would feed him and his dog.  I’m sure I gave away 10 or 20 dollars in one day to various folks. When I peeked in the buckets that the enterprising musicians had situated near them as they played, I saw that I wasn’t the only one giving money that weekend.

Nashville’s downtown is a bustling place teeming with restaurants, bars, play houses, concert venues, ball fields, convention centers, but not one shelter that I could see. I wasn’t in Nashville long enough to know what kind of homeless resources the city, church and non-profit communities allocate to the homeless. I wondered where the homeless went after all the tourists went back to their hotels and the bars closed. I was consoled by the notion that us tourists (at least on the weekend) were doing a decent job of keeping a modicum of the homeless fed and paid.

In Atlanta, where I live, I see homeless people every day. From the fourth floor of my downtown office building I can see tent cities under the I-20 and I-75 overpasses, and when I walk around the block, I pass at least a couple of churches that allow homeless people to hang out on their front steps. I assume that these churches have some services for downtown’s homeless, but I’ve been unable to find any signs to verify this.

In the area around the historic Underground, homeless people lay all around. None of the business owners or their security can do much to stop them, since it’s a public mall. Nearby, in front of and around the State Department of Human Resources, I’ve come across some the most aggressive, mean and obviously mentally ill homeless people in the city.

Before Christmas, I researched downtown homeless shelters for a homeless lady I befriended near my job.  In my research I was only able to locate one downtown men’s shelter and the one food pantry, both of which struggle with staying open. Downtown is home to at least one half-way house. I’ve wondered as I pass it sometimes, how many of those inhabitants end up back on the streets.

I’m appalled by the lack of resources for homeless people in Atlanta, especially in the midst of Atlanta’s City Hall, the Capital and the bulk of state government.  I feel that this neglect has to be in intentional, as I know that the mayor and the state’s congresspeople have to see the homeless poor that call downtown Atlanta home, just as I do.

Beware the Bitter Bureaucrat: A Cautionary Tale and a PSA

When I was in MPA School I had to complete an organizational blueprint for a public entity.  Because of my interest in community and economic development, my professor assigned me to a state agency whose mission is to “assist local governments with economic development, community development, growth management and downtown revitalization”.

Even though I was a local government and non-profit junkie with no interest in working for a state government, I was excited about the opportunity because their mission seemed so closely aligned with what I wanted to do. I scheduled time to visit with different layers of the organization’s bureaucracy. I talked to the department and divisions “higher-ups” as well as section chiefs and analysts. I set up one-on-one conversations and gave each person the confidentiality that they needed to tell me their true experience working in their organization using Bolman and Deal’s organizational frames: Structural, Human Resources, Symbolic, and Political frames. (Shout-Out to Org Theory!!)

It didn’t take me long to figure out that the organization was toxic from the top to the bottom. Communication, up down and through the hierarchy was broken. Employees felt that they had been back-stabbed by their bosses—they got blamed for mistakes but never the credit for triumphs. Output was stale. Feelings had been hurt and old resentments had been allowed to fester. Unproductive employees had been moved around rather than fired, and their presence was a drain on everyone else. There was no friendly camaraderie around the water cooler or any activities to make the organization come together to celebrate in a meaningful way.  Most employees felt powerless, and came into work every day marking the hours until they could go home each evening.

In spite of these conditions, most employees cared deeply about the mission of the organization and about their individual work. Unfortunately, that didn’t help company morale. Meeting employees in the hallways was quiet and awkward at best and in some cases it was downright hostile and unfriendly.

Over the course of that semester, I learned that the people in that organization will likely stay in their current job (or one very similar), surrounded by people that they do not like or respect for 10, 20, sometimes 30 years. I interviewed people who were counting the years to retirement and were unwilling to even consider finding a job that suited them better. Over and over I heard about the perks of the job. The 401k match, the 2 weeks of vacation time, the flexible schedule, and the promotion schedule were all touted as reasons to stay. I remember thinking to myself that no amount of vacation was worth being miserable for the rest of the year.

Not only would they not consider quitting jobs that they hated, they weren’t even willing to consider ways to make the job better. They were all content to work (unhappily) for an organization, notice and complain about the problems and issues but not ever do ANYTHING that would make the problem go away. They wouldn’t even consult higher levels of the hierarchy about them. It was like they were stuck in purgatory. Or just stuck.

By the end of the assignment I knew that I never, ever wanted to work for a state government and I had a new appreciation for the term bureaucrat.

In my current position, almost 2 years later, I can confirm that my first impression of state government employees is by and large a correct one. As far as I could tell, state government (in any state) is full of bitter bureaucrats.

Bitter bureaucrats:   While mostly found at the state level of government, bitter bureaucrats can invade any organization.  Bitter bureaucrats can be identified by their constantly frowning faces, and the inability to make eye contact or say a friendly word with their co-workers. Bitter Bureaucrats can usually be found whining and complaining about a process or problem concerning their work flow but refuse to do anything that may alleviate their problem. Beware of Bitter Bureaucrats as they drain the life out of other staff members and organization projects. Bitter Bureaucrats have the incapacity to try new things, create change, or think outside the box or form.

Bitter Bureaucrats are not born. They are made. They get Bitter Bureaucrat Syndrome.

Symptoms of Bitter Bureaucrat Syndrome are: Unproductivity in the workplace, constant taking of “mental health days”, overwhelming feelings of complacency, stagnation, and being in a rut.

You may be at risk for contracting Bitter Bureaucrat Syndrome if: you feel that your boss only gives you negative feedback, the creativity is being beat out of you, you are being asked to conform to a out-dated standard in some way, you are told to do things the way they have always been done, your boss and co-workers have been in their current jobs longer than you’ve been alive, you live in a cube, you are never congratulated for creating a new process or trying a novel concept or if you have 3 or more different company policy manuals in your personal work space.

The fastest and best cure for bitter bureaucrat syndrome in individuals is for the afflicted person to quit the organization that caused the outbreak and find/do work that supports and nurtures in some vital way. Organizationally, the cure for bitter bureaucrat syndrome is to create a new culture. The organization must be purged of complacency, negativity, and conformity and a new culture of creativity and friendliness and open communication must be established.

Pass this along to all those you know who are in danger of becoming a bitter bureaucrat and to those who have been guilty of creating bitter bureaucrats.

In Honor of World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day was yesterday and over the course of the day, I thought about how HIV/AIDS have affected my life. It wasn’t until today that I actually got a chance to get anything on paper.

When I was in middle school my uncle, who lived with my family, started to go blind.  It started slowly at first, and my mother and all the other adults attributed his weakened eye sight to getting older.  At the time, my uncle must have been in his mid- 40’s and bad eyes run in the family, so no one was surprised that he started needing reading glasses.  Except the reading glasses didn’t work.  In fact, nothing worked.

Finally, after much coaxing, cajoling and outright coercing my mother got my uncle into the car and over to Duke for a physical, including an eye exam.  They returned with thick-ass glasses that my siblings and I made fun of.

It wasn’t until a week or so later that my mom and my uncle apparently went back to the doctor to get the results of the physical.  They, of course, didn’t say anything to us kids.  And I wouldn’t have suspected a thing, if I hadn’t caught my uncle silently crying on our couch before my mom made him leave the room.

A few weeks (or months) later mama took me out for a walk (we still take each other for walks when we have “controversial” aka bad news to share).  It was then that she told me that my uncle was HIV positive and that the disease was what caused him to lose his vision.  I reacted badly and said some pretty hurtful things.  (Give me a break, I was 11) After my mother gave me the look (you know the look), she informed me that he was still family and we would support and take care of him.  She told me that we had to be more careful about washing our hands, and dealing with other body fluids.  My uncle was prescribed what looked like oodles of colorful pills to take every day and he had to stop smoking. He continued to live with us for a little while after that, until again I caught him crying.

That time, mom just called my siblings and me into the family room and told all of us that my uncle now had AIDS.  He moved into a hospice for AIDS patients soon after.  My uncle lived in that home for at least a year or more (it all gets blurry to me). We visited him at least once a week, and got to watch him and a whole bunch of other AIDS victims die.  His fight wasn’t an easy one, and towards the end my mother stopped taking me and the other kids to visit him.  She thought it was too disturbing.

Other than her weekly visits, I only remember a few times when my mother was called to her brother’s bedside.  One was the night that he went completely blind and found himself alone, staring into utter blackness, another happened when one of the other men in the home died (who had come to live there shortly after my uncle) and the last occurred on the night that he died.

My mother recounted the story (or at least his speculation) on how my uncle contracted HIV, but that story doesn’t really matter here.  She also told me of conversations that they had discussed his live and regrets.  She says that he would often dissect his life to see where he went wrong.

I always thought that that was the saddest part of my uncle’s short battle with HIV and AIDS. Even in the end, he equated his being gay with having AIDS. He didn’t “come out of the closet until the beginning of the end and it seems that he still had problems with who he was and how he lived his life.  This, of course, was at least partly to blame on his upbringing, his relationships, and the shame that was still associated with being a gay man in the 1990’s.  I wondered why he never got tested before.  Was it shame? Fear? Lack of education?

My life is riddled with people I wish I could have gotten to know better over the years. People whose stories I wish I could have recorded in some way. My uncle is one of them.

I don’t really know how telling this story is related to the overall mission of this blog, but what I do know is that other people like my uncle exist.  People who feel isolated. People who have health problems they don’t know about. I also know that where we live and how we live affect our outcomes; social, political, economic, educational and health.  Complete communities, which encompass all areas of our lives, support residents allowing them to have full, rich lives.  And we can’t have complete communities without adequate local, affordable healthcare.

I would like to think that the conditions under which my uncle went untested for AIDS for many years (and would have continued to, had he not had those vision problems) no longer exist but I know too well that they do.  AIDS isn’t like cancer in that early detection saves lives (At least I don’t think so) but with the right medication, he would have lived longer, giving me time to grow up and take an interest in him and his life.

Furthermore, who knows how things would be different if whomever my uncle contracted the disease from had been educated about the sexual risks they were taking, and had used condoms.  Now scale that up and think about all the other people who could be saved with proper sex education and access to free condoms.

Luckily, in the county where I grew up, things have changed for the better.  At the local health department, students could get free condoms, birth control and STD testing.  I hope adults without insurance can get the same benefits.

Unfortunately, other areas aren’t as progressive as my hometown.  Even in the city of Atlanta, population 537,958, finding a health department that does STD testing can be a miserable experience. Just this summer, I wanted to have a physical without health insurance. The only option I could find was a Planned Parenthood, if the City of Atlanta has health departments, their web presence is deplorable.  At the local Planned Parenthood, guess who I shared the waiting room with on the day of my appointment? Young gay men and teenage girls. And if the looks on their faces were any indication, they weren’t getting any good news.  It just breaks my heart because it could easily be much different.

Some would say it is unpractical and certainly unprofitable to have plentiful local healthcare in easily accessible areas in and around our neighborhoods. But we already know the difference it makes when folks have easy access to healthy food and more education. (We get healthier, smarter folks) In the same way, having near-by healthcare options and comprehensive sex education can also improve the quality of life of residents.

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