A grassroots nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting world peace by bringing together people of diverse cultures and backgrounds; providing interfaith spiritual support to those in need; and engaging in local and global humanitarian outreach efforts
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Call for Volunteers!
We are ready to bring new volunteers onboard with Common Ground Worldwide, to help with projects such as:
a weekly re-distribution program of organic produce (leftover at farmers markets) to those in need
knitting and crocheting hats and scarves for donation this winter to local people without housing
publicity, outreach, and site search for the Giving Garden
Please feel free to contact us if you're interested in volunteering this summer!
During this spring season of metamorphosis and growth, Common Ground Worldwide is also entering a new season of its development! Founder Rev. Cynthia Rae Eastman continues her involvement with the oranization as a volunteer, supporter, and mentor, while Dori Stone now serves as president of a newly-elected Board of Directors. Please visit our website (www.commongroundworldwide.org) for an introduction to Common Ground Worldwide's new leadership and our visions for the future .... and feel free to contact us if you'd like to get involved!
What if, instead of looking at the seemingly abrasive people and negative events in our lives as obstacles, we could see them as Angel Messengers, who have crossed our paths with carefully orchestrated opportunities for change and growth along our soul’s journey? Perhaps they are here to guide us to greatness.
As an example, let’s take a look at the Finance Angel Messenger, because it can really make you sit up and pay closer attention than usual. Of course, there are many acts of grace, where prosperity is concerned, small and even large money miracles take place in the lives of people on a daily basis. But, what happens when our finances start spiraling downward?
The concept of lack can take a myriad of forms from “I don’t have enough money to live the lifestyle I imagined or desire” to “I’ve lost the ability to pay for my home and I’m walking out the door onto the streets into homelessness.”
In my own case, this Finance Angel Messenger first visited me when I was a little girl. Around the age of 10, I started to notice that there was a difference between the size of my house and the amount of land we had and the houses and property that my grandparents owned. Plus, summers with them included lunch at “the club,” trips to summer cottages, and shopping in department stores with elevator operators. Summer camp and later private school were paid for by my grandparents. I became aware of subtle, but important differences between myself and my camp or school mates. Even though we all wore the same uniforms, something as simple as wearing grosgrain ribbons or more obvious, such as boarding one’s own horse, made me realize that things were not equal. Somehow, this translated into my feeling “less than.”
Experiences with real poverty set in once I left home and those got worse when I became a divorced single mother. Not having money for utilities, was followed by a shift in what we could afford to eat, and ultimately, not being able to pay the rent. The first time a check didn’t clear the bank or my credit card wouldn’t go through at the checkout counter sent my heart right into my throat. By the time I was sleeping in the car with my teenage son, a sort of numbness had set in.
I’ve had several experiences with financial reversal and homelessness beginning as a runaway teenager in the 1960’s to life as a senior citizen living on disability. It took many encounters with this Angel before fully understanding these messages, which came down to the following: A. You are not your financial status – it does not define your value as a human being. B. Hope, Faith, and a Sense of Purpose are the KEYS to surviving financial challenges.
It would have been extremely helpful, if I could have clearly seen and understood these Finance Angel’s messages early on. Recognizing my true self-worth and the fact that I could get through these dire situations with hope, faith, and purpose would have made the experiences less stressful and more peaceful.
What stories do you have about visitations from various Angel Messengers in your life? Here are 10 questions to help you process your personal messages: 1. Who or What was involved? 2. What happened during the incident? 3. How did you feel? 4. Did you Act?Yes___No___ If so, how? Circle: Resisted, Fought Back, Ignored, Moved Forward, Moved Away, Other_____ If not, why not? 5. What did you learn from the experience? Can you identify any gifts? 6. List other ways in which you could have viewed what happened. 7. If this was an Angel Messenger, what could the message have been? 8. What was the ultimate result? 9.Where do you go from here? 10.What new behavior will you put into practice?
Once you see various negative encounters and events popping up in your life, recognize that these are Angel Messengers coming to share important information with you. Ask for Divine guidance as to what the messages are and for direction as to what sorts of positive actions you can take.
It’s helpful to keep the following words of Oprah Winfrey in mind:
“Listen to the whisper before it becomes a scream.”
You may feel led to act or simply to observe more closely with deeper awareness. The main points of the various encounters with Angel Messengers are: A. Be aware when Angel Messengers are crossing your path. B. Pay attention to what they are showing or telling you. C. Follow through by taking positive action in your life or by observing with mindfulness.
Blessings along the journey!
Rev. Cynthia Rae Eastman is an ordained interfaith minister and the founder of Common Ground Worldwide. She is available to conduct seminars on the Guide to Angel Messengers: Turning Negative Encounters & Events into Positive Action. For more information, contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since October 2009, the "Earth Angel" volunteers have created and donated 1,843 handmade hats and scarves to local shelters for people who are experiencing homelessness and/or are survivors of domestic violence. Common Ground Worldwide is based in San Luis Obispo County, California, where there are nearly 3,800 men, women, and children who are un-housed. As a result, we always need new volunteers.
Our "Earth Angel" volunteer team meets regularly to knit and crochet warm gifts, which are donated to shelters during the cold fall and winter months. For our meeting time, day, and location, please send an email to:
Armando Torres Garcia & Rev. Cynthia Rae Eastman will be co-facilitating a workshop on "Children are the Face of Homelessness: How YOU Can Take Action to Help" @ 2:00 p.m. They will also be sharing an information table with author, Dori Stone, @ the Resource Fair from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Common Ground Worldwide will also be holding a fundraiser the following day (Sunday, February 24th) @ California Pizza Kitchen. Please join us. (Be sure to print out & bring along a copy of the flyer with you, as that is the only way we can get credit - Thanks!):
The local filmmakers Jason Reed and Christina Bearce will be here as well as Becky Jorgenson from Hopes Village of SLO , Rev. Cynthia Rae Eastman from Common Ground Worldwide and others working with the SLO homeless population to answer questions.
Armando has been a dedicated volunteer with Common Ground Worldwide since the Fall of 2011, when he joined the Board of Directors as the Secretary. As a result of his service to the organization, he was invited to help facilitate our "How to End Homelessness in 7 Days" workshop at Cal Poly's "Change the Status Quo Conference" in 2012 and will be the main facilitator at our "Children are the Face of Homelessness" workshop at the university's 2013 conference. Armando was recently promoted to the Treasurer of Common Ground Worldwide's Board of Directors.
Armando is a Broadcast Journalism major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. His passion is providing others the opportunity to express themselves. He plans to go to law school after college to pursue a career in Media and Communications Law.
Besides journalism, Armando is also a rock climbing and backpacking guide through a group at school. He enjoys spending time in nature and meditating.
Brianna Karp and I met a couple of years ago as authors writing for a blog on homelessness. Just like many who have been reading her “Girl’s Guide to Homelessness” blog, I too have been reading and watching her journey unfolding and morphing into what is now a book of the same title.
One thing that I have found to be extremely inspirational is the fact that in the midst of experiencing homelessness, Bri was always concerned about all of the others, who were suffering as a result of not being able to afford housing. From the very beginning, she was helping to serve as a voice for those who are homeless.
Clearly, she was thrust into positions of being interviewed on national television, which most of us will never experience. We could all tell that this was a bit scary for her, yet when opportunity knocked, despite the fear and unavoidable stigma associated with being homeless, Bri courageously told her story and made sure that she did what she could to debunk the stereotypes.
Even though we may never personally be under that sort of spotlight, I would like to suggest that we have other smaller, yet powerful ways to have our voices heard. For example, recently, I was invited to speak at our local Homeless Services Oversight Council concerning giving a report on the National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness, which I attended in February. Following my presentation, I decided to remain for the rest of the meeting. During that time, the topic of creating a “Safe Parking” project came up.
As I listened, I could hear various members voicing concerns and the time came when, rather than voting on and passing their endorsement of this project, it looked like the item was going to be tabled in favor of more research. When the chairman of the council asked for “Citizen Comments,” despite not planning to speak or having prepared anything to say, the sound of my tear-filled voice shocked even me.
“I was a divorced, single parent of a 13 year old, when I found myself between jobs,” I said. Then continued with, “My son and I ended up sleeping in our car. It was terrifyingly dangerous. All night long the police kept telling us to move. In this county alone, there are over 3,800 men, women, and children, who are homeless and only 200 shelter beds. People MUST sleep somewhere! I just want to thank all of you for taking the steps necessary to help the people in our community, who are experiencing homelessness.”
Much to my surprise, following these heartfelt impromptu words, a vote was again called and this time, it passed unanimously! It was the first time in my life that I realized my voice could have such a powerful impact and potentially make a positive change in the lives of others, who are struggling. After the meeting, the woman, who was most opposed to moving forward with the vote, came up to me and thanked me for putting a face to homelessness.
Tips for Having Your Voice Heard
■Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper concerning something about which you feel passionate
■If you are currently homeless or have been un-housed in the past, join the “Faces of Homelessness” Speaker’s Bureau
■For those of you, who are service providers, start a “Faces of Homelessness” Speaker’s Bureau
■Join the World Homeless Action Movement on Facebook
■Attend the National Conference on Ending Homelessness (they offer amazing scholarships for folks, who have experienced homelessness, which include transportation, hotel, registration, & a $75. Stipend for misc. meals and ground transportation)
Most of all, I encourage you to remember this quote by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
(A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3])
It is critical for all of us to speak out in our communities concerning our experiences with homelessness. Our voices can be powerful tools for positive change. Let your light shine and your voice be heard, because one person truly can make a difference and that person is YOU!
People who are experiencing homelessness MUST have a safe place where they can sleep! When communities do not have enough shelter beds available for the numbers of people who need a bed, then other systems have to be put into place. As caring, concerned, compassionate members of society, we can certainly come up with solutions. Ticketing people for sleeping in their vehicles is not the answer.
One possibility is a sliding fee scale campground as an emergency, temporary solution, which needs to quickly move into transitional housing and then into permanent housing. For folks who own RVs as a lifestyle choice and are "landless" rather than "homeless," this may simply be an issue of affordable lot space. For others, traditional housing options will be more appropriate.
According to Dan Buettner’s National Geographic book, THRIVE, San Luis Obispo, California is the “Happiest City in America.” This information was even highlighted on an Oprah show:
That being said, they have a housing crisis. This seemed to begin rather insidiously. At first, it could be observed that teachers along with fire fighters, nurses, police officers, and other professionals were no longer able to afford the American Dream of a single family home, having to double up with roommates as though they were still college students or new members of the workforce. The next thing that became obvious was that even for those who could afford homes there were none to be had. It was clear that there was a shortage of housing in general and affordable housing in particular.
Soon to follow was the bottom falling out of the economy. Even highly paid CEOs were losing their jobs and that effect was trickling down. When people could no longer pay their mortgages, homes started going into foreclosure. New houses were not being built, which then forced construction workers out of jobs. Carpenters, roofers, welders, and others in skilled trades were some of the first folks to land on the streets.
What might shock the general public to know is the number of children under the age of 18, who are un-housed (there are hundreds of them in San Luis Obispo public schools); along with the percentage of elderly citizens (including a 90 year old woman - a former teacher - who was homeless in SLO); folks who are disabled, including Veterans; and yes, even highly educated former professionals. These homeless families and individuals are just like you, except they cannot afford housing - “there but for the grace of God…”
It is also important to point out that many of the people who don’t have housing are working or have incomes in the form of Veteran’s benefits, retirement pensions, Social Security disability, General Assistance or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. However, these funds are not enough to pay market value for rent. Many will never be able to move beyond their fixed incomes (retirees or the disabled for example) and will always need subsidized or below market rate housing. More low-income housing needs to be built in order to get these folks out of shelters and off the streets.
Currently, San Luis Obispo is in the midst of parking issues, which impact people who are poor and living in their vehicles (RVs and cars). It looks like the community can either spend funds on solutions to getting folks off the streets or pay for litigation fees (a group of un-housed people have sued the city for human rights violations), which are only going to increase. The City of Sacramento was cited by the United Nations earlier this year for similar violations. In reality, there is not a problem with having an ordinance against people parking on the streets and sleeping in their vehicles. Although, who of us has not pulled over to the side of the road to take a nap if we were too tired to drive? Perhaps we will now get ticketed as well. The issue comes into play when citizens who are living in poverty have nowhere else to go.
As a caring community, San Luis Obispo has an opportunity and the capacity to take the higher/more cost effective road and solve the problem by providing a safe place for people to live. Realistic guidelines will be the key to the success of any program. Currently, the pilot “Safe Parking” program is requiring participants to allow their funds to be managed in an effort to save for future traditional housing (most will never be able to afford market rate housing). However, many of the folks who are un-housed are capable of managing their own finances and do not need this sort of monitoring unlike those who are mandated by the courts to have payees as part of the mental health system.
Due to the sheer numbers of people who are currently experiencing homelessness in San Luis Obispo county (3,774 as of the 2011 Enumeration of the Homeless and it has been said that the actual numbers may be as high as 6,000), creative new solutions need to be supported, especially as there is no “one size fits all” answer. As the “Happiest City in America,” there can be faith that the community is able to solve this crisis by working together collaboratively to create model programs. They have amazing resources at their disposal through the talent of local government, businesses, faith-based community, the Homeless Services Oversight Council, Cal Poly, independent groups of community residents working toward innovative housing models, and thousands of dedicated volunteers who generously donate their time and money.
During a recent City Council meeting, the possibility of implementing a “transitional sliding fee scale campground” was suggested and echoed by several in attendance. There are also a couple of cutting edge projects in the works. For the past seven months, Hope’s Village of SLO’s Board of Directors and committee have been working on a housing project of tiny homes on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo’s city limits. Their village will provide homes for local homeless adults. For more information about their program go to: http://www.hopesvillageofslo.com/
Additionally, San Luis Obispo-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Common Ground Worldwide, is in the process of forming a local chapter of “Teen Build” for teenagers who would like to help build small homes for a self-sustaining Eco-Cottage Community Co-op for families with children who are un-housed. Their website is http://www.commongroundworldwide.org/
It has long been known that housing people is less expensive than sheltering, incarcerating, or hospitalizing them. Getting folks off the streets will free up funds for other local services.
Moving forward, here’s hoping that the housed members of the community will all work together to create an area that is indeed the “Happiest City in America” for all of its neighbors regardless of socio-economic status.
# # #
Reverend Cynthia Rae Eastman is an ordained interfaith minister, who is the Founder/Volunteer Executive Director of Common Ground Worldwide, a San Luis Obispo-based 501(c)(3) grassroots nonprofit organization with projects relating to homelessness. Having been un-housed herself several times over the course of her life (beginning as a runaway teenager, due to domestic violence), Rev. Eastman was interviewed for the award winning documentary, Homeless Not Hopeless: In the Happiest Place in America:
There seems to be a movement underfoot concerning how to manage our lives in this economy by “downsizing” and becoming “self-sufficient.” This can either help people to free up more available cash; keep from becoming homeless; or to become re-housed once they’ve landed on the streets.
In doing some research, I’ve come across a few amazing resources! Let’s say that you are currently housed, but just need to cut down on expenses. Check out the projects of Urban Homesteaders, Jules Dervaes and his family:
It is my opinion that one of the biggest challenges we face in getting folks housed simply has to do with the terminology of the word “homeless.” Instead of viewing the experience of homelessness as a self-inflicted state of being, it is critical to see that in most cases people become un-housed due to an economic crisis beyond their control.
In order for the general population to feel compassion toward someone who is experiencing homelessness, it is important that they not see the person as “other” or worse, “demonize” them. As a result, it would be helpful to stop referring to folks as “homeless” and see them rather as being “Internally Displaced.” This is a United Nations term for people who are refugees in their own countries. Natural Disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or tsunamis; Manmade Disasters like war; and Economic Disasters causing poverty can all create homelessness and should be responded to with emergency relief action. Once communities and governments start thinking in terms of what services and human rights are necessary for refugees, then perhaps we can see a shift in how this crisis is addressed and solved.
Earlier this year, Sacramento (California) Mayor Kevin Johnson, was cited with U.N. human rights violations concerning not providing clean drinking water and sanitation for his city’s homeless population. As a result, the wheels are now in motion concerning United Nations involvement.
As an example of what a difference terminology and the subsequent mindset can make in how a community responds to homelessness, it is helpful to take a look back in history to the 1906 SanFrancisco earthquake: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1906_San_Francisco_earthquake . Fires resulted, which then burned much of the city to the ground. Initially, those who were displaced were sheltered in tents. Ultimately, the Department of Lands & Buildings of the Relief Corporation stepped in to build 5,610 cottages, which housed over 16,000 San Franciscans in 11 refugee camps in various parks and public squares.
San Francisco Earthquake of 1906: Jefferson Square refugee camp (circa April 1906)
Picture courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Union carpenters then built small cottages with cedar-shingle roofs, fir floors, and redwood walls. The buildings were all painted green so as to better blend in with the natural settings.
Refugee camp #25 in the Richmond District, occupying what is now Park Presidio Boulevard.
Picture Courtesy of Bancroft Library
Tenants paid $2. a month toward the $50. cost of building the small houses. Then in August of 1907, refugees hauled their cottages to private lots. Within 16 months of the disaster and resulting homelessness, the issue of how to house folks was solved. No “10 Year Plan” needed!
Many people who are un-housed have incomes in the form of employment, Social Security disability, retirement benefits, or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or unemployment benefits. It should be relatively simple to set up sliding fee scale campgrounds for tents and RVs, which could then create a base for building small cottage communities. These newly created neighborhoods would not look like refugee camps, but rather they could be intentionally designed sustainable model environments, which would blend in with the rest of the town or city, such as architect Ross Chapin’s “Pocket Neighborhoods.”
Whether you live in a city or out in the country, if you are about to become un-housed or are trying to get re-housed, you might want to think in terms of making a shift to "Tiny Houses." For great ideas, check out this documentary by Kirsten Dirksen "We the Tiny House People: Small Homes, Tiny Flats, & Wee Shelters:"
Kendall Ronzano, a teenager from Santa Cruz, California is the inspiration behind "Teen Build"
Common Ground Worldwide will be hosting an organizational meeting on Saturday, April 28th @ 1:30 p.m. to start forming a San Luis Obispo Chapter of "Teen Build." For more information, please contact Rev. Cynthia: email@example.com
Marlene was first introduced to Common Ground Worldwide at a local event promoting social change. She has always had her eyes set on giving back hope to those who need it most and says that she will do her best to spread this hope through CGW. She is currently a second year Sociology major, minoring in Psychology, at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and is hoping to integrate the knowledge she's attained, as well as her experiences, with the people with whom she has an opportunity to interact.
Marlene will be serving as Common Ground Worldwide's Public Relations Chairperson.
Please help Common Ground Worldwide. For each new member who joins through the end of March (and uses the iGive Button), $5 will be donated to Common Ground Worldwide. And, when you make a first purchase, ANOTHER $5. will be donated.
Allen Lu was named as the Common Ground Worldwide 2011 Volunteer of the Year for his outstanding commitment to assisting the San Luis Obispo-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit move forward with its mission to provide interfaith spiritual support; education about global cultures & religions; & humanitarian outreach efforts, which currently include providing new inspirational books and handmade hats and scarves to shelters for families who are un-housed & survivors of domestic violence.
Lu met CGW president and founder Reverend Cynthia Rae Eastman in September 2010 when he volunteered to help with the organization’s “World Homeless Action Day” event. Having recently graduated from UC Irvine, Lu was eager to find opportunities to get involved during his time at Cal Poly as a graduate student. Lu was immediately drawn to CGW’s commitment to providing help through an interfaith perspective.
“The central idea of unity, an inherent mission of CGW, was a big deal for me,” he says.
Lu grew up in the outer Mission district of San Francisco, a place he says forces its residents to join groups, mainly based on race. Being Asian in a predominantly Hispanic community made him feel like an outcast. “People look at you differently, causing you to instinctively look back at them in the same way. It is no wonder that there are so many racial conflicts in deeply urbanized areas.” he explains.
“Getting a 0.72 GPA forced me to wake up and find myself. I realized after two quarters that I couldn’t keep doing this,” Lu says.
He joined the EDGE at UCI, a college-based Christian fellowship that introduced him to the joy of helping others. Through the EDGE he fed people who were experiencing homelessness at shelters and provided other services to those in need.
During his final year at UC Irvine, he began to explore the Baha’i faith, a decision he credits for giving him a more global perspective on life. “I learned life was bigger than my own desires. I began to pray for the world instead of praying to God only when I needed help with my own personal tests,” he says. Lu graduated from UC Irvine and received his bachelor’s degree in Social Ecology and went to Cal Poly soon after, where he is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning.
Not only does he see his challenges as another chance to grow, he welcomes them for the future. Hoping to one day work with an international group like the United Nations and traveling to different communities to empower the youth by teaching them the importance of community involvement, Lu sets an example by serving as Cal Poly’s student lead for the President’s Interfaith & Community Service Campus Challenge (PICSCC). Here, he is able to help form collaborations between various school and local organizations, hoping to create sustainable relationships within Cal Poly; and also between the school and local organizations (such as CGW). The primary objective is to create a desire in students to be active in local events through discussion and community service. “We have to inspire youth to take some initiatives today. After all, the youth today will be the leaders of tomorrow. .”
Through faith, school, and his involvement with Common Ground Worldwide, Lu will continue on his path to bring people together. Praying for others has taught him the importance of compassion. His decision to act on this realization has shown him what compassion really means. “It used to just be about me and what I expected from God. Now it’s about the intertwining relationship between God, the world, and me.”
Rev. Cynthia Rae Eastman @ the age of 13, when she first became a runaway
In an era of job insecurity, with thousands of people losing their homes, YOU can become part of the solution to ending homelessness! Co-Facilitators Rev. Cynthia Rae Eastman, Allen Lu, & Armando Torres-Garcia will take you on a journey into what it is truly like to be un-housed through the personal stories of someone who has experienced homelessness off & on over a period spanning 45 years. There will also be a preview of a new documentary, which offers insight into the issues. Ultimately, participants will work in groups to "think outside the box" & thus create solutions that can effect real change.
Since October of 2009, our "Earth Angel" volunteer knitters & crocheters have created 1,335 handmade warm items of clothing which have been donated to shelters for homeless families and suvivors of domestic violence.
Globally, 100 Million Children are un-housed. Unlike homeless children in the U.S.A., children in developing countries do not have access to Clean Drinking Water, Medication, and Food Banks/Soup Kitchens/or Food Stamps. Your donations to UNICEF will help them.