Saturday, June 22, 2013

There is now a great new program at the Foundation Beyond Belief!

Recently I posted about a need in our community and a more specific need for a friend in NC, that are related. My friend Celia, is still in desperate need of rent, food and money to get her power turned back on. She and her son are close to losing their apartment and while there are some potential job opportunities, they will come to late. She needs the power turned back on now and has only a couple of days left to pay rent. She and her son both have autism spectrum disorders and a lot of struggles, as outlined here, at the fundraiser page I put up for her. She is very desperate and unfortunately help is coming just a little too late...

But help for needs such as hers is coming! I have been very frustrated by the need for infrastructure by which secular communities could help our own. By which we might prevent some of us in need, from having to lie to religious organizations, be proselytized at, and/or make dishonest declarations of faith, just to get a little help. Now meet, FBB's Helping Hands:

Foundation Beyond Belief's Helping Hands is meant for individuals needing help in tough times. Our vision for Helping Hands is that secular humanists, atheists, and freethinkers will have a centralized method of reaching out to the movement for help. Natural disasters and crises are obvious reasons to need aid, but not the only reasons. People who have suffered a serious illness or injury, loss of residence, unemployment, and other negative life events might also need a helping hand. People may nominate themselves or others for aid from Foundation Beyond Belief's Beyond Belief Network and Humanist Giving members. FBB will promote the specific needs of worthy applicants. We will also attempt to put recipients in contact with local freethought or charitable organizations in their area that can help further.

Now there is more that I think we need to work out, but this is a brilliant starting point. I can't begin to express how excited I am to see it. I am not just excited because this will afford an important opportunity for non-theists, skeptics and freethinkers to get help without religious strings attached, but because this will afford non-theists, skeptics and freethinkers who want to help out our own. We need to be able to do that, be able to fulfill a need that only we can reasonably manage - that we should be managing. With that said then, what more is needed?

I'm going on five years now, since I lost the roof over my family's heads. For some time I was very seriously considering taking my own life, because the social security benefits would be an important contribution to my children's lives. I wasn't sure what else I could do for them and I had just failed them utterly. I was quite seriously weighing the benefits of me being alive, versus my children having that financial aid. My children's mother was making similar considerations. We actually discussed at one point, whether it might be good for one of us to commit suicide and if so, which of us. That is how very desperate we were, how desperate I was. I actually asked my parents if they would take my boys, really not sure what I would do.

When you are desperate enough to start considering suicide for the pittance your children would receive every month from the state, it is virtually impossible to explore what options might be available to you. There are a remarkable number of resources out there, enough so that not even social service organizations that try to compile lists of local resources are generally able to find them all. I know this because as the mentally ill only parent of mentally ill children, I am actively seeking what is available to help us. I get compiled lists on a frequent basis, not just for myself, but because I come into contact with a lot of families that need help and it is nice to know what is out there - whether for me and/or the boys, or for someone else. There are a lot of places to seek help, a lot of venues that offer aid of various sorts. But of course all of them have limited resources. And state aid can be cumbersome and complicated to obtain - or even to learn if you are qualified for.

We need to help those of us who are in crisis, to find out what helps we qualify for and to obtain it. When you are not sure you will have a home next week - or tomorrow, when you literally don't know where your next meal is coming from, when you are contemplating ending your life - or worse, your brain is not only not functioning at it's best, you are operating under serious deficits. You need to be at your best and could hardly be any worse. There might well be services available, help available from sources unplumbed. It would be extremely useful were we to offer help in finding out what help is available, not just from the secular community, but from their local community and even the state. This is something that local secular groups might help out with, but it is something that anyone with the internet and a telephone could manage from anywhere in the country of the person needing help.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bringing our communities together to help someone in need, throwing a larger need into sharp relief

Update - See this post for new information.

Living in poverty, I have frequently been in need of help. Indeed my children and I receive assistance from the state in the form of food stamps and medicaid. And at a time of especial need, people in our secular communities came together to help me. But then, I have the privilege of having family and friends with rather expansive voices in our communities. Obviously there are rather a lot of us who don't have my privilege.

Celia is one such person. She and her son both have autism spectrum disorders. She views the world through a very different lens than most people and because of that is rather strange. Because of this she has felt less than welcome in our secular communities. She doesn't feel she fits in and I can understand that, because I have experienced much the same thing. If my experience in our secular communities was limited to some of my first impressions, I would feel rather alienated. Because of my mental illness, I too view the world through a lens that is very different than most. But then I dug deeper, made more connections - in large part because I know people who are prominent voices in our communities, including my brother Ed Brayton.

Celia doesn't have those connections and she is in desperate need. From the fundraiser I started for her:

Celia is an awesome woman with a goofy, wonderful son, both of whom have autism spectrum disorders. She has struggled a great deal of her adult life to maintain a reasonable living situation for herself and since he was born, her rather silly son. Unfortunately she hit a major bump in the road that started when a combination of her and her son getting sick and her car breaking down rather cut into school and work. She lost her financial aid, her job and her best means for finding a job in a town with limited public transportation. 

She almost lost her apartment and power last month. Now the situation is even more dire. She has no food, no power and ten days to come up with *this* months rent. Her son is staying elsewhere, but she is stuck in a house with no power and a whole lot of worries. She is in desperate need and has talked of very a very permanent solution to her problems. It is *that* dire.

I have never met Celia or her son in person and, unfortunately, probably never will. Her son sounds very much like the sort of kid I would love to hang out with and whom my boys would love to befriend. I really don't want him to have to grow up without a mom - a mom who loves him, takes excellent care of him and who understands his life experience better than anyone else possibly can. And frankly, I really appreciate her friendship myself. 

Celia has never had a great deal of luck, finding a place in the various secular communities in which most of us have found friends and even new families. She is quirky and different, viewing the world through a lens that differs rather radically from most. It frustrates me that she hasn't enjoyed more of a welcome and I want to see that change. She desperately needs our help and I want to show her that when we're in need, our communities will come together and help each other out, even if those of us who need help are rather odd.

But Celia's need is far from unique. There are a lot of us who are stuck in the periphery, effectively alone. There are many of us who feel left behind by communities that are focused in many directions, but not on the needs of those who make up these communities - or those who should make up our communities. I know from personal experience that it isn't due to a lack of desire to help. I have seen our communities come together repeatedly to help our own. It is time to step up and make it happen on a much larger scale. We lack the infrastructure to offer emergency aid for meeting the basic needs of non-theists who hit hard times.

I aim to see that change.

I hope that as we are able to develop such an infrastructure, our communities will come together and make this happen. We need to care for our own. It makes me feel ill, to think about people begging religious organizations for basic needs. It is so much worse to consider how many of them are forced to pretend some show of faith, just to keep the power on, cover their rent - get away from an abusive partner. We can bloody well do better than that and I have ever confidence that we will.

Meanwhile Celia is in desperate need. Please visit her fundraiser page and either make a contribution, or help us promote her fundraiser. Together I know that we can save her family and I know we can fulfill a greater need as well.