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It Doesn’t Make Any Sense To Arrest People Who Are Homeless

An increasing number of new laws across the United States make it a crime to be homeless. But these laws don’t actually manage to get people off the streets ― they just perpetuate the cycle of homelessness, experts say.

Homelessness has reached such crisis levels that a United Nations expert sent to investigate poverty and inequality in the U.S. included the criminalization of homelessness in an extensive report released last Friday. After spending two weeks meeting with communities facing some of the most dire circumstances, Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, concluded that mistreatment of people experiencing homelessness is one of the key contributors to the stark levels of inequality. 

“The way to end homelessness is hardly to arrest people, keep them in prison for a time and then kick them out on the street again,” Alston told HuffPost in a phone interview Friday. “That’s a costly, vicious cycle. What we’re doing is making it worse.”

Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, visited the U.S. for two weeks and concluded that the criminalization of homelessness is a contributing factor to inequality in the U.S.

Homelessness is on the rise in the U.S., an issue that’s inextricably tied to a lack of affordable housing. But instead of investing in sustainable housing options and job retraining programs, which have proved to work and save taxpayer dollars, states continue to pass more laws that essentially make it impossible for people to escape the streets.

Such laws make it illegal to stand, sit, sleep, panhandle and partake in other basic functions in public. In turn, police officers dole out fines, which often start out small but quickly balloon into crushing debt for a person without means. Those who are arrested, even for minor offenses, end up with a criminal record that add another obstacle to employment and housing.

Since 2006, bans on sitting and lying down in public have increased by 52 percent in the 187 cities that the National Law Center on Poverty & Homelessness tracks. Bans on sleeping in public have increased by 31 percent over that same period. 

These laws are particularly cruel considering people sitting or sleeping outdoors often have nowhere else to go. The U.S. has seen a dramatic rise in tent cities over the past decade, in a response to a shortage of shelters, according to a new report from NLCPH.

Even those who manage to gain access to shelters often have to make difficult tradeoffs. Going to shelters often means being vulnerable to theft, and many shelters limit the items people can bring, which forces people who are homeless to discard belongings.

“You give up all this property for the guarantee … of a spot on the floor for one night,” Eugene Stroman, who lives in an encampment in Houston, told NLCHP. 

The Washington Post via Getty Images
Pedestrians pass an expanding tent city under an overpass in Washington, D.C., last week.

Shelters also typically shut their doors during the day, which means that people who are unhoused have to spend at least part of it on the streets ― standing, sitting or lying down ― and risk getting punished for it.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s latest estimates, there were 553,000 people living in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs and in unsheltered settings in the U.S. on a single night this year. That marked a slight increase from 2016. The number of people without shelter in high-cost areas increased “significantly,” according to the report. 

But NLCHP believes that those figures are underestimated because of flaws in HUD’s methodology.

For example, the numbers don’t account for people in jails and prisons during the time of the count, Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, told HuffPost.  

“These numbers can be large,” Foscarinis noted, “and include people incarcerated for violating laws criminalizing homelessness.” HUD also fails to account for people who don’t have sustainable housing but aren’t necessarily visible, including those who crash on couches or sleep in cars. 

Low-income people living in expensive areas are bearing the brunt of the criminalization. In California, homelessness increased by 26 percent this year from 2016, according to HUD. Los Angeles reported 6,696 arrests of homeless people on skid row from 2011 to 2016, for example.

“Rather than responding to homeless persons as affronts to the senses and to their neighborhoods, citizens and local authorities should see in their presence a tragic indictment of community and government policies,” Alston said during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday. 

In recent years, some cities have tested the concept of “housing first” and have seen promising results. The concept encourages giving people a place to live first, then addressing employment and medical issues, rather than the other way around, which is how may social service programs work.

Kevork Djansezian via Getty Images
In Los Angeles’ skid row area, a homeless man rolls down the street to a soup kitchen.

Moore Place, a nonprofit in Charlotte, North Carolina, houses 85 chronically homeless people. In its first year, tenants saved $1.8 million in health care costs alone, a 2014 report found. A hefty portion of that is from a major drop in emergency room visits. Housing comes to about $14,000 a year, per tenant. Tenants contribute 30 percent of their income toward rent. The rest comes from private and church donations, and local and federal government funding.

San Francisco saw similar results after the city provided supportive housing to nearly 2,000 homeless people. From 2011 to 2015, the city’s costs associated with dealing with homelessness declined by $31.5 million, or 56 percent, according to a report released last year by San Francisco’s Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office.

While numerous case studies have demonstrated that “housing first” works, Foscarinis says that misinformation and a wish for an immediate fix are preventing other cities from implementing such programs. 

Many people mistakenly believe that anyone who is homeless is a lost cause because mental health and addiction issues might be factors, said Foscarinis.

“These are stereotypes that aren’t true,” Foscarinis said. “They’re myths that have somehow taken hold and need to be dispelled. It’s not the case that people don’t want housing or don’t want help.”

Perhaps the harder challenge is convincing lawmakers that investing in long-term, supportive services is worthwhile.

“These laws are a quick fix to a growing problem,” Foscarinis said. “It’s easier to pass a law that makes homelessness into a crime than to do something, take action ― that requires more time.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the location of Moore Place. It is in Charlotte, North Carolina, not South Carolina.

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Why I Stayed At A Job Where I Was Sexually Harassed

With the #MeToo movement gaining in the world in which I am bringing up my teen and preteen daughters, they want answers I don’t always have.

Report it immediately, I tell them. Listen to your instincts. Fight back. But why should we have to develop these strategies at all? And why does reporting harassment often bring more injury than healing? These things are harder to explain.

What I haven’t told my daughters yet is that I stayed at my first “#MeToo” because I needed the job too much to quit, and I’d been taught that good girls are quiet and make nice.

I’d graduated college ― the first in my family to do so ― but I didn’t know what was next.

I’d grown up in a family pest control business, and my older brothers were already scuttling into crawl spaces in search of termites and baiting rodent stations as they fought for succession.

Dad offered office work suitable for a girl. “We’ll pay your car insurance for three months, until you get on your feet.”

It was a reasonable plan, but I was unreasonably in love. The year before, on a semester in Washington, D.C., I’d fallen for a boy who lived in Florida, a thousand miles from my Missouri home. The day after graduation, I packed my car to drive south.

My boyfriend’s family helped me get the interview. The small family business was much like my own: a front office with stained carpet and worn leather chairs. They made soups instead of insecticides. I already knew the rules: Do what needs done, cover for each other, the customer is always right. 

I sat at the front desk and directed incoming calls to the sales manager, or took messages for the factory foreman. I designed advertisements and package labels. I managed spreadsheets. I even took home their product recipes on the weekends, and gave feedback as an average grocery customer might. Joe and I were grateful for the pots of free soup, even as we choked down the least popular: lima bean.

We found an affordable apartment next to campus: “One bedroom. Light and airy. $400 per month.” I promised Joe I’d get Dursban for the roaches if I could have the sun-filled front room with built-in bookcases and a desk for my writing. We pretended our landlord was just quirky. I bought bright blue floral bed sheets and we made the bed with a white quilt handmade by my grandmother.

One month into the job, my boss invited me to his beach house while his wife was out of town. I couldn’t imagine he meant just me.

“Anytime,” he said. “Come by anytime. I’ll be there. The ads you did last week were very promising. We should talk brochures next for the trade show.”

It sounded friendly, fatherly even, in a way that made me homesick for late work nights that turned to family dinners, and weekends taking inventory in our company garage when Mom brought donuts.

“Joe loves the beach,” I said, but I never called, even though he’d tucked his phone number into my back pocket as I was leaving work on Friday ― a move my gut warned me about, but I dismissed.

The office manager, Barbara, was his daughter and we became friends. She taught me Excel and showed me how to calculate sales margins based on the price of spices. When she went north for a family wedding, I offered her my winter coat. She replaced the missing button, resewed the torn pocket, and brought me a tin of my favorite Earl Grey. “Maybe we could go out for tea some time,” she said, “you know, off the clock. I promise not to talk business.”

One afternoon at work, I mentioned that we were getting rid of a futon and my boss asked for the material. “You want our futon?” I asked. I couldn’t imagine what a 60-year-old man with his own company and two houses wanted with our discarded furniture.

“I use it for the canvas,” he said. “I strip the futon and stretch the fabric.” I’d been to his house for the holiday company party. Nude portraits he’d painted himself were on every wall. I assumed the model was his wife.

“I’ll pick it up,” he said, “what’s your address? I can even take your picture while I’m there. You’re such a pretty girl. Maybe I’ll paint you.”

I told Joe my boss would be stopping by for the futon, but I made sure I wasn’t home.

Our landlord got louder. She blamed us for more bugs and broke into our apartment to inspect our kitchen. She yelled at her kids and we could hear their crying through the walls. Joe applied for two part-time jobs at the mall in addition to his coursework so we could afford to break our lease.

Then my boss began leaving the door wide open when he peed. The bathroom was across from my desk, so several times a day I had to look away or pretend an errand in the factory to avoid his exposure. I told myself it was clumsy, the way families forget boundaries when they work together.

But if I returned to my desk too soon, he’d tease me about a tattoo he was sure I had. He leaned over me and pulled up my shirt sleeves, once my skirt, pretending he was looking and that I was simply hiding it. “We can’t have our front girl looking trashy,” he said. “Come on, let me see it.”

At first, I was too embarrassed to tell Joe. I cried too much after work and woke both of us with nightmares. “It’s just my boss’s way of joking,” I said, playing down the details. “But sometimes he takes it too far, you know?”

“You need to quit,” Joe said. “It isn’t worth this.”

“I can handle it,” I said, as if enduring harassment was a badge. “You can’t tell your parents. It’s not their fault.” We were young and neither of us really knew what to do.

Every morning as I dressed for work, I changed my outfits again and again and strategized how my clothes might protect me. Joe begged me not to go. “Just don’t show up. He’ll know why.”

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost

“Where would we live? What would we eat?” I asked, calculating rent, utilities, food. “We’d have to sell my car. Then how would I get to my new job? How would I even get a new job?” I didn’t want to go back to Missouri and admit that my plan ― the one my parents doubted ― had failed.

Joe took on more hours, staying at the food court until closing, when he could barter CDs with other mall employees for leftover cinnamon rolls: our breakfast.

My parents surprised us with a visit. By the time I came home from work that day, they’d decided our living situation wasn’t suitable and shouldn’t involve bugs. They packed our few boxes and moved us. They’d found a vacant attic apartment in a building owned by their bed and breakfast host. My parents paid a month of our rent because we’d lost our deposit.

“Thank goodness you have a job,” Mom said, “it’s a blessing.” I was grateful, especially because my boss wouldn’t know our new address.

On the morning I told Barbara that her father had gone too far in his tattoo game, that he’d reached down the front of my blouse and touched my breasts, she said, “Please leave immediately,” not looking up from her screen. I offered her two-weeks’ notice, as my parents had taught me good employees do.

“I mean now,” she said. “You need to leave now.”

It stung; I thought that she’d be appalled and that she might want to protect me, as an older sister might, but her panic felt like blame. I manually punched my time card at the machine on my way out. Payroll was due the next day and I knew Barbara would need the numbers.

“What are you going to do now?” Mom asked, when I told her I’d quit. “I hope you have another plan.” I was too ashamed to tell her what had happened and too shocked to admit I didn’t.

It’s taken me 20 years and many more jobs to find my voice and write my truth. Speaking up, as the characters in my novel and stories can attest, isn’t always welcome and the consequences are often punitive. When my daughters read my #MeToo story, I’ll tell them I hope they never have one, but if they’re faced with fight or flight, run as fast as you can, even though neither might keep them safe.

Next to protecting others from sexual harassment, the most powerful thing I can do is to listen, empathize and put it on the page. My daughters see that the #MeToo rebellion is being led by the silence-breakers, but it’s an opportunity for the silence keepers ― men and women who protect perpetrators ― to do more and allow less. Our collective courage must be amplified so that our daughters and sons don’t have the same stories and the burden of telling them.

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Slave traders home, slum, des res: the stories of one house raise restless ghosts

Studying the past of one terraced Liverpool home for BBC2s A House Through Time has brought Britains real history to life

All old houses are haunted. Not by ghosts but by the lives of others. Because to live in an old house is to share your most intimate space with the dead. Houses live longer than people and the harsh fact is that we are just passing through. Our homes, the most acutely personal places in our lives, come to us secondhand, and invisibly link us to people we have never met, people to whom we have no association other than a single shared connection to place.

I have been thinking about this recently because I spent last autumn engaged in a unique television experiment. We set out to discover if it was possible to take a single house and, through old newspapers, documents in the archives and whatever other clues or scraps of evidence we could find, tell the story of all the people who live there; from the day the first resident turned the key in the front door, all the way up to today.

The house selected is a Georgian-style terrace in what is now called the Georgian Quarter of Liverpool. I write Georgian-style because it was built in 1840, the third year of Victorias reign. Although large, elegant and, in the early 21st century, extremely desirable, it is not unique. There are hundreds like it in Liverpool and many thousands more across the country.

But, after months of investigations, what the researchers who began this project discovered was that it was possible, in the case of 62 Falkner Street, to form a chain of human stories stretching from then to now, from the first resident to the current owner. The lives of all of the people whose stories make up the links in that chain run through the house, because, for each of them, walking through that front door meant that they were home.

Across the four episodes of A House Through Time we uncover their stories, and that of the city in which they lived. More than any other British city, Liverpools ride on the rollercoaster of national fortune has been a bumpy one. No other city has been more buffeted by the cycles of boom and bust and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the place that once proudly saw itself as the second city of empire suffered more than any other when that empire suddenly evaporated.

The extremes of Liverpools story are reflected in the lives of the occupants of 62 Falkner Street. They span the social spectrum, from the well-to-do Victorian gentlemen to the families who huddled together in single rooms during the decades after the second world war when the house degenerated into a tenement slum.

Part of the aim of A House is to answer the question that everyone who has ever lived in an old house has at some time or another asked themselves. The thought usually comes late at night or early in the morning, when our eye is caught by what estate agents like to call an original feature, or a patch of peeling wallpaper or flaking paint reveals what lies beneath. Those triggers remind us that the buildings we confidently call ours once belonged to others; many and multiple others.

History is about people. Historians who dont get that tend to be the ones who struggle to get anyone to care about their work. Ultimately you have to care about the people you encounter through your research, if you want anyone else to. But it is all too easy to start caring about figures from the past if you find yourself reading the documents that record their lives while sitting in what was once their kitchen. Or having just walked up a staircase, holding the wooden banister that their hands once gripped. To read their letters from within the house in which they were written, or to hold in your hands their death certificates, while standing on their front steps or in their bedroom, is a strangely intimate experience. A close encounter between historian and subject.

Reading the grim details of a Victorian domestic violence case, while walking through the rooms in which those beatings and beratings took place, felt almost voyeuristic. Too close and a little too real for comfort. To talk about the past residents of the house, to make judgments about them, to sum up their achievements or discuss their failings, from the upstairs sitting room in which they showed off their wealth and entertained their guests one and a half centuries earlier, felt a little presumptuous and almost transgressive. Historians love to talk about how we can get closer to the people of the past, but when it happens of its own volition the effects can be unnerving.

There is no official register of historians. No list from which practitioners of the art can be struck off for professional misconduct. Ive recently found myself grateful for this omission because of all the historical projects I have worked on, none has made it so easy to cross lines, or so tempting to overstep marks. I have found myself marvelling at my capacity to feel genuine dislike for men who died over a century before my birth. To pass judgment on anyone living or dead on the basis of a handful of letters and ledger entries is palpably unfair and arguably ridiculous, and yet, in this case, almost impossible to resist.

Gaynor Evans has lived at 62 Falkner Street with her two children for nearly eight years. The house, built in 1840, has been home to a cross-section of British society, warts and all. Photograph: Emerald Coulthard/BBC/Twenty Twenty productions Ltd/Emerald Coulthard

The enmity I feel towards the trader in slave-produced cotton who lived in the house, and whose personal life was lived with as much callous disregard for others as his professional life, is real and involuntary. This is a man I know only from a cache of damning official documents and incredibly a surviving portrait in oil paint. Only a kangaroo court in a one-party state would pass judgment on the basis of such flimsy evidence. Yet over the months my disdain for this ghost from the archives has grown, despite my attempts at professional detachment.

I have been equally surprised at my capacity to feel sympathy and empathy for the sufferings of people whom I only know from patchy documentary evidence. When I discovered that one late-Victorian resident of the house had died of heart failure, caused by years living under the shadow of a thyroid condition known as Graves disease, I was astonished by how emotional rather than objective and professional was my response to her story.

By way of an excuse, and by chance, I spent four years living with the same disease. A few days after reading the 1880s death certificate of Esther Lublin I found myself alone in my office, on the top floor of my house, reading old diaries, remembering how painful it had been. I had feared that Graves disease would waste years of my life, before modern treatments could bring it under control. For her there were few options. She must have known that, sooner or later, the condition would kill her. Two people with the same disease. I lived, she died because we were born in different centuries.

Nothing about this can be said to be truly revelatory. We all know that until the 20th century billions died of diseases for which cures now exist. But knowing the historical facts and the bleak statistics is very different to reading of Esther Lublins tragic life, our shared diagnosis, her name and age younger than I am now scrawled on to her death certificate by a busy doctor.

History, to me, is all about those shiver-down-the-spine moments. When you hold in your hands an object created hundreds of years before your birth and feel the vague presence of the hands that held it in the past. Or when your boot turns over a piece of shrapnel on a first world war battlefield and you have to stop yourself speculating about what that muddy chunk of steel might have done to flesh and bone. Many historians I admire admit to such moments, although those admissions are to be made only in private and to other similarly afflicted historians or students. But they are what draws us to the archives and set us off on early morning trips across overgrown cemeteries. Historians have to be nosy, they have to want to know what others experienced. Part of that is achieved by being open to at least trying to feel something of what they felt.

If walls could talk it would be our homes not our grand public buildings that would have all the best stories. The real stuff of human life love, childhood, vulnerability, intimacy, betrayal, acceptance and pain is revealed behind closed doors and drawn curtains. It is at home, with our partners, parents and children, that we are genuinely ourselves. The version of history I was taught at school was largely one of great men and great deeds, a history that took place in palaces and battlefields. It was silent about our shared, inner and domestic histories, the stories of the rest of us, the ungreat, who live quietly and privately in anonymous terraced houses.

A House Through Time begins on BBC2 on 4 January

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The Day I Got a Suicide Text from My Husband

Friday, April 3, 2009 started out as a normal day. I worked as a volunteer coordinator at a Southern hospice chain and my team had a large bingo event at a local retirement center during lunch. We spent the morning prepping door prizes. I bought lots of party food. Most of my day was spent trying to make an afternoon enjoyable for people who didn’t have much longer on this earth.

There were multiple sleepovers at my house, planned by my three oldest kids, on that particular Friday night. The boys were going to video game themselves into a coma and the girls’ friends were going to try and stir my girls up, displaying as much teen angst as they thought they could get away with. As I was leaving work for home, I started getting phone calls asking for food things we didn’t already have. I rushed to make a grocery run.

I was unloading groceries when “Stu,” a colleague from another local church, stopped by our house. I tried to invite him inside but he refused. Stu asked me to deliver my husband, who was working in our home office, to him outside. It was very odd for someone from the South, living in the South, not to come inside when invited. Southerners aren’t typically rude when they show up at your front door. My husband went outside and because something clearly was wrong, I ran to the garage to eavesdrop. I listened while Stu demeaned, emasculated, and fired my husband from his job (which is a long story for another time). When my husband walked back inside the door, his eyes looked hollow and his face was white. He went back in the office and shut the door. My gut told me to send my youngest daughter across the street to play with her friend. The teenagers upstairs were laughing furiously. I checked in on the boys who were oblivious to anything except the screen in front of their faces. I was relieved none of them were aware how unsettling the day had turned. About a half an hour later, my husband walked out of our bedroom heading for the front door, stopping to say, “I’m going for a drive to clear my head.” Our eyes locked for a split second. The words, “Are you coming back?” flooded out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying. He nodded his head and the door closed behind Him. Instinct told me to follow. Keys in hand, I yelled to my girls they needed to watch the boys while I ran an errand. I called my neighbor to make sure my youngest daughter was in fact at her house. I couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds behind him leaving our subdivision.

I drove around for 20 minutes trying to locate him.

He vanished.

I gave up.

I drove home.

Walking up to my front door, I noticed he had emptied the back end of his truck on our front porch and it was a jumble of plastic tubs and electrical cords neatly tied and stacked. Odd. Not normal. When did He do that? I went straight to the kitchen to check on the BBQ in my crock pot and to finish dinner. There was such an overwhelming feeling of apprehension, I didn’t trust myself to stay composed. I went to my bedroom to wait for him to come back.

A few years earlier, we were driving from state to state after having been around his family for a few days. One of his teenage nephews had been tragically killed outside the United States a few years earlier and his sister was so broken. That boy’s death was one of the worst things I had ever heard of happening and none of us thought she would ever recover. On the way home, with our three babies in the back of our conversion van, he turned the radio up and turned to me saying, “If you ever think I’m not okay, you need to tell me so I can go to the doctor. “I glanced up, confused. He clarified, “If you think I’m starting to lose it mentally, you need to make sure I get medical help.” We were both silent for a moment. He said, ”I mean with (his sister) struggling so much, and my dad’s family history, you need to tell me if I ever need to see a doctor. I don’t want to be like that.” I nodded. I turned my head toward the window watching the trees turn into swampy bayous and contemplated how I would ever be able to make that work.

Exactly an hour and forty minutes later, I got the text. I’d never received a suicide text before. I had to read it multiple times before I understood all the words. In the message, he apologized for being a bad leader and then told me how to help the church survive. There wasn’t anything about how much he loved me, how to tell the kids he wasn’t going to be around any longer or how I was going to survive it all. There was no apology to me for bailing on life. Even with the very last communication he intended to have while still on this earth, the church seemed to be the only thing that mattered to him.

I felt disconnected. Confused. Lead legged. I have no idea how long I stood in my bedroom looking at that screen on my phone. Forever? Maybe a few seconds? I was overwhelmed with so many thoughts but mostly they revolved around the kids. How do you tell your kids their dad is committing suicide this very moment? Maybe I’d tell them he died in a car accident? Maybe I’d just tell them He ran off and wasn’t coming back? Anything would be better than knowing your dad couldn’t think enough of you to stick around. Right?

I knew he had been on the edge of something for awhile.

I had warned people.

I had asked for help.

I wasn’t strong enough to fix him alone.

Three weeks earlier, I came home from work mid-afternoon and found his truck in the driveway. It was too early for him to be home and I assumed he was with one of the other men who worked with him and didn’t think much about it. I fixed dinner and ate with the kids, started laundry, cleaned up from dinner, folded laundry. Just a normal at home evening. The kids and I watched a Disney channel movie but still no contact from him and his cell was going unanswered. No text messages were returned. Around 9 pm that night, I was trying to start the process for helping all four kids wind down their day. They started taking individual showers and I walked in my room to put clothes away. I opened the door to my closet intending to hang clothes on the rod when I noticed the floor was all disheveled. Shoes were piled up in weird ways. Blankets were wadded up and piled high underneath. I was actually quite angry when I saw a pair of my leather flats tossed under some dirty boots. Grabbing those red shoes, the pile moved and I could see his hand. He was underneath it all. Sleeping. Or catatonic. Or maybe he was delirious. I wasn’t sure. I started throwing things off him. He had created a nest for himself. It was scary. It was disturbing. I tried to coax him out. He resisted. I tried to pull him out by his legs but he kept snatching them back. His speech was mostly agitated babbling. I asked questions that went unanswered. He started covering himself back up, hiding away in the safety of his self-created cocoon. I knew he needed help. I knew I needed help. I knew I needed privacy to call his parents so I walked outside. I wanted them to come down and help me. They both got on the phone, I explained the situation, and instead of jumping in the car to try and help their son, the only answer I received was, “Well, we will pray for you both to figure it out.”

Wait. What?

They want to pray for us?! I told them a second time that he had covered himself up with shoes and was incoherently talking. Again, they chose not to come help. I was blown away. What parents hear their adult child is sleeping under footwear and they don’t break their necks to eyeball him asap? I called my parents. I called them because I needed sanity. I called them because I needed someone to know how crazy my home life was, who would still want to be around us. I called them because I needed emotional support and I knew they would give it to me. They lived locally and immediately offered to come over. I wouldn’t let them. He didn’t like them on a good day and I had no idea what kind of condition he would be in when he finally crawled out of the closet. I got the kids in bed and waited. I looked at the clock for the last time at 3:30 am and eventually fell asleep. When I woke up, he was passed out in bed. I pushed hard the next day to try and get him to see a doctor. He refused to consider it. His parents never checked back in with me to see how he was and I was alone trying to figure it out.

I calmly walked out of my house and tried to call his phone. He obviously had it turned off because the call went straight to voice mail. I sent a text pleading with him to call me. I felt like every fiber of my body was screaming like a mad woman. I climbed in my SUV for privacy and called “Abner”. Abner, second in the chain of command at the church he pastored, had a huge impact on why he was fired in the first place (… long tale for another day). I remember screaming loudly in the phone, “I TOLD YOU!!! I TOLD YOU HE COULDN’T HANDLE LIFE! I. FREAKING. TOLD. YOU.” Abner quietly informed me he got the same text too. (Of course Abner got the same message. A group suicide text. Classic him.) Abner informed me he called the police and was driving to my house right now. Abner also took it upon himself to call Stu and Stu was also on his way back to to my house. I said, “Why would I want either of you at my house?!” I ended the call. I hung up on Abner because I couldn’t stomach hearing his apologies. I hung up on him for not listening to me months ago when I begged him to help me figure it all out.

I tried to call and text his cell phone again. Nothing.

The police showed up. It was big news in our state for a pastor to go missing. Four police cars showed up on my quiet cul de sac. Lights on. Sirens blaring. I left my yard to keep the cars away from my house. I begged God to keep all my kids inside, occupied and safe. The police met me in a neighbor’s yard. I showed them the text.

They asked me where he was. “I have no clue. Why are there so many police cars here??”

They asked me if he had a gun. “He has a shotgun but it’s in the house. Can you please move some of these cars? I have kids!”

They asked me if I had any further contact with him. “He won’t answer his phone. It’s turned off. Will you please turn off all the flashing lights?”

They asked me if he had any motivation. “You are asking me if I know why he wants to end his life? I don’t understand why anyone would do that?! Please, please move these cars.”

Abner showed up. They asked him questions. He answered. They decided to file a missing person’s report. All the police cars drove off together.

I realized I needed to find a couple of parents who would switch the sleepovers to their houses. One girl mom agreed to come get all the girls. One boy mom agreed to come get her sons and mine. I called my momma and told her everything happening. She and my dad planned on taking my youngest home with them. I called his parents and told them what was happening. They agreed it was finally appropriate to drive down and would be at my house sometime that night. Abner was still hanging around and I remember spewing bitter words to him about Stu, who had just arrived. “You tell him to leave. He’s not welcome here. You called him…you deal with him. I will call the police back and cause a huge scene if you don’t make him go…” I watched Abner walk over to Stu’s car and they both stood in the street in front of my house until Stu left.

Abner asked me if I wanted him to stay. “No. No, I don’t. Leave.”

The girl mom showed up, hugged me and told me not to worry about the girls. They could stay as long as I needed. My girls walked out of the house refusing to break eye contact with me. They were confused. One of them said, “Why do we have to leave?” I replied, “So you can have fun.” I couldn’t tell them our new reality but hugged each one tight. They knew something big had happened. I’m sure I looked crazy but they willingly climbed in the car and left. The boys’ mom showed up and hugged me hard. The boys were oblivious and just anticipated a night of fun. My son was so excited. Big smiles as they drove away. (To this day, I am not sure I have ever thanked those two women. I was only able to handle that particular night because of their friendship. They know who they are and if they happen to be reading this, from the bottom of my heart, I love you. I would do absolutely anything in the world for either of you.)

As all the kids were leaving, my parents showed up and my youngest walked back home. The four of us walked slowly inside. Mom immediately started cleaning out of a lack of knowing what else to do and dad tried to distract my little girl. People who worked with him started showing up in couples. It was awkward. What do you say to someone whose husband probably already killed himself? One of the women, a dear soul and also one of his staff pastors, walked in with sheer panic on her face. She was desperately trying to figure out the location of his phone, hoping that she would be the one to find him. I kept saying, “He’s gone, (her name). It’s been too long. We are just waiting on him to be found. He’s gone.” One of my dearest friends, a man that he and I had been calling our younger brother for over 10 years, showed up and stayed with me until after midnight. His parents showed up around 10 pm. They talked about how much they were caught unaware of his instability. (Eye roll.) His dad kept saying, “I just can’t believe this is happening.” All those people, like me, kept sending text message after text message and also left multiple voice mails to a phone that was turned off.

No response was ever received from Him and people eventually went home. I’m sure they were relieved to get back in their cars and away from my nightmare. Around 2 am, I gave up my vigil of waiting for a phone call and went to bed. My sweet 8-year-old daughter, who refused to go to her grandparents’ house, was in my room, sleeping so innocently but sticking to me like glue. I remember laying there watching her. I remember when the weeping started. I remember when it hit me there was a body somewhere waiting to be found. It hit me that I was a widow at 41. It hit me that I was a single mom of four. I got out of bed and ran to my shower. Standing there, with the water turned as hot as it would get, I sobbed and wailed straight to God. I did not understand the why of so many many things about my marriage, about feeling lost in my life, about how I was going to be able to support my babies and about how long the uncertainty would continue. I was bombarded by thoughts of people in our hospice care I saw earlier that day. People who had every reason to want to die, trying to live as long as possible and the irony of someone who wanted to take his gift of life and crush it too soon. I cried until the water ran cold and my tears ran dry.

He ended up being found in a field in an adjoining state the next afternoon, confused and upset. He was taken by ambulance to the closest emergency room and as unstable as he was when I arrived, they turned him over to me. As hard as that night was, the subsequent years were worse. There were so many horrific moments, post suicide attempt, I contemplated how much easier it might have been if his life had ended. Therapy, counselors, diagnoses and medications became the center of our lives for awhile. He periodically decided to stop taking medicine and the instability eventually ended our marriage.

Every single one of us lives around others who are wading through completely broken lives. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, feel fortunate. Someone you know is hanging by a thread. It’s horrible. It’s painful. It is sucking the life out of them.

I realize it’s not “To Write Love on Her Arms” day. It’s not Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. There is nothing that links this specific day to suicide and that’s why I wrote this article. People don’t lose themselves a few times a year. It happens in the everyday life of people you wouldn’t anticipate. Maybe a huge life altering thing happens and someone’s decision to end their life can be traced back to a moment that made their brain melt. Sometimes, however, it’s a quiet contemplative buildup. We need to be thinking about those around us who might be struggling every day. Look at your friends in the eyes and take stock. You might be the only one who sees something is off. You might be the only reason they take a step back to evaluate.

If someone comes to you and says, “Help me/us something is wrong.” You help them. Don’t you dare try and pacify them with the Christian cop-out, “I’m praying”. Definitely pray for them but get off your God-given bootie and stop hiding behind your self-satisfying spirituality and act. You physically get in front of their face and you pick them up and stay with them until they can manage life. If someone reaches out to you they trust you. They see you as a strong capable warrior who might slay the dragon they are facing. Get a little dirty. You don’t want to know someone was crying out to you and you couldn’t be bothered. The night his parents told me they were praying for us, I shouldn’t have taken their decision so easily. I should have pushed harder. I should have been more persuasive. I should have kept calling them back until they agreed to come. I needed other people standing outside that closet door that night telling him to come out and get help. I wonder if His mom ever thought about my call after the attempt. Did she have any regret? Did she ever think she could have been His voice of reason? If only we could have pulled together and stopped the clock for Him when it was just shoes in a closet…

If someone close to you is diagnosed with a mental issue and they are given medicine to help combat their symptoms, don’t allow them to say “I feel better. I don’t need those pills anymore.” Encourage them take them anyway as prescribed. If they are insistent they don’t need them, go with them to get a professional opinion. In a story for another time, my ex-husband took himself off his meds a few months later because he thought he didn’t need them any longer. Even though he never attempted suicide again to my knowledge, He crashed a second time. Completely unnecessary. I should have been a better watchdog for him.

If you find yourself thinking harmful thoughts, thoughts of destroying your life on earth, (or you think someone else is having odd thoughts), get to a licensed therapist or a counselor. Ask your pastor or trusted friends for recommendations and then use those to start your search. Not everyone is going to be equipped to manage your issue and so if the fit feels off, keep looking. Find a professional you feel comfortable with who will strive to help you walk down whatever path you find yourself. Keep your appointments. Keep going to therapy until you have confirmation you are well. If you need someone to go with you or to keep you accountable, bring a friend. Therapy waiting rooms are easier with a little moral support.

Finally, listen to your gut. If you notice something seems off with a friend or loved one, be available. Try to get them to talk to you. Sit with them even if they don’t have anything to say. No one’s life is exempt from hard moments. Support each other. Don’t assume people are living perfect lives because they aren’t. Everyone struggles. Some folks just can’t handle all life hands them.

Be their friend when it’s not easy.

Be their reason to want to stay.

Be their salvation in the darkness.

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How augmented and virtual reality will reshape the food industry

Augmented reality content can be found on everything from wine bottles to IKEA’s catalog and virtual reality experiences are much more detailed, with rich layers of interactivity from hand controllers to gaze triggers, and a VR film has even won an Oscar. With Apple and Google both debuting augmented reality platforms (ARKit and ARCore, respectively), Facebook heavily invested in its Oculus headset and Amazon unveiling augmented shopping features, AR and VR is primed to change many parts of our everyday lives.

Within the food industry, AR and VR have also begun to make headway. Although development costs are still high, more and more F&B businesses are beginning to realize the potential of AR/VR and see it as a worthwhile investment. Three main areas – human resources, customer experiences, food products – have seen the most concentration of AR/VR development so far and will likely continue to push the envelope on what use cases AR & VR have within the industry.

Streamlining Employee Training

One of the most tangible payoffs of AR/VR technology is using it for consistent and thorough employee training. The current process of developing training materials can not only be costly, but also vary in quality by team, store, or region. Many times, human resources face the conundrum of choosing between low-touch, high-efficiency (i.e. mass group workshops with the potential downside of low retention and lackluster individualized learning) or high-touch, high-cost (i.e. small group sessions with in-store, real-time training).

Enter virtual reality. Virtual reality can create a detailed visual world for employees to safely interact with their to-be everyday job surroundings and mentally and physically learn the tasks required. These VR lessons range from managing Walmart’s holiday rush to cooking noodles at Honeygrow to perfecting the espresso pull.

On the flip side, augmented reality allows for side-by-side training and execution by layering additional information on top of an employee’s direct view. For instance, a research study found AR to be effective in helping subjects visually estimate serving sizes. Maintenance and repair, a necessary evil of the food world, has benefited from equipping technicians with AR headsets to disassemble and reassemble products without being on-site.

These new possibilities for learning and development for businesses small and large not only increase the effectiveness of training material, but also allow companies to employ a wider breadth of workers with different needs and learning styles. As headsets begin to decrease in price and more developers pour into AR/VR, it’s likely more and more companies will begin to trial and A/B test these new learning platforms. Perhaps one day, we’ll even view former mass conference workshops with the same nostalgia as the milk delivery man.

Creating Wonder in the Customer Experience

“Experiential marketing” has fundamentally changed the purpose and construction of food and hospitality driven events. Millennials especially view experiences as a means of social capital, and sharing their attendance and participation at an en vogue experience is an important piece of their curated social identities. The success of events such as the Museum of Ice Cream and 29 Rooms have convinced many brands – Grey Goose, Red Bull, Zappos, to name a few – to begin reallocating advertising dollars to experiences and sponsorships.

Augmented and virtual reality play naturally into this shift. Both are vehicles to activate all senses and immerse the consumer within a specific branded experience. VR experiences in particular have seen growing traction for use during food & beverage events. A great example is the “Boursin Sensorium”, a CGI-based VR experience that paired motion (through moving chairs), scents and tasting samples of Boursin cheese. Patron tequila used 360 video to showcase the behind-the-scenes making process at its event booths and Innis & Gunn beer used coordinated VR footage to complement the taste of its beer. Restaurants and bars are also taking notice: Baptise & Bottle in Chicago unveiled a VR tour to pair with physical scotch; SubliMotion in Ibiza lets diners go skydiving in Samsung Gear VR; Space Needle has launched a sky-high VR bar.

Augmenting the physical world with interesting and shareable content has been the focus of AR in experiential marketing. Remy Martin and Macallan both used holographic visuals for their Microsoft Hololens-specific “Rooted in Excellence” experience and The Macallan gallery experience, respectively. Given Hololens’ hefty price tag ($3,000 for the base Development Edition), most other brands have stuck with mobile AR – such as Coca Cola’s Christmas magic campaign that gave users the ability to see virtual Santa and hidden scenes across branded bus stops in NYC or Patron’s AR-enabled tasting experience with a mini bartender. Brick-and-mortar locations are also toying with fun AR elements, with London’s City Social debuting cocktail coasters outfitted with augmented visuals and India-based chain Beer Café using AR to educate drinkers on the origins, ABV, category and taste of each beer available.

If the last few years are any indication, even more futuristic applications of AR/VR are soon to come. Visual enjoyment is a major part of any eating and drinking experience and brands have come to embrace virtual overlays – whether immersed in VR or augmented in AR – as a way to educate, inspire, and prompt consumers to action. In one extreme scenario, like the world Project Nourish paints, we could all be eating and sensing two entirely different things!


Chef pouring sauce on dish in the kitchen

Adding Interactivity to Products

Since Bill Gates’ famous 1996 essay, the adage “content is king” has been echoed and taken to heart by companies large and small. In recent years, the rise of platforms such and Instagram and Pinterest – and the social influencers and blogger celebrities it has created – have shown even more clearly that engaging with consumers digitally result in real action. Products and retail locations may still be static, but its content must extend beyond physical space to attract the attention of potential and returning buyers.

Augmented reality can bridge this gap between consumer, product and product content. The ability to overlay additional information, visual stimulus and interaction on top of specific items give product companies the chance to combine the digital world with the physical one in a targeted and seamless way. Food and beverage companies have begun to utilize AR in innovative new ways: Treasury Wine Estates’ line 19 Crimes brings each label’s pictured convict to life in AR; Nestle used a character from the movie “Rio” for an AR game available on 26 million boxes; Walmart and Kraft teamed up for an AR-backed summer sweepstakes to sell more Kraft products. One recent, poignant example was when chef & restauranteur David Chang released his limited-edition Momofuku x Nike sneaker via Nike’s AR app SNKRS, which would only allow fans buying access to the shoe when physically located at Fuku’s East Village location.

The potent ability of AR to enrich the knowledge and visuals of physical content goes beyond marketing purposes. Companies can use the technology to educate consumers on nutritional information and product composition or even make healthy but bland-looking foods appear more appealing. AR also allows physical content, like cookbooks, to merge with digital content for a simultaneous cross-medium experience as HoloYummy showcased with 3D dish renderings of Chef Dominique Crenn’s book Metamorphosis of Taste.

As consumers become more comfortable with AR, its presence will become a more continuous expectation. Instagram’s rise to prominence resulted in an entire industry of specialists across the world, allowing for mass adoption for even small businesses. AR is at the base of the same mountain; big brands are already repeatedly using AR outreach, but it still needs momentum from creators, developers and marketers to make it accessible for anyone and everyone.

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On Christmas, here are three essential things parents must do with their kids

The most wonderful time of the year is not without its headaches and stressors. Each year we rush to buy gifts, decorate our homes, attend parties, wrap presents, whip up desserts, and navigate family meals and gatherings. All of this with as much cheer and as little pain as possible.

To top it off, there are endless television commercials, website articles, and mall advertisements telling us what to buy, how to decorate, and which foods to fix if we want to have a happy Christmas. It all seems so complicated.

But there are some very simple ways for families to experience the warmth and wonder of Christmas without overextending our budgets, stressing ourselves and missing out on the peace and beauty that should characterize this season. Here are three things every parent can do to make the Christmas experience what it ought to be:

Tell the Christmas story in a way that warms your children’s hearts.

Nothing is more important than gathering the family to tell the story of a God who loves us so much that he came to live among us (Luke 2). Nothing is more heartwarming than knowing that the babe in a manger grew up to be the Savior of the world (John 3). Nothing is more crucial than understanding that this Savior suffered for us on a cross, rose from the dead and will return one day to set the world aright.

When we tell this story, we teach our children the true meaning of Christmas. We teach them that they can and should trust Christ. As Sally Lloyd-Jones puts it, Jesus’ love is a “never stopping, never giving up, unbreakable, always and forever love.”

When God chose to be born as a child, he was also choosing a way of life in which one day he would suffer and die on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. If he is willing to suffer on our behalf, we and our children can trust him with our circumstances and concerns.

So, let’s teach our children about Jesus, encouraging them to tap into the deep reservoirs of his love so that his love will flow through us toward others. God’s gift to us is that he was willing to be born in a stable, wrapped in rough cloth, and cradled in a feeding trough. There was no depth too low, no distance too far, no sacrifice too great.

With Jesus as our example, we can learn to value others instead of self, to give rather than take, to sacrifice rather than hoard.

Tell the Santa story in a way that connects to the Christmas story.

Even though the Santa myth is not true in the same way the Christmas story is true, we can tell the Santa story in a way that helps our children understand certain realities about God and ourselves.

By allowing our children to imagine a Santa who travels from the North Pole to offer presents even to children who do not deserve them, we can draw an analogy with God who came from heaven to Earth to give us what we could never earn or deserve.

By telling the myth of St. Nicholas, who loved the children and gave them presents without expecting anything in return, we help their little hearts understand that God gives himself to us even though we really have nothing to give in return.

So, instead of replacing the Santa story with cold hard facts (Santa does not exist!) or letting corporations hijack Christmas by turning it into a retail event, we can use it as a warm and wonderful resource to teach our children truths about God and ourselves.

Start some simple traditions that enact the meaning of Christmas.

As we center our family’s Christmas on the Jesus story and illustrate it with the Santa story, we can take advantage of an invaluable opportunity to build family traditions and create memories that flow from the meaning of Christmas.

Think about it. It would be odd, wouldn’t it, if our Christmas stories focused on loving and sacrificing while our Christmas habits focused exclusively on hoarding and consuming?

So, let’s focus on loving others and serving them. Buy a gift for a needy child in another country. Invite a lonely neighbor into your home for a Christmas celebration. Sing carols at a homeless shelter or senior citizen’s home. Participate in an Angel Tree ministry for children whose parents are incarcerated. Make Christmas gifts or ornaments for an elderly person whose children live far away.

The specific activities don’t matter as much as the big point: we want to create traditions that focus on Christ and allow us to be conduits of his love for others.

The truth is that the holidays rarely live up to the expectations we set in our minds and imaginations. There will be mess ups in the kitchen, arguments with family members, last minute changes. But that’s OK.

Instead of aspiring to the type of “perfect” Christmas that puts its hopes in elaborate decorations, plentiful gifts, or perfect family conditions, let’s make it simpler and better. Let’s focus on celebrating the babe from Bethlehem, enjoying the Santa story, and starting family traditions that embody the meaning of Christmas. 

Bruce Ashford is the Provost and Dean of Faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as Professor of Theology and Culture. Follow him on Twitter @BruceAshford.

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The Texas boys were beaten, abused, raped. Now all they want is an apology

The youngsters at Cal Farleys Ranch in Texas were subjected to years of abuse. But the institutions feeble response has been a slap in the face to survivors

Steve Smith was just eight when his mother left him in the care of Cal Farleys Boys Ranch, a Texas institution for at-risk children. From the moment he got there in 1959, the place didnt sit right with him.

I cried probably more than any boy that I know that came out [of] there, just homesick, and I didnt take it very well.

Almost immediately upon his arrival, Steve was subject to the first of many beatings. For the following decade, he endured regular and arbitrary violence at the hands of staff. He also had to watch helplessly as his younger brother, Rick, was beaten by adults until he couldnt stand.

Along with the physical punishment, Steves pets were killed, and his friends were worked to the bone in atrocious conditions. Some boys, including Rick Smith, were also sexually abused while under the care of the ranch.

The ordeal has permanently damaged their lives.

At the kitchen table in his immaculate home in the Amarillo suburbs, Steve, now almost 70, goes through all of the details of what happened to him without showing much pain. Hes a tough man he served in the Vietnam war and was wounded in the line of duty and his piercing blue eyes only sprout tears twice.

The first time is when he describes how a succession of dogs he owned, all called Boots, were killed by staff members. The other is when he talks about what happened to his younger brother Rick, and how powerless he was to help him.

Rick, Steve, and six other men the Guardian spoke to named staff members responsible for the abuse, which lasted from the 1950s until at least the early 1990s. They say the abuse went beyond them, and was systemic, affecting hundreds of others who went through the ranch.

They say Lamont Waldrip, a long-serving superintendent, was one of the worst abusers. Last month, at the behest of a wealthy donor who wrote a cheque for $1m to build a new dormitory, the ranch named the new building Waldrip House.

The ranchs current CEO, Dan Adams, acknowledged the weight of the accusations against Waldrip, who died in 2013, but he said that other boys had had very different experiences with him and admired and liked him.

For the survivors who want to make the ranch accountable for the abuse and have been encouraged to break their silence after Steve Smith brought them together in a Facebook group this is an unbearable affront.

A very wealthy ranch and a revolt

A postcard of Cal Farleys ranch that Steve Smith has kept. Photograph: Jason Wilson for the Guardian

Cal Farleys Boys Ranch is accustomed to the generosity of well-heeled donors, but is less used to having its reputation called into question. Almost since its foundation, the Christ-centered but nondenominational institution has been a byword in Texas for juvenile reform and a can-do spirit. There is no suggestion that there is abuse at Cal Farleys now indeed, there is broad acknowledgment, even from advocates for the men, that current practices at the ranch are in line with the best in the sector.

With 100 direct employees and 526 across its subsidiaries, it is no small fish, and notable individuals from the ranching and oil industries queue up to serve on its board. Cheques like the one that funded Waldrip House are not unusual: the most recent publicly available tax filings show an annual income for the ranch just north of $56.8m. About $43m of that came from contributions and grants. The ranch also owns parcels of land as far away as California.

The ranchs founder, Cal Farley, was a professional wrestler and Amarillo businessman. He had been a prominent college athlete before he moved to Amarillo, where he gained prominence as the owner of a tire shop. Throughout the 1930s, he ran a sporting club, The Mavericks, which tried to channel the energies of troubled and abandoned boys in the panhandle. Eventually he was gifted land in Tascosa, a ghost town, by a local rancher, so he could set up a more permanent home for the boys.

But for all their organizational success, Farley and his staff had no special training to deal with wayward children. In 1950, the superintendent was overpowered and thrown in the river by a group of boys who staged an effective revolt, and for a brief moment they were running things to suit themselves.

In an otherwise laudatory biography of Farley published in 1959, A Shirttail to Hang To, this moment is presented as a major crisis for the ranch. The situation demanded immediate attention. One revolution or mass runaway would mean that Cal would never again win public support for his project.

Faced with a risk to the ranchs prestige, Farley replaced his superintendent with a professional wrestler named Dorrance Funk, who turned to violence as a solution to the discipline problem at the ranch.

In A Shirttail to Hang To, author Beth Day writes that in the wake of the revolt, Funks immediate problem was to command their respect and obedience. He would invite the big boys to work out with him on the wrestling mat Funk illustrated wrestling holds and techniques, and also managed to get over to each boy the suggestion of potential power After a round apiece with Funk on the mat, not one of the leaders of the embryo revolution suggested they might throw *him* in the river.

By the time Rick and Steve Smith arrived in 1959, there were about 250 residents, and Texas courts had taken to diverting young offenders out of the juvenile justice system and into the ranch. Those boys were thrown together in dorms with others who had never committed a crime, but whose parents could not take care of them.

They made me run in front of horses

Ed Cargill lives in New Mexico now, after a stint in the US army and some years of riding motorcycles all over the south-west. His time in Cal Farleys overlapped with Rick Smiths.

After years of living in what he calls a paradise for adult abusers, he made repeated escape attempts. Each time he was caught, and punished. On one occasion, he says, Lamont Waldrip delivered a punishment straight out of the Old West.

I ran away on foot and got about halfway to Amarillo when they caught me, using a helicopter. Lamont Waldrip and another staff member then took me 10 miles away from the ranch, and made me run in front of these horses all the way back. Anytime I floundered, theyd hit me with coiled-up rope or run over me with the damn horse.

Several of the men say that another escapee was dragged for miles behind two horses back to the ranch. Again, one of the horses was ridden by Waldrip. The man in question talked about the incident in a private survivors group on Facebook, which was set up by Steve. His comments were seen by the Guardian.

Cruel punishment wasnt the only ordeal students had to endure. Sexual abuse also happened, and Rick Smith says he was raped by another boy while under the care of the ranch.

The way Steve tells it, his brother has been nervous all his life, like he was hiding something. Just in the last year he told me that when he moved into Maynard [his dorm], one of the bigger boys said hed beat the hell out of him if he didnt sleep with him that night. Hes had it bottled up in him all that time.

Cargill says that the wife of a staff member was having sex with him and three other boys in effect, statutory rape. Its only in retrospect he has come to realize how damaging this was. I didnt realize how bad it was fucking me up. And, she was committing a fucking felony, he says.

As for Steve Smith, he recalls seeing a dorm parent make a boy take his penis out and hit it with a ruler.

He was screaming and begging and I couldnt do anything

For decades, the men say, a culture of abuse prevailed at Cal Farleys.

Martin (not his real name) was sent to the ranch in the early 1980s aged five after being brutally abused and mutilated by his father. Of that time, he says, if you wanna know what its like to die over and over again and watch yourself die in the mirror I know that.

On his first night at the ranch, an older male student dragged me out of the bed, and I went into the bathroom and he basically stuck his dick in my mouth.

Steve Smiths standard release form from Cal Farleys. Photograph: Steve Smith

When he committed a minor infraction not long after, Martins female dorm parent ordered him to jump in a trash can and scrub it in freezing weather.

When you put a little kid whos been tortured inside a trash can, upside down, and make it like a little prison cell and have him scrub You know, you got these tiny little holes at the top just to let a little light in, youre scared, youre freezing, you know?

Cargill says that his dorm parent would also encourage other boys to administer physical punishment. I saw him hit two boys with his fist and then tell the rest of the dorm, You better finish what I started or its all gonna happen to you.

So I watched as they literally beat these two guys half to death, and me and another guy tried to intervene. We didnt get beat up as bad, but we got beat up.

Cargill says their only crime is they were gay. Which, thats not my place to judge, or my place to punish.

Steve Smith remembers his helplessness while his brother was beaten mercilessly. A staff member did it. I heard Rick screaming at the top of his lungs so I ran down there. I looked into his room and the guy was beating the hell out of him with a belt. My brother didnt even have clothes on, just his underwear. He was screaming and begging and I couldnt do anything.

Afterwards, Ricks nervousness at being at the ranch led to a pattern of behavior that only led to more beatings.

I pissed the bed till I was probably 10, and for that they beat the hell out of me till I bled, he says.

Bill Varnado, who was there at the same time as Steve Smith, says you really didnt have to get in trouble for them to beat the hell out of you. Normally, he says, they used a belt, but as you got older they used their fists on boys.

Joe Stroud, who was there in the 1980s, says the ethos of punishment at Cal Farleys went all the way from how people treated themselves, down to how people treated animals, to how people treat anything. It was a culture of violence.

Its not that I dont believe it, its just that its past

Janet Heimlich, a former journalist, now runs a nonprofit in Austin called the Child-Friendly Faith Project. Through her work and in a book, she has worked to expose religious groups that abuse children. I am always in search of faith-based organizations that are really great, she says.

When she first wrote about Cal Farleys, she used it as an example of best practices in youth care. She still maintains that currently Cal Farleys appears to be in keeping with modern and humane standards of childcare, and says they run a flagship program for cutting-edge child therapy.

In 2015, after she published a laudatory post about Carl Farleys on her blog, Steve Smith left comments. He wrote about the constant abuse, and the beating meted out to Rick. Alarmed by what she was reading, Heimlich got in touch with Adams, the ranch CEO.

I asked Dan, Is what this guy is saying true? He said, Yes. But were evolved.

Heimlich decided to help Steve talk it out with Adams.

Their first conversation was a two-and-a-half-hour meeting on 23 March this year, which Heimlich attended as an observer via Skype. She observed that Adamss attitude to Smith was sympathetic. We were both blown away with what Steve was telling us. Every so often Dan would reach out and touch Steves shoulder.

On 7 and 8 April, the three of them met in Amarillo, first at a coffee shop, and then the next morning for breakfast. At this point, she started to become concerned about how the ranch was going to deal with Smiths allegations.

I thought that meeting was his opportunity to say, Heres what were going to do, but I was getting nothing from him.

At breakfast, she presented a draft letter suggesting the approach Cal Farleys could take. These included investigating allegations of abuse, setting up a fund for survivors medical needs, and ensuring that information on their website and in their marketing material was truthful and not misleading.

Adams, she says, was uncomfortable. Most of all, he was resistant to the idea of going public with any it. He thought that involving the media would not bring the men the healing they were looking for, she says.

At the same meeting, Adams told Heimlich that the ranch was planning to name a new dorm after Lamont Waldrip.

For survivors, she says, it was a slap in the face.

In conversation with the Guardian, Adams acknowledged that abuses had occurred in the past, but also reaffirmed his stance.

I cant deny Steve or anybody else their experience, he said. When asked if the behavior of staff at the time sounded like abuse, he responded, absolutely, no doubt about it. But he stressed that practices had changed, including the phasing out of corporal punishment since he took over in 1996.

I knew Lamont. And there are guys today that had very different experiences with Lamont and admired and liked him. In his early days, I think he probably was way over his head in terms of knowing how to deal with all those kids any time you have a system thats scantily staffed, and not trained, abuse happens.

Adams has no plans to change the dedication of the new building.

I do think when it comes to honoring founders or former employees, thats a collective thing, thats bigger than me, its not arbitrary. I think [a public apology] can be disruptive, because Ive got 260 kids out there that were working very well with, and we have a lot of younger people whose experience has been good at Boys Ranch, and a lot of families that count on us.

I dont say its hearsay and I dont deny it. Its not that I dont believe it, its just that its past.

I want somebody to stand up and say, Hey, Im frickin sorry

The men the Guardian spoke to say they have carried the scars of this experience for decades, as well as a sense that their lives have been misshapen by their time there. Many talked about extensive substance abuse, suicide attempts,
and incarceration among alumni.

Bill Varnado wants to be very clear that theyre not looking for any monetary deal out of this. What we would like is an apology from those people for treating us the way they treated us.

Martin asks: What did Boys Ranch take from me? I dont know. My sense of security, my sense of self, my sense of being comfortable in my own skin.

Arnold Wells says hes still not sure hes an adapted person in adulthood. It got ingrained into me for a period of five years that violence fixes everything, he says.

Ed Cargill says: I want somebody to grow a pair of balls, stand up and say, Hey, Im frickin sorry.

For all the abuse Rick Smith endured, he is more concerned to talk about his brother, and the years it took him to live down what happened to him, and to get past his drinking and anger.

Let me tell you, hes just so proud he didnt let it get him down. Because it was for a while, and he overcame a lot. He was headed for the wrong, wrong place.

Hes skeptical that they will ever receive an apology. Its not gonna happen. Because they are committed to the hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank. Theyre committed to that.

And because of this lack of closure, he also doubts he and his brother will ever get over it.

Steve and I will die. Well go to our grave and Ill guarantee you itll be one of the things we think about when we take that last breath: how they got away with it.

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5 Organizations That Can Literally Just Take Our Money Already

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the world is literally crumbling around us and it’s time to cut back on skinny vanilla lattes with no whip and put your money towards things that actually matter. The good news is that after you donate you can brag to your friend about how you’re like, a really good person. Also you can help people and the world. That is the point. Don’t be shallow, Karen.

We saved you the trouble of having to open another tab on your browser and put together a curated list of amazing organizations that will put your money to good use. We’re amazing/super helpful/saving the world, etc. — yes, we know.

Environmental Organizations

So what, you’re like supes horny for the environment? Great, we could use more of you. Our president doesn’t believe that climate change is real, which is a bold move for a man who can barely read. Point is, the environment needs our help. Here are some organizations you can donate to and help literally save the world.

Earth Justice: This nonprofit funds legal teams that hold corporations accountable when they try to break environmental laws. They are literally representing Earth and taking down the man simultaneosuly. Badass, right? Donate here.

Humane Society: This is the nation’s most effective animal protection organization, and tbh animals are beating humans by a long shot in terms of the whole deserving-to-be-alive thing rn. Make a donation here

SeaWeb: The ocean ecosystem is incredibly important when it comes to keeping our planet in balance and like, in existence. So naturally humans have taken to completely destroying it. This org takes a marketing approach to protecting sea life because branding is everything, obv. Help out with a donation here.

Organizations For Women

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but women are everything. Unfortunately, women are often in need of help because why would the world ever make anything easy for us? Here are a few organizations that provide assistance for women in need.

Safe Horizon: This incredible organization is not exclusively for women, but it provides assistance for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and statistically most of those victims are women. Fuck everything, and also donate here.

International Women’s Health Coalition: Sure, the US is a legit garbage fire right now, but women all over the world have it much worse than we do. IWHC advances the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Take your girl power beyond the US borders and donate here.

Time’s Up: You’ve probably heard of this one seeing as it made a splash at the Golden Globes last Sunday. For those of you that don’t know, one — get your shit together –  and two, Time’s Up is a movement with a mission to end sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. You can donate here

Organizations That Help Immigrants

Republicans are dead set on doing what they do best, aka ruining lives, and are attempting to repeal DACA, the program that protects undocumented citizens that came to the US as minors. Idk why I’m explaining this to you, you should all read The Sup everyday and know all this shit by now.

Council on American-Islam Relations: The CAIR helps Muslim communities and individuals that are facing discrimination. In Trump’s America, this organization needs your help now more than ever. You can make a contribution here.

Families For Freedom – This org helps families that are facing deportation. Again, in a country ruled by a man who wants to deal with immigration the same way I dealt with getting my sister to not touch my shit when we were literal children — by building a wall around it — this organization could really use your donation. Click here to help. 

International Rescue Committee – The IRC helps refugees by providing them with shelter, food, and education. They are legit saints. Help out by donating here

Organizations Focused on Criminal Justice Reform

Look, I love r just as much as the next betch, but the reality is that our criminal justice system kinda…sucks. And is racist AF. The war on drugs is specifically racist and unjust, but I’ll save delving into that for when I’m wasted at a party and corner you to yell at you about it another time. For now, here are some great places you can donate to to help bring justice to our justice system.

The Sentencing Project: The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration. The US locks up more people per capita than any other nation, and convicted felons are disproportionately black. Plus, an astonishing amount of sentences are for nonviolent crimes. I don’t have the word count to get into it now, but I suggest you donate here

Families Against Mandatory Minimums: Did you know that people can go to jail for up to 40 years for something as small as marijuana possession because of mandatory minimums? Great, sounds like every white, fratty fuckboy you know who smokes and sells a shit ton of weed can get locked up then, right? Nope, it’s mostly black men that are affected by this. Lol, remember when I said I wasn’t going to delve into the war on drugs? Anyway, donate here to help those affected by mandatory minimums.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy: SSDP is the only international network of students dedicated to ending the war on drugs. I feel like I’ve made my point here re: the fuckery convention that is the war on drugs. I think we can all agree that would should be able to smoke weed in peace. Visit SSDP’ website. Donate. Smoke a blunt.

Organizations Involved in the LGBTQ Community

I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but the President of wanting to fuck his daughter the United States is ruining everything, vulnerable communities are under attack and we should totally just stab Cesar, etc. etc. Here are some LGBTQ focused organizations you can donate to.

Gay Men’s Health Crisis: GMHC is the world’s first and leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. They do amazing work and fund a lot of incredible programs, including Re-Charge which takes a harm reduction and sex positive (hell yeah) approach to providing assistance to gay and trans men. Donate here.

Community United Against Violence: The CUAV’s mission is to end violence and oppression imposed on the LGBTQ community. Nothing not to love there. Donate here

Trans Student Educational Resources: This organization is led by transgender youth and aims to transform the education environment for trans and gender nonconforming students through advocacy and empowerment. Hell fucking yes. You can donate here.

Honorable Mention: How TF Can You Help Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico needs our help and the Great Pumpkin in Chief has made it v clear that it won’t be coming from him. There are a lot of ways to help out, but we suggest checking out Global Giving, Central World Kitchen, and Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Obviously there are thousands of other amazing organizations that could use donations, but unfortch we cannot list them all. A hot tip: look into how you can help out locally. Local organizations are often in need of funding and can do a lot for your community. Plus, it’s a great way to #GoLocal without saying obnoxious shit like, “let’s go to the farmer’s market!” at 10am on a fucking Sunday. 

Heads up, you need to keep up with the news. It’s not cute anymore. That’s why we’ve created a 5x weekly newsletter called The ‘Sup that will explain all the news of the week in a hilarious af way. Because if we weren’t laughing, we’d be crying. Sign up for The ‘Sup now!

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Wall Street Picks the Best New Restaurants in New York

It should come as no surprise that Bloomberg Terminal users (aka the who’s who of the financial industry) eat out a lot. After all, there’s a lot of business to be done at restaurants, and it’s been a big year for New York dining, especially with the relaunch of the former Four Seasons space. So we took a poll among readers of Red Dot NYC, a weekly restaurant-openings newsletter available on the Terminal, to determine their favorite restaurants across the five boroughs. No surprise: It’s still all about Manhattan. 

Here are New York’s top new restaurants, as chosen by hedge fund managers, traders, and other Wall Street insiders.  

The Grill

The runaway hit for Wall Street diners: the Grill. 
Photographer: Anthony Causi

The runaway hit among the Bloomberg audience. And why not: The landmarked dining room from Major Food Group celebrates New York’s chophouse culture with a prime rib cart that rolls from table to table and a fabled bar, with its long list of martinis.

The Pool

A little foie gras snack, from the Pool.
Photographer: Zack Dezon/Bloomberg

The splashy (hehe) restaurant opposite the Grill puts an emphasis on seafood prepared simply—and foie gras amped to 11—plus an exquisite and pricey raw-bar selection and the best caviar service in the city. 

4 Charles Prime Rib

On a quiet West Village street, 4 Charles has the vibe of a small private club. The menu features prime rib, salt-crusted and roasted for hours. It’s served in multiple ways, from thinly sliced to a 16-ounce center-cut to a bone-in double cut that goes for $89.

Le Coucou

Power dining in New York at Le Coucou.
Photographer: Corry Arnold

One of the city’s newer power-dining spots is not far from the Financial District in lower SoHo. From the gleaming, open kitchen comes such reinvented French classics as pillowy seafood quenelles in lobster sauce and duck with figs and foie gras.  

Loring Place

Loring Place
Photographer: Aliza Eliazarov

A vet of Jean-Georges Vongerichten kitchens, chef Dan Kluger serves New American dishes in a laid-back West Village dining room. Grain salad with smoked chili aioli, grandma-style pan pizza, and barbecue chicken from the wood-burning grill are all crowd-pleasers.


This stylish all-day café is from the same team behind Cosme, a destination restaurant famed for its duck carnitas. The menu here features Mexican treats such as herb-topped guacamole and fried fish Milanese, accompanied by a basket of fresh tortillas. The tequila and mescal list is stellar.

Empellón Midtown

Fancy nachos and tacos at Empellón Midtown.
Photographer: Evan Ortiz/Bloomberg

Chef Alex Stupak has expanded his downtown Mexican empire to 53rd Street and Madison Avenue, where he serves tacos that riff on such classic midtown dishes as hash browns and roast beef. The bar is great for after-work margaritas and guacamole—and indulgent seafood nachos worth the $30 charge.

Lobster Club

The third restaurant to open in the Seagrams Building from Major Food Group, this stylish space designed by Peter Marino evokes a Japanese brasserie, with sushi and teppanyaki-grilled wagyu skirt, lobster, and branzino. There’s private dining space for up to 50 guests.


Photographer: Paul Wagtouicz

The modern Middle Eastern restaurant, down the block from Gramercy Tavern, is co-owned by the founder of the popular Breads Bakery (you may know its famous chocolate babka). The unconventional menu includes gigantic Jerusalem sesame bagels, seared scallops with chestnut cream, and Palestinian tartare made with hand-cut beef and smoked eggplant.  


The Butcher’s Feast at Cote.
Photographer: Zack DeZon/Bloomberg

This dynamic Korean steakhouse specializes in the Butcher’s Feast (which we named one of the year’s best dishes), which gives guests the chance to sample multiple cuts of beef selected by chef David Shim from the dry aging room. That might include 45-day-aged rib-eye and Cote galbi, or marinated short ribs, cooked on the grill at your table. On any given night, you might see David Beckham or Chrissy Teigen.

Emily West Village

Brooklyn’s hit pizza spot set up shop on a scenic West Village corner. The stars are thick, chewy, and cheese-crusted, with such options as Pig Freaker (bacon, kimchi, miso) and Street Fair (sausage, cherry peppers, tomato sauce, mozzarella). Burger fanatics are familiar with the double-stack Emmy Burger, which comes with caramelized onions, American cheese, and curly fries.

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    The Shirk Report Volume 453

    Welcome to the Shirk Report where you will find 20 funny images, 10 interesting articles and 5 entertaining videos from the last 7 days of sifting. Most images found on Reddit; articles from Facebook, Twitter, and email; videos come from everywhere. Any suggestions? Send a note to

    20 IMAGES

    He fell back asleep!
    10 years later… | and 10 years after that
    A holiday classic
    Day 10, family still hasn’t noticed
    SpaceX – 2002 vs 2017
    Hey Mister can you get the ball for us?
    Now who’s blown away
    Jim was never good at estimating crowd sizes
    Kind regards
    My work here is done
    Swirls glass
    Video games are getting so realistic these days
    Hard to watch
    The power of art
    This hit me hard
    Wait for the drool
    Until next week


    Apple admits slowing older iPhones, says it’s to prevent battery issues
    Silicon Valley Techies Still Think They’re the Good Guys. They’re Not.
    Inside the Home of Instant Pot, the Kitchen Gadget That Spawned a Religion
    The Fascinating History Behind Why Jewish Families Eat Chinese Food on Christmas
    The Top 10 Books Of 2017, According To Everyone
    Meet the Man Who Has Lived Alone on This Island for 28 Years
    Using Airbnb isn’t fun anymore
    The Insane True Story Of How “Titanic” Got Made
    The Greatest Leap, Part 1: How the Apollo fire propelled NASA to the Moon
    Deliverance From 27,000 Feet (thanks for sharing Mr. Huble)

    5 VIDEOS + AC/DC


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    The Coziest NYC Bars For Blacking Out Until Spring Comes

    Everyone knows getting through the winter in NYC is all about how much alcohol you can consume while still making everyone believe you’re a functioning adult. It’s hard to find cool cozy bars around the city, and if you’re still hitting up SideBar three Saturdays per month, it’s time to expand your horizons. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled our favorite speakeasies, bars, and lounges around the city that will make your winter dramatically better. Here are the coziest bars in different neighborhoods that will become your new favs.

    Fig. 19, Lower East Side

    Fig. 19 already earns the title of the coolest speakeasy in the city, because you can only access the bar through a secret entrance at the back of an art gallery. We can’t make this shit up. Once you get through the gallery and find the bouncer, the bar lives up to the hype. Think vibes with dim lighting, tons of candles, and amazing cocktails.

    The Library Bar At The NoMad Hotel, NoMad

    The Library at the NoMad is truly a dope experience. I mean, the bar literally looks like a secret dark library with sexy lighting and a twirling old school staircase. The seating is a combination of cool couches and regular tables, so it’s perfect for going out with friends or on a date. Needless to say, every library you’ll see afterwards will be a huge letdown.

    The Wren, Bowery

    The Wren is one of those places that can totally pull off calling itself a “pub” but still be classy enough to pull in its downtown crowd. They always have good music and they have a solid dinner menu too, if you must insist on having fries with your cocktail. The actual place looks like a cute little white house from the outside, and the interior is super vintage and cozy. Plus, their cocktails are seasonal, so you won’t get bored going back more than once.

    The Belfry, Union Square

    This place is honestly smaller than my apartment, but any bar that serves all its drinks in mason jars and writes their menu on a Pinterest-esque chalkboard is worth a visit. The Belfry may not be as trendy as other bars in the area, but their drinks are low-key amazing and the vibe is so cute and retro. They’re known for their local craft beers and pickleback shots, so you can bring any guy here and he’ll love it too. They also play live music on the weekends, and it’s usually decent.

    Bar Centrale, Hell’s Kitchen

    Hell’s Kitchen is a tragedy and we wouldn’t recommend going out of your way for a bar on 46th street, but if you’re in the area anyway and need a drink (for obvious reasons), Bar Centrale is the coziest bar ever. It’s located in a vintage-looking brownstone so it’s pretty hidden, and the inside of the bar is just as cute with its brown-brick walls and dark leather couches. Definitely a hidden gem. 

    Raines Law Room, Chelsea

    This spot opened after Raines’ original location at The William on 39th street, but obviously we’d rather get wasted in Chelsea than anywhere that close to Murray Hill. Raines Law Room has a small boutique vibe, and they totally kill the game with their old-timey candlesticks and fireplace. Keep in mind the space itself is small and v intimate, so if you’re coming with a big group you probably won’t get a seat. They take reservations from Sunday to Tuesday if you’re looking for a buzz to get you through the week.

    Manhattan Cricket Club, Upper West Side

    This speakeasy is pretty much the only cool spot on the Upper West Side, so if you live in the area and have never been, we’re sorry. You can find it by going upstairs in the restaurant Burke & Wills, and the whole lounge is totally cute and cricket-inspired. Think leather menus, marble counters, lots of gold accents, and really cool cocktails. It’s also super dark inside, which makes it even more ideal for hiding out until the temp rises again in the spring.


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    This Is The Thing You Use In Your Office That Has More Germs Than A Toilet Seat

    While most people can’t function without a cup or two of coffee, my daily caffeine intake of choice is a nice, warm cup of tea.

    With the winter weather in full swing, there’s nothing I enjoy more after combatting the snowy commute than rummaging through the office supply of tea bags and picking out my favorite flavors to help warm my cold, dead soul.

    However, while most of us wouldn’t think twice about taking a tea break during the work day, a new study has ruined my favorite beverage forever by declaring that my steaming cup of tea might not be as refreshing as I once thought. In fact, you’re better off sticking your lips on the office toilet.

    According to a study conducted by Initial Washroom Hygiene, your office teabags contain 17 times more germs than a toilet seat because everything hurts and life is pain.

    The study sought out to analyze the bacteria readings of utensils and appliances.

    The average toilet seat contains 220 germs, whereas the number of germs found on an office teabag was 3,785.

    The reason for these germy findings could lie in what happens in the bathroom. In a poll of 1,000 office workers, 80 percent admitted to not washing their hands before preparing tea or coffee for themselves or their coworkers.

    Forgetting your coffee cup at home could also put you at risk for bacterial contamination. Using someone else’s cup in the office can expose you to over 1,700 germs.

    “If you stop to think about the number of different hands that touch things such as the kettle handle, tea bag box lid, mugs, and so on, the potential for cross contamination really adds up,” says Dr. Peter Barrett of Initial Washroom Hygiene.

    The study also found high germ levels in other parts of the kitchen essential for tea making, including tea kettles ( 2,483) and refrigerator doors (1,592).

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