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Frank Gray

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Kids can get right kind of education

One

Foundation One stood in the back room of his barber shop on Pontiac Street meticulously trimming the hair on a customer’s head, removing tiny bits at a time, at the same time taking a phone call from someone who desperately needed to talk to him.

Foundation (his real name, by the way) spoke of demons, set up a meeting time and tried to soothe the caller.

Everyone in the room probably wondered just what the problem was on the other end of the phone, but they all knew better than to ask. Foundation was just doing what he does, talking to young people, trying to keep them out of trouble, out of jail, out of the morgue.

While some people march and others pray in the face of continuing violence in the city, Foundation tries to counsel young people to aspire to higher goals – to get an education, develop a career, accomplish something with their lives.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, Foundation will be speaking at the Three Rivers Institute of African Arts and Culture at 501 E. Brackenridge St., continuing to make the same point he’s been making for years.

One of the reasons for the continuing violence, Foundation said, is that kids aren’t being educated by adults, parents or by mentors. Kids are educating each other, and they’re teaching the ways of life on the street, an education that teaches violence.

Right now, Foundation is actually offering a nine-week course to young people, trying to steer them away from the type of behavior that he says can destroy their lives in the course of one minute of bad decision making.

The course uses interesting materials: a scrapbook of stories and letters. The stories are of victims of violence, people killed on the streets. The letters are from people spending their lives in prison today, telling their tales of the minute that destroyed their lives.

Sometimes a voice from behind prison walls can deliver a powerful message.

Homeless vets

Are things looking up for homeless veterans?

When Barb Cox started taking in veterans at the Shepherd’s House on Tennessee Avenue, there was virtually nowhere for homeless veterans to go.

Now, several years after the shelter opened a separate wing just for veterans, the shelter is almost exclusively veterans.

Since it started taking in veterans, 305 have passed through the doors, some staying as long as two years. Currently, 21 people who have landed at the shelter are enrolled in college, and plans are under way to build a large kitchen and dining area so all residents can eat at the same time instead of eating in shifts. The shelter has a capacity of 51.

While there was once nowhere for homeless veterans to go, the Shepherd’s House now has 11 spaces available, Cox says.

That has led Cox to start a vigorous outreach program to try to reach homeless veterans who aren’t aware the shelter exists or that there are no fees to stay there.

Word does spread about the shelter, though. Not long ago, one prospective veteran traveled here from Nevada.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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