She recalled making her own moisturiser for her dolls and herself, adding: “I mixed oil and water together, whipped it and put it in the fridge and it looked like a cream… I was shining like a Belisha beacon for months.”
McGrath – who worked as a runway make-up artist as well as for magazine shoots and covers – said she was “so happy” to see the changes in the fashion industry.
“We have models from all different social backgrounds, different weight, body types, different religious backgrounds, shows that are over 50% women of colour and it just wasn’t there for such a long time. And now, it’s just so fantastic to see. Beautiful.”
She was also asked about whether she experienced much racism growing up in the 1970s, but said she had a “solid base” around her, adding: “I was very lucky, having the mother I had, who was like, ‘Oh look at that person, they’re racist, poor things, let’s go shopping.‘”
Last week, we introduced you to some of our favorite Mother’s Day picks for new moms. Now it’s Saturday, which means that if you’re still sitting on your hands, you might be out of luck. Still, your mother is probably a great one, and many of our deals are continuing throughout the weekend. We added a few more deals that we love that might surprise and delight your mom (on Monday). We also tried to include ones with fast shipping.
Note: When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Much like subscribing to WIRED, these contributions help fund the journalism we put out every day. Read more about how this works.
The New Kindle Paperwhite is $40 Off
In my gift guide for new mothers, I said that approximately 100 percent of us own a Kindle. It’s light, convenient, and makes it easy to sneak in a few pages in a dim room before going to bed. This is an incredible deal on the new, waterproof Paperwhite that has twice the storage of the old one, a front that’s flush with the bezel, and is compatible with Bluetooth headphones to read books on Audible. Once you’ve bought one for Mom, buy one for yourself. We wrote a separate post on this and other Amazon Deals this weekend. Check it out to learn more.
80-Hour Candle for $56 ($24 off): We like Uncommon Goods for off-the-beaten-path picks. This stylish candle also makes much more efficient use of wax. Just feed the beeswax coil through the copper candle clip as it burns.
Thule Crossover Backpack for $112 ($28 off): I haven’t written a review of this yet, but I love Thule’s bright interiors and protective SafeZone compartments for fragile items. Everything at Shoes.com is currently 20 percent off through May 12 with code MAY19.
Withings Steel (White) for $90 ($40 off): Withings watches look beautiful and have basic smart features in them. Best of all, they run off of regular watch batteries and don’t need recharging. Most of their watches are on sale. We recommend the Steel White.
For 18 years a mother has been trying to find answers to why her son apparently turned his back on his new life in Germany and withdrew almost £1,000 in cash before being found dying at the bottom of a multi-storey car park in London.
It was 04:00 on the morning of 22 January 2001 that Pat Ewart’s nightmare began.
A knock on the door of her neat bungalow on the outskirts of Inverness was answered by her husband Ron.
“You need to get up, Pat,” she remembers him shouting. “There’s a policeman at the door.”
In a daze she stumbled downstairs to the incongruous sight of the police officer standing in her living room.
He cut to the chase. Their son Innes was dead.
The 27-year-old had been discovered the previous afternoon at the bottom of an eight-storey car park in East London.
The evidence had pointed to one thing: he had jumped from the rooftop and taken his own life.
That point in time is forever frozen in Pat’s memory.
Despite the passing of the years she rewinds every word and gesture of that early morning in flawless detail.
“No,” she said. “You’re wrong.”
“Innes lives and works in Germany,” she said.
“Look, I’ll phone him now. He always answers his phone.”
But this time the phone just rang and rang.
In a panic she ran to her computer to leave a message.
She remembers every word as if it was yesterday.
Pat wrote: “Innes. Pick up your phone. There’s been a mistake. A body’s been found and the police say it’s you. Where are you?”
There was never to be a reply.
Police later told them Innes’s passport and bank cards were on his body.
In the bewilderment and blur of the days that followed, Pat, Ron and their three other children tried to make sense of it all.
Nothing added up, Pat says.
Innes, a computer programmer, had gone to Munich to work at Philips Analytica after employment had dried up in Scotland.
He loved his job, had no money worries and was close to his family and friends.
Only days before, the family had all chatted happily to him over the computer for more than two hours.
Nothing seemed wrong, nothing remiss.
But the facts appeared to speak for themselves. Police had viewed CCTV footage of the open rooftop car park above the Stratford Shopping Centre from where Innes was said to have jumped.
The camera, on the eighth floor, shows Innes coming out of the lift alone and walking straight through the landing doors to the car park. That was all. There were no CCTV cameras on the rooftop itself.
In these few short frames he seems neither anxious nor hurried. The tape records the time as 14:54.
At 15:00 Innes was found dying by shop workers below.
The police later said there was no signs of struggle.
By 17:45 that day police had wrapped up the scene, concluding that Innes had killed himself.
Three short impersonal hours was all it took to sum up a life and its terrible finale.
For Pat too, a soul-searching audit of a son’s life awaited.
Ron had asked her to think the unthinkable – perhaps Innes did take his own life.
Pat sat through a whole night, poring over possible flaws, missed clues or traits that she may have overlooked in her son’s character.
By dawn she was more convinced than ever that Innes could not have killed himself.
And new evidence in the days and months ahead raised doubts about how the police had conducted the investigation.
“I phoned up Forest Gate Police Station (in East London) to ask about a gold designer Raymond Weil watch we had bought Innes that Christmas,” says Pat.
She was astounded to be told the police had not found one on him.
There was no way he would not have left Munich without it, she says.
And there was more.
Pat and Ron discovered that Innes had withdrawn about £1,000 in cash from his German and Scottish bank accounts the day he left Germany.
One of the investigating officers on the day, stated that he had no knowledge of any missing money.
Pat faxed him this key new piece of information but the officer said he had not received it.
For Pat, the police’s hasty deduction of suicide was now looking increasingly tenuous.
Innes’s father Ron says it looked like his son had been robbed.
Someone might have seen his money and gone after it, Ron says.
But Innes would have stood up to him, he says. He wasn’t frightened.
There were still other unanswered questions for the family.
What was he doing in London? Why did he only have £1.10 in his pocket?
The police had found tickets among his belongings.
A booking for a hotel in Innes’s name the evening before but which he never stayed in.
Another was a Tube ticket bought at Stratford Station.
It was placed in the barrier and recorded as used but Innes never made that journey.
More intriguingly, Innes purchased a cinema ticket at the nearby Stratford Picture House.
The film was due to play at 14:45 that afternoon – 15 minutes before Innes was found dying.
Who buys a cinema ticket and then goes on to kill themselves, his family asks?
Despite this Pat and the family kept faith with the police.
“I was brought up to trust the police. I thought they would investigate,” Pat says.
That faith was to be severely tested seven months later at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court when the coroner delivered an open verdict.
Dr Elisabeth Stearns said she “could not satisfy herself as to precisely what happened in the few minutes leading up to the fall”.
She added that it did not mean that the police had not investigated it thoroughly but that there were still “unanswered questions”.
Some of those unanswered questions did concern the hasty police investigation.
Threw jacket in bin
Innes had bought a ticket at Stratford Picture House at 14:27 that day. Another officer was despatched to seize collect any CCTV footage in and around the cinema.
That officer said he was told by staff there was recorded footage inside the foyer but staff had no access to it as the manager was not on duty. He asked that it be kept and it would be collected later. That tape was never picked up.
A later statement given by the cinema’s deputy manager seems to contradict the officer’s account. He said that an officer asked him about the footage from the foyer that day. He did not ask to view it but said someone might contact him later about it.
Later the police heard evidence from the cinema’s security guard. He recalls that afternoon seeing a man in his 30s just outside the cinema in a very agitated state. At one stage he threw a jacket in the bin before retrieving it.
Was it Innes? Pat will never know. But what could have been vital evidence was allowed to slip through the cracks of the investigation.
Failed memories were in abundance that day. One officer said he had told his colleague of the cinema footage but in a later inquiry that officer would say he had no memory of that conversation taking place.
One thing the police did do on the day of the coroner’s inquest was to take Pat and Ron to the car park to see for themselves where Innes had died.
The car park is open to the elements and affords a panoramic view of the surrounding Lea Valley. But then, according to the Ewarts, the police officer who was with them that day said something strange.
They say the officer blurted out to them that this was the first time he had been up on the top floor.
Pat says: “We were shocked to hear that.”
She and Ron began to wonder if any proper forensic inspection had even taken place on the top floor that day.
As they walked back over the route Innes had taken that day they were even more astounded to discover that the place was saturated with CCTV cameras.
From the moment Innes had left Stratford Tube station to the short walk across the concrete plaza to the cinema, through the shopping mall leading to the lift to the car park, his every step would have been recorded on CCTV.
Yet the senior officer that day had only instructed her officers to seize footage from the cinema and the car park.
Determined to find out more Pat and Ron instructed their lawyers to file a complaint about the police investigation.
The family’s persistence over the years to get answers has now led in total to three investigations – one an internal review, a Police Complaints Authority complaint and an independent review of police conduct.
On the outside, Pat is a politely spoken woman in her middle age who was brought up, in her own words, “to respect the police”.
But 18 years of police obfuscation has forged a steely mettle.
To this day she refuses to believe the Metropolitan Police’s reasons for her son’s death.
She will fight to her dying breath to get answers to how and why Innes died that day.
She has fought tenaciously to see the internal police reports into the handling of Innes’s case.
Now armed with the information through repeated Freedom of Information requests, the findings make for grim and depressing reading for Pat and her family.
Forensic analysis did take place but only on the lower second floor where a footprint was ruled out of the investigation.
Regarding forensics on the eighth floor, the Met’s Internal Investigations Command stated “it had been impossible to establish if this was requested but clearly it was not done”.
The report goes on to say that because of weather conditions on the day, nothing was lost by this omission.
But a central premise of a suicide is that there is no third party involvement giving rise to foul play.
Without doing this most basic of police procedures how can the police know whether there was or was not any foul play?
Most contentious of all was the seizure of vital CCTV footage.
No-one disputes there were ample opportunities to do so given the extensive coverage in the whole area.
There were cameras at the subway, cinema foyer and throughout the shopping mall.
So why did the officer in charge choose to limit these options?
The reasons set out in the various reports over the years appear contradictory.
An internal Met review of the investigation dated February 2002 said “CCTV footage within the Mall was checked but was negative”. By the time another internal investigation had reported in May 2003 this had changed.
The officer in charge said that, since the circumstances seemed non-suspicious, there was no necessity to check the CCTV from the numerous cameras in the shopping centre.
For these omissions, two officers received “formal advice from a commanding officer for their failings”. In other words, a verbal dressing down.
A potential crime scene is a fast moving and confusing mix of witnesses, police and forensic personnel, evidence gathering and on-the-spot statements.
To help police in the critical hours and days ahead, it is accepted that it is good practice to log as much of the event as possible.
The police toolkit for such situations usually includes a Crime Scene Log to monitor times of arrival and departure for police and forensic personnel.
An Incident Management Log is also key in protecting the chain of evidence, logging the decisions and strategy of the officer in charge on the day.
And all officers are encouraged to take statements and observations in their small pocket books.
‘Don’t hate police’
Much of what happened on the afternoon of 21 January 2001 may never be clear. But what could have been revealed to Pat and her family might have been contained in these contemporaneous records.
However, the pocket books of two officers and the Incident Management Log from the day were lost prior to the inquest.
The reason given at the time was the chaotic state of the archive at Forest Gate Police Station.
What emerges in the various internal reports was that many of the officers on the day admitted that they had little if no training on securing and investigating a crime scene.
One was portrayed as a good officer but who “lacked the necessary experience to effectively deal with the case”.
And while the officer in charge claims she did her best, she quoted her lack of investigative experience and training as an explanation for any shortfall.
For Pat Ewart, it is 18 years on but the pain and loss are still there.
She takes comfort from Innes’s siblings and her growing family of grandchildren.
But still, she says, there is a hole in the heart of her family, one she can never be sure will be fixed.
As she looks out of her kitchen window on the Highlands countryside, she says simply: “I don’t hate the police.”
But behind her calm gaze a mother waits – waiting for the day when she has answers to how her son died.
Dads often get shit for dad jokes and being bad at texting, but father figures have another thing in common besides thinking terrible puns are hilarious: They’re some of the most selfless people in the world.
TBH, a lot of us wouldn’t know how to live on our own if it wasn’t for those father figures who taught us — this goes for uncles, step-dads, or anyone who stepped up to take on that role. And though he probably insists that you don’t have to get him anything, Father’s Day is an extra-special time to show your appreciation.
Don’t phone it in and get him a mug that says “Dad.” It’s technically accurate, but it’s a terrible gift. (Looking for unique options for Father’s Day? Go here. Looking for something relatively cheap? Check our our guide to the best gifts under $50.)
Whether it’s a gadget to make his life easier, a sentimental keepsake, or something that you know he wants but refuses to buy for himself, here are the best gift ideas for Father’s Day:
A nude painting of a photographer with her dog and a portrait of a 95-year-old grandmother are on the shortlist for this year’s BP Portrait Award 2019.
There are four finalists, selected from more than 2,500 entries from 84 countries.
The winner, who will pick up £35,000 in prize money, will be announced at a ceremony on 10 June.
All but one of the four shortlisted artists are first-time entrants to the prestigious competition.
One of the images below contains nudity.
Quo Vadis? by Massimiliano Pironti
Massimiliano Pironti’s portrait Quo Vadis? depicts his maternal grandmother, Vincenza, a former miller and factory worker, now aged 95. Pironti made sketches and took photographs in the kitchen of his grandmother’s home in the Italian town of Gavignano, returning to his studio in Germany for the painting process.
Pironti says: “My grandmother is an example of strength, dignity and authority. Every wrinkle tells her story and I wanted to capture her image to freeze time. This portrait is truly important to me. It touches emotional chords.”
Pironti is also a professional dancer and is currently on stage in a long-running production of the Disney musical Tarzan in Germany.
The Crown by Carl-Martin
Carl-Martin Sandvold made urban street art during his teenage years before beginning training in Norway, Italy and the US. Sandvold’s current studio is located on the site of Edvard Munch’s former estate on the outskirts of Oslo.
His self-portrait The Crown reflects his interest in “the challenges of life, the strangeness of being alive and other existential issues”.
He adds: “The crown symbolises the peak of power, achievement and material abundance. In this portrait, it suggests one of these things really solve anything.”
Imara in her Winter Coat by Charlie Schaffer
London-born Charlie Schaffer’s portrait Imara in her Winter Coat portrays Imara, an English Literature student he met after moving permanently to Brighton.
Schaffer says: “She immediately struck me as someone who is uncompromisingly open and who wants to learn about anything and everything.”
Sittings for the portrait took place over four months, with Imara posing in her warmest winter coat to withstand the studio’s cold conditions.
Schaffer set out to paint only Imara’s face, but subsequently added the coat after being inspired by Titian’s Portrait of Girolamo Fracastoro in the National Gallery, London, with its subject’s similar attire.
Sophie and Carla by Emma Hopkins
Emma Hopkins was born in Brighton in 1989 and is self-taught. She focuses almost exclusively on nude portraits and studies of human flesh.
Hopkins’ portrait Sophie and Carla depicts the photographer Sophie Mayanne and her pet dog Carla. Mayanne is known for Behind the Scars, a photography project about people’s scars and the stories behind them. It is an interest which Hopkins shares. She says: “I want to understand as much as I can about what it means to be human. We are not just the clothed person we present to the world. We are the mind and body that we inhabit.”
The BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition will run at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from Thursday 13 June to Sunday 20 October 2019.
German police searching the apartment of a 30-year-old woman who, along with two others, was fatally shot with a crossbow in an upstairs room of a German B&B have found two more victims who reportedly died the same way.
The bodies of two womenboth reportedly also shot with crossbows, according to news reports therewere found in a bedroom of the apartment on Monday, two days after the three bodies were discovered at the guesthouse in Passau. Police there say they likely died several days earlier.
None of the five victims have yet been identified by name.
Detectives went to the womans home in Lower Saxony after it was discovered that she had booked the triple room in the B&B under her name.
Local news outlet Merkur reports that one of the new victims may be the 30-year-old womans sister. Neighbors said the 30-year-old was quiet and dressed in a gothic style. One neighbor said, She never greeted anyone.
The grim discovery was made on Monday in Wittengen, Lower Saxony, hours away from the macabre discovery at the B&B in Passau, where the 30-year-old woman, a 33-year-old woman and a 54-year-old manall German citizenswere found by a chambermaid in a triple room. They had all been impaled with crossbow arrows, known as bolts. The older man was described as a skilled archer who often carried crossbows in his white pickup truck, according to the German news service DPA.
The man and the older of the two women, who were both from Rhineland-Palatinate but apparently did not live together, were found hand-in-hand on the double bed with several arrows protruding from their chests and heads, investigating prosecutor Walter Feiler told the German news agency DPA. One arrow nearly went all the way through the mans head, according to several German press outlets.
The younger of the women was impaled on a single arrow and was slumped in a pool of blood on the floor. Police are not revealing a suspected motive or a precise method for the triple homicideor even if it is being considered a murder-suicidebut they have so far excluded the possibility of a killer on the loose. We still assume that no other people were involved in the deaths of the three, Gaisbaue said, though he admitted that the discovery of additional bodies in one of the victims homes had complicated the investigation.
Two crossbows thought to be used in the killings were found on the floor of the B&B, Bavarian police spokesman Stefan Gaisbaue confirmed to The Daily Beast. A third crossbow was found inside a duffle bag on the floor. Arrows were scattered around the room. Police have not said whether any crossbows were found at the newer crime scene.
The threesome had checked into the B&B during a torrential rainstorm at 10 p.m. on Friday, according to the manager of the guesthouse. They did not carry luggage when they checked in, but security camera footage shows that one of the women went out to the vehicle to retrieve large bags, presumably with the crossbows inside, after the reception desk closed for the night.
A hotel guest told local newspaper Merkur, that the group was strange and that the man had a long white beard and wore a formal suit. The women were reportedly wearing all black. They had asked for food but since the kitchen had already closed, they took snacks and soft drinks to their room. They had booked breakfast for the next morning, but failed to show up.
The two crime scenes are nearly 430 miles apart. The Northern Saxony apartment is close to the town of Hanover and the Passau B&B is near the Austrian border, which divides the investigation between two jurisdictions. Initial autopsy reports on the Passau victims will be available Tuesday, which should help determine a cause and time of death.
Crossbows can be legally purchased by anyone over 18 for hunting in Germany. It is not yet clear whether the crossbows found at the crime scene were those used by hunters or recreational archers. Murder by crossbow is extremely rare, though accidental injury by shooting is fairly common across Europe. Authorities say they will announce more details about the two new victims and a potential motive in the days ahead.
Going into this, you’d think the worst the can come out of it is that the store finds out that you’re trying to take advantage of them. But no, it can get much worse. That said, you’d think it would dawn on this guy *a little* earlier that it might look *a little* strange to be buying this many pressure cookers. To see what a stupid person can do with a pressure cooker in the kitchen, among other things, here’s some cooking fails
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The lunch rush at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall is a snapshot of the changing character of American homelessness.
The first thing that strikes you is the sheer number of people the soup kitchen serves. The line outside starts forming two hours before the food is ready. Diners file in, eat quickly and get up as soon as they’re finished. They know someone is waiting outside for their seat.
Even more striking than the scale of need are the shifting demographics of who is eating here and why. The homeless population is getting younger, staffers say, and more likely to have children and full-time jobs. In one hour, over taco salad and Fanta, I meet fast-food employees, a former car salesman who lost his home in the financial crisis and a pregnant 31-year-old whose baby is due the same month her housing vouchers run out.
But the biggest surprise about St. Vincent’s may be the state in which it’s located. Just four years ago, Utah was the poster child for a new approach to homelessness, a solution so simple you could sum it up in five words: Just give homeless people homes.
In 2005, the state and its capital started providing no-strings-attached apartments to the “chronically” homeless — people who had lived on the streets for at least a year and suffered from mental illness, substance abuse or a physical disability. Over the next 10 years, Utah built hundreds of housing units, hired dozens of social workers ― and reduced chronic homelessness by 91 percent.
The results were a sensation. In 2015, breathlessmediareports announced that a single state, and a single policy, had finally solved one of urban America’s most vexing problems. Reporters from around the country came to Utah to gather lessons for their own cities. In a widely shared “Daily Show” segment,Hasan Minhaj jogged the streets of Salt Lake City, asking locals if they knew where all the homeless people had gone.
But this simplistic celebration hid a far more complex truth. While Salt Lake City targeted a small subset of the homeless population, the overall problem got worse. Between 2005 and 2015, while the number of drug-addicted and mentally ill homeless people fell dramatically, the number of people sleeping in the city’s emergency shelter more than doubled. Since then, unsheltered homelessness has continued to rise. According to 2018 figures, the majority of unhoused families and single adults in Salt Lake City are experiencing homelessness for the first time.
“People thought that if we built a few hundred housing units we’d be out of the woods forever,” said Glenn Bailey, the executive director of Crossroads Urban Center, a Salt Lake City food bank. “But if you don’t change the reasons people become homeless in the first place, you’re just going to have more people on the streets.”
This is not just a Salt Lake City story. Across the country, in the midst of a deepening housing crisis and widening inequality, homelessness has concentrated in America’s most prosperous cities. So far, municipal leaders have responded with policies that solve a tiny portion of the problem and fail to account for all the ways their economies are pushing people onto the streets.
The reality is that no city has ever come close to solving homelessness. And over the last few years, it has become clear that they cannot afford to.
Eric (not his real name) is exactly the kind of person Utah’s policy experiment was intended to help. He is 55 years old and has been homeless for most of his life. He takes medication for his schizophrenia, but his paranoia still leads him to cash his disability checks and hide them in envelopes around the city. When he lived on the streets, his drug of choice was a mix of heroin and cocaine. These days it’s meth.
Despite all his complications, Eric is a success story. He lives in a housing complex in the suburbs of Salt Lake City that was built for the chronically homeless. He has case workers who ensure that he takes his medications and renews his benefits. While he may never live independently, he is far better off here than in a temporary shelter, a jail cell or sleeping on the streets.
The problem for policymakers is that Eric is no longer emblematic of American homelessness. In Salt Lake City, just like everywhere else, the population of people sleeping on the streets looks a lot different than it used to.
As the economy has come out of the Great Recession, America’s unhoused population has exploded almost exclusively in its richest and fastest-growing cities. Between 2012 and 2018, the number of people living on the streets declined by 11 percent nationwide — and surged by 26 percent in Seattle, 47 percent in New York City and 75 percent in Los Angeles. Even smaller cities, like Reno and Boise, have seen spikes in homelessness perfectly coincide with booming tech sectors and falling unemployment.
In other words, homelessness is no longer a symbol of decline. It is a product of prosperity. And unlike Eric, the vast majority of people being pushed out onto the streets by America’s growing urban economies do not need dedicated social workers or intensive medication regimes. They simply need higher incomes and lower housing costs.
“The people with the highest risk of homelessness are the ones living on a Social Security check or working a minimum-wage job,” said Margot Kushel, the director of the UCSF. Center for Vulnerable Populations. In 2015, she led a team of researchers who interviewed 350 people living on the streets in Oakland. Nearly half of their older interviewees were experiencing homelessness for the first time.
“If they make it to 50 and they’ve never been homeless, there’s a good chance they don’t have severe mental illness or substance abuse issues,” Kushel said. “Once they become homeless, they start to spiral downward really quickly. They’re sleeping three to four hours a night, they get beat up, they lose their medications. If you walk past them in a tent, they seem like they need all these services. But what they really needed was cheaper rent a year ago.”
Other research has found the same connection between housing costs and homelessness. In 2012, researchers found that a $100 increase in monthly rent in big cities was associated with a 15 percent rise in homelessness. The effect was even stronger in smaller cities.
“Once you’re homeless, it’s a steep hill to climb back up,” Bailey said. “When an eviction is on your record, it’s even steeper. And even if you do get back into housing, you’re still one illness or one car problem away from becoming homeless again.”
And rising affluence isn’t just transforming the economic factors that cause homelessness. It is also changing the politics of the cities tasked with solving it. Across the country, as formerly poor neighborhoods have gentrified, politicians are facing increasingly strident calls to criminalize panhandling and bulldoze tent encampments. While city residents consistently tell pollsters that they support homeless services in principle, specific proposals to build shelters or expand services face vociferous local opposition.
“The biggest hindrance to solving homelessness is that city residents keep demanding the least effective policies,” said Sara Rankin, the director of the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project at Seattle University School of Law. The evidenceoverwhelminglydemonstrates that punishing homeless people makes it harder for them to find housing and get work. Nonetheless, the most common demands from urban voters are for politicians to increase arrests, close down soup kitchens and impose entry requirements and drug tests in shelters.
“Homelessness is a two-handed problem,” Rankin said. “One hand is everything you’re doing to make it better and the other is everything you’re doing to make it worse. Right now, we spend far more effort undoing our progress than advancing it.”
No municipality demonstrates this dynamic better than Salt Lake City. Thanks to rising housing and construction costs, the building of new homeless housing has slowed to a trickle. A plan to replace the city’s central homeless shelter with a handful of smaller, suburban facilities has been delayed and scaled down due to neighborhood opposition. In 2017, after years of demands by downtown residents and businesses, Utah initiated a $67 million law enforcement crackdown on the population sleeping on the streets of its state capital. In its first year, the campaign resulted in more than 5,000 arrests — and just 101 homeless people being placed into housing.
And there are no signs that it’s going to get better. The economy is creating new homeless people faster than cities can house them. And the worse the problem gets, the harder it becomes to solve.
“The entire system has stalled,” said Andrew Johnston, the vice president of program operations for Volunteers of America Utah, one of the largest service providers in Salt Lake City. “As the economy has improved, policymakers seem to believe that the market will supply affordable housing on its own. But if you don’t put public and private money into it, you’re not going to get it.”
Three years after she escaped from homelessness, Georgia Gregersen’s most enduring memory is how quickly she fell into it.
“I’m a waitress, I’m at home with a new baby and three months later I’m sleeping in an empty parking garage,” said Gregersen, who now lives in a Salt Lake City suburb.
Her story plays out as a series of unraveling safety nets. She had been trying to get clean for years, but the waitlists for rehab were months long. She got on methadone when she found out she was pregnant, but it cost $85 per week, almost as much as she had been spending on heroin. After her son was born she was eligible for daycare vouchers, but the never-ending paperwork — “something was always wrong or required another appointment” — meant she never actually got them.
Eventually, the cost of childcare and the stress of being a single mom got to her and she relapsed. Within weeks she had lost her job and handed her son over to her parents. Her aunt, with whom she had been staying, asked her to move out.
Sleeping outside made her even more desperate to get clean, but everywhere she turned her options were cut off. Every halfway house and detox center in Salt Lake City was full. When she applied for subsidized housing, a government official told her it would take two years just to get on the waiting list.
“I thought, I’ll probably be dead by then,” she said.
Gregersen spiraled downward in 2015, right around the time Utah announced it had ended chronic homelessness. Unlike the recipients of that experiment — most of whom required 24-hour, lifelong support — Gregersen didn’t need permanent supportive housing. She needed every other form of support to be adequately funded and available when she needed it.
“We always look to one thing to be the answer,” she said, “but I needed everything, and in concert.”
Gregersen’s story perfectly encapsulates the challenge of urban policy in a changing and deteriorating America. Truly ending homelessness will require cities to systematically repair all the cracks in the country’s brittle, shattered welfare system. From drug treatment to rental assistance to subsidized child care, the only way to address the crisis is through a concerted — and costly — expansion of government assistance.
And yet, even as homelessness becomes a defining feature of urban growth, no city in America can afford to meaningfully address it.
“Politicians keep proposing quick fixes and simple solutions because they can’t publicly admit that solving homelessness is expensive,” Kushel said. Before the 1980s, she points out, most of the responsibility for low-income housing, rental assistance and mental health treatment fell on the federal government.
Since then, though, these costs have been systematically handed over to cities. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of low-income households receiving federal rental assistance dropped by more than half. Hundreds of thousands of mental health treatment beds have disappeared. Despite having far deeper pockets, the federal government now spends less per homeless person than the city of San Francisco.
The relentless localization of responsibility means that cities are spending more than they ever have on homelessness and, at the same time, nowhere near enough. L.A.’s recent $1.2 billion housing bond is one of the largest in American history. It will construct 1,000 permanent supportive housing units every year — in a city where 14,000 people need one. According to a 2018 analysis, Seattle would have to double its current spending to provide housing and services for everyone living on the streets.
Smaller cities have an even wider spending gap. According to Salt Lake City’s Housing & Neighborhood Development Department, building one unit of affordable housing costs roughly $154,000. Providing a home to all 6,800 people currently accessing homeless services would cost the city roughly $1 billion — two-thirds of its entire annual budget.
“We know that it’s cheaper in the long run to provide housing for homeless people, but cities don’t get money back when that happens,” said Tony Sparks, an urban studies professor at San Francisco State University. Expanding social support and building subsidized housing require huge upfront investments that may not pay off for decades. Though the costs of managing a large homeless population mostly fall on hospitals and law enforcement, reducing the burden on those systems won’t put spending back in city coffers.
“If you know how city budgets work, everything goes into a different pot,” Sparks said. “When you save money on health care, it just goes back into the health care system. It doesn’t trickle sideways.”
But all the challenges of funding their response to homelessness doesn’t mean cities are entirely powerless. For a start, municipal leaders could remove the zoning codes that make low-income housing and homeless shelters illegal in their residential neighborhoods. They could replace encampment sweeps and anti-panhandling laws with municipally sanctioned tent cities. They could update their eviction regulations to keep people in the housing they already have.
Cities can also, crucially, address the huge diversity of the homeless population. Rankin points out that for young mothers, the most frequent cause of homelessness is domestic abuse. For young men, it is often a recent discharge from foster care or prison. The young homeless population is disproportionately gay and trans.
All these populations are already interacting with dozens of municipal agencies that haven’t been designed to serve them. Even without major new funding sources, cities could do a lot better with the systems they already have. Schools, for example, could provide social workers for unhoused students. Libraries could invite health care workers to help homeless patrons manage their chronic illnesses. Law enforcement agencies could reorient themselves around outreach and harm reduction rather than arrests and encampment sweeps.
The key, Rankin said, is to make these changes consistent, dynamic and permanent. Like paving roads or running buses, cities will never be “finished” with the goal of preventing and alleviating homelessness. Unless something fundamental changes in the American economy, it is something they will have to do forever.
Back in Salt Lake City, Gregersen is now finishing her college degree and volunteering at the Utah Harm Reduction Coalition. I ask her what she sees as the legacy of Utah’s high-profile approach to homelessness.
“We’re afraid of throwing too much money into this issue,” she said. “We do a little bit here and a little bit there. And then, when it doesn’t solve the whole problem, we say it didn’t work and we try something else.”
For more content and to be part of the “This New World” community, follow our Facebook page.
HuffPost’s “This New World” series is funded by Partners for a New Economy and the Kendeda Fund. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the foundations. If you have an idea or tip for the editorial series, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With almost 1 million followers enjoying his daily stories, delivered with a large dose of humor and without the usual sugarcoating of ‘perfect parenthood,’ Simon has made quite the journey from being a “24 year old man-child with no idea of what being a dad involved.” The realities of being forever outnumbered by the ladies in his life, he is the single male in a household with 5 women, has taught Simon valuable lessons about fatherhood, feminism and equality.
Scroll down below to see a realistic, humorous perspective on parenting, and let us know what you think in the comments!
“No, this is not a background extra milking their scene in some low budget B movie horror film. It’s the moment when I was getting headshots taken for my book & Ottie decided she absolutely positively couldn’t give me a moment to myself – transforming my moment, very much into her moment. Clemmie scooped her up seconds later & I can laugh at this now but it does remind me just how hard it can be to achieve the simplest of tasks when a wailing child is within close promixity – thanks @philippajames for catching the memory & exposing the realities behind the image you see in the book!”
“We vowed early on that we wouldn’t dress Ottie & Delilah the same as Frankly it weirds me (and other people) out & makes the task of identifying them harder than threading a needle while wearing oven gloves covered in baby oil. We wanted them to embrace individuality, to be a seperate entities unto themselves & forge their own paths forward through life. What do they want to do? Dress exactly the same, all the live long day. If I attempt to offer up garms that are not identical, the world implodes in a crescendo of screams that dissolve eardrums & both of them get naked quicker than still life model who really likes his job. After getting so close to the end, I find myself riding the long snake everyone hates, all the way back to square 1. They win. Wear what you want. Sorry nursery, good luck telling them apart. “
“Did anyone else get the memo to inform all parents that its international opposites day today? No? Me neither but Apparently all children have been informed it’s totally ok to do the exact opposite of what all overbearing full grown humans tell them to do. Case in point – this evening’s Bathtime – I said “please stop splashing! mummy will kill me when I forget to tidy this up later”. What they heard was “please go ahead & start up a toddler induced wave machine the scale of which could be used to test war ships, soak the floor & then flail about like a confined depressed killer whale which will eventually eat it’s trainer”. Turns out it’s fine though as the water has now drained through the cracks in the floor boards & has seeped through the ceiling downstairs. This only even happens when I’m in charge on my own. Coincidence? “
“Somehow, we blinked and 10 years of marriage with this one has vanished over the horizon in the rear view mirror, yet she still has the ability to take my breath away, give me the kind of heart palpitations that would worry a GP and generally make me feel like & act a 15 year old man child who knows he’s punching above his weight. Thanks for putting up with me, for having all the babies & for agreeing to share your life with me @mother_of_daughters , I promise to keep things interesting and to make our lives together the best they can be . Here’s to the next 10 – let’s just try to procreate less this coming decade.”
“Ottie & Delilah still confuse the hell out of me but I’m starting to see differences. They could be mistaken for a narcissistic toddler starring in the mirror, yet they’re obviously wired differently when it comes to tackling everyday problems that 18mth olds face. Much like a team building exercise at work that no one really a cares about (apart from Phil in finance) this morning the twins tackled the age old conundrum since bowls were invented – “How do I drink the milk at the bottom of the sodding bowl if the bowl’s stuck to the table?” Ottie opted for the traditional ‘spoon the milk on the table & face plant in it’ – standard. Delilah thought outside the box & employed brute strength to overcome the gravity of the entire planet & poured the bowl, tray still attached, down her gullet. Somedays I struggle to express in words just how proud I am of these 2.”
“Just so we’re clear, this isn’t an ad!! This evening I successfully picked up all 4 girls & completed an emergency shop on the way home. With my arms laden with life admin essentials, everyone disembarked from the car & bounded off towards the house, arguing over who could scream the loudest. Every that is apart from Ottie, who instead decided to do her best impression of discarded flavourless chewing gum & welded herself to the pavement. A 2 minute silent stand ensued during which time 3 people walked passed this small human obstacle & tried to help encourage her to give up on horizontal protest / cloud gazing session, yet she proved to be tougher to shift than lipstick from a carpet (and that’s tough, believe me). I honestly couldn’t tell you why this all started, but it finished with her getting up, starring at me with death ray eyes that went straight through heart and walked off as if I was nothing had happened. I’ve been in meetings where I wished I’d employed this tactic. Oh to be 2 again. “
“I always wonder how toddlers view festivals as it’s such a break from normal life. They see a lot of adults stand in a field usually reserved for farm animals & watch them slowly regress to being teenagers again, shouting “I love this tune!” Or “who’s this band – I’ve never heard of them”, while embarrasing their families by dancing as if their limbs were independently controlled by an invisible puppet master. They’re treated to a muffled audio experience of the world through neon ear defenders while observing other children run around, seemingly free of supervision (although infact mum & dad are taking turns to have ‘eyes on’ & make sure they don’t stray too far), fuelled by a day long course of glucose supplied by parents wanting an arguement free afternoon. Their nappies get changed under open skies & sleep covered in coats, only to wake and find they are still in same field, but the sun’s gone to bed, everyone’s covered in glitter & daddy is sporting a childs tutu. It must be a very confusing sensory overload, but they seem to love it & a break from norm is something we all need now & again”
“I seriously believe that all parents suffer from some form of mild Stockholm syndrome. Depsite being oppressed & forced to work a servant to our pint sized captures, like a free buffet lunch, we always come back for more. This is especially true when I go away for work. The first day I embrace my freedom & revel in that rarest of commodities – silence. But within 48 hours I strangely miss being yelled at & forced to clear up other people’s poo and start to really pine for home. In my mind I would return to 4 perfect children who would greet me with open arms & proclaim their lives were incomplete in my absense. The reality was 50% of my girls acknowledged my return & within 5 minutes my tired jet lagged body had been transformed into fleshy climbing apparatus while i listened to a list of things that broke while I was away & now needed fixing. I don’t think Anya even knows I went away as she’s now permanently hard wired into Fortnite! I sure they missed me but it still amazes me how quickly normality is resumed!”
“Conventional wisdom tells us that the passage of time through space happens at a constant rate forwards, but when you have children, that changes. I can only conclude that there’s a rip in the space time continuum right above the girls bedroom as time just vanished this evening, leaving me feeling like I’d be screwed hard by a flux capacitor with anger management issues. One moment it’s 6.30pm & I’m rounding them up for a bath, then I blinked & it was 8.15pm the world had fallen apart. Bath time – a tsunami nightmare that would have drowned the entire cast of ‘honey I shrunk the kids’. Teeth – a stand off that ended in toothpaste in the eyes. Story time – A jackanory balls up that left me questioning my life choices. Bed time – a yoga session for hyperactive chipmunks that ended with Ottie hiding for 15 minutes in silence & me shouting down the street in the dark because I thought she’d gone (only to be found eating a chocolate egg under Anya’s desk covered in a blanket). Of course, as I’d focused all my energy on these 2, the elder ones hadnt even had dinner! It may have only been a total of 1hr 45 minutes but I’ve aged several years on the process. I’m stongly considering calling Doc Brown to take be back to 2015 so I can get a vasectomy. “
“Yes piers, this look is for you. Now I’m not one to get drawn into nonsense that is designed to provoke a reaction because, unlike Piers morgan, I’m in not a toddler in an adults body. But when a man, who’s views come straight out of the back pages of lads mags from the 1920’s, mocks men for carrying their babies in a carrier, I get quite annoyed. I’ve had a child attached to me for the best part of a decade and as anyone knows, accessorising your outfit by wearing a child is so in right now. In fact I used to double up for that extra ‘wow’ factor so I guess in his mind I must be 200% emasculated and basically have a vagina. There is nothing more manly than a dad demonstrating their ability to care for their child and if you think otherwise, then you look around and move with the times. One day the dinosaurs will all die out and turn to oil, leaving the next generation to laugh at the views of the relics that went before them, but in the mean time, let’s avoid giving a soap box to people who use it to simply annoy everyone.”
“I may have a Y chromosome where women have an X but that microscopic piece of biology should be the only thing that differentiates us as we all travel on this journey through life. As a Father of 4 daughters, I don’t want my girls horizons to be limited to what people tell them they can do, so I embrace my responsibility as a parent to support and encourage my girls to be what they want to be, to celebrate & further the accomplishments of those trail blazers that have gone before them like Emmeline Pankhurst, Ella Fitzgerald, Coco Channel, Marie Curie & Henrietta Swan Leavitt who, with a team of all female astronomers, catalogued the stars in the night sky when men told them they couldn’t. Our children will be the ones who will break glass ceilings, forge new paths & make the discoveries that takes the human race to places we can only dream of today, so my message to my girls is to GO BIG, GO HARD & do what they said you can’t do in whatever field you choose – be the boss of your own destiny.”
“Motivating a child to move that flattly refuses to use their own legs to support their body weight can be so frustrating, you end up developing a permenant eye twitch so dramatic, everyone around you thinks you’re trying to flirt with them. I’d employed the tried & tested method of walking away from the statue like infant until they are a mere dot on the horizon while repeatedly saying “I’m leaving now”, but like a dog who’d released they were about to be dragged to vets, she refused to budge, so, with no buggy, my parents carrying the shopping & me not willing to waste my already diminished bicep strength on carrying yet another child, I employed what I had available – A bag for life. It worked a treat – the only draw back – I now have one arm that Mr tickle would be jealous of. “
“Dads change nappies too: Apart from the ballsy women with bladders apparently the size of a old pea that barge into mens toilets to avoid the queue of cross-legged females snaking around the building, many ladies probably have no idea what goes on in the room marked ‘Gentlemen’. Well here’s the secret – it’s usually a lot of guys peeing into urinals trying to overcome stage fright, a couple of blocked toilets, a few broken taps, a floor that’s like walking on glue and occasionally a guy struggling to change their kids nappy – jacket laid on the toilet seat, on his knees in a cubicle, keeping the broken door shut with his arse. Why? Because, believe it or not, in 2019 many men’s toilets still don’t have changing tables. That means we either rough it in the men’s, use the disable one go alfresco (behind a tree / down an alley) or pass responsibilities to the ladies in our lives. This needs to change. And I’m not just talking about the nappy. Any dad’s out there with horror stories to share? Is your country better than the UK? I want to get legislation changed so can do what has to be done in relative comfort and hygiene! “
“The transition from cots to big girls beds is akin to getting transferred from Alcatraz to a minimum security prison that has an honesty check out policy at the gate. Now after reading 2 & half books (mainly to ourselves while they perform gymnastics and laugh at their own shadows whilst simultaneously down a bottle of milk quicker than a sailor in a drinking competition) & the lights go off, there is literally nothing more than our hopes and dreams to stop them conducting nocturnal excursions around their room, which they apparently carry out in lead boots, or at least that’s what it sounds like from downstairs. That’s the moment @mother_of_daughters & I play the old ‘it’s your turn’s game to see who has the futile job of returning them to their beds. Toddler straight jackets anyone? “
“Being an older sibling in what is classified as a large family can be a thankless task. Through no fault of their own both Anya and Marnie have been drafted in, conscription style, into being unpaid nursery workers to allow us breathing space to make dinner & reheat that cup of tea for the 4th that now has a skin so thick you can hold the mug upside, safe in the knowledge that nothing will come out. They had no voting rights when it came the size of our family or when we dished out roles & responsibilities and I’m sure that 75% of the time they find the small people that intruded on their cost setup & take up the vast majority of our parenting attention more an annoying than emptying the kitchen bin only for the liner to break , but without them stepping up, this mass of organised chaos we call family life just wouldn’t work. Here’s to the unsung heroes, to older siblings. You don’t realise it yet, but you’re the ones that keep us parents sane. “
“Usually bedtime is like walking into a warzone, a warzone with low level lighting, soft furnishings & bunny rabbits. Its a place where books are used as sharp cornered weapons and children break camoflague from underneath soft toys to lob bottle shaped milk grenades indiscriminately at people over 4 ft tall, but tonight was different. In the time it took me to get milk squared away and peg it back upstairs, the twins exhausted all of their energy reserves, allowing the silent assassin, sweet sweet jetlag, to stealthly slip in behind enemy lines and render them comatose. This was our victory photo. Of course the victory is bitter sweet as I now have to move these dead weights & will no doubt be revisited by them at 3am when they think it’s morning, bit for now, we’ll bask in the glory that is 2 little girls that fought the good fight, but lost to sleep. (See stories for vids).”
“Children are basically human versions of a ‘find my phone’ app – as annoying as it maybe, if kids are making a noise, you then at least know where they are, it’s when they’re silent that you need to worry as it usually results in a mess I’ll get blamed for, a lot of scrubbing & a dubious home insurance claim. This evening I walked in on the aftermath of ‘operation sunblock’ – a covert operation to liberate all the suncream from my confines of my bedside drawer. The results – 2 well moisturised guilty looking girls who smelt like holiday & won’t be getting a tan anytime soon & a floor more slippery that an overexcited eel who’d just won a jelly wrestling competition. Lessons to learn: 1). if its silent, something bad is happening & 2). I will always be the blame even if when I’m nowhere near the scene of the crime. “
“Much like logical reasoning & a tandruming child, heat & babies don’t mix well. This was this morning at a time that most people might call the night but the twins decided it was a perfectly acceptable time to start their, and therefore, our day. I’ve got home after a night out later than this! (granted, not recently, but still). For those professionals out there, note Clemmie is performing the classic ‘iPad over the face’ technique to maximise shut eye time while still providing entertainment. I on the other hand have no protection and was forced to stare at the ceiling, listen to fully grown humans in costumes talking like babies (never forget there’s a adults inside a teletubby – you’ll see it in a whole new light) while getting occasionally face grabbed by sweaty milk covered hands until my alarm went off – it felt like I was bring subjected interrogation torture but I had no answers. “
“Seeing as 90% of my followers are the opposite sex to me, perhaps you can help me work something out. As a father and a man, figuring out the intricacies of female relationships with eachother is more complex than solving a 12 sided Rubiks cube with my toes, blindfolded whilst reciting π to a 1000 decimal places. One moment they’re kissing eachother for no apparent reason, the next, they’re ripping eachothers hair our in clumps so big, they could be used as wigs for dolls. Girls then seem to graduate to emotionally tearing eachother apart which can be 100 times worse than physical attacks. Many female relationships seem like they’re pertually balanced on a knife edge between BFFs and mortal enemies & I’m flummoxed by the whole thing. I’m not saying that men are any better and this is obviously simplistic view but I’m interested as the concept of sisterhood is simple on the outside but a potential minefield on the inside!”
“To those that think having a child is the end of your social life, to those that think it’s all over. To those that believe that being a parent means a complete change in life style – don’t ever forget who you are and what you loved doing before your have a small version of yourself to look after. Embrace what you have and involve them in your life. Dont settle. Don’t turn things down. Dont become just a parent. You are who you are and having children doesn’t mean you should limit yourself or what you want to do, especially it comes to enjoying yourself. You can still smash a festival and be a good parent as demonstrated by my wife @mother_of_daughters . We are living proof!”
“Either Delilah is using the fridge to conduct climate simulation training for a nursery day trip up the north face of the Eiger that I don’t remember signing the consent form for or I’ve just caught the person responsible of foot prints in the butter & the constant vanishing of yoghurts, frankfurters, grapes, blueberries and cheese strings. This also explains why she always had a cold stomach and looks permanently guilty. Note to all fridge designers – I need a decent fridge lock and shelves that can’t be used and steps. Anyone got any bright ideas to stop the human fridge magnets that doesn’t involve gaffer tape?”
“Much like Bear Grylls, when the parenting team is cut by 50% for any period of time, you’re allowed to do things you wouldn’t normal do in order to survive (just with less drinking of my own urine). @mother_of_daughters has been away for 3 days now & although I haven’t drastically changed the rules or deliberately sabotaged the routine that’s taken longer to construct than the Sagrada Família, I may have created some subsidence in the foundations. It’s now ok to get dressed in the play room while eating breakfast. Clothes can be worn for 3 days in a row if desired because it’s not worth the argument. Scatter cushions are banished to the floor as they are a complete waste time (especially on the bed), the twins will now only get out of the bath if carried simultaneously like sacks of old potatoes while I whistle the theme tune to block busters (I have literally no idea where that one came from) & bedtime happens when I can get children to stop hiding & lie down. Oh & as a special surprise, the twins will now only refer to their mother as ‘Clemmie’ because I trained them to – ok, that change was just for my own entertainment. “
“Forget ultra marathons, this summer has been 2 month long endurance parenting test that’s pushed us beyond what we’d previously thought humanly possible. It’s tested our ability to balance childcare with work & to not forget where the girls are at any one time, our patience with bored kids (despite being offered every activity known to man) & our skills in pulling together meals that aren’t scoffed at my our in-house restaurant critics. @mother_of_daughters & I have be played off eachother, been eaten out of house & home on a daily basis, argued until the blood vessels ruptured in our eyes & confiscated screens over a million times while aging about 20 yrs in the process, but we’ve also laughed a lot, made some memories & emerged at other end of the summer holidays tunnel smiling & without having killed each other, so we must have done something right. Only another 16 more years of this to go before they all leave the nest & I start crying permanently for the rest of my life because I want them back.”
“This is a long one, but it’s worth it so bear with me. Day 6 & my parents are driving across the country to come & provide a helping hand. Having been on our own for so long, I’ve been running food stocks at bare minimum levels but after gazing into the fridge this morning, it became apparent that unless I wanted to feed my mum & dad cling film wrapped bowls of non descript half eaten meals, out of date yoghurts & veg that was growing new species, we were going to have to do a food shop before they arrived. Hands down the worst experience of the week – Delilah escaped the buggy & while chewing a pack of new Zealand lamb, proceeded to run away from me like a dog that had been stung in the arse by a genetically modified hornet. Minutes later a security guard returned her to me while I pleaded with ottie not to open the yoghurts. She ignored me & proceeded to dip her entire fist into it & do a picasso on the buggy. Oh joy. When we got to the checkout, i proceeded to unload everything from my basket , only to do a 180 & find my 2 Rays of sunshine had got out of their restraints again & were now proceeding to strip quicker than an overenthusiastic nudist on the first day of their holidays – Coats were thrown, wellies were discarded & trousers we round ankles. After members of the public helped load my shopping, i dressed them only for them to then scream solidly for the next 5 minutes without breath as I waited for everything to be scanned. I could actually feel my ass sweating from the stress as all eyes burnt holes in my head. I then forgot my pin number & after struggling to pull together enough cash , I realised I’d bought so much I couldn’t carry it home without ripping my fingers to bloody shreds. To top it all, I got home only to realise I’d left the beer I bought on the floor by the tils. As you can imagine, the twins & I aren’t talking right now. We need some space.”
“Putting these 2 to bed tonight got me thinking about the families whose daughters & sons didn’t come home last night, those children who became victims of the tragic events that unfolded in Manchester last night & how those parents won’t get to kiss their kids goodnight. As a parent, you always do you best to shield your children from the darkness that exists in the world, but sometimes your best efforts can’t stop bad things happening to defensless victims who are just going about their lives. I hope that as my children grow up, the next generation can see a way through all the hatred that exists today and find a way to live harmoniously. Variety is the spice of life – learning about other cultures, beliefs and ways of living helps develop your own views, builds intelligence and enriches your life experiences. We just need a bit more love in the world. My thoughts are with the families that have been effected. Give your kids an extra big hug tonight. “
“Your daughter might have to be held back a year. I think she might be retarded.”
My horrified Chinese immigrant parents gasped as my preschool teacher unprofessionally vocalized her concern that I wasn’t singing my nursery rhymes as well as the rest of my peers.
“If I advance her to kindergarten, things will have to change at home.”
The following year, I began elementary school and started to learn English intensively as Mandarin took a backseat. I began memorizing lyrics of pop songs, boy bands, whatever was going on with Britney Spears, as well as the lineups of MTV, Nickelodeon and the Disney channel just to take part in conversation. But over the years, it became much more than that.
There is a private hell that comes with being a first-generation kid. Growing up smack dab in the heart of Silicon Valley, California, my small suburban town — San Carlos — was predominantly Caucasian, nearly 80% to be exact. From first through fifth grade, each day was a marathon as I sat through classes with my peers and attended supplemental speech therapy — primarily to learn the “th” phonetic — which was nonexistent in Mandarin.
“Th-uh, not suh. Though, not zough. Then, not zen.” I’d repeat these hundreds of times a day like my life depended on it.
While most of my classmates ended their days with sports or dance, I went home to repeat everything with my mother and teach her vocabulary that she didn’t already know. I’d build more and more confidence to speak, but then every so often I’d watch in horror as a classmate would mockingly pull the corners of their eyes and felt all my progress unravel.
While most of my classmates ended their days with sports or dance, I went home to repeat everything with my mother and teach her vocabulary that she didn’t already know.
In grade school, I would stockpile brown paper bags from crafting classes to hide the bright pink “Thank You” bags in when my mom would pack my delicious, but “fragrant” homemade lunches. In addition to learning coursework, speech and English, I’d quietly observe the mannerisms of my peers. And whether it was slang, comedic timing or how to be a good friend, I became obsessed with the unabashed personalities of my gregarious classmates as I remained in my private quarters and bonded with the more compassionate wallflowers.
Some days when the pressure felt too immense, I’d keep my head down without uttering a word and count the hours until I was able to free myself of all speculation, bullying and conformity. And as soon as my mom or dad picked me up, I stepped into a portal — greeted by melodic, sentimental Chinese pop songs blaring out of the car like an ice cream truck — that transported me far away and returned me back to the little rituals that managed to remain intact at home.
At night, after homework assignments and reconstructed lessons, my family and I gathered around the TV in crazed anticipation of our trashy Chinese soap operas that all seemed to feature some variation of a doe-eyed protagonist, caught in the center of an agonizing love triangle with two mediocre men. I’d then fall asleep in my mom’s arms as she read me stories about karma, reincarnation and the importance of living a purposeful and altruistic life.
When friends came over, I swapped my Mahjong tiles with unsuspecting Monopoly and Candyland centerpieces.
But when friends came over, I manically expunged my room of all items indicative of culture like it was a crime scene. I pulled out my bin of Disney princess dolls and crammed Totoro and Hello Kitty into the darkest depths of my closet, praying that Toy Story wasn’t based on a true story. Goosebumps, Nancy Drew, Lemony Snicket, and multiple volumes of Harry Potter inconspicuously hid my collection of translated Buddhist fables. Mahjong tiles were swapped out with unsuspecting Monopoly and Candyland centerpieces.
I became queen of the double life.
Slowly but surely, after years of engineering a convincing image, I found my own voice and finally felt like I had my footing to interject in conversations without social anxiety. The feeling of making my classmates laugh at something other than my accent or accidental responses in Mandarin became my fuel for developing my American identity, but in turn, caused me to rapidly neglect and erase my cultural heritage.
Over the years, I found snappy comebacks to the dreaded, “Where are you from, where are you really from?” question; “my mother’s womb” was my favorite and evoked the most eye rolls — but I never failed to realize that I would always be seen as an Asian female before being known for my character, personality, or anything else. At some point, after years of conditioning, my Asian identity became an afterthought as I feigned a sickeningly-perfect valley girl accent and proved to myself that my California-girl identity could successfully take the helm.
In my mind, this path of assimilation was what my parents had been pushing me toward ever since my education took a turn when I was 5. They never recognized their actions, or mine, to be motivated by shame, but rather, it was the drive to succeed — and assimilating was what it took. I grew to love this version of myself and took pride in being surrounded by American friends while still having a soft spot and deep understanding of the immigrant narrative.
In college, speaking Mandarin became so rare that it was like pulling out a magic trick if my friends and I happened to be dining somewhere I could place orders or specify dietary restrictions in my native tongue. But even then, oftentimes servers would come running to my rescue — forks in hand — when they saw noodles landing in my lap from how poorly I attempted to use chopsticks. To some extent, I enjoyed straddling the line of gray area to avoid being grouped into any archetype — confusion was my greatest preventative measure for avoiding racist stereotypes.
In college, speaking Mandarin became so rare that it was like pulling out a magic trick if my friends and I happened to be dining somewhere I could place orders or specify dietary restrictions in my native tongue.
I grew to realize that no part of me fit either identity quite correctly though, and that’s what’s become the most difficult aspect of being first-generation American. Among my friends in my hometown, I stood out as having foreign origins that needed constant explaining, and in Taiwan — my parents’ native country — I looked and felt out of place and spoke Mandarin as well as a 6-year-old, at best.
The longing for relatability became most reflected in my love life, of all places. Whether coincidental or an inadvertent pattern, most of the people I’ve dated in my 20s have either been immigrants or first gens with backgrounds differing from my own. I’ve found that the comfort of being with someone who intimately understands the clash of cultures makes me feel less alone on my journey, and learning about new backgrounds also provides the challenge to acknowledge and embrace differences. Of all the things that’ve stemmed from this valuable experience, I’ve come to truly understand the depths of identity and the way it’s had a role in shaping each person I’ve met.
Though my parents made it a point for us to visit Taiwan as a family every couple of years, I lost connection with my cultural roots. Through the remainder of high school, undergrad, masters, and entry into my career, it became less of a priority to see my family abroad.
Then this past February, I intended to go back to Taiwan to visit my grandfather, but he died exactly one month before my arrival. When I finally made my way to Taiwan, I felt the overwhelming weight of everyone I had lost (my aunt, my grandparents) and brokenheartedly experienced my first trip back without them. Visiting their home — where I had spent so much of my younger years — struck the fault line of guilt, shame and sadness that I had been suppressing for years.
I stared at the lifeless kitchen where my grandma once filled with her vibrance as she would stand for hours on end—intuitively selecting seasonings, stirring savory stews while gently handling decadent desserts and chopping vegetables with such swift precision — it was like watching a one-woman gourmet symphony in flow. Her flavorful meals became the foundations of my mother’s arsenal of recipes.
As I made my way into the living room and sat in my grandpa’s cushioned armchair, I remembered him sipping tea and telling me his favorite stories about my mother in her younger years. In their old rooms — now used for storage — I recalled memories where I’d perch on their laps as they’d dote on me and shove little pouches of milk candies and pineapple cakes into my pockets before my mom could confiscate them. In all of their display cabinets were two decades worth of washed-out photos of me and my siblings, reminding them of the love they had for us that spanned across time and oceans.
On my last day in Taiwan, we journeyed through lush forests of the rolling Yang Ming mountains carrying bundles of incense, flowers and fruits to honor my grandparents. “Mom, dad, we’re here to see you — Alliey’s here to see you,” my mother announced with tears streaming down her face as she lit each bundle. With a flood of emotions and the stings of incense evaporating into thin mountain air, I dropped to her side completely lost in my grief.
As much as I longed for my grandparents, their absence and this shared time with my parents was the deepest reminder that I came from a culture that was not to be forgotten.
I still wonder what took me so long to return to Taiwan. Was there really no point in the last 15 years that I could’ve taken a week to see my family? The glaring answer that I couldn’t lie to myself about any longer was that for years I associated my cultural background with shame and the antithesis of acclimating to American culture. I couldn’t understand then that preserving my cultural identity didn’t automatically equate to the impediment of being a normal American girl. In my decision to divide the two, I allowed judgment to rule my life for so many years, and consequently all of my decisions were made out of fear instead of love.
Instead of deflecting questions now, I take every opportunity to explain any component of my culture to anyone who takes an interest, but more importantly, I make the effort to ask my family about their past experiences and the way immigrating shaped their identity. In so many ways, it is all a way for me to reacquaint myself with parts that I left behind and confidently move forward to define — for the first time — what being Asian American really means to me. It took me half my life to overcome this perception of shame and find a way to honor and celebrate my heritage, but in this journey, I know I will be able to continue this beautiful path to reconnection for the remainder of my life.
Have a compelling first-person story you want to share? Send your story description to email@example.com.