JoyTalk: Doug Gustafson Homes Now Not Later Civic Conversation

Why did Doug Gustafson (a young entrepreneur working in the medical technology world) decide to get involved in politics and civic crisis issues in 2016?  And why did this involvement lead to the eventual result that he founded a grassroots non-profit, Homes Now, Not Later?

What were some growing pains before Unity Village was created? It started first as a movement for shelter and a shower truck, then a tent encampment in the winter, and eventually 25 homes.

Then what? This video is one of several in a series about how the community has been steeping up to solve homeless challenges, poverty, economic conflicts and trauma. What was behind Doug’s focus on solving the community business crisis trends of injustice, income inequality, social violence, homelessness, poverty, mental health and a plethera of justice issues?

Listen to Doug’s take on it in this JoyTalk episode with Joy Gilfilen, Host! We invited Irene Morgan to sit in on the interview for she knows that providing safe housing is a key issue in the recycling of criminalizing of poverty! Irene founded the Restorative Community Coalition in 2006 and one of her greatest visions is to create a RestoreALife Center as another piece of the community’s housing puzzle to serve those who are dealing with an arrest, recovery and reentry.

It is clear that generational poverty, emotional trauma, living in survival without shelter, with abuse, joblessness, fear of being arrested all compound and create different kinds of distress and mental health troubles. These are all intersectional issues and it is essential that all organizations team up to solving the community wide problems society faces in 2021! From the Generation XY and Millenial technology educated era, Doug is also a visionary who could see the trouble ahead. He got involved in politics in 2016 and eventually founded Homes Now, Not Later as a 501C3 non-profit.

1) By 2019, with the help of strong advocates and teammates, Gustafson finally got Whatcom County’s first tiny home village of 25 cottages up and running – called Unity Village! It was not easy – and it took alot of public action, difficult conversations with people across the community and some hard knocks with the bureaucrats and politicians to change things. Eventually the emotional courage, hard work, prayers, donations and dedication by hundreds of people got it done!

2)In 2021 a 2nd village – Swift Haven – was launched! This is the first of a series of conversations with other community activist-leaders who are laying the foundations for deeper and stronger collaborations – for many hands workng together are aching to build strong, self-reliance style commerce where people can get their feet under them after misfortune – and they can learn about self-accountability, community leadership, cooperation!

Today Homes Now, Not Later feels confident that their prototype of how to do community with the homeless is duplicable for other cities and counties! It is economical, affordable, and serves people.

In this interview, you also hear from Irene Morgan who began working on homeless issues back in the 90’s – and realized that one of the biggest root causes of homelessness is the criminalizing of people in poverty. So she founded the RCC in 2006 to help solve the justice system problems and help people with reentry after incarceration. Later, Doug worked with both Joy and Irene on that organization, before Doug chose to focus on homeless issues on purpose!

Today, we all celebrate the evolution of awareness, knowledge and community involvement! With hindsight 2020, we have learned that this year – 2021 – is a watershed year for pioneering more change, more villages and sustainable living enterprises where more and more people can learn how to team up, cooperate band build systems that are innovative!

– Go to to see how Irene Morgan’s trailblazing efforts have spawned the huge local movement for criminal justice and jail system reform.
– Go to to see Joy’s pioneering work in civic leadership, public education and justice system research.
– Go to to learn more about Doug Gustafson’s succesful tiny home villages and visions.

All three have a YouTube Channel, plus Facebook pages (Homes Now, Not Later also has FB pages for Unity Village and for Swift Haven. )
You can go to to donate, volunteer and learn more!

WhatcomCounty98225: Civic Blindspots Report 02-13-2021

On January 28, 2021 I watched the heart and soul of my community be torn apart by an intentional civic collision. I call it intentional, for the entire collision could have been avoided with peacekeeping action, rather than military style police action.  It was a deliberate choice by the Executive Branch leaders to bring four law enforcement agencies to the scene of a homeless camp where people were asking for simple public services during the Covid crisis.  There were many interception points that could have avoided the situation, but the Whatcom County Executive Branch CEO’s chose to withhold simple emergency shelter, water, sanitation and food provisions during the height of the Covid Crisis, the economic downturn and the winter weather.  Instead, the County did not take responsibility for provided emergency services in a humanitarian way, and instead allowed the City of Bellingham officials to carry the load – essentially scapegoating them in a kind of bureaucratic avoidance sidestep.

This is my report on what happened after the fact.  It took me about two weeks for the impact of what happened to sink in,  for the research to come in and for me to collect my thoughts.  When I did finally get my mind around the whole of it, called the incident “Compound Civic Domestic Violence” for it rolled out much like family domestic violence does.   The emotional and psychological shock of it all left people across Whatcom County feeling traumatized and disoriented about what happened.  As I watched, I recognized the list of complex post traumatic stress disorder symptoms grow as people in different groups, and in waves began to realize what happened.  They registered that they were no longer safe in our community from bullying and domination by enforcement officials that we hire and pay for to protect us.  The protector had suddenly become the predator.

In this video and in the workbook attached, I describe what happened from my vantage point.  I had to invent new phrases to explain things more accurately, since the behaviors of everyone was skewed by the emergency crisis conditions.  In this booklet I describe words like:  “Civic Rankism” and identified the business model as one where the “OverCaste” authoritarian system was used as a tool for avoiding consequences using plausible deniability as the excuse.

Whatcom County 98225 – Compound Civic Domestic Violence is a 90 minute powerpoint video.  It is rather like a dissertation that takes a broad-spectrum look into homelessness vs “the law” as I witnessed it from the outside in, and from the inside out.  On January 28, 2021 the social media story was that it was a police protest, or a “police sweep of the Homeless Camp 210” in Bellingham.  It happened a day earlier than planned, when four law enforcement agencies moved in suddenly – a day earlier than anticipated.

This video is an ethnographic case study reflection and analysis of what happened in our community that day as I directly witnessed it.  Then I take an inside look at what happened across the civic systems that day; and then I observe and discuss what I saw happening in the few weeks afterwards as homeless hazing continued.  My goal was to provide a hands-on view of what happened.  Not dramatized, not hyped – but a humanized version – not intended to polarize.  It is intended to provide a civic systems disease diagnosis of why our government systems have been producing poverty, mental illness, and criminal behavior – when that is the opposite of our desire.  Why are we replicating abusive habits that are hurtful to all of us?

It is a look through the eyes of a business leader who has been looking for solutions; hands-on studying the issues of law, jail and justice system reform, poverty and homelessness, the criminalization of poverty, addiction and mental illness – and the issues of constitutional law, freedom, business and enterprise in America.  It includes reflection, research and time I spent working with hundreds of volunteers, the homeless, police and civic-minded people involved in providing services to the people afterwards – as weather went below freezing and winter survival conditions set in.  As volunteers and the homeless people were increasingly  traumatized and dealing with real survival needs.

I was there on January 28, unwittingly coming to do peace making work, and found myself mitigating trauma for the homeless and people throughout the crowd.  So I felt the impact as hundreds of officers and employees from multiple federal, state, county and city law enforcement agencies surrounded blocks of our central city.  The area was cordoned off, law enforcement no-cross lines established, and sniper positions set up with cameras, guns and drones.  Compelled by the police lines, batons, shields and the actions of more city employees, the homeless felt trapped and boxed in with their tents and limited possessions (volunteers were there to help them pick up the pieces of their lives).  They had basically one clear way to leave.  Then over the next hours they were herded  out of the area with heavy equipment and law enforcement.  The homeless were terrified, some arrested, some melting down emotionally.  With the deep fear of potential arrest, they left during a covid lockdown emergency, with limited opportunities to find safety, shelter or sanitation.

I watched the varying degrees of psychological distress and emotionally complex trauma show up in the homeless, in the police, in elected officials, in employees of the city, in protestors, in volunteers, in media, civil rights observers, social workers and literally thousands of people over a period of hours.  It was exaccerbated because in a small community many people know people on all sides of the situation and are dealing with friends, family, associates and colleagues along the way.

And then I watched the media story tell, the marketing by political extremists, the law enforcement officials justify their actions, the civic leaders avoiding accountability…and the disaster to our community as it became clear we were in the middle of a caste collision…and the people of rank would dominate those who were powerless and had no resources.  It was clearly a case of domestic violence – civic style – where “the law” was in charge of createing were the abusive parents, and the taxpayers of all kinds would pick up  the tab and pay the price one way or another.

JoyTalk : Youth, Trauma & Metabolizing Stress

As part of this Civic Vitality Series, Joy talks with a local team of community leaders, educators, therapists, community activists.  In this delightful conversation, Laura Widman and Raelyn Kaplin founders of InJoy Life Lab talk with Joy and other local community college students and a parent about community practices, services, and support needed across generations.  They specifically have created a way to engage youth during this time of the Covid Crisis so they deal with the fear, the isolation and the various restrictions imposed.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress: Chericka Ashmann

On Nov, 3, 2020 on the Presidential election day in the US, Joy speaks with Chericka Ashmann, LICSW, MHP, CMHS, CCTP who specializes in trauma and PTSD, anxiety, and substance use because of the amount of distress people were dealing with across the community.  They discuss the compound civic pressure that is leading to Complex Post Traumatic Stress, #CivicStress, #CivicShock as they are relevant to what all people are going through not just relating to the election, but dealing with the complex issues from the Covid Crisis, the impeachment issues, social conflict and more.  

Election Distress – Irene Morgan & Ava Sakowski

11-02-1021 – Joy interviews Irene Morgan, Founder of the Restorative CommUnity Coalition, and Ava Sakowski, a civicly involved businesswoman about the pressures people are feeling in the context of the 2020 Presidential elections, and the extreme social, economic, human displacement, grief and emotional upheaval felt as they are dealing with the covid crisis, impeachment, extreme political trauma and the impacts on family, friends and careers.

Irene has been a long time volunteer out-reach worker to men and women who have been homeless, in trauma from being displaced or upended by an arrest and incarceration. The disorientation is huge, and often people are left with no resources, broken families, in poverty and without networks to help them.

Covid crisis impacts are different, yet very similar as jobs are lost, incomes are stripped away, isolation and trauma pile up as friends and family are often left without resources. Irene shares her cultivated long-time practices that keep her calm during a time of civic stress, civic unrest, and how that collides with our sense of well being. it is critical on our way back to vitality, that we acknowledge the distress of this time.

How to Stop Manipulation #1-2016

The Impacts of an Arrest Cause Mental Health Symptoms within Hours

JoyTalk #2 BLINDSPOTS – PreConceptions Revealed by the Jail Trauma Study

Talking about a key unexpected finding – that people sustain extreme shock and trauma in the first 24-72 hours after an incident happens that leads to an arrest and jailing.  This is way before they get a defense attorney. This is the key to reducing harm caused after a 911 call leads to an arrest. Why?  People reported similar extreme symptoms that are listed in a Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder definition. And most did not have these kinds of extreme conditions prior to the arrest and jailing.

A Study of the Emotional Impacts of an Arrest on CPTSD


This podcast is the 1st in a series about what really happens to people who get arrested. I did the research as President of the Restorative Community Coalition.  I had been striving to figure out why the top three law enforcement officials in our County kept pushing the taxpayers to pass a massive tax to build an even more massive jail when crime rates had been dropping dramatically.  It made no logical sense.  More on this in another post.

Regarding the ethnographic research study: I decided to interview people (53) who who had been arrested and went through the Whatcom County Jail and Justice System from beginning to end. Some were still dealing with it. These were people I had helped through court navigation, or had worked with in our educational sessions, or had coached about their situation.  I wanted to know in deeper depth what really happened to them from the beginning to the end – so that we could learn what was the matter with the system from the bottoms up.

Everybody else was seeing “system reform” from the top down – and it wasn’t working.  How does it look from the bottom of the barrel?

So this podcast talks about the people I interviewed and how I did the study.  These first interviews gave me pause, and caused me to interview another 26 who were friends, family, employers, criminal defense attorneys. There were employees of the system – police, defenders, prosecutors, clerks and other staff, jailers, emergency responders, hospital and mental health providers, and investigative writers. There were people of diverse demographics, education and financial class.

Of the 79 people, all were deeply concerned about the system. Nobody really wanted to go into the emotional heavy lifting – but each was willing to do it for the purpose of hoping they could help fix it. These were not easy conversations – for the subject is emotionally traumatizing to talk about for all of us.

  • I found out that it is deeply disturbing to the soul. So nice people want to avoid the conversation.
  • It is distasteful.  It is cruel and ugly.  It is unspeakable in many ways.
  • It boggles the mind that we are doing this in the 21st century when we have other options.
  • I found out that people who get arrested go through dramatic arrest shock and jail trauma that causes deep mental, physical and emotional distress – people cannot comprehend what just happened to them.
  • And it happens before they ever even get to 1st Appearance. Before they meet any Public Defender, before bail. There is no safety zone at all.But I get ahead of myself…this 1st podcast is simply to introduce why I did the work. Below is the chart that emerged afterwards.

    In future podcasts, I will explain more…


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