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The three-headed hydra of apathy, envy and fear is sorry to say, “Access denied.”

Why would a three-headed hydra oppose anyone’s access to five services for surviving? Reasons!


This twenty-part series introduces you to twenty key terms used in the local mobilizing process that you and your community will require to survive and thrive during colliding crises. The articles will reference the three-headed hydras of apathy, envy and fear, those people in positions of power who are fighting to keep a broken status quo.

Concept 2: Five services for surviving

Survivor is described as “a television show that places a group of strangers in an isolated location, where they must provide food, fire, and shelter for themselves. The contestants compete in challenges for rewards and immunity from elimination.”

When did reality shows become our reality?

Today, a survivor might also be defined as a person who navigates an unstable environment in a pandemic and economic free fall to access the basics of survival.

In my world of community health, we describe the five services for surviving as: medical and dental care, behavioral healthcare, food security programs, housing security programs and transport to vital services.

For many reading this article, accessing health care, at least up until now, was not viewed as an extreme sport. Health insurance, attached to a job, covered most care. Transport wasn’t a problem as even car-free people had Uber. As for shelter and food, those come with the middle class lifestyle a career provides.

Then the pandemic and life in isolation hit. And one of my favorite waiters, also a free-lance welder, was out of work and asking me about cheap shelter, food banks and if he could borrow some cash. As we all saw, life can change dramatically with one order from a leader.

As for your neighbors on the other side of town, for a host of reasons, they have been struggling to access five services for surviving since they were born. In an era of colliding crises, life is now near impossible for them. Allow me to explain.

How might we define the five services for surviving?

Here I describe each service and follow up with ideas for ensuring that the services exist for all, even if the three-headed hydras oppose such an idea.

Medical and dental care

This is the care we need to address our physical challenges. Some societies ensure that such care is accessible to 100% of residents and it is not tied to a job, insurance or capacity to pay. That would not be our US society.

To fix health disparities, we must engage collectively, county by county, with partners in the healthcare field to ensure that all county residents have timely access to the care they need. This includes assessing to what degree county residents have access to care and identifying gaps and their causes. Reasons for gaps may include prohibitive costs, lack of personal or public transportation, poor services, and lack of awareness of services offered. Innovations in this area should include technology-based solutions such as using video-conferencing to “see” patients online for assessments and screening. (The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation could be very helpful here as they have lots of experience working in other developing countries. Can some reader get Mr. Gates on the phone?)

We also have to end the digital divide, ensuring that all residents have access to technology capable of utilizing online health-related services.

Suggested reading: Medical and Dental Care@100%

Behavioral health care

In a county where untreated trauma due to adverse childhood experiences is almost a norm, mental health care serves a vital role in a time of crisis and change. In some societies, behavioral health care is part of the overall health care package one gets as a resident. The care is accessible to all, not based on one’s capacity to pay. In the US, that would not be the case, for the most part.

As with medical care, county by county, we must mobilize and must work with partners in the behavioral healthcare field to support reaching all county residents with the timely care they may need. This includes assessing to what degree county residents have access to behavioral health care. Gaps will include costs, transport, poor quality service, and lack of awareness of services. In many cases, the team can promote use of video conferencing technology to serve many clients.

New forms of support groups, providing alternative ways of improving emotional health and addressing trauma, borrowed from a variety of cultures, can be developed to meet the unique needs of different populations. (Google loves to get into new ventures, so let’s contact them to explore GoogleTherapy.)

Suggested reading: Behavioral Health Care@100%

Food insecurity programs

Hunger has been alive and diminishing lives in each state since they were states, and before. We may be told we have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but it appears freedom from hunger was not part of the deal. At least not yet.

We must work, county by county, to assess where gaps in food security services are and work to implement solutions. Gaps in services include lack of transport to services, lack of family-friendly hours, and lack of stable supplies.

Food security can be strengthened with food pantries and food banks in all community centers, schools and campuses — with support from new public-private sector partnerships and apps to organize distribution. (We could use some help from the brilliant minds behind Starbucks here, as they already have a system and software to support getting their food to shelter programs.)

Suggested reading: Food@100%

Housing security programs

Housing insecurity and homelessness is a challenge that will most likely only grow as we endure economic disruptions. While some societies see it as a moral obligation to provide accessible housing to all, the US does not. Yet.

We know things are bad when school districts have to invent new entities called The Department of Homeless Students. Housing insecurity is not caused by the wind, it is a manmade problem solved with human ingenuity and political will.

Housing insecurity is reduced and rapid-rehousing of vulnerable populations, achieved by increasing accessible housing through public-private sector partnerships, innovation, research and tested models.

To meet housing needs, local action teams assess the need for immediate rapid rehousing, as well as all forms of housing insecurity. From there, the team researches solutions and designs local initiatives to address gaps in housing. The action team’s work is informed by decades of new design focused on green building, micro-homes and prefabricated structures and city zoning laws to increase additional dwelling units. (There is an entire industry called “Tiny Homes” that has been perfecting really small, imaginatively designed and affordable pre-made homes, for decades. Can someone convene their designers for a national Zoom meeting on housing solutions?)

Suggested reading: Housing@100%


For a wide variety of reasons, exacerbated by pandemics and economic disruptions, large parts of the county may lack public transport to get car-free folks to vital services.

Some societies pride themselves in linking city centers to one another and ensure transport options exist to get the public from urban to rural areas. We could become one of those societies with technology and a big scoop of political will.

Public transport can evolve with public-private sector partnership and with government-supported ride-sharing and apps. A county team working to ensure public transport has a huge challenge and fascinating opportunity in front of them. In urban and rural areas, public transport options might not exist or may have been disrupted. This requires new thinking that might include researching the feasibility of subsidized app-ordered ride-sharing programs or a fleet of volunteer van drivers staffed by retired residents or providing some form of payments to college students and the newly unemployed who can provide ride-sharing. This requires alignment of all county and city transport projects. (We know Elon Musk has ideas on this. Can we set up an appointment with his people ASAP.)

Suggested reading: Transportation@100%

Who makes access to the services near impossible?

No one disagrees that the five services for surviving are, well, a matter of survival in some cases. Especially during an era of colliding crises, we all need health care, food, housing and transport. Yet, county after county, we fail to ensure 100% of residents can access such vital services. Reasons? For this information you will need to conduct informational interviews with the people who run your cities and counties, including your city council, county commissioners and school board members. You can also track voting records.

One of the more fascinating parts of my work is talking with very caring elected officials who do agree that survival services should be accessible to all, but it’s just not the job of local elected officials to make that happen.

It is here we must acknowledge that three-headed hydras, guided by apathy, envy and fear, are lucking around blocking progress. Through the action or inaction of persons of power, vital services remain out of reach for our most vulnerable populations. And that group could include all of us soon.

Who survives? That depends on you.

There you have it. With these five services in place, we can survive pandemics and economic disruptions. When things go sideways with our jobs, we still maintain a quality of life while we seek future employment. A county collective, working with a shared vision, goals and activities, can be leaders in innovations to ensure access to five services.

We don’t lack ways to increase access to services and improve the quality of services. (I have to believe that philanthropists like Oprah, and the thousands of socially-engaged investors in your state, would get behind proposals to pilot local systems for ensuring survival services for kids.) In a country once considered the-richest-on-earth, we have the resources to ensure 100% of our residents can survive. And it can start in your city with you, driven by an insatiable desire for social justice.

The future is what we make it. Join the evolution.

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of Joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. If one of my illustrations looks like a real human or three-headed hydra, that’s total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Questions? Answers await you here:

Note: My cherished seventh grade journalism teacher, in her vibrant eighties, is reading these articles. If inspired by my words, please make her proud and clap below.

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras, 100% Community and Anna, Age Eight.

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