Friday, August 22, 2014
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Class War or a Viable Third Party???
Sunday, August 3, 2014
From Beating to Embracing the Homeless (Formerly: THE GALES SCHOOL SCAM)
1 -- Scroll down to the last hearing for July 10th, 2008 and click "View meeting".
2 -- Go to 34 minutes and 40 seconds in the video.
3 -- Watch the next 3 testifiers: a snobbish, NIMBYistic ANC commissioner (my reason for resurrecting this post from 6 years ago), myself and a local activist who supports the poor.
HERE it is again.
As it turns out, there is much tension between the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, the business community and well-to-do people on the one hand and the poor and homeless on the other hand. Both groups are vying for the attention of DC Government so as to have them create laws and policies that favor the respective group and its constituents. It's like CLASS WAR ON A LOCAL LEVEL.
This tension erupted recently as an ANC commissioner attacked a homeless man sleeping outdoors in his neighborhood. LEO DWYER has been charged with a misdemeanor and, due to a recent court decision, will be able to carry a gun in DC -- which could lead to greater violence against the homeless who are often attacked as they sleep (like DC's own Yoshio Nakada). Fortunately, the National Coalition for the Homeless is fighting to make attacks against the homeless simply because of their socio-economic status a hate crime.
As the links in the previous paragraphs indicate, low-income people are being priced out of DC (3,000/ month recently); well-to-do people are coming in (4,000/ month recently); violent attacks on the homeless are increasing in frequency as well as intensity; political attacks on the poor are also increasing in frequency as well as intensity and the world is watching via Al Jazeera. It therefore behooves the bourgeoisie to initiate efforts to get along with the dispossessed and to coexist peacefully. That is the thrust and purpose of this repost. There were many reasons for us not to want the Central Union Mission to move to the Gales School, not the least of them being the NIMBYistic underpinnings (NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard). Six years later, DC's homeless community has all the more reason to fear and lash out at the bourgeoisie -- not only in NW Washington, DC but across the city.
I'm one to offer solutions and pride myself in being a man of reason. So, to that end I offer a radical idea. Let's connect the 1,350-bed CCNV Shelter to its ANC 6C and foster meaningful relationships between the homeless and the housed. As a matter of fact, let's have LEO DWYER facilitate that process. We could also have him listen to homeless people tell their stories through the Faces of homelessness Speakers' Bureau. It makes sense to approach his entire DuPont Circle ANC 2B and to get their take on his actions as well as the way forward. This is especially true since DuPont Circle is frequented by dozens of homeless people and is the area where the quasi-bourgeoisie attack took place.
So, in addition to posting this blog on my fan page, I'll send it to various ANC's, public officials and media outlets. We can pre-empt the developing CLASS WAR by fostering relationships between the haves and the have-nots -- especially since Mayor Vince Gray's ostensible efforts to make DC a place for people of all economic strata has failed. (I thought Obama did poorly at addressing homelessness; but, at least he signed legislation to address it -- even if it's taken over five years to fully implement.)
Feel free to assist me in this matter by posting THIS LINK on your various websites and pages and by e-mailing it to as many interested parties as possible. TEXT me at 240-305-5255 to arrange a meeting around the aforementioned effort to facilitate meaningful relationships between the bourgeoisie and the homeless/ dispossessed "The BROletariat". Not beginning this process will only expedite the CLASS WAR. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading "Violence vs. Homeless"
The original July 10th, 2008 entry begins here:
This is the testimony that I read at the July 10th hearing in which the disposition of the Gales School by DC Government was considered. The Gales School at 65 Massachusetts Ave., NW was part of a recent land swap in which the DC Government acquired 4 Petworth properties from the Central Union Mission in exchange for the Gales School. It looks as if the deal will go through and be OK'ed by the council. Following my testimony are some thoughts on the hearing.
THE GALES SCHOOL SCAM
I am against the transfer of the Gales School at 65 Mass. Ave. to the Central Union Mission for several reasons. first and foremost is the fact that this deal is predicated on a lack of good principle on the part of DC Government and several residents. In short, the underpriviledged have been forced out of the Petworth community by Councilman Graham and his cohorts, as if this rejection will somehow end their homelessness. That's not to speak of the fact that these same homeless people are, in effect, being dumped on another community.
Being the homeless homeless activist that I am, I'm well aware of the fact that WIN (the Washington Inter-faith Network) is working closely with the mayor on the issue of affordable housing. On April 7th of this year, they held a meeting at Emory UMC. During that meeting, the mayor committed to creating at least 350 units of permanent supportive housing and 150 downtown shelter beds and bringing them on-line BEFORE the closure of Franklin School Shelter at 13th and K streets, NW., which is slated to close on or by October 1st of this year. (It seems quite unrealistic to think that this goal will be met in less than 3 months.)
The language of the legislation which is being considered today strongly suggests that the mayor is trying to pass Gales School off as a replacement for Franklin School and a fulfillment of his promise of downtown shelter. It is neither. It is a replacement for the Central Union Mission. And it is not located in the same "downtown" as Franklin. We were speaking of the downtown that revolves around the Wilson bldg., not the Capitol. At the very least, the mayor needs to clarify that he is not considering the Gales School to be a fulfillment of his promise to WIN.
If the Gales School were to be converted into a men's shelter, it would put an undue burden on homeless services in the area such as SOME and the Father McKenna Center. It would also take the clientele from other services that are near the present location of the Central Union Mission at 14th and R streets, NW, thus creating a need to move those services and to do the "homeless shuffle". The closure of Franklin School would cause even more homeless people to be dumped on this part of town, possibly the NY Ave. shelter.
The Gales School formerly served about 170 people. Franklin holds 300 men. CUM has 170. That adds up to 640 people. Gales will house 150 when it reopens. If and when Franklin and CUM close and Gales reopens, we will have suffered a net loss of almost 500 shelter beds.
Furthermore, the District wants to give this property away only due to it being a piece of trash. It has no roof. It is being held up by temporary external braces. This historic building should've been history long ago. It is severely handicapped, or shall I say "physically challenged"? That says a lot about how you feel about its future occupants.
The building was slated to become a women's shelter some time ago. Considering the impact that this shelter will have on the surrounding community (especially other homeless services), this would be the better usage. That is only true as long as Franklin is kept open insomuch as it would enable Franklin residents to walk to services that are further west such as Miriam's Kitchen or Martha's Table. The list of reasons goes on. However, I'll stop there for now.
I would strongly urge the council to create emergency legislation reversing the planned closure of the Franklin School shelter and to redo the math so as to make sure that DC doesn't further decrease its ability to help the homeles community. Finally, was the completed renovation of Gales School in 2010 timed to occur 2 years after Franklin closes in hopes that the homeless would just leave town for lack of a place to stay?
*****[END OF TESTIMONY] *****
As is often the case, I came up with more things to talk about after I'd already had my turn to testify. I heard people stating misconceptions and stereotypes about the homeless. However it was a certain woman of color who sat to my left and testified immediately before me whom I was most anxious to tell off. She seemed quite unsympathetic to the plight of the homeless. She made no secret of the fact that she considers them to be an eyesore and to bring down the value of the neighborhood. She also indicated that she thought that crime would skyrocket and that the homeless were to be feared even to the extent that parents could not allow their children to play outdoors for fear of the homeless. It was only at the coaching of Councilman Jim Graham that she reluctantly showed some token sympathy for the homeless. I can be seen on TV just eyeing her up and down as she spoke. It took a lot to bite my tongue.
Councilmen Jim Graham and Kwame had arrived early and heard my testimony from beginning to end. Carol Schwartz, Tommy Wells and Jack Evans were all late arrivals who walked in just as I finished, with there having been 3 testimonies before mine. Kwame Brown, who'd been chairing the hearing due to Schwartz's tardiness, left as I finished. A friend of mine named Oscar sat to my right and testified after me. He was awesome. I couldn't help but laugh throughout his testimony, as he laid it on the DC Government. Oscar and Jack Evans then began a rather lively debate about Franklin School Shelter. Though I live there, I couldn't get a word in edgewise and Schwartz denied me the opportunity to weigh in. I won't waste your time by elaborating on the erroneous ideas that were stated. (This blog is already becoming quite the lengthy article.) However, the things that I wanted to say to the councilmembers after having had my turn to speak were as follows:
1 -- Councilman Graham mentioned that the homeless were not asked if they wanted to move from the present location of Central Union Mission at 14th and R, NW to Petworth. That much is true. However, his statement is biased in favor of keeping the homeless out of Petworth. Fact of the matter is that they weren't contacted about whether or not they wanted to move to Gales School either. They tend to just get pushed around. Clarence Carter of DHS once asked me what right I have to decide where my shelter is located.
2 -- The ultimate goal is to house the homeless. (That point was made numerous times by numerous people throughout the hearing.) However, moving the homeless from one shelter to another is not even a lateral move. It is a downward move. It forces the homeless to make entirely new connections. They must find new soup kitchens and get connected to new homeless services. If they are not being housed, it is better to keep them in familiar surroundings.
3 -- The homeless walk to most of the places where they go. If a shelter is too far from the services used by the homeless, they won't go to that shelter. There would be a need to relocate services also.
4 -- The homeless get attached to certain churches that feed them as well as certain do-gooders that go out to the parks to feed and spend time with them and bring clothing and other goods. These do-gooders would need to be retrained on the new places where they can find these homeless people that they've come to know and love.
After the hearing I was able to speak with Mr. Graham for a minute. He asserted that the Franklin School situation was in no way related to the Gales School. I begged to differ with him. He got an uneasy look on his face and began to back away, being quite reluctant to stay and reason with me.
Prior to the hearing beginning, I spoke with David Treadwell, the executive director of Central Union Mission. He made the point that CUM was not "pushed" out of Petworth by gentrification but rather was "pulled" out by the more alluring downtown location of the Gales School, since the homeless tend to go to downtown when they arrive in a new city.
It was pointed out during the hearing that the Gales School might not be inhabitable until 2011. However, the present location of the Central Union Mission is slated to close in October of 2009. Carol Schwartz and Jim Graham mentioned the possibilities of postponing the closure of the present facility and/or expediting the renovation of gales School. Much uncertainty still exists pertaining to this matter.
Though various homeless advocates mounted one heck of a fight, I got the feeling that Gales School will become a men's shelter anyway. I have much more to tell you on this matter. I'll stop there for now. Nonetheless, I believe that the DC Government will learn through the school of hard knocks. They'll see just how unprepared they were to make these changes when they follow through on their plans.
End of repost
Note: The newly-renovated Gales School was reopened in November 2013 as the Central Union Mission.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
“The Future” of the 1,350-Bed CCNV Shelter – End of the Task Force 10/8/13 to 7/8/14
CCNV: Past, Present and Future (a website that was put together by my colleagues and I)
Well, the CCNV (Community for Creative Non-Violence) Shelter Task Force has completed its mission. It was convened on October 8th, 2013 to compile data and come up with recommendations for the mayor and city council concerning the future of the shelter; and, it held its final meeting on July 8th, 2014. The task force came up with a list of 17 principles that should be adhered to as we consider the future of the property and the one-sixth of DC's homeless people which it holds. On July 14th, 2014 the DC Council held its final hearing before a two-month recess and presented a bill which contains those 17 principles and requires the mayor to develop a comprehensive plan for CCNV. (That bill is pasted at the end of this post.)
But the work on this issue began long before October of 2013. I was told several times by the shelter director beginning in mid-2011 that the building could be closed in 2018. His worry was fueled by the story of a homeless woman who died on a bench in front of the shelter in June 2009. (See her on that bench in THIS VIDEO at 8 min 18 secs, just 3 days before she died.) DC Government responded by saying that if she hadn't been loitering there, she wouldn't have died there and that CCNV would lose its contract if they didn't put an end to the loitering. To add insult to death, CCNV began having its security personnel patrol the 2,000-ft perimeter city block on June 17th, 2009 – the same day this woman was buried.
I've also heard shelter staff and residents talking about the possible 2018 closure since mid-2011, leading me to believe that it was the primary topic of at least one staff meeting. So, in January 2013 I filed a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request with the federal government. I initially contacted GSA (General Services Administration). They referred me to HHS (Health and Human Services, the ones who screwed up the Obamacare website) which sent me almost 100 pages of information about the property and property rights. These documents indicated that the 30-year covenant began in July 1986 (before the renovation was complete), not 1988 and that we had two years less than we thought before the covenant expired. I sent that information to city officials. Councilman Jim Graham convened a hearing on June 27th, 2013. At the hearing he decided to convene a task force. On July 10th, 2013 the council voted to approve the task force's formation and the rest is history. I just want to ensure that the history is properly recorded with the role of myself and other homeless people being properly documented.
I'm pleased, for the most part, with the outcome of the task force's work. I can't logically complain about what wasn't accomplished, as I fully understand why we couldn't do more. But knowing this doesn't decrease the dismay. It was rather ingenious of Councilman Jim Graham to bring together existing federal legislation and local legislation that pertains to homeless services as well as the recommendations of the task force in the bill (below). If the bill is passed in its present form, it will mandate that the present and incoming (2015) mayors adequately address a matter that should have been addressed beginning over 25 years ago when the property was transferred from the feds to DC Government. I'm a bit dismayed that a task force of about 20 people could only come up with these 17 principles in nine months. I wish we could have developed some semblance of a plan; but, there were too many strong wills, technicalities and idiosyncrasies at work. That said, I've pasted my July 8th testimony below with a couple of added statements in [brackets]. The bill is below my testimony:
I've advocated for DC's homeless community since mid-June 2006. While I've heard rumblings of a possible closure of the CCNV/Federal City Shelter since mid-2011 and met with Chapman Todd, a consultant for Downtown BID, in October and November 2012, I was one of the key people responsible for beginning the public conversation around the future of the 1,350-person shelter in January 2013. Prior to 2013, an overhaul of the property was an idea that was just tossed around informally. Now the public conversation is in full swing. I therefore have a vested interest in making sure the process goes well for all who will be affected by the mayor's decision. I am doing all that I can to fully and properly inform his decision. [To my dismay, the involvement of the homeless community in getting this process started has been grossly under-represented by certain media outlets.]
It is worth noting that, while efforts were made to involve the directly-affected homeless people in this process, our efforts have proven to be onerous. The homeless are a gravely disenfranchised lot of people. I'm guessing that, as this issue hits the headlines in a really big way, the homeless will realize the gravity of the situation and decide to come forth and speak on their own behalf. In lieu of this matter, I strongly suggest that another hearing or roundtable be scheduled in the early fall.
Due to a number of factors, the building's census fluctuates between 1,100 and 1,350 people with a recent document putting the maximum capacity at only 1,260 beds. Chapman told me in 2012 that any talk of closing the facility without creating a total of 1,350 beds elsewhere would be a conversation stopper. On March 24th, 2014 Richard Bradley of Downtown BID said that Chapman was speaking in lieu of the political realities of the fall of 2012 with those realities having changed. This was during a meeting in which Rich presented a document that placed the building's census at 909. He admitted to error. Nonetheless it highlights the need to ensure that we properly and fully inform the mayor's decision.
As the city begins to pay for services rendered to the 950 people that CCNV-Proper presently shelters at no operating cost to the city, the cost of helping these homeless residents will increase. The city has saved millions of dollars per year for 28 years (well over $100 million total, maybe 4 times that). It would easily cost the city at least $135 million to create affordable housing units for all CCNV/FCS residents with the mayor having promised almost 8 times as many units by 2020.
Some associates of mine have also said that we shouldn't speak of the sale and demolition of the present structure as a foregone conclusion – that we should consider the possibility of renovating the building and allowing its entities to continue to do business as usual. They've also suggested that we seek financing tools that will enable service providers to retain and redevelop the parking lot AND the present building for shelter and/or affordable housing. I concur with the latter statement.
It should be noted that, since 1986, DC Government has done very little to grow the residents of CCNV/FCS beyond homelessness. Even when Fenty insisted on closing the 300-bed Franklin School Shelter due to it being “unfit for human habitation” and not wanting to “warehouse homeless people”, there was no talk of housing or helping able-bodied people from this 1,350-person shelter. DHS has had oversight of this property for over 8 years; yet it remains a hole in the wall.
In closing, I'll say that any conversation about assisting the homeless should include at least two elements – a segment about how to house them [as opposed to simply sheltering them and defending their right to sleep on the streets] as well as an effort to involve the homeless in advocating for themselves.
See a copy of the bill below:
Councilmember Marion Barry Councilmember Jim Graham
Councilmember Anita Bonds
IN THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
To amend the Homeless Services Reform Act of 2005 to require the Mayor to develop a plan that provides a range of comprehensive services that address the assessed needs of homeless individuals at 425 2nd Street, N.W., and that complies with the Statement of Principles as developed by the Center for Creative Non-Violence (“CCNV”) Task Force.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this
act may be cited as the “Plan for Comprehensive Services for Homeless Individuals at 425 2nd Street, N.W., Amendment Act of 2014”.
Sec. 2. The Homeless Services Reform Act of 2005, effective October 22, 2005 (D.C. Law 16-35; D.C. Official Code § 4-751.01 et seq.), is amended by adding new sections 27g and 27h to read as follows:
“Sec. 27g. Plan for comprehensive services for homeless individuals at 425 2nd Street, N.W.”
“In the provision of homeless services for individuals residing at the property located at 425 2nd Street, N.W., the Mayor shall develop a plan that complies with the Statement of Principles, outlined in section 27h and developed by the CCNV Task Force (“Task Force”) pursuant to the CCNV Task Force Emergency Act of 2013, effective August 2, 2013 (D.C. Act 20-147; 60 DCR 11809; 20 DCSTAT 2000), and the CCNV Task Force Temporary Act of 2013, effective December 5, 2013 (D.C. Law 20-45; 60 DCR 14959; 20 DCSTAT 2392).
“Sec. 27h. The Statement of Principles of the Task Force shall be as follows:
“(1) The District of Columbia has an obligation to provide for the needs of homeless District of Columbia residents in the development of its parcel at 425 2nd Street, N.W. This obligation went into effect when the property was first transferred from the federal government to the District of Columbia.
“(2) Any new development of the parcel should be “build first,” that is, the existing shelter should not be razed until replacement capacity is fully available.
“(3) Replacement capacity should be located at the current site to respond effectively to the needs of residents, to the maximum extent possible,.
“(4) Any replacement capacity located off-site should be close to public transportation, and for ease of access to jobs and services, ideally located in the downtown area of the District of Columbia.
“(5) Replacement capacity should primarily be deeply affordable housing, and include single room occupancy (“SRO”), efficiency, studio design, the Housing First model of permanent supportive housing with housing specifically targeting the needs of youth under the age of 25, and 24-hour low barrier shelter and hypothermia shelter. Some scattered site capacity through vouchers or otherwise, might be appropriate or desirable for some residents.
“(6) Any SRO, efficiency, or studio design unit should have sufficient square footage to meet current recommended standards for living space.
“(7) Private bathing and cooking space should be prioritized to the maximum extent possible.
“(8) Any site re-design should be responsive to security needs of residents, both within the building and in the surrounding environments.
“(9) Any new development should follow sustainable and green principles.
“(10) In any new construction, developers should follow “First Source” requirements. All efforts should be made to employ as many residents of 425 2nd Street, N.W., as possible.
“(11) Priority for new units should be given to current residents, people with disabilities, and people who are elderly.
“(12) All efforts should be taken in the redevelopment design to allow families, including families with no minor children, to be housed or sheltered together, regardless of gender.
“(13) It is important to have services available on-site.
“(14) Assessment of service needs, for example, whether a resident needs permanent supportive housing, should be made using the “state of the art” tools and standards available at the time of assessment.
“(15) There should be office space for management of programs included in the site re-design.
“(16) All non-shelter services presently at 425 2nd Street N.W., should be included in the site re-design to the maximum extent feasible.
“(17) All providers and relevant programs should meet the highest standards and have appropriate qualifications for the service provided.”.
Sec. 3. Fiscal impact statement.
The Council adopts the fiscal impact statement in the committee report as the
fiscal impact statement required by section 602(c)(3) of the District of Columbia Home Rule
Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(3)).
Sec. 4. Effective date.
This act shall take effect following approval by the Mayor (or in the event of veto by the Mayor, action by the Council to override the veto), a 30-day period of Congressional review as provided in section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December
24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(1)), and publication in the District of Columbia Register.
Labels: Adrian Fenty, AFFORDABLE HOUSING, Brianne Nadeau, CCNV, David Catania, DC Council, H.E.A.R.T.H. Act. Title V, Jim Graham, Kristy Greenwalt, Mayor Vince Gray, Muriel Bowser, solutions to homelessness, Vince Gray
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The Spirituality of Poverty and Advocacy (SPA)
Wikipedia defines advocacy as: a political process by an individual or group which aims to influence public-policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research or conducting exit poll or the filing of an amicus brief. Lobbying (often by lobby groups) is a form of advocacy where a direct approach is made to legislators on an issue which plays a significant role in modern politics. Research has started unfolding how advocacy groups in the U.S. and Canada are using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.
As indicated by the aforementioned definition, the primary target of my advocacy is government. However, as Hannibal Barca's (Barcid's) army often surrounded the opposing army and then defeated their virtual prisoners in a "circular battle", I too need an army of concerned and/or directly-affected citizens to surround and inundate government with our demands. Unfortunately, many of the people who could make up this “army” are very weak in spirit and disenfranchised. The poor and homeless have accepted their state as their lot in life and those who have sufficient means of survival don't get involved or cease their involvement in advocacy for any number of reasons ranging from having very busy schedules to believing that the poor and homeless deserve what life has dealt them. But so much for building the army. Let's define the reason for the war – spiritual-class war, of course.
The story begins between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago when God (Allah, Jehovah) spoke the world into existence using power and methodologies that transcend human science and work much more quickly and differently than big bang-evolutionary theory can ever understand or account for. During the first 3,000 years of this world's existence, the Creator made known His Laws which included compassion for the poor. Howbeit, He never demanded that able-bodied people be given hand-outs in perpetuity. He DID however command land owners not to pick up crops that were dropped during harvesting or to go over the field a second time. This would allow the stranger, the fatherless and the widow (those who didn't have a man of means in their lives) to “glean” their sustenance from the field. After all the Earth is the Lord's and it is He who brings the increase.
There were several hundred years during which God is not known to have spoken to anyone on Earth. The confused mixture of religions known as Hellenistic Polytheism sprung out of this era. Then came Jesus. He was born into poverty and homelessness. After Jesus at age twelve astounds the elders in the temple, we don't read anymore about Joseph. It is believed by some that the societal (mis)leaders took the home of his widowed mother Mary and that he had her and other widows in mind when he accused the Sanhedrin (pharisees and sadducees collectively) of taking the homes of widows.
There were various other instances during his ministry that were either possibly or certainly intended to send a strong message to those who oppress or ignore the poor. One such possibility was when Jesus turned water into wine. Jewish weddings were major social events that were attended by many. You didn't necessarily have to be a family member to attend. Notable people were served first and the poor were allowed to usurp the leftovers. The lord of the feast clearly stated that the worst wine is usually saved for last. This, of course, means that the poor get the low-quality wine. Jesus, however, “saved” the best for last.
Jesus was certainly speaking against oppression of the poor during his temple rampage. He accused those selling in the temple of turning what should've been a house of prayer into a den of thieves. It qualified as such for at least two reasons. First of all, God allowed the poor to offer turtledoves which they'd caught that were without spot of blemish. Even when a poor person brought a suitable dove to be offered, they were told by those selling in the temple that it had a blemish and that they must purchase a turtledove from the temple. That's when the second act of exploitation took place. The person had to exchange their money for temple currency before purchasing a turtledove and they always lost money in the exchange.
In addition to Jesus living in poverty and commanding his disciples to travel light, he told a rich young ruler who wanted to become a follower that he had to sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor. The man walked away. Christ also told us that there is very little chance of a rich man getting into Heaven. (The “eye of the needle” was a very small doorway that was cut into the city wall. A camel could only come through on its knees with no luggage on its back.) In the parable of the man who planned to build bigger barns, Jesus sent the message that the rich are OBLIGATED to help the poor. The story of a conversation between Abraham who held Lazarus in his bosom while in Heaven and a rich man who'd gone to Hell is believed by many theologians to be true insomuch as it gives the names of two out of three characters. (Maybe Jesus wanted to give other rich men the sense that it could one day be their story – to let them fill in the blank with their own name.) It is worth noting that in both the parable and the true story the rich man simply IGNORES THE POOR and GOES TO HELL. How much more will those who actively oppress and exploit the poor burn for it???!!!
It is also worth noting that Jesus opposed the religious super structure of his day but refused, on more than one occasion, to openly oppose the political super structure. He told those who were speaking supposedly in the name of God how wrong they were; but, he didn't give us any political advice or tell the Romans that they were wrong for anything that they were doing. The Jews wanted a savior to deliver them from the Romans. Jesus was not that kind of savior.
Despite Jesus' avoidance of politics, the disciples began intentional Communist communities as described in Acts chapter 2 verses 42 through 47. It makes sense when you consider the fact that neither partisan politics nor McCarthyism had the place in first century Rome that they have in present-day America. Add to that the fact that people don't need to be political in order to decide that they'll hold all things in common and live together in an intentional community. They just have to care about each other.
The first-century Christians were able to maintain these non-dictatorial Communist communities because, as Galatians 5:22 and 23 tells us: “The fruit of the spirit is Love, Joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, GOODNESS, faith, meekness and temperance. Against such there is no law.” Oddly enough, various state and city governments in this country as well as governments in other countries like that of Budapest, Hungary have outlawed acts of kindness like feeding or giving money to the homeless and/or acts whereby the homeless help themselves by sleeping in public places. People in this country (especially in Florida) have actually gone to jail for helping the homeless. Galatians 5:22-23 is no longer true.
Fast forward to 1945. The United States has become a world power. As a matter of fact, they're well on their way to becoming the most powerful nation on Earth. General Eisenhower who was largely responsible for U.S. victory in World War II would become president eight years later and finish his second term in January 1961. He was the first two-term president since term limits were ratified by the states in 1951.
Though term limits were intended to keep a president from becoming a dictator, they've actually caused the office of the U.S. President to evolve into something quite evil. Someone who rules for life after their election, selection or appointment is likely to become a dictator. Someone who has to be re-elected every four years is likely to bear in mind what the voting public wants and to do their best to deliver insomuch as they want to remain in office for as long as possible. Someone who is in their last term no longer needs to satisfy their constituency and is likely to do anything but. This allows a second-term president to wreak havoc on a politically inept public.
Eisenhower fought against dictatorship among other things and was the last of the “non-imperialist two-term-limited U.S. Presidents” – even if what he did opened the door for present-day U.S. Imperialism. I firmly believe that the horsemen of Revelation chapter 6 correspond with the two-term presidents since Eisenhower:
1 – Nixon went out conquering the political climate of his day and turning the office of the president into a vehicle which the wealthy and greedy could use to implement their evil agendas. Though one might point to acts of greed or corporatism that pre-date the Nixon administration, the early 1970's is when we went full-on with the fascistic marriage of government and corporations and with corporate greed. These acts amounted to giving to the wealthy; but, they weren't yet taking noticeable amounts from the poor.
2 – Reagan definitely was given power to make war. He was the last cold war president. I guess you can say that he caused us to “win” the cold war. He built up the military and funded it by cutting funding for social programs. Reaganomics caused inflation to increase exponentially. The higher prices, low wages and decreased social services made it more convenient for the poor to join the military which had just received their former social service dollars. Reagan even made it possible for the poor to get career training if they came home alive. He clearly took from the "non-militant poor".
3 – The third horseman was given a set of balances and went out saying, “A measure of wheat for a day's wages and two measures of barely for a day's wages”. This horseman was promoting low wages and inflation among other things – low ROI (return on investments) at all levels. Clinton implemented the “Welfare to Work” program which looks good on its face. However, the end result of that policy and other socio-economic conditions is a combination of hard work, continued low income and insufficient sustenance for the poor.
4 – That makes Bush 43 “Death”. While governor of Texas, he oversaw 119 executions, pardoning none. As president he used a personal vendetta against Hussein as the pretext for a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people, spent about a trillion dollars on the war industry that was nurtured to maturity by Reagan, decimated an oil-rich country and solidified the U.S. Government's image in other countries as the world bully. We also saw the death of the U.S. presidency insomuch as Cheney seemed to be more in control than Bush. They took the reins of world capitalism and ensured that the U.S. Government would control this destructive beast as much as is possible for any one government to do. It was toward the end of the Bush era that the economy went south in a big way. Bush began the bail-out process which gave ungodly amounts of money to the rich who'd already wasted their means like the prodigal son. He did this at the expense of the poor. Even with Bush 43 out of office, the beast of Capitalism continues to consume the poor.
5 – After mentioning the fourth horseman, scripture tells us that Hades followed close behind. With Bush 43's administration having taken the reins of the destructive super structure of world capitalism, the system of national, state and local governments is becoming more decadent, losing any sense of morality or direction and dying. That leaves Obama to either maintain the status quo or begin something new. It stands to reason that he's beginning something new and that it is so different from what we've known that it's implementation will feel like Hell on Earth for some people.
He's in his sixth year with about 30 months remaining. While he has maintained some of the hurtful policies of his predecessors, he is also known to be one of the softest and sweetest presidents in recent history. I've suspected for some time now that Obama would lord over the de-imperialization of the U.S. – that he would put an end to the practice of the U.S. Policing the world (whether or not that is his intent). That could be Hell for some. If his appointment of a Cuban descendant to the position of HUD secretary is any indication, he could want disadvantaged and oppressed people to advance socio-economically. (There are other political reasons for choosing Julian Castro to lead HUD.) That supposition is turned on its head when you consider how he has not contributed to the social uplift of Afro-Americans. Then again, as was quite clear in his most recent State of the Union address, he loves women as much or more so than I do. It's conceivable that he will do all he can by January 20, 2017 to take power from the men and give it to the women. While it would be Hell for wealthy men, it might cause more to be done for the poor.
There is a way to marry all of those possibilities – the social uplift of disadvantaged groups such as Blacks, women and poor immigrants as well as the end of U.S. Imperialism. After all, it's been more than 50 years since Eisenhower left office and it's been said that a U.S. President affects the country for 50 years after he leaves office. So, it stands to reason that the imperialism that U.S. victory in World War II made possible will now come to an end. That said, the end of U.S. Imperialism doesn't have to be a goal of Obama in order to happen.
On May 20th, 2009 Obama signed into law the HEARTH Act (Homeless Emergency Assistance, Rapid Transition to Housing). Cities and states that receive HUD funding must fully implement it by August 31, 2014 and begin to show decreases in homelessness by 2015. Obamacare elicited some sharp retorts from state governments. Some people went so far as to call Obama a Socialist (a title he should embrace now that he's in his second term). But the HEARTH Act got through, largely unnoticed. It could start a ripple effect that leads to the social uplift of many poor people. Let's hope.
Here in Washington, DC (the “belly of the beast” of capitalism), homelessness rose by 13% from January 2013 (6,859) to January 2014 (7,748). it has probably surpassed 8,000 in this city of +/- 650,000. Fortunately, Kristy Greenwalt who formerly worked for the U.S. Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (USICH) now heads the DC ICH. Given the circumstances, I can assure you that she'll “catch Hell” trying to bring DC up to par. Whether or not DC and various other cities and states succeed at decreasing homelessness, the attempts at implementation are bound to change the public and political discourses in a bigger way than the Occupy Movement did. This could be Hell for the rich. It could be the beginning of a Socialist or Communist revolution. Let's hope. Maybe it will start around the time of my 47th birthday (Feb. 15th, 2016) or sooner. Let's hope.
All of that brings me back to myself and my spiritual journey. Before I first experienced homelessness around Feb. 20th, 1994, I was working a dead-end job in Gainesville, FL. I was OK in this city that has been voted many times (at least 5) by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to be the best city to live in. In short, becoming homeless opened my eyes to the inequities, atrocities and social injustice in the world around me. It has caused me to think about the many things you've just read and to make these and other connections between world events, politics and what the Bible says – especially what it says about spiritual wickedness in high places. Since becoming homeless, I've improved my writing skills and become a public speaker. I often help people to apply age-old scriptures to the here and now. I present some tough logic that flies in the face of excuses that government might give for ignoring the poor. I seek to embolden the poor. All in all, I have become the embodiment of the thinking that is necessary to usher in a Socialist or Communist revolution with a Biblical-spiritual spin. After all, love for the poor is the only Biblical theme that holds fast from beginning to end.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Ending Homelessness: DC's Failure and the World's Efforts
On Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 the bi-monthly meeting of DC's Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH) took place at New York Ave Presbyterian Church (the church of Abraham Lincoln). Weeks earlier the tabulation for the January 29th point-in-time homeless enumeration had been published, revealing a 13% increase in Washngton, DC's homeless population in one year – as the surrounding counties in the DC metro area posted an overall decrease. During the first public comment portion of the meeting, I told a room full of DC Government personnel and homeless service providers – many of whom make $100,000 or more per year – that we're failing. I stated the astronomical increase in homelessness as the basis for my statement. The city administrator who chairs ICH meetings disagreed and said, “We're not failing. We're facing bigger challenges”. Such statements by city officials begin to explain why some homeless advocates view these meetings as “government masturbation”: government folk making themselves feel good.
I was accompanied to this meeting by Lorena Za`rate, the president of Habitat International Coalition (HIC) which fights for the right to housing in about 120 countries and has gotten other countries to make the right to housing part of their constitutions. She was impressed by the fact that homeless people were allowed to attend and speak at the meeting but appalled by the fact that people are homeless in such a rich and powerful country, let alone being homeless in the capital of that country.
Apart from my mention of the increase in homelessness in DC from 6,859 people in 2013 to 7,748 in 2014 with a population of +/- 650,000, there was no other mention of this disturbing statistic. This was rather alarming to me in lieu of how Sue Marshall, the director of The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP), whose organization oversees the HUD-mandated count has, in past years explained what she believes to be the reasons for the increase or decrease in homelessness. The meeting was extremely subdued and ended earlier than usual, leaving extra time for public comment. Hmmm.
This was the first meeting since Kristy Greenwalt became director of the ICH. She began her cabinet-level job at this newly-created position on April 28th which was only about eight months before the mayor leaves office. Hmmm. She was actively participating in meetings about DC homelessness as far back as December 2013. What made it more peculiar that this failure of the system was only given short shrift was the fact that the federal H.E.A.R.T.H. Act requires DC and other city and state governments to meet certain benchmarks by August 31st in terms of ending homeless, which begins to explain why Ms. Greenwalt was hired toward the end of her boss' term. It should also be noted that Kristy has talked about how most of the ICH's work is done in committee, not at the larger bi-monthly meetings. This is a basic truth about committee structure; but, playing too deeply into it can cause the bi-monthly meetings to become pro forma and pointless.
After the meeting, I introduced Lorena to several people including Kristy. Lorena and Kristy had a brief exchange that I didn't listen in on. Though it stands to reason that they didn't get into any deep philosophical discussion, I almost wish that they had. Those who address homelessness from Washington, DC – at the federal AND local level – stand to learn a lot from a foreigner, especially Lorena Za`rate.
My first encounter with Lorena was on June 15th, 2014 as I exited the annual convention of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT) on my way to the convenience store and she entered the convention. I'd been asked by NAHT to show her around DC. So, I'd taken the time to look her up on-line. As we passed on a concrete island in the middle of the road, I called out, “Lorena!” to which she seemed slightly startled. We spoke and went on our separate ways.
Moments later, we were in the convention hall together. She got to hear me deliver a short but fiery speech. She was on immediately after me. I was thrilled to hear the Marxist leanings in her speech. When she returned to our table, I whispered to her that people would call her a Communist to which she replied, Ï don't care”. I knew then that I loved her.
We spent much time together for the next four days until she had to catch her plane to Canada on the 19th. I brought her to the offices of several agencies that serve the homeless on a local or national level. But during this time I heard her say things that the governments of our nation have yet to sufficiently understand. She opposes the corporate ownership of land and believes that it should be made available for the greater social good. She believes that the right to housing should be granted in any and all national constitutions. She has talked about the need for a well-rounded approach to ending homelessness – one that involves policies that make all of the surplus housing available to the poor and homeless. Lorena Za`rate is a God-send. I love her.
I juxtaposed the most recent ICH meeting and my mention of Lorena Za`rate in this blog post so as to present the problem along with the soluion – a long-standing habit of mine. In times past, I've told the ICH that they should put more attention on housing the “least vulnerable” insomuch as they can be connected to jobs and weaned off of social services whereas the “most vulnerable” will go from shelter to government-subsidized housing but will remain in the system. Helping those who can work will eventually alleviate resources which can then be used on the most vulnerable. This argument represents a solution that has fallen on deaf ears. (I, for years now, have mentioned much simpler ideas such as putting binders containing the descriptions of various homeless and public services in all homeless shelters and day centers so that the homeless can help themselves to this info. That too has yet to be done, as simple and cheap as it is.)
Though city officials aren't likely to tell you this, I have a sneaky suspicion that the profit motive and the unwillingness to attract poor people to DC or even retain the long-time poor residents that are here have a lot to do with this supposed “failure” that I write about. Doing more to assist the least vulnerable would be a tactical solution that wouldn't create a direct afront to the wealthy; whereas, presenting housing as a human right and encouraging public ownership of the necessities of life would be a matter of principle that would indeed create a direct afront to the wealthy. Both are needed. In DC we have neither. That's why we have an ever-increasing number of homeless people.
Labels: DC, Habitat, Habitat International Coalition, housing rights, ICH, Interagency Council On Homelessness, Kristy Greenwalt, Lorena Zarate, Obama, solutions to homelessness, Sue Marshall, TCP, Vince Gray