Showing posts from 2010

My Response To An On-line Article Disparaging My Homeless Advocacy

As stated in my previous blog post, I've been the subject of a massive media frenzy since Monday, December 13th due to my use of the internet to advocate for DC's homeless. It has gained much support for me. But it has also caused some to express their disdain for both me and my efforts. I welcome the supporters, but am not opposed to people stating their disagreement with me. I'm still working feverishly to harness all of the support that I'm receiving and channel it into something that would make my homeless advocacy more impactful -- something like a 501(c)4, as I refuse to give up my right to participate in political activities by establishing a 501(c)3. I'm beginning to weigh my options. The article about my on-line homeless advocacy has, in effect, forced me to spend even more hour on-line.

A ladyfriend from New Jersey called me on Sunday, December 19th because she was bothered by a particular article in the Huffington Post entitled "Food or Facebo…

Homeless Advocacy, Social Networking, Fame & Infamy

Homeless Advocacy, Social Networking, Fame & Infamy

In early November I was contacted by a Washington Post intern named Nathan Rott. He'd been covering homeless issues for about 5 months at the time. He'd also spoken to reporters Marc Fisher and Petula Dvorak who told him that I had over 4,500 Facebook friends. So, Nathan decided to profile me and to build the story around my use of the internet to advocate for the homeless through social networking.

He followed me around off and on for about 3 weeks, ending on November 27th. Then the story was held for about 2 weeks before being published; because, the editor wanted to put it on the front page. Then, on December 3rd I was called by a friend of a friend who wanted me to be part of a radio broadcast on WAMU 88.5 FM in which we would discuss a program called "Art Works" through which poor and homeless children and adults do art that is then sold on the internet. (The proceeds go to the artist or the non-…

RIP Mary Ann Luby -- Who Gave Me My Start As A Homeless Advocate

It is with great sadness that I say that Mary Ann Luby -- the woman who gave me my start as a homeless advocate -- passed away on November 29th, 2010 after a short battle with cancer (less than 2 weeks). While it stands to reason that she might've had cancer long before it was detected, I can definitely appreciate the fact that her suffering was cut short. She is greatly missed by myself and others nonetheless.

Mary Ann was one of two women who entered the Franklin School Shelter in mid-June 2006 to tell its 240 residents about the plans of former DC mayor Anthony Williams to close the shelter and to re-open the Gales School as a shelter with 120 beds, leaving half of us with nowhere to go. Mary Ann was a nun of the Dominican Order who did outreach work for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. The other woman was a community activist named Becky Sambol who fought for several different causes. They called a meeting amongst the shelter residents and about a dozen atten…


NOTE: I encourage you to scroll down to the previous post about holiday giving, as I'm sure that you want your gifts to the homeless to be put to the best use possible. (It can also be seen on NPR's "Two-way" blog --

The homeless often have to make some very tough choices. If a job would require someone to work until 5:30 PM and shelter check-in is at 4 or 5, that person has to choose between working and having a bed to sleep in that night. If the person is broke and all feeding programs open at 7 AM or later, they may have to choose between working and eating or may have to work hungry for a day until they get paid by the day-labor office.

That's not to speak of the many people become homeless through medical bankrupcy. They may have had some chronic illness which required that they choose between paying the doctor bills or paying the rent. Oddly enough, DC homeless get free healthcare AFTER becoming homeless.

The tough choices don't end ther…

Homelessness: A "Gray" Area

Vincent Gray visited the homeless in Franklin Square Park on August 28th, 2010 in an effort to get their votes and has since gotten mine. I voted early in DC's general election, casting my ballot on Thursday, October 21st (a process that took less than 10 minutes due to their not being a line). VOTE!!!!!

In spite of me having voted for Vince Gray already, I am still quite uncertain as to what he'll do for homeless people here in the nation's capital, which begs the question: "Why, then, did I vote for him?????" Well, the short answer is that he's not Adrian Fenty. While that is definitely a good reason in and of itself, it is not wise to vote for someone only because you dislike their opponent. It is good to know what the person whom you voted for will do if elected.

I must say that I also dislike former Democratic candidate Leo Alexander due to his stance on undocumented workers (illegal immigrants). I believe that everyone should have the right to…

RIP Tent City. No Affordable Housing In The Foreseeable Future.

On July 10th about 100 community activists began a tent city on a vacant which is owned by DC Government (and the citizens of DC) called "Parcel 42". This action was part of a national effort to bring attention to the need for housing as a human right. Many of the participants are part of the National Right To Housing Movement.

This particular plot of land was chosen for the action so that we could highlight the broken promise of the out-going mayor Adrian Fenty to build affordable housing on this lot that has sat vacant for several years and promises to sit vacant for at least 2 more. Plans were drawn up and development slated to begin in December 2009. No ground has been broken yet and the official word is that it may be at least 2 more years before ground is finally broken on this "planned" project.

Community activists have floated ideas for interim uses such as a community garden, outdoor theatre or a recreational facility. But no one has stepped forth so as to…

One-Hundred Stops To One-Stop Career Center

As you know, I have been working on getting into a job-training program through the One-Stop Career Center in NE Washington, DC. My homeless advocacy which I'm quite dedicated to doesn't leave me much time for anything else; but, I've managed to find the time to apply for job-training and to do something for myself. Howbeit, the lack of organization at the One-Stop and other systemic problems have made the process quite tedious.

I took the CASAS exam last year, scoring a 13.0 grade level in math and a 11.0 grade level in English. (Evidently, you can trust my figures more than my words, which makes it ironic that I would be a blogger. LOL.) At the time that I took the exam, I wasn't applying for job-training. I was simply seeing how the system worked and assessing how homeless-friendly it was. This year I was told that my scores were only good for a year. There is absolutely no logical reason as to why my scores shouldn't still be considered good now. Does DOES…

Homeless People Vote Too

Well, election season is in full swing now. And though many people may be unaware, homeless people vote too, having won that right due to a myriad of court cases. A federal judge in Ohio has even ruled that a homeless person may list a park bench as their address when registering to vote. The National Coalition for the Homeless has its own bi-annual election campaign -- a campaign to get the homeless who have the right to vote to do so .

But getting the homeless to vote isn't easy and keeping them engaged in the political process after the candidate of their choice has won the election and then failed to deliver on his or her promises is even harder, as this only adds to the feelings of disenfranchisement that many homeless already feel. Some of the homeless laid aside their feelings of doubt and despair in the fall of 2008 and decided to cast their ballots, many of them voting for Barack Obama who ran on a platform of "hope" and "change". They seemed to b…

The Exit Strategy Is Endorsed By DC's Congresswoman, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton

The Exit Strategy

The saga that began with a homeless man photographing Michelle Obama with his camera phone and led to homeless advocates at STREATS working with the U.S. Dept. of Labor and DC Government's Dept. of Human Services to create a job-training program for DC's homeless community continues. In May STREATS and DHS filed paperwork with DOL in order to get funding for the "Exit Strategy". a program that would train the higher-functioning homeless people to do jobs that pay a living wage so that they wouldn't need to depend on the government for anything -- not food stamps, rental assistance or any other government assistance. However, the paperwork was filed too close to the end of DOL's budgetary funding cycle, which means that now we must wait until the next fiscal year to be funded by DOL.

STREATS recently met with Clarence Carter, the director of DC's Services, to discuss the development of this program and other funding op…

The Ups And Downs Of Being A Homeless Homeless Advocate (A Status Update)

It's not often that I do a blog post about my personal situation. However, many people have said or insinuated that they wanted to know how I am doing. Therefore, I've decided to oblige. But not before addressing issues pertaining to homeless advocacy as a whole first.

As indicated in the post that precedes this one, it is still extremely difficult to get local politicians to commit to the production and preservation of public and affordable housing. This means that many people who have lived much of their lives in Washington, DC are being priced out of the District. And while the Dept. of Human Services is quite willing to help the "most vulnerable" homeless people, there is very little political will to help the "higher-functioning" homeless. This can result in those who just need a little help to get back on their feet instead remaining in shelter and just stagnating there. All in all, you need to be wealthy or totally incapacitated to remain in thi…

How The City Might Shut Down The Tent City @ 7th And R Streets NW (Unless We Stop Them)

The tent city at the intersection of 7th, R and Rhode Island in northwest DC is over 3 weeks old now. Many people are surprised to see that it hasn't been shut down by the city yet. It is firmly believed that Mayor Fenty doesn't want the images of protesters being arrested for defending their human right to housing plastered all over people's T.V. screens and that that may be the reason for the longevity of the camp. Let's bear in mind that he is fighting for his political life and that such images could be his political death knell. Some of us were actually anticipating getting arrested and that may still be a prospect.

On the evening of July 30th, a DC Government employee named Pat Handy stopped by the tent city. She works for DC Government's Dept. of Human Services as the Homeless Outreach Manager. She is the troubleshooter for various homeless services. She managed the process on September 10th, 2008, as Franklin School Shelter residents were made to sign …

Unfounded Fear

ONE DC (Organizing Neighborhood Equity) and its partners recently organized a community block party and a tent city which were intended to publicize DC's affordable housing crisis. The block party took place on Saturday, July 10th and was immediately followed by the setting up of the tent city, which is about to enter its fifth day. However, the process of organizing these events wasn't an easy one.

I traveled to New York City January 27th through 29th of this year to meet with about 40 other activists from 13 U.S. Cities and to help organize the May Month of Action during which people would perform various direct actions in their respective cities. Our intent was to raise the social consciousness of people and bring attention to the issue of housing as a human right. In February, I met with Rosemary Ndubuizu of ONE DC and we began to contact others who might want to help organize a direct action around the right to housing. We had our first planning meeting with others o…

Revolution: What Was Discussed At The U.S. Social Forum

While my previous post described how I got to the U.S. Social Forum and some of the interesting connections that I made, it didn't address what was discussed in Detroit. However, some very interesting things were said there. I'd be remiss if I were to fail to address some of the ideas that were set forth.

Bear in mind that there were over 1,200 workshops of which I only attended about 5. (Many of the workshops were 4 hours long.) Even so, I picked up on certain themes that were common to many of the groups and individuals that I encountered -- in the workshops, in the halls and at other venues like nearby restaurants. The most common theme was that of revolution. Some people spoke with great anticipation about the revolution that promises to arise (objectively) out of the increased social awareness that people across the country are developing. Some spoke of wanting a more subjective and deliberate effort to force our national government to care for its poorest, most vulnerab…

My Trip To The U.S. Social Forum

I just spent 5 days in Detroit, Michigan at the U.S. Social Forum -- a gathering of about 17,000 activists and advocates for a wide range of social justice issues. While it proved to be quite the productive gathering (from where I stand anyway), getting there wasn't easy for me. The fact of the matter is that these things cost money -- something that I never have much of and, in spite of many people admiring my homeless advocacy, I get very little money for what I do. (I'm obviously not in it for the money, but because I care about the issue.) So, helping the homeless pro bono keeps me as dependent upon the kindness of strangers as those whom I help.

I got involved with the DC Metro Social Forum in March of 2007, just 3 months before the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta (which I didn't attend). However, I was heavily involved in the planning process for this year's U.S. Social Forum. During the run-up to June 22nd, 2010, members of the DC Metro Social Forum held fundraise…