Sunday, August 3, 2014

From Beating to Embracing the Homeless (Formerly: THE GALES SCHOOL SCAM)

 I began blogging on June 21st, 2008. Below is my 4th entry from July 11th of that year. It has to do with the then-disputed disposition of the historic Gales School by DC Government to a religious organization to be used as a homeless shelter and a July 10th, 2008 DC Council hearing to address the matter. To see video of the hearing (as I've become more tech savvy in the past 6 years) CLICK HERE and follow the instructions below:

INSTRUCTIONS:

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 ericsheptock@yahoo.com with the heading "Violence vs. Homeless"

LET'S TAKE ACTION NOW!!!!!

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.

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