Nothing here that is new news to regular readers here , especially those who have lived it but always good to reiterate.
The conventional definition of is one based on calories, on having access to the affordable and healthy food necessary to keep oneself alive. When people talk about the food challenges facing low-income urban communities, areas without supermarkets or neighborhood corner grocery stores, where nutritious food is scarce or nonexistent, they often use the term . It’s a colorful, descriptive term. It’s also inaccurate. Food deserts are just as likely to exist in rural areas as in cities; anyone driving cross-country knows that. Our centralized food system is partially responsible for these geographic gaps. Their omissions are less the result of careless oversight and more the outcome of judiciously considered design; either these areas aren’t profitable enough or they are too dangerous or inconsequential to worry about. Urban communities are now using a variety of tools to strengthen their local food systems, including growing food in urban gardens and putting a new twist on .
We all know that, on some basic level, money is purely symbolic. It only works because everyone collectively agrees to participate in the fantasy that a dollar bill is worth a dollar, whatever that is. Moreover, most of our money these days is purely electronic, represented by ones and zeros and real only in the most abstract sense possible.
Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post offered another way of thinking about money as a social construction: how much it costs to make it. None of our coins are actually worth what they cost, and pennies and nickels are worth quite a bit less.
The excess cost of producing pennies and nickels means a budget deficit for the Treasury. In 2013, producing the coins cost the government $105 million dollars above and beyond the coins’ value.
Interestingly, moves to eliminate pennies have been successfully opposed by the zinc industry for years, illustrating another sociological phenomenon: the power of corporations to shape government decisions.
For more relevant discussion about the worth of our money, watch the documentary The End of the Road. (available streaming online or at the local library, if your library rocks like mine does).
John Oliver nails it here. He starts off with clips of Obama saying that income inequality will be a top priority and showing how quickly that topic was pushed under the rug thanks to all the rich bastards who cried out that this was the start of class warfare. So, nope… we don’t get to have a political discussion about income inequality (because hello, wealthy oligarchy). We just have to suck it up and keep falling for the boot strap myth.
Oliver also covers how ,even despite the odds and logic, Americans are led to believe that they can all be “winners” simply because they’re American and everyone has a chance at The American Dream,right?
Inspired by the discussion surrounding the WaPo piece “This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps” , Westgirl shared her experience of living in poverty long term.
There’s a wealth of information on tumblr regarding social work & mental health. These are listed together because the issues quite often go hand in hand.
Thanks to Creative Social Worker for putting this directory together.
Creative Clinical Social Worker
Artists Kenji Nakayama & Christopher Hope have started a “Homeless Sign Exchange”. They pay homeless people for their original signs (I don’t know how much) and then do a sign makeover.
The end result is the homeless person’s words in stylized typography on a shiny new sign. Basically , a sign any hipster would be proud to display.
April 2013, Davis Square, Somerville, MA
Feb. 2013, Central Square, Cambridge, MA
Name: Angela Douyon-Previlon
Read Angela’s story here.
Frank, February 2012. I-93 off-ramp near South Station.
“Frank is 74 years old. He has been homeless for twenty-two years in Boston, where he also grew up. Before living on the streets, Frank was in jail for theft. He says that since he has been sober, he “has been out of trouble.” When I told him I would stop by again soon, he told me that it wasn’t necessary—“you don’t have to buy a sign anymore!” He spends his days and nights near South Station. “
So, let’s talk about this.
The signs look great. But how does this work as activism? Are the homeless people benefitting from these “makeovers”?
Initially, I thought the motive of the project was for the signs to work basically as an eye catching ad. With the new signs, people are obviously more inclined to look and read them, possibly motivating them to donate some money to the sign holder. In a post on tumblr, one artist says, “The first phase of this project has never been about “increasing the money” they get from the new signs. We pay them for their original signs, and I help many of them try to find housing and work in the Boston area. But in fact, many of the homeless individual’s original signs in our project are not soliciting for money. The signs become an extension of each individual’s self-expression (since they contribute to the design and we use their original text), and act as an invitation to conversation. We as a society cannot solve homelessness without first humanizing the homeless. This means recognizing they are a historically excluded group that suffers great prejudice, in addition to knowing that the experience of homelessness is dehumanizing itself.
We ask for compassion, as people learn more about the reasons why people are actually homeless. Now, there is a strong possibility that the next phase of this project may explore more direct solution-oriented programming. So please stay tuned!
I don’t know if even Don Draper could create an ad campaign strong enough to change public stigmas about homelessness and homeless people. The personal stories shared on the tumblr page are important to hear and I do hope that some of these people get to tell their stories to people on the street as a result of the sign being a conversation starter.
But still…this idea that we need to makeover any element of the homeless population to “humanize” them is disturbing. Making homeless people look nicer and more approachable in some ways demeans the actual aspects of homelessness that are very ugly.
I see a lot of what I call Ivory Tower Activism and people with saviour complexes involved in “helping” homeless people. They see themselves as compassionate and helpful but are removed from the situation ,and often see themselves as elevated over the people they’re helping, even if they say they see everyone as equal. They themselves do not do a very good job at humanizing the people they are advocating for. When they speak about their activism, they refer to themselves a lot in regards to what THEY accomplished, not what the homeless person gained from advocacy. I know it’s a hard battle to fight in some cities where the policy makers and politicians can’t see that homelessness costs their city more money than if they did the right thing and created more housing and programs that get people off the street. I feel like a lot of people who refer to themselves as activists for the homeless do an incomplete job. They alleviate the symptoms of homelessness instead of focusing on ways to change policies and inspiring others to work to change the system as it is. I don’t want to hear people speak of their successes as a homeless activist if there is still homelessness where they are focusing efforts. Complete activism is hellbent on ENDING homelessness, not just being nice to homeless people and making sure they’re comfortable while homeless. Compassion & basic needs are certainly very important but providing these also has to exist alongside activism that moves towards solutions.
(I’m not saying these sign makeover people are like that. That was just a stray related rant because of very frustrating conversations I’ve had recently with homeless “activists”. )
And I’m glad the artist mentions that she does try to help them find housing but it’s a bit disingenuous. If someone is homeless, they have already tried to find housing and the system didn’t work to help them. People who do not want to be homeless have already tried to not be that way. At least it sounds like this project will hopefully lead to a more complete solution oriented activism.
One of my concerns here with the Homeless Signs project is the language used in reference to people. The most recent post is a memorial to a young homeless woman who died, Colleen. The artist referred to her as “nice but broken”. In an earlier post, the woman’s story is shared. She was a runaway and alludes to abuse as the cause of her running away. She became an addict .
Colleen was not broken. The situation that caused her to become homeless and an addict was what is broken. Society is broken. Colleen herself should be remembered as a nice young woman. Not but.
April 2013, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA *REST IN PEACE
Discussions I have had with other low income folks about dumpster diving, their concerns are primarily being arrested but these are all great tips that point out the privileges associated with dumpster diving. . Low wage earners at grocery stores and big box chains have lost their jobs over taking food from the dumpster and in some cases, the store will even press charges for “stealing”. One thing poor people absolutely cannot afford is being arrested.