The Gregory Project, An Initiative to Turn Billboards Into Affordable Housing

 

The Gregory Project, An Initiative to Turn Billboards Into Affordable Housing

From the Gregory Project website:
Cities are engulfed with rigid constructions for billboard advertisement which are expensive to put up, maintain and their subsequent renting is a costly venture. The Gregory project brings optimization to the construction of billboard structures in a way that the insides of these, after the extension, could be turned into a living space. Such an object would need just  a minimal maintenance cost which could be partially paid through the rental of its advert space. 

I like that this is solution oriented.

The Homeless Sign Exchange Project

April 2013, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

Name: Mike a.k.a. “The Pope of Harvard Square”

Read Mike’s story here

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

Name: Jimmy Sunshine

Nice hat, Jimmy.
Read Jimmy’s story here.

Feb. 2013, Central Square, Cambridge, MA

Name: Angela Douyon-Previlon

Read Angela’s story here.

 

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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

Name: Colleen

Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised between Boston and Cambridge.

 How old are you?
20 years old.

What was it like growing up?
My childhood was good. My family did provide the basics. I do remember being a kid and imagining more for my life. I did not aspire for this. No one wants to be homeless. I hope that people read this and understand… no one sets out to be on the street. Its just that life happens, and it can happen to anyone. Growing up I was told not to judge anyone, so I hope people don’t judge me.

How long have you been homeless?

I have been homeless for three years.

How did you become homeless?

I ran away from home. I don’t feel good talking about why I ran away. Speaking about it is very difficult for me.  Unfortunately, when you’re living on the street you get exposed to different things and so I started taking drugs. It is something that I constantly battle with everyday.

A few months ago, I woke up in the hospital, and my boyfriend and the doctors were looking down at me as I lay in the hospital bed. They told me that I had a drug overdose. My boyfriend is the only support that I have out here, and he also struggles with addiction. I love him a lot. But it is difficult to try and help him with his problems when I can’t even help myself. I am hoping for a miracle so that we both can get “clean” soon and get off the streets.

What is your biggest struggle being homeless?I would say it is the bridges that I’ve burned with my family and friends. My addiction has created so many problems between me and my family. I don’t even know where to start to make amends. Every time that I think I’ve got this thing beat, I let them down. It hurts because I miss my family but I understand why they stay away.

Social Experiment: Homeless Man vs Business Man

One man dressed as a business man. One dressed to assume the role of a homeless person. Both have a crutch and pretend to fall down in full view of people.  People’s reactions filmed.

With predictable and angering results.

Anyone else yell at people on the screen when they’re watching stuff?
“HOW HARD IS IT TO JUST ASK , ‘ARE YOU OKAY?'”

Grr.

Today’s Reads: “”We have an image of hunger that comes from Africa, but this is America.And unless your belly is distended we don’t have an image of what hunger looks like here.”

All the read-worthy things for this evening.

Viola Davis talked to People Magazine about digging through trash and stealing food as a kid growing up with hunger.

Now partnering with the Safeway Foundationand the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Davis is spearheading the campaign forHunger Is to raise awareness and funds to fight childhood hunger. 

“We have an image of hunger that comes from Africa, but this is America,” Davis adds. “And unless your belly is distended we don’t have an image of what hunger looks like here.” 

Food programs like Hunger Is were instrumental in helping Davis achieve her dreams and goals. “I am the first generation of my family to go to college. Those programs made all the difference for me,” says the actress, who has five siblings. “It’s been cathartic for me because I always had a lot of shame with going in the garbage dumps that had maggots in it, too. It has brought healing in my life to be able to talk about it.” 
djline
If you are 35 or younger – and quite often, older – the advice of the old economy does not apply to you. You live in the post-employment economy, where corporations have decided not to pay people. Profits are still high. The money is still there. But not for you. You will work without a raise, benefits, or job security. Survival is now a laudable aspiration.
Quoted from Sarah Kendzior’s “Surviving the Post-Employment Economy

“In the United States, nine percent of computer science majors are unemployed, and 14.7 percent of those who hold degrees in information systems have no job. Graduates with degrees in STEM – science, technology, engineering and medicine – are facing record joblessness, with unemployment at more than twice pre-recession levels. The job market for law degree holders continues to erode, with only 55 percent of 2011 law graduates in full-time jobs. Even in the military, that behemoth of the national budget, positions are being eliminated or becoming contingent due to the sequester.

It is not skills or majors that are being devalued. It is people.”

Her work is frank, speaking of a reality I hope that will never be mine. At the same time, it gives me a strange comfort to know that I am not alone.

(via sextus—empiricus)

 

djline


think-progress
:

This is the worst city in America to be homeless.

A must read.

djline

Meanwhile….
Florida homeless center’s superior reason for growth- more medical care:
bit.ly/1nWCjn5#poverty (Op-Ed via @bradentonherald)

And you thought nothing good ever happened in Florida.

djline

via victorequality

Not only does capitalism depend on it, it treats it the shittiest. Domestic workers tend to be women and non-white, helping capitalism contribute to the marginalization of those people.

 

 

3.29.14 Link Love: More support for Shanesha Taylor

News and thoughts from around the web….

 

If there were negative feelings about Shanesha Taylor’s situation the other day, the majority chose to keep it to themselves and spare me their vitriol on my own social media. The support and love for Shanesha was plentiful. There was only one woman who commented that, ” No job is worth endangering your children.” It’s that simple,right? When I asked if it was better to not try to get a job and live in a car with children, she just restated that opinion.  Some people just have judgement and no really constructive solutions. She went on after that to say she would have taken the kids with her ( good luck getting hired that way) or CHURCH.

Somewhere in the Middle of Everything addresses the church idea….

“What about a church?”

They charge tuition. Some ask for an “in kind” donation, meaning that they expect you to work for them…for however  long they see fit…in exchange for their generosity. I’ve explained before how insidiously churches can treat people who they know are vulnerable. Yes, there are some good churches out there, but unfortunately, most of them who offer services do so at the cost of your (or your children’s) souls.

Aside from that, you get job interview calls at the last minute, you don’t always have time between the call and the interview to fill out all the paperwork or jump through all the hoops needed for child care.

Again, and above all, you have no idea what this woman did and did not consider ahead of time before she made this decision.

 

My thought on the church suggestion was, “churches offer free babysitting now?” . I can’t think of a single church in my area that has a drop in childcare,anyway and there’s a helluva lot of churches around me.

djline

“I Love Being A Mommy!!!” On Shanesha Taylor & Black Motherhood in the Age of Mass Incarceration – On the stigmatization & bigotry against black women and who Shanesha is as a mother.

The mugshot photo included in every single article,petition,fundraiser for Shanesha just made me cringe every time. That’s not who Shanesha is. As I said the other day when I shared Jill’s story, many women sent me private messages and emails telling me about the hard choices they’ve had to make like Shanesha. One comment on Shanesha’s photo: “I know that look. It’s suicide. It’s thinking about how your life means nothing.  It’s failure.”

As Prison Culture says: I look forward to Shanesha’s release from jail and her reunification with her children. I’ve been told that she is expected to be released on Monday and that her family has already posted bail. I look forward to replacing the mug shot photo that surely doesn’t capture who Shanesha is with a new one; maybe one like this…

Shanesha Taylor

 

djline

Teen Mom NYC ( @GloriaMalone ) storified her tweets from the other day on Shanesha, her own experiences as a single mother, and the appalling daycare situation out there (I’m quoted about “shitty daycare” )

Read all the tweets ~HERE ~

 

 

djline

 

On a related note:

AZ House budget has $900,000 for private-prison costs, but no child-care subsidies  

 

Shanesha Taylor Needs Support ,Not Jail

 

Prison Culture» Action Needed: Shanesha Taylor Needs Support Not Jail -
Shanesha Taylor ,a homeless mother with 2 children, is currently in jail after leaving her children in a car while she was in a job interview. The children were taken by CPS and are now with family. A fundraising drive has been started to raise money ,first for bail and then  hopefully enough to help Shaneesha & her children.

Melissa McEwan  over at Shakesville has perfectly summed up the entire problem with the” bootstrap”mentality and how damaging it is for people like  Shanesha …people who are unsupported and don’t have help.
I’ll just leave this part here. I don’t know that there’s much else I could add.

The bootstrappers will argue that she should have found someone to watch her kids. Everyone has someone they can ask to watch their kids. No. Not everyone does. That’s what really having no help from anyone looks like.

People who don’t have family they can ask usually have neighbors, but Taylor is homeless. Or co-workers, but Taylor is jobless. Or someone they can pay, but Taylor has no money. With whom could she leave her children? There is no free daycare offered by the government—the same government that is trying to force women to have as many children as possible.

She and children need food and shelter. She needs a job to provide food and shelter. She needs to go on an interview to get a job to provide food and shelter. She needs to leave her children somewhere while she goes on an interview to get a job to provide food and shelter.

She doesn’t have anywhere to leave them. She leaves them in the car, because it is her only option. And she is arrested and her children removed from her care.
 

Nothing makes sense about indefinitely separating Taylor from her children, as punishment from her leaving them for 45 minutes. But criminalization is the only solution we have. We offer jail, instead of help.

~~ Full Article ~~

djline

UPDATE from Prison Culture:

 It always helps in such cases to increase public support and to gather our voices so that we are more powerful collectively. To that end, here are some suggestions for how we might proceed in support of Shanesha.

1. Sign the following petition to Bill Montgomery who is the County Attorney for Maricopa County. Share the petition with everyone you know. Can we gather 10,000 signatures by Saturday? Let’s try.

2. After you have signed the petition, directly EMAIL Bill Montgomery to ask that he DROP THE CHARGES against Ms. Taylor.

3. It’s always great when Prosecutors also receive phone calls. Please call the Maricopa County Attorney’s office to ask them to drop the charges against Shanesha Taylor. Be polite about it but suggest that resources would be better spent providing Ms. Taylor and her children with help over punishment. They have already suffered enough.

Maricopa County Attorney’s Office
Phone: (602) 506-3411
Hours: 8am – 5pm Mon-Fri

4. Are you on Facebook? Post a message on Bill Montgomery’s Facebook Page explaining why he should DROP THE CHARGES against Ms. Taylor.

5. Most importantly, Ms.Taylor and her family need funds. I was able to learn that her bond is $9,000. Donate to her Fundraiser and ask others to join you.


ICYMI: #changetheconversation, food demand at food banks higher than ever, Utah is giving homeless people homes,and issues that affect transgender people

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I know. My graphic is off center. I’ll fix it when I get my laptop fixed and don’t have to fight for time on a computer.

 

What Happens When the Poor Receive a Stipend? – More reiteration of what happens when poor people are given money.“You feel controlled by the world when you’re poor,” she said. “That was simply no longer the case.”

Eating local isn’t just trendy – it can help stop poverty – As Viki Sonntag of Sustainable Seattle has found, “Shifting 20 percent of food dollars into local direct spending creates enormous multiplier effects. Spending $100 at a locally owned restaurant generates $79 for surrounding local businesses, whereas spending $100 at a nationally franchised chain restaurant generates only $31 of income for surrounding businesses.”

David Brooks’ Utter Ignorance About Inequality -Refresher: David Brooks is that journalist who tried to make poverty a moral issue,not an economic one…among other things.
Robert Reich is like, “Oh,hell no. Sit down and let the real thinkers talk.”

UN World Food Program www.wfp.org Central African Republic: 9 Hunger Facts -Looking at food scarcity in Central African Republic: 2.6 million people need assistance, 60% have no food stocks available, 94% of communities don’t have enough seed for the next planting season,and aid is tricky to deliver because of security & safety to humanitarian workers.

Utah is Ending Homelessness by Giving People Homes -instead of criminalizing homelessness and maltreating homeless people like Captain Hammer in Hawaii did, Utah is giving homeless people apartments. Check out this comment thread for other cities doing similar.

4.8 million people will still not have healthcare coverage thank to jerkwad states who won’t expand medicaid.

What if we cared about those living in poverty as much as we care about celebrities?
#ChangeTheConversation
via Woodgreen Community Services – Youth Settlement Services

“Being poor is not a crime:” transforming the struggle for housing rights worldwide | From singing in New York courtrooms to gluing door locks in Berlin: the struggle to protect housing rights is about more than bricks and mortar.

Poverty affects more women than men in US – yep. Now what do we do about that?

Sounds like a threat to me, especially when you can be a wage slave and still be hungry.

Demand for Food Never Higher in West Michigan-“This is the classic dilemma of American poverty: Without a job, a client has to turn to food pantries and public assistance; when she finds a job, she loses her public assistance and sometimes winds up with less than she had before; either way, she doesn’t have enough to get by. For many, the work requirements included in the House’s version of the Farm Bill could turn this situation into a true catch-22: by making food assistance available only to those who make too much to qualify for it.”
And it’s everywhere.

 

If you wear jeans, you’re not a woman: Transphobia at women’s shelters-22% of trans women reported experiencing domestic violence due to being transgender. 19% of respondents had been homeless at some point in their lives, a number which rose to 48% among those who had suffered domestic violence. And once in a shelter, At least one in four trans women in shelters have been physically or sexually assaulted while residing at the shelter.

March of Tigers – QPoC Domestic Violence Resources and Literature  -Domestic Violence shelters for Queer and Trans* People of Color in all 50 United States. This list will also contain reading resources with tools for addressing abuse and domestic violence in queer communities. Please add more if necessary.

ICYMI: Homeless in a Polar Vortex, giving away money to people who need it, funding programs for children in poverty and more

 

We’re in the middle of this polar vortex and it’s made me think more about homelessness than I probably ever have before.

Chicago Homeless Prepare for Deadly Cold http://bit.ly/1eaG9TY

 

The Fight for Fair Food foodtank.org               Food Tank interviews the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farm worker-led organization working to eliminate abuse, wage theft, and unsafe working conditions. The mission of Just Harvest USA is “to build a more just and sustainable food system with a focus on establishing fair wages, humane working conditions and fundamental rights for farmworkers.”

Ask A Native New Yorker: Should I Give Money to Homeless People? -A New Yorker answers the question,”Should I give money to homeless people?”. Great points and look at the issue of homelessness.

Food Stamps Are Affordable; Corporate Welfare Is Not -This is back from November when food stamps were reduced but I’m afraid this will continue to be relevant for who knows how long.
“The average American family pays a staggering $6,000 a year in subsidies to Republican-friendly big business.”
AND AGAIN… the average taxpayer making $50,000/year pays $36/yr into food stamps.

Why intersectional feminism matters. The average for white women is 80 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Why we should give free money to everyone -Mentions social experiments in the past (like Mincome ) that back up the theory that if you give poor people money, they don’t spend it on cigarettes and tattoos. They use it to make their life better & accentuate their community.

Invitation to a Dialogue: Children and Poverty |  Mark Shriver, an official of Save the Children, says we are failing to invest enough to lift kids out of poverty. Readers are invited to respond -I used to work at Head Start, as well as other programs that serve low income families. I live in a small community. I’ve had the benefit of watching children grow beyond Head Start and enjoyed staying in touch with these families. Programs like these work. Not just my anecdotal input… time and time again, statistics back it up. Funding from these programs should never,ever be cut. If anything, we should be investing more (instead of stupid shit like wars,for example).

Miami Considers Jailing Homeless People For Eating, Sleeping In Public

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Miami Considers Jailing Homeless People For Eating, Sleeping In Public | ThinkProgress.

Fifteen years ago, the city of Miami stopped arresting people for living on the streets and instead offered them a bed at a homeless shelter and focused efforts on permanent solutions to helping homeless people in the city. City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff wants to end this program and revert to the days when Miami  gave homeless people a place to stay and food to eat by putting them in a jail cell.

Shelters are at capacity in Miami and instead of looking for ways to fund more shelters & support, Sarnoff thinks the answer is to put  homeless people in jail instead.

You can offer suggestions and input to this idea by contacting Mr Sarnoff .

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff (Chairman)

District 2
E-mail: msarnoff@miamigov.com
(305) 250-5333  VOICE
(305) 858-5329 TTY
(305) 579-3334 FAX
Office of Commissioner Marc Sarnoff