Over the last five years, Beyoncé has given $7 million of her own fortune to fund a housing complex for homeless people in Houston. For those years, the Knowles-Temenos Place Apartments has quietly provided room and board for 43 previously homeless people, and Beyoncé hasn’t once taken credit for it.
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.
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
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.”
|—||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.
A must read.
And you thought nothing good ever happened in Florida.
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.
Sooooo much I need to be writing about here and so little time to do it all. Until then, here’s other stuff people have writing and news that happened over the past week or so.
- Jon Stewart Blasts Fox’s Obsession With Food Stamps- Nothing “we” haven’t been saying for ages but it’s kinda cool to me how it feels like the most people who say this, the quieter people who previously were food stamp bashers become. Of course, there will always be the same idiots following the Fox- sheep herders, but that just makes them more laughable.
- How Many Minimum Wage Hours Does It Take To Afford A Two-Bedroom Apartment In Your State? -Oh,only 139 for us here in NY? I don’t even live in the city and the cost of rentals here is outrageous.
- Want to Predict the Future of Surveillance? Ask Poor Communities – The most sweeping digital surveillance technologies are designed and tested in what could be called “low rights environments”—poor communities, repressive social programs, dictatorial regimes, and military and intelligence operations—where there are low expectations of political accountability and transparency.
- 8-Year-Old Raises Thousands of Dollars to Pay Off Past Due Lunch Accounts of Classmates- Good job,kiddo. If there’s one thing that makes me fly into a flipping tables kind of rage, it’s schools denying kids their lunch because of non-payment.
- Food pantries under pressure: Harsh weather, reduced government support create need in Falmouth – I think I end up linking to at least one article per week like this. It’s everywhere, Nationwide. It needs reiterating every single time. As long as there are people out there who believe no one in the U.S. could ever go hungry because there are so many places people can go to get food…. it just isn’t true.
- 25 Famous People Who Used To Be Homeless- The first the came to mind for me was Cheri Honkala but I suppose she’s not Hollywood Famous,so it doesn’t matter. Just a former vice-prez candidate. No biggie.
- PPEHRC & AAU US Social Forum Launch Fundraiser- Speaking of Cheri Honkala, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign and Asian Americans United have officially launched their first US Social Forum fundraising campaign. For the next 29 days we are trying to raise $5,000! Please, show your support. Donate, $5, $10, $20 or whatever you can. And please, get your friends and families involved. Your support makes a difference.
- It’s funny how many people send me messages and emails that say, “Is it just me or is the government TRYING to force us into submission…if they don’t kill us first”. Us, meaning… poor people.
image via @OthewhomaniT on Twitter
- Paul Ryan: Free Lunches Make Kids Soulless — Daily Intelligencer- Read the updated section at the bottom.
the anecdote he told isn’t even about government provided lunches, and was just a “game of Republican telephone where a poor child with a specific request for a woman helping him was conveniently transformed into a victim of the school lunch program”
- HBO and The Shriver Report Present “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert”- PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK: THE LIFE & TIMES OF KATRINA GILBERT offers a deeply personal, unvarnished and moving story of Katrina Gilbert, a single mom of three, struggling to get ahead but constantly getting knocked back by a system that almost seems designed to see her fail. The documentary premieres Monday, March 17th at 9pm on HBO but you can register at the link for a FREE streaming event if you don’t have HBO.
- 10 Reasons Why People Who Give A Damn About The World Make Better Lovers-I cannot disagree with any of this
- Wangari Mathaai is one of my personal heroines. So incredibly inspirational.
- Hunger Knows No Season: What will you do today? | Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington-A 25% child poverty rate here is unacceptable…that’s an understatement. Most people only consider donating to hunger relief at the holidays but poor families need to eat all year long.
- Poverty in the Ivory Tower- YES, yes, and so many YESES.
I love when I’m reading something and feel like the person is saying everything I want to say.
- “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” – James Baldwin
- Hungry, Poor Queer People to Become Hungrier, Poorer after Food Stamp Cuts- ” LGBT people experience disproportionately high levels of food insecurity and participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP or food stamps). This data complements other recent studies showing that the queer community experiences disproportionate amounts of poverty, homelessness and discrimination, and rarely do those combine without it also being difficult for people to access adequate nutrition.”
Spoiler: It’s gonna get worse
- 10 Reasons Homeless People Sleep Out in the Cold -About 700 homeless people freeze to death each year in the U.S. They stay outside for many reasons, including that there aren’t enough shelter beds. (There is a storm brewing outside where I love as I type. Thinking of all the homeless people who have nowhere to go)
- Food Insecurity: What it Looks Like for My Family -I feel a lot like Beyond Mom does….that my family is doing really well compared to many, especially those who are struggling with food insecurity and don’t get SNAP. Or those who get a piddly amount for SNAP because their on paper income includes something they aren’t actually getting or some flaw in the process.
- I just discovered artist Stephanie McMillan. I love her Daily Affirmations. Every single one I see, I’m all like, “Hell,YES!”
Meh. I had decided to bullet point this and now the formatting is a bit wonky, but I don’t have time to fix it right now. Apologies.
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?
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.
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).
This week, the Mean People who suck are also providing some comedy. Maybe it’s just me but I can’t help but laugh. It turns out that a lot of the time, mean people are also pretty stupid …or at least do some stupid stuff.
So,there’s this guy…Tom Brower…he’s a state rep from Hawaii. He’s solving the homelessness problem by bashing shopping carts with a sledgehammer.
Excuse the geek moment here but I immediately thought of Captain Hammer from Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
Tom Brower is more like Captain Pointless,though. He walks around Honolulu looking for shopping carts that he identifies as one homeless people have been using and smashes the wheels in with a hammer. Then piles them up so the city’s garbage trucks can come pick the up and haul them away to the dump. What a good use of public resources and a friend to the environment.
You have a huge homeless problem in your city and the logical way to deal with it is this instead of advocating for programs that actually help homeless people not be homeless anymore? All righty then. Makes so much sense.
He says he returns carts he can identify to the store they came from but it must be that he can’t read or his store locator app doesn’t work so he can’t figure out where to return all of them to because in this video, the cart he smashes is clearly identifiable.
Whatever. He’s a tool.
And just so I can continue in the vein of Dr Horrible….
These rich people said the homeless have it easy and you shouldn’t give them money because you’re enabling them.
Then there’s this guy.
It’s cool if you do coke and your paycheck comes from taxpayer money as long as you’re not on welfare.
Now might be a good time to point out that Florida’s drug testing for SNAP recipients was a giant waste of money and pretty much everyone’s time. The state lost $45,780 and the end result was about 2.5% testing positive, mostly for marijuana.
(and that’s about the same result coming out of every other state trying this out)
And finally this week, shout out to the Walmart in Canton, Ohio for getting in to the holiday spirit by collecting donations for their own poorly paid employees so they can have a nice Thanksgiving Day dinner. Well, for those employees who don’t have to work on Thanksgiving, I guess.
The further insulting irony here is that a lot of those employees are on SNAP and just had their SNAP allowance reduced this month. Walmart is already one of the biggest beneficiaries of the SNAP program and the most recent SNAP cuts will probably increase that trend.
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 .