Giving poor people houses,food,and jobs!

My week was so much ughhhhhhhh so this link round up is fluffy or good news.

 

Homeless people in Atlanta are growing organic food for shelter residents

The garden is on the rooftop of a shelter and the goal was to make it so residents could eat something green every day. The garden is also providing work and skills training for homeless folks.

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Eco-friendly home built free of charge for Six Nations woman –  Flower is just one of many people living in inadequate housing on a reservation and she’s now fortunate enough to have that change. Earthship Biotecture is building her a house for free. The houses are amazing, offering space to grow food year round ,efficient heat,and sustainable water & sewage system. ♥


Youth Learning Center Turns to Urban Farming for Education, Neighborhood Revitalization – In Fort Wayne, they put an urban farm with a commercial kitchen and educational center in the middle of a food desert. Bazinga.


This food truck is doing an amazing thing to help ex-prison inmates – they are ONLY employing formerly imprisoned individuals (sorry…I know it’s longer than “ex-con” but that term bothers me)


 

 

 

Arrow’s Stephen Amell is crowdfunding a superpowered class drama – oooooooohh.
Well, actually it’s not just Stephen. Robbie Amell (Ronnie/Firestorm/Deathstorm in The Flash) is working on this,too. The premise of Code 8 is that 4% of the world is born with superpowers but forced to live in poverty. I hope this gets to be a thing. The film would be an expansion of this short film by Jeff Chan.


 

“The Sioux Chef” Sean Sherman on “oppression foods” and bringing back “pre-reservation food”

Daily Dozen isn’t working for me. Sometimes 12 is too much and sometimes I don’t have time to do it every day. Welcome to  “However Many Links I Happen To Have Posted At Random Frequency”.

As someone who gives everything a name, even inanimate objects, it’s going to bother me to not have a better, definitive name for link round ups but I’ll live.

[Contents: California, homeless rights, renter’s rights,housing, indigenous foods,commodity foods, Native American, Minnesota, Sioux Chef, Lakota, food on reservations]

California Bill Defends the Right of the Homeless to Rest in Public • SJS – “SB 876 asserts that homeless people cannot be discriminated against simply because they are unhoused. This means that they have the right to “to use and to move freely in public spaces, the right to rest in public spaces and to protect oneself from the elements, the right to eat in any public space in which having food is not prohibited, and the right to perform religious observances in public spaces.”


via Community Tenants Union. The general idea here is that housing is a basic human right and people NEED housing. That human need shouldn’t trump an owner’s desire to build a portfolio.Renters are highly exploited to benefit others and that shouldn’t happen.
Community Tenants Union explains in the comments,too : “I think the point is that people shouldn’t have to rent. Creating a market for housing means that people get rich off what should be provided as a basic need. And what people *choose* to rent is oft-times substandard, without a basic licensing system for landlords, or a rigorous system of controls to ensure that rental properties are maintained to a high standard.”

 


This Native American Chef Is Championing Food Justice in the Most Innovative Way – “Food commodities — like flour, lard and sugar — are whatChef Sean Sherman (popularly known as “The Sioux Chef”), a member of the Oglala Lakota peoples in South Dakota, called “oppression food” in this week’s episode of The Movement.

Sherman advocates for a return to “pre-reservation” indigenous foods used by Native American peoples prior to colonization and displacement from their lands. His activism comes in the form of culinary arts. His protest takes place in the kitchen.

The Minneapolis-based caterer and food educator provides cooking classes, offers speeches and food demonstrations with the purpose of restoring traditional Native American foods and flavors to prominence in Native communities and beyond”
Watch: 8+ minutes . Worth the time.


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Weekend Links

A trove of read-worthy links relating to poverty and inequality.

(Crmvet.org)

The Poor People’s Campaign: The little known protest MLK was planing when he died – The goal: to demand that President Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress take action to help poor people get employment, health care, and decent housing. The tactic: marching through the US Capitol and demonstrating at federal agencies to convince Congress to pass major anti-poverty legislation. The unique approach: the participants would physically stay there, living on the National Mall in an encampment dubbed Resurrection City, until they saw results.

J. Cole is turning 2014 Forest Hills Drive into  rent-free housing for single mothers with multiple children – J Cole bought back the house his mother lost. Now he wants to help other families headed by single mothers raise themselves out of poverty by letting them live there rent free. It’s a stellar idea.

Dropkick Murphys want Scott Walker to stop using their music – Scott Walker is one of those guys who hates poor people and the working class and also fails to listen to the lyrics in catchy songs. I mean… otherwise, why would he choose a pro-worker’s rights song as an anthem?

Living with a record: How past crimes drive job seekers into poverty – Once the sentence is served, it should be considered served. The end.

When Bootstraps Don’t Work. (Image: Khalil Bendib / Otherwords)

Inequality is Costing Us Big-Time – If America had been as equal in 2007 as it was in 1979, that average income would have been $94,310. In other words, inequality is costing the average American family about $18,000 a year.

Sweatshop: Dead Cheap Fashion puts fashion bloggers in sweatshops –  I haven’t watched this yet but I’m intrigued. The concept is to raise awareness of the horrifying conditions for workers, Danish fashion bloggers go to work in a Cambodian sweatshop. As always with these types of docu-dramas, there are critics both praising it for expose factor and others condemning for exploitation and poverty-tourism feel.

Old doctor treats poor patients without insurance for free – The state of Mississippi says because he uses his car, it’s an unauthorized mobile clinic and is trying to take his license. Of course.

Library social worker helps homeless people seeking quiet refuge -I didn’t know it until reading this that I want to be a library social worker when I grow up.
In the public library in the city closest to me, the bathrooms are locked. You have to ask for the key. If you look like you might be homeless, they won’t give it to you. The people who work at the library are not very nice to homeless coming in to use the resources. It’s definitely awful. They need a social worker on staff, please.

The holidays are over but please remember to support your local food bank & anti-poverty organizations

image via Cartoon Politics

Consider this your annual reminder that poor people are poor the other 11 months of the year,too. It’s nice to have a box of good food for the holidays but there are other times people could use the help.

Most low income and homeless organizations see a major upswing in generosity between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My local food bank,Food Bank of the Southern Tier,says  donations in December account for 30% of their annual total but then drop down to 3.5% in January. Winter in my area (NY) can be pretty harsh, as it is in much of the country. Having to choose between keeping the heat on and buying food is a very real thing. Food banks have been struggling,too, and some can’t fill the needs of every family.

When the winter is over, some families with children face the struggle of having to feed children during summer break and not every area has a free lunch program during those months.

Needless to say, people who are homeless face the added challenge of not freezing to death on the street. During the coldest nights, most shelters fill quickly but that problem aside, some people are turned away from shelters for other reasons (Transgender people are often excluded from shelters. Some shelters also have a policy barring addicts. Other shelters may not allow children at all, or some men’s shelters won’t allow a single father to bring children in. ). Some people feel unsafe in overcrowded shelters or may be trying to stay clean and avoid potentially being around drugs or behaviors that trigger,so will choose to sleep elsewhere.

If you’re inclined to donate to anti-hunger and anti-homeless programs during the holidays, perhaps think about spreading out your donation at other times in the year.

Food banks really like cash donations so they can allocate the funds where they’re needed the most. A cash donation can breakdown like this:

image via Food Bank of the Southern Tier 

If you have extra sleeping bags,blankets, or warm clothes, maybe ask your local homeless org if they are in need.  If you’re active in church or social organization, maybe consider organizing a food drive during that “off season” when food banks and soup kitchens don’t get too much love.

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.