Thursday, August 31, 2017

Homeless people are REAL people

or Toilet Paper and the 
reducing of others to mere Its.
Getting the average citizens of Sacramento city and county to have a more-positive sense of Homeless People is an important and laudable effort that must be pursued. But how, and to what end, precisely?
In recent days, Loaves & Fishes has had a campaign going to get citizens to buy toilet paper and to bring what they purchase to the Loaves & Fishes Welcoming Center/Warehouse.
Below is text about the toilet-paper drive, written, I believe, by Justin of L&F:
Toilet Paper Drive This Thursday
Access to clean fully stocked restrooms is one of life's most basic necessities. Providing those facilities is an essential part of Loaves & Fishes. We need your help to keep everything stocked and rolling.

Help us collect for those in need by donating a package of TP.

When: Thursday, August 31st, 7am-5pm

Where: Loaves & Fishes, 1351 North C Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
A toilet-paper drive is a common something that Loaves & Fishes has done. There was, likely, a drive of this kind every year in the Libby era. While it has certain benefits in creating interaction between the charity and its donors, the detriment of collecting toilet paper in this manner is overwhelming, particularly so at the current time.
Homeless people have been in the news a lot in the past year or so, most frequently for pooping against the sides of buildings or along the American River Parkway or in the proximity of where they’ve been “illegally” camping.
The reason for the feces problem is simple: Bathrooms have not been available. The bathrooms in Chavez Park that had been available for men and women were razed in order to build all new facilities for the new restaurant in the park that offers its restrooms for the use of customers, only. It is ironic that Cesar Chavez, after whom the park was named, was a proponent for poor folk, not for fancy restaurants.
Nonetheless, the Bee newspaper, in particular, has written badly-researched articles and published ill-conceived Breton editorials that have brazenly attacked homeless people for something they cannot avoid. All people need to piss and poop on a schedule that their body commands. These things cannot be put off indefinitely for want of a proper place to do one’s dirty bit of business.
But the problem is not simply a matter of nasty need; it is a matter of how homeless people are perceived and then treated.
If homeless people are put forward as “toilet-paper users” – if that is how they are to be presented, as is the case with Loaves & Fishes’ pernicious toilet-paper drives – then homeless people are being dehumanized, presented as disgusting animals and not as the unique, interesting, complex individual human beings that they are.
When I say that homeless people are being dehumanized, I ain’t foolin’ around. Drs. Lasana T. Harris and Susan T. Fiske have collaborated on a series of perhaps ten papers that document the dehumanization that occurs when homeless people or other marginalized groups, such as alcoholics, are pushed out of the flow of being perceived as mainstream human and become mere objects that are perceived as disgusting. See the Harris and Fiske paper in Sage Journal, titled “Dehumanizing the Lowest of the Low,” and from there you can see References related to articles that further document the degradation of being homeless and dehumanized.
As to the matter of getting toilet paper properly, I think that what would be best is for Loaves & Fishes to simply pay for the common commodity out of whatever is the closest thing to a Fund for Common Expenses and abandon the malicious [or, if not "malicious," or "thoughtlessly conceived," then highly ill-advised] practice of having toilet-paper drives, altogether.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The usual in the Homeward Street Journal

A friend of mine gave me a copy of the latest Homeward Street Journal – for July & August, 2017 – and I am here to tell Sacramento Homeless blog readers about it in a fairly succinct manner.
The lead article is about a woman named Tiffany whom, to her great benefit, lives in Salt Lake City where “Housing First” is practiced in a manner that gets homeless people into housing as quickly as possible. The article comes from a publication called “The Big Issue Australia.” Sacramento is never mentioned.
The article at the bottom of the first page is written by Marin Law Firm attorney Cathleen Williams and  begins with these curious words: “On a recent hot Saturday – May 13, 2017, the day before Mother’s Day – mothers, fathers, grandparents and other family members, from L.A. to the Bay Area, gathered on the steps of the Stockton City Hall to commemorate their sons and loved ones, and to express their grief and their anger …" The article is continues on the third page of HSJ. May 13, the date mentioned in the piece was three months ago – which is not a recent date.  A quick, but careful, edit of content would catch many errors in the publication. Nowhere in the long article is there any mention of Sacramento.
Inside, there is a long piece, credited as having been written by the “Street Sense Staff” about the death and legacy of Michael Stoops who helped create the Washington D.C.-based National Coalition of the Homeless in 1988. He died on May 1 of this year. There is no mention in the article of Sacramento.
The fourth page of HSJ is about the activities of the Police Department in Chico. Author Steve Breedlove writes about conditions and interactions with police in Chico, with brio. Breedlove airs many complaints. Likely, his grievances are quite legitimate.  The piece has nothing to do with Sacramento and Sacramento is not mentioned.
On page 6, there is a short piece by Suzanne Hastings, an HSJ writer whom I have complimented in the past. Hastings’s piece in the current HSJ is certainly about Sacramento, but it is content that is her usual screed, about the difficulties living on the street.  And, unfortunately, it is another of Hastings’ overwritten pieces where she wildly overstates and misunderstands what some of the central problems of homelessness are. Generally, Ms. Hastings writes the near-same article over and over and over again.
“The $100,000 Homeless Man,” a subject in an SNR article six months ago, plays a part in Ms. Hastings’s ire in the current issue. Hastings seems to believe that had the $100,000 Man lived, he would have had to truly pay fines totaling over $100,000, the sum of tickets he’d received from the police for a period of, perhaps, 15 years. THAT would never have happened, both because the $100,000 Man didn’t have the money and because a lot of what occurs in interactions between the police and homeless people is a kind of crazy  dance where much foolish stubbornness plays a major part.

This is something that I think Hastings doesn't recognize. It comes from George Orwell's book "Down and Out in Paris and London." It's the last paragraph in chapter 3:
[There is a feeling] that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone who has been hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs—and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.
The rest of the HSJ issue is, on the back page, content from The Chico Vibe; the usual Resources information on the next-to-last page; and a sprinkling of poetry here and there.
It is very difficult to write excellent poetry, and only excellent poetry is worthwhile. I feel certain that the poetry in the Jul-Aug issue of HSJ doesn’t rise to the plateau of true excellence, not that there aren’t some good lines and interesting ideas expressed here and there in the poetry.
The Homeward Street Journal is a very confounding project. Homeless people are recruited to act as distributors of the publication and they are expected to be satisfied standing around a lot and pocketing one dollar from citizens who buy an issue.
As content in the publication becomes ever-increasingly less and less about Sacramento, the public’s interest in the publication is sure to diminish. But, hey, it’s a way to give a little money to the homeless distributors, right?
But the way the situation is set up between the publication and its distributors, it is the publication – in the name of Paula Lomazzi or her organization, SHOC – that creates the terms of how and what homeless distributors are paid.
I have been told by a distributor that he can make about $5/hour for a few hours until he gets tired. That is far less than minimum wage. If $5/hour is a valid sense of what homeless distributors are making, then the situation is insane.  Homeless people – like employees anywhere and everywhere – should NOT be taken advantage of.  Paula/SHOC sets the rules, thus Paula/SHOC is ABSOLUTELY OBLIGATED TO BE CERTAIN THAT HER DISTRIBUTORS ARE PAID BY THE HOUR AT NO LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGE. Either THAT, or I am very confused. Slave labor isn't allowed in California, right?
Paula/SHOC must meet the pay requirements set by law. Paula/SHOC is not exempt from having to treat her employees properly.
AND, it must be said, that the distributors of Homeward Street Journal ARE ACTING AS EMPLOYEES. It is Paula/SHOC that sets “the price” of an issue. It is stamped on every single issue: “Donation $1. All proceeds go to Distributor.” The distributors aren't receiving any other pay -- say, money directly from SHOC, right?

I think this all might be a case where the distributors need to Unionize. Either that, or get a good lawyer -- and not one from the Marin Firm.
And, by the way, I am pretty serious, here. Homeless Sacramentans should not be taken advantage of. [And I should not end a sentence with a preposition. Oh, well.]

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What Charles Darwin was like

I heard well over a thousand sermons at the Union Gospel Mission during my period of years as a dirt-poor homeless Sacramentan.

While there are many preachers at the mission who were spectacular; some were terrible. There were a couple that came to the mission to orate in opposition to Charles Darwin, calling him all manner of mean, cruel  names and impugning his character.

I would speak up to defend Darwin to the preacher of the night, only to suffer a lambasting directed at me and my possibly-foul character.

Wright's 1994 book
A recent book by Robert Wright -- an author in whom I have taken great interest -- has, in an early section of his 1994 book "The Moral Animal: Why we are the way we are: the new science of evolutionary psychology" a depiction of Darwin that is stirring and stunning and Right On! [I know of what I write. I've read more that a little about Charles over the years. Those who knew the man are near unanimous in their high regard for the fellow.]

There is this, from pages 14 & 15 of Wright's book, that captures Darwin splendidly:
Darwin's life will serve as more than illustration. ... Advocates of evolutionary theory -- including him, including me -- have long claimed that it is so powerful as to explain the nature of all living things. If we're right, the life of any human being, selected at random, would assume new clarity if looked at from this viewpoint.
Darwin doesn't seem like other organic phenomena. The things that come to mind when we think of organic selection -- the ruthless pursuit of genetic self-interest, survival of the fiercest -- don't come to mind when we think of Darwin. By all accounts, he was enormously civil and humane (except, perhaps, when circumstance made it hard to be both; he could grow agitated while denouncing slavery, and he might lose his temper if he saw a coachman abusing a horse.) His gentleness of manner and his utter lack of pretense, well marked from his youth, were uncorrupted by fame. "[O]f all eminent men that I have ever seen he is beyond comparison the most attractive to me," observed the literary critic Leslie Stephen. "There is something almost pathetic in his simplicity and friendliness." Darwin was, to borrow a phrase ... a true gentleman."
Here is something from the book that Darwin wrote or said [Dunno which; wrote, probably.] in 1882, at the age of 70:
“As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.”
Now, I would extend yet further Darwin's noble sentiment ...
There is no bar that should prevent men and women from recognizing the artificiality of economic measurements as right-to-life barriers. Our brothers and sisters out on the streets, in the cold of winter and in the heat of summer are as much “us” as we are “us” and should be taken in to our hearts.
An interesting factoid about Darwin: He and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day, February 12, 1809.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Lost, the Unlucky, the Disenfranchised

Several things have come up.

The thing of peculiar interest has to do with the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

It reads thus:
Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses
yearning to breathe freee,
the wretched refuse of
your teeming shore.
Send those the homeless tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Lady Liberty
President Trump is now wanting to evoke new limits on those wishing to come to America to live. Trump wants skilled immigrants who have already mastered English to be those who are allowed to come to America and have an opportunity to gain American citizenship. THIS, as opposed to [quoting the poem] the "wretched refuse," or "tempest tossed."

It has all been a big issue of the day in Washington D.C.

There is a big mistake that Trump and his cronies in the White House are making. We don't have any particular need for so-called skilled employees in this country. We have the people already who can fill all the job positions in America. And, in the not-far-distant future computers and robots will all be doing our work for us.

Now, I am not saying that more people coming to the U.S.A. to live isn't a good thing. Let them come and find their place. What I AM SAYING is that a wild variety of people is what every country needs to maximize the excellence of the nation, as a whole. "Variety" is the "secret sauce" of evolution that creates ever-better people and ever-better employees and ever-better human beings.

There is one particular word in the Lady Liberty poem that -- OF COURSE -- got my attention: "homeless."

"Send those the homeless tempest-tossed to me."

There are two homeless fellows who died sleeping outside City Hall. Mr. Steinberg, you have been a great disappointment. Pick up the pace or, please, step aside such that someone more formidable can carry the burdens and put many more tempest-tossed homeless folk into housing and into lives that are splendidly more ordinary.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

SNR article meanders in the midst of treating homeless people badly

Cover of  7/13/17 SNR
An article about homeless folk in the July 15 Sacramento News & Review is a big, bad mess of a thing that doesn’t even seem to have any kind of point it wants to make. It is written by longtime SNR writer on matters homeless, Raheem F. Hosseini, and appears on page 11 of the 7/13/17 issue of SNR under the title “Point of Shame: Sacramento’s unsheltered homeless population explodes by 110 percent.”
The thing that is dealt with as the problem is that there are thousands more homeless people in the county than was anticipated from the Homeless Counts that were conducted in January 2013 and January 2015. The latest bi-annual count – in January 2017 – is, for no reason that is explained, accepted as accurate – or, at least, roughly as accurate as something as curious as a county Homeless Count can be when the “objects” of the count are human beings that frequently move around a lot, thus making counting them as easy and straightforward as determining how many stray cats there are in the county.
In what I think to be a foolish error, Hosseini treats the issue of the perceived-as-a-very-high number of homeless folk in the county in an alarmist manner. He writes, “Most alarmingly, the number of homeless people without access to any indoor shelter exploded 110 percent.”
Consider. If a survey of Mexican immigrants in Sacramento County determined that there had been a robust increase in people so defined, would it be defensible to report that “the count of Mexican immigrants ‘exploded’?” Unless the Sacramento News & Review has joined the Alt-Right, the incendiary use of the word “exploded“ was dunderheaded, as opposed to hate-based. A copy editor or whatever Editor in Chief last came through the revolving door should have caught and corrected the mistake – that is, assuming he’s not Steve Bannon.
The Sacramento News and Review goes through Editors at a rate commensurate with the rate that the band Spinal Tap goes through drummers. You’d think, what with the Bee in a spiraling decline, that SNR would try to “step up,” rather than fall on its face. Now is the time for SNR to expand what topics it writes about, thus to steal readers from the fast declining $1.50-an-issue-on-weekdays daily. Too, SNR could take some of the Bee's advertiser. I would like it if SNR suddenly had ads for new cars and pancake houses instead of just marijuana and masturbatory phone-call services.
I think that the poor performances of Ryan Loofbourrow (Sac Steps Forward Director) and Sac Mayor Steinberg is the targeted shame-worthy behavior that the article is intending to point toward. But while each leader exhibits shame to a degree, neither has any intention of falling on his sword. So, there will be no repercussions. Loofbourrow and Steinberg will each treat matters as just another glitch that happens and gets forgotten until the next ugly glitch pops into view before it gets religated to fade on the far side of forgetfulness.
The Squirrelly business
Another problem area of the article is weirdness in how some sentences were constructed.
In the piece's first paragraph, Hosseini writes "Several feet away, under an already warm sun, someone tried to get the applause going, banging thick palms together like rocks."
Huh? For starters, the sun is a star that is always hot. IT doesn't warm up during the day. As for the "banging thick palms" thing, I suspect that Hosseini is meaning to suggest that people were clapping but were not enthusiastic in their effort. Otherwise, I am stumped.
A follow-up to Hosseini's piece may be indicated. Hosseini gets into the weeds a wee bit to account for the survey-count problems of the last five years, but someone like Cosmo Garvin could nail what the problems are such to put matters in position for the best possible future for the Homeless Count and for homeless folk.
The last paragraph in the piece is treated as something solemn.  L&F Advocacy Director Joan Burke tells people to "put themselves in the shoes of a homeless person. 'Some people will actually be in danger. Some will be cited for illegal camping. I believe none of them  will have a  [restful] night.'"
Really!? NONE of them will have a restful night. I think that what is revealed, here, is that Joan has never been a homeless person. A lot of people may not be highly comfortable in the spot where they choose to sleep, but the matter of being tired and needing sleep results in people getting sleep and, usually, waking up and finding that they are satisfactorily rested and ready for the morning.
The New Era
Noel Kammermann is the newly annointed Director of Loaves & Fishes. I am hopeful that, as an element of all things being new, a lot of the quite crazy cartoonish depictions of homelessness and homeless people will cease.
Do homeless people suffer. Sure. Yes. Homelessness is an unsatisfactory life, but is not the ultimate misery at all times -- which is how it can be depicted in Homeward Street Journal or by many homeless-charity administrators.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Three quotes, one from Einstein another from Dave -- or brother Glenn -- of Dave's Killer Bread, and the third comes from Orwell

Three quotes came at me and I liked them so much I've determined I must share them.

The first is the beginning of something written by Albert Einstein that comes to me from a short podcast episode from 60-second science.

It goes thus,
Striving for social justice is the most valuable thing to do in life. -- Einstein
Einstein was primarily speaking about the treatment of black Americans, just after World War II ended. He knew that black students at Princeton, where Einstein was a resident scholar, were mistreated in ways that reminded him of the continuing troubles of Jews in Europe.

I still hope to find the paper or book where the Einstein quote first appeared.

I did find the book "How to Think Like Einstein" that includes the quote and provides some valuable information.
"How to Think..." dates the quote in 1934, which is, of course before WWII, rather than after it. There is bit more information about Einstein's liberal sympathies with humanity if you click the link, above.
Dave -- or, more likely, his brother Glenn -- has some important things to say on the packaging of the many varieties of Dave's Killer Bread nutritious and delicious bread products.

Here's what the bread wrappers have to say...
15 years in prison.

That's a tough way to find yourself. Dave Dahl realized he was in the wrong game and knew he had more to offer. His brother, Glenn, say a change in him and gave Dave a second chance by welcoming him back to the family bakery. Dave set out to make a loaf like no other -- the most nutritious organic, whole-grain bread -- and the result is what he called killer bread.

Dave's Killer Bread is built on the belief that everyone is capable of greatness. What began as one man's journey has turned into so much more. Today, one-third of the employees at our Oregon bakery have a criminal background, and we have witnessed first-hand how stable employment sparks personal transformation.

While "Housing First" is the framework for improving the lives of homeless people, employment is a vital second step for many. Dave got his job, easily -- from his bro. There are many, many guys and gals who are now homeless in Sacramento who could use work to fully get their lives turned around. I hope employers will give some homeless people opportunities for employment.

This last bit comes from George Orwell's book "Down and Out in Paris and London." It's the last paragraph in chapter 3:
And there is another feeling that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone who has been hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs—and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Latest from the Bee: Downtown is on Edge

An article in the June 28, 2017, Bee is quite disturbing. It's title is "'Rash of violent and aggressive behavior' has downtown on edge." The reporter who wrote the piece is the Bee's best, Ryan Lillis.

Of course, the bad behavior is attributed to homeless people downtown.

Those cited in the story as being upset about what all is going on are Steve Hansen, who represents the downtown area on the City Council; "key downtown and midtown business leaders"; Mayor Darrell Steinberg; Mike Testa, who will soon take over as President and CEO of the Visit Sacramento tourism board; Michael Ault, who leads the Downtown Sacramento Partnership business group; and Councilman Jay Schenirer, who called a press conference to protest a "wave of violence" that is occurring in Oak Park.

Testa is quoted in the article, saying, "Perception is such an important thing in our business [i.e., encouraging people to visit Sacramento]; ... it hasn't been an issue [before] the way it is now."

Ault told Lillis that the city and private sector had invested too much time and money into downtown Sacramento in recent years "for this trend to continue."

He further said, "What's taken place over the last several months -- the uptick in aggressive behavior -- has been an absolute turn of events. Now is not the time for us to back off in managing the environment down here. We can't tolerate this behavior."

Typically, this blog acts in defense of homeless folk, but from the disturbing many instances of aggression and violence -- including what was going on along the American River Parkway ten days or so ago, clearly some things need to be done immediately, and perhaps continually, until it is possible for things to settle down.

What must not be forgotten is the need for homeless people to have places to go in the daytime and at night. Making the downtown and midtown safer must not turn into a big wave of activity by police to harrass homeless folk. I hope that Sacramento has learned that a brutal and bullying police force is counterproductive. There is a lot else that the police and City leaders can do that would truly make the city a safe and happy place that does not involve borderline saddhism.

In this blog, I have suggested several times [ See "The thing that distinguishes our species from others is only this: We Contemplate the Future" ]  that we should get homeless people who have long been left on the street and in shelters to get jazzed about a good and happy future they can have once they are in housing.

Recent scientific research informs us that unlike other animals, we cogitate on what our future might be. That is what our brains should be doing: Directing our thoughts toward less troublesome times that will open up in the future.

If we want fewer homeless people drinking and drugging and behaving in an anti-social manner, how can we encourage that to happen? BY PROVIDING HAPPY ALTERNATIVE things for them to do that relate to a future that they will want to live to see.