Monday, March 9, 2009

The Conjunction of Sacramento, homelessness, L&F, the Internet and the Media

Those of you who are wired up and stuck in or involved with poverty in Sacramento are likely to know that Sacramento has been getting a lot of attention outside Sacramento these days -- and it all has nothing to do with our body-builder governator.

A two-day story in the middle of February in the fast-declining [soon to disappear?] Sacramento Bee may have been the beginning of things. After a sad experience on Friday the 13th, Deanna Van Slate got a valentine on the 14th when Bee reporter Kim Minugh ran a story about how the 50-year-old woman had on Friday had her car taken away from her by the police and was left on the roadside with her pile of belongings.

Loaves & Fishes quickly set up a fund for this poor lady who was homeless and destitute for half a day and the response from Sacramentans was bountiful. Quoting L&F CEO Libby Fernandez in the follow-up Bee article, "People offered help, ranging from cash to free accommodations for Van Slate. Some offered rooms for free for two weeks, some for a month."

Next thing we hear is that "Oprah" had been in town. NOT Oprah her bonnie self, but the "Oprah Show," in the form of a camera crew and show regular Lisa Ling. In town on February 11 thru 13, a show episode, later broadcast on the 25th, was filmed. The show focused on the homelessness of recently well-off Sacramentan Favor Whiteside and her children, and other families who have fallen in today's sour economic times. It also filmed people telling their homelessness stories in the Wasteland encampment, east of Loaves & Fishes.

Most recently, Saturday last, a film crew from The Today Show filmed a story about the Wasteland and other news of Sac'to homelessness. See below:

And here: A Today slideshow of the Wasteland encampment.

But this is by no means all. The ripples spread out on the lake. There are now lots of news stories and blog stories, through out America and beyond about circumstances in Sacramento relating to homelessness, usually relying overmuch on the Big Media articles and telecasts. The story that's out there is warped from the reality on-the-ground, here.

Of great concern to SacHo blog is the focus of these stories and the way they are managed. The story that is 'getting out,' that is trumpeted by aid agencies here and desired by Big Media, is one about families that have been homeless only a very short time. Most Sacramento homeless people are solo men, homeless for many months, sometimes years. Most of the new homeless are single men, though you'd never suspect it from the way these stories get framed by Libby Fernandez and the Media.

One recent story, covered by KCRA and picked up by MSNBC concerns a "dispute" between L&F CEO Libby Fernandez and Jon Von Farris of iCare-America. Fernandez wants her and her organization to have control over the Sacramento encampment, even to the exclusion of letting other agencies or people bring help and supplies to the homeless. This is an area of great concern: L&F has not proved to be a capable manager of conditions at its dirty Friendship Park, or to keep food poisoning from being a recurring problem in the kitchen it oversees.

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Blogger Ryan Garou said...

Oh, man, you nail two major problems here. One is the uncritical love-in fluff pieces that charity organizations like this one always get from the media. The other is this new voyeuristic exploitation of homelessness from the perspective of showing yuppies other yuppies who have fallen from grace, like some kind of twisted Reality TV show.

March 12, 2009 at 5:31 PM  

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