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Common ground on safe ground. Common sense, not communism.

Mayor Kevin Johnson at Safe Ground campground. [twitpic: share photos on Twitter]
For the second week in a row, I attended the Tuesday meeting of the SHOC Homeless Leadership Project effort to achieve safe ground, at the Delaney Center at the Loaves & Fishes facility. [Here, my account of the prior week's mtg, which provides much the same news that was today's Top Story in the Bee.] I was reluctant to attend. Though I endorse core objectives of the group – support for a currently existant encampment of homeless people, called Safe Ground; and the mayor's effort, with Stepping Stone, to create a legal homeless encampment in Sacramento – the group evidences a lot of troubling Leftist attitudes and practices.

Nonetheless, I was encouraged to attend and it became known to me that people were fully aware I was a blogger. [Both the prior week and today I introduced myself as being with Sacramento Homeless blog. Today, Paula Lomazzi of SHOC commended my article "A night in Safe Ground camp." And John Kraintz mentioned that he knew of Homeless Tom.]

My main reason for going this week, like last week, was to get something going with respect to shelter this winter. Both Paula and another woman gave me leads on what VOA might be doing to revive their Overflow program for the coming chilly season, but interest in the topic by others having command of the meeting was nil; the issue was not on their agenda.

I had written about suggestions I had for this group in the last part of a blogpost I wrote on August 12, Suggestions for the "Safe Ground movement." Thinking about it today, I'm amazed at how prescient I was with all I wrote then. Part of what I wrote was this:
The Safe Ground movement needs to resist argot and stridency that understandably strikes the public as being far-left politically. The homeless people in our city are already marginalized and don't need to be further marginalized from support that might come from the whole of the city, including staunch conservatives.

I would prefer that the effort to establish a legal homeless campground be successful. I believe the best hope of achieving this requires great sympathy from us, the homeless, and the homeless-help industry, for the predicament the general public finds itself in in today's economy. I think that empathy/compassion for others is required to engender empathy/compassion from others for the problems that homeless people are having these days.

Sad to say, but the group, led mostly by the thoughts of a Sacramento lawyer, is way way Left and is surely doomed to failure. The "fight" is not for a better understanding by the public of the homeless circumstance, and from that support and sanction of a wider pathway for the reconstruction of homeless people's lives – instead, it is for nothing short of revolution. The lawyer said, expressly, that "leading a revolution" was the group's calling.

The lawyer, whom I believe is Cathleen April Williams, brought with her copies of the August 2009 issue of People's Tribune, a newspaper that seeks the reconstruction of society in a battle toto between "the capitalists [and] the growing mass of poor."

Ms. Williams made special mention of an article she admired written by the paper's editor, called "Revolutionaries Must Rally the People to a Vision of a New World." The article tells us "we, the people, rather than the corporations, could own our country's productive property and provide everyone whatever they needed."

By my reading we've already seen that "new world" in countries that spanned the globe in the mid-1980s from East Germany to North Korea. The article speaks of freedom [as did Karl Marx, who said, "Necessity is blind until it becomes conscious. Freedom is the consciousness of necessity."], evokes the ghosts of Lincoln and MLK, but believes in guaranteed jobs for everyone, fewer hours of work and an end to what the writer believes is the core cause of job loss: Technology.

Call me silly, if you like, but I believe that technology creates jobs and adds greatly to productivity. And I believe that productivity is important, because only with it can we expect to fashion healthy happy lives from the sweat of our brows.

Capitalism turns bad when it is under-regulated. Bush removed many pivotal regulations and that has caused the economic decline we are now suffering from. All healthy economies are mostly capitalist. You cannot have freedom without people having the option of creating their own businesses.

As I have written before, the homeless benefit disproportionally from Sacramento being seen as a good spot for people far and local to open a business. The homeless population in Sacramento, more than any group could be, is harmed by the stigma of being led by anti-business people. The homeless-help industry in Sacramento needs to be overhauled.

A second article in that issue of People's Tribune was written by Paula Lomazzi, titled "Safe Ground Sacramento Rally, March and Campout." Ms. Lomazzi was also at the meeting. In the byline for the article, Lomazzi is identified as being with Homeward Street Journal, which is a publication of SHOC, Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee. The article was not political; it merely sketched out highlights from the "march and campout" on July 1.

Both Ms. Williams and Ms. Lomazzi are associated with SHOC, which attempts to recruit homeless people to its causes. While the organization claims to be involved with "recruiting homeless leaders," in discussion with Mr. Lomazzi a couple months ago, she could provide no names of leaders that had emerged that would, perhaps, be open to being interviewed by this reporter. She did identify John Kraintz as a homeless leader; he is often pictured in the Sacramento Bee as a homeless homelessness leader.

According to SHOC's own records, much of the funding for the organization comes from events at the home of Ms. Williams and Loaves & Fishes attorney Mark Merin.


NellaLou said…
Having been involved in activist causes for over 30 years there is a line between Allies and Alienation. When one is working with vulnerable populations Alienation is the last thing that is needed from the Status Quo. Pushing personal agendas like idealistic revolutions is neither practical nor helpful. And it pushes marginalized people even closer to the edge. Lofty rhetoric does not feed and shelter people.
Tom Armstrong said…
Thanks very much, NellaLou. I'm getting some flak about this blogpost, but no one is questioning its veracity.

I think you've hit the important point: All questions of politics aside, how can it do any good to push homeless people [because of the thinking of the homeless-help industry, here] to the far, scary margins?

As a practical matter, we need society to understand homelessness correctly and to identify with homeless, suffering people. Presenting homeless people as "the masses rising up against their overlords" is impractical; not in touch with thinking 'out on the streets'; and a certain route to disaster.

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