Friday, September 25, 2009

Safe Ground: Where the movement is now and what it should now do

A tip of the hat to the Safe Ground Campaign. It has done well, despite the problems I believe it has given itself.

Right now, the mayor and homeless-help agency leaders are publicly in accord, trying to put together a plan, based on a set of key-issue areas, that can bring Stepping Stone, a legal homeless transitional-living place, into being within the next six months.

Perhaps 35% of the public, the Democratic Party of Sacramento County, and the Bee editorial board, are on-board with Safe Ground. Our compassionate mayor, despite getting knocked around, has put his political career and strong-mayor initiative at risk in pronouncing his strong support for Safe Ground.

The scuttlebutt in Friendship Park is that Safe Ground* is likely to manifest sooner (in three months) rather than later (in six months).

Instead of U-Domes or EDARs or canvas tents, the expected camping/housing structures are Tuff Sheds [see picture, which is just one of many Tuff Shed models], which are typically storage sheds but will be buffed up with drywall and lighting of some sort. And, unless somebody is teasing me, the favored name for the homeless village acoming is Eden, as in "the garden of."

What the Safe Ground Campaign should NOW do

Arrogant son-of-a-gun that I am, I am pleased to answer my pal Tipp's call that I put down in words, in a positive, constructive way what Safe Ground Campaign should now do to get home from here, to make a legal camping/housing property come into being and succeed.

First thing: While Stepping Stone is swell as a name for the homeless campground while it's an idea getting bounced about, it should not be the name of the village once it's established. Whether or not the village is a station on the way to a "normal" life for its residents, the village must function as a wholesome, settled, mostly-tranquil community and not as a way station.

"Eden," too, would be a terrible name for the village. That name is Orwellian** -- though, granted, not as ooky as the name Friendship Park. The village, when established, should have a name it can hope to live up to, or – best – a neutral name.

Safe Ground needs to resolvedly, absolutely cut off its ties with communism. That means goodbye and good riddance to you-know-who and all the piffle and crimestop and control-speak and doublethink in SG meetings and paperwork. I mean, It's insane! With ties to the poison and horror of communism, the Safe Ground campaign shouldn't go forward.

Safe Ground, the campaign, should now spin on a dime and begin doing what it should always have done: (1) Appeal to the whole of the public, not just the narrow liberal donation-giving base. (2) Appeal to the business community and the ideals of cleanliness and wholesomeness and responsibility and doing work, rather than in terms of grievance and childish refrains of "I want it now, wah-wah-wah."

The Homeless Community needs to start to be presented AS IT REALLY IS. The public is understandably confused. In the Oprah-fuelled media-blitz days relating to Tent City last spring, the public was told, with the complicity of Loaves & Fishes, the Bee's toady homeless-issue staffwriter and SN&R that Tent City was huge and was comprised mostly of lovely young caucasian families with todlers who missed tooling around Granite Bay in their SUVs. [Well, something like that; you know what I mean.]

The public was actively misled. [See a June The Nation article which set things aright.]

The REAL situation of what homelessness is like and who all us homeless people are is something the public should be informed about. Truth is good for its own sake. The truth also happens to be compelling. Homeless people are mighty marvelous, but with many problems, too. They don't need to be swapped out for Paris fashion models or disgustingly-soiled grizzled old men when the TV camera lights are on.

The public will be able to understand that within the undercaste there are addicts and felons and mentally ill folks, oh my! Further, the public can be taught that homeless people suffer mightily, from deprivations and feelings of unworth. Plus, the public can come to understand the Trap of Homelessness in Sacramento where it is especially difficult to get conditions right such that a person is presentable to apply for work. It's ridiculously difficult out here!

By being TRUTHFUL [a concept that will need to be taught to L&F's board and executives] instead of truthy; sympathetic to the needs and fears of the general community; and by seeking solutions to problems, rather than exclusively and childishly demanding "what I want, now," there will be broader support for the homeless, both from the people in our metropolis and the people's elected and appointed leaders in the city and county.

IMHO, ONLY by getting broader support, such that the public is behind it, and such that ordinances can be passed, will a legal homeless encampment/community come into being and succeed.


* I think I'm on safe ground in saying that one of the problems with "safe ground" is the meaning of the term. Today, "safe ground" means many things, including its opposite, unsafe ground. The illegal campground on C Street was called Safe Ground, while safe ground was originally defined as a legal campground. Also, there continues to be confusion about how safe ground / Safe Ground / SafeGround should be spelled. In addition to being a parcel where homeless people camp (or put up structures), Safe Ground or the Safe Ground campaign is the effort to get a legal homeless campground in Sacramento AND Safe Ground or the Safe Ground Movement is the effort led by C.W. (with articles in People's Tribune) to put an end to capitalism in our country (which in the glorious future might be called The People's Republic of Safe Ground). -- tom armstrong / Tom Armstrong / TomArmstrong

** Orwellian is defined [at wikipedia] in these terms, which apply to the village-naming issue:
  • The political manipulation of language, by obfuscation, e.g. WAR IS PEACE. Using language to obfuscate meaning or to reduce and eliminate ideas and their meanings that are deemed dangerous to its authority.
  •  The encouragement of "doublethink," whereby the population must learn to embrace inconsistent concepts without dissent, e.g. giving up liberty for freedom. Similar terms used, are "doublespeak," and "newspeak." 

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