Monday, August 15, 2011

Libby Fernandez: NOT a friend of the homeless

Loaf & Fish CEO Fernandez was profiled in the July 29 issue of the Sacramento Business Journal. In the piece she is quoted telling homeless-averse business people what they want to hear.  The first and third paragraphs in the profile follow [emphases mine]:

“Loaves and Fishes is the heart of downtown,” Sister Libby Fernandez said. “It’s a welcoming place for the very poor and homeless, and gives them a place to be during the day. We serve an average of 650 poor and homeless people each day, and if they weren’t here, they would be at other places downtown.
“When people who are homeless are here they can use our restrooms, our showers, wash up, get their clothes cleaned,” she said. They can use our telephones, sit in our park and just be, without disturbing other people and other businesses. They can socialize here, and get services and help here.”

In his book Managing the Underclass in American Society[1] John Irvin wrote about how the REAL effort in many metropolises is not to help the poor or homeless, but to corral them, to run them around in circles, to waste their time and to keep them out of public view.  Police -- prompted by politicians who are prompted by business people -- in metropolises where such a polity, called “Warehousing the Rabble,” is extant endlessly roust the homeless and otherwise keep ‘em out of “nice neighborhoods.”  Does that sound like Sac’to to you?  Yep.

And you know it’s true:  Homeless people in Sacramento get ticketed and arrested for conduct and actions that conventional citizens, doing the same activities, would never be bothered about by the police.  There are laws on the books that exclusively or near-exclusively are there targeting the homeless to make us behave like cattle.

Libby, with her quotes in the Biz Journal, proves her fealty to the Warehousing the Rabble philosophy and the business community, in opposition to suffering homeless people.  She is certainly NO friend of the homeless. It’s all a charade.  She shows that she does not support the right of the homeless to be treated the same as conventional Sacramento citizens.

Make no mistake, Libby is well known for delivering radically differing messages to suit the different audiences she addresses.  It’s called duplicity and Libby is shameless at it.  To the business world, she’s dutiful at keeping the stinky homeless away from the genteel public.  To donors and volunteers, she is Mother Teresa aiding the wretched.  To the homeless, she pretends to be a champion of the poor.  And to other groups, like the employees at Loaves & Fishes, the Jesuit volunteers, and the L&F Board of Directors, she has yet other masks.

A change at the top at Loaves & Fishes is overdue.  It is time, too, to end the duplicity and for Loaves & Fishes to embrace a new policy:  one of compassion and genuine interest in helping homeless people find meaning in their lives and opportunities to better their circumstance.

[1] Full title The Jail: Managing the Underclass in American Society


Blogger ckrd23315 said...

Tom - what specific changes would you recommend at Loaves & Fishes that would demonstrate "real compassion?"

August 21, 2011 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Armstrong said...


For starters, I have to turn your question around. The compassion HAS TO COME FIRST. The actions then come as a direct result of empathizing with the circumstance of being homeless.

So, new people on the Board of Directors of L&F is probably an unavoidable first step, resulting shortly thereafter with new management personnel.

Excellent management of Loaves & Fishes would be demonstrated with these hallmarks:

Reliable metrics of giving good service would be kept and reported with actions resulting if investigation shows that excellent, reliable, efficient service isn't being provided.

Homeless adults would be treated like adults, and just as they would be if they were 'conventional' Sacramento citizens.

Loaves & Fishes would not see it as its role to keep homeless citizens away from 'nice' neighborhoods. BUT, would instead, see its role as one of giving each homeless person as open an opportunity as is possible to have a robust meaningful life.

August 21, 2011 at 1:35 PM  

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