Friday, May 2, 2014

Safe Ground BLOWS UP

This week’s SNR has a piece on the BLOWUP of the Safe Ground operations team. Steve Watters, the organization’s Executive Director got canned, apparently for not having a good enough 'Show Me the Money' dance to spur a boatload of donations. Three of the seven-person Board of Directors left in what appears to be solidarity with Watters (though Watters, himself, seems not to be miffed about being ousted), leaving a bare majority of the board to fully take control. Only, of course, in truth, Attorney Mark Merin has taken full charge, like a swaggering shirtless Vladimir Putin. Merin is the first word in three consecutive paragraphs halfway through the article, with him describing why Watters was out and what the deal was now.

Bob Erlenbusch, Amani Gallardo and Bill Kennedy are the board members that left. Erlenbusch and Gallardo had coarse words to say about the organization now in the hands of those who ousted Watters. Erlenbusch spoke of the Board members remaining. Quoting SNR, he said he didn’t want to be “part of the dysfunction of the current remaining board.” Homeless Amani Gallardo said – quoting the article -- “I personally left [the board] because it wasn't the same Safe Ground I joined in 2010. It wasn't the same thing that I was willing to fight for any more.”
Safe Ground, Sac logo

I don't know Gallardo, and haven't spoken to him, but I have gotten a sense, elsewhere, that the original purpose of Safe Ground has been fully waylaid. In its beginning Safe Ground was a freedom thing (even while in conjunction with Communist politics). A legal tent campsite was sought so as not to deal with the confinement, rules and imposed services of shelters.  But the cabin village aspiration of what has always been the board majority would impose services and meetings and restrictions and responsibilities on its homeless residents. Any cabin village would, essentially, be another "cottage" program -- like Quinn Cottages/Serna Village -- that is structured such to, theoretically, turn homeless folks' lives around and make of them working, productive citizens. That's the LAST thing the homeless Safe Ground founders seemed to want in 2009. Not that they disrespected Quinn/Serna; just that they thought what was lacking was a unconstraining place for homeless people to be. Thus the motto that appears in their logo: "Everyone deserves a place to be."

I am critical of the Quinn/Serna operation in that -- in the past, at least -- crazy, run-around-in-circles requirements have been imposed on homeless folk. Q/S wasn't overtly seeking to help people find their own 'meaning for their lives' such that homeless people would themselves create and 'buy in' to a program for their future success.  Speaking generally, many "shelter with a program" deals are oppressive; homeless people end up doing what is required without feeling a tad of enthusiasm. And, thus, it all becomes a waste of time.

Another analogy for what a Safe Ground Cabin Village could be like may relate to the cabins and services for homeless folk at Mather, on the east side of Sac County. There, the shelter program functions, in part, by tapping into homeless people's money steams that they receive on their EBT cards. Food Stamps and G.A. ("General Assistance" that people receive for seeking work or having a pending disability claim) can be taken to fund the program, for meals and lodging, as a requirement for a homeless person to stay at Mather. This doesn't seem unreasonable to me, but it is quite different from how things happen in the downtown area where homeless folk have BOTH full use of their EBT streams of funds AND the free food and lodging from the shelters, Loaves & Fishes for lunch and from adjacent homeless-service providers for counselling. In the case of Mather where people have their income streams taken from them in a community that has so very much control over what you do, and is set apart from the robust, regular world, it can all feel like jail.

Attorney Mark Merin very apparently engineered the Watters coup which means the creepy Sacramento Stalinist Communists contingent won and the building of their wildly expensive Potemkin Village moves forward, as fast as they can, if they can make it happen. Homeless people are pretty much fully on the outs from the Political end of the charity, which has what money there is and has all the long-lived sordid characters. Real, honest-to-God Homeless People continue to do good deeds with their activities relating to SG's Pilgramage project, which hosts homeless sleep-ins, usually on the floor at area churches.

How much those involved with the Pilgramage program and those pushing for a Potemkin Village** in northeast Natomas have left in common is an open question. The Potemkinists need homeless people to act as their marionettes; otherwise the Emperor has no clothes. They'd be nakedly illegitimate beyond just being factually illegitimate without, at least, some homeless sycophants involved. The Pilgramagists could use what money can come from the old folks on the political side with all their connections to donors.

The make-up of the now brand-new Board of Safe Ground, Sacramento, is a collection of many old snarly faces from the height of the Communist push in 2009. And it has ZERO homeless people on it. There’s the dandy* Merin, of course, who pulls the strings; Cat Williams, Merin’s wife and the person who knows the Stalinist League of Revolutionaries for a New America most intimately; Libby Fernandez, the head of the disaster that is Loaves & Fishes; Joan Burke, Fernandez’s sidekick; formerly homeless apartment dwellers Kraintz and Tracie, joined at the hip; and Gary Gallary, another old, retired judge nobody’s ever heard of, probably coming by way of the Merin law firm or connections there.

* "dandy" is in reference to how Merin often dresses. No other sense of dandy should be inferred.
** See Potemkin Village, described at Wikipedia.


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