Thursday, August 17, 2017

The usual in the Homeward Street Journal


A friend of mine gave me a copy of the latest Homeward Street Journal – for July & August, 2017 – and I am here to tell Sacramento Homeless blog readers about it in a fairly succinct manner.
The lead article is about a woman named Tiffany whom, to her great benefit, lives in Salt Lake City where “Housing First” is practiced in a manner that gets homeless people into housing as quickly as possible. The article comes from a publication called “The Big Issue Australia.” Sacramento is never mentioned.
The article at the bottom of the first page is written by Marin Law Firm attorney Cathleen Williams and  begins with these curious words: “On a recent hot Saturday – May 13, 2017, the day before Mother’s Day – mothers, fathers, grandparents and other family members, from L.A. to the Bay Area, gathered on the steps of the Stockton City Hall to commemorate their sons and loved ones, and to express their grief and their anger …" The article is continues on the third page of HSJ. May 13, the date mentioned in the piece was three months ago – which is not a recent date.  A quick, but careful, edit of content would catch many errors in the publication. Nowhere in the long article is there any mention of Sacramento.
Inside, there is a long piece, credited as having been written by the “Street Sense Staff” about the death and legacy of Michael Stoops who helped create the Washington D.C.-based National Coalition of the Homeless in 1988. He died on May 1 of this year. There is no mention in the article of Sacramento.
The fourth page of HSJ is about the activities of the Police Department in Chico. Author Steve Breedlove writes about conditions and interactions with police in Chico, with brio. Breedlove airs many complaints. Likely, his grievances are quite legitimate.  The piece has nothing to do with Sacramento and Sacramento is not mentioned.
On page 6, there is a short piece by Suzanne Hastings, an HSJ writer whom I have complimented in the past. Hastings’s piece in the current HSJ is certainly about Sacramento, but it is content that is her usual screed, about the difficulties living on the street.  And, unfortunately, it is another of Hastings’ overwritten pieces where she wildly overstates and misunderstands what some of the central problems of homelessness are. Generally, Ms. Hastings writes the near-same article over and over and over again.
“The $100,000 Homeless Man,” a subject in an SNR article six months ago, plays a part in Ms. Hastings’s ire in the current issue. Hastings seems to believe that had the $100,000 Man lived, he would have had to truly pay fines totaling over $100,000, the sum of tickets he’d received from the police for a period of, perhaps, 15 years. THAT would never have happened, both because the $100,000 Man didn’t have the money and because a lot of what occurs in interactions between the police and homeless people is a kind of crazy  dance where much foolish stubbornness plays a major part.

This is something that I think Hastings doesn't recognize. It comes from George Orwell's book "Down and Out in Paris and London." It's the last paragraph in chapter 3:
[There is a feeling] that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone who has been hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs—and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.
The rest of the HSJ issue is, on the back page, content from The Chico Vibe; the usual Resources information on the next-to-last page; and a sprinkling of poetry here and there.
It is very difficult to write excellent poetry, and only excellent poetry is worthwhile. I feel certain that the poetry in the Jul-Aug issue of HSJ doesn’t rise to the plateau of true excellence, not that there aren’t some good lines and interesting ideas expressed here and there in the poetry.
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The Homeward Street Journal is a very confounding project. Homeless people are recruited to act as distributors of the publication and they are expected to be satisfied standing around a lot and pocketing one dollar from citizens who buy an issue.
As content in the publication becomes ever-increasingly less and less about Sacramento, the public’s interest in the publication is sure to diminish. But, hey, it’s a way to give a little money to the homeless distributors, right?
But the way the situation is set up between the publication and its distributors, it is the publication – in the name of Paula Lomazzi or her organization, SHOC – that creates the terms of how and what homeless distributors are paid.
I have been told by a distributor that he can make about $5/hour for a few hours until he gets tired. That is far less than minimum wage. If $5/hour is a valid sense of what homeless distributors are making, then the situation is insane.  Homeless people – like employees anywhere and everywhere – should NOT be taken advantage of.  Paula/SHOC sets the rules, thus Paula/SHOC is ABSOLUTELY OBLIGATED TO BE CERTAIN THAT HER DISTRIBUTORS ARE PAID BY THE HOUR AT NO LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGE. Either THAT, or I am very confused. Slave labor isn't allowed in California, right?
Paula/SHOC must meet the pay requirements set by law. Paula/SHOC is not exempt from having to treat her employees properly.
AND, it must be said, that the distributors of Homeward Street Journal ARE ACTING AS EMPLOYEES. It is Paula/SHOC that sets “the price” of an issue. It is stamped on every single issue: “Donation $1. All proceeds go to Distributor.” The distributors aren't receiving any other pay -- say, money directly from SHOC, right?

I think this all might be a case where the distributors need to Unionize. Either that, or get a good lawyer -- and not one from the Marin Firm.
 
And, by the way, I am pretty serious, here. Homeless Sacramentans should not be taken advantage of. [And I should not end a sentence with a preposition. Oh, well.]

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