Wednesday, December 31, 2008
There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, an emotional, a mental and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
What Sgt. Delaney was trying to say, without coming right out and saying it, was that the woman was a prostitute. Similar statements made in October about the other two victims implied the same thing. What Sgt. Delaney was careful not to imply was that in spite of her "risky behavior," the woman was "asking for it." That particular judgment will be made by far too many others in the community.
"If it were a half-hour later, we would have been investigating the city's 15th murder," said Sgt. John M. Delaney, aide to Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet.
The victim is a white woman with a long history with police, Delaney said, though he did not detail her arrest record.
"I hate to say it, I don't want to make her a victim twice," Delaney said, while cautioning the public that the attack did not bear the marks of a "typical" serial rapist."The general public should know that this was a woman who engaged in risky behavior, not someone who was abducted at random," he said. Stephanie Barry, Springfield Republican.
Women's advocates know that no woman is safe from rape and murder. One out of every six women in the U.S. has been the victim or a rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, and the murder rate for women is 1.35 for every 100,00 women.
But yes-- violence against sex workers is way out of proportion to that of the general population.
The most recent victim's brutalization took place exactly ten days after the 6th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. The event was initiated to commemorate the more than 90 victims of the Green River killer Gary Ridgway, who targeted prostitutes because "I knew they would not be reported missing right away, and might never be reported. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught."
"Violence should not be an occupational hazard!" The Sex Worker Outreach Project, along with many others, believes that laws that criminalize prostitution help to put women in harm's way. Perpetrators often count on sex workers not going to the police for protection (there are occasional exceptions: see my post on Officer Jacobson) and the stigma creates the idea that sex workers, especially street prostitutes, are a disposable class of people.
Sadly, as women as a whole experience less discrimination and greater possibilities, the women's movement, if it even still exists, shows little or no solidarity with women who use their bodies to make a living. Radical movements to prevent violence against women have turned into service providers with close ties to the state. I have heard no outcry from the YWCA, no word from any battered women's shelter or rape crisis center. My own organization, Arise for Social Justice, , used to frequent places where we would find sex workers and pass out flyers about safety and resources, but our own resources have been very thin of late. Thinking about this, I have to ask myself if we could have done something to make these womens' assaults less likely.
The real question, though, is what can we do now?
Photo from SWOP-Tuscon.
Monday, December 29, 2008
As appreciated as that charity is, the end of December and the beginning of the New Year is sometimes bitter and sometimes sweet for homeless people and their closest allies.
On or near the longest night of the year, cities and towns around the country commemorate the lives of homeless people who have died. The Nashville Homeless Power Project lost one of their own leaders this year so their memorial on Dec. 13 was especially poignant. The New Hampshire Under the Bridge Project has a list of people who have died in New Hampshire every year since 1994. This year's list has 36 names.
Many homeless groups are organizing and fighting back against community antipathy. In Sacramento CA, the People Project reports on a Deccmber 23rd march organized by the homeless themselves against discriminatory laws that make their lives miserable. Take Back the Land in Miami, FL is reveling in some good publicity about their movement, has been liberating public and foreclosed land and homes since 2006. The 13th Juror reports on a lawsuit filed in Laguna Beach CA charging the city with a campaign of harassment against homeless people. Ordinances prohibit homeless people from sleeping out anywhere within the city yet Laguna Beach only provides an overnight shelter between december and March. Save Feral Human Habitat is supporting an effort by the homeless and advocates to seek an extension to the city's planned January 23rd ordinance forbidding the city's homeless from sleeping out on the grounds they have nowhere else to go. Victoria BC,'s A Room of My Own is posting the minutes of organizing meetings to get a tent city established. But in the tradition of "One step forward, one step back," Chosen Fast lambasts Des Moines IO's destruction of wooden huts built by Hope Builders and the homeless themselves, because one of the huts was slightly damaged by fire.
Again, this time of year, homeless blogs pull their thoughts together to think about the policy-- and lack of policy-- that affects homelessness. Diane Nelin at Invisible Homeless Kids discusses a new report on the increase in child and youth homelessness. Wandering Vets has the 2nd part of an in-depth look at homeless veterans. SLO Homeless has a painful look at increasing family homelessness. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty analyzes how Ontario's government "has led the way in the deterioration of income adequacy for people on assistance. "
Is passing out $13,000 in $10 bills to residents of LA's Skid Row doing people any good? Joel John Roberts at LA's Homeless Blog doesn't think so, and he explains why. Tim Harris at Apesma's Lament remarks on how policymakers just have to stay positive about the progress being made to end homelessness, even when they have to stretch the truth, and the Homeless Family's Blog isn't buying the line that homelessness is decreasing, either.
Last but not least, this is at least one time of the year when homeless people allow themselves to wax philosophical about the ending of the old and the beginning of the new. At The Adventures of Homeless Girl, the author thinks about the pursuit of happiness and what it takes to catch it. Kevin Barbieux at The Homeless Guy is not feeling too good about his life these days. Jamie's Big Voice from London has a poem to share, as does an anonymous author at Stone Soup Station. Ryan Garou at On Homelessness in America looks at an article about how to democratize powerwhile Homeless in Abbotsford BC explores the idea of generosity. Finally, the author of Homeless Man Speaks posts the plain words of his homeless friends and paints a picture with them.
Please take the time to learn something directly from homeless people by visiting these incredible blogs. Remember that thoughtful comments are always appreciated. It means somebody is listening.
Photos: Tony shoveling snow from Homeless Man Speaks; mourners from Nashville Homeless Power.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Over at Change.org, Shannon Moriarty has a post about homeless people and their pets. Pets can be lifesavers for homeless people-- a live being who cares about you and needs you can keep you from giving way to despair-- but can also threaten their lives because pets are not allowed into homeless shelters. And it goes without saying that the life of a homeless animal is not easy, either.
Only two homeless shelters in the U.S. allow pets. Read more about it at Change.org.
Friday, December 26, 2008
While catching up on my messages, I found a link to a new Western Mass blog, and that led to another link, and that led to another link...most of them focused on poetry and arts.
Funny how we make choices without even realizing, at the time, that they are choices. When I was twelve, I thought I'd grow up to be a poet. Instead, I'm a community organizer who writes poetry.
All the new links I discovered have inspired me to share two poems.
Opal is sleeping
in an abandoned building
still has electricity praise god
who knows for how long.
She borrows a pan from the office
to boil water on her hotplate
to wash her hair.
I notice her cutting is getting worse
arms crisscrossed like her life
but she keeps me laughing.
"Don't even have a dollar
for a library card so I pretend to read."
She is twenty-four.
"See you tomorrow at the rally,"
she says, slamming my car door.
Everything’s damp this morning:
The crib, the bread, the floors:
It rained more hard at 6 a.m.
than ever I’ve seen before
& a fishhead keeps appearing
that my cats set free
from the next door Spanish garbage.
Thrown over the porch, it surfaces
Under the t.v.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
- Television news bulletins usually contain a story that affects you personally at the precise moment it’s aired.
- The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window of any building in Paris.
- Any police officer about to retire from the force will more often than not die on their last day (especially if their family have planned a party). (Caveat: Detectives can only solve a case after they have been suspended from duty).
- You will survive any battle in any war UNLESS you show someone a picture of your sweetheart back home.
- Anyone can land a 747 as long as there is someone in the control tower to talk you down.
- If you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts, your opponents will wait patiently to attack you one by one by dancing around you in a threatening manner until you have defeated their predecessor.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
See more at Uncyclopedia
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
Image from University of Leeds
Monday, December 22, 2008
As you might suspect, a number of objections have been raised to this and similar undertakings. Don't want homeless people to get too comfortable, or they might have no incentive to seek more permanent solutions. (So meanwhile, it's OK for them to be subjected to rain and snow?) And where would you put them, seeing as there is no "unowned" land left anymore?
About 60 EDARs have been produced so far for a cost of a little under $500. The manufacturing cost could come down if a government or agency decided they'd be a good solution for temporary housing in a war or natural disaster.
Here's a website and video about the EDAR.
I realize I have a lot of links, seems like more than most bloggers. The thing is, I'm sure I've barely touched on what's available in the blogosphere...but when I find something good, I want others to know about it.
It's just about time for another round-up of news from the homeless blogs; hope to get to that soon. In the meantime: Read! Explore! At the least, you'll wind up feeling grateful for the number of people committed to creating a better world.
Photo from ~Dezz's~ photostream at Flickr.
The following is a post from the Northampton, MA-based group Poverty is Not a Crime.
Poverty Is Not a Crime
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
4:15pm - 6:00pm
exact congregation location TBD
The Anti-Panhandling Ordinance Is Just the Beginning!
Stop the Business Improvement District!
End Rascist and Classist Gentrification!
Community Resources, Now!
True Economic Development: For People, Not Profit!
Ordinance 285-53 would restrict “aggressive solicitation” and ban solicitation in much of downtown Northampton through severe restrictions on zone. Originally directed only against panhandling, the word "panhandling" was replaced with "solicitation" in a plastic response to one of our demonstrations to make it seem less classist. Anyone who violates this ordinance will face a fine ranging from $50-$300. Since most panhandlers are obviously unable to pay these fines, they will face incarceration, which entails jail time and future exclusion from shelter opportunities and social programs.
This ordinance is part of a larger program by city officials and select business owners (most are on our side) to gentrify Northampton. Gentrification is the process of whitening and making the area "more upscale" by violently displacing the poor into slums, ghettos, and jails. The reason they want to do this is to make the area look "cleaner" and bring in more tourists. This involves of forcibly removing panhandlers (we know the police isn't after the Salvation Army) from public spaces through the use of force--such as the threat of incarceration or forced treatment this ordinance suggests. Another agent of this gentrification is the proposed Business Improvement District (BID) that outlines this ordinance in its program of twisted 'economic development." The BID also seeks to increase police patrols and hire "city ambassadors"--which exist many other cities across the US as a team of off-duty cops who help tourists get directions while "cleansing" the street of anyone whose race or class isn't quite right. It should also be noted that two of the members of the Downtown Steering Committee that came up with and pushes the BID--Suzanne Beck and Dan Yocuzzo--are the two biggest proponents of the ordinance. It should also be noted that 3 out of the 4 people who spoke in favor the ordinance at the last City Council meeting are also members of the Downtown Steering Committee.
the Business Improvement District Plan:
Rascism: "the potential customers of the BID are...mostly white" - page 22, under the section "Target Customers"
Classism & business control of gov't: "the City of Northampton will participate in the BID as a member...includ[ing] participation in panhandling intervention efforts and ordinances" - page 9
Another agent of gentrification is the "All Roads Lead Home" plan to "end homelessness" that Mayor Higgins, as well as other area mayors, signed onto. This program approaches ending homelessness entirely from the perspective of profit, and featured only one homeless person on its forming committee.
"All Roads Lead Home":
On page 26, this plan talks about "host towns" for low income housing to raise property values...meaning that the housing these city governments are building are not based on where the homeless actually are and what helps them, but instead based on moving them out of town. Seeing as the motivation and direction of this proposal is making money, this housing will most likely be slums and ghettos.
City Council does not have the authority to pass this ordinance or the BID! It is not their choice. The people must unite, and declare our demands: stop the anti-panhandling ordinance, stop the BID, and community resources (adequate food, shelter for human beings not profit, and social services) NOW!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Two and a half years ago he joined the Navy. Like many young men, he saw the service as an opportunity to have a future and as he'd like to be in some kind of law enforcement when he leaves the service, he became part of the Naval Security Force. Five months ago, he was transfered to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
I had a hope, which I didn't dare examine too closely, that because he was in the Navy, in a bay, that he'd be spending much of his time on board a ship, away from the detention camps.
Well, it turns out that the Navy runs security for the camps now-- it used to be the Marines, but not any longer.
My nephew called home the other day and talked to his mom. Of course, for security reasons, there is much he can't say. What he did tell her, however, was about the excrement thrown at him and his fellow security force members by the detention camp prisoners as they walked between the rows of cells.
Here's what I wish I had a way to tell my nephew-- not only tell him, but have him hear.
You are a good person and you don't deserve to have excrement thrown at you. However, it will be nearly impossible for any prisoner at Guantanamo to see you as anything other than a representative of a government that has incarcerated him for seven years without access to the due process of law. No matter what else you may be, you are their jailer.
The United States has just come through nearly eight years of incredible lawlessness. You were barely into your teens when Bush was elected, but I wish you had had a chance to get to know this country before the war. Perfect it definitely was not. Yet even I, cynic that I am, couldn't have guessed how much damage could be done to civil rights.
The Senate Armed Services Committee released a bipartisan report this week about how torture, abuse and death became commonplace in the prisons where "enemy combatants" were held.
Do you know that many of those held prisoner in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere were incarcerated on the word of informants who were rewarded with cash? For many there was little evidence to begin with, and torture produced no worthwhile information. At Guantanamo, of the peak population of 775 at Guantanamo Bay, only 250 prisoners were still there as of November 20; more than two-thirds have been released.
When torture began in those prisons, high government officials including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales used two main strategies to justify it.
First, they changed the definition of torture so that even techniques that could lead to the death of the person being interrogated were not out of bounds.
Second, they announced that the Geneva Convention did not apply to those who were captured in the "war on terror." You probably learned in basic training that the Geneva Convention protocols would protect you if you were ever captured in war. Many of us with family members in the armed forces feared that other countries would change their definition, too.
You will be happy to know-- if you don't already-- that every branch of the armed forces protested that the torture of prisoners violated the law. According to a New York Times editorial commenting on the Senate Armed Services Committee report, Rumsfeld rescinded some of the worst practices at Guantanamo "only after the Navy’s chief lawyer threatened to formally protest the illegal treatment of prisoners." But "by then, at least one prisoner, Mohammed al-Qahtani, had been threatened with military dogs, deprived of sleep for weeks, stripped naked and made to wear a leash and perform dog tricks. This year, a military tribunal at Guantánamo dismissed the charges against Mr. Qahtani."
The bottom line, of course, is that the armed forces must obey the Commander-in-Chief, and you must obey your commanding officers. But how I wish you weren't there, at Guantanamo, in an environment drenched in the moral corruption of torture. Affairs may have improved, but the past cannot be undone. When the a prisoner at Guantanamo looks at you, he sees all seven years of his incarceration, every humiliation he and his fellow prisoners have suffered, every pain, every snarling military dog, every sleepless night. He does not see the nephew with a tender heart that I know and love so well.
Please just keep remembering who you are, and come home soon.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Well, she's opened shop in Worcester, MA with a practice based around community acupuncture! Community acupuncture is done in a relaxed group setting and fees are sliding scale, $20 to $40.
The name of her practice is River Valley Acupuncture. Be sure to check out the News and Events section, which discusses the most recent news about acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments.
The lovely graphic in this post is from Moonrabbit, where there are many nice prints for sale. Check them out!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Being homeless means wearing clothes you did not pick out.
Being homeless means eating what they give you.
Being homeless means having to hear a sermon before you can eat.
Being homeless means being asked for your ID by the police for being in the park.
Being homeless means hiding everything you own so no one will throw them away.
Being homeless means spending most of your day with addicts and the mentally ill, even if you yourself are not.
Being homeless means people are surprised you have an opinion on the presidential election.
Being homeless means walking several miles to eat.
Being homeless means you hope the crazy street preachers show up because it is Saturday and the soup kitchens are closed.
Army Staff Sgt. receiving the Bronze Star. Photo by Victor Maccharoli, Palo Alto Daily News.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The city had framed this meeting as a discussion of homeless people with "behavioral health" problems!!
Perhaps that euphemism is meant to be kind but of course it just obscures the reality of how homeless people act toward the non-homeless and how they are judged by them, with all social context removed. Some people are banned for violence or drug and alcohol use; I suppose one might call this a behavioral health issue. Some are banned for theft, some for back-talking a staffperson, some because they are unfairly accused by another person, some because they are standing up for their rights, some because they are cursing their misfortune.
While I understand that shelters need to be safe for everyone, banning a person from shelter is a potentially life-threatening act. There has to be a better way.
I'm watching A Christmas Carol as I write this, and Marley's ghost has just appeared to Scrooge.
"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"
It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.
"At this time of the rolling year," the spectre said "I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!"
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Amount spent each year in Europe and the United States on pet food: $17 billion
Cost per year to achieve basic health and nutrition for the entire world: $13 billion
Amount spent on perfumes each year: $12 billion
Clean water for all the world: $9 billion
Amount spent on cosmetics in the US: $8 billion
Basic education for the world’s children: $6 billion
Total amount the US spends on Christmas each year: $450 billion (or 16 years worth of food, water, and education for the world)
Initial cost of the US Government bailout of failing financial institutions: $700 billion (or 25 years worth of food, water, and education for the world)
Coming to grips with the alarming disconnects of our consumerist society: Priceless
Patterns do seem to replicate themselves, whether with friends, family, pets, passions, work or writing. When I'm not doing well taking care of myself, I can only cover the basics for everything else. The last few months I've been all over the place and only now feeling like I'm coming back to my center, though much of the landscape has changed.
I'm sure I'm seeming deliberately obscure. This blog is not my journal. My journal is a relationship to myself; my blog is a relationship to others. So I hope to renew that relationship through our mutual presence on this page.
Almost the solstice-- my birthday-- the darkest night and then the day lengthens.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
- Are more people "bad" in this, the "greatest country in the world?" Why?
- Are we criminalizing too much of our behavior?
- Why haven't we developed alternatives to incarceration?
- David Fathi, US Program director, Human Rights Watch
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
It's hard to believe that people all around the world are learning about my 19-year-old son Yuval. I know that I'm proud of him. I just never expected the world to be proud of him. I can't thank you strongly enough
I am Yuval Ophir-Auron.
Send a letter to the
Israeli Minister of Defense.
I am one of the Shministim.
I need your help.
As I write this, Yuval's in jail, serving his second term. We don't know how or when this will end.
I am Yuval Ophir-Auron.
When Yuval was 9 years old he met Palestinians for the first time while we were visiting them after being liberated from jail as administrative detainees. I think this was probably the first time something in his naïve conception about good and bad was broken and he began to ask questions.
It's hard to be a mother of a kid like this. I want him to be enjoying his teenage years. I want him to benefit from the fruits of my and Yuval's father's labor, and I want him to live in a world where he doesn't have to serve in a military that occupies another people. I am sad that I haven't been able to create that world for him. But I am proud that he's trying to create it for himself.
Here's why it matters that the rest of the world is paying attention to Yuval, Raz, and the other Shministim.
The Israeli government would like nothing better than to believe that everyone in the world supports Israel unconditionally. Hell, even people in Israel don't unconditionally support it.
The sad fact is that the occupation is destroying us all- Israelis and Palestinians alike. Supporting the Shministim is a way to do your part to end the occupation and bring comfort and well-being to our peoples.
I am sending a letter:
Will you do the same? Please sign a letter now. Ask those you know to sign their names. Your support means so much to my son and his friends, to me, to all of us who want and deserve a real future in this part of the world.
Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam, Israel