Friday, April 22, 2016

The Right to Exist by Bud Stratford

Bud, a formerly homeless person, wrote an article for the International Network of Street Papers.  The full article, including a portion of Bud's story, can be found here. 

 I think that The Founding Fathers simply took for granted an individual’s fundamental and unalienable right to exist. I really don’t think that they even questioned the notion. However, this fundamental right to exist does run headlong, in our modern society, into another quite obvious (to most people, at least) right that we all have: the right to own property. Existing by default always means taking up space, somewhere. But if you don’t have the means to either purchase, rent or obtain permission to occupy private property – and being the country that we’ve become, every single square inch of it is ultimately owned by somebody, somewhere – then what are you supposed to do? Cease to exist?

And that, right there, is exactly how our government chooses to cope with this problem. Deep down, I believe that their hope, wish, and strategy for “solving the homeless problem” is simply to regulate, legislate and enforce those people’s lives right out of existence. That might seem blunt, cruel, harsh, cynical, or jaded. But if you look at what the City of Los Angeles, along with scores of cities and towns all across this great country of ours, is actually doing on a day-to-day basis the strategy becomes all-too-clear. Either move ’em, or enforce ’em… literally… to death. That’s the strategy.

But we can certainly do better. And, we certainly should.

The reason that we have “class warfare” in this country today is because of our society’s hypocrisy on the merits, and the legalities, of these issues. Not only do the [legally recognised] right of individuals to own private property regularly cross paths with, and bump heads against, an individual’s (legally unrecognised) right to exist, but a great majority of the time, if and when these two issues meet in the courtroom, the judgement of the gavel will invariably fall in favour of the property owner’s right to do whatever he wants to do with his property. Including casting others out of it, if that’s what he or she chooses to do, which is an important right in this country. But one that unfortunately, and regularly, trumps the rights of people without means to even exist.

Our society’s hypocrisy comes immediately to light, once we consider the ‘Right To Life’ movement. It is a movement that maintains that unborn children in the womb, have very real and tangible rights to exist. But once they’re out of the womb suddenly, those people no longer have the right to exist, until they’re lucky or skilful enough to obtain property rights of their own, and exercise them. Or the ‘All Lives Matter’ movement (a cynical counterpoint to the Black Lives Matter movement), which should really be saying, ‘All Lives Matter… As Long As They Have Suitable and Sufficient Means’.

Now, what kind of sense does that really make?

If all lives truly mattered, wouldn’t that extend to the poor just as much as it applies to everybody else?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Compassion Crisis

We don't have a homeless crisis-- we got plenty of that.

We don't have a housing crisis-- we got lots and lots of houses.

What we have is a compassion crisis, a crisis that fails to understand that poor people are the equal of those with wealth.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Value, part 2

It's okay for a wealthy person to live in an RV for a couple years. But if the person is poor, they're homeless and they can't get a spot.
It's okay for a "successful" person to have a job that barely makes ends meet. But if a person looks poor, or has to get food stamps, then they are shamed and degraded.
It's okay for a millionaire who has filed for bankruptcy to ask for a loan, even from the government. Any hard-working low income person who tries to do that will be laughed out of the office.
It's okay for a wealthy person to camp in a national forest. But if a homeless person does it, they are "taking advantage of the system."
In our country, those with wealth can bend the rules, and it's okay. Because the rules were made for them in the first place.
The place of the poor in this country are the jails, the unsustainable wage, the apartments with black mold, the shelters with bed bugs. And if the poor finds these places unlivable or unacceptable, then they had best stop breathing, because there is no other space for them in our cities.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Simple Answer Isn't Really Simple

How to end homelessness

The simple answer:
Find a homeless person. Give them a place to live. Tell them, "This is your place. As long as you don't harm anyone, you are welcome to stay here. No one will take it away from you." Then give them time. They will find out how to thrive on their own, because that's what they want to do. It just takes time.
Then, do that with all other homeless people.

The more complicated answer:

-Not all homeless people are ready for a place.  They have been abused and thrown into addiction and harmed and experienced trauma that they might not trust any place that you give them.  It will take time.  And they may not stay.  But in time, if they feel safe, they will heal and grow and become ready to give back.

-Not all homeless people are safe.  If you have an extra room and you want to host a homeless person, that's fantastic.  But in reality, unless you know them, they may not be safe.  NEVER, NEVER take in a homeless person unless you really know them.  This means spending time with them on the street.  Listening to them.  Understanding them.  And then deciding if they would fit into your housing situation.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


The funny thing is that money has the value we give it. A few years ago Brazil changed their currency to give greater value to their dollar, called the Real. Today, Bitcoin is a real currency, in certain areas (like kidnapping ransoms) because people give it imaginary value.
We place that same kind of imaginary value on people. When a person becomes a celebrity or makes a huge salary, or becomes a successful politician, they haven't changed as a person, but their value increases dramatically. They gain opportunities they would never have had before their increased value, and they obtain economic opportunities with little effort that they never could have dreamed of.
The opposite also happens. When a family member becomes homeless, it is frequent that their family trusts them less. When a person is diagnosed with a mental illness, like schizophrenia, a person may not change but they are seen as less trustworthy. When a person moves into a nursing home, they become an object to be pushed around instead of a human being to be heard.
All people are equally valuable. Some may be more important than others, but no one is more valuable than another. Each human being is a society, and each human life is priceless. Perhaps media may treat one person over another (which usually means they have greater entertainment value than others), and insurance rates values certain people higher than others. But our cities and nations have a responsibility to treat each citizen equally, no matter what their wealth, power or fame. Each citizen should be given an equal right to live, to exist in their community. No one should be harassed or harmed in any way unless they are proven to be a criminal.
May God have mercy on our nation.

Calling the Police

The police, many times a day, receives a call or tweet about how the homeless are disturbing their neighborhood, committing crimes, and leaving drug paraphernalia and trash. When the police get there, they see a crime scene or trash, and they see homeless folks, but they don't see any direct evidence between the two subjects. But they move the homeless along, because offended housed people are more important than homeless people trying to survive.

Yes, there are homeless people who commit crimes. So when you see them do crimes, go ahead and call the police. Otherwise, don't make assumptions, and don't call the police because you don't like homeless people in your neighborhood. The police have better things to do than to harass the poor.

And so, might I suggest, do you.