Country Joe McDonald’s songs denounce the atrocities of war and pay tribute to Vietnam War combat nurses and the legendary icon of mercy, Florence Nightingale, for bravely bringing medical care into war zones.
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Women coming home from the Vietnam War never were the same after their wartime experiences. They were shoved into a horrific, unbelievable experience. That’s what I wrote about in the song: “A vision of the wounded screams inside her brain, and the girl next door will never be the same.”
“It was magical. All at the same time, amazing stuff happened in Paris, London, and San Francisco — and BOOM! Everybody agreed on the same premise: peace and love. It was a moment of peace and love. It was a wonderful thing to happen. And I’m still a hippie: peace and love!”
“Homeless people are the most creative, talented people I’ve ever met — we have to be. I’ve seen it through artwork, musicians, the places we design to sleep,” one woman commented about the lack of employment for homeless people. “We are wasting huge amounts of human potential and talent.”
Recently I had the misfortune to interact with Berkeley’s newest scheme in combating homelessness. It’s called the coordinated entry system. In a nutshell, it is supposed to be a one-stop shop for homeless services. In reality, it is piles of paperwork and, quite frankly, a complete waste of time.
For decades, Santa Cruz has progressively sought to criminalize homelessness and the recent vote is little more than a sad confirmation of that well-established and deeply entrenched policy. Following the vote, one longtime observer commented that “now our community is officially homeless unfriendly.”
“We started making a film about poverty,” said Amir Soltani. “We ended up making a film about love.” The poverty of the recyclers profiled in the film is illustrated as people find or lose housing and shelter, find or lose loving relationships, and get a handle on their health and hope.
Dignity Village in Portland started when homeless activists claimed space under a downtown bridge. It has grown into a 60-person village with tiny homes built of recycled materials by residents and volunteers. Community members practice self-governance, and select their own members under their own community agreements.
I’m hoping the seduction of miniaturization doesn’t distract from the call for a right to rest, for human rights, and for housing based on the needs of minimum-wage workers, people with disabilities, veterans, and low-income seniors who can’t compete in a market designed by and for the one percent.
Many are interested in tiny houses for the homeless community. “I hope it’s the beginning of an upswell of community support to get this tiny homes program under way in Berkeley. It seems that there is a possibility we can do that.”
This month, Street Spirit turns twenty-one years old. To celebrate, we are launching our new podcast series with an interview with co-founder Terry Messman about the history of Street Spirit’s advocacy journalism. We also reprint an article about Street Spirit by Lily Kley, originally published FoundSF a project of Shaping San Francisco.