Archive | August, 2015

UC Berkeley Graduate Discovers the University of the Streets

Even though I was fortunate to have received a great education at UC Berkeley, the education I received on the streets as a homeless man shortly after graduating was even more enlightening.

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Blues for the 99 Percent

In churches and juke joints, singing held the community together as Jim Crow oppression threatened to keep people confined in a slavery-like caste system. Songs conveyed things too dangerous to speak about — long work hours, low pay, and unfair racist bosses.

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The Freedom Sleepers Demand Repeal of Camping Ban

“As a 1961 Freedom Rider, I served 39 days in the Mississippi penitentiary fighting discrimination. I and others will continue to resist discriminatory local ordinances which forbid individuals a place and opportunity to sleep. We call upon our City Council to find a way to alleviate homeless suffering.” — Rabbi Phil Posner

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Business Improvement Districts and ‘Broken Windows’

The broken windows theory of policing conceptualizes poor people as things to be removed and not people who are struggling to survive. In San Francisco, Business Improvement Districts utilize private security forces and city police to harass and banish homeless people from Union Square.

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Resistance to Police Violence and Racism

Although several deaths of young African American men at the hands of the police have received a great deal of publicity, hundreds more police-inflicted deaths have not been reported. Across the nation, police officers who have killed innocent African-American men are rarely punished by racially biased court systems.

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Selling Street Spirit Changed His Outlook on Life

Ralph is facing some major challenges now. Social Security and government assistance won’t go far in providing food and shelter for him and his wife while she is disabled. Getting out to Berkeley Bowl with the Street Spirit every day will keep up his spirits and a roof over their heads.

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The Questions About So-Called Affordable Housing

Many people already question whether so-called affordable housing projects in Oakland and the Bay Area are really affordable to most disabled persons receiving their income through SSI, or for retired persons receiving Social Security. It is evident that all too many are not truly affordable to low-income people.

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The Brave New World of Centralized Intake in Berkeley

One can’t help but notice that all this wrangling over intake forms, coordination, and “centralized intake” hasn’t managed to produce any additional low-income housing or shelter beds. Berkeley’s last low-income housing expenditures were about 15 years ago, and involved rehabbing some already existing low-income housing units.

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All Shook Up: How Human Beings Are Turned into Categories

When highly diverse individuals are lumped into a single category, the result is terribly misleading. In the composite picture in the minds of those who promote anti-homeless laws, many different sorts of people are merged into one. The ensuing discussions get shipwrecked because nobody is having the same discussion.

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Berkeley shelter closes

The closure of the largest homeless shelter in Berkeley leaves many with nowhere to go

Writing for the Street Spirit: My 17 Year Journey

Writing for Street Spirit has awakened in me a sense of responsibility toward others. Street Spirit is a way for people silenced by big money and big media to have a voice.

Animal Friends: A Saving Grace for Homeless People

“I wrapped her in my jacket and promised I’d never let anybody hurt her again. And that’s my promise to her for the rest of her life. In my mind she’s a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.”

A Testament to Street Spirit’s Justice Journalism

The game was rigged against the poor, but I will always relish the fact that Street Spirit took on the Oakland mayor and city council for their perverse assault on homeless recyclers. For me, that was hallowed ground. I will never regret the fact that we did not surrender that ground.

Tragic Death of Oakland Tenant Mary Jesus

Being evicted felt like the end of her life. As a disabled woman, she saw nothing ahead but a destitute life on the streets. She told a friend, “If I’m evicted tomorrow, I have no choice but to kill myself. I have no resources, no savings, no money, and nowhere to go.”

They Left Him to Die Like a Tramp on the Street

Life is sacred. It is not just an economic statistic when someone suffers and dies on the streets of our nation. It is some mother’s son, or daughter. It is a human being made in the image of God. It is a desecration of the sacred when that life is torn down.