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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A Life Consecrated to Compassion and Justice

On the bleak streets of the Tenderloin, a sister took a stand against inhumanity. Her solidarity was inspired by the beatitudes and consecrated to the poor.

The Invisible Natural Cathedral of People’s Park

Builders, please go away. Allow the beauty of an Invisible Natural Cathedral to remain, a living shrine of open space that gives refuge to all people.

Street Spirit Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin

This atrocity was happening in a very wealthy city. It was happening right under our noses. It was very visible. And there was not the united voice of the faith community speaking out. That was the spark of Religious Witness. From that moment, I knew what I had to do.

Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin, Part Two

“What’s forming in my mind is Jesus in the temple when he became angry at the unjust and very exclusive systems of society. That is the very reason that there are the poor and the marginalized. It is not enough just to provide food, clothing and housing.”

‘Such Is the Magic and Spirit of People’s Park’

The mayor has no understanding of the awful defeat the loss of People’s Park would be. No comprehension of the cost in lives and the sacrifices people have made for the Park’s ideals. So many still find it a refuge in a country needing a political and spiritual overhaul.

I Remember Who I Am

“And Now Where?” Lithograph by Rockwell Kent

By and by, I calm down. I meditate. I pray. It is a beautiful day. The sun is setting. I weave my way toward the spot where I sleep, where nobody knows where to find me. I look to the stars, and say my prayers to the God who believes in Me.