Archive | May, 2016

Redemption Rises on the Midnight Streets

Like Ulysses, the homeless wanderers of Dogtown Redemption were exiled for years on journeys through a landscape of deprivation and despair — an Odyssey on the streets of Oakland.

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A Parent’s View of Homelessness

My son lives on the streets of Oakland. Legs painful and swollen, health compromised by Hepatitis C and heart damage, he pushes a cart full of other people’s trash in the darkest hours of the night.

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Meet Hayok Kay

She is the 4-foot-10-inch fireball pushing a shopping cart down the streets. She has been homeless for too many years to count. She is barely surviving. She loves and loses. In the end, she is the broken body in a Highland Hospital bed, after being beaten in her sleeping bag.

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A Song for Miss Kay: “Stand By Me”

In a broken and trembling voice, she sings “Stand By Me.” Yet her protector has died homeless on the streets and will never stand with her again. It is a song for Miss Kay, and it reveals the staggering impact of this loss on a fragile heart.

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The Myth of Sisyphus on the Streets of Oakland

Jason Witt has mastered the art of recycling and the art of the samurai sword. His hands have been toughened into recycled steel and he hauls mountainous loads all by himself. It looks as if he has the strength to pull these impossible burdens forever — yet he faces life-threatening illnesses.

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Amir Soltani: The Dogtown Redeemer

Amir Soltani’s friendship with Miss Kay is the behind-the-scenes story of the film. He cared for her in many ways. As often happens when we give to others without judgment, he received much in return from the volatile, loving, emotionally broken, chronically homeless, but so full of hope woman, Miss Kay.

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Green Versus Gentrification: The Smackdown

Street recyclers and the recycling businesses that work cooperatively with them are under pressure from skyrocketing land prices, city hurdles, and community perceptions which can make or break the razor-thin margins of even the strongest and oldest of Oakland’s traditional businesses. Community support is crucial.

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The Generosity and Good Works of Recyclers in Oakland

“I’ve been so impressed at how hard people work to get their recycling done,” said Joe Liesner. “The thing that impresses me most — and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it — is the older women that go out. You can just see the wear and tear that’s put on them.”

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A Purgatory of Lost Souls and Redeemed Humanity

Through the camera’s eye, I observed grief and laughter, violence and love, addiction and redemption. I saw these recyclers at their best and worst, with all that makes us human. The film will have succeeded if it reveals their humanity, and helps erase the invisible barrier between us and “them.”

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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.