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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Society’s Failure to Care Is the Root of Homelessness

In one of the richest places in the world, people become so wrapped up in their own comfort and status that they don’t care about the human beings they are stepping over.

Visionary Art of Leon Kennedy

In Leon Kennedy’s painting, his living friends are portrayed next to long-gone elders and assassinated civil rights leaders. Even death does not shatter the bonds of love and community.

Welcome to Homelessness

The worst thing about homelessness, I sensed, would have nothing to do with bad weather, hunger or sleep deprivation. It would be the way I soon would be cast out like a leper, as though one would contract a deadly disease just from being in my presence.

Big Money Spends a Fortune to Fight Rent Control

Wealthy landlords, realtors and developers have teamed up and are spending a fortune to fight the efforts of renters to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act, the law that severely limits the rent control options of California cities. Tenants have also launched rent control campaigns in 10 California cities.

Vicious and Cruel Assault on the Poorest of the Poor

Elected leaders of the national tenants union denounced the housing bill proposed by HUD Secretary Ben Carson as a vicious and cruel assault on the poorest of the poor. “Millions will be displaced if these deeply cruel proposals see the light of day. Congress should reject them out of hand.”

The DBA’s Assault on Free Speech in Berkeley

The DBA launched a new poster destruction policy, despite being warned it was unconstitutional by the City Attorney. Tearing down fliers is a textbook example of a free speech violation. No one has the right to make content-based distinctions about what is allowed to be posted or said in legal, public places.