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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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.