The April 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Murder of Mary Katherine King

Eyes Wide Open

California Lifts Food Stamp Ban

The Ordeal of Ramona Choyce

Republicans Shred Disabled Housing

Art and Activism of Jos Sances

The Paintings of Jos Sances

Gambling with Social Security

Billionaires Grow Richer, Poverty Worsens

Existence Itself Is Banned for the Homeless Poor

Bush Policy Errs on Chronic Homelessness

Sankofa House: A Rainbow for Homeless Women

Student Summit Against Hunger

A Lifetime at the Bus Stop

Working for Transit Justice

Poor Leonard's Almanack

BOSS Community Organizing

The Anguish of Classism





May 2005

February 2005






Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Republicans Shred Disabled Housing

by Lynda Carson

A disabled man on the streets of San Francisco. Countless disabled people will be put at risk of homelessness by Bush's cuts. Judy Jones photo

"We are spiraling downwards back to the years we dreaded, back around 20 years ago. Our social system should not be going backwards. I want to let them know, they are puttling my life on the line with all of these budget cuts." -- Michele Rousey, disabled Oakland tenant

With the mainstream press taking little notice, the Bush administration proposes to end financing for the construction of new housing for the mentally disabled and physically disabled, as part of its agenda to promote a 50 percent cut in the nation's housing budget for people with disabilities.

Under the Bush administration's proposals for fiscal year 2006, funding in the Section 811 program will not be allowed to be used for new construction of disabled housing or the rehabilitation of existing structures being used to house people with disabilities.

On February 22, the New York Times reported that "the federal government would discontinue financing housing for people with spinal cord injuries or psychiatric illnesses." Bush proposes to cut $120 million from the already low budget of $238 million annually for the Section 811 disabled housing programs, which has disastrous consequences for those affected.

George Bush the senior went to war in Iraq after Congress was told that baby incubators in Kuwait were being unplugged by the Iraqi Army during the Kuwait invasion. In comparison, the second Bush administration proposes to pull the plug on disabled housing programs for people with spinal cord injuries or psychiatric illnesses who reside in nursing homes or psychiatric hospitals. There has been no uproar in the media, and Congress is not being asked to go to war to stop the Bush agenda.

In addition to proposed cuts in the Section 811 programs for the disabled, Bush also proposes to cut a staggering $226 million from the nation's project-based Section 8 voucher programs.

HUD pulled the plug on 30 project-based Section 8 developments in Marin County in June 2004, because HUD had objected that many of the projects were housing the mentally disabled and battered women. The project-based voucher cuts affected 14 nonprofit organizations, including 30 affordable housing developments, containing a minimum of 200 households of the most vulnerable residents of Marin County.

Considering the contempt expressed by the Bush administration for the needs of the disabled and mentally ill, the elderly have much to fear from the latest efforts by Bush to sabotage Social Security.

"If I get cut any more, I would starve to death," said Dee Strandvold of Oakland. "If not for my in-home caregiver Richard, I couldn't get by. When I have seizures, Richard is there when I wake up in the hospital."

Dee Strandvold has just turned 57, and she has been in a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury since she was 24. She spends more than half of her day in bed, and the rest of the day in her wheelchair.

"I was hurt when I was 24, and it was not my fault," she said. "I have a severe spinal cord injury, and have a pain pump implanted inside me that gives daily doses of oxycontin to help kill the pain."

Michele Rousey resides in Section 811 housing for the disabled in Oakland, and has multiple diseases that have landed her in a wheelchair. "Without my power wheelchair and the help I receive, I would be bedridden 24 hours a day," she said.

Rousey called for the public to speak out against the life-threatening cutbacks. "People should speak up against these proposed cuts by contacting the governor and the politicians in their local districts," she said. "I think it would be very helpful to go to rallies or protests to oppose the cuts that may affect them all.

"If the proposed budget cuts of the governor and the Bush administration take effect, it would make my rents impossible to pay where I am living, and I would become homeless. There are 44 units of disabled housing where I reside, and my neighbors and I know we will be affected in some way if the cuts take place. I think that everyone is too overwhelmed by too many cuts, in too many ways."

Rousey explained that budget reductions are being imposed simultaneously in housing, health care, and in-home support services, and damaging cuts in lifeline services for low-income and disabled people are being made at the federal, state and county level, all at once.

"It's not just one area being cut," she said. "There's many cuts and they will all affect me -- in-home support services, medical cuts and cuts to low-income housing programs. Everything all affects me. I feel like we are spiraling downwards back to the years we dreaded, back around 20 years ago. Our social system should not be going backwards. I want to let them know, they are putting my life on the line with all of these budget cuts. The governor of California and the Bush administration want us to die. I'm scared that I will be put out on the street next year."

Since fiscal year 2004, the budget for disabled housing already has been cut by $11 million. For FY 2006, Bush proposes a massive cut of $120 million from housing programs for the disabled and nearly $14 million from housing programs for people with AIDS.

The Bush administration is waging a propaganda war to convince the American public that less is better for those that have the least. Truckloads of tax dollars are being siphoned from the nation's treasury to finance a multimillion-dollar propaganda campaign to promote the Bush agenda's transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the super rich.

Bush has proposed cutting $51 billion from the nation's life-saving domestic programs during the next five years, including cuts from housing programs for people with AIDS, disabled housing programs, Medicaid, food stamps and a host of other vitally needed programs.
In comparison, the House budget calls for a catastrophic $69 billion in cuts in these same programs, compared to the Senate's proposal to cut $32 billion from the nation's life-saving programs.

Overall, the Bush administration proposes massive cuts in all domestic discretionary spending over the next five years. The House proposes a $216 billion cut in services, or 14 percent below current services in the House bill, and the Senate proposes a $207 billion cut, or 13 percent below current services in the Senate bill.

Most troubling to many housing activists, the Bush administration proposes to end the federal rule that requires 75 percent of Section 8 vouchers to go to the poorest of the poor. Activists have been urging the public to tell their representatives and senators not to support any bill that caps discretionary and mandatory spending, and to oppose any efforts to end the federal rule that 75 percent of housing vouchers must go to the poorest.

The proposed cuts are called for because Bush is insisting on another new round of five-year tax cuts totaling $100 billion for his wealthy constituents.

The proposed House budget calls for $106 billion in tax cuts, while the Senate version calls for $70 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy. These are in addition to the $1.7 trillion in tax cuts already granted to the wealthy by the Bush administration since 2001, cuts that Congress wants to extend for several more years.

The Bush administration has orchestrated a behind-the-scenes propaganda machine to convince the American public that its draconian policies are benign.

Phony news broadcasts, in the form of Video News Releases, are sent from U.S. government agencies, and are broadcast throughout the country in the local media to promote the Bush agenda. They are aired as phony news stories meant to convince the American public that multibillion-dollar tax cuts for the wealthy are good for the poor and the rest of the nation.

While the propaganda videos distract the public from the latest attacks on the nation's domestic programs, the GOP (self-proclaimed Party of God) is moving with lightning speed to shift the nation's wealth from the middle class and the poor, to the filthy rich.

During the week of March 14, GOP members of the House and Senate budget committees passed resolutions to lock in huge tax cuts for the rich, while simultaneously cutting the budgets for the nation's low-income programs.

The media has paid scant attention to these budget cuts, even though protests have taken place across the nation to save all of the programs under attack. Even so, few details are offered in the corporate media as to why the protests are occurring.

"People need to protest these cuts," said Dee Strandvold. "Bush and the governor of California may have plenty of money, but others don't."

When the Bush administration promotes more tax cuts for the rich, they really intend to make more budget cuts to the nation's domestic programs. As they promote an ownership society for the rich -- by shifting the resources that have been granted to the poor over to the wealthy -- it has become apparent that this will have disastrous consequences for the people left behind without the proper life-support systems needed to assist them.

Up until now, the Section 811 program has provided nearly equal amounts of funding each year since 1998, so that nonprofit developers could finance new construction of disabled housing units across the nation, including rent subsidies for disabled renters. This has resulted in more than 11,000 units of housing developed for low-income people with disabilities.

But under Bush's budget proposal for 2006, the capital allocation for these projects would be terminated, and the overall budget would be cut by more than half.

Resources for Community Development (RCD), a nonprofit housing developer located in Berkeley, has a number of local Section 811 projects for the disabled, including two in Oakland, two in Berkeley, one in Emeryville and one in Concord.

"I heard that the cuts meant that there would be no new housing being constructed for the disabled," said RCD Executive Director Dan Sawsilak. "It's all very confusing, especially the proposed cuts to the Section 8 program.

"As of yet, we are really not sure how the proposed budget cuts will affect our existing projects for the disabled. The fact that the Bush administration is proposing to eliminate the capital funding for disabled housing is pretty awful."

Bush has requested extra funding for the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) for FY 2006, so housing vouchers may be offered to the disabled who could lose their housing if the current proposals are passed by Congress. But, at the same time, Bush proposes to cut back on funding Section 8 until the year 2010, which places the disabled in double jeopardy.

In addition, no one could expect the mentally disabled or those with spinal cord injuries to get out there and hustle in competition with the able-bodied to find housing with Section 8 vouchers; yet, this is exactly what Bush is proposing.

Short time limits have been placed on vouchers for those searching for housing. If tenants cannot find a landlord to accept vouchers before the clock stops ticking, Housing Authorities take back the vouchers, and the tenants are shit out of luck.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 81 million disabled persons in the United States as of 2003.

Calls made to Larry Bush, spokesperson at the Regional HUD Headquarters in San Francisco, were not returned.

To oppose cuts to housing programs, call Congressional representatives at the Toll Free Congressional Switchboard: 1 (888) 818-6641.
Lynda Carson may be reached at or (510) 763-1085.

Medicaid and CDBG Escape Budget Axe

Low-income people and advocates can claim a victory in the Senate budget resolution in March. The Senate voted to remove the proposed $14 billion cut to the Medicaid program.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program also has been saved, but at a cost of $1.1 billion in cuts to other low-income programs. No one is certain yet which programs will absorb these cuts.

The House and the Senate passed budget resolutions during the week of March 14 that will be harmful to low-income people. Both resolutions were similar to the resolutions that passed out of the chambers' respective budget committees.

Both committees adopted President Bush's proposed spending levels for discretionary spending programs at $843 billion. At this funding level, discretionary domestic programs would be reduced by $216 billion over the next five years, including cuts to housing programs, such as Section 8 and public housing. The Senate decided to increase the discretionary spending level from $843 billion to $848 billion, which is $5 billion above the House budget resolutions, and is meant to be used for education.

Both chambers' budget committees passed drastic cuts to mandatory programs. The House version of the budget resolution proposes $69 billion in cuts -- $18 billion more than President Bush's request -- to mandatory low-income programs, such as food stamps and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Senate proposes $32 billion in cuts for mandatory programs.

-- from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition

1515 Webster St,#303
Oakland, CA 94612Phone: (510) 238-8080, ext. 303

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