The December 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

The Poor Will Perish Without Housing

We Accuse the US Government

The Works of Mercy: Thoughts on the Death of a Homeless Man

Greed Fuels Oakland Condo Conversion Law

Berkeley Food and Housing Project

Happy Holidays: Berkeley Targets the Homeless

Claire Burch Documents Life on the Streets

St. Joseph the Worker Needs Support

94 Years Old and Still Homeless

Judge Orders Fresno to Uphold U.S. Constitution

Stranded in the Season of Giving

Stories of Street Survival

A Criminal of Poverty

New Media Offensive for Iraq War

Poor Leonard's Almanack on Religion

AIDS & Poverty: A Deadly Link

Mysteries in Our Own Back Yard

December Poetry of the Streets


November 2006

October 2006

September 2006

July 2006

June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 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.

December Poetry of the Streets

Street Pup Blues
by Michael Creedon

I had my blues every day it seems
since the SPCA came and took my pup.
We had a sleeping bag on the Avenue;
I swear it was more than just a
gimmick for drawing suckers in.

I made sure Pansy, a brown and white
spotted girl, always had food and water
and people gave us change.
I just can't see the harm in it;
I growed her up with me, until some
blackheart squarejohn went and
called the humane society.

So I wake up in the morning
and I got my Pansy's blues.
The only thing that loved me,
and I loved,
and they came and took her away.

Mean Streets
by David O'Neal

We tread with sorrow these mean streets
where poverty with hunger meets;
alert to each poor soul we pass,
we know them as the underclass.

These poor once had dreams like ours
of trees and homes, gardens and cars;
but now they are so destitute
they eat the rind of rotten fruit.

Their skin is raw, their eyes are red,
we see them hopeless, nearly dead;
these are the poor, the homeless ones
who live on waste and moldy buns.

Their teeth are missing, swollen gums;
these are the ones that some call bums.
Devastated, puffy faces:
tragedies in public places.

These are the weary, the wary, the hurt,
poor souls who live in pain and dirt.
Some have been by madness taken:
They're forgotten, they're forsaken.

Their clothes are filthy, worn and torn,
they curse the day that they were born.
They pass around the drug-filled needle
and itch and scratch at lice and beetle.

They grieve in alleys and doorways,
and suffer all their nights and days.
They live upon the streets by stealth,
and have no stable mental health,
These are the damaged, the all cut up,
who, shaking, hold the blind man's cup.
These are the lost, the poor, the sick
who sleep upon the cold, hard brick.

These are the homeless, the low, the beat,
the ghosts who live upon the street.
They live like animals and beasts -
some will go missing, or deceased.

The homeless - they are me and you:
Protestant, Catholic, Atheist, Jew.
There are streets like these wherever we go,
must they endure these streets of woe?

There's poverty throughout our land,
a land that once we thought was grand
"Life, liberty and happiness?" -
for homeless is a hopeless wish.

America's the richest country on earth
and yet there seems to be a dearth
of real compassion for the poor
who need our help more and more.

Where are the wealthy, where are the rich?
To help these shades out of Hell's ditch.
They're trapped in chaos and distress -
we love them more, not love them less.

These are the homeless, the sepulchral men
who haunt our dreams again and again.
These are the millions who live in Hell,
these are the homeless we know too well.

Oh my God, what have we done?
We have ignored the homeless one!
Oh my God, how poverty thrives!
Give us the love to change their lives!

Nowhere People
by Melissa Evans

Hennessey on their breath, as the hustle for more continues --
Welcome oblivion -- Although brief
Some find it in Crack, others in the lifestyle

Fighting everyone and everything has lost its meaning
When the results are always the same -- "Incomprehensible demoralization"
To such a degree, most people don't have the depth of character to understand
Why and how we are where we are on our journey down God's path.
Especially those guilty of "contempt prior to investigation"
Assumptions made about the "type" of person that "chooses" to be homeless --
But then aren't we all accountable to some extent, even those of us who know better?
When it comes to "those street people," bums, losers, untouchables...
Wouldn't you rather ignore them, hoping against hope they'll leave you alone?
Just GO AWAY! Damn it...
Throw them a meager ration of pennies so that they may use the phone.
When it's obvious to all that there is no one, nowhere, who will hear us call.
Filthy clothes tattered and worn, washed too many times
Until the material is held together by a few thin stands of hope.
Unkept hair, dreads without the salon touch, jack o'lantern smiles
Make us invisible as you cross the street to escape the smell and our downcast eyes
Aimless shuffle of futility...
Incoherent slurring of exhaustion...
Pale, frail, shivering in the winter,
Stench of sweat in the summer
Hunger is all Seasons.
Starved for the warmth of human kindness,
In a world where a pocketful of change and a cigarette can be a moment's respite.
Death grip on street Cadillac's full of precious cargo
So that bedrolls don't vanish in a puff of smoke.
Forever "moving right along" with security at our back,
Pain and sickness ignored until it's cleaned up, or not. Just keep walking to nowhere.
If God promised to feed the lowliest sparrow,
Then why am I rifling through this garbage can begging for scraps?
Looting wealthy ashtrays for carefully hoarded discarded butts.
Ice-cold water, nectar of the gods, is doled out sparingly
A quarter for the cup, and if the attendant feels magnanimous today
he may spare the pitying glance or even worse the distasteful glare.
Cleanliness becomes a childhood dream
As the aroma of dust and urine infiltrate every fiber of hair, skin, clothes
Everyday I'm scared, as more of us disappear and No One --
Not even God cares.
If these are His "footprints" then why are my feet swollen and bloody?

Good Saint Mary's
by Michael Creedon

You can poke me in the eye,
you can punch me in the nose --
the blood just goes
where the blood all goes.
But you won't do it cuz you're civilized.
You're not too loving towards me --
I remind you what you're not.
Say, I like those shiny shoes you got.

Good Saint Mary's
where I sleep in the winter.
Best lunch in town
even if you're a sinner.

I used to drink loud wine;
I guess Night Train was my favorite.
Don't drink much now
cuz of pancreatitis.
But these are good people
coffee and donuts in the morning
and no prayer meeting
that puts you to snoring.
When I get my million dollars,
know what I'm gonna do?
Give it all to St. Mary's
for the good they do.

Helping Hand
by Michael Creedon

One of today's "social problems"
is what the media and politicians call
"the homeless" -- a very big word
describing a vast mass of people
who not only have no homes
but have pain, disease,
psychiatric needs (some), loneliness
and don't know how to use whatever
agencies are in place to give them help.
Many of the homeless are helpless.
Almost all are verbally and
attitudinally abused
here in a land of supposed equality.

Many brave and selfless
men and women are working to
alleviate the situation,
but they have no money, little aid,
just heart and soul
to fight the juggernaut.
Progress is being made,
but it's slow and frustrating
and the only rewards are inner
rewards. It's spiritual work.
Raising the lame, they raised me.
I remain arisen, with the
continuing help of St. Mary's Center
which virtually saved my life.
Lend a helping hand.
Try it.
You'll like it.

Little Child in Your Land
by Mary Rudge

Little child in your land
bombs bursting in air.
We watch TVs, check our remote, to
see your crumbling skyline, be sure
that our flag is still there
in your streets, around your home.

In your streets, around your home,
bombs burst in air, we put them there.
We have so many bombs to spare,
and crave your oil, a major share.
Say, are you safe within our care?
We bomb your land because we can,
kill your neighbors to show we dare,
destroy your home, pollute your air,
though vague on how to grieve
for you, or leave.

Who's bad or good our power declares.
Vengeance is ours to decide
Let's have no hidden weapons now,
we get ours out onto your land.
From our pockets to your skies.
In your streets your body lies.
Over carnage our flag flies,
we watch TV to see it's there,
bombs bursting in air.

Little child, in our land,
on the sidewalks homeless lie
homeless hungry children cry,
schools are crumbling, and the poor
cannot afford health care and die.
Money sends bomb-burst in air,
who has cared for your welfare
little child in our land? We see where
over horror our flag flies.

So many years, so many wars,
so many little children die.
How can peace come to all lands
if we sing bombs burst in air
though our flag is there.
When our flag is there.
If flags fly that children die.

Truce on War
by Claire J. Baker

You speak from
that side of your mouth --
I from this.
Maybe someday we'll meet
in the middle
and share a kiss.

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