The March 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Truth About Care Not Cash

Resistance to Brown's Curfew

No Millionaire Left Behind

Bush Policies Punish the Poor

Bush Rigs U.S. Society for Rich

SOS! Save Our Services

Faith Reflection on Bush Budget

Plan to End Homelessness in Ten Years

Counted Out in San Francisco

Artist Portrays Act of Giving

Berkeley Protest Demands Shelter from the Storm

Transformation of Dignity Village

George Wynn's Homeless Fiction

Poor Leonard's Almanack

Poetry of the Streets


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.


SOS! Save Our Services

Cuts to food stamps, housing and Medicaid could endanger millions of U.S. families and greatly increase poverty.

by Janis D. Shields, American Friends Service Committee

A homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk in San Francisco's Tenderloin area. President Bush is proposing damaging budget cuts even as millions are without housing and health care, and even disabled people end up on the streets. Lydia Gans photo.

Budget decisions made this year will have profound and lasting consequences. Cuts to federal programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and public housing will endanger the already precarious economic security of millions of U.S. families.

Cuts in federal aid to education and changes in the rules governing Social Security, the tax code, and eligibility for basic services will lock in increasing inequality and poverty in the United States, where 36 million people already struggle to survive at the poverty level.

To call attention to this growing threat to economic security, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an international social justice organization, has launched Save Our Services (SOS!), a campaign that upholds budget fairness. SOS! supports a federal budget that strengthens programs vital to the health and well-being of millions of Americans and defends equal rights, economic security, and opportunity.

"Millions of Americans can't find jobs and millions of workers can't make ends meet because of low wages," said SOS! campaign director Roberta Spivek. "As people of conscience, we cannot accept a budget that changes the rules governing Social Security, the tax code, and eligibility for basic services in ways that increase inequality and poverty."

The stage is set for one of the most heated budget debates in years. The recent U.S. presidential election exposed a fundamental rift between those who support the privatization and shrinking of Social Security and other federal programs, and those who support a strong public-sector role in providing for the common good.

At stake are competing visions of the good society.

"Our country faces a fundamental choice," said Mary Ellen McNish, AFSC general secretary and director. "Should the United States revert to a pre-New Deal era where people are left to fend for themselves in the face of poverty, low wages, sickness, old age, and increasingly insecure jobs in the global economy?"

"President Bush has presented a budget to Congress that eliminates or severely cuts dozens of programs," McNish continued. "Shouldn't our nation commit ourselves anew to our Constitution's promise to form a more perfect union, establish justice, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity?"

The effort, led by AFSC organizers in California, New Hampshire, New York, West Virginia and other states, includes a new online "blog" where people can share their visions of a good society and budget priorities, and public advocacy for a budget that reflects widely shared values.

Also, the SOS! campaign is asking people to send post cards to their senators asking them to oppose budget cuts that will result in economic injustice and inequality; postcards are available at local AFSC offices. A free action kit will be available on the campaign's website.

"Budget cuts to Medicaid, housing assistance, education, and other vital programs will harm millions of Americans," said Martha Yager, an AFSC field organizer in Concord, New Hampshire. Yager, who organizes winter emergency shelters, warned, "Our state can't afford any more cuts that will lead to increased hunger, homelessness, and hardship."

The SOS! campaign opposes an "Ownership Society" that means less opportunity for the many and more ownership by the few. It supports the vision of a good society embraced in the Constitution in which government plays a vital role in establishing justice and promoting the general welfare.

For more information on SOS!, see the website at

The American Friends Service Committee, a co-recipient of the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize, is a Quaker-based nonprofit organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service. SOS! is an initiative of AFSC's U.S. Economic Justice Program.

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