The November 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

A Day to End Poverty

Death Behind a Dumpster

Rebirth of Union Power

Threats, Lies and Videotape

Frances Townes Dedication to Justice

Bob's Blankets

Legal Victory for Fresno Homeless

Suitcase Clinic in Berkeley

Susan Prather Receives the Jefferson Award

Santa Cruz Merchant Abuses Homeless Man

Economy Booms for Billionaires

Unions Are the Solution to Our Unjust Economy

Russians Who Work with Homeless Youth

Jack the Ripper: First Serial Killer of Street People

Right to Exist

Poor Leonard's Almanack


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.

International Day to Eradicate Poverty

Calling for the abolition of hunger and homelessness, hundreds of Oakland schoolchildren marched with homeless seniors, religious activists, teachers, homeless military veterans and housing advocates.

by Terry Messman

Hundreds of people march through downtown Oakland, accompanied by giant puppets of Martin Luther King and Gandhi. Tom Lowe photo

The voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. boomed out with prophetic urgency once again on October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. King's prophetic cry, "Let Freedom Ring!" was resurrected and rang out from loudspeakers outside the Federal Building in Oakland, as a monumental puppet of Dr. King displayed the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, while nearly 400 demonstrators demanded that the federal government make a renewed commitment to ending the scourge of poverty.

The demonstration was organized by St. Mary's Center in Oakland and brought together a vibrant cross-section of the community in support of economic justice and human rights. Calling for the abolition of hunger and homelessness, hundreds of Oakland schoolchildren marched with homeless seniors, religious activists, teachers, homeless military veterans and housing advocates.

The procession of hundreds of Oakland residents marched from St. Mary's Center to the Oakland City Hall and State Building, culminating in a rally at the Federal Building, where Rep. Barbara Lee gave a stirring call to abolish poverty. The march was inspired by Martin Luther King's commitment to end poverty, and, fittingly, the marchers were led every step of the way by a giant puppet of King crafted by seniors at St. Mary's Center.

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A Lonely Death Behind a Berkeley Dumpster

The final human contact Gilbert Estrada had late in the night that he died was an act of compassion

by Maureen Hartmann

This memorial marks the final resting place of Gilbert Estrada, a homeless man who died while sleeping behind a dumpster in Berkeley.

Gilbert Estrada, a homeless resident of Berkeley, was found dead on Monday, October 23, lying behind a dumpster, on flattened cardboard boxes serving as a "mattress" against the gravel. He died while sleeping outside of Canterbury House, a residence for University of California students involved in community service under the direction of Episcopal Reverend Gary Brower.

These facts were shared with me at a meeting of Canterbury House residents on the day after Estrada's death. The sadness of his untimely death was somewhat leavened when I heard the story of the intervention of two of the house residents, Matt Werner and Christina Hisel.

Matt had heard Gilbert Estrada coughing badly up until past midnight on the morning he passed away. Gilbert's "bed" was just outside of Matt's room at the house. He went outside to offer him a cup of hot tea or anything to stop the cough. Gilbert declined the tea and said that he was just fine. Matt then returned back inside. Christina also went out to check on Gilbert that cold night, again to no avail.

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S.F. Hotel Strike May Lead to Rebirth of Union Power

Hotel workers changed the rules, gained new power to challenge multinational corporations

by David Bacon

Workers march to the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco, protesting stalled negotiations. David Bacon photo

Will a new balance of power in hotels make housekeepers and cooks the inheritors of San Francisco's waterfront labor tradition, and lead to the kind of rise in the standard of living that longshoremen experienced decades ago?

Like the hospitality workers of today, dockworkers of the 1920s were San Francisco's low-wage earners -- even scorned as bums and derelicts. Eighty years later, dockworkers are some of the best-paid blue-collar workers in North America. A strong union in the 1930s and '40s knitted waterfront and maritime laborers together in every Pacific port. It gave workers a new way to deal with the shippers, and with each other. A radically higher standard of living was one visible manifestation of better organization. The political organizations on the Pacific Coast and in Hawaii, which sent a generation of pro-labor politicians to Washington, was another.

It could happen again, and hotel workers may be the ones to make it happen. Certainly in San Francisco, their union avoided the disasters of the Southern California grocery strike and the wage and workforce cuts plaguing the nation's airlines. But the union did more than fight a good defensive battle. It changed the rules. It altered the relationship between hospitality workers and the multinational corporations who now employ them.

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