The October 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

The Aristocracy and the Disaster

In Katrina's Wake, Oakland Batters Homeless

A Perfect Storm of Racism

Katrina: Ongoing Human Disaster

FCNL Speaks Out on Katrina

Kerry's Kids: Health Care for Poor Children

Fresh Start Gives Kindness Awards

The Dying Gift of Sharon Ostman

A 500-Year-Old War on the Poor

37 Million Live in Poverty in US

Julia Vinograd: Poet Laureate of Berkeley Streets

Innovative Plans for Homeless Housing

Disabled Woman on a Long Road Back Home

Photographer's Eye for the Dignity of People

Poor Leonard On Prejudice

The Flower Lady

October Poetry of the Streets


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.

Justice for Katrina's Victims

The disaster has laid bare the devastating impact of decades of misplaced priorities that have favored the rich over the poor.

by The Friends Committee for National Legislation

The apathy, negligence, and ineptitude of the Bush administration left many of Hurricane Katrina's victims behind, making a lie out of Bush's slogan, "No Child Left Behind." Art by FireWorks Graphics Collective.

A Call to "Do Justice, Love Kindness, and to Walk Humbly." -- Micah 6:8

The people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are facing a disaster of far greater proportions than the September 11 attacks: Hurricane Katrina. More than one thousand have been declared dead. Hundreds of thousands are homeless. Much of New Orleans remains submerged under toxic, bacteria-infested, disease-laden floodwater.

The regional economy, upon which the country depends for much of its energy and international trade, has been brought to a standstill. It will take many years of intensive, costly effort for the region to recover. After painful delays, aid finally is flowing into the stricken region.

Yet, beyond the devastation, Katrina has left in its wake many troubling questions about federal budget and policy priorities and about the capacity of the federal government to carry out its primary function - to "establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare."

The disaster has laid bare the devastating impact of decades of misplaced priorities that have favored the rich over the poor, marginalized communities of color, failed to address a growing energy crisis, and wasted hundreds of billions on war and preparations for war.

Warnings ignored

For years now, why has the federal government ignored warnings that New Orleans was at high risk of being devastated by a major hurricane and ignored local and state appeals for assistance to restore wetlands, strengthen levees, and take other measures to reduce the threat? Has it been too distracted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? And by the demands to spend more and more on "military security?"

No eyes to see

As the hurricane approached, why was so little done to assure the health and safety of the poor, the institutionalized, the infirm and those without access to private transportation? Why weren't city buses and school buses mobilized to transport people out of harm's way? What was done to evacuate those who do not read or watch the news, who do not trust public officials, who have no place to go, or who are elderly or disabled shut-ins? Did our national officials not have eyes to see the most vulnerable people?

Billions for security or profit?

After the hurricane hit, why was the federal response so slow and ineffective in the crucial first days? After spending tens of billions on homeland security, why couldn't the federal government do better than this? Where has the money gone? Evidently not to rapid responses to aid people in harm's way.

Human security too late

Why does it take a devastating hurricane to get the government to finally provide food, health care, shelter, and public safety to people long-afflicted by poverty, hunger, inadequate health care and housing, and unemployment? Will the government now give greater priority to addressing similar concerns in communities across the country where basic human needs continue to go unmet?

Energy policies put us at risk

Why hasn't the federal government done more to reduce U.S. dependence on oil (and thus, U.S. vulnerability to economic disruption and environmental degradation) when viable alternatives exist? Will the federal government provide increased emergency energy assistance to the poor and working poor across the country who are burdened the most by sky-rocketing gasoline and heating fuel prices?

Wars that weaken the U.S.

To what degree have the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan undermined the capacity of the government to respond to national emergencies and meet basic human needs?

We urge Congress and the administration to consider these questions in the months ahead. We urge them to shift federal budget and policy priorities away from a bleak future of perpetual war toward taking away the occasion for war through the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict, meeting basic human needs at home and abroad, advancing human rights, and reducing the U.S. and world's dangerous, harmful dependence on oil.

But viewing this crisis that occurred just days before the fourth anniversary of September 11, we are reminded that in the days following those heinous attacks the president had an historic opportunity to chart a new course in U.S. foreign policy, one dedicated to advancing the rule of law internationally, peacefully preventing deadly conflict, and cooperatively addressing the root causes of violent extremism. It was a rare opportunity to respond to a grievous wrong with restraint, justice, kindness, and humility.

Instead, President Bush, with the support of Congress, chose the rule of force, war, unilateralism, and threats. Bush and Congress missed that opportunity at a time when the world was ready to unite with the U.S. in common cause and good will. The ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have diverted resources away from addressing vital human security needs at home and abroad.

Today, Hurricane Katrina presents a similar opportunity to transform our nation's budget and policy priorities to address the needs of the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad; to bring an end to the costly, depleting, and devastating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and to accept the good will and assistance of allies and adversaries alike. We urge President Bush and Congress to seize this moment, and "to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly."

Take Action Now

1. Please contact your legislators. This is no time for more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, nor for cutting spending for the poorest Americans. Providing sufficient resources for Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs that serve the poorest and most vulnerable people in our communities should have priority over tax cuts. Urge your members of Congress to oppose more tax cuts for the wealthiest and spending cuts for the poorest.

2. You can help meet the needs of those affected now by contributing to the American Friends Service Committee Katrina Relief fund. Go to the AFSC website at:

The people of the Gulf Coast need the federal government's help now. So do the millions of people elsewhere around the country who live in deepening poverty and without health care coverage. The deep economic disparity and dismal poverty revealed in New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane can be found in cities, rural areas and Indian reservations across this country. The job of Congress is to promote the "general welfare." It's time that Congress got started doing it. Let them know that you, as a taxpayer, are willing to contribute your share.

Contact members of Congress and find a sample letter on FCNL's website,

Friends Committee on National Legislation, 245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795. E-mail: Web: Phone: 202-547-6000; 800-630-1330

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

E-mail: Spirit

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Published by American Friends Service Committee

Editor : Terry Messman

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