The September 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Police Raids on Fresno Homeless

Memorial to Mary Who Died

New Orleans After Katrina

Troubles for the Berkeley Housing Authority

Link Between Foster Care and Homelessness

An Epidemic of Rising Poverty

Angel Behind Prison Bars

Blaming Street People for Cody's Demise

MASC Storage Lockers Offer New Help

Interview with Osha Neumann, Artist/Attorney

Resisting Unjust CEO Pay Rates

Liberation from Hell of Addiction

Poor Leonard's Almanack: On Social Change

Sept. Poetry of the Streets

Review of Jan Steckel's Poems


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.

Bulldozers, Barbed Wire and Repression in Fresno

by Mike Rhodes

Homeless activists bravely block the bulldozer from destroying a homeless encampment in Fresno. Mike Rhodes photo

Barbed wire fences went up on Saturday, August 26, in downtown Fresno to keep homeless people off a strip of land owned by Caltrans. City officials and police forced homeless people from multiple encampments in downtown Fresno in a raid that displaced hundreds of unsheltered people.

The homeless campers were told to move to the Poverello House, a nearby homeless center. Assistant Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd said, "We met with the Poverello House yesterday and they said they could take in anyone who needed a place to stay." Several homeless people I talked to scoffed at this assertion and said the Poverello House doesn't have the facilities to take in the hundreds of people who had just been displaced.

Dee, one of the homeless women in the area, told me that the Poverello House closes at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. "There is no way they are going to let us all in there," Dee said.

I went to the Poverello House and asked Paul, the person in charge for the day, if I could see the facilities where the hundreds of homeless people were going to sleep that night. Paul looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a car and said that he would have to call his boss and have them call me. Paul confirmed what Dee had said: They start getting people out of the Poverello House at about 12:30 p.m. and everyone is gone by 2 p.m. on Saturday. Nobody from Poverello House called me back.

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Memorial to Mary Who Died on the Streets of Oakland

by Lydia Gans

Art by Tiffany Sankary

It is sad to think of Mary's lonely death. Whatever fears prevented her from going into a shelter, Ken Katz said, "It was amazing that she survived." And it was amazing that she was not bitter, but remained the sweet woman everyone liked and cared about.

She died alone, on the cold concrete in the back of Albertson's parking lot in Oakland's Lakeshore district. She had been homeless for more years than anybody could remember. Her name was Mary and she was 65 or 66 years old; but beyond that, nobody knew much about her, not her last name, nor where she was from, nor if she had family somewhere.

When Mary died, no relatives turned up to mourn her. Said local resident and activist Ken Katz, "She led an anonymous life and died an anonymous death."

Yet, in the words of Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks, "She really did have a family. She was part of something and I think she knew that." Brooks was one of two dozen people who gathered at Lakeshore Baptist Church to hold a memorial for Mary. She reflected the feelings of many of those gathered there when she said, "Mary had become part of my life."

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