Gratitude for My Home — and Sympathy for Those Without

In my nice neighborhood, I see many destitute people standing by the side of the road with cardboard signs, begging so they can buy something to eat. When we understand our common humanity, we are obliged to be grateful for what we have, and to not scoff at those who have less.

by Jack Bragen


I enjoy the seasons from the comfortable perspective of living in my air-conditioned, heated apartment. I like to go out on my front porch and watch the rain. And I like to come back inside my apartment where it’s warm, safe and illuminated by artificial lighting.

I like the summer months, except for the times I am away from air conditioning. It feels good on a very hot day to sit under the chill breeze of a recently replaced air conditioner.

When the seasons change, I try to take some time to contemplate how fortunate I am that I have all of my basic needs met. In the United States at present, many persons with disabilities receive Social Security and HUD housing assistance. (Many cannot get benefits due to budget cuts in the government, or for other reasons.) It requires that a person be able to jump through the hoops of bureaucracy, and one of these hoops is paperwork.

Many are not government-savvy enough to follow the steps needed to receive assistance. I cannot imagine the amount of suffering I would feel if I were in a position of having no means of support, no steady supply of food and medicine, and no shelter from the elements.

In the nice neighborhood where I live, I see an increasing number of destitute people who stand by the side of the road with cardboard signs, begging, so that they can buy something to eat.

Many are veterans who have risked their lives on the premise of protecting this country. In the process of fighting these wars on our behalf, many have sustained post-traumatic stress. Imagine going off to war intending to serve your country, and then coming back home, only to be thrown away by an ungrateful society.

Human beings are fragile things. Video games and James Bond movies are misleading in their portrayal of what the human body can take. In adventure movies, heroes are able to take dozens of punches, knife wounds, bullets to the shoulder, and other offenses to the body, and yet are still able to get back up and fight some more.

This is not realistic. When things happen to our bodies and minds, we feel pain and shock, and we may not fully recover for many years, or decades, or at all. I still have pain from being bruised in a relatively minor auto accident I experienced six or seven months ago. I still have perceptible signs of the black eye that I sustained in a fist fight more than 20 years ago. I still suffer from the effects of a whiplash from being rear-ended in my car in 1987.

“GI Homecoming” Artwork by Sandow Birk. Imagine going off to war intending to serve your country, and then coming back home, only to be thrown away by an ungrateful society.


Human frailty means that we suffer the consequences when forced to push the envelope too far. Living without visible means of support, and going without food, water, shelter, sanitation and medical care are all things that can cause permanent, irreversible, physical damage to people.

Where are the fabled jobs that scoffers are repeatedly suggesting that homeless people obtain? Companies are impelled, by the axiom of making a profit to stay in business, to only employ the most efficient of applicants. The saying goes: “I’m not running a charity.” Thus, people who have sustained damage are likely not competitive in the job market.

We are obliged by observing simple truths to be grateful for what we have, and to not scoff at those who have less. Nor should we consider ourselves better people than those who have not had the same good fortune.

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Defending Freedom of Speech in Berkeley

It is absurd that the Downtown Berkeley Association, representing the wealthiest property owners in town, is taking public money to pay a private patrol to tear down the posters of poor artists, activists and community groups. We’re paying them to tear down our posters — and rip up the First Amendment.

Before the Deluge

Instead of focusing on solutions to the loss of homeless services in Santa Cruz, the council has decided instead to pave the pathway to criminalization. The council majority has no capacity to resist the Not In My Back Yard ravings of hostile people promoting greater fear of these roofless, powerless folks.

On the Origins of Broken Windows Policing

Broken.jpg WRAP members protest the International Downtown Association’s support for Broken Windows laws. Jess Clarke photo

George Kelling was well aware that his “Broken Windows” policy could lend the force of the police to the enforcement of prejudice. Kelling utilized a real-estate metaphor to provide justification for discriminatory law enforcement, directed at poor and homeless people and aimed at “quality of life” crimes.

Broken Windows Policing Breaks Lives Apart

We will continue our organizing efforts against the Business Improvement Districts and anyone who encourages police harassment and incarceration of poor and homeless people. We are not broken windows and we will continue to fight this violent system trying to break us until we are all free.

Cities that Criminalize the Poor Risk Losing HUD Funding

Santa Cruz police surround activist Robert Norse at the sleep-out near City Hall. City officials have criminalized the essential act of sleeping. Alex Carocy photo

It’s one thing to show the fallacy of giving tickets to people with no money, and wasting police resources on issues which would disappear if everybody had somewhere to live. But HUD is offering to share two billion dollars in federal funding with cities —if they stop criminalizing the poor.

More Anti-Homeless Laws on the Way on November 17

Art by Mike “Moby” Theobald

Just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the City of Berkeley is turning its back on the Department of Justice and HUD guidelines and embracing more anti-homeless laws. This new slate of anti-homeless laws will be considered at the City Council meeting on the evening of Tuesday, November 17.