The June 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Court Upholds Legal Rights of Homeless People

Hunger Rises, Food Stamps Cut

National Hunger Survey

Union Busting in El Salvador

CEO Pay Rises, Worker Pay Shrinks

CEOs Scheme to Privatize Social Security

Dee's Story: The Stigma of Being Homeless

Bush's Chronic Homeless Plan

Pepperspray and Torture

How Earth Day Was Co-opted

St. Mary's Center

Life Stories of Homeless Seniors

Hodges Jones

Jose Querdo

Jeannette Hundley

James Jermany

Ken Minor

Lynn Hoberg

Social Justice in the East Bay

100 Teachings of Gandhi

June Poetry of the Streets

Students Poetry


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.

Life Stories of Homeless Seniors

Oral History by Trena Cleland

Lynn Hoberg

We have gone to Sacramento and to Oakland City Center to cover different issues: affordable housing, food for the homeless, and anything else that will help senior citizens in Alameda County, California, and the United States.

I first came to St. Mary's for help dealing with financial and health problems. My health was at the point where first I had to use one cane, then two canes. I had no retirement funds. What I had saved for my golden years, I had to dip into because I had no other income.

I didn't know how to deal with my problems myself, so I made some phone calls. Each agency referred me to another one: "We can't help you, but I'm sure there's somebody that can..." So I let my fingers walk a little bit further, and I called St. Mary's. Now they're stuck with me.

I couldn't think of a better place for me to be stuck than St. Mary's. Whatever is bothering you, they have a good listening ear; and if they can't help you, they refer you to someone who can give assistance.

I live here in Oakland. I've been in my apartment for 22 years, and I try to do what I can for myself.

When I arrived at St. Mary's, they went with me down to Social Security to see if I could get disability, and that's what I'm living on now. I have a neurological problem that they're dealing with at the Over Sixty Clinic.

Twice a month, I come to St. Mary's to pick up the free brown bag of groceries: powdered milk, instant potatoes, canned goods, fruit, maybe some yams or fresh vegetables. The good drivers of Paratransit carry it up to my apartment. St. Mary's also has a brown bag service for the women who bring their little children here, which is good.

Political advocacy for housing and food

We have gone to Sacramento and to Oakland City Center to cover different issues: affordable housing, food for the homeless, and anything else that will help senior citizens throughout Alameda County, California, and the United States. Even if I didn't say anything, I was there in body to show my support. And if I'm not there in body, I'll be there in spirit.

The Peer Board meetings try to get you into sort of a leadership mode, to get out there and blow your horn about issues. It's linked with the Hope & Advocacy. They do exercises where they pair us up and have us go through little give-and-take sessions. Then they ask us, "What did you hear from the other person? What could you pick up?" Or, "The other person was a little angry. How would you be able to ease that person somewhat?"

The Wisdom Center

The first time I went to a Wisdom Center meeting, they were doing art, and I can't draw a straight line. But I created a collage, and by the time I finished -- hey, it was all right! If you can see beauty in everything and put it together, that is part of the big picture.

I'm also in a women's support group on Sundays. We talk about different issues that affect the modern-day woman: family issues, health, financial matters, and so on.

I don't normally attend the Recovery 55 meetings; but one day I accidentally sat in on one, thinking it was going to be a Peer Board meeting. The man in charge started talking about alcohol and drugs, and I said to myself, "Uh-oh. Wrong meeting." But I sat through it, and when I left I said to the fellow, "This is good. I can see the help that you're giving others." He was very supportive. He didn't talk down to anybody.

This morning, I saw somebody and he said, "Hi, how are you?" I said, "I'm fine, but it's a lousy, dumb day." He's looking at me, "Oh?" Because I was smiling about it.

Maybe some things that are happening aren't too good, but if you look a little deeper, you'll find some good in everything. We just have to wait and see what comes up, do the best that we can, and be thankful for each day.

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