The May 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Someone's Sister: Homeless in the East Bay

A Young Mother Dreams of a Brighter Future

Legal Rights of Homeless People

Exposing Wal-Mart Empire

HUD Pulls a Disappearing Act

Devastating Cuts to Section 8

Civil Rights Gets on the Bus

UC Students Brutalized by Police

Activism for Economic Justice

Night of Humanity and Courage

Nonviolent Vigil for San Diego's Poorest

The Faithful Fools

Medical Pot in Santa Cruz

Poor Leonard's Almanack

Poetry of the Streets


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.

A Homeless Woman's Struggle for Survival

by Lydia Gans

Looking at her gaunt figure and listening to her raspy voice, it is obvious that being on the street has taken a toll on her health. Soon she will be 60 years old. She has worked, raised a daughter and helped other people. And still society denies her a place of her own.

Photo of Jenifer Beckmann by Lydia Gans

Jenifer Beckmann is 58 years old, and has been homeless for the last eight years. She gave a sarcastic little laugh when I asked her why she is forced to live on the streets of Berkeley. "I'm homeless because a whole lot of other people are homeless right now," she said.

She explained, "Housing is simply not available for people on a low, fixed income." With the federal government continuing to slash funding for Section 8 housing and other programs to help the poor, life these days is "terrible," Jenifer said. She added, "The political environment, the money environment, the housing environment - all of it is just abysmal."


A Young Mother Dreams of a Brighter Future

by Janny Castillo

Brenda Lee Fowler holds her baby son. Photo by Janny Castillo

After struggling to overcome poverty, addiction and the loss of her children, a young mother dreams of a brighter future.

Brenda Fowler is a resident of McKinley House, a transitional house in Berkeley operated by BOSS. We met in her small apartment, just big enough for her and her 18-month-old baby boy. He happily moved around the apartment during the interview, occasionally crawling up beside his mother. She would give him a kiss and he would go back to playing.

You couldn't tell by watching them that Brenda and her baby have overcome years of homelessness, drug abuse and a five-month separation at birth. You couldn't tell how close she came to giving him up for adoption.


Someone's Daughter, Sister or Mother

Photoessay by Anna Graves

Berkeley photographer discovers the hidden humanity and beauty of homeless women

Each one of the women I recently photographed in Berkeley is someone's daughter, someone's sister, or someone's mother. In these photos, you won't see much of the spot called home; you will see someone's daughter, sister or mother living on the sidewalk, under a freeway, or in a park.

I don't tend to show you the toothless smile, or the worst scars - because you might turn away and not see the beauty, the dignity, the humanity. It might scare you; perhaps because you'd have to recognize that it could be you. So many people in this country are just one paycheck or one serious illness away from an eviction - and the sentence to a life of endless wandering.


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