Connecting poverty and homelessness from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Coast
Dee Gray and Lisa Garcia-Gray/PNN Tuesday, September 27, 2005
How do you speak about the death and suffering of thousands of Bay Area homeless children, adults and elders while there is death and suffering and forced houselessness of thousands of other children, youth and adults from the Gulf coast? “Let’s look at the real root of poverty, racism and the theft of resources from our communities, from our educational systems, its called Plantation Capitalism” as words of scholarship floated from the mouth of Reverend James Lawson , elder statesmen of resistance and faith and one of the original organizers of Students Non-Violent organizing committee (SNIC) I got the answer. The truly amazing Reverend Lawson was speaking to a crowd of educators at a recent conference on education that I attended. And with his pointed scholarship which brought the holistic picture of historic and present oppression of poor folks and folks of color in full view I was finally able to answer the troublesome question POOR Magazine staff were asking ourselves since Hurricane Katrina and her cousins Hurricane Bush and Hurricane Cheney hit the Gulf coast. “1,993 people have died homeless on San Francisco’s streets over the past 18 years when we started counting” Said Sr. Bernie, tire-less homeless advocate and director of Religious Witness with Homeless people in front of a memorial wall containing all 1,993 names of the deceased that was installed for three days in City Hall Plaza last week. Who needs natural disasters when you have rich-white-man-made, rich-white-man-built and rich-white-man-profited ongoing disasters. Disasters, like police brutality, eviction, rape and incarceration. Disasters like 84 year-old elders being evicted form their apartments in Oakland and San Francisco, because there is a profit to be made by turning their apartments into condos and young African descendent males being shot by police everyday in Amerikka and houseless babies one day old and houseless elders dying on Bay Area streets And in fact, this “disaster” if it did anything was just to bring these crimes against the poor to the forefront faster and harder. Quoting Religious Witness with Homeless People, ” Homeless deaths are not always identifiable as such, hence the figure of 1,993 represent an undercounting of the real numbers of folks that die on San Francisco’s streets.” And even to get these numbers has been an ongoing struggle waged by Sr Bernie and other advocates. Finally, in June of 2005 Religious Witness succeeded in bringing about the reinstatement of San Francisco’s 14 year practice of identifying and reporting the deaths of folks who died homeless in the City. “Many of these deaths were preventable. The basic human right to decent, affordable housing and healthcare must be reflected as a highest priority in the annual budget of the City of San Francisco and vigorously pursued at the State and federal levels.” Stated Religious Witness. “1,993 is not a mere statistic; these individuals were someone’s mother or father, daughter or son, aunt or uncle, spouse, partner, friend, neighbor, lover. They were sisters and brothers to all of us.” Concluded Religious Witness with Homeless People ” There were already thousands of houseless folks in New Orleans before the hurricane hit, many of them mentally disabled, folks that no-one was keeping track of, and subsequently no-one seems to no where they are now. “Clive Whistle on a call to POOR from New Orleans, where he still in search of his Grandmamma who before the hurricane was housed in extremely substandard housing in New Orleans Ninth Ward and is now still missing has been doing research on the never-mentioned-in-corporate-media homeless population of New Orleans who is as of yet still un-accounted for in the aftermath. “No-one is talking about the homeless that died in New Orleans and no-one wants to” Clive concluded As POOR Magazine poverty scholars focus on connecting the dots of poverty, racism and homelessness from the Gulf coast to the Pacific Coast, from Bangladesh to Bay view, From Oakland to the “inmates” many of them homeless men incarcerated for poverty crimes and left to die in Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana, we reflected on Reverend Lawson’s point of Plantation Capitalism and its ongoing decimation of the least visible of our nation, the people who are perceived as being without power; the poor. Reverend Lawson,”To resist these abuses, we must have convergence, of self, of belief, of action, of movements. The 21st century movement must put millions and millions on the streets” “Because we know, that there are more of us than them, and we DO have power!” Clive Whistle, formerly homeless poverty scholar. For more information on Religious Witness with Homeless People go on-line to www.religiouswitnesshome.org.
Dee Gray and Lisa Garcia-Gray are co-editors of Poor News Network, where this was originally posted at http://www.poormagazine.org/index.cfm?L1=news&story=1607&pg=1