Homeless Japanese Being ‘Recruited’ To Clean Up Fukushima Disaster December 30, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Housing/Homelessness, Japan, Labor, Nuclear weapons/power.
Tags: fukushima, fukushima cleanup, homeless, homeless men, japan, japan nuclear, jon queally, labor, minimum wage, nuclear disaster, Obayashi, worker rights
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Investigation reveals systematic exploitation of homeless by big business and organized crime
Private labor contractors in Japan are “recruiting” homeless individuals throughout the country, luring them to perform clean-up work in the areas near the destroyed nuclear power plant at Fukushima for less than minimum wage.
That’s the finding of a new special Reuters investigation which says that shady business operators are employing men like Seiji Sasa to “prowl” train stations and other places throughout the country targeting “homeless men” who are “willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.”
The investigation found a shady but systematic labor scheme—much of it run by organized crime but also involving some of the nation’s top construction firms—in which day laborers are exploited by contractors receiving state funds to clean up areas near the plant.
“We’re an easy target for recruiters,” said 57-year-old Shizuya Nishiyama, a homeless man recruited at a train station in the city of Sendai. “We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we’re easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven’t eaten, they offer to find us a job.”
In exchange for bringing workers to the sites, the middlemen receive a cut of their wages.
“I don’t ask questions; that’s not my job,” said Sasa, one of these so-called “middle men,” in an interview with Reuters. “I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That’s it. I don’t get involved in what happens after that.”
Reviewing police records and conducting interviews with some of the people directly involved, Reuters reveals the ongoing and perilous nature of the clean-up work at Fukushima and the ways in which society’s most vulnerable are being exploited for profit in the aftermath of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.
According to Reuters, the scheme plays out when large construction firms like Obayashi, the nation’s second biggest and major contractor at Fukushima, employs sub-contractors like Sasa:
Seiji Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station to work in the nuclear cleanup. The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a $1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say. [...]
Only a third of the money allocated for wages by Obayashi’s top contractor made it to the workers Sasa had found. The rest was skimmed by middlemen, police say. After deductions for food and lodging, that left workers with an hourly rate of about $6, just below the minimum wage equal to about $6.50 per hour in Fukushima, according to wage data provided by police. Some of the homeless men ended up in debt after fees for food and housing were deducted, police say.
Read the complete investigation here.
Signs of the Times December 20, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Economic Crisis, Housing/Homelessness, New York.
Tags: abby zimet, andres serrano, homeless, homelessness, new york city, poverty, roger hollander, veterans
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In the Bay Area, the homeless are suffering more than usual from a cold snap that has killed at least seven people. In New York, the homeless are suffering about as much as they always have, and they are everywhere. Seeking to tell their stories, artist Andres Serrano embarked on “Sign of the Times,” a project to buy 200 signs from homeless people at 20 bucks a shot to offer video testimony of their hard lives. When he asked, they always said yes, sometimes with a hug.
“I see every sign as a story. There are many stories out here that deserve to be heard.”
Tags: anti-food sharing, corporate profits, economic collapse, food banks, food sharing, homeless, homeless shelters, homelessness, hunger, michael bloomberg, michael snyder, poverty, roger hollander, welfare
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By: Michael Snyder,
The Economic Collapse.
What would you do if a police officer threatened to arrest you for trying to share a sandwich with a desperately hungry homeless woman that really needed it? Such a notion sounds absolutely bizarre, but this is actually happening in major cities all over the United States. More than 50 large U.S. cities have adopted “anti-camping” or “anti-food sharing” laws in recent years, and in many of these cities the police are strictly enforcing these laws. Sometimes the goal appears to be to get the homeless people to go away. Apparently the heartless politicians that are passing these laws believe that if the homeless can’t get any more free food and if they keep getting thrown into prison for “illegal camping” they will eventually decide to go somewhere else where they won’t be hassled so much. This is yet another example of how heartless our society is becoming. The middle class is being absolutely shredded and poverty is absolutely exploding, but meanwhile the hearts of many Americans are growing very cold. If this continues, what is the future of America going to look like?
An organization called Love Wins Ministries made national headlines recently when police in Raleigh, North Carolina threatened to arrest them if they distributed sausage biscuits and coffee to homeless people living in the heart of the city. Love Wins Ministries had been doing this for years, but now it is apparently illegal. The following is from someone who was actually there…
On the morning of Saturday, August, 24, Love Wins showed up at Moore Square at 9:00 a.m., just like we have done virtually every Saturday and Sunday for the last six years. We provide, without cost or obligation, hot coffee and a breakfast sandwich to anyone who wants one. We keep this promise to our community in cooperation with five different, large suburban churches that help us with manpower and funding.
On that morning three officers from Raleigh Police Department prevented us from doing our work, for the first time ever. An officer said, quite bluntly, that if we attempted to distribute food, we would be arrested.
Our partnering church brought 100 sausage biscuits and large amounts of coffee. We asked the officers for permission to disperse the biscuits to the over 70 people who had lined up, waiting to eat. They said no. I had to face those who were waiting and tell them that I could not feed them, or I would be arrested.
Does reading that upset you?
And this is not just happening in Raleigh – this is literally happening all over the country.
In Orlando, Florida laws against feeding the homeless were actually upheld in court…
Since when is it illegal to give somebody food? In Orlando FL, it has been since April 2011, when a group of activists lost a court battle against the city to overturn its 2006 laws that restrict sharing food with groups of more than 25 people. The ordinance requires those who do these “large” charitable food sharings in parks within two miles of City Hall to obtain a permit and limits each group to two permits per park for a year.
That is yet another example of how corrupt and unjust our court system has become.
The funny thing is that some of these control freak politicians actually believe that they are “helping” the homeless by passing such laws. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has banned citizens from donating food directly to homeless shelters and he is actually convinced that it was the right thing to do for the homeless…
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s food police have struck again!
Outlawed are food donations to homeless shelters because the city can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
Glenn Richter arrived at a West Side synagogue on Monday to collect surplus bagels — fresh nutritious bagels — to donate to the poor. However, under a new edict from Bloomberg’s food police he can no longer donate the food to city homeless shelters.
Do you really think that the homeless care about the “salt, fat and fiber content” of their food?
Of course not.
They just want to eat.
It would be one thing if there were just a few isolated cities around the nation that were passing these kinds of laws. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, according to USA Today, more than 50 large cities have passed such laws…
Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City and more than 50 other cities have previously adopted some kind of anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
You can find many more examples of this phenomenon in one of my previous articles.
What in the world is happening to America?
The way that we treat the most vulnerable members of our society says a lot about who we are as a nation.
Sadly, it is not just our politicians that are becoming heartless. Below, I have posted a copy of a letter that was sent to a family with a severely autistic child. This happened up in Canada, but I think that it is a perfect example of how cold and heartless society is becoming…
Can you believe that?
Hearts are growing cold at the same time that the need for love and compassion in our society is growing.
How strong the economic recovery has been since the Great Recession ended in 2009 probably depends on viewpoint.
For those in the top 5 percent, the recovery has been pretty good.
As for the other 95 percent, well … maybe not so much.
Even though corporate profits have soared to record levels in recent years and Wall Street has boomed thanks to Federal Reserve money printing, most Americans are still really struggling. The following very startling chart comes via Jim Quinn’s Burning Platform blog…
The mainstream media continually insists that we are in an “economic recovery” and that the economy “is growing”, but median household income is actually 4.4 percent lower than it was when the last recession officially “ended”.
There aren’t nearly enough jobs for everyone anymore, and the quality of the jobs that do exist continues to decline at a frightening pace.
As a result, more Americans are being forced to turn to the government for help than ever before. At this point, more than 100 million Americans are on welfare, and that does not even count programs such as Medicare or Social Security.
But nobody should ever look down on those that are getting government assistance.
The truth is that you might be next.
In fact, according to the Associated Press, four out of every five adults in the United States will “struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives”.
So don’t ever be afraid to feed the homeless or to assist someone in need.
Someday you might be the one that needs the help.
Tags: Christianity, homeless, homelessness, jesus, leslie scrivener, regis college, religion, religious sculpture, roger hollander, sculpture, timothy schmalz
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Ontario sculptor struggled to find a home for his haunting sculpture of Jesus sleeping on a bench.
Jesus has been depicted in art as triumphant, gentle or suffering. Now, in a controversial new sculpture in downtown Toronto, he is shown as homeless — an outcast sleeping on a bench.
It takes a moment to see that the slight figure shrouded by a blanket, hauntingly similar to the real homeless who lie on grates and in doorways, is Jesus. It’s the gaping wounds in the feet that reveal the subject, whose face is draped and barely visible, as Jesus the Homeless.
Despite message of the sculpture — Jesus identifying with the poorest among us — it was rejected by two prominent Catholic churches, St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
“Homeless Jesus had no home,” says the artist, Timothy Schmalz, who specializes in religious sculpture. “How ironic.”
Rectors of both cathedrals were enthusiastic about the bronze piece and showed Schmalz possible locations, but higher-ups in the New York and Toronto archdiocese turned it down, he says.
“It was very upsetting because the rectors liked it, but when it got to the administration, people thought it might be too controversial or vague,” he says. He was told “it was not an appropriate image.”
The Toronto archdiocese tried to help him find an alternative location, including St. Augustine’s Seminary in Scarborough. But Schmalz, who describes his work as a visual prayer, wanted to reach a wider, secular audience. “I wanted not only the converted to see it, but also the marginalized. I almost gave up trying to find a place.”
Now the sculpture stands near Wellesley St. W., outside Regis College at the University of Toronto. It’s a Jesuit school of theology, where priests and lay people are trained, with an emphasis on social justice.
Bill Steinburg, communications manager for the Toronto archdiocese, says the decision not to accept the sculpture at St. Michael’s may have had to do with renovations at the cathedral and “partly to do with someone’s view of the art.”
To some who have seen it, it speaks the message of the Gospels. When theologian Thomas Reynolds came upon it he felt “the shock of recognition.” He quoted the biblical passage: “ … the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
“I’m so used to seeing images of Jesus that are palatable,” says Reynolds.
But recent depictions of Jesus in political and social contexts have spurred controversy.
At Emmanuel College, the educational arm of the United Church where Reynolds teaches, there is a graceful sculpture showing Jesus’ suffering in a crucified woman. Schmaltz says he intended that his Jesus the Homeless can be interpreted as either male or female.
At Regis College, there is a small crucifix of Jesus as a landmine victim, missing a leg; another at the college shows Jesus as an Aztec.
A sculpture in a church in Uckfield, England, shows a euphoric Jesus wearing jeans and a collared shirt.
In 2011, British sculptor David Mach, created an agonized, shouting Jesus out of 3,000 straightened coat hangers that emerge like barbs from the body.
Jesus the Homeless is provocative, says Reynolds, because it ‘punctures the illusion of normalcy.
“In certain ways, Christian communities have been privileged and considered themselves the norm in society and that has made Christians comfortable in our complacency.”
Schmalz, 43, roots the sculpture in his experiences in Toronto, where he trained at the former Ontario College of Art. “I was totally used to stepping over people. You’re not aware they are human beings. They become obstacles in the urban environment and you lose a spiritual connection to them. They become inert, an inconvenience.”
He now lives with his wife and family in St. Jacobs, Ont. When he returns to Toronto, he sees the city differently.
“A lot of people who don’t live in Toronto or a big urban place are shocked to see human forms under blanket on too many street corners.”
The Regis sculpture shows Jesus as a wanderer who depended on the hospitality of others, says Reynolds. “The counternarrative in Christianity is Jesus the outsider.”
Not all embrace this interpretation, as Bryan Stallings and his wife Amy discovered. They run a mission in Branson, Mo., called Jesus Was Homeless, where they serve about 1,000 people a week, many of whom live in the woods and extended-stay motels. They’ve been criticized for the mission’s name.
“People who have issue with it are usually the staunch religious people,” says Stallings, “especially those who follow prosperity teaching and doctrine that says if you are homeless or poor you don’t have enough faith.”
Critics tell him that Jesus wasn’t homeless. “Then we reference Scripture and it sparks tons of conversation.”
The Toronto sculpture, funded by Kitchener real estate developer Peter Benninger, is situated near the front entrance to Regis College. “It’s one of the most inviting and authentic representations of Jesus,” says Rev. Gordon Rixon, dean of the college. “There’s the suggestion there is the king and he is answering our culture with his poverty, vulnerability and weakness.”
Though the slender figure occupies most of the two-metre bench, Schmalz purposely left space at the end for someone to sit close to the slumbering figure, “as uncomfortably as possible.”
Regis College is holding a panel discussion on homelessness in Toronto on Wednesday. For more information email: inquiries@RegisCollege.ca
How Obama and Valerie Jarrett Helped Launch Their Political Careers in an Outrageous ‘Urban Renewal’ Scheme February 24, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Chicago, Housing/Homelessness, Race.
Tags: allison kilkenny, black poverty, chicago, chicago housing, community housing, homelessness, housing develoment, michelle obama, non-profit housing, privatization, public-private, roger hollander, subsidized housing, urban development, urban renewal, valerie jarrett
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Roger’s note: as anyone who has followed this Blog knows, I have characterized Obama as a fraud from the beginning (of his ascendency to the presidency). I posted an article reprinted from the Toronto Star when Obama was elected the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review, where a fellow Black student talks about his charismatic gifts always leading to a cop out. In the article below, compare Obama’s history of “community development” in housing with that of Saul Alinsky in the 60s, where he organized popular protests against the University of Chicago’s plans to destroy neighborhoods for expansion. Also, in the article below you will learn how Michelle Obama earned over $300,000 a year dumping poor patients to make room for richer ones at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Developers and investors got rich on a project that destroyed the homes of thousands of Chicago’s poorest black residents.
…[A]s Obama knows very well, for most of the last two decades in Chicago there’s been in place a very specific economic development plan. The plan was to make the South Side like the North Side. Which is the same kind of project as making the land north of Central Park like the land south of Central Park. The North Side is the area north of the Loop—Chicago’s midtown central business district—where rich white people live; they root for the Cubs. They’re neighborhood is called the Gold Coast.
For almost a hundred years in Chicago blacks have lived on the South Side close to Chicago’s factories and slaughter houses. And Cellular Field, home of the White Sox. The area where they lived was called the Black Belt or Bronzeville—and it’s the largest concentration of African American people in the U.S.—nearly 600,000 people—about twice the size of Harlem.
In the 1950s, big swaths of urban renewal were ripped through the black belt, demolishing private housing on the south east side. The argument then was that the old low rise private housing was old and unsuitable. Black people needed to be housed in new, high-rise public housing which the city built just east of the Dan Ryan Expressway. The Administration of the Chicago Housing Authority was widely acclaimed as the most corrupt, racist and incompetent in America. Gradually only the poorest of the poor lived there. And in the 1980s, the argument began to be made that the public housing needed to be demolished and the people moved back into private housing. …
If we examine more carefully the interests that Obama represents; if we look at his core financial supporters; as well as his inmost circle of advisors, we’ll see that they represent the primary activists in the demolition movement and the primary real estate beneficiaries of this transformation of public housing projects into condos and townhouses: the profitable creep of the Central Business District and elite residential neighborhoods southward; and the shifting of the pile of human misery about three miles further into the South Side and the south suburbs.
Obama’s political base comes primarily from Chicago FIRE—the finance, insurance and real estate industry. And the wealthiest families—the Pritzkers, the Crowns and the Levins. But it’s more than just Chicago FIRE. Also within Obama’s inner core of support are allies from the non-profit sector: the liberal foundations, the elite universities, the non-profit community developers and the real estate reverends who produce market rate housing with tax breaks from the city and who have been known to shout from the pulpit“ give us this day our Daley, Richard Daley bread.”
Aggregate them and what emerges is a constellation of interests around Obama that I call “Friendly FIRE.” Fire power disguised by the camouflage of community uplift; augmented by the authority of academia; greased by billions in foundation grants; and wired to conventional FIRE by the terms of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1995. And yet friendly FIRE is just as deadly as the conventional FIRE that comes from bankers and developers that we’re used to ducking from. It’s the whole condominium of interests whose advancement depends on the elimination of poor blacks from the community and their replacement by white people and—at least temporarily—by the black middle-class—who’ve gotten subprime mortgages—in a kind of redlining in reverse.
The public housing included in Senator Obama’s transformation plans, such as the 504 apartments in the squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, quickly fell into disrepair. Reports emerged of uninhabitable units with collapsed roofs, fire damage, mice infestations, and sewage backups. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale, a score so bad the buildings were demolished in 2011.
A Boston Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state and federal subsidies — including several hundred in Obama’s former district — deteriorated so completely they were no longer habitable. Grove Parc, a project that was, along with several other prominent failures, developed and managed by Obama’s close friends and political supporters, became a symbol of the broader failures of handing over public subsidies to FIRE cronies, private companies to build and manage affordable housing, an approach lauded by Obama as the best, sometimes only, replacement for public housing.
At the time, Jarrett was the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until the winter of 2008 and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006 after city inspectors found widespread problems. Jarrett had earlier served as Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development from 1992 through 1995. When questioned by the Globe, Jarrett defended Obama’s position that public-private partnerships are superior to public housing.
“Government is just not as good at owning and managing as the private sector because the incentives are not there,” said Jarrett, whose company manages more than 23,000 apartments. “I would argue that someone living in a poor neighborhood that isn’t 100 percent public housing is by definition better off.”
But as theGlobe pointed out, Daley’s plans to privatize Chicago public housing quickly drew criticism:
[Chicagoans] asked why the government should pay developers to perform a basic public service — one successfully performed by governments in other cities. And they noted that privately managed projects had a history of deteriorating because guaranteed government rent subsidies left companies with little incentive to spend money on maintenance.
Most of all, they alleged that Chicago was interested primarily in redeveloping projects close to the Loop, the downtown area that was seeing a surge of private development activity, shunting poor families to neighborhoods farther from the city center. Only about one in three residents was able to return to the redeveloped projects.
“They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement,” said Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that seeks to help tenants stay in the same neighborhoods.
“The same exact people who ran these places into the ground,” the private companies paid to build and manage the city’s affordable housing, “now are profiting by redeveloping them.”
Obama believes deeply that privatization works. He once told theChicago Tribune that he had briefly considered becoming a developer of affordable housing, but after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1991, he turned down a job with Tony Rezko’s development company, Rezmar, to instead work at the civil rights law firm Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland. The firm represented a number of nonprofit companies that were partnering with private developers to build affordable housing with government subsidies.
The Globe reported that shortly after becoming a state senator in 1997, Obama told theChicago Daily Law Bulletinthat his experience working with the development industry had reinforced his belief in subsidizing private developers of affordable housing. “That’s an example of a smart policy,” the paper quoted Obama as saying. “The developers were thinking in market terms and operating under the rules of the marketplace; but at the same time, we had government supporting and subsidizing those efforts.”
What Obama is describing is corporate welfare: the government subsidizes private companies which then lack incentive to provide services to tenants because the government i.e. taxpayers will continue funding them regardless, and then the same private companies win new contracts down the road when they demolish and rebuild apartments as part of a “revitalizing” scheme.
Oftentimes, Obama’s community organizer veneer served to camouflage his FIRE roots. For example, Grove Parc Plaza opened in 1990 as a redevelopment of an older housing complex, and the new owner was a local nonprofit company called Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp, led by two of the neighborhoods’ most powerful ministers, Arthur Brazier and Leon Finney. All of this sounded like grassroots in action. However, Woodlawn Preservation hired a private management firm, William Moorehead and Associates, to oversee the complex. The company then lost that contract and a contract to manage several public housing projects for allegedly failing to do its job, and was subsequently convicted of embezzling almost $1 million in management feeds theGlobe reported.
Woodlawn Preservation then hired a new property manager, Habitat Co., where Valerie Jarrett served as executive vice president. Residents told the Globe that the complex deteriorated under Moorehead’s management and the decline continued after Habitat took over. A maintenance worker at the complex told the Globe that money often wasn’t available for steel wool to plug rat holes, but regardless federal inspectors rated Grove Parc an 82 out of 100 as late as 2003.
In their extensive report on Obama’s private-public partnership failings, theGlobe profiles one of the largest recipients of government subsidies: Rezmar Corp, founded in 1989 by Tony Rezko, who between 1999 and 2008 used more than $87 million in government grants, loans, and tax credits to renovate about 1,000 apartments in 30 Chicago buildings. Companies run by the partners also managed many of the buildings, collecting government rent subsidies. Neither Rezko, nor his partner Daniel Mahru, had any development experience:
Rezmar collected millions in development fees but fell behind on mortgage payments almost immediately. On its first project, the city government agreed to reduce the company’s monthly payments from almost $3,000 to less than $500.
By the time Obama entered the state senate in 1997, the buildings were beginning to deteriorate. In January 1997, the city sued Rezmar for failing to provide adequate heat in a South Side building in the middle of an unusually cold winter. It was one of more than two dozen housing-complaint suits filed by the city against Rezmar for violations at its properties.
People who lived in some of the Rezmar buildings say trash was not picked up and maintenance problems were ignored. Roofs leaked, windows whistled, insects moved in.
“In the winter I can feel the cold air coming through the walls and the sockets,” said Anthony Frizzell, 57, who has lived for almost two decades in a Rezmar building on South Greenwood Avenue. “They didn’t insulate it or nothing.”
“Affordable housing run by private companies just doesn’t work,” Mahru told the Globe. “It’s difficult, if not impossible, for a private company to maintain affordable housing for low-income tenants.”
Most of Rezko and Mahru’s buildings have since been foreclosed upon, forcing the tenants to find new housing.
When Obama opened his campaign for state senate in 1995, Rezko’s companies gave $2,000 on the first day of fundraising, and as the Globepoints out, essentially “seeded the start of Obama’s political career.”
While Obama eventually distanced himself from Rezko, he maintained close ties to other developers. Jarrett became a close adviser, and Obama chose Martin Nesbitt, chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, as his campaign treasurer. Nesbitt was one of the key overseers of the shift toward private management and development. And Obama kept the rich families around him.
From the Globe story:
As a result, some people in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods are torn between a natural inclination to support Obama and a concern about his relationships with the developers they hold responsible for Chicago’s affordable housing failures. Some housing advocates worry that Obama has not learned from those failures.
“I’m not against Barack Obama,” said Willie J.R. Fleming, an organizer with the Coalition to Protect Public Housing and a former public housing resident. “What I am against is some of the people around him.”
Jamie Kalven, a longtime Chicago housing activist, put it this way: “I hope there is not much predictive value in his history and in his involvement with that community.”
In a 2012 Harpersmagazinearticle, Ben Austen writes that the area around Cabrini-Green no longer resembles the neighborhood he remembered from his years growing up in Chicago in the ’70s and ’80s.
Down the street from 1230 N. Burling stood a mixed-income development of orange-bricked condos and townhomes called Parkside of Old Town. Its squat buildings were outfitted with balconies and adorned with purple ornamentation and decorative pillars. There was a new school, a new police station, a renovated park, and a shopping center with a Dominick’s supermarket and a Starbucks. A Target was expected on the site the last tower would soon vacate. Later, I would warm up two blocks south in @Spot Café, where employees from Groupon’s nearby corporate headquarters streamed in to pay full price for lattes and panini.
Today, what seems harder to fathom than the erasure of entire high-rise neighborhoods is that they were ever erected in the first place. For years the projects had stood as monuments to a bygone effort to provide affordable housing for the poor and working-class, the reflection of a belief in a deeper social contract.
Shortly before the demolition of 1230 N. Burling in 2012, Austen attended a Chicago Housing Authority meeting during which residents protested the board in response to the city forcing poor people off prime real estate. Activists included residents and supporters of a housing project called Lathrop Homes, a development in a well-off section of the North Side that was next in line to be demolished.
“The residents didn’t want to be forced into the private market or into temporary housing, especially since they doubted they’d be able to return to whatever replaced Lathrop; nor did they agree that market-rate apartments were needed in the redeveloped community, as the surrounding area was already full of market-rate condos,” Austen wrote.
Chicago’s $1.6 billion “Plan for Transformation” envisioned a mix of public-housing residents with market-rate condos and subsidized rentals or homes, with one-third of each in these new communities.
In late 2012, NPR detailed how after more than a decade in the works, one of the country’s most closely watched public housing experiments was badly failing, partly due to the flailing economy.
Thomas has lived here for eight years with her husband and 7-year-old son. Lathrop sits on what many now consider prime land, next to the Chicago River. A busy street splits the development into a north and south section.
The north side is completely shuttered, cordoned off by gates, a ghost town of boarded-up buildings. Thomas lives in the open southern section, where steam from the old heating system wafts into the street. About 170 of the 900-plus units are occupied.
Thomas says all three of the concepts for Lathrop should be dumped and there should be more input from residents. She says there’s little affordable housing in the area and there’s no need for market-rate units at all.
Far from adopting a reflective attitude in the wake of Chicago’s failed experiment in public-private housing partnerships, Obama has now taken his love of public-private codependence to a national level, touting public-private partnerships in everything from creating jobs to education to tackling insurance fraud to collaborations involving foreign nations, which you can bet means the wealthiest multinational conglomerates teaming up to increase their profits at the expense of the 99 percent.
“This is a dangerous precedent that could have catastrophic effects in poor neighborhoods across the country. Congress needs to hold hearings about the problems facing emergency patients. If other community, non-profit hospitals follow this example and shift the lion’s share of resources to its high-revenue elective patients and procedures, it will leave many emergency patients virtually out in the cold. The University of Chicago Medical Center is located in a poor neighborhood whose residents have few, if any, other options for emergency care.”The media barely paid any attention to Michelle Obama’s role in all of this, though the Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2008 that her $317,000-a-year role as Vice-President of the hospital helped create the patient-dumping program.
“If you put enough money into it, you could save a whole bunch of community health centers,” Young said. “But to date, they haven’t.”
Edward Novak, president of Chicago’s Sacred Heart Hospital, declined to discuss the center’s initiative in particular but dismissed as “bull” attempts to justify such programs as good for patients. “What they’re really saying is, ‘Don’t use our emergency room because it will cost us money, and we don’t want the public-aid population,’ ” Novak said.
At the end of January this year, community residents launched a protest outside the University of Chicago Medical Center, angry that the hospital ignored their needs, especially for “victims of gun violence,” according to a news report: “One woman said her son, shot just blocks away from the university, died on the way to a hospital ten miles away.” Four were arrested at the protest.
Robert Fitch’s words hold true: the poor remain at the mercy of the rich, who are seeking profits on everything possible, including their homes, but also their water, healthcare and education.
Allison Kilkenny co-hosts Citizen Radio, an alternative political radio show. Her work has appeared in the American Prospect, the LA Times, In These Times, and Truthout.
Obama Sells Out Homeowners Again: Mortgage Settlement a Sad Joke February 23, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Economic Crisis, Housing/Homelessness.
Tags: ally financial, bailout, bank of america, Citibank, Economic Crisis, foreclosures, harp, home owners, jpmorgan chase, mortgage settlement, mortgages, Obama, roger hollander, subprime, tarp, ted rall, Wells Fargo
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Joe Nocera, the columnist currently challenging Tom Friedman for the title of Hackiest Militant Centrist Hack–it’s a tough job that just about everyone on The New York Times op-ed page has to do–loves the robo-signing settlement announced last week between the Obama Administration, 49 states and the five biggest mortgage banks. “Two cheers!” shouts Nocera.
Too busy to follow the news? Read Nocera. If he likes something, it’s probably stupid, evil, or both.
As penance for their sins–securitizing fraudulent mortgages, using forged deeds to foreclose on millions of Americans and oh, yeah, borking the entire world economy–Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have agreed to fork over $5 billion in cash. Under the terms of the new agreement they’re supposed to reduce the principal of loans to homeowners who are “underwater” on their mortgages–i.e. they owe more than their house is worth–by $17 billion.
Some homeowners will qualify for $3 billion in interest refinancing, something the banks have resisted since the ongoing depression began in late 2008.
What about those who got kicked out of their homes illegally? They split a pool of $1.5 billion. Sounds impressive. It’s not. Mark Zuckerberg is worth $45 billion.
“That probably nets out to less than $2,000 a person,” notes The Times. “There’s no doubt that the banks are happy with this deal. You would be, too, if your bill for lying to courts and end-running the law came to less than $2,000 per loan file.”
Readers will recall that I paid more than that for a speeding ticket. 68 in a 55. This is the latest sellout by a corrupt system that would rather line the pockets of felonious bankers than put them where they belong: prison.
Remember TARP, the initial bailout? Democrats and Republicans, George W. Bush and Barack Obama agreed to dole out $700 billion in public–plus $7.7 trillion funneled secretly through the Fed–to the big banks so they could “increase their lending in order to loosen credit markets,” in the words of Senator Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican.
Three years after TARP “tight home loan credit is affecting everything from home sales to household finances,” USA Today reported. “Many borrowers are struggling to qualify for loans to buy homes…Those who can get loans need higher credit scores and bigger down payments than they would have in recent years. They face more demands to prove their incomes, verify assets, show steady employment and explain things such as new credit cards and small bank account deposits. Even then, they may not qualify for the lowest interest rates.”
Financial experts aren’t surprised. TARP was a no-strings-attached deal devoid of any requirement that banks increase lending. You can hardly blame the bankers for taking advantage. They used the cash–money that might have been used to help distressed homeowners–to grow income on their overnight “float” and issue record raises to their CEOs.
Next came Obama’s “Home Affordable Modification Program” farce. Another toothless “voluntary” program, HAMP asked banks to do the same things they’ve just agreed to under the robo-signing settlement: allow homeowners who are struggling to refinance and possibly reduce their principals to reflect the collapse of housing prices in most markets.
Voluntary = worthless.
CNN reported on January 24th: “The HAMP program, which was designed to lower troubled borrowers’ mortgage rates to no more than 31% of their monthly income, ran into problems almost immediately. Many lenders lost documents, and many borrowers didn’t qualify. Three years later, it has helped a scant 910,000 homeowners–a far cry from the promised 4 million.”
Or the 15 million who needed help.
As usual, state-controlled media is too kind. Banks didn’t “lose” documents. They threw them away.
One hopes they recycled.
I wrote about my experience with HAMP: Chase Home Mortgage repeatedly asked for, received, confirmed receiving, then requested the same documents. They elevated the runaround to an art. My favorite part was how Chase wouldn’t respond to queries for a month, then request the bank statement for that month. They did this over and over. The final result: losing half my income “did not represent income loss.”
It’s simple math: in 67 percent of cases, banks make more money through foreclosure than working to keep families in their homes.
This time is different, claims the White House. “No more lost paperwork, no more excuses, no more runaround,” HUD secretary Shaun Donovan said February 9th. The new standards will “force the banks to clean up their acts.”
Don’t bet on it. The Administration promises “a robust enforcement mechanism”–i.e. an independent monitor. Such an agency, which would supervise the handling of million of distressed homeowners, won’t be able to handle the workload according to mortgage experts. Anyway, it’s not like there isn’t already a law. Law Professor Alan White of Valparaiso University notes: “Much of this [agreement] is restating obligations loan servicers already have.”
Finally, there’s the issue of fairness. “Underwater” is a scary, headline-grabbing word. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Tens of millions of homeowners have seen the value of their homes plummet since the housing crash. (The average home price fell from $270,000 in 2006 to $165,000 in 2011.) Those who are underwater tended not to have had much equity in their homes in the first place, having put down low downpayments. Why single them out for special assistance? Shouldn’t people who owned their homes free and clear and those who had significant equity at the beginning of crisis get as much help as those who lost less in the first place? What about renters? Why should people who were well-off enough to afford to buy a home get a payoff ahead of poor renters?
The biggest fairness issue of all, of course, is one of simple justice. If you steal someone’s house, you should go to jail. If your crimes are company policy, that company should be nationalized or forced out of business.
Your victim should get his or her house back, plus interest and penalties.
You shouldn’t pay less than a speeding ticket for stealing a house.
Foreclosed Homeowners Re-Occupy Their Homes November 25, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Housing/Homelessness, Occupy Wall Street Movement, Racism.
Tags: #occupy movement, carolyn gage, evictions, forclosures, foreclosure crisis, home eviction, housing foreclosures, predatory lending, racism, roger hollander, zaineb mohammed
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SAN FRANCISCO – Carolyn Gage was evicted from her foreclosed home in January. Earlier this month, she moved back in.
“I’ve been in here for 50 years. I know no other place but here. I left and it was just time for me to come back home,” said Gage, who is in her mid-50s.
Gage’s monthly payments spiked after her adjustable rate mortgage kicked in, and she could no longer afford the payments on her three-bedroom house in the city’s Bayview Hunters Point district. She says she tried to modify her loan with her lender, Florida-based IB Properties, but to no avail.
When Gage initially left about 10 months ago, she took some personal items with her, but left most of the furniture and continued paying for some utilities.
“It didn’t feel right for me to move. I just left my things because I knew I was going to return to them eventually,” she said.
She had to re-activate a few utilities when she returned, like the water, but found the process fairly easy.
Walking back into the house was an emotional moment for Gage, but a joyous one.
“I was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz; there’s no place like home,” Gage said. “It’s a family home; I plan to stay there.”
Gage was one of about two dozen homeowners who gathered Tuesday for a community potluck on Quesada Avenue for residents facing foreclosure and are refusing to leave their homes.
Homeowners expressed outrage at the way predatory lenders have targeted their community.
Residents of the Bayview are starting to see how the African-American community was especially victimized in the foreclosure crisis.
Gage believes that single women and elders in the black community were targeted for predatory loans. At the peak of the housing boom she was solicited for an adjustable rate loan to do some home improvements, even though she told the loan agent that she was on disability and did not have a steady income.
According to a report released last week by the Center for Responsible Lending, African Americans and Latinos were consistently more likely than whites to receive high-risk loan products. About a quarter of all Latino and African-American borrowers have lost their homes to foreclosure or are seriously delinquent, compared to under 12 percent for white borrowers.
Bayview residents Reverend Archbishop Franz King and Reverend Mother Marina King, who are founders of the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, are also facing foreclosure. Their eviction date is set for Dec. 22.
King expressed deep anger and sorrow at the situation facing the black community in the Bayview.
“First redevelopment moved us out of the Fillmore and now we’re losing our properties too? It’s like there’s nowhere for us to go,” he said.
Grace Martinez, an organizer with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) who helped to arrange the event, commented that banks have become increasingly hostile to their efforts. “They call the police on us; they laugh at us.”
Vivian Richardson, a homeowner on Quesada Avenue whose house was also foreclosed on, also has no intention of leaving. Her current eviction date is set for Dec. 31, but she, like many of her neighbors, is asking her lender to reduce the principal on her loan in order to make the monthly payments more affordable.
Richardson has been attempting to modify her home loan for the past two years. Earlier this month, tired of the lack of communication from the lender, Aurora Loan Services based in Delaware, she worked with ACCE to coordinate an e-mail blast to Aurora’s chairman.
On Nov. 3, over the span of one to two hours, approximately 1,400 emails were sent and more than 100 phone calls made, imploring Chairman Theodore P. Janulis to stop Richardson’s eviction. A spokesperson from the bank called her an hour after the blast and asked her to send an updated set of financial information so that they could review her case.
Two weeks have passed and she has yet to hear anything further. The bank spokesperson commented that Richardson’s case is still being reviewed internally and they hope to get back to her by the end of next week.
However, Richardson has lived in her house for 13 years and plans to stay regardless of the bank’s decision.
“I will defend the home,” she said.
On Dec. 6, there will be a national day of action, “Occupy Our Homes,” where people across the country facing predicaments similar to Gage and Richardson may follow their lead.
Partly inspired by the Occupy movement, the day of action is supported by various community organizations like Take Back the Land and ACCE. The call to action is for people to move back into their foreclosed properties and to defend the properties of families facing eviction.
Martinez commented on the growing anger people are feeling. “The idea is, ‘I want what’s mine.’” She said many homeowners had trusted the banks and ultimately, “People were buying into a lie.”
Cathy Crowe: A Final Blackberry Message to Jack August 29, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Housing/Homelessness.
Tags: aids funding, Canada, canada government, canadian municipalities, cathy crowe, health and homelesness, homelessness, housing, Jack Layton, national disaster, roger hollander, street nurse, street nursing, tdrc, toronto, toronto government, toronto homelessness
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campaign to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities resulting in the Big City
Mayors’ Caucus endorsement that homelessness was a national disaster. This
fuelled a national movement which included a new federal program to tackle
homelessness, but unfortunately not housing.Jack was always giving away his 1% button and would ask me for a new one each time I saw him. This past week
Beric German and I ensured a 1% button was placed among the flowers both at his
constituency office and Nathan Phillips Square.The day after he died, thinking of him, I automatically reached for my blackberry and paused. But I did
send this final email to him. I want to share it with you. Cathy
Hi Jack, just doing what I would normally do in a time like this. Emailing you. You
always replied to me within minutes. You hooked me on a blackberry!
I know you won’t get this but I also know you will get this.
Thanks for always being there for me and for people who are homeless, for all the good
fights, many of which we won thanks to your help: Homelessness declared a
national disaster, many new shelters opened, new shelter standards, the Tent
City win for housing (and they love you to this day), the fight for AIDs
funding, the closing of the Commissioner St. incinerator. I could go on and on.
You made so clear in 1987, in your public inquiry into health and
homelessness, how I should direct my career in this bizarre but necessary
profession called street nursing.
One of the biggest honours in my life was to write the intro to your book on homelessness.
Years later you kept asking me to run for office. I thought you were crazy and then you and
Olivia convinced me.
You should feel confident and strong in your legacy
through myself and I believe millions of others who, inspired, challenged and
encouraged will carry on the fight. As you so eloquently put it “Love is better
than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us
be loving, hopeful and optimstic. And we’ll change the world.”
Yes we will. Love you,
Your friend, Cathy Crowe
Sent from my BlackBerry
device on the Rogers Wireless Network, August 29, 2011
who have not seen the documentary ‘Shelter from the Storm’ directed and produced
by Michael Connolly Jack is in it and it is very powerful. It originally aired
on CBC. It is now viewable on line at Hot Docs:
you like to order your personal copy of the DVD email me at
Tags: Canada, canada charter, canada government, canada housing, canada public housing, homeless, homelessness, housing, human rights, kirk makin, ontario government, public housing, roger hollander
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Jennifer Tanudjaua with her childen in their home in Toronto’s Jane-Finch area.
Kirk Makin Justice Reporter
From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail Published on Wednesday, May. 26, 2010 12:12AM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, May. 26, 2010 7:04AM EDT
One major obstacle stands between Jennifer Tanudjaja and her goal of becoming a successful career woman rather than a burden on the social welfare system – paying the rent.
Struggling to stay in school, the 19-year-old mother of two children plows most of her child welfare benefits and student assistance loan into a $998 per month tenement apartment in Toronto’s Jane-Finch neighbourhood. Meanwhile, she is mired at the bottom of a 10-year wait list for public housing.
Ms. Tanudjaja’s plight lies at the heart of a Charter of Rights challenge being filed on Wednesday in an attempt to persuade the judiciary to force governments to create low-cost public housing.
A coalition of social welfare groups that is launching the challenge seeks to compel the federal and Ontario governments to provide affordable housing for those who are homeless or impoverished by the cost of putting a roof over their heads.
One of the case histories the coalition is furnishing is that of Ms. Tanudjaja, a social work student who aims to be a probation officer. Just 13 years old when her mother handed her over to child welfare authorities, Ms. Tanudjaja ran away from a group home at 15 and then spent more than a year “couch-surfing” from one friend’s home to another.
Now, she can barely eke out her rent cheque after paying for food and public transit to college. “It is honestly not worth what I’m paying at all,” Ms. Tanjudjaja said. “There are bedbugs and tiles popping out of my walls, and my pipes leak really bad.”
The legal challenge harks back to the early, heady days when activists saw the Charter as a sweeping document that could induce reluctant governments to spend money on social programs.
Tracy Heffernan, a lawyer for the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, conceded that judges have become wary of poking their noses into expenditures of public money.
“But 25 years after we got the Charter, it is time to bring it back to the people,” she said. “To allow this crisis of homelessness and inadequate housing to expand and grow and further deepen that crisis is not a good thing for the country.”
The challenge is rooted in the Charter right to equality and to life, liberty and security. A legal brief prepared by Ms. Heffernan and lawyers Peter Rosenthal and Fay Faraday notes that the federal government once played a dominant role in providing public housing. They said that it later pushed public housing onto the provinces, which off-loaded it to municipalities, which lack the tax base to shoulder it.
The brief alleges that homelessness reduces life expectancy, causes single mothers to lose custody of their children and forces victims of domestic violence to return to abusive spouses. Cuts to social assistance have steadily added to the ranks of homeless people, it added.
“The result is that those in receipt of social assistance are often unable to obtain adequate housing, many become homeless, and many more are inadequately housed,” it said. “People who are homeless are perhaps the most marginalized, disempowered, precariously situated and vulnerable group in Canadian society.”
Ms. Heffernan said that a recent study conducted for the Senate found that, over a 10-year period, the homeless could be housed for half of what it will cost to treat the medical and social problems caused by homelessness.
The documents supporting the challenge also include an affidavit from Miloon Kothari, an Indian housing expert who served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing from 2000-2008.
“The most striking feature of my mission to Canada was the contrast between the abundance of resources available and the dire living conditions facing the most vulnerable in society,” Mr. Kothari said.
In another affidavit, Linda Chamberlain, a Toronto woman who is mentally ill, describes 30 years living in hostels or on the streets.
“Sometimes police would pick me up and take me to a shelter,” Ms. Chamberlain said in an interview. “You can’t imagine living in places infested with bed bugs and cockroaches or in a plastic bag, scared to death of being violated. I didn’t want to wake up because I was in such pain.
“You walk around like a zombie,” she said. “There is no hope there. You lose everything. If no one helps people get into a safe place to live, how can they turn their lives around?”
Los Angeles Accused of Criminalizing Homelessness July 15, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in California, Housing/Homelessness.
Tags: Antonio Villaraigosa, homeless advocates, homelessness, homelessness criminalized, la skid row, los angeles, los angeles homelessness, los angeles housing, panhandling, poverty, poverty criminalized, roger hollander, safer city, skid row, steve gorman
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LOS ANGELES – Two major advocacy groups for the homeless on Tuesday ranked Los Angeles as the “meanest” city in the United States, citing a Skid Row police crackdown they say has criminalized poverty and homelessness there.
L.A.’s so-called Safer City Initiative was singled out in the groups’ report as the most egregious example of policies and practices nationwide that essentially punish people for failing to have a roof over their heads.
Others include making it illegal to sleep, sit or store personal belongings on sidewalks and other public spaces; prohibitions against panhandling or begging; and selective enforcement of petty offenses like jaywalking and loitering.
Such measures are widespread in the face of a deep economic recession and foreclosure crisis that have increased homelessness over the past two years, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Their report examined laws and practices in 273 cities across the country, with Los Angeles topping the list of the 10 “meanest cities” for what the study called inhumane treatment of homeless. A previous report, issued in early 2006 before the crackdown began, ranked L.A. as the 18th meanest.
According to “Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities,” the 10 Meanest Cities in 2009 are:
1. Los Angeles
2. St. Petersburg, FL
3. Orlando, FL
4. Atlanta, GA
5. Gainesville, FL
6. Kalamazoo, MI
7. San Francisco
8. Honolulu, HI
9. Bradenton, FL
Under the Safer City effort, thousands of L.A.’s most destitute residents have been targeted for harsh police enforcement, routinely receiving tickets for minor infractions such as the failure to obey crossing signals.
As a result, the study says, many are jailed and end up with a criminal record that makes it more difficult for them to find a job or gain access to housing.
A spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued a statement dismissing the report as “short-sighted and misleading.”
Los Angeles officials have touted their Safer City effort for sharply curbing serious crime in Skid Row, a 50-block downtown area inhabited by the biggest concentration of homeless people in the country. “The city’s first priority is to protect our most vulnerable residents from violent crime,” the mayor’s statement said.
But homeless advocates say a promised strategy to ease homelessness there, including new housing and services to go with the Skid Row cleanup, have largely failed to materialize.
An estimated 40,000 people live on the streets, in abandoned buildings or in temporary shelters throughout Los Angeles, more than 5,000 of them in Skid Row. Another 8,000 make their home in that area’s short-term residential hotels, or flop houses as they were once called.
Becky Dennison, co-director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, said the homeless population in Los Angeles has ballooned due to a lack of affordable housing, a high poverty rate and “long-standing lack of local resources.”
Tuesday’s report cited a 2007 University of California study that found L.A. was spending $6 million a year to pay for the 50 extra police officers who patrol Skid Row while budgeting just $5.7 million for homeless services.
By comparison, Dennison said, New York City has a “right to shelter” policy and invests about $200 million a year in housing and other services for the needy, resulting in a homeless population half that of Los Angeles.
© Thomson Reuters 2009