jump to navigation

Homeless Japanese Being ‘Recruited’ To Clean Up Fukushima Disaster December 30, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Housing/Homelessness, Japan, Labor, Nuclear weapons/power.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Investigation reveals systematic exploitation of homeless by big business and organized crime

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Shizuya Nishiyama, a 57-year-old homeless man from Hokkaido, speaks during an interview with Reuters at Sendai Station in Sendai, northern Japan December 18, 2013. (Credit: REUTERS/Issei Kato)

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, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Economic Crisis, Housing/Homelessness, New York.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

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.”

It Is Illegal To Feed The Homeless In Cities All Over The United States August 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Economic Crisis, Food, Housing/Homelessness, Poverty.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Wikimedia

Wikimedia

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?

It should.

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…

Letter to family with severely autistic child

Can you believe that?

Hearts are growing cold at the same time that the need for love and compassion in our society is growing.

As I proved the other day, there has not been any economic recovery for most Americans, and a recent CNBC article echoed those sentiments…

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

Corporate Profits And Percentage Of US Population With A Job

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.


Sources :

  1. The Economic Collapse
  2. Image Credit

Read more http://www.trueactivist.com/it-is-illegal-to-feed-the-homeless-in-cities-all-over-the-united-states/

Sculpture of Jesus the Homeless rejected by two prominent churches April 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Housing/Homelessness, Religion, Toronto.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Ontario sculptor struggled to find a home for his haunting sculpture of Jesus sleeping on a bench.

Sculptor Timothy Schmalz has created a bronze sculpture called Jesus the Homeless outside Regis College, the Jesuit college at U of T.

Carlos Osorio / Toronto Star

Sculptor Timothy Schmalz has created a bronze sculpture called Jesus the Homeless outside Regis College, the Jesuit college at U of T.

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

Justice In America: A Tale Of Two Crimes June 26, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Race, Racism.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
06.24.11 – 7:00 PM

by Abby Zimet

Consider Paul Allen, 55, a former mortgage CEO who defrauded lenders of over $3 billion. This week, prosecutors celebrated the fact they got him a 40-month prison sentence. Consider Roy Brown, 54, a hungry homeless man who robbed a Louisiana bank of $100 – the teller gave him more but he handed the rest back. He felt bad the next day and surrendered to police. He got 15 years. Justice in America has a ways to go.

 

Published on Sunday, June 26, 2011 by Black Agenda Report

Four Decades of Cruelty and Inhumanity to U.S. Political Prisoners

A Black Agenda Radio commentary

  by  Glen Ford

For almost 40 years, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have been in solitary confinement at Louisiana’s infamous Angola State Prison, in what is thought to be the longest period of enforced solitude in America’s vast prison gulag. Amnesty International says their treatment is “cruel and inhumane and a violation of the US’s obligations under international law.” Woodfox is now 64 years old, and Wallace is 69. They are two of the original Angola 3, convicted of the murder of a prison guard in 1972. The other member of the trio, Robert King, was released after 29 years in solitary confinement after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Under the conditions of solitary confinement, Woodfox and Wallace are restricted to their tiny cells for 23 hours a day. Three times a week, for an hour, they are allowed to exercise in an outdoor cage, if weather permits. For 40 years, they have not been allowed access to work or to education. And there has been no legitimate review of their cases in all that time.

There was never any physical evidence of the men’s guilt, only the very questionable testimony of other inmates, one of whom was bribed by officials and another of whom retracted his testimony. Woodfox and Wallace and King have been subjected to the greatest cruelties Louisiana has to offer because they became political prisoners after entering Angola, when they formed a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party. One prison official says flatly, that “there’s been no rehabilitation” from “practicing Black Pantherism.” In other words, the prison considers their politics to be their crime.

Albert Woodfox’s conviction has twice been overturned by lower courts on the basis of racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate defense and suppression of evidence. But the U.S. Court of Appeals decided that Woodfox’s fate was Louisiana’s business. Amnesty International demands only that the two elderly prisoners be released from solitary. Woodfox and Wallace, it should be pointed out, became political prisoners after initially being incarcerated for criminal offenses.

There are scores of U.S. political prisoners that have languished behind bars for three or four decades. The National Conference of Black Lawyers has been pressing for their outright release, especially those who were wrongfully imprisoned due to the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation, which sought to “neutralize” and destroy radical political activists and organizations – most notably the Black Panther Party. In the cases of those targeted by COINTELPRO, it was the federal government’s lawlessness that led to a lifetime in prison. Therefore, the U.S. government is obligated to free them. But the United States continues to deny that there is such a thing as a political prisoner within its borders. The Obama administration is always eager to claim that other countries are abusing their political prisoners. It also says it wants to play an active role in the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. But that will require the U.S. to answer charges that it imprisons people for political reasons, holds them under cruel and inhuman conditions, and that racism pervades its criminal justice system.

© 2011 Black Agenda Report

<!–

–>

Glen Ford

Back Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Charter challenge aims to force governments to create public housing May 26, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Housing/Homelessness, Human Rights.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

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?”

Obama Increases Number of Prisons, Cops May 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

prison

Rady Ananda, www.opednews.com, May 12, 2009

President Obama’s 2010 budget proposes $105 million for two new federal prisons. The new budget will also add $3 billion to the Department of Justice budget from 2008 figures, putting 50,000 more cops on the payroll.  That might be necessary since he continues to bailout billionaires and millionaires, while allowing more homeowners to become homeless.   

Though only comprising 5% of the world’s population, the US jails more citizens, in raw numbers and as a percent, than any other nation on the planet.  Obama proposes to jail another 3,000 citizens, devoting scarce dollars to the prison industrial complex. 

To highlight some prison fun facts from a prior article:

 

The US convicts people of color at rates far above those for whites, and for longer terms.  In 2006, the incarceration rate per 100,000 for whites was 409, and 2,468 for blacks.  That’s an imprisonment rate of nearly 3 in 100 for blacks, or six times higher than for whites.    With the federal government’s war on drug users, women now comprise a growing portion of those imprisoned.  In 1925, the US jailed one in 100,000 women; in 2006, the US jailed one in 746 women. 

In the economically distressed town of Mendota, California, formerly an agriculture community, Mendota officials see economic opportunity in jailing people.  With over $49 million in federal funds, the new prison scheduled to open in 2010 will employ only 314 people.  No one is sure how many, if any, of them will be Mendota citizens. 

Under Obama’s proposed federal prison budget, West Virginia will take the remaining $55 million for a new federal prison. 

Hidden Homeless Emerge as US Economy Worsens March 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Housing/Homelessness.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

by Steve Gorman and Suzanne Hurt

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Emergency shelters brimming with homeless people in California’s capital are quietly turning away more than 200 women and children a night in a sign of the deteriorating U.S. economy.

 

[A homeless person sleeps under a white blanket next to piles of garbage bags and a statue of Jesus outside St. Michael Roman Catholic Church Thursday, March 26, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)]A homeless person sleeps under a white blanket next to piles of garbage bags and a statue of Jesus outside St. Michael Roman Catholic Church Thursday, March 26, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The displaced individuals on waiting lists at St. John’s Shelter and other facilities often turn instead to relatives or friends for temporary living quarters, perhaps moving into a spare room, garage or trailer. The less fortunate might sleep in their cars or a vacant storage unit. 

They are the hidden homeless. And their ranks appear to be growing as rising joblessness and mortgage foreclosures take their toll in Sacramento and other U.S. cities, experts say.

U.S. President Barack Obama recognized the trend in his televised news conference this week, saying, “the homeless problem was bad even when the economy was good,” and he vowed to bring greater government resources to bear to deal with it.

“It is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours,” he said.

A “tent city” of up to 200 homeless in Sacramento was thrust into the media spotlight last month as a symbol of the battered U.S. economy. California authorities said this week they would shut down the illegal settlement and find other shelter for its residents, most of them chronically homeless.

Homeless advocates say they expect such encampments, which already exist around the country, to spread as the housing crisis worsens and shelters fill up.

“I think there’s a slight trickle of people who’ve been at risk of homelessness who are winding up in tent cities or knocking on shelter doors,” said Michael Stoops, director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington. “I expect a tremendous increase in homelessness over the next couple of years.”

Stoops, who has worked with the homeless for 35 years, said the newly dispossessed often retain some income and seek initially to downsize or find cheaper accommodations.

WORST NIGHTMARE

“Their worst nightmare would be winding up on the streets, in a tent city or a shelter,” he said. “That’s the last stage. They will do everything they can before that happens to them.”

Maria Romero, 52, who held a series of low-paying jobs over the years before steady work became hard to find, said she lived out of her automobile for a year before reluctantly moving to St. John’s Shelter in January.

“I’d rather be by myself. My car was my own space,” she said, adding she would never consider living in a tent city.

“It wouldn’t be safe, especially for a single female,” said Romero, a high school dropout forced by circumstance to live in a car or shelter more than once in her life.

Her experience illustrates the complexity of homelessness in America, where the most economically vulnerable are often the first to fall through the cracks during hard times.

The latest national figures, in a January report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, actually showed a 10 percent decline in the homeless population two years ago — from about 744,000 per night in January 2005 to nearly 672,000 per night in January 2007.

But 36 of the 50 states reported increases and homeless advocates worry that the national trend will be reversed because of the deepening recession and housing crisis.

As of 2007, the report said, 42 percent of homeless people in the United States, and 70 percent of those in California, slept on the streets, in cars, tents or abandoned buildings.

The “Skid Row” area of Los Angeles is thought to have the nation’s highest concentration of homeless, with more than 5,000 counted in that 50-block area in 2007.

Experts say it typically takes six to eight months to go from losing one’s home to turning up at a shelter doorstep. Some already have noticed more than a trickle.

RUN ON THE SHELTERS

“I’ve never seen it like this before, and I have 30 years of experience working with the homeless,” said Darlene Newsom, head of the UMOM Day Centers emergency housing project in Phoenix, Arizona, where the number of homeless families seeking services has doubled in the past three months.

Loaves & Fishes, a Sacramento charity that supports the homeless, now provides a free lunch to about 650 people a day, up about 10 percent from a year ago, but private donations to the organization have been flat.

“We are struggling to keep our doors open,” director Joan Burke said.

Nearby St. John’s Shelter, which caters to women and children, has been running at or near capacity for months — filling roughly 100 beds a night — with a waiting list well over twice that long, case manager Kellie Dockendorf said.

This is up from the daily average of 80 women and children turned away in 2008. And getting in can take up to 45 days.

The mix of clientele is changing too, she said.

“We’re getting a lot more working people. We’re getting more people with education. We’re getting a lot more people who are working part-time or not getting enough hours to pay their bills,” she said.

Keysia Bell, 38, had made a living as a caregiver for the elderly until full-time work became harder to find.

After a period of paying to stay with friends or relatives for weeks or months at a time, then renting a house she could no longer afford, she ended up at St. John’s two months ago with her 17-year-old and 10-month-old daughters.

“I’m out of a job. I’m out of a place to stay. I have a baby daughter, and it all just became overwhelming,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Mary Milliken)

Outpouring for Obama points beyond election to quest for full freedom January 8, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Economic Crisis.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

by Olga Domanski and Franklin Dmitryev
National Co-Organizers, News and Letters Committees

NEWS & LETTERS, December 2008 – January 2009

www.newsandletters.org

 

The shocking news released Dec. 5 of half a million more workers being thrown into unemployment nearly eclipsed the importance of the election, just one month earlier, of the first African American president.

No one, however, can dismiss the historic importance of a Black man winning the presidency of so racist a land as the U.S. has proved to be since its very birth. None could fail to be moved by the fully interracial and multiethnic millions rejoicing in Grant Park in Chicago, and dancing in the streets of both Harlem and Times Square in New York on election night. Far from simple euphoria, it seemed to manifest a totally new kind of experience. Throughout the whole campaign, the hundreds of thousands who had poured out to Obama’s rallies had been seen by some pundits as portending nothing less than a “revolutionary political shift.” What made it “revolutionary” was that the aspirations of those thousands who poured out to the rallies and stood in long lines on Nov. 4 were casting their ballots for a “change” that went deeper into freedom than just political freedom, to self-determination in everyday life. What distinguished the election of Obama was that it went beyond race as the determinant to the question of freedom.

Getting beyond race as the determinant does not mean forgetting that we are a brutally racially divided land, as any sober look at the conditions of Black America verifies. It is to say that Obama spoke in a language that resonated with the desire for a fuller freedom than the U.S. has up to now been willing to set loose–the freedom for Gays to marry, for women to control their reproductive lives, for immigrants to move freely across borders, for an end to discrimination against all the minorities of this country; and the freedom to live in peace with international neighbors.

WHAT FREEDOM MEANS

Although the theme of Obama’s inauguration is said to be “A New Birth of Freedom,” neither candidate spoke of “freedom” during the election campaign. President Bush has so corrupted the word in the militaristic way he used it as meaning invading another country and forcing his perversion of “freedom” on them, that it requires spelling it out in your actions.

When California’s Proposition 8 took away same-sex marriage, the breadth and depth of the immediate protests, by Gay and straight alike, revealed how serious the masses are about “change” being not just political, but a change in human relations. (See ‘The movement is ours!’: Lesbian activist critique)

What is important now is “what happens after.” Since winning the election, Barack Obama set two more records. One was the amazing speed with which he set up his cabinet and chose his “teams”–immediately after having asserted that there is only “one president at a time.” It emphatically conveyed the need to act quickly because the crisis kept deepening. The other was the strong move to the center very nearly every one of his choices represented. Nothing better demonstrated that deliberate direction than the selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, given the fact that Obama’s victory stemmed in large part from his vigorous opposition to the war on Iraq and his condemnation of her vote to approve the invasion. To the same “national security team” he also named Robert Gates as the first Secretary of Defense ever held over from a different party, who for two years had been in charge of the war Obama opposed. Only the relentlessly increasing severity of the economic crisis briefly delayed the announcement of the “defense team” until after the selection of Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury and the rest of his “economic team,” all of them also “experienced” players not dedicated to “change.”

While a pull to the center is to be expected once the winner claims a mandate, so quickly did it raise new questions about the direction Obama was taking, that what that extraordinary election meant is in danger of being completely disregarded. Let us not miss the historic importance of Obama’s win, or dismiss him as just another politician whose victory makes no difference. It is impossible to discount the percentages of youth, women, immigrants, and Black voters who participated in the election, some for the first time in their lives. But the dimension most crucial was the number of white workers who cast their vote for a Black candidate.

It is a moment that reaches back to one of the most significant chapters of American history, when the Abolitionist movement represented nothing less than a “new dimension of American character.”[1] It was the first integrated movement in American history, and it is no small matter that in his speeches Obama cited such a movement that was not “racial”–which is to say that the Abolitionist movement made itself the expression of the Black masses’ struggle for freedom and in that way spoke in a language that was demanding action on a question of human freedom for all. It encompassed not only anti-slavery and interracial equality, but internationalism and women’s struggles for freedom–150 years ago.

Obama roots himself not in that radical movement, but in the compromiser Lincoln who was attacked by them for putting off the Emancipation Proclamation until he was forced into it. Nevertheless, his nod toward that glorious page of U.S. history reflects the revolutionary forces simmering beneath the surface of our society.

Are we seeing the beginnings of Black and labor coalescing, as is needed to make a decisive turning point–and will it encompass all the forces from Latino labor to women to Queer? What gave the Abolitionists the extra dimension as intellectuals and as human beings was their alignment with these kinds of struggles from below. Most crucial for our day is the unifying philosophy needed to avoid one more unfinished revolution.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS DECISIVE

What proved to be the real determinant in the 2008 election was the devastating global economic crisis. The opposition to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which had been the number one reason for supporting the Democratic ticket, was pushed to a secondary position. It is why the first posts decided were the “economic recovery program” team.

So many people have been losing jobs, losing homes, going without doctor visits, putting off purchases from clothing to cars, that it was hardly a surprise when the U.S. economy was declared to be in a recession that began in December 2007. Economists and politicians are starting to acknowledge that conditions will continue to worsen well into 2009 at least–with others forecasting “several years of high unemployment…and widespread income losses.”[2]

By November the unemployment rate was reported at 6.7%, with 11.2% for African Americans and one in three for Black teenagers. These official figures do not count the millions who have stopped looking for work or who have had to settle for part-time jobs, who would bring the overall figure up to 12.5%. In the year since November 2007, 3.2 million more people are unemployed, 2.8 million more are involuntarily working part-time, and 1.3 million more are not counted as part of the labor force. Many have lost health insurance. Dreams of retirement shattered, millions dread an old age of poverty.

HUMAN COST OF CAPITALISM’S FAILURE

After a decade of working people’s incomes stagnating and temporary jobs proliferating, these new blows have meant a million bankruptcies this year alone and three million families losing their houses, with Moody’s forecasting five million more foreclosures by 2010. Such anger has built up that some governors and sheriffs have had to declare moratoriums on foreclosures or evictions. The homeless have been building tent cities or, with the help of groups like Miami’s Take Back the Land, taking over homes left vacant by foreclosures. From Republic Windows workers to Prop. 8 protesters (see Republic Windows and Doors sit-in stops bosses’ wage theft), “Yes, we can” has been given deeper content linking back to the slogan’s origin in farmworker struggles.

republic-windowsRepublic Windows and Doors workers who occupied their factory demanding justice.

With recession spreading to Europe and Japan, the International Monetary Fund has declared a “major downturn” for the world economy. Globally, the International Labor Organization projects that unemployment will rise by 20 million. Though food prices have retreated, the world food crisis has worsened, with the economic crisis pushing over 100 million people worldwide into poverty and farmers reducing production in the face of lower crop prices. Already children are starving from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Two years of widespread strikes and revolts over high food prices and other economic troubles give a hint of how the global nature of the crisis also affects the international character of revolutionary impulses that are stirring.

What is most significant about Obama’s quickly gathered economic team is that, like Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, all these economists have had to throw out their faith in the “free market.”[3] Instead they are tossing around proposals for massive state intervention in the economy through deficit-swelling public works programs to provide jobs, in addition to stepping up the ongoing program of corporate bailouts and nationalization.

Ideologues from the Left and center, clamoring for a “new New Deal,” too often forget how the history of the New Deal has been rewritten. First, it did not materialize out of the benevolence of Pres. Roosevelt. The context was strikes, organizing, revolt–the threat of revolution was in the air. That is exactly what the New Deal was supposed to save capitalism from. Today, millions want to change this society top to bottom–and that means a much deeper change than what Obama has in mind.

Second, the New Deal did not halt the Great Depression. It took World War II to cover over capitalism’s decade-long crisis. Civilization can hardly survive a World War III, yet capitalism has no other solution to offer. At $685 billion, the Pentagon’s budget is 85% higher (after inflation) than in 2000–the highest since World War II. Even that is not all the military spending, yet it nearly equals the sum of all other countries’ defense budgets combined.

STATE-CAPITALISM NO SOLUTION

No matter how “green” the new version of the New Deal is painted, it cannot save capitalism from the deep structural crisis into which it has been plunged by the development of the contradictions inherent in capital’s very being. No matter who is appointed to the various posts, or how much cooperation Obama forges with Republicans, all their efforts are about searching for ways to keep capitalism alive. None of the answers proposed by the politicians, advisers or pundits even recognizes what the crisis stems from–capitalism’s law of motion.

As the October-November 2008 Lead in News & Letters (Bailout can’t save capitalism from its own gravediggers) put it:

“Trying to steer opposition in their own direction, nearly all politicians expressed their ‘outrage’ while claiming there is no alternative to saving capitalism and showing ‘bipartisan’ solidarity with capitalists when the whole economy is at risk. This crisis revealed how rapidly objective events can call the whole capitalist system into question and generate a lot of action and new thinking about what is possible. Past failures surely show that the opposite of alienated labor is not to be found in statist intervention, political parties or trade unions, all of which broker on capitalist ground. At this crucial moment of capital’s reorganization, it is important to engage that rethinking with Marx’s concept of what it would take for humanity to break with being organized under the rule of capitalist production’s alienated labor.”

Capitalist rule can only be broken when the masses of working people take control of production and make decisions themselves, not letting anyone else do the thinking for them–whether that be managers, the labor bureaucracy, or planners touting a new New Deal. While that takes a revolution that can only be made by the masses, the history of the 20th century shows the urgency of the question of what happens after the revolution. Revolt and even revolution can be dragged back to the various forms of state-capitalism: the welfare state, fascism, or totalitarian “Communism.” What is needed is unity not only of white labor with Black masses and undocumented immigrants, anti-war youth with Gay and women’s liberationists, and unity across borders, but of theory and practice, rooted in a philosophy of revolution, in so new a relationship as to lay the foundations for a truly human society.

THEORY/PRACTICE

It is that concept of the unity of theory and practice on which News and Letters Committees was organized. News & Letters was created as its concretization in the only Marxist-Humanist journal in the U.S. That is why News and Letters Committees is starting the New Year with a series of classes in all the locals on “Confronting Today’s Crises: The Marxist-Humanist return to Marx and the revolutionary abolition of capitalism.” (See An invitation and an appeal for announcement of classes.) Their aim is theoretic preparation for revolution, part of which is working out a new book of Marxist-Humanism on Marx. The classes cannot be a “how to” manual on breaking with capitalism and achieving a new society, but a methodology.

While no one can overlook the historic significance of this election, the deep crisis the world is in cannot be solved by Obama or any administration. What is needed is a totally new relationship of the movements from theory and from practice on the basis of a unifying philosophy of revolution. It is no easy task. We invite your participation in the classes and contributions to the discussion in the paper, and appeal for your help to keep News & Letters going.

NOTES:

1. This new dimension’s historic meaning is spelled out in American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard: “These New England Abolitionists added a new dimension to the word intellectual, for these were intellectuals whose intellectual, social and political creativity was the expression of precise social forces. They gloried in being ‘the means’ by which a direct social movement expressed itself, the movement of slaves and free Negroes for total freedom…” (p. 34).

 

2. “New Day for U.S. Economic Policy,” by Larry Mishel, http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/newsflash_081105_obama. Others simply called the latest figures “dismal” and “frightening”; see “Jobs Vanish–Quickly,” 12/6/08 Chicago Tribune.

3. “Rubinomics Recalculated,” by Jackie Calmes, 11/24/08 New York Times, points out the links between Obama’s top economic advisers and Robert Rubin, and “the economic formula that came to be called Rubinomics: balanced budgets, free trade, and financial deregulation.” Named to head the new “Economic Recovery Advisory Board” is Paul Volcker, whose “solution” to the 1970s crisis was to drive up interest rates, helping to push the U.S. into deep recession in the early 1980s and to precipitate the debt crisis in Africa, Latin America and Asia. See “Can Africa Survive Obama’s Advisers?” by Patrick Bond in Links, Nov. 12, 2008 (http://links.org.au/node/738).

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 206 other followers