Sunday, November 16, 2008

Letter to the Editor "Voices of homeless too often unheard"

Voices of homelVoices of homeless too often unheard
I'm surprised by the bias exposed in the story about efforts to curb panhandling in downtown Northampton (The Republican, Oct. 27).
The reporter interviewed only one source against the ordinance, while citing three sources for it. The reporter didn't even speak to members of Poverty Is Not A Crime, a loosely affiliated organization of street people, community organizers, city citizens, local business owners and student activists, supported by the Freedom Center, Arise for Social Justice, and the Northampton chapter of Food Not Bomb, that are allied against the ordinance - despite our sending a press release. We've spoken out at the last three City Council meetings, held a protest that involved 50 people or more right before the last meeting and have handed out information to the public almost daily, motivating many to sign our petition or call their city councilors urging them to vote against the ordinance.
Many of us do social service work, and we know that while there are a few proverbial bad apples, most people on the street are exactly what they say they are: homeless and/or poverty ridden and in need. Statements by Mayor Clare Higgins and other city officials that most or many panhandlers are not needy is specious and insulting. Our work in local social justice organizations proves it's not so.
For the vast majority, it still takes desperation to submit to the humiliation of begging. Despite what Northampton does for the poor, a great many of them are forced into this humiliation, because it's just not enough. There's a huge dearth of low-income housing in this city, the Grove Street shelter only has 16 beds, only four for women, and the winter shelter won't even double this number, while the need is much, much larger - and funding has been cut yet again to the shelters this year. Welfare doesn't cover the cost of living for more than a week out of a month in a place like Northampton, and in this economy, there are very, very few jobs available, especially for unskilled laborers. There are no job-training programs available to low income people here. Food is incredibly expensive for the homeless, as they have no place to store, refrigerate or cook it, forcing them to buy expensive pre-prepared foodsand there are only a few free meals available a week, while the Survival Center is little advertised, far away and out of the way from Main Street. The story also doesn't mention the fact that, despite the rhetoric, this ordinance wouldn't regulate panhandling, it would outlaw it. Just look at the language of the legislation. Can you think of a place where there's foot traffic, where it's possible to panhandle that's 5 feet away from the entrance to any building, 15 feet away from any parking meter, parking pay box, ATM, bank, pay phone, etc., not on a bench, not under any overpass? And the list goes on.
As for "aggressive" panhandling, there are already laws on the books against harassment - there's no need for a class-specific law. And despite the self-conscious addition of charity solicitation to the legislation, make no mistake, it's a class-specific law.
As for fears of violence from panhandlers, most homeless/poor people are much more likely to be victims of violence, while middle/upper class people in Northampton are much more likely to suffer violence at the hands of someone in their own class, especially in a domestic violence context.
Poverty Is Not A Crime
Arise for Social Justice and the Free
Northampton ess too often unheard Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Budget cuts

Here's two stories about the impact of Massachusetts' budget cuts: Dan Ring at the Republican talks about the threats to seniors; the Boston Globe takes a look at Fitchburg.

Graphic from Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We registered homeless people!

I don't have the exact total yet-- I'll find out tomorrow-- but Lamont and others did a great job getting single homeless people registered to vote. He'll be getting back to people who registered to make sure they know where to vote, and encouraging others already registered to get out there and DO IT!

We did a less good job with homeless families-- just ran out of time-- but we can do better next year, which will also be important: the first year that Springfield voters will elect councilors from their wards as well as five councilors at large.

But let's get through the presidential election first.

Photo from Le Blog Exuberance Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Homes with Reach progress report

There's an article in the Republican today which features Springfield's Homes Within Reach efforts to house homeless people. Check it out. Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New York Times Food Issue

This Sunday's New York Times Magazine is devoted to food and the focus is more politics than recipes-- how agribusiness is destroying us, what the new president should do about food, how a new Jewish food movement is working to expand kosher food into the sustainability and social justice movements and more. Check it out.

Graphic from Greenleaf Gardens. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, June 27, 2008

just heard some depressing news on my way into work,
damn, how many small islands and coast line communities will be swallowed up in the next year?? Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Open Pantry/Control Board

Hey Folks, I was reading Masslive this morning and I got madder and madder the more I thought about what the city is doing to OP. I can seriously see the city slowly forcing them to close all of their services. Kind of like how they forced The Warming Place to close, by with holding occupency permits.
Well, Ellen just came in to the office and she thinks one of the first things we should do is to write letters to the editor and I agree. Even if they only say "Hey what the hell is going on here? Print Friendly and PDF