Sunday, October 15, 2017

Grassroots Work During the Fires

Grassroots Work During the Fires
by a local Sonoma County wobbly and DSA member

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On short notice I can only talk about of my own views, rather than speak for any of the horizontally structured groups I organize with.  I am extremely heartened and inspired by the passion and direct action of my comrades within the International Workers of the World (I.W.W.) and the Democratic Socialists of America (D.S.A.), who immediately stepped up and started organizing both direct aid to people in need and supply chains from such places as San Francisco and the East Bay.  To some extent this has meant giving supplies and volunteer time to officially sanctioned relief shelters in Sonoma County, but more notably it includes "filling the cracks" by helping the marginalized and vulnerable members of our community who spend most or all of their time living on the streets and in outdoor camps; people constantly and directly subjected to the horrible air quality, and who must additionally suffer the neglect of both widely recognized relief and recovery organizations and those which normally provide them services but are currently prioritizing privileged members of the community only /recently/ displaced by natural disasters and the deficiencies of our political-economic system.

We have been scrambling to collect lists of needs expressed both by shelters and those outside of them, and to find ways to fulfill those needs by utilizing both direct fundraising and donations to our organizations and the emergency supplies so generously provided by organizations like the Salvation Army.  We have visited Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Guerneville, Bodega Bay, Windsor, and nearby native communities to gather lists of requested supplies from shelters, camps, occupied areas, and reservations, and to fulfill those requests.  I have been personally amazed and inspired by the level of support, connection, and organization within the communities we have been visiting. There aren't many housed neighborhoods with a dedicated medic, or in which people can tell you off the tip of their tongues the shoe sizes and immediate needs of people five doors down in either direction!

It should be noted that, despite platitudes such as promises that people will not be deported directly from within the boundaries of shelters or asked for proof of citizenship or legal residency as a condition of shelter, many undocumented residents have expressed apprehension about the shelters, and have chosen to avoid them in preference for joining and building safer communities outside.  And we should obviously sympathize with such sentiments given:
  • the horrendous history of persecution of people deemed "illegal" by the state,
  • the constant presence outside shelters of the National Guard, replete with assault rifles, military fatigues, and combat vehicles,
  • direct involvement of the Department of Homeland Security under its guise as the "Office of Emergency Services."

Signs I saw that services provided by organizations such as the Red Cross and law enforcement were not sufficient included:
  • a representative in an official Red Cross vest at the Elsie Allen shelter indicating intention to discriminate based on economic status by telling us (direct quote) "this is not a homeless shelter,"
  • politicians and law enforcement representatives in "town hall" meetings ignoring the community and side-stepping direct answers to questions about curfews and disclosure of the obvious law enforcement involvement of the National Guard (did they simply forget to explain how assault rifles help fight roaring flames?),
  • the fact that Red Cross involvement was confined to shelters, with no obvious outreach to existing communities of homeless residents directly affected by the disaster,
  • direct testimony of people living on the street to the effect that services they had previously been offered in terms of meals and delivery of supplies had ceased,
  • immediate appearance of several portable toilets in Courthouse Square to serve the recently-displaced middle class (despite literally /years/ of attempts to get such facilities available to the homeless population), coupled with the continued absence of such facilities in locations immediately accessible to large communities of people living in camps and on the streets.
The more privileged members of the working class doubtless feel quite well-supported given the degree and immediacy of the aid they have received from the Red Cross and the state. However, they would do well to remember that many of them are now homeless, and possibly only a hair's breadth from suffering the same kind of political, economic, and social discrimination that their brothers and sisters outside on the streets have experienced for a very long time.  This—and the weeks, months, and years of recovery to come—should act as a wake up call, reminding us all that /an injury to one is an injury to all/.  Watch in the coming days as the flames and evacuations die down and the state-provided and state-sanctioned relief evaporate in the wind.  Shelters will quickly shut down, as they have already begun to do even as the fires still burn and evacuations continue. Businesses which haven't already will return to their usual profit-driven operation.  Unless there is tremendous intervention of activists from the community, housing will be in more dire need than ever and vulture developers, landlords, and other capitalists will swoop in.  Insurance claims will be denied in frightening numbers, and "low-interest loans" will proliferate the amount of personal debt residents must contend with.  FEMA will deny help to people who cannot demonstrate their "legality" to the state, despite their being as victimized by this disaster as anyone else. People who cannot afford or do not want corporate, for-profit recovery services will be kept from their property, denied both the necessary services and the training, supplies, and freedom to do it themselves.

I am committed not just to immediate relief but to long-term solutions, and I am confident that the individual activists and grassroots organizations I am organizing with share that commitment: while the state has been trying very hard—particularly in the midst and wake of disasters such as this one—to co-opt the term "mutual aid" for its own oppressive and divisive services, we will fight hard in our communities to ensure that the /real/ mutual aid practiced by their members for each other in horizontal and altruistic fashion is recognized, preserved, and strengthened; we will reinforce our ties to organizations that provide information and aid directly and through sites like https://sonomacounty.recovers.org; we will continue to provide aid ourselves, and encourage others to self-organize mutual aid networks of their own; we will continue the tradition of building intersectional support and solidarity across the whole working class, and build a society we can /all/ be proud of and benefit from.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

101 Encampment

Alicia   
 Tesla had already been counting, as per Victoria, so she has gotten 54 every night for the last 7 nights.  One lady has had a spinal tap and she is having issue with flys on her bandage.  Another elderly gentleman was dropped off last night by cab from the hospital.  He has his leg in a cast and uses a walker.  I am going to have to do a APS report there on monday.
 
Also she wanted to let us know that the cops were stopping by at 3am  for the last couple of nights and harassing the guys across the street about the bikes, taking down numbers and all, trying to pin a theft charge on them.  
  Report for Saturday, 10/30/17     Anita


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Talking with those living at the 6th Street 101 Underpass.


Last Thursday, at the Homeless Action meeting held at the Palms Inn, William volunteered to tak to those living at the underpass at 6th Street and 101 in Santa Rosa.  Here is his report:


William:
As my msg said 20 surveyed
 
I asked: "how long homeless"....
(some extrodenary #s... )
Some with housing vouchers... 
Some vets...
 
I asked: "why this particular location (under the bridge) the proximity to CC and Mission Topped the list..
Followed by Safety and community.
 
I asked also :"do you have a safe dry place to go if the area is swept away more purmanantly...
 
The answer was mostly NO... Most said they guessed they would find another place... But did not really know where...
 
Aditional comments were things like...
"They were not a "group", they were individual Human beings"
 
People fealt community/peer support huddled under the bridge. 
Women fealt safer... 
Men mostly clearly PTSD.
 
Not All were dual diagnosed... 
But mostly...
 
Some NOT into drugs or alcohol...
Some were there to use and score...
 
ALL had mental heath issues... 
(I directed several to the rocksy shuttle to wellness center.)
 
My observation was that for the most part it was totally clean.
No trash or butts.
Although one camp had ALOT of bikes and stuff blocking the sidewalk...
Out into the bike lane...

We thank William for his visit and report, and look forward to more of what he learns.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Promises

My name is Patrick Brewer, and I have been homeless for three years this November.  I am disabled, and unable to work.  I receive money from Social Security which is not enough for me to afford to rent or live in.  I barely have enough to survive.  I have talked and have asked various organizations that are supposed to work with homeless to better their situations, to which nobody has done anything to help me so far.  Many people have promised to help me.  Talk, talk, talk, always promise a lot. They don't follow through with.

Catholic Charities is the main entity which has breached their verbal contract to house me.  The police have victimized me multiple times.  I was convicted of a misdemeanor (shoplifting), and was placed on probation.  But they added a search and seizure clause that I can be search anytime, anywhere without probable cause.  I am a former paralegal, and have studied this topic, and have concluded that that the law says that I have waived my rights to privacy, and gave permission to whomever wants to search me.  Since being placed on probation, I have been searched over 20 times, to which I have been charged with 12 more misdemeanors and 2 felonies.  Each time I was searched, I was searched with no probable cause or reasonable suspicion.  It was only because they know I'm homeless, and am subject to e=search and seizure.  Most of the time, I have been as my bicycle rider, doing only business traveling to someplace, involved in no crimes or broken any traffic laws.  I have had them totally intrude and butt in on me in the place I used to stay at without any warning.  They poke their heads in, rip the door open, and pulls guns on me.  Every time they would trashed my place, my belongings they treated with no regard, breaking or damaging many things that I owned my possessions.  They ripped things apart, breaking objects, opening them up, dumping liquids from bottles and caps and containers, pouring liquids out and upon my things, not caring if it destroys my things.  They step and stomp upon my things no considering their actions.  They feel they the right to harass and intimidate and coerce me to injure my sense of freedom.  I feel I am in a concentration camp.  I am in fear and constant anxiety.  I realize I agreed to the terms of the probation, but only under duress.  They gave me no choice.  They basically made me agree or they would incarcerate me for the maximum time they could.  I have had to bail out three different times, and caused me great trouble and grief.  If not for the probation terms, I would not have received one charge.  I would have been charged with criminal conduct or breaking the law at the time of the conduct.  Not one time when the cops see, they automatically tell us  to stop, hands on head, turn around, and search me.  I am a I V drug user.  I am a heroin addict, and have to have heroin every day or I will get violently sick.  So I most of the time have heroin on my person.  Which they know this fact, and act upon it to abuse me and violate my rights as an American, as a citizen of the United States of America.    I am supposed to be protected.  It's my birth right, my God-given right.  But in Sonoma County, I feel I am slave, a non-citizen with no rights.  I pray every day for deliverance from this situation and relief from this plight.  Someone please help me, please.




Privacy Viiolations

September 11th, 2017
Santa Rosa, Ca

Tessala Mayer, am 55 years of age.  I am a resident of Santa Rosa.  Today, I witnessed or engaged in the following actions (actions taken in response to notice or police conduct.  Only what you saw, did, or experienced directly.  I have been homeless since July 2nd, 2017.  I am a survivor of domestic violence, and I am a disabled Vietnam veteran. 

Saturday morning, I was approached from a few of the people whom reside under the 6th Street where I stay, they informed me that an SRPD officer was unzipping all of the tents, not announcing himself, not asking anyone to wake up, get up, etc., nothing was said.  When I arrived, the officer was sitting in his car with one foot outside his car on the street.  I then informed all of the campers what he had done was illegal, and I went around and zipped all of the tents back up.  Most of them were still asleep, and had no knowledge of what had conspired.  The officer released the lady in his car, and drove away.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Empowerment

Greetings!

How would you feel if the money that supports you were given directly to your landlord, your doctor, your grocer, and your local bus system?  Would you feel like your independence and control were compromised?

I would.  I like the fact that I can chose where my money goes, and what I do with it.

So I'm going to propose we turn the financing of homeless service programs into what we all expect for ourselves.  What if we issued debit cards to everyone we serve, filled them with the funds we provide to our service organizations, and equipped the organizations with payment acceptance devices which additionally provided our system with the important service management information necessary for quality improvement.

Serving our customers and allowing them to provide the kind of feedback that incentivizes private businesses toward excellence, would seem a more effective means of insuring client-centered and focused services.  Additionally,  it moves us significantly forward in unifying our reporting systems to improve collaborations.

The technology is already here todo so.  Smart phones with charge cubes process credit cards for all of us, and backend databases analyze our movements and support our needs.  I'll bet there's a silicon valley startup which could be harnessed for this social benefit.

But that's not the key question.  Is the homeless service community ready and wiling to respond to their homeless clients in the same way that the rest of the world responds to us?


Gregory