Saturday, September 12, 2009

912: Homeless Refugees Report: ~Peta-de-Aztlan~

9-12-2009 ~ OK. 911 is over with now, get over it! Have we learned its critical costly lessons or have we ignored its root causes in our ignorance? Are we ignoring critical social issues here now inside the United States of Amerika? Are we all treating people with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings of the human family? Are we paying attention to the Canary in the Mine?

Homeless refugees exemplify all that is wrong under a failed state, a failed social-economic system, a failed materialist greedy society.
These connected realities can be changed, transformed and revolutionized once we pay attention to people's basic survival needs, raise consciousness and come togehter as one family! Learn!!!
~Blessings for a Safe Day! ~Peta-de-Aztlan~

Local Links:
How To Advocate for the Homeless! ~ CLICK LINKS!

Atlanta's largest homeless shelter sues City Hall

September 11, 2009 at 11:26 am by Thomas Wheatley in News
FIGHTING BACK Anita Beatty of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless says city's conspired to shut down her Midtown facility

Anita Beatty of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless alleges that the city conspired to shut down her Midtown facility.

A lawsuit filed by the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless that accuses the city of Atlanta of using "improper, illegal and unethical means" in an attempt to shut down the organization's controversial Peachtree-Pine shelter will get its day in Fulton County Superior Court on Sept. 21.

The 23-page filing alleges that the city has used a multi-pronged approach since 2007 to try and shut down the shelter — the largest of its kind in Atlanta, and, according to neighbors and city officials, a magnet for crime in a gentrifying corridor.

City Hall officials have damaged the organization's reputation and ability to compete for funding, the task force's lawyers claim, by delaying certification needed to apply for grants, making defamatory remarks to private donors, and cutting off water service to the shelter for unpaid bills. The lawsuit also accuses officials with Central Atlanta Progress, a civic booster group, of instigating the media to report negatively on the shelter.

The lawsuit asks the judge to stop the city from collecting on the shelter's water bill debts, defaming the task force, and refusing to issue the certification it needs to seek funding. (Here's a link to a PDF of the task force's lawsuit.)

A.J. Robinson of Central Atlanta Progress strongly denies any conspiracy between the downtown organization and City Hall to shut down the task force. In an interview with CL, Robinson claimed that other local organizations were more effective than the task force when it comes to helping people break the cycle of homelessness.

"It's not about the homeless population," Robinson said of the dispute. "It's about a very poorly managed and poorly operated operation. I wish we could influence the media to shine a light on this organization and how the people in there are not being served. There are better facilities around the community that can serve that purpose."

Robinson also pointed out that CAP gets involved in all issues that impact the community, and he claimed that CAP officials' conversations with reporters about the task force were aimed at providing journalists with information to help them write more accurate stories.

For years the task force and city have butted heads over how to tackle Atlanta's homelessness situation. In 2007, the city removed the shelter from its list of suggested donors, a move that weakened its ability to obtain funding.

Task force officials, however, say it serves homeless people who are often turned away from crowded city facilities, and point to its success stories. It says the city wants to push out Atlanta's homeless population to appease the downtown business community.  (For a thorough look at the dispute between the task force and City Hall, check out Scott Henry's Dec. 24 CL story.)

On Tuesday, task force officials including executive director Anita Beaty and such supporters as Foods Not Bombs, the Georgia Citizens Coalition on Hunger and the Atlanta Transit Riders Union rallied at City Hall to raise awareness about the lawsuit and urge the media to fairly cover the trial. More than two dozen academics, including housing experts Larry Keating of Georgia Tech and Lindsay Jones of Emory University, issued a statement in support of the task force. The academics wrote:

"…[the lawsuit] reveals how powerful economic and political interests have pursued an agenda of downtown development that sacrifices the well-being of working families, the poor, and homeless people. As concerned academics who believe that our city's future should be shaped by Dr. King's dream of a beloved community, we hope that this potentially precedent-setting lawsuit will receive the widest possible publicity."

As of Tuesday, Debi Starnes, a former Atlanta City Councilwoman who now serves as Mayor Shirley Franklin's chief adviser on homeless issues, and two employees of the city's grants management department have been deposed by the task force's attorneys. [CL and the AJC were also subpoenaed as part of the lawsuit, but exercised reporters' privilege.] Starnes referred questions to Franklin's office. The mayor did not respond to emailed questions.

UPDATE: In its lawsuit, the shelter claimed the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management failed to provide information leading up to a December 2008 water and sewer service shutoff because of unpaid bills. A department spokeswoman writes:

The Department of Watershed Management is charged with collecting water and sewer revenues for the City. The Metropolitan Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless shelter at Peachtree and Pine currently owes more than $147,000 on one meter, which has been disconnected. The shelter paid the balance on the second meter after a court order was entered instructing it to do so. Prior to that court order, the shelter was delinquent on the bills for both meters.

(Photo by Thomas Wheatley),0,6378069.story

KDAF~Photographing the Homeless

Fort Worth woman spends three days on the streets to capture the lives of the homeless~Note: SEE VIDEO @ WEBSOURCE~PSL

Walt Maciborski

The 33 News

September 11, 2009


Click here to find out more!

A photographer in Ft. Worth hopes to change lives one picture at a time. She just finished a dramatic photo exhibit -- to make good on a promise she made to a homeless man 24 years ago.

'His name was 'Mexican Johnny' on the street," photographer BJ Lacasse said. "And he was very funny, very humorous, and he kinda touched my soul and we got to be friends. He gave me a pen; he handed it to me and said, 'Promise me something; one day you'll write about us. You'll tell our story.'"

Now, BJ is telling Johnny's story and the story of the homeless people in Fort Worth. At any given time, the Presbyterian Night Shelter in Fort Worth says there are about 4,000 homeless men, women, and children on the streets.

"It's a human tragedy; it's a social tragedy. It's everyone of ours problems," BJ said.

BJ spent three days on the streets to experience and photograph what life is like for Fort Worth's homeless, hoping to catch a gritty reality most people don't see -- or they choose to ignore.

"I caught everything, you know, pretty much as it started happening. Right when the sun came up and tarps around me started moving; cardboard boxes and everything started becoming human all around me," BJ said. "A lot of them just need a leg up; some of them lost jobs, lost their homes, have disabilities."

Her subjects range in age from 8-months-old to 85-years-old.

BJ says she'll never forget the reaction of one woman when she gave her something most of us take for granted.

"One lady broke down and started crying when I gave her a toothbrush."

BJ says one man told her it's a good day when you get to the trash bin first. Now, she hopes she can give these people a voice, through pictures, that speaks more than a thousand words.

"We're only as strong as our weakest person," BJ said. "I totally believe that as a community, as a business, as a family, you're only as strong as your weakest person and these people need help."

BJ's photo exhibit called "The Street" will be unveiled Saturday, September 12th from 4p.m. to 8p.m. at Museum Place, 3100 W. Seventh St. All of the proceeds from poster sales and donations will benefit the Presbyterian Night Shelter that feeds and provides a place to sleep for over 700 homeless people a night in Fort Worth.

BJ found out her homeless friend Johnny died, but somehow she thinks he knows she made good on her promise.

A badge of sorrow

Former police officer finds himself homeless

By Maria Cramer Globe Staff / September 12, 2009

Once Christopher Rogers worked security details at the Pine Street Inn, watching over the homeless men who shuffled in and out of the shelter. Now he sleeps there, in a room with 17 other people.

Years ago, Rogers walked a beat in the South End and Brighton, keeping an eye out for criminal activity. These days, he rambles along the streets of Boston, filling the hours until he can return to the shelter.

Until 2006, Rogers was a Boston police officer, respected by many of his peers, a member of a department singing group, and beloved by the students he worked closely with as a community service officer. Since June, he has been homeless, the culmination of a long decline that he says began with a 1987 domestic call that left one of his colleagues dead.

His fall has shocked former colleagues, who want to help him regain his footing, but also see in him a cautionary tale about how a seemingly stable life can be so dramatically transformed.

"I think everyone's hearts go out to Chris because we know the stress involved in our jobs,'' said Superintendent William Evans, who was Rogers's captain in Brighton and ran into him on the street in June. "I think deep down we all think . . . that could be us but for the grace of God.''

Rogers, who turned 49 last month, has a hard time explaining his plight to the officers he now runs into - or even to himself.

"It's embarrassing,'' Rogers said during an interview outside the shelter in the South End. "I never thought I'd be homeless.''

The seed was planted, he believes, during his rookie year on the force, when he saw Officer Roy Sergei gunned down during a shootout on Commonwealth Avenue. Rogers says he never got over the shooting or his feelings that he could have done something to save his colleague.

In 2003, his wife of 11 years left him and gained primary custody of their two young children. Three years later, Rogers was asked to retire after a department doctor diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and the department deemed him unfit for duty. The department would not comment on what led to the diagnosis.

Rogers, who once owned a Mercedes Benz and a house in Franklin, had to leave Boston and move back in with his mother in North Carolina, sustained only by the partial pension he qualified for after almost 20 years on the force.

After working a series of jobs there, he grew restless and wanted to be near his son and daughter, who live in Milford. He took a Peter Pan bus back up in June, but with no job and no place to go, he moved into Pine Street, where some of those he lives with are not thrilled to be roommates with a former officer. Twice, he said, he has been assaulted on the streets after he told strangers to stop doing drugs in public. Last month, a man hit Rogers in the head with a brick when he told him to stop smoking crack, according to a police report.

"I keep forgetting I'm not a cop,'' said Rogers, a tall, clean-shaven man with a soft, gravelly voice that sounds smooth and warm when he sings, as he often does during his daylong jaunts around the city.

Rogers insists the department's diagnosis was wrong, that if anything, he is still suffering from the after-effects of witnessing the death of one of his colleagues.

Rogers was 26 when he joined the department and was assigned to D-4, the district covering the South End and lower Roxbury. In 1987, during his rookie year, he and his partner, Jorge Torres, were among several officers who responded to a reported domestic assault at a Commonwealth Avenue apartment.

Rogers and Torres walked behind the building, where they found Ted Jeffrey Otsuki, a career bank robber, who was not involved in the assault but was in the building and crawled out the back when he saw the police.

Otsuki fired a barrage of bullets at them, hitting Torres, who survived, and missing Rogers.

The gunman fled toward Massachusetts Avenue. In a decision that still haunts him, Rogers said he did not shoot Otsuki, worried he might miss the gunman and hit a bystander instead.

At the same time, 42-year-old Sergei and his partner were running toward the alley, right into Otsuki's path. The bank robber fired 13 shots at them, killing Sergei, a 17-year-veteran and father of three.

Rogers, who described Sergei as a role model, wept as he recalled the shooting.

"A guy loses his life covering you,'' Rogers said, his voice breaking. "You never get over it.''

The next day, Rogers said, he met with police officers trained as peer counselors. They told him he was fine, he said, and Rogers was back on the job a day later.

Today, the police department requires that an officer involved in a traumatic incident meet with a team of officers certified in a national counselor training program and at least one clinical social worker or psychologist. A department spokeswoman acknowledged that the counseling program has evolved significantly since the 1980s.

For years after the shooting, Rogers appeared to lead a normal life. He and five other officers formed a celebrated singing group called "Voices n' Blue,'' which performed for teenagers, politicians, and police officials across the city.

As a community service officer who worked with students in the schools, Rogers took teenagers on field trips, like white water rafting in Maine and skiing in New Hampshire.

"Chris was a very good officer,'' Evans said. "He was great with the community, great with the kids.''

But every day Rogers thought about the shooting. He often dreamed of Sergei's death. He did not see a therapist.

It did not help, Rogers said, that some officers called him "Christine'' after they saw him crying for Sergei. Others, he said, would remark, "Wish I'd been in that alley. [Sergei would] be alive today.''

Thomas Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, was in Rogers's class at the police academy and has heard reports from other officers who have run into him. He said he is not sure what he can do for Rogers.

"If he wants help, I'd exhaust myself trying to help him,'' Nee said. "I just don't know what kind of help we can give him now.''

Rogers said he is not looking for handouts. He has scheduled appointments to find housing and said he is meeting regularly with a therapist.

"You can tell he's very motivated,'' said Ken Brady, Pine Street's case management coordinator. "He doesn't want to stay here.''

Rogers has family in Boston, but doesn't want to bother them.

"We've always been taught, 'You take care of your own issues the best way you can,' '' he said.

So he tries to stay positive. He shines his shoes like he did when he was a police officer. He dresses immaculately, making sure his clothes are clean and neatly pressed, a way to remind his old colleagues that he cares about his appearance as much as he did when he was in uniform.

"I still feel like I represent them,'' Rogers said, smoothing his black silk pants. "You're always a police officer, no matter what.''

Maria Cramer can be reached at

Housing for formerly homeless gets some financial help

A San Francisco affordable housing development just got a shot in the arm to the tune of nearly $10 million in tax credits and federal stimulus dollars. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer announced the cash -- as well as more than $200 million for other affordable housing projects around the state -- this week.

The project, known as Parcel G, is a parking lot on the southeast corner of Fulton and Gough streets -- an old site of the Central Freeway. The five story building will consist of 120 studio apartments for very low-income, formerly homeless people, as well as community serving retail, which will include job training, an interior courtyard and space for supportive services. The project is part of the city's development plan for the Market-Octavia area.

According to Lockyer's office, stimulus money can be used in place of previously awarded tax credits, which developers have had trouble selling during the market slump. Parcel G will receive $2.2 million in federal credits and $7.5 million in state credits.

Posted By: Marisa Lagos (Email) | September 11 2009 at 12:00 PM

Read more:

Jean-Pierre Muller/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

September 12, 2009
Fashion Diary

Aware of the Homeless? Well, You Could Say That

The overused journalistic trope used to be that the zeitgeist whispered and fashion listened. These days no special auditory skills are required to gauge the spirit of the age. Lately the drumbeat of negativity is so loud that designers have put their hands over their ears.

"I don't want to be Debbie Downer," said Daniel Silver, one of the two designers (Steven Cox is the other) of the men's wear label Duckie Brown, before their Bryant Park show on Thursday. "But I feel like everyone's floundering. It's a floundering season. But let's not focus on that."

Some of us prefer to think of fashion as a charcoal filter that indiscriminately sucks up whatever's swirling around, rather than a big ear that listens to what's going on in the culture. Sometimes ideas become clarified in fashion, and sometimes they get stuck as gunk.

How else to account for a spate of references in fashion to homeless chic? A 28-page pictorial in the September issue of W magazine, shot by the British photographer Craig McDean, repurposes shopping bags from labels like Chanel and Dior as makeshift dresses, and shows them worn with furs and pearls and designer bags.

The Russian model Sasha Pivovarova, listless but still ineffably glamorous, is seen slumping on a park bench or a mattress or a bed of Prada bags. Along with the hair and makeup people involved in the story, the stylist Alex White is credited at the end of the spread for having made the (cleverly constructed, it must be said) paper-bag clothes.

Were the W feature a one-off, it would hardly merit mention. Fashion has been down this road before. John Galliano, to cite the most notorious example, was pilloried some years back for his "clochard" collection, which took as its inspiration the still increasing ranks of tent dwellers (mainly Polish immigrants) and others in Paris with no roof over their heads. The collection, of ripped and shredded dresses, stockings laddered with runs and holes, and sooty top hats, sold well, as it turned out, although nobody seemed to pick up on the idea of wearing a balloon hat.

Last week, Scott Schuman, in his popular Sartorialist blog, posted a picture of an unidentified man who, if he is not actually homeless, has a recognizable look.

"I don't usually shoot homeless people," Mr. Schuman said in a caption disclaimer, clearly looking to stave off reader outrage. He added that he does not find homelessness "romantic" or "appealing," unlike "a lot of street photographers."

It was just that the man's jeans-shorts-over-sweat-pants look, his pale blue boots, with matching socks, gloves and glasses, suggested that he had not lost his need to "communicate and express himself through style."

Even that observation was not without precedent. Designers as unalike as Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and even Marc Jacobs have spoken admiringly of the improvisatory and, naturally, desperate way some people without a permanent place to live compose themselves.

"Sometimes they're wearing everything they own at the same time because they have no choice," said the designer Keanan Duffty, who sometimes plays a game on the street that he refers to as "Fashion Stylist or Homeless Person?" "It is not intended as a lack of respect for people with no homes and no means," he said. "It's more a kind of admiration for improvisations people come up with in a dreadful circumstance."

As she prepared for her debut runway show at the tents on Friday, Erin Wasson, a model turned designer, seconded Mr. Duffty's view that the professionals could take some tips from the homeless. And she defended remarks she made last year in an interview with Nylon magazine. "The people with the best style for me are the people that are the poorest," Ms. Wasson said then, a remark that generated an online firestorm — and a very funny video parody of her by the actress Julia Stiles.

"I'm not saying let's glamorize the homeless," said Ms. Wasson, who is often cited by fashion magazines as a style "icon" and a "muse" for Alexander Wang, a designer known for outfitting the kind of women who a couple of minutes ago were reverenced by fashion as "It" girls.

"It's not like I'm saying, 'Oh, God, that's so inspiring — you got your clothes from a garbage can,' " Ms. Wasson said. What is she saying then? "When I moved down to Venice Beach, I found these people with this amazing mentality, this gypsy mentality — people that you couldn't label and put in a box," said the designer, perhaps forgetting that some of those very people live in one.

"I got trashed for it," Ms. Wasson said. "But I still don't think I'm wrong."

See Video ~

Blog boosts homeless woman 2:38
Living in a trailer in a Wal-Mart parking lot, a woman uses a blog to change her life. CNN's Ted Rowlands reports.

Source: CNN  |  Added September 11, 2009

By Ted Rowlands
CNNEnlarge font

(CNN) -- It may have a fairy tale ending -- a story of perseverance and second chances that's playing out live on the public stage of online networking.

Brianna Karp's trailer now sits outside a friend's home near Los Angeles

Brianna Karp's trailer now sits outside a friend's home near Los Angeles

But 24-year-old Brianna Karp's story started as a nightmare.

In a rocky economy, Karp was laid off from her Irvine, California, job as an executive assistant in July 2008.

She got by for a while on temp jobs and unemployment benefits. But when her savings dried up, she was no longer able to afford her rent.

The only answer she saw then was a trailer she'd inherited from her father -- a man she barely knew who had recently committed suicide.

"I was left with a truck and this camper, which I was going to sell but coincidentally this happened to me," she said. "I thought, 'Well, I have this.' "

Karp, who writes that she is also estranged from her mother, ended up camped in a Los Angeles-area Walmart parking lot.

"The first night, I think, in the Walmart parking lot was the scariest," she told CNN. "I was panicking, and I was just afraid."

For comfort, she had her mastiff named Fezzik. And she had her laptop computer.

As she spent five months looking for jobs and blasting out resumes, often spending hour after hour at a coffee shop to take advantage of its free Wi-Fi connection, she also started blogging. The result, the Girl's Guide to Homelessness, chronicled the ups and downs of her new life.

She reminisced about adopting her dog, named for a character from the movie "The Princess Bride," and mulled the pros and cons of having a pet while homeless. She recounted details from failed job interviews and offered tips for other homeless women.

"I was trying to stay positive and cheerful," Karp said. "I started writing the blog in a tongue-in-cheek way to kind of laugh about my circumstances, keep them chronicled. I didn't think anyone would actually read it." Video Watch CNN's Ted Rowland's report on Brianna. »

But people did, including Matt Barnes, formerly homeless himself and running a Web site about his own homelessness issues in Scotland.

He asked her to write for his site and would eventually become Brianna's boyfriend.

Another big break came through a shot at the weird world of reality television.

Karp applied for a show that would offer contestants the chance at a job with Elle magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll.

She was granted an audition for the show and, by her own account, totally botched it.

"I went back and blogged about bombing the interview and made fun of myself," she said.

On a lark, she then wrote to Carroll via her column.

"Dear E. Jean: I'm currently homeless and living in a Wal-Mart parking lot," her e-mail began. "I'm educated, I have never done drugs and I'm not mentally ill. I have a strong employment history and am a career executive assistant. The instability sucks, but I'm rocking it as best as I can."

She told Carroll about her poor interview for the show and finished the note with the question, "How does one get another shot when one screws up a job interview? -- Homeless, but Not Hopeless."

Carroll said she was floored by the note.

"[The phrase] 'I'm living in a Walmart parking lot' hooked me," she said. "I thought, she's so ready to work, obviously she can write, she's got some skills."

Her response appeared in the August issue of Elle -- she offered Karp an internship and a chance to write a fashion blog for the magazine.

"I think she's a new voice," Carroll said. "She's a voice we haven't heard, and I'm excited for her future."

Not that all of her troubles were instantly over. Last month, she wrote, Walmart finally had her trailer towed, and she has now parked her mobile home at a friend's house outside Los Angeles.


She's also still seeking that elusive full-time job, while hoping her newfound high profile will help spread the word about homelessness, and how it can happen to the most unlikely people.

"If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn't assume I live in a parking lot," she writes on the blog. "In short, I am just like you, except without the convenience of a permanent address."

Education for Liberation! Venceremos Unidos!
Peter S. Lopez ~aka ~Peta-de-Aztlan~
Sacramento, California, Aztlan
Yahoo Email: 
Come Together! Join Up! Seize the Time!


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