[Hpn] HPN QUESTIONS from Catholic New Times reporter - listworker Tom'sanswersanswers

Lucinda Houston lucy@efn.org
Fri, 22 Sep 2000 10:27:27 -0700

I haven't used the cc function yet and don't quite have a grasp on even
forwarding (though just about every kid does)  so I sent it from my "sent"
-----Original Message-----
From: Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net>
Catholic New Times <cnt@total.net>
Date: Friday, September 22, 2000 9:41 AM
Subject: [Hpn] HPN QUESTIONS from Catholic New Times reporter - listworker

>HPN listmembers, please also EAMIL YOUR ANSWERS NOW to the reporter's 5
>questions below about HPN list.  Her writing deadline at New Catholic Times
>in Toronto is today, Friday.
>Hi, Sabitri:  Below, find my "initial answers" to your questions about HPN
>1) When did the Homeless People's Network start and what is the story
>behind it?
>When Global Homeless Discussion list announced around May, 1997 that in a
>few days it would shut down for the summer, I posted online a call for the
>formation of a list for "homeless and formerly homeless people ONLY".  A
>number of us on that list agreed that we who had "been there" needed a safe
>space online to define ourselves in our own terms, outside of the "personal
>deficit" model which blamed us for homelessness.  Clearly (to me) the
>incidence of homelessness tracks "social factors" well beyond personal
>conrtrol -- "wages and rents", for instance.
>HPN was launched with about 20 subscribers the following September.  (We
>now have 139 subscribers, having grown a great deal in three years.)  Sandy
>Andrews of ASU secured us a Web Site at Ariaona State University, where she
>is a Ph.D. candidate (in Communications Technology, as I recall).  A little
>over a month later, and about 1000 posts into our effort, we began
>Archiving posts.  We have now archived about 9000 articles.
>Many HPN listmembers are affiliated with homeless-run organizations, street
>newspapers and activist groups.  So HPN helps such efforts to trade tips.
>2) How did you see the Internet as a potential tool for homeless people?
>I'll leave that for now to others to answer in detail.  My other answers
>here addresss this question somewhat..
>3-A) What function do you think the HPN serves for its subscribers?
>We exchange news and organizing tips, mainly.  We also form friendships.
>For example, I and other HPN subscribers have had the joy of eventually
>meeting some face-to-face, mainly at conferences on homelessness, media and
>Also, HPN has helped us to address issues which politicians and nonprofits
>would rather not notice -- the criminalization of poverty and drugs, police
>brutality and sweeps of homeless people from business districts, to cite
>The willing blindness of service providers to social exclusion and
>systematic injustice is driven by the need to protect funds and jobs for
>providers.  With public-private joint ventures, prviders don't want to
>offend their major sources of funds -- government and businesses.  How can
>you criticize "business as usual" -- even in behalf of your so-called
>"homeless clients" -- when your real clients are your funders?  You can't.
>In the business of ending homelessness, the power of consumers -- to
>purchase services or not -- does not lie with homeless people.  We are
>virtually powerless to affect the design of programs addressing our
>so-called "needs" -- unless we unite to _insist_ on a role in public
>If we let providers or anyone else pick "token" homeless representatives,
>we won't get much change in policy.  Those hand-picked by our so-caled
>"helpers" will be those who say "yeah, I was a sick whore addict until
>Program X set me on the path to earning my own way, so give providers more
>funds (to control our lives in behalf of the power elite)".
>So if we "been homeless" folks are to get any power in relation to civic
>desisions affecting us, we need to choose our own representatives.  To that
>end, it helps us to go online together to discover and reclaim our own
>Those who would lord over us as our helpers have stolen our voices,
>speaking for us without our consent.  In a real democracy, we would have
>our own place at the table where people make policy.  Our voices on HPN I
>hope contribute to that end of civic inclusion.
>3-B) What about non-subscribers who view the postings: do you have any
>sense of what they're getting out of it?
>HPN has no mechanism (yet) for tracking who visits our site, so I'm only
>guessing.  However, many nonsubscribers have emailed me with encouragement
>and requests for information and help.  Sometimes homeless people in dire
>straights email me or other listmembers to ask for personal help.
>4) Had you any hopes of being able to mobilize concerted political action
>on homeless issues and have you yet?
>To "mobilize concerted political action on homeless issues" is a goal which
>I _devoutly_ hope that HPN list advances.  Yet, as listworker, I'd rather
>be the "switchboard operator" who enables folks to do this in ways which
>_they_ (not me) choose.
>I will not speak for other homeless people (unless asked), Personally, I
>think that homeless and poor people in the USA, Canada and largely
>wordwide, are a Subject Population under Domestic Colonialism, in which
>those with more wealth and power Lord over us as if they are our betters.
>They presume to define what we "need" as services or policing from them --
>which keeps them in jobs, and us under their control.  Is this what
>democracy looks like?
>While there is no way to measure to what extent HPN helps mobilize homeless
>activists, I find it comforting to imagine we have helped.  I think we have
>by the organizing tips and news which we've exchanged daily -- at about 10
>posts a day average -- for three years.
>5) Do you know for sure that the subscribers are/were homeless?
>I ask everyone who asks to subscribe.  If they say they have been homeless
>or are homeless now, I take their word for it.  In almost all cases, I
>think my trust is well founded.  Because only homeless and ex-homeless
>people can subscribe, we eliminate much of the "bash the homeless"
>mentality you might see on other online discussions related to
>I hope my initial answers to your questions help you to meet your writing
>deadline, Sabitri.  Thanks for spreading word about us.  And please let me
>know how else I can help.
>Seeking peaceful means to homeless peoples' aims. -- Tom Boland, HPN
>8000+ articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people
>INFO & to join/leave list - Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net>
>Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy