[Hpn] The Shelter/Advocate Problem

Skald Hareksson hobopoets@yahoo.com
Tue, 24 Jun 2003 13:01:11 -0700 (PDT)


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William, 
 
Bravo, You struck right to the core of the problem when you wrote::  "{Social Workers} refuse to work toward setting up our own co-operative homeless helping the homeless movements."
 
That is EXACTLY what is wrong with the current system.... and it is a system... a self-perpetuating system.  As a social worker and former "clinical director" at several homeless agencies, I saw this up close in action.  Most agencies primary motivation is to continue their own existence.  The cart goes in front of the horse and so these folks pursue more and more money, more and more grants..... to hire more and more staff and develop more and more "services".   It's the same mentality that drives business--  more, more, more,... grow, grow, grow. 
 
And thats not surprising, because if you follow the money you eventually find that wealthy donors and businesses (and the federal government-- which serves primarily serves big business) are the ones who fund all of this and keep it going.  Their motivations are not pure... but are mixed with a variety of suspect beliefs:   that homeless people are inept, that homeless people cannot manage their own lives, that the middle-class lifestyle is the only viable lifestyle, that homeless people lack (their) true religion, that "affordable" housing is a $50,000 dollar house, etc.... 
 
These folks (by which I mean most of the folks at the top) are also motivated by ego.  They want to feel like saviors and martyrs.  Handing out soup (or funding soup kitchens) makes them feel generous... organizing homeless people into unions or alliances or self-advocacy groups does not give them the same "warm-fuzzies".  In fact, that sort of thing scares the crap out of them. 
 
I know from experience, as I tried just that sort of thing and immediately ran up against opposition from my boss and board of directors.  I can't tell you how many times I was told, "they can't manage their own affairs... if they could they obviously wouldnt be homeless.... you need to see yourself as a parent and them as your children".  Most agencies & staff  won't state it so bluntly, but most hold that same attitude. Now that I am "homeless" (though I prefer the term hobo), I see how this attitude comes across to "clients".  
 
The "homeless industry" of shelters, missionaries, social workers, businesses,.... will never go to the root of the problem because that runs counter to their agenda.  They do provide some helpful services (what hungry person is gonna complain about free food from a soup kitchen) but in the end prefer their "clients" to remain isolated, bewildered, and obedient.  They like clients who are extremely grateful and compliant. They dont like "clients" who are forceful, confident, or demanding. 
 
So, the bad news is-- if we want to advocate or organize, we must do it ourselves.  That means we must form our own unions, our own support groups, our own security/safety patrols, our own methods of housing, our own lobbying, our own methods of living free, safe, healthy and happy lives. 
 
But this is good news too.  Because it means we can abandon the labels they put on "the homeless".  We can choose to define ourselves any way we like.  We can begin to form alliances.  We can come together. We can look to Dignity Village and to the Mad Housers for inspiration.  We can remember that MANY cultures honor the simple, nomadic way of life. We can remember the hobo tradition of our own country... and even if we are homeless due to tragedy or accident... we need not increase our suffering by believing the judgements of the mainstream. 
 
We can, at least, retain our dignity and our strength.  To paraphrase a good movie, "You are not your clothes, You are not the contents of your wallet, You are the all-seeing, all-knowing crap of the world".  Which is to say you are a spiritual and divine being and that has nothing to do with having a bunch of expensive gadgets.... 
 
So I agree with William.  Our best hope lies with self-organization and self-advocacy along the lines of Dignity Village in Portland.  And why not a homeless union?  There is a Hobo Union... named "Tourist Local #63".  In some European Cities, there are even Addict Unions.... groups of addicts who have organized together to defend themselves and to advocate for themselves (demand needle exchange programs, treatment programs, etc..).  These are the sorts of activities which hold the most promise. 
 
Go ahead and get what you can from the shelters and food banks... but at the same time I hope we can begin to connect more and more with each other.  I am hopeful that examples like Dignity Village, or Hobo Unions, will take root and spread. 
 
Sincerely, 
 
Skald
 


Clan Hobopoet 


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<DIV>William, </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>Bravo, You struck right to the core of the problem when you wrote::&nbsp; "{Social Workers} refuse to work toward setting up our own co-operative homeless helping the homeless movements."</DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>That is EXACTLY what is wrong with the current system.... and it is a system... a self-perpetuating system.&nbsp; As a social worker and former "clinical director" at several homeless agencies, I saw this up close in action.&nbsp; Most agencies primary motivation is to continue their own existence.&nbsp; The cart goes in front of the horse and so these folks pursue more and more money, more and more grants..... to hire more and more staff and develop more and more "services".&nbsp;&nbsp; It's the same mentality that drives business--&nbsp; more, more, more,... grow, grow, grow. </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>And thats not surprising, because if you follow the money you eventually find that wealthy donors and businesses (and the federal government-- which serves primarily serves big business) are the ones who fund all of this and keep it going.&nbsp; Their motivations are not pure... but are mixed with a variety of suspect beliefs:&nbsp;&nbsp; that homeless people are inept, that homeless people cannot manage their own lives, that the middle-class lifestyle is the only viable lifestyle, that homeless people lack (their) true religion, that "affordable" housing is a $50,000 dollar house, etc.... </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>These folks (by which I mean most of the folks at the top)&nbsp;are also motivated by ego.&nbsp; They want to feel like saviors and martyrs.&nbsp; Handing out soup (or funding soup kitchens) makes them feel generous... organizing homeless people into unions or alliances or self-advocacy groups does not give them the same "warm-fuzzies".&nbsp; In fact, that sort of thing scares the crap out of them. </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>I know from experience, as I tried just that sort of thing and immediately ran up against opposition from my boss and&nbsp;board of directors.&nbsp; I can't tell you how many times I was told, "they can't manage their own affairs... if they could they obviously wouldnt be homeless.... you need to see yourself as a parent and them as your children".&nbsp; Most agencies &amp; staff &nbsp;won't state it so bluntly, but most hold that same attitude. Now that I am "homeless" (though I prefer the term hobo), I see how this attitude comes across to "clients".&nbsp;&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>The "homeless industry" of shelters, missionaries, social workers, businesses,.... will never go to the root of the problem because that runs counter to their agenda.&nbsp; They do provide some helpful services (what hungry person is gonna complain about free food from a soup kitchen) but in the end prefer their "clients" to remain isolated, bewildered, and obedient.&nbsp; They like clients who are extremely grateful and compliant. They dont like "clients" who are forceful, confident, or demanding. </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>So, the bad news is-- if we want to advocate or organize, we must do it ourselves.&nbsp; That means we must form our own unions, our own support groups, our own security/safety patrols, our own methods of housing, our own lobbying, our own methods of&nbsp;living free, safe, healthy&nbsp;and happy lives. </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>But this is good news too.&nbsp; Because it means we can&nbsp;abandon the labels they put on "the homeless".&nbsp; We can&nbsp;choose to define ourselves any way we like.&nbsp; We can begin to form alliances.&nbsp; We can come together. We can look to Dignity Village and to the Mad Housers for inspiration.&nbsp; We can remember that MANY cultures honor the simple, nomadic way of life. We can remember the hobo tradition of our own country... and even if we are homeless due to tragedy or accident... we need not increase our suffering by believing the judgements of the mainstream. </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>We can, at least, retain our dignity and our strength.&nbsp; To paraphrase a good movie, "You are not your clothes, You are not the contents of your wallet, You are the all-seeing, all-knowing crap of the world".&nbsp; Which is to say you are a spiritual and divine being and that has nothing to do with having a bunch of expensive gadgets.... </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>So I agree with William.&nbsp; Our best hope lies with self-organization and self-advocacy along the lines of Dignity Village in Portland.&nbsp; And why not a homeless union?&nbsp; There is a Hobo Union... named "Tourist Local #63".&nbsp; In some European Cities, there are even Addict Unions.... groups of addicts who have organized together to defend themselves and to advocate for themselves (demand needle exchange programs, treatment programs, etc..).&nbsp; These are the sorts of activities which hold the most promise. </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>Go ahead and get what you can from the shelters and food banks... but at the same time I hope we can begin to connect more and more with each other.&nbsp; I am hopeful that examples like Dignity Village, or Hobo Unions, will take root and spread. </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>Sincerely, </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>Skald</DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV><BR><BR><DIV><A href="http://hobopoet.blogspot.com">Clan</A>&nbsp;<A href="http://www.hobopoet.blogspot.com">Hobopoet</A>&nbsp;</DIV><p><hr SIZE=1>
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