Good news and bad news

Anitra Freeman (
Sat, 15 Aug 1998 21:58:25 -0800

I apologize for taking so long to send you updates on Montreal and the
encampment proposal.  It seemed I'd just gotten over jetlag when the
proposal meeting came due, and I've been batting at email ever since then.
I'm very tired now, but I'll send you a summary at least.

The rough stuff first.  The North Beacon Hill Council meeting was NOT fun.
I had expected it to be rough, because such things always are.  It usually
takes three meetings or more before the flames die down and neighbors
realize we aren't the Boogey Man come to steal their children.  But on the
basis of the earlier Forum, I expected that our supporters in the audience
would stand up for us and take some of the heat.

The construction of the meeting, however, made that impossible.  The
President of the Council, Roger pence, explicitly ordered everyone to
direct questions to SHARE/WHEEL only; no one in the audience was allowed to
make answers or suggestions, only questions.  The effect was to promote an
adversarial atmosphere, US vs THEM.

Roger was adamant that no decisions would be made at the meeting, that this
was just to gather information.  He handed out index cards for neighborhood
residents to enter their opinions -- including any unanswered questions.

I went away from the meeting not at all discouraged, because I have taken
that kind of heat before.  Time and again, the people who scream the
loudest when a homeless shelter or service comes to their neighborhood are
bragging about how much they help the homeless and what good neighbors
those homeless folks are, a few months later.

But over the next two days I did get discouraged, as the Council President
announced that since the majority of the cards had come back completely
opposed to the encampment, this was the end of discussion as far as the
Beacon Hill Council was concerned.  Two other members of the Council have
been throwing email at him opposing that decision and his right to make it.
I've been pumping out email encouraging everyone, Roger and the other
Council members and the City reps who were at the meeting observing, to not
regard this as closed and to keep discussion going.

I've gotten an encouraging response from Lisa Herbold, aide to Nick Licata,
one of the City Council members who supports the encampment proposal.

At the SHARE meeting tomorrow I am going to suggest that we seek out a
church or civic group on Beacon Hill who will be our ally to push for
further discussion.  It is also very possible that the group will vote
"Since they refuse to talk any more, we find a new site and put the tents
up again."

It is important that we don't let anyone think that we've given up and gone
away and encampmment in Seattle is now a dead issue.  But the Parks
Department did a very thorugh job of trashing our tents and equipment when
they tore down the last encampment.  This is a standard practice --
discourage illegal campers from doing it again by destroying their camping
gear.  If any of you can recommend people who will repair or replace our
tents in return for lots of goodwill, shout it out.

Be assured -- I'm feeling like I'm slogging through concrete here, but I
*am* still slogging.  There is no way any of us in SHARE/WHEEL are giving
up on the encampment campaign.

While I was up in Montreal I talked with Michael Stoops of the National
Coalition for the Homeless and found that he has collected over the years a
huge file of information on encampments around the country, and he had sent
all of that info to Georgia Conti of the Department of Housing and Human
Services in Seattle.  I got a copy of the ten-page report Georgia compiled
out of that and other information, and we gave out copies at the
presentation.  Although I want to continue our own independent research,
what I got from DHHS is promising.  The claim of the Mayor's office that
"long term encampments ALWAYS go bad" is proved to be balderdash.  There
are successful long-term encampment, for instance in Aurora Illinois.

It was interesting to me to note that the most successful encampments were
based on an "empowerment model", with the people in the camp managing
themselves, while some of the least successful were run by service

More on Montreal next post.  I have to write a story for Real Change, I
might as well run it past you folks first. :)  Short gist: everybody was
friendly, we had no problems with not knowing French, the street-paper up
there is GREAT, they have their own cyber-cafe, Wes and I wanted to stay
but Tim Harris wouldn't let us.  John Bird announced that The Big Issue LA
is delaying its application for membership in NASNA for one year to allow
the American street-papers to watch their performance and get to know them
better, before making a decision.  His speech cleared up a lot of
misconceptions about himself and The Big Issue and changed some opinions
that had been based on false information.  Jennafer Waggoner still resigned
from NASNA, feeling that her concerns about adequate protections for small
papers have not been given enough attention.  Jade Crown had a one-year
probationary membership and a seat on the Executive Committee on the
stipulation that her paper in Olympia, Bad Kids Magazine, would be printed
by this year.  She had printed one small issue but had no copies with her;
on the precedent set last year when Chuck Currie had brought no copies of
his paper, we had to deny her membership for this year.  On the motion of
Chuck Currie, Real Change is formally the "mentor paper" for the Olympia
publication, and we will be giving her all the support we can to make sure
she does have a paper established by 1999 and is qualified for membership.

A new Executive Council has been elected, with a wide diversity in
membership -- including Roberto Menendez, a native of El Salvador now
residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Tim Harris is still President of the
Executive Council.  The membership gave the Executive Council a list of
priorities to work on, including: protection for existing papers;
development help for new papers; standards of journalistic ethics.

Most of us felt that NASNA is finally getting down to work.

Lots more papers have homeless writing workshops this year.  Several have
poetry readings, and'or have published chapbooks or books.  Others are very
interested in doing the same things.  Several of the women editors,
including myself, agreed to continue to network with each other about
writing workshops and about women's issues.  Maybe NASNA will get a WHEEL.

G'nite for now.

Anitra L. Freeman, for SHARE/WHEEL
Seattle Housing and Resource Effort
Women's Housing Equality and Enhancement League
Tent City 2