Re: Big Issue Questions

Anitra Freeman (
Tue, 17 Feb 1998 08:40:46 -0800 (PST)

Shawn, this is a somewhat belated reply, and a very partial one.  I am
trying to catch up with the correspondence, but as with everyone else
involved, I am sure, I also have a lot of other urgent activities.

There is one point which you might regard as minor compared to others I
haven't answered yet, but which I don't want to let slide any longer
because I believe it is crucial.

You said,
"Regardless of who can and who cannot act on respect for all, would
you disagree that homeless people, like all people, are
ultimately the best arbiter of what is best for them as individuals
as well as a collective 'identity' group."

Shawn, I would agree that homeless people are the best spokespersons for
themselves as individuals, and the best deciders of what is best for them
as individuals.  I believe *every* individual should speak for him/herself
and decide what's best for him/herself, even when I think their choice is
disastrous -- with a few limited exceptions, as in preventing attempted
suicide, where I take full responsibility for very well being wrong.

But I think it is always doubtful for any person to claim to speak for an
entire group, and that includes one or more homeless people speaking for
all homeless people.

What makes me most uncomfortable about the stand that Robert Norse and
Jennafer Waggoner, and their supporters, have taken on this issue is that
it sounds very much like "WE are the valid voice of the homeless."  And I
feel equally strongly that *nobody* is the one and only "voice of the
homeless".  I have a number of formerly-homeless and still-homeless
friends, and they disagree with each other strongly about many things.

When I told Robert Norse
> I have strong reservations that you may be
> harming their [homeless vendors'] opportunities and even more importantly
> infringing on their right of choice by your polarized opposition to
> The Big Issue.

His response was:
> Choice means there have to be two papers.  If all the vendors are selling
> the glitzy attractive "homeless" paper, doesn't this significantly reduce
> Jenafer's market?

And so, if all the vendors *choose* to sell the "glitzy attractive" paper,
are we supposed to force some to sell Making Change instead, in order to
protect "freedom of choice"?

The Big Issue is willing to give Jennafer material support to make Making
Change a strong paper that can hold its own market.  So are quite a lot of
other people, including myself.  From what I have seen of the temperaments
and beliefs of the variety of vendors in Seattle, I would expect that among
the homeless population of LA County there will be some who gravitate to
The Big Issue and some who will gravitate to Making Change, even if Making
Change is hand-cranked on an ancient and leaking mimeograph machine.  With
over 55,000 people homeless in the LA environs, Jennafer will find enough
friends to keep her going.  To assume that absolutely everybody is going to
gravitate to the glitzy paper just because it's there is to shortchange
them and to shortchange Jennafer.

To say that there may be many valid models of street-newspaper, that can
co-exist, is to also say that homeless people all have a right to choose
for themselves how they want their voice to be heard, and what they want to
There are many voices.

I have friends who *like* Sid Vicious.

Write On!
-- Anitra