Re: Big Issue Questions

Virginia Sellner (
Tue, 17 Feb 1998 17:42:48 -0800

I wish people would REALLY listen to what Anitra has to say -- it makes so
much sense and is so reasonable -- lots of problems could be solved if we
could all develop her reasonable, sharing, dialoguing attitudes.  Virginia

At 08:40 AM 2/17/98 -0800, Anitra Freeman wrote:
>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