Peace be with you
Bigotry, prejudice and stereotyping of people experiencing homelessness runs rampant in our community. Though all home owners or car drivers are not blamed for the transgressions of the few, houseless individuals are commonly blame for faults of any other houseless. In Monday’s Time Standard Homeless in Humboldt even the Human Rights Commission member, and soup kitchen manager, John Shelter said “there are a variety of reasons people don’t have a home in Humboldt County. A few notable factors known to lead to homelessness include lack of health care, domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse.” Sure all those reasons are reasons people become unhoused, but Shelter though working with the houseless daily omits the predominant cause – the fucked up economy.
The federal government made it clear that only 10% of the houseless are considered chronic. It was because only 10% of the houseless were chronic (physically, mentally, or addicted impaired) that Bush started his Chronic Homeless initiative. The number one cause of homelessness is, was and will always be economic. The difference in number is so great that it can’t really be argued, yet it is. No employment, underemployment, unaffordable rents, bad credit, etc, lead 90% of all houseless people to the streets. Why wouldn’t Shelter mention this as a factor known to lead to homelessness?
Shelter like most “service providers” make their money by participating in the Chronic Homeless Initiative. Bush only gives homeless dollars to jurisdictions that focus solely on chronic homeless. 90% of all government homeless funds benefit those who provide chronic homeless services. Add to that that less then 10% of all moneys go towards direct services to the houseless, and you realize that 1 cent out of every dollar goes to help 90% of all houseless.
Since Bush started his Chronic Homeless Initiative the terms “homelessness” and “chronic homelessness” have been used interchangeably. Who hasn’t heard a poverty pimp or grant whore say in public “we’re going to end homelessness in ten years.” What they should be saying is either “we’re going to end CHRONIC homelessness in ten years,” or “we’re going to lie and call all houseless CHRONIC.” To stereo type every houseless person as chronic (since physical disabilities can be proven, most must be called “substance abusers,” or “mentally ill”) is bigotry.
I first saw this newspeak of dropping of the word chronic when referring to the houseless from the start of the Chronic Homeless Initiative, but when another ex-manager of the Endeavor Service Center, Sandi Paris, submitted a letter to the Arcata Homeless Services Task Force claiming that 50% of the houseless were mentally ill, I knew this was an intentional oversight. Ms. Paris didn’t care that she was negatively stereotyping perhaps as many as a million people in this country, nor did the head of Health and Human Services, Phillip Crandall when he called 80% of all houseless mentally ill in Humboldt County’s “Mental Health services plan.” Though both Ms. Paris and Mr. Crandall have access to all the government reports, their standing by these lies can’t be considered unintentional bigotry, but the same type of intentional bigotry that proceeded Nazi German’s first mass murders of the mentally ill.
Most houseless people are good people, just like most housed people are good people. Most work jobs, most have served in the military, and all are the poorest in a time of record poor. To blame the majority of the acts, and conditions of a small minority is bigotry. But when the group who has been entrusted by our community to aid the disenfranchised houseless joins those who traditionally oppress the houseless in stereotyping, especially psychiatric labeling the houseless, then who can the disenfranchised turn to.
At the human rights commission “retreat” October 11, 2008, Eureka Police Chief Garr “POP’em” Neilsen supposedly called for the creation of camps for homeless. He did say he supported the idea, but called the talks “secret.” Pop’em also said he did not have his cops hunt down the Homeless but we see in Monday’s paper the first in a series of Murl Harpham doing exactly that. Harpham was not investigating a crime he was clearly hunting for houseless individuals.
With cops trying to put us in jail, poverty pimps trying to force us on drugs, no legal place to sleep, bathrooms closed to “that type,” and all the resources controlled by those raking 90% of the top, it is easy to see how the houseless make easy targets for classism.
Bigot is defined as “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.” Prejudice as “preconceived adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge; an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.” Stereotyping is “prejudice and false assumptions about entire groups of people, including the members of different ethnic groups, social classes, religious orders, the opposite sex, etc. A stereotype can be a conventional and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image, based on the assumption that there are attributes that members of the “other group” have in common.”
It seems that many in Humboldt County practice bigotry, prejudice, and stereotyping of the houseless. This is understandable when the press only shows one side of the victims of screwed up economic despotism. You think the home owners got screwed in the latest 700 billion corporate welfare bailout, try looking critically at the truth of homelessness. We are all in this together, so don’t wait for your housing to disappear before you support the rights of the houseless, because by then its too late.