A Crackdown on the Poor and Hungry

Concerned about “quality of life” appearances, cities across America are cracking down on the homeless and the hungry, reports Dennis J Bernstein.
By Dennis J Bernstein

Activist and author Keith McHenry, who co-founded Food Not Bombs in Boston in 1980, says cities across the U.S. have begun to take various steps to “criminalize” the homeless and those who try to help them.

Homeless folks gather at sunset. Santa Cruz, CA. 2007. (Flickr Franco Folini)

I spoke to McHenry, author of Hungry for Peace: How You Can Help End Poverty and War with Food Not Bombs, in the seaside city of Santa Cruz, California, where he says there is an ongoing crackdown against Food Not Bombs workers as well as those who they are trying to feed.

“The most common government response to the suffering of those being forced into homelessness is for local authorities to make laws against being homeless,” said McHenry. “Laws against sleeping, sitting, asking for money or what officials call ‘Quality of Life Crimes,’ living outside and lower[ing] the quality of life of those fortunate enough to not yet be forced out into the streets.

“Another [tactic] is to pass laws seeking to end the sharing of meals to the hungry in public … hoping that by hiding the ‘problem’ of seeing so many of our neighbors living [on the streets], it will go away. Over 70 cities have passed laws regulating or banning the sharing of free food with the homeless outside.”

According to a recent report from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, 21.8 percent of the nation’s children and 15 percent of the population overall are poor and often hungry. Despite the growing needs of the homeless, the Federal government continues to cut vital services and assistance meant to help the most at-risk among us, said Jennifer Jones, Executive Director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), including “funding cuts for meals for homebound seniors, vocational training programs for those who’ve lost their jobs, food for low income families, and the list goes on. At a time when our nation needs to protect people from continued and increasing hardship, and support economic growth, the Federal government has imposed sequestration cuts and proposes further budget cuts that take us backwards.”

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, using the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education and the 2013 U.S. Census, at least “2.5 million children in America — one in every 30 children — go to sleep without a home of their own each year.”

I spoke to Keith McHenry in Santa Cruz on Feb. 23 about the continuing attacks on those who have devoted themselves to distributing free food to the poor, homeless and hungry.

Dennis Bernstein: Please talk a little bit in general about what you do in terms of trying to give out food. And a bit about how the need for food has increased in recent years.

Keith McHenry: Recently, I’ve been involved in this project called the Freedom Sleepers, with the right for people to sleep in Santa Cruz. And it’s illegal now to sleep here between the hours of 11 at night and 8:30 in the morning, outside, in a vehicle, or in the streets, or anywhere in the parks.

And the number of people that you see coming to our meals, it’s just always getting larger and larger. And downtown Santa Cruz, like many … downtowns–L.A., I was just down there–it’s incredible the amount of people living on America’s street.

There’s a study that just was reported in the Washington Post… and several articles about homeless children. There’s estimated to be, using the federal government’s own statistics, 2.5 million homeless children in America.

The Food Not Bombs logo, designed by Keith McHenry. According to FNB, “The leaves of the carrot were drawn to represent the torch of liberty and the fist idea was a symbol borrowed from the left idea of united we are strong as in the logo of Students for a Democratic Society. The hand is purple to represent all the races of the world.”

DB: …2.5 million homeless children.

KM: It’s just astounding. It’s heartbreaking. To me, it’s starting to have that sense of [Charles] Dickens, or the Great Depression, or something like that.

DB: …sort of the look of the Third World, because you begin to see more and more whole families on the street.

KM: Absolutely. And you see entire little villages, and camps. And so, Food Not Bombs, and many other groups, are out on the streets serving free food. And what we do is we collect free food that can’t be sold from grocery stores, and we make vegan meals that we share on the streets, under a banner that says Food Not Bombs, with a literature table with information.

And, of course, right now, information on immigrants’ rights and information on how to resist all the crazy things that are going on, as a result of the election of Trump. But also, we were doing that under Obama with his wars, and so on.

So, it’s just a ramped-up continuation of this resistance that we’ve been doing for 30… it’ll be 37 years this May 24th. And the numbers for Food Not Bombs groups is just growing by leaps and bounds, all over the world. There’s like three groups in Turkey, for instance, that are being arrested, for feeding people out on the streets, as part of the general clamp down after the coup attempt.

But Food Not Bombs in America has been having tons of trouble, as well. And, most recently, Tampa, Florida, arrested seven volunteers. But the outrage, world-wide, was just so huge that the district attorney dropped the charges.

And right now, as we’re speaking, there’s a meeting to try to figure out…. with the city, to try to figure out what to do about Food Not Bombs. But, fortunately, those young people there, are just so impressive and so amazing, that they are not going to bend to the will of the authorities. Which is, basically, to try to get you to get a permit that then, in our experience, they withdraw as soon as they want to get rid of you. And then they use that as “Oh, well they had a permit, but they did something wrong, now they don’t have it. Now it’s our legitimate right to harass them.”

The reality is, you don’t need a permit to do this. We don’t get paid. It’s just a gift… an unregulated gift of love. And it would be like trying to issue permits for people doing anything to help their community, out of their own free will. Fortunately, we’ve been able to push back, attack after attack. Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Arcata, California, San Francisco, and now there’s even efforts in Southern California and some of those small cities, like Corona, where they’re trying to outlaw outdoor distribution of free food.

So, it’s a growing municipal effort nation-wide to try to make this illegal and difficult, or impossible, for people to feed the hungry, with some kind of a theory that if you stop feeding people, they will disappear.

DB: They will go get a job with their kids. Like they didn’t just lose their job. Like there aren’t so many people who have been permanently out of work. There are so many struggles. We see this all the time. Keith, about how many times have you been arrested for giving out free food?

KM: The San Francisco authorities said I have been arrested 94 times, there. And that the district attorney at the time, Carlos Smith, said I did 500 days in jail. And then I was arrested twice in Orlando, for feeding people, and did 18 days there, which was even more brutal than the 500 days that I did in San Francisco, because Florida jails are just unbelievably horrible. Horrible. In fact, somebody thought I should make a Lonely Planet guide to city jails in America, [which] I might do.

DB: Now, there is clearly… and I’d like you to talk a little bit about this Keith. There’s clearly an attempt, they’re continuing collaborations, cities, states… to criminalize both homelessness, and then the folks who become the supporters, like yourself, like people who provide food. This is sort of part of a trend, right?

KM: Right. It is. And there’s this odd thing where there’s… at least one consultant, and then possibly more, who are going around, helping cities, at a cost of $5,300.00/month, solve their homeless problem by removing outdoor food service. And the most recent one was Phoenix, Arizona, where they actually… the Phoenix Human Resource Department, last September, did this thing called the Street Feeding Collaborative to educate faith and community based groups about why feeding can do more harm, than good.

And the kind of the leader of this, or the most prominent spokesperson for this theory, that feeding people outside will encourage them to stay homeless, and that somehow eating indoors will essentially get them access to addiction services. And his perspective–this man, Robert Marbut from San Antonio, Texas–is suggesting that basically people are on drugs or alcohol, and if they’d just get off of drugs and alcohol, by going to one of these multi-service centers, they’d get help, they’d get access to housing, they’d get drug treatment, and so on. But, if you feed people outdoors they won’t get those services.

And he’s really pushing this idea, but it’s been sadly, for him, a failure. And that’s where, and sadly for the homeless people that actually have tried to… that have been either denied food because people have been stopped from feeding people, or who also end up in these programs, and actually don’t get the help that is so promised.

(Photo by Luis Felipe Salas, 2009)

And most famously he has a program… he started a project that cost $100,000,000 to start up, in San Antonio, Texas, called Haven for Hope. And, even in the last 12 months, there’s been news reports … that actually the homeless population is just huge in San Antonio, and way beyond the capacity of Haven for Hope. And Haven for Hope is in financial trouble, and it’s just actually not a solution.

And I know, here in Santa Cruz, California, most of the people that eat with us actually do eat indoors at St. Francis, Monday through Friday, when they’re open. And they’re not getting drug rehab or any kind of housing. We have a Housing First program, which most of these do.

And very few people actually, ultimately do get housing. You hear huge stories all the time of like “Well, I went to this meeting, that meeting, and I had this voucher, and that voucher, blah, blah, blah. And after 3 years I never got any housing.” And you hear this day in and day out from people on the streets.

So these programs really aren’t working and, from Food Not Bombs’s perspective, is that we should be out there building solidarity between the housed and the unhoused, so that we’re humanizing the people, rather than dehumanizing people living on the streets. And that we make the point that we have to change all of society.

It’s not a matter of tweaking this or getting a drug rehab program there. We saw, when we started 37 years ago, very few homeless Americans. And now, eight years of Reaganomics, and then all the other neo-liberal economic policies, have resulted in millions of people living on our streets. And with Trump, it’s likely to be much, much worse. So, that’s where the solution really is.

DB: I think, Keith McHenry, one of the most troubling things that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen it repeatedly in the context of the work that you all have done, witnessing it through film that oftentimes the authorities, the police, will come and literally take the food out of hungry people’s’ hands, they’ll impound all the food, and then they’ll just throw it in the garbage in front of hungry… this is sort of what they do. Why do they do that?

KM: Well, you know … I think that that is done to try to make it so uncomfortable and embarrassing for people to live in the cities, that they somehow get a bus ticket and go to somebody else’s city to be their problem. [The] city council, here in Santa Cruz, had an agenda item surrounding the issue of homelessness, and they had two things. One was this Housing First program which has been a horrible failure. And the other was funding bus tickets out of town.


It’s just really troubling that people are living on the streets, and then the city government’s policies are like, let’s get rid of them, or let’s hide them, or something like that. And in Santa Cruz there are two groups that are like citizen groups connected to the police. And one of them is the Legalize and the other is Take Back Santa Cruz. And Take Back Santa Cruz is actually really a neo-fascist organization. And homeless people report being beaten by them, and the other thing that’s happening is related…

DB: …what do you mean being beaten? They come right up on the street and beat them, or, throw them around?

KM: They beat them up. Yeah, they punch them and stuff. And we’ve been getting report after report … these people after they push the people around, and everything, and hit them, say “if you’re not out of here, we’re coming back with a baseball bat to beat you up.”

And the other thing, on Tuesday night [Feb. 21]–it freaked me out immensely–when feeding people outside of City Hall, people kept coming in their stocking feet, without shoes. And it turns out people are stealing the shoes of homeless people. Now, maybe its homeless people stealing other people’s shoes because their shoes got stolen, but the rumor on the street says that some non-homeless people are just… [they] see you sleeping in a doorway….

DB: …it’s a way of torturing, and abusing and forcing the issue.

KM: Yeah, just like Frank Jordan, in San Francisco, in the ‘90s, when he was Mayor. He had a thing called Quality of Life Enforcement Matrix Program. And one of the aspects of that program was for the police to surround a group of homeless people, in a park usually, Golden Gate Park, Civic Center, something, and confiscate everybody’s shoes. And here they’re confiscating, officially the police are confiscating people’s belongings. They’re taking their bedrolls, their sleeping bags and everything. And they wake people up, like over and over again, every night.

(Public Domain. 2007)

And, again, on Tuesday and Wednesday morning [Feb. 21 and 22], it was shocking to see the park rangers, Santa Cruz City park rangers, going and harassing homeless people, waking them up. And we’ve even had reports of homeless people being woken up in the middle of the day when it’s legal to sleep.

It reminds me of like what they do at Pelican Bay [State Prison], or in control units in the SHUs in prisons [Special/Security Housing Units, ie. solitary confinement], where they wake you up over and over again. And no wonder people go kind of bonkers…

DB: …and isn’t it in Santa Cruz, Keith, where they use these noise making/buzzing machines that were meant to chase out insects? And they use them to drown out with noise, to intimidate, and run homeless people out, is that true?

KM: Yeah, they have. … The city manager’s office, which is really the people behind this cruelty to the homeless. And they’re working with the downtown business association, the downtown alliance, and so on, and developers, and a bunch of the city councilors put $10,000 or $15,000 into buying what they call mosquito boxes. So at a certain time, at night, under the bridges and parks, this loud, deafening, nauseating sound goes off – you just can’t possibly stay there. And they did that without public comment, or anything. It just became a downtown improvement budget item. And then the next thing you know they’re holding a press conference saying how wonderful it is they got these mosquito boxes.

And so, this chasing Food Not Bombs away aspect of it, while the city council seems to be intimidated a bit because we are really, fortunately, very loved by the people here in Santa Cruz. These two right-wing groups are allies with the majority on the council.

And so, they are really pushing, and the thing that they … so far in the last… since the first of the year, we were told by the police that there’s all these complaints, and we had to meet with them. So, finally, we met with them and they showed us all these e-mails that they got, about, oh, that we left trash after a meal, and actually we clean up and the Post Office people claim the cleanest times are after a meal. And then same at City Hall. The people that clean up City Hall find that, after we serve food there, there’s virtually nothing around after we clean up. So that’s totally a phony complaint.

And, in fact, the bags of household garbage [that] have been laying around the Post Office when we arrive, and I’ve had to pick it up, and it’s clearly white kitchen garbage bags full of Drano and things like that. Things that homeless people and Food Not Bombs would not be leaving on the street. And they take photos of them and email it to all the politicians.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.


35 comments for “A Crackdown on the Poor and Hungry

  1. Kalen
    March 2, 2017 at 19:14

    Excellent and needed expose of reality most of Americans shut themselves off, staying behind their walls or walled settlements. It is out there for everyone to see when opening wide shut eyes to what homelessness is and it is not a disease or unfortunate personal unlucky consequence of economic development or such as BS.

    The homelessness and joblessness are integral part of any capitalistic system, it is not a failure but a profit making feature desirable by oligarchic class since it is used to threaten and intimidate the rest of the workforce.

    And hence we should not even try to solve the overall poverty, joblessness and homelessness problem within the system, it is impossible.

    Instead, we must realize that there is no poverty or homelessness or joblessness and there is huge need for helping hands, for professionalism and hard work to restore our dilapidated towns and cities to improve our collapsing standard of living and longevity. Hence, in fact it is all in our minds since there is in existence enough food for everyone and enough empty houses and apartment for every homeless fellow human being, our brother or sister our father or mother and our children. It is only access to them that is cruelly denied by oligarchs.

    Poverty, joblessness and homelessness is all in our minds and if we the people take power dislodge this abhorrent, inhumane and exploitative regime, ban greed and exploitation, they will soon mostly disappear.

  2. Kntlt
    March 1, 2017 at 21:04

    These city managers will not be merciful enough to provide food for the hungry and will attempt to keep God’s mercy from reaching them.

    Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.
    Thomas Jefferson

  3. geoff
    March 1, 2017 at 20:58

    as i understand it in florida there is a food program from the government. if you have a home and cant make ends meet you get subsidized. as to those people who do not have have a home you can not be properly registered and polticalized. you starve because you are a non-person. unfortunately the investigation of these people provides some clear analysis. 1. some have mental health issues 2. many are veterans of the u.s. military 3. they have ‘condos in the woods’ as a result of the criminal ‘banksters’. 4. we have no institutions properly funded to handle the numbers of families that are in dire need of assistance and they disband.- the u.s. is criminal not ‘exceptional’ (as obama has stated and “yes we can”), and of course the MSM steers clear of any reportage. the wealthy have gated communities and the height of their gates is proportional to their height of their guilt and indifference. oh yes!!! and the level of their fear. “let em eat cake” stupid and deadly!!!!

  4. March 1, 2017 at 09:12

    “So, it’s a growing municipal effort nation-wide to try to make this illegal and difficult, or impossible, for people to feed the hungry, with some kind of a theory that if you stop feeding people, they will disappear.”
    well, they are right, aren’t they ? you stop feeding homeless people, and they will disappear/die…
    you think Empire gives a shit about these people ? ? ? Empire doesn’t give a shit about the 99%, much less the X% who are homeless…
    ALL these issues of war, homelessness, poverty, cruel war on (some) drugs, etc, ad nauseum, will NOT be ‘solved’ -much less broached- unless/until Empire falls…
    simply won’t happen… maybe some minor shit around the edges to forestall the guillotines, but dismantling Empire is necessary to bring about reason and equity…

  5. March 1, 2017 at 08:16

    I was simply suggesting on the issue of churches using their moral authority could be a major point of attention in a nation where morality is extremely neglected, and they could step out with statements about the poor. I’m not talking about money but leadership of clergy to challenge the current police state we live in, and I do believe it is a police state. Obviously dealing with the poverty caused by capitalistic greed and a system that makes housing unaffordable should be the answer, but greed, selfishness, and corruption prevent any meaningful action of government. Since so many attempts to help the homeless are dealt with viciously by the authority figures of municipalities and state, as this article shows, solutions haven’t been found. I was only saying that all the platitudinous pontificating about this Christian nation is clearly shown to be hogwash when the believers do very little to follow the example of their purported master. I’m not talking about sums of money but leadership. One individual attending a city council meeting is nothing but a lone voice in the wilderness, Mr. Soudy. Who is stepping out to challenge this nasty authoritarian system that is throwing truly caring people in jail for their good works?

    • Anon
      March 1, 2017 at 09:40

      You are both right: churches have small audiences, and action of others is needed. It is big business-controlled mass media and elections that must be destroyed, to restore free debate and moral consideration of policy. That would require riots and the refusal of enforcement agencies to suppress them. So the moral careers of the late Empire are in organizing enforcement to refuse to protect the oligarchy, organizing destruction of oligarchy mass media facilities, acting as a judge who will protect accused insurgents, etc. The fight is inside as well as outside the empire.

  6. tina
    March 1, 2017 at 00:48

    I live in Wisconsin Paul Ryan and Scott walker put it terms like this.,”They (the poor) do not need a hammock , they need to be empowered by themselves” And what exactly does that mean? Because if you are empowered by yourself with god of course, you will be ok. Well in that case, I want god to send lots of people money, so they can help themselves. Walker and ryan won’t spend or send a penny

    • cincraig
      March 1, 2017 at 05:32

      Hi Tina,

      Why don’t you guys in Wisconsin just vote these guys out of office? They don’t seem to be very concerned about anyone but their donor class. It seems like a no brainer. It probably help all of us in the long run including these homeless folks.

      • John
        March 1, 2017 at 07:05

        As a former Wisconsin resident, I can answer that question with two words. Command Central.

        They are the company that provides all the ballot counting machines for the state. WI law actually requires ballots to be counted by machines. Command Central is a two person operation based out of the same strip mall in Minnesota that Michelle Bachman’s presidential campaign (years ago) was headquartered at. One of the two people involved acts as salesperson. His sister is the other person involved, and she is the programmer. They started this company after she lost her previous job for refusing to take an ethics exam.

        Every machine used in Wisconsin has been shown to be hackable, with many of the machines being “refurbished” after other jurisdictions got rid of them becauase of their proven vulnerabilities.

        There has been massive documentation of electoral fraud in Wisconsin, much of it available at the Brad Blog (there are even documented incidents of more votes being recorded in certain areas than there are registered voters.)

        • John
          March 1, 2017 at 07:06

          Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Command Central’s logo is a sylized eye in the pyramid, where the eye is the letter c. I really wish I was making this up.

        • Sam F
          March 1, 2017 at 09:25

          If you can get any evidence of vote rigging by the machines, I suggest that you sue for subversion, civil rights violation, and racketeering damages, under seal (secretly) and request an order for the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to investigate the voting machines. First do a study of the party affiliations of those who voted to require voting machines, and those who selected the company, and those who run it. Probably all Repub gangsters. Compare the vote results with exit polls in contested districts. You will need strong enough evidence to prevent dismissal for “insufficient evidence to state an allegation,” because they will not allow subpoenas or raids on mere suspicion or speculation. See whether your US attorney is a Repub controlled by the gangsters. If the machines are used in national elections, you could try a district like NY or NYC with a Dem or liberal US attorney.

          If you can find any strong connection of any kind to the 9th circuit (California etc.) or to Virginia, or maybe Chicago, file the case in US court there, because they have specialists to investigate internet fraud and digital devices. You will have to get the FBI to monitor phones, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to monitor internet traffic to see how they corrupt the vote tallies. Find a liberal “embedded systems” or other software engineer to examine the software in detail, if you can get it after a raid. Do that a few months before an election using the machines, so that their operation can be studied.

          If you know nothing about law or digital technology and have no organization in mind, collect the above evidence and find a public-advocacy group that can do the legal and tech work.

  7. What a mess
    February 28, 2017 at 21:12

    Also when Hardware stores do a reset they usually throw away a lot of hardware
    that could be donated to the tiny houses…they also have unwanted paint!

    • John
      March 1, 2017 at 06:54

      Something very similar to this was being done in Madison, Wisconsin. It came out of the Occupy movement there. OM Build was the name it was working under (and may still be). They got the university to provide abd install solar panels (perfect training for students going into that field). They were built on trailers so they could be moved every couple days as city ordinances required. Most of the wood used was gotten from reclaimed pallets.

  8. What a mess
    February 28, 2017 at 21:07

    Almost every town and city has a lot that could be used either for tiny houses or community gardens!
    Also porta potties should be mandatory in every town and city as a public service, with the homeless paid and
    provided materials to clean them up.Perhaps the reward for cleaning them up could be a tiny house.

  9. John
    February 28, 2017 at 16:34

    Food Not Bombs is an amazing disorganization. Not only for the work it does in helping the helpless, but also in exposing the abhorrence of Capitalism.

    The food it uses is not purchased, but is food that would be poured into a landfill if not used by FNB.

    When helping start up a FNB chapter in my hometown, I was appalled to learn that the major grocery chain (which has since been bought by a larger chain and then bought again by yet a larger chain), rather than donate it’s about-to-be-expired produce to feed hungry people, instead pulverized and put poison in it (which cost them more than allowing volunteers to come pick it up.)

    Another store informed us that they did not remove produce from their shelves until it was already rotting.

    To pre-empt those who would object to the fact that FNB only serves vegan food, the reason for this is practical, not ideological – it is easy to visually inspect a vegetable to determine if it is OK to eat. The same cannot be said about meat, eggs, or dairy products.

    When I was involved with FNB in my home town (before moving away), our main donor was a bakery. We not only did outdoor feedings, but provided bread to all of the local homeless shelters, drop in centers, etc, giving them all more bread than they could give to people, but also had enough leftover to keep the bellies of our activist group full, and still had enough left over after that to provide the vast majority of input for the compost pile we had for the community garden we ran for the families in the housing projects near our base of operations. The amount of perfectly good food that our Capitalist food system throws away is amazing (and unforgivable when so many people go hungry.)

    There are something like 6 vacant homes in the US for every homeless person.

    The State of Utah (of all places) has begun a program where they give homeless people an apartment and a social worker. They have shown it is substantially cheaper to do this than to not do this (the reduction in cost of emergency room visits for exposure related problems more than pays the cost of literally eliminating homelessness.)

    Who would have thought that, on the issue of homelessness at least, that Utah would be more progressive than California?

  10. rosemerry
    February 28, 2017 at 16:29

    Just for interest.I am in France and the government has just introduced a law where the big restaurants HAVE to arrange with organizations helping the poor to take and distribute excess meals rather than allow waste. Hope it works- it is already done voluntarily by some.

    • February 28, 2017 at 19:08

      Both Britain and the USA waste 40% of the food they produce, enough to feed the world’s starving.

      • Zachary Smith
        February 28, 2017 at 22:18

        In the absence of stout evidence, I doubt if 100% of UK and US food would feed the world’s starving. Anyhow, in the corn fields around here, the modern combines gather virtually all the grain. In the old days the simple machines left enough to make gleaning worthwhile. Not anymore – the only places the birds bother to gather now are where a bit of shelled grain was spilled while filling the big semi hauler from the harvesters.

        No doubt there is a lot of actual $$ waste in the fruit orchards and vegetable fields, but those are mostly empty calories.

        The American Empire has learned that you can control nations when you control their food. The vaunted Trade Agreements allow this nation to dump cheaply grown (often much subsidized by the US taxpayer) on some poor nation, and that ruins local farming because they can’t compete. The only real food available soon comes from the Big Corporations, and they charge what they please. A little or a lot of starvation doesn’t bother them the least, little, bit. No more than when another Big Corporation buys a 20 cent/dose drug and hikes the price to $500/dose.

        Isn’t predatory capitalism Great?

  11. Cal
    February 28, 2017 at 15:08

    ”And the kind of the leader of this, or the most prominent spokesperson for this theory, that feeding people outside will encourage them to stay homeless, and that somehow eating indoors will essentially get them access to addiction services. And his perspective–this man, Robert Marbut from San Antonio, Texas–is suggesting that basically people are on drugs or alcohol, and if they’d just get off of drugs and alcohol, by going to one of these multi-service centers, they’d get help, they’d get access to housing, they’d get drug treatment, and so on. But, if you feed people outdoors they won’t get those services.

    And he’s really pushing this idea, but it’s been sadly, for him, a failure. And that’s where, and sadly for the homeless people that actually have tried to… that have been either denied food because people have been stopped from feeding people, or who also end up in these programs, and actually don’t get the help that is so promised”

    Feeding them on the streets isn’t helping much either –its very short term.
    Ideally all the homeless would be put into homeless shelters where the drug addicts, mentally ill and those just down on their luck could be sorted out , separated and treated accordingly.
    With all the old vacant buildings in cities you would think some money could be allocated to revamp buildings and get them off the streets.
    I recently had experience with trying to help a fellow who lost his job due to doing something dumb on his last job that is affecting his ability to get a similar job.
    I kept urging him to get a part time job, which are plentiful here, any kind of job, that would at least pay his rent while he kept trying to get the job he really wanted—but he wouldn’t—-instead he has borrowed money from everyone he knew until people refused to give him anymore.
    Now almost 5 months later he is 2 months behind in his rent and finally got evicted, had his leased SUV taken back long ago so he is without transportation. He called me from a motel for more money and I said no. I had called the Religious Community Services here and they had room at their homeless shelter where they also serve 2 meals a day and help people get jobs. I told him I would pay the storage fee to store his belongings for 2 months to see if he could get on his feet with some help from this service org and would take him to the shelter — but he refused that deal. Quite a lesson watching his descent into homelessness.

    • John
      February 28, 2017 at 18:21

      When I lived in New Orleans, I got to know a homeless guy, because he often came to the shop I worked at to ask to put his backpack (that contained everything he owned) behind the counter.
      He was 16. His parents kicked him out when he was 14 because he was gay. He had made his way to New Orleans to avoid harsh winters in his home town.
      He was unable to get an apartment on his own because he was too young. He was unable to get a job because he had no address. Instead, he usually stayed with older men for short periods, until they started making him do things he did not want to do with them, or he lived on the street. I did put him up once, and he was amazed that I set up a separate bed for him (it was the first time anyone had put him up without expecting sex as part of doing so.) I then, along with another friend, found him a more permanent place to stay.

      While living on the streets, he actually made very good money prostituting himself. He then would give over 90% of what he made this way to other homeless people who did not have his advantage of being young and cute. Many (if not most) of these homeless people were Vietnam vets who were suffering from various physical and psychological disabilities.

      Quite a lesson watching how people surviving homelessness actually do so.

    • Zachary Smith
      February 28, 2017 at 22:00

      Ideally all the homeless would be put into homeless shelters where the drug addicts, mentally ill and those just down on their luck could be sorted out , separated and treated accordingly.

      I’d propose these “shelters” be special-built for the purpose. The concept of “micro” houses is becoming widely understood, and in part because the rich bastards are hogging so much of the national income the working poor cannot afford anything else. Construct the structures to be as nearly fireproof as can be managed. Concrete block construction would limit any fires to that apartment/room. Central heat through steam pipes. Hinged bed platform would rest against wall during non-sleeping times. Tiny bathroom with shower and toilet. For a single person I’m thinking of a really small space in terms of square feet. Since this is new construction, toss in a TV jack to either a central antenna or a basic 5-channel cable of whatever local stations an antenna would have received. (rightwingnuts used to bay at the wind about how Poor People owned TVs! I’ve seen with my own eyes the old CRT units for sale at southern charity stores for 10 cents) Sloooow internet jack. Small shelf unit for books. Expand/link rooms as necessary for families. Central food – three simple but nutritional meals prepared by in-training former-homeless supervised by an honest city employee. Paved walks to bus stops, garden areas if land is available, and large bicycle racks.

      I want to provide minimal decent & safe out-of-the-rain dwellings, but nothing anybody would consider the least bit extravagant. That “safe” would also mean the door has a good lock, and somewhere a small emergency hatch which could be opened only for an emergency – closing it would require a technician. (attempted arson by the truly deranged could well be a problem, so also a flood-the-place sprinkler system)

      • sierra7
        March 2, 2017 at 00:52

        I would like to add that these types of housing should be out in the rural areas where decent soil can be used for community gardening………
        None of this will work of course, because too much of our citizenry has been well brainwashed about self help and all that sort of rot….so many of those homeless hare mentally ill, veterans with war time trauma….it’s all disgusting.
        We claim to be a great “christian” nation but we are truly emissaries of Hell.
        Remember that during the Great Depression in the southern orange groves that had a surplus of unsold oranges, the owners dumped these unsold fruit into ravines, poured kerosene over them and set the whole pile on fire so as not to give them to the hungry.
        That’s our great, “for profit” system….really Christian!!

  12. February 28, 2017 at 15:04

    Truly disgusting. This is not a “great nation”, what a joke! Where are the churches to speak up about these indignities? We need strategies devised to show what a cruel country this has become! The rulers devise all sorts of ways to prohibit speaking out but we have to find ways regardless.

    • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
      February 28, 2017 at 15:15

      Hey, Jessica, hold your horses a bit, please. The churches you refer to are struggling to stay in business. You might like to read a book called “The End of White Christian America”……..The issue goes far deeper than that. Nobody is prohibiting you from speaking out. For example, go to the meetings of your city council and when they complain from LACK OF FUNDS, ask them to speak up against the $$$BILLIONS for other countries (you know what I’m talking about) but not for needy Americans!!! HOLD THEIR FEET TO THE FIRE…..$38 Billions can go along way helping Americans who need help…………

      • John
        March 1, 2017 at 06:43

        Many churches are struggling, yet Pat Robertson, Creflo Dollar, Billy Graham’s son, etc are doing quite well. New Life Church is rolling in the dough, as are most of the large churches. One can argue that those that preach “prosperity gospel” are the antithesis of Christianity, and it would be nice if the few good churches left would preach this from thd pulpit.

    • Anon
      February 28, 2017 at 20:22

      No doubt most churches are dependent upon the selfish, who use them to cover their moral corruption. But they prove their worthlessness as moral educators by making themselves dependent upon money from the immoral, and by sanctifying the immoral.

      It is the corrupt upper middle class and above who attack and revile the poor, in mass media, in the halls of power, and among themselves. They cannot pretend to be decent without constantly practicing their fake rationales and excuses. To act morally forces them to admit that they have no virtues without giving away their purchased claims to virtue. What then will their corrupt social group think of them? How will they make deals when reviled as having descended to the subversive “mob rule” masses?

      It is easy to structure assistance programs with cooperation-dependent strata to demotivate the few slackers and fakers who so irritate everyone else. We do not have those because our unregulated economy rewards scammers, scoundrels, and bullies, and only fear of the guillotine regulates them. Only riots and the refusal of security agencies to protect the rich, will bring working programs for the poor.

  13. Zachary Smith
    February 28, 2017 at 13:24

    KM: It’s just astounding. It’s heartbreaking. To me, it’s starting to have that sense of [Charles] Dickens, or the Great Depression, or something like that.

    DB: …sort of the look of the Third World, because you begin to see more and more whole families on the street.

    I’ll confess I just skimmed this essay not only because I’m in full agreement with Keith McHenry about this situation being “heartbreaking”, but also because it’s so infuriating that Good Christians can talk themselves into denying one of the basic tenets of Christianity.

    But I must also note that Daniel Bernstein has written several recent pieces for this site defending the import of desperate Third World people who must survive by taking jobs and depressing wages of US citizens. In effect, contributing to the dreadful situation.

    His claim to be amazed by the homeless situation while at the same time backstopping Big Corporate’s use of desperate Third World people really does amaze me.

    • Tom Hall
      February 28, 2017 at 16:23

      The people you want to keep out are workers and their families. And the simple fact is that workers don’t “take jobs” from other workers. Nor do they drive down wages. These are things capitalists do.

      • February 28, 2017 at 19:06

        Labor wages are affected by supply and demand. Supply of non union workers has always created difficulties for unions. The ratio of workers to job openings is an undeniable dynamic.

  14. Brad Owen
    February 28, 2017 at 13:09

    Meanwhile, over at E.I.R., there is an article in their hot news section about a Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) study that finds China’s New Silk Road infrastructure projects (One Belt One Road-OBOR, or Belt & Road Initiative-BRI), is presently the World’s only economic engine driving any economic growth in the World. The 67 countries participating in OBOR are still experiencing growth through these “economic connectivity projects”. They are excellent “counter-cyclical” investments, enabling them to avoid the slow-motion collapse that the Trans-Atlantic economy is undergoing, since the 2008 meltdown, resulting from the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999. Well at least Asia has been reading FDR’s New Deal playbook. China holds the door open for USA to participate. The days of geopolitics and empires and WAR are severely numbered, throwing City-of-London/Wall Street into hysterical panic.

    • Kntlt
      March 1, 2017 at 21:20

      Greetings Brad… the modern Silk Road is the model for the future. It is a win-win model. Even waring neighbors have to let each others products go back and forth. So why fight when we are cooperating already? Developed countries will trade their technological know how for raw materials, at World prices, with underdeveloped countries, who in turn will use the new acquired technologies to improve their lot. In time, the world can realize a Sustainable Abundance, where we use resources as needed rather than for manupilated cycles. Will the Rothchilds and their psycopath class yield without a fight? That is the question.

  15. Bill Bodden
    February 28, 2017 at 12:49

    Before taking action to crack down on the homeless and those who would help them mayors, city councilors and residents piously recite the pledge of allegiance that ends witi “one nation, …, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” What hypocrites. Since when did “indivisible” translate to “them and us?” How much liberty do the homeless have? What justice, especially economic justice have they enjoyed?

    • Anon
      February 28, 2017 at 19:58

      Yes, it is an easy matter for the selfish to praise the lord and wave the flag to cover their moral corruption. Money=virtue and theft=productivity, ergo gangster=god. Especially when their moral superiors are under attack and cannot dissent during the Republican sermons. Time for the guillotine.

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