Anthony and I worked as a group on our teaching project. We wanted to present to our group of friends the misconceptions of homelessness, and further disprove them with examples from readings (Books A and B), lectures (Jim’s presentation on the myths of homelessness), and films we have seen in class (Taylor’s Campaign). Our goal for the presentation was to deconstruct basic societal misconceptions about homelessness. We laid out three central themes for our project to disassemble: the homeless need to be fixed first before they can be trusted with housing; they need to find jobs to get out of poverty; and lastly, homeless people are dangerous. After teaching how these misconceptions were just a construct made from neo-liberal morals, we were hoping our audience would be able to hold a good conversation after the presentation to debrief what was presented to them. We conducted our presentation to a group of friends in the library after class during the week, and had a lengthy debrief afterwards to help each other understand the material laid out even more. Overall, I feel our presentation went extremely well in terms of reaching out to our audience, and helping them understand homelessness as a systematic issue rather than individual issues. I feel we made points that got across to them well enough to help discussion afterwards, and lead to great conversation even when we left the library and started our walk back home. If I could change anything about this project, I would probably ask our audience to continue elaborating more on the points they brought up with common societal misconceptions before our presentation about homelessness after our presentation, to understand if our presentation changed any of these views for them. I would have also liked to have added more myths to dispel for this presentation. I feel it could have generated more conversation when we were done giving our presentation. Overall, I feel Anthony and I did a great job talking about the myths surrounding homelessness.
Recently I was on Twitter, and I saw a post about the homeless in San Francisco. It was a post talking about how badly of an “epidemic” homelessness is in the area. I would have thought nothing on it, it was a post on someone explaining how San Francisco has a housing crisis. However, it was killing me seeing that this person created a thread of videos attached to his post, of homeless people on drugs, using drugs, excreting, and sleeping in the streets. He had videos upon videos, calling the acts disgusting, and harmful for the surrounding environment. While this is an issue that does need to be addressed on how to help with these issues, we need to realize that it isn’t something that these people choose to do. They were put into this situation because of a system which is broken, and needs fixing. It helped me feel better seeing people comment in the chat underneath, saying they were feeling discomfort about the videos being put up. They also were creating conversation about how this is a problem of a broken system, and not the people’s fault. It made me concerned about how we as a people view poverty in America, but seeing others rise to the challenge of having these difficult talks and educating each other helped remind me that we can change this issue.
There are many issues in the system concerning people who are disadvantaged with housing. One of them being there are short term solutions to helping those who need them, but really, there is no one trying to re-think the problems systemically to help bring down the number of people who are homeless. I feel all the short term plans that are happening here in Redlands, like the cold weather shelter, food banks, and clothe drives for homeless, are all completely necessary. However, I feel that there needs to be something else being ran, or having the beginnings, to lead to something that can be more of systematic change. I am working with Ed Torres, and we are trying to figure out how to accomplish this. We are getting in contact with other local agencies to collaborate with, and also trying to use resources which are already available to us. However, I don’t think one organization, or even every organization can change the systematic problem of homelessness. I feel this is an issue that needs heavy rethinking of what it means to be homeless in our society, and also needs more help from the government than just a set budget amount. There need to be experts, and people educated on the issue trying to solve this issue.
This week, Ed Torres, whom I work with, from Center for Spiritual Living in Redlands, came into class to talk about the work he has planned up to help the homeless of Redlands. He gave information as to what our “task force” RRH, the Redlands Round table on Homelessness, is up to; which included looking into buildings which are owned by the city, county, state, or the feds. He explained how we are looking for property in which we can convert into different facilities, such as an intake center, a shower and cooking center, short term housing, and long term housing. In each of these facilities, we are still discussing exactly what it is we want to include. In the intake facility, we are talking about including background checks, a place to register to vote, a temporary mailing address, and a place to help find them find jobs. Showers and cooking would involve having a sustainable garden, and a green building. In the short term housing, it would include daily, emergency, and cold weather shelter. In the long term housing, we were talking about including the long term housing, obviously, and a daycare center, for the parents who are out working but can’t afford child care. Over all, I really feel like Ed and his team can really make some great changes if things go as good as they seem they will be going. There is still much more we need to look into, regarding buildings that need fixing, how to receive grants, and so on.
This week we had a team from the police department come in and talk to us about homelessness. Their division was made up of 3 men, who call themselves H.O.P.E. They were talking to us about how they would go and look for homeless people, sending them information on local shelters, preventing more incarceration of the homeless, and give resources to the homeless. While they were talking, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities between the H.O.P.E. task force, and therapeutic policing. While the two rely on different methods to their policing style, they both came down to one thing; pushing the homeless into resource centers to “rehabilitate”. The only difference with this group is that they strive to better the chances for helping these people get back onto their feet, and start a new life, whereas the police in Down Out and Under Arrest: Policing on Skid Row, really just kept incarcerating, arresting, and citing these people living on the streets for almost anything and everything. While I feel the three gentlemen really did have the best interests in heart, and understanding how difficult it is to give an entire presentation on an organization as complex as H.O.P.E., I still felt uneasy with how they would describe some of the interactions with the homeless. Nonetheless, I found the information shared with us from this group was very insightful to many issues that still need to be addressed with policies, and how people look at homelessness as a problem rather than something which can be managed.
In class this week, we gave group presentations on books we had to read giving different accounts on what it meant to be homeless, and giving a variety of different accounts on people’s experiences regarding homelessness. For the book I had to research, Down and Out and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life on Skid Row, I researched and read about three different accounts on what being a resident on Skid Row was like. Through the accounts of a group of weight lifters, street vendors, and the LACAN film crew. It gave account to how they used their “cop wisdom” to learn to adapt to therapeutic policing. With the three ethnographic accounts the author provided, we can see how these groups proactively taught those around them how to adapt, and in the case of LACAN, fight back by giving the residents of Skid Row a voice to be heard in opposition to how the police treat them. In the beginning portion of the book, it tells how the relationship between therapeutic policing and the mega-missions in Los Angeles came to be. Over all, I found this book to be very informative, and am happy with what I walked away with in terms of knowledge on what happens in Skid Row. In terms of the other presentations, I learned that it is very hard to keep an exact idea of homelessness when reading only one books account on homelessness.
What I would like to focus on in this blog post is the movie which we viewed in class. It was a movie called “Taylor’s Campaign,” in which it showed a man named Taylor running for a seat on the council in Santa Monica. His main focus was on helping the homeless, and ways in which the city can become more involved in helping the homeless. He went around Santa Monica showing his deep connection with these people, talking and sharing stories with them. In some cases, he even drove them to interview appointments for housing. Overall, Taylor was a fantastic man from what was put on screen.
There were instances in which the movie showed how the police would interact with the homeless, and ways in which they would throw away their possessions, make them relocate, and sometimes harass them. It reminded me of the Group “A” book I am reading, “Down, Out, and Under Arrest: Policing on Skid Row”, in which it tells the history of Skid Row. Much of its history revolves around the LAPD constantly arresting the homeless, and relocating them as to not bother the people of the downtown area. It is almost ironic to see similarities, if not the same exact instances happen in real modern times.
I grew up in a small town called Big Bear Lake, in Southern California, where I wasn’t relatively surrounded by almost any people who were homeless, at least as far as I could tell. I grew up in a very sheltered lifestyle, not needing to pay attention or give thought of the importance of paying attention to certain political issues such as the working class, homelessness, and some other subjects. Coming to college did however, change many of my beliefs as I became much more knowledgeable about issues, and surrounded by so many different mindsets. However, back to the main point, I did grow up with my grandmother being heavily involved with helping those who ask for help. She would sit and hold conversations with homeless people, creating hours and hours of connection. She would bring them food, give them money without second thought, and bring clothes. Really, she would do anything to help. I wanted to try to grow up to be like that, but in such a small town where homelessness isn’t too apparent, it’s difficult to be sought after. After even just a few days of this class where we talk about the different means of what it means to be homeless, and the policies surrounding homelessness, I understand so much more why it was so difficult for me to see these instances growing up in my hometown.
After reading “Nickle and Dime,” I realize how difficult it is to even just exist in that sort of lifestyle trying to get by. I feel people, myself in the past admittedly, all too often express how it’s hard work that gets you through life. Once you put in the work, the rest will follow. However, after reading these articles giving different perspectives on working in the underclass, I feel it gives a whole completely new idea on what it means to be in the underclass, and how it works almost like a trap. I would also like to bring up something that stood out to me in an article. It stated how we tend to focus on the lower class as the middle class going into the lower class. Not the people who have been in the lower class for much of their lives. I found that to be a claim in which changed the way I look at class, and how it stands with people peering in on it to observe it as it is. Coming from a perspective on not knowing what an underclass was until a few weeks ago, I feel excited to continue learning what these next few weeks will bring for myself and my peers to learn and experience.