Posts Tagged ‘Homeless Shelters’

Radio Programmes Next Week on Homelessness, Conspiracy Theories and Aliens

February 6, 2019

Looking through next week’s Radio Times for 9th-15th February 2019 I found a number of programmes which might be of interest to some people following this blog.

On Monday, 11th February at 8.00 pm on Radio 4 there’s Beyond Tara and George, about rough sleepers. The blurb for this programme reads

Last year there were nearly 600 deaths on the streets of the UK. In this follow-up to last summer’s Radio 4 series on east London rough sleepers Tara and George, presenter Audrey Gilan catches up with the pair to ask what it would take to prevent the unnecessary deaths of homeless people. (p. 137).

Then a half hour later at 8.30 on the same channel, Analysis covers conspiracy theories. The Radio Times says of this

Professor James Tilley explores the current spate of political conspiracy theories, and examines what belief in them tells us about voters and politicians.

The next day, Tuesday 12th February, at 1.30 pm on the Beeb’s World Service there’s Documentary: So Where Are the Aliens?, which the Radio Times describes thus

Space, to quote the late, great Douglas Adams, is mindboggling big. So huge, in fact, that the probability of there being civilized life elsewhere in the universe is almost a mathematical certainty. This begs an obvious question, to which Seth Shostak – chief astronomer of the Seti institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has devoted his career. He speaks with fellow scientists Frank Drake and Jill Tarter about their pioneering work chasing extraterrestrial radio signals as well as the new listening and light-based techniques designed to open up the sky like never before. Last year’s tantalizing fly-by of the mysterious cigar-shaped Oumuamua has revived interest in this topic, although in 2019 ET could be forgiven for giving Earth a wide berth. (p. 138).

Regarding the programme on preventing the homeless dying, one way to stop it would be to fix the welfare state so that poor and vulnerable people didn’t become homeless in the first place. Giving more funding and expanding the number of homeless shelters so that they were safe and able to provide accommodation for rough sleepers would also be very good. As would support schemes for those with drug, alcohol or mental health problems. And as Mike’s pointed out in his reports on attacks on the homeless, it would also be very good idea for the right-wing media to stop portraying the homeless, as well as the disabled, the unemployed and those on benefits generally all as scroungers committing welfare fraud and generally demonizing them. But as the Tory party, the Scum, Express and Fail all depend on this for votes and sales, it isn’t going to happen.

The prgramme on conspiracy theories could be interesting, but I doubt it will actually face up to the fact that some conspiracies are real. Not the malign and bogus myths about a Jewish plot to destroy the White race, or that the business and political elite are really evil Reptoid aliens, a la David Icke, or have made a demonic pact with grey aliens from Zeti Reticuli to allow them to abduct us for experimentation while giving them the benefits of alien technology. Or similar myths about the Illuminati, Freemasons or Satanists.

The real conspiracies that exist are about the manipulation of politics by the world’s secret services, and secret big business think tanks and right-wing pressure groups. Such as the various front organisations set up by the CIA during the Cold War, the smears concocted by MI5 during the 1970s presenting Harold Wilson as a KGB agent, and the contemporary smears by the Integrity Initiative, funded by the Tory government, claiming that Corbyn and other left-wing figures across Europe and America were agents of Putin. And, of course, the real conspiracy by Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy to have Tory cabinet ministers, who didn’t support Israel, removed from government. As well as the embassy’s role in making fake accusations of anti-Semitism against entirely decent people in the Labour party.

But I’ve no doubt that the Beeb will shy well away from these real conspiracies, not least because of Britain’s sordid role in the West’s history of regime change in Developing nations that dared to defy the Americans and ourselves. The Beeb has put on similar programmes before, and the person being interviewed or presenting the argument was former Independent journo David Aaronovitch. And his line has always been to ignore these real conspiracies, and concentrate on all the mythical rubbish, which he presents as typical of the conspiracy milieu as a whole. Which you’d expect from an establishment broadcaster, that now seems to see itself very much as the propaganda arm of the Conservative British state.

Moving on to the programme on SETI, Shostak, Tarter and Drake are veterans not only of the search for intelligent alien life, but also of programmes and documentaries on the search. Drake was the creator of the now famous equation which bears his name, which is supposed to tell you how many alien civilisations we can expect to exist in the galaxy. He was one of the brains behind Project Ozma, alias ‘Project Little Green Men’ in the 1960s to listen for alien signals from two nearby, roughly sun-like stars, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. Which found zilch, unfortunately. Shostak and Tarter were two of the leaders of the new wave of SETI researchers in the 1990s, and Shostak wrote a book about the possibility of alien life and what they would possibly be like. This concluded that they wouldn’t be anything like us, ruling out aliens like Mr Spock in Star Trek. In size they would probably be the same as Labradors.

It’s been known now that the Galaxy is old enough and big enough, with the right kind of stars and an increasing multitude of known planets, some of them possibly suitable for life, for alien civilisations to have emerged several times. And if they only advanced at the speed of light, they should be here by now. But they’re not. So far we’ve detected no sign of them. Or no absolutely indisputable signs. So where are they? This problem is called the Fermi paradox after the Italian-American physicist, Enrico Fermi. Suggested answers are that life, or perhaps just intelligent life, is extremely rare in the universe. Space travel may be extremely difficult. Aliens may exist, but they may be completely uninterested in talking to us. In this respect, we may even be a ‘protected species’ considered too fragile at our current level of civilization for contact with the rest of the Galaxy. Or perhaps there really are predatory alien intelligences and civilisations out there, who automatically attack any culture na├»ve and trusting enough to announce their presence. In which case, all the alien civilisations out there are paranoid and keeping their heads well down. One of SF writer even wrote a collection of short stories, each of which gave one solution to the Paradox.

Ramsey on Slave Labour at American Homeless Shelters

July 22, 2015

I’ve reblogged a lot of material from Johnny Void and other bloggers, who are rightly sharply critical of the Salvation Army over here because of their use of unpaid workfare labour in their charity shops. Yesterday, an American commenter posted their observations on the similar exploitation of the homeless by the homeless shelters and charities in America. Ramsey signed themselves ‘a slave in America’, and after reading the post it’s very easy to understand why. Here it is.

If you are homeless you are discriminated against in the homeless shelters. They make you work 30+ hours for nothing so you are stuck there working for them. It’s like slave labor either stay and work for them have no time or money to be able to find gainful employment or live on the streets and sleep on the sidewalks, ditches or even under dumpsters. They seem to be able to bypass all federal and state labor laws with no consciences. They say they are non- profit yet they take portions of ssi payments, receive grants, and own resale shops that they get merchandise for for free. We wonder why America is the shape it is. This a nation wide problem the missions are a drain on the tax payer through grants and keeping homeless as slave labor. The homeless are then a drain on the taxpayer through food stamps and not being able to obtain gainful employment and pay fair share of taxes due to lack of job. It’s simple if your homeless you are stuck as slave labor or stay on the streets and get no work due to your inability to shower, shave, and sleep properly. This will never change until the congress or president put forth a bill abolishing this discrimination against the homeless and makes the missions stop slave labor and pay minimum wage as everyone else who has individuals doing manual labor. As soon as this happens then the sooner our homeless problem goes away as far as those homeless that are addicts a random drug test at there expense from there earnings at the facility will weed them out. Thank you! Sincerely, A slave in America.

From this, it’s pretty clear that Ramsey’s speaking from personal experience. And it’s an experience shared by countless others on both sides of the Atlantic. I’ve got a feeling it was Bill Clinton, who actually made workfare widespread in America after the idea was floated by the Republicans under Reagan. I also have the impression that it was George ‘Dubya’ Bush, who effectively turned the Sally Ann and other charities in America into outsourced government service providers, thus turning voluntary work and formal charities into the profitable ‘third sector’ through the use of forced labour mandated under the workfare schemes.

These schemes were championed by the Tories way back in 1982 under Thatcher, and have now been firmly put in place by Cameron and his fellow parasites and profiteers. One of the hack on the I newspaper ran an article the other week criticising the government for forcing charities to abandon any criticism of the government and its policies, in order to turn them into front-line service providers. Of course, she’s right, as poverty in this country has been caused, or at least, vastly exacerbated by the government’s policies.

The use of workfare should be abandoned immediately, and voluntary work should be kept voluntary, not foisted on people through ‘work coaches’ and private firms seeking to expand their income stream and get yet more lucrative government contracts through the exploitation of the poor and the unemployed. Johnny Void in particular has links to a number of organisations and groups protesting about this, so go to his website for further details on what you can do there.

Young Turks on Fox New’s Attacks on Homeless Black People in New York

July 19, 2015

Okay, it’s been some time since I posted anything up here. As I’ve said, this is partly because I’ve been depressed by the Tory victory at the election, and partly simply because I’ve been caught up doing other stuff. However, time waits for no man and the sheer pressure of events calls on me to start commenting again.

This is another piece from the American internet news programme, The Young Turks. In it, John Iadarola and Anna Kasparian comment on another squalid piece from Fox News. In this piece, Bill O’Reilly, one of Fox’s main anchors and a notorious liar, talks to their journalist Jesse Watters about the increasing numbers of homeless people sleeping rough in New York’s Penn Station.

Watters interviews travellers using the station about seeing homeless people seeking shelter in the station. These people are mostly sympathetic to the rough sleepers. Including a Black child, who says they feel upset seeing people, who don’t have enough money for food and can’t afford a home of their own. It’s a sweet piece of simple, innocent compassion and pity. Unfortunately, as the programme goes on, it most certainly ain’t shared by Watters or his fellow perp, O’Reilly.

The rail passengers interviewed are nearly all White. The homeless people Watters and O’Reilly shows are all Black. As The Turks point out, this seems to be quite deliberate. It’s to paint homelessness as essentially a Black problem. They also show those with some kind of government income, like a stipend, and drug problems. You can hear Fox News almost shouting at you ‘Look! It’s their own fault. They’ve got money! They’re on drugs! They could get their act together, but they just don’t want to. It’s their fault, not that of the system!’

The answer to that one is the old Bill Hick’s line about coming to New York and being surprised by the sheer numbers of the homeless. ‘Now, what makes you think our system doesn’t work.’

Iadorola and Kasparian point out that you don’t know why one man has a government stipend. It could be because he’s a military vet. In which case, it’s probably no surprise he’s got problems that have led to him being homeless. As for drug use, they point out that people turn to drugs for escape, and so it points to there being a larger problem in their lives, rather than simply addiction being the result of personal choice.

Then Watters comes to the real point of his investigation. He doesn’t have any interest or sympathy with the homeless themselves. He’s just annoyed that White people see them. He states that it’s against the law for them to be sleeping in the station, and asks why they aren’t in the homeless shelters. The Turks point out that one reason is that the homeless shelters may not be safe.

They may well be right. This was certainly a very urgent problem two and half decades ago in the 1990s when New York began to suffer the massive increase in homelessness that has ultimately led to this situation. The city started closing down and moving people out of its homeless shelters and into private institutions due to the crime and personal violence that was breaking out in the municipal shelters.

Finally, there’s a party political angle in this nasty piece of biased reporting. Watters and O’Reilly seem to be covering the story in order to get at New York’s mayor de Blasio. But as they point out, it isn’t de Blasio’s problem. The rise in homelessness began long before, in 1991. New York’s population as a whole grew by 16 per cent from 1991 onwards, but the number of homeless people tripled.

They also point out a solution to the problem that Watters does not mention: building homes for the homeless. Arizona was faced with putting up their homeless in ER Rooms. This cost the state $16,000 dollars per person, while building a house for them only cost $11,000. So they built homes for them as that was by far the most cost effective strategy.

But not, it seems for anywhere else in America, or for the Tories over here. They’ve decided that homes should only be for the very rich, and everyone else should go back to living with their parents, or in cellars and basements, like they did in the 19th century before the Victorians started slum clearances and building improved homes for the poor.

As for homelessness being a Black problem, clearly, it ain’t. There’s a large number of hidden homeless in New York, including university graduates and young people staying on friends’ floors after failing to find places of their own after graduation. It may well be the case that a larger proportion of homeless people are Black, because of the economic deprivation and lack of opportunities for Black Americans in general. But the problem isn’t going to be unique to them.

It suits, however, Fox’s racist attitude towards the issue to present it as such. There’s a viciously racist streak running right through Fox News, reflecting the same bias in the Republican party. This sees Blacks very much in the same racist terms as previous centuries – morally weaker than Whites, and strongly inclined to criminality. Hence, many of their viewers would be inclined to shrug the problem off if it’s presented as a condition from which only Blacks suffer, or bring about on themselves. They’re not going to show the White poor or homeless, because that would destroy the illusion they’re so carefully trying to create. And they definitely aren’t going to show any White folks, who lost their jobs or businesses under Dubya.

Here’s the show:

I’ve reblogged this because, although it is an American programme commenting on American issues, it’s acutely relevant to what’s happening over here.

This includes both the despicable attitudes to homelessness, and the real danger of what will happen to responsible news reporting if the government get their way and privatise the Beeb.

One of the major issues in American homelessness is how it’s ceased to be a political issue, despite the fact that it’s increased since the 1990s. Back then it was very much a pressing issue, yet after Bill Clinton won the presidency it dropped from public consciousness. My guess is that it’s partly because the homeless became such an obvious presence in American streets. They were swept away from city cores to more marginal parts of the urban landscape.

Pretty much the way the government and local authorities are doing their best to clear Britain’s homeless out of town, and away from the eyes of the public. Go and see Johnny Void’s Blog for his very detailed and passionate coverage of this and the issue of homelessness in general.

It’s also important because Fox News could very much be the future of British broadcasting, if the Tories have their way. Fox is part owned by Murdoch, who has consistently attacked the BBC, largely because it’s the biggest impediment to him acquiring a commanding monopoly over British broadcasting. As for ITV, the formerly independent broadcasting companies swallowed each other up, one by one in the 1980’s and ’90s, and the network itself seems to have been bought, or come under the control of American companies.

The Tories this week made another attack on the BBC and the licence fee in what looks very much like a very partisan attack to see it sold off to their private backers, including multinational donors like Murdoch.

If that happens, then not only will far more of our television consist of American imports, but there’s a real threat that even the semblance of political impartiality now presented by British broadcasters could disappear. Murdoch claims his wretched propaganda outlet is, in the words of its slogan, ‘fair and balanced reporting’. Like so much of his channel’s content, it’s a lie. So much so, that Fox were incensed when, of all the news broadcasters, they were not given an interview with Obama on the grounds that they were ‘a hostile political advocacy group’. Which is exactly right – the network blatantly supports and has donated extensively to the Repugs. They just don’t want people to know it. And especially not when it becomes a major political embarrassment.

As for the BBC, it’s certainly not free of political bias by any means. I’ve covered before the way Nick Robinson, the Macclesfield Goebbels, flagrantly altered the reporting of his questions to Alex Salmond during the Scots Referendum debate. This was to give the impression that Salmond hadn’t answered his question, when in fact he’d given a fairly detailed rebuttal to Robinson’s objection.

And that isn’t the only case of the Corporation’s bias. Academic media watchdogs have found it to be consistently biased against Labour. It has also repeatedly either ignored, or deliberately under-reported, protests against austerity, including one held right on its very own doorstep. Even as it is, it’s far better than Fox News and the avowedly Right-wing media that would replace it.

Disappointment and Exploitation in Salvation Army Workfare for the American Homeless

January 30, 2014

Among the various charities, businesses and other organisations, who have attracted bitter criticism for their support and participation in the workfare programme is the Salvation Army. Johnny Void has extensively blogged about it, and encouraged others to criticise and write letters of complaint about the Sally Ann’s involvement in this form of participation. Anthony Marcus also briefly mentions the experience of one of his informants’ experience of doing voluntary work for the Salvation Army in New York in his book, Where Have All the Homeless Gone. I have blogged about the book before, and intend to write a full review of the book after I’ve finished reading it. Marcus was an anthropologist who did his Ph.D. research for a programme intended to aid the homeless in the Big Apple from 1989 to 1994.

One of the obstacles facing the homeless men Marcus studied was the way the financial restrictions placed on the amount of money homeless people collecting SSI, the welfare benefit given to them, prevented them from getting a properly paid job that would enable them to move out of the homeless shelters and not-for-profit transient housing into proper accommodation. The homeless in shelters received $850 in SSI per month. Of this, $700 was deducted to pay for their lodging, supervision and anti-psychotic medication given to those with mental health problems. This left them with about $100 per month spare cash, which was given to them in small sums as spending money. The amount of SSI they received automatically dropped to $508 a month, which would hardly cover rent. Furthermore, those on SSI could not earn more than $74 a week. Marcus notes how this system prevented many of the most optimistic and enterprising homeless men from finding an outside job. The moment they did find one that would allow them the chance of finding a home, the SSI was withdrawn, and they found they could no longer support themselves. As a result, they usually found themselves back in the shelter. The care workers employed to help them therefore did their best to frustrate their attempts to find outside work, in order to prevent them losing their SSI and their place in the shelter or not-for-profit housing. Marcus states that his ‘informants who followed the programs laid out for them by the workers at their residences languished in make-work programs, dead-end jobs, and piecework provided by voluntary agencies at significantly less than the minimum wage.’ (p.26). This was despite the fact that many of his informants took educational courses provided by City College in order to improve their chances of getting a rewarding career. These included a man, who was studying mechanical drawing in order to fulfil his ambition of becoming an architect. Others studied, computers and even history.

One of these ambitious men interviewed by Marcus, was Eugene, a Black American. He decided to move to one of the homeless residences run by the Salvation Army because he had been impressed by what he’d heard about their programme to get people back into work. After a a month or so living and working for them, Eugene became bitterly disillusioned. Their work programme did not live up to his expectations, and in practised consisted of him working in their stores for a pittance. He became so disgusted with them, that eventually he was thrown out for purloining their stock and selling it cheaply under the counter. Marcus writes

‘There were employment programs at the shelter that paid pennies per hour, but most of my informants avoided such low-paid and humiliating work in favour of day labor as a security guard. However, I had two close informants who were involved in a similar program at a Salvation Army residence. Eugene, an African American man in his 30s, had chosen the Salvation Army over several other facilities due to its work socialization program. He had heard about the importance of employment training to their program and told me that he would, “rather be getting some real work experience than sitting with a bunch of mental patients learning how to make friends or practice proper hygiene.” Although their facilities were older and less pleasant than the newly renovated “small not-for-profits” as he put it, “if I put in six months working in one of their stores, I ought to be able to get a real job somewhere and move out pretty quick.”

My first visit to interview Gene was about three weeks after his placement. They had not yet given him a job, but they were paying him 17 cents an hour to mop floors in the residence and had promised him that within the month they would find him a real job working in one of the thrift stores. He was not very happy with the housing, which was a rodent and bug-infested aging flophouse on the Bowery that the Salvation Army had converted into a transitional housing facility, but was optimistic and believed that he was on the way up.

The second visit, a month later, found him still mopping floors and becoming increasingly discouraged at how little his life was improving. As he put it, “I’m not saving any money at 17 cents an hour, I still don’t have a job, and I can’t even afford to go see a movie after work. The shelter was a much better deal.” When they finally moved him to the thrift store after several months, he was not given an actual job, but remained part of their work rehabilitation program and therefore had neither a job description, a job title, nor a minimum wage salary. As he put it, “I’m not a cashier. I’m not an assistant manager. I’m not a sales person. I’m not even an assistant to the assistant janitor. I’m a nigger that pushes a mop and unloads trucks for a couple of dollars a day. I must be some kind of idiot.” he went on to point out that “with my SSI, I am actually paying these crooks $900 a month to give me a seventeen cent an hour job.”….

However, it wasn’t long before Gene was back with his mop at the residence. Caught selling half price merchandise to a young women in front of the Salvation Army, he understood that they would never let him near merchandise again. He believed that there was no way into the formal economy for an uneducated and somewhat disreputable looking African American man with a criminal record and few of the social or job skills necessary for success. He used his psychiatric diagnosis to get out of the work training program and began to secretly disappear from the residence for freelance work. The residence was supposed to be as “supportive” and restrictive as the R.C.C.A. [an intensively supervised residence for the homeless on 48th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan], but there was virtually no paid staff to enforce the rules of the treatment programs. My other informant at this facility had recruited him to unload trucks on the street behind the residence for a Chinese store owner. The $5 an hour off the books wage was far superior to the work training program’s 17 cents an hour but it was a situation that would never enable him to get his own housing.’ (pp. 86-7).

I apologise for not censoring the ‘N’ word, but I felt that I needed to follow the text exactly. The term clearly expresses the disparaging racial attitude Eugen felt the Salvation Army had for him as a poor, Black unskilled labourer.

Now obviously, this is an American case, reflecting conditions in New York at the time. However, much of this is recognisably similar to the situation facing many of the unemployed in Cameron’s Britain, regardless of whether they are homeless or not. I’ve met people on my course, who are in a similar position to those homeless Americans, who are stuck in pointless, dead-end jobs in order to keep their benefit. This particular person is disabled and on benefit. The jobcentre is pressuring him to find a job he could do. However, he is afraid that if he did find one, signed off benefit, and then found that in fact he could not do the job, he would not be able to get back on benefit as he had declared himself fit for work.

I am also sure that there are probably others, stuck in a similar situation to the American homeless through the government’s restrictions on earnings from benefits, as part of their campaign to make sure that the ‘strivers’ in work don’t feel resentful and humiliated by the unemployed earning more than them.

As for the Salvation Army and its ‘work socialisation’ schemes, this really does seem merely to be a way of getting cheap labour. As Johnny Void has pointed out too many times, it’s exploitation. And the same thing is happening over here in their support for workfare. If the Sally Ann really is serious about helping the homeless, they should withdraw from the workfare programme. If they do wish to be part of national schemes encouraging the unemployed to perform voluntary work in their stores in preparation for finding real work, then this should be accompanied by real initiatives to get them a job, such as paid work placements. Even an increase in their Jobseekers’ allowance would be good, as it should reward their initiative in trying to find some kind of work rather than simply being a source of cheap labour. Unfortunately, I can’t see this occurring, as the current system seems designed merely to provide big business with a cheap, demoralised and so cowed workforce, thinly disguised as an attempt to tackle unemployment.