© Galway Simon
This week Harrison Koehli and fellow Sott.net editors talked about the growing poverty and homelessness in America, dispelling many of the myths, biases and stereotypes of the homeless population. We discussed how the structure of our society contributes to people finding themselves homeless and how many state and local governments are criminalizing the homeless as well as those who are attempting to help. We also explored some creative solutions that individuals and some cities have enacted to shelter the homeless, and what we might do to help those in need.

Running Time: 01:14:00

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript:
Police interviewee: We have problems with some of the freeway on-ramps where they're holding up the signs, where we have fights because it's a lucrative position and location and the transients will fight between each other to keep that turf right there because that's where they make good money. And that's where society comes in because they're handing out free money. There's people making - I asked one guy, I said "How much money do you make here?" And he goes "Oh, make a hundred bucks, 150 bucks, just standing here." That's more than some people flipping burgers at a hamburger place make. So how do you stop that? How do you change that culture where you go "Hey, I can go hold a sign, stand here and do nothing and make $150 today or I can go flip burgers for $9.95 or whatever it is."

Homeless interviewee: A lot of people think that we're out here making hundreds of dollars. That's not the case. If I make $20.00 from 10:00 o'clock in the morning until 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon I'm happy with that. And a lot of times I might make six bucks. And there's a whole bunch of us out here doing it, as you can see. There's another guy right there."

Reporter: Do people like swap corners every...?

Homeless: We take half-hour turns. If you walk up on the corner and somebody's there, you want to work that corner, we all know each other, you go to them and say "hey, I'll be back in half an hour" and you go sit somewhere and wait then you come back in half an hour. But if nobody calls it on you, then you can stand there all day if nobody shows up.
Harrison: Hi everyone. Welcome back. This is the Truth Perspective. It's February 21st, 2015. Today we're going to be talking about homelessness and in the virtual studio today we've got some SOTT editors, Dave Burt.

Dave: Howdy everyone.

Harrison: Megan McDonald.

Megan: Hello.

Harrison: And as a special guest today we have Corey Schink. Corey, why don't you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Corey: Hello everyone and thanks for having me here. My name is Corey Schink and for the past 10 years or so, on and off at least, I have been working with homeless people. I think that probably the best way to get this show started off is to start dispelling one of the biggest myths about the homeless and the stereotypes that we're all primed with, that we kind of bring to the table and talk about, and that is that there's just this big blob of people out there that are called homeless and there's a problem that really can't be defined or solved, that's just impossible to work with.

Harrison: They just kind of spring up out of nowhere. Where do these people come from?

Megan: Like holes in the ground.

Corey: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So for the past 10 years I guess I developed quite an affection for the people that I've worked with. Right now I'm a director of a homeless shelter. I've worked with victims of domestic violence and I've worked with suicidal teenagers who have experienced homelessness in their young adult lives. And I've worked with people who have been ejected, expelled essentially, from the economy and who have no place to live and thus have become homeless. And so the biggest thing that I think that I would like to start off with the show by saying is that homelessness is an experience that diverse groups of people will go through, and probably in the near future, more and more people will be going through it. So it's important to discuss it and also, underlying, it's really a sign of the times in America.

Harrison: Do we have any statistics on homelessness in the US?

Megan: Well there's two sources that I checked and one says 700,000 and the other says 800,000. National Homeless says that 23% of those are veterans, which is probably every one in five. As far as children, in 2006 there was 1.5 million, which would be one in 50 and now the report that was issued in 2013 is one in 30, 2.5 million children. That's a lot of people, a lot of children.

Harrison: What do these people do? How did they get there?

Megan: There's a lot of reasons, they lose their home, they can't afford their mortgage and they get booted out. I think it's diverse. I think it's the cost of housing. On average nationally a 2-bedroom apartment is $1,000 and minimum wage will not allow you to afford that unless you're spending 30-40 percent of your income on rent.

Harrison: Or just working 180 hours a week, it's impossible.

Megan: If you want to die you can work that many hours a week. But mostly it is the cost of housing and this housing bubble and the prices go up. People can't afford them and then they lose their job. Most people live paycheck-to-paycheck. You lose your job, you have a month's income, two month's income to survive until you get another job. And they take your home away.

Dave: Maybe I could share some of my experience being a former homeless person.It's probably not an unusual story. I got laid off from my job, working paycheck-to-paycheck. Of course now I can't pay for my rent so I'm out of a home, living in my van. My van breaks down. So now I have nowhere to stay and I'm forced to be on the streets, no money. If anyone's ever been in that position it's very rough. You're sleeping in alleys, you're trying to find places in parks, you have no money and you're trying to find food. It really puts you in a fight or flight type of mode, survival mode.

Harrison: And that's just one example. There are other reasons why people go homeless and become homeless and in your case you lost pretty much everything you had in that moment, your job, your car, your house, so you had absolutely nowhere to go. There are people still with jobs that are homeless, people that make money, they make a living. They're not just freeloading and avoiding any responsibility. They're actually working jobs but they can't afford homes.

Megan: They sleep in their cars and then cities all over the country are banning that. So you're not allowed to sleep in your car so you have nowhere. You drive around all night and take a nap? How do you function?

Corey: And then you can't function at work. And that's probably a big thing that we should touch on, is the kind of work that gets done in a home. The home is like the Swiss army knife. The ultimate Swiss army knife. It's just this big box that we all live in, but inside that box we have the accumulation of so many different technologies and we have our dishwashers and our stuff. The big thing is our stuff that we can keep in our home. And so there's a lot of questions that I think that are answered that we take for granted in our daily lives. Where am I going to eat? How am I going to cook my food? Or where am I going to keep my belongings? Where am I going to sleep?

Harrison: Take a shower.

Corey: Exactly. Where am I going to take a shower? Where am I going to keep my family? Where will I know my kids are going to be safe? The list could literally go on and on. If you use your imagination you can see all the different problems that arise when you're homeless that contribute drastically just to the issue that caused the homelessness itself.

Harrison: I'm going to play one clip right now. This is a story of a young homeless woman. We'll just play that and you can see just another example of what might happen.
This is Crystal. I met Crystal when she was flying this sign. She had just arrived not a week before in Seattle. She was fleeing an abusive boyfriend relationship from back east. And when I met her she was so very hopeful to get off the streets and into housing. But as time went by and months passed, it was clear that she was spiraling downward. One evening she called me at home and she said "Rex, would you like to see where I'm living?" And half an hour later I was walking up this dirt path between alder trees and blackberry bushes to come to where the 520 freeway touches the ground. And it was just getting dark as we both bent down to walk into the blackness underneath this freeway and a rush of fear overtook me. When we got back to where her tent is I said "Crystal, I have to go." We made our way back down the path to the street where she had stashed her bicycle and I told her "That scared the crap out of me. I have a stream of sweat running down my back. I don't know how you do this, how you as a 23 year old young woman sleep under that bridge up there in the darkness every night alone." And then she looked away for a few moments and when she looked back at me, I could see in the streetlight that her eyes were welling up with tears and she said "The physical and sexual abuse that I suffered at home while I was growing up was so horrible that nothing that could happen to me under that bridge could be worse." This is what I would like for all of us to know. No one chooses to be homeless. No one. Every single person that is outside has a profound reason for being there.
Corey: Yes, I could definitely agree with that. I think that much of the audience can probably imagine that. There's very little in our lives that we actively choose, a lot of things. Most things just happen to us and for that woman there, we know her situation is not uncommon and in fact the last statistic I read an estimated 63 percent of women who are homeless are the victims of or have been survivors of domestic violence. And essentially they're fleeing something that they can never escape and unfortunately as a society we can solve so many critical problems except for the problems that our society creates. This is one of them, domestic abuse, domestic violence in childhood and it obviously led to her repeating that trauma, that bond of betrayal in a relationship and hopeless, she found herself under a bridge.

I'd also like to point out that if it weren't for this man's outreach, her story probably would never have been heard and none of us would even be aware that that was an issue. So just as important as it is to be aware of these issues, it is important as well, and I honestly wouldn't even have a job if it weren't for the volunteers in the town where I live, the people who volunteer to go out there and to just make contact with the people who are living under bridges, or living in the woods, living in their cars. That experience changes everyone involved in a drastic way.

Harrison: What's the public perception? Because you mentioned the volunteers so there's obviously a segment of the population that sees that there's a problem and want to do something about it, to help take an active role in activities like supporting homeless shelters. But there's the other view, or many other views on the homeless and we can see that in legislation, new rules and regulations. Meg, do you have some information?

Megan: Yeah, I do have an interesting story. What's interesting to me is that in the big picture it's like they're criminalizing kindness. It's natural for most people, when they see someone suffering, to want to help. And that's what they're criminalizing to me. But let me tell you about ridiculous number one. In Marseilles, France they tried to make homeless people wear yellow triangle ID cards which would identify suspected illnesses in them, not diagnosed illnesses, suspected illnesses in them. There was one in Seattle, Washington. There was a 90-year-old charity that's been feeding the homeless for 70 years. Now they have to get the city's approval to do what they've been doing for 70 years. There's been 10 cities that have been bulldozed in California and New Jersey. A huge one called the Jungle was in San Jose, California, one of 247 and they just bulldozed it and all the people filled the streets of San Jose, California plus 8,000 people are homeless in that city. And they just filled the streets of the area. They just destroyed their homes, their personal belongings, like Corey said. Where do you keep your stuff if you don't have a home? You've got a book you want to keep. You've got toiletries and items but you can't keep them anywhere.

Here's another ridiculous one. New York City. No surprise there, huh? They're banning food donations because the city cannot assess salt, fat or fibre content. They have 60,000-plus, in one estimate 70,000 in New York City. Here's another one in the proud state of Hawaii. And this is a state representative who did this. He took a sledgehammer to homeless people's shopping carts to express his disgust and disdain for the homeless population of Hawaii. I couldn't find any laws allowing him to do that, but apparently he felt he could do that.

And there's one last one I want to read. It wasn't enacted, it was rescinded by the city counsel but they came up with something called the "Emergency Homeless Response Plan" which basically set up a hotline where you're supposed to call them and report their presence and they were going to be relocated or arrested. It wasn't going to put them in a shelter, it wasn't going to help them at all. It was just like an emergency hotline to get rid of them because they don't want them in their city.

Corey: It's bad for tourism in Hawaii. They don't want it to be seen so whenever the homeless get together, whether it's a park, the officials come in and push them out, just hoping they go away.

Megan: It's ridiculous.

Corey: I think this follows right along in the line of what you're saying about pretty much the abdication of responsibility on the part of elected officials to those that they "serve". So this is from the book Expulsion, Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy by a sociologist Saskia Sassen. I believe that's how you pronounce it. But she writes, "Inequality, if it keeps growing, can at some point be more accurately described as a type of expulsion. For those at the bottom or in the poor middle, this means expulsion from a life space. Among those at the top, this appears to have meant exiting from the responsibilities of membership in society, either self-removal, extreme concentration of the wealth available in the society and no inclination to re-distribute that wealth."

I think that ultimately when you look at the problem of homelessness, so many times I've heard people say - and this is one of the tough lessons for people to learn, when we're working with the homeless. We have so many judgments we go in with, so many biases and stereotypes. And often you've got the stereotype of the hobo or the wino, the drunk, the alcoholic and that's why they're homeless, is that alcoholism automatically causes homelessness. But I was thinking about that and I thought if that's true then Congress would probably be homeless.

But then maybe we'd get a solution to this problem. But no, like what you were talking about Meg, what causes it is inequality and that's a sign of just the absolute loss of responsibility.

Megan: I couldn't find a video but I watched one, I couldn't find it for the show. There's a guy who was curious about that stereotype and so he decided he was going to go out with a Subway gift card, and a pack of cigarettes and a little flask of whiskey and ask them to choose which one they wanted. Everyone he interviewed chose the food. Every single one of them. Package of cigarettes and booze or food? And they chose food. So I thought that was a really interesting video. If I can find it again maybe we can post it on the page.

Harrison: When you're dealing with any human population you're going to have a type of bell curve. So you're going to have the whole spectrum of humanity in any segment of humanity. And so I'm sure there are some people that will conform to a stereotype of the hobo or the wino, but to use that as a generalization for everyone that's homeless, to me it strikes me as just an excuse that people tell themselves so that they don't have to look at the problem and they don't have to take any responsibility for the problem. Because when you live in a group of any size, from a family, to a community, to a town, to a city to a country, you become responsible for all the people living in that group and responsible for the everyone's well-being and for the well-being of that whole community.

And so when there is a large portion of that community that is just struggling, that doesn't have access to food and shelter, that's a damning point against what's going on. And to see that for yourself, it's so much easier just to keep your life the way it is and to come up with an excuse for why those people deserve it.

Corey: Like I said, it's a reason to justify. And if you've ever been in that position, you meet all different types of people that got there. There's domestic abuse, just down on your luck. It's not a one shoe fits all.

Harrison: Mental illness.

Dave: Yeah, a study in Toronto just a few years back points out that half of the population of the homeless in that city had traumatic brain injury. When you think about that group, that choice of being homeless, if you've got a traumatic brain injury and you're not able to jump through the hoop of the welfare agency, that's a whole other aspect entirely in itself. And as I've been told, it's very expensive to be homeless, especially if you're living in your car and you're driving around and you're constantly using gas or you're constantly trying to buy processed foods because you can't cook it on your own, you're getting fined or ticketed. It's not cheap. And especially if you're one of those who's just recently expelled, you're just fired from your job and you have your belongings, you hope to get into a home again. Then you've got to find some place. You've got to rent a storage shed. You've got to pay money. You've got to use money and it's money that people don't have. And so most people just lose everything.

Megan: Well if you think about it, getting on your feet, when you first move out of your house and you're 18, you get your apartment and your car. If you go from being homeless, trying to get back on your feet, you have to come up with the first and last month's rent. You have to come up with the security deposit. You have to come up with the deposit for your electric, for your phone, computer. You have this huge expense just to get yourself out of a shelter into a home and get started. Then you have to have a job that supports that lifestyle. You need to be able to pay the rent, need to be able to pay the bills. And at minimum wage or these low paying service jobs that everyone gets to have in this country, it doesn't cover it. Not even close.

Harrison: And getting a job is a problem. You don't have a home, you have no address to put on your application. Often don't have access to a shower. Can't wash your clothes, so what are you going to do? Who's going to hire you?

Megan: You've got your license plate on there. "This is my address-license plate."

Harrison: Corner of 23rd and...

Corey: Yeah, it's extremely tough; the job aspect, the job angle, especially for people who are mentally ill. You try staying out in the woods or wherever for three weeks and see if you don't become a little bit mentally ill, bitter, resentful, and especially for the people whose family has turned their backs on them. We're human. We're fragile and we make mistakes. And I know that the role of the people I've worked with, it's been a matter of the community opening up to them, that has been what changed their lives, that gave them even an ounce of the desire to enter back into the community. And I'm speaking of the chronically homeless because there's a difference between the homeless where it's just a crisis that plunges them into the abyss, so to speak, and then there's the chronically homeless, like those who do have these traumatic brain injury or it's been a matter of three or more years they've been living on their own. And for those people who complain to me like "Why can't this guy take care of himself? Why won't he learn just to take care of himself?" It's really easy for me to point out that "Well this man has been living in the woods for 15 years. I think he's managed to take care of himself the way that he's chosen to."

So yeah, finding the right way to tackle the problem, you have to have a change in attitude and you're not going to get that from the culture that we're living in right now. Just legislating away homelessness is the way that it looks like most people are going.

Megan: They want them to disappear.

Harrison: There was that story recently from a few months ago about the old man, the volunteer that was feeding homeless people. Was it in New York?

Megan: It was in Florida. It was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His name is Arnold Abbott. He and friends of his were arrested and the judge ended up booting out the case. But what was interesting, I printed off a section of the article, was that he was stunned because they came up to him and asked him to drop the plates, like he had a gun in his hand. Just treated him like a second-class citizen. And apparently his organization feeds lots of people, 120 to 160 people a day in Fort Lauderdale. And he was arrested. The judge suspended the ban on feeding the homeless and so it was a happy ending. But to me it's getting more violent. For them to approach him that way, as opposed to - yeah, scaring him. Ninety years old!

Corey: Well it's crazy. Not only are they criminalizing being homeless, they're criminalizing helping the homeless. What kind of society is that? Seriously?

Harrison: Well as a contrast, there's an article that's up on SOTT from February 6th, on a town in southern Spain. I'll mispronounce it I'm sure but Marinaleda. And in this town everyone is employed. Everyone gets to eat. What happened was they kind of adopted this democratic anti-capitalist approach to the town, to the city. I'll just read a little bit here. "So since the financial crisis began in 2008 Marinaleda has shot to fame and so has its maverick mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo who earned the nickname the Spanish Robin Hood after organizing and carrying out a series of supermarket raids in a direct action protest last August. Basic groceries such as oil, rice and beans were loaded into carts, wheeled from the store and taken to a local food bank to help the poor as helpless cashiers looked on, some crying."

So in an interview he said that it wasn't a theft, it was a non-violent act of disobedience. So he said "There are many families who can't afford to eat. In the 21st century this is an absolute disgrace. Food is a right. Not something with which you speculate." So in the province in which this town is, there are something like 700,000 empty properties due to bank disclosures, but not in Marinaleda because Gordillo has found a solution. Anyone who wants to build their own house can do so for free. Materials and qualified workmen are provided by the town hall and generous allowances of 192 square meters means that the homes are spacious. Families pay €15 per month for the rest of their lives with the agreement that the house cannot be sold for private gain. In Andalusia unemployment stands at 37% but in this town, population 2,700, a small town, there is virtually no unemployment because of the town's farming cooperative. So laborers earn the equal of €1,200 per month. And this is in a region where one in three people are unemployed.

Dave: This is beautiful.

Harrison: Yeah, Gordillo said that we need to rethink our values, the consumer society and the value we place on money, selfishness and individualism. So that was a nice story to read.

Megan: That is nice. There was a story in Utah. Apparently Utah will give away a home to reduce homelessness. They've reduced it by 78% since they started their program. So basically it is a program and you're given an apartment and a case worker and you're given certain things to do and if you fail at that you still get to keep the apartment. So if you're mentally ill, you have brain damage, you need someone to care for you, you're not going to lose your home because you can't complete a program to get back on your feet and get a job and become a functioning member of society, which I thought was great. There's not many more examples in the US on that last time I looked.

Corey: Yeah, and was looking into that too and I was noticed that it seemed to stem from the religion, the religious parties there. The religion played a big role. And I think that's where the values really shine through in religious communities. It's a lot safer to be homeless in a religious community because there's a high value on helping the poor and the weak in those communities compared to in the others where of course where it's illegal to give some bread to a homeless man.

Megan: Because you don't know the fat and salt content.

Corey: Right, that's dangerous. Imagine.

Harrison: Well Corey, can you tell us a bit about where you work because earlier you were talking about the impact of religion on it because a lot of the people that volunteer and do work regularly attend the local church, right? So can you tell us a little bit about that?

Corey: Yeah. It's a fascinating system that they have. I don't know the full history of it, but I know that the area itself is relatively rural and it's experienced poverty for centuries. And together, there's a strong desire for self-reliance. It's not uncommon to see a billboard that says "Don't go to church, be the church". And that's a driving ethic in the churches that I go to. And the church actually ended up opening its doors to the homeless after a few passed away in the winter of 2010. They had gone out, they had fed the people and they had gone and searched out the camps. They had talked to them. They had introduced themselves and I think that when those men died there was an outrage and I think there was a tremendous attack of conscience on the town. And they decided that they were going to do something about it. And so some of the most active volunteers decided they were going to put together a plan to get a shelter together and they asked one of the churches in the community and they decided they would take a risk. And it was quite a big risk. It's a conservative community. It's very conservative in terms of its values, but not in a neo-conservative way. So by opening up their doors there was a little bit of fighting about how they were going to go about getting this taken care of.

In the end 70 different churches got together. Seventy different churches contributed to this network. And what that looks like now is that upwards of about 300 volunteers feed, shelter, clothe and find jobs and houses for the homeless that are in this area. It's a very close-knit community. The people who are homeless out there, in the mountains, they have gone to school with these people. They'll come in and they'll say "Oh, that was my kindergarten teacher!" Or "I remember I had art class with her." There's a very close bond that the community has and you don't get an impression that there is a separation. The community sees it as a duty, as a Christian obligation to see everyone as part of this whole and to reach out to them and empower them, essentially.

Harrison: What strikes me with the story I just read, and what you're saying now, is that the difference in attitudes that we saw, like with those clips that we played at the beginning where we had the police officer saying "Oh, these guys are making $150 a day just getting free money for doing nothing" and then right after that we had an actual homeless guy saying what it's really like. There seems to be a split in this world view. Part of it I think, has to do with this sense of community because as Western society is structured, it's this capitalist, hierarchical, dog-eat-dog world where you've got to get to the top and in order to do so you've got to trample on whoever is underneath you. And then who cares about them once you've got your house and your fancy car and your 1.3 children or whatever. Then you've got it made, so who really cares about everyone underneath you.

But on the other hand, when you have this community-based world view where you actually see the people around you as important and have some responsibility for their well-being, there's just a total contrast between those two world views.

Megan: They're a reflection of you. Even though they're not you, they're a reflection. I forget the quote. Maybe it was Kennedy, but he said you can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable people and that requires compassion, it requires empathy and that's not the thing our society supports or rewards or even encourages.

Corey: No. And then when you sit in church on Sunday morning, you hear the theme "God loves his children" and when you look at the homeless and you have that kind of an understanding, because you can look at society from the economic viewpoint and you can say "Sure! Absolutely, profit is awesome. Everyone likes to have a lot of money." And then you can ignore every other single aspect of mankind and just ignore the people who fall apart. But when you have a community that has that desire for religious virtues, then that is painful to deal with.

There's also, I have to point out, very outspoken and dedicated leaders in the community who have pulled that together and who have been the ones who harp on the fact that there's homeless in the valley who need to be taken care of. One of the pastors dressed up as a homeless man and he went to church one day to see how he was treated and I think he went to another church. I think they had this game plan between them and then they reported on it. It's a whole system that works better because of this sense of community. And shame. I think shame is the biggest piece.

Harrison: Talk about shame a bit.

Corey: Alright, let's get into the nitty-gritty of shame. Well okay. I know one experience in particular of a young woman whose mother was homeless and she hated her mother because of that. And she always felt ashamed and she felt disgusted about the condition of her mother. And then she volunteered and she came and she saw how the people were treating them. How you would just sit down and speak to a person. You just erase the homeless part for a while and you just talk to the incredibly amazing individual who's suffered and who's had small triumphs and jumped out of a plane once. And you listen to them and you just appreciate who they are. And she just wept afterwards. You could tell that deep down she was touched by that shame of how she had seen them and how she'd seen her mother. And she had a very powerful catharsis I suppose, about those emotions that she'd been holding back. And on another level there's the societal shame of "This is our society. We say we live up to these values and we say that America's great. We're the land of the free. And there are dead men under the bridge because they froze to death."

Megan: I think that the American exceptionalism is what drives people to make the homeless disappear. That's one of the things that I couldn't wrap my head around is that we have a lot of problems in the world. You've got wars and famines, all sorts of things, but it's like homelessness, you've got to shove it under the rug. They just want them to disappear, like they aren't human, they don't need to be recognized. And I don't recognize them doing that to a lot of people, veterans I think, but it's just baffling to me that we couldn't accept that it's a problem and do something about it. We deal with the mentally ill people. We recognize there's a problem, there's medication they can take and counseling. It seems like they're just being hidden and pushed away and ignored, intentionally. Like it interferes with our view of ourselves so much that as a nation, we can't acknowledge these people exist.

Harrison: In Ponerology Andrew Lobaczewski gives an example in one of the first chapters where he's talking about the cycles of history and he talks about the historoidal cycling back and forth between good times and bad times. And one of the things he mentions about good times is that people develop this almost pathological blindness to people like that, to the problems in their society that allow for those things that they call good. So for the affluence and for just the tremendous disparity in wealth. That could not exist without a tremendous amount of poverty. And so it's a psychological defence mechanism on an unconscious level that you just don't want to look at it. You can't look at it because that reminds you of what your perfect little life is based on, which is misery and suffering in others.

Megan: Right, at the expenseof others.

Harrison: And so what are you going to do in that situation where you've got people who psychologically you just cannot even look at, but for very basic human reasons that are just common to all of humanity? It's this kind of never-ending cycle and that's why Lobaczewski talks about it in terms of cycles because something like that can't last for long. Eventually the system tumbles down and there's a reset and it starts again. But to get to that point, things have to get a lot worse.

Megan: And that's scary.Seventy-to ninety thousand people are homeless in New York City? In New York? That's a lot of people. That's a small army, you know.

Dave: That's like a hundred times the size of the town I was raised in.

Corey: And that's another thing too, we talked about different solutions for homelessness and I like the Spanish solution the best. These all have the good ones. Give them homes. Homelessness isn't just this weird disease. You give them a home and that pretty much takes care of that.

Harrison: Pretty much in the name "homeless". What's the solution?

Corey: It's like "bonelessness". Give the man a bone.

Megan: Yeah, there's an interesting story on RT and there's a guy named Greg Kloehn. He is in San Jose, California and he has been taking garbage. It costs him about $30 to $40, but he builds little homes on wheels for homeless, really cute stuff. It takes him three or four days to build, but he presented a solution. Whatever he finds in the streets, he uses to build the homes. To me, at some level he's recognized the need to help people in his community. He hasn't been arrested yet so maybe it'll continue in San Jose, California.

Harrison: Well now that you've mentioned him on the radio I'm sure they'll be looking for him.

Megan: Oh-oh. Sorry Greg. And this is really cute, but he names the homes R2D2, the Settler, the Romanian Farm, Unibomber Shack, the Tank, the Chuck Wagon. So he's bringing something to it that's fun and creative and you follow one of these homes, driving by you have to stop and look. At least he's doing something where you might gaze for more than 30 seconds at someone else's troubles.

Corey: Yeah, I don't think it would take much of a stretch to solve the homeless problem. There's all these creative solutions out there, but for some reason it's not widespread. There's this whole effort to stifle it all.

Harrison: We were talking earlier and one of the things that we mentioned when we were discussing this is that really, there is an overabundance of materials that could be used for homes for the homeless. Everyone that's homeless could have a home, if you think about it and you just take some very simple steps to get there. First of all, if you think in reference to the article in the Spanish town, mention the number of houses that are empty just because of foreclosures. Think about the number of empty houses there are in the states.

Megan: Businesses, empty buildings, empty hotels.

Harrison: Storage containers. You can turn a storage container into a nice home.

Megan: There's a YouTube video on it.

Harrison: Yeah. Several.

Corey: And the saddest piece is that when you read the news and you see what's going on across the world, you see what happens within the societies that we attack, and you see what happens within our society, it's a decay. And you just can't divorce the problem of homelessness from all the other different problems that are going on. It truly is another one of the signs of the times that we're living in because we have the economic crash, we have the military industrial complex, we have the erosion of social bonds and the erosion of community. And we have the dumbing down of America. We have essentially in most places religion and religious values are basically non-existent. They're kind of archaic and so a lot of times they are very primitive and seem rather scary. And we have this rampant scapegoating of anyone who seems to cause us any kind of threat. And we're hypersensitive and we're paranoid and the country seems more and more hysterical. The kind of legislation that's been issued to tackle the problem of homelessness, imagine the amount of money that has to go into the enforcement of those kinds of things, and it's cheaper just to house them!

Megan: Absolutely! That's what Utah found out. They found out they spent $16,000 a year on ER visits and having them stay in jails and police and $11,000 to give them a home. That should appeal to the dollar sign politicians out there. That's $5,000 you get to spend on yourself.

Harrison: And thank you for mentioning it Corey. Homelessness is just one problem that is a symptom of so many greater problems and I think we see the same kind of collective blindness when it comes to homelessness in, for example, the victims of all the imperialist wars that the United States has been engaged in for almost its entire existence.

And if you just look at the past 20 years though, the number of people murdered, innocent civilians, children, men and women who have just been killed and where is the acknowledgement of that? We don't see them on the news. We don't see their pictures. We don't know their names. So it's just a thoroughly depressing outlook to see that there is so much suffering in the country and around the world caused by this country and people just don't want to look at it.

Corey: Yeah, they just don't give a shit.

Harrison: Yeah. Well it looks like we've got a caller on the line.So this is Kent from West Virginia. Hi Kent, how are you doing?

Megan: Hi Kent.

Kent: Pretty good. Yeah, I just saw something just actually today. There's a guy named - maybe you've heard of him, maybe you know this guy. His name is Greg Kloehn I guess his name is, Greg is G-R-E-G. Last name K-L-O-E-H-N. Obviously it's not the kind of housing that you're thinking about. But he put his name on the internet and what he's doing is he's gathering up scraps of material here, there and everywhere and he invests about $40 and he builds these little, for lack of a better word, you've probably seen in Japan where the day laborers literally have like little tubes that they just rent, that they live in. Well these are just like little tubes that he's constructed and he's decorated. He's an artist so he's been very creative with the decoration of it. He took scraps of wood, scraps of this, scraps of that, and constructs this little shelter and it costs him about $40. He buys casters so that people can roll it around and I guess he puts a knob on it and uses nails and paint and everything. So it's obviously not going to solve the housing problem, but it's an interesting little idea. Course the governments will come and destroy those.

Harrison: Yeah, we'll see what ends up happening in that direction. I hope it doesn't go that far. I hope more people end up doing something like that, like Greg is doing.

Corey: I think what that does is that inspires the creativity that's out there. When people see just what's going on, that somebody cares, then other people start following his lead. Monkey see, monkey do.

Megan: Like you said early about just acknowledging and sitting there and talking to them, just acknowledging that they exist and they have troubles is a step away from ignoring the problem. So yeah, I agree. Good for Greg!

Harrison: Alright. Was that it Kent?

Kent: Yeah, I just wanted to tell you about that.

Harrison: Alright.

Kent: Thanks a lot.

Corey: Thank you! Take care.

Kent: Okay.

Harrison: I was just mentioning the wars and the victims of war and the almost willful ignorance of that because the United States can't exist as an empire without consequences of that sort. We want to move in another direction now. Do you have any other notes?

Megan: Well nothing that we haven't already talked about. What do you do?

Harrison: Well Corey, in your experience, what can you do? What do people do in your community and what can people who haven't been involved in this sort of thing, start taking up?

Corey: You have to remember that homelessness has so many different factors that contribute to it and a lot of those rely on the ignorance, I guess, of us. You just don't know what's going on in the house next door. And I think just to remember that there are so many little things that we can do that might be uncomfortable at first. Volunteering is one thing. I never thought I would ever volunteer to do anything, really. I was just a typical guy, but once I started volunteering at a homeless shelter and I then I started volunteering for a domestic violence shelter.

Once you really start to see the difference that just listening to someone and acknowledging who someone is and just kind of giving them a nudge in the direction, they're like "Oh, this person has these interests and these sparks. This is what gets them going". Encouraging people is the biggest thing that we can do. And in order to do that we have to go to the places where you might find them. The Big Brother, Big Sister thing, that system's really good to mentor someone, even if it's just once a month, to give somebody, a young kid who, if you think back on your childhood and you think about that one person who cared and how that was the light in the darkness, you could be that person for somebody.

You could be that person for just about anybody that's out there just stuck. When you think about this, there's a huge amount of potential that exists with so many people living on the earth and how it's all just being squandered. Just to reconnect one person with their potential, that's huge, or even to help in that direction, that's huge. I think that a lot of people get into that trying to "help people" and are a little bit disillusioned when things don't go the way that they thought they should. "Ah, this guy should get a job". But it's all about having those boundaries set up and making sure that you're very clear what that relationship is and that you're just there for x, y and z and then being firm and making it possible for them to form a healthy relationship with someone. In terms of an adult and children, it's all sorts of different dynamics that go into play there, but you can really help somebody out just by going down and mentoring or by helping at a food kitchen and really getting in there and discarding any prejudices you have and getting to know somebody. That's the big thing.

Harrison: Alright we've got one more clip.
See they got a lot of housing for homeless people but the government is not really funding it. And then a lot of the shelters that they be having, people have got to stay on the street because people be getting raped in those shelters, they get robbed, you've got to sleep with one eye open and one eye closed. I was in a shelter one time and a guy like right next to me, they was trying to rape him. So I jumped in and you know, stopped it. A lot of them shelters is no good. That's why you see a lot of homeless people on the street. They feel safer out here and it's easier to make a few dollars out here and pay somebody to let you stay a night or two where you know you're safe. I sleep out here by myself because I'm in the area right here and it's not that much violence around here, you know. You've only got one life and if something's going to happen, it's going to happen anyway. And I just pray to the lord it don't. I just keep my head up and every day as long as I wake up, I've got another shot.
Harrison: So you were telling us before the show Corey, about your shelter's kind of different than other shelters. It's smaller, it deals with less people, but can you speak to what that guy was saying?

Corey: Yeah. That is an absolute truth that you have to deal with and wherever there's dysfunction, there's danger and I know that many of the individuals who have come to our shelter have tried to escape the shelters in the bigger cities because they'll rob you. They'll take your bike. There's people who are addicted to just the craziest drugs. In our shelter most of my job it seems, is to make sure that none of that gets in and as soon as even the hint of it gets in, we have a lot of really great communication so that all the little pieces of things that everyone sees, they'll tell me and then we're able to make sure that that person finds suitable shelter elsewhere. I think that that's the sad and ugly truth of about individuals who are caught in dysfunction anyhow.

We struggle so much to change the smallest habits but you imagine having a dangerous addiction or something. You don't want to enable peoples' addictions. You don't want to enable people on the slide down. I've noticed that several of the people who have got right into housing have been people who caused major disruptions and who were asked to leave the shelter and got into housing immediately after that. I talk about boundaries and the strict boundaries. There's pathological people out there who will manipulate vulnerable people. They will use vulnerable people and we know this from the Franklin scandal in Nebraska. If you think of children in orphanages and we know Prince Andrew, some of the most powerful people, their hobbies are to use vulnerable people. Homeless people are vulnerable and they will be used by other people as well. And it's unfortunate but they don't have a lot of power. And that's one reason why the numbers that are out there that count the homeless, they're based on a point-in-time survey that takes place one night a year typically in a shelter. And then they also try and go out and count them. But there's not a lot of people who go to those shelters unless it's absolutely necessary. That's another reason why you just need to get these people into homes and then just let them take care of themselves. They're people.

Harrison: And yet, how many people will say in conversation that either these people chose it, they're living this way because they want to, or they deserved it.

Megan: Because they're a drain on the taxpayers.

Harrison: And this is their punishment, so they deserve it. What kind of an attitude is that? They deserve it. It's like coming back again to the war aspect, it's like saying all of these children and women and innocent civilians in other countries "Well they deserve to get killed", what? Because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Because some other country decided to bomb their town? People don't want to be homeless. It's not like these people chose to be homeless and it is a struggle, it is difficult. And it's not something to be proud of, that a homeless person would feel some kind of pride in what they're doing. No, they're miserable. If they could, they wouldn't be homeless.

Dave: Obviously not in those shelters. Absolutely not. The conditions are deplorable in a lot of them and you have burned out individuals working in a lot of them, at the massive shelters, where there's no way they police the behavior. Yeah Harrison, I agree with you. There's no one out there who actively would choose to live in just an awful, awful life. We all want what's best for ourselves.

Corey: One thing I'd like to bring up. Being around people that are homeless and down, I've got to say, you meet some of the kindest, empathetic people you could imagine. They have nothing and they're willing to give literally the shirt off their back versus I've been around people with enormous wealth and it's the complete opposite.

Harrison: Well Corey, earlier you mentioned a shame, that shame was a big issue.One of the reasons I asked you to clarify that and talk about it was that the first thing that came to my mind is that "Shame's a great thing". The way I saw it is that the rich people that you're talking about Dave, and the people that don't see these things, I think they should be actively shamed.

Dave: Yeah, publicly shamed into not being assholes.They absolutely should be publicly shamed. But how you go about doing that though is beyond me.

Harrison: Well the guy in Spain, that mayor, his non-violent act of disobedience, I think we need outspoken people. Well that's the thing. As things are, it's kind of impossible and I don't see it happening. The opinion-makers, the media is totally backwards. They have values that are just completely opposite to actual values. Think about what our society would be like if in the news they actually presented good things as good and bad things as bad instead of their opposites. That acts as a kind of beacon for people. They see the way they're supposed to behave, what they're supposed to conform to. Right now we are supposed to conform to a totally psychopathic, capitalist, dog-eat-dog world. But what if we had people in the media, newspapers, news, TV shows, movies, where selfish people were the bad guys?

Megan: Yeah. We have a wall of shame.

Dave: Get Michael Douglas back.

Megan: A two-minute diatribe on how evil Dick Cheney is.

Harrison: We don't see that. So I think it comes back to the bigger issue is that as a society we just lack any kind of real values, any kind of conscience.

Megan: Well I've experienced it. I had a period of homelessness. I think experiencing it. There's been times when if it hadn't have been for friends or family I'd have been in trouble financially. So I think you have to experience it on some level to have maybe compassion. You can have compassion and empathy without that, but experiencing it is a whole other thing. I still think maybe people do and they don't want to.

Corey: I think that obviously a society like, as I read from that quote earlier from Expulsion, that inequality is leading to the expulsion of poor and middle-class people from the economy and the rich are falling into this black hole with their own creation. And I think that how we treat the people who have absolutely no value to us is determining a lot of the future because then the communities that are coming together and are networking in order to solve these kinds of problems, I imagine that they are much more resilient and stand a much better chance of surviving this economic turmoil. And it's going to get worse because these guys aren't going to stop taking and taking and taking and taking. The homeless people that I've met, a lot of them have the same opinions and the same things that I do. They're very, like you were saying Dave, they're very kind, very gentle, give you the shirt off their back and then also in the shelter, they're very, very intelligent and they're very, very cognizant of what's going on in the world and there's a lot of humor, like "You're going to be in here sometime too buddy."

Megan: I think that people think about that. It could happen to anybody. If your home burns down or cops destroy your home in a raid that was the wrong house, you're homeless. You have no place to live. So I think if people think about what it'd be like not to have a home then maybe things will change.

Dave: Well united we stand.

Harrison: Unfortunately, I think the previous statement was probably closer to the truth that people are going to have to experience it. So maybe the best thing that could happen is that the disparity between rich and poor should just get wider.

Harrison: Wider and even greater than it is now. As it is now, it's just a horrible situation. But let's just take it to the extreme where you start seeing tons more people becoming dirt poor, bankrupt, homeless, until we get to practically 90% of the population is homeless and finally realizes what it's like and finally realizes "Hey, maybe this has something to do with the way our culture is and the way our society is structured and maybe we should do something different."

Megan: Yeah, an uprising of some kind.

Dave: That would be radical.

Corey: It's a radically new way of organizing. This is people with maybe some conscience and empathy.

Megan: Like that show Snapped where it shows women who've kind of snapped. I think society's going to get to a snapping point. You can only treat people like crap for long enough and then it's going to come back on you. Between 70,000 and 90,000 homeless people in New York? What if they got mad? What if they decided that they didn't like the mayor anymore? Because our leaders don't have a conscience and they're lacking that emotional component, I don't think they realize the end game. It always is that way. I just don't think they understand that.

Corey: This time we might be a lot dumber though. Until they do literally just fall into a black hole.

Dave: Probably going to have to be swallowed up.

Harrison: As usual, we kind of conclude with the most bleak outcome possible.

Megan: Well it's realistic.

Harrison: Well one thing that I think more people can start doing, I think they should start doing, is changing their lifestyle as it is now. You don't have to be homeless. I'm just talking about people in general, community living. The way that everyday life is structured, you've got your apartment, maybe a roommate, or you live with your family, usually a small family. But you don't see a whole bunch of people kind of getting together to share costs, share rent. If you have a small family renting a big house, you could fit two or three families that you get along with, in there and just think about how much your costs are reduced.

Megan: Oh yeah. Shared cooking, shared chores, shared childcare. It would free up your time. Less stress.

Dave: That is another good answer for this problem because the way that we've structured this whole idea of the mortgage and your kids leave the house when you're 18 unless you're being so bad they run away. Then after everyone's spread out, every trip that you save and everyone has to pay their own rent. Well if we just got back to that nuclear family, you live with the grandparents, you take care of each other, the grandparents look after the kids, the sisters and brothers help with the chores. We're being forced to a point that we should probably be naturally gravitating towards that but we aren't really necessarily paying attention to those signs. And so I think those people out there who are coming together and creating that, that is probably the best way to get involved and to end homelessness, especially your own.

Megan: Yeah, roommate situations, community living situations, yeah.

Corey: I think a lot of people too want to change the system within the system and obviously that's not working. Today we have to go outside the system and form our own communities with our own moral values.

Harrison: But even then, there's a problem because if you think about putting a whole bunch of people together, if you've got a roommate, usually it's like one person's enough. I can't live with other people. I was talking to a relative the other day and she just said "It's just so hard living with other people". And on the one hand that's kind of true because everyone's had a bad roommate, but on the other hand, those problems usually come about because of what I would term poor socialization or just being a product of this world the way it is, where there is just no consideration for the people around you and so you act like a self-entitled teenager all the time and people just don't want to have you around or to live with you just because you're acting like the people act that are responsible for these problems in the first place.

So part of community living is about getting over yourself to the extent that you can interact with others and start putting others before yourself. It ends up working out. If you try it out and acknowledge first of all going in there that there's going to be interpersonal problems, you can get through them and it ends up being just so much better in all the ways, I think personally, than living alone in an apartment.

Living paycheck to paycheck with a loser job and the connection that you have, say with your family, like we had that from the young woman who moved from the east coast to Seattle, one of the big problems I think with homelessness is that these people don't have anyone they can turn to. If they did they wouldn't be homeless because when you're part of a community, even if you form your own little community, even just sharing housing with several people, they become like an extended family, a large family, and you've got someone for support. So if any one person loses their job, they can be covered by the people around them.

Corey: Yeah, that's it, having a community of support. There's something in that saying "It takes a village to raise a child". When you have that kind of support it's just not all on the individual.

Harrison: But as it is now, everything is on the individual. So you lose your job and then just out of nowhere your car breaks down, you can't pay the rent, there you are, you're homeless and you've got no one to turn to. Then that's when you have to go through the choice, am I going to live on the street, am I going to go to one of these shelters? What are these shelters like? Can I find a good one? And then how am I going to get a job? And then if you don't get a job, so you're homeless for a week and then a couple of weeks and then a month and then it gets to the point possibly where you've been homeless for three years and then try getting a job. The longer that you're homeless, the more you feel bad about yourself and the more stigma there is on you from other people, the harder it'll be to get a job and it just compounds and the problem gets worse and worse as it goes on.

Corey: Yeah exactly. That's how it is. It wears your self esteem down and you go to get help within the system and it's terrible. There is no support, they just degrade you even more.

Harrison: So yeah, community living.

Corey: Sharing burdens.

Harrison: Giving homes to the homeless. There are plenty to go around.

Megan: Giving food to the homeless.

Corey: There's that saying "Abandon all hope ye who enter here." That comes to my mind quite a bit on the daily grind. And I see the solutions. You can think in terms of these solutions and you know that it's nice to see the homeless individuals see this kind of solution as well because, like I said earlier, homelessness is an experience that people go through that is very much in our society; you're on the bottom. You have hit rock bottom for the most part and for people who are rebounding from that, there's that understanding, that archetypal understanding that "I need other people. I need to treat other people with respect. I care about other people. I can't survive on my own being selfish" or however this culture has programmed us, is not going to work. And I've been staring death in the face for the past couple of years and several times you see them take off. But like Dave said, it eats away at you.

Dave: Yeah, it's kind of like a scene in Pink Floyd's The Wall when the people are just going through the meat grinder.

Harrison: Yeah. Alright I think we're going to have a short show and end it there unless anyone has any comments they wanted to finish off with.

Corey: No.

Harrison: Alright. So thank you everyone for listening. If you have a chance in the next week or so, I highly recommend you publicly shame someone that doesn't like homeless people or is ignoring war crimes or thinks that big wig capitalists are great or publicly shame a politician. Just find someone that you can publicly shame that deserves it and go ahead and do it and the world will be a slightly better place.

Corey: Absolutely! Shame is good.

Harrison: So thank to Dave, Meg and Corey for coming.

Corey: Thank you.

Harrison: Thank you Corey for the work that you've been doing. It's great to hear that there are people in the world actually doing something good and for their fellow human beings. So thank you again and keep up the good work.

Corey: Thanks.

Harrison: Good night, good day, good afternoon. We'll see you all next week.

Megan: Good-bye everybody.

Dave: Bye everybody. Take care.

Corey: Yeah, take care.