Don’t become what you fight against
In a recent email exchange I was a part of, with 15 or so homelessness activists and journalists, Andy Thayer of Uptown Tent City Organizers, someone I respect deeply (as well as the rest of UTCO), kindly apologized to me for an article where the journalist misappropriated the credit for tent fund-raising to him instead of me.
I responded “It was a team effort, not concerned with credit, thanks for considering it though.”
I further responded “What I do find distressful is the perpetuation of the [redacted name] lies by so many. As many of us know, he was never homeless at the viaducts, and has been housed at the [redacted building] as long as I have known him, for over a year. His ‘mayorship’ was one of domination, and donation skimming. Now he acts like he just got housed. 100% lies out of that guy and often enforced among the people actually homeless with drunken bullying to put it mildly. It’s shameful.”
Another person in the email chain, [redacted name] with a history of dishonesty and divisiveness, responded to my comments “I initially felt that way too about [redacted name] but then, when it became clear he answered to us… (blah blah blah, a whole paragraph of minimizations, rationalizations and subject shifting…)”
I didn’t respond there, but I will here because this needs to be said for the quality and effectiveness of our community’s testimony for people experiencing homelessness. I’d rather not even comment but the level of false information in the news about Uptown’s homelessness is getting too high to ignore.
Sad that the two redacted name people above’s need for attention exceeds their respect for others and the movement against homelessness but it’s not totally uncommon. Even sadder for the non-profits that willingly traffic in this garbage because they should know better.
First auxiliary point, to be clear, when I talk about donation skimming in this exchange, I’m talking about stealing tents, propane heaters and propane, not sandwiches and used clothes. No one can prevent every donation diversion but I’m pretty sure the kind hearted donors to Uptown Outside or Uptown Tent City Organizers for that matter, donate for survival needs not a booze and cigarette budget. Additionally, casually allowing funds downgrades, i.e. selling a $50 tent for $10 or whatever, is not respectful to donor intentions either. Homelessness activists and non-profits need to be good stewards of donation funds. When there is a big leak in the bucket, you plug the leak, it’s just that simple.
Second auxiliary point, called to task for his dishonest status, the non-homeless homeless person in response, lied about and slandered at least 2 other activists and a completely uninvolved homelessness non-profit. This was to a TV station, a newspaper, and numerous other homeless people. Referrals to journalists for this person have multiple levels of harm to the homelessness movement.
Main point 1: It’s not about us vs. them or winning
I get it, I’m sure it feels that way sometimes, especially for those in the streets but those things are not what it is about. It’s about dealing with homelessness. It’s about our ethically and morally deficient leaders in government lying to the public, as well as creating, maintaining and refusing to realistically resolve homelessness in the scale necessary. Someday when the government codifies that housing is a human right, and everyone is guaranteed housing, everyone wins. There are no sides.
Main point 2: You can’t demand ethics from others you are not willing to follow yourself
This is the same principle at work here as ‘He is a p*ssy grabber and rapist but he’s our p*ssy grabber and rapist’ that I’m sure most of you will understand. We already have a corrupt, dishonest, selectively discriminatory and uncaring City Council that resembles our GOP Congress. Don’t be the same as them.
Main point 3: False testimony in the media does nothing for homelessness
If 10%-50% of every media story about people experiencing homelessness in Uptown is fake news, there are no gains for homelessness advocacy. The opportunity and bandwidth to truly educate and inform the public have been wasted.
Main point 4: The truth about homelessness is bad enough
We don’t need to embellish or make up stories. The truth is not only sufficient but even more compelling. In fairness to the 1st redacted name individual, he’s been homeless before and from the looks of things, will be again. His true story would have been a better one, I am certain.
We all fall short of the glory of God
We are all imperfect, there is no need to dwell on individuals’ imperfections, but please, you expect more from government leaders and information sources, expect more from activist leaders and information sources as well.
If you are an activist or non-profit and a journalist asks you for referrals to people experiencing homelessness for an interview, don’t refer them to someone who isn’t homeless, known to lie about other activists and non-profits, or selfishly camera-struck. Stop sticking phony homeless people on stages as part of homelessness panels, things like that. It’s not rocket science.
As humans, we may never be perfect, but we shouldn’t start normalizing dishonesty and theft from our leaders, institutions, and spokespeople. We already have Cappleman and Trump for that.
Pretty basic stuff and simple enough right?
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