10 Dec 2017

He’s a liar and thief but he’s our liar and thief

By |2017-12-10T14:07:59+00:00December 10th, 2017|Activism|1 Comment

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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#Homeless #Jesus #Chicago

22 Oct 2017

Parable of the Good Samaritan & Homeless People

By |2017-12-07T12:58:58+00:00October 22nd, 2017|Activism|0 Comments

Feeding neighbors experiencing homelessness at the recent Uptown Tent City evictions.

Fund raising & protesting for homeless people without housing, feeding or clothing them is passing by them on the other side of the road, unmerciful and not neighborly

This is pretty basic theology, even secular ethics. Don’t be an organization with Reverend, Pastor, Minister, Rabbi, etc. on your Board of Directors and let your organization pass by people who really need help, all the while your corporate bank account goes cha-ching.

Luke 10:25-37 NIV
The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


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20 Oct 2017

Displacement Activism and Compassion

By |2017-12-07T12:57:24+00:00October 20th, 2017|Activism|0 Comments

Uptown Tent City is gone but is the feeding trough?

In case you didn’t notice, I recently stepped down from leadership at the Uptown Tent City Organizers. Make no mistake about it though, I am in complete agreement with 90%+ of what the Uptown Tent City Organizers do. To work together with the people there really was an honor I will always remember fondly.

One of the advantages of my newly minted independence is to be able to comment on organizations, groups and individuals exterior to that group. I do this to educate and hopefully focus volunteers/donors on the best types of groups to put their efforts/donations into.

Wow, when UTCO was founded, was I in for some eye opening education. I really did think everyone working for the homelessness and housing causes were of pure motivations and respectful of each other.

ONE Northside: Million $$$ Corporation needs $100

Recently I saw an Internet post seeking donations to purchase less than $100 tax & shipping included worth of tarps for homeless refugees of the viaduct evictions. ONE Northside is one of the largest protest organizations on the north side of Chicago. A group that is difficult to criticize in a sound bite, because it has many super well meaning and hard working volunteers.

It is the paid leadership and the corporation I criticize, not the volunteers.

This ad was somewhat humorous because this organization is a marching with signs and colored t-shirts powerhouse, but frankly, they never do anything for the people experiencing homelessness. They protest a storm up and walk away, doing nothing to help.

OK $100 is a start… Or is it?

I stress if this organization did anything like housing, feeding, clothing, etc. homeless people, I would say power to them, send money in buckets. However, let’s take a peek at their finances.

2011 Total Revenue: $1,189,784
Executive compensation, salaries and wages: $440,499

2012 Total Revenue: $2,269,981
Executive compensation, salaries and wages: $746,513

2013 Total Revenue: $1,439,258
Executive compensation, salaries and wages: $503,019

2014 Total Revenue: $1,193,580
Executive compensation, salaries and wages: $622,833

2015 Total Revenue: $776,057
Executive compensation, salaries and wages: $505,406

For the life of me I can’t imagine, why, if they are in contact with people that desperately need $100 worth of tarps, they would even waste the time fund raising for it. The Uptown Tent City Organizers raised roughly $10k/yr and much of that came from the leaders and actively involved membership. UTCO had no problem pumping thousands of dollars worth of tarps and much else out of their own pockets to help people.

Even worse is the Displacement Activism

ONE thing this organization really excelled at was displacing groups actually doing things to help homeless people. Reality is there is only so much bandwidth for homelessness. Media attention, time to attend events and so on. This organization was seen nowhere even just protesting outside homelessness before UTCO invited them to stand together in solidarity with them. Before you knew it, instead of adding to the movement, there was a great orchestration to take what others had built.

This was not only displacing more effective activism and compassion, but sowing division between activists and homeless people and wasting homeless peoples’ time, diverting them from working on their own issues, paying them nothing for their speaking and advertising their photos for ONE Northside’s corporate gain. This is taking advantage of people in a desperate position in my opinion.

Don’t even get me started about organizing people that need ‘subsidized housing’ desperately to waste their time advocating for ‘affordable housing’ that they will not likely be able to afford nor will this housing materialize in their own neighborhood in the unlikely event it did materialize somewhere…

Ah, the pressures of corporate fund raising I guess… They did a pretty good job actually hurting homeless people when you look at the net loss, glad it was profitable for them. Sure you can’t cover those tarps?

To be fair, since the inception of UTCO, there was a steady stream ready to co-opt UTCO efforts, this organization is hardly alone, except maybe in its scale. Some displacers lived for the camera and newspaper page, some for the donation skim, (like collecting donations for $20 bags of ice, selling tents and much more). I can’t fault too much the extreme minority of homeless people themselves that sought to profit for survival, but to profit for a part time job or corporately and handsomely profit on homelessness is unfathomable to me.

Capitalism, you have to love it, even tragedy and misery can be profitable.


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18 Oct 2017

When housing Activism is actually De-activism

By |2017-12-07T12:56:56+00:00October 18th, 2017|Activism|1 Comment

Deactivating housing without replacement is…

It is immoral. It is always rich, without exception, to be comfortably housed, and then work against other people’s housing conditions, when there are no realistic replacement options immediately available.

One disconnect seen commonly in the past are complaints about various SROs and other low cost housing units that have not been maintained adequately. Yet, remove that housing and often, there are no other good options. To oppose this housing, even in a substandard state, only condemns the people living there to be homeless.

You may find some housing detestable, but still many people that actually live there choose and desire it over the alternatives available to them. What right does any housed person have to say that another person should be homeless rather than poorly housed?

Personally, I’d rather be in the crummiest apartment than a shelter or worse, a tent or a blanket on a sidewalk. Most housing activists seem to get this.

When there are too many low cost SROs and other low cost housing units vacant and for rent, then we can start to worry about forcing them out of the market.

Ditto for faith-based shelters

It is a fact, there are not enough available shelter beds in Chicago. Speaking from experience, I would like to thank -all- faith-based shelters for caring and stepping up to the challenge. Without the faith-based shelters voluntary help, thousands in Chicago alone would be living who knows where, because our government has failed its citizens miserably. Housing, emergency or otherwise in Chicago, gets an F grade.

Everyone I have known to experience homelessness including moi, have stayed in faith-based shelters at some point, if not the entirety of their homelessness experience. How rich of anyone to think they and their ideals have some right to force other people to live on sidewalks or loading docks, just because they don’t like some particular shelter rules or policies.

I’ll be the first to admit, living in any homeless shelter is likely not a positive experience for a variety of reasons. There are some faith-based shelters I am not keen on and some I love. Still, anything short of personal housing is going to, well… fall short.

If you are upset at the quantity and quality of public shelters, please do place your anger where it belongs, with your government representatives, not the private individuals and non-profits kind enough to try to help, even if they do so imperfectly.

Corrupt governments always love it when its citizenry tears each other up instead of it…

Tip: Be careful of second information about shelters. Most times I have heard negative stories about shelters, a major piece of the story was left out which changed everything. The reality of homelessness is bad enough, we don’t need to cook the facts please.

More Importantly

Stop complaining and do something. If you feel there should be governmental shelters, non-faith shelters, or specialty shelters for any group not currently served or served well, power to you!

Please consider putting your time and actions into positive gains. I am part of an organization that has spent a lifetime doing so. Every day, we now directly house 300 homeless individuals and 100 senior citizens. 400 total.

You too can do that. Sometimes the non-profit sector has to step in and do what the public one won’t. Seriously, I think time is being wasted with anger that could be better spent on positive gains.

Search your own heart. Personally, I feel it is ultra-important to have either new or truly new-minded government representatives as well as continue to litigate corrupt government, but beyond that, unlimited bull horn yelling and sign marching are not going to have the real use that actually building a new homeless shelter or volunteering as a positive advocate at one will.

When there are too many available shelter beds, then we can start to worry about…


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