Friday, December 09, 2016

Berkeley's "Poor Tour": Homeless for the holidays

     In Berkeley right now, there is a group of protesters who have organized an action to protest against homelessness in America.  They call themselves "The Poor Tour," and their actions to protect the homeless are the equivalent of Standing Rock's action to protect our water.  The protesters are also trying to make the dire situation of homelessness here in Berkeley visible to the rest of our nation -- and the police are forcefully trying to shut them down.

     According to one organizer, Mike Zint, "Police have raided our action at least four times already.  They illegally seize and destroy our belongings.  The police don't do that to the tweaker camps here but they do it to us.  Why?  It is because we are protesting that we are being constantly hammered."

    And, surprisingly, Zint also told me that many of the homeless in Berkeley are UC students.  "But how can that be?" you might ask.  Easy.  According to Zint, students here have to pay $1,800 a month just to rent a 10 x 15 dorm room -- which they also must share.

     "Some say that the homeless student population at Cal is as much as 10% of the enrollment, but I think it is more like 300 homeless students."  Want a better class of homeless folks besides the tweakers and drunks?  A better class of homeless is definitely on its way!

     "What I suggest," continued Zint, "is to make a whole bunch of tiny homes available.  Each one of these self-equipped mobile tiny homes costs only $16,500 apiece.  They are like mini-RVs, they come with trailer hitches, are portable and cost less than even the cheapest new car.  The City of Berkeley could set up an RV-park type of operation with utility hook-ups, and then students could rent them for only $300 a month."  Like the hook-ups at State parks.

    "But what about you personally," I asked Zint.  "How is all this camping out in the cold and the wet affecting you yourself?"  It's probably not as cold here as it is in North Dakota and the police here don't use rubber bullets yet -- but still.

     "I'm doing okay," answered Zint, "but some of the rest of us aren't."  I know that last week, during one of the heavy rainstorms (while the rest of us were snug and warm in our beds), one of the protesters, Mike Lee, almost died from pneumonia.  Lee says that he got sick because the cops just keep chasing the "Poor Tour" and confiscating their blankets and tents.

     "I'd love to be more articulate about my ides for ending homelessness and to consult with the new mayor about how to solve these drastic problems, but I can't think on my feet while the cops keep chasing me and chasing me."

     "What about the Oakland warehouse fire disaster," I asked Zint. 

    He answered with the simple truth.  "Artists and musicians lived there because they couldn't afford to live in other, more building-code-safe lofts and studios.  The bottom line here is that people are going to look for any way to get out of the weather."

     I really enjoyed talking with members of the Poor Tour.  And I respect what they are doing.  But even though Mike Lee tells me that the protesters' tents will get bedecked with Christmas lights very soon and that even a Christmas tree is in their near future, there really is no place like a real home for the holidays.

PS:  Need I remind you once again that, by simply re-directing the hundreds of billions of American dollars going into war profiteers' pockets, we could easily feed and house every single man, woman and child in America.  No more poor folks sleeping in doorways.  No more children raised in the backseats of cars.  No more frozen dead bodies of our elderly found in cardboard boxes after winter storms.  Not to mention the jobs this would create.

     For instance, the British government just offered a journalist $17,000 a month to make up propaganda lies about not arming ISIS in Aleppo.  And if the Brits are doing that kind of media manipulation, imagine what America's War Street does to grind out its never-ending "fake news".   I wonder how much it pays the New York Times?  And even Democracy Now for its fake news that ISIS butchers are merely "moderate rebels" peacefully hanging out in Aleppo?


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