Saturday, June 4, 2011

Homeless in the Land of Milk and Honey

S. Paul Forrest

America was once called the Land of Milk and Honey.  It was so named for the prosperity and promise associated with the opportunity that was once available to anyone who, when willing to work, could acquire a piece of the America Dream.  Today, the story is much different.  Hard work seems to mean little in our current system where the elite control the money and the associated greed so intrinsic to their self service, has robbed good, hard working Americans of their right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

After a lifetime of effort in the chase for their piece of the pie, some Americans are finding themselves out in the cold, having lost their jobs and their dreams in the aftermath of the Great Recession.  Some have fallen victim to not only Wall Street’s suspect derivative trading and over speculation in a system that could not support such monetary betting, but to a banking system that manipulated loan rates when looked to and trusted by home buyers for professional guidance. 

Many of these unfortunate people are quickly finding themselves added to the homeless numbers of America.  Many are trying to survive the current economic depression by seeking federal assistance but have found, much to their dismay, that government programs, one of their only rays of hope during their time of tribulation, are being taken by the same group of people who assisted in their demise: Congress.

Those responsible for the economic plunge are trying to phase out social systems that provide those who are suffering a lifeline in the ocean of betrayal they are drowning in.  Even worse, it seems to not matter to those surviving the current economic disaster.  The “Haves” are scrambling to protect their own by supporting a political bureaucracy that has abandoned the “Have Nots”.  Like prisoners protecting their plate of food, these people are surrendering conscience for three squares and a warm cot of their own. 

In light of the actions taken or inaction in some cases, by our governmental representatives, those from rural and suburban areas have had no choice but to abandon their townships and move toward the cities in search of shelter and whatever government aide remains.  They have migrated en masse to the urban centers of this nation in search of the remnants of their National security but in place of the Golden Lamp, they have only found iron bars and cold, impersonal streets.  In lieu of allowing the preservation of their survival, Cities are beginning to enact anti-homeless initiatives to drive them back to where they came while those responsible for this treachery receive record bonuses and wallow in ill-gotten gains.

St. Petersburg, Florida is a prime example of such inhuman approaches.  The City has enacted new laws toward the criminalization of the homeless.  A report by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless, tells much about the current war on these unfortunates:

“Since early 2007, St. Petersburg has passed 6 new ordinances that target homeless people. These include ordinances that outlaw panhandling throughout most of downtown, prohibit the storage of personal belongings on public property, and make it unlawful to sleep outside at various locations.

In January 2007, the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender announced that he would no longer represent indigent people arrested for violating municipal ordinances to protest what he called excessive arrests of homeless individuals by the City of St. Petersburg. According to numbers compiled by the public defender’s office, the vast majority of people booked into the Pinellas County Jail on municipal ordinances were homeless individuals from St. Petersburg.”

This is not the only American City to turn its back on those in need.  Across America, the suffrage of economic victimhood is being called to the forefront as the newest criminal act.  Many Laws have been put into place to make illegal, people living in the streets thereby dissuading them from coming to their cities at all.

Both sides of the Congressional Aisle have argued the semantics of the mortgage crisis and the current economic strife but the blame for the downfall of this once great nation means nothing when one is huddled beneath a dirty blanket trying to survive the cold or going hungry.  The homeless only know they their basic American rights have been denied.  Adding insult to injury, those Congressional representatives, who were put into office to ensure the continuation of our American system, are trying to take even more from them.

Many on the right have argued that the US has become a nanny state.  They expound upon the belief that we must no longer allow the expenditure of “American” money to go to those who will not help themselves first.  This may have been a valid approach in strong economic times of yesteryear when work was plentiful and the American Dream was alive but now, in the shadow of Bush Era gluttony and growing Tea Party faux-Patriotic oligarchy, it stands as a slap in the face of hard working Americans waking to the American nightmare. 

Some on the Left, voted into office by an American public that needed to be protected, are making deals to further empower the elite in order to acquire their own earmarks and campaign contributor benefits. They too, seem to have lost sight of what America used to stand for. 

The only security this country seems to care for anymore is the one that allows for funds to be taken from social services and used for war, Patriot Act driven oppression and corporate welfare entitlement.  Those unfortunate souls who have to stand in line for a warm bed in an overcrowded dormitory or in a food kitchen line to get a modest meal, are painfully finding that many of their lifelines are being denied by the very country they pledged their allegiance to.  Instead of solutions, politicians are only delivering rhetoric, excuses and false promises.  In this, our Nation’s greatest time of need, they would rather protect their own than fight for providing for the American people.

Many try to ignore these people as they represent the errors and gluttony of a nation lost but they are still American citizens and need to be cared for.  The Right and their Tea Party counterparts vehemently expound upon the protection of our borders against illegal immigrants, terrorists, foreign influences and protecting the Constitution for the preservation of America’s citizens but in the same breath they condemn social services to support Americans in their time of need.  The simple reality is this:  American governance has become detached from the lives lived by those whom it has been charged the protection and care of.

According to the principles of fascism, the rule of the elite class is inevitable in such a system as Corporatism.  Fascists feel that elite rule is natural and desirable, and those with the rare qualities of leadership will rise to the top.  This type of leader does not derive power from a constitution, but is the embodiment of the people.  Mussolini said a leader is "…the living sum of untold souls striving for a goal."  In short, the elite class is desired and needed because they will lead the people to greatness.  In the case of this country however, or leaders are leading us to ruin and are far from the mantle of greatness.

Maybe this nation is not heading toward fascism after all.  That leap would take real intelligence and power derived through purpose.  I’m sure all American citizens can agree that this is not a danger in our current Congress and it is especially lacking in our police force.  Fascism takes control and intelligence but recently, America is quickly losing the control it once had in the world and our self-labeled leaders emerging from places like Alaska, are far from intelligent.  Still, the elite in this country try tirelessly to impose a fascist state and tirelessly, we true patriots resist.

In America today, people who have been misguided enough to believe in the American system and lost their piece of the Dream because of it, are now hoping for a savior.  Unfortunately, none is to be found in this, our modern America.  We as a nation are quickly falling into the realm of the second world.  The rise of a real, sincere leader is a pipe dream under the impotent umbrella of our current political system and the economic destruction they have reaped in their own name.  The future of this nation indeed looks dim.

Homelessness has in the past been viewed as a state of laziness but today, it is a growing condition that represents a dying world power.  The elite persist in the denial of this national illness for its recognition would admit fault.  At the end of the day though, ignoring it will not lessen the inevitability that this, our once great nation, is now a declining Empire.  Many are on the brink of bankruptcy in this country and where once lay the promise of prosperous times for all, there now exists the reality that we are all only one misfortune away from being Homeless in the Land of Milk and Honey.

S.Paul note: Since I wrote this article  back in December of 2010, St. Petersburg, Florida has banned panhandling.  Now, as the St. Petersburg Times reports, the following has occured:  

ST. PETERSBURG — The days of seeing downtown parks and sidewalks hosting makeshift homeless camps are nearly over, Mayor Bill Foster said Thursday.

In the next two weeks, the city will begin enforcing ordinances that ban sleeping or reclining on public sidewalks and the storage of personal belongings on public property.

Williams Park, City Hall, the Princess Martha senior apartments, all known for attracting the homeless, will be transformed, Foster told council members.

"You will see success," Foster said. "All eight of you have made this happen. When your constituents ask you about this in the coming weeks, take credit for it because you guys made it happen."

Violators will be given the option of going to Pinellas Safe Harbor — a shelter the county opened with the city's help in January — or jail. Located off 49th Street near the Pinellas County Jail, Safe Harbor has already become the county's largest shelter, averaging 320 to 350 people a day.

Word of the changes is getting out, said Shawn Samples, a 38-year-old unemployed waiter who spends his days at Williams Park and his nights sleeping along Fifth Street.

"I heard through word of mouth," Samples said. "And I don't want to go (to the shelter). It reminds me too much of a jail."

St. Petersburg's move could cause ripples for other Tampa Bay cities.

Last year, when the city banned street solicitation to stop homeless people from panhandling, Tampa and Hillsborough County officials reported an uptick in those begging for money and food on their streets.

For months, Foster delayed enforcing ordinances aimed at the homeless because there wasn't enough shelter space. The jail no longer had room for violators of small crimes such as trespassing. Yet he continued to catch flak from downtown businesses and residents who said he was doing little to address the surging homeless population.

Late last year, he pushed for a solution — the opening of Safe Harbor, which has room for 500. Its intent was to help remove homeless people from downtown streets, but also to allow the shift of homeless people accused of smaller crimes away from jail, where the costs are $125 more a day.

Its expansion is made possible by a recent shipment of 100 bunks the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ordered from an Alabama jail for $20 apiece. Metropolitan Ministries has agreed to provide food there, saving more than $300,000 in annual costs.

Soon, a courtyard will be open that will add even more space.

Since April 25, the city has been enforcing other ordinances aimed at the homeless population, such as prohibitions on urinating in public and open containers of alcohol.

Since then, 151 people who violated those ordinances have been taken to the shelter, where they have access to an array of services, such as showers, food and security, said St. Petersburg police Maj. DeDe Carron. In exchange, they agree to perform community service or attend mental health or addiction evaluations or rehabilitation sessions.

Of the 151, 37 have been there more than once.

If someone is sent there three times, they go to jail or their first appearance before a judge.

Some local business owners said they had noticed a decrease in the homeless population downtown recently.
Barb Morlack, who owns Kauffman's Jewlers on First Avenue N, said she has seen fewer of the homeless outside her store over the past few months.

"I assumed it was because they opened the shelter by the jail," she said. Her store has been a presence on First Avenue for 62 years.

Lexi Clavizzao, whose mother owns Vizaj Essentials, a boutique next door to Kauffman's, said groups of homeless people used to gather on the bench outside the store but disappeared once "the cops started driving by."

Even from Leigha Good's perspective, the ranks of the homeless have grown thinner in recent weeks.
A former waiter, Good, 24, has been living on St. Petersburg's streets for the last month.
She said she has seen fewer homeless people in the last couple of weeks. Based on what she has heard from her friends about Safe Harbor, she has security concerns and thinks it sounds jail-like.

"From the city's point of view, it's working," Good said. "But from our point of view, it's scary. I don't really want to go to Safe Harbor."

This is the face of our governmental representation in America, 2011


  1. We must be willing to go to jail and not post bail to force the civil rights issue.

  2. They outsourced our jobs and expect us to adapt but at the same time they have imported unlimited peasant laborers to replace us.


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