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From Outrage to Outcomes: End Racism, Police Brutality, Extreme Poverty and Homelessness

Volume 2

Eric Sheptock- Civil Rights & Homeless Advocate

August 4, 2020


Just to be clear, racism is not the act of calling someone a racial epithet. That would be bigotry. It is not the act of refusing to associate with a certain race. That would be intolerance. It is not the act of assuming that, because someone is of a certain race, they must have committed this or that crime. That would be prejudice. Racism, like Communism or Socialism, is a system. It is a system whereby those of a certain race are held down socioeconomically. It is codified into law and promoted through policy, though it can also be perpetuated by means of the law remaining silent i.e. failing to address issues such as jurisprudence and other disparate outcomes within a society. It is the fabric that weaves together issues such as police brutality, extreme poverty and homelessness.


I'll acknowledge here that there are more poor Whites in the United States than there are poor Blacks; however, poor Blacks are a higher percentage of their race than poor Whites are of theirs -- the very reason that I refer to poverty and homelessness as "overlapping with" racism, rather than referring to them as manifestations of racism. It's worth noting that the Dixiecrats had within their ranks many poor Whites who opposed the idea of social services; because, those social services would help Blacks. So, while our shared poverty can serve to unite the races, the vocal minority has actually used it to tear us apart. And nothing says "I'm Hell-bent on promoting racism" quite like voting against your own self interests. Let that sink in for a minute.


The good news here is that the Dixiecrats, like their fellow southerners in the 1860's, lost their fight and the much-needed social services which were offered as part of the New Deal were extended to Blacks. Unfortunately, this assistance hasn't translated into the lasting economic uplift that Martin Luther King, Jr. sought; but, it has instead led to the demonization of those who remain caught in the grips of generational poverty. By applying to Whites for social and economic uplift rather than establishing yet another Black Wall Street, Blacks have shown Whites that the latter group has the power to lift us up or hold us down. Sadly, those who hold the reins of power have often used that power to hold us down -- not as much by what they do as by what they fail to do. If they've got us where they want us, they're not compelled to do anything more than what's been done. They can take solace in the fact that the lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow suffice to "keep us in our place".


While keeping us in our place figuratively speaking, these same powers have done quite the opposite literally speaking. The race that was fully employed during slavery and possessed the skills whereby to build structures in our nation's capital that remain standing today is currently over-represented among the uneducated, unemployed and homeless communities. It would take a book -- a very long one at that -- to explain what got us from being fully employed, skilled and housed slaves to having high rates of unemployment, lacking marketable skills and being over-represented in the homeless community. However, there are some historic flashpoints that can serve as a lens into why many Black Americans remain in a state of desperation so long after the abolition of Jim Crow Laws.


As with the murder of George Floyd, there were many who rose up and showed outrage after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. On April 4th, 1968 the War on Poverty which King had gotten Lyndon B. Johnson to declare also died and got replaced with the Vietnam War. Blacks who'd hoped that their plight would be addressed by the King-Johnson collaboration had their hopes dashed by a single bullet. Even so, the issue of extreme poverty had been brought to the attention of the federal government which had more imperialistic priorities. In the 1980's some of those who'd fought in the Vietnam War went up against Ronald Reagan so as to have him address homelessness. He promised to create shelter first and housing later, but only went so far as to guarantee shelter for the homeless. More than 30 years later we still have an unresolved housing crisis. The shift in Johnson's priorities and the lack of follow-through on Reagan's part have aided in the perpetuation of poverty and homelessness, respectively. While neither president's approach represents overt racism, both speak volumes to why and how it is that inaction does more to preserve racism than the acts of police brutality which Black Lives Matter speaks soo vehemently against. So long as those who benefit from an unjust system continue to do too little too late or nothing at all about the issue of systemic racism and the intertwined issues of extreme poverty and homelessness, Blacks will remain downtrodden.


There's no guarantee that continuing to use the tactics we're used since the bus boycotts of 1955 -- marching, protesting, appealing to the powers that be or rioting -- will lead to meaningful, system-wide change. However, it's all but guaranteed that the current POTUS won't willingly make any such concessions -- which is all the more reason to redouble our efforts. Nothing does more to say that the movement against racism is powerful than cornering a president who epitomizes racism and a number of other vices into actively opposing racism through the creation of laws and policies that are designed to address the plight of Black Americans -- those who are still living. One of the first steps in achieving this lofty goal is developing meaningful, system-wide demands. We can't settle for the imprisonment of murderous cops and for a multi-million dollar lawsuit for the family of the deceased, though those are great short-term goals. Neither can we settle for better policing and an end to mass incarceration, though they too are great goals.


We must develop as our ultimate goal the demand that people of all races be empowered to live well -- not merely that they are no longer killed or imprisoned unjustly, both of which take their lives away. We mustn't be satisfied to be spoon-fed by government through social services either. We must strive to create yet another Black Wall Street while demanding that government create laws and policies that aid us in reaching that end. Even in the absence of any guarantee that we'll succeed at accomplishing any more than we've accomplished in the more than 50 years since MLK, Jr. died, Blacks will at least earn greater respect insomuch as we will have shown that our demands go far beyond that of legal recourse for the latest outrage.


While Black lives DO indeed matter and shouldn't be ended prematurely, the way in which Blacks live is also of great importance. The perpetrators of racism know this full well. Some of them are more than willing to give us the crumbs we ask for. And believe me when I say that the $6.5 million that a family might receive when their loved one is murdered by police amounts to crumbs. To the racist, that's just the price of doing business. It stands to reason that the perpetrators of racism are elated to see that a movement only has such short-term goals. They're probably laughing all the way to the bank, as they prepare to pay the family of their latest victim. All the while, the social ills that affect large swaths of the Black American community persist -- extreme poverty, homelessness, unemployment, low wages and the like. 


Intelligence manifests not only in giving the right answers, but also by asking the right questions. In like manner, power manifests not only in having one's demands met, but also in making sensible demands. Let us demand an end to homelessness and extreme poverty -- efforts that got false starts under Reagan and LBJ. Let us demand a return to the Black unemployment level and the Black skilled labor level that we had during slavery. Let the opponents of racism exhibit the critical thinking skills that produced Black Wall Street less than 60 years after the end of slavery. 


Let us leave the proponents of racism dumbfounded by our collective demands not only for justice concerning the death of George Floyd, but also for socioeconomic justice. Just for kicks, let's apply such immense pressure over the next three months that a president who has displayed reluctance to renouncing racists and racism is cornered into addressing racism. We'd thereby begin the long journey from outrage to outcomes. However, we must remember that this moment is not the end of our struggle. It's not even the beginning of the end of our struggles. However, it IS the end of the beginning of our struggles.


Twitter: @ericsheptock

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ericsheptock

The Violence of Anti-Homeless Enclosures Volume 2

The New Wave of Criminalization

Aaron Howe - Guest Blogger PhD Student AU

July 21, 2020


The construction of Union Station, much like the construction of modern highway systems, created many of the District’s popular unhoused sites. Once located in “marginal” or peripheral areas of the city, recent shifts in urban living and working have brought more middle- and upper-class residents to these spaces. 


The remarkable similarities between the language used on the District’s notice signs (“pedestrian passageway”) and the NoMa BID’s open letter (“pedestrian safe-passage zones”) is a prime example of the power of local business interests and the role of the state in governing transitioning and/or gentrifying areas. The NoMa BID’s open letter made it clear that the solution to homelessness rest in addressing mental health issues and drug use through the policing and surveillance of unhoused spaces, rejecting the narrative pushed by local advocates who see affordable housing as one of the biggest factors impacting D.C.’s most vulnerable residents. 


As the NoMa BID attempts to construct its narrative and as we search for paths forward, it is crucial to remember the razing of two nearby housing projects – Sursum Corda in 2007 and Temple Courts in 2008 – and the continued attacks on affordable housing in D.C.

In response to the “pedestrian passageway” many of the unhoused asked where they were supposed to go. The L and M Street underpasses were already overcrowded, and many tent camp residents feared that adding more tents would increase the chances that their underpass would become the next “pedestrian passageway”. While many from K Street did find space in these underpasses, they were usually areas known to flood during heavy rains and conflicts often emerged between older residents and the newly moved K Street residents. 


However, not all decided to chance being able to find space in the other underpasses and live with a new group of people. Many moved to other locations around NoMa and beyond, preconditioning another rise in the sprawl of unhoused camps in DC and once again shifting the issue to new spaces rather than dealing with the underlying structural issues. As the spatial formation of unhoused camps shifts in D.C. the work of outreach workers will become crucial, connecting and familiarizing unhoused residents with new areas and services. Sadly, Mayor Bowser’s 2021 budget includes a $2.1 million reduction for outreach services.


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the violence of D.C.’s policies on homelessness and enclosures of public space. Opening these spaces would allow unhoused residents to practice better social distancing, reducing the risk of contracting Coronavirus and limiting community spread writ large. Yet the “pedestrian passageway” signs are still up in the K Street underpass and fences still block off the New York Ave and Whitehurst sites. The pandemic has brought to the surface deeply embedded social inequalities and the heightened violence experienced by our city’s most vulnerable residents. 


To date over 300 of D.C.’s unhoused have tested positive for Corona virus and 21 people have passed away. It is unlikely that we will eliminate homelessness overnight. However, the signs designating the K Street underpass as a “pedestrian passageway” and the fences surrounding the New York Avenue and Whitehurst bridges could easily be removed by the District government to greatly enhance the health and safety of DC’s unhoused populations. The biweekly “cleanups” are not only expensive, but they do nothing to help people take the steps needed to get into homes. Rather than continue to spend money on policing unhoused spaces, D.C. must invest in affordable housing and outreach services to secure safe homes for those who want it.

The Violence of Anti-Homeless Enclosures - Volume 1

The K St NE Underpass - The New Wave of Criminalization

Aaron Howe - Unhoused Activist, PHd Student American University

June 22, 2020

On January 17, 2020, the K St NE underpass in the NoMa Business Improvement District in Washington, DC was established as a "pedestrian passageway." It displaced 60 plus tents of unhoused residents. All unattended property left thereafter would be subjected to immediate disposal by city workers. This notice was announced by an orange sign replacing the "ubiquitous encampment engagements," as the District calls them. The "standard disposition" protocol is the District's go to tool for governing unhoused camps that occur just about every two weeks in the NoMa underpasses. The multiple notice signs create a perimeter I have been calling "the clean up zone", and by the date and time noted on the signs, unhoused residents are meant to have moved all their belongings so city workers can trash abandoned property. Once the garbage trucks and cops roll out, camps are often reconstructed in the same locations. 


With the creation of the "pedestrian passageway," there was one final cleanup and camps were not permitted to return to the K street underpass, as the sign indicated "leave property at your own risk." Enclosure of unhoused spaces like this are not new. In September of 2019, a small site in NoMa, beneath the New York Ave bridge, beneath the Metropolitan Bike Trail, was fenced in, forcing a small group of unhoused residents to relocate. In November 2015, a fence costing nearly $100,000 was constructed along the Whitehurst Freeway in NW DC enclosing a popular site where many unhoused residents lived. The city cited "health and safety concerns" to justify the enclosure, yet the result simply shifted the issue to other parts  of the city. It is no surprise that the unhoused camps in NoMa started to grow around this time.


The M, L, and K street underpasses in NoMa, much like the Whitehurst and New York Avenue, are centrally located and protected from the rain, heat, wind, and snow. The K Street underpass is the longest of the three underpasses in NoMa, and prior to January 17th, housed more than the L and M street underpasses combined (roughly 60 tents). The K street underpass has much narrower sidewalks than the other two underpasses. In August 2019, the president of the NoMa Business Improvement District published an open letter calling on DC officials to deal with the "addicts", "prostitutes", and "criminals", who leave behind "used and bloody hypodermic needles."


The enclosure of the K street underpass was unprecedented in DC and unlike the Whitehurst and New York Ave sites, fences were not used to keep the unhoused out. Rather, it used signs, an anti-camping law, and the threat of force that specifically targets the unhoused. NoMa is one of DC's fastest developing areas rebranding itself from an industrial past anchored by Union Station. It's almost ironic that the K, L, and M street underpasses and at one time H street underpass  were first dug out in 1903 when construction began on Union Station, part of a "city beautiful" plan to rebrand the Nation's Capital. This rebranding campaign came at the expense of a working class community known as "Swampoodle." This construction created one of the many unhoused sites in DC, while bringing in middle and upper class citizens. 


Should developers be held responsible for the new wave of homelessness across this nation? If so, should they offer a portion of their housing to offset what they created in the first place? The tax breaks alone can make up the difference for what it would cost to house a person who lives below the poverty level.  We would love your feedback on twitter @saveusnowdc. This story will continue in July as DC decides the city budget for homelessness and social services. 

What's Next? Are you a Thermostat or Thermometer?

June 17, 2020

Kelvin Lassiter

Controlling the narrative for justice has reached levels not seen since the civil rights movement. It’s necessary because of the history since black people entered this country in 1619. Black lives have not mattered. History says so. Slavery, Jim Crow, prison industrial complex, and now just being black in America has come to a point where you must acknowledge this movement for justice. Where will your place in history will be?


Let us begin by setting the rules of engagement. You are one of two people: you are either setting the temperature (thermostat) or responding to the temperature that has been set (thermometer). In the 2001 movie Training Day, the cop told his trainee that “to protect the sheep, you got to catch the wolf. For this discussion, black and unhoused people are sheep. The wolf in this scenario is the institution of racism. The wolf has set the temperature since 1619. What will it take to catch the wolf? Here are a few suggestions:


1. Stop saying the “system is broken.” It’s doing what it was originally intended to do. Misconduct has been happening since catching escaped slaves which the current system of policing is based on. Yes, there are good police and some people should not be on the streets. The actions of a few ruin it for those that protect and serve. Also, black people are guilty before proven innocent. Humanity is not high on the priority list. I can already hear the argument of a few: well, blacks are members of congress, mayors of major cities, you even had a black president. What more do you want? We are living in a post racial society. The list is too long of the injustices black America has faced so we won’t bother to go there. We also will not further explain racism, and why Black Lives Matter. It is not a statement of exclusion because history says Black Lives do not matter. Other than the Native American, no one has faced the terror that black people has faced since arriving in 1619. Being treated in a humane way is not a lot to ask for.


2. The wolves separate in packs to catch their prey. They are strategic. Black and unhoused people have been the prey. Wolves are positioned in each state so that they can decide your fate or even an election. It can have consequences for generations to come. It’s not in the wolf’s nature to share wealth, power, or resources. We must force the wolf to take on this nature or black and unhoused people will continue to be on the menu. The wolf has been the thermostat for too long. We can fight back against the wolf. It’s called voting. That’s the power the people have. Educate yourself on the process and stop voting against your own interests please!


3. Now let’s set the trap for the wolf other that video footage of his actions because that’s not working. We must have civilians on police review boards. Befriend your neighborhood watch commander and influence/rewrite police policy. It’s deeper than just defunding the police. In order to catch the wolf, you have to think and move like the wolf, but at the speed of an ant, slow and methodical. This will eliminate the chance of bad police being rehired after being convicted of a violent crime. Furthermore, the wolf understands having power so if we revoke his pension, we eliminate his power.


The person who is the thermostat will march, will write, will fight until the death, no matter what the cost is. The person who is the thermometer will react to what takes place because their very nature will dictate that they settle and let others do the work for them. We realize that everyone can’t set the temperature but you damn sure better know how to respond to the temperature being set to avoid being on the menu for the wolf’s meal.


Those who have been unhoused know this all to well. They have been a part of the meal far too long. It’s time that they have a seat at the table as the thermostat. You will be surprised how high the temperature can be set when a person has been ignored and have nothing to lose. The current housing infrastructure needs fixing due to the actions of the wolf. Cuts in housing, social services programs, and the elimination of public housing has increased the numbers of unhoused citizens over the last 40 years. Add on the current climate in our nation of unemployed citizens and the rate of the unhoused will increase rapidly. Will we still operate from a reactionary stance? Or will we demand and take back what we have earned as US citizens? Housing is a human right! The way decisions are made, you would think housing is only for a privileged few.


While Black Lives Matter, lets remind the wolf that unhoused lives matter also. We must not forget about those who are at high risk while COVID 19 is still in the land. We cannot continue to allow the wolf to circle around encampments like they don’t exist. We cannot continue to allow the wolf to act like the unhoused don’t exist. We cannot continue to allow the wolf to provide inadequate housing. Time to make the wolf retreat! We can do that by turning up the temperature and make the wolf respond to our demands. Why? Because we are thermostats, not thermometers!


From Outrage to Outcomes: 

End Racism, Police Brutality, Extreme Poverty and Homelessness Volume 1

June 8, 2020

Eric Jonathan Sheptock - Civil Rights & Unhoused Advocate

Twitter: @ericsheptock    

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ericsheptock


The murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin has many people outraged. However, with the all to frequent mass shootings, our nation has developed a repetitive cycle of mourning. We mourn the loss of loved ones. We express outrage. We demand changes in laws and policies. Government does too little too late, or nothing at all. We hang our collective head and walk away... until the next incident. We know that there will be another incident. We know that we'll go through the motions yet again. We know that nothing will come of it. 


The Black Lives Matter movement was born out of the outrage that people felt with Michael Brown was killed by a cop in Ferguson, MO in 2014 - outrage that should have been felt and sustained following the 1999 murder of Amadou Diallo by New York City cops who fired 41 bullets from close range, hitting him 19 times. Their poor marksman ship aside, the cops who killed Amadou Diallo offer us a prime example of what racial profiling and intrinsic bias can lead to. We definitely should have gotten more mileage out of Mr. Diallo's death by pressing for meaningful reforms to policing policies and for just laws. But we didn't. Michael Brown was killed a full 15 years later. Since then, we've been faced by the unjustified police killings of Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Philando Castille, Eric Gardner, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor and many more....too many more. All of this begs the question: "When will outrage lead to meaningful, system wide outcomes???"


Before we can answer that question, those who are outraged must determine what meaningful, system-wide outcomes they seek. All too often we grab at the low-hanging fruit and allow that to suffice. We demand that the cop-turned-murderer be imprisoned. We sue the government. We sometimes win or both fronts. However, to someone who's Hell bent on keeping racist laws and policies intact, paying millions to the families of the deceased is just the price of doing business. Recent history has shown us that neither the threat of prison time nor the likelihood of a multi-million dollar lawsuit against a police agency serves as a deterrent to police brutality. So, while we've gotten outcomes, they've been neither meaningful nor system-wide. They've only been token efforts designed to pacify those who are outraged. 


To make matters worse, our commander-in-tweet spews terroristic rhetoric with his words. They emboldened racists, who has shown extreme reluctance when being asked to speak against overt displays of racism. It empowers the rich to get richer and the poor to become poorer. There are many vices and much to acknowledge, the motives are thinly vailed. Re-election has become more important than exposing the true nature of making his views known-in no uncertain terms. My concern is that should there be a second term, I'll be proven right. That said, the irony of this moment is that we have the opportunity to demand that the commander-in-tweet fully address racism. The biggest question of this moment is "will we do that or will we settle for token efforts yet again???"


That brings us fully away from the notion of reacting emotionally to the latest outrage and to the broader notion of addressing racism in it's entirety. For good treasure, we might as well address the overlapping issues of poverty and homelessness. After all, while George Floyd and the other aforementioned victims of police brutality died unjustifiable deaths, millions more live unjustifiably difficult lives. The deceased, though missed by those who knew them, are no longer under the oppressive hands of racism or of capitalism gone awry. So, while seeking justice for the deceased and an end to the conditions that led to each other's demise, let us also press for better living conditions for those of us who continue to struggle to get the knee of injustice off of our necks.

How to Combat the Oppressor During a Pandemic

June 1, 2020

Kelvin Lassiter

                                            "I CAN'T BREATHE" 8:46


"The oppressor cant stand the mobilization and strategic response of minorities. Even more, they can't stand the victory of the oppressed when it has witnessed that their attempt at supremacy has failed."

                                                                                                      Save Us Now Inc.


While this nation is in a season​ unseen in close to 100 years, it is not a new movie. It's called "Rinse and Repeat." Spanish flu plagued our nation for three years beginning in 1918. In 1921, the Tulsa race riots changed the landscape of a city. The alleged act of violence by a black man with no evidence destroyed black wall street. Fast forward to 2020 with video footage of a unarmed black man being killed has become problematic. A Minneapolis police officer changed the course of this nation with his reckless decision to ignore humanity.


This is the second time in recent memory the words "I Can't Breathe" has penetrated our psyche. It must and can be the last. Here's how:


1. The power of the pen. While looting is the voice of the unheard (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) it must not remain spent energy. The same energy used to tear down your own community (which absolutely makes no sense by the way) please use to tear up the road on your way to the ballot box (local elections first, federal second). Start sitting on citizen review boards in your local community. That's how your voice can be heard. One Pew Research survey found that only 27% of poor police officers are held accountable for their actions. Please learn how people with power think so you can fight power with power. 

                           REDIRECT THE PAIN: "I CAN'T BREATHE"


2. Vote and by all means, register people to vote! Stop calling talk shows and do something. Call your elected officials instead. You have the power, you put them there to work for you! People have fought and died, please do not let their hard work be done in vain. It can take 8 minutes and 46 seconds or less to register someone to vote. Better yet, request a mail in ballot (if your city or state allows you to do so). If police brutality really interests you, do it for something other than burning down you own community. Remember, those businesses serve the minority community in most cases.  Those business owners in most cases worked their whole lives to achieve their dreams. You don't have the right to take it from them. You want something to burn? Blaze your own "ass" down the road to the polls. How about that? Set that on fire. Leave a trail for others to follow. To whom it may concern: The weed and street corners will still be there waiting on you when you get back. What is going to be: The Ballot or the Bullet? (Malcolm X)

                                REDIRECT THE PAIN: "I CAN'T BREATHE"


3. Money & Power go hand in hand. While cities are losing millions of dollars in their coffers, it has not prevented the killing of unarmed African Americans. Our experience has been JUST-US, not justice. Since this is the case, then every time a police officer unjustifiably brutalizes or kills an unarmed in custody citizen, then their pension should automatically be revoked. That way if they are found "not guilty", then the oppressor has felt the pain they themselves have distributed. The oppressor understands two things: The success of supremacy and the success of the oppressed defeating their attempted supremacy.  We can get satisfaction in watching "the agony of defeat." There's no greater joy than watching the oppressed retaking their rightful place in society. 


I'll leave you with this quote from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley D - MA 7: "Those closest to the pain, should be closest to the power." 

                         FAILED SUPREMACY = HISTORIC OUTCOMES

                       REDIRECT THE PAIN "I CAN'T BREATHE" 8:46

.

It's Time for Open Heart Surgery

May 26, 2020

The unofficial beginning of summer has continued a perilous path. Our country has been consumed with solving a pandemic and rightfully so. That's going to be a challenge without the proper tools, a plan, and a vaccine.


There's another existing problem that could use a cure. The way we treat each other, our behavior  with each another. We must co-exist. At the time our country needs focus on several fronts, behavior should not be one of them. We are and may always be "a divided nation." Rich vs. poor, white vs. black, or kill because I can, we have a heart problem. No, not in the traditional sense where the doctor prescribes medicine. This is more severe. It's what we see or think when we look at another human being. Bias may exist based on human experiences. Things in our control such as denied mail in voting, I fear for my life because of bird watching, or "I Can't Breathe!" should not exist.


For the poor or people of color, it's guilty before prove innocent. Innocent before proven guilty in most cases exists for the rich and law enforcement. We know the problems, here's the solution: "it's time for open heart surgery."  This procedure will take more than skilled doctors, nurses, and a clean up crew. Time to dig deep within and examine what's in our hearts, hate or love. There's no in between, it's one or the other. The two can't co exist in the same space. You either shine in the marvelous light or operate in the night of darkness. There will be some that choose light and some will choose dark. Realize that the choice you make in the development of your heart affects everyone worldwide. 


A vaccine is not as far away as one may think. The cure is to simply transform and renew our minds minute by minute. It's important so our nation can become healthy and whole. 

May 18, 2020

The Power of the Advocate

By: Kelvin Lassiter


One hot button topic that has surfaced among service providers and the general public is "how do we approach the homeless during COVID - 19?"  To my surprise, one would think just like any other situation with a few exceptions. Advocates and service providers are used to change at any given moment to provide service to the less fortunate. 


During a May 14th webinar with HUD Special Needs and Assistance Programs office, over 400 service providers and advocates tuned in for answers. Many suggestions were offered during an empowering one hour session. The following three solutions are a result of what was discussed during the webinar. 


1.  Extend an act of compassion - While it is wise to practice social distancing during this season, engaging the homeless is no different. Give your name and why you decided to pay a visit. If you were once homeless, offer that intel as well. People can sense when someone is genuine and cares about people. Also, come bearing gifts as well! Bottled water, and hand soap can reduce spreading germs and coronavirus. Since restaurants and most stores are closed, this is a good way to have access to exercising good hygiene. 


2.  Donations - If a person is not physically able to serve, then consider helping if possible by giving to homeless agencies so the work can continue. While this is a challenging time financially, some are fortunate enough where their lives have not been disrupted. This also can help with homeless prevention so emergency rental assistance can be provided. There are currently 33 million unemployed citizens and a great number of those may find themselves with nowhere to live soon.


3.  Politicians - Flood the phone banks and emails of your elected officials. While proposed legislation has been introduced of $100 billion in relief of emergency services, there has been pushback. It is a much appreciated financial lift, however, it will not be enough to counter the potential citizens who may join the unhoused category. 


Lawmakers have taken a wait and see approach. We cannot wait! Top income earners decide the fate of the bottom half of income earners in America. While some decisions are spot on, some are not relatable. It's complicated for a decision maker to think rationally about the poor if that individual hasn't stepped across that threshold themselves. This is why the American people become valuable. The power is still in our hands, we have the real power. It can be revealed the first Tuesday in November at the voting booth!


Here are some suggestions for homeless prevention:


1. Congress  must restore funding amounts for homelessness to make up for 35 years of slashing funds. Total the amount of funds reduced and add to the current budget will provide much needed permanent supportive housing and rental assistance.


2. Use asset forfeiture homes seized during tax fraud or drug raids to use for housing the homeless.


3. Remove negative credit blemish from rental history unless renter committed a violent or sex crime.


The United States face a crossroads that have not been seen in close to 100 years. A lot of uncertainty is present during this lifetime. Young people not being able to get jobs. People that just started jobs now are unemployed, and our nations elderly are more vulnerable than ever before. The pandemic just added to already existing concerns. Now what do we do about it? Something that doesn't cost money is "Empowerment!" This is the time to think outside of the box and how to plan your next move. What if the government decides not to help the American people? What would you do? You may not have all of the answers at this moment but find out the answers as quick as you can! In the meantime, find someone else you know that may face challenging times and empower them to move forward. No one said it will be easy, but it is necessary to press on. No one knows what the future holds, but just know that this too shall pass. Be encouraged today, tomorrow is not promised. We must do all we can do to stand!



May 11, 2020


Where Do We Go From Here?

By: Kelvin Lassiter


Injustice scorched America long before COVID - 19. We know the history, no need to rehash it. Apparently, things continue to be extracted from the soul of the unhoused. Dignity, humanity, and the right to survive continue to be stripped inspite of a crisis never seen before in this lifetime. Encampment sweeps still continue around the country as if precautionary measures such as "social distancing" doesn't exist.


It's been a tradition and moral understanding to respect government and authority, two things you learn early on growing up in America. What do we do when those same traditions are not given to the least of these? The lack of respect for our nation's unhoused citizens has taken center stage. While we will not generalize in this format, we have seen the good come out in people while risking their own safety and families to help others. We are specifically addressing those that did not receive the memo: "we are all in this together."


More than ever before, there should be an urgency to house the unhoused now more so than ever. Instead of temporarily housing infected and uninfected unhoused citizens due to this pandemic, use this as an opportunity to move them from the streets. Allow them to exercise their rights to housing that they should have just because of being American citizens. 


In case we didn't make ourselves clear, housing is a human right!  Below are solutions that will begin to move over a half million people from tragedy to redemption:


1.  Restore compassion to the hearts of those that feel homelessness is not priority in America. 


2.  Eliminate the many definitions of homelessness. This will reduce the fighting among inner circle service providers  so more people can be served.


3.  A more universal approach to wrap around services is necessary. Training the unhoused how to stay housed is just as important as handing over keys to a new place to live.


4.  Raise the minimum wage please! American citizens cannot survive off of $7.25 per hour even if they work two jobs. Stop the narrative of telling people that businesses will go out of business if the minimum wage is raised. Workers will work harder if they are paid a decent wage and able to afford to live where they work. They also will contribute to the tax base which will keep businesses from potentially going under.


5.  Involve unhoused citizens on decision making process regarding homelessness. People no longer want to be on the menu. They deserve to have a seat at the head of the table of liberty and justice.


Finally:


We cannot return to business as usual. That ship has sailed. Nothing from this point forward will the word "usual" have the same meaning. This is a season unseen in this generation and maybe for those to come. Momentum now exists to show that love is the "greatest" gift of all. Let's continue to build on it. No longer shall we take from the poor and give to the rich. No longer shall we watch things happen, let's make things happen! No longer shall we work separately on injustice. Let's all work together and stay together for peace and justice for all!


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Save Us Now Inc. during the pandemic has remained active in the community by following the advice of our partner organizations. Safety has remained our highest priority during this time and we have relied heavily on our colleagues to help us serve. 

Social Distancing - Racially Enforced Equally or Not? #JusticeMatters

May 11, 2020

https://www.propublica.org/article/in-some-of-ohios-most-populous-areas-black-people-were-at-least-4-times-as-likely-to-be-charged-with-stay-at-home-violations-as-whites?utm_source=pardot&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=majorinvestigations&utm_content=river

At Save Us Now Inc. we believe in "Equal Justice Under the Law" according to the phrase engraved on front of the US Supreme Court building here in Washington, DC.  While it may be hard to imagine that incidents like the above link details in Ohio, unfortunately it's reality of the times we live in. Even during a pandemic we are seeing a grave miscarriage of justice the way some law enforcement officers enforce social distancing guidelines across the country. I was in fear for my life does not apply here. No need to shoot people because you have the power to do so. The argument will be made that "they should just obey the law and this wouldn't happen" does not apply here either.  If there are any questions, let's refer back to the motto you may see the next time you look at a police cruiser "To Protect and Serve"   #HumanityMatters

The Next Pandemic "Evictions"  #ActInPower

May 11, 2020

If you have followed our motto, you know that we believe in inspiration and aspiration. It has been said that fear is "false evidence appearing real." Recently, there was a  definition published online regarding fear that is fitting during this time for our communications: " face everything and rise.!" 

The United States must reach down deep and be prepared as a nation to deal with another situation waiting to manifest itself. In most urban cities, a moratorium has been placed in place to protect people that has experienced loss of income due to COVID-19.  Trying to strike a balance between landlords being able to make money and tenants being able to survive is challenging to say the least. Hopefully, a happy medium and conclusion can happen to avoid situations like the following stories below. As former Rep. Elijah Cummings use to say: "We are better than this". The link below outlines legislation by Rep. Ilhan Omar D-MN 5th District if implemented offers a solution to this potential problem.  #HumanityMatters

https://omar.house.gov/sites/omar.house.gov/files/documents/Bill%20Text%20-%20Rent%20and%20Mortgage%20Cancellation%20Act%5B1%5D.pdf

Problems that have risen due to COVID-19 between landlords and tenants

https://buffalonews.com/2020/05/11/tenants-face-eviction-threat-amid-loss-of-income-from-pandemic/

https://oklahoman.com/article/5662061/we-are-petrified-service-agencies-prepare-for-flood-of-evictions

https://www.wbur.org/news/2020/05/09/healey-warns-landlords-no-intimidation




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