Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Peak at Street Sheets

In this post, I’d like to spend some time talking about street newspapers and how they help the homeless stay connected and have a voice.

I wiki-ed the term street newspapers and came up with this. In addition to the small, independent presses, there are street newspapers in large cities that are trying to find solutions to problems faced by the homeless (notice I didn’t say solutions to the ‘homeless problem’– that’s the outsider’s view).  There are three papers that you might want to check out:  Real Change, The Contributor, and a paper for Chicago’s homeless. There are also homeless newspapers in other countries, this one is from Australia, but it has a directory from around the world. One little blog has an unusual name: Girls guide to homelessness. Sounds like a lighthearted romp. Hey, I’m all for a little fresh breeze after a hard day dealing with hard issues.

Street News and Street Wise are two of the oldest street newspapers. Check them out on Google. And I can’t forget Street Beat. Thank you Gary, for printing my excerpts!

New Ruling: The government cannot throw out your stuff

Check out this link before you rights get violated.

( From;

Judge to LA: Hands off homeless people’s stuff

Sep 19, 2012, Vol: 19, No: 38

The possessions of homeless people are protected under the Constitution and cannot be seized and destroyed by the government, according to a new decision by the United States Court of Appeals.

The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments “protect homeless persons from government seizure and summary destruction of their unabandoned but momentarily unattended personal property,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote in a Sept. 5 opinion by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upholds a court order against the city of Los Angeles.

The possessions of homeless people cannot be seized unless the possessions pose a threat to public health or safety, are evidence of a crime or are contraband.

Property seized can be destroyed only after being maintained in a secure location for 90 days, barring an immediate threat to public health or safety.

On several occasions during February and March, 2011, Los Angeles city workers cleared and destroyed portable plastic tubs of personal items nine homeless people had temporarily left on the street while they went to shower, eat and perform other tasks. Even though homeless people pleaded for their stuff, the city wouldn’t give the items back, so lawyers for the homeless sued.

In Washington, tragedy prompted the State Deptartment of Transportation (WSDOT) to adopt a policy on handling the possessions of homeless campers.

In 2008, after a contractor for WSDOT killed a homeless man in Seattle with a brush-clearing tractor, the agency created a policy, “wsdot’s Guidelines to Address Illegal Encampments within State Right of Way,” in consultation with the Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness. (“Each year, more than 1,000 forced from urban camps,” rc, Dec. 29, 2010.)

WSDOT must post a removal notice at a site at least 72 hours in advance, the guidelines say.

After that, “personal items that are not refuse, contaminated, illegal, or hazardous shall be placed in large transparent plastic bags,” the policy states, “inventoried to include the date, location and [a] brief description” and stored for 70 days, and wsdot will make efforts to locate the owner within the first 10 days.

The city of Seattle follows similar guidelines, but it doesn’t clear any encampments unless an outreach worker has first visited the site.

And outreach workers don’t visit encampments unless there are shelter beds available.

RC Staff

From Real Change News.

Now, how can homeless people sue to get back the value of the stuff they lost?

Some interesting ideas on assisting the homeless

Found this in my email, thought everyone would be interested in reading it. The letter was sent to the governor of the state about two years ago. Did he act on it?

Dear Governor ***********,

Once again I have had to read an article in the news about the homeless problem in Hawaii and as usual, the focus was on how the homeless are a problem for the people with homes and not how homelessness is a struggle for the homeless.

Hawaii should be ashamed of how it views homeless people (most of whom are kaamaina and war veterans). The program that was heralded as a success in the news paper article included tossing the homeless people’s worldly belongings into a dumpster and herding them into over-crowded, filthy, and under-supervised shelters. This proves to me that Hawaii does not only have a homeless problem, it is developing a heartless problem.

Here are some suggestions to help the homeless without hurting them:

1. Have an 800 number for them to call and get help on entering a shelter. And advertise it!

2. Streamline the TB testing and getting a ‘letter to prove you are homeless’ process. Can’t a case worker call the former spouse, or roommate, etc. and get a verbal verification. Why put some in the position of going back to the person that threw them out on the street and ask them to sign a paper to the effect?

3. Offer some transportation to the shelters. Some of these places are difficult to find and are in out of the way areas. If someone gets lost, they may just quit trying.

4. Supervise what is going on in the shelters. Some staff act as if they are dictators and will befriend the meanest residents, while abusing (or letting others abuse) the weakest.

5. Have a complaint box in the shelters and an 800 number to call and leave a grievance.

6. Have a homeless commission regularly check the boxes and take the calls. If the situations in the shelters would improve, less people would leave abruptly, and less people who have experienced the horrible treatment that would lock them into the chronically homeless category.

7. Get down to the beaches and parks and give out donated clothes and toiletries. Offer a bag lunch to those who get cleaned up.

8. Make being a bio-hazard a crime. If you are filthy and eliminating in public, you must be cleaned up. No negotiation! A mobile unit sent for them to shower and change would be a good idea.

Shelters should provide blank employment applications for the residents who voluntarily fill them out. Have the applications posted on a website. Make hiring a homeless person trendy and groovy… give the employers tax breaks. Promote the website to organizations who volunteer at the shelters. A hand up, instead of just a hand out. The initials and DOB can be used on the applications to preserve privacy.

10. Consider rent control. Many people can’t keep up with Hawaii’s quest to be sold to the highest bidder. The government can and should protect its residence from sinking to the bottom in this situation. Long time local residents are suffering.

11. Take a good look at the low income housing units. Focus on getting locals and citizens of this country housed, before inviting everyone else from the world to stay in these limited resources.

12. Require drug tests for shelter staff and intake workers. 75% would fail, but the government will at least be getting the message across that the state doesn’t want drug addicted staff favoring drug dealing residents; because, the staffers want to have a convenient drug connection. The state is unwittingly subsidizing drug dens masquerading as homeless shelters!

13. Before sending out a crew to throw everything someone owns into a dumpster, at least –please– implement some of these suggestions.

14. This one is the most important. Care. Give a damn. It could be you or someone you love. Someday. This is the Aloha State for God’s sake.

Someone who has been there and knows.

Inspiration for Brain Sections

Many people have been wondering about how I came up with the setting for Brain Sections. Well, there was one book that started the whole thought process, it was Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals by Christoper Payne.

The haunting photographs spoke to me at a time when I was as empty and abandoned as the rooms and wards I was looking at on the page. Whatever clutter there was had become worthless, but, spoke volumes of the lives of those who lived and worked there. I recommend this haunting book.

Signs of the times…

Check out the madcap signs that the homeless (or just broke?) have been using to get some spare change or a little help.

Brain Sections Update

Just to bring everyone up to speed on what is happening with the novel:

The copyright was applied for, so in case anyone is considering ripping off the story, they will have some explaining to do. BTW I had a gypsy put a curse on the plotline. Two years sleeping on cardboard is the price they would have to pay for unauthorized use.

The IBSN number has been applied to the Smashwords ebook. Now it’s legit.

Printed out a spiral bound review copy, in case anyone wants to peruse through  the book unplugged.

Well, that’s all the news. Will do more editing on the book, since I now have a print out. It should get better and better.

Great reads on the web

Here are two interesting websites on homelessness that I would like to share:

Although some people may not agree with all the blogger says, I can tell this person that I have had similar experiences and am glad they are writing about it. The one about trading conscience for a cot, and another about how some people will bring up your former homelessness as a put down rang true for me too.

Homelessness discussed in a money blog? They did a good job too. Must have had some lousy investments…

How being homeless made me a writer

The short answer to that question is: I didn’t have anything else to do. But the long answer is much more interesting. You see, I had been at a homeless shelter for more than a year. A car accident put me out of commission and the jobs I could get were drying up because of the recession. After a year in that place, I got together with the director of the shelter and mentioned to him my idea of writing about what I thought were the problems that caused so much homelessness in our particular state. It wasn’t the recession, it was deeper than that.

Well, to make a long story short, my little opinion piece made it into the shelter’s newsletter and about a week after it was published, many volunteer associations that provided meals to the shelter refused to show up. I kind of figured out the situation, because, the director started to avoid me too. Bad news. Pretty soon the shelter staff (who no doubt missed their free meals provided by the volunteers) got together and squeezed me out. No prob, I thought. There was another shelter in town, so I figured I’d move to that one if the going got too tough on the streets. Ha. That’s when I found out that the shelters in our dear city will not let you voluntarily move out of one and into another. I was shut out of both of them. So much for free speech and equal rights.

On the streets it was tough. But I dug up my laptop out of storage and began writing. It was an outlet. A way to tell my story and the stories of others. It was a way to laugh, and have the last laugh. So, here it is: Brain Sections.