What is a Homeless Advocate?

To resolve problems, you need a strategy. And persistence. Dignity Village, a community for the homeless was created by facing the problem and persistently using tools to find a solution for the homeless in Portland, Oregon. Our alleged advocates for the homeless in Bucks County, PA could learn from homeless activists in Portland.

Homeless activist Jack Tafari, who had become homeless himself, led the campaign to create Dignity Village. He became a voice for the homeless.

To deal with confrontations between the homeless and the Portland police, Jack combined Internet communications with traditional public relations techniques. He capitalized on the rule that the police had to give 24 hours notice before sweeping out a homeless camp. Jack wrote press releases about the event and homeless advocates set up a homeless parades and made sure they were well publicized.

As the homeless moved to a new place, handicapped people in wheelchairs led the parade, followed by a cavalcade of shopping carts filled with all the refugees stuff.

Jack started promoting his cause in the local media and, as did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s movement, his campaign got national media coverage.  One event that got national coverage was the shopping cart parade held on Martin Luther King Day 2001. Two disabled people in wheelchairs led 35 shopping carts. The spectacle of armed policemen herding indigent people like cattle caused people to wake up.

As a negotiating tactic, Jack sent a press release that threatened another shopping cart parade. This caught the attention of Portland authorities. Consequently, they extended the stay at the homeless camp under the Fremont Bridge site. After further negotiations, Portland arranged for the homeless to set up at the Sunderland Recycling Yard.

Jack advanced his “Out of the Doorways” campaign as a staff writer and submissions editor for the Portland newspaper Street Roots.

The campaign was successful. Dignity Village was incorporated in Portland as a membership based non- profit organization and set up as a self governing entity where residents must sign a membership agreement as to rules of behavior.

In Bucks County, PA, the closest we got to a media event like the Portland shopping cart parades was a chance meeting between the homeless, along with advocate Morris Derry, President of No More Pain, the Bucks County Information Officer, and the Delaware Valley Vietnam Veterans at the Veterans Memorial in Levittown, PA. The Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need’s (AHTN) silence on the issue was deafening. They didn’t want to get involved in legal issues, they said.

Some time ago I approached AHTN to ask them to work we me and another friend of the homeless to create more much needed shelter. AHTN’s president told me that doing this was not possible because 24/7 security was needed.

Also at the memorial was a P.T. Barnum like public relations official from the county. As reported in LevittownNow.com, “County Public Information Director Chris Edwards said rangers were not actively removing homeless residents but would be working to reduce the population at the county center, including the Vietnam War Memorial by the Levittown Library.”  What?

Reducing the homeless population, to pierce the veil, is just a start. Bucks County considers the homeless an eyesore and its goal is to get rid of all of them, as if they were lepers.

Edwards also said that the county would continue to work with the homeless population at the property going forward. Really? Bucks County has a poor track record of helping the homeless. During the eviction in the woods of Queen Anne Park the rangers left pamphlets with phone numbers for housing assistance. The county also put up a sign for housing help by the memorial before the homeless were evicted.

I called the phone number on the signs and there is no more room in the shelter,”  explained Morris. He also stated “I understand what their (the county) concerns are, but I really don’t think their dealing with it the right way.” Well said! People need to hear the truth.

Another homeless advocate pointed out that the homeless have been taking care of the grounds at the memorial.

A veteran who was at the pow-wow at the memorial suggested finding a building for those without permanent homes. That’s a noble idea, but implementing it is another thing. If the vets get involved, they will be hamstrung by a callous county that has been playing games, stonewalling efforts to find suitable shelter for the homeless, the same way that President LBJ hamstrung the military in Vietnam,  stifling the efforts of the brave fighting soldiers.

Homelessness is a problem that won’t go away on its own. Bucks County reminds me of a family cat who thought she was hiding from our dog when they played chase by hiding under the bed with his rear end sticking out.

I’m that little boy who, when the emperor appeared before his subjects naked, told him he needed to put some clothes on. Likewise, I will expose the establishment in Buck County, not just the government but other Pharisees who say they stand for truth and justice  to show people who they really are!

We shall overcome!

Et Tu Veterans?

“I understand what their (the county) concerns are, but I really don’t think their dealing with it the right way. I called the phone number on the signs and there is no more room in the shelters,” said Morris Derry, founder of the nonprofit No More Pain Inc.

Morris said this at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Levittown PA yesterday on the eve of the eviction of the homeless there and the surrounding area.  I was shocked to find that the veterans who showed up at the pow wow at the memorial  yesterday complained about the homeless camping at the memorial.

“It’s a total desecration, what’s going on here,” said Joe Hogan, a Vietnam veteran from Bristol Township. “These are local heroes.”

Another vet remarked that having the homeless stay at the memorial is sacrilege, that it is “sacred ground.”

This is the first time I heard a veteran complain about the homeless at the memorial.  A volunteer from the VFW who used to come to the memorial to clean up once said he doesn’t have much to do because the homeless clean up. One guy, who used to live at the memorial, was well received by the local VFW.

There’s  an ex marine officer who on occasion slept at the memorial with the homeless. He didn’t have a problem with the homeless staying there.

As a Vietnam veteran, I don’t have a problem with the homeless staying at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There are a few individual homeless people who have caused problems at the memorial, but most of the regulars respect it. Many of the problems, however are caused by people from the nearby shelter, which has a cross section of people there, including druggies and drunks. A few also were living in places such as the nearby woods who were drunk and disorderly at the memorial.

The greatest problem at the memorial, the library, and nearby neighborhoods, are the dopers from the local recovery houses.

It was after the infestation of the recovery houses in the area – there are in the neighborhood of 100 just in Levittown – that security cameras were put in the library as was a security guard. The feds have been dumping the recovery houses on the community, causing more crime. Many of these addicts are from out of town.

One of the regular homeless persons who has stayed at the memorial for some time, as reported in LevittownNow.com,  a woman without a permanent residence who has stayed at the memorial, said there have been some transients who have come into the memorial at night and have caused problems. She said the local homeless population has worked to police themselves and  force those who break the law to leave.

The local homeless population could have done a better job of policing themselves. They are, however, up against a mentality that if one or two people cause a problem, the whole group is to blame.  But one day a druggie from one of the numerous local recovery houses pulled an American flag out of the ground that a veterans group had placed at the memorial. A homeless guy called the security guy at the library, who had a rapport with the local homeless and reported the wonton deed. This disrespectful guy had to put the flag back where he found it and was kicked out of the memorial.

Indeed, this is an example of what the homeless woman told Levittownnow.com.  Druggies come by day; many of then are required to leave the recovery homes during the day.  There is no warning like there was for the Colonials, where the signal that the British were coming was one if by land, two if by sea. Maybe a light at the government center could be flashed when the druggies come during the day and two when they come at night.

The county claims the homeless staying at the memorial was a public safety problem. Public information director Chris Edwards contradicts himself. He said there hasn’t been any major problems reported at the memorial, but in the next breath he says the county has to clear the homeless out because of public safety concerns.

The county claims it tried to work on a solution to the homeless problem.  If you call calling the housing number a solution? A year or two wait? Or Alan Johnson and his gang of mental health hustlers trying to Shanghai the homeless so they can get their taxpayer funds? He acts like Aladdin. Instead of giving new lamps for old, he promises housing for turning yourself and your public funds over to the mental health industry.

A homeless person recently told me that these guys don’t really care about the homeless. It seems many people don’t.

The statement in the Courier Times article by Matt Turner, published yesterday “The veterans said the homeless presence discouraged others from going to the memorial and honoring the fallen,” is bogus. No homeless people discouraged others from visiting the memorial. I think this whole thing is a case of hobophobia, the irrational fear of the homeless.  What they did today — actually talking with the homeless — is something that should have been done all along!

A veteran at the meeting came up with good idea – he suggested “working to find a building to help house those without permanent homes.”

This is what I’ve been saying all along.

We need to put the idea of finding a building to help with permanent housing into action. There’s a lot of vacant property in Bucks County. The old Sunbury Farm’s been sitting vacant after being sold then reverted back to Bristol Township for more than a year. That would make a great home for those without a permanent address.  They could do fix up work – it doesn’t need much, maintain and manage it. Just because people are homeless it doesn’t mean they are hopeless!

We need to go beyond talk and actually implement a plan, rather than just pushing people out as if they were rodents.