FACE OF AN ECONOMY: U.S.: A tale of the homeless

A Journal of People report

Media reports regularly bring to light the homeless problem in a capitalist economy – the United States. These reports bring forward issues from daily life instead of “sophisticated”, abstract discussions, which often mystify burning issues related to the common people’s life in capitalist economies. These reports are much useful to the commoners to learn facts of capitalism than the “sophisticated discussions” by the famous on-line and print editions of famous Marxist journals.

An Independent (UK) report by Josh Marcus on January 24, 2020 said: Inside the mile-long California homeless camp that is tearing a town apart as Silicon Valley house prices soar.

The report begins in the following way:

“On the outskirts of Santa Rosa, the first real city to emerge as you drive through the rolling wine country north of San Francisco, two new settlements hum with life. On one side of a chain link fence, construction workers raise a new neighborhood of handsome, two-story homes. Rich Bay Area people might eye these as second homes, or rental investments.

“On the other, men fix overturned bikes in front of lean-tos, some little more than tarps tied to the fence along the Joe Rodota bike trail. Others are elaborate, multi-room houses constructed with pallets, chopped up tents. Cook fires waft off grills made from propane tanks. Residents chat in the middle of the trail, swapping cigarettes and news on the city’s effort to dismantle this 200-plus-person tent village.

“It’s been two-and-a-half years since the Tubbs wildfire, the second deadliest in California history, lit up Santa Rosa. Now, relentless natural disasters, California’s housing crunch, and changes to civil rights law have pushed the city’s homeless population towards a new emergency.”

The report uses the following photograph by Josh Marcus:j1

The report quotes:

“‘We’re similar to a lot of other Bay Area places in terms of a lack of affordable housing. It’s a systemic issue across California,’ says Michael Gause, the county’s homelessness manager. ‘It’s hard even for people who aren’t homeless to live here.’”

The Independent (UK) report said:

“Space is limited and prices are high. Silicon Valley money is flowing into the region, and abundant protected green acres further hamper affordability, helping make Sonoma County America’s 9th most expensive housing market. Homelessness spiked in the wake of the Recession, but disasters like Tubbs, last February’s record rains, and this fall’s Kincaid fire, which prompted the biggest evacuation in county history, drain government money and willpower.

“‘Sonoma County is ground zero for climate change,’ says County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who has lead the response to the encampment. ‘The ramifications really ripple for a long time.’ She’s spent nearly her entire term under a disaster declaration.

“A diverse group lives on the trail, but their stories all reveal they were on the edge in this community long before they lost their homes, and were underserved once they did. William Cressey is semi-disabled from a broken leg and was living in an off-the-books rental in a nearby warehouse. Andre Walton lost his mental illness medical benefits and a job at a recycling center. Patrick Donohue, who has a spinal condition and was formerly incarcerated, lived in his van until he got stuck in Santa Rosa during a 2017 wildfire. A woman known as Wolf Mama says she ran away from home at 12, found housing locally, but was evicted for letting homeless people stay with her.

“Smaller encampments like this have sprung up in the past in Santa Rosa, but local housing advocates say police alternated between ignoring them and breaking them up by force. ‘This is how the city has established a relationship between us and them,’ says camp resident Thesha Iraheta, who calls these actions ‘cruel and unusual punishments’.

“Some residents call their village Camp Rebel. No Longer Sorry, for its unabashed claim to space in Santa Rosa.

“‘I’m not trying to hurt anybody,’ says Cressey. ‘If I got left alone for a few weeks, maybe I could get out of this, but it ain’t easy.’ Even when he can find work, it’s rarely enough to make rent in a local apartment. ‘2,000 dollars a month seems like a pretty good wage, but it ain’t.’

“The site sits on county park land and wasn’t meant for settlement. It lacked sanitation facilities until temporary ones were set up late last year. It’s also seen rodent infestations and fires. Nearby neighbors say the camp has brought break-ins, drugs, and 24/7 noise to their quiet neighborhood. A shooting occurred Monday, and a propane tank exploded on New Year’s Eve, rattling windows down the block. Some parents don’t let their kids play outside anymore.

“‘Everyone is upset about it,’ says Silas Alvarenga, whose house is near the trail. ‘They left them here too long.’ Lino Musso’s yard abuts the trail. He feels ‘invaded’ and has considered selling his house and moving.

“Things changed in December. The U.S. Supreme Court let stand an appeals decision implying cities can’t remove homeless people until viable shelter spots are ready. Earlier in the year, activists temporarily settled a similar federal suit against local officials over bust-ups at previous encampments, where police allegedly destroyed resident’s property arbitrarily.

“These decisions bound authorities to address the problem all at once. County officials okayed a $12 million emergency aid package in December they believe will eventually rehouse each trail resident through buying vacant homes, hiring new support staff, and building a controversial mini-village of 60 tiny homes in nearby Oakmont, with plans to develop more like it in the coming months.

“It’s an uncommonly aggressive and innovative approach compared to other cities, Gause, the homelessness official, says. Adrienne Lauby, of the grassroots group Homeless Action!, says she doubts they’ll be able to pull this off. ‘They claim they have beds for people, but they either aren’t adequate for people’s needs, or there just plain aren’t enough of them.’”

Following is also another photograph by Josh Marcus:


The report said:

“Many in the camp had no idea how authorities would rehouse them in a week, even as outreach workers walked the trail. Construction of the tiny homes is already facing delays.

“In the meantime, locals are using social media organizing skills they honed during the Tubbs fire to coordinate grassroots relief efforts.

“‘A lot of people came much closer to being homeless,’ says Lauby. ‘They got that visceral awareness.’

“Now, the Sonoma County Acts of Kindness Facebook group has more than 2,400 members, who marshall donations and share news about the trail.

“‘The outpouring of concern and people trying to help from this community is just unreal,’ says Donohue, the camp resident, who has gotten food and tent supplies from volunteers.”

It concludes:

“As California enters an uncertain new decade, community concern will only go so far.”

A New York-story

Another Independent report said:

“More than 12,000 homeless people in New York City were sent to live across the country in 32 states, and Puerto Rico, as part of a ‘special one-time assistance program’, according to a new report.

“The report, published on November 5, 2019, in the New York Post, says the city sent 5,074 homeless families, a total of 12,482 people, to 373 cities nationwide, costing its taxpayers $89m.”

The Independent report headlined “New York City shipping homeless people across the country as part of controversial relocation programme” said:

“The city has reportedly shelled out thousands of dollars on everything from travel to home furnishing for the relocated homeless families, though it has not disclosed the specific cost breakdown for such expenditures.

“The New York City Department of Homeless Services has defended the program while noting the apparent savings it yields by sending homeless families to live elsewhere, according to the paper.”

The report by Chris Riotta said:

“Whereas the average annual cost of rent for a relocated family amounts to a reported $17,563 (£13,618), the city pays about $41,000 to house each family living in its shelters.

“Still, there are some elements to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s program that has sparked controversy among critics.”

The November 5, 2019 dated report said:

While the majority of families who receive the city’s relocation assistance move out-of-state, the New York Post reported that 35 per cent of recipients ‘move within city limits’ where they spend more on rent than the reported costs for the average relocated family.

“What’s more, hundreds have ended up back in shelters across New York.

“Some recipients told the newspaper conditions in their relocated apartments were ‘completely unlivable’.

“‘We could not stay there any longer,’ Sade Collington, whose family moved to an apartment in New Jersey that reportedly had no heat, water or electricity, told the New York Post.

“‘We went to a shelter for another six months,’ she added.”

It said:

“The New York State Senate has also launched an investigation into the program.”


An Independent report by Chelsea Ritschel said:

“An inmate on death row has requested that his last meal instead be used to provide a food for a homeless person.

“Don Johnson did not put a request in for his last meal, according to the state’s Department of Correction, and will instead be served the same menu as the rest of the inmates at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, WSMV News 4 reports.

The “His request for clemency was denied earlier this week” headlined report said:

“According to Johnson’s public defender, Kelley Henry, Johnson’s decision was inspired by his friend Philip Workman, who requested that a vegetarian pizza be delivered to a homeless person instead of a last meal before he was executed in 2007.

“Although Workman’s request was not honored, Henry told WSMV News 4 that “benefactors across the country delivered pizzas to homeless shelters in response”.

“‘Mr Johnson realises that his $20 allotment will not feed many homeless people,’ Henry added. ‘His request is that those who have supported him provide a meal to a homeless person.’”

The May 16, 2019 datelined report said:

“Johnson, 68, was sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of his wife Connie Johnson.

“In an effort to delay his execution, several religious leaders called for Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to grant Johnson clemency on the basis of religious conversion, as the inmate is now a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”

However, Johnson’s execution took place after Lee announced his decision to deny Johnson clemency.


In January 2020, an Independent report tells about attitude of the wealthy.

The “Wealthy CEOs complain about feeling ‘unsafe’ because of homeless people in San Francisco” headlined report by Chris Riotta said:

“A major healthcare conference in San Francisco this week has sparked a debate about the California city’s homeless crisis as wealthy executives and investors complain of feeling ‘unsafe’.

“The city rakes in $51m each year from the annual JPMorgan Healthcare Conference despite growing concerns about the city’s homeless population among attendees of the healthcare industry’s leading conference, according to Bloomberg News.”

The January 16, 2020 datelined report said:

“The nearly 10,000 attendees have regularly criticised San Francisco’s homeless crisis, Bloomberg reported, with one CEO describing it to the news outlet as ‘the Bill Clinton of cities’.

“‘San Francisco has squandered its place in the sun,’ said John Price, CEO of the genetic engineering company Greffex Inc. ‘San Francisco is the Bill Clinton of cities. It squandered itself with its flaws.’

“Selin Kurnaz, CEO of Massive Bio, also told Bloomberg she has felt increasingly ‘unsafe’ in San Francisco while attending the conference over the years.

“‘I’ve been coming to JPM for five years, and the homeless situation has gotten much worse,’ she said. ‘I feel unsafe walking around at night, especially as a young woman.’”

The report said:

“Oracle Corporation, which hosts a premier industry event called the OpenWorld conference annually in San Francisco, announced it would relocate this year’s event to Las Vegas, citing street conditions and hotel pricing.”

It added:

“‘My dream would be that they’d see this as an opportunity to reflect on the humanity of others,’ Kelly Cutler, an organizer with the Coalition on Homelessness, told the news outlet.

“She added: ‘I feel like it’s a missed opportunity when people are just seeing the homeless as a nuisance and trash and seeing the solution as just sweeping them away.

“Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan, told Fox Business in an interview on Tuesday that, while the financial institution would become ‘deeply involved’ in San Francisco, complaints from attendees were ‘not quite that bad’.

“He said those attending the event ‘know where they’re going’ and ‘plan for it the same time of the year’, while acknowledging the city has faced an increasing issue of homelessness.

“Despite city officials launching new efforts to tackle the problem of homelessness — including major initiatives and spending over $300m in its efforts — San Francisco has housed 27,000 homeless people throughout the past 15 years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.”

Homelessness has reportedly increased somewhat in recent years across San Francisco, though it remains lower than record-levels recorded in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, the city’s overall population has reportedly increased by more than 100,000 people over the last 15 years.

Shift to ship 

An Independent report headlined “Homeless people should be given shelter on cruise ship, California official suggests” said:

“A local official in California has proposed using a cruise ship to tackle the growing homelessness crisis.

“Rebecca Kaplan, the president of Oakland City Council, said docking a vessel in the harbor could create up to 1,000 beds for rough sleepers.”

The report by Tim Wyatt said:

“Oakland, which lies across the bay from San Francisco, has seen the numbers of homeless people rocket in recent years.

“There are now thought to be about 3,200 people without a home in the city of 430,000, up 47 per cent in just two years.

“‘It could be a great way to house a lot of people quickly,’ Ms Kaplan told the San Francisco Chronicle. ‘Cruise ships have been used for emergency housing after natural disasters and for extra housing for things like Olympics.’

“Her proposal, which she plans to formally put before the Oakland City Council in January, would see a privately owned cruise ship docked in the port and its rooms rented to those designated by the authorities has having nowhere else to live.”

The December 12, 2019 datelined report said:

“The scheme would not cost the council much, Ms Kaplan argued, as each person would pay for their room based on their income.

“Along with the rest of California, homelessness in Oakland has become an urgent concern. Clusters of rough tent settlements regularly crop up underneath motorways and overpasses, leading the police and authorities to have chase rough sleepers from neighborhood to neighborhood.

“‘They relocate to the next underpass and a month later, at great expense to the city, the cops are called out again to remove them,’ Ms Kaplan told USA Today.

“‘This is creating a huge amount of expenditure and taking people away from other things they need to be doing, and at the end of the day nothing has changed for all that time, and trouble and money.

Bottom of Form

“‘We say this is an emergency. So, I thought, well, we have a natural-disaster level of crisis. Now I am in dialogue with people who can actually do something.’

“The councillor claims she has already been contacted by cruise ship companies interested in taking part.

“New Jersey mayor tells de Blasio to stop ‘unlawful’ homeless relocation program

“However, the port in Oakland has poured cold water on the idea, saying it is entirely untenable.

“Mike Zampa, a spokesman for the port, told the San Francisco Chronicle there were no facilities for cruise ships at the port, which was only designed to take commercial cargo ships.”

Ms Kaplan’s idea is not entirely novel, however. In 2017, a tech entrepreneur suggested using a cruise ship to tackle San Francisco’s own homelessness crisis across the bay.

A Dublin picture also

Last year, Dublin’s council confirmed it was looking into the idea of renting out rooms on a cruise ship to house the city’s homeless.

The council’s chief executive told the national Irish government they would be unable to meet targets on providing extra accommodation for the city’s 1,400 homeless families unless they were allowed to pursue more unorthodox ideas, such as the cruise liner.

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