Harmful Assumptions-Homeless Micro-entrepreneur fights race and class based profiling

root - Posted on 06 December 2009

by John X ( aka The Indigent Litigant) PoorNewsNetwork

While arguing politics with a friend of mine at a local homeless drop-in. we got to the part about aggressive panhandling, proposition N and the police department and how they normally "deal" with our fellow brothers and sisters trying to scrounge up a buck or two. At this point one of the men in our discussion group, Andre, began his story…..

Being a budding entrepreneur for several years, Andre Rucker washes cars as his main source of lively hood and like myself stays in whatever shelter has the shortest line that evening. Andre has had a business license for over 12 years and has always had some sort of business enterprise going. He like many others attempted to apply for General Assistance only get into arguments with the workers about something or other in the "application process" needing to be corrected or failure to provide documentation not previously asked for but resulting in your immediate denial of assistance for the next 60/90 days till we clear it up or you starve and die on the streets of San Francisco whichever comes first.

Andre had decided to set-up shop across the street from one of the local area shelters to do his car wash business. He had the permission of the property owner to use the water and the space so his customers could meet him at a specific spot regularly. Apparently since some of the shelter staff specifically the Director knew Andre as a "client" and as Andre himself put it " they did not feel I should be allowed to work at least not in this capacity". You see Andre is self-employed and can charge what the market will bear which is about $100 per hour for his services. Andre is not just a car washer but a car detail specialist and it is his signature service that draws customers to him. Now, if Andre were out their busting his ass for minimum wage nobody would have ever bothered him because he was "in his place". I don’t make that statement so much as Andre is a black man as I do he is a poor man at least by all appearances. And as it were this shelter contacted the police to have Andre removed from the property as he was not to be in the vicinity of a shelter after leaving in the morning hours. Here again another "policy" of a shelter attempting to dictate peoples behavior as if it were law and using the police to enforce illegal practices.

So when the police were called Andre immediately got on his cell phone ( The essential tool for the efficient 21st century homeless person) to the Board of Equalization and of all people Willie Brown.Da Mayor. Ironically enough Mr. Brown is also a client of Andre. Andre advised the police officers that his conduct was constitutionally protected and he was allowed to do any type of business he wanted to as he had permit from city hall of which he showed to the police officers. After the exchange of a few words between the officers and Andre the Willie asked to speak to one of the officers and they were soon to depart. In the course of their exit their was some snickering that apparently Da Mayor overheard since he was still on the phone as was the Board of Equalization and had Andre ask the officers why they had not left the area and to dispense with their commentaries.

The point to this story is this, there are more people claiming to want to help us that have done and continuously do more harm regarding our plight than actually help us. My friend Andre as I stated earlier in this story stepped out of his place. He was using his own intelligence and resources to better his financial situation and because of that resourcefulness and independence was singled out by someone who in my view was better of financially but not emotionally. This shelter employee took a position of authority and manipulated and abused it for their own means by invoking some bizarre sense of authority and means to control this person's financial future. Had my friend groveled for every morsel whether food, shelter or general respect and dignity he would be accepted by the community based organizations system but because he continuously strives and struggles and uses his intelligence he is routinely outcaste and pointed out in the homeless community as a trouble maker or someone with an attitude or issues.

I wish to commend Andre on his fortitude and perseverance in the face of continuous obstacles. I wish him luck in his pursuits and ask if any of you have a story such as this you wish for me to highlight contact me here at POOR Magazine.

The Indigent Litigant column (aka JohnX) on PoorNewsNetwork welcomes your questions, comments and letters on the legal and constitutional issues regarding police harassment, race and class based profiling and assorted other crimes of poverty. You can email him at johnX@poormagazine.org or mail him your letters JohnX/ POOR Magazine 1448 Pine Street #205 SF, Ca 94109


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