By Juju Angeles/POOR Magazine formerly houseless poverty skola/Homefulness resident
On Thursday, February 23, 2023, we met with Keith Carson and some powerful black and houseless/poor women led organizations that directly work with feeding and housing our roofless/ houseless residents in Alameda county.
In the county of Alameda, 30,000 people everyday are at risk of being evicted and according to an NBC Bay Area article, 37,000 are living on the streets in the Bay Area.
The meeting was held to ask Keith Carson, who is responsible for the distribution of county funds in the fifth district, how can Self Help Hunger Program, Manna From Heaven, and POOR Magazine tap into the county’s budget that deals with the crisis of homelessness.
All three of these movements work on the ground directly, everyday with houseless, disabled, in crisis communities. “We are the people we serve, “ says Aunti Frances Moore, Black Panther and formerly houseless founder of Self-Help Hunger Program and co-founder of Homefulness..
“Poor and houseless families and elders need to be listened to about our own solutions to our own problems, Homeuflness is public HEALth,” said tiny gray-garcia, formerly houseless co-founder of POOR Magazine and visionary of Homefulness
This meeting took almost a year to schedule despite Mr. Carson publicly stating that he looks forward to collaborating to solve the county's problems.
Collaborating with who? Is he collaborating with folks who are literally outside in encampments, formerly houseless folks, or with mutual aid grassroots organizations?
Oftentimes, people on the street aren’t seen as worthy enough to solve their own problems. The Board of Directors and Executive leaders of most not-for-profit organizations aren’t folks who are poor. How can people who have no real lived experience or expertise on homelessness solve a problem that the systems they work for actually created?
What is the incentive for housed folks with class privilege to solve the homelessness issue when they have no urgency to actually house us?
One of the main issues with the allocation of funds for houseless and those who are at risk of being houseless is that the current organizations aren’t redistributing the funds to help us. Mama Dee, the founder of Poor Magazine, used to say, “folks who have never missed a meal in their life” can’t tell us what we need. This is seen with the amount of bureaucratic red tape to access emergency funds. Everything from the need to make 3 times the rent to have access to emergency funds, you have to show proof of residency, or shelters closing and being full, shows how they don’t care what cash poor or houseless folks actually need.
People in public service do not collaborate with community members who are experts in their own lives and their own experience because of the internalized disrespect for poor people. We aren’t seen as worthy of leading our own lives. We aren’t seen as intelligent. Support often looks paternalistic, criminalized, and we are seen as untrustworthy.
The popular belief is that we did this to ourselves. That we are all drug or alcohol addicts, lazy, or that we created the problems of poverty. When anyone who has any education, like most officials, knows that capitalism is a system that depends on poverty and the exploitation of cash poor folks. Capitalism literally depends on a hierarchy of have and have nots. Those who do not have are working for folks who do. This machine is well oiled.
When we asked Keith Carson how could these community grassroots organizations get access to this very important county funding, his response after two years of waiting for a meeting was, “We don’t deal with land. We deal with public health.” As if houselessness isn’t a public health issue. Any doctor will tell you that a safe and secure home is one of the pillars of health for any individual or family.
He then went on to say that he has “been doing a whole lot” in terms of housing. After all the storms we have gotten, Alameda county has provided no resources for flooding to its houseless residents. The homelessness problem has doubled in the last five years and the number continues to grow due the average cost of a home being one million dollars and unlivable wages. In addition, it came out last year that Alameda county cannot account for the allocation of funds for homelessness.
What Keith Carson could have said is, Let’s find ways to work with one another. I value the houseless residents of Alameda County instead of doing NOTHING and basically verbally masturbating all the ways that Alameda County has done a poor job at the homelessness problem.
The proof is everywhere. Look outside your car window driving in any part of the Bay Area and you see more and more people on the streets, surviving by any means necessary.
Homelessness is a public health emergency. No one should be unhoused. We have enough land to house everyone but not everyone has the money and those who do aren’t sharing — and therein lies the true dilemma.