The shelters may not be the answer for all under the Pontchartrain Expressway…

Because this too, is what community looks like...
This too, is what community looks like…

Like many of you, I have been reading about the coming forced evacuations of the 120 plus homeless people who currently reside nightly underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway in downtown New Orleans. City officials began handing out 72 hour notices on Monday evening, citing health violations, safety concerns and drug use as parts of the problem which are necessitating this move. Outreach workers will be on hand to help steer people into the shelters, where resources and case management will be made available to assist people in finding more suitable, long term housing.

Sounds like a win-win on its surface: resources made available for people who need it and the city doesn’t have to worry about a growing health and safety problem…but you just know it’s not that simple.

People aren’t that simple, much as we might want them to be.

So then, why might somebody choose the streets of New Orleans, choose to live under an overpass instead of a shelter with resources?

1. Shelters have rules and curfews. Oftentimes, dismissive types claim homeless people don’t like shelters because the curfews and rules prevent people with addictions from getting drunk or high. And for some, that may very well be a part of it but that’s not the whole story. First off, not all homeless people are addicted to substances. Second, people also bristle at curfews and rules because homelessness doesn’t suddenly instill in people the desire to give up their freedoms. They are adults, and most adults don’t want to answer to strangers, be told what to do, when to eat, where and when to sleep, what time to be at the shelter and when it is too late for them to leave, or lose their bed. A loss of so many freedoms most of us take for granted can be a pretty demeaning feeling in an already often demeaning situation, feeling less than, stigmatized, not in control of your own situation…out on the streets, there’s still an element of control, of making independent choices most adults I know would be loathe to give up. Can’t sleep and want to go for a walk, have a smoke, make a phone call? Curfews and rules might say nope.

2. The men and women who live under the overpass have formed a community, one that could be broken up in a shelter. No communities are perfect and some can be dangerous and certainly, with assaults and sexual exploitation that have been documented under the Pontchartrain Expressway, this community has its dangers, but it is a community. People there look out for each other, know each other, know when someone’s not doing well and sometimes even care for one another. That’s what people do. To many, this community is a known and it’s voluntary inasmuch as there is a choice on whether or not to be in that community. There are understandings there, and to go into the shelters is to give this up and put yourself at the mercy of the unknown. There may be someone in the shelter somebody has a past with, somebody that makes another feel threatened or unsafe. It can be a very hard choice.

3. What about their belongings? Most shelters, due to space restrictions, have set limits on how many belongings you can bring through their door. When you’re homeless, oftentimes the stuff you have with you is what you have left of your present and former identity. On the streets, there are no restrictions upon how much you can bring with you and to be told by strangers what is necessary for you to have and what is expendable, that anything outside of two bags is superfluous and to be told you need to go through your possessions and decide what to keep and what to throw away is extraordinarily difficult for anyone who has already lost so much.

4. In the shelters there may be issues with staff treatment. Let me say first that I can only believe the vast majority of people who work in the shelters do so because they care, because they really want to help and work very hard, but having myself worked in shelters it is a fact not everyone is like this. There are predators. There are abusive staff. In San Francisco, staff like this were called “jailers.” They exist, and they can do a number of things to shelter residents. Curse them out. Kick them out arbitrarily. Coerce favors for perks at the shelter…use your imagination. It isn’t a regular occurrence I’m sure, but it happens. And if you are a shelter resident it happens to, it can be extraordinarily damaging.

5. The shelters have time limits, and many of those time limits are short. Three weeks at the New Orleans Mission. Ten days at Ozanam. That is not enough time to fix the kind of problems that lead to homelessness. Now, at some shelters, people do have options for more time, up to a year if they are in mental health or substance abuse programs and for some that may be precisely what they need to right what needs righting, but not everybody is ready to accept that kind of help. Not everyone thinks they have a substance abuse problem and many with mental health issues may dislike the stigma that comes with treatment, adding to the stigma of being homeless or they may not think they need treatment at all, have a lack of insight or be against medications. Mental health and substance addiction are very complex issues and when combined they can be that much more so. And with these time limits, where do people go when they time out? Back to the shadows of the overpass? Maybe to a different neighborhood or city, or to jail?

6. Many of these shelters charge nightly, some upwards of ten dollars a night. One can go to various churches and get fee waivers, but it’s difficult to cart your belongings from one place to another to get a waiver, then back to the shelter at night and in the morning, have to leave the shelter all day, still carrying belongings. It’s more loss of autonomy and more answering to others. Either that or you can pay the ten dollars a night, money many don’t have so they are  then forced to panhandle to get. With all of this, it can be easier, freer, more autonomous and independent to stake out a spot on the streets and just stay there. Not ideal obviously, but for some it can seem a better choice.

Now, as a social worker for the past twenty plus years I do feel that some of the people who are forced out of the homeless encampment will get a chance to do something different, maybe get treatment or mental health help, maybe even housing and that is certainly a win for them, especially in the long run but I also feel some won’t be ready for these steps. Some have been on the streets so long to try to acculturate themselves back into a life away can be difficult. Mental illness can make it more difficult. Mental illness and addiction, even more so. Some just won’t be ready.

It should seem obvious the people living under the expressway are doing so for a reason. You may not understand what those reasons are or even disagree with them, but that makes these reasons no less real or valid. Rather than kicking them out, why not continue to provide outreach, outreach, outreach while helping them to be safe, right where they are until that outreach leads to a home, or until they are ready to face any problems they might have. If there are public health issues, clean it up, or provide incentive for the people staying there to clean it up themselves. Provide waste disposal, port-a-lets, whatever’s necessary. Bring the solutions to them and put in the time to make it work, take hold for real. If worried this might lead to people never wanting to leave, find out exactly why it is they want to live under an overpass rather than their own home and work towards solutions to these wants. Find the bigger and better deal and present it to them. It may cost more, but it sure will be more effective in the long run and isn’t helping people the point of all this? If not, it should be, unless this really is being done because of neighbor complaints, pending Saints games at the Superdome or because some consider their fellow citizens, people, to be eyesores.

Rather than the police just forcing them out, possibly traumatizing some and then fencing it all up, there should be a mixture of responses here. This is a community, and for now it has become their home. In social work, there is a oft-quoted phrase: “Meet people where they’re at,” which essentially means to provide the amount of help people are ready to accept and help motivate them over time to accept even more.

Forcing them out of their home with a 72 hour notice is not meeting people where they’re at and for some, not the right thing to do at all.

Have a nice day.


Be back Monday…the trouble with the (personal) economy…

2nd choice...

So, four months from now on March 1st of 2012, I am finally out of the Great White North and heading back to what I thought might be New Orleans. Would certainly make sense with all the writing I do on this site that this town is where my interests lie, and it is, but the damned economy…here’s the thing that keeps throwing rocks in my pool, floating the ripples so I can’t see so clearly through the water…

Louisiana, and New Orleans in particular which has been much spared by the recession and boasts an unemployment rate of 6.9% has essentially no social work jobs to speak of, or at least very few that would enable someone such as myself to be able to afford the rents that never seemed to go down all that much post-Katrina, yet in San Francisco, even though the city by the bay shamefacedly hosts an unemployment rate of 9.2% while the state of California struggles under its own 12.1% rate, there are social work jobs to be had, a few anyway.

So whereas I thought I would be able to head South, the ability to eat and sleep indoors may shove me West.

Needless to say this is disappointing and has led me to go on hiatus this week from the website while I figure out what this means both for me and for the website in general…

In any case…please excuse these more personal meanderings; just explaining an absence that maybe don’t need to be explained at all…

See ya Monday. Have a nice day.


Too big to jail…

If you can't beat 'em...


I suppose it should come as no surprise that Republicans aren’t the only entity Obama and his administration simply rolls over for.

Economist after economist state the people won’t believe in economic recovery until the people who created the recession are brought to justice. And, economist after economist say the banks and Wall Street will not change their ways until people responsible begin to see the walls of jail cells…so, in keeping with these times of paying attentions to studies and experts to seek honest solutions to structural problems, the administration appears poised to let the evildoers of the mortgage fraud scandal off with a fine.

But it’s a really big fine…really big…so there.

And of course, I’m sure…the banks will neither admit to, nor deny wrongdoing…

“State and federal prosecutors are pressing to complete a proposed settlement with the nation’s five largest home loan companies over alleged mortgage abuses, even though they’ve only initiated a limited investigation that hasn’t examined the full extent of the alleged wrongdoing, according to interviews with more than two dozen officials and others familiar with the state and federal probes.

The deal with the mortgage companies would broadly absolve the firms of wrongdoing in exchange for penalties reaching $30 billion and assurances that the firms will adhere to better practices going forward, these sources told The Huffington Post. Negotiators met in Washington last week to hash out the settlement.”

Unless the law is applied equally, the rule of law is dead.

Read the article:

As Government Nears Accord With Banks, Questions Swirl Over Scope Of Investigations

Have a nice day.

And Obama wants a thank you?

No Barack, the proper response would have been a left jab, not a handshake...

When you are the kind of person who believes the rich really don’t need any more of our money, that tax cuts to wealth don’t really create jobs, at least not the kind of jobs where you don’t need two or three of them to survive, and when you also believe that in the tightened economy, its important to help the growing number of people who are unemployed with assistance for housing and health care. Oh, and this environmental problem we got going on? We need to really take care of that too…

The top 1%, Large businesses?

They’re fine…General Electric pays no taxes on thirteen billion in profits and still tries to squeeze out health care and wage concessions from their employees…that’s greed my friend, not being competitive, so they can tighten their belts too, the way we’ve all been expected to cinch things up.

Anyways, when you believe everything previously mentioned, and you know that Republicans will try to continue this robber-baron thieving mentality, one might be inclined to look for the Democrats and the Democratic President to use common sense, to hold the line and protect the people of this country…

And you’d be wrong to think that way.

Instead, we get:

Newly Released Spending Deal Targets Health, Environment, Energy

In the White House and Congress we got only the spineless, courting election contributions at the expense of the country’s general welfare, and we’re expected to say thanks, you know, because the Republicans really wanted so much more…

No thanks here, sorry…but at the risk of sounding crude, I do have a brand new, nice middle finger for the lot of you…

Have a nice day.

And now, a word from our sponsors…I’m having a “moment” version.

And now, a word from our sponsors…

Gave Up – Nine Inch Nails, featuring Marilyn Manson

The hidden subtext?


“Throw it away…Throw it away…Throw it away…”

Kinda seems what our national politicians are doing these days. The political process is threatening women, children, the environment, life…politicians out there are actually doing detective work on miscarriages to make sure they weren’t secret abortions?  The poor and middle class are getting screwed again. Teachers are told to sacrifice while the Wall Street assholes who screwed the entire economy are getting paid. Unemployed tea partiers put their head in the gallows and cheer the blade as it falls. And the same conservative financial rapists now coming back for seconds are celebrated by Fox News viewers because the TV told them fraud is good and man, thinking for oneself is so, so tired. 

The logic of all this is as dead as the globe.


Well, I’m torn between my social worker instincts that give a damn about people and their suffering, versus my own sense of antisocial disgust that screams, “You voted in these morons who are allowing the next great Rock n Roll swindle, so ya get what you deserve!” But, as always, when the moment passes and compassion returns, so too does the recognition that we have to be there for our community, we have to because nobody else is guarding the outhouse for us, not anymore.

“We all get to heaven on the arm of someone we’ve helped”

– Neal Cassady

Have a nice day.

Overall, It’s Been a Great Week to Be a New Orleans Assassin!

Except for new security in the Quarter, not a bad week at all, condos!


I kill people for a living.

Normally, I don’t really go spreading this around as I find it can get in the way of my job, but after the events of this week, I just can’t help myself. Ten years now of having to be all secretive, of having to always respond to questions like, “Hey, what do you do for a living?” with answers like “Oh, a bit of this and that…and, you know, whatever it takes…or, I was a high school teacher before Katrina,” I soon may be able to finally be honest with my fellow New Orleanians, “Me? Oh, I’m an Assassin, and I’m proud!”

It’s been a great week.

Obama’s about to make me legal.

What? I know…I never would have believed it either. I thought when McCain chose Palin, I was truly fucked, but who knew? These Democrats? They appear to have an even stronger fetish for state secrets than the regime they replaced. It’s amazing, truly a surprise and yeah, I know I gotta thank the recession too. Since they can’t run on the economy at mid-terms and that health care thing has been such a clusterfuck…again, the last thing they need is to give rich white elephants any kind of war on terror ammunition so yeah, I get it. I understand. I just don’t care, cause me and my ilk, we’re coming out! Hell, we might even start our own Krewe! Mardi Gras parades! Our own Ball!


Despite the fact the constitution requires all Americans to receive “due process of law,” Obama is arguing that his assassination program is a state secret.

Why is he doing that?

Well, what happened is the father of this American citizen by the name of Anwar Awlaki, his dad filed a lawsuit against the administration for trying to assassinate his son. Yeah, you can sue for that! Crazy, I didn’t know either. Anyways, the Department of Justice under Obama is demanding dismissal of this lawsuit because they say that when I am out there trying to kill people at the behest of your government, I am a “state secret,” even when I am killing Americans. Why I want to kill you, also a “state secret.” The evidence the government has used as proof of your guilt before sending me out to kill you? You guessed it, “state secret.” And because of all these state secrets, what recourse would an American citizen have?


Obama rules!

The Krewe of “Rue de Screw You!”

Got a bit of ring to it. I’ve always been a fan of some serious alliteration.

I’m thinking of taking out a billboard on Canal Street, course, then again that might not be prudent. It might give the impression to tourists I could conduct my business in the adjoining French Quarter, and whereas that may have been true before…soon, this is about to become very difficult. You see, even with the protection of our government that allows me to kill…you know, you, this doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be caught int the act. It creates quite a headache. Paperwork, time…yeah, all that shit and somebody’s got to let out my dog, “Ray-ray,” so there is still some sense of circumspection required. And in the French Quarter, well, I could deal with the NOPD and their 35 to 40 officers patrolling the Quarter 24-7, but what with this new French Quarter Security District thing, I just don’t know if it’s all going to be worth it. If this is approved on October 2nd, that means there are going to be three new security guards walking around the Quarter’s what, 85 blocks or so? I don’t think I want to deal with that kind of scrutiny. Yes, I understand that Moe, Larry and Curly will not be allowed to unholster their weapon for any reason, that they don’t have the power to arrest anyone for anything but seriously, there is a reason me and my ilk never kill anyone in malls. Too much trouble. I mean what if one of those security guards should have a camera? Do you know how many forms I would have to fill out if I was actually caught on film doing my job, even with the whole state secrets thing?

Assassins don’t like paperwork, it’s one of the most oft-cited reasons we get into this line of work in the first place.

I think I’ll put my billboard out by the airport.

So yeah, you gotta take the good with the bad and if the French Quarter is the only place I can’t kill in this country anymore? Yeah, I can live with that…I suppose, for now.

Oh, and more good news!

Mixed development is on the way to the Iberville.

New digs, right next to the Quarter! If I can’t kill there, at least I can hang out. Assassins like the Quarter…Flanagans, Mojo’s, Fahey’s, Molly’s…all within walking distance. Woo-hoo!

And no, you don’t have to ask. I do feel bad about the whole lack of affordable housing thing in New Orleans, really, I do…but I do work for the company so you gotta support the company and since Obama (again, a Democrat…who knew?) appointed David Gilmore head of HANO, we’re getting all that talk of “mixed development” again and just like when they tore down the Big 4, there have been no promises of 1 to 1, the idea that for every low-income apartment they eliminate, they create a new one somewhere else. With 1 to 1, the thousands of residents that have been priced out of the New Orleans housing market when HANO destroyed their homes, or those at the Iberville who soon might be, they are given a new place to live, guaranteed. 1 to 1. They don’t have to leave New Orleans, or they can finally come back home.

I know, yes, I feel bad about there maybe being more homeless people and all, but I also take responsibility. To assuage any guilt I feel when I move to the Iberville Luxury Towers (don’t worry, you’ll hear about it after the elections) I’m going to do my part to kill as many people as I can all over the New Orleans area, except the French Quarter of course, to try to reduce housing demand, to lower the rents city-wide.

You are welcome!

Okay, gotta go.

Busy, busy, busy…like I said…it’s been a pretty good week overall, got me a lot of work out there to do and I am about to be even more swamped. Seriously. After November 2nd, it’s my understanding that the current administration will soon declare that all those people getting a bit too loud about the Gulf will soon be designated “eco-terrorists.”

And you know what that means.

Yep, Christmas is coming and the family’s going to get the expensive gifts this year!

Oh, and by the way…anyone know a certain Garret Hartley’s address?

Just kidding…kind of.

Have a nice day.

A Review: William Quigley’s How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps

I discovered this essay in Quigley’s book: Storms Still Raging – Katrina, New Orleans and Social Justice, but the essay has existed online for quite some time; it was written three years ago.

William Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor of law at Loyola University in New Orleans where he heads the center for Social Justice, the Clinic, and the Poverty Law Center.

Take a look, no need for me to comment except to ask, though initially published in 2007, how many of these steps still echo in New Orleans today?

Step One. Delay. If there is one word that sums up the way to destroy an African-American city after a disaster, that word is DELAY. If you are in doubt about any of the following steps–just remember to delay and you will probably be doing the right thing.

Step Two. When a disaster is coming, do not arrange a public evacuation. Rely only on individual resources. People with cars and money for hotels will leave. The elderly, the disabled and the poor will not be able to leave. Most of those without cars–25% of households of New Orleans, overwhelmingly African-Americans–will not be able to leave. Most of the working poor, overwhelmingly African-American, will not be able to leave. Many will then permanently accuse the victims who were left behind of creating their own human disaster because of their own poor planning. It is critical to start by having people blame the victims for their own problems.

Step Three. When the disaster hits make certain the national response is overseen by someone who has no experience at all handling anything on a large scale, particularly disasters. In fact, you can even inject some humor into the response–have the disaster coordinator be someone whose last job was the head of a dancing horse association.

Step Four. Make sure that the President and national leaders remain aloof and only slightly concerned. This sends an important message to the rest of the country.

Step Five. Make certain the local, state, and national governments do not respond in a coordinated effective way. This will create more chaos on the ground.

Step Six. Do not bring in food or water or communications right away. This will make everyone left behind more frantic and create incredible scenes for the media.

Step Seven. Make certain that the media focus of the disaster is not on the heroic community work of thousands of women, men and young people helping the elderly, the sick and the trapped survive, but mainly on acts of people looting. Also spread and repeat the rumors that people trapped on rooftops are shooting guns not to attract attention and get help, but AT the helicopters. This will reinforce the message that “those people” left behind are different from the rest of us and are beyond help.

Step Eight. Refuse help from other countries. If we accept help, it looks like we cannot or choose not to handle this problem ourselves. This cannot be the message. The message we want to put out over and over is that we have plenty of resources and there is plenty of help. Then if people are not receiving help, it is their own fault. This should be done quietly.

Step Nine. Once the evacuation of those left behind actually starts, make sure people do not know where they are going or have any way to know where the rest of their family has gone. In fact, make sure that African-Americans end up much farther away from home than others.

Step Ten. Make sure that when government assistance finally has to be given out, it is given out in a totally arbitrary way. People will have lost their homes, jobs, churches, doctors, schools, neighbors and friends. Give them a little bit of money, but not too much. Make people dependent. Then cut off the money. Then give it to some and not others. Refuse to assist more than one person in every household. This will create conflicts where more than one generation lived together. Make it impossible for people to get consistent answers to their questions. Long lines and busy phones will discourage people from looking for help.

To read the remaining 23 steps, hit the link:

Lessons From Katrina: How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps

Have a nice day.