2 months ago

homelesssigns:

April 2013, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

Name: Mike a.k.a. “The Pope of Harvard Square”

Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in Boston, MA. 

How old are you?
  57 years old.

What was it like growing up?

I’m adopted Ok. I was adopted through the Catholic Charities at 4 months old to the best family in the world. My father owned funeral homes and construction sites. My mother was a stay-at-home wife. I also had a sister who was adopted. My family are all dead now.

How long have you been homeless?

Since 2009.

How did you become homeless?

I always did relatively well in life. I was a construction work supervisor. In 2008 I had a mild stroke, and months later was laid off during the economic crash. I have a lot of medical bills, and because I haven’t fully recovered from my stroke, I can’t go back into the construction business again. My health is about 65% back to where it was, and I’m grateful for that. But my poor health hinders me from going back into my trade.

How do you get through the cold winters?

It is very tough. Very tough. The problem is when you wake up with 6 inches of snow on you. There is never enough space in the shelters, and you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from. Fortunately, some businesses in Cambridge allow you to sleep in the door ways of some of the stores for shelter.

What is your biggest struggle being homeless?

Maintaining interpersonal relationships. Everybody in the streets are always coming and going. You have friends that are here today but are gone tomorrow. 

I want to thank you guys for your donation of twenty dollars. It will really help me get through this week.

- C Hope

5 months ago 10 months ago
Imbued with mystery, sly humour, and an enormous heart, the latest film from visionary director Tsai Ming-liang (The Wayward Cloud) links together a series of sumptuously composed scenes that tell the story of a broken family living on the margins of Taipei society.

Though born in Malaysia and based in Taiwan, Festival favourite Tsai Ming-liang is, in the deepest sense, an international filmmaker. His films depend little on language or cultural knowledge. They reach us on the level of pure instinct, with elongated, tableau-like scenes, often without words; with ribald physical humour; with emotions too immense to be rushed — real tears take time. Stray Dogs displays all of Tsai’s boldest characteristics.

The film’s unspeakably beautiful first image — which seems to be a flash-forward to long after the story ends — captures a young woman in a verdant room, brushing her hair as two figures sleep behind her. From here we meet the film’s central characters, the vagabonds alluded to in the title. We see two children, brother and sister, traversing an ancient wood, or running along a golden beach. We see their father (Tsai regular Lee Kang-sheng) standing sentinellike in the middle of busy Taipei traffic, holding signs advertising luxury condominiums. The irony is that this family can’t even afford to rent a shoebox apartment.

Like Tsai’s sublime I Don’t Want to Sleep AloneStray Dogs plucks its characters from society’s margins; without sentimentalizing their subjects, these films exude empathy for day labourers and the homeless. As one mysterious, gorgeously composed scene gives way to the next, we come to know these characters, and something of their history, a time when they indeed had a home, a mother, a very different sort of life. We gaze into their past with them, are invited to share in their loss, and, gradually, imagine some brighter future. 

1 year ago
"We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we’re approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter:‘Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended’ They pay for their order, take the two and leave.I ask my friend: “What are those ‘suspended’ coffees?”My friend: “Wait for it and you will see.”Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers - three for them and four ‘suspended’. While I still wonder what’s the deal with those ‘suspended’ coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks‘Do you have a suspended coffee ?’It’s simple - people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can not afford a warm beverage. The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal.Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such cafés or even grocery stores in every town where the less fortunate will find hope and support? If you own a business why don’t you offer it to your clients… I am sure many of them will like it. (via Mind Boggling Stories)

"We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we’re approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter:
‘Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended’ They pay for their order, take the two and leave.

I ask my friend: “What are those ‘suspended’ coffees?”
My friend: “Wait for it and you will see.”

Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers - three for them and four ‘suspended’. While I still wonder what’s the deal with those ‘suspended’ coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks
‘Do you have a suspended coffee ?’

It’s simple - people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can not afford a warm beverage. The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such cafés or even grocery stores in every town where the less fortunate will find hope and support? If you own a business why don’t you offer it to your clients… I am sure many of them will like it. (via Mind Boggling Stories)

1 year ago

North Korean television takes a look at American poverty

1 year ago

Social Work In The Tenderloin Will Kill Something Inside of You

By: Blake Butler, Vice

The Tenderloin is widely acknowledged as the most hellish neighborhood in San Francisco. Out of the city’s ten most violent crime plots, the Tenderloin is home to seven. Recent stats estimate the neighborhood has an average of three major crimes per hour, including one-third of the city’s drug offenses, with a yearly mean of two crimes per resident. The population is made up of more than 6,000 homeless people and contains one-fourth of the city’s HIV-positive drug users. Filthy sidewalks and vacant buildings peppered with single-occupancy hotel rooms provide a home to all levels of drugs and prostitution.

My friend Lorian has been employed as a social worker in the Tenderloin for several years now. Her tweets about it (things like: “today: 4 dead clients, 1 murdered provider, 1 client defecated in the lobby, 1 dead dog, & 1 facebook friend posted pictures of nachos.”) got me curious as to what her job is like. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions. 

VICE: I imagine it varies greatly, but can you describe your average workday?
Lorian: The first thing is getting through the door at 9 AM. We usually have to step over clients or random strangers passed out on the benches from drinking and/or using since God knows when. The smell is the first thing that hits you—a stench of urine, feces, poor hygiene—it’s really at its strongest in the morning, but you get used to it throughout the day. Then we check our voicemail. Twenty messages from the same two or three clients who either scream their financial requests over and over, simply sit there and breathe, or tell you that witches are under their beds waiting for the next blood sacrifice. Paranoid clients like to fixate on witches, Satan, etc. Anyway, we get ready to open and hand out checks to the clients who are either on daily budgets, or who make random check requests. The budgeted clients are the most low-functioning, as they can be restricted to as little as $7 per day in order to curb their harm reduction. They’ll go and spend that $7 on whatever piece of crack they can find, and then two hours later they’re back, begging for more money. Clients will find some really brilliant ways to beg. When we’re not dealing with clients out in the lobby, which can involve anything from handing out checks to cleaning up blood to clearing the floor for folks having seizures, we’re usually dealing with the government agency assholes over at Social Security. I personally work with around 200 clients, so the paperwork and filing can be extraordinary. My “average day” starts at 9 AM and lasts until 7 or 8 PM.

You’re in the Tenderloin, right? What’s the deal with that area?
Yeah, the Tenderloin is where the majority of our clients live in residential hotels (SROs). It’s one of the two predominately black neighborhoods left in SF (the other is the Western Addition), and it’s the center of the crack, heroin, and oxy drug culture, and it hosts the transgendered sex-worker scene. It’s an incredible neighborhood. There’s a preservation society that works really hard to keep the original buildings in place, so the ‘Loin has an impressive architectural history, not to mention random shit like vintage fetish-magazine stores, pot dispensaries, and transgender strip clubs. It’s literally located at the bottom of a giant hill (Nob Hill), where the old money sits and looks down on the poor black folk, so the geography of SF’s class structure is more blatant than in other cities, I think. It’s a fucked place: human shit smeared on the sidewalks, tweakers sitting on the corner dismantling doorknobs for hours, heroin users nodding out in the middle of the streets, drug dealers paying cornerstore owners $20 to sell in their stores, dudes pissing on your doorstep as you leave for work, etc. It’s a weird, fascinating, and very hard place to live.

How does being in the midst of so much mental illness affect you emotionally? 
Man, social work is so fucking weird. People think you’re a saint. “It takes a certain person to do that kind of work,” is what I hear a lot. Fuck that. When you’re young, you can afford to have ideals and believe in stuff, and think that what you’re doing matters, but after watching grown men shit themselves and sometimes try to eat their own shit, not to mention the countless number of times I’ve had to pick people off the floor and put them back in their wheelchairs because they’ve been drinking since 6 AM and can’t even sit up straight, your measly 32K salary starts to matter a helluva lot more than social justice.

I think I got into social work because I had this idea of it somehow “killing” my ego. It seems silly, but it felt very real at the time. There’s a sadness to watching your idealism and convictions go to shit. Not to mention that working in such a thankless and fucked system will kill a sacred part of you. I feel tired. For the most part, people do not want help. They want money or they want drugs or they want death. 

What you do seems important, though. There must be some goodness in it, too, right? I feel like you tweet sometimes about people bringing you weird things they see as gifts or saying nice, if totally bizarre things. Are there moments that help balance the heavy?
I don’t really think of what I do as “important,” because days are days and everyone is dying and who am I to think anything of anything. But yes, there are moments, there is goodness. Today a client brought me a huge drawing he made of a tree in Golden Gate Park. It must’ve taken him hours. He said he drew every leaf. I told him the line work was amazing, and he said, “An amazing tree for an amazing woman.” And then he asked me, “When is the Fourth of July?” Sometimes moments like that are enough.

1 year ago 2 years ago 2 years ago
Johnny Noble, 9, sits in his uncle’s trailer, which has no electricity or running water. Johnny’s uncle relies on assistance from the government and helpful neighbors.
In Owsley County, Ky., a community of about 5,000, residents earn the lowest median household income in the country outside of Puerto Rico, according to the U.S. Census. The decline in coal, tobacco and lumber industries have taken a harsh toll on this community where locals also face a high incidence of drug addiction, the Daily Mail reports.
Inside the Poorest County In America, Owsley County.

Johnny Noble, 9, sits in his uncle’s trailer, which has no electricity or running water. Johnny’s uncle relies on assistance from the government and helpful neighbors.

In Owsley County, Ky., a community of about 5,000, residents earn the lowest median household income in the country outside of Puerto Rico, according to the U.S. Census. The decline in coal, tobacco and lumber industries have taken a harsh toll on this community where locals also face a high incidence of drug addiction, the Daily Mail reports.

Inside the Poorest County In America, Owsley County.

2 years ago