Seattle has America's fourth-largest homeless population and virtually everything homeless people do is illegal in Washington State, which has added 288 new offenses related to homelessness to its statute-books since 2000 -- amazingly, this did not convince those homeless people to stop being homeless.
Libraries, "the last bastion of democracy," are a haven for America's 500,000 homeless people, where literature, Internet access, and nonfiction can come together to provide respite from the relentless brutality of life on the streets.
The Dutch homelessness charity Badt dressed mannequins as homeless people, sawed coin-slots in their foreheads, and seeded them around Amsterdam with signs soliciting donations. It's a clever campaign, but it says something a little unpleasant, in that we are apparently more willing to give money to a doll with a slot in its forehead than an actual homeless person.
Still image from a video that shows officers assaulting and then killing a mentally ill man who was illegally camping
Travel tip for Albuquerque visitors: When a gang of police officers unleash their attack dog on you and startle you with a flash-bang grenade, stand very still. If you try to back away, Police Chief Gordon Eden has given the officers permission to shoot you on the spot.
The Albuquerque Police Department has been under federal review by the U.S. Department of Justice since 2012 when the agency’s record of shooting 25 suspect – 17 fatal – garnered national attention. The department has added 11 more shootings to that list since the end of 2012. Albuquerque officers have shot more persons than the NYPD, a department serving a city 16-times larger, since 2010.
Over at Institute for the Future's Future Now blog, my colleague Rebecca Chesney writes:
Marc Roth moved to San Francisco to make a better life for his family, but he soon became ill and unable to work. After six months living in a homeless shelter, he used assistance money to take classes at TechShop, a makerspace that provides tools and training for members. Marc learned new skills that led to starting his own laser cutting business, and, more importantly, he found support in an active and engaged community. Now Marc wants to help others who have fallen on hard times and don’t have the skills needed to enter today’s technology-driven economy. He founded The Learning Shelter, a 90-day program that provides housing, training, and mentorship for obtaining a job. A true extreme learner, Marc is teaching others what he learned: that the “permission to fail and encouragement to break through the walls you run into [are] absolutely necessary.”
Over the weekend, I noticed that David Gallagher of The New York Timesobserved in Austin, "Homeless people have been enlisted to roam the streets wearing T-shirts that say 'I am a 4G hotspot.”
A number of other folks I follow on Twitter who are attending the annual SXSW event there mentioned it, too, with concern. Here's the project's website, detailing their system to PayPal each "homeless hotspot" person directly. "We suggest $2 per 15 minutes."
The Homeless Hotspots website frames this as an attempt "to modernize the Street Newspaper model employed to support homeless populations." There's a wee little difference, though. Those newspapers are written by homeless people, and they cover issues that affect the homeless population.
By contrast, Homeless Hotspots are helpless pieces of privilege-extending human infrastructure. It's like it never occurred to the people behind this campaign that people might read street newspapers. They probably just buy them to be nice and throw them in the garbage.
This is my worry: the homeless turned not just into walking, talking hotspots, but walking, talking billboards for a program that doesn’t care anything at all about them or their future, so long as it can score a point or two about digital disruption of old media paradigms. So long as it can prove that the real problem with homelessness is that it doesn’t provide a service.
Pawel Hynek's 2006 image "Obsolete" depicts a homeless robot begging for electrical power; it's striking and funny as well as a little uncomfortable-making. It reminds me of one of the most demented scenes in science fiction history: the moment in Ian McDonald's stupendous novel The Broken Land in which a re-animated severed head is reduced to performing sexual favors on a street-corner in exchange for nutrient bath to fill the shallow dish in which its neck-stump rests.
Robbo Mills sends in this episode of his Rufus the Dog kids' show, a social justice-oriented retelling of "The Troll Under the Bridge." He says,
Social justice and kids TV puppet shows don't seem a likely mix but we managed to make it work for a bunch of our episodes before it got cancelled.
We made these shows for YTV Canada and after recently getting the rights back we started putting them online - under a CC share-alike license - where they'll have a home and reach kids.
We're also making new shows with the same characters - and the first one out of the gate is our own daft version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". Funding for this is being raised through IndieGoGo and we're hell bent on getting it done and online before the holidays.
And yes - there WILL be Tiny Tim and there WILL be a Flying Spaghetti Monster.