Monday, February 26, 2007

Path to the Promised Land: Tent City Seeks Justice

A young man squints against the camera flash. His long dark hair falls on shoulders hunched beneath an orange jail suit. He looks uneasy…. His uneasiness is not that of an embarrassing moment or an uncomfortable situation; it is the deep uncertainty that comes when the world falls out from under you. He flinches against the mug shot.

The next day his face appears on the front page of the local newspaper under the headline: “Rape suspect lived in Watershed. Man appears to have stayed in underground hole.” In the following days, the newspaper prints sensational photos of his underground “bunker”, photos of his belongings strewn about by the police, and short clips – taken out of context – from his private journal.

The article directly above his reads, “Olympia Council tells Tent City to disperse.”


A young woman pulls a trash bag, heavy with the weight of two days’ garbage, out of a can and ties the ends. She moves quickly, collecting heaping ashtrays and wiping surfaces in a single motion.

Kandace, 19 years old, is a resident of Camp Quixote, Olympia’s new tent city founded by the Poor People’s Union (PPU). Kandace joined the Union two weeks before Camp Quixote was founded.

“It’s about brainstorming solutions together for poor people to survive in today’s economically challenged world,” she says of the Union, “…about helping people who don’t have other options to have an option. Including myself.”


David Lukas Lynch, age 23, was accused of raping an 11 year old girl.

The rape occurred on February 5th. The attacker entered the girl’s home and raped her at knife point while her family slept.

Police found David the next day, huddled in a church parking lot. They asked him if he hurt anyone the night before, and he said, “Yes, I think so.” They arrested him and searched his camp, finding a hunting knife and a journal in which David mentioned his desire to quit “child hunting”.

The Olympian reported later that David was behaving “irrationally” and was so “out of control” that he had to be placed in four point restraints and put on suicide watch. The judge presiding over his case ordered a mental health evaluation to determine if he was capable of standing trial.


Kandace grew up in foster care and was left to survive on her own at 18, when she aged out of the program. After bouncing between shelters, camps, and friends’ couches, Kandace discovered the PPU and the plans for a new tent city, which she described as “a doorway to something new, a way to be productive.”

Camp Quixote was erected by the PPU on February 1st. The encampment served as a means for the homeless to establish their right to exist. Having already been squeezed out of the parks, the homeless were frustrated when the City passed an ordinance banning panhandling and sidewalk sitting last November. Camp Quixote was built the day the new ordinance went into effect.

Asked about her opinion of the ordinance, Kandace commented that “the safest place for [homeless women] to be is on the sidewalks where there is light and people around.”

The encampment was initially sited on a vacant City-owned lot at the corner of State and Columbia streets, in the heart of downtown Olympia. Its location made it highly visible. Cars driving by frequently honked their horns in a show of support for the camp residents. Local businesses donated food, and Evergreen students thronged to the site in a show of mass solidarity.

Camp residents checked in regularly with neighboring businesses to make sure they had no complaints. They set up security patrols, and organized volunteers to pick up trash in the neighborhood.

When an elderly, senile woman who had been thrown out of the Salvation Army showed up at the camp, residents took her under wing and made sure she had a good tent and food to eat.


David Lynch’s underground camp was impressive. About the size of a fifth-wheel trailer and built with plywood, it even sported a window, and was well hidden from public view.

Sensing a hot story, the Olympian published lavish photos of the camp, calling it an “underground lair” in one “breaking news” update on their website. Readers commented on the Olympian’s website:

“Put him back in the bunker and cover up the hole. Its a good place for someone who rapes an 11 year old.”

“This guy is transient because he is lazy. He is a predator because he is wired wrong.”

“I hope [he] gets repeatedly raped in prison until he has to wear diapers for the rest of his miserable life.”

“Put him in with the rest of the houseless in prison.”

When contacted for a sensational tidbit by the daily Olympian, David’s ex-girlfriend replied, “I want people to understand that he is a brilliant man and a complex thinker and a poet… [David] doesn't have a bad heart."


The City of Olympia was unimpressed with the accomplishments of Camp Quixote. Angry about City property being taken over by the homeless, City Manager Steve Hall told the Olympian that “It seems like a terrible way to start a conversation… it seems like a poke in the eye.”

Neither the City Manager nor the Olympian noted the fact that 120 people, mostly members of the PPU, showed up at a November public hearing to express their opposition to the proposed sidewalk ordinance.

After one week at the downtown location, Camp Quixote residents were served with eviction notices from the City.

On Thursday, February 8th, the Board of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, sensing the urgency of Camp Quixote’s situation, voted to offer the camp sanctuary on church grounds. Camp Quixote accepted the offer, and the Rev. Art Vaeni contacted the Olympia City Manager to inform him that the camp would be moving to church property the following day.

But the City of Olympia apparently wasn’t satisfied to see the camp move of its own accord. Several dozen armed police officers surrounded and barricaded Camp Quixote in the pre-dawn hours of Friday, February 9th. They threatened that, if the camp was not moved immediately, the residents would be arrested and their belongings seized.

Camp Quixote residents rushed about in the rain to gather their belongings and load them into vehicles supplied by local volunteers, including a truck belonging to T.J. Johnson. T.J. is the only City Council member who has spoken in favor of the encampment.

The tent city is alive and well today, standing on property belonging to the Unitarian Universalist church. The church has offered to let Camp Quixote stay for 90 days. It is likely that another church will step up and offer to host when this 90 day period expires.

But the City of Olympia remains opposed to the existence of the tent city, setting itself at odds with local faith communities, and the Unitarian church faces fines if it fails to comply with the expensive and complicated process of applying for a special use permit.


On the morning of February 21st, the following headline appeared in the Olympian: “DNA tests clear rape suspect.”

David Lynch is innocent. He did not commit the crime. Yet he was declared guilty in the court of public opinion. He was sentenced to several weeks locked in the Olympian stocks and pillory, with his life and home splayed out for the world to see and scorn.

Christ once said, “What you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” If David’s story has one lesson to share, it is that we as a society have failed to end the practice of crucifying our Lord.

The problem isn’t that the cops made a mistake, nor is it that the media was out of line. They made the same assumptions that any reasonable person would make. They found a young, disheveled, confused, mentally ill man who lived in a hole very near to the victim’s home. He possessed hunting knives. He mentioned “child hunting” in his journal. He was homeless. Almost anyone would have found him to be suspicious.

The problem that must be faced, however, is that there was no concrete evidence of David’s guilt. In fact, the little girl who was attacked described her attacker as brown skinned, with short dark hair, a pointed goatee and mustache, and wearing glasses. David is pale, with long shoulder length hair and a clean shaven face. He did not fit the victim’s description of the attacker. David was merely mentally ill and in the wrong neighborhood.

So the problem was not that anyone was out of line… The problem is that sometimes being reasonable can have dramatic and harmful consequences. It was normal, reasonable people whose assumptions led them to burn young women to death for the practice of “witchcraft”. It was normal, reasonable people who endorsed and participated in the Jim Crow system. It was normal, reasonable people who crucified Jesus. And today it is normal, reasonable people who believe that the mentally ill and the homeless are a danger to society.

The truth is that reasonable people are a far greater threat to the homeless than the homeless are to society. And because of this, the homeless are vulnerable when they camp alone. They are not safe from us.

This is why Olympia needs a tent city. So that the homeless can be safe. But there is also a greater need that can be met by Camp Quixoteour very desperate need to find the way to a better life.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor.” The homeless do not have many of the worldly comforts that the rest of us enjoy. But God’s Kingdom isn’t about worldly comforts. It is about what we do and who we are. The residents at Camp Quixote take care of one another. The same cannot be said of the rest of our society. All too often we are driven to complacency by our comforts… while our neighbors suffer. All too often we step over the needs of others as we strive to achieve the “American Dream”. All too often we allow our thirst for power and for security to send us into war.

Maybe if we start paying attention to the poor, if we start noticing the way they share their most basic resources like food and blankets, maybe we just might discover what it means to be “blessed”, or holy. And maybe we’ll think twice before we persecute the next David Lynch.

Living in God's House

Submitted by Andrew McLeod and published in Vol 1 No 4 of the Canaanite's Call

The Church of the Sojourners is more a community than it is anything that fits most people’s idea of a church. They are 35 people sharing four large houses in the Mission District of San Francisco. It is certainly a congregation, but the level of commitment to each other and to God is far beyond that found among any group of people who each go to church together on the Sundays when it is convenient.

The Sojourners don’t go to church. They live at church.

This is not to say that they don’t do the things that are ordinarily brought to mind with the word “church.” They do have a “gathered worship” service on Sunday evenings, crammed into their largest living room. But even here, they take the extraordinary step of incorporating a shared dinner into the service, and take time to affirm how they see the Holy Spirit moving in each others’ lives.

This is only one of many weekly rituals which occur on almost every day of the week. Other beats in their weekly rhythm include a Bible study and a three-hour “Sabbath silence” on Sunday mornings; Saturday is the only day without a regular event. Church members coordinate vacations, and expect each other to generally show up for meals. Each household functions as a family within their larger family, often starting and finishing each day in prayer together.

This monastic devotion might seem like an atmosphere that would attract puritan fanatics, but the Sojourners listen to U2 while washing dishes and sprinkle their sermons with phrases like “pain in the ass.” Their book collection includes Harry Potter and their dinner conversation includes casual reference to an expected visit from the Tooth Fairy (albeit one in which it was clear to all that this was not a real fairy, but perhaps a housemate dressed up in a tutu). These are clearly just a bunch of regular folks who all are really enthusiastic about Jesus Christ.

They seek to live according to the example in the book of Acts, which describes how the first Christians lived together. “There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land and houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.” (Acts 4:34-35)

The Sojourners are committed to each other, sharing resources with each other, and providing hospitality to others. While they are not a full-blown commune—each member has his or her own possessions and spending money—they do share cars, and any income earned above a certain level.

Within this group is an inner circle of “covenanted members,” who are those most committed to the community, and who collectively provide its leadership. The depths of this commitment seem to rival that of marriage, and their single members sometimes claim domestic partner status for each other under the liberal laws of San Francisco. Members are free to go, and are encouraged to have personal savings that could be used in the event of a departure. But most stick around. One member wanted to attend the seminary, and submitted this major life decision to the group’s consensus through a process that took months.

The church recently co-hosted a “School for Conversion” with the New Monasticism Project. This movement is a decentralized effort to live by the example of Jesus, and its identity is formed around a dozen “marks.” These are not rigid rules which all must obey—rather, they are some general principles that are generally agreed to be indicative of their collective efforts.

One of the high points of the weekend was the testimony of one of the church’s newer members, who had arrived by way of a long and torturous path. It was a familiar, almost routine story of coming to Christ, complete with years of addiction and failed relationships. However, it lacked a key ingredient of the stereotypical tale of salvation: There was no happily-ever-after moment in which he just gave in to God and got everything miraculously fixed. There was certainly no altar call.

What made the story so compelling to me was that it centered around the humble admission that he had repeatedly failed to turn his life around, and would have probably continued to fail had he not encountered a community of people who were willing to love him even when he betrayed their trust, who invited him to join them after he had lied and stolen. In all likelihood, his story is not over. The struggle still continues, as decades of habit cannot easily be set aside. But hopefully by finding community that shows him love in spite of his flaws, he can loosen the grips of those flaws.

Given the normal evangelical style of working up to a climactic sales-pitch built around a “salvation moment,” (and the loaded name of the event) one might expect that this weekend was geared toward that favorite Christian pastime of saving souls. However, both the preparatory materials and the event itself made clear that the conversion is an ongoing process for all involved. The atmosphere was one of general exploration, and openness to others’ states of faith.

This openness was reflected in the diversity among the Sojourners and the new monastic movement in general (as well as the school attendees): In addition to a large number of evangelicals and Mennonites, there were Catholics and Anglicans and mainline Protestants.
Here were people that supposedly can’t make it through a Sunday morning together, living together in intense round-the-clock fellowship, in a community that has lasted for more than two decades. Doctrinal disagreements do come up, but the focus is kept on the practices. Of course, this leaves certain questions unanswered—for example, who will do the dishes if part of the community gets raptured? But there are more pressing issues to address, like how can they best provide hospitality and love to neighbors in need.

The weekend underlined my uncertainty about what I believe, but also reaffirmed my sense that these people are onto something. If nothing else, Jesus had some really great ideas that—if carried out on a large scale—would make for a much more peaceful and pleasant world. I left with more questions than I had when I arrived, but I do know that the Church of the Sojourners and New Monasticism Project are doing essential work in the ongoing effort to reinvent the Church for the 21st Century.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Love, Love, Love (into Action, Action, Action)

Submitted by Rachel Winter of the Lane County Catholic Worker: Eugene, OR

Halfway through January, Jesse, Caitie and I rented a car and drove up to Olympia, Washington for “Christianity and Anarchism: Intersecting Perspectives”, convened by the Jesus Radicals and Olympia’s Bread & Roses Catholic Worker. Attendance numbered at fifty or so; we met with teachers, students, peace workers, farmers and people from several Catholic Worker communities.

We spent the day talking – talking homelessness and hospitality; hunger, sustainability and the food industry; immigrants’ and workers’ rights; grassroots organization; consumerism; the history of anarchism in the Christian tradition; the oppression of the Hebrews and Egyptians in the book of Exodus. The topics were broad, yet vital, focusing on the choices that everyday people have made to bring justice, health, and stability to others.

You might well ask what makes these Christian issues, or anarchist issues, and why it’s important for us to explore the ground that’s common to these two sets of commitments. What I observed during our conversations in Olympia was this: first, that Christians and anarchists alike believe in a new world coming, and try to hasten the emergence of that world by living according to its principles; second, that both schools use the grassroots model of transformation. The anarchist organizes from the ground up; Christian transformation happens from the inside out, from the heart that bursts into the world.

Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, envisioned “a world where it is easier for people to be good”; for a Christian, that world begins to arrive when the love of Jesus is awakened in everyday people. Jesus subverted the powers of his day; the social mores that isolated the weak, by keeping company with them; the ambitions of a rich young ruler, by calling him to abandon his wealth; the hypocrisy of the religious teachers, by harvesting grain to feed hungry people on the Sabbath day; the violent act of crucifixion, by submitting to it in love and humility. In the Gospel story we see this pattern: Jesus acts in love, and love disquiets the domination (both material and spiritual) imposed by the powers of the day.

As Catholic Workers we believe in building an alternative order, one which – in love and humility – subverts the aggression and human isolation of the standing powers, be they social mores that separate the rich from the poor; or the cultural acquisitiveness that keeps us shopping for security, identity, diversion; or professional boundaries that keep us from caring about each other; or a government that over-funds the military and under-funds schools and social services; or our fascination with rights and privileges and status that blinds us to ourselves and to each other. But the new order begins with us; each of us has the seed of transformation within us, and we all need to be more loving.

As a community volunteering a safe, stable, vibrant home for women and children in need, we all are living out the call of Jesus: to love each other, to let go of our wealth, to be humbled and healed and made more loving in the process.

Our time in Olympia helped me to see it; the kingdom of God is already here. We’ve given birth to it, in our labors together.

Broken Fences

Submitted by David Bellefuille-Rice and published in Vol 1 No 3 of the Canaanite's Call.

My wife, two young children, and I live in a poorer neighborhood of a small, prosperous city. Our often pleasant neighborhood shelters and interesting mix. Many neighbors, apparently stable economically and socially, live so quietly (too quietly) that we rarely see them. Others, recent immigrants or students or young workers, seem on the way to such stability. Still others, for whatever reason, must struggle to keep from sliding “lower”, into jail, mental institutions, or sleeping in their cars.

Perhaps feelings run hotter in neighborhoods like ours. Maybe the socializing forces grow weak here, too weak to keep occasional junk cars out of front yards or to completely hide abuse, drunkenness, and blaring music that stayed hidden in the wealthier neighborhood where I grew up. I know people are as good here as they were on my childhood street, but knowing this doesn’t calm me much when trouble hits. When neighbors spill their trash into my front yard and their obscenities into my open window, I hate it. Any love I bear for them then is strictly deliberate, done with teeth clenched.

Specifics: Our landlords/partners bought our lot, long vacant and overgrown, two years ago. It was a flood of grace. Together, we had moved to the lot our brave old house, given away by its owners to make way for a parking lot. Our immediate neighbor, an old woman still shaky from her husband’s death years before, received us kindly as we labored for months to make our new home habitable.

Living with our neighbor were the costars of this tale – her grandson John, John’s wife Mary, and their two small children. John and Mary based their firewood cutting business in the yard and slept in a small trailer parked on our mutual property line. They later started sleeping in a different, unheated trailer on their land outside town, but our neighbor’s house and yard remained their workyard and daytime home.

Long before our coming, John and Mary had spread woodcutting equipment and old car parts across what would become our lot. Our arrival forced them to move it all, but they did so cheerfully enough. John later offered to haul lumber for me in his truck when he saw me trying to carry some on by bicycle.

John and Mary did continue their habits of yelling streams of obscenities at each other and their children, keeping barking dogs, and racing old truck motors and chainsaws at early hours. We cringed through days of this but worked to admire their industriousness. We sometimes prayed in fear even as we said hello over the hedge. My wife marveled at how one four-letter word beginning with an “F” could be used so often, expressing both anger and joy.

War began 18 months ago when one of John and Mary’s unconfined dogs, unprovoked, bit my six-year-old daughter. Another neighbor happened to see this and immediately called the pound, which took the dog. The dog catcher said the dog had bitten several other children and would be killed. Seeing this as necessary but still feeling awkward about it, we went later that day to Mary, saying we were sorry she had to lose her dog.

Mary shocked us. Bitterly, she blamed our daughter for getting bitten. We contradicted her. She complained that the neighbors should settle grievances personally instead of calling the cops. John and Mary began ignoring all but our most determined greetings when we happened to see them.

John and Mary saved that dog. They struck a deal with the pound and the court, agreeing to keep the dog confined on their property outside town. Reflecting, I decided Mary had a good point about neighbors settling grievances face to face and resolved to do that in the future. In this spirit, I challenged John one day when I found the dog back in town and running loose. We saw little of the dog for months after that. Our relations improved slightly.

Then relations nosedived. John and Mary had left some firewood trailers on our side of the mutual property line. John said that he’d move them when we need him to, and we gave him six months. During that six months, we learned from our neighbor, John’s grandmother, that our mutual boundary line was several feet closer to her house than we all had thought. John would have to move his trailers even farther into his already crowded work area. We fretted.

Well, after the six month deadline, John and Mary had moved nothing and demanded we survey the property line. John’s grandmother couldn’t cope. We began to work with her grown children, reasonable people, including John’s father. We got along fine with them, agreeing on the exact boundary location and getting their permission to move the trailers ourselves four feet to their side of the line. We picked them up and moved them.

John and Mary, discovering this, appeared at our door shouting and making veiled threats. I shouted back, my heart pounding. Afterwards, I called John’s aunt, who said she would calm them down. Weeks passed.

Yesterday, the latest chapter opened when I spotted that same biting dog roaming unattended near our unfenced yard. My wife had said she had seen the dog a few times before, but fleeing confrontation and fearing John, I had ignored her. Having seen the dog with my own eyes, though, I felt I had to act.

This past evening, knowing that John and Mary sat inside our neighbor’s house, I stood alone in my dark yard for half an hour, rehearsing over and over what to go and say to them. I coached myself to speak plainly but without arguments or threats. Fear and contempt burrowed into me. I prayed, just a bit, and tried to steel myself to go knock on that door.

Abruptly, I realized that John and Mary had left the house and were getting into their car to leave for the night. Another day’s wait would prolong this agony. I made myself approach. I said I needed them to live by their agreement and keep the dog away.

Instantly shouting, they said they were tired of my butting into their lives. If I spoke up again, John said he would beat me up. If John didn’t beat me up, Mary said she would. Remembering something I’d heard about nonviolence, I said they could go ahead and do that but I still needed them to live up to their agreement.

John stormed out of their car, stomped over to me, and spit words in my face. “I told you to get that property line surveyed, boy!” I made no move to fight, defend against a blow, or run. After a long moment, he returned to the car.

Then I drew my line in the sand. A mistake? I still don’t know. If I saw the dog again, I said I would call the pound. Mary said the pound supervisor doesn’t like me and would ignore me. They drove off. I went home shaking, but I also felt a strange euphoria, and I stayed that way well into this night.

Mary and John must have returned later for some reason. About midnight, I heard Mary yelling from a departing car, “You treat me like a piece of crap!” At first I thought she was yelling at me, but soon I realized she had more than one person to rage at in this world.

I have prayed, with some calm resulting but no answers. I have resolved to pray blessings for John and Mary regularly. In the morning, I will call our county’s dispute resolution center for advice. I hop to avoid getting a broken jaw.

Since the confrontation, I’ve felt intensely alive, which reminds me of what some have said about men’s feeling most alive while at war. I thought I had handled things very well until I began questioning my threat to call the pound. My hate for John and Mary had eased, as if what I had really hated was my own sense of helplessness. Fear had boiled over and drained away, mostly, leaving a small stock of courage.

I feel prepared to act again if needed. Will that readiness, freedom from hate, and courage remain, though, when this battle blows over and, without warning, a new threat looms? Probably not. Faced with conflict, I aspire to act without violence; I also aspire to win. Most of all, I want to be left alone.

People in Palestine, parts of some inner cities, abusive families, and too many other battle zones live with brutal histories stretching back generations. Our small experience, that has hit us so hard, pales before it. What violence those histories must do to their hearts! Closed minds and bitter revenge in such places seem tragically logical. Standing there for universal compassion and justice, without violence, must take huge courage and incomprehensible grace.

As for the future of my neighborly conflict, there is no telling.

David Bellefuille-Rice is a member of St. Michael's Parish and is now a trained mediator for the Dispute Resolution Center. This article was written about twenty years ago.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dignity Costs No Money

(Posted on Olyblog on Feb 7th)

The City continued its justifications for turning its back on the poor at the Council meeting last night. Mayor Foutch talked at length about the growth in services in the last twenty years. Laura Ware talked about the City's offer to allocate $200,000 to services this year. The City Manager talked about his notion that homelessness is a regional and national issue, and that the tent city had picked the wrong target.

Let's get a few things straight:

1. Tent city residents are not asking for money for new services. In fact, the City is clearly not connecting the dots between the $200,000 it has offered for services and the fact that Tent City residents ARE asking for a service review committee to ensure that service agencies treat their clients with basic dignity and respect.

2. Tent city residents are not asking the city to fund new housing projects. They ARE asking for the opportunity to be self-reliant as a community... an opportunity that will not be found in government funded housing projects.

3. Tent city residents are not asking the city to lobby the Federal or State governments for relief. They ARE demanding to be included in our community, to be visible, and to have the right to exist.

Laura Ware particularly failed to understand the nature of the conflict in our city. She claimed that the opposition to the new sidewalk law and the request for a permanent location are two separate issues.

Yet they truly are one and the same. Tent city residents are demanding the opportunity to exist in peace, to have at least a few spare moments in the day when their lives are not subject to the whims and prejudices of the social service system and the police. Until recently, the sidewalks served as THE ONLY place where that was possible. Now that this opportunity has been taken away, the tent city residents are taking direct action to uphold their basic right to dignity.

Residents of the tent city will likely be arrested today for refusing to disperse. Please come downtown to offer them your support and your witness.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Open Letter to Olympia City Council and Staff

Dear Mayor, Council, and City Staff:

I do not often write to the City on issues of concern to me. I know that you all are very busy people, and besides that I’ve got enough opinions to fill a library. I must, however, take a moment to share my concern and disappointment regarding your reactions to the new tent city, “Camp Quixote”.

Several months ago the homeless people of Olympia began gathering together for community discussions. They talked about their concerns and fears regarding the decreasing availability of public space for their use and the increasing hostility they were experiencing from the daily Olympian, the police, the City, and the general public. They were particularly concerned about the proposed sidewalk ordinance and the impact it would have on their community.

In the course of their discussions, the homeless community resolved to undertake a campaign of nonviolent direct action in the tradition of the various civil rights movements of the last 50 years. This was a very serious decision and was not entered into lightly. Please allow me to explain.

Classism is as real, as pervasive, and as hurtful as racism and homophobia. For ages, the homeless have endured such pejoratives as “bum”, “transient”, and “vagrant”. They have been beset from all directions with the opinions that they are lazy, criminal, violent, dangerous, irresponsible, and incapable.

The homeless have been outlawed in almost every city in the nation, by means of “quality of life” laws banning sleeping, sitting, loitering, urinating, panhandling, and carrying blankets. The supporters of the homeless have been attacked with laws criminalizing the public feeding of the homeless. The homeless have been exploited by payday loan companies and day labor outfits that charge for transportation, safety equipment, and check cashing so that the pay often falls below minimum wage.

Our social service system also contributes to this persecution. The homeless often find that when they do as they are encouraged and go in for services, they are maltreated by hostile, belligerent, and condescending social workers. Service administrators encourage the maltreatment of the homeless through stereotype driven policies that create barriers to services. The disabled must work full time at proving that they are incapable of doing so. Working families are forced to attend humiliating classes for “job preparation” in which they are instructed on how to dress for job interviews. Access to higher education, which is the most effective ticket out of poverty, is barred to the poor by the same welfare program (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) that claims to move people from dependence to independence. The mental health system often punishes or refuses to serve people due to behavioral problems related to their untreated or under-treated mental illnesses.

Hate crimes against the homeless are not uncommon. The National Coalition for the Homeless documented 84 violent hate crimes against the homeless in 2005 alone. The homeless have been stabbed, beaten, set on fire, raped, poisoned, and run over with automobiles. Several years ago, while working as an EMT, I responded to a call for a homeless man who was viciously and repeatedly stabbed by a pack of teenagers, right here in Olympia.

It is not difficult to observe the mentality that drives the persecution of the homeless. Commentators on the Olympian’s website, encouraged by the newspaper’s slanderous editorials, have made such statements as the following:

These people are a disease.

These bums do not fit any characteristic of "civilized”.

More than half the time, these people sit in front of you & have their pity party hoping you'll believe their performance worthy of an Academy Award. They lie, they cheat & they steal and want you to feel sorry for them while they're doing it.

Poor People's Union... AKA: PPU... PPEEEEEE UUUUUUU sums it up pretty well I'm sure!

Start arresting the turd balls!!!

Drug addicts, alcoholics and general scum of the earth breaking more laws to suit themselves regardless of what the majoirty of society votes for. Hey loosers.....get a job, be responsible for your actions, have some self respect, pay for your own way in life and then maybe you won't have so much to complain about.

I passed at least half a dozen of these "waste of human life" begging me for my hard earned money… These worthless souls have chosen to be lazy and a drain on society. I could care less if they freeze to death.


The solution is simple. The City Council should buy them all bus tickets to Hanford where they can all become radioactive. When they try to come back to Olympia they can all be denied entry because the city is, as everyone knows, a nuclear free zone!

Just give downtown to the sodomites and bums. Oh, wait a minute. They've had it for years.

I wouldn't allow those dirty pigs near my dogs.

There is only one way to deal with these people, run them out of town, period!

If you wonder why the homeless community has resorted to such a drastic measure as direct action, please observe that the passage of the sidewalk ordinance is understood by the street community in the context of everything I have written here. It was the proverbial straw on the camel’s back.

The City Manager was quoted in the Olympian as saying, "It seems like a terrible way to start a conversation with the city about more help with the homeless… It seems like a poke in the eye."

You must understand, however, that this is not the beginning of the conversation. The homeless poured their hearts out to you at the public hearing last fall. But you did not hear them.

You might point to the new Drexel House, and to your offer of $200,000 towards services, and say that you have done so much for the homeless already. Yet you must understand that they are not asking for money, but rather for dignity. And it is likely that they will not find it in the services that this money will fund.

The Poor People’s Union has indeed followed all of the appropriate steps for a non-violent campaign. They attempted dialogue. They discerned, contemplated, planned and prepared. And now, as they have been squeezed out of the parks and libraries, and even off the sidewalks, they are taking direct action to meet their needs.

The pages of history are filled with such stories of the struggles for liberation. We find in the death of Socrates, the Exodus from Egypt, the persecution of Christ and His followers, the labor movement, Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement, the women’s liberation movement, the black civil rights movement, and the gay rights movement the same narrative repeated over and over again. It is the narrative of a people, robbed of their dignity and treated as sub-human, who show the courage to take a stand in service of a vision of a world built on fellowship and love.

People in positions of power play an important role in this narrative. We have, on the one hand, Pharaoh, Herod, and Bull Connor. On the other hand are Jethro, Joseph of Arimathea, and Lyndon Johnson.

It is my understanding that you have resolved not to negotiate with the Poor People’s Union. Please reconsider. Please ask yourself: “Which role will I choose to play in the story of liberation?”

I know you can do the right thing.

The Poor People’s Union has three very basic requests:

1. A safe and permanent site to live while in transition following the model set by Dignity Village in Portland.

2. A “service review board” comprised of service recipients to ensure that people are receiving services that respect their dignity and humanity.

3. Representation at the city level regarding matters that affect poor and houseless members of the community. (Please note that this is different from your willingness to listen to advocates. The street community wants you to be willing to enter into dialogue directly with them.)

Please honor their requests.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Tent City springs up in downtown Olympia

Please show them your support! Take food, socks, tents, blankets, etc to the empty lot on State and Columbia.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

SOUTH AFRICA: Ndungane calls for 'united front' as Primates Meeting approaches

From the Episcopal News Service:
The Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa, the Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane, has responded to a recent threat made by some African Primates who say that they will not attend the forthcoming Primates Meeting in Tanzania in February because of the presence of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of the Anglican Church of Uganda said in a December pastoral letter to his church that he and other Global South Primates had informed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, that they "cannot sit together with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the upcoming Primates Meeting in February," citing her position on the Bible's teachings about "faith and morality."

In a January 11 statement, Ndungane decried the reports of a boycott "because of the presence of a woman, who has been legitimately elected by the church in her country," saying it "is like fiddling while Rome burns."

Most importantly, he added, "it goes against God's fundamental call for unity and reconciliation."

"I hope it is not the case that Bishop Jefferts Schori's presence is objectionable to some because she is a woman," he said. "Women have always been the backbone of Africa and, as an African, I am honored to welcome her to our great continent."

Jefferts Schori will be the first woman ever to sit among the leaders, or Primates, of the Anglican Communion when they next convene in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, but in his pastoral letter Orombi insisted that his "problem" with the Episcopal Church is "not that they have enthroned a woman as their Presiding Bishop."

In his statement, Ndungane noted that "Africa is on fire with conflict in places like Darfur and Somalia" and cited the "life and death struggle against HIV and AIDS, malaria, famine and unimaginable poverty, all of which are creating a continent of orphans."

"There is also climate change which threatens to bring untold devastation to our continent," he added. "What we need is a united front to bring the needs of the people of Africa to center stage at every international forum."

Archbishop Tutu likens gays' treatment to apartheid

From the Episcopal News Service:
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, has warned African churches against paying too much attention to the issue of homosexuality while ignoring real problems facing the continent.

"I am deeply, deeply distressed that in the face of the most horrendous problems -- we've got poverty, we've got conflict and war, we've got HIV/AIDS -- and what do we concentrate on? We concentrate on what you are doing in bed," Tutu told journalists in Nairobi during the World Social Forum.

During the January 20-25 WSF, homosexuals and their supporters took many Kenyans by surprise when they marched through Nairobi's streets clad in black T-shirts inscribed: "We are here, we are queer and we are proud."

Tutu likened discrimination against homosexuals to that faced by black people under South Africa's racist apartheid policies.

"To penalise someone because of their sexual orientation is like what used to happen to us; to be penalised for something which we could do nothing [about] -- our ethnicity, our race," said Tutu. "I would find it quite unacceptable to condemn, persecute a minority that has already been persecuted."

There are no words that could adequately express my admiration for this man.

Currently Reading:

  • Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America - Todd Depastino

Recently Finished Reading:

  • Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
  • Utopia of Usurers - GK Chesterton
  • Orthodoxy - GK Chesterton