This is a zine I put together a few months ago with poems and art based on my travels throughout The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Newark. The poems are inspired by observations and one in particular, The Rationale, is based on common justifications for not helping the homeless. It's about how we turn our discomfort into anger and prejudice when we see a street-homeless person whose existence forces us to confront injustice.
I noticed two stories about voting among the homeless this week that reminded me of my experience organizing a voter registration drive at an organization that serves homeless teenagers and young adults. The first, in City & State, asks the question "Do the Homeless Vote?" and details the various barriers – including polling site confusion and inconsistent addresses – that can prevent homeless people from heading to the polls in New York City. In the second, "I'm Homeless and I Vote" - from the Seattle magazine The Stranger - a former business owner who is now homeless in the Seattle area describes the experience of modern homelessness and the lack of response from politicians to the root causes of homelessness like poverty and limited affordable housing.
From City & State:
The homeless often move in and out of homelessness, and by definition often do not have a fixed residence, but [the National Coalition for the Homeless] estimates that only 10 percent of homeless people actually vote in a presidential election. Among the U.S. population as a whole, it’s about 60 percent.
Income statistics reveal an unsurprising trend. New Yorkers in households making less than $25,000 a year, which includes many homeless people, made up 21 percent of the state’s population in 2014, but less than 15 percent of its voters.
When I worked at a drop-in center for homeless LGBTQ teenagers and young adults in Northern Manhattan, I organized a month-long voter registration drive in Spring 2016, just in time for the New York State presidential primaries. I printed a bunch of voter registration forms and went table to table during breakfast and lunch encouraging people to sign up. I ended up registering about 25 people, including a few staff members, and I used agency postage to mail the forms before the primary deadline. It was easy to do, but it was one of the most satisfying things I've accomplished in my social service career.
Skepticism was a problem. Many of the young people parroted the familiar "What's the point? My vote doesn't matter" refrain. I couldn't blame them — they were mostly gay and trans people of color kicked out of their homes and discriminated against because of their identities. Many were skeptical that a politician would genuinely represent them.
Sometimes, however, peer pressure overwhelmed their guardedness. Excited teenagers won over those lunchtime companions who affected a hardened cynicism.
The other, much more tangible problem was what address the young people should include on their registration form. Some stayed at the drop-in center overnight when there was space. Others lived in transitional housing or engaged in survival sex, spending the night with strangers in exchange for sex. Meanwhile, others crashed with friends or slept on the street and in the subway. Overall, few maintained consistent addresses. The City & State piece addresses this issue.
I recommended that the individuals without a stable address list the address of the drop-in center or a friend's house where they often stayed.
One young transgender man was particularly excited to vote. For a few weeks leading up to the election, he discussed the research he was doing and the tough decision of whether to vote for Bernie or Hillary.
Yet, on election day, he seemed reluctant to visit the polling place. I reminded him how excited he had been for weeks, but he still seemed apprehensive. It took me a little while to realize that he was nervous to vote for the first time. He wanted some support.
So I said I wanted to check out the energy near the polling place and suggested I walk over with him. He agreed to accompany me and we walked a few blocks to a school. As we approached, I told him how to check in to the table by last name and that he didn't need to show ID. I remembered the first time I voted when I was 18 — I also felt scared to try something new, to make a mistake, to be an adult.
Finally, the young man started to walk inside and I told him I'd see him when he returned to the drop-in.
"You're not going to wait for me?" he asked, betraying his apprehension.
"Na, you don't need me," I said. "You've already done the work getting here."
He laughed nervously, said I was right and walked inside.
A half hour later, he returned to the drop-in center bubbling with energy. He showed off his 'I Voted' sticker and shared the experience with other clients, encouraging them to register and vote in November's general election.
It was beautiful.
So how to replicate this experience, especially among young people and new voters?
We have to make it easier for transient individuals to update an address and we have to provide support on Election Day. Bureaucracy and governmental proceedings can be intimidating, especially for people long screwed by policy and by those in power. We always hear that we 'should' go vote, but we rarely hear about the actual (pretty simple) process.
Here are two solutions:
1.) Make voter registration a part of the intake process at shelters, social service organizations and supportive housing sites.
2.) Go to the polls as a team. Social service staff can rally a group of new voters to serve as a support system, arrange a time to head to the polling place and get an experienced voter to lead them.
happy fourth of july
from a hundred-year-old, parapet-less rooftop where we're all pretty high and hammered up here holding our flaming sticks while lighting explosives in the dark watching drunk neighbors fly remote control helicopters – henceforth known as drones – at roughly eyeball level to get a better Instagram story of the professional fireworks only slightly further away.
Shelter population data obtained from the New York City Department of Homeless Services through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request demonstrates that less than 5% of the city shelter population provided a most recent zip code outside New York City on February 28, 2017.
Nearly as many people provided the Bronx zip code of 10456 (2,252) – which includes parts of Morrisania and Claremont Village – and the Brooklyn zip code of 11207 (1,910) – which covers parts of Bushwick, East New York and Brownsville – as provided 'No Verifiable Associated NYC Address' (2,278).
Budweiser now positions itself as both the drink of choice for the Everyman hypnotized by Classic American Mythology AND the self-conscious Hipster Artist.
Here is a still from a current Budweiser TV commercial:
And here is an example of a Budweiser advertising campaign evident throughout hipster North Brooklyn in which Budweiser tries to tap into the lo-fi PBR/nostalgia market:
But then here is Budweiser's more familiar and universal advertising campaign, in which they cultivate and exploit American patriotism:
And then we have Budweiser's old advertising standby. The classic "This Bud's For You" everyone-everywhere-deserves-a-Bud-slogan, which, as I write this, is projected onto the wall behind home plate in the top of the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series.
So to recap: Budweiser is for A) special people like you but not lazy people like them, B) all America-loving Americans and B) you and everyone else too because it's an inoffensive utilitarian inebriation potion.
Advertising that is all things to all people.
In 2015, the owner of CABS Nursing Home -- a 157-unit facility on the corner of DeKalb Avenue and Kosciuszko Street in Bed-Stuy -- sold the property to a developer who drafted plans for a seven-story condo.
This past summer, WNYC investigated the sale of CABS as well as the conversion of a Lower East Side nursing home into a luxury housing complex. The sales reflect true Monty Burns-level scheming: residents were hastily discharged or moved to other locations without a discharge plan. Families were not notified. At least one person died.
From the story:
At CABS nursing home in Brookyn's Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood, some family members said they were rushed into leaving before a closure plan was approved by the state in February. Rafaela Rodriguez's husband died shortly after leaving the facility. She said an investigation into her husband's discharge is a good thing. Rodriguez was the head of the nursing home's family council and said several family members with loved ones at CABS called her to complain about having to leave the facility.
CABS is pretty eery now. The four-story nursing home still stands, but the lobby is dark. As though frozen in time, signs, posters and a trophy remain as artifacts. Light construction materials lay scattered in a patch of topsoil in front of the building.
A handwritten message above the door reads "WE NEVER HAD A CHOICE."
One Sunday afternoon in June, I spotted two chill dads chatting beneath an old cabinet warehouse after they left Nowadays, a gravel parking lot turned weekend gathering spot with a suburban-backyard theme. The dads had Baby Bjorns, plaid outfits and a golden retriever sniffing around. I had to capture this consummate Park Slopian scene. Except Nowadays is on Cooper Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens, just past the Bushwick border.
An EPA Superfund site leaches radiation into the ground next door. In fact, The New Yorker, declared it "the most radioactive place in New York City" in 2014, a year after the area received the Superfund designation.
You'd never know unless someone told you or if you looked for it online. I found out by accident after Googling the address of an overgrown vacant lot down the street.
A new luxury condo complex rises on the other side of Irving Avenue, catty corner to the toxic waste dump (which emits radioactivity beneath an auto shop and a Dominican bodega). We need Captain Planet over here.