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 hate to give this stupid, reckless notion any more oxygen, but look how fucking ridiculous this is:
In less than a week, the story received nearly 500,000 engagements across the Global Citizen website and social media. The massive interest in the story demonstrates how compelling and personal WASH for women are for so many people in the US and around the world. Period-health seems particularly important.Read More
As an offensive lineman for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, Joshua Garnett excels in one of the most macho cultures in the US, but he’s using his platform to tackle an issue long treated as too gross or too uncomfortable for men to talk about — periods and menstrual hygiene.
Garnett has teamed up with his sister Rachel’s organization Kitty Packs to help homeless women who experience “free bleeding,” which is what happens when a woman is unable to access expensive sanitary pads or tampons to manage her period.Read More
Earlier this week, I wrote a story about nutritional deficits for young people in foster care as well as young adults aging out with limited social supports for City Limits. People who have experienced foster care speak about entering adulthood – 'the real world' – without the soft skills (cooking, hygiene, cleaning, using health insurance) that people with consistent family structures tend to take for granted. Guardians either model behaviors or remain readily available to share guidance about confusing adult topics.
Young people who have been in the foster care system experience a higher rate of preventable health problems, like diabetes and hypertension, than their peers, even when compared to other low-income young adults who did not spend time in foster care.
There are some supportive housing sites for young people who have aged out of foster care. They also receive priority for NYCHA vacancies. But many fall through the cracks, either neglected by foster agencies or eager to leave the system and never look back. That means people who spent time in the foster care system have a higher risk of becoming homeless and thus a higher risk for the related health problems.
Here is an excerpt:
Four Attributes of an Effective Program
During the past year, I have identified four core attributes of the programs that effectively foster an atmosphere of health within the community and that enable individuals to attain their physical health, mental health, and recovery goals.
First, the programs provide preventive, holistic healthcare by addressing chronic health problems proactively—a key to improving quality of life and reducing emergency room visits.
Second, the programs fuse fitness with mental health in a setting that contrasts the traditional seated, face-to-face counseling experience. The transference experience is quite different when a client and worker chat while pedaling stationary bicycles next to one another. Individuals often seem more comfortable talking while exercising and frequently share information with me that they have not yet talked about with their social workers or case managers. For example, a client recently disclosed to me how his family dynamics influence his substance use while he rested between sets of 10 push-ups. I am able to discuss such experiences with clients and encourage them to share these issues with their social workers.
Third, clinical evidence indicates that exercise serves as an effective tool in the substance abuse intervention toolkit by affecting the brain’s reward system and serving as a positive, non-drug reinforcer (Smith & Lynch, 2012). In a practical sense, exercise provides a structured alternative to substance use during the period in which one prepares for and engages in it.
Fourth, exercise programs build community among staff and tenants and promote egalitarianism in the client-worker relationship. Typical barriers disintegrate when a case manager and client try to complete one last squat or shoulder press together.
A friend asked me that a while ago and I struggled to articulate a succinct answer. I talked about HIV's direction correlation with poverty and about discrimination against people of color and LGBTQ individuals who experience HIV/AIDS at a vastly disproportionate rate. I talked about the government's campaign of fear, neglect and prejudice at the onset of the crisis and the stigmatizing that persists 30+ years later.
I work at four sites for formerly homeless adults with HIV/AIDS so it was important for me to better explain the reason why people with HIV/AIDS deserve a strong safety net and government assistance.
Fortunately, a friend of a friend is a scientist researching the potential for immunotherapy – using the body's own natural defenses to fight disease, cancer or viruses – to treat or even cure HIV. So I asked her for a response. Here's what she said:
Picture a map of New York City where darker shades of red indicate poverty. The richest neighborhoods – Upper East Side, Cobble Hill, Tribeca, Forest Hills – would be faint pink. The poorest neighborhoods – Mott Haven, East New York, Brownsville – would be bright scarlet. Middle income neighborhoods – much of Western Queens, much of Staten Island, Kensington, Ocean Parkway – would be varying shades of red.
Now picture a map of HIV/AIDS prevalence in New York City where darker shades of red indicate a higher rate of HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS map would look exactly the same as the poverty map, aside from Chelsea, a wealthy neighborhood with a high concentration of older gay men who survived the initial HIV/AIDS outbreak.
You could lay the HIV/AIDS map right on top of the poverty map and they'd be nearly identical.
It's a simple mental infographic for understanding just how closely HIV/AIDS correlates with poverty.
It helps to think of HIV/AIDS not as an STD or intravenous drug-using disease but as a disease of poverty prevented by access to financial opportunities and health care.
Now consider HIV/AIDS rates across the country. In The New York Times Magazine last week, Linda Villarosa described the startling rates of HIV/AIDS among gay and trans people of color in the South, a rate that exceeds even the African nations most ravaged by HIV/AIDS.
I envision my acquaintance's description of the poverty map stretched across the United States. The bright red areas where HIV/AIDS rates surge are concentrated around the South, places like Jackson, MI, Columbia, SC, El Paso, TX and Baton Rouge, LA.
Now lay a map of the poorest regions of the country on top of that HIV/AIDS map. The scarlet splotches that represent increasing rates of HIV/AIDS correspond with the the bright red poverty splotches that mottle the South, the region with the poorest states and cities in the country. With 22 percent of its population living below the poverty line, Mississippi has the highest rate of poverty in the nation.
Let's take the mental map infographic one step further.
Picture a map of healthcare access in the United States. States that have near-universal healthcare coverage like Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island are pale pink. States with the highest percentages of uninsured citizens – Texas at nearly 17%, Georgia at 14% Mississippi at 13% – are bright red. These are the states that did not elect to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Again that map mimics the patches of red on the HIV/AIDS map.
Poverty, homelessness, lack of access to healthcare and HIV/AIDS are interconnected. Addressing the underlying causes of poverty can also serve as preventive Rx for HIV/AIDS, which will protect us all from illness and save on money on healthcare expanses. And, of course, it's the humane thing to do.
I peeled my face off my phone this morning and noticed eight people slumped in the subway sleeping, each person spaced just about evenly through the car – an old one with the red, yellow and orange seats; the faux wood paneling.
One, a hipster in a blue peacoat and brown desert boots who clutched the canvas knapsack on his lap. He roused himself near 125th Street and headed above ground.
The others, well, they at least looked homeless, hunched in a light blue pleather jacket, bulging workboots, a natty patchwork skirt under a brown trench coat.
with layers. Too many layers on a 70-degree day. Black winter coats over hoodies with scarves dangling to the floor.
This must be the quiet car.
The A Train at 9:30 am may be the ideal subway for sleeping as it completes its route from Far Rockway to Inwood with long, uninterrupted periods between a few stops. The cars rock gently, squeak lightly as the train whooshes under Central Park. Too early for Showtime, too late for work. Out of the shelter and down underground.
With bags. Shopping bags on the nearby seat or on the floor, tucked under the chair.
The ideal subway for sleeping. What amenities. What solitude.
An old woman in an inflated beret like a bowling ball rested her head on her chest and tried to sleep.
I took me a while to comprehend that there are people who I will never agree with. We just have fundamental philosophical differences that we will never reconcile. I used to believe that goodwill and empathy eventually win out. That with enough exposure to alternate ideas and experiences with people who share those ideas, people will find middle ground or shift toward inclusiveness. Unfortunately, that isn't true.
In his book Don't Think of an Elephant, which discusses how liberals can effectively frame issues to present an inclusive, progressive moral vision for our country, George Lakoff writes:
"The . . . mistake is believing that, if only we could present facts about a certain reality in some effective way, then people would 'wake up' to that reality, change their personal opinion and start acting politically to change society . . . The reality is certain issues have to be ingrained in us – developed over time to create an accurate frame for our understanding."
Like the issue of health care.
Consider this excerpt from an interview with Iowa Rep. Steve King, who introduced the House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, on NPR's All Things Considered last night:
HOST ROBERT SIEGEL: Donald Trump's adviser Kellyanne Conway recently told an interviewer, we don't want anyone who currently has insurance to not have insurance. Would that be for you the test of a new law or the test of what happens after Obamacare is repealed - no one who's gotten health insurance through Obamacare losing it under its repeal and replacement?
KING: I think that's a fine and shining ideal, but it wouldn't be my standard. We have about 20 million people that they say would be pushed off of Obamacare if we just repealed it and did nothing. I look at the numbers on the 20 million. It's about 10.8 million that were pushed onto Medicaid, and so I don't really look at Medicaid as a health insurance policy that you own.
I would argue there is no constitutional - you have no right to a health insurance policy. Whatever our hearts tell us, we can provide those things, but there's not a right to them. The roughly 9.2 million people that are insured under Obamacare that would presumably lose their insurance if it were repealed - they're living under a subsidized premium, and that subsidized premium is paid for almost a hundred percent by the taxpayers.
"You have no right to a health insurance policy." That is simply an ideological position I fundamentally oppose.
Health care is a human right.
In our society, access to health care largely depends on access to health insurance because without health insurance, we tend to forgo health care, settle for haphazard remedies and neglect preventive care. Therefore, there is an implied right to a health insurance policy because that policy is a prerequisite for affordable, appropriate and necessary health care.
Lakoff chastises liberal leaders for failing to present the right to health care as a moral imperative and for not reaching enough people with their vision.
"Conservatives understood that politics is a matter of morality and decided to attack [the Affordable Care Act on moral grounds. They chose two moral domains: Freedom and Life. On Freedom, they attacked it as a "government takeover." On Life, they said it contained "death panels." And they repeated "government takeover" and "death panels" over and over, month after month. And every time the president said "It is not a government takeover" he used the words government takeover, which activated the idea of a government takeover, thus reinforcing the conservative attack."
"If the president had understood the conservative framing tactic, he could have undercut it in a simple way. He could have adopted the same two moral issues, Freedom and Life, from a progressive perspective."
"If you have cancer and you don't have health care, you are not free. You are probably going to die (a Life issue) . . . Even if you break your leg, do not have access to health care and cannot get it set, you are not free . . . Ill health enslaves you. Disease enslaves you."
Seven years later, is the rejection of the ACA still an issue of insufficient framing and presentation? Or is that rejection actually a GOP rallying cry, a piece of conservative canon, a repudiation of Obama and progressivism fueled by mythical individualism and infused by racism against the perceived undeserving recipients of Obamacare (poor people of color)?
I think commentators tend to overstate the framing argument. I think a certain segment of the population would reject anything Obama championed or achieved.
But with Trump and the GOP about to invalidate expanded health coverage, kick millions off health insurance and prevent millions more from obtaining affordable coverage, I constantly dwell on the threat to Life and Freedom, as Lakoff put it.
Poor people who lose or who are denied health insurance –– like those covered by the ACA Medicaid expansion or those who do not get coverage from their jobs but received access to subsidized health insurance through the ACA –– will suffer injuries and illnesses catastrophic to their health, their finances and their tenuous housing. Many people live paycheck to paycheck and spend a significant chunk of their income on rent or mortgage – often more than half their income. If they incur a medical expense - such as an ER visit or diagnosis of a chronic illness – and lack health insurance, they will owe thousands of dollars that they do not have. They can't pay the bill and their rent at the same time. The medical debt collectors will never let them off the hook. So they'll have to stop spending money on other things, like housing. In other words, they won't be able to afford rent or mortgage payments.
So health insurance preserves peoples' finances and enables them to afford housing. Coverage preserves their life and freedom. Conservatives either don't consider that position or don't care. Many of them will never change their minds. So we have to stand up for our convictions and outnumber them.