Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spare Change News: 4/24-5/7

Right or Right?

Editorial: John McCain has been labeled a “Maverick” for his apparent middle of the road politics. Don’t let this cloak fool you. He is really a neo-conservative hawk. To be fair, he does support the implementation of green technologies and has spoken out against the use of torture as an interrogation technique. However, one should always be weary of labels granted to politicians by mainstream media. The former platform is merely a middle of the road policy change, which at this point ought to be a mainstream issue. The latter is something one would expect of a Vietnam POW who is, himself, a victim of torture.

In February the Washington Post reported that McCain knowingly broke Federal Election Commission law. When his campaign wasn’t doing too hot in the middle of the primary season, he signed up to receive public funding, which also made it easier to appear on the ballot in many states. However, the matching spending limit set by the FEC is $54 million and McCain had already spent more than $58 million without legally pulling out of the federal program. He broke the law under the same federal campaign finance program he helped create.

Homeless Children Population Growing Steadily

Studies have revealed that a homeless child under the age of six may experience the same mental trauma as a soldier coming back from war. When we talk about a generation afflicted by war, families torn apart, and children growing up without fathers and mothers, we don’t look to the war brewing on our own streets.

Today there are approximately one million homeless children nationwide and the fastest growing sector is younger than school aged. The average person believes homelessness affects middle age individuals, not entire families. In truth, the average age of a homeless person is only eight years old. In Cambridge, it’s nine.

“No one wants to believe children are homeless,” said Sue Heilman, executive director of the Roxbury-based Horizons for Homeless Children (HHC). To help combat this theory, HHC presented the Third Annual Young Children Without Homes National Conference, which took place April 15-17 at Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Five hundred people from 33 states registered and attended the event in hopes for what Heilman calls “a better tomorrow.” Cities across the country are bracing for the fallback of the mortgage crisis, and Boston is no exception. “It may get worse before it gets better,” Heilman explained before the conference kickoff.

The conference brought together case and social workers, volunteers and altruistic individuals dedicated to erasing homelessness across the country. Participants engaged in a variety of workshops aimed to raise awareness, and share strategies and information on the subject.

Tales from the Curb:
When Will it End?

The other day I was talking with a Spare Change News vendor, one who has really benefited from our organization. Spare Change News enabled him to be productive and opened doors that were once closed. He has made friends within this organization and with customers, and become an important member of Spare Change News. Best of all he was recently able to obtain housing.

So why is an advocate he works with telling him to leave our organization? That’s right, this advocate told him to find a “real job,” to forget about the friendships he made, forget about all his success here and leave Spare Change News. Why would someone openly discourage anyone from working with an organization where that person has succeeded?

Every Spare Change News anniversary, I can’t help but think of the advocates who tried to discourage us from creating the paper. Some advocates don’t always have the best interests of the homeless at heart, for them it’s nothing more than a job. But for most, including the general public, it’s a case of ignorance.
The other day I read a letter in the Metro addressed to Mayor Menino regarding homeless people on the Boston Common. I’ll spare you the gory details, but the letter was nothing more than a rant against homeless people, complete with the drunk/mentally ill speech. The writer even suggested that the Mayor rid the park of homeless people so taxpayers like him could eat lunch there. Well, Joe Taxpayer, I have news for you. The Common is in such rough shape not because of the homeless people who sleep there. It is because of people who refuse to use trashcans, who feed those annoying pigeons, who walk their dogs and don’t bother to clean up after them. It is because of the drug dealers who openly ply their trade while families are walk by. These things are ruining the Common, not the homeless. There is still a lot of ignorance when it comes to homelessness, but when will it end? Some say more education and compassion is necessary. Will that be enough?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Spare Change News 4/10/08

AIDS Action Committee

Today, two to three people in Mass. will become HIV positive. In one year, more than 900 new infections will afflict the state. Between 24,000 and 26,000 people currently live with HIV/AIDS, but what’s more disturbing is that a quarter of them do not know it, and risk passing the virus to others.

AIDS Action Committee of Mass. (AAC) is a community-based, non-profit organization focusing on the prevention of AIDS in the Mass. population. The general mission targets AIDS prevention through education and advocacy while supporting those already infected. In addition, the organization lobbies for substantial AIDS policies at all levels. AAC boasts a staff of 70 dedicated individuals along with hundreds of volunteers, all passionate about erasing this deadly virus.

How Well Does the Boston Healthcare System Treat its Homeless Constituents? An Interview with Spare Change Vendor and Healthcare Consumer, Ed Larsen.

HJ Pound: What is the easiest way for a homeless person to obtain health care?
Ed Larsen: Honestly? Get yourself put in the hospital. Hospitals are also businesses that need to get paid. You rack up a high enough bill and they will do whatever it takes to get you MassHealth so they can get their money.
HP: Do you believe that everyone should have health insurance?
EL: There are pros and cons. Everybody deserves basic care, but there are consequences to socialized medicine. If everyone gets basic care here [in the United States] you will end up having to wait a really long time for specialist services like in Canada and Europe. Except for the rich. Unless we move to a single-payer system the rich will always have private insurance and get care faster.
HP: How has being homeless effected your health care?
EL: Well, I am on MassHealth for now, and I am happy. I do eventually want to get a job aside from being a Spare Change vendor though. Subsidized housing won’t be there forever, besides, I am not a big fan of the government. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything the government has done for me, I just don’t want to be at their mercy forever. The problem is, I don’t want to lose MassHealth either. Private insurance is great in some ways, but it doesn’t cover everything. [Private health insurance] used to be impossible to get with pre-existing conditions, and even now it only covers certain necessary services to an extent, which is crazy because it is so expensive. Plus, it already costs so much to live here, between transportation, housing, and taxes. And now, if you don’t have insurance you will get fined.

Four Arrested in Bank Protest

Four young women who chained themselves to a Bank of America in Copley Plaza were arraigned April 2 on counts of trespassing, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest.

Candace Bollinger, 27, of Hicksville, New York, Adrienne Naylor, 23, of Dorchester, Mass., Laila Murad, 17, of Brighton, Mass.; and Elise Ansel, 20, of Sanderlan, Mass. locked their arms together using large cylindrical tubes, while Bollinger locked her neck to the bank’s door with a bicycle lock in protest of Bank of America’s investment in the coal industry. Their protest yesterday was part of an international protest called Fossil Fool’s Day, according to Climate Justice Now (CJN) spokesman Evan Greer, 22. He claimed over fifty people protested.

Naylor decided radical protest was necessary because, she said, “Holding signs and sending letters doesn’t change shit.”

Ansel agreed, “You can’t change the system by working in it.”

The women said they hoped to raise awareness about damage they claim coal mining inflicts on the environment. Ansel said, “450 mountain tops in Appalachia were blown clear off.”