Jeremy Alderson and Pam Kincaid at the Homelessness
Marathon 2007. Pam, a homeless woman, was lead plaintiff in
a suit against the City of Fresno prior to her recent death.
AP PHOTO/MIKE RHODES
The 11TH Annual Homelessness Marathon radio broadcast will originate from Nashville, Tennessee, starting at 7 p.m., EST, on Wednesday, February 20th and ending 14 hours later. The Homelessness Marathon, the world's leading broadcast focusing on homelessness and poverty, originates from a different city every year. Last year's broadcast, originating from Fresno, CA, aired on over 120 radio stations coast-to-coast with another 30 or so stations across Canada carrying a parallel Canadian Homelessness Marathon.
"This year, we picked Nashville," explains the Homelessness Marathon's director, Jeremy Weir Alderson, "partly because it is a city at the crossroads, in terms of its treatment of homeless people."
Leading the fight for more humane policies is Nashville's Homeless Power Project, one of several organizations supporting the broadcast. The NHPP is composed of homeless and formerly homeless people who are organizing for housing and worker's rights. The broadcast will originate from the Campus for Human Development, a single site of services for both emergency and long-term homeless in Nashville. The Campus shelters an average of 200 people a night in area congregations through its Room in the Inn Program, reflecting a city-wide commitment to helping the poorest of America's poor.
On the other side of the equation, some in Nashville are lobbying for harsher treatment, including an anti-panhandling bill currently before the Nashville Metro Council. Nashville's police routinely roust homeless people from heating grates and other makeshift shelters in a perceived crackdown. And not only does the city not have enough low-income housing or even shelter beds for everyone in need, it has no plans to build enough either, thus all but guaranteeing future conflict.
“We must never forget that Nashville, like the rest of the country and especially the South, once embraced the cause of slavery, and it was the powerful folks, not the powerless ones, who brought that shame upon the city,” Alderson says. “We're hoping our broadcast can reach across class and color lines to help tip the balance towards treating homeless people like citizens instead of criminals, not just in Nashville but across America.”
11th Annual Homelessness Marathon broadcast
Originating from the Campus for Human Development in Nashville
and broadcast on over 100 radio stations and Free Speech Television
on the Dish Network.
7 p.m., EST, Wed., Feb. 20th to 9 a.m., EST, Thurs., Feb. 21st.
By Sandra Reid
Editor’s note: The People’s Tribune interviewed Jeremy Alderson, founder of and director of the Homelessness Marathon radio broadcast (see press release on this page.)
PT: Jeremy, are you seeing a new homelessness today (i.e. more people who formerly had healthcare and good paying jobs who now find themselves living in tent cities or with friends/families)? How have the foreclosures affected homelessness?
Jeremy: There's a growing proportion of intact families among the homeless, and it's only going to get worse, but it's not as if there weren't any of these families before. So this is as much about perceptions as it is about percentages.
In a way, you can compare this to the situation in the 1920s versus the 1930s. There was plenty of homelessness in the 20s, but it was accompanied by a stock market bubble when a lot of people thought they were wealthier. To this day that era is depicted as being a boom time, even though it was only a boom for some. By the 1930s, the bubble had burst and the numbers of poor had increased dramatically, but conversely, there were still some people getting rich. So how an era is perceived isn't just a matter of the raw facts but a matter of psychology.
I started talking about homelessness on the air in 1992. Every year since then I've told anyone who'd listen that homelessness represented something deeply wrong in the structure of our society that ultimately would affect everybody, and I was hardly the only one to make this point. If we're talking about "new" homeless today, it's only because the psychology is starting to shift, and people are finally starting to see what was there all along.
PT: What is the solution?
Jeremy: This isn't rocket science. We need universal employment, a universal living wage, universal health care, a massive investment in low-income housing, and significant income redistribution just for starters. Personally, I'm for a mixed economy, with an expanded public sector, but still a role for corporations, so long as their power is broken and they're not allowed to run the show anymore. And I believe a large part of the solution involves moving towards a moneyless economy. If people can get free or very cheap health care, housing, food and education, they won't need to be working three jobs just to stay alive, and this desperation people feel will be replaced by a new sense of empowerment and creativity.
I once heard a right-wing commentator say, "lack of money isn't the cause of poverty," and he was absolutely right. Lack of money is the definition of poverty. If you give people money, in whatever form, they aren't poor anymore. And for all those people who say, "If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day, but if you give him a fishing pole, he'll eat for the rest of his life," I say they're missing the point. The real problem is that every time a poor person catches a fish, a rich person steals it. When it comes right down to it, that's what really causes homelessness.
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