Shout out to Picture the Homeless

Had a chance encounter meet up with my old Picture the Homeless pals from New York City earlier this week. Such a great organization, based in East Harlem, doing such great work around organizing for civil rights and housing rights for homeless people.

So, it is a tad unfortunate that we need groups like this to even exist (understatement) but it sure is good that they do because of the current reality on the ground. Even so called “liberal” mayor Bill De Blasio has been cracking down on homeless people in East Harlem. Bill “Broken Windows” Bratton, his man as police chief has been on a tear harassing low income folks around 125th and Lexington Ave., even creating a new NYPD unit to do so. Ah, the bloated bureaucracy that is the NYPD, such a waste of city resources that could be used to house the homeless. We need less cops, not more. And no more police murders like Eric Garner, forever.

The first recent attack on the homeless came under the asspusses of the Pope’s recent visit to New York in September. For the new Pope, as we all know, totally hates the poor. (jk) While in New York, the Pope said in a speech at the UN, “The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: They are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded, and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste.’” At the same time this was happening, De Blasio and Bratton’s foot soldiers, the cops, were busting up homeless encampments and putting spikes up where people were sleeping only the night before in East Harlem. Well, at least afterwards, Pope Francis did skip lunch with some politicos and have lunch with some homeless folks in New York City. If ya wanna read some PR about that, check here, but unlike the Pope and the Mayor and Police Chief, Picture the Homeless are actually in the trenches helping people in this community everyday. Their Civil Rights campaign works on the ground to do Know Your Rights trainings and the like, and works in the halls of power to help pass legislation like the Right to Know Act.

So, after the damn Pope left, then came the K2 scare!!! Basically, due to criminalizing weed, which is pretty much safe as fuck, a market was created for “legal weed,” which is NOT safe as fuck and not even really very legal anymore. But, after creating demand and a market, and letting people smoke it for a long as time, the city decided to crack down, specifically on the people smoking it on the street near 125th and Lexington. How odd…I wonder if it was just a pretext to clear out unsightly poor people? (Rhetorical question)

Anyway, I think after some deep reflection, I’ve thought of a simple solution to the K2 problem: Legalize weed and stop criminalizing homelessness.

Okay, but Picture the Homeless has some even better and more thought out permanent solutions to homelessness. Like Community Land Trusts! A good definition form states, “Community land trusts are nonprofit, community-based organizations designed to ensure community stewardship of land. Community land trusts can be used for many types of development (including commercial and retail), but are primarily used to ensure long-term housing affordability. To do so, the trust acquires land and maintains ownership of it permanently.”

Pretty good idea right? Get people out of the system, which in the long term also costs the city more money, and get them into community driven and owned housing. Well, Picture the Homeless is involved with both a citywide community land trust initiative, NYCCLI, and the neighborhood East Harlem Community Land Trust, working to purchase delinquent city owned properties on the cheap to ensure permanent affordability and housing for local residents.

So, if you are in the NYC area (or not) and wanna help, get involved with the work of Picture the Homeless and fight back for the civil rights of low income New Yorkers. They have a housing campaign, a civil rights campaign and general membership meetings for homeless folks and their allies to get organized. Just check their website for times and dates. Or just take the easy way out, and give them $$$.