Homeless people — in cages

A poverty scholars national tour finds people locked up in St. Petersburg.

Here lies the unhoused soldier 
Killed in the undeclared war on the poor
Just tryin to survive outside — 
to hide on a bus bench, 
away from your eyes
park bench 
or out of the rain 
in a door…

excerpt from Here lies the Unhoused SoulJah

One lone piece of crumpled paper seemed to float on the ray of street light shining in the empty Florida night air. I followed it, unable to face what my eyes had just seen. Maybe if I could just focus on that tiny piece of paper, the 14-foot-tall chain link enclosure sitting on the sidewalk filled with humans would stop being real.

Homeless people locked up in Florida.

The paper landed next to a row of landfill and trash cans that seemed to stretch around the block. The bins stood in the tiny space between the curb and the sidewalk, where the cage-like enclosure began.

“Have you heard of cages for immigrant children? Well they have them here for homeless people,” said Pastor GW, a formerly houseless poverty skola and pastor from Mission Dei Congregation in Occupied Seminole Territory (which we call St. Petersburg).

“We used to have tent cities right down this street here in St Petersburg, me and GW were the ‘street-sheriffs’ making sure folks were safe at night,” said Bruce Wright, formerly houseless poverty skola with the Poor Peoples Economic Human rights Campaign and pastor of the Refuge Ministries of Tampa Bay, pointing at the long empty dark street next to the “people cages.”

While Bruce and GW were narrating this Sci Fi horror movie in front of our eyes, myself, Dee Allen and Aunti Frances from Homefulness/POOR Magazine, who were blessed to be in St Petersburg doing a Theatre of the POOR poetry and theatre workshop with houseless parishioners from Mission Dei as part of the tour for the just released  Poverty Scholarship Textbook, were handing out pizzas to unhoused folks standing at the perimeter of the cages.

“This is one of the worst US cities to unhoused people, and that’s why Mission Dei is facing eviction now, and why they are building this huge police station right across the street from us here, this whole city is full of anti-poor people hate and police harassment of houseless people,” concluded Bruce.

As Bruce spoke my eyes fixed on a huge armored truck with big block letters on it — SWAT– permanently parked across the street from the “people cages,” to make sure none of us “dangerous” poor people escaped i guess.

In February of 2019 us Po and houseless folks at POOR Magazine released Poverty Scholarship- Poor People-led Theory , Art, Words and Tears across Mama earth– a poor, houseless and disabled peoples textbook of lived knowledge from impacted peoples, filled with actionable solutions, deep critiques and liberation medicine on what I affectionately call philanthro-pimping, budget violence, poverty, homelessness, criminalization, service provision, education, art and healing. Urgently needed solutions like the Bank of Community reparations and Radical redistribution-the template of Homefulness, and so much more.

Seeing as we poor and houseless folks at POOR Magazine are very clear that we are collectively in what I call States of Emergency, we set up a wholistic sliding-scale book tour, which is a solution in and of itself.  Academia supports the travel of our unhoused and poor bodies to different cities in occupied Turtle Island, so we can share the PeopleSkool medicine of Community Reparations, Inter-dependence, Radical Redistribution, decolonization and degentrification with privileged folks in Universities — and then we do poverty Skolaz theatre of the POOR theatre and poetry workshops with fellow poverty Skolaz nearby, taking the medicine of writing, poetry, poor people-led media and solutions like Homefulness.

Sadly,  the tour is only one-eighth done (so far we have gone to LA and Florida) and we poverty Skolaz are already deep in triggered pain. The LA tour was amazing and we shared love at the skid row museum with the beautiful poverty Skolaz from the LA Poverty Dept, Radio Justice comrades — and Tia Chuchas, which was all magical beautiful-folks like us up here in the bay, who all struggling with the war On the poor.

“I can’t even speak,” Aunti Frances, who like me and Dee, Leroy Moore, and Tiburcio were all on the tour leading the workshops, have all dealt with endless criminalization of our unhoused, disabled and criminalized bodies, lives, belongings and spaces, and like Driver Plaza in Oakland where Aunti Frances deals with an endless amount of poLice harassment when she operates her beautiful Black-led Self-Help Hunger Program, was still completely destroyed by this scene. “This is too much and what they want to do with all of us,” she concluded.

This frightening witnessing in St Petersburg began, somewhat appropriately, with our academia trip to Florida State University which in typical Settler Colonizer style uses, abuses and fetishizes First Nations Seminole culture as part of their mascot system for all their sports teams including an appropriated “spear” and face-painted white boys on horses wearing sacred war bonnets at the start of every game.

After the presentation it was onto St Petersburg, where there is not only legislation in place to incarcerate, arrest and test every poor person they can get, just like they have in San Francisco, Oakland, LA, Berkeley, New York and pretty much every city across the country, but they have just rolled out the logical progression.

A non-profit group calling themselves C.A.R.E in St Petersburgs has literally set up cages on the sidewalk outside their center — the cages are locked at night, literally locking all of the houseless folks in. In the morning, they “unlock” the cages and literally throw us out onto the street.

Of course, all of us houseless folks who have dealt with the shelter system in the US know that most of all shelters are low-level jails.

So in addition to indigenous Brown babies from the other side of the colonial borders, in the US we now officially have cages for houseless people in Florida.

This of course is in St Petersburg, which has made it illegal to “lean” on a building while houseless. But lest you think this is a dystopian sci fi movie scene only happening in St Petersburg, think again — Berkeley, California has a  new law added to the already over a hundred laws that make it illegal for houseless folks to put a backpack on the ground, and SF as we already know from POOR Magazine WeSearch report by RoofLESS radio reporters  and confirmed by the police last week in a sweeps hearing called by Sup. Matt Haney and the Coalition on Homelessness, the  SFPD  has continued the violent sweeps even in the rain and freezing weather.

In previous stories by this poverty skola and PNN-KEXU reports and stories we have reported on the intentional end of poor people housing by poltrickster moves, so I won’t repeat myself and rather I ask you all who are reading this story, who might be housed to listen to the hard work of WeSearch and the medicine of Poverty Scholarship — cause honestly it isn’t our job to keep reminding you, begging you with more and more trauma porn –- it’s actually on you all, to shift the gaze to yourselves. The housed who aren’t down with “sweeping” humans like we are trash, naming us with an endless list of hygienic metaphors and caging our unhoused bodes like we were rabid animals. No, conscious folks, the responsibility of shifting the upcoming dystopic horror movie narrative, where all us poor, Brown, Black and disabled people are incarcerated, hated, arrested and caged, is actually your problem. This is equally your fight and the work, responsibility and love is yours as much if not more than it is ours.

To assist you in this move we are creating a space for you in an upcoming Prayer, Presence and Rally of the Housed for the Unhoused on Friday, May 24th in both SF and Oakland, where we hope to fill the streets with as many housed peoples as possible who say NO to more sweeps, cleaning, caging and stealing of poor peoples’ bodies, belongings, and lives.

As stated many times by this poverty Skola, the buying and selling of Mama Earth is the root problem of homelessness, displacement and gentrication, In addition to all of the other work we do to educate to liberate and manifest another way, us youth and family, houseless and formerly houseless poverty Skolaz at POOR Magazine will be releasing a WeSearch report on all the vacant private properties in Oakland which could be potential Homefulness projects. In other words, these are vacant parts of Mama Earth which would need to be “purchased” with radicaly redistributed hoarded stolen and/or inherited wealth, stewarded by 1st Nations and Poverty Skolaz, to create more Homefulness projects.

In the end, we are urgently advocating a change of the gaze from us, the poor folks, the victims of this increasingly violent war on our unhoused and poor bodies, because it has to be changed, because the horror movie can’t actually come true, and like everything else, its up to all of us to change the script. Not some else at some other time. But all of us.

To purchase a copy of Poverty Scholarship or any of the new POOR Press books go to www.poorpress.net. For More information on these efforts, to schedule a Poverty Scholarship workshop at your school, church, encampment, workplace or organization email poormag@gmail.com. to help us organize, co-sponsor, and/or spread the word on May 24th Presence of the Housed for the UnHoused rally email deeandtiny@poormagazine.org. To reach me go to www.lisatinygraygarcia.com

Here Lies the Unhoused SoulJah
killed in the undeclared War On the Poor

The poltrciksters & PoLice “Sweep” us
So people don’t have to see us
Believing the colonizer lie
we are trash to be swept up

Unhoused bodies violated and exposed –
Tents stolen,
Belongings
no longer privileged
to have or own-

Poltrickster & PoLice brooms and trucks
held together with guns & blud-stained Bucks
so we end up incarcerated
for just being houseless,
still alive &
reduced to junk

Here lies the unhoused soldier
Killed in the undeclared war On the poor
Funded by krapitalist dreams of hoarding, land-stealing
more and more

Here lies the unhoused soldier
Killed in the undeclared war On the poor
Just tryin to survive outside –
to hide on a bus bench,
away from your eyes
park bench
or out of the rain
in a door

This story is in honor of us Swept up, Un-Kept up- Never Checked Up Missed- Always Dissed – Folks struggling to stay unseen — in corners  in doorways, trying to stay the fuck out of your krapitalism dream. This story is in honor of the houseless mamas and elders looking out from cages — fences, jailhouses trashcans — from Sri Lanka to St. Petes, walking humbly on Mama Earth.