A Useful Carrot

To the agent whose difficulty in converting farm-owners had been their dread of paying decent wages to farm hands, Doremus presented for use the argument (as formalized yet passionate as the observations of a life-insurance agent upon death by motor accident) that poverty for one was poverty for all… . It wasn’t such a very new argument, nor so very logical, but it had been a useful carrot for many human mules.

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

  • Biography from Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

Homeless Payment Plan

The large building had multiple floors and housed multitudes of San Diego’s homeless. With so many homeless people all in one place, we lost our individuality and became numbers for their population statistics. They stopped focusing on individual families and instead focused on the population as a whole; which translated to them caring about all of us, but they didn’t care about any one of us.

Living at St. De Paul’s over the next month had its ups and down. My mom had to pay a high percentage of the low wages she made from her new security job to the shelter every paycheck. They said it would help us save up to move out. They said upon completion of the six-month program they give all the money back. The keywords were “upon completion,” meaning if we didn’t complete it, we did not get the money back. Giving up most of her paycheck left us with little money to do anything else besides wash clothes and put a few minutes on the family cell phone; which wasn’t new. We had gone without buying them before so it wasn’t an immediate problem.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

Homeless Holidays

I hated holidays in shelters. The shelter atmosphere always seemed to drain every ounce of holiday spirit from me. Every holiday, we had to sit in a room full of strangers and put on fake smiles pretending to be happy. Thanksgiving had rolled around and the only thing I was thankful for was my mother was still alive. I was thankful for my legs too.

The good thing about Thanksgiving is food is usually more abundant. Not in our current shelter, though. We had to travel down to another sister shelter nearby along with other homeless families, stand outside like a herd of sheep, and wait for them to let us in as everybody drove past and stared at us. Standing there wasn’t ideal, but we didn’t have another choice.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

Ghost of Poverty

I had no jacket, no sleeping bag, nothing—except the clothes on my frail body. Transparent to the naked eye, I moved as a ghost. When I walked, no one noticed me. Maybe because my clothes were dirty. Maybe because my shoes were from a donation box. Or maybe because I embodied poverty. Whatever the reason, it made me invisible to everyone around me, except when my silhouette flickered from panhandling, frightening people.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

Fighting for an Education

I believed I could become more than what their statistics believed I could. I also knew, outside of my mom and sister, no one else believed I could beat the statistics. But there comes a time where you have to follow your heart, where you have to make your own decisions to better yourself, even if everyone else calls you crazy. I knew to Mr. Robertson and English, I sounded crazy, naïve . . . a little homeless boy trying to dream big. I was being overlooked. I knew there were other non-homeless students in better schools who were given an opportunity. Wanting the same opportunity shouldn’t be a crime. How could they expect me to look around at my life and just accept it, and just roll over and die? Why couldn’t I have more? I didn’t choose the life I lived. But I could choose to opt out for a better life for myself since I was the only one who had to live it…Most kids I knew were dropping out. I knew I would have to fight the public school system with everything I had if I wanted to come out college ready. If, and only if, living on the streets didn’t kill me first.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

Automating the Forced Removal of Children in Poverty

Quote 1

Where the line is drawn between the routine conditions of poverty and child neglect is particularly vexing. Many struggles common among poor families are officially defined as child maltreatment, including not having enough food, having inadequate or unsafe housing, lacking medical care, or leaving a child alone while you work. Unhoused families face particularly difficult challenges holding on to their children, as the very condition of being homeless is judged neglectful.

Quote 2:

The AFST sees the use of public services as a risk to children. A quarter of the predictive variables in the AFST are direct measures of poverty: they track use of means-tested programs such as TANF, Supplemental Security Income, SNAP, and county medical assistance. Another quarter measure interaction with juvenile probation and CYF itself, systems that are disproportionately focused on poor and working-class communities, especially communities of color. The juvenile justice system struggles with many of the same racial and class inequities as the adult criminal justice system. A family’s interaction with CYF is highly dependent on social class: professional middle-class families have more privacy, interact with fewer mandated reporters, and enjoy more cultural approval of their parenting than poor or working-class families.

Quote 3:

We might call this poverty profiling. Like racial profiling, poverty profiling targets individuals for extra scrutiny based not on their behavior but rather on a personal characteristic: living in poverty. Because the model confuses parenting while poor with poor parenting, the AFST views parents who reach out to public programs as risks to their children.

Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor by Virginia Eubanks

Library Kids

We wandered to the downtown library where we had developed a sort of friendship or understanding with the librarians in the computer lab. We trekked to the library just about every day so eventually they started talking and interacting with us. I thought they knew we were homeless. The library is where a lot of homeless people go during the day to kill time or just to be inside for a change. We came to kill time. We had to linger around until my mom left work to pick us up and then find somewhere to park so we could sleep. We weren’t the only homeless kids who went there during the day. A group of us were there. I had lived in shelters with a lot of them before so we all knew each other and knew why each other were there. I talked to a few of them before I sat and did my homework. Completing homework had always been a fast way to kill time; it wasn’t difficult and it only helped me intellectually. Pooh and I sat across the table from each other, half doing homework and half talking.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

First They Came for the Poor

…one day in early 2000, I sat talking to a young mother on welfare about her experiences with technology. When our conversation turned to EBT cards, Dorothy Allen said, “They’re great. Except [Social Services] uses them as a tracking device.” I must have looked shocked, because she explained that her caseworker routinely looked at her purchase records. Poor women are the test subjects for surveillance technology, Dorothy told me. Then she added, “You should pay attention to what happens to us. You’re next.”

Dorothy’s insight was prescient. The kind of invasive electronic scrutiny she described has become commonplace across the class spectrum today.

Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor by Virginia Eubanks

Technology Is Not Politically Neutral

The proposed laws were impossible to obey, patently unconstitutional, and unenforceable, but that’s not the point. This is performative politics. The legislation was not intended to work; it was intended to heap stigma on social programs and reinforce the cultural narrative that those who access public assistance are criminal, lazy, spendthrift addicts…Technologies of poverty management are not neutral. They are shaped by our nation’s fear of economic insecurity and hatred of the poor; they in turn shape the politics and experience of poverty.

Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor by Virginia Eubanks

You Don’t Count

Three large vans slowly pulled up and they piled us all inside and then drove off in different directions. We rode in silence. The driver appeared more agitated than we were. He was young, probably twenty or twenty-one. I could tell he didn’t want to chauffeur us. His parents were probably forcing him. I unfortunately sat in the front seat next to him.

“Why don’t you just get a job?” He didn’t bother to look up at me. “And stop having other people take care of you. Wasting people’s time. I’m just saying.” I didn’t respond. If I said something he didn’t like, he could lie to his parents and get us kicked out. His voice permanently stained snobbish from a life of pampering. “The government just needs to come and round all of you up, and take y’all away. The cities would be so much safer and cleaner. People would be much happier.”

“We’re people, too.” I stared out of the window.

“You guys? You guys don’t count.”

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.