April 2018 Agitator

Here is the APRIL Catholic Agitator

In This Issue:

      • Starving For Justice by Kaleb Havens
      • Lament, Repent, Repair: An Open Letter On Racism by Midwest Catholic Workers
      • Book Review: Just Call Me Jerzy by Mike Wisniewski
      • Los Angeles: U.S. Capitol Of Homelessness by Susan Dietrich
      • Challenging The Acceptance Of The Police by Matt Harper
      • Starvation Increases Worldwide by Jessica Corbett
      • Better Know a Volunteer by Sarah Fuller and Theo Kayser

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/04/05/april-2018-agitator/

2018 Good Friday Anti-War Stations Of The Cross

On Friday, March 30, about 70 people gathered at the Roybal Federal Building in downtown to walk and meditate on the Anti-War Stations of the Cross. The weather was perfect for our annual walk to places of darkness in the downtown area.

This year Matt Harper and Susan Dietrich took over the duties of putting together a succinct and meaningful script, and we had two very articulate readers–Alex Addesso and Donald Nollar. This year we also remembered our own Kaleb Havens, who was nearing the end of his 46 day hunger and housing strike chained to a fence on Skid Row. We carried a huge poster of Kaleb throughout the walk. After the event we stopped to visit with Kaleb and had a prayer reflection and song, then we eagerly went home to enjoy a Mexican banquet, everything cooked by our house guest Maria. Muchas Gracias, Maria!

A big THANK YOU to all who participated. See you again next year, and invite others to join us. See photos HERE and a PDF of the script HERE.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/04/04/2018-good-friday-anti-war-stations-of-the-cross/

Kaleb Ends His Hunger and Housing Strike

On Easter Sunday, at 9:45am, about 60 people gathered to celebrate with Kaleb as he unchained himself from the fence, then led a prayer service that included chanting, a reading by Kaleb, an introduction song to Psalm 23 by Tyson, one of our kitchen guests, Skid Row Pastor Cue then gave an inspirational reading of Psalm 23. Kaleb led the reciting of The Lord’s Prayer, then General Dogan (LA CAN) read an excellent article he wrote entitled “STAND UP FOR WHAT?” using former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s bold act of “taking a knee” during the National Anthem as a bases to address the police violence against Black people, systemic racism present in our society, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the struggle for dignity by the sisters and brothers living on the street.

There was a time to reflect on the more than 830 people who died on Skid Row last year and the lack of concern by city and county officials to provide housing available in the 156 vacant buildings on Skid Row. There was a time to call out names of those who have gone before us, and the response of PRESENTE! after each name was voiced.

(NOTE: The above photo was taken after our annual Anti-War Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. We stopped and showed Kaleb the poster made for the event, then had a prayer and song, leaving the cross with Kaleb.)

Then the call to celebrate. Kaleb took the chain that secured him to the fence and used it to chain the chair he used while fasting to the fence, and announced that it will be there if anyone else wanted to use it. Kaleb then led a procession to Catch 21, the restaurant across the street from where he spent the last 46 days, and was greeted with a Modelo Especial (pilsner-style lager beer), then a big plate of fish and chips. However, before delving into the food, he announced he wanted to use the restroom, which he did not use for 46 days.

Everyone present for the unchaining was invited to the celebration at Catch 21, where the party continued for a few hours. Kaleb is now back home at the LACW. He enjoyed a hot shower, the specially prepared Easter dinner, and later sleeping on his bed. See photos HERE.

We thank Kaleb for his witness and his commitment to the housing crisis on Skid Row (and beyond). We pray for wisdom and strength to continue the struggle.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/04/02/kaleb-ends-his-hunger-and-housing-strike/

Day 43 – Lenten Hunger Strike Raises Profile of Los Angeles Homeless Crisis

There are two more media outlets that have run good stories on Kaleb and the homeless and housing crises. See this LINK and this LINK.

An excerpt: “As a homelessness crisis escalates in both Los Angeles County and neighboring Orange County, California, members of Catholic Worker communities have taken action to encourage local governments and churches to respond with constructive solutions rather than criminalizing or ignoring those in need of housing.

‘I want Christians to really think about the homelessness problem in their area and if they are truly fulfilling the core of Christ’s message, which is to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ said Los Angeles Catholic Worker Kaleb Havens.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/03/28/day-43-lenten-hunger-strike-raises-profile-of-los-angeles-homeless-crisis/

Day 37 – Fasting On Skid Row

Kaleb is still hanging in there, doing okay, though a bit wet from the rain and tired. He is looking forward to Easter Sunday morning when he will unchain himself from the fence, attend an Easter service on the street, then delve into a fish dinner and a Modelo from Catch 21 restaurant, one of his favorite eateries, which happens to be right across the street from where has chained himself to a fence.

The Angelus, newspaper for the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, has a good article about Kaleb at this LINK.

An excerpt: “In a lower voice, Havens said, ‘That’s what I’m wondering. I’m prepared to go to jail if they want to cut me loose and drag me away. You know, if that’s how they play it. But I’ll be here unless they use the Jaws of Life to cut this chain.’

Havens, 30, has been chained to the fence since Ash Wednesday, when he started his water-only fast, supplemented with electrolytes and broth from chicken bones.

The overall goal of his hunger strike is to raise awareness of the horrible homelessness on skid row, which takes in 50 blocks of the City of the Angels. More specifically, the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, Inner City Law Center, LA CAN (Los Angeles Community Action Network) and other agencies have formed a coalition, Skid Row Now & 2040, to advocate for the rights of the skid row homeless before the City Planning Department.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/03/22/day-37-fasting-on-skid-row/

2018 Good Friday Anti-War Stations of the Cross/Seder of Liberation

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/03/16/2018-good-friday-anti-war-stations-of-the-cross-seder-of-liberation/

Day 28 – Kaleb Is Still hanging In There

Kaleb was doing okay this afternoon. He was preparing for a group of students from Denver to visit and interview him.

He was also notified that the Sanitation Department would be sweeping the block tomorrow, which is highly unusual since the regular sweep day for 5th Street is Monday, as it was last week. It is suspected that this is yet another ploy by the city and LAPD to turn his neighbors against him. However, Kaleb organized a group of supporters to again sweep the block by hand if the city clears everyone and does not sweep, as they did last week.

If you have yet to see the video Kaleb filmed last Wednesday of the horrifying, rotten, and despicable treatment by LAPD against one of his female neighbors, it is a MUST see. You can view it HERE.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/03/13/day-28-kaleb-is-still-hanging-in-there/

LACW Mike Wisniewski Risks Arrest At U.S. Representative’s Office

On Tuesday, March 6, LACW community member Mike Wisniewski joined 10 others in a nonviolent direct action at Republican U.S. Representative Steve Knight’s office in Santa Clarita, in the northeastern part of Los Angeles County. The nonviolent action was sponsored by L.A. Voice–Pico and CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice), and was a protest against U.S. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — aka “Dreamers”), TPS (Temporary Protected Status) immigration policies, border militarization, and the current policy of separating families who are held in detention centers.

More than one hundred people gathered outside Rep. Knight’s office while the 11 who were risking arrest went inside through a back door to his second floor office and remained in the hallway singing songs, chanting, and praying, since we were denied entrance into the office itself. We remained in the hallway for more than an hour before Rep. Knight personally called one of the organizers from his Washington office (his local staff asked for someone’s cell phone number). The conversation was put on speaker and recorded. The discussion revolved around our demand for his commitment for “Clean” DACA Legislation, ending deportation of and protecting TPS recipients, and reduce funding for the militarization of the border, and immediately end separating children from parents already in border detention facilities.

The representative agreed to meet with the organizers and talk about the issues, stipulating however, that the meeting does not necessarily mean agreeing on the issues. He also clearly stated that he would not discuss defunding the border patrol and de-militarization of the border area because he firmly believes more funding and personnel is needed to stop the flow of drugs coming into the U.S.

As a result of Rep. Knight personally calling the delegation and agreeing to a meeting, the majority of the civil disobedience delegation agreed to leave without arrest, but plan to return at a date in the not too distant future.

See videos of action HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/03/08/lacw-mike-wisniewski-risks-arrest-at-u-s-representatives-office/

Arrests Of Skid Row Homeless Increases In 2017

On Tuesday, March 6, day 20 of Kaleb’s hunger strike, Councilman Jose Huizar came to Skid Row to visit Kaleb and talk with him about the homeless crisis. He told Kaleb that he would like for him to attend City Council Meetings and voice his support for initiatives that Huizar wants to implement (including in Skid Row) to ease the crisis, and he asked Kaleb to consider ending his hunger strike. Since Councilman Huizar would not commit to meeting the demand of the Skid Row community’s counter to the city’s DTLA 2040 plan, nor convert and use the 150 vacant buildings on Skid Row to house the homeless, Kaleb declined.

Also, this LINK is to an article in today’s L.A. Times that reveals that in 2017, LAPD made more than 14,500 arrests of homeless people, a ten percent increase over the previous year.

An excerpt:Los Angeles police on Tuesday defended stepped-up enforcement against the city’s exploding homeless population, saying that despite officials’ anti-criminalization stance and adoption of alternative strategies, arrests and citations are needed to meet the crisis.

‘As a last resort, a tool, one tool of many tools, we turn to enforcement,’ Cmdr. Dominic H. Choi, the LAPD’s homelessness coordinator, told the Police Commission during a discussion of the department’s year-end homelessness report. ‘We have to have a balanced approach.’

The report said LAPD officers made 14,500 misdemeanor arrests of homeless people in 2017, a 10% jump from the year before. It attributed the increase in part to crackdowns on “quality of life” violations barring sleeping and storing personal property on sidewalks. Trespassing and nonviolent drug possession arrests also rose, the report said.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/03/07/arrests-of-skid-row-homeless-increases-in-2017/

LACW Kaleb Havens Not Arrested–So Far.

On Monday, March 5, the City of Los Angeles Sanitation Department Street Cleaners and LAPD chose not to sweep the block that Kaleb is on in order not to deal with a confrontation with the 57 friends who gathered in support of Kaleb and his hunger strike–day 19.

There was a press conference with Channel 7 Eyewitness News, L.A. Times, 89.3 KPCC, one of the NPR stations in Los Angeles, and other media reps in attendance. Below the photos is a statement from Ariana, representing the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN). Other statements were given by Maria Teresa from the LACW, Steve from the Socialist Democrats of Los Angeles, among a few others. We closed the press conference with everyone praying over Kaleb.

Since the city chose not to conduct its scheduled bi-weekly sweep, 17 Kaleb supporters, led by General Dogon from LA CAN and LACW Matt Harper, took brooms and shovels and swept the entire block that other folks who camp on the same block with Kaleb would not get angry at him because they were forced to move all their possessions for no reason since the city chose not to sweep. By 10:30am the block was cleaned with two huge piles of trash piled on each end of the block, which the city assured us would be cleared by the end of the day. More photos will be posted at a later date.

“Hello my name is Ariana Alcaraz and I am a member of the Los Angeles Community Action Network

In 2017 LA CAN conducted a community research project in which we attempted to identify underutilized spaces throughout our community that can be used to permanently house houseless people. Over 150 spaces were identified. Many of them either completely empty or underutilized buildings that are being sat on until it is profitable for the landowners to do something with them. Places like the Salvation Army building. They are accountable to this community. California voters agreed when passing Proposition HHH, that funding the creation of housing for those who need it most, has to be a priority in our city but city leaders are not doing enough! We had to create an inventory that lists all the properties, from 3rd to 8th and central to Broadway just to show all the opportunities. We included Broadway not just because it falls within the old Skid Row boundaries, but because it is also an area that has seen a lot of investment. A celebrated $1 billion from Council member Jose Huizar. But where is real investment in housing for the over 5,000 homeless people who currently call this community their home while luxury market rate housing units continues to be built by the hundreds for people who don’t even live here yet.

The City of Los Angeles must take creative measures to address the homeless crisis. The California Housing Partnership Corporation estimates over 550,000 units of affordable housing units are needed in LA County just to meet the housing crisis, empty buildings and underutilized space must be fully examined, city owned or not.

We call on the City of Los Angeles to conduct its own inventory of empty or underutilized buildings that are privately owned in the downtown area and the potential use of Prop HHH funds to build affordable housing for extremely and deeply low income people. This study should also include the vacancies in residential hotels that are listed in the Wiggins settlement and covered under the Residential Hotel Preservation Ordinance, places like the Cecil Hotel which currently sits with over 200 units empty, a perfect example of underutilized space. We want the vacancies of all those buildings to be included in the study as well.

Thank you.

Please reach out if you have any questions.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/03/05/lacw-kaleb-havens-not-arrested-so-far/

Kaleb Risks Arrest

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/03/05/kaleb-risks-arrest/

Who’s Taking Charge Of The Homeless Crisis?

The sixth in a series of L.A. Times EDITORIALS on the homeless crisis is, like the first, spot on and highlights why LACW Kaleb Havens struggles on day 17 of his hunger strike. Bottom line, City and County officials simply do nor care enough to do anything significant to end the crisis. Everyone wants to pass the buck and duck responsibility while more than 58,000 human beings are forced to live on the streets in utter squalor with LAPD (along with other police and sheriff departments) providing 24/7 harassment to make a miserable situation intolerable.

We MUST constantly remind ourselves about Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46: What we do or fail to do to the least among us, we do or fail to do to Christ Jesus. This is the ONLY criteria listed in the gospels on how individuals and societies will be judged.

An excerpt: “Two years after Los Angeles city leaders said they were about to declare (although they never actually did) a state of emergency over a deepening homelessness crisis; 18 months after county supervisors called on the state to declare such an emergency (it didn’t); More than a year after voters overwhelmingly agreed to pay $1.2 billion to house people now living on the street; Eight months after L.A. County voters raised their sales taxes by a quarter-cent on the dollar to pay for mental health care and other support services for the homeless; And now, deep into another winter in which tens of thousands of people huddled in flimsy tents or with no shelter at all face violent Santa Ana winds, chilling nights and seasonal downpours — Where are we?

How many people have we housed, or at least, how many are we on track toward housing? Is Los Angeles setting the national standard for rapid and effective response to a vexing problem? Or are its leaders merely mastering the art of appearances while passing the buck and hoping things turn around?

Who knows? L.A. homelessness stats are spread among obscure reports from city, county and federal agencies.

And you’ll learn nothing by attending a meeting of the body charged with ending homelessness or hearing the report from the homelessness czar — the point person reporting directly to both the city’s mayor and the county Board of Supervisors. That’s because there is no committee and no czar with sole responsibility for ending homelessness. Or rather, there are many committees and many sub-commanders, which is almost the same as there being none at all.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2018/03/02/whos-taking-charge-of-the-homeless-crisis/

Los Angeles Catholic Worker
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