street newspaper: japan’s “big issue”

Street newspapers are a phenomenal, global network. I was touched to read that even in the midst of Japan‘s devastation, a street newspaper struggles to survive, its vendors dependent upon its existence, for their own meagre livelihoods. What strikes me as macabre in the aftermath of Mother Nature‘s triple threat, the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear disaster, is that Sendai is now home to thousands more homeless. The following article ran in the Real Change. It gives a first hand account of the people’s attempts to recover from the horrific blow dealt them. 

JAPAN’S STREET NEWSPAPER STRUGGLES AMID DISASTER

THE BIG ISSUE JAPAN / ビッグイシュー日本版

Image by jetalone via Flickr

Vendors and staff at The Big Issue Japan are struggling in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated the nation.

Miku Sano of The Big Issue Japan said in an email to partner newspapers that in Sendai, which bore the brunt of the tsunami, vendors survived but are unable to sell the magazine. “Things are not easy and will not be the same, but we are not defeated,” Sano wrote.

“The vendors and people in Northern cities are fighting for their lives and for the loved ones. We are trying the best we can to support them.”

Distribution of the magazine is impossible in northern cities, “hence, the vendors in Sapporo have nothing to sell,” Sano said. There are plans to re-start football practice in Tokyo, as “many of our vendors said that they want to play football to feel better.”

(If you want to contribute to the efforts of The Big Issue Japan, there is an English language site for donations: http://www.jcie.org/earthquake)

Night View of Sendai City, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

Diary of a disaster
The Big Issue Japan works with the Sendai Night Patrol Group to help the homeless in Sendai City. Staff members have been providing free meals for anyone sleeping rough as the city attempts to recover from the disaster. Aoiki san, head of the patrol team and magazine distribution in Sendai, allowed us to publish extracts from his diary about the relief effort:

March 14: In Sendai, the supply of water and electricity was restored in some parts, but it will take more than a month to restore gas supply. In the Wakabayashi area, the worst affected area within Sendai city, I saw a very long queue of people trying to get half-rotten oranges and only one banana. A thousand dead bodies are left unattended in a gymnasium, and there is no information about those unaccounted for. We are planning to provide free meals of curry rice for everyone from 11 a.m. The death toll is too big to comprehend, and many people seem to know nothing about what to do.

Sendai Airport in Natori and Iwanuma, Miyagi p...

Image via Wikipedia

March 15: Roads, airlines and trains are not allowed to run except for emergency vehicles, and there is the dire prospect of a shortage of goods. More than 1,000 people queued for a motorway bus. I joined a queue for Daiei Supermarket before its opening at 10 a.m., but 30 minutes after the opening, major goods had already gone. There is a shortage of gas cylinders, noodles, tinned food, batteries and rice.

March 16: Public administration is completely paralyzed. Sendai City Council opened a help desk today, four days after the earthquake. Hospitals in the city are only able to provide a partial service due to electricity shortages. Without a battery-powered radio, people are getting no information at all. Many citizens don’t know about the accidents at Fukushima nuclear plant. Local radio stations help people to find out about missing persons. Strong aftershocks at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

March 17: Today the local radio announced about the food at Wakabayashi City Hall, so we had to make 1,000 meals. We gave out curry, miso soup and rice for about 800 people and it was gone in a second. Some hadn’t eaten for three days and queued for the food in the rain.

I am worried becuse there’s no information about what’s going on at the nuclear power plant. I am worried about the radioactive contamination for the north Kanto region because of the north winds. There are thousands of people sleeping in the elementary schools, city halls and public halls. I will do my best to provide free meals tomorrow, although we may run out of stock if we do so.

(Translated by Mayuko Hida and Yushin Toda – University of Glasgow)       

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“real change,” the homeless

While in Seattle yesterday I was lucky to find one of my favorite reads, a street newspaper. Since learning about this network of national, even global, homeless newspapers, I make it a point to seek out its vendors wherever I travel. Helping these people help themselves gives me great satisfaction. Giving money to individuals seems a more organic thing for me to do than putting a check in an envelope, addressed to an organization. I do some of that, but I so prefer pressing my money into the hand of someone whose smile blesses me in return.

In this week’s copy of Seattle’s “Real Change,” was the following article which warmed my heart, as I’m sure it will warm yours.

Vendor of the Week
Paulette Bade

Paulette Bade has an infectiously positive attitude. When I arrive to meet her, just past 8 a.m. on a chilly Monday morning, she’s already been selling the paper for over an hour. We can see our breath and the sidewalk where she’s selling is mostly quiet, but Paulette is all smiles. When she sees me, she exclaims that it’s so cold this morning she probably wouldn’t have shown up if she were me. I find it hard to believe; Paulette always shows up, 7 a.m., six days a week, without fail. She is happy to be selling a paper she believes in, talking with customers she knows and cares about, and saving money for her future.

Paulette has been selling Real Change outside the Whole Foods store at 64th and Roosevelt since the start of the new year, moving recently from her previous location at the QFC down the road. Luckily, staying in the same neighborhood, she’s been able to maintain a lot of her same customers–people who still stop by to visit with their favorite vendor and buy a paper once a week.

Image via Wikipedia

When she started selling the paper–in 1999, incredibly–it was only to make some extra cash. Her ambition soon swelled, though, and she now sells more than 300 papers each month. Starting out, Paulette had been homeless for close to eight months, staying in a local DESC shelter. She eventually moved into Nickelsville, the only place that would let her keep her two cats and where she met her current boyfriend. The four of them have since moved into an apartment near the store.

“Now I want to put money in the bank. I want to do better for myself,” she tells me. Paulette has been saving up her earnings from selling the paper in hopes of moving into a better home, somewhere where they can have more space and the two kitties can roam around.

As we talk, customers leaving the store or walking by greet Paulette like an old friend. They know her well, and she knows them. She points out customers to me, telling me who writes poetry and who buys the paper for the crossword puzzles. She loves this part of the job, even with the uncertainty that sometimes comes along with it.

“You never know from one day to the next how many you’re going to sell or how much you’re going to make,” she says. But even on slow days she powers through, reading the new issue each week, trying both to know her product and her community.

When I ask what her customers outside of Whole Foods mean to her, she is flushed with joy.

“I’m thankful to all my customers. I appreciate them just stopping by and saying ‘Hi.’ Their smiles make my day, everyday.”

written by Adrienne Brown

paulette’s teaching me about simplicity…and love… for all…hugmamma.

former homeless songwriter, chris scott’s story

Homeless Lessons Learned was produced by Andrew Diffee, a talented young college student majoring in videography. While looking for subject matter for a required video production assignment, Andrew and I crossed paths outside The Contributor office downtown. Intrigued by the details of my living situation, and my positive attitude and outlook in the midst of it all, he decided to tell my story. We arranged a shooting date on a Sunday afternoon, and armed with a film crew and a pizza, production began.

I have lived and survived the last 18 months in the woods on the back side of Fort Negley (coincidently named after General James Scott Negley). That makes me a veteran with an honorable discharge who has lived on a former military installation all while trying to establish himself in a new city. But on December 3rd, 2010, after a long, hard “tour of duty,” I finally moved into an apartment. (Selling The Contributor had a lot to do with that.)

Life is different when you have a roof over your head and a safe place to go. For me, that has become an achievement and a reality. But for so many of my dear brothers, sisters and friends, it is not within their reach at this point in time. I know what they are going through every night, night after night, with no place to go, no place to be. Wherever they try to lay their heads, they end up being either ticketed or incarcerated for trespassing.

During the entire 18 months I camped on that hill, I was never ticketed or jailed for trespassing. I did, however, have everything I own dragged down the hill and thrown in the back of a garbage truck–twice! (It’s much easier the second time.) I made it through Nashville‘s coldest winter in 30 years in a tent I built myself. I survived the flood of 2010 and didn’t lose one thing to the rising waters. I did whatever I had to do to make it happen, help my fellow-man, and survive. How I did it and what I learned over that period of time is the focus of Homeless Lessons Learned.

Armed with a plan to alleviate the plight of my brothers and sisters on the street, those who attend the screening will learn about ways they can get involved. I believe that 2011 is going to be a year of growth and change for a lot of folks. Things are going to get better. I have seen so much happen in 2010 and I know that we’re just getting warmed up. Things can’t stay the way they are. Justice must prevail for everyone. We are Americans! And more importantly, we’re family. Together we’re stronger–as individuals as a community, and as a nation.

a man with a story to tell…of compassion… for all…hugmamma.

Note: A public screening of Homeless Lessons Learned, a 45-minute documentary, was held on 1/12/11 at Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church (DPC).

tortoises for the “long haul”… lions for the “gusto”

Read a very interesting horoscope, not something I usually do. Prefer to “fly by the seat of my pants,” or the opposite extreme, be in total control. However I found “HOBOSCOPE”, authored by Mr. Mysterio in The Contributor highly entertaining, especially with what he had to say about Leo, my zodiac sign.

LEO

As many curious Leos already know, “senescence” is the word for biological aging. It’s a process that occurs in almost every living organism. As we age our cells don’t divide like they used to, DNA becomes harder to repair, and the kids’ music gets too loud. Tortoises, however, experience negligible senescence. Despite always looking like wrinkly bald men, tortoises age very, very slowly. Some have been known to live over 250 years. Some scientists believe that if we can master whatever causes tortoises to age so slowly, we could age more slowly ourselves. It’s worrisome to think about getting older, Leo, but I don’t think anti-aging turtle potions are the answer. Your journey through time has value every step of the way. However long it may last, make it count.

does this guy know me…or does this guy know me…hugmamma.  😉

As an added note (his words, not mine): Mr. Mysterio is not a licensed astrologer, a certified Lexus, or a notarized sample copy.

Want more pearls of puzzling pulchritude? Follow Mr. Mysterio on twitter at: www.twitter.com/mrmysterio …

…and tell him “hugmamma” sent you!  😉

“i know i can be happy,” the homeless

My daughter recently danced a contemporary solo in a piece by choreographer Sarah Slipper, entitled “Postcards from the Boys.” The entire number was a fabulous aggregation of vignettes, a solo, a pas de deux, a pas de trois, and corps work. The work was accompanied by an orchestral ensemble for some of the movements, and a trio of country singers on guitar and percussion for the solo my daughter danced as well as some of the other choreography. Performed as the show’s finale, Slipper’s brilliant creation garnered a standing ovation on each of the 3 days it was performed.

Having worked with Slipper in Portland, Oregon, for a couple of summers, in the Northwest Professional Dance Project, my daughter was already known to the choreographer before she staged her piece on the dancers in my daughter’s company. I’m sure both were delighted to be working together again. As inspiration for her interpretation of Slipper’s solo, “Homeless,” my daughter reflected upon the words of a poem in a street newspaper.

I Know I Can Be Happy
by Deisaray Lovelace (former Homeless Poet)
deisaraylovelace@yahoo.com

I used to feel so empty
Nothing seemed to matter
I used to feel like I was lost
I used to believe I was nothing at all
Now I walk the streets all day
Now I look as joy fades away
Now I long for brighter days
My cup is broken
My soul still searching
Oh why is my eyes still cryin’

No one seemed to care
No one seemed to understand my fears
I’m not a bad girl
I’m just lost behind the hurt
I fight to earn respect
When all I want is a friend
I was told I’m nothing
That I was impossible
I want to prove them wrong
But can’t because they label me
All I am is homeless
But to them I’m just a nobody

Trying to make it
I have no place
No family of my own
Everyday I walk through town
I see all who laugh
Yet inside I’m broken up
Loving like I’m last
I need someone who understands
I need someone who sees all I have inside
All I need is someone to notice
Someone to know why I cry

No one knows the pain I feel
No one sees the scars
All they notice is fragments
If they’d only see the heart
I need a chance to live
A chance to be found
But every time I look
Hopes turn to tears on the ground

So take my pride
Take my every worth
If only you’d take the time
Try to learn my pain
You could try to take that away too

I can’t stand
When my knees are weak
When I can barely breathe
My nights consist of darkness
My days are the same
I need that glimpse of brightness
So that I can say…

I’m good
I’m brave
To still be standing today
Through the tears
and through the pain
I know I can be happy again
I know I can be happy
Again

the human spirit can overcome…as long as we have hope…hugmamma.

“street newspapers,” prince william

In the January issue of The Contributor, the following article was front page news.

Prince William:
Street newspapers inspire me”

He slept rough on the streets of London to experience first-hand what it is like to be homeless. Following in the footsteps of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, he became a Patron of Centrepoint/ the leading charity for young homeless people in the UK. And now–for the first time since his engagement announcement last month–he speaks up to support street papers worldwide.

By His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales for the Street News Service

The exclusive article below is written by His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales for the Street News Service (SNS). SNS is the news agency of the International Network of Street Papers which supports 115 street papers in 40 countries. The titles help homeless people around the world to earn a living.

“The economic downturn has had a devastating effect on the numbers of homeless rough sleepers in our communities. In London alone, rough sleeping has risen by almost a quarter in just two years, and that figure does not even include those who have been forced out of their homes into temporary accommodation or overcrowded housing.

There are many reasons why someone can find themselves homeless: family breakdown, unemployment, drug or alcohol abuse, or falling on desperately hard times, often through no fault of their own. But the effect of homelessness is the same for everyone: a crushing sense of hopelessness and despair. The emotional consequences for the individual can be utterly devastating–sometimes more so than the stark fact of being homeless.

Charities, churches, governments and other bodies can all help with the basics–a roof under which to shelter from the elements, heating and security–but without hope, an individual cannot rebuild a life. And for there to be people with no hope living right alongside us is surely a blight on our societies.

That is why the work of the restorers of hope–street newspapers like The Contributor, my own charity Centrepoint and other organisations and individuals who care–so inspire me. They give homeless people the tools with which to rebuild their confidence and, ultimately, their lives.

I have met many homeless young people who are now filled with a passion and desire to achieve in life, simply because they were given a little support at the right time to get back on their feet. These are people of extraordinary courage. There can be a perception that they have given up and lack courage. Let me tell you, they have not and they do not. I count myself enormously privileged to be associated with such individuals. I salute all the organizations that are there for them.”

a tribute to Diana’s humanitarian efforts…a legacy for her sons…hugmamma.