Mitchell Halberstadt 
Member since Jul 15, 2013


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Re: “The Truth is Out There: B4bel4b Exhibit Believe the Hype Exposes Ideological Battles Behind Neutral-Seeming Digital Age Info

This looks (to have been) fascinating! Too bad the story was published so late in the run of the exhibit, and so near to the time of the closing event!

Posted by Mitchell Halberstadt on 06/21/2017 at 9:24 PM

Re: “Oakland Expends Considerable Money and Person-Power Displacing Homeless Residents, According to City Records

"Grownups have to make life happen even when wishes don't come true."

Precisely! That's what makes harm reduction the adult approach!

Posted by Mitchell Halberstadt on 06/03/2017 at 11:46 AM

Re: “Oakland Expends Considerable Money and Person-Power Displacing Homeless Residents, According to City Records

Mr. Ferrell, I have my own experience (with homelessness and substance use); I've left both behind, and I still have a life (one not mired in "recovery") -- no thanks to the practitioners (and often cult-like programs) you celebrate, however well-intentioned they may be. (For an alternate perspective, please read [or view] "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" or "A Scanner Darkly.")

In any event, as I've already noted, any purported solution (regarding mental illness and substance use) is sure to be controversial -- if the implicit issues can ever be settled, and if truly effective and universally accepted 'treatment' even exists.

That's all beside the point, however.

We face an immediate crisis -- specifically involving the street encampments that have recently been mushrooming in our neighborhoods, and the catastrophic depletion and displacement of low-income (and specifically SRO) housing. This is new -- and it's the situation we immediately need to address.

As you yourself acknowledge, at best "some have to work at recovery for years to achieve basic stability." What are we supposed to do in the meantime -- even assuming such an approach is destined ever to have widespread success? Given the urgency of the current situation, let's address the encampments as such, and ameliorate the shortage (and loss) of low-income housing as fully and quickly as is competently possible.

Ironically, we agree on much regarding the political situation that's exacerbated the current problem, and that's kept us from addressing the crisis we face. Unfortunately, the perspective you promote is yet another part of the problem -- contributing to the current self-seeking and paralysis -- rather than a solution.

In that context, everything I've written and proposed here falls clearly and straightforwardly under the rubric of harm reduction -- of addressing the crisis at hand. That's where we need to start.

We may need to focus on the hardest cases later -- if, indeed, they're truly amenable to "professional" interventions, or prove to have any viable solution at all.

Posted by Mitchell Halberstadt on 06/02/2017 at 11:22 PM

Re: “Oakland Expends Considerable Money and Person-Power Displacing Homeless Residents, According to City Records

What sort of "treatment" are you talking about, Mr. Ferrell? Institutionalization? The endless merry-go-round of 12-step meetings touted by the "recovery" industry? As I already wrote, "Problems that involve drug use or mental illness are complex, and any solutions are sure to be controversial -- if the implicit issues can ever be settled, and if truly effective and universally accepted 'treatment' even exists."

Meanwhile, we face two immediate crises: the metastasizing spread of tent encampments throughout Oakland (especially in the flats), and the depletion of low-income housing. While these issues reflect urgent physical needs, we're misdirecting attention and diverting scarce resources to dubious (and potentially coercive) interventions in "homeless lives."

We need to approach these two crises with respect for those affected, rather than viewing them as helpless victims in need of dubious (and expensive) "services," or as pawns in a political game. A dedicated campground isn't a ghetto; it's a campground: a place for someone who's acquired a tent to pitch camp until he or she either commits to a nomadic existence (in whatever locale seems most suitable and hospitable), or sets his/her sights on another way of life. At least it's an alternative to "criminalization."

As for "teaching them to fish"? These days, those who'd "teach them to fish" would typically charge a licensing fee for the gear, and demand a royalty on every fish they caught (which would, in turn, fund the training and salaries of new "teachers"). Instead, how's about giving them a rod and reel; ingenuity (and talking to others on the pier [i.e., seeking out wisdom and making connections]) should take care of the rest.

This ain't rocket science! Fire the bureaucrats and social workers, and provide for real, physical needs.

We need to develop housing for THOUSANDS of people (and set aside a place where they can camp out in the meantime, especially those who've burned all their bridges to friends who might otherwise help). Instead, we inflict encampments on neighborhoods of the housed while we build a "navigation center" designed to "connect them with services" -- but that can actually house only 150!

150? That would be a joke, if it weren't such a scandal. That's where we end up when, instead of focusing on immediate, practical problems -- the actual crisis that we face -- we become mired in trying to reshape other people's lives.

Posted by Mitchell Halberstadt on 06/01/2017 at 11:57 PM

Re: “Oakland Expends Considerable Money and Person-Power Displacing Homeless Residents, According to City Records

I disagree with Alice Marshall on one point: she says, "What would not be allowed is to live permanently in a temporary camp." The point of setting up a dedicated campground is to accommodate a nomadic population (of tent dwellers) at a location off our streets -- not necessarily to channel everyone into indoor housing. The issues to be addressed involve land use in existing neighborhoods, and developing sufficient low-income housing to meet local demand -- with minimum intervention into people's lives.

Posted by Mitchell Halberstadt on 06/01/2017 at 6:23 AM

Re: “Oakland Expends Considerable Money and Person-Power Displacing Homeless Residents, According to City Records

After attending last night's City Council meeting, I'll double down on my attempt to address the two crises of spreading street encampments and a lack of housing. Both of these involve pressing physical needs, yet we misdirect attention and divert scarce resources by focusing on interventions in "homeless lives." We need to approach these issues directly, as a matter of problem-solving -- with respect for those involved, rather than viewing them as helpless victims in need of dubious (and expensive) "services," or as pawns in a political game.

We need to fight evictions, zealously enforce rent control, and develop housing for THOUSANDS of people (and a neighborhood of their own where they can camp out in the meantime), not to inflict encampments on neighborhoods of the housed while we build a "navigation center" designed to "connect the homeless with services" that can house 150!

150? That would be a joke, if it weren't such a scandal -- and so sad!

Posted by Mitchell Halberstadt on 05/31/2017 at 10:40 AM

Re: “Oakland Expends Considerable Money and Person-Power Displacing Homeless Residents, According to City Records

Oakland has a problem with the massive growth of street encampments. This is a land-use issue, and we need to stop conflating it with homelessness. Each of these phenomena needs to be addressed on its own terms.

Solving our housing problems will take time. Shame on those who, meanwhile, exploit unhoused people as a political scourge, sustaining encampments in our neighborhoods (even distributing tents!) as a means of publicizing Oaklands shortage of low-income housing. (Indeed, tighter enforcement of rent control is a no-brainer, as is the dedicating the resources and political will to fight evictions. Problems that involve drug use or mental illness are far more complex, and any solutions are sure to be controversial -- if the implicit issues can ever be settled, and if truly effective and universally accepted "treatment" even exists)

Acquiring a tent is an act of volition; its not a magical by-product of homelessness. Ive been homeless (twice, each time for about a year), but I never imagined that the streets and sidewalks of my city (or any city) were available to me for storage of household belongings or for pitching a hulking tent. I never considered that an option so I found and developed all sorts of other ways to cope. In at least one case, this even involved going to another city where I had friends whod put me up until I got my life back off the ground.

Criminalizing homelessness? Nowhere else to go? In a city with all sorts of intricate zoning, health and building codes (and where we constantly hear talk about peoples deep roots and pride in their neighborhoods), people may be free to come and go as they please -- but no one has a right simply to perform certain vital functions on the neighborhood street of their choice. Our streets are not available for camping, any more than theyre available for taking a crap.

For now, the City should immediately set aside campgrounds for its current nomadic population, appropriately situated in its own (or an industrial) neighborhood, on open land with toilet facilities and trash receptacles, possibly including secure storage as well. So-called activists -- if theyre welcomed -- might best assist in maintaining peace and well-being among the residents, rather than inflicting themselves upon neighborhoods of the housed. (Let them save their ideological ire for the 1%!) More power to them if they can help create a community of "mutual aid" that resembles a Rainbow Gathering, or Yasgur's farm. ;-)

"Safe ground" is a wonderful concept; it should also insure that every existing neighborhood is safe ground" for its housed residents. Therefore, such a policy must correspond to Zero Tolerance for street encampments. Enforcement? Anyone who erects a tent where camping is not explicitly permitted should be warned that he or she has thereby waived any property rights to that tent, or to household belongings deposited on the street -- and that such items are considered to be trash. If need be, signs should be posted around town to that effect: "You abuse it, you lose it."

So much for "whack-a-mole"!

Homeless residents? Wheres THEIR outreach to their neighbors? Homelessness is not a license to pitch camp at whatever spot one decides is convenient, dumping ones belongings on the street of ones choice. Existing residents (those with a residence) are also entitled to a modicum of consideration and respect.

Otherwise, are we ready to demonstrate, for all the world to see, that spreading squalor is Oaklands real "secret sauce"?

Posted by Mitchell Halberstadt on 05/30/2017 at 1:21 PM

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