Monday, February 20, 2012

A Little Slice of Good News

The other day at Eschaton, Atrios posted on a move by the city of Philadelphia to stop charitable groups from feeding the homeless out on the street. The city fathers wanted to move such laudatory efforts indoors and the primary reason given was "food safety." The fact that such activities were taking place in a part of the city which was being upgraded to attract more tourists had nothing to do with it. Nope not at all.

The discussion by the Atriots was pretty lively (as usual) and we all pretty much agreed that the city fathers wanted to "hide" the homeless because they were poor, because they were crazies, druggies, and drunks, because they were "other." We also agreed that most, if not all, cities tended to treat the homeless in the same way. Governments just don't want to be bothered by the existence of a class of "losers." That certainly doesn't say much for us as a nation.

Sacramento, California's state capital, is just like those cities. It too has what appears to be an intractable homeless problem, one that has gotten worse as the economy has gotten worse. Local groups have had to step in and provide "stop-gap" measures. Usually that involves feeding and sheltering away from the city center to places where "decent people" wouldn't have to be confronted with the underclass. And that's why this article in the Sacramento Bee is such a stunner.

It involves a man named Mark Bell who became homeless when his roommate died and he couldn't afford any place to live. He eventually wound up at the tent city located along side the American River Parkway. He also became one of the drunks. But with a little bit of help he crawled out of the bottle and began writing poetry and essays about his experiences. When people began noticing him writing, things began to take off. The Bee published a story about him and the real decent people stepped forward to help.

Bee readers responded to his poetry and his interest in publishing with the Sacramento Public Library's Espresso Book Machine.

Sande Parker, a Lincoln photographer, gave him a used laptop computer so he could type his poems when he wasn't working at Loaves & Fishes. ...

Another person offered to pay for printing. The library put up an upgrade in his printing package.

A group of local writers and artists volunteered to help him prepare his manuscript for printing.

He met with Larry Fox and Maryellen Burns-Dabaghian Friday to discuss formatting – size of the book, borders, order of material and size of type. ...

Burns-Dabaghian and Fox loaded Bell's files onto a flash drive.

Alison Givens, who runs the Espresso book machine for the library, loaded the text and cover design from the drive into the machine.

In minutes, Bell was holding a bound proof copy of "The Hobo Speaks." ...

Bell's backers are funding an ISBN number and Library of Congress catalog number, which will make it more available.

Burns-Dabaghian also plans to help him connect with bookstores, online sales and possible funders for two additional books he has planned.


I know, I know.

It's just one guy who got lucky. There's still lots of people living on the streets and in tent cities and one guy getting a break isn't even going to dent those numbers. But it's at least something, a little ray of life, a tiny green shoot.

And sometimes that's enough to get things moving in the right direction.

And I'll tell you what: as soon as the Bee updates the story with information on where Bell's book is available, I intend to buy a copy.

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6 Comments:

Blogger shrimplate said...

One starfish at a time.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

From the story. He already has a title for the follow-up to "The Hobo Speaks."

Title: "The Hobo Won't Shut Up."


I'm looking forward to the sequel.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Diane. This is good to see.

The whole reason the Powers That Be want to close down the Occupy encampments is because a) they are a visible, unavoidable reminder that Things Are Not OK, and b) shutting down the encampments shuts off donations as well: http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2011/12/22/state-of-the-occupation-permanent-fdl-page-shows-63-encampments-on-12-22-2011/

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So glad to hear something so positive as this.
Congratulations, Mr Mark Bell on the publishing of your book!
Would like to get an update as to how things are for you now.
Such as: How many copies have been sold so far?
How might I purchase a copy?
& How has your life changed? :)
God Bless those who helped make this happen.
& God bless you Mr Mark Bell.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Sarah Levi said...

So glad to hear something so positive as this.
Congratulations, Mr Mark Bell on the publishing of your book!
Would like to get an update as to how things are for you now.
Such as: How many copies have been sold so far?
How might I purchase a copy?
& How has your life changed? :)
God Bless those who helped make this happen.
& God bless you Mr Mark Bell.

8:10 AM  
Blogger jeeplassie said...

I have had the privilege of meeting Mark. I started working in downtown Sac, and while on one of my breaks I started talking to him as he was walking by. He is a very nice man and after talking to him almost daily for a week, he told me about his book. I looked it up but am unable to locate a copy of it, or the other one. I think he said he has written another too. When I see him again I will ask him how to get the books.
To answer how he is doing, he is still homeless. His cats are the only thing he has. One of his cats recently had kittens because of all the ferals around. He is unable to have them spayed or neutered because he cannot afford it. The kittens are sick but I am hoping they just have colds. Recently, a raccoon entered his tent and took all the cat food, so he had to work extra to be able to buy more. His cats are everything to him though so he didn't mind doing that. He works at the Loaves and Fishes and enjoys that.
I don't know him that well...just in the conversations we have during the 15 minutes I am on break...but he is super nice, very respectful, and not the 'stereotypical' homeless.
When I find out how to get his book(s), I will post it here for anyone who might be interested.

11:50 AM  

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