The May 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Someone's Sister: Homeless in the East Bay

A Young Mother Dreams of a Brighter Future

Legal Rights of Homeless People

Exposing Wal-Mart Empire

HUD Pulls a Disappearing Act

Devastating Cuts to Section 8

Civil Rights Gets on the Bus

UC Students Brutalized by Police

Activism for Economic Justice

Night of Humanity and Courage

Nonviolent Vigil for San Diego's Poorest

The Faithful Fools

Medical Pot in Santa Cruz

Poor Leonard's Almanack

Poetry of the Streets


February 2005






Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

The Faithful Fools March On

by Claire J. Baker

On a sunny Saturday in April, 12 Faithful Fools wandered around within Richmond's Iron Triangle for the express purpose of witnessing locals at work and play, including the homeless and economically stressed.

They had taken a bus from the Unitarian-Universalist church in the El Cerrito hills to Berkeley BART and north to the Richmond station. They were to reflect on their fears, fables, judgments, rumors of a rough area, then cross their own barriers of misconceptions to get to the truth of the North Richmond scene.

These Faithful Fools mostly walked alone; and some came back to the Souper Center for lunch. The Souper Center is a meal and support center for homeless people in Richmond operated by GRIP, the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program.

All met there in the late afternoon to sing, write, summarize their experiences, and enjoy bread, carrot cake, juice and soup. All were tired, but in good spirits, eager to light a candle in memory and share what they had seen, encountered and learned of the day.

One Fool came upon a woman from a local church who gave out sandwiches in the park. She told him she had "lived in North Richmond 60 years and loved it."

Another Fool volunteered that she had battled fatigue, kept needing benches for rest, felt disconnected, wondered how much farther to walk, and where to go in this area strange to her. Her underlying message was this question: What if she were homeless 24/7?

Unitarian-Universalist minister Bill loved the sense of families amidst blasting music, car washing and other activities. He had found a discarded heart calendar which he added to the candle circle. And he had carried all the way (as a "touchstone") a gull feather he had found. Bill encountered a man in his 60s who said, "I am blessed, am finding peace in myself," lovely words for a wandering minister to hear.

A couple of Fools saw drug exchanges right out in the open. Most reported how friendly people were. One Fool briefly umpired a baseball game. Another saw a birthday and a wedding, and was asked if this was her neighborhood. This same Fool was accompanied for a whole hour by a 76-year-old woman who was picking up cans; the two women had a nice conversation.

Another Fool heard a rooster crowing, and was struck by the many tall fences and small yards. A woman told another of the group that she had so many grandchildren, all in Richmond, so that everywhere she goes in the area she feels at home. Another volunteered, "There is little privacy on the street."

Faithful Fools Ministry was founded seven years ago by Kay Jorgensen, a Unitarian-Universalist Social Justice Minister. They have recently celebrated their anniversary by living seven days on San Francisco streets. They did the best they could, as all homeless people do. To bolster themselves, they read poems from Street Spirit issues.

Kay said, "Poverty means little choice or none, that every place is a neighborhood, regardless of what is happening - even a drug deal."

A curiosity was that two of the Ministry found pennies at odd (almost psychic) junctures in their day. They brought back several pennies and placed them by the candle flames where the day's varied reports were given and as the BART train roared past the Souper Center.

New plans are in store for the Souper Center. In the near future, the old building will start to be torn down, and rebuilt with housing for families on the second floor. Exciting plans are on the drawing board. Meanwhile, patrons from near and far (if all goes as planned) will be served meals in the long-vacated Richmond Hospital on 23rd Street, about one-half mile north of the old building. It has a large kitchen and dining area suitable for the 150 or so patrons served daily.

Supported by GRIP volunteers, the Souper Center has been instrumental in alleviating hunger among its clients for over 15 years - very helpful and much needed in this area with its high levels of poverty. And now the Souper Center has afforded the Faithful Fools nourishment and space to review their mission for growth. Are not we not all April Fools in one way or another?

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