Saturday, July 3, 2010

Author Julia Dinsmore on Homelessness (Part 3)

This is the closing portion of an interview with Julia Dinsmore, author of My Name is Child of God... Not "Those People": A First Person Look a Poverty.

E: One of the problems that I think we have here in America, is that people who are middle class, the majority, have too much to lose to want to overthrow the system. They can see the injustice, they can see the wrongs, but they fear risking their livelihood, their all, for something like that. It's unfortunate. So part of your fight is to eliminate poverty but the reality is, do you ever see it happening? Because I feel like our politicians don't have the gumption or they're too afraid to do whatever it takes.

Julia: Yeah. They're handcuffed to their constituencies. But so often they're handcuffed to big corporate wealth, and to this ridiculous idea of the free market job. We have chosen an economic system that doesn't even work, by definition, at full employment. When I learned that I thought, “Oh my gosh, the poor have been doing the world a great service in our poverty, for a very long time. You'd think they would have been treating us better. You know? So that someone's kid can get fat and lay by a swimming pool. When you really want to break it down, I'm amazed. I never ever learned that for it to work right, it starts going haywire any time we reach full employment.

E: Some economists have said that a healthy economy is 5% unemployment. Well 5% is 5 million out of every 100 million so you've got 5 million people who are struggling to find meaningful work for their lives and a place to fit in that doesn't exist, and right now unemployment is 10%.

Julia: I know! And in our economy it's so important and so valuable and that goes back to my storytelling and midwifing others’ stories from generational poverty. I have felt called to do that. And that's why I work with the kids and the poets and always encourage other people who have not been completely destroyed by this experience to learn how to tell their stories, because there's so much value to this world that we can bring.

E: Well I appreciate the time that you gave me here, I will email you when I go ahead and blog it. I'll transcribe some of what we talked about and maybe I'll even ask more questions later.

Julia: Yes, because we're just scratching the surface.

E: Yes, we're just scratching the surface. I'm just trying to draw some attention to your book.

Julia: I love that, thank you. Could you mention, to0, the Give Us Your Poor CD?

E: Is that available on

Julia: Yes it is. Give us your Poor. We've got Bon Jovi, we've got Bruce Springsteen, we’ve got Natalie Merchant… she chose a song by a girl from Duluth, my son's ex-girlfriend. She was only 14 when she wrote her song. I had just gotten home from Washington DC at the national coalition for the homeless conference, and I said, “Can you write a song?” because she had experienced a lot of homelessness, and she wrote this song, and we recorded it and sent it in. Natalie Merchant picked it and it is a hot track. And then Danny Glover does two of my pieces that are on that CD as well. There's a beautiful, beautiful 19 tracks. There's a cut called Land of 10,000 Homeless that is interviews with men women and children on the streets of the Twin Cities set to music.

E: I see that Pete Seeger's on it, as well as Tim Robbins, John Sebastian…

Julia: I think that it's so valuable to look at progress like this because it shows what we can do. This is a CD to end homelessness, and to let people who are experiencing homelessness get together with rich famous people to collaborate and do something. When we had our world release party in Boston, we raised 20,000 dollars to send little Kyra Middleton, who sang Boll Weevil on it, to college. And her family is permanently housed now. It's my dream to have a Give us Your Poor concert in the Twin Cities with Bon Jovi and Natalie Merchant and local musicians. It’s important to see what we can do.

E: Thank you.

The rest of the interview involved off topic discussions about my upcoming art show and other things. Julia has a good spirit, is thoughtful and perceptive. But as I post the last piece this morning, it feels as if the task she has set before us -- eliminating homelessness -- is truly insurmountable. The problems are so entrenched, the systems so broken. But this is an essential first step... being aware of the extent of the problem, and the need to keep it in front of us, not swept into a corner or under the rug. Be sure to check out the CD Give us your Poor. And have a reflective Fourth of July weekend.


LEWagner said...

Why should solving homelessness be insurmountable -- or even difficult -- in the richest (and supposedly freest) country in the world? There are innumerable empty houses and buildings (guarded by police, of course, to make sure no one does live in them). City councils in many US cities, including Duluth, have passed laws limiting the number of rental units, and forbidding people to park cars where they live, even if it's on their own property. It's generally against the law for people to reside at their business, or to have a business at their residence. Now the Christians in Duluth are even passing laws making landlords responsible for their renters' rowdy behavior. People's houses can be condemned and torn down if the owners don't have enough money to keep them up aesthetically enough to not offend their richer neighbors' tender eyes.
That's what passes for "freedom" in the US nowadays, and I guess what everyone should be thanking a veteran for.
There is no homelessness in Laos, which is one of the poorer countries in the world.
Here, there IS freedom for a poor person to put up a shack out of used building materials on a richer relative's property, and live in it. It IS OK to string an electric wire and a hose from the main house to the shack next door. It IS OK to live in a shack while building a bigger house "a stick at a time", as a person can afford it. It IS OK for people to have businesses at their residence, and in fact, there are very few businesses where the owners don't live right there. People are free to build their house to any aesthetic standard that pleases them and that they can afford, and NO one has any business telling them that they can't.
Those poor who have no relatives have the right to live in the temple. They have to follow the temple rules.
Homelessness in the US is obviously government policy, which is tacitly supported by everyone who goes along with such policy.
So you have people in the United States living in cars, being chased from town to town by the police. And people living in tents, also regularly harassed by the police, and in little nooks and crannies in bigger buildings, where they're chased out by police as soon as they're discovered.
The parents of Jesus would certainly find no room in the inn in the United States -- and no need to mention that the stable would also be prohibited (for safety's sake, of course). It'd be, "Hit the road, Jack, and too bad it's winter."
When I try to tell Lao people the reality in the United States, the ugliness really becomes apparent, in their reluctance to even believe me.

Blues-Guitarist Montreville Blakely said...

Abandonement is when people have no "Heart and Soul", "Care or Compassion"; Abortion can apply to this... Aborting a Husband or Wife to the streets over the contrast of comparing their worth to others that have more. It is a shame when facades happen in the Church Environment that cater to harboring contorted scriptures in order to suit the fancy of a coveted sociopathic schizo using secondary ministries to validate ones excuse to abandoned their partner. Many faces are out in society enacting unresolved childhood repression, then turning into the monster they were victimized by; in turn victimizing others and family at will-o'-the-wisp with not one tear of emotion while they transfer the pain onto their loved ones. Shame... Our country needs to have compassion and forgiveness... and then we can march together by saving families and their most needed relationships. I should know... I have endured two marriages with this type of personality-- I thought I could help them only to hurt myself. Acupuncture releases the emotional embodied deep within us, and thus the toxic behaviors that have tarnished our true gifts and talents. Help is always around the corner, but-- processing the past and forgiveness is key/

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