Note: I was not on Facebook, Telegram, Gmail, the dumb phone for 24 hours! Whew, less stress in one day equaling thirty days of stress with all that crap I check out since I am a writer, journalist, educator and non-consumer of mainstream or stupid stream media!
The Covid Insnaity stopped face-to-face fun of Special Olympics fun, i.e. sports, until this year, so I was asked to be the basketball coach. For Lincoln County, we had more than 20 athletes show up, and we did the practices and mentoring.
We decided to turn those 20 athletes into three teams — two five-on-five teams, full court, and then skills athletes, who can shot the ball and dribble, but are not up to the task of full court running back and forth.
Here is the Tiger Sharks, one of the teams, coached by Eric and Donna =
Look, it was not about the medals — gold, silver, bronze and fourth place. But, my team, the Mighty Penguins, well we got a bronze, but more importantly we got the sportsmanship award:
My specific team, Mighty Penguins, are young, for sure, and at the state competion there were many teams from bigger cities and counties, and to my surprise, there were some teams of adults in their 30s and even fifties. Tall and aggressive players.
Our team did well against two of these teams with six foot four folk they played against. We were fouled a lot. But we had fun, and I attempted to make things fun.
Yeah, some of the coaches — there were like five or six for the teams we went against — were loud, demanding, taking this way too seriously. And the fouls, and the body checks, all of that, my team had not experienced because during our drills and practices we learned how to move, get into offensive formations and defensive formations. No heavy NBA basketball crap.
Our players actually stopped a lot of shots, dribbled well, tied up some of the start players, did get to shoot a lot of foul shots, and just stayed in and had fun.
Bronze is fine, but outstanding sportsmanship winner was icing on the cake. They all seemed to know that was the diamond in the rough award.
The irony for me is when doing these public events, I see the number of folk in the stands cheering on and those coaches and volunteers having their own stressors, their own battle with disease and quality of life issues. And, yes, there are dozens of disabilities, as in intellectual and developmental, learning, too, that are not just the luck of the draw and throw of the dice. Not just some hereditary i.e. genetic family line of this or that birth developmental disability.
So much is tied to environmental factors, and, yes, that includes food, air, water and the chemicals switling around food, air, playing fields, in the water, and, yes, just how many vaccinations should people get or should babies receive and then call it enough?
On top of the cards the babies and youth are dealt, we have more and more people so out of shape, so overweight, so hobbled by chronic diseases tied to the food, water, and air they take in. All the dirty food, all the dirty chemicals in candy, drinks, and what about that high fructose corn syrup and soy and GMOs in EVERYTHING?
This equation of synergistic effects, and what about the brain-gut connection, and the swarm of anxiety and fear and PTSD, and the reality of Capitalism as Immune Suppressing Disease, or inflammatory diseases?
We have a society that is broken on a thousand levels, truly, and alas, even those born with fewer neurological and physiological challenges, we have so many immune suppressors and immune inhancers and so many unstudied chemicals that are bombarding the fetus, the mother, the sperm, the babies, us all?
Chronic disease affects health and quality of life. Still, it also is a significant driver of healthcare costs and has a related impact on business, such as absenteeism and presenteeism. Nearly 60% of adult Americans have at least one chronic disease. Chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease are the leading causes of death in the United States. More than two-thirds of all deaths are caused by one or more of five chronic diseases: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes.
Kennedy is ON this: But try to put RFK Jr.’s name in a Google Gulag search. It is more than just algorithms. It’s slander, it’s memory hole, it’s Orwell on Steroids.
“The greatest crisis that America faces today is the chronic disease epidemic in America’s children.” – Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (source)
Who Are the Not So Superstars?
One of my athletes, we’ll call Donnie, has quite the life story. Again, we are working with people who were diagnosed with some form of disability tied to developmental developing in the fetus and then outside. Many times the disability is diagnosed in schools. Many disabilities tied to learning, and alas, I have been trained to work with adults with disabilities, in their actual foster home, where they pay some rent, have their own rooms, have kitchen responsibilities, and people live there 24-7 to assist them with medications, getting to work, and just supporting their lives.
Then, trained with United Cerebral Palsy organization, again, supporting adults with everything, but specifically to get into the job market.
Lots of places I got “courses” on the entire suite of how to work well with people with PD, ID, DD. Many clients were homeless, many were stuck in bad biological homes, and some in foster home after foster home.
So, many amazing people I have worked with, met, broke bread with, and laughed and cried with. Too many to count, and alas, since I am an outsider everythwhere I go, I am not in the mainstream, in terms of accepting authorities, old and tried paradigms, and those attached to top down thinking and organizing. Radical left, I guess, or communist.
I come to places with way too many hats worned, I guess, and that is intimidating, speaks to some secret bias or prejudice foisted upon me, and a set of lenses that allow me to look in while I am also inside.
Plenty of stories I have written about those places, and plenty of stories written about the poor treatment of my clients, and then, me, being sacked, or me having to move on.
But Donnie, man, atypical, and typical in an odd combination. He’s 55, and I found out he was from Davis, California, but he is Serbian, that is, his biological mother came to Pennsylvannia with parents, from Bosnia. Donnie speaks a little Serbian (he says while on the court, when he misses a shot, he talks to himself in Serbian). He has five other siblings, and he tells me that they all came from other fathers but the same mother.
He has amazing memories of California, Special Olympics, all sorts of competitions, and he is only 5 foot 1. He smokes, and he turns 56 in May. He came up to Oregon a few years ago, and many people I have talked to said he was living in a tent on a beach near the new Beer Joint, Pelican. He said they were fine with him kipping there. He says he’s now with a sister in a trailer, but he braved the hard winds and rain for six months.
Amazing life, navigating the life of a kid who left his family, his foster family, too, to live with friends, and friends’ families. He has been to football games in Pennsylvania and really went on and on about live concerts (rock) he has attended. He survives, and he has been a rough sleeper, and here he is, 55, heavy smoker, running up and down the court with his fellow teammates. The oldest guy out there, besides me, his coach!
His story needs telling, and I need to get deeper into his life, maybe talk to his siblings, and others who know him. I have to believe his belief system, what he’s seen, what he has experienced. Again, in USA, it’s all about celebrity, or classless people Thinking about this freak show: “In an extreme social experiment, six singles yearning for a lifelong partnership agree to a provocative proposal: getting married the moment they meet.”
These people, both the show creators and the idiots agreeing for their 15 episodes of fame, quite the commentary on the chosen elites putting this crap together and the poor fools who want to be filmed and followed around in their stupidity: Note the “social experiment” terminology of this blurb. MK Ultra, Milgram Experiment, Covid Lockdowns, 9/11, the entire mess of these “eggheads” messing around with human nature, all for a container ship of shekels.
This is the behavioral experiment of Madison Avenue, Edward Bernays, CIA, Milton Friedman, all the other rabbi-mentored elites running neocon central, finance and FIRE central, that is, Finance Insurance Real Estate, and really pulling the wool over the heads of us, the herd, the plebs, the prols, the misbegotten victims of their experiments on colonizing minds, money and municipalities.
Those little things: Brave in the Attempt: Special Olympics and Disabilities Awareness Month, March is National Disabilities Awareness Month by Paul Haeder / February 23rd, 2023
Oh, there are disabilities porn out there, lots of junk on watching youth and adults with DD looking for a date, and then lots of weird stuff on homeless camps. Hell, you get Nomadland, too, that ball of crappy wax.
But that’s Hollywood!
Here you go, my Lincoln County:
Behind the faces of Lincoln County’s homeless: Part II
(Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series on Lincoln County’s homeless population)
LINCOLN COUNTY — The tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to homelessness is what the average person sees on Newport’s streets — mostly men, some women, seeking a public or private building’s overhang to get out of the rain.
Many on the streets are disheveled, struggling with mental health issues and addiction. Others are not so easily identified as homeless people.
Creating a permanent warming shelter is one stop-gap measure the Newport Working Group on Homelessness has been grappling with for more than a year.
On Feb. 5, more than 20 people filled the cramped space in the Avery Building, where Department of Human Services offices are co-located with other agencies, to move this group into achievable goals.
Outside the DHS office, fighting against the gale force rain, many of these house-less people were on the covered concrete pad that leads up to the offices housing SNAP and TANF DHS workers.
They were seeking a dry space and companionship.
I asked one fellow — he said he goes by Fred, age 47 — what he wants immediately as a homeless citizen.
“Look, I see families out there with kids in tents. That’s just not right. I am OK living in the woods, but even a dude like me wants something, some place, to get out or the rain and cold. Even some simple open carport like structure, man. Nothing fancy. They should be all over the place.”
We talked about portable toilets, even cold-water taps and sanitary soaps.
“Look, with this virus over in China, coming here … you think the powers to be would think about sanitation,” he said. “I guess the solution is to let us die off in the woods … or ship us off to come sort of camp.”
Task force with teeth?
Inside the Avery Building, a city council woman, the Lincoln County Sheriff, a plethora of social services leaders, private citizens and others coalesced to try to come up with a plan and priorities. The agenda to create safe transitional housing, welcoming and effective car camping regulations, policies for tent camping areas and siting a warming shelter is daunting. Also on the agenda was the big slice of the pie — addressing health and health-related issues.
Community Service Officer Jovita Ballentine, with the Newport Police Department, and Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers were among the group wondering how all this money spent on services for these so-called “frequent users” of the ER really helps people with mental health issues who spend their days hanging out at such places as the Newport Rec Center.
For Landers, mental illness and addiction are the root causes of the homeless that police agencies run into on a daily basis.
For Samaritan House director Lola Jones, helping homeless get out of the elements and into programs to assist them into permanent housing are part of a bigger picture. She reiterated that the task force is not a panacea for all the underlying issues why people end up homeless.
Amanda Cherryholmes, Lincoln City manager for Communities Helping Addicts Negotiate Change Effectively (C.H.A.N.C.E.), was quick to push back on the myth that more homeless services in an area will bring more homeless into the community. Cherryholmes cited counterarguments to that belief. She also pointed out that car camping allowances and even some concerted effort to have designated spaces with portable toilets and storage facilities don’t address the fact “most people can’t afford to keep their car running when temperatures hit the low 30s or below.”
Also at the meeting was a board member of Grace Wins Haven. Betty Kamikawa, board president, made the point that many in Newport and Lincoln County say, “Hotels are struggling because of Airbnbs. The vacation rentals have caused so many people to become homeless.”
I met people at Grace Wins after the task force adjourned. For Kamikawa and the Haven director, Traci Flowers, the crisis of unhoused individuals in Lincoln County is growing out of proportion to the solutions.
Shelter us from the storm
“We need more shelters first,” Flowers said. “Too many people think the homeless are one type of individual. They are not.” That belief creates huge conflicts within social services agencies, nonprofits, religious organizations and for the homeless themselves.
Cherryholmes wants a more robust assessment of people coming into shelters and transitional housing. “We need to figure out what services the individual needs. Each one has different needs,” she said.
She militated against the idea just any individual should end up in a warming shelter or in car camping arrangements. “There are two distinct groups — families and young people needing shelter, and then single men.” She pointed out that having a sexual offender among a group of homeless in a communal setting is not a good idea. There are some brighter horizons in the mix. Some churches are stepping up to the plate.
Tiny homes, relaxing zoning
Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Kelsey Ingalls, on her Feb. 2 church blog, discussed one small effort to avail the housing shortage: six cottages on church property.
“We formed the exploration team that is undertaking a feasibility study to form a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County and other local service agencies to help meet the housing needs of homeless, single-parentfamilies,” wrote Ingalls. “The exploration team is looking into the idea of building six, two-bedroom/one-bath cottages on the southeast corner of the church campus. We are proposing a circular village layout with front porches and a central common area. Supportive services would be provided by our local service agency partners.”
Before the task force convened, Blair Bobier, regional director of Legal Aid Services, sent out an email framing the impetus behind the Newport Working Group on Homeless.
“There are many service providers who agree that some form of a ‘coalition’ model is an important next step towards addressing homelessness in our community,” said Bobier. “In other places, one form of this model included a regular meeting of elected officials and law enforcement, along with service providers, to ensure that there was sufficient coordination among involved parties. As has been pointed out, here in Newport, the Lincoln County Affordable Housing Partners is a great example of service providers coming together on a regular basis — along with developers, government officials and members of the faith community — to exchange information and work towards common goals.”
With this large brain trust in one room, and the compassion and passionate solutions-driven people commenting on what needs to be prioritized, it’s clear Newport and Lincoln County at large have many hurdles to overcome as homelessness, and housing precarious situations are growing.
Relaxing zoning laws and rolling up sleeves will help develop coordinated efforts to get people out of the cold, screen people through various social services resources and begin to help coastal communities look at the long-range health of affordable housing in this coastal area.
“Over the two years operating, Grace Wins has had over 2,000 clients coming through. Some stay a while. The fact is by this September there will be no winter shelter, as the commons will be torn down. Nothing for the homeless and the farmers market,” Kamikawa said.
Since Housing and Urban Development no longer funds states for shelters, the onus is on states, counties and municipalities to grapple with the steadily growing problem.
(Part two in this series will appear in a future edition of the News-Times)
(Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series on Lincoln County’s homeless population)
What’s inside (their character) when people find themselves outside?
I run these information sessions for a social capital pilot project here in Lincoln County. I had an op-ed on the program in the News-Times last year (“It Takes a Mini-Village,” Sept. 10, 2019).
For all my work attempting to get people — households, individuals on their own, etc. — to sign up for a stipend of $800, I am finding a large case of paranoia, reluctance to share and an atomized population.
A rural county like Lincoln has the appeal of being out in nature or on your own acre, but in reality, everything a city needs, a rural county needs.
The automatization of society is probably the most difficult challenge to educators, social service workers, even employers. It creates fear, isolation and self-effacement.
“To be uprooted means to have no place in the world recognized and guaranteed by others; to be superfluous means not to belong to the world at all.” said Hannah Arendt, political scientist and philosopher (1906-1975).
Isolated individuals do not make up a healthy democratic society. Part of the reason any city the size of Newport is grappling with more direct services for homeless people is to stem that survival-of-the-fittest mentality in order to help people form some sort of communal bonds and deep connections to their communities.
Part of the Task Force on Homelessness is to grapple with what many might see as low-hanging fruit — getting a warming shelter up and running in Newport so there is a permanent place to not only help the homeless during the cold, but also a place where more resources and possible case management might occur.
Unfortunately, many people see the homeless as completely dysfunctional and/or hooked on substances creating a person unable to function as a contributing member of society.
I’ve had many conversations with many people in Lincoln County who are precarious — some living in fifth wheels and their cars. Others are doubling and tripling up housing situations not conducive to raising school-aged children.
In addition, I talk to people in my own community, Waldport, who are both visible to the community and talkative about their homeless situations. There are Terry, Brooks and John (a pseudonym), who I end up conversing with about their own state of homelessness.
All three men are on the streets, but the three of them present themselves as very different humans in their houseless circumstances.
John has lived on the streets for seven years. He tells me he wanted to be a novelist when young. He is outside the Waldport library drinking coffee from the patron appreciation cookies and coffee event the library is hosting.
“Look, most of the services come with a big bunch of terrible things,” he said. “The warming shelter has some bad people there. It’s not a place for families. And women! They have it worse as homeless.”
He’s thoughtful, careful and willing to talk. In some ways, John is jaded by his experiences on the street.
Terry is from Oklahoma, and he jokes about “having a few daily” just to stay warm. He looks and presents himself differently than John. I talk to Terry outside the post office, where he is there looking for some changes.
“I have family down in Oklahoma,” he said. “I choose to be out here, don’t get me wrong.”
Terry is funny, mercurial and presents himself as eccentric, but he has grimy clothes and the stench of alcohol on his breath.
All three men tell me they’d be open to a longer conversation, more in depth, and they even say they’d have a few things to tell any task force or politician around homelessness.
John and Brooks reiterate they are known in the community and assisted with food and a few odd jobs. One businesswoman tells me she gets a “How are you today, miss?” from Brooks regularly. People in Waldport tolerate the three in their community, on the surface.
Many I meet attribute homelessness to laziness, boozing and just downright mental illness. But a true picture of individuals facing homelessness is so much more complicated than that simplistic connotation.
What comes first, homelessness or mental illness? This question pervades conversations in many iterations, but in the end, falling on hard times — loss of a job, physical illness, divorce, eviction, bankruptcy and/or a combination of these — can put a so-called contributing member of society, the workforce, into a quick spiral of unpaid bills, shredded safety nets, a loss of family or social capital.
Mental illness is a result of many varying factors, but ending up in your car with a dog and spouse and a child can be a tsunami of fear, self-loathing, impenetrable lack of confidence and anger. If you have a chronic illness that demands medical attention, the crisis is compounded exponentially.
Running a permanent shelter costs money
Without financial support and volunteers, a shelter is a pipe dream.
“We have to have financial support,” said Samaritan House director Lola Jones at a recent meeting of the Task Force on Homelessness.
Cynthia Jacobi, Newport City Council member, said recently she is hopeful that HB–4001 will spur serious discourse on what to do about the homeless population in relationship to cities having the tools to allow for shelters. House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), has introduced a $120 million proposal to allow cities to more easily site homeless shelters. Kotek also wants a statewide emergency declaration on the homeless problem.
Jacobi, too, sees the need for immediate mitigation and a shelter for this emergency-sized problem here in Newport.
Kelsey Ingalls, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Newport, on her blog tells her congregation a chilling fact most social services agencies in Lincoln County also shudder to contemplate — there’s a 17 percent homeless rate in our local schools. How a community frames the idea that nearly one of every five students doesn’t have stable housing while the county is home to many second-home residents will be important.
Several compelling stories about people who are homeless and dying due to exposure to the elements were discussed at the meeting: according to Betty Kamikawa, an 87-year-old Lincoln County resident was found dead in her car. She had been in an apartment living with her disabled son. Electrical wires were eaten through by rats. She had no electricity. She was evicted. She had a stroke while living in her car with her son.
Putting a face on, and a story behind each homeless person might get the average person to think about how he or she can support a shelter and permanent housing solution as well as volunteering some hours each month to stem the tide of tragedies like this one.
Grilling Newport City Councilor
I decided to ask a Newport City Councilor, Cynthia Jacobi, some questions on homelessness and next steps.
Paul Haeder: What role do you see citizens joining the Homeless Task Force?
Cynthia Jacobi: I’m the city liaison to the Homeless Work Group/coalition.
PH: What role do you see citizens joining the Homeless Task Force?
CJ: I see the role of citizens in the new homeless coalition work group (as yet without an official name or title) as coming forth with the best ideas tailored for our community. Social services, government entities, law-enforcement, interfaith community and concerned citizens can all have a voice in shaping these policies.
PH: Why are you involved?
CJ: I have always felt a strong sense of social justice. I see families with more than one parent working who still cannot afford safe and decent shelter. Sometimes the cost of an illness, a car repair or other unexpected costs forces the choice between buying groceries or paying rent or utility bills. Children in unstable situations are especially vulnerable. As a wealthy society, in good conscience we cannot say there is no room at the inn. We have the means to house all of our population. With strong leadership and compassion, I know we can do this.
PH: Will the task force cover larger issues?
CJ: There are so many overlapping issues: the new Oregon State House Bill 4001, which may be a game changer in zoning, and funding. All coastal communities have been addressing the short-term rentals impact on housing inventory for working folks. It is a valid suggestion to have a study on the actual impact economically and socially of STRs. For example, does the room tax cover expenses of police and fire departments, wear on roads, etc.? Who would finance this study? The City of Newport has been instrumental in building Surfview, the 110-apartment complex for lower-income citizens. This will open by summer. This was accomplished with a complex partnership of public and private funds, and the leadership in local city and county government. Need to do more of this.
PH: What role do you see mental health services playing in this move to have both temporary homeless facilities (a night facility) and also a warming shelter?
CJ: My understanding is that the county mental health providers have formed outreach teams that will go directly to unsheltered people, assess their needs and provide services and contacts for assistance.
PH: Car camping at churches and nonprofits and governmental parking areas with some sort of case management and oversight seems like a good first step in getting the housing insecure into a system of evaluation and moving ahead with housing options. Is this the biggest and easiest priority now?
CJ: I think the quickest way to make an impact is to allow safe, supervised car camping in Newport. Newport Planning Commission is in the process of examining our ordinances to allow car camping in certain defined areas. Along with oversight, outreach teams and case management, this is the easiest first step to create safe shelter areas. Women, children and seniors living in their cars are especially vulnerable. At the very least, they need a safe place to stay at night. We can do this. I heard anecdotally that much of the seasonal help lives in their cars and rents small storage lockers for belongings.
PH: Do you know anyone personally or within a family circle who have been or are housing insecure, or homeless?
CJ: Personally, I have a few family members who have experienced bad luck, poor choices and mental illness causing them to live in unstable conditions. My husband, Gary, and I have volunteered at the overnight shelter. We have met people displaced from their previous long-term housing, people who can’t afford rent, people who are disabled. A common problem is affordability when working folks have to pay the first month, the last month, a damage deposit and utility hook ups. Before any of this can happen, there is background check costing $50 per adult for each application, even to be placed on a waiting list. While realizing that landlords must be protected, this situation seems unfair. How many working families can afford $2,500 and more up front?
PH: What role do businesses and the chambers have in helping get some sort of affordable housing for the very people who clean the fish, serve the food, chop the veggies, clean the hotels, etc.? Can we get a roundtable together, where we bring a large brain trust together to attack the housing insecurity and the street homeless issues as a multi-pronged problem to solve?
CJ: As far as the responsibilities of businesses and chambers of commerce, some businesses have stepped up to help their workers. In particular, one of the fish plants has purchased motels and converted them to longer-term living quarters. In the last few years, Newport has lost three large economy motels: one deteriorated and was bulldozed, one burned and the fish plant bought another one. These motels were often used as emergency shelters with vouchers by government agencies.
Note: Paul Haeder works in Lincoln County for an anti-poverty nonprofit, Family Independence Initiative, through State of Oregon County DHS funding. His new short story collection, “Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam” was just published by Cirque Press. He’s worked as a case manager for veterans, foster youth and others facing homelessness, substance abuse and employment hurdles.
Finally, a guy I still break coffee with: living off the grid, in a forest, working for the homeless!
Against the grain, this coastal man searches for universal human rights
FINDING FRINGE | Living modestly in the forestland of Lincoln County, David Peltier believes in breaking the cycle of poverty and ending isolation
FINDING FRINGE | Living modestly in the forestland of Lincoln County, David Peltier believes in breaking the cycle of poverty and ending isolation
by Paul K. Haeder | 19 May 2020
“A country should be defended not by arms, but by ethical behavior.”
— Vinoba Bhave
Out of the blue, an email: “Paul, I’ve been reading your stuff on the homeless situation, and I wanted to get a hold of you. Here’s my phone number. I have been involved with the homeless community for many years in Lincoln County. I’d like to talk.”
David Peltier, 65, hails from Milwaukee, Wis. Anyone living and traveling from Yachats to Depoe Bay might recognize him peddling his bike along Highway 101.
In a nutshell: He’s still in command of his faculties, he can marvelously recall a collection of experiences and stories on a path less well worn, and he is the steward of 30 acres just north of Waldport.
A periodic column profiling unconventional Oregonians who push the boundaries of social order.
He’s been on the Oregon Coast for almost two decades, living in a 1984 Pace Arrow, 23-feet of “luxury” with no electricity or running water.
Last year, the Lincoln County sheriff ordered him to evict five individuals barely making it from his property.
A couple, with the wife going through cancer treatments, started off in a tent on his land but then moved up to a motor home. Other narratives like the couple’s are rooted to Peltier’s land.
However, the code enforcers and Lincoln County Planning Department stepped in.
Peltier, like hundreds of others in Lincoln County, has seen our county fall into one crisis after another crisis before the coronavirus lockdown. The collateral damage includes low-paid service workers, single parents, aging people unable to afford rent and few who could afford buying a home somewhere not as expensive as those in our neck of the woods.
Sheltering hearts know it takes a village (or a county)
Homeless, underemployed, disabled, medically fragile, psychologically vulnerable and veterans all pay the price of an economic system that not only leaves them behind, but puts impediments in their survival, Peltier said.
He called it punitive functionality. Then there are those who cook our food, change the bedding in hotels, devein shrimp and hammer nails who are one paycheck away from living in their vehicles.
Emergency shelters are critical components of an effective crisis response system that moves them to transitional housing and in many cases away from home precarity. Peltier has been advocating for a permanent transitional living system to support his brethren for more than four decades.
We talk about what social scientists call “rough sleepers” who occupy public space and how so many dictates of social control over their lives — and their destinies — are Orwellian.
“Dancing to the beat of a different drummer” is a lightweight way of defining Peltier’s life. He’s traveled across the U.S., Ireland and parts of Europe. We swapped perspectives on the relationship between distinct forms of social control including “regulation” and “criminalization” of street populations, as well as those who just fall into homelessness because of some crisis, trauma or significant emotional event.
Hearts, minds and hearths
I worked in Portland with many agencies to assist people living on the street. The high number of prohibitions on homeless folks using public spaces to lie down, to perform personal hygiene like washing and showering, and store personal belongings is chilling. The built environment in many cities is designed to be less conductive to these “undesirable” (yet human) activities.
Add to that the surveillance and policing of targeted areas, and we have a situation where people who need all these safety nets get nothing but harassment, fines and jail.
I met Peltier at his forestland during this insane time of lockdown that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has brought to Oregon. He gave me a tour of his 25,000 trees, and he pointed to a few stands of cedar. Peltier knows this property like the back of his hand. He’s been on it for 18 years.
Labeling Peltier with terms like “quite a character” and “eccentric” wouldn’t be an insult.
My dedication to this column is to find people who set down roots (or spread out roots); have unusual narratives (pasts); and who have incredible journeys (continuous) through this cacophony we call life on spaceship Earth.
Judging a book by its cover might propel the average person observing Peltier entering Ray’s grocery store in Waldport for a few items to label him “homeless” and “oddball.”
“I’m a people person, and I like to see people happy,” he said.
We were looking at three abandoned camper trailers on his land. It’s zoned for forest conservation, but Peltier would like to see that designation fall away to allow him to circle a few trailers and build some microhomes to give homeless people a chance at a roof over their heads, a dry bed and some respite from street life.
In some ways, Peltier and I are alike; we’ve run into many interesting, and in some cases “famous,” people in our lives. Time and again, during my interview, David explained intersections with interesting, mindful and intellectual minds.
He took me on his travels to Harvard University, where he audited a class from Professor Gene Sharp — who was inspired by Gandhi and founded the Albert Einstein Institution to advance the study and use of strategic nonviolent action as an alternative to violent conflict.
Sharp’s first book, “Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power: Three Case Histories,” inspired Peltier to dig deeper into the land movement in India.
I touched a few photos of the young Peltier, in places like Greenwich Village, on his motorcycle, and he showed me a few old posters confirming his travels and travails. A book by Sharp was signed: “To David, a pacifist and humanist warrior in arms.”
Four decades later, Peltier is right on point: “I believe in cooperative communities. Intentional communities with tiny houses and intergenerational connectivity. Young people want to farm.”
We both articulated this new-old paradigm of getting off the destructive path of consumerism and casino capitalism. He sees 3,000-acre communities that are biodynamic, with learning and healing centers tied to community-based ethos, one that includes all the biotic and geological community.
One way to solve the precarious housing and food security issues raging like wildfire across the land would be thousands of these agrarian communities where serious, deep Native American and global Indigenous learning could be coupled with many forms of the digital realm.
He ventured into another influence — Vinayak Narahari “Vinoba” Bhave — who was a spiritual leader, considered the first nonviolent resister to the Britishers in his country. He was a reformer of Independent India who initiated, Peltier explicates, what became the Bhoodan movement.
Peltier was jazzed about the idea of this Indian persuading wealthy landowners to willingly loan small shares of their land to people. He traveled across India convincing landowners and landholders to give small parcels to the downtrodden. Over a span of 20 years, more than 4 million acres of land was shared across the country through this movement.
Too many rich, too many heartless rich
“I’ve been homeless. More and more, poverty is becoming prevalent in the country. The wealthy need to step up to the plate and help. People need land and a way to live closer to food, nature,” Peltier said.
Breaking the cycle of poverty and ending isolation are components of Peltier’s ethos. He also understands that simple things like warm healthy food and a clean bed can do wonders to turn people around. “It’s not rocket science.”
We both agree that turning this country around is the only way forward, to not only protect the growing number of vulnerable people, but to strengthen the nation.
“There are almost a thousand billionaires in the U.S.,” Peltier said. (The U.S. remains the country with the most billionaires, with 614, followed by greater China, including Hong Kong and Macao, with 456, according to Forbes’ 2020 count.)
“We are at a critical point, not only in Lincoln County, but in the country. Poverty and homelessness are symptoms of sick political and economic systems,” he said.
“Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and is to give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain.”
– Russell Means
Peltier talked about a young woman and her 3-year-old who lived in a small trailer on his property. “She lost housing in Seal Rock. She had suffered a stroke and sepsis. A lot of single parents like her are in similar situations.”
He illustrated how the homeless are hidden people:
“If you were driving up to Newport and saw a little girl on the side of the road crying, most anyone would stop and offer assistance. However, those same people don’t stop, don’t see those homeless people.”
I checked out a letter Peltier wrote to the editor, published Dec. 5, 2019, in the biweekly newspaper, Newport News Times. He wears his heart on his sleeve:
“Our community enjoys great wealth, and yet many people struggle and suffer. Our community must have a warming shelter so that we can save lives. We have many people who have medical needs, housing needs and employment needs, and we still have no warming shelter in south Lincoln County.
“Our cold weather is here. January is our tough month. I am asking for a donated house so that we can assist a family, or a veteran, or a disabled person or even an elder.
“I will work for donations and I will staff this shelter. A donated house can allow us to actually help people. We can obtain a tax-deduction for the donor. We finally have a nonprofit that is willing to advance our cause.
“I attended recently the Lincoln City Planning Commission meeting in city hall. This is for a conditional use permit for the Lincoln City Warming Shelter/Chance Inc., which is run by some very dedicated people — Sharon Padilla and Amanda Cherryholmes.”
Unfortunately, the warming shelter was closed with 18 days still left on the agreement during the cold wet weather. Additionally, Lincoln County has no plans for a shelter opening up in the fall of 2020.
I am part of the Working Group on Homelessness Taskforce working with more than three dozen stakeholders on the very real issue of lack of housing, lack of leadership for allowances for car camping, and the big elephant in the room: no homeless shelter for the entire county. Many attending these meetings (before the lockdown) expressed both exasperation and passion about our county’s homeless.
HOUSING RURAL OREGON: Searching for shelter in Lincoln County
Peltier ventured back into his life during the interview: He was a kid growing up in Milwaukee. His father was a lawyer for Miller Brewing Co., and he called his mother “an Irish beauty who was bipolar.”
He told me he rode the rails short distances starting at age 7. He’s hitchhiked to California. He was part of the June 12, 1982, Mobilization for Survival — a 1 million-plus gathering in New York City against nuclear proliferation.
Here’s 27-year-old Peltier hanging with Pete Seeger; Peter, Paul and Mary; Jackson Browne; James Taylor. He stayed at the Maryhouse (part of the Catholic Worker Movement to support the homeless). He talks of hearing Dorothy Day speak. He’s met Dolores Huerta who worked with the United Farm Movement and Cesar Chavez.
On David’s pretty threadbare Facebook page, he lists on his “about me” the following:
- I’m a frumpy middle aged over educated curmudgeon … lol
- University of Wisconsin at Sundara Ecology
- Former Grunt at CONTRUCTION
- Studied Ecology at University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Studied Biology and Cooperative Development at University of Wisconsin
- Studied Peaceful social change methods at Harvard University
- Went to Whitefish Bay High School
- Lives in Waldport, Oregon
- From Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin
Those formative years logged at the University of Wisconsin, a hotbed of intellectualism and political activism, including protests against the Vietnam War, cemented in him his liberal politics.
He told me he could recall several campus demonstrations headed up by Karleton Armstrong, who, with three others, blew up the ROTC armory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Aug. 24, 1970. It was a protest against the university’s research connections with the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. The four perpetrators went underground, and three eventually resurfaced, tried and convicted for the death of a university physics researcher and injuries to three others.
Open hand — antidote against hard-fisted policies
For Peltier, his life is embedded in nonviolent protest and helping vulnerable people through outreach and direct support. He’s embedded in nonviolent social change, and he considers himself a catalyst of sorts in getting nonprofits going. He helped with the funding drives for Arcata House (established in 1991) in Humboldt County, Calif. Its mission is tied to the foundation of housing as a human right.
This dovetails with Peltier’s life philosophy, and he knows he is in a place of precarity himself. He has no political power in the community and holds no great wealth. He owns no vehicle and depends on the Waldport Library to access the internet.
Who he is and how he lives are counterintuitive to almost everything this country espouses as successful and deems legitimate under capitalism.
“We humans can be magical. We can do great things,” he said. “I’m out in the world all the time. I think like the aboriginal people of Australia who say they are never lost in their walkabouts.”
“The Irishman,” as Peltier calls himself, gravitates toward so many world cultures, but still he returns to Native American wisdom and history. He met Russell Means in South Dakota, one of the big actors in the American Indian Movement. He also met Phillip Deer, a Muscogee Creek, who was the spiritual leader for the movement.
During my life, I have had the opportunity to meet great people and bring them to my community college classrooms. Winona LaDuke was just one of many I befriended.
Having done substitute teaching in K-12 districts in three states, I know people like Peltier and others are needed agents of change and catalysts of learning in the public school system.
Unfortunately, our teach-to-the-test and Google Chromebook-dominated public schools would never have the intestinal or intellectual fortitude to have speakers like Peltier come to campus.
Even on a public community college campus in Spokane, where I taught in 2008, when LaDuke opened a talk with her tribe’s benediction — “Aaniin Ninda-waymuganitoog” (hello my relatives) — her presence ruffled some feathers.
Shortly after LaDuke spoke, stating, “In the end, there is no absence of irony: The integrity of what is sacred to Native Americans will be determined by the government that has been responsible for doing everything in its power to destroy Native American cultures,” two white faculty members stood up, mumbled, “We don’t need to hear more white male bashing,” and bolted out of the room.
No electricity, running water, but memories galore
Peltier takes all this sort of chaos and patriarchal meanness in stride and realizes he has more hope than most fighting for the homeless. He has worked for 54 years of his life, much of that doing construction and cement work. He realizes that few people would see him as successful under the constraints of how Americans define accomplishments.
That’s OK with him.
“Look,” he said, “I know if you stick me in any town in the U.S. without a dime and nothing but the clothes on my back, in a week’s time, I will have money and housing.”
Those are lessons all K-12 students should learn and hear. But no public school principal or superintendent would allow such a character on their campus. The irony is not lost on Peltier.
“Instead of a punitive approach, we have to be proactive. It’s a human right to have housing. What better lesson to engage young people in that belief,” he said.
Food, shelter and caring for your neighbor, imagine that in the school system, beginning in kindergarten all the way through to graduation.
“I’m already a rich man: I have land. I have a great family. I have a great education. I am a white male of privilege,” Peltier said. “I know we have to turn around our country.”