UNHOUSED
Creative Engagement With Global Housing Crises
RECENT ENTRIES 


THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

Temporary Services, the art group I work with, is in participating in There Goes The Neighbourhood organized by the artist duo You Are Here (Keg de Souza and Zanny Begg).

You Are Here writes: “There Goes the Neighbourhood is an exhibition, residency, discussion and publishing project for May 2009. The central element of this project will be an exploration of the politics of urban space. It will explore the complex life of cities and how the phenomenon of gentrification is altering the relationship between democracy and demography around the world.”

Participating in this exhibition has taken us to Sydney, Australia, where we are conducting a Public Sculpture Opinion Poll to gain insight and input about Bower, a sculpture installed in a public square in the contested Sydney neighborhood of Redfern.

We have put up clipboards in several public spots in the blocks surrounding the sculpture. Flyers are attached to the clipboards that ask “What is your opinion of this sculpture? Why do you think it was placed in this neighbourhood?”

Passers-by are encouraged to either write their response directly onto the flyers or e-mail Temporary Services atpublicpoll@temporaryservices.org with their answers. All of the replies we receive will be posted for people to see
in the exhibition space.

We are also maintaining a special series of web pages for this project at http://www.temporaryservices.org/publicpoll/.
Replies will be displayed there as well as background information about Redfern and the sculpture that we are investigating.

There Goes The Neighbourhood will be on view at Performance Space at the Carriage Works at 245 Wilson St, Redfern, Sydney, from Friday, May 22 through June 27, 2009.



There is also a book that accompanies this exhibition! The There Goes The Neighbourhood book, with contributions from Temporary Services, is here. The book will soon be available through the Half Letter Press store.

Temporary Services would like interested parties to come meet them and share opinions about Bower during their Artist Talk on Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. at Performance Space.

More information about the sculpture, Redfern, and our project can be found here.

Photo by Ahmad Kavousian

Thanks to Nick over at Critical Spatial Practice for letting me know about this great project by Emily Carr students in 2008. It is highly reminiscent of the house-people-yourself efforts of the Mad Housers in Atlanta who make single-person homes that are placed without permission into the spaces of the city.

What makes this project different is that the designers really see their small houses as a viable, affordable, project for the city of Vancouver to take on. The houses, each 64 square feet, would be situated in groups of 10-12 around a shared kitchen and toilet facilities. The city of Vancouver was approached about adopting this project, which costs approximately $1500 (Canadian) per tiny house. An entire installment of this micro-community "could be made for about what the government is paying to renovate a single suite in one of their Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) hotels scattered around the city."

It seems that the project has found a home and an organization to help realize it. The report below is from January of this year that appeared in Megaphone, a journal for homeless folks in Vancouver. I haven't been able to find any updates on the status of the project and if any one reads this and knows, would appreciate further information.

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Homes For Less: Emily Carr’s homeless housing project finally finds a home
By Amy Juschka

After months of uncertainty, Vancouver’s smallest housing development has finally found a home. A series of 64 square-foot homes built last year by Emily Carr students have been adopted by the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Society and will now provide shelter for a few of Vancouver’s growing homeless population.

Despite the city’s pressing need for more short- and long-term housing developments, no Lower Mainland municipality would take them. It was almost too ironic: a housing project for the homeless that was homeless itself. Happily though, the project is going to be put to good use.

“I'm excited that our project won’t just be something we can include in our portfolio,” says David Cha, 22, a third-year industrial design student at Emily Carr who, along with four of his classmates, helped to design and build one of the homes. “Seeing it actually being used and being part of making a change in our community means so much to me as an individual and as a student.”

Painted a vibrant orange, Cha’s design is a staggered structure featuring multifunctional furniture, two small patios and is meant to be equipped with a green wall, which would provide added insulation and could be used to grow fruits and vegetables by its occupant.

Click for the full article.

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Linked below is the transcript of a segment on Democracy Now! yesterday. It is about Nickelsville, an encampment of unhoused people of Seattle. It has been moved around the city, sometimes brutally, and currently resides in the parking lot of a church. One really great argument that is made is that churches occupy grey areas of the law in this country and can be used to do the kinds of social justice work that our cities are failing to do.

Nickelsville: Seattle's Homeless Name New Tent City After City's Mayor
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
March 31, 2009

An encampment is made up of over a hundred pink tents and is named to protest Seattle Mayor Greg Nickel's policies around the homeless.

JUAN GONZALEZ: As the nation’s economic and housing crisis worsens, homelessness is also on the rise. A report from the National Center for Family Homelessness estimates that one in fifty American children are now homeless. With the number of homeless people far exceeding the existing network of shelters, an increasing number of people are setting up roving encampments or shanty towns that are popularly known as tent cities.

AMY GOODMAN: And right here in Seattle, tent cities have been around since the late ’90s, have also served as centers for organizing around affordable housing and services for the homeless. Seattle’s newest tent city is called Nickelsville. The encampment is made up of over a hundred pink tents and is named to protest the Mayor Greg Nickels’s policies around the homeless.

I’m joined here in Seattle by two people: Bruce Beavers, who lives in Nickelsville, and Anitra Freeman. She is formerly homeless. She is with the homeless organizing groups in Seattle.

Click to go to the rest of the story.

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Here is a small collection of images of Nickelsville in an earlier incarnation that was posted on Flickr. The set also includes a brief history of the roving encampment, and the vicious policies of a irresponsible and ideology-driven mayor.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/djordje/sets/72157608343204215/

Here is the account of the origins of Nickelsville:

Nickelsville is the newest Tent City in Seattle. On April 4th, 2008 the Mayor’s Office of Seattle issued an executive edit that homeless people cannot stay on city property such as overpasses, parks, and greenbelts where many of the homeless take shelter each night. Seattle’s Mayor is Greg Nickels, thus the name Nickelsville. The camp has been on the run since September.

A bit of history: On September 22nd at 5 AM the Nickelsville camp was built at 7115 West Marginal Way SW. Four days later, on 26th, 70 tents and 5 wooden buildings were removed, and 23 people were arrested. The homeless found a temporary shelter in the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park. On October 10, 2008 they had to leave Discovery Park. The new location of the camp is the University Christian Church’s parking lot in U district. The agreement was reached and the residents were given the permission to stay on the grounds until January 01, 2009 (they were helped by the fact that the church’s parking lot is a private property).

However, the city seems to have decided to try to get rid of them again. That's according to KUOW, who reported that the city had told the residents to leave the parking lot by 10.31.2008.

Squatters' shacks along the Willamette River. Portland, Oregon, 1936, Library of Congress


A Reaganville in Fresno, California, 2009

The term "Hooverville" - shanty towns that sprung up across the U.S. during the 1930s to self-house internal economic refugees of men, women and entire families - were named after then president Herbert Hoover who received a great deal of the blame for the Great Depression. We need a new name for the shanty towns that are popping up all over the U.S. right now at alarming rates (U.S. cities deal with a surge in shanty towns). Instead of continuing to call them Hoovervilles – which no longer has the stinging, biting ring to it, as the administration of Hoover is too distant, and probably unknown, to most Americans – we should call them by the ideology, and evisceration of the social safety net that is responsible for them. This ideology systematically dismantled structures built by the New Deal precisely to combat the run away capitalism that created Hoovervilles and large scale poverty. Let's name these new shanty towns deservedly after Ronald Reagan and Reaganomics: Reaganvilles!

The lack of affordable housing is a structural inequality built into how our cities and country works (Greg Baraks' Gimme Shelter is an excellent analysis of this process). We have made a system that clearly doesn't work for everyone and privileges the accumulation of wealth and individual greed over the right of everyone to housing. This is sorely punctuated by the ridiculous money-toss to the ultra-wealthy that is euphemistically called a "stimulus package" created as people continue to lose their homes to foreclosure and many are having to re-house themselves on the streets of their cities. Reports like the one above and the one below are becoming more and more common. This situation is unconscionable.

Homelessness Is at Record Highs: Let's Show Some Real Compassion, By Patrick Markee and Lizzy Ratner, The Nation. Posted February 3, 2009


This stunning book, by Rufina Wu (architect, Vancouver) and Stefan Canham (photographer, Hamburg and producer of UNHOUSED favorite: Bauwagen | Mobile Squatters), is an in depth look at settlements built on top of other buildings in Hong Kong. It came out late last year on Peperoni Press (Berlin).



This book is 280 pages of photographs, drawings, and short interviews with the settlements' inhabitants. The duo spent 3 months in Hong Kong exhaustively documenting 5 of these settlements. They didn't have any organizational or personal contacts to people living in any of the settlements. They walked up the stairs of the first building and started talking to people.



Rufina Wu made extensive measurements of each settlement, converted those to CAD drawings, and in order to get better line quality, remade the drawings in Illustrator. The result is beautiful and well worth the effort. Stefan Canham took the lavish, carefully constructed photographs that you find in this book with his large format camera. The photographs are in both color and black and white. The craft of the documentation is impeccable.

There is a very brief section, only 3 images, of evicted settlements. The photographs here are powerful and show the erased homes and lives of people whose plight must have been very similar to the others documented in this book.

The visual and oral research that Rufina Wu and Stefan Canham did is anchored by an essay, "Rooftop Housing in Hong Kong: An Introduction," by Dr. Ernest Chui. The essay lays out some of the historical and economic reasons for the existence of the rooftop settlements: various waves of legal and illegal immigration, tolerance for inadequate housing rather than spending money on public housing, critical shortage of land, and more.

I am particularly happy about this book as the two met through UNHOUSED. In May of this year, they will present their book in exhibition format in Hamburg's Kunst Haus. There will be an UNHOUSED film screening to accompany the exhibition and I will be in attendance for it.

You can order the book here: 25 Books.
The deadline for submitting proposals for The City From Below gathering in Baltimore later this year has come and gone, but I am re-posting their call here as it is a really exciting and ambitious undertaking. It is asking some important questions about cities (about who the city is for and how to challenge the exclusion of many from determining their role in cities) and seeks to connect various social/spatial justice struggles together. I hope to be able to make it for one of the days.



The city has emerged in recent years as an indispensable concept for many of the struggles for social justice we are all engaged in - it's a place where theory meets practice, where the neighborhood organizes against global capitalism, where unequal divisions based on race and class can be mapped out block by block and contested, where the micropolitics of gender and sexual orientation are subject to metropolitan rearticulation, where every corner is a potential site of resistance and every vacant lot a commons to be reclaimed, and, most importantly, a place where all our diverse struggles and strategies have a chance of coming together into something greater. In cities everywhere, new social movements are coming into being, hidden histories and herstories are being uncovered, and unanticipated futures are being imagined and built - but so much of this knowledge remains, so to speak, at street-level. We need a space to gather and share our stories, our ideas and analysis, a space to come together and rethink the city from below.

To that end, a group of activists and organizers, including Red Emma's, the Indypendent Reader, The Baltimore Development Cooperative, campbaltimore, and the Campaign for a Better Baltimore are calling for a conference called The City From Below, to take place in Baltimore during the weekend of March 27th-29th, 2009 at 2640, a grassroots community center and events venue.

Our intention to focus on the city first and foremost stems from our own organizing experience, and a recognition that the city is very often the terrain on which we fight, and which we should be fighting for. To take a particularly salient example from Baltimore, it is increasingly the case that labor struggles, especially in the service sector, need to confront not just unfair employers, but structurally disastrous municipal development policies. While the financial crisis plays out in the national news and in the spectacle of legislative action, it is at the level of the urban community where foreclosures can be directly challenged and the right to a non-capitalist relation to housing can be fought for. Our right to an autonomous culture, to our freedom to dissent, to public spaces and to public education all hinge increasingly on our relation to the cities in which we live and to the people and forces in control of them. And our cities offer some truly inspiring and creative examples of resistance - from the community garden to the neighborhood assembly.

We are committed in organizing this conference to a horizontal framework of participation, one which allows us to concretely engage with and support ongoing social justice struggles. What we envision is a conference which isn't just about academics and other researchers talking to each other and at a passive audience, but one where some of the most inspiring campaigns and projects on the frontlines of the fight for the right to the city (community anti-gentrification groups, transit rights activists, tenant unions, alternative development advocates, sex worker's rights advocates, prison reform groups) will not just be represented, but will concretely benefit from the alliances they build and the knowledge they gain by attending.

At the same time, we also want to productively engage those within the academic system, as well as artists, journalists, and other researchers. It is a mistake to think that people who spend their lives working on urban geography and sociology, in urban planning, or on the history of cities have nothing to offer to our struggles. At the same time, we recognize that too often the way in which academics engage activists, if they do so at all, is to talk at them. We are envisioning something much different, closer to the notion of "accompaniment". We want academics and activists to talk to each other, to listen to each other, and to offer what they each are best able to. Concretely, we're hoping to facilitate this kind of dynamic by planning as much of the conference as possible as panels involving both scholars and organizers.

THEMES TO BE CONSIDERED

* Gentrification/uneven development
* Policing and incarceration
* Tenants rights/housing as a right
* Public transit
* Urban worker's rights
* Foreclosures/financial crisis
* Public education
* Slots/casinos/regressive taxation
* Cultural gentrification
* Underground economies
* Reclaiming public space
* The right to the city
* Squatting/Contesting Property Rights
* Urban sustainability

PROPOSAL SUBMISSIONS

Please share with us your proposal for workshops or presentations. We hope to host 15-25 sessions with a mixture of formats and welcome proposals from groups and individuals. The conference is geared towards discussion and participation. People are welcome to bring papers andother resources with them, but this conference is not oriented to the presentation of papers. There will be 50 and 110 minute sessions. We welcome self-organized workshops but will also work to incorporate individual proposals into panels with others. In your proposal please indicate how your proposal relates to the themes of the conference, expected participants, organizing partners and session format (training, panel, open discussion, video, etc.) and how long the session will be. We are especially interested in proposals which combine critique of the urban environment with discussions of new strategies for its reclamation.

Please get proposals to us no later than the 30th of January, but preferably before January 1st.

Please send proposals to:

cityfrombelow -at- redemmas.org

Email is preferred, but you can also send a proposal to:

City from Below
c/o Red Emma's
800 St Paul St.
Baltimore MD 21202

http://cityfrombelow.org/main
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948. It doesn't include an explicit statement of a right to shelter, nor does it include the right to not be displaced by capital interests (land speculation, gentrification, re-development, structurally mandated homelessness, and other nasty forms of UNHOUSING people), which often contradicts many of the other rights articulated in the declaration.

Here are two articles that begin to articulate a right to shelter:

Article 17.
* (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
* (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 25.
* (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
* (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

[http://un.org/Overview/rights.html]

It is important to look at The Universal Declaration of Human Rights not because it is a particularly useful thing – the U.S. alone has transgressed every single article, doing a particularly good job at trashing some of the most important "protections" during the absurd war on terror of the past years – but to emphasize how after 60+ years, things are still abysmal for a large number of people. This is definitely the case when it comes to housing the world's population.

Here are three stories that emphasize how un-Universal the right to housing is. When people have to do home defense, or house others through stealth housing, or make voyeuristic documentaries about people living on garbage mounds, then things are clearly in really bad shape.

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Resistance to Housing Foreclosures Spread Across the Land
By Barbara Ehrenreich, The Nation. Posted January 23, 2009.

Community-based movements to halt the flood of foreclosures have been building across the country. And they're not the usual suspects.

"This is a crowd that won't scatter," James Steele wrote in the pages of The Nation some seventy-five years ago. Early one morning in July 1933, the police had evicted John Sparanga and his family from a home on Cleveland's east side. Sparanga had lost his job and fallen behind on mortgage payments. The bank had foreclosed. A grassroots "home defense" organization, which had managed to forestall the eviction on three occasions, put out the call, and 10,000 people -- mainly working-class immigrants from Southern and Central Europe -- soon gathered, withstanding wave after wave of police tear gas, clubbings and bullets, "vowing not to leave until John Sparanga [was] back in his home."

"The small home-owners of the United States are organizing," Steele concluded, "tardily perhaps, but none the less surely." It wasn't just homeowners -- three months earlier the governor of Iowa had called out the National Guard after farmers stormed a courthouse and threatened to hang the judge if he didn't stop issuing foreclosures. They left him in a ditch, bruised but alive. By the end of the 1930s, farmers' and home-owners' struggles had pushed the legislatures of no fewer than twenty-seven states to pass moratoriums on foreclosures.

READ THE REST: http://www.alternet.org/workplace/121844/?page=entire

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This is an older article, from 2002, but the Madhousers are a favorite example here at UNHOUSED and their work is becoming need more than ever before.



The shelter people

In hidden corners of Atlanta and environs, huts for the homeless just seem to spring up. Call it . . . stealth housing.

By BO EMERSON
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

Nick Hess, the smooth-domed leader of one of the oddest construction crews in Georgia, gathered buckets of nails, bundles of hammers and his battery-powered circular saw last Sunday and hiked under dripping skies to a small grove of hardwoods in a concrete wilderness within view of Midtown's skyscrapers.

Once at the site, Hess, 32, and a half-dozen colleagues went to work, laying a simple concrete block foundation and raising modular walls. These builders, most of them computer geeks, are not skilled with the Skilsaw, but within two hours they were putting the roof on the finished structure. A homeless man who'd been sleeping under plastic tarps was waiting to take possession.

"We do the most affordable housing in the metro area," said Jim Devlin, a 41-year-old Little Five Points resident in an Aussie hat, as he pounded nails. "We build it and give it away."

READ THE REST: http://www.madhousers.org/ajc20021016.htm

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Manila's City of Garbage - VBS.TV

Vice Magazine is built on exploitation in numerous forms. Even when they are doing somewhat respectful - for them this means not making fun of the unfortunate people they are calling our attention to - reporting, there is still a high level of voyeurism and an extraction of otherness as entertainment/information from people who have been marginalized by the structural inequalities of their society. What makes this an abusive situation is that Vice, or anyone else who works in this way, is that they take and don't give back. Creating or providing awareness of a situation doesn't give back - create an equal exchange - rather it continues to perpetuate imbalances of power. It is a form of slumsploitation, even as it presents itself as humanist reporting. It doesn't empower people to tell their own story - there is a scrawny Nordic tattooed "scumball" (a Vice trademark and brand) to do that - or to challenge in any way the situation that exists.

[A great alternative to this crap-ass "reporting" is the efforts of people like Slum TV that have been covered by UNHOUSED before.]

WATCH IT HERE: http://www.vbs.tv/shows.php?show=894543038


Max Rameau first drew national attention with his outspoken advocacy for the residents of Umoja Village, an emergency shanty town in Miami that housed people who couldn't afford a place to live or who had been displaced from public housing. Rameau published the book Take Back The Land: Land, Gentrification, and the Umoja Village Shantytown, which chronicles the struggles that he, other organizers, and the people who lived in Umoja faced in their efforts to achieve housing equality in Miami. The shantytown was eventually destroyed and its inhabitants displaced and forced into even more precarious living situations.

This didn't deter Rameau, in fact, he is stepping up efforts to house people in many of the houses that have been lost due to the sub-prime mortgage collapse and the violent downturn in the global economy. The article below appeared earlier this month. Rameau's continued work is deeply inspiring, and sadly necessary in more places than just in Miami.

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Max Rameau says he's "matching homeless people with people-less homes." (By J. Pat Carter -- Associated Press)


Published on Monday, December 8, 2008 by Associated Press
Homes with No People, People with No Homes
Activist Moving Homeless People Into Foreclosed Houses in Miami

by Tamara Lush

MIAMI - Max Rameau delivers his sales pitch like a pro. "All tile floor!" he says during a recent showing. "And the living room, wow! It has great blinds."

But in nearly every other respect, he is unlike any real estate agent you've ever met. He is unshaven, drives a beat-up car and wears grungy cut-off sweat pants. He also breaks into the homes he shows. And his clients don't have a dime for a down payment.

Rameau is an activist who has been executing a bailout plan of his own around Miami's empty streets: He is helping homeless people illegally move into foreclosed homes.

"We're matching homeless people with people-less homes," he said with a grin.

Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new "tenants" with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list.

"I think everyone deserves a home," said Rameau, who said he takes no money for his work with the homeless. "Homeless people across the country are squatting in empty homes. The question is: Is this going to be done out of desperation or with direction?"

With the housing market collapsing, squatting in foreclosed homes is believed to be on the rise across the country. But squatters usually move in on their own, at night, when no one is watching. Rarely is the phenomenon as organized as Rameau's effort to "liberate" foreclosed homes.

Florida -- especially the Miami area, with its once-booming condo market -- is one of the hardest-hit states in the housing crisis, largely because of overbuilding and speculation. In September, Florida had the nation's second-highest foreclosure rate, with one out of every 178 homes in default, according to Realty Trac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties. Only Nevada's rate was higher.

Like other cities, Miami is trying to ease the problem. Officials launched a foreclosure-prevention program to help homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments, with loans of up to $7,500 per household.

The city also recently passed an ordinance requiring owners of abandoned homes -- whether an individual or bank -- to register those properties with the city so police can better monitor them.

Elsewhere, advocates in Cleveland are working with the city to allow homeless people to legally move into and repair empty, dilapidated houses. In Atlanta, some property owners pay homeless people to live in abandoned homes as a security measure.

In early November, Rameau drove a woman and her 18-month-old daughter to a ranch house on a quiet street lined with swaying tropical foliage. Marie Nadine Pierre, 39, had been sleeping at a shelter with her child. She said she had been homeless off and on for a year, after losing various jobs and getting evicted from several apartments.

"My heart is heavy. I've lived in a lot of different shelters, a lot of bad situations," Pierre said. "In my own home, I'm free. I'm a human being now."

Rameau chose the house for Pierre, in part, because he knew its history. A man had bought the home in the city's predominantly Haitian neighborhood in 2006 for $430,000, then rented it to Rameau's friends. Those friends were evicted in October because the homeowner had stopped paying his mortgage and the property went into foreclosure.

Rameau, who makes his living as a computer consultant, said he is doing the owner a favor. Before Pierre moved in, someone stole the air-conditioning unit from the back yard, and it would be only a matter of time before thieves took the copper pipes and wiring, he said.

"Within a couple of months, this place would be stripped and drug dealers would be living here," he said, carrying a giant plastic garbage bag filled with Pierre's clothes into the home.

He said he is not worried about getting arrested.

"There's a real need here, and there's a disconnect between the need and the law," he said. "Being arrested is just one of the potential factors in doing this."

Miami spokeswoman Kelly Penton said that city officials did not know Rameau was moving homeless people into empty buildings -- but that they are not stopping him.

"There are no actions on the city's part to stop this," she said in an e-mail. "It is important to note that if people trespass into private property, it is up to the property owner to take action to remove those individuals."

Pierre herself could be charged with trespassing, vandalism or breaking and entering. Rameau assured her he has lawyers who will represent her for free.

Two weeks after Pierre moved in, she came home to find the locks had been changed, probably by the property's manager. Everything inside -- her food, clothes and family photos -- was gone.

But late last month, with Rameau's help, she got back inside and has put Christmas decorations on the front door.

So far, police have not gotten involved.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2008/12/08-6
UNHOUSED has been quiet for some time. I have been busy with other work. I am pleased to announce a new book we, Temporary Services, just published called Public Phenomena.

There will be new entries and a lot more to share in the coming weeks. There are new movies about slums, tent cities popping up all over the U.S. because of the home foreclosures and the tanking economy. Sadly, things in the U.S. are getting more difficult for the current UNHOUSED population and those that are now joining their ranks.

More soon.

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Dear Friends,

It has been a while since we last wrote you and we have some exciting things to report.

Temporary Services has started our own publishing house and online store: Half Letter Press.

With that, we have just released our first self-published book. It is titled Public Phenomena and let us tell ya, it looks beautiful! 152 glossy full color pages. We can't wait for you to see it.

This book is the result of over ten years of photographic documentation and research on the variety of modifications and inventions people make in public. From roadside memorials to makeshift barriers, people consistently alter shared common spaces to suit their needs, or let both man-made and natural aberrations run wild. The result is a new kind of public space – with creative and inspiring moments that push past the original planned design of cities.

Images and text by: Temporary Services, Polonca Lovšin, Joseph Heathcott & Damon Rich, Boštjan Bugaric, Ana Celigoj, Maša Cvetko, Marko Horvat, Meta Kos, Darjan Mihajlović, Danijel Modrej, Maja Modrijan, and Sonja Zlobko

You can purchase the book directly from us for $15.00 using Paypal. Go here to do so.

Half Letter Press takes its name from the half of a "Letter"-size sheet of paper printing format that we have used for nearly ten years and 80
publications. In addition to publishing books, which will include books by other authors in the future, Half Letter Press was created to better distribute our own work and the work of other creative people whose work we admire. We have created a online store toward this end.

This endeavor is just getting started. We hope you'll check back regularly. The store is the first step in building long-term independent infrastructure for supporting the work of others. You can read more of our ideas about this here.

Half Letter Press offers volume discounts for multiple copies of Public Phenomena. We also offer a variety of alternative payment methods including trading. Please consider telling your book and booklet-loving friends about us!

If you make something you feel we should sell, or if you would like to help us distribute our new book Public Phenomena, please get in touch.

Thank you and all the best,

Temporary Services / Half Letter Press
(Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin, Marc Fischer)

Temporary Services
P.O. Box 121012
Chicago, IL 60612 USA
http://www.temporaryservices.org
servers@temporaryservices.org

http://www.halfletterpress.com


P.S. Coming soon!

New Temporary Conversations interview booklets with The Dicks, Tim Kerr, and Jean Toche of Guerrilla Art Action Group (GAAG).

Temporary Services goes to Austin, Texas.

Temporary Services celebrates their 10th anniversary in December with a book release and party in Chicago!

More information to follow.
It seems that more than one person works as JR, and who or what JR is isn't made clear by the web site. Regardless, JR is doing amazing work calling attention to the plight of women living in conditions of extreme poverty, violence, rape, and other challenges in Africa and South America. The images below are from a month of taking photographs and working in a Rio de Janeiro favela. JR photographed the faces of women from the area, enlarged the photos, and then put them up giving the hills of the favela the women's giant watchful gaze. The image on the steps is one of my favorite. Truly amazing!











This, and other versions of the project, can be found here: http://28millimetres.com/
This is a follow up to an earlier post about the U.S. government's recent unbelievable claims that chronic homelessness is dropping. Michael Stoops, in an interview with Melinda Tuhus of Between the Lines, squarely dismantles the report and points out that it, by design, under-reports homelessness based on its definitions of who is UNHOUSED and who is not.

Stoops also predicts a vast increase of the number of people without homes because of recent down turns in the economy, higher unemployment, the mortgage crises, municipalities unprepared to deal with the increases so they oppress rather than help, and more.

Homelessness is caused by structural inequalities in our society, ones that we have exacerbated – or elected officials to do so on our behalves – and done little as a nation to fix. And don't expect Barack Obama (or any other political leader) to solve this problem – don't expect a public accounting for all the brutal greed unleashed on this country by Ronald Reagan and neoliberal politicians and the resultant lack of social support infrastructure. Their putrid hateful ideology so thoroughly suffuses how we treat our fellow citizens that we should collectively be ashamed that we have allowed more than 1.6 million people to live without homes.

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Interview with Michael Stoops,
acting executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless,
conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Listen to the interview.

According to a Bush administration report announced in late July, the number of chronically homeless people living on the nation's streets and in shelters has dropped by about 30 percent -- from about 176,000 to 124,000 -- from 2005 to 2007. Chronically homeless people make up 18 percent of the total number of homeless in the U.S. Officials at HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the drop was largely due to implementation of its Housing First policy, in which hard-to-house individuals are placed in permanent shelter - apartments, halfway houses or rooms -- and provided services for drug addiction, mental illness and health problems.

Some housing advocates hail the reduction, but others are skeptical that more of the chronically homeless have, in fact, escaped homelessness. Many are also concerned about individuals and families who may be homeless for shorter periods of time or are not counted as homeless at all. Nationally, the government estimates the total number of homeless people in the U.S. has dropped to about 666,000 in 2007, from 754,000 in 2005.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. He addresses different definitions of homelessness that are used by the federal government and by advocacy groups, and predicts a coming wave of homelessness due to the home mortgage crisis.

Contact the National Coalition for the Homeless at (202) 462-4822 or visit their website at http://www.nationalhomeless.org
I have been meaning to re-post this article from the folks over at Airoots for some time now. They first posted it on their site in May. It is some of the finest thinking on self-made cities within mega-cities that I have ever come across. It points out that traditional forms of western urban planning and language used to understand these vast social-political-economic formations is wholly inadequate and that people are taking care of themselves beyond limited concepts such as "affordable housing for all." I can't wait for more from them along these lines. Make sure you play the Natty Congo track as you read this. Enjoy!

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Junglist City
May 14, 2008


View of Mira Road, in the outskirts of Mumbai


The moisture spreading all over Mumbai’s buildings gives us hope for the future. It won’t be long before the weed that’s cracking through the pavement becomes trees extending their aerial roots through our asphalted streets and concrete walls. One could say that nature will takeover if the city was not already a jungle of its own kind. The city has grown and developed for decades outside planning and control. Urban ecosystems have been regulating the flux of migrants forever. Informal settlements are human beings’ natural response to the city, and its most sustainable form in the face of uncontrollability. No more informal than a forest, the unplanned city is our urban future - for the best if we are willing to engage with it.

Mass housing, even “affordable”, will never accommodate the flux of rural-urban migrants. Just as mass food production won’t solve the world food crisis. In fact, these engineered “solutions” are the root cause of the problem. On the other hand, the junglist city has an unlimited capacity to absorb and regulate transient populations. Incomers have an unlimited capacity to respond to their own needs and their collective imagination that cannot be matched by that of any architect or planner. The variety of solutions and habitats emerging from the junglist city can only be compared to the diversity of species and plants one can find in the forest.

Planners and architects’ irrational faith in formal solutions to a problem that they have invented for themselves seems to come straight out of the dark age. It perpetuates a cycle of institutional breakdown and injustice that can only be ended by acknowledging that Reason lies not in their theories, aesthetic values and moral imperatives, but in the decentralized action of hundreds of thousands of people producing the junglist city day after day. Here is the leadership that the architectural professions should follow. Imagination is required not to invent new top-down solutions, but rather to understand and support the intrinsic logic of spontaneous urban development.



This social housing built in Dharavi under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority scheme less than 8 years ago exemplifies the unsustainability of industrial-age building constructions in the social and ecological conditions of Mumbai.

The so called order that we desperately try to impose on our cities is ultimately unsustainable. The European and North American models of urban development have no future. This is maybe why an increasing number of students come and visit Indian slums. They teach us not only about the history of Western cities but also their possible future. Just as they are being aggressively promoted and developed throughout the world, more and more suburban shopping malls are closing in the US because they are too expensive to sustain and commute to. US inner-cities, which were for long left to the poor and excluded are gentrifying and densifying rapidly. European medieval city centers are being celebrated by tourists from all over the world for their charming pedestrian streets and human scale. Could the pre-industrial city be our urban future?

It is time wannabe planners and architects get off their school bench and office desks and start learning from people who actually develop livable cities. Let illegal migrants, slum dwellers, encroachers and squatters be the teachers. It is time our shadow cities get reclaimed and retrofitted with new intentions and imagination. There is no reason modern amenities should only be available in the unsustainable industrial age model. Technologies have become more flexible than ever before and can easily adapt to the malleable logic and evergrowing structures of the junglist city.


Social Nagar in Dharavi. Ever changing, ever developing Dharavi epitomizes the resilience and the endurance of the Junglist City.
U.S. reports drop in homeless population, by Rachel Swarns, International Herald Tribune, July 29, 2008

The article linked above appeared this week in the IHT and New York Times. It states that the Bush administration is reporting a 30% decline in the number of chronically UNHOUSED people living on the streets and in shelters between 2005-2007. This is hard to believe for several reasons. The Bush administration lacks all credibility and can't be trusted as anything it states is hard to not take as manipulated, controlled information generated by political appointees. We have seen a systemic erosion of the functioning of our federal government under the Bush administration from FEMA to the EPA. Recording the number of homeless persons is notoriously difficult given the precarious ways in which folks live. Counting the people who use shelters is never going to generate an accurate number; it is always going to be understated whether for logistic or political reasons.

I met several men in Chicago who refused to stay in a shelter citing a range of personal and safety issues. They had several friends who also refused to live in shelters, and instead lived in cars or in parks. Counting the rural homeless is next to impossible given their near invisibility. And, we know that city and national government agencies consistently under report statistics like the number of people living below the poverty line, especially when that line is set by ideological reasoning rather than the real impact of not having money. There was also a group of men that moved from the streets to jail and back again in a dizzying cycle that they could not break because they had no support when they got out, nor was it easy, or possible for some, to get a job let alone housing.

With nearly 1.6 million people still living on our streets, this “reduction” hardly comes as good news. This number is absolutely appalling and is infuriatingly close to the number of people incarcerated (which currently is around 2.3 million people). And these numbers are directly related. This is the brutal, disgusting legacy of Reaganomics and corrosive right-wing ideology and greed that has plagued our country and eroded the necessary infrastructure for taking care of citizen no matter how indigent. There was an exponential increase of UNHOUSED persons that began in the 1980s given Reagan’s simultaneous push to deregulate, cut taxes and public spending, and in general make this country more unlivable for working class, poor and UNHOUSED people. This vicious turn in the U.S. is well chronicled by Gregg Barak in his book “Gimme Shelter: A Social History of Homelessness in America.”

If you follow the link above, read it with caution. It is short on a critical analysis and does a disservice to the people who really need our help and support. There should be no people living on our streets. That would be good news.
This video is a bit over the top in terms of the melodramatic music and the ridiculous number of wipes and cheezy image transitions, but it does show some harrowing images of a shanty town in southern California that make it worth the watch.



Here is a BBC report on this same settlement. These are not typical UNHOUSED folks, but people who have lost their housing because, in part, the giant mortgage collapse. That people have to live this way in this country is unconscionable:

Here are a some recent stories related to the plight of various kinds of refugees that may be of interest to UNHOUSED visitors:


Resident Alien, by designer Andrew Dahlgren

[1] PREFAB 4th of July: Housing Beyond Borders, by Bryan Finoki

Most Americans have little idea that their food is subsidized by exploitation, intimidation, and Modern-Day Slavery. If Americans had to pay what they should for their food – the real cost of decent living wages - then they would quickly shift their attitudes about migrant workers and do what they could to accommodate them.

This article about migrant housing in the U.S. gives a brief overview of the struggles for housing that migrant laborers face when they come to our incredibly hostile country. It also looks at some of the organizing done on behalf of migrant workers through the lens of applied design. The need for housing that is more that “countryside slums” ¬– shacks made of scavenged garbage – is beyond desperate for this primarily invisible population. Good design can generate excitement and the engagement with a range of issues surrounding housing migrants, though the potential for abstraction is great if one doesn’t talk to the actual people s/he is designing for.

This article celebrates some of that abstraction that is potentially harmful in thinking that design will solve problems without working with the actual people you hope to help. The image above – the project is titled Resident Alien - is an example of this thinking that is farfetched, overly romantic, and disconnected from the brutal realities of migrants’ lives. It is a mobile, modular housing system made of, you guessed it, shipping containers – a frequent material used in thinking up housing solutions for all kinds of UNHOUSED situations. Migrants can buy these systems together and travel around the country from farm to farm. The author the article writes of Resident Alien:

The architecture becomes a poetic response to fact that migrant workers are “in a way ’shipping’ their lives, belongings, and homes across the country.” And because the units “can be pulled by a truck or van and could be purchased by the workers themselves,” the Resident Alien gives workers a sense of ownership and control of their lives in a context, which would otherwise treat them as nomadic serfs.

It is only a poetic response, and little more. This system would make migrant workers an easy identifiable target given the current law enforcement hysteria that is sweeping over the U.S. Many vicious, ignorant communities are rounding up thousands of migrant workers, treating them as criminals, and then expelling them. Migrants need a greater deal of visibility in the U.S. but systemic change needs to come before it is safe for them. Ideally, they could have a house in the place where they worked, free from fear of raids and if they were paid well, they wouldn’t have to be migrants. The owners of the farms aren’t.




[2] Against All Odds

This game was created by the UNHCR (The United Nations Refugee Agency) as an education tool to teach children, and adults, about the harsh situations people face when politically persecuted and forced to become refugees.

This game is very rough and stressful and conveys a small amount of what it must be like to be faced with interrogation, fleeing your home in a moment’s notice, and other severe experiences of being a political refugee. You can start the game at any place. Each segment is self-contained. I started playing the section where my character was interrogated. What you see is a sheet of paper and you are asked to agree with statements that are impossible to agree with like, “I give up the right to vote.” You move your hand with a pen in it to select a “yes” or “no” reply to the question. When answering the questions incorrectly, you hear a smack and then drops of blood fall onto the paper. If you answer all the questions incorrectly, then you are locked up.

One section of the game, where you read the stories of several individuals and decide whether they are a “refugee” or “immigrant” is a bit ham-fisted in that it only considers political persecution as a legitimate reason for being a refugee. Economic refugees maybe shouldn’t be helped with as much urgency as political refugees, but it seems like the conversation can be expanded to many more situations and peoples’ basic existence and desire for something more than subsistence should also be addressed. If the money and multinational corporations can go anywhere they want to extract profit, why can’t people move with the same freedom, privilege, and lack of fear?

There is also the question of being a refugee in your own country. The U.S. has marginalized large numbers of its population whether they are homeless, living in public housing and oppressive cycles of poverty, or among the 2.3 million living in prison. The UNHCR should expand its definitions and find ways to link up all kinds various kinds of refugees.



[3] To Fight Poverty, Tear Down HUD, by SUDHIR VENKATESH, The New York Times, Published: July 25, 2008

Sudhir Venkatesh has been working with issues around public housing for many years. This excellent OP ED for The NYT calls for the dissolution of HUD and the creation of a federal agency to deal with recent shifts in where poor people are forced to live and seek housing. HUD was intended as a response to an earlier form of housing discrimination and lack of affordable solutions for large numbers of urban dwellers. In Chicago, it was notoriously corrupt and partisan, eventually displacing many people from the city and scattering them all over the area. People are being pushed to the margins of cities – the inner suburbs - and are increasingly found in the unwanted interstices in regions between economic centers. Venkatesh’s call is timely, but is also made against an infrastructure that has wallowed in cronyism (with developers and unaccountable mayors) and ineffectiveness for decades.
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