In my work with Disabled People that are left homeless on our streets, I have often had to fight the demonization of people who in essence are actually being ripped off by the very govenment that had promised to be there for them (and us) if some misfortune should befall us. And with this promise they take from the fruits of our labor, and the sweat of our brow.
Think on this. On the corner of Sixth and Hearst stand a group of men. Cars sometime come up and the occupant says to these men " I need two men to paint, mow some grass, dig a ditch.....whatever. These men are eager to do the cars occupants bidding, They are poor. They need the money. Meanwhile on the other side of town on the corner of California and Ward .Another group of men stand. A car comes driving up (Sometimes it's the same car that approaches on 6th and Hearst) He wants these men to work too. He wants them to find him some drugs so he will not too be exposed to arrest or some other embarrassment. It never crosses his mind that some of these youg men would like the dignity of making the money they need, through an honest days work. They too. Are poor. They too need the money. How many choices do they really have?
When I was young and in High School, there was a contractor in my neighborhood. He would come looking for me down at the park. "Hey Dan, You wanna work today?" "Sure!" I would reply. It made me feel great to swing a hammer and do a good job. I see a contractor that lives across the street from me today. Not one of his workers is a kid from the neighborhood.
I have a friend (Yes Virginia, I have a friend.) he works for a well known Pizza chain on University Ave. He is up front at the register. All the other employees, are out of sight in back. They are undocumented folks being paid what amounts to slave labor. I worked at a Pizza Joint in High School, in the back, cutting veggies and making pizzas. These jobs are not available to our kids here in the neighborhood. So before we start the Scapegoat Game so popular here in Berkeley. Let's think about it for a Second or maybe even Two. Is that 2 dollar cheaper pizza, really worth leaving these kids out on the corner? Does it really make you feel good to see a group of young men at work and not one of our local young men being represented? I know I for one would love to see a few of my neighborhood young people in the back of my neighbors truck heading off to a job. Maybe we should ask when we are getting these cut rate deals to cut our grass or paint our homes " How many local young people do you have working for you?" Maybe the City of Berkeley should have a registery of such contractors and they issue a sticker on their vehicles identifying them as such. I'm just saying that we need to give these young people the same opportunities that I remember having when I was young and needed a start in life.
Disabled People Outside Project