Susan Sarandon is an acclaimed US actress who won an Academy Award for the 1995 film Dead Man Walking, and a BAFTA a year earlier for her role in The Client. She also starred in Thelma & Louise and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, among many other movies. Aside from acting, Sarandon is a fierce advocate for homeless rights and she campaigns to end world hunger – receiving the Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award in 2006. Sarandon speaks to Street Sense about her son’s new documentary which she hopes will increase understanding of the issues faced by homeless people. She is also demanding that the US Congress classifies violence against homeless people as a hate crime.
“There was a time when I would have been too scared to talk to a homeless person… now I don’t feel any fear,” says Willie Baronet. The American artist is driving from Seattle to New York this month stopping in 24 cities to buy signs from street beggars. Baronet plans to exhibit the signs he collects as a piece of artwork to help break down barriers and stereotypes. He speaks to Hart Hornor of Real Change.
Isaura Mendes lost both her sons to violence on the streets of Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Her grief was compounded by rumours in her neighborhood and the media falsely claiming the deaths were drug or gang related. They were neither. Now, Mendes advocates peace, often speaking at prisons and meeting with men jailed for violent crimes in order to try and break the cycle of violence – she even publicly forgave her son’s murderer at his trial in 2008. “I don’t know why he did it. I don’t know why this thing happened. And I’m not judging anybody. I feel like I’m an example,” Mendes said.
Over a decade ago a creative anti-GM campaign in Europe effectively blocked the production of genetically modified crops. Apocalyptic scenes of protesters in white coats and gasmasks trashing British fields of wheat, set against billowing black clouds, caused mass outrage and fear of so-called ‘Frankenfood’. Surveys showed only 2 per cent of people were in favour of the technology, and safety regulations effectively stopped commercial production of GM crops in Europe. Today, it’s difficult to find GM food in your local supermarket but have campaigners victoriously hung up their gasmasks and scythes and moved on to fight other environmental causes? The Big Issue in the North reports.
Mavis Staples became famous in the 1950s as part of American family gospel band, The Staples Singers. Led by their father – ‘Pops’ Staples – who played guitar, the group went from being spiritual hit-makers to soulful voices of the civil rights movement after becoming close to Martin Luther King Jr. Mavis, 74, speaks to Andrew Burns of The Big Issue UK about the day she met Dr King and the time a young Bob Dylan asked her to marry him.
People experiencing homelessness die an average of 30 years earlier than housed individuals in the USA. Recently in New Orleans, National Health Care for the Homeless held their annual conference where they discussed how the new national health care scheme for those with low-incomes, dubbed “Obamacare”, is benefitting the homeless. Paula Lomazzi of the Homeward Street Journal, who herself was homeless in the early 2000s, attended the conference.
The authors of a Canadian study of sex workers and ‘johns’ recently presented their findings to politicians reviewing Canada’s proposed prostitution bill. The new bill would criminalize buying or living off the second-hand profits of sex work, a move critics argue will make sex work more dangerous by pushing it underground.
Experts in California have slammed new proposals to govern fracking arguing they are “weak” and will let oil companies get away with poisoning the air and water. Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking”, is a process to extract gas and oil by blasting water, toxic chemicals and sand at extreme pressure into deep underground rock. The contentious process has seen widespread protests in both the US and UK with critics arguing it is dangerous to both humans and the environment. Dan Bacher reports for Homeward Street Journal.
State Treasurer of Oregon, USA, Ted Wheeler speaks to Emily Green of Street Roots about where to put US tax dollars to work, for education, housing and crafting an economic development plan. The Oregon Treasury oversees $70 billion in public assets and its investment decisions can have far-reaching effects on many aspects of the state. He also speaks about what the Treasury is doing to support affordable housing, fund education for low-income students and combat retirement insecurity.
The authorities in China have been accused of trying to cover up factory pollution that has seen many children in the rural town of Dapu diagnosed with lead exposure. It was claimed that officials asked families to trade their child’s blood test results for milk which they said would flush lead from their bodies. Environmental pollution in agricultural towns is widespread and a side-effect of the country’s rapid economic growth. Cancer rates in some polluted villages are so high they are known as “cancer villages”.
A US billionaire is leading a campaign that would see the state of California separated into six smaller states. California is America’s most populous state and has the eighth largest economy in the world. Businessman Timothy Draper said his plan would create fairer, local governments, ease traffic congestion and solve the state’s ongoing water problems. He recently gathered enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot in 2016 but critics say his proposal would damage the economy.
Women’s rights activists in The Gambia are preparing to make a final push to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in the West African country. They have been campaigning for 30 years and witnessed three successive attempts to stop the controversial cultural practice fail. However, they are now confident a new law will go through and they cite the fact that a reported 900 communities have dropped FGM, a change known locally as “dropping the knife”.
The civil war in Sri Lanka ran for 26 years with successive governments fighting against an armed separatist group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. It was a bloody war that claimed in total some 100,000 lives. In 2009, the conflict came to an end when government forces decimated the rebel group and now ex-combatants are trying to fit back into normal life. IPS tells the story of Aloysius Patrickeil who is famous as a barber in the town of Kilinochchi.
At 19, Hendrik Beune left his home in the Netherlands to study biology in Canada. He spent decades on the west coast surveying watersheds, building boats, and farming shellfish until a back injury sidelined him from physical work. He wound up in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and has been working as a street newspaper vendor for five years. Selling Megaphone, he says reflects the new focus of his life’s work: to work towards building a more just and environmentally sustainable society. He speaks to Megaphone about his studies with animals and living in the wild with his family for 12 years.
American photojournalist Michael Kamber documented the Iraq War for nearly a decade while working for prestigious US newspaper, The New York Times. His new book – “Photojournalists on War: The Untold Stories from Iraq” – is an unflinching account of war containing previously unpublished images from photographers who risked their lives to document a conflict that started in 2003. At least 150 Iraqi journalists have since been killed and Kamber dedicated his book to them and his late friends and fellow photojournalists, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, who died later working in Libya. Kamber – the recipient of a World Press Photo Award, among many honors he has received during a 25 year career – spoke to Real Change.
LEGO™ is the most popular toy in the world with annual profits of £900m and hundreds of factories churning out 45.7 billion plastic bricks every year. In 2000, LEGO™ was named “Toy of the Century” and the recent LEGO™ movie took one quarter of a billion dollars at the box office. The company was founded in Denmark in 1932 and is no passing fad, nor the sole preserve of kids. Steven MacKenzie of The Big Issue UK speaks to one of only 12 certified LEGO™ professionals in the world – Duncan Titmarsh – who lives every child’s dream by building things out of LEGO™ for a living.
Public libraries in most cities play a crucial social role. Indeed, they are among the few accessible indoor spaces for people living vulnerable lives while offering free access to books, films, the internet, toilets and heat. Across North America, librarians’ jobs are evolving to reflect these needs and one library in San Francisco hired a social worker to support homeless people, drug addicts, and at-risk youths. Vivian Luk reports on similar developments in Vancouver, Canada, for Megaphone.
“They say people can’t sit, or stand still or lie down. They say in certain circumstances you can’t eat or sleep. Well then, if I don’t have a home, what the fuck can I do? Walk,” says Paul Boden, a prominent campaigner to end homelessness in the USA. Boden is executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), a group of community organizations in the US including Street Roots in Portland, Oregon. The group is leading the campaign for a Homeless Bill of Rights to recognize basic freedoms for homeless people and cut police harassment. Boden speaks to Israel Bayer of Street Roots about modern day homelessness and the history of the criminalization of people on the streets.
Living on the street brings many risks and the longer people remain there, the more likely they are to suffer some form of abuse. For many thousands of children on the streets of Egypt those risks include gang rape, prostitution, trafficking and murder. In an opinion piece for Open Democracy, Nelly Ali writes about the violence and abuse experienced by the country’s homeless children – a fact many Egyptians are only just becoming aware of as they come closer to poverty themselves due to the nation’s economic problems.
Across the world, women form a disproportionate percentage of the poor. Older women, in particular, often find circumstances stacked against them – with lower wages and domestic violence major factors in the increasing numbers of homeless women. Sophie Quick of The Big Issue Australia talks to three older women who found themselves struggling to keep a roof over their heads due to increasing rent prices and a shortage of low-income housing.