This documentary profiles two New Yorkers who lost jobs as a result of the Covid lockdown, as well as volunteers at local charities that provides regular meals to new unemployed workers struggling to make ends meet.
The first worker, a single mother of four, lost three of her four prior cleaning jobs. Because the single job is insufficient to support her kids, she spends most of her time collecting bottles and cans to sell to recyclers. Emigrating to the US 34 years ago, she is one of 0.5 million illegal immigrants presently living in New York City. She has paid income taxes regularly, thinking it would help her qualify for a residency permit. Although New York state has newly created a $2 billion fund to provide Covid relief to its illegal immigrants, she now plans to return to Mexico as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.
The second individual profiled is a former x-ray technician who lost his job and home during the lockdown. At the time of filming, he was in a temporary hotel placement, as most of New York’s homeless shelters closed during lockdown. He gets free take-out meals at the Bowery Mission,* which is mainly staffed by volunteers. Their dining room is closed due to distancing restrictions.
*Founded in 1879, the Bowery Mission is the oldest Christian rescue mission in New York City. It is well-known for its history as a soup kitchen and men’s shelter located .
As of 2011 (when this film was made), an estimated half million military women (20%) had been raped. Likewise an estimated 15% of incoming male recruits had either attempted or successfully committed rape.
Officers who engage in rape are often repeat offenders. In 2011, the only option a rape victim had was to report it to his/her commanding officer. Obviously when the commanding officer committed the rape (in 25% of cases), the woman didn’t report it. Nor when the the perpetrator was friends with the commanding officer (in 33% of cases).
When military rape victims do report the crime, the vast majority are pressured to withdraw their complaint with the treat of punitive retaliation. This can range from court martial for filing a false report, adultery, public intoxication, demotion or undesirable discharge without benefits. The PTSD rate is higher for rape victims than combat survivors, and 40% of homeless female veterans report a history of being raped.
Aside from the fact that the woman’s commanding officer is often the perpetrator, military officers (unlike civilian prosecutors) have no training whatsoever in law or criminal investigation.
Approximately 1% of military men (an estimated 10,000 troops) report experiencing sexual assault in the past year. They are even less likely to report it than women.
The documentary includes excerpts of interviews with dozens of military rape victims, as well as from four Congressional hearings on the issue.
In 2011, a group of military rape victims filed a lawsuit against former secretaries of defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates for failing to protect them from sexual assault. The court dismissed the case, ruling that rape is an occupational hazard of military.
The film ends with a postscript that on viewing the film, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta changed the rape reporting procedures to allow victims to report the crime to officers higher up in the command hierarchy. Given their lack of legal investigative training, this doesn’t seem to have increased conviction rates – or reduced the incidence of military rape. By the Pentagon’s own admission, the incidence continues to increase. See US Supreme Court Hears Case of Military Rape and Statue of Limitation
This documentary traces the history of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), one of the few successful mass protest organizations during the repressive Reagan era. Between 1981, when the AIDS epidemic was first recognized, and 1987, 40,000 Americans died of AIDS. During this time Reagan refused to utter the word AIDS, much less advocate for research, prevention and treatment. Prior to 1987, 80% of patients diagnosed with AIDS would be dead in two years.
ACT-UP first formed in New York City in 1987, the same year the first anti-AIDS drug AZT became available. By 1996, the year the life-saving Triple Cocktail* became available, they had 147 chapters across the US.
The film mainly focuses on the New York City chapter, and their Monday night meetings attended by hundreds of activists. Most former ACT-UP members believe the secret of their success decentralized (non-hierarchical) organizing. This fostered the burgeoning of dozens of affinity groups based on the needs of specific AIDS patients (women, minorities, low income).
The ACT-UP Women’s Caucus was one of the more important affinity groups, as the CDC was stubbornly resistant to the reality that AIDS was the number one killer of American women. Because the disease presents differently in women (eg with a a high incidence of cervical cancer), the initial CDC diagnostic criteria made it impossible for female AIDS patients to qualify for Social Security Disability or Medicaid. This not only left them penniless and homeless as the disease progressed but denied them access to America’s for-profit health system
In 1987, ACT-UP held their first protest at the Burroughs-Wellcome Tuckahoe (New York) research facility to protest the prohibitive prize of AZT ($10,000 per year).
Over the years, the organization held a number of creative protest actions, most involving civil disobedience:
1988 – Unfurled banners on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to protest AZT’s high cost.
1988 – Made the front page news for “taking over” the FDA to demand more rapid approval of drugs for AIDS treatment.
1989 – Joined with other social justice groups for a City Hall protest against Mayor Ed Kochs failure to fully fund low income housing and hospitals (many AIDS patients were dying in hospital corridors.
1989 – Joined with Women’s Health Network for a 7,000+ protest at St Patrick’s Cathedral (with hundred protestors “dying in” inside the sanctuary) to protest the Catholic Church opposition to safe sex, condoms, and abortion.
1990-94 – Commenced four-year campaign to pressure CDC to include women with AIDS in their diagnostic criteria to include women with AIDS.
1990 – Protest to force National Institutes of Health (NIH) to include patients in designing clinical trails
1991 – Camera bombed Dan Rather’s CBS network news yelling “Fight AIDS not Arabs) the day the US declared war on Iraq (picked up by all major US news outlets).
1995 – Blocked Midtown Tunnel to protest city/state service cuts
This is a documentary about homelessness in New Zealand, which (as of 2017) has the highest per capita homeless rate in the OECD. The film mainly focuses on Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and the work of Auckland Action Against Poverty. AAAP has a primary focus of finding emergency housing for homeless Aucklanders. At present a minimum wage family Auckland family spends 70% of their income on rent. This usually leaves them two paychecks away from homelessness.
Although there are currently 14,000 Aucklanders on the waiting list for low income housing, our current government only plans to build 6,000 state houses over the next four years. This despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s campaign promise to build 100,000 state houses over 10 years.
Last year despite expert advice to increase benefit levels (for single parents, the unemployed, disabled, and retired) by 50%, our coalition government spent millions of dollars on emergency motel accommodation for homeless families.
In Auckland, filmmakers interview a number of Auckland’s “invisible” homeless residents. Rather than sleeping rough, they are camped out in cars, garages, and the living rooms of friends and extended family.
Filmmakers also visit Northland, a rural area absorbing growing numbers of Auckland’s homeless. Owing to the scarcity of rental accommodation, many of Northland’s homeless families live in buses, sheds, lean-tos, and tents.
A Northland Maori leader talks about mortgage his to purchase for abandoned state houses he has relocated from Auckland. After rehabilitating them, he charges homeless families $275 a week to buy them. He has asked the Prime Minister to declare a Northland housing emergency to help his trust qualify for $11 million in funding. This cover land and rehabilitation costs for an additional 500 abandoned state houses.
Thus far she has declined.
Prime Minister Ardern and Housing Minister Megan Woods also declined to be interviewed for this documentary.
In part 4, filmmakers interview homeless men living in one the Emergency Centers run by various NGOs. They also look at a street feeding and outreach program run by a non-profit organization called Sanyukai.
Part 5 looks at figures documenting the improvement in Japanese homelessness. In 2017, the official Japanese government homeless count was 5,534 – a private research group with did actual nighttime counts came up with a figure closer to 15,000.
This makes Japan’s level of homelessness roughly the same as Canada’s (8 per 100,000 population)
The US has 55 homeless people per 100,000 population.
The new Japanese number contrasts with close to 60,000 homeless (estimated by private researchers) in 2003.
Filmmakers attribute most of this improvement to the governments expansion of their Livelihood Protection Program. In 1995 only 880,000 citizens received Livelihood Protection. At present that figure is 2.2 million. At this point, nearly any Japanese resident with a home address can qualify.
Part 2 of this series looks at the history and demographics of Japanese homelessness. The country’s homeless problem began during the economic crisis of the mid-nineties, when companies either went bankrupt or laid off most of their workers.
Twenty to thirty percent of Japan’s homeless residents have criminal records that make it difficult to find jobs. Others have become homeless fleeing aggressive loan sharks. Most are reluctant to apply for Livelihood Protection (Japan’s welfare program) because it makes it easier for creditors to locate them.
Japan’s urban residents have little or no contact with Japan’s homeless. The latter are nearly all men. The presence of homeless women and children on the street would be a great source of shame to government and society.
Japan’s homeless tend to bed down under tents, tarps, or cardboard boxes in urban parks, on river banks, or in train stations and other public buildings.
Part 3 concerns the Homeless Self-Reliance Law the Japanese government enacted in 2002. The new law created a number of Independent Support Centers to provide beds and meals on demand. This centers, which allow a maximum stay of four to six months, also provide, training, support and loans to help their residents find.
This government program is complemented by “poverty businesses,” non-profit organizations which have converted the dormitories of shuttered factories into emergency centers. Most allow a maximum two month stay, while they assist residents in applying for Livelihood Protection (ie welfare benefits).
Why Japan’s Homeless Are Different from North America’s – Part 1
This intriguing five-part documentary series contrasts Japan’s aggressive effort to reduce homelessness with the apparent indifference of the US government. In my view, the stark contrast makes an important statement about the shameful greed and corruption underlying the US political system.
Part 1: The series begins by examining why Japan has always had a much lower endemic rate of homelessness than the US:
Japan has much lower levels of drug abuse than the US,* although alcoholism and compulsive gambling are common problems contributing to Japanese homelessness.
Japan, which retained its mental hospitals when the US and other English-speaking countries closed theirs down (as a cost cutting measure) in the seventies and eighties.** The majority of America’s mentally ill either end up in prison or on the streets.
Japan has few, if any traumatized war veterans. The latter represent a sizeable proportion of the US homeless population.
*Japan has no paramilitary organization comparable to the CIA, which openly engages in narcotics trafficking as part of its strategy to destabilize regimes unfriendly to Wall Street interests.
**In the US, the community mental health movement Kennedy started never received full funding following his assassination. Instead the mental health centers he created to replace mental hospitals have experienced continuous budget cuts dating back to the Reagan administration.
In this documentary, filmmakers express grave concerns about Amazon corporation assuming monopoly control over the entire global market place. At present the company has three million customers across five continents. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is the world’s first centibillionaire.
Amazon destroys two jobs for every one it creates. Owing the monopoly’s power to undercut all competitors, it is largely responsible for the closure (over 10 years) of 85 small businesses and 35,000 small and medium size manufacturers.
Amazon controls half of online US commerce and leads the market in sales of books, electronics, personal care products, DVDs toys, and clothing (which it also manufactures). It also sells drugs, insurance, video on demand, music streaming, video games, and cloud data storage. I was surprised to learn that 60% of Amazon’s profits derive from its 120 data centers, which host web servers in addition to providing cloud storage.
Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post, Whole Foods, and Blue Origin, a private rocket manufacturer and spaceflight services company.
Bezos’ immense wealth affords him immense political power. Last year, he forced Seattle City Council to repeal a $275 per employee tax on the city’s largest companies to fund an emergency housing program.*
Largely thanks to Amazon, which has its headquarters there, Seattle has the highest per capita homeless rate in the US. At present, 1,000 people move to Seattle every week, most to work for Amazon. With no possible way for the city’s housing market to keep up, this pushes many existing residents (who can’t afford 10% year rent increases) onto the streets.
Bezos’ steady takeover of the global marketplace receives little mainstream media attention. The only serious push back he has received has been from striking German unions and from Dehli merchants determined to keep Amazon out of India. Owing to its immense monopoly power, Amazon can afford to operate (for years) at a loss in India. Dehli merchants, who are a major base of support for Narenda Mohdi’s BJP party, are busy organizing national bus tours to warn other small business owners of the risk Amazon poses to their survival.
Unlike Europe, where Amazon faces no major competition, both Flipkart (started by two former Amazon employees) and Paytm (a subsidiary of China’s giant e-commerce platform Alibaba) are both major competitors in India.
*Bezos, who initially agreed to the tax, changed his mind 24 hours after the city council enacted it unanimously.
Anyone with a public library card can see the documentary free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine to register.
This documentary is about homeless members of middle class America whose wages are too low to cover rent. Filmmakers visit San Diego, Los Angeles, Richmond Virginia, Appalachia and Waco Texas.
In San Diego they film a parking lot in which thirty people working as Uber drivers, security guards, secretaries, cleaners, carers and computer technicians sleep in their cars overnight. A charity provides them with portapotties, a water point, and an open air kitchen facility. One of the carers who sleeps there works nine hour days seven days a week.
In Los Angeles, which filmmakers refer to as the homeless capitol of the US (with 59,000 homeless), the documentary profiles a full time volunteer who builds wooden tiny houses (which have been legally banned by the city council) for people currently living tents.
In Richmond, filmmakers follow local sheriffs carrying out an eviction at gunpoint. They also visit one of the budget motels that have sprung up in the Richmond outskirts due to the city’s high number of evictions.*
In Appalachia, they visit one of the poorest counties in the nation, where volunteers run a daily food truck to distribute food to the area’s children. They also profile a military-style field hospital that provides once-a-year medical and dental treatment for the uninsured. The field hospital, held on a local sports field, is funded by a national charity and staffed by volunteer health providers.
In Waco, the filmmakers visit a church program that recruits candidates from all over the US to pay 60 dollars to experience sleeping rough first hand.
*In Virginia, a landlord can legally evict a tenant once their rent is five days past due.
In this RT documentary, filmmakers visit homeless areas in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and St Louis. As a group, African Americans experience the highest levels of unemployment and poverty. This means they are disproportionately represented among America’s homeless.
In New York, RT interviews a homeless African American who has two masters degrees and worked 17 years as a marriage counselor. He became homeless after his wife died of breast cancer, which led him to a bout of psychotic depression and drug and alcohol abuse. He can’t obtain drug treatment owing to a history of violence associated with his mental illness.
In Los Angeles, filmmakers visit the now infamous tent city that has sprung up in Skid Row.
In Philadelphia, they visit the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, a privately run facility that serves three meals a day and runs a 180-bed shelter. Because 40% of Philadelphia residents are only two paychecks away from homelessness, they are full most nights and turn people away.
In St Louis, they interview the founder of Showers to the People. The latter converted a large box truck into a portable shower facility for the city’s homeless residents.