Newscut Vol. 1 No. 10
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Newscut Vol. 1 No. 4
Richmond Voice Newspaper
The Park Is Our!
And Downtown Plan
Councilman James Banks-- Vic-Mayor Viola Baskerville-- Councilman Joseph
Brooks-- Councilman John Conrad-- Councilman Timothy Kaine-- Councilman Rudolph McCollum--
Councilman Anthony Jones (with the exception of Mr. Jones abstain vote on restricting church
ASWAN GETS AN ANONYMOUS PHONE CALL
ASWAN got an anonymous call on its (804) 257-9211 voice mail:
THANK GOD!!! DAILY PLANET FOUND A NEW HOME
As I slapped someone a high five on that wondrous day, July 25th (while the ink was still wet on the paper) all I could think was HALLELUJAH. David has nailed Goliath. So relieved, as I wiped the sweat beads off my forehead, time had been running out, considering that it was on the last weekday before the following Monday City Council meeting which passed a law to take away the last feasible by-right zone for homeless shelters and services. If the Daily Planet had not moved part of its services before the zoning changes, the new law would have prohibited the Daily Planet from locating these services at its new 517 W. Grace Street site (without City Council blessing). A City Council member had indicated that the only way the Daily Planet could get City Council's blessing would be to move across from the city jail and the city has indicated that the current lease at the Canal St. site might not be extended when it runs out this December. Later on that wondrous day, I went to 517 W. Grace Street to sweat some more (the late-night furniture haul).
The Daily Planet has been looking for a new home since the second Russian revolution. The Daily Planet board acted against the city's "out of sight" location on 17th Street, turning down an anonymous $1 million bait money offer, and used good faith efforts to find a suitable location in the downtown area. This was the biggest victory in the homeless community next to the future voiding of the prejudiced zoning ordinances. I'm very proud to serve on the Daily Planet board that acts with the homeless community instead of upon them-- a board where recent relocation decisions stood fast against discriminating political maneuvers, and accomplished this most difficult alternative, in the interest of unsheltered individuals.
A SPECIAL THANKS TO THE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY FOR MAKING THE MOVE OF DAILY PLANET POSSIBLE
ASWAN and its spokesperson Marty Jewell participated with the Daily Planet to raise money needed for the down payment of the Daily Planet's new site. Religious groups, corporations, and compassionate Richmonders pledged over $30,000 in a short time.
***Quote Of The Year***
These ordinances go against the very grain of human decency and compassion.
. . . It will be a grave day for the church when it has to come before government and ask
permission to do what we've been ordained to do. I have no intention of abiding by it. I
will not, nor will I permit any of my parishioners to take a head count of those who are in
For tons of free resources and just plain good reading,
visit John Felts personal page that includes his latest web site, pages, published articles,
ASWAN's site and pages
Vol.2 No.1 "Round 5" August 27,1997
ASWAN PLANS TO HOLD CITY COUNCIL ACCOUNTABLE
Monday July 28, 1997, City Council voted into law that churches bring $1,000 of church tithes and bow before City Council instead of their God, to get permission to feed the homeless. The city contends that churches can feed anyone, as long as they are not homeless. The city would have a right to deny churches of their request and later put the churches tithes in its own coffer-- charging churches $1,000 to legislate churches' mission if they feed more than 30 homeless persons per week. The 31th person could be a homeless child and the city would have the power to stop churches from feeding hungry children. The recent changes include all churches except in B-4 zone. ASWAN would like to remind churches and the public, there is the Master's plan builders proposed plan to reduce the visibility of homeless downtown, claiming that would help the area attract tourism.
ASWAN OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR LARRY CHAVIS
In late July of 1996 for the first time in Richmond history, homeless and former homeless people banded together and proclaimed themselves. At first, our organization consisted of a small number of individuals that worked to form this unusual group out of abandoned buildings, from river camps, park benches, and shelters. Our primary transportation was by foot. Our weekly Tuesday meeting has grown from several to dozens of individuals. Homeless people usually are very disorganized (due to anxiety, isolation, bewilderment and feeling unwanted while experiencing what most of them 94% perceive as an awakening nightmare). Not being able to defend themselves appropriately has opened the door to prejudiced provisions which has escalated into extreme complications and conditions for those who attempt to aid homeless people. This has increased an unfair disadvantage on a community which had (in the past) no representation at all. The forming of ASWAN is in reflection of many recent gross violations of human rights and dignity of homeless people. Prejudices and unreasonable approaches of economic development has replaced conscionable considerations and provoked repeated violations of the state statute, city charter, and the American Constitution.
ASWAN's objective is to protect the fundamental rights of homeless people, to motivate them to get involved in critical issues that could affect the well being of their lives. We believe that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers. Our goal is to reduce homelessness, hardships, and misleading myths imposed on the unsheltered.
Just as our community (who previously had no voice and is currently being inequitably targeted) started to speak out against blatant injustices imposed on us, that the recent proposed ordinances in fact weren't to expand shelters and services for the unsheltered in Richmond but to do the exact opposite, and that the city government wasn't submitting the related proposals properly. Efforts were made to shut us up, in what we perceive as efforts hide true facts of prejudice, just like the attempts to move the Daily Planet down on 17th Street across from the city jail, by Martin Luther King Bridge. Which would have imposed additional hardships on the disadvantaged and disabled persons getting to and from services in downtown. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote a letter while sitting in a city jail, clarifying obvious discriminating factors against his race. This is what he wrote:
When a service provider turns down a million dollar anonymous offer to move to another location, you should know something isn't right. Henry McLaughlin was quoted in Style Weekly as saying, "There is damage done if someone told you go over there, or if we select a site for a homeless shelter where you are less visible. By its very nature, that is a barrier to overcoming homelessness."
I personally do not think that it was a coincidence that at the next City Council meeting after ASWAN Co-Convener Matt Hilgeford was refused the right to speak (in direct violation of City Council's rules of procedures) that efforts were made to change the related rules and placed the vote on this issue in a non-controversial agenda. There was an unfounded claim that we were attempting to bog down the procedures by Councilman James C. Banks. The real truth is that efforts were made by some city government 's officials to fast forward the proposals to the point of violating both the state statute and the city charter, this is the cause of delay (do not put the blame on ASWAN). We didn't submit proposed ordinances inappropriately. In addition, it was city officials that attempted to hide some of the facts, as the impact that the zoning ordinances would have on its poor citizens and then make such a bogus claim that those ordinances were to aid them, an attempt to sham the public.
Can the city government be at least honest with its citizens? Maybe its hard to be honest when there is prejudiced against a party. ASWAN (at first) didn't understand the full scope of the circumstances of damaging effect that these proposals would have on the homeless people, service providers, and churches. Because in prior public hearings, Mark Strickler failed to adequately inform the public about the impact these proposed zoning ordinances would have on citizens who really couldn't help themselves and needed help from the community and churches.
After attending all public hearing concerning this issue before April 1997, I did not know that nearly all churches in the Richmond area were going to be affected in the zoning changes. Many affected zones in the proposed ordinances did not have one word about church feeding restrictions. In late April, when ASWAN discovered the possibility that more than three zones could be affected. I questioned Mark Strickler on this issue. At first, he indicated that he couldn't discussed this issue because of a pending federal case with Stuart Circle. But after I held up the proposed zoning ordinances and asked him, "Can we talk about these ordinances?" Mark Strickler then admitted to ASWAN's speculations. It was only after ASWAN had put the word out about nearly all churches being affected by these ordinances, that Mark Strickler later informed the public at a hearing, that 95% of Richmond area would have church feeding restrictions (a law that limits feeding homeless men, women, and children to a small number of those currently being fed).
ASWAN has indicated before these new ordinances were passed that the prior law was to monitor CARITAS, and had not been enforced on other churches for five years. The law was so restrictive that when the city attempted to force it on a non-CARITAS church, it was stalled by a federal judge. Some City Council members defended the new law on grounds that the old law was even more restrictive, but the old law had been stalled. This ordinance seeks to make prejudiced restrictions on feeding the homeless enforceable.
Since the law, more than likely, will soon become extinct through the court system, it may very well save the city of the embarrassment that is much deserved, of marches involving hundreds or thousands of people to city hall. Currently, churches feeding the hungry have appropriately pledged to defy this unjust law that target the most unfortunate, supported only by those who don't have to worry where they are going to get their next meal. So what's next, is the city going to lock up ministers for feeding a hungry child? Since, the city feels that it must take away the last by-right zone for shelters along with making it illegal to feed more than an fraction of hungry homeless men, women, children, ASWAN feels that the city should be held accountable for these unnecessary awful zoning ordinances.
Therefore, in light of the safety and well being of the most deprived that has been attacked by the most fortunate. ASWAN will fight these injustices tooth and nail, knowing in the end we will win. The common good will prevail! The city government has waged this battle against churches and citizens. The city is on the wrong side, ASWAN will be on the front line.
I pray that my genuine concerns reaches a few hearts, that a more compassion environment will develop among those that are well off. Please make changes, not barriers, where everyone can benefit. Thank you, and God Bless!
John M. Felts ASWAN Co-Convener
A Society Without A Name,For People Without A Home