Homelessness Maltreatment – Hostile Architecture

Maltreatment towards communities experiencing homelessness is not only limited to passersby and poorly structured shelter systems. It is also among sights we drive and walk by every day in Atlanta: hostile architecture. 

What are examples of hostile architecture? Architecture like curved benches, gapped awnings at bus stops and corporate buildings, benches sectioned off by “armrests”, and even man-made foliage is used to keep individuals experiencing homelessness from finding shelter there. We may look at curvy and unique benches as an artistic flair in our neighborhood, but in reality, it has been made to not look comfortable for the sleepy seeker of rest. Gapped awnings leave gaps of security for those needing shelter for the evening. Man-made foliage on sidewalks looks inviting but is actually pushing away the possibility of creating a space to sit or sleep without being in the way of walkers and runners. We’ve even seen parks barricaded with fences in the heart of our city that were once safe havens for those who needed them. 

Besides smaller attempts at labeling those experiencing homelessness as unwelcome, what we see more than anything on our commutes around the city are right under our noses and right under our bridges: boulders. We see boulders under and around bridges, always thinking these are just markers to determine where new construction is going to happen, but they are not just telling us what is to come. They are telling us who cannot come. 

With huge boulders crowded under bridges, there is no comfortable or relatively flat space for those experiencing homelessness to set up a temporary home or community to bridge the gap between losing a permanently structured home and finding one. For those who still try to remain under bridges, they are forced to risk the dangers of resting by major highways where, let’s face it, local Atlantans drive at unpredictable speeds every day. Our city grows in population by the thousands each day, causing a rise in daily car accidents on our expressways. No one deserves to have to resort to risking the possibility of being hit by random bits of traffic debris, or worse, the cars and massive vehicles within that traffic. 

These boulders exclude the existence of other people, and when Atlanta contains the highest number of people experiencing homelessness in the state of Georgia, that excludes a large amount of Atlantans that exist just as much as those only using the bridges for commuting. They keep individuals from practicing essential needs like sleeping, which according to the Department of Justice, is unconstitutional to do. By displacing our neighbors experiencing homelessness, they are being criminalized for trying to exist. 

Criminal activities should not include needing to sleep and not having the widely accepted tools to do so. Therefore, the way we structure our cities should not reflect that we believe some of our locals are criminals for being restless due to the lack of spaces to rest. 

If you’d like to hear more information on hostile architecture, have a listen to our recent podcast where we chat about how hostile architecture may be done to erase a problem, but in reality, it erases the humanity of those experiencing homelessness.

Feel free to listen to our podcast below to learn about what that fancy term means:

https://m.soundcloud.com/lovebeyondwalls/episode-27-hostile-architecture

LBW Team

 

We’re Hiring – Operations Development Coordinator

We are currently seeking an Operations Development Coordinator (ODC) to assist us in our successful mobile hand sanitation efforts expanding nationwide.

We are seeking to fill this position locally (in Atlanta).

This is currently an Emergency 12-month position with the potential to transition into a long-term position.

To apply please follow these three basic steps:

  1. Take the synergist quiz (https://predictablesuccess.com/styles-quiz/)
  2. Answer these two questions: How do you think you would add value to LBW? Why do you want to join this organization?
  3. Attached these answered questions to your resume and submit by 1/9 (midnight is the cutoff)

Please send all completed action items to info@lovebeyondwalls.org

Basic Job Description 

Love Beyond Walls is a non-profit in Atlanta, Georgia serving people currently experiencing homelessness or living in extreme poverty by providing visibility, shelter, community, grooming, and support services as stepping-stones toward self-sufficiency.

Purpose & Scope of work: We are currently seeking an Operations Development Coordinator (ODC) to assist us in our successful mobile hand sanitation efforts expanding nationwide and help lead programs. The (ODC) will collaborate directly with the Executive Director (ED) to help grow our organization’s sanitation campaign and increase sustainability and transparency with corporate and non-profit partners. The (ODC) will work to secure corporate funding and will be responsible for the operational success of Love Beyond Walls Nonprofit ensuring seamless team management and development, program delivery, and quality control and evaluation.

Soft Skills: The (ODC) must be passionate about serving people living in vulnerable populations and committed to the efforts of Love Beyond Walls to serve with people as they take steps toward self-sufficiency. The (ODC) must have an innovative, positive, and collaborative work ethic to think outside the box to meet emerging and unprecedented needs during COVID-19 and beyond.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Collaborate with the ED to design content and implement Love Beyond Walls plans and procedures for our mobile hand sanitizing stations;
  • Oversee development of Love Beyond Walls and the work of team leaders;
  • Meet comprehensive, progressive goals for expanding our mobile hand sanitizing stations;
  • Secure corporate sponsorship and fiscal support to continue our expansion efforts;
  • Provide innovative and creative insight into our work to better serve people currently experiencing homelessness or people living in extreme poverty during a crisis; and
  • Collaborate with public officials to secure approval and celebration of our successful hand sanitation efforts.
  • Work with staff to develop objective performance measurements across all sites, to ensure consistent, high-quality evaluation and goal setting for all employees.
  • Instill a sense of accountability among team members by modeling tight oversight of individual and organization performance standards.

Education and Experience: At least 5-10 years of experience serving people experiencing homelessness or living in extreme poverty; documented experience working in the non-profit or education sector; experience with successful grant writing. Preferred University degree.

Job Knowledge, Competencies & Skills: Experience successfully collaborating and running a team; understanding of non-profit functioning; Demonstrable competencies in planning, performance, and operation metrics; excellent leadership and collaboration abilities.

LBW Team

Open Apology to People Experiencing Homelessness During Covid-19

What breaks your heart?

If you have a heartbeat, you’ve experienced heartache.

Maybe it was a disappointment or a loss.

Maybe it was self-inflicted due to a bad decision.

Maybe it was the pain of a relationship.

Maybe, in this time of COVID-19, your heartbreak is more apparent than ever.

Or maybe you’re just trying to stay in your lane and survive – focusing on what you’re personally dealing with and trying to keep heartache at bay.

Whether constantly on your mind or pushed to the corners, we have all experienced heartbreak – we all know how it feels to go through a transition.

Most times when we think of heartbreak, we only think of it through a personal lens. So for the sake of this blog and for the pandemic, I would like for you to pause for a moment and consider another type of heartbreak.

Let’s look at it from a different viewpoint.

Let me ask you again.

When you look out into the world during this time, what breaks your heart?

Is it the death toll? Is it the strain on medical professionals? Is it people being kept from their loved ones? Is it loneliness? Is it small businesses everywhere closing and countless people losing their jobs?

It may be one of those, it may be all of them. But what about homelessness? Not just in general but especially at a time like this. Homelessness is an ongoing crisis in our country that is magnified in the current state. And, over the last few decades, the criminalization of homelessness has grown. There are cities that have created laws and ordinances forbidding things like food sharing, sleeping in public places, standing in public places, and even carrying multiple bags at once.

To not have an address also means to be viewed through a lens of disdain and contempt.

Imagine having the fears we all feel on top of not having a home to self-isolate in, or not knowing where your next meal or a safe place to sleep will come from in 30-degree weather.

Imagine having no place to wash your hands or access to a mask for safety.

It breaks my heart to know that cities all around our country have used ‘hostile architecture’ to deter, exclude, and displace people without an address. If you are unaware of what hostile or anti-homeless architecture is, it is a form of architectural design to maintain order. The strategy uses the built environment to discourage people from experiencing homelessness from using public spaces for activities that they were not intended to be used for. We have seen designs where developers have added spikes, benches with bars, and even large rocks or boulders to deter people without homes. There was even a city in Florida that blasted the ‘Shark’ song loudly in a park to prevent sleep.

It is not only cruel, it is cold and lacks empathy for our neighbor. I have said it time and time again. Just because a person does not have an address does not mean that they aren’t our neighbor.

In fact,

On August 6, 2016, the Department of Justice ruled it unconstitutional to prohibit people experiencing homelessness to perform life-sustaining activities when a person has nowhere to go. The brief reads,

“It should be uncontroversial that punishing conduct that is a universal and unavoidable consequence of being human violates the Eighth Amendment. . .  Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity—i.e., it must occur at some time in some place. If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless.”

When we deny people experiencing homelessness the right to exist and survive, we threaten and violate their human rights and dehumanize them. Hostile architecture, displacement, and exclusion must stop, and we must protect the whole community – address or not.

Recently, GDOT placed ‘hostile architecture’ underneath a bridge in the heart of the city. This breaks my heart. Why? Because thousands of tax dollars were spent to deter people from living underneath the bridge. Words like heartless, cruel, and even spiteful come to mind when I think about the number of people that have been displaced.

Do I want people to live underneath a bridge forever? No. My heart’s goal is to see people value those living on the streets enough to launch campaigns and political strategies to end homelessness. But, at the moment, I do not think it is wise, ethical, or moral to trash people’s items and displace them for practicing a way to survive.

What would you do if you had nowhere to go? How would you weather the cold or feel safe to look for your next place of rest?

There has been a bed shortage in shelters all around the country long before covid-19, and as one researcher suggests that number will increase in 2021.

The heart of Love Beyond Walls is to ensure that people living on the streets have access to the same basic necessities that everyday people have access to.

In times like these, I am reminded of the words MLK wrote:

“In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

—Letter from Birmingham Jail

But how often are we aware that whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly?

During this pandemic, the most marginalized communities are affected on a deeper level than before, and often times displaced and criminalized more.

We are all tied in that single garment of destiny. What affects our vulnerable brothers and sisters, affects us all.

Therefore, I want to apologize to the community of people that constantly feels invisible and forgotten: whose circumstances have only been exacerbated by current world events and have experienced further dissociation and neglect during the time of COVID-19.

So here goes:

Today, I want to apologize to you if you’re experiencing homelessness and have been judged, overlooked, walked by, and abused by the words of people who have never walked in your shoes.

I apologize that you feel alone and like no one has been there for you during a pandemic that has claimed the lives of thousands.

I apologize for ‘hostile architecture’ and exclusionary practices.

I apologize that shelters where you regularly seek assistance have had to be limited or shut down.

I apologize that we live in a society that looks down on you and deprives you of basic necessities like a bed or sink to wash your hands – especially during a pandemic.

I apologize that you have had to endure social isolation in a magnified way.

I apologize for every single time you reached out and literally got nothing in return.

I apologize that now, more than ever, people are less giving of their resources, human interaction and warmth.

I apologize when people look at you on the side of the road, they lock their doors and ride by.

I apologize that you find yourself isolated, and are unable to trust the outside world.

I apologize that we have overlooked your traumas and judged you when you developed mental health issues and used substances to cope with life.

I apologize for the induced trauma this collective experience will have on you and that there are little to no resources to help you process your trauma.

I apologize that some of us haven’t displayed the same love towards you that we want from God.

I apologize that during this time, especially, some people have shut the world out, leaving you behind.

I apologize that you weren’t given an ample supply of gloves, hand sanitizer, and masks to protect yourself each day.

I apologize that you have to sometimes sleep outside when there are abandoned buildings all around you that could help you – especially since so many hotels are completely vacant.

I apologize that people are hoarding food and toiletries while you may not have eaten in days.

I apologize that the guidelines for staying safe in this crisis immediately exclude you due to your current living situation.

I apologize that large corporations are getting massive bailouts while you can’t even get a hand up.

I apologize we haven’t made you a priority in our country and I apologize if you served in our country but are still struggling to find benefits and housing.

I apologize that we weren’t willing to put in the time, money, and effort for standardized COVID-19 testing for all, including you.

I apologize that just because you don’t have 4 walls to your name, our government makes it all too difficult for you to cast your vote and your voice to be heard.

I apologize that we haven’t allowed your plights to break our hearts to the point where we rise up and say enough is enough.

I apologize and I want you to know that I love you, and there are many others like me out here that love you.

I love you for being brave enough to weather your hardships sometimes with a smile and faith.

I admire you for having the courage to weather poverty especially in the face of COVID-19, with deferred hope.

Today, I am thinking about you and want you to know my heart breaks for this plight. I will continue to fight on your behalf and do all I can to help keep you safe.

This is my apology.

Your friend,

Terence Lester, Founder of Love Beyond Walls

PPE for Essential Workers

Great news! We just forged a partnership with a logistics company here in Atlanta that is going to help us secure KN95 non-medical masks to distribute to people experiencing homelessness and essential workers on the frontlines.

Next week, we should be getting a couple thousand to start helping to protect people.

The CDC has mandated that every single person wears a mask!

Details to follow.

LBW Team

Built First Handwashing Station

Every single day for the last eight days, we have thought of ways to get water to people living on the streets during this crisis, and we found a way to build and assemble portable handwashing stations that hold up to 10 gallons of water.

This week, we are starting to plant these around the city for people who will be on the streets the entire length of the shutdown (regardless of spaces being open).

Every news report we’ve read said that we must wash our hands, but what does this mean for people experiencing homelessness?

What happens when you have no access to water, restaurants won’t allow you to come into them, and people already overlook you every single day—you become more prone to catch the #CONVID-19 virus.

Call me (Terence) whatever you’d like but @lovebeyondwalls is on the move with extreme caution with a few friends and partners. Video to follow.

It costs about $100 dollars to build these, you can give by clicking the link in our bio and clicking “handwashing stations donation”

#lovebeyondwalls

Dignity Museum – LBW

Dignity Museum – LBW from Love Beyond Walls on Vimeo.

March 23rd starts another chapter for our organization with a project/program we are launching called, Dignity Museum.

We are grateful for every person that believed in this project from the beginning. We plan on educating students and any person(s) that wants listen and hear a perspective that is often forgotten.

To learn more, visit lovebeyondwalls.org/dignitymuseum

LBW Team