Wednesday, February 10, 2010

From City Hall to City Streets: AMIKAS outreach on Tuesday February 9th

Wednesday February 10th, 2010 (San Diego)


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of accompanying Jeeni Criscenzo to two appointments in to offices of City Hall. We brought AMIKAS information to the Chief of Staff of Councilmember Tony Young, where we met with Mr. James Slack and Mr. Bruce Williams. Later, we had a separate meeting with Ms. Raquel Maden, a policy advisor to Councilmember Ben Hueso.

Jeeni (left, at City Hall) brought a copy of her professional-grade AMIKAS business plan, which has carefully calculated budgets, timelines, and goals for creating a sustainable working neighborhood in San Diego.

With the vision of AMIKAS, nearly 2000 human beings who currently live on the streets, in shelters, or in their cars could be housed and provided with the opportunity to work towards their own betterment and that of their community.

After sharing the business plan and AMIKAS concept with City Hall, (see photos of meeting with Mr. Sack and Williams in the Councilmember Young office) Jeeni went out on 9th Avenue and talked to San Diegans living on the streets.

These included a young ex-Marine named Matt with a leg injury, and his "mother" -- an older homeless woman who looks after their small cluster. Their small bivouac in the East side of Broadway area was abuzz with tales their own organizing activity among the homeless -- this impoverished group were collecting money to help a penniless young woman, abandoned by a new husband, to get Greyhound ticket back to her mom Tyler, Texas.

The "family" on the sidewalk, with gear, blankets, and puppies, proudly talked about having already helped each other stay safe, dry, clothed and fed. (Photo of Jeeni with "Mom" and "Matt", wearing his Marine battle dress trousers aka "BDU" - where you can see the USMC logo, in detail.)

A cold wet sidewalk - or a jail cell - a possible penalty for "obstructing" the sidewalk - is hardly a place for such energetic warmth and humanity.

To help Matt the Injured Marine, his "Street Mom," their ersatz family unit, and hundreds of other self-assembling street families like them, AMIKAS needs a space of about 75 acres of arable land in a quiet place not to urban but not too far from Downtown and mass transit.

We may have found the perfect location at an Executive Golf Course near University of San Diego, where the City has land. The golf course and open space is for the purpose of recreation.

It is very apt that the City documents specifies the critical importance of public lands as being for "recreation" -- or "re-creation" if you change the emphasis. It is high time that San Diego considers a way to "re-create" itself, and AMIKAS will be foundational aspect of the "Recreation of San Diego."

With the waves of an economic tsunami beginning to rise, with 10,000 people on the streets and in shelters -- San Diego' social services simply cannot absorb new people into too-few beds, and too few jobs.

Forget the hope of a "bailout" -- the State is bankrupt, the City is too, and our city and region will have to bail ourselves out -- or more accurately, not "out" -- but rather "Up." The old ways have been tried, and we need an Addendum to our skill-set of living. The "old ways" aren't wrong, they are merely insufficient to meet the task.

A "bail-UP" --and by stroke of the pen (or 5 pens, precisely) it's do-able. We need to start by getting the AMIKAS plan on the November 2010 ballot. Jeeni and AMIKAS board members will continue meeting with un-housed San Diegans, City Council representative, the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, the Girls Think Tank, and other stakeholders.

Mike Copass
AMIKAS Secretary

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