Heading Home Hennepin and Homeless Single Adults

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Review of the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis: Single Homeless Adults

By: Margaret Hastings

This writer is reviewing the information provided in response to a Open Records and Data request for all data from The Heading Home Hennepin (HHH) Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness 2006-2016. The impetus for that request arose out of a simple question: How, after the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars over the course of a decade yield higher numbers of homeless at its terminus than had been homeless at the outset?  Heading Home Hennepin (HHH) advocates acknowledged this failure without taking and semblance of responsibility.  HHH advocates are now calling upon the city and county to open more homeless shelters due to the rise in street homelessness.

The response to the aforementioned Open Records request consisted of a total of twenty-seven documents, only four of this total were reports authored by the full-time staff members working in the City-County Office to End Homelessness (OEH). This sub-set of documents, totaling less than 150 pages in the aggregate, was comprised of rote repetitions of both content and data extracted from a wide range of sources, but virtually nothing that any objective evaluation might deem original. The Open Records request asked for all government data collected over the course of a decade relating to the six goals identified in the 10 Year Plan by the Office to End Homelessness. The response made one thing abundantly clear: They didn’t gather any, they merely repeated the work of other individuals and organizations.

Heading Home Hennepin (HHH): The Annual Reports

Annual reports for each year were not produced by Heading Home Hennepin. Annual reports were produced for 2010, 2011, a 2012 Five Year Report and 2105 report.
The 2015 annual report does not provide specifics, it is more of an overview of programming, and general comments. In short, no real depth. The director notes in the report that 2015 to 2016 is the final year of HHH. There are some numbers thrown out related to single adults housed, (the area I am looking at) it does not address that these numbers fall far, far short of ending homelessness. That, in fact, not even a significant dent has been made in homelessness. The 2015 report throws out numbers that ignore the larger numbers of those who remain homeless. The focus is more about extolling progress than critical analysis of how short of the goal the HHH plan fell.

The 2012 Five Year Report: The title of this report implies that the first five years of the HHH plan will be addressed. Instead, this document is poorly organized, hops from one year to another with no clear analysis of what has been put in place per year, what had worked, what has not. In the introductory Letter from the Director the statement is made that from 2007 to 2011 “350 people living on the street were moved into housing.” There are no supporting documents explaining the sources for these numbers. It does not address the number of single persons still homeless, which remained at a large number. No analysis of the barriers that limit effective service to the majority of single adults who remain homeless.

If 350 was an accurate number of housed, is that number the most that can be served with the available resources? What further resources, staff, approaches were needed to go beyond that number to reach the goal or close to the goal of ending homelessness? From the 2012 report: “Our latest street count revealed a 40 percent reduction in the number of people sleeping outside since 2010.”

Gaps in Presentation, Poor Analyses, Proliferation of Questions

My question: What is the reduction since 2006, the start of the HHH plan? And what does this number actually mean? Since 2006 to 2016 the baseline number of homeless (those in shelters and outside) has persisted between 1,000 and 1250 (with spikes in numbers for two years) based on the HUD Continuum of Care (CoC) counts for the years 2006 to 2016. The HHH ten year plan to end homelessness was dealing with these baseline numbers at its start yet that baseline persisted. WHY? HUGE amounts of money poured into HHH and the numbers they tout represent a small portion of those housed.

From the 2012 report “Homelessness for dozens of chronic livability offenders in downtown Minneapolis was ended and chronic re-offenses were reduced by 78 percent”

My response: I find this very difficult to believe. No supporting documentation was provided to support these claims. And now in 2017, elected officials, police and downtown businesses are voicing concern about livability offenses.

The 2011 report: The 2011 report states numbers: “From October 2007 through July 2010, St. Stephen’s Street Outreach has housed over 200 people directly from the street, mostly without subsidies.” The 2012 report states that from 2007 to 2011, more than 350 people living on the streets were moved to housing, thanks to St. Stephen’s Street Outreach”. What accounted for the decrease by 50 in the year 2010 to 2011? The 2015 report does not mention numbers for the years 2012 or 2013 but states that St. Stephens Street Outreach “…housed 100 people in 2014”  Why were 2012 and 2013 left out?  And despite touting the above numbers, adult street homelessness has increased as of 2017, a fact not refuted by HHH advocates.

Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy

Why? What was missed? Over 3 years the claim is 200 people were housed; that is 66 people per year. How many street outreach workers were there? How many people total did they work with? Was there a need for more street outreach workers? What was recognized as barriers to providing further services to larger numbers?
From the 2011 report RE: The Currie Avenue Housing Partnership: (CAP) has ten Housing Case Managers to connect people with disabilities Staying at Currie Avenue shelters with housing and supports. The program officially began in May 2010 and has successfully housed 150 people.

Individuals have obtained permanent housing or are in the final stages of obtaining
Housing. ****OF NOTE IS THAT THE 2012 FIVE YEAR REPORT QUOTES THE SAME NUMBER FROM A PROGRAM THAT BEGAN IN 2010:  From the 2012 report “More than 150 people with disabilities who slept in overcrowded, downtown shelters now having housing, thanks to a partnership created between the Downtown Business Council and the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness. Eighty-seven percent of these individuals have stayed in their housing for at least one year.

What Happened? The Cosmetics of Copying and Pasting

WHAT HAPPENED FROM 2011 TO 2012? THE 2012 REPORT SIMPLY COPIED AND PASTED IN NUMBERS FOR 2010, NO UPDATE FOR 2011 FOR THE CURRIE AVENUEPARTNERSHIP.

THE 2015 REPORT WHICH IS A VERY SHORT GENERAL OVERVIEW DOES NOT EVEN MENTION THE CURRIE AVENUE HOUSING PARTNERSHIP’S WORK AND GIVES NO DATA FOR 2011 THROUGH 2016 ON THAT PROGRAM HAS DONE.

From the 2010 Annual Report: See my comments below this taken from the report:

“Single Adult Shelter Network:  The Shelter   Efficiency group identified a need to coordinate services among shelters for shelter guests who use multiple shelter sites.  The team developed a shared release form that shelter guests can sign in order to have their case coordinated among all the shelters serving single adults.  This collaborative is titled the Single Adult Shelter Network (SASN).  The group meets bi-weekly and discusses approximately 15-20 cases each meeting.  The group develops a shared plan to help a shelter guest move into appropriate housing or work on eliminating a barrier to housing such as a criminal charge or record, insufficient income, or lack of money to pay a damage deposit.  During its first year, the number of SASN clients housed was 12, while there are 7 with housing pending, 14 percent still homeless, and 9 percent with client status unknown.  SASN has increased efficiency and reduced redundancy of efforts amongst shelter providers.  Youth agencies created their own network, Young Adult Shelter Network (YASN), to accomplish similar coordinated case management.

Flaws in Presentation, Cosmetology and Casuistry Aside

My comment below:

Regarding the bold type…12 housed out of, how many total? 14 per cent still homeless OUT OF HOW MANY TOTAL? I mean really? 14 per cent of what?” And if they only housed 12, with only 14 per cent still homeless that means if you do the math, they housed 86 per cent of whom? The limited caseloads they managed? If they housed 12 and 7 pending that is 19 people. So, if 19 is 86 per cent of most people served. I one year they only worked with about 22 people total. Even more embarrassing-or they should be embarrassed-is that out of the hundreds of people in their shelters, they were only able to house 12?

How many and what percentage of the homeless persons declined to sign the release form? How often did staff not offer the release form? What were the causes for those who declined the form, for declining to sign it?”

Homeless Sleeping on the Street

Some Profit, Others Not So Much

Some Final Thoughts

Final thoughts: The Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness did not have a plan. In reading the annual reports, that is strikingly clear. There is no evidence of a plan that established goals, put in place a system to assess, analyze and critique progress made and alter what was not working.

Despite the glowing snippets of how many were housed and programs in place, the fact remains that not only did homelessness stay the same, it increased over the ten years. Given the millions of dollars spent on this failure, the tax payers and homeless persons deserve an accounting as to why it failed and consider removing those responsible for this failure.

Armed Conflict and Sowing Fear as Diversion

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It’s one of the oldest tricks in the political playbook and one that, given its repeated use by political figures the world over time out of mind, should at least merit questioning. In times of domestic unrest and dissent the political leadership of nations posit imminent external threats which require a military response. Nothing unites nations and populations more effectively than the specter of an external evil incarnate.

External Threats, Real or Imagined

The Bush Administration utilized this proven trope very effectively during the course of the Global War on Terror. There were many problems and flaws in the lead up to the invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). among them;

  • That we invaded Afghanistan to exact vengeance upon the purported perpetrators of September 11, 2001 who flew commercial aircraft into New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Yet, insufficient military assets were committed to the task resulting in the successful escape of bin Laden into Pakistan where, despite the biggest manhunt in the history of the world conducted by the most complex and sophisticated intelligence apparatus ever seen, he managed to hide in plain sight for a decade.
  • A plethora of shoddy pretexts for the invasion of Iraq, but principally the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, never verified, and that leader’s sinister development of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) which were never found despite frenzied and far-flung efforts on the part of the American and allied forces to locate them in the wake of the US-led invasion.
  • The multiple and problematic stories presented by the flawed evidence of what really transpired on 9-11.
  • On September 10, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld had announced that 2.3 trillion dollars had gone missing from the Department of Defense’s coffers.
  • The over-arching assertion that the forces of Radical Islam’s would, somehow and in spite of any compelling evidence, manage to invade the Continental United States and topple our government.
  • That the Project for a New American Century, AIPAC affiliates and a range of Neo-Conservative organizations and individuals and manufactured a series of dire threats to our National Security which required a military response yet considerable evidence existed that such a conflict was–and remains–more in the interests of the State of Israel than of the United States.

In spite of a rather damning corpus of evidence supporting the position that fighting a far-flung “Global War on Terror” served the national interests of Israel, in primary position, and the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia, the U.S. populace allowed itself to be led by its political leadership into a series of conflicts spanning nearly two decades at an unsupportable cost in lives and fiscal outlays. Nearly 8,000 American soldiers have been killed and another 80,000 wounded at a cost exceeding 4 trillion dollars. Wars manufactured upon flimsy or non-existent evidence fought against peoples who posed no existential threat to the United States of America. The “War on Terror” in the final analysis has cost the US dearly. It remains a global conflict fought on behalf of Zionist interests and not those of our nation. Wars of distraction and not of substance, fought in the shadows with no discernible end in sight.

Bush Declares War in Iraq

Bush Declares War in Iraq

The Bush Administration utilized an ostensibly imminent external threat to galvanize public opinion and distract from the population of the United States from far more cogent internal social threats…and it worked splendidly.

Kim Jong-Un, a New Existential Threat to the United States

As the Global War on Terror grinds on its seventeenth year it has lost some of its allure amid growing criticisms from both ends of the political spectrum. The Trump Administration, faced with mounting scrutiny of its Russian involvements, fiscal malfeasance, Nepotism and widespread systemic corruption, is positioning itself to yet again deploy this same old trick. This time around, the immediate, ostensible threat is posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and its leader, Kim Jong-Un.

There’s no doubt that Kim is a megalomaniac or that he is the spoiled scion of a family that has ruled North Korea for several generations under the heavy veil of propaganda and tight, repressive and centralized control. North Korea is a totalitarian regime. It’s a repressive regime mobilized largely behind the need to resist, militarily, Yankee and western imperial designs. But does the DPRK pose a tangible, existential threat to the United States of America? Well, that’s another matter altogether.

An Examination or Threat Assessment: DPRK vs. The United States

First of all, the population of the DPRK stands at just over 25 million people versus the United States with its population of over 316 million. The GDP of the DPRK stands at $12.38 billion while that of the United States was $18.57 trillion in 2016. The United States has a nuclear arsenal of over 6800 warheads whereas North Korea is still seeking to develop its first. In terms of naval forces, the United States has eleven Air Force carriers, North Korea possesses none. Comparing US Naval power against that of North Korea is like pondering who might be victorious in a matched combat between a bunny rabbit (DPRK) and a bear (the USA).

North Korean Military

North Korean Military

The US Navy, in addition to its eleven active aircraft carriers also has one in reserve and two more under construction.  There are over 322,000 active Navy personnel with an additional more than 107,000 Reservists. With over 3,700 combat aircraft and 276 deployable combat vessels. The US Navy alone, as it stands, dwarfs any other Naval force on the planet.  The Naval Forces of the DPRK, by contrast, consist of less than 1,000 vessels and 80% of those are gunboats. It possesses no aircraft carriers and approximately 80 submarines, though the vast majority are antiquated and no match for US counterparts. A shooting match between the two Naval forces would be about as one-sided as one-sided gets.

The DPRK has a total of 945,000 active duty military personnel, with an additional 5.5 million in its various reserve components. It possesses a total of 944 military aircraft among them 458 attack aircraft. It possesses 5,025 combat tanks, over 4,000 armored vehicles and over 6,000 artillery pieces, towed and self-propelled.

On paper, a formidable force indeed formed of a population that has been thoroughly indoctrinated to fight against the United States behind the cult of the semi-divine leader. There’s no question that they would put up a formidable fight.

Nonetheless, there’s really no question that US and South Korean forces would prevail in a conflict and while heavy losses would be felt on both sides no independent analysis of status of forces proposes that the DPRK would prevail. The North simply lacks the capacity to fight a protracted conflict. After the first month, the DPRK’s air force, by all assessments, would cease to exist as a viable fighting element as would its naval forces. Open to repeated US and allied sorties against ground forces spread over a rather small area, North Korean ground forces would be pummeled and decimated. Their equipment is antiquated and they lack reliable fuel sources. After inflicting heavy initial losses against South Korean and US forces the DPRK would, simply put, be largely destroyed.

Enter President Donald J. Trump Amid a Mounting Chorus of Domestic Woes

As mentioned above, war as diversion is one of the oldest political ploys in the playbook. Most of his major campaign promises have not been met, including; the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), building a southern border wall and getting Mexico to pay for it, locking up Hillary Clinton and “draining the swamp” (he just stocked it with bigger gators) and putting an end to military adventurism in the Middle East. On the last of these counts he railed for years against US involvement in Afghanistan—and is now escalating US involvement.

He has dismissed or fired more senior cabinet officials than any Presidential Administration in US history during his first year in office and many of those under a cloud of scandal–with more seemingly in the works. Scandal after scandal has rocked his administration and as Special Prosecutor Mueller’s team seems to imply, it has only just begun. Amid brash displays of nepotism and cronyism on the grandest of scales what is needed is a distraction–a good one.

Daily, we are warned of the North Korean threat. That a tiny nation with limited capabilities will fire an ICBM at San Francisco or Los Angeles or Seattle. That perhaps, against every empirical assessment, the North Koreans will, somehow, manage to seriously attack the United States. Aside from the simple fact that even a bombastic, spoiled and insulated megalomaniac like Kim Jong-Un would just have to know that doing so would result in certain destruction the notion is as ludicrous as the Bush assertion that Saddam Hussein might attack us in 2002. Ludicrous.

Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind, however, that when it comes to a choice between letting Jared Kushner, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. come under criminal indictment or, worse yet, criminal indictment himself, that Donald Trump will hesitate to launch us into a conflict with North Korea? At a minimum and in spite of the fact that we would ultimately prevail, such a war would cost trillions and tens of thousands of American lives not to mention perhaps the lives of a million South Koreans. Is there any question in anyone’s mind that our current President would undertake such a venture to distract us from his transgressions and those of his progeny? For anyone watching there’s really no question. Of course he would.

Donald J. Trump

Donald J. Trump

Every morning I wake up wondering if today will be the day when I turn on the news to the specter of war in the Korean Peninsula. Make no mistake it will be nothing more than a war of distraction and millions will pay the cost…just not our President and his family.

 

 

Minneapolis Homeless Advocates lose over $600,000 in Federal funding

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How did Minneapolis Homeless Advocates lose over $600,000 in Federal funding through incompetence and inattention. Next time this crowd comes before the public complaining about Federal funding, bring this up:

Let’s start taking a look at specifics in expenditures which took place under one Federal funding stream during the course of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness in Hennepin County during the term of the plan 2006-2016. As a reminder, the net effect of the Plan at its terminus, as pointed out by a number of media outlets, was that over 300 more people were homeless in Hennpin County in 2016 than had been in 2006.
Let’s look at the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). Under this Federal program there was authorized 1.5 billion dollars for a three year period, 2010-2012. The amounts allocated for Minneapolis:

$5,520,920.00 Total funding authorization

$4,908,789.04 Total amount drawn, (83.5% of authorzed amount)

$612,119.94 Gap or projected gap in meeting 100% expenditure over three year program allocation period.

$294,814.19 Approximate monthly draw to meet 3-year 100%
requirement.

As you have probably been able to figure out for yourselves, those responsible for administration and use of this three year Federal funding allocation failed to expend the amount allocated by over half million dollars during the stipulated three year period. What that means is that the City-County lost that amount of funding due to its failure to follow the stipulations for expenditures during the period.

Not like homeless people in Minneapolis could have used 612,119 for anything they needed or anything, right? So why did this happen? Don’t ask me, ask them…the people in charge of this mess, that is. Oh, wait, you can’t ask the Director of HHH I guess…she got promoted to head up the State’s efforts. You’ll have to ask the new director of HHH….who was one of the large shelter directors…you know, one of the guys who was in charge of administering the program under discussion. Cos when you’re a member of this cozy “Conspiracy of Dunces”, to quote Arthur Turovh Himmelman pissing away 600,000 in Federal funding isn’t cause for reprimand or questioning, it’s cause for promotion.

Please note that a significant percentage of other Metropolitan did manage to maximize Federal dollars. But not Minneapolis. My reference for the above, here;

HUDEXCHANGE.INFO

Responsive Documents from Hennepin County

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On September 5, 2017 an Open Records and Data Request was submitted to Hennepin County’s Office to End Homelessness. The request was signed by 35 members of the public with an interest in obtaining information on the mechanics, expenditures and outcomes of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness (2006-2016). Specifically, the signatories sought explanations as to how such a well-funded resulted in an increase, rather than a reduction, in the numbers of homeless people in Hennepin County.

On September 25, 2017, the signatories received a Response Letter to MH  and documents from the responsible authority for Hennepin County. In addition to the embedded link to a PDF version of the responsive letter (above) we are posting the text of the letter, in its entirety, below. As time permits, each responsive document will be accessible from this post in PDF format. Separate posts will treat each responsive document moving forward, providing commentary as needed.

Hennepin County

Hennepin County

Margaret Hastings

Dear Ms. Hastings:

My name is Nick Schicker, Responsible Authority Designee for Welfare Data for Health and Human Services of Hennepin County.  The Responsible Authority for Hennepin County is Kristi Lahti-Johnson.

Introduction

The Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in Minneapolis and Hennepin County was created as a shared vision of common principles to guide planning and action steps across civic partners such as corporate, government, philanthropic, nonprofit, and faith based organizations. 

This ten year agreement is not a program.  It is not a mandate.  It is a map and a call-to-action for civic partners.  The plan provides common language, proven strategies for reducing homelessness, and examples of successful models for service delivery.

Prior to Phase One, the Finance Committee of the Commission offered suggestions with the intent to provide an initial framework for possible financing strategies.  Even then a $45M funding gap was acknowledged based on then existing and projected resources.  The financing plan assumed that all existing sources would continue at then current funding levels.  In real time, the 2008 financial crisis, prolonged recession, 2011 North Minneapolis tornado, and other factors increased demand for services as people lost jobs and homes thereby putting more strain on the system.

Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness (OEH) over the past ten years OEH was staffed by both Hennepin County (HC) and City of Minneapolis employees.  It has gone through multiple shifts in organizational structure and personnel over the past ten years.

Summary of Communication:

7/3/17 – David Hewitt’s email to you providing notice of the ongoing process to produce a final report on the ten-year plan.

7/11/17 – David Hewitt’s email to you attaching the two most recent ‘annual reports’ (2015 & 2014).  Clarification made that HHH made of different government, non-profit, and faith groups, that the plan didn’t come with funding, & HHH didn’t ‘manage’ the programs that were undertaken in our community.

7/12/17 – David Hewitt’s email to you clarifying philanthropic funding for the two projects was handled by the Family Housing Fund (non-profit).  The City paid the Office Director’s salary until recently, while the county paid for other team members.

7/25/17 – David Hewitt’s email to you clarifying details of the three recommendations under Goal 2 – Outreach.  It wasn’t the role of OEH to charge or fund entities and organizations but rather facilitate and coordinate.

8/7/17 – David Hewitt’s email to you that only two permanent positions fall within OEH’s budget. The Continuum of Care post and Coordinated Entry Coordinators are budgeted elsewhere within Hennepin County but are managed by the OEH.

8/23/17 – David Hewitt’s email to you, OEH was established to support the coordination of the ten-year plan implementation originally, and repeating that OEH has taken on specific functions in relation to community-wide systems (i.e. Coordinated Entry) since, while continuing to act as a strategic lead and coordination unit.

Please see Health and Human Services response to your request below:

All government data created, received, maintained or disseminated by the office to end homelessness relating to the successful implementation of the Ten Year Plan targets, identified as follows;

  1. “Change the paradigm from managing homelessness to ending it, from funding programs to investing in the community, from serving

people to partnering with people to achieve self-sufficiency.”

See annual reports:

2010 Annual Report

2011 Annual Report

2012 Five-Year Report

2014 Annual Report (already provided)

homeless-report-2015 (already provided)

  1. “Drastically reduce the number of shelter beds in our community, requiring only a few small shelters to address emergencies that cannot be resolved through prevention. People will be rapidly rehoused within two weeks.”

See annual reports.

  1. “Eliminate panhandling and other livability issues through providing prevention and outreach services. Downtown businesses will thrive as more people both move downtown and come downtown to shop, play and attend Twins games.”

See annual reports.

  • All government data and documents created, received, maintained or disseminated by the office to end homelessness documenting efforts undertaken to ensure that those charged with addressing the problem of homelessness and receiving financial remuneration for their work are reflective of the populations served.

No responsive data.

As previously stated to you, Lisa Thornquist is compiling a comprehensive ten-year report on the Ten Year Plan.  This will be provided to you upon completion.

Thank you,

Nick Schicker

Data Practices & Privacy Officer

Health & Human Services

Hennepin County

612-348-3937

 

 

 

 

Hennepin County’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, an Open Records Request

In 2006 a group of seventy people gathered to formulate a 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness in the City of Minneapolis and Greater Hennepin County. As a continuing series on this web-site is currently examining a core group of twenty to twenty-five people held the reigns and controlled the direction and process of the Plan in question.
As an article in the Minneapolis Star & Tribune which appeared, appropriately, on April 1, 2017 and entitled “Hennepin County’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness Falls Short” it was noted that at the end of the plan homelessness, overall, had actually increased by 2.5%. There are problems with the article as is so often the case insofar as those interviewed and quoted portray their efforts in a characteristically favorable light while disseminating some very misleading information. For example, that the reduction in veterans homelessness in the area was attributable to state-led efforts which is demonstrably false.

Homelessness, a Lucrative Endeavor

Homelessness, a Lucrative Endeavor

The plan promised many things, among them that at the end of the plan there would be a drastic reduction in emergency shelter beds. The plan also placed a premium on the importance of data. Yet the sharing of data, well, that’s problematic. There are many who would be very interested in a wide variety of the data collected during the ten year period in question but the public sharing of that data has been very selective.
There have been many claims made as to why the Plan has failed–and how can anyone argue that it has been successful? It would be nice to know, for example, when the Office to End Homelessness attributes failure to such things as the tornado which ripped through North Minneapolis. The Office’s web-site claims that the tornado “destroyed much of the region’s affordable housing stock”, a nonsensical claim. Is there any data to back that up? How about the foreclosure crisis and the causal link between that and actual people ending up in homelessness. Similarly, the purported causal link between refugees coming to Minnesota and rates of homelessness. These claims–and many others–are made, but where’s the proof, where’s the data?

The group of people who led this failure have all made out rather well. Twenty to twenty five people: It would be great to know how much it cost to pay the salaries and attendant costs for them to continue to preside over this long-enduring debacle. Five million a year, ten? It would be nice to take a look at that, too. It would also be interesting to inquire as to just how it is that this small group continues to achieve greater acclaim and promotion—that part’s easy I guess, they deserve it, just ask them and they will be glad to tell you how good they are…and yet….

So, a group of thirty-five people, unable to find answers to some really basic questions such as those asked above. decided that they would simply ask. The Plan stressed the importance of data. They had ten years to gather plenty, right? Let’s see it then, okay? We decided to submit a request under Minnesota’s open data statute asking the Office to End Homelessness to provide data gathered under the six goals delineated in the 10 Year Plan. This open records request was submitted to the Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness on FOI data request HHH sept 4 2017.

We will be sharing this effort widely via social media outlets and a variety of stakeholders as the process moves forward. It’s okay if they don’t want to provide answers to some questions, such as staff expenditures….we can find those out on our own with a modicum of effort.  While many people were paid quite handsomely and they had a decade we are reasonably sure that our efforts will be met with excuses and obfuscation. But this effort will be fully transparent and members of the public will be able to decide for themselves whether the tens of millions of dollars expended were well spent…or not. Given the expenditures and the time, providing basic information regarding the clearly identified goals written into the plan shouldn’t be a problem, right?

 

Decades of Ending Homelessness, Part II

The Hennepin County-City of Minneapolis Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness is illustrative of this set of aspectual considerations. As the 2006 Wilder Survey noted, 38% of homeless adults were African-American, 11% were Native American, 8% were of mixed race and 7% were Hispanic-Latino. Nearly half of the population reported having been treated for mental health issues and 47% of the homeless adults reported having been incarcerated at some point in their lives. Close to half reported substance or alcohol abuse disorders. By gender, the number of men was almost double that of women in the State. One in four homeless men had served in the military.

The commission included five African-Americans, two Hispanic-Latinos, one Asian and no Native-American members. A total of five members had experienced homelessness themselves and three openly avowed having experienced justice interaction. Two members indicated that they had been treated for mental health conditions or disorders. One third of the members were women, though arguably this sub-group held a disproportionate level of power within the commission as will be illustrated further. Three commission members openly avowed struggling with a substance and\or alcohol abuse disorder. In short, the commission’s membership didn’t resemble the population served nor did they reflect the hallmark characteristics of those who experienced homelessness.

Money from misery

The Homelessness Industry

The Old Gals Network

I came to refer to the core leadership, the nucleus of the effort, as the “old gals network”. As long as I ingratiated myself with that crowd and didn’t bother to take umbrage at their exploitation of people like me, all was good. But when, as the work progressed my differences with their approach to the problem and their searing insistence that we couldn’t possibly do without them, I publicly took them on for what they were doing…my days were numbered. So, who were they and how did they fit within the demographic and systemic portrayal drawn above?

Internally, the directions undertaken by the Minneapolis-Hennepin County 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness were largely determined by membership of the Shelter Providers Action Association (SPAA, a rather unfortunate acronym). There are five Emergency Homeless Shelters within the City of Minneapolis and within the constructs of funding, service provision and advocacy efforts undertaken within the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin county, the core membership of this organization largely determines what will occur. The five shelter directors operated in close association with the HUD, State-level agencies such as MHFA and local advocacy and service provision organizations such as M.E.S.H. (Metro-Wide Engagement on Shelter and Housing), the Bridge for Runaway Youth, Minnesota Assistance Council for Homeless Veterans (MACV) and City and associated public, city and county offices. In composite, there were—and remain—thirty to thirty five people who dominate service delivery, funding streams and advocacy efforts within the homeless services paradigm. Policy-makers and those working in related systems and in academia followed the lead of this core group. Lacking sanction from this core group you had little chance of achieving much of anything.

Ninety percent of this core group consisted of white middle-class women between the ages of 35 and 55. None of them had experienced homelessness, justice interaction, military service, substance abuse or mental illness—in the latter two categories, at least not publicly. While they encouraged someone like me to publicly trot out personal experience in order to illustrate that homelessness could “happen to anyone” more than one member of this core group privately cautioned me against talking about my experiences publicly. They traded positions across offices and organizations within their finite membership, presented each other with awards year after year and were continually congratulating one another on their “sacrifice”, “commitment to the work” and “selfless” advocacy on behalf of the homeless.

“Selflessness and Commitment”, a Lucrative Proposition

I was not alone in some level of wonderment and consternation at the notion of their selflessness and their commitment–not to mention the utter lack of qualifications, experiential or professional–that was the norm among their number. The Director of one of the major shelters held a B.A. in German, the Director of the 10 year plan was a photographer and most of the rest came out of Liberal Arts backgrounds with no professional training of any kind related to work on homelessness. Simply put, these were people who stumbled into jobs working at one of the shelters and found that such occupation was quite lucrative. The Director with a background in German Language, for example, pulled down $89,000 a year for his position at an Emergency Shelter. The Director of Hearth Connection earned $120,000 per annum for managing five staff and the Director of the Ten Year Plan earned well over $100,000 in 2006. In short, this group of very close associates acted in close cooperation and they guarded their turf zealously. It’s not difficult to understand why. Salaries aside, the ancillary perks were considerable. Hell, if you paid me 120,000 a year to sit around large tables in posh surroundings to discuss problems faced by people with whom I had nothing in common I would be committed, too.

To illustrate the close associations within that finite pool of service providers and advocates it is worthwhile to note that in 2016 one of the mainstays is now on the St. Louis Park City Council, another protégé of Commissioner Gail Dorfman (the lead orchestrator of “the work” in Hennepin County) is now Mayor of Minneapolis while Dorfman herself now presides over St. Stephens Shelter. Other players in “the work” during the period 2003-2007 have gone on to equally lucrative and powerful positions in city, county and state offices or in the private sector. This is a close-knit community engaged in self-promotion and unabashed self-congratulation over the course of decades. Where else can you earn six figure salaries while failing, demonstrably, over the course of decades?

That the person who had launched the 2006 Minneapolis-Hennepin County Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness should offer the same general observation in 2016 following such dismal results is hardly surprising. For fifty years affordable housing and homeless advocates have attributed the problem to a lack of affordable housing:  The lack of affordable housing, however, is only part of the problem but we’ve erected a vast service-delivery and advocacy infrastructure dependent upon this cornerstone and to challenge it remains the greatest of heresies. If you were to ask a black male justice-involved combat veteran with mental health issues in the City of Minneapolis what were the main problems he faced in the realm of homelessness the first words out of his mouth would not be, “the lack of affordable housing”.

(To be continued)

Decades of Ending Homelessness, Part I

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“You call this progress, because you have motor cars and telephones and flying machines and a thousand potions to make you smell better? And people sleeping on the streets?” 

 ― Howard ZinnMarx in Soho: A Play on History

A Professional Advocacy Caste and Efforts to End Homelessness

Seventy ‘community leaders’ gathered at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota half-way through 2006 to churn out a ten-year plan to end homelessness in Hennepin County.  According to the Wilder Foundation, there were between 9,200 and 9,300 homeless people in the State of Minnesota that year.  According to the same source in 2015 there were an estimated 9,313 homeless people. In an article which appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on February 28, 2016 the Director of the ten-year plan at the outset remarked, “ending homelessness boils down to making housing affordable and providing services so people can live independently.“. For decades, the persistence of widespread homelessness has been primarily attributed to a lack of affordable housing: advocacy efforts and resources have been focused accordingly.

With the advent of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society in the mid-1960s a wide range of Federal Agencies were created and others were restructured, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On August 10, 1965 The Housing and Urban Development Act created several major expansions and the following month HUD was elevated to a cabinet-level agency. In 1968, the Fair Housing Act sought to eradicate discriminatory housing practices and in 1987 the agency added a fifth core mission, Between the creation of HUD as a cabinet-level agency and the addition of homelessness as one of its core missions, a wide range of other federal legislation  was enacted, including; the Emergency Home Finance Act (1970); The Rehabilitation Act (1973); Housing and Community Redevelopment Act (1974) and its amended version (1977); The Housing and Recovery Act (1983); and perhaps most importantly, the McKinney-Vento Act (1987).

In short, a plethora of Federal and parallel State-level legislation passed in to law targeting affordable housing and the phenomenon of homelessness. Attendant upon the enactment of this slate of legislation arose a professional advocacy caste arose which became self-perpetuating its fiscal requirements, over time, became the paramount consideration in all subsequent endeavors—so did the emphases its membership chose to select within attacks upon the problem. Said emphases continually failed to understand the problem of homelessness within broader social contexts. While nearly half of those who experienced homelessness struggled with the collateral consequences of justice interaction, the social barriers erected by racial discrimination and  inadequate wages, the leadership involved in policy, at all levels, chose to focus on the lack of affordable housing or Federal block-grant allocations for supportive vs. transitional housing.

Homelessness in America

Homelessness in America

The nature and function of this professional advocacy caste and the requirements its continued existence demand have not been well-considered. First and foremost, this professional caste of advocates has become increasingly separated from the populations they serve. Lacking in shared experience and wholly disconnected from the communities they serve they have failed, repeatedly, to attack the core problems arising out of the fluidity of a wide range of social problems. For example, while mass incarceration impacted communities across the nation during the 1980s and 1990s, becoming one of the primary feeder systems for the problem of homelessness, the national leadership charged with tackling the problem undertook little in terms of substantive advocacy. Another example would be the mortgage foreclosure crisis and the practice of predatory lending, particularly within communities of color—the crisis fell upon tens of millions, thrusting hundreds of thousands into the status of being marginally housed or homeless before the national advocacy community lurched into action.

Personal Disconnection from the Communities Served

Personal disconnection from the communities served and the problems they experience has ensured that, despite colossal fiscal outlays and a slate of federal and state legislation, the problem of homelessness is worse now than in 1968. Let’s consider the leadership of some of the paramount advocacy organizations from the standpoint of demographics, beginning with the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH). According to the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), single men comprised 51% of the homeless population, single women, 17%. Families with children comprise 33%. In terms of race, the statistics are as follows; 49% African-American, 35% Caucasian, 13% Hispanic, 2% Native American and 1% Asian. In terms of Veterans Status, 40% of Homeless men are veterans. Approximately 16% are diagnosed with a Severe and Persistent Mental Illness and circa 30% suffer from an addictive disorder. Curiously absent from the fact sheet in question, is reporting around the topic of justice involvement—multiple sources assign the percentage of the homeless who experience justice interaction at nearly half. The largest sections of the fact sheet cited are those dealing with Domestic Violence and Families, though within context these are problems impacting a minority within the broader population of homelessness.

So, based on those statistical considerations—and omissions—it is of some interest to question the intersectionality between those served and those providing advocacy services. If a majority of those who experience homelessness are single, black men who are likely to have served in the military, experienced justice interaction and also suffer from mental health or substance abuse issues should that be somewhat reflected at the apex of the advocacy continuum? With that consideration in mind, let’s look at the leadership of both the NAEH and the NCH: The NAEH’s leadership is composed of nineteen members. Sixteen are women, one of whom is African-American (and her charge is office operations, not policy). There are three men, one of whom is African-American. None of the leadership ever served in the military, has experienced justice interaction, struggled with a substance abuse or mental health-related issue and none has personally experienced the problem of homelessness, at least openly.  The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) lists three leadership positions; the director is a white male and two women, one white, one Asian-American. Other major advocacy organizations include the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) lists nine national staff members; seven women, two men. By race, three are from communities of color—two of those Asian-American. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) is comprised of six leadership positions, two held by men, four by women—none of whom, at least publicly, acknowledges having experienced homelessness, though all served in the military.[5] The Corporation for Supportive Housing’s leadership team is comprised of a membership of five; four women, one man—all white.

The Disconnection in the State of Minnesota: Poverty Pimping

This jarring separation between populations served and those advocating on their behalf might be well illustrated in the State of Minnesota during the course of its ten year plan to end homelessness between the years 2006-2016. Dispassionate and severely disconnected from the problems they attempt to address, their over-arching interest is organizational perpetuation and not a commitment to fight where fighting needs to occur. The end result is, literally, sixty years of attempts to address widespread homelessness in the United States which have cost trillions of dollars and the problem is perhaps now worse than it ever was.

The State of Minnesota, during the course of its ten year plan to end homelessness (2006-2016), well illustrates what happens when colossal resources are vested in the hands of a small group of people with virtually no interconnection between their own interests and experience and those of the people they ostensibly serve.

From 1998 to 2008 I was very much a player in the work around homelessness in the State of Minnesota, in general, and particularly within efforts that took place in the Metropolitan region—the seven counties comprising the Twin Cities and adjoining suburbs. I served on the Boards of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), led the Decriminalization of Homelessness Task Force, served on HUD’s Continuum-of-Care (CoC) over the course of years, the Hennepin County Community Advisory Board on Homelessness (CABoH) and as the Lobbyist and Advocacy Coordinator for the Council on Crime and Justice. I was very much an integral part of work on the problem of homelessness during that period of time. However, my areas of focus were very different from those in the mainstream of work around homelessness during that time-frame. In 2007 I staged a very public insurrection against what I viewed as the exploitative practices of the leadership involved in the business of ending homelessness—emphasis on the word “business”.

In order to understand the business of serving the homeless and the battle to end homelessness in the State of Minnesota and the seven county metropolitan area comprised of the Twin Cities it is of great importance to understand who the people are who comprised (and comprise) those efforts.

(To be continued)

 

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s Purchase of Trump Property

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Dmitry Rybolovlev is one of a very finite set of Russian or Ukranian oligarchs whose net worth is estimated to exceed 10 billion dollars. A cardiologist by training, Ryoblovev made his money through fertilizer and has been referred to in the Russian media as the “fertilizer king”. having formerly owned two large companies that produced potash, Uralkali and Silvinit,

He is of interest in relation to President Donald J. Trump primarily for a real estate deal in Palm Springs which occurred in 2008 when Rybolovlev purchased a property from Trump for an astounding 100 million dollars. The tale represents yet one more instance of questionable interactions with Russian officials and businessmen and has raised a series of questions that have gone unanswered.

Trump Purchased Maison de l’Amitie for 41 Million in 2005

Healthcare tycoon Abraham Gosman, the previous owner of the property, had become mired in financial difficulties which ultimately resulted in tax fraud convictions for both himself and his wife. The property went on the market and was purchased by Donald Trump in 2005 for 41.35 million dollars. The 62,000 square foot mansion boasted many amenities and luxuries, including a 100 foot swimming pool. According to multiple sources, Trump had never intended on living at the property but merely sought to flip the property at a profit.

In a story in the Miami Herald gossip columnist Jose Lambiet one of a very few reporters who had been invited by Trump to help drum up publicity when he put the property back on the market in 2006, remarked that, “it was just terriblelooking, really gaudy.” Lambiet, like many others familiar with properties of the wealthy in Palm Springs, balked at the purportedly renovated property, balked at the 125 million dollar asking price. According to Lambiet, the renovation was dubious, going on to note,

““I’d been in the house before, at one of Gosman’s charity parties, and Trump had hardly changed anything, just put on a couple of coats of paint,” Lambiet said. “Even that — well, he told us the fixtures in one of the bathrooms were gold, but as he walked away, I scratched a faucet with my fingernails and it was just gold-covered paint.”

Dmitry Rybolovlev

Dmitry Rybolovlev

On July 15, 2008 after a bit of back-and-forth, Rybolovlev purchased the property for the aforementioned price of 100 million. Rybolovlev never lived on the property and it was subsequently demolished and nothing whatsoever remains on the grounds of the compound.

So, What Actually Took Place with the Sale of the Palms Springs Property?

Trump’s financial travails have become legendary and they are, at the very least, a recurrent theme. In 2008 then real-estate mogul Trump filed a law-suit asserting that he should not be required to pay a payment of 40 million dollars to Deutsche Bank due at the time. Unable to obtain financing for his Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago from U.S. financial institutions, Trump had obtained 640 million in construction loans from a syndicate headed up by Deutsche Bank in 2005. The law-suit argued that he should not have to make his 40 million dollar payment and that in fact the syndicate should have to pay him 3 million. According to Trump pushing him to repay the installment due defamed his reputation and that the then economic downturn somehow absolved him of his financial responsibilities.

In 2011, ABC News reported that Trump and affiliates had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections on four separate occasions; 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009. With the time-frame at hand in mind, ABC went on to note,

“When the economy turned downward in 2008, so too did Trump’s real estate holdings. Trump Entertainment and his affiliated companies had $2.06 billion in assets and was $1.74 billion in debt. In December 2008 his company missed a $53.1 million bond interest payment, propelling Trump Entertainment Resorts into bankruptcy court and plunging its stock price from $4 per share to a mere 23 cents.”

At the time of the Palm Springs Real Estate deal Trump was, yet again, on the financial ropes  An extra 50 million from a dubious Palm Strings real estate deal with a Russian Oligarch was not an unwelcome cash infusion. What really happened?

Meeting with Rybolovlev in North Carolina in November, 2016

Just days before the election on November 9, 2016  On November 3, 2016 Rybolovlev’s jet landed in Concord, North Carolina and departed from Charlotte three hours later. At the same time, then GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump was also in Concord. The Daily Kos was one of the few media outlets to report on this rather curious confluence of paths, particularly in light of subsequent events. Also present in Concord at the time were both Carter Page and Paul Manafort.

As you will recall, Paul Manafort had run Trump’s Presidential campaign for five months before being forced to step aside due to his undisclosed involvements with Russian and Ukranian agents. Carter Page, according to multiple sources, also served as a conduit between Russian business, intelligence and governmental assets and later lied about having met with any of them. Similarly, then Senator Jeff Sessions also met with the Russian Ambassador and other officials and then lied before a Senate Committee about said meetings.

Did Donald Trump, facing yet another slate of financial failures of epic scale during the period 2005-2008 become enmeshed in clandestine financial dealings with Russian agents? Was the real estate deal with Rybolovlev really a pay off by Russia made as part of our now President’s possible compromising by Putin and his minions? No one gives away 50 million for nothing.

This real estate deal is merely one of many in the dark dossier of our President. Of course he could allay fears by releasing his tax returns as he promised on the campaign trail, but that seems, at best, a chimerical hope at this stage. If there’s nothing to any of this “Russia stuff’ then why all the lying, obfuscation and refusal to be forthcoming? Many believe that this is exactly what it seems to be: Our President has been compromised along the way and we had better figure it out very quickly before he destroys what’s left of our Republic.

 

Calling Dana Loesch, the NRA and the New Confederacy

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You’ve probably seen it by now, the latest bile-laden spew from the National Rifle Association featuring that dusky-hewed siren of prevarication, Dana Loesch. If not, here you go:

Dana Loesch, NRA spokeswoman

Dana Loesch, NRA spokeswoman (video)

Here’s the verbatim transcript of the controversial video, extracted for your convenience;

“They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance. All to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding — until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness. And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth. I’m the National Rifle Association of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place”

Yep, it’s a vitriolic mouthful to be sure, awash, from start to finish, with the whole gamut of faux statements–demonstrably so. Running beneath if all is a slough of ill-founded beliefs grounded in an ill-digested understanding of our history, our nation’s laws and the precepts and values we hold dear. Let’s just call it what it is, a resurgent and regurgitated set of strains very similar to those upon which the Confederate States of America were founded. Of course Ms. Loesch, like so many on the right cut from similar cloth, remain steadfast in their quasi-Patriotic convictions and they’re willing to fight for their “truth”.

Destroying the First Amendment’s Guarantees of a Free Press

Loesch, like so many cut from the same cloth, operates in a nefarious, selective region utterly lacking in respect for any of the free and ever-evolving liberties upon which our constitutional framework was constructed. People like Loesch simply don’t understand what that means. At inception, the Republic had enfranchised a mere 14% of the population–only white, propertied males could vote. She would do well to remember that for if she really did extol the virtues of what some call “strict constitutionalism” she, for one, would neither be allowed to vote nor would she have a public platform to shout from. The expansions which allowed her those rights were not achieved by the forces of political or social conservative efforts, but by those which were clearly within Liberal ideological frameworks.

It’s not fake news to note that under the current administration serious attempts are underway to undo a slate of significant protections–fundamental civil rights and liberties. People are screaming “racism”, Dana, because when the North Carolina, Republican-led legislature undertakes voter suppression efforts which, in the language of the Circuit Court decision handed down, sought to attack black voters with “surgical precision” it’s not fake news to note that such attacks are, by definition, racist. Such efforts targeting minority voters are afoot across the nation.

It is maddening to attempt to treat with these people for they simply do not care about our values, they do not know our history well and they could care less about the integrity of factual frameworks and rational discussion. They are led by the a profane, untutored buffoon who also happens to be a megalomaniac and the biggest liar in the annals of the Oval Office. The rest of the world knows this….but Ms. Loesch, as a denizen of the 35-40% of the rabble who support Trump, believes that they are the custodians of the truth.

A New Confederacy, with Corporate Backing

One of the oft-repeated bits of nonsense spouted by the Right is the revisionist view of history which claims that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery. Of course it was about slavery you insufferable, ignorant fools. Bloody Kansas and John Brown, the many travails of the Buchanan Administration, the Missouri Compromise and Dred Scot. From Harper’s Ferry to the election of 1860 and from the Boston Abolitionists to the split in the Democratic party at the time, it is abundantly clear that the events leading up to the Civil War were all about the issue of slavery. What sort of moron holds otherwise? Only someone who understands nothing about US history could claim such a thing.

In terms of geography, attitudes toward Federalism, racial politics, judicial independence, justice….so many of the underpinnings of our political differences today reverberate directly out of the past.

The Fake News is the nonsense being perpetrated by the extreme political right at present and our President is playing a leading role. These forces are driving us toward another round of civil strife reminiscent of the war between the states. For students of history, one thing should be very clear: Dana Loesch and those cut from the same cloth will not be on the side of ultimate victory—they do not represent the best of our values and traditions, they represent the worst side of who we are.

 

Defending the Indefensible: The Death of Philando Castile

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On July 6, 2016 St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled over Philando Castile on a routine traffic-stop for a broken brake light. The officer approaches the vehicle, informs Castile of the reason for the stop then asks for his license and registration. So far, so good. This sort of thing happens countless times a day in the United States. The dash-cam video and audio are very clear. Castile reaches for his license, as directed, and informs the officer he also is a licensed firearm carrier and that he had the firearm on his person at the time. Seconds later, Officer Yanez fires seven rounds at point-blank range into the vehicle while screaming, “don’t move, don’t move!”–as if anyone is going to be moving much after they’ve had seven rounds pumped into them at close range. Castile’s girlfriend, present in the vehicle in the passenger’s seat at the time, recorded the entire incident and posted it immediately to Facebook. The footage went viral. Indeed, she remained far more self-possessed than the officer doing the shooting, a fact not lost on the tens of millions of people who subsequently watched the video. In spite of the fact that her child was in the backseat of the vehicle at the time.

Dashcam footage of the shooting of Philando Castile

Dashcam footage of the shooting of Philando Castile

For millions of people it seemed this would be an open and shut case. How could any rational person watching the video (and there’s more than one in this case) conclude that the officer involved acted professionally or in commensurate response to the situation?

The Spin Began Immediately, the Tired Old Lies and Unsupported Rhetoric

One may deem the spiel that ensued from the law enforcement community as something other than bullshit, but I’ll just call it that, bullshit. The same old tool-box of misrepresentations and wholly unsupported rhetoric trotted out to dress up the use of deadly force by a cop who, for whatever reason, over-reacted and killed another person without any semblance of justification whatsoever. We’re familiar, but let’s break down the unmitigated prevarication into its component parts and then get back to what this was, homicide without sufficient grounds. It’s as simple as that.

As in so many high-profile cases over the course of the last several decades involving a police officer’s use of deadly force and a black male victim the under-lying spin revolves around the construction of a false narrative unsupported by any matching evidence. The primary and most elemental component involved is the quasi-mythical, ethereal construct wherein police officers are constantly ducking bullets and in imminent danger on a daily basis. We, as civilians would simply never understand the constant peril and what officers deal with on a daily basis.

Therefore, the sub-text reads, we should kind of understand why they shoot people under questionable circumstances from time to time…being that they face constant peril on a daily basis and all. And yet, there are many professions with far higher on-the-job mortality rates, but somehow those working those jobs manage to not shoot the shit out of people on a weekly basis. Social workers, mental health professionals, employees in troubled schools….somehow manage, though they face very similar situations while working in very similar contexts, manage not to whack people on a regular basis and then try to write it off as an understandable by-product of job-related stress. Sorry, officers, lots of us just don’t buy your bullshit. And that is what it is, bullshit.

The Prevalence of Line-of-Duty Fatalities Among Minnesota Police Officers

But in the case of Philando Castile’s murder–yes, murder–the same old, gone bad-in-the-teeth from over-use rhetoric was trotted out once more to justify the actions of Yanez.

Facts. They are kind of important in a justice context, aren’t they? So, let’s look at the factual bases for the aforementioned sub-text: Police officers are in constant, imminent danger and must be ever-ready to pull out their revolvers and fill someone full of holes because they’re, you know, in constant danger and all. So, let’s look at the facts behind that worn set of arguments.

Let’s start with the number of on-duty deaths among police officers in the largest police department in the State of Minnesota, Minneapolis. From 1981 to 2017 how many officers died while on duty? Take a guess. That would be seven. Yes, that’s right, seven. Five from gunfire, one from a heart attack and one from a vehicular assault. So, in 36 years, five officers.  Do the math. Every 7.2 years a Minneapolis police officer was killed in an exchange of gunfire during the course of duty. No one wants to see anyone get shot, but that’s not the point. The point is debunking the idea put forth every time a cop shoots someone to death under questionable circumstances that they face such constant, imminent danger that we should just accept it when, once in awhile, they blow someone to pieces…cos, you know, job stress and all.

More germane to the incident in question would be the statistical frequency of police deaths involving an exchange of gunfire among Forest Lake Police Officers. How many have occurred? That would be one….in 1932. Yes, that’s correct. The last time an officer from the Forest Lake PD was killed by a gunshot took place 84 years ago. So, it would be reasonable to state that one officer from this police department per century dies from a suspect shooting them. By any stretch it would be hard to make the argument that officers from the department in question face constant peril now would it? And yet, that’s the underlying rhetoric trotted out….again.

Yanez, the sub-text reads, was a highly-trained officer who simply responded to a perceived threat. Again, we wouldn’t understand cos, you know, all the stress he was under. It wasn’t that he was an over-excited, steroidal thug who totally over-reacted to the situation at hand and shot a guy multiple times in the presence of a child, during the course of a traffic stop for a broken brake light and then tried to lie his way out of it with the support of, you know, all the stressed out cops facing gunfire on a daily basis in Minnesota. The guardians and accountants of personal responsibility in blue are seemingly never responsible for their actions. Especially when it involves a young black man.

Which Takes Us to the Next Component of the Bullshit Narrative

The next component in the bullshit narrative was also passing familiar: A man of similar appearance was, purportedly, involved in an armed robbery in the vicinity. By “similar appearance” they were, of course, referring to a young black guy. All too familiar. Behind that threadbare “factual” element a bunch of other crap gets trotted into the narrative: Black guys are more likely to commit violent felonies, black guys are more likely to carry guns–especially young black guys not dressed in suits (and even those black guys are suspicious), black guys are more likely to shoot black guys (as if that has anything to do with this), etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

And behind that train of infamous deceits the rallying point is now, “Blue Lives Matter”. Again the false narrative hinging upon the notion that police officers are dodging bullets on a daily basis ergo if they shoot some young black guy once in awhile it’s wholly understandable. Again, in St. Anthony, Minnesota the last time a cop was fatally shot was 84 years ago people. There’s a statistically greater chance of being struck by lightning, fatally. No one is saying Blue Lives Matter, but as a legal pretext for shooting people to death under highly questionable circumstances….that dog just don’t hunt.

As in any other profession, you have the good and the bad. However, in the domain of law enforcement, unlike any other profession, there’s almost never any culpability assigned nor any level of responsibility undertaken. Cos, you know, if one of them fatally shoots someone, especially if he’s black, we should just accept…cos, you know, of the stress….every 84 years one of them gets shot….the stress of that is just too much.

In 2016 Police Fatally Shot 963 People

According to the Washington Post’s tally, in 2016 Police Officers shot and killed 963 people. A disproportionately high number of those fatalities were black men. Those on the political right supportive of the use of excessive force (the, “cos, you know, they’re under a lot of stress” crowd) often  invoke all of the mantras cited above. They also like to note that more white men are killed by police than black guys. Problem is they apparently can’t do basic fucking math…cos, you know, there are more white guys than black guys, but factual arguments in that crowd are as hard to find as the ability to think about much of anything using reason and evidence and fact.

Of the thousands of officer-involved fatal shootings that occur each and every year almost none are ever indicted, fewer still and almost none convicted of any offense. Despite the fact that violent crime has been decreasing in the majority of the United States for 30 years you’d never know that in listening to police rhetoric.

In the State of Minnesota, a non-profit organization, Communities United Against Police Brutality has kept a running tally of those slain in police interactions. The list is called “Stolen Lives” and you may reference it here. 

The Yanez Verdict, “Not Guilty” the City of St. Anthony Pays out over 3 Million

Recently, a jury handed down a verdict of not-guilty in the trial of St Anthony police officer Yanez  on manslaughter charges for the shooting of Philando Castile. The decision sparked rage among many in the State of Minnesota. A not-guilty verdict and yet a civil decision resulted in an over 3 million dollar pay-out to the family. One of many in recent history for police-involved cases in the State. 

Think about that for a bit. Not guilty, but three million paid out. Yanez walks away. He lost his job, Philando lost his life. In the wake of so many similar cases across the nation justice is clearly something meted out differently by race. It’s that simple. I’m from Minnesota with deep roots there. I know how people think. As a white male from St. Cloud who grew up in the 1960s I can tell you that this is, in many ways, exactly what it looks like–permission granted to police officers to over-react and shoot someone to death, particularly if he’s black. It’s bullshit.