My experience volunteering with the homeless

Last Monday I had the opportunity to participate in the Housing 1000 project, which consists of interviewing thousands of homeless people in the Bay Area with the aim to provide housing for 1000 of the most vulnerable people. The surveying process began early in the morning, and we found several homeless people outside a shelter in San Jose. The survey asked questions about the length of time the person has been on the streets, prior military service, prior drug use/abuse, and incarceration. My girlfriend and I found it interesting that the majority of the people we interviewed had some drug abuse in their history, and almost 100% of the interviewees admitted to having been incarcerated at some point in their lives.

Another interesting insight we learned was that homelessness knows no limits. We met people who held Bachelor’s degrees, Masters degrees (one with an MBA!), and to my surprise, I ran into MY EX-BOSS! This man once ran our program, and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who is well trained in substance abuse and mental health issues! Although I did not pry into the reason why he is now homeless, I feel that substance abuse may have played an instrumental role. Overall, I realized that homelessness is a predicament that can happen to anyone, even the most professional, educated individual. I plan to further research this topic for my next WISR project.

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Battle in Seattle- worth watching!

I was home sick from work yesterday, and I stumbled across a film through the Netflix instant view browser. The movie is called “Battle in Seattle,” which ¬†depicts the mass protests that occurred in the winter of 1999 in Seattle. The protests were against the¬†World Trade Organizations Ministerial Meeting, and the film includes real footage from the actual event. In this film I observed the tactics the police use to control the peaceful masses, such as using pepper spray, tear gas, and beating up protesters and unlucky bystanders. The film demonstrates what America looks like under a police state, much like the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989 or the Soviet Union under Stalin. It’s truly eye opening, and makes one question how the people are supposed to uphold their constitutional rights while the police that are supposed to be there to protect them are the ones spraying them and locking them up. Perhaps the Freedom of Assembly is a lost cause, but many citizens will not go down without a fight.

Details of the film can be found here:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0850253/

 

Alex

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Experiences with racial profiling

I have been contemplating what my next project should be, and I decided to go with something that I have personally experienced several times in my life. Growing up as a brown Mexican-American has not always been easy. Although my appearance and accent match my surroundings, I continually experience prejudice and profiling on a regular basis. My last few experiences occurred while traveling last year. I was able to explore 7 different countries, and nowhere on earth did I feel as pre-judged or experience profiling as I did in return to my home country, the United States. Security checkpoints “randomly” screened me well beyond the average, at times utilizing state of the art machines and thorough inspections of my belongings, to the point of removing everything from my suitcase and checking the liner inside. This entire time, I watch as countless people get permitted acceptance back into their country, while I wait and stand humiliated, treated like a guilty criminal. The demeanor of the security inspectors is frightening, who look at me with conviction. This did not occur once, or twice, but numerous times, all carried out by my own countrymen, in my own backyard. My girlfriend, who has traveled extensively herself, tells me that she has never had such a hard time getting back into the country as she has when she travels with me. Perhaps I fit a stereotype, perhaps drug smugglers and terrorists fit a certain criteria. But the question remains- do I not deserve the same treatment as everyone else? Is this not a “free” country, who broke down segregation many years ago?

For this assignment, I would like to get your feedback- have you experienced any form of prejudice or racial profiling by your country? If so, please post your experience. I will truly appreciate it. Thank You.

Alex

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