by Tiny Gray-Garcia, POOR Magazine
My name is A. Faye
I am a Lady of the Shelters.
I am a student and teacher of Life
In Indoor shelter living and Outdoor cardboard shelter living
I have met Hundreds of People
Most with Tragic Stories.
Jailhouse, Sickness … Mental and Physical
I am all alone
Yet not alone!
Sheltered in the Wings of Heaven!!!!
– Faye Hicks, Po Poet Laureate of POOR Magazine from “Poverty Scholarship: Poor People-Led Theory, Art, Words And Tears Across Mama Earth”
CARE Court unpacked by houseless poverty skolaz
“We got to do an investigative piece on that Care Not Cash shit; since they made it law now I can’t get a shelter bed at all.” It was a cold day in San Francisco in 2004 when A. Faye Hicks, the Po Poet laureate of POOR Magazine, houseless, disabled elder walked into our ComeUnity Newsroom with the story of scarcity hell for houseless residents of San Francisco under the new LIEgislation Care Not Cash.
Care NOT Cash was Gavin Newsom as a mayor’s campaign strategy to get into office, literally using the class hate people have for our houseless bodies. The LIEgislation said that us houseless people had to “pay” for our shelter bed.
He won and it happened, our HellFare crumb was stolen to pay for said “beds.” But, the funny part was: There were no shelter beds, so yeah, this horrible time flooded back to me as I learned more about the carceral state cloaked in soft neoliberal codes that Newsom, the governor, is calling CARE Court.
“CARE Court is a terrifying lie,” Johnny Z, a houseless street skola and POOR Magazine ROOFLESS radio reporter in occupied Yelamu (San Francisco) who is studying this LIEgislation carefully, as he does all things. Johnny Z does not have a Ph.D. from some eugenicist-named institution, but like me, has a Ph.D. in Poverty with a Major in Struggle. “It gives the state the power to decide who’s crazy and who is not,” Johnny concluded.
The Community Assistance Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court is yet another anti-social work – as I affectionately call it – lie, built to incarcerate, treat, sweep and ultimately remove houseless bodies from the street. And, oddly enough, it also reaches even to housed people.
CARE Court targets unhoused people throughout the state, but can apply to housed people as well. Though promoted as applying to people with severe mental health conditions, (Don’t)CARE courts are extremely arbitrary depending on the person adjudicating or even deciding whether someone is mentally “fit or unfit.” The LIEgislation specifically reads that adults diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum or an “other psychotic disorder” whom a judge finds lacking in judgment or likely to relapse could fall under its jurisdiction, according to the bill.
“Newsom is running for president,” James Burch, a warrior truth-teller with the Anti-Police Terror Project, who, along with Paul Boden from Western Regional Advocacy Program (WRAP), spoke on Po Peoples Radio about this terrifying LIEgislation.
“This bill takes up all the air. All the money will go into the court system, and nothing to housing or treatment.” Paul Boden unpacked what he re-labeled SCARE Court along with James Burch on Po Peoples Radio.
“Newsom has put out a clear threat of vendetta against any legislator that doesn’t pass CARE Court. Your bills won’t pass, and you will get nothing done if you dont vote for this,” said Burch at a CARE Court teach-in organized by Coaltion on Homelessness and Anti-Police Terror Project on Thursday. “And sadly, they have all capitulated, with the exception of one, Ash Khanna, proving they are all full of you know what,” James concluded.
CARE Court will disproportionately impact BIPOC and LGBTQ communities with disabiities across California and pour millions into a new coercive civil court system.
From a letter to Newsom on WRAPhome.org from Disability Rights California
(They don’t) Care Court
Full of lies – that simply put
Incarcerates all of us poor
Settlers been pimping care since before they stole this land from care not cash to shelter plus care
Poverty pimps use care so much yu’d think they actually care …
– Excerpt from “They DON’T CARE,” poem by Tiny aka Poverty Skola
From Care not Cash to Shelter Plus Care to Continuum of Care to (they don’t) CARE courts – as I say in my poem, you’d think they actually CARE, but a krapitalist system by design doesn’t have space for actual care. Actual care takes time, resources, love, hamster wheel stoppage and interdependence.
We live in a hyper-individualized society, mandating no time, no sharing, no caring and constant separating and individuating. We call 911 for a well-check, to take care of our elders, our children, our trauma.
We own MamaEarth and raise rent and evict people and then sweep, tow and incarcerate when they end up outside. We believe in the lies of private property and cult of individual success. Where is the room for care?
Then once we have evicted, removed, foreclosed and legislated love out of our communities, families and selves, now we don’t want to “see” the failures of that highly flawed system. And it all comes down to what I call the “Cult of Rehabilitation” – the idea that everyone must be well and must be “fixed” krapitalism is a hurting system that has left humans in its wake.
Evictions, closure of poor people elder homes, CONservatorship and foreclosures, not to mention low wage theft, gentriFUKation and a global pandemic thrown in for good measure, it is amazing that more of us aren’t walking around like my Aunti Carol, who, after losing her home and her womb, had what wite science called a “psychotic break” and was known as the “Screaming Woman.”
She was “forced” into almost everywhere the state could force her into, from Camarillo State Hospital to John George in Oakland, and this was on top of her womb, being forcibly sterilized, like so many houseless, poor and disabled women of California in the 1970s. (Currently working on a monologue for theatre on this).
Later, when me and my mama were arrested for living houselessly on the street, they tried to place my mama in a 5150 hold for being “distraught” that her caregiver, her daughter and the vehicle she was sleeping in were towed. The UC PoLice “diagnosed” her mental fitness.
The concept of “mental fitness” has always been arbitrary and rooted in racist, classist, ableist notions of who is “FIT” to see, live, speak or be seen. Beginning with the “Ugly Laws” – which myself and Leroy Moore have done a lot of WeSearch on for POOR Magazine, in addition to a powerful book by Susan Schweik of the same name – which in the late 1800s and for many years after legislated the ability to be poor and disabled in public. Coming out of this, we had the evil mental hospital system, which was forcibly sterilizing, incarcerating, operating on and killing poor and disabled people ALL the time.
And now we have the “sweeps” and all the legislations that make it illegal to be sick, poor, disabled, addicted and houseless in public, to sleep in your own car or to sit on the street.
How about instead of spending literally millions of dollars building up an already bulbous carceral system budget, incarcerating, adjudicating, moving and harassing poor and houseless people, maybe they could try listening to us poor and houseless people’s self-determined solutions.
Solutions like: ComeUnity Reparations, Poverty Scholarship Informed Care and Homefulness – which we mamafested right here in Deep East Huichun, 25 years after me and mamaz dream while on the street – where we hold constant trauma support healing groups, where we integrate poor and disabled peoples-led solutions to hoarding and cluttering, substance abuse and trauma and violence and where we actually don’t believe or practice the settler lie of rent or state violence.
But I guess that seems like too much actual CARE.
‘(They don’t) Care Court’ by Tiny
They DON’T CARE court
Full of lies – that simply put
Incarcerates all us poor
Settlers been pimping care since before they stole this land, from care not cash to shelter plus care
Poverty pimps use care so much you’d think they actually care
Care not cash
Took our welfare crumb and promised a shelter bed and a bus pass
Funny thing is there were no shelter beds jus like before the LIEgislation so we were lucky if we got a bus bench or park bench instead of more
Time in the heat and rain getting drenched
Cloaked in non-profiteer codes
Meant to CONfuse the masses with the emperor’s new clothes
People who wring their hands and proclaim
I Just want to help,
But in their hearts believe if u outside and broke – u shud be ashamed
We a Joke
So Back up
Helping us house-LESS would mean stopping the settler colonial lies of property ownership
Helping would NOT mean making another Carceral System that causes more pain, poLice & poli-tricks
How ‘bout stopping eviction and mass incarceration for racist poverty crimes – how bout housing that is easy to access and not full of lotteries and wait lists, u lucky if u ever get it & I got mines
How bout looking at your self that’s complicit ?
Could u sit with UncomfortableNESS ?
That Krapitalist success models force us to be sick
That wite Science diagnosis
Big Pharma pills
And Dirty Dollar Bills
Got us seeing and believing that EVERYONE just needs to b WELL
Maybe we redefine thrival
That Doesn’t include a pill for survival
Doesn’t include anything the system can make, take or break
Only a recognition that we aren’t all gonna be sick the same way
That Krapitalism is a fatal disease that big pharma has no pills to ease or make ok
That Eviction is elder abuse and dangerous oppression
That Settler Courts and Carceral states Take away our humanity whether they got names like Care they still built to break us, take us, and never liberate us
They Don’t Care Court is a lie
So u can look away from our broken lives
On the streets in front of your eyes
We here – Sick, Not sick – but most of all needing homes so we don’t need to be Home-LESS
Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia, aka “povertyskola,” is a poet, teacher and the formerly houseless, incarcerated daughter of Dee and mama of Tiburcio and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America” and “Poverty Scholarship: Poor People-led Theory, Art, Words and Tears Across Mama Earth” and co-founder of Homefulness, a homeless people’s solution to homelessness. Reach her at www.lisatinygraygarcia.com or @povertyskola on Twitter.