A Graceful Homeless Revolution

This week begins the yearly count of homeless individuals around Orange County (and elsewhere in California).

For me there is great irony in this event because last Saturday the homeless man who lived down the street from us was run over by a car on our way to my daughters birthday party.

The scene of the homeless man was horrifying on a number of levels for myself and my family. We had been caring for this man by giving him supplies and food. The car LITERALLY ran over him and his “home”.

This experience was so poetically described by my BFF Matthew Denckla that I wanted to post it here for all of you to read.

My BFF Melissa Bird was witness to a homeless vet having been run over, living on the side of a highway near her home in Anaheim this week. She and her husband, who is a vet himself, had given him some items and some help and encouragement, but Anaheim, being dominated by the corporate interests and PR concerns of Disney (And shockingly devoid of a homeless shelter.-MB), refuses to address its homeless problem. (Well supposedly they are now doing something but change takes time and so we have to be patient because you know, these people are homeless so we should be patient.-MB) So, a harmless vet is living in a tarp they gave him by the side of the road they use daily until he’s run over, and she gets to drive by the scene with her children in the car. And, according to the evil doublespeak of our land, this was that guy’s “personal responsibility” and “individual choice.” In plain view. And, she has to explain to her eight year old daughter who sees this on her birthday. Happy Birthday! “Be glad it’s not you!” So, it’s a huge uphill battle for kindness now. We are currently being “conditioned” for mass starvation, displacement and suffering domestically with our complete moral bankruptcy in addressing chronic and increasingly visible homelessness, as well as the classic “blame the victim” narratives of the American cult and culture of “individualism” as well as by the amoral apologists greedily, selfishly in service of our stampede towards oligarchic hegemony.

This man was not homeless as a result of anything that was explicitly his “fault” and he was incapable of “pulling himself up by his bootstraps” for a variety of reasons. He needed support from our community. He needed us to engage in #GracefulRevolution.

As someone who lives with a formerly homeless man (my husband) and who has advocated for the homeless at state legislatures (as a lobbyist) this death has profoundly affected me. I cannot stop crying about the loss of this human being.

Because he was deaf.

Because he served this country in battle.

Because he was not a drug addled asshat of a panhandler (who ironically most of the time have a home and are not really homeless).

Because in the shadow of the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH (ie. Disneyland), I have attended community meetings where my own neighbors talked about locking all the homeless people in a warehouse and throwing away the key.

In honor of this man, I want to invite you to join me as we engage in a new brand of advocacy where we humble ourselves to our shortcomings and engage in acts of graceful revolution that brings light to the true reality of people’s lives.

I believe that if we engage people in their own spaces, teach them to look at injustices as moments that touch our own lives, if we give them the knowledge of the power structure and the tools to infiltrate it’s membrane, then change will take place here in America.

Engaging in graceful revolution and taking responsibility for the power that each one of us has to change ourselves and the world allows us to focus on what we can build rather than on what we can take down.

I have personally experienced a mechanism of “othering” that has allowed politicians around the United States to dehumanize and depersonalize the homeless.

This process of othering perpetuates a system that forces the homeless into a perpetual state of absolute physical vulnerability.

Engaging in graceful revolution allows us to shatter the current system and revision it.

It gives us the opportunity to define a future that is focused on what WE do to empower the homeless and reminds us that WE cannot defend the status quo.

Graceful revolution gives us the capacity to incentivize the power brokers, leaders and community members of Orange County to build a system that takes care of our homeless people so that we don’t have to explain to my daughter on her 8th birthday why a dead man had nowhere to live.

Today, I invite you to join the revolution.

#gracefulrevolution

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About Melissa Bird

Melissa Bird is a passionate feminist who has turned her education in social work into a career advocating for children, women and their families. She is a fierce believer in preparing women for leadership roles in politics and has a wealth of experience working with policy makers, community leaders, and other stakeholders to improve access to reproductive health care for women, men and teens. In 2006, Melissa became the Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Utah where she quickly took a struggling political organization from mediocre to powerhouse in just a few years. Melissa has written and passed into law six pieces of legislation that aim to help disadvantaged homeless youth find shelter and women and their families obtain unfettered access to reproductive health care. A spirited public speaker, Melissa derives great joy from speaking to groups of all sizes about social justice advocacy, reproductive health, women’s empowerment, and fundraising. Melissa has presented workshops at many conferences throughout the country such as: Planned Parenthood Federation of America-State Public Affairs Network: New Public Affairs Staff Orientation—Washington D.C. Planned Parenthood Federation of America-Innovations & Generations Conference—Seattle, Washington Troubled Youth Conference—Snowbird, Utah Child Welfare League of America National Conference—Washington D.C. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center of Mental Health Services Conference-Collaborative Approaches to Successful Transition for Children, Youth, and Families within System of Care—Dallas, Texas Melissa has played many roles throughout her life including preschool teacher, professional lobbyist, university professor, non-profit executive, wife and mother. Throughout her life and her career, Melissa has always held a deep conviction that she is here to empower others in order to improve the lives of women and children throughout the world.
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