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In Significant Shift from Criminalizing Homelessness, Judge Rules Man’s Vehicle Is Indeed His Home

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A considerable and potentially momentous shift in the need for Seattle to confront its homelessness emergency occurred last week, when a judge invoked the 123-year-old Homestead Act in determining a homeless man’s vehicle is, in fact, his home — thusly, cannot be seized to satisfy an outstanding debt.

Further, King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer found the fines and fees applied by the city — first, $900 for towing and impound, in addition to a $44 ticket, and later reduced to $557, with the ticket waived — amounted to an insurmountable burden for Steven Long, 58, whose monthly income totaled between $300 and $600, and thus violated constitutional protections against excessive fines, as defined by the Eighth Amendment.

“We believe this case has a lot of implications for other people using their vehicles as homes,” Long’s attorney, Ali Bilow, of Columbia Legal Services, observed, according to Governing.

“I think Seattle municipal judges should follow this ruling and take a hard look when homeless individuals, who are living in their vehicles, are charged these really excessive fees.”

Where the condition of homelessness had previously been combated controversially through criminalization of its many iterations — prohibitions on camping, vehicle-sleeping, and, at one time, panhandling, for instance — Friday’s decision forces officials to consider the full scope of its concomitant housing and homelessness crises.

Governing continues, noting the “decision could impact how cities across the state enforce parking regulations when people are living in cars. It also speaks to the complications people living in vehicles pose for the city as it deals with a growing homelessness crisis.”

Indeed, appeal remains an option, and although Assistant City Attorney Michael Ryan has yet to indicate whether or not it will come to fruition, his concern such a move creates the need for error on the side of leniency on the issue of city camping — vehicle-sleeping, being one form — was evident in court proceedings.

“Someone could park right here in front of the court house on Fifth Avenue,” he contended, “and we couldn’t tow them, or if we did tow them, we couldn’t put them in impound.

“We’d have to put them somewhere else and we couldn’t charge them at all for it, because if we did, we’d violate the constitution if they were living in that vehicle.”

Writing similarly to the court on potential repercussions of its decision, Ryan asserted, according to the Seattle Times, “Individuals will have the right to park wherever they want for as long as they want” — meaning the city “will be unable to enforce any number of laws against a certain class of individuals.”

Arguably, however, lumping homeless individuals as a ‘certain class’ ignores the plethora of pitfalls forcing people from housing — or preventing them from capably finding affordable housing once they’ve been evicted or forced out due to rising rents — and Long’s case evinces an all-too common conundrum where pay is insufficient to cover rent and basic needs.

To wit, skyrocketing rent had become unmanageable for the now-58-year-old man, and he was evicted in March 2014. But it wasn’t until 2016 — while he was employed at CenturyLink Field, cleaning after Seattle Sounders games — that his 2000 GMC pickup was snatched and impounded by authorities for violating an ordinance against parking in one spot for longer than seventy-two hours.

At the time, Long had been unable to amass the funds needed to repair the stalled vehicle, his de facto home, so its impoundment under ransom of exorbitant fines left the man even worse off than before — particularly, as several tools he required to work manual labor jobs remained inside. He sued the city for the return of the truck, but Seattle Municipal Court ruled against Long in May 2017 — so he filed an appeal, on which Shaffer ruled Friday, additionally ordering the city to refund all payments he had thus far made.

Taken with an October 2017 Washington Court of Appeals decision in favor of unsheltered homeless man, William Pippin — who had been charged for possession of a controlled substance after a warrantless search of his tent by law enforcement investigating an unrelated incident turned up methamphetamine — the ruling in Long’s case has conjured fears Seattle will soon be a parking lot for those with no other place to go.

In fact, plans for two so-called vehicle safe lots to allow parking during overnight hours resulted in just one coming to fruition, located at Second Avenue South and South Spokane Street — albeit, under a cloud of controversy — and even it will be shuttered by the city as soon as April 30 this year, notes Governing.

Seattle isn’t alone in a lengthy history of criminalizing the condition of being without shelter or sustenance, shuffling homeless populations from place to place, nor in codification of strictures against sleeping in public — be it vehicle, tent, or bench — rather than allocating funds toward expanding and constructing shelters, assisting those with the desire to find more permanent residences, or any other of a plethora of potential solutions proposed by advocates around the nation.

However, the right to sleep — in essence, the umbrella legal theory under which advocates for the homeless have argued for years — received a substantial boost by the Department of Justice in 2015, writes Danny Westneat for the Seattle Times, when its “civil-rights division put out an opinion that a Boise, Idaho, ordinance banning homeless camping in public areas violated the Eighth Amendment’s protections against ‘cruel and unusual’ punishments.”

That opinion asserts, with emphasis added, “Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity — i.e., it must occur at some time in some place. If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of an anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless.”

Elaborating on the DOJ statement  at the time, the Atlantic reported, “Municipalities across America have now been notified: If a law criminalizes sleeping outside when shelter space is otherwise unavailable, then in the eyes of the DOJ that law violates the Constitution. Some cities are already acting to align themselves with this notion […]

“Given the prevalence of anti-camping laws in the U.S., many more people could follow suit. According to a National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty report analyzing 187 U.S. cities, more than half prohibit camping, sitting, or lying down in certain areas, with more than a third banning camping citywide. That represents a substantial increase in such legislation in just the past few years.”

Three years later, progress — insofar as walking back the criminalization of homelessness — may finally have a foothold.

For now, in Seattle at least, impounding a person’s vehicle when it serves as their abode materially constitutes the same — and will no longer be tolerated.

Without tangible solutions to alleviate Seattle’s homelessness emergency, however, irritated officials and authorities may be left scratching their heads — while the number of people forced out of stable housing and into their cars, trucks, and RVs (if fortunate enough to own one) steadily, tragically, and tellingly swells.


Image: Flickr/Jurgen.

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Awareness

UK Queen’s Statues Torn Down Amid Anger Over Mass Graves for Indigenous Children

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This year may have had one of the most muted Canada Day celebrations, but this didn’t stop Indigenous protesters from making their anger felt – especially in the wake of the discovery of over 1,000 children’s bodies near the residential schools run by the Canadian state and church authorities.

And with churches being likely targeted by arsonists for the crimes of Catholic clergy, protesters are now attacking the symbols of Anglo colonialism – namely, statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.

More than 200 children’s bodies were discovered buried in a mass grave in May, with several hundreds more being discovered in June at unmarked gravesites near Indian residential schools in June.

About 150,000 First Nations children were forcibly separated from their families and communities and forced to attend the religious schools which were established in the 19th century to assimilate Indigenous children into the Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada.

Former students have testified to the horrific sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered while enrolled at the schools. Myriad children died from preventable diseases, as well as in accidents and fires. Others disappeared when trying to escape. The Commission has denounced the schools for institutionalizing child neglect and for being organs of “cultural genocide.”

The discoveries have churned up deep-seated anguish and memories of the suffering visited upon First Nations peoples, with many lashing out at the symbols of colonialism.

At least seven churches, all but one of which were Catholic, have also come under apparent arson attacks throughout Canada in recent weeks.

In June, a statue of the late Pope John Paul II at a Catholic church in Edmonton was splattered with red paint and red handprints.

On Thursday, July 1, residents in Canada also held organized protests and pulled down the statues of the top figurehead of British colonialism: Queen Elizabeth II, as well as that of her great grandmother, Queen Victoria. Sky News reports that the toppling of the statues was accompanied by the chant, “No Pride in Genocide!”

In Ottawa, protestors gathered en masse at Parliament Hill chanting ”Cancel Canada Day” and ”shame on Canada,” urging an end to the national holiday over the deaths of Indigenous people.

Indigenous groups and Canadian politicians are demanding an apology from the Catholic Church – specifically Pope Francis. The event could take place by year’s end, according to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

However, it remains unlikely that the British crown will offer the same amends to Canada’s Indigenous nations who, like many across the globe, suffered greatly in British Colonialism’s worldwide search for riches and glory.

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3 Reasons Why Introverts Are Undervalued in Today’s Society

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It’s undeniable that our society favors assertive extroverted personalities with strong communication skills and underestimates the quiet ones. If you are an introvert, you have probably learned it the hard way.

It could be that you felt unseen in the classroom as a child or teen. Or you may have watched your less competent co-workers get a promotion thanks to their social skills.

It feels unfair, but if you think about our society, it makes perfect sense. The consumerist mindset that has become our second nature inevitably affects the way we treat other people. It seems that everything, including our personal qualities and worth as human beings, is translated into some kind of market value.

In other words, to make other people see your worth in personal or professional life, you need to be able to ‘sell yourself’. Yes, this expression alone tells it all.

You need to know how to make a good first impression, say the right things, and be assertive. If you can’t do it, you are perceived as incapable and uninteresting – whether we are talking about a job interview or an informal social gathering.

But it’s not the only reason why introverts are undervalued in our society. Here are a few more:

1. They are less efficient in teamwork

Communication and teamwork skills are required for all kinds of jobs. It seems that without being able to work in a team, it’s impossible to do your job even if your duties don’t involve interaction with clients.

Introverts are much more efficient when they work on their own and are given a certain extent of independence. They thrive in quiet environments with few distractions and interactions. This is when a quiet person gets the chance to unleash their creative self and make good use of their analytical skills.

Most office jobs don’t give employees this opportunity. Office meetings, group projects, phone calls and all the other attributes of a 9-to-5 job make it almost impossible for an introvert to be productive.

2. They don’t like to be in the spotlight

Sometimes it feels like we are living in a society of attention seekers. Today, you are expected to go public about the most personal matters, such as your relationship and family life.

People share their most intimate thoughts and feelings on social media, post updates about the most trivial events, such as what they had for dinner, and upload countless selfies.

Introverts are among those who still value privacy. They are less likely to showcase their lives online or share the details of their personal affairs with the whole world.

At the same time, the quiet ones don’t like to be in the spotlight at social events. An introvert will never interrupt you. They will listen to you and talk only when they have something important to say. This tendency to avoid attention can be mistaken for insecurity and even a lack of intelligence.

3. They prefer to be real than to be ‘nice’

If you want to make a good impression on others, you are expected to be nice. But what does it mean to be ‘nice’ anyway?

In an introvert’s mind, it equals saying things you don’t mean. Quiet personalities will never bombard you with compliments or say meaningless social pleasantries just to win your fondness. But if an introvert said something nice to you, then be sure that they truly meant it.

Small talk is another component of social relationships most introverts struggle with. To them, it embodies utterly dull, uncomfortable, and pointless conversations they can perfectly do without. For this reason, introverts are often mistakenly believed to hate people.

The truth is that they don’t – they just crave stimulating, meaningful conversations and choose their social circle more carefully than extroverts.

In my book, The Power of Misfits: How to Find Your Place in a World You Don’t Fit In, I write about the reasons why so many introverts feel inadequate and alienated from other people in today’s society. It all goes down to social expectations this personality type has to deal with from a very early age.

But the good news is that every introvert can overcome the negative effects of these expectations and find the right path in this loud, extroverted world.

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The Esoteric Meaning Behind Neo’s Interrogation Scene in The Matrix

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More than 20 years old now, The Matrix is recognized by fans across the world as being one of the most brilliant films in history, most notably for its deeper meaning and esoteric philosophy.

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One scene that is particularly intriguing, considering the social climate of today, is Neo’s interrogation by the Agents of the Matrix.

Now, before we dig into the potential hidden meaning here, as I perceive it, and how Neo found himself in this uncomfortable position to begin with, let’s first establish some key points in relation to the overall story line that will help us to appreciate the implications behind this scene a little bit more.

What Does The Character Neo Represent in the Matrix?

Neo in ancient Greek (νέος) means new/young one. This is an important piece of the puzzle to help us understand what the directors of the film are trying to communicate to us. With that said, when we assess Neo’s character in the first film, we find that he is a solitary individual that keeps to himself and is struggling to find deeper meaning in this world by constantly searching the internet.

What Does The Character Morpheus Represent in the Matrix?

Morpheus in Greek mythology is a messenger of the gods. He appears to humans through dreams with the intention of delivering divine Knowledge and Truth. In the Greek mythos, he can appear in almost any form in people’s dreams, which could be because anyone, regardless of race, gender, or outward appearance, can be a messenger of enlightenment and Truth.

The First Matrix Film is About The Beginning of the Journey to Awakening

With the understanding of the deeper meaning behind what Neo and Morpheus’ characters represent in the film, we can now appreciate the intro scene of Neo sleeping (whilst searching for Morpheus) through a different lens of perception and awareness.

You see, Neo sleeping whilst searching online for Morpheus represents the early stages of the Truth seekers journey — “asleep” but still searching for deeper meaning in life — and hoping to find that meaning by seeking out a “messenger” of higher Knowledge and Truth.

Truth is Terrorism in the Empire of Lies

Through his incessant efforts, Neo begins to get closer and closer to finding the elusive Morpheus. This, however, also attracts the unwanted attention of the Agents in the Matrix, which represent the enforcers of the shadow government of this system. Their job is to ensure that no one exposes what the Matrix really is, and how it turns unsuspecting every day human beings into useful resources that it can use and exploit.

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The Agents proceed to apprehend Neo and interrogate him, where they make it very clear that they’ve been spying on him and keeping meticulous records of his activities, both online and offline, for quite some time now. As we all know very well today, all around the world intelligence agencies are doing exactly that — tracking what we view online and keeping meticulous records on many of our movements.

The agents, however, do not see Neo as being a major threat to the Matrix system, as he is still in the early stages of his awakening and does not know enough to be a major threat. Instead, they offer him a deal where they will be willing to “wipe the slate clean” on his illegal activities online, if Neo will simply help them track down the man they call Morpheus, who they claim is “a known terrorist” that is “considered by many authorities to be the most dangerous man alive”.

This represents that the single greatest threat to this manipulative system — which is overwhelmingly ruled by deception and exploitation — is any messenger of higher Knowledge and Truth that can potentially awaken those who are still “asleep” to what the proverbial Matrix really is. In fact, one could argue this sort of power struggle has been going on for thousands of years, and is possibly why Socrates was accused of “corrupting the youth” by the ruling class more than 2,000 years ago and subsequently sentenced to death; or why Fred Hampton was assassinated by government authorities in 1969; or, in more recent history, why civilians that were peacefully protesting against Wall Street and the bankers for their part in destroying the world economy in 2008, were targeted by the FBI and even labelled as potential “domestic terrorists“.

Simply put, Truth is terrorism in the empire of lies.

Imaginary Rights

Neo, still being somewhat naïve and unbegun in his journey, rejects the Agent’s offer and demands he get a phone call because “I know my rights!”

To this, Agent Smith retorts, “tell me Mr. Anderson, what good is a phone call if you’re unable to speak?”, which results in Neo’s mouth warping in the most eerie of ways.

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This scene represents a lesson that all genuine Truth seekers eventually come to learn — this system is not concerned with human rights nor is it concerned with upholding authentic justice. Instead, it inculcates these beliefs and misperceptions into our minds from a very young age, because it serves to help legitimize its unnecessary existence in the eyes of the unsuspecting public and indoctrinate us as to why we think we need it. But in reality, our government guaranteed “rights” can be taken away from us in the blink of an eye.

In relation to current events, for example, many thousands of people worldwide have been arrested for violating curfew orders; In one Indian state, civilians were told they must take selfies every hour and send it to the authorities to prove that they are staying indoors; in South Africa, some have been fined for not wearing masks while driving their cars; In Boston in the United States, people have even been told that they will be fined if they walk “the wrong direction” down the street; Homeless people in France have reportedly been fined for not staying indoors; Some people have been arrested for attending funerals of loved ones because it violated lockdown orders; Others (including doctors and scientists) have had their right to freedom of speech censored online; In Australia, a pregnant woman was actually arrested in her home for facebook posts that encouraged protesting against the lockdown; According to the International Labor Organization, tens of millions are being pushed into unemployment; and travel all around the world has been severely restricted by these authorities who have taken it upon themselves to be the rulers of this planet by dictating what the rest of us can and cannot do. Whether you agree with these policies or not, these things cannot logically be called “rights” since they are so very easily violated and taken away from us.

We Must Start With the Imagination

There are many other examples that demonstrate how our government given “rights” are more of a comforting illusion than an actual reality, such as the CIA’s secretive Black Site torture programs, which have been done in cooperation with other intelligence agencies and authorities throughout the world. In these programs, people have been kidnapped — without any legal criminal charge or trial — and then taken to undisclosed secret locations where many of them are tortured for many months on end, in ways that are considered to be in violation of international law and basic human rights. The CIA, of course, simply claims they are suspected terrorists. In 2014, however, a Senate Intelligence Committee Report found that at least 26 of the people that were kidnapped and tortured were actually “wrongfully detained”.

Wake Up Neo — You Are the One

Fortunately, Neo manages to escape this unthinkable situation without any serious injury or harm. Soon after, he is contacted by Morpheus, where he is told that he was very lucky that the Agents underestimated his great potential and spared him, because if the Agents had known the great secret that Morpheus knows, then Neo would probably be dead.

Confused by the obvious strangeness of everything taking place, Neo asks Morpheus what the hell is going on, and what exactly is he talking about?? Without hesitation, Morpheus replies to him, “You are the one Neo — You see, you may have spent the last few years looking for me, but I have spent my entire life looking for you.”

This is perhaps the most important lesson the new Truth seeker must eventually come to learn — We are the ones we have been waiting for to change this corrupt world my friends; and we must stop looking for heroes and human leaders to absolve us of this very serious responsibility. Instead, we must all take on the role of Morpheus — which is to awaken as many Neo’s (new minds) as we possibly can, whilst also taking on the role that represents the journey of Neo, by challenging ourselves to become the best version of who we authentically are.

By doing this, we will help to awaken and unleash the unique creative forces of each individual’s problem solving imagination; and we will also find unity in our shared struggle against the injustices, and corruption, of this inhumane system which invariably exploits us all.

If not us, then who? And if not now, then when?

Written by Gavin Nascimento, Founder of aNewKindOfHuman.com

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