It’s time for a homeless news roundup!
There’s some good news after we wade through the sludge.
The sludge is mostly just the same old news recycled and retold in different places.
“Homeless person shocks everyone around by doing something any human being might do.” “Citizens who oppose hygiene centers object to dirty homeless people entering them — ‘If only they would clean themselves,’ opponents say.” “Service agency denied funding because it only helps homeless people stay alive and doesn’t promise miracles.”
Well, there is good news on that last front. The Noel House Women’s Referral Center, one of the many key programs aiding survival in Seattle that lost its funding recently, has got a reprieve for four to six months.
All the lost funding followed a flawed process to allocate meager city funding among service agencies. Thanks to Erica C. Barnett (The C is for Crank), we have a fascinating footnote on that process. It turns out an organization based in Magnolia with a history of opposition to the work of homeless advocates applied for a share of the same meager funds, to enable them to put out a book offering a history of homelessness and “its culture,” “and associated counter cultures or societies associated thereto” (what?) among other things.
I’m trying to think of anything more insulting than a bunch of smug cozy home-owning nimbys writing a history of homelessness and “its culture.” Blackface comes to mind. Pat Boone’s version of “Tutti Frutti.” The “Ten Little Indians” song. Charlie Chan movies.
The good news: The city turned them down.
The next bit of good news concerns a robot.
In September I was warning that robots are taking over. They’re taking our jobs! I mentioned cab drivers and prison wardens as examples of jobs robots could take. I did not mention lawyers.
I have since learned of a company that has developed an artificial intelligence lawyer. The entity “ROSS” has actually been around for a year and a half; I was just late in learning about it. It isn’t ready to replace lawyers yet but it does lots of legal research at the several firms that have hired it.
There’s also a free lawyer bot service called DoNotPay, set up to help poor people challenge traffic tickets and provide advice regarding immigration law. Different versions have been created. There were 1,000 such bots five months ago. They seem to be replicating.
Given there are so many robots close to being lawyers, is it any surprise that there would be security guard robots?
From The Washington Post: An animal shelter of the San Francisco SPCA had a problem with break-ins and with harassment of employees outside in their parking lot. Instead of hiring a security guard they opted to rent a robo-guard for $6 an hour.
Already I’m seeing red because I’m a latent commie and that’s one security guard job lost to a machine and therefore one person headed for homelessness. That’s right: Security guards are all going to lose their jobs pretty soon, so pay attention if you are one. Find another line of work or you’ll be homeless.
But enough about you security guards out there. This 400-pound, 5-foot-tall, fat bullet-shaped, lumbering scab piece of junk with pictures of a Chihuahua and some cats and puppies on it was going around taking snapshots all the time in the parking lot and reporting back to its masters at the animal shelter.
It turns out people don’t like having their pictures taken without their permission, so the scab robot security guard suffered many offensive attacks such as having barbecue sauce thrown at it, and worse.
Then as opposition to the scab robot increased, a spokesperson for the animal shelter tried to explain the purpose of the scab robot by saying in part that it was an effective tool for eliminating homeless encampments around the vicinity of the animal shelter.
The good news for now is there was an uproar and enough people spoke out against the idea that the robot was rented to target homeless people that the program was discontinued.
Even though it’s possible the spokesperson misspoke and homeless people were never targeted, I’m happy there was some healthy outrage on behalf of homeless people and one scab robot got put away.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor and has experienced homelessness several times. He has been involved with Real Change since he supplied the art for the first cover in November of 1994. This is his weekly column Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
Wait, there's more. Check out the full December 20 issue.