If you frequently cross Grand at the main crossing between the BSC and DuBourg Hall, chances are you have seen and heard the man that is often there asking for people to donate to the homeless. When I have walked pass this person, I often hear other SLU students making comments about him that are quite derogatory. I have heard others comment on his race and general appearance, while many others have speculated that if they were to donate anythign to this individual he would use to buy drugs or alcohol. Rarely have I seen people stop and realize that this man is actually selling What’s Up Magazine. This magazine aims to raise awareness about social issues, particulary homelessness and other urban issues. The magazine is distributed by vendors who are experiencing homelessness, who purchase the magazien for $0.25, and then they sell the magazine for $1.00 to generate some income. People experiencing homelessness and poverty also figure prominently in the design and publication of the magazine.
One article in the current issue focuses on Homeboy Industries, a program established by Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ in East Los Angeles. Homeboy Industries is a program that provides services like a 12-step program, case management, job training, legal assistance, employment opportunities, and even tattoo removal for gang members who are seeking a new life. In this story, Fr. Boyle brings up many of the issues that we have discussed in class. One of these is constraint on choice that many who end up joining gangs experience–they are often born into a environment of gangs and see few other viable options than joining a gang for protection, brotherhood, and status. Fr. Boyle also challenges us to consider those on the margins of our society, particularly gang members and the homeless that those of with privilege tend to be so uncomforable around, as members of our community. Fr. Boyle says that he wants “to erase the notion that we are disconnected to the people with whom we share our cities and neighborhoods.” Homeboy Industries is also an example of realizing the “privileged knowledge” that the “the poor” possess, as the oranization structures its programs around what the individuals they are trying to help sayt they need, and these former gang members fill many positions within the organization.
You can access this article here, but I also encourage everyone to keep an eye out for a Whats Up Magazine vendor and buy an actual copy of the whole magazine as well. Two other articles in this issue, one on homelessness and another on the harm reduction approach to addiction also raise issues related to much of what we have talked about in class.