Another fascinating documentary, “Happy,” entered my consciousness yesterday. It talks about what makes for happiness. Some of you may be familiar with the concept of “flow” — if not, the movie is an excellent primer. But beyond flow, the film also provides research about how little social status and money (above a certain basic minimum for health and safety) really have to do with happiness. Parts that were particularly intriguing were the descriptions of Co-housing in Denmark, and how people there report record high levels of happiness and contentment. Co-housing exists in America, but not at all to the degree it does in Denmark. It might be an interesting model for Americans to allow into their field of vision, now that we have suffered a massive economic downturn and many people have lost their homes to foreclosure. Maybe we could even try a co-housing development with the bond money that will be on the Rhode Island ballot this November.
You will notice a lot of “For Sale” signs on houses in our neighborhood and pretty much any neighborhood in Cranston. A quick look at the Zillow map for Cranston says there are 538 homes for sale or rent in the city. Let’s hope we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and become the healthy home ownership society many of us were raised to believe in. This article from the New York Times helps to give more substance to the reality of America’s newest poor folk. The New Suburban Poverty – NYTimes.com.
I’m sitting here now resting my back from helping to haul an especially heavy dead water heater up some ancient stone steps. The guys had to reach consensus at points in the process, and– what I really appreciated– no one told me I couldn’t help because I’m a girl. We got it out of the cellar without anyone getting hurt, but I have taken some preventative Ibuprofen. Haven’t done that since I took karate.
Many hands make light work, they say. The work was still pretty heavy, but Occupy made fast progress with a much-needed Spring cleaning at House of Compassion today. Bringing the spirit of an old-fashioned barn-raising, we cleared out and sorted furniture and assorted cardboard and stuff that really never will come in handy.
I brought some compact florescents to bring the cellar into the 21st Century. Artemis Moonhawk was directing the crew (as much as you can direct a crew largely composed of philosophical anarchists). She showed me the room that was a part of the Underground Railroad. The room had a small window with wooden bars. Artemis said that the Abolitionists would fool the fugitive slave hunters that they were keeping prisoners there– instead of helping them escape.
I have an interest in old houses, especially the cellars. My first place away from home was the Kingston Inn, near URI. That house was older than the USA. So is the House of Compassion, built around 1730, according to the residents, maybe at the time of the Revolutionary War, according to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s listed as the Luke Jillson House.
Lived in for over 250 years it’s a home, not a museum. It shelters about ten people who share this beautiful house in Northern Rhode Island.
House of Compassion has always struggled financially, more in these times of budget cuts. There are nursing homes and high rise buildings, and these are necessary, but not the right choice for everyone. House of Compassion is more than just care and housing for a few people. It’s a model of alternative housing. Small and personal, respecting the individuality of the residents.
One focus of Occupy Providence is homelessness and preventing evictions. Coming to the aid of House of Compassion is very much in keeping with the spirit of economic justice and direct action.
This is a work weekend. Cleanup continues Sunday. Occupy Providence can be reached on Facebook, here.
Safe and affordable housing for people with disabilities is not a ‘one size fits all’ proposition. House of Compassion in Northern Rhode Island is in danger of closing. Ten people call House of Compassion their home, small and personal, pets allowed.
For more information, or to help, visit their website here.
I began receiving a newsletter from David Stookey, who seems to ask a lot of the same questions that I find myself asking as I try to navigate the future for myself and my family. This article in particular, about the likely increase in value of mixed-use housing, appealed to me because (you guessed it) we live in a mixed-use neighborhood. From “People Will Pay to Walk”:
A housing boom?
Demand for one type of neighborhood is predicted to grow fast.
We’ve been looking at the long-term advantages of living where there are shops, schools, businesses, health clinics, residences all jumbled together. A “mixed-use neighborhood” planners call it.
Many of these advantages derive from the rising costs of energy, healthcare, and taxes forecast for this decade – the stuff I’ve been writing about. Others come from the retirement preferences of baby boomers.
–saving transportation costs as fuel prices rise
–walking and biking more as health costs rise
–commuting without traffic to nearby jobs
–getting to know more neighbors
–using nearby public transit for longer trips
–finding smaller homes, apartments, and yards
–enjoying libraries, art, music, theater close to home
I very much like that I can walk to my kids’ elementary school, the grocery store, my office, my church, the local pool (which BETTER open again this year!) and a host of other places. Also, this makes me think of some of the incredible houses in the Elmwood section of Providence, which will (in an optimistic vision of the future) become a strong middle-class mixed-use neighborhood. If David Stookey is right, there are some bargains to be had on houses in our many interesting mixed-use neighborhoods across Rhode Island.
My husband alerted me to a fabulous data analysis tool at The New York Times, which lets you view census data in color maps. The one that caught his eye, and then mine, was this one which shows the Change in Median Household income from 2000, which shows that all of Rhode Island has experienced an increase in median household income, with a 3% increase in Providence County, a 1% increase in Kent County, a 2% increase in Washington County, and a 6% increase in Bristol County. That’s right — in one of the worst economic times in our country, we are doing better than much of Massachusetts and Connecticut.
So there you go. And to add to the positive data on Rhode Island, Forbes Magazine reports that Cranston, RI is one of the most stable housing markets in the country. (h/t riclapp.org — had a great Christmas brunch there this morning!) Must be everyone jockeying for position to live near me~!
So breathe a deep sigh of relief this Christmas, Rhode Islanders. We are not on the verge of collapse, and if we could reform our energy policies so that biodiesel and alternative fuels could become our mainstays, we might even survive another few generations. All I can say is it’s more proof that you should ignore the nay-sayers, and never trust anyone who tries to tell you the rich need more tax breaks. Happy Holidays to all!
Today’s Providence Journal has a story by Amanda Milkovits that has been told too many times in Providence and elsewhere…
PROVIDENCE — A half-dozen boys were on the basketball courts at the Manton Heights housing development on Tuesday evening, shooting hoops and practicing The Jerk dance moves.
By quarter to 8, it was dark, and 12-year-old Joshua Torres was long overdue home. He asked his friend 13-year-old Angel Santiago if he wanted to walk with him. They were heading home when they saw a man about 100 feet away walking to the unlit porch of one of the row houses.
The man was dressed in black. The boys saw him sit down casually on the darkened stoop. He pulled out a gun.
Joseph Hector was shot and murdered on Camp Street over ten years ago. A street shrine for him is kept up by someone who won’t forget. When do we just shake our heads and say it’s a shame– and when do we say, no more?
I had a day to myself and got to walk around Harvard.
I stopped by this bookstore to check out some vintage titles, and get a look at Penny the dog and Charley the cat curled up in the cart sleeping through all the noise– that is until another dog walked by. Then Penny would start barking furiously and wag her tail in Charley’s face causing Charley to give her that look of disdain that only cats can master. I figured that the couple sitting in lawn chairs were there as official Cambridge vendors, since they were clearly running a business.
Their story is more complicated than that. The proprietor, Ken O’ Brien, and assistant manager Frenchie, are homeless. The sidewalk bookstore was almost ousted by the city but Ken and friends, including other nearby bookstore owners, prevailed. He says it is a good business nine months of the year. His books, an eclectic collection culled from sales and donations, are arranged neatly in heavy-duty banana boxes with plastic tarp stashed by in case of rain. Ken pays homeless people to collect the boxes.
O’Brien, 56, has been on the streets for 35 years. He met French, known as Frenchie, five years ago when he was panhandling in the square. She eventually joined him on the streets, and the two formed a family with their dog, Penny, who was rescued from a puppy mill, and their cat, Charlie, who was found on the busy streets of Harvard Square.
They run Almost Banned, a sidewalk book table that the city shut down earlier this year. But O’Brien reopened the Harvard Square business soon after, hoisting a brightly colored sign on a pole daring authorities to close it again.
The book table, where books sell for $2 each, is their lifeline.
He says he doesn’t want government support, just to run his own business and employ other homeless people. He’s worked since he was a boy, rode the rails, begged for change when there was no other way. He created his own job but was arrested for flagrant bookselling until he won in court…
The city continued to arrest them for not having the proper permit. However, O’Brien believed the permit the city instructed him to acquire did not apply to his circumstances. It required a $5,000 surety bond as well as $1 million in liability insurance to be approved by the city, fiscal requirements that didn’t bode well for a man who lives on the street with his family.
A glimmer of hope for O’Brien came in the form of an old Cambridge ordinance, entitled “Peddlers”. The ordinance reads: “No person shall place or keep any table, stall, booth or other erection, in any street, public place or any sidewalk, for the sale of any merchandise, without permission from the Superintendent of Streets. The fee for the permit set out in this chapter shall be fifty cents.”