August 15, 2010

"Graphic designer will be 'Homeless for One Week' in Union Square Park to raise money, awareness."

I love the "money, awareness" form in that headline. It's so Onion-y.
Yusef Ramelize, a 33-year-old graphic designer, will leave his Ozone Park apartment Sunday and take up residence in Union Square Park. He won't shower and he won't have shelter during his "Homeless for One Week" project.

"My reasoning for doing this is to inspire people to make sacrifices within their own lives," Ramelize said of his project, now in its second year.

He raised $3,635 in March 2009 and donated it to the Coalition for the Homeless. This year's beneficiary will be the Food Bank of New York....

Ramelize chose Union Square to pay homage to his biggest inspiration, Mohandas Gandhi, who is immortalized with a statue on the west side of the park.
So you're walking through Union Square, and you see Ramelize and a homeless-year-'round person. You have a $1 bill that you want to hand out. Which man gets the dollar?


Kev said...

(the other kev)

This is just a grandstanding of convenience. Ozone Park apartments usually pretty small, but I'm sure Yusef could put one or two homeless people up if he really wanted to make a difference.

Beth said...

He could just come down here for hurricane season. It's always likely we'll have a few days with no shower, no AC. We have shelter, but it's swelter shelter.

I like to send my money right to the food bank, with no mediation. Second Harvesters; they're a good organization.

Fen said...

A week?

God, hope he doesn't get a hangnail

Synova said...

I didn't have a home or shower or toilet that flushed for a week, once, and I did it with a 6 month old baby (and four cats in a crate, but that was just stupid.) I didn't have enough water and got dehydrated enough to be impaired on account of nursing which was a blessing because there was no way to get or make baby formula. I did have plenty to eat though. There are a lot of calories in an MRE.

The not having a home part lasted longer than a week but I did end up getting a shower.

So, one guess how impressed I am with this idiot. I'm betting anyone from New Orleans is just as impressed.

Synova said...

Ah, New Orleans beat me to it. ;-)

Big Mike said...

@Beth, good idea. Here in Virginia it's been renamed "Feeding America."

Overlooked in the hoopla is the sad reality that many -- a large majority, according some studies -- are homeless because of mental issues. They should be in some sort of institution, but a couple decades ago "deinstitutionalization" was a cause celebre for the left, leaving us with people on the streets who now have the "right" to freeze to death on a cold winter night or die of heatstroke and dehydration on a hot summer day.

But being a liberal means never having to say you're sorry, so instead of the homeless being the casualty of a misguided policy, homelessness becomes a "problem for society" as a whole that the rest of us can deal with.

john said...

Which man gets the dollar?

The one who can honor my request for a receipt for tax purposes.

Really, however, I have to agree with that silly billionaire Germanguy who said that private giving only exchanges taxed money for tax-deductable donation money and worse, allows Bill "I'm-so-fucking-rich-I-can-give-more-than-half-of-it-away-once-I-die" Gates to gain even more holier-than-thou publicity.

Charity also turns us into beggars. Ask Ramalize, or any preacher.

Beth said...

Big Mike, you're right about the foolishness of de-institutionalizing mental illness, and the left bears responsibility, but you're overlooking Reagan's role in that as well. We all own that problem.

Kensington said...

The idea that someone has to pretend to be homeless in Union Square Park or else people won't be "aware" is so stupid only an artist could come up with it.

Beth said...

I doubt if most people going to food banks are homeless; homeless folks are going to shelters or churches that serve prepared foods. Food banks serve a different crowd. By the way, if you do donate to food banks, consider including pet food or if you give money, find one that includes pets.

Beth said...

Big Mike - let me clarify: I agree that the "patients' rights" movement of the late 70s was terribly misguided.

edutcher said...

Hunger in America is one of those Lefty dodges that goes on and on. You can count on a lot of stories about it - any time POTUS has an R after his/her name.

Granted, there are times when people are having a rough time, but how many people has anyone seen 'starving in the streets', as the useless idiots will claim?

ironrailsironweights said...

Union Square Park is a somewhat odd choice as it attracts fewer skells than most other parks.


John Lynch said...

I don't understand "awareness."

There are homeless people. We see them. We are aware of them. How can we not be? What "awareness" campaigns are really about is attempting to force us to confront some problem.

Why not actually do something for homeless people, instead of trying to guilt the rest of us into it? You know, lead by example?

I am so, so, so tired of intentions replacing action when it comes to our collective problems.

Not as tired as Crack is of New Age, but pretty close.

John Lynch said...

And yes, deinstitutionalization was a bad idea. If you look at the data, the prison population started rising at the same time lots of formerly institutionalized people were released.

I think we do have a duty to the mentally ill, and I don't see how we are fulfilling it by turning them out onto the streets. Some people really cannot take care of themselves.

The other big group of homeless is drug addicts. What to do about that is a more difficult issue.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

This stunt reminds me of the post about slum tourism.

Instead of actually doing something real to help the temporary homeless and the chronic homeless, this self indulgent prick uses a situation to call attention to himself.

Must be great to realize that your unfortunate life is the convenient tool of self promoting performance art for someone who has the luxury of spending just one week in Hell.

John Lynch said...

What matters in life is what you do, not what beliefs you are seen to hold.

EDH said...

Question: So you're walking through Union Square, and you see Ramelize and a homeless-year-'round person. You have a $1 bill that you want to hand out. Which man gets the dollar?

Answer: Me.

c3 said...

does he have a sign?

Methadras said...

Neither. None of them get my hard post-tax money. If they have the power to find themselves in unions square and can sit on their asses for hours at a stretch to beg for money as their occupation, they can certainly earn money performing a real occupation.

Donna B. said...

The mentally ill homeless person and the drug-addicted homeless person are often the same person.

I don't know which came first, but I suspect the mental illness did, with the drugs being an attempt at self-medication.

This group makes up the "hard-core" homeless, I think.

Big Mike said...

but you're overlooking Reagan's role in that as well

I never said Reagan was perfect. Only that he was several thousand percent better than any Democrat I've ever known.

Beth said...

Donna, I think mentally-ill and drug-addicted folks are considered "dual-diagnosis" and they're the hardest to place in a state or private institution.

Beth said...

Oh Mike, we're so different. But I'll still buy you a beignet if you make down this way.

cassandra lite said...

So last year after a week of this he pocketed over $3,000? Wow. No wonder so many people affirmatively choose homelessness (like the guy in my neighborhood with the phony Army t-shirt who I once saw getting into a late-model Ford).

hawkeyedjb said...

"Which man gets the dollar?"

The local taco vendor. You know, the one trying to make an honest living.

Big Mike said...

@Beth, I was holding out for a shrimp po' boy.


rhhardin said...

Emerson Self-Reliance.

There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand; alms to sots, and the thousand-fold Relief Societies;—though I confess with shame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is a wicked dollar, which by-and-by I shall have the manhood to withhold.

HT said...

The answer is obvious Ann.

Both get a dollar.

I'm glad to see he's raising money. Let's sure about the awareness part, but it doesn't bother me in the slightest.

About mental health. I'd like to know for sure under which administration the majority of mental health institutions closed down.

HT said...

Of course there are those who say that there really is no such thing as mental illness. Thomas Szasz (sp) is one I think, except I think I just read that he thinks schizophrenia is a neurological disorder.

prairie wind said...

How about if I give the dollar to the taco vendor, then give the taco to the homeless guy?

After Americans donated millions of dollars to various charities (and guys on the street) for 9/11 victims, for Katrina victims, for Haitians, etc., and I noticed that the equipment used the Red Cross blood donation center was improving by leaps and bounds after each disaster...I stopped donating unless I knew more about how the charity would use the money.

Beth said...

Big Mike, I was just wondering what to have for lunch. Thanks for the nudge. And of course, that's exactly what you should have in NOLA. And then have a soft shell crab poboy. And later you can have a hot roast beef with gravy poboy. Let's hope there are oyster poboys in our future, but I won't dwell on that now.

Pogo said...

I am extending my annual Raising Awareness About Raising Awareness campaign.

We all need to be made more aware of all of the efforts to raise awareness. You can help this worthy cause by sending your donation. If even one person is more aware, it would be worth it.

HT said...

Prairie Wind, a few months after Katrina, after I went to Mississippi to volunteer, I read about a group in NO called Unity. I gave them some money. I just kind of decided they would be my charity contact there, and I stuck with them. They send me their newsletter, I google news them for outside opinions if any, and I check their web site from time to time. I don't dig into their financials, no. But from what I've seen and read, I feel satisfied. (They help out the homeless with housing.)

prairie wind said...

Had a discussion about the story of the widow's mite some years ago. The usual explanation, that the widow's giving all was better than the rich man giving a little, did not satisfy my friend. He said very little good could be done with the widow's mite, but much good could be accomplished with the rich man's stingy donation. Perhaps God sees the widow as more generous because she gave all, but it cannot be argued that she did more good, can it?

If this artist guy can raise $3000 by forgoing showers for a week, and if he does something worthwhile with it, that's more than I've done in a week. Even if he's a pretentious ass and I am not.

Kensington said...

"How about if I give the dollar to the taco vendor, then give the taco to the homeless guy?"

The problem there is that if you give the taco to the homeless guy, then he's free to use the cash he's scrounged for that day's fix.

Beth said...

Metaware, Inc.
Pogo, Proprietor.

Youngblood said...

To address the side conversation on deinstitutionalization, I have to admit that I am all for it.

I mean, I'm quite certain that life on the street sucks and all, but take a look at the pictures and stories that came out of the State Hospitals in the late 1940's and tell me that the situation was any better back in the golden age of institutionalization.

Big Mike said...

soft shell crab poboy

You forget I lived for many years in Maryland. Only Marylanders know how to cook soft shell crabs properly. Particularly on the Eastern Shore. I'm sure your Nawleens chefs try their best, but ...

I mean, Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia share boundaries with Maryland, but if you want to eat good soft shelled crabs you have to cross the Potomac into Maryland, and preferably you should keep going until Balamer (Baltimore for you non-natives), if not across the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore.

Big Mike said...

@Youngblood, couldn't we have reformed the institutions? Was the only choice that of inadequate (if not full-blown horror show) institutions and letting the mentally disturbed die on the street?

Penny said...

"Which man gets the dollar?"


I'm German. What did you expect?

HT said...

Re: de-institutionalization

The 1940s are not today. I have a close family relative who was recently in an "institution." Of his own (misguided, in my opinion) choosing. They are not the snakepits of yore. But, there still is a lot of neglect, but a lot of opportunity to do good to, on the part of the staff, should they choose. Problem is, they often don't choose. Lighting is horrible, no exercise, though they say there is. No pet therapy though they say there is. Not much of much, but some days would surprise me (singing). etc etc. I know I'm probably comparing apples to oranges because of the voluntary nature of the recent stay.

I have T O N S to say on the matter in fact (not much in the way of good), but what I can say is that these places are PSYCHIATRIC institutions, therefore, drugs is what they practice and nothing else.

(again, lots to say on the matter, perhaps for another thread.)

Pogo said...

"Beth said...
Metaware, Inc.

Ooooooooooh ...... me likee!

P.S. Re: softshell po' boys. I am from MN so have no dog in this fight, but have had both MD and NO styles and much prefer the latter. (Ain't even close.)

Penny said...

"I mean, I'm quite certain that life on the street sucks and all, but take a look at the pictures and stories that came out of the State Hospitals in the late 1940's and tell me that the situation was any better back in the golden age of institutionalization."

It wasn't, Youngblood, so now we will try something "new".

Each American will be provided with their very own psychologist upon birth. For those that are severely impaired, we will provide a psychiatrist. Any leftover money will go to pharmaceutical firms for their research into "magic pills".

Penny said...

"I have T O N S to say on the matter in fact (not much in the way of good), but what I can say is that these places are PSYCHIATRIC institutions,..."

Warehouses for?

Those institutionalized or those who work there?

HT said...


Sorry, I don't understand your reply.

Triangle Man said...


Wins the thread. What other tragedies of humanity can he use to draw attention to himself and make a buck?

Penny said...

HT, I am concerned that 2010 America mistakes "employment" for what makes sense.

The greatest inroads to psychiatric disorders and distress has come from the private sector. It's come from pharmaceutical companies willing to invest some money on research and development in hopes of seeing some payback on that investment.

Taxpayers aren't funding their research. Shareholders are!

Most psychiatric institutions are supported by our government. They employ many, and employment is very cool.

Here's the problem. In one case, those "gambling" shareholders pay. In the other case, taxpayers.

Pick your poison! I surely have.

Big Mike said...

@Pogo, pistols at dawn, sirrah!

Oops. Been sneaking off to read too much Georgette Heyer lately.

tim maguire said...

Ramelize will get the dollar because if you care about the homeless, you will not give the money directly to them.

More directly, do you want that dollar spent on food and shelter or do you want it spent on crack?

This sounds a bit gimmicky, but Ramelize should be commended. He is not just grandstanding, he is raising money for a worthy charity.

HT said...


We might be talking past each other. I'm not too high on psych meds, so you won't be getting much support from me. However, they are better than before, so I'll grant you that. My point is that they are overused.

As far as psych institutions, while many of them may receive government funding, they basically just dispense pills and administer ECT.

And nothing else.

Penny said...

We are.

So how to move on?

Pogo said...

"...pistols at dawn, sirrah!"

Oddly, we were just in the Demarva area last week, visiting my wife's ancestor's homes, and learned of her relative, Charles Dickinson of Caroline county, Maryland, who was killed in a famous duel with former Pres. Andrew Jackson.

If we duel now it'll have to be a po' boy eating contest.

Penny said...

Frankly, I wasn't talking about pills either. I was talking about money spent wisely.

Penny said...

Our country seems to be in debt, and I am just suggesting a simple way out.

Embrace the risk takers.

They don't cost taxpayers a dime.

Better still? When they are successful, they employ people, and at their own expense.

OMG! It's magic!

Beth said...

I prepare soft shells quite well, fried, broiled or grilled. But I have family in Baltimore, so next time we visit, I'll let them take us out and enjoying making the comparison.

Youngblood said...

Big Mike,

I'm trying to avoid long comments, but this subject deserves more than just a short response.

At the height of the golden age of institutionalization, there were over half a million people in mental hospitals (out of a population of 160 million), and there is a lot of documentation to suggest that these hospitals were warehouses of human misery.

According to HUD, about 122,000 people were chronically homeless in 2009.

Although it's difficult to get hard statistics on the chronically homeless population, most studies suggest that somewhere between 20% and 40% suffer from severe mental disorders. That means that we probably have around 25,000 to 50,000 severely mentally ill on the streets (out of a population of over 300 million).

I'd certainly like to see that number reduced significantly, but it demonstrates that we're not simply dumping all of the people who would have been institutionalized under the old paradigm out on the streets. If we were, we'd have hundreds of thousands more chronically homeless people.

We did reform the system. Doing away with warehouses for the mentally ill and focusing on medical treatment instead had a lot to do with that. Yes, some people do fall through the cracks and end up on the street, but it's not like we just took the institutionalized people and kicked them out onto the streets.

If you don't believe me, pick up a copy of Brendan O'Flaherty's Making Room: The Economics of Homelessness, where there's more empirical evidence than I can summon at the moment. The increase in the visible homeless population probably had more to do with the elimination of "skid row" districts in the big cities than anything else.

Youngblood said...

Actually, a couple more things:

During the golden age of institutionalization (and before), it's not like homelessness didn't exist. It was called "vagrancy", and the homeless were called tramps, bums, and derelicts.

In the cities, they ended up in the drunk tanks, or cops shooed them toward skid row district. They were frequently kicked out of smaller towns.

And, let's face it:

The first half of 20th century America was far more hospitable to the type of men who tend to become chronically homeless today. They could migrate from town to town in search of work (hobos), they could become roughnecks (in the old sense of the term), lumberjacks, and roustabouts. Ex-convicts could hop on a train to another town and start over.

LordSomber said...

As a graphic designer, I really loathe most other graphic designers.