Saturday, August 26, 2017

Notations From the Grid (Special Friday Edition): On Homeless in America

One of our objectives here in the Daily Outsider has been to feature discussions on an aggregate basis about what is the reality out there.   The Guardian of London has been at the forefront of it--and we congratulate the entire team for being nominated for the award as we urge all who may have experienced homelessness to share their stories:

Outside in America

Chronicling homelessness: he robbed a bank. Prison felt safer than a shelter

When Tommy Ray McAdoo finally got out of prison, he found life in shelters too difficult. Plus: the man who lived in a car near Mark Zuckerberg’s house
Tommy Ray McAdoo, who is accused of robbing a bank with a steak knife in Reno, Nevada.
 Tommy Ray McAdoo, who is accused of robbing a bank with a steak knife in Reno, Nevada. Photograph: AP

Alastair Gee in San Francisco

It was impossible for Tommy Ray McAdoo to go on as he had been. Back in 2008, approaching the age of 70, his latest period of imprisonment ended after a lifetime spent entangled in the criminal justice system. According to court documents, he struggled to live in the Seattle area on the $882 in benefits he received each month, and subsequently moved to Reno, where he became homeless. In 2014, after suffering intense chest pain, he was informed that he needed open-heart surgery. He declined it. “I have told him openly that this means that he will probably die within the near future,” his doctor stated, “and he tells me that he is prepared to die.”
After that McAdoo slept in shelters. The cold winters were unbearable. He urinated blood and suffered from incontinence. On 9 November 2016, the 78-year-old walked into a bank with a steak knife and stole around $2,700. What could have motivated him to do such a thing at his age, with all his experience of incarceration? Homelessness. “In large part, Mr McAdoo simply wanted to get out of the cold and return to prison,” his federal public defender wrote in the court documents. “He was too old and too sick to live in shelters.”
His lawyers requested that he receive a low-end sentence of 51 months, noting that although he would likely die in prison – he suffers from heart disease, kidney disease and brain damage – a shorter term provided a “sliver of hope” that he might once again experience freedom if he agreed to treatment. This was a paradoxical request on the part of the lawyers, considering McAdoo’s reasoning for robbing the bank in the first place. For McAdoo, the best possible resolution to the situation was not what his lawyers wanted; he had reached the place he wanted to be.
In any event, the court didn’t agree with the public defenders. McAdoo was sentenced to 188 months. He was also told that he owed a lump sum of $2,502.02, due immediately.
Thoughts or tips? Email me.
Know someone who should subscribe to the newsletter? Send them this way.

What we published

  • Inmates receive $1 to clear homeless encampments they once inhabited.
  • “It’s not discussed” – people of color are hugely overrepresented in the US homeless population.
  • A woman panhandling with a six-week-old infant sparks accusations of child abuse.
  • He has six homes, three yachts and a jet. Now this “self-loathing plutocrat” wants to solve homelessness.
  • A journalist says it’s “crazy” not to be disgusted by homeless people. Hmm.

Behind the scenes

Fantastic news: today it was announced that Outside in America is a finalist for an Online News Association award. We set out to cover an under-reported humanitarian crisis affecting huge swathes of the western US, believing it was an issue of such importance that it deserved its own section in a major newspaper – and its own homelessness editor, the nation’s first. We’re delighted to receive this recognition.
In June we released our film on the largest homeless encampment in Hawaii, where around 200 people inhabit a seaside patch of land that is alternately hailed as a ground-breaking social experiment or condemned as a health hazard. It lacks municipal electricity and toilets, but its head, Twinkle Borge, maintains a firm hand. She incorporates traditional Hawaiian principles and oversees a female-led leadership structure, giving the camp the feel of a matriarchy.
Our correspondent in Honolulu, Liz Barney, tells us the film was shared widely, and that a few weeks later it helped prompt officials to host a meeting with Twinkle (second from right in the photo above). They discussed ways to integrate Twinkle’s approach in state policy. We’ll be keeping an eye on the conversation as it evolves.
Twinkle Borge (second from right) at a July meeting with Hawaii officials.
 Twinkle Borge (second from right) at a July meeting with Hawaii officials. Photograph: Courtesy of James Pakele

Finally, in response to our story this month about the use of inmate labor to clear homeless encampments in Portland – including camps that the inmates may have once inhabited – the Multnomah County sheriff’s office released a statement. It noted that some inmates enjoy being on work crews because they offer time outdoors and, in certain cases, the possibility of a reduced sentence. It also cited a line from the Oregon constitution, which says that adults in custody may be sentenced to work “as hard as the taxpayers who provide for their upkeep”.


  • The mayor of Salt Lake County posed as a homeless person for three days. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
  • Some homeowners in Los Angeles County could receive $75,000 to build granny flats for homeless people. [Curbed Los Angeles]
  • How is Ben Carson transforming the Department of Housing and Urban Development? [ProPublica]
  • In Silicon Valley, complaints prompt the city to slash the number of possible sites for “tiny home” villages – from 99 down to 4. [The Mercury News]
  • When people are priced out of a city, some become homeless. Others become super-commuters. [The New York Times]
  • “I used to volunteer for the Clintons. Now I go from shelter to shelter.” [Stories Behind the Fog]
  • A happy ending to the story of a family whose RV was towed in San Francisco after they accumulated 27 parking tickets. [San Francisco Chronicle]
  • Headline of the year? “Denver denies using flamethrowers during homeless sweeps.” [Fox31]

Last but not least

William “Gordon” Kinzer’s path to Mark Zuckerberg’s doorstep began some six decades ago in northern Idaho, where he grew up. Kinzer’s mother was a nurse and his father a sexton, according to court filings. Kinzer became an accountant; his clients included the Clorox Company and Blue Shield of California. In 1978 he moved to San Francisco, where he lived off and on for over 30 years – for short periods in the 1980s and 1990s he was a civilian contractor for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“William has a child-like innocence about him,” a longtime friend, Bill Kennedy, is quoted as saying in the court records. “William is the type of person who will do anything for a friend and ask for nothing in return.” But this judgment of Kinzer’s character is open to question.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. William Kinzer lived in a car near Zuckerberg’s house in San Francisco and was later served with a restrainer order for allegedly harassing his guards.
 Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. William Kinzer lived in a car near Zuckerberg’s house in San Francisco and was later served with a restrainer order for allegedly harassing his guards. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

For almost a decade, Kinzer lived in a sunny central neighborhood not far fromthe home later purchased by Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, who has numerous guards stationed outside the hilltop residence. For reasons not explained in the records, however, things began to go sideways for Kinzer. By 2015, he was homeless, living in his car not far from one of the richest people on the planet. Kennedy offered him space in his own home, also a short distance from Zuckerberg.
As Kennedy acknowledges, Kinzer might have had mental-health issues. In 2015, Kinzer became subject to a restraining order after Zuckerberg’s guards said Kinzer shouted epithets such as “slave” and “monkey” at them. And this June, guards alleged that he drove past them several times and yelled at them. At one point it became apparent that his airbag became deployed, and he struck another car. Afterwards Kinzer drove to a police station, where it transpired that he did not have a valid license.
For now, Kinzer’s motivations are a mystery. The court documents mention his shame over his time spent living in his car, and it is easy to reach for platitudes about the resentment he may have felt toward the plutocrat newcomer. Kinzer’s public defender declined to make him available for an interview. And relatives did not want to talk. “Gordon has not been part of our family for many, many years,” said one. “For this to resurface, it’s just a nightmare.” We may discover more next month, when Kinzer is due back in court.
Do you have an experience of homelessness to share with the Guardian? Get in touch

No comments:

Post a Comment