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Coins in the Kingdom Brings Magical Internet Money to the Magic Kingdom

September 2014
M.K. Lords
bitcoinnotbombs.com
mksilent.h@gmail.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Coins in the Kingdom Brings Magical Internet Money to the Magic Kingdom

 (ORLANDO, FL) The College Crypto Network has teamed up with Jason King of Sean’s Outpost and M.K. Lords of Bitcoin Not Bombs to bring the exciting world of bitcoin to the happiest place on earth—Disney World. Coins in the Kingdom will be a two day bitcoin conference in Orlando, FL on October 4th and 5th followed by an escape into Disney World on October 6th.

The conference will bring together the brightest minds in the bitcoin space, but also feature activities for kids and educational workshops for those new to the technology. After hearing demand for an affordable, accessible bitcoin conference, organizers made sure to keep ticket prices low to encourage new attendees—you can attend the two day conference for only $60 with hotel rooms available for $99 or get a VIP package that includes entry into Disney World on the 6th, conference attendance, a hotel room, and a Coins in the Kingdom t-shirt all for the price of one ticket to many other conferences.

The theme is a fun one as it will take place in the heart of Downtown Disney in the lovely Wyndham Hotel, and the conference itself will feature intimate panels that allow for more audience interaction. Featured speakers include Pamela Morgan, Jeffrey Tucker, Jason King, Charlie Shrem, Bruce Fenton, Paige Peterson, and Andreas Antonopoulos, and the topics will cover a wide range of possibilities with blockchain technology. Panels and talks will explore everything from best security practices to bitcoin media to how bitcoin can be used in political campaigns with Libertarian Party candidates Lucas Overby and Adrian Wyllie.

Organizers hope that the whimsical environment of Disney will bring bitcoin to a new audience and are playing up the notion that bitcoin is still seen by many as “magical internet money” which is a fitting name given the enthusiasm bitcoiners have for the cryptocurrency. Other functions of the Bitcoin protocol will be explored during this conference as many are unaware that currency is only the beginning of what blockchain technology offers, though there promises to be enough magical internet money sharing to make Scrooge McDuck envious.

For the full line up and to purchase tickets, visit: https://www.smore.com/jkzy5-coins-in-the-kingdom

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Bitcoin in the Beltway Conference to Make Waves in Washington D.C.

May 2014
Contact: M.K. Lords
Email: mksilent.h@gmail.com
Website: bitcoinnotbombs.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bitcoin in the Beltway Conference to Make Waves in Washington D.C.

(Washington, D.C.) This year has seen a rise in the amount of Bitcoin conferences, but one in particular is priding itself on featuring the most radical movers and shakers in the Bitcoin community while also putting charity center stage. Boasting such rebels as Defense Distributed’s Cody Wilson, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, Antiwar.com’s Angela Keaton, and Blockchain’s Andreas Antonopoulos, Bitcoin in the Beltway will be highlighting the most disruptive elements of blockchain technology in the heart of government regulation—Washington D.C.

Jason King, founder of Sean’s Outpost Homeless Outreach, came up with the idea of the conference. Sean’s Outpost has been one of the most inspiring bitcoin charities, delivering 60,000 meals to the homeless in the Pensacola area in one year. The co-chair of Bitcoin in the Beltway is Elizabeth Ploshay of the Bitcoin Foundation, who is also known for her great work with bitcoin charity projects. A keynote panel comprised of Jason King, Davi Barker, Andreas Antonopoulos, and M.K. Lords will be discussing the broken nonprofit system and how blockchain technology can provide better solutions.

“I come from a technology background out of the start-up technology world, and there’s a concept of methodology there that a small team of highly trained, efficient people can knock an incumbent off of their seat by being more focused and result oriented, so we’re trying to apply that same thing to philanthropy and nonprofits.”—Jason King of Sean’s Outpost in a Bitcoin Not Bombs interview.

Music will be another feature of the conference. Bitcoin in the Beltway will feature the talented Tatiana Moroz, creator of the infectious Bitcoin Jingle, DJ/hacker extraordinaire YT Cracker, and Zhou Tonged, also known as the bitcoin world’s Weird Al Yankovich.

The conference will take place June 20-22nd at The Marriott Renaissance DC Downtown. Tickets can be purchased at bitcoinbeltway.com and 10% of proceeds go to Sean’s Outpost Homeless Outreach. You don’t want to miss this revolutionary event built around the most exciting technology since the internet.

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Citations Against Sean’s Outpost Dismissed But the Struggle Continues

When you fight for something your local government is trying to hide, you’re going to make some enemies. Sean’s Outpost purchased the property known as Satoshi Forest with the expectation that they would receive some backlash from not only the City of Pensacola and Escambia County, but also from residents in the Mayfair community where it is situated. The plans for Satoshi Forest were simple but controversial; turn the property into a campground where the homeless can reside free of interference from the police.

In the months since Escambia County first cited Sean’s Outpost for code violations on Satoshi Forest, there has been a lot of concern over the future of this property. Even though recent inspections by the health department proved the conditions at Satoshi Forest were not in violation, the county maintained that there were violations under their dubious definitions. It didn’t help that residents view Satoshi Forest as a place that will bring crime to the already economically depressed area.

There are philosophical debates to be had in all this; where do human rights have a place when it comes to public property? If it is illegal to camp on public property, why is camping also being restricted on private property? Luckily, the residents of Pensacola have shown their support for the work Sean’s Outpost does but the fight is far from over.

Last Tuesday, there was an evidentiary hearing before Special Magistrate Janet Lander that was to determine whether Satoshi Forest was in violation of current codes with what the county called “nuisance conditions.” The county claimed that tents were unpermitted structures that needed to be torn down until proper regulations were in place, that there was trash creating unsafe conditions, and that these violations should prohibit people from camping on the private property. After pictures were shown and code enforcement visited the property remarking how clean it was (it was previously used as a dumping area for trash), two of the five charges were dropped.

During the hearing, the county presented inadequate evidence of violations prompting magistrate Janet Lander to remark, “Tell me why I should not dismiss the case for lack of evidence that violation exists.”

Transcript of Special Magistrate Lander's comments
Transcript of Special Magistrate Lander’s comments

The rest of the transcript shows Mike Kimberl’s testimony and the county struggling to prove that tents are unpermitted structures and that Sean’s Outpost is in violation of Land Development code for having people camping there for unspecified amounts of time. The county was grasping at straws trying to shut down Satoshi Forest, but not even the magistrate was buying it.

Fast forward to yesterday, April 22nd 2014: Special Magistrate Lander dismissed the county’s case against Sean’s Outpost. This is great news for the team, and we hope to continue to make progress on the property. Support is growing locally and Sean’s Outpost is much loved by the Bitcoin community.

The struggle to help those in need continues, and this is not the end of the county’s harassment of Sean’s Outpost. While we had hoped that the ruling would alleviate some of the pressure on Sean’s Outpost, Escambia County filed a suit seeking a cease and desist order to remove all tents from the property until regulatory approval. This would mean throwing the twelve campers at Satoshi Forest out on the street where they could be arrested if caught sleeping on public property based on creative interpretations of current code.

The suit not only targets the corporation of Sean’s Outpost, but also the primary individuals involved in running operations; Jason King, Leslie King, and Mike Kimberl. In a copy of the Circuit Court Complaint and Summons Mike Kimberl provided me, the county alleges that Sean’s Outpost is in violation of codes regulating campgrounds, and cites the same violations that the Special Magistrate ruled were not violations.

It will be interesting to see whether the Magistrate’s ruling has any bearing on this other case. As Sean’s Outpost attorney Alistair McKenzie mentioned in the Pensacola News Journal article, “It just kind of seems like the county’s trying to get two bites at the same apple.”

This is typical behavior from the county as it seeks to not only attack an organization, but singles out individuals to harm financially. I will have more details on this situation as it develops.

If you are in the Pensacola area, you can show your support by coming out to the hearings or volunteering. If you are a fellow Bitcoiner in a far-away land, considering coming to Bitcoin in the Beltway where you can hear me and others speak on a wide variety of topics and from which 10% of proceeds will go to benefit Sean’s Outpost.

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome

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An Evening in Satoshi Forest

The smell of fire permeates the air as we get closer to the campsite. Satoshi Forest is nine acres, but only a small portion is used for camping. The community feel of the Forest is reinforced as Adam, Bob, John, Ian, and two young boys gather fire wood; my husband and I join them in the hunt. Though the camping area is modest, there is plenty of space to explore and find fuel for the fire. The multiple paths carved out by humans and animals make for interesting mini-adventures, and when one of the boys, Ignatious, suggested we check out the swamp, I was more than happy to oblige.

Bob Wingerter and John Love gather wood near tents in Satoshi Forest.
Bob Wingerter and John Love gather wood near tents in Satoshi Forest.

If you venture farther into the Forest, you can see the larger lake that feeds the swamp, and this is an integral part of Jason King’s vision for the land. By combining permaculture, food forests, and aquaponics, Satoshi Forest will not only be a sanctuary for the homeless where they can sleep undisturbed from local authoritarian figures, but a self-sustaining ecosystem that provides food to feed those in need. Because of the low impact style of food forests, the upkeep is optimized and food output high once it gets growing.

I had until recently been unaware that a property existed in Pensacola in such a unique location; it is centrally located yet conveniently secluded. You can be driving on an average busy road one minute and the next minute, you are entering a path winding through trees and ending at the beginning of fairly densely wooded areas. You really feel off the beaten path as you go deeper into the Forest, yet are minutes away from “civilization” (as some would contrast the rustic existence with an artificially lighted one).

One of the paths leading into the Forest.
One of the paths leading into the Forest.

Having gathered and chopped more fire wood, it wasn’t long before the familiar pops of beer cans and smell of hot dogs saturated the atmosphere. While the boys innocently fought with sticks, the adults discussed weightier matters.

I met John Love, also known as Curious John, and we spoke as the fire crackled and warmed the chill that was arising as the sun set. John Love came all the way from Atlanta to experience Satoshi Forest first hand. Not identifying as a specific gender, John Love’s preferred pronoun is “they.” Having read about the Forest in Bitcoin Magazine, they were floored by the overlap with their desires to build an open source, autonomous, eco-maker-village as a response the ecological, economic, and spiritual crisis brought with the rise and fall of industrialization. They are especially excited for the opportunity to build their first mesh network, aquaponics system, and tiny house while creating a sanctuary space for people ostracized and persecuted by society. A self-described liberation technologist, social entrepreneur, and full time activist, John Love has been involved with the Occupy movement, Food Not Bombs, LGBTQ organizing, and other efforts in the struggle for justice. Having tried to start similar projects elsewhere, they were enticed by the concepts behind the Forest and its potential to alleviate the injustice of homelessness. As a queer person involved in LGBTQ youth outreach, John Love pointed out that there were fewer homeless youth in Pensacola compared to other cities such as San Francisco.*

The swamp is fed by a larger body of water deeper in the property.
The swamp is fed by a larger body of water deeper in the property.

A thought provoking point John made was how many more young people are on the streets in large cities compared to Pensacola. Florida in general is often referred to as a place where people go to die, a bitter allusion to its large elderly population. Pensacola is no different, and we see a lot of older homeless, many of which are veterans. Younger people typically move away from Pensacola because of its somewhat limited economic benefits. I was struck by the thought of so many young people left on their own to survive, many of whom were rejected by their parents over their sexual preference. Satoshi Forest is in its beginning stages, but hopefully one of many sanctuaries where ostracized youth can seek safety and self-sufficiency.

More branches and logs were added to the fire and the conversation changed to music. We had brought a djembe and guitar and it turns out John Love had a ukulele. The young boys got to the djembe first, though, and adorably tried to play it at the same time. It was used to abuse, so we let them have at it for a bit while the guitar and djembe were tuned. When they were tuned we decided to relieve the young’uns of their djembe duty and jammed out for a bit. I have a hard time thinking of something more delightful than good company, good conversations, good music, and cooking over a fire.

Another activist, Bob Wingerter, reflected on how Bitcoin has helped expand the scope of feeding the homeless in Pensacola. Bob does homeless outreach with Helping Hands, and has been able to increase the amount of days he can feed the homeless because of the amount of donations from Bitcoin. He’s not a techie, and admits he doesn’t completely grasp how Bitcoin works, but is very supportive of the cryptocurrency because he has directly seen the benefits in its ability to help feed and house the homeless. Satoshi Forest will close the gap between converting Bitcoin to cash to pay for food as the land will allow food to be grown and harvested directly by activists who feed the homeless; Bob was excited about this prospect as buying food from a store can get expensive as inflation raises prices. Through Helping Hands and Sean’s Outpost, Bob is active five days out of the week and sometimes more as the population of displaced people grows.

An example of the small houses built by Sean's Outpost and the homeless.
An example of the small houses built by Sean’s Outpost and the homeless.

We have seen the Panhandling Ordinance attempt to hide the problem by making it illegal, but it hasn’t stopped the obvious growth of homeless as Pensacola fails to recover from the recession and oil spill. Escambia County is the poorest county in Florida, we have the lowest water quality in the country, and abandoned buildings litter certain areas like the West side of Pensacola. Before the homeless had to go into hiding, you could very clearly see the gradual increase on a monthly basis. More and more individuals and even more tragic, families, were out on the streets begging for work or spare change. The growth was exponential and exacerbated by inadequate payouts from the BP oil spill in 2010; there were people getting $30,000 checks working at places that weren’t affected and others who were directly damaged having to shut down because they were denied after jumping through bureaucratic hoops. There is a case to be made about the inefficacy of government in enforcing any kind of restitution to victims of corporate recklessness and the effect it has had on the homeless population locally. In a city where many live paycheck to paycheck, it’s still a long road to recovery after the disaster.

Many transients travel here in the colder months because of the warmer climate, but winters still are brutal as the humidity levels create a unique and penetrating “wet-cold.” The beginning stages of coldness arose on that night, and though we were kept warm by the fire, I knew I could be home in about fifteen or twenty minutes if it got too cold. Others are not as fortunate, and that weighed heavily on my mind as we discussed the role of the Forest and cryptocurrency in combating the growing problem of the homeless.

Adam Richard, myself, Jason Turner, and Joseph Lords chatting. Photo credit: Jason King
Adam Richard, me, Jason Turner, and Joseph Lords chatting. Photo credit: Jason King

The thrill of that night was its simplicity, and the future of Satoshi Forest is a stellar one. I asked Jason how Satoshi Forest came to be and if he had the concept in mind for some time, and his answer was an excellent example of spontaneous order. The reality of the Forest came about “serendipitously,” as described by Jason, and very abruptly. It wasn’t something that he had really planned on doing; initially he was hoping to be able to buy a small building in which to pay the homeless to build their own homes, but the generosity of the Bitcoin community was overwhelming. Unexpectedly, he ended up finding someone to accept Bitcoin for payment of the land and partnered with the former gardener for the Manna Food Bank. It is still in the beginning stages and more alluring than the idea of where the Forest is now is the concept of where the Forest is heading.

Satoshi Forest is more than just a place for people to camp and grow their own food; it is the answer to the question, “Who will feed the poor?” The people voluntarily participating in the counter economy and Bitcoin-fueled markets have already proven how effective mutual aid combined with direct action is, and you’re not going to convince the thousands of homeless fed by Sean’s Outpost, Food Not Bombs, and Helping Hands that Bitcoin is some flash in the pan “Ponzi” scheme. The Forest is the first community of its kind in the region, and as the idea spreads hopefully we will see more crypto-forests popping up. As the state proves over and over again it is woefully underprepared to deal with the problems it has sometimes had a role in creating, it is up to us to be more self-sufficient and help each other. The blossoming of the Forest is happening in real time, and is a poignant process to behold. I look forward to providing more updates as new developments take place, and this past weekend was only the beginning of what I hope will be a long lasting, autonomous community in a region that is in dire need of a new trajectory.

*Thank you to John Love for suggesting edits to this section for accuracy and clarity.

While photography is obviously not my specialty, here are a few more pictures from the Forest:

One pile of firewood gathered by campers.
One pile of firewood gathered by campers.
Iggy leads the way deeper into the Forest.
Ignatious leads the way deeper into the Forest.
Boris, the wolf dog, kept us in check and made sure no dropped food went to waste.
Boris, the wolf dog, kept us in check and made sure no dropped food went to waste.
satoshifire1
Fire!
Jamming out on the djembe.
Hot dogs roasting over an open fire.
Joseph playing guitar.
Joseph playing guitar.

 

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome

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Feeding and Housing the Homeless with Bitcoin

I got to sit down with Jason King, founder of Sean’s Outpost Homeless Outreach and two of his friends who help with operations (Michael Kimberl and Adam Richard) to discuss how Sean’s Outpost has used donations from the Bitcoin community to feed and house the homeless in Pensacola, FL. It was an enlightening experience, and validated my belief that Bitcoin can be used to do so much good for the world in an easily accessible and effective way. Many of the photos are from the Sean’s Outpost blog, where you can follow their progress as they help the most downtrodden of Pensacola.

How did Sean’s Outpost start?

Jason King: So, Sean’s Outpost is named after my best friend Sean Dugas who was murdered last year, and I’m trying to keep his memory alive by figuring out something to do. Through Sean’s funeral, I met a man named Nathan Monk who had been a big homeless advocate in the area, but had recently fallen on hard times and his mission was closing down. There was going to be a hole in homeless outreach in Pensacola, so my wife and I decided we would do something; feeding the homeless, trying to take care of people. We started Sean’s Outpost in his name, and that was sort of our first jump down the rabbit hole in helping homelessness and dealing with poverty in Pensacola.

The inspiration behind Sean's Outpost, Sean Dugas
The inspiration behind Sean’s Outpost, Sean Dugas

Why did you choose Bitcoin as a way to fund your project and what are some advantages for using Bitcoin to fund homeless outreach over traditional methods like cash donations?

JK: So, how Sean’s Outpost merged with Bitcoin was kind of serendipitously. I’ve been a Bitcoin proponent since 2010. So, I was sort of monitoring on the forums on reddit and the subreddit /r/Bitcoin, and earlier this year when we broke the $30 mark for price there was a shitload of speculation over it where people were arguing over whether there was a real value to Bitcoin or it was just imaginary numbers that we created on a computer with no real value to it. Then it broke $50 and those same conversations were there and I jumped up and said, “Hey, obviously this is a very interesting time to be in Bitcoin right now, but if you guys want to argue over whether this is reality or not, one Bitcoin will feed over 40 homeless people in Pensacola right now. If you guys want proof Bitcoin is real, send them to me, I’ll cash them out and feed homeless people.” And that’s pretty real, so that’s basically how we got started.

What are advantages? Well, there are a lot of advantages to it. One that comes to mind is [the time] from the moment we decided we were going to accept Bitcoin, we got a Bitcoin, and had converted and were feeding people with that Bitcoin was less than twenty four hours. With any other payment method, that would be unheard of; like with PayPal you would still be waiting for them to send it to your bank account or if you were getting a traditional merchant account you wouldn’t even be through the application process. So, with Bitcoin we were going to take payments and take them from anybody in the world, and we were able to set it up immediately. Anyone being able to send money to us in the world instantaneously is very valuable, and we’ve gotten donations from over twenty three different countries.

That’s awesome. Like you were saying earlier, many people regard Bitcoin as difficult to understand or it’s some kind of scheme and seems highly technical for your average person. How has it been received by the homeless community?

JK: I think to be honest is most people don’t care, and I can explain Bitcoin to them and if all they see is the end result that Bitcoin is paying for all this they say, “Oh, well it must be cool.” A lot of people say Bitcoin is hard to understand technologically, but if you think about it a credit card is really hard to understand technologically too, and we had a huge adoption problem with credit cards when they first started to release them. People were very skeptical of them, and if you had someone sit down and try explain it to you how an entire credit card network processes your transaction they can’t tell you, but they know how to use one. So, maybe you can’t explain to me how the blockchain works and you can’t tell me what the crypto-graphic hasing algorithms are, but you can probably use Bitcoin. We have homeless guys using Bitcoin, we have guys out on MLK (Plaza) with Android apps and they use Bitcoin. They do jobs online to earn more Bitcoin, and use it to buy Papa Johns to have delivered to the park. People are very, what’s the word?

Jason King, founder of Sean's Outpost
Jason King, founder of Sean’s Outpost

Adam Richard: Adaptive.

Michael Kimbrel: They’ve definitely adapted to it quickly. The first day Jason showed one gentleman how to set up a wallet, and we went and ran some errands.

AR: Only a couple hours later, not very long at all.

MK: Yeah, it was just a couple hours, and the one gentleman had showed two other guys how to set up their own wallets and had loaned them some money or shared some of the Bitcoins with them to where they all three of them had Bitcoins.

AR: And then they all found Bitcoin Talk, all on their own. We didn’t give them any information. They were all nose deep in researching Bitcoin.

MK: They were even trying to figure out how to mine Bitcoin on their Androids. It was like, “Whoa, okay guys!”

(laughter)

Mike Kimberl, Food Not Bombs and Sean's Outpost
Mike Kimberl, Food Not Bombs and Sean’s Outpost

That’s cool that they just picked it right up. Another criticism people have is that private charity is inadequate at meeting the needs of the downtrodden. What would you tell those critics who say we need the government to take care of people because private charity doesn’t do enough?

JK: I would say that probably private charity doesn’t do enough, and in those instances where private charity doesn’t do enough it’s because government is getting in the way of the private charities. I would say the government is woefully inept at dealing with its people. Just today, we have a homeless lady that we have been dealing with for about four months, she’s just the sweetest kid who contracted this horrible disease…she’s disabled and unable to walk now. In the system, she’s eligible for social security disability, but it was a pain in the ass to get it. And this is someone who, if you believe in the system, deserves that disability and it was a nightmare for her to get it. So, finally, today she had a check in her hand. It was like she could see the light at the end of the tunnel and she was gonna get off the street today.

MK: After being in the hospital two times…

JK: After being in the hospital two times, living in a train car, being unable to walk/paralyzed; this was such a terrible story. So, she’s got this government issued check and we have to go get her an ID card and fight with the DMV because she doesn’t have proper identification even though the government approved her for this and she didn’t have the identity to apply for that. So, there’s all this red tape, but now she’s got the check and she’s got this ID card. She went to two banks and three check cashing places and none of them would cash her check for her because she failed the credit ID verification, and what was kicking back is her permanent residency wasn’t verifiable by the computer system. This is a homeless person! So, finally she was able to cash it, but she had to cash it at some usurious check cashing place that took 6% of her check just to get her money, and you know that’s government benefits at work. That’s the government at work. Private charities like Sean’s Outpost are much more efficient.

I met these guys (Michael and Adam) through Food Not Bombs, and I think Food Not Bombs is the bar for setting the standard for pure efficiency for providing direct action for helping people. I’ve gotten a lot from these guys, and we’ve totally joined forces together and we’re making this big push to help here, but we’re on a much, much smaller budget with fewer people than the larger homeless organizations here. We are doing as much if not more than most homeless outreaches here. We go out and provide direct support now; we don’t pontificate about it, we don’t have meetings about a meeting or hold a fundraiser…

MK: A $10,000 fundraiser (laughter)…or horse races… (more laughter)

JK: If you’re hungry, here’s some food. You need a place to stay? Let’s get you a place to stay. It’s all about boots on the ground here, and government is terrible about that.

MK: It’s all bureaucracy; it’s all numbers. (laughter)

JK: I’m a former military man; it’s not all great. We’re terrible at doing a lot of stuff, and in the end even with the military you have these huge battalions, but the people doing the work are small, efficient teams filled with deadly motherfuckers. That’s the theory: when you paint in broad strokes, you’re gonna miss a lot, but when you have a small group of dedicated people set on accomplishing a task you can get a lot further. I come from a technology background straight up out of the start-up technology world, and there’s a concept of methodology there that a small team of highly trained, efficient people can knock an incumbent off of their seat by being more focused and result oriented, so we’re trying to apply that same thing to philanthropy and nonprofits.

That leads into another question I have. Have any public officials or activist groups come out in support of what you’re doing? You mentioned partnering with Food Not Bombs, any other groups come out?

JK: Well, Food Not Bombs, and there’s some other local outreaches like Helping Hands and just individuals that have shown support, but there are homeless support groups that think what we’re doing is terrible because we’re not asking permission. You know, we’re not holding meetings to discuss things about homeless people when we haven’t actually talked to them as people. And it’s counterproductive because I never would have thought that feeding someone who is hungry would have been such a political statement. I never would have in a million years thought there would be so much aversion to what we’re doing, but there is. There are tons of people who look at us like we’re feeding stray animals, and around here it’s terrible. It’s illegal to be homeless in Pensacola.

I was just about to say, The Panhandling Ordinance passed in May of this year that pretty much made homelessness illegal. So, you notice people have been criticizing you, what have public officials or other groups been saying to you?

Donations in Bitcoins from Reddit users made these lunches possible.
Donations in Bitcoins from Reddit users made these lunches possible.

JK: I’m a military veteran so to me they speak out of both sides of their mouth. They can’t come out and say “You know we’re completely against what you’re doing.” Or, “We appreciate your passion! However, sleeping in a public park is a criminal act and you’re going to go to jail.” The talk like yes they understand what we’re doing, but the truth is they don’t. They don’t understand what we’re doing, and we’ve done public records requests and we’ve actually seen the emails from local business owners and city councilmen and how they speak about these people. They don’t talk about them in terms of being human, they talk in terms of [them] being garbage.

AR: Yeah, literally, garbage. “When the beggars descend on downtown Pensacola…” I think was an exact quote.

MK: “When the beggars descend on Palafox.” But yeah, that was from a local business owner.

JK: There’s an entire class of people here that don’t see homeless people as people, but as a problem or a nuisance. It’s a huge problem and a trend in Florida; down in Orlando they literally put up signs saying “Don’t Feed the Homeless” like they’re stray dogs.

In Mobile (Alabama) they do that, too. I noticed it when I was there a few years ago they had the signs everywhere, and I wondered if it would eventually come to Pensacola because it’s similar situations and sure enough it did. I remember reading the homeless being described as “eyesores” I kept seeing that term “eyesore” numerous times in PNJ (Pensacola News Journal).

JK: We all three spoke at city council meetings when these ordinances were passed, and it’s a basic numbers game. We’ve got over 1,000 homeless people in Escambia County and 30 permanent homeless shelter beds. So, even a basic math level it’s 970 people that will have no place to sleep, and criminalizing them doesn’t give them a place to sleep or a place to go; it gives them a jail cell. And as a taxpayer, that’s just a waste of my money to put someone [in jail]. I’d much rather they sleep on a park bench instead of paying a hundred dollars a night for them to stay in jail.

AR: I think it was more than a hundred dollars a night.

JK: I think it depends on how far into the system they get, processing…

MK: It also depends on medical and mental problems. Once you’re arrested, it’s the state’s responsibility to cover all medical and mental problems, and the price varies depending on the issues. A lot of homeless people have mental issues.

JK: I think the statistics on that are if you were to house a homeless person in a permanent residence it’s about $6,000 a year. To house them in prison is about $36,000 a year, and then [at] a mental institution is $115,000. It goes up exponentially, so can’t we just build some shelters to get these guys off the streets? “No, we can’t do that. We don’t have money for that.”

MK: But we have a good handful of empty school buildings in the city of Pensacola that could easily be turned into homeless shelters instead of sitting empty.emptybuildings

AR: And not just empty school buildings, the city’s littered with abandoned buildings. Everywhere you see there’s an empty building somewhere that looks like it’s been abandoned for five or ten years even. Boarded up places all over…

JK: I have a really bad taste in my mouth over the City Council passing the ordinances. We had tons of people going down there when these meetings are usually empty, but the last one we filled the chambers. And they augmented the amount of time you can speak because we were going to go into the next day with speakers; it was a laundry list of people speaking out saying this is horrible, we can’t do this, and no one spoke up for it [in favor of the ordinance]. Except for one lady, and that was at one of the preliminary meetings. No one spoke up for these ordinances at all, and they [City Council members] didn’t even care. It’s because they don’t have to listen.

MK: And right after that, while I was in the hospital, they passed [a motion] that now you’re not even allowed to speak as long as you used to be. You can only speak for three minutes now, and you can’t even speak at the Monday meetings anymore.

Have you run into any problems trying to build these small houses? Anyone saying you’re violating codes?

An example of the type of houses that are being built by Sean's Outpost.
An example of the type of houses that are being built by Sean’s Outpost.

JK: Currently we’re not violating any laws because we’re building on trailers. There’s no building code associated with building a recreational vehicle, so there’s no code to violate as long as we’re parking them where trailers can be parked at, and everywhere we’re talking about [building them] currently that’s the case. That being said, we assume it won’t be very long before those laws start getting made and we start having problems.

I saw on your blog that you received a large sum of Bitcoins from Butterfly Labs/Bitcoin Development Fund. What’s the latest on how this donation is being applied to homeless outreach? Is it mostly for food or for the houses?

JK: It’s mostly going towards food. And a huge cost that a lot of people don’t think about, especially in Pensacola where homeless populations are diversified and all over the place now—we used to have a couple areas that were really dense with homeless people where you could go in and hook a bunch of people up—but they bulldozed them all down and ran everybody off, so fuel is a huge cost in making sure food gets to people. But most of what Butterfly Labs has given us has gone towards food, and that’s what we told them we would spend it on.

How can people get involved/donate, and what are you looking for more now—volunteers or donations?

JK: What we need more than money is boots on the ground. We need a hand because there’s only like four or five people who are active all the time and some people that provide intermittent support. We could do a lot more with more volunteers. Money is great and Bitcoin is fantastic, unfortunately we live in a world where shit costs stuff, so we gotta pay for it somehow. We could use more volunteers.

Working hard for the cause.
Working hard for the cause.

What is your vision of the future in regard Bitcoin, the threats that might come to it and also the opportunity it provides to individuals?

JK: In terms of the threats that come to it—and I could be completely optimistic on this—I think the genie’s out of the bottle in terms of crypto-currency. And even if it ends up not being Bitcoin, I think there’s so many advantages to instantaneous, worldwide open platform payment that you control and there’s no middle man involved in; you don’t have to deal with the bank or pay transaction fees. I think there’s too much value to that to say, “We don’t need that shit anymore.” But I think as much as governments might deplore or try to regulate it and as much as banks may hate it, crypto-currency is here. There is no going back; I think that Bitcoin or a form of crypto-currency will probably in the next twenty years or so completely ape every other form of currency on the planet. I could be wrong, but there are just too many ups, and our legacy of banking system is terrible; it’s criminal, and banks that rob you want to give you classes on managing your money!* There’s too many people that see problems with that and would be much happier managing their own funds and not needing to use banks, but rather Bitcoin. It has [central banking] been obsolete for a while. That was sort of the joke we were making while we were getting these phone calls about this homeless lady not being able to cash her check; this was a government check, so they were like, “Well, I don’t know if I can honor this check because I don’t know if this government check is worth anything. [laughter] Huh, it does say backed by the good faith of the government, I don’t know if I can really value this here!” Yeah, I think Bitcoin’s probably here to stay. Mad love to Litecoin, too, mad love to Litecoin. Today was actually Litecoin Thursday, all of our sack lunches said “Sean’s Outpost loves Litecoin” on them.

MK: Going back to your question about people not knowing a lot about the technology, I would be one of those people. When I first met Jason, I didn’t know anything about Bitcoin, or how to have a wallet or any of that. Jason showed me a lot about it and I also started doing my own research, and the thing that really sparked my interest in it was that it is based off of an economic theory that by saving your money it causes the value of money to go up which is something that helped pull us out of the Great Depression and as a culture the United States has lost sight of that. The theories behind how crypto-currency worked really clicked with me, and as far as technology goes I am the opposite end of the spectrum from where Jason comes from; he’s headfirst into technology, I don’t even have a smartphone. I have fought having a computer until about five or six years ago. Even though I just got my own computer it’s been fairly easy for me to pick up on how to use and spend Bitcoin, so it really doesn’t take long. Technology for this younger generation as opposed to my generation is like breathing to them, it’s second nature.

*Recently big banks in the area like Bank of America have begun projects to reach out to people in Pensacola to teach them how to handle their finances. One can only assume the first piece of advice would be maybe not blow so much money that someone else needs to bail you out.

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Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome