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Decentralize All the Homeless Outreach!

Homeless outreach is a difficult calling that many assume centralized organizations are taking care of efficiently, but this is simply not the case. Because of grants with strings attached, many organizations have their hands tied by the state and this limits their ability to reach as many people in need. Homelessness is a huge problem nationwide, and many people slip through the cracks of these aid organizations. By decentralizing our efforts, we can have the maximum amount of efficiency in outreach operations.

By diversifying the type of funds homeless outreaches can collect, we allow them to take advantage of new and growing markets. With access to extra funding, the goals of any homeless outreach can be expanded and a variety of creative solutions can be tested.

With the recent arrests of two Food Not Bombs volunteers for flaunting a homeless feeding ban in Fort Lauderdale, or the homeless blanket ban in Pensacola, Florida last year, decentralized homeless outreach is more important than ever. This year Bitcoin Not Bombs is working to coordinate with existing homeless outreach organizations, such as the San Francisco Community Clinic ConsortiumProject Homeless Connect, the Bay Area Rescue Mission, and Food Not Bombs Pensacola to help them get set up to use Bitcoin as a funding tool, and further decentralize the charity options in the Bitcoin ecosystem. Cooperation between these organizations can help them reach more people, and bitcoin is no longer a fringe currency, but one accepted by major charities including the Red Cross. But that cooperation hinges upon the success of our fundraising efforts.

We also want to thank SnapCard.io for extending their offer for a free merchant processing account with zero processing fees and a free tablet to the homeless outreach centers in San Francisco, California we have reached out to. The offer from SnapCards Integrate SF project is very compelling, and for a new merchant or organization getting immediate conversion to USD to mitigate the risk of volatility is critical for turning donations into care.

Join us in reaching out to your local shelters this winter. The season is a crucial time for those without homes, and by working together we can help some of the over 610,000 individuals fighting for survival every night in the U.S. Let’s see if we can begin decentralizing all the homeless outreach.

Please help us show the world that Bitcoin is a force for good, and make Hoodie the Homeless 2014 all that it can be

General donations welcome, all donations to this address are live tweeted. Follow along and shout out your donations! Bit.co.in/HoodieTheHomeless

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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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Cleaning Up Satoshi Forest

As mentioned in previous posts, Jason King is the founder of Sean’s Outpost, a homeless outreach center in Pensacola, FL. So far, Sean’s Outpost has fed 20,000 people through donations. Hold up, let me say that again, 20,000 people have been fed with Bitcoin donations. Simply amazing. With the help of the generous Bitcoin community, he also acquired nine acres of property that will be used as a homeless sanctuary. The landlord is even allowing him to pay for the property in Bitcoin.

Jason named the property Satoshi Forest in honor of the mysterious creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. His vision for the land incorporates permaculture techniques of gardening, food forestry, aquaponics, a kitchen area to prepare meals, and paying the homeless in Bitcoin to build their own portable small homes situated on trailer hitches. There has never been anything like Satoshi Forest in Pensacola, so this is groundbreaking for the homeless community here; who was left to struggle even more after a panhandling ordinance passed outlawing homelessness. Satoshi Forest will also be a self-sustaining crypto-community. The Forest backs up to water, which will be useful for self-sufficiency, and plans for a stage will provide a unique venue for events and speakers on a variety of educational topics.

This past weekend, I got a sneak peek at the property and helped with cleaning up. We probably covered maybe a quarter of an acre between six people, and much work still needs to be done, but the experience was an exciting one and the difference afterwards was noticeable. From old carpets trapped by roots to the ground to snakes to a beautiful but pesky kudzu invasion, we encountered some interesting items during the clean-up. Ever the klutz, I discovered a bucket containing a wasp nest covered with dozens of wasps, but escaped right before they were able to swarm (luckily it was chilly and they were slowed from their usual velocity). Later, Jason contained and triple bagged the wasp nest which we joked no doubt could have been a useful tool for some uncivil disobedience, but alas, we lacked the time and had to press on.

The weather was agreeable for the work being done, and my husband Joseph scaled a large tree covered with the invasive kudzu. Although the vine covered most of the tree and surrounding area, Joseph, Jason, Adam, and Jesse were able to successfully take much of it down. I spent much of my time in shadier sections collecting various pieces of trash and rotted wood, using loppers to clear my way through some of the thicker parts and brushing off spiders and stickers. Aside from a couple scratches, we made it to lunch unscathed. While we had to leave early for a wedding, Jason and the others stayed behind to work more. There are still nine acres to cover and any additional help is appreciated. You can donate to Sean’s Outpost here: http://seansoutpost.com/donate/

Coming up this weekend, Jason will be holding a Satoshi Forest camp out to celebrate the five year anniversary of Satoshi’s paper Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, which laid out the concept of Bitcoin. There will be food and ample room for camping and you can RSVP by sending an email to SeansOutpost@gmail.com. Please come join us for what will be the beginning of an autonomous community in Pensacola fueled by Bitcoin! I’ll be publishing a write up of my experience there next week.

Here’s some pictures Jason took of the clean up:

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome