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Sidewalk Homeless Memorial: History

"How can you 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' when you're shoeless?" ....Ian Brennan (February, 2008)

The day that someone in America first walked by without stopping to help a homeless person passed out on the pavement was as monumental a cultural step as Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. The slide from a nation where every person was created equal, all-for-one, one-for-all to the ever-escalating cyncicism, paranoia, and competition frequently exhibited today, had begun.

The Homeless Sidewalk Memorial Project is an attempt to break through the impassiveness and give voice and name to the individuals that have been dehumanzied by our adversarial system. The great irony is that the installment of five of these markers to honor our fellow citizens has by far created a greater outcry and emotional reaction than the deaths of dozens and dozens every year.

The world has always seen "hobos", "vgarants" and "hermits", but the sheer numbers in the past few decades are unprecendented in the modern-era. The fact that somewhere between 50-150 people die in San Francisco, the seventh richest county in the ninth richest country in its eighth richest state, is a travesty.

The sad irony of the maxim "it's a dog eat dog world" is that it is a factual inaccuaracy. Dogs don't eat dogs. They operate from a strict social model in which cooperation and coexstince are the rule.

The problem of homelessness cannot be laid at the foot of any one cause or person. It is as complex as any one homeless individual.

But when the desires of the far-left and far-right converge for different reasons, there is usually hell to be paid. The reality is clear and the link should be made. No one talked of the problem of "homelessness"-- poverty yes, homelessness no-- until the deinistutionalaztion of the mentally-ill in the late 1960's and early 1970's. The unwillingness to care for the mentally ill and the primary criterion for any care becoming the exhibition of violence has unleashed an onslaught that will not be contained until we again begin to provide humane care for all of our citizens, especially those at a clear disadvatnage.

The first step in getting help and finding solutions is the recognition that there is a problem, but also embracing the hope that there are solutions. Maybe not perfection, but progress.

Throughout ages, across religions and continents, evil has been deifined similarly-- the experience of witnessing someone's weakness and instead of offering protection, ignoring or, worse yet, exploiting that vulnerability.

Ian Brennan has successfully trained tens of thousands of people across the country in violence prevention, anger-management, and conflict resolution since 1993 at shelters, schools, hospitals, clinics, and drug-treatment programs nationwide including such prestigious organizations as the Betty Ford Center, Bellevue Hopital (NYC), and Stanford University. His presentations are consistently reviewed as "the best" of their kind and, when studied, frequently demonstrate signifigant reductions in aggressive incidents, complaints, and injuries. These trainings are based on his over 15 years experience working in locked, acute-psychiatric settings, the job rated as “the most dangerous” in the state of California.

Ian Brennan has produced two GRAMMY-nominated records. Most recently he produced, Rain Machine, the solo debut of Kyp Malone (TV on the Radio) and it has been named “one of the 30 best records of the year so far” by SPIN magazine. In the studio, he has worked with the likes of Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Flea, Lucinda Williams, David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Nels Cline (Wilco), DJ Bonebrake (X, the Knitters), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Peter Case, Bill Frisell, Jonathan Richman, and more. With live concerts, he has produced shows of up to 15,000 people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington (DC), Portland (OR), Tucson, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and Boston with artists as diverse as Green Day, Fugazi, Merle Haggard, film-maker John Waters, Kris Kristofferson, Tammy Faye (Bakker), the Blind Boys of Alabama, Peaches, and the Vienna Boys Choir. These shows have raised over $100,000 for local charities and political causes.