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article imageActivists live with homeless in DC Special

By Justin King     Nov 20, 2013 in Lifestyle
Washington - Keith “Spektre” Howell, an Anonymous activist, spent three nights living with the homeless in Washington, DC this week in the lead up to an event on Thanksgiving that will be supplying dinner for the homeless outside the Veterans Affairs building.
The project, Solidarity Thanksgiving for the Houseless, hopes to directly impact the lives of the homeless in DC by providing a dinner as well as warm clothes and supplies to prepare them for winter outdoors. The project was spawned from the Million Mask Movement, which is an offshoot of the November 5 Million Mask March. Spektre and other activists chose to get ready for the experience by living with the homeless in DC. The activists truly lived as the homeless do, bringing only minimal amounts of money. They were forced to rely on the charity of others for their meals.
Being a veteran, Spektre chose to make his home outside the Veterans Affairs building in hopes that he would find a little more sympathy from his former comrades in arms. Although, one night they camped in the park across the street from the White House, highlighting the economic disparity that exists in the country.
Portions of the experience were videotaped and the embedded video shows an interview with “Bear,” a houseless man that received aid from Anonymous during the November 5th Million Mask March.
Spektre took a break from preparing for the Thanksgiving event to answer some questions.
The interview
How long did you spend on the street with the homeless in DC?
I arrived the afternoon of the 13th, and left the afternoon of the 16th. So, three nights and two days.
What did you bring with you from home when you left to live on the streets?
My full medical assault pack loaded with medical supplies. I wore my Anon Medic gear with Under Armour Cold Gear underneath, and brought an extra pair of sweat pants, one extra thermal top, and a mildly effective windbreaker / rain coat. I had an afghan blanket, and a comforter to roll up into on top of the afghan. Oh, and 20 bucks cash with my ID. No credit cards or bank cards.
Where did you sleep?
Right in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
How did the average person treat you while you were part of the houseless population?
Like I was the dirt on their shoe.
Do you have any particular moments that stand out?
Yeah. Some a--hole wearing an Air Force uniform walked on my sign like I didn't exist. Right in front of the VA. The sign read "Former U.S. Army Cavalry 194th AR BDE. Homeless Please Help." F---ing ignorant prick was a serviceman. What does that tell you about how much society gives a sh-t when even those who serve today don't care about you? And that was my real MOS / Unit. I was a 19D Recon Scout.
How did the homeless interact with each other for the most part?
They are a kind and peaceful people for the most part. They have their moments just like any other family. Yes, I say family. There are those who are close, and those who come by from time to time. Overall, though I'd say they treat one another rather ok. There was a great deal of laughter, and kindness between them from what I could see. Obviously, if you take the time to watch the film of Bear you know they too have their black sheep, though.
What prompted you to do this?
I sat looking at the photographs I took from November the 5th. I kept staring at Bear’s face, and feeling as if I had just come and gone on him; and all the rest. It tortured me, and I lost sleep over it to be honest. I knew there were more like him out there. After the response I got from so many people about that picture from the 5th. I knew I had my motivation. My purpose in this world. I knew then I was not like the rest. That I wasn't gonna leave them to despair, and hunger, and cold, and misery without a fight. Honestly. I would live there, and do this my whole life if I could. I love them all.
How many activists were involved in this operation?
There were four of us who stuck out the entire thing, and we had others come by to help at night. Overall, I have to say about 10 or 12 overall not including the houseless who sleep there who even lent a hand. Yes, even they helped us help them and many others. The houseless, like Bear and many others, really helped us out. In fact, many of them spoke of their desire for solidarity amongst themselves to fight for an end to this plague of injustice in our society. As for groups, if you wanna use that word. Anonymous, Occupy, Durty Mics' chipped in with Steve Grant sending in an awesome care package as well.
The common assumption is that they are for the most part drug addicts or alcoholics. Is this true?
F--k no! In fact, it's quite the opposite. Most I met didn't drink let alone do drugs. Some drink, but for the most part the most common thing is cigarettes. They are always happy to have those.
What did you hope to accomplish by doing this?
I wanted to learn what it was like. I wanted to reach out and let them know that I will not give up on them. So many others come and go, but they never give a real f--k. Seriously, you’ve got your emo a-- college students who might come around with a camera crew, and a trailer they can escape to if s--t gets rough, but they have no clue how it really is. I wanted to show people what it was like without high priced s--t and personal security.
Could you sum up the experience and what you learned from it in just a couple of sentences?
No, I honestly can't. I feel this is something people need to experience themselves. It's like going to war. A veteran can try to tell you how bad it really is, but unless you've been there. You'll never have a real clue.
The Thanksgiving event will occur on November 29 at 5:00pm in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, DC. Arryn Sayer, another activist with the project, said that some volunteers, including a family bringing their children, will be coming out on the 28th to celebrate Thanksgiving handing out food to those in need. Sayer’s excitement was obvious “I've already got plans for the turkey and everything!” She also noted that a similar operation will be occurring in Cleveland.
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