Tuesday, December 10, 2013

HRC = Silence: LGBTs & Hunger, Homelessness, Hourly Wage

The Social Security Administration last week snail mailed me the annual notice of planned action regarding my benefits starting on January 1, 2014, and the news is not good. While my California state payment will increase that jump in income equals a reduction in my federal payment, so I'll be receiving about $60 less in SSI and SSDI benefits combined.

My rent will rise in the new year and so will costs of essentials such as food and healthcare expense not covered by the public insurance programs I'm in, leading to further belt-tightening.

Also last week, the New York Times ran a story about homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and persons with AIDS who are homeless in San Francisco and living as best they can on the streets. Missing from the story was the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT advocacy organization.

The following five questions were sent to HRC president and the movement's Golden Boy who was handsomely compensated with a $360,000 package last year, copied to several others at the group, on Thursday:

1. Food stamps have been cut by Congress and the impact is being felt among low incomes LGBT people across the country. What actions did HRC take opposing the cuts and what advice do you give to people suffering a further shedding of their food security? Have you issued a statement about the cuts? 

2. HRC maintains an action center and store in the Castro, a store from which Harvey Milk was evicted because of gentrification, yet I'm not aware of HRC taking a position on the epidemic of eviction faced by longtime gays with AIDS in the Castro losing their homes. Are you doing anything locally about this housing crisis so many of us are dealing with? 

3. Thousands of LGBT people struggle to survive making only an hourly minimum wage. Is HRC organizing in any significant way to raise the minimum wage? 

4. You're probably aware of protests on Thursday at fast food restaurants on behalf of workers, some of whom are LGBT citizens and our allies, demanding the industry pay its workers a living wage and provide expanded benefits. Will HRC be present at any of the protest or supporting the goals of the organizers? 

5. Given the economic hardships and access to healthcare myself and other LGBT folks in San Francisco are grappling with to stay alive, keep a roof over our heads and earn a decent income, what is HRC doing to address our concerns about lack of affordable housing, higher wages and uninterrupted health services delivery?

After many emails and phone calls to Chad and his staff at HRC, the only response from them has been deafening silence.

What was one of the projects HRC was busy with last week? Promoting the hell out of the fact that Madonna wore an HRC t-shirt reading Love Conquers Hate in Russian and together they're raising funds for gay advocacy groups in Russia. According to Forbes, Madonna's estimated net worth is $500 million so she could easily write a check for a cool million or two to the gay Russians, and HRC wouldn't have to sell another t-shirt.

As a longtime global advocate myself who has protested plenty at the Russian consulate here in San Francisco, I'm happy Madonna and HRC bring some renewed attention to the gay Russia problems. However, this is an excellent example of how celebrity-driven the HRC agenda is and how deeply unconnected the organization is when asked to address economic justice questions related to ordinary LGBT Americans.

Thousands of American lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, myself included, currently worry about the shredding of the social safety net. More than one million people, which includes the gays, will lose unemployment benefits at the end of December if Congress doesn't act to extend those benefits.

We average LGBT folks struggle to keep our housing or move out of the shelters, maintain food security or decent jobs with a realistic minimum wage, keep or acquire health insurance and pay the heating bills.

And all we get from the Human Rights Campaign is silence.

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