Monday, March 17, 2008

Ten Tents My Ass

These north and south partial views of the City Hall encampment last week, shot at night by Doug McKeehan when most people were inside their tents sleeping, give a sense of how many people braved the steady rain to participate in the overnight portion of the event. Organizers counted 48 tents plus various plastic-wrapped sleeping bags and cardboard boxes. They estimate that 150-175 people stayed overnight, and at least 50 additional participants helped with daytime visibility protests. Sharon Chan of the Seattle Times dropped by at 5:30 for the dinner and reported ten tents in her story the next day.

When Sharon called me at home for a quote, she asked how many would be staying the night. We'd been seeing huge interest and feeling real momentum, but most people who planned on staying hadn't officially committed. So, basically, I had no idea. "Two-hundred," I confidently replied.

"We're sending a photographer, but if I get there and see twenty people, there won't be a story," she said.

So I guess we dodged that bullet.

Her story was notable in that human services Director Patricia McInturff said she "doesn't like the term 'sweeps.'"
"They're unauthorized encampments," she said. "The city has been cleaning up unauthorized encampments for 20 years. I think the new protocol is a giant step forward" with its inclusion of outreach, storage options and additional shelter.
Well, Patricia, if the City hadn't accelerated the pace by a factor of maybe twenty, and if the outreach, storage, and shelter you refer to had some reality to them, then you'd be right.

But as things are, you're a lying sack of shit and we're not stupid. They're sweeps. We know it. You know it. For once in your life, just tell the truth. Preferably, before you retire.

It takes a lot of people to pull something like this off. Operation Sack Lunch took care of the evening meal and helped with hospitality. The Real Change staff and Rachael and Natalie in particular put in heroic efforts during the preceding weeks. Board member David Bloom rounded up the ecumenical meal servers. Real Change vendors were there in force and helped spread the word, and whole bunches of RCOP members took leadership in the weeks and days leading up to the protest. Paul Boden from WRAP flew up from San Francisco and lent a hand as a seasoned pro over Thursday and Friday (Rachael handed him the press calls). And then there was the woman who dropped off a box of tangerines and wished us the best and all the others like her who did their small part.

In short, people pulled together and pulled it off. Last December, when we promised we'd be back, there were less than fifty of us overnight. This time, there were more than one-hundred-fifty. We're building power. The City's lies don't fool us, and we're not going away any time soon.


Pastor Rick said...

"Mayor Nickels, this tent is worth more than $25 and belongs to Rev. Rick Reynolds. Hands Off!"

This sign adorned my tent.

Last night Operation Nightwatch served 185 people with 18 men turned away.

What's going to happen in two weeks when the winter season ends and another 100 homeless people are dumped outside?

It was bitterly cold at the campout, and I had a decent bag and sleeping pad, besides the knowledge I was going to be buried under a quilt the next night.


Bill said...

Maybe our next campout on the Plaza ought to end with symbolically garbed actors mimicking city staff and sweeping up and away all our tents and belongings,..sort of street theatre. Or, maybe better, crews could come and neatly take everything down, itemize it, store it in good order, and report, "mission accomplished."

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work, because if they continue to take away the funding for things such as tretment programes and other such needed programes, such as health care that is affordable and respit care, the nimbers that end up on the outside will more than likely keep rising instead of decreasing. Education and a good job help but thet only go so far if you get cut off from stabilty.

Its worse in trubled times.
Like I always sead if they want people out of their imediate site,'' give them a place to be.

A job, A home, A life.
Other than the cold and bitter ally's and doorway's of this city,or any other as far as that goes.
Keep up the good work! GOD Bless you for blessing those that have not,what we all need.Peace out...Belle.

Sally said...

After repeatedly asking over a 2+-year period for an appointment to see Mayor Nickel-and-dimed, the Homeless Place of Remembrance Committee finally got to see him last year. We asked him to endorse that project, which he did. (And has now withdrawn approval for either of the park sites we were given a choice of, but that's another story.) At the end of our meeting, I asked him if he would open City Hall up year-round, since homelessness doesn't stop in the summer. He said "No!" with the hardest, meanest, most aggressive look I've ever seen on the face of someone who is supposedly employed by the public. This guy is another Bush; he doesn't care; he will actively NOT care for as long as he's in office, which will translate to a lot more homeless deaths and turnaways from shelters. Wonder what he would do if we simply forgot the permit and set up tents inside City Hall next time. The Times and P-I would probably cover THAT.

Tim Harris said...

He worships power and wealth, but knows how to utter all the pat fucking pieties about how we'd-like-to-be-doing-so-much-more. Rachael and I got to have lunch with him from some raffle thing once with these two businessmen from the east side who didn't get to fully unload the law and order rap they came to offer because the homeless advocates were their. So we talked about Real Change, one of their homeless relatives, and the food. And they talked about baseball. That's my one meeting with Greg. We met with Tim Ceis when he first came into office to be told the terms of access, and things were kind of downhill from there. He keeps people like me far, far away.

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