Sunday, December 14, 2008

Please Suh, May I Have Two Please?

This is a world class city? Brad Wong's PI article, City Helps To Warm Homeless, makes me want to scream, or cry, or perhaps curl into a little ball and sleep for a very long time. My favorite quote came from Union Gospel Mission communications staff Sharon Thomas-Hearns, who said the agency helped 100 people with blankets, hot chocolate, and other warm things over Saturday and Sunday.

"People were so cold that they wanted two blankets."

What is this? Fucking Dickens?

According to Wong, the city's opened up the Frye and City Hall to max out their overflow mats. Tents at Nickelsville have snow on them. Mars Hill had 125 people lined up around the block for a sandwich and a coat. And so forth. Real Change even got into the act this weekend and sent a truck full of coats and blankets over to Nickelsville. We neglected to alert the media.

This Tuesday night, a small encampment will be held at City Hall, where some intrepid souls will stay overnight to manage our survival gear giveaway. The stuff's been pouring in, but we've been giving it away almost as fast. Desperate people keep coming in the door saying they're cold, and that the City's stolen their blankets, tents, and sleeping bags and such.

This is too sad and pathetic for words.

Wong's story, I think, is supposed to be about a generous city reaching out to help. Is this the best we can do? Blankets? Hot chocolate? A hundred extra mats on the floor?

It's nice that the homeless people on Wong's story are so grateful, but I think more would probably get done if they were surly and pissed off. God knows they have a right.

13 comments:

Bruce from Accordion Noir said...

If I haven't recommended it before, you should really check out Stephen Nissenbaum's book, "The Battle for Christmas." I call it the People's History of Christmas, and it's one of my favorite books (all year.)

He includes often class-rooted origins of many Christmas traditions, almost all of which only date to the 1820's industrial revolution. Before that, Christmas wasn't much of a big deal, except it was a time to party at mid-winter.

His stuff on the origins of Christmas-charity would fit well here. Mass feedings of the poor, especially street children, were started specifically to stop violent attacks on upper-class strollers in the city.

I got to interview Nissenbaum last year. He was great:
http://accordionnoir.org/drupal/files/audio/Battle%20for%20Christmas%202007-12-20%20(nice).mp3

He's awesome, here's a swell piece with him:

"Christmas Reborn. The creation of a consumer Christmas - Professor Steven Nissenbaum in interview."
http://www.threemonkeysonline.com/threemon_printable.php?id=170

Bill said...

one problem we continue to all suffer through is that those at risk often won't come in from the cold, literally. I do all I can to honor authonomy and freewill among those homeless, but as Jamieson's column today (12/18) shows about a woman named Diana in Ballard, lots of folks want no part of the helpers. I don't begrudge their reasons, not a pretty "helping" system. So it isn't just the 2 blankets, the charity mindset. There were empty beds last night acording to the paper. I usually attribute that to how the hell can folks know where open beds are, but more, it generally sucks. At some point those who are no longer able to think fully for themselves need to be brought into something that addresses this, and NO, I don't want the civic leaders making decisions as to who falls into that category. Like a dog-chasing-tail,...vicious cycle, circle, and problem. Sorry to miss symbolic campout, surgical recovery kept me safe and warm.

Anonymous said...

I understand that Nickelsville is now at the University Presbyterian Church on the corner of 15th and 45th.

Has University Presbyterian Church opened their doors so people can get out of the elements, or is the congrecation only kind of Christian?

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