HA! Calendar

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Where Do We Go?

Yes, everything Scott says. I went around the camp at 7:30 yesterday morning, as I've been doing for over two weeks, taking a census of RVs, Trailers, Tents and Vehicles. Everything was quiet with a few people about their sites. Around 9am, I read a text that there were police at the camp and I struggled with wanting to go back over, but I went. I parked near the intersection of Challenger and Capricorn, facing south, and took out my phone camera because I saw Creams Towing, officers, Hazmat, a Fire Engine, an ambulance and distraught people along the block that goes to Corporate Center. 

Far from me and nearer to Corporate Center I could see a man being arrested...perhaps the one Scott mentions above. I couldn't see around to what was happening on Apollo. There were several officers and a HOST person near Shelley's space talking in a bantering sort of way...I couldn't hear their words, just their easy tones. Then they dragged 2 tents and their contents across the street, crumpling the tent. The assumed residents of the tents huddled quietly and shivered standing on the grass on the other side of the street...a place of mixed messages as they formerly have been threatened with citations for trespassing on this same private property. I took video of the tent dragging and trailer towing. Then I left, thinking the worst was over, as the fire engine, ambulance, and police car with the arrestee had gone. I did not speak with anyone. 

Later, I was working on a video project for the Home for All conference, and we needed some video of neighborhoods and homeless living areas. Around noon we drove around town and ended up at the Corporate Center area. As we drove through, everything had changed from my morning census drive. The place was almost bare. From 26 counted tents at 7:30am to Zero (functional zero?) at noon...the place was decimated without a trace. I can not imagine, in that short of a time, anyone having time to clear out fast enough to reasonably pack, transport and save their belongings. I missed a horrendous and devastating display of government in action. 

Later, that evening, around 7pm, I went back to help with statements and bring 2 extra sleeping bags someone had passed on to me to pass on. I was late and only able to work with 2 people for statements. I also listened to others who had made statements. Everyone was shocked. Today, it reminds me of a technique abusive parents use...well, this is a paternalistic society, right?...yell and threaten and say the same thing over and over, you better get out of here until one day the parent just cuts loose and whacks the hell out of their kids...That's exactly what our City did yesterday. They battered the weakest ones. 

The people I talked with said it clearly...“They just came through brutally today. They kept coming by asking us how long it was going to take for us to pack our stuff. They cleared the street with a bulldozer. They’ve been coming by for weeks but never did anything. Today they just destroyed everything. We panicked and saved some stuff...we lost a lot, too. Where do you want us to go?”

It was getting dark and some of the stranded were standing without anything except what they wore. Someone showed up with pizza some comforters and blankets. We started calling around to find a place that sold small tents. I was finally able to locate 8 tents at Big 5 within 45 minutes of it closing. We argued about buying that many, and decided I could bring them back if we didn't use them. I went and purchased them at 30$ each...on my credit card. When I returned, another family had arrived with many more boxes of pizza that they passed around freely to anyone who needed some. People showed up from around and had somber conversations replaying the horror of the day. I was determined to save 2 of the tents for a couple of people on the farther side of the camp, but was unable to refuse anyone. I made sure the people I knew had nothing but their clothes got a tent...and then the tents were gone and the farther away were left unsheltered. There weren't enough. I am dissolved in sadness and filled with rage. I am ashamed to be even thinking that there is anything that works for homeless people here. I am grappling with the idea of a conference titled "Homes for All: What Works?"
This is my story this morning. Thank you, Scott, for sharing yours.

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