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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

HOME VAN JOURNAL 4/8/14

THE NEW HOMELESS SERVICES CENTER ON 39TH AVENUE
 
I have postponed writing this newsletter until we could get some clarity on what is going to happen after the May 1 opening of Grace Market Place (also called the Empowerment Center) and what this is going to mean for the homeless people and the grassroots providers.  Yesterday the downtown meal providers met with Theresa Lowe and Jon DeCarmine, who will be running the Center,  and were given the big picture.  It is a fluid situation, with a lot of variables and some unknowns at this point.  I’m going to describe the upcoming plans as best I can.  Ultimately, the center will provide two meals a day for 200 or more people, restrooms, showers, washers and dryers, and emergency shelter (in barracks).    Other plans include (but are not limited to)  educational and job opportunities, case management, church services, health care, camping spaces,  and long-term supportive housing.  Right now, a good deal of work needs to go into getting buildings and facilities renovated, finding additional funding sources (grant writing, fund raising), and bringing in both volunteers and employees, as the center is seriously under-funded and understaffed  for all that it needs to do.  The city will be providing the center with 2000 one-year bus passes to give to the homeless people.
 
Grassroots providers, such as the Home Van, are invited to move our services out to the new center.    Most of us will not be moving out there immediately, because a lot of our folks are going to still be homeless in the downtown area.  We will be serving our food where the people are, as we must, and will also be educating them and informing them on the possibilities of the new center.  We can do this with a whole heart because I don’t think you could find two better people than Theresa and Jon to manage this project.  They know and understand the people they will be serving,  have vast experience in navigating the bureaucracy, and are hard, hard workers.
 
There is a certain urgency in this effort to talk to homeless people about the center and encourage them to give it a try, since a mass eviction of Tent City is going to happen in May.  One and possibly both of the people who own the Tent City land are planning to put their tracts up for sale.  Gainesville police officers are encouraging the displaced folks to move out to the wooded areas near the new center.  At this point, I’d like to thank the Gainesville Police Department, and especially Lieutenant Brian Helmerson and the men and women under his command, for all their help and kindness to the tent city residents and the folks who sleep downtown.  They are required to enforce the laws, some of which are not fair to homeless people, and that can create a hostile duality between homeless people and law enforcement.  These officers have, through patience and many acts of kindness, through taking responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of homeless people in every way they possibly can, over come this barrier.  They are out in the woods and downtown talking to people, educating them, giving them encouragement, seven days a week.  Without their assistance this whole process would be much more  difficult.
 
I am looking forward to the shelter aspect of this new center.  Every week we come across  people who are trapped in grim, unbearable circumstances – Molly, an elderly woman with severe arthritis who spent the winter living in an abandoned house; Jake, a man in late middle age who is biking back and forth from his tent to Shands to receive radiation and chemotherapy for his second bout of cancer;  Amy, a pregnant woman who has been sexually assaulted on the streets;  Milton, a young man in a wheelchair who is hooked up to various medical appliances.  Ye Gods and Little Fishes how long is this nightmare going to go on!  I almost live for the day we can find such a person and drive them up to the Grace Market Place for a hot meal, a shower, clean clothes, and a warm, dry bed to sleep in. 
 
The whole Gainesville community needs to get behind this new center, participating in all possible ways – volunteering, donating, organizing fund raisers, planting gardens, painting murals, cooking, working one-on-one with homeless folks, holding church services,  bringing in recreational opportunities – horseshoes, bingo, cards, books for the library – the possibilities are endless.  The Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry have a website people can access to get updates and contact information.
 
TENTS ‘n TARPS – BOOKS ‘n BUG SPRAY – SOAP ‘n SHAMPOO
 
That’s what we need.  Summer is on the way and bug spray is more important to quality of life than almost anything else.  Many people spend the long, light summer evenings reading.  In the heat of summer, the call for personal hygiene products gets pretty intense, and we are running low.
_______________________________________________
I will be keeping this list updated on the progress and needs of Grace Market Place, as they arise. 
 
Blessings on all of you!
 
arupa
 
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, insect repellant, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, batteries, and games. Call 352-372-4825 to arrange for drop off. Financial donations to the Home Van should be in the form of checks made out to Citizens for Social Justice, Inc., earmarked for the Home Van, and mailed to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at http://homevan.blogspot.com/
 
THE HOMEVAN IS A PROJECT OF CITIZENS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, INC. (FDACSREGISTRATION #CH35643). A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.
 
 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

HOME VAN JOURNAL 1/26/14


THE CHRISTMAS PARTY
 
First, I want to thank all the people, the many churches and groups and individuals, who came to our Christmas party.  Everyone got Christmas stockings and baked goods and oranges and fudge.  I also want to apologize for the level of confusion and crowding.  Clearly, we have outgrown the little parking lot and adjoining areas.  There was supposed to be a church youth choir there singing carols.  I fear they might have gotten discouraged and packed it in.  I would like to think that next year there will be a wonderful Christmas party at the new homeless center – inside with light, warmth, a Christmas tree, food on tables.  It has always bothered me that the homeless people are so incredibly grateful for these stockings, and look forward to them so much.  By mid-November people are asking me, “Are we going to get Christmas stockings this year?”  No one should be so happy for so little, in our society overflowing with comfort and endless stuff.  But they are.  In part because it means to them that there are people out in the housed community who care about them.
 
TENTS/TARPS/MYLARS
 
This winter we have had more tent donations than ever before in our 12 years of collecting tents.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am!  When some shivering, desperate person comes to my door wanting a tent – I have one!  For the first time ever, this terrible month, I haven’t had to tell anyone that I don’t have a tent to give them!  Your kindness, your willingness to spend some real money in these hard times – I don’t know what to say except God Bless You!!  That’s what the homeless people almost always say when they receive a tent.  I also need tarps, since they add a lot of rain-proofing to the tents.  And MYLARS!  More mylars.  Usually the mylars I get in December last me the whole winter with a few leftover for next winter’s start up, but this year we’re running through them fast.
 
JANUARY HORRORS
 
A warm up, followed by a hard rain soaking everyone’s blankets and clothing , an immediate plunge down into the twenties and thirties – this cycle over and over again – it doesn’t get any worse than that.   Every year one of our local TV stations does a ‘feel good story’ about homeless people going into cold night shelter.  THIS IS NOT THE STORY – the story is the many hundreds of people who aren’t in cold night shelter.  The amount of cold night shelter available is only sufficient for a small fraction of our more than 2000 homeless citizens.  Many hundreds of people are outside when the temperature goes into the twenties. 
 
Pat goes downtown on cold nights to make sure everyone has an emergency blanket to wrap up in beneath their other blankets.   Lately he has also been bringing food to the folks who sleep on the pavement downtown.  By nine o’clock they are ravenously hungry.   It takes a lot of calories to survive outside in winter.  One night he couldn’t make it so Freeman and I went downtown.    It was a night in the twenties and six people were sleeping on the sidewalk around the plaza.  They were under piles of everything they owned and did not even look like people anymore.  A casual passerby would have thought there were  piles of garbage and black plastic on the sidewalk waiting for a morning pickup.  Underneath each of these piles was a human being.  A bit of face would peep out, and I would hear a voice saying, “Thank you, God bless you.”
 
Pope Francis is calling on the entire human family – Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists – everyone – to come together and take care of poor people.  He is calling for a new era of love and sharing and compassion.   This is what we need.  Each of us can make this happen, working from wherever we are stationed in life.  We are the only ones who can make this happen. 
 
Love and blessings to everyone,
 
arupa
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, batteries, and games. Call 352-372-4825 to arrange for drop off. Financial donations to the Home Van should be in the form of checks made out to Citizens for Social Justice, Inc., earmarked for the Home Van, and mailed to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at http://homevan.blogspot.com/
 
THE HOMEVAN IS A PROJECT OF CITIZENS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, INC. (FDACSREGISTRATION #CH35643). A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.
 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

HOME VAN JOURNAL 12/6/13

CHRISTMAS PARTY
 
 I have received many emails from people who plan to come, bringing stockings and sometimes treats as well.  The homeless folks have been asking about it, and are looking forward to it.  It is wonderful that Gainesville has taken total ownership of this annual event.  If Freeman and I ran away to join the carnival (unlikely), this party would go on and would be a terrific event.  See you there!
 
NATIONAL HOMELESS PEOPLE’S MEMORIAL DAY
 
December 21 is National Homeless People’s Memorial Day, when all the homeless people who died on the streets or in the woods during the previous year, are honored and remembered.  We used to celebrate it in Gainesville, but the last few years this event has fallen by the wayside.  This year we are bringing it back.  In the last week, we lost three members of our homeless community:  Michael Johnson, Henry Lee Robinson, and Daniel Adkins.  This year we will have a service to honor these friends, as well as all the people lost this year.  December 21 was chosen by the National Homeless Coalition because it is the longest, darkest night of the year.  Usually this service has been held downtown and only a few homeless people have attended.  On such a long, dark, and often very cold night, homeless people go to bed early to stay warm.  So this year we will have it on the grassy area on the edge of Tent City, where Henry and Michael lived.  This will make it easy for their friends to be there.  We will have a candlelight circle and hot chocolate and doughnuts afterwards.  When we have the details worked out, I will let everybody know, since all of you are invited to join us.
 
THE MAGIC OF ONE-ON-ONE
 
When the Home Van was having major driveouts four or more times a month, the numbers rose to the point where we were doing very little one-on-one outreach except with a few people we knew from older and simpler times.  It was a big loss.  Now we are rediscovering the magic of working with people one at a time.  It also opens up more volunteer opportunities.  Even when all the regular volunteer slots are filled, like the soup ladler and the candle-giver, people can come along just to socialize with our folks.  Simple friendship, conversation, is valuable in itself, and also can lead to opportunities to really help someone.  Liz was speaking with a young woman who finally found a job, after months of searching, but did not have a pair of black shoes, which this job required.   Liz got her a pair of shoes – simple problem, simple solution.  In the absence of one-on-one contact, people can spiral downward for lack of a small piece of help at the right time. 
 
One-on-one contacts occasionally help in a major way.  A few weeks ago, Ellen Allen, the Good Neighbor Society, who devotes herself to individual outreach, discovered that “Cary,” an elderly homeless woman who had been convalescing at a local medical facility, had apparently disappeared off the face of the earth. The story of how we found Cary and what it took to get her back, is long and complicated, so I will just hit the high points here.  Cary had been transferred to a group home in Ocala.   Cary’s longtime partner and best friend, “Mark” wanted to talk to her and maybe even go up and visit, so various people tried to call Cary, but were given a runaround every time.  I did an Internet search on the facility where Cary was living, and discovered that the owner/manager was up on charges for elder abuse, and had been in trouble with the law and with DCF on and off since 2000.  Her most recent arrest was last July, with charges still pending.   Ellen and I went up to Ocala to see Cary and, if need be, bring her home, and discovered that the house at the address of record, was empty.  A neighbor told us that the Sheriff’s Department closed the facility down due to severe problems.  We called the phone number again, first being disconnected and then being told that Cary had left two weeks ago to stay with relatives in Orlando.  Cary has no relatives in Orlando.  After a lot of help from a lot of people, including DCF, we got Cary back.  She is with Mark again and is doing fairly well.  In this situation, a potential tragedy was averted. 
 
We are in the time of the midwinter Festivals of Light and Hope.  May all of you be blessed!
 
arupa
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, batteries, and games. Call 352-372-4825 to arrange for drop off. Financial donations to the Home Van should be in the form of checks made out to Citizens for Social Justice, Inc., earmarked for the Home Van, and mailed to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at http://homevan.blogspot.com/
 
THE HOMEVAN IS A PROJECT OF CITIZENS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, INC. (FDACSREGISTRATION #CH35643). A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.
 
 
 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

HOME VAN JOURNAL: NOVEMBER 2, 2013

COMING FULL CIRCLE:  TWO STORIES FROM PISTOL ALLEY
 
Since the nation’s economy went south, the Home Van is serving an increasingly broad demographic of people.  In the early years we were a mission to chronically homeless people.  That first winter we were out delivering blankets one night and one of our friends told us that there were a group of people living in a  house in Pistol Alley who had no utilities, no food and no blankets.  Pistol Alley runs behind North Main Street Publix, so we headed over there.  The scene we found was unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before or since.  Some twenty to thirty people were milling around in front of a small house and in the backyard, where someone had built a bonfire.  These people were so intoxicated that they were staggering in blind circles, some babbling and some screaming.  Their eyes were entirely blank – no one home behind those eyes - their souls in hiding.  It is the first and only time in the course of doing this work that I have felt scared.  We did talk to a couple of people who hadn’t quite reached that point, a man named Bill, and Margaret, a woman with two black eyes and a cut on her forehead.  We left the food and blankets and took off.  I decided that we could help these folks but we would never go there again except during the morning hours. 
 
One Sunday morning Rod and I went over to check on this group and Bill came out of the house.  He asked us if we would drain some antifreeze from the van and give it to him because he really needed a drink, which of course we did not do.  There are people who think alcoholism isn’t really a disease, but some kind of choice or lack of character.  They’re wrong.
 
Over the years since I would see Bill occasionally, usually panhandling in the Publix parking lot.  He was a quiet, gentle person, and he had more friends than I knew.  The women who tend the north Main Street cat colony counted him as a friend, and it was one of them who let me know that Bill had died.  The next weekend we went down to the small Tent City on the north end of Main Street to have a little service for Bill.  I brought some food to give the folks down there in memory of Bill.  We were joined by one of his friends, a man who used to work construction until the recession hit.   We shared the good memories we had of Bill, and our gratitude that his troubles were finally over.  Then his friend said a prayer of blessing, for Bill, for the homeless people, and for all people.  This prayer came from such a deep place within him that I felt the presence of God there in that little gathering to remember Bill. 
 
Margaret we came to know much better, because she moved to South Camp and became partners with our beloved friend Jerry, a Vietnam vet and Native American who was a leader in the homeless community of the time.  Jerry loved to cook.  He dumpster-dived behind supermarkets, bringing home soup vegetables and frozen meat that was close to the expiration date.  He’d make big pots of food and invite everyone to eat.  He also treasured his Native American heritage.  He taught other homeless people how to survive in the woods, and when Jerry left this world, several of his friends said they owed their very survival to the help he gave them.  Jerry had severe PTSD, and the drinking problem that often goes with that, but it was not at the level of Pistol Alley.  Margaret had moved up in the world, and gotten onto a path that would eventually lead to her deliverance from homelessness.  Margaret loved Jerry and when Jerry became terminally ill, she wanted to be his caregiver and to be able to visit him at the hospital, so she struggled heroically to get control of her drinking.  The Christian Bible says, “With love all things are possible, and there is nothing that is not possible.”  That verse comes to mind sometimes, because I can think of more than one person whose path out of homelessness opened up because there was another being – a human or an animal – that they truly loved and were determined to care for.  Maybe that’s what that verse means, in practice.  I would suspect that it is.  Margaret’s struggle had its victories and its failures, but overall she succeeded in doing right by Jerry during his time of leaving this world. 
 
It was of course a very different story after Jerry died.   She was in danger of losing the little section 8 apartment that she and Jerry had shared and drinking didn’t help. Joe and Liz took on the endless task of keeping Margaret in housing and getting her into new housing after she was evicted from the old housing.  Joe, in particular, is a kind of Clarence Darrow of getting difficult people into housing and keeping them there.  One time Margaret was evicted from Bailey Village because she would get drunk and run around the courtyard hugging people.  It was always something.  Eventually, though, Margaret stabilized.  It is almost impossible for people with severe problems to become stabilized while they are homeless.  Having a home very often leads to a good outcome.  Margaret now has a nice little apartment off Tower Road.  Before drink took over her life, she had been a fabric artist, and she went back to this pursuit.  The walls of her apartment, which she keeps immaculately clean, are covered with tapestries and dream catchers.  She has a few cats.  She still experiences bumps in the road, and is high maintenance, but consider the trip she has made – from Pistol Alley to this warm, little home. 
 
Pistol Alley was a scene from Dante’s Inferno.   I feel privileged to have seen it and to know these stories of deliverance.  At one time, when I was particularly steeped in “literachoor,” I hypothesized to my self that all of life is like a Tarot layout, and all stories go back to Dante and to the Greeks.  I don’t  have all that sorted out like I did when I was younger and knew so much more, but I still think there’s some truth to it.
 
MYLARS, TENTS AND TARPS
 
These are the items we need most.  This is a winter like no other, because so many people are living outside.  May it be the last one.
 
Love and peace to everyone,
 
arupa
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, batteries, and games. Call 352-372-4825 to arrange for drop off. Financial donations to the Home Van should be in the form of checks made out to Citizens for Social Justice, Inc., earmarked for the Home Van, and mailed to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at http://homevan.blogspot.com/
 
THE HOMEVAN IS A PROJECT OF CITIZENS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, INC. (FDACSREGISTRATION #CH35643). A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

HOME VAN JOURNAL 10/6/13

PAT FITZPATRICK TRIBUTE PARTY/HOME VAN BENEFIT

 
featuring the

 

Gainesville Liberation Orchestra! 

 

1982 Video Game Bar / Music & Arts Venue

 

                                                                                                                919 West University Avenue

                                                                                                                8:30 on (music begins at 9 p.m.)

                                                                                                                (all ages / non- smoking inside)

                                                                                                                 $5 donation ($7 under 21)
 
Pat Fitzpatrick, founding member of the Home Van and long-time Home Van driver, has retired from the Home Van to focus on some personal challenges, although, as I will explain, he has not retired from helping his friends in the homeless community.  This party will celebrate Pat’s enormous contribution to the Home Van and his untiring efforts to combat hunger in our community. 
 
I can’t imagine what the Home Van would be without Pat’s role in making it what it is.  He taught me how to reach out to people.  I’m a bit of introvert and also grew up in Vermont, the Introvert Capital of the country.  I was frozen in place at the idea of going up to strangers, giving them food and even talking to them.  On those first few driveouts I just watched Pat, whose resume included a long stretch of union organizing in Immokalee, Florida, where he had his office at Ernie’s Flophouse.
He’d see a down-and-out looking person and he’d walk right up to them with that big, cheesy Irish grin from ear to ear, clap them on the back and say, “Hey, Buddy!  Howya doing?”  No one could resist him. 
 
That first winter of 2002 was one of the coldest in Florida history, with many nights in the twenties and thirties.  We were, to the best of my knowledge, the only group doing direct outreach on the streets.  That winter Pat and I would drive around town on cold nights - down alleys, across parking lots, behind dumpsters, into patches of woods  – with two gallons of hot chocolate and a load of blankets.
 
When I got a call from United Way 211 about someone desperate for food, Pat would take them a bag of groceries – any time, anywhere.  He says, “This is my job.”  He often quotes from books he’s reading on the principles of Catholic Social Justice.  He tells me, “If you have two coats, one of those coats belongs to the poor.” 
 
Even in relative retirement, he’s still doing his job.  This summer he discovered that the water fountain in the downtown plaza is defective.  He brought this to the attention of the Parks and Recreation Department, who plan to replace it.  In the meantime, he goes down to the plaza most nights with a big cooler of ice cold bottled water.  He sits out schmoozing with the passersby and offering water to anyone who’s thirsty. 
 
The good folks of 1982 are also hosting this event as a benefit for the Home Van.  Come join us in honoring Pat.
 
CHRISTMAS STOCKING TIME
 
As most of you know, the Home Van hosts a yearly Christmas party for our homeless friends at the downtown community plaza.  This year’s party will be on Thursday, December 19 at 6 p.m., in the little parking lot on the east side of the Civil Courthouse and down from the Lunchbox Café.  It is a custom that people from all over the community – school children, office staffs, bowling teams, scout troops, families, neighborhoods – stuff Christmas stockings and bring them to the party.  Some people also bring home baked goodies.  This year the Unitarian Youth Choir is coming down to serenade us with Christmas carols. 
 
For you new folks, here is how you do a Christmas stocking:   Buy a pair of white athletic or tube socks.  Stuff one sock into the toe of the other sock.  Stuff the sock with Christmas presents and tie off the end.  Suggested stocking stuffers include but are not limited to:  candy canes, chocolate bars, candles, small flashlights, batteries, stamped envelopes, reading glasses, nail files, gloves, caps, hotel-size soaps, and shampoos, lotion, pens, puzzle books, paperback books, playing cards.... The various dollar stores are great places to find affordable stocking stuffers.  I have to ask that no one put money into a Christmas stocking.  It is painful when some people get money and others don’t, especially toward end of the month when everyone’s broke. 
 
ADVOCACY GROUP MEETING
 
As you know, about a dozen Home Van supporters are forming a group to do research on homeless issues, followed by efforts to educate the community on who our homeless friends are and what challenges they face.  This group’s goal is to shine the light of knowledge on irrational fear of homeless people.  The group’s first meeting will be Tuesday, October 8 at the Civic Media Center, 433 South Main Street, 7 p.m.  Anyone who did not sign up for this group but feels inspired to come are most welcome.  I will be circulating notes by email for those who can’t make this meeting. 
 
MYLAR BLANKETS
 
It’s time to start collecting mylar blankets.  These blankets, also called space blankets, are available at WalMart and at any store that offers camping supplies.  They generally cost under a dollar each.  They can also be purchased on line at a multitude of sites.  Anyone who is charging a dollar or more per blanket, don’t buy from them.  You can do better.  I think it’s going to be particularly important this winter to have a large supply of these blankets on hand.  The number of people coming to us for supplies has doubled since last May and many of them are sick or elderly. 
 
STATUS OF THE ONE-STOP
 
The City Commission has voted to buy the old Gainesville Correctional Institute  on 39th avenue, in it’s entirety.  The State has agreed to expedite this purchase, so the city may own the site as early as this November.  The center will start offering some services as soon as possible.  It is going to be a long process to get this Homeless Empowerment Center, as it is now called,  up and running in full.  It is likely that our homeless friends are going to have to struggle through another winter on their own for the most part.  May this be the last one! 
 
WHAT WE NEED
 
We are low on double A and triple A batteries, personal hygiene products, and paperback books.  You can call me at 372-4825, to arrange for drop off. 
 
peace and blessings to everyone,
 
arupa
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, bug spray,Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, batteries, and games. Call 352-372-4825 to arrange for drop off. Financial donations to the Home Van should be in the form of checks made out to Citizens for Social Justice, Inc., earmarked for the Home Van, and mailed to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at http://homevan.blogspot.com/
 
THE HOMEVAN IS A PROJECT OF CITIZENS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, INC. (FDACSREGISTRATION #CH35643). A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.
 
 
 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

City Commission Meeting/Candlelight vigil

This afternoon the City Commission voted to buy the land on 39th Avenue since a land swap is not happening.   According to city staff, there is some willingness on the part of the Department of Corrections (DOC) to go with a sale.  Commissioner Wells asked the city to also negotiate for early occupancy of the site, rather than waiting for all the cumbersome wheels of a government transaction to go through, and the other commissioners also agreed with that. 

 

This is a very welcome development.  At the time I called for the candlelight vigil, I was hearing that this land swap falling through could well be a deal-breaker for the DOC and at best would result in a lengthy postponement of the opening of the One Stop Center.  Commissioner Wells, by the way, was magnificent in addressing the latter issue.  He said, to paraphrase, What we have on the downtown plaza is an emergency.  People sleeping all over the place.  It is an emergency for them, it is an emergency for the people working to establish and maintain businesses downtown, it is an emergency for everybody involved....I am tired of endless bureaucratic obstacles and legal obstacles – a lot of people have been working very hard for a long time for this – it is what our community wants...

 

He was much more eloquent and complete than that but I am reproducing it as best I can because it was the most magnificent, heartfelt and compelling speech I have heard from the dais in a long time, if ever.

 

Our candlelight vigil last Sunday went really well.  The group discussed the situation and made a decision to do research for a public relations campaign on behalf of homeless people and parolees.  It seems we have the beginning of an advocacy group made up of people both from the activist community and the faith community working together for a common goal.  That is a terrific partnership, one that is needed!  So, we will meet again this Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Duck Pond, meditate a bit, and then decide where we want to go from here.  There will be issues, there will be obstacles, one victory is not going to put us out of a job.  We may want to meet elsewhere in the future.

 

arupa

Sunday, August 25, 2013

HOME VAN JOURNAL: SPECIAL EDITION

Duck Pond opposition spurs Plan Board to reject probation office's move

“Stalled out for years at a prior location, the city's longstanding plans for a homeless shelter and assistance center east of Gainesville may have hit another stumbling block.
After hearing hours of opposition from dozens of residents of the Historic Duck Pond neighborhood Thursday night, the city's Plan Board denied a permit application to relocate the state's downtown probation office to a building along Northeast First Street just west of the neighborhood.
The state was to take ownership of the building, a former law office just north of City Hall that more recently housed the police department's detective division, in a land swap that was part of the agreement for the city to get the shuttered Gainesville Correctional Institution on Northeast 39th Avenue for the homeless assistance facility...”
                                                                                                                                                                    -Christopher Curry/Gainesville Sun/8/22
 
The probation office has been located downtown, a few blocks from the Duckpond Neighborhood, for at least the past 30 years.  For the past several years it has been located two blocks away from my home in the Southeast Historic District, one of the lowest crime rate neighborhoods in the city.  In all that time there has not, to the best of my knowledge, been a single incident of criminal behavior connected to the comings and goings from that office. 
 
This decision of the Planning Board will not go before the City Commission.  It will stand unless it is appealed, through a process I’m not familiar with, and that appeal will also go before the Planning Board.
 
A book called A Course in Miracles makes a statement to this effect:  All human behavior comes from either fear or love.  I have analyzed my own actions and the actions going on around me and I’m convinced that this statement is absolute truth.  We now have an instance of a decision based on  fear.  Decisions based on fear tend to have very bad results.  In this instance, help for the sick, elderly and disabled people who make up a substantial portion of the homeless community has met another major stumbling block.
 
I have not, in my almost 70 years, seen anything like the suffering that is going on in the homeless community.  Some nights there are so many people with canes, crutches, in wheelchairs, bent over, lined up at the Home Van that I feel like I’m looking at a line into a faith healers tent.  There has been a sense that we are all hanging on by our fingernails waiting for the One Stop Center to open. 
 
I am not going to demonize the people of the Duckpond Community or their allies for this decision.  I have struggled with irrational fear for all of my life and I know how powerful it is.  Wise beings have said that there is only one force in the universe that is more powerful than fear, and that is love.  After some contemplation, I have decided that I’m going to hold a candelight prayer vigil on the banks of the Duckpond every Sunday night from 7 to 8 p.m., beginning Sunday, September 1.  I am inviting the entire community, housed and unhoused, rich and poor, to join me.  People of all faiths and no faith.  Atheists and secular humanists are invited to join me.  Their belief that love and grace and creativity lie within the human spirit I hold as sacred as any belief held by me or anyone else.  We are all one. 
 
That the human family may come together, that we may love and care for one another, that we will stop being afraid of one another and shooting at each other and shutting each other out – that will be our prayer and our affirmation.
 
Please join me on the banks of the Duckpond on Sunday, September 1 at 7 p.m. or any Sunday after that.  Please invite others.
 
Peace and love to everyone,
 
arupa