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Saturday, December 13, 2014

GREETINGS FROM THE HOME VAN

Seasonal Pome
Peace, may we have peace,
Republicans, Democrats,
Black, white, Chinese,
Vegans, locivores,
folks selling barbecue
From backs of trucks on country roads.
May we have compassion,
For doctors and dentists and hookers,
And chief financial officers,
For gated communities and homeless shelters,
For law enforcement officers, for thieves,
For all who breathe the free air around us,
For all who feel the sun and rain on their weary backs.
May there be candles,
Menorah candles,
Kwanza candles,
Christmas candles,
Candles adding their soft light
To the gentle beams of the Solstice moon.
May there be light,
May there be peace,
May we love one another.
                -arupa

Sunday, October 26, 2014

HOME VAN JOURNAL 10/26/14

LEN RINGEL
 
Our friend and long-time volunteer Len Ringel passed away in a Hospice in California on Sunday, October 19.  He was in his eighties.  Len was an artist and a gardener and a man who loved ideas.  He enjoyed challenging his friends with concepts that were profound and well off the beaten path.  He learned of the Home Van when Sh’mal Ellenberg, our chaplain, gave a talk at the Unitarian Church.  Our Unitarian friends have given us many gifts over the years, but best of all was our friend Len.  He had a loving heart and, as a seasoned father and grandfather, took a special interest in very young people in the homeless community, doing a good bit of individual outreach.  Len, we love you and we miss you.
 
CHRISTMAS PLANS
 
We are doing Christmas differently this year.  United Church of Gainesville is donating 100 Christmas stockings to the Home Van, and three other groups in the community have pledged another 125.  With the number of people we serve reduced by Grace Market Place, we have enough Christmas stockings and will not be doing a stocking drive this year.  Instead, we are encouraging the community to do their Christmas outreach at Grace Market Place.  I don’t yet know about any specific plans for Christmas at Grace, or requests, but will pass this information along to you as soon as I get it.  In the meantime, there is no reason that groups and individuals can’t initiate their own Christmas plans for Grace, clearing them with John and Theresa as need be.  It would be wonderful to have the first Christmas at Grace and Dignity Village be very special. 
 
HUNGER AWARENESS MONTH
 
November is National Hunger Awareness Month.   The Alachua County Commission for the Homeless and Hungry have requested that members of the community write letters to the editor this month, elucidating their own awareness and insights into hunger in our community, and any ideas about what we as a community need to do about it.  There is an excellent overview of this problem in an article about Bread of the Mighty Food Bank in today’s Gainesville Sun:  http://www.gainesville.com/article/20141026/ARTICLES/141029776/1184?Title=Bread-of-the-Mighty-helps-provide-meals-for
 
MEET THE AUTHOR!
 
Marti Losten, long-time member of the homeless community, has written three romance novels and published two of them!  I am so proud of her – there are no words to describe it.  I’ve known Marti for 20 years.  The old timers back in Vermont used to say, of someone who had a long, hard struggle, “They’ve been through hell and high water with their ears sticking out.”   That would be a fair description of what Marti has been through.  Marti is one of those people who never give up.  Sustained by her profound faith that there is a loving God who is always on her side, she has gotten up and climbed back on the horse no matter how many times she was thrown off.  Marti is both a resident and a volunteer at Grace Market Place and you can catch up with  her there if you would like to buy a book from her.  They are ten dollars a piece.
 
A STORY FROM DIGNITY VILLAGE
 
Last week I ran into my friend ‘Aaron’ and his wife at the Texaco.  They were both riding bikes with nifty little carts fastened to the back.  Aaron told me, smiling so widely his face was about to crack open, that he has built a beautiful campsite with an actual wooden shelter made from scrounged materials.  He has also purchased a generator and now has a heater, an electric light, and a little DVD player so they can play videos from the library. This is the magic of having stability in one’s life.  They can eat a nice dinner, go home to a warm bed, and watch a movie.  Such an evening, familiar to us, is really a miracle straight from heaven, we just don’t often notice that the way the homeless folks do. 
 
GOOD NEWS FROM WILLISTON ROAD
 
Six people from the Williston Road community are in the process of moving into housing.  Two couples have found employment sufficient to rent an apartment, and two are veterans who have been assisted through the HUD VASH program.  Williston Road, although it is not a legally designated camping place, has been there long enough to become a relatively stable community with excellent campsites, some self-governance, and supportive relationships with members of the housed community.  Thus, many of them are also on an ascending octave.
 
MYLARS
 
It’s the time of year when we pass out many mylar blankets, so we welcome these to be donated.  A good online site for buying them:
 
Peace and blessings,
 
arupa
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, mylar emergency blankets, 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.
 
 

Monday, September 15, 2014

HOME VAN NEWSLETTER 9/15/14

SOMETIMES IT’S HARD TO WRITE ON A MOVING PLANET
 
That’s an old saying from the 1960s.  It has been that kind of a late summer/early fall at Home Van Central.  But now I’M BACK! and glad to be
speaking with you all again.
 
UPDATE ON GRACE MARKET PLACE
 
Grace Market Place is continuing to face challenges.  This project was woefully underfunded by both the City and County commissions.  They have had to close down the Pavilion, where many people slept, and the chapel, in order to save on their utility bill.  They can’t afford to  hire needed staff members.  Joe Jackson is working with the city on a new contract with the Homeless Coalition that will hopefully address some of these issues.  In the meantime, community support is very, very, important.  Donate to Grace Market Place.  Volunteer there if you can.  Do not be complacent that this facility is up and running so our homeless community no longer needs your help.  If we all pull together, we will get there, but it’s going to be a long pull.
 
When Grace Market Place opened, Freeman and I were still not clear what our role would be or if we would want to continue offering services on Williston Road and downtown.  We decided to wait and see how things evolved.  Now it is clear that there is still a need for services at this end of town and will continue to be until Grace is better funded and does some growing, so we are going to continue as we have.  We are the ‘go to’ people for tents for those moving out to Grace.  Many thanks to all of you who have donated tents or money to buy tents.  It is an ongoing need so one way to help Grace is to give us money for tents, especially now that the Pavilion is closing. 
 
DIGNITY VILLAGE
 
Joe Jackson reports that the threat of further evictions of people camping outside the gates of Grace (now doesn’t that sound like a country western hymn somebody needs to write – “I’m a campin’ outside the gates of Grace...”) has been averted!  People are diligently establishing a tent city that they have named Dignity Village, after the tent community on the west coast that has become a model of self-governance and upward mobility for homeless people everywhere.  I encourage you to Google Dignity Village and learn more.  There are weekly meetings, also attended by Occupy folks and other grassroots activists, where rules and goals are being established.  People beset by addictions are camping together, in a designated area.  As Grace evolves, there will be more hope and help for them.  In the meantime, I think it would be a good idea if there were 12 Step Meetings out at Dignity Village.   The idea of bringing meetings to people has fallen out of favor in AA – or so I am told – but it is something that was done by Bill W and Dr. Bob and I think for this special population it would make sense. 
 
BUG SPRAY AND PERSONAL HYGIENE PRODUCTS
 
These are our two greatest needs.  The many rains have caused an explosion of mosquitos out in the woods.  We’re about out of soap and shampoo also.
 
KIRK STENDER
 
On August 12 Kirk Stender, a gentle, wonderful man who was homeless in a wheelchair for at least four or five years, left this world.  We were very fond of Kirk.
We hope to plant a tree in his name out at Grace Market Place.  Grace needs trees so maybe other people can plant trees there, for homeless or housed friends who have moved on. 
 
Peace and blessings to all of you,
 
arupa

Saturday, August 9, 2014

UPDATE ON THE 39TH AVENUE SITUATION

Hi Folks,
 
I hoped to have more definitive, and maybe even more positive, information before updating you, but that has not happened.  First of all, the trespass warning/eviction notices to the campers along the west side of 39th Avenue were instigated and delivered by employees of Taccachale.  The Alachua County Sheriff’s Department had nothing to do with it, nor did any other local law enforcement people.  The homeless campers were quite convinced that they had been served by deputies.  Perhaps Taccachale employees wear green uniforms.  I don’t think any of us realized that private citizens can carry out trespass warnings and evictions.  Live and learn.  Since this event an attempt has been made to convince Taccachale to reverse their position, but they are adamant. 
 
Also, another group of campers had to move their tents at the request of the administration of the Work Release Program that is located near Grace.  This was not carried out as a formal eviction process.  Rather, Jon Decarmine helped people relocate.  There is now a shortage of wooded areas for people to camp, and people cannot camp under the blazing sun with no shade and no privacy.  That would be hazardous to their health both physical and mental. 
 
So, our Brave New World has been NIMBYED.  The City of Gainesville is going to have to arrange to buy or lease some wooded areas where people can camp. 
 
I am so sorry not to have better news to share with you.
 
arupa
 
 

Friday, August 1, 2014

HOME VAN JOURNAL August 1, 2014

JULY WAS THE CRUELEST MONTH
 
This is going to be a tough newsletter to write, but enough time has passed that I must let our extended Home Van family know what’s been going on. 
July started out on a high note.  The residents of Tent City had been successfully moved, with the help of Occupy Gainesville, Home Van volunteers, and other groups and individuals in the community – a few to the Williston Road Community but many out to the woods near Grace Market Place.  The Home Van’s tent drive was going well and we were working with the people who had been living for so long in and around the Bo Diddley Plaza – telling them that now there was a safe harbor – a place where they could establish camp sites and be within an easy walk of water, food, and many other amenities.  The people who were already living near Grace Market Place were coming back with glowing reports -  of delicious food cooked by church women, an air conditioned room where they could get respite from the heat and watch a movie on a large-screen TV (some of them had not seen a movie in years), volunteer opportunities, church services in the chapel on Sunday.  Every Thursday we would find fewer people living on the pavement downtown.
 
We were completely confident in our belief that the woods around Grace, which are owned by the State, would be a safe haven for our homeless friends.  Since the beginning of the meetings to develop Grace Market Place, we had been told that these woods would be a place where homeless people could camp.  We were encouraged to help people move out there.  There was not the slightest hint of NIMBY protests throughout the process of developing Grace and moving people to the nearby woods.  The fact that the woods were owned by the state – well, hey – no local NIMBYS to fear.  Freeman and I were clapping each other on the back – we had stayed the course throughout long, tough years – and now our homeless friends were finally safe.
 
On the morning of Friday, July 25, my phone started ringing – hysterical phone calls from homeless people living in the woods to the west of Grace.  Sheriffs’ deputies had come around at 7 a.m., posted the area with NO TRESPASS signs, and walked from tent to tent telling people they had to leave within seven days or be arrested.  We drove out there.  Our friends were walking up and down the road looking numb and stunned, like accident victims, the walking wounded, unable to take in what had just happened.  We found out that this eviction took place at the request of Taccachale.
 
I have rewritten this newsletter in my head several times – the first five or six mental drafts being full of hysterical verbiage, some not appropriate for a family newsletter.  I don’t know what to make of the ruling forces within our government and community who did not MAKE SURE that this was going to be a safe haven.  What were they thinking?  Was it, “Have them move out there and hope nobody minds?” 
 
WHAT NOW?
 
I don’t know.  There is a small wooded area to the south of Grace that is owned by the city.   This area is filled to capacity with as many camp sites as possible.  The pavilion within Grace is also full of people.  All other areas out there are owned by the state, and could be posted with eviction notices as well.  Some people are moving back downtown and a few have gone out to the freeway to hitchhike somewhere else.  Grace Market Place is a wonderful facility, with great potential.  If the city of Gainesville wants it to be a success – they need to find a place where homeless people can live while they avail themselves of the health care, job training and other services that are going to be available there.  Otherwise they will be, in the famous words of Robert Kennedy, “Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”
 
In the meantime, we continue supporting Grace Market Place and wait for further developments.  There are people looking into what to do about the situation, and I will keep all of you in the loop.
 
DONATIONS
 
I am encouraging people who have large donations to bring them to Grace Market Place.  We are still accepting small donations of the things we particularly need, as noted in the footer below.  One of our greatest needs is for bottled water.  We are still taking care of the folks in the Williston Road Community as well as people who camp in isolated sites.  The url that takes people to our web site works on some computers and does not work on others.  I don’t know what to do about it, and I am sorry for the inconvenience. 
 
Hang in there – as the wonderul Annette of  Occupy says – PEACE AND CARROTS TO ALL!
 
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, July 13, 2014

HOME VAN JOURNAL: SPECIAL EDITION

This month’s Home Van Journal has a guest writer:  Tony Robinson, who was, until recently, a resident of Tent City.  Tony is now living in the vicinity of Grace Market Place.
 
Captains and Kings and the Common Man
 
First of all, I give all praise to an all knowing, all powerful God.  Second, I would like to thank the Gainesville community and its civic leaders for their efforts, time and monetary commitments to a place for those like me who at this time are less fortunate and struggling to live life in these trying times.  I don’t know why we are all at this place and in these conditions.  I don’t believe that 20, 10, or 5 years ago any one of us sat around and planned to be homeless, addicted, or physically or mentally ill.  But I do know that it is a fact that we are all here.  I have experienced many trying times as a homeless person, but also many good times and experienced a freedom like no other time in my life.  I looked at pictures of the One Stop Center with all its tall fences and guard post.  My first impression was, no I am not going in there.  But I challenge myself and you to try to imagine and view the One Stop as exactly what it is named – the One Stop, and allow this place to be just that – one stop in our lives.  A place of help, hope and rest.  Let the One Stop be a place of growth, mentally, physically and spiritually where we are all given a chance to be the best we can be.  A place where we can go not for pity, but a place for the betterment of ourselves, our community, our state, nation and world.  A place where we can become strong enough to advocate for peace and for those less fortunate than ourselves.  A place not of labels, but a place for one human family.
                                                                                                -Tony Robinson
 
I want to thank all of you who came out and helped with moving people out of Tent City.  Many thanks also to Occupy Gainesville and Ellen Allen of the Good Neighbor Society, who helped people move, and to Elizabeth Howard who walked Tent City making sure that no animals were left behind.  Uncle Vinnie, a tent city resident, walked the woods near Grace Market Place scouting out campsites.  After people moved he combed the grounds of Tent City gathering up items of value, like tarps and cooking pans, to distribute to the new campsites near Grace.  GPD paved the way for our efforts by going tent-to-tent informing people of the eviction and passing out flyers about Grace Market Place.  The folks out at Grace Market Place, and all the community volunteers,  are working very hard to make this facility a gracious and welcoming place to all refugees of these difficult times.  This was a true community effort.  Anyone who experienced the terrible, traumatic eviction of Tent City a few years ago, appreciates how far we have come in getting to know one another – whether housed or houseless – and in learning to work together.
 
Our drive to gather tents and money to buy tents for those who have had to move is also being widely supported by the community.  So far, I have had a tent for everyone who has come here to ask for one.  I make sure that people know that these tents come from their friends in the housed community.  They ask me to tell you, “Thank you and God bless you.” 
 
love and peace to everyone,
 
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/
 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

HOME VAN JOURNAL 6/29/14

TENT CITY EVICTION – HELP NEEDED
 
Homeless people who live along the bike trail, near the downtown RTS station, have until Tuesday, July 8 to move out.  The person who owns the land wishes to sell it.  He was holding off until Grace Market Place opens for actual shelter, but that date has been pushed to November 1 and he needs to get his land on the market now.  Other camping areas, including the Sweetwater Branch camp, remain undisturbed.  This particular portion of tent City has a fair number of people who are elderly or have other major challenges, so they are going to need help to get themselves and their possessions moved out.  We are encouraging them to move to wooded areas near the Grace Market Place, so they will have access to water, meals and other amenities.  According to the latest count, about half the people who were living in this area have moved out on their own, or with help from the good people of Occupy Gainesville, and between 20 and 30 camp sites remain occupied.
 
We have set SATURDAY, JULY 5 at 10 a.m. as moving time for those who remain in Tent City.  We are asking anyone who has a pickup truck or van to help.  People who may not have a large vehicle, but do have strong backs, are also invited to come and help.  Helpers should wear gardening gloves.   Generations of homeless people, some with severe addiction issues, have lived in this area, without access to water or to garbage pickup, so conditions are not good.  Tomorrow morning, I’m doing a walk-through of the area, with Bud our van driver.  We are going to take another count of who is there and who will need help.  People will be told to have their things packed up and ready to go for the 10 a.m. July 5 moving day.  For any further information, helpers can call me at 372-4825.
 
Freeman is going to make a little map of exactly where helpers should meet, and I will send that out ASAP.
 
 
PROGRESS REPORT ON THE IMPACT OF GRACE MARKET PLACE
 
IT’S WORKING!!!  Every Thursday we are finding fewer people at the Tent City stop and fewer people living in Bo Diddley Plaza!  I believe that almost half of those living in Bo Diddley have moved, and that is WONDERFUL news!!  No one wants to live on the sidewalk in the middle of a downtown area.  In talking to these folks, I have learned that most of them are afraid of living in the woods or are too old or too disabled to walk or bike back and forth from the woods to services.  They have been more or less trapped there, looked down upon by snoots and prey to drug dealers and other bad guys from the housed community.  On a recent visit Freeman and I made to Grace Market Place we found some folks who had been living on the plaza and are now volunteers at Grace Market Place.  The readers of this newsletter have played a major role in this transformation, by donating tents and money to buy tents.  Until we get everybody moved out there, we still need donations of tents or money to buy tents.  As of this moment, I have six tents in stock, and four of them are going out today to women who have been living in Bo Diddley.  I hear through the grapevine that some of you  have been donating tents directly to Grace Market Place, and that is fine also.
 
Thank yous and blessings to everyone!
 
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.