Sunday, April 10, 2011



Sometime in the coming weeks, the Meal Limit battle will be fought in front of the City Commission. Outraged citizens, along with wealthy downtown developers, will inform the City Commission that St. Francis House, as well as other do gooders, are feeding junkies and hookers.

The theory is that if we stop feeding these ‘dregs of society’ (another phrase we hear at public meetings), they will go away, leaving us with a prosperous and vibrant downtown.

Yes, the Home Van feeds junkies and hookers and we are proud of it. They are folks we have known for many years, and people who have taught us more about love and compassion than we ever learned anywhere else. Two years ago, when a middle-aged woman was discharged from Shands hospital, into homelessness, with a feeding tube hanging out of her stomach and a bag of medicines that require refrigeration, she wound up in Lynch Park, since there was no bed available at St. Francis House. The junkies and hookers took care of her, and brought her to our attention so that we could find a social worker to help her out. I will never forget the sight of Peanut, one of the Lynch Park junkies, on his knees grinding up her pills between two rocks and carefully pouring the grains into a bottle of water, as the directions from the hospital required. Others take care of Maria, who has asthma and diabetes. When newly homeless people find themselves on the dark street that runs behind St. Francis House, it is the junkies and hookers who orient them to their situation and tell them where to get help. Two weeks ago an elderly couple, who looked very middle class and beyond terrified, were brought to the Home Van by our junkies and hookers. Actually, the old man refused to come – he was too humiliated. Charlene took the old woman by the arm, saying softly, “It’s okay. They’re nice people. They will help you.”

If only the City Commission were more like our junkies and hookers.

Where do they come from and why are they out there? Virtually all of them are long-time Gainesville residents. Some of them were born here. Why they are out there is a question you can research for yourselves, online or in the many books on the subject. You will find that they come from childhoods of poverty, abuse, trauma, and in the case of women who work the streets, long-term childhood incest. If they were still children, everyone would believe in the importance of helping them. Because they were the invisible children of the poor, because many of them were sent off to fight a war they could not avoid by enrolling in college – they have now achieved the status of “dregs of society” and we are supposed to let them starve.

We will do that the same day the City Commissioners sprout wings and fly off to the Planet of Condominiums and Upscale Shopping.

If you have been downtown lately, to an arts festival, a play, a concert in the park – if you have sat outside at Harrys enjoying food and music - you will see that we have a wonderful and vibrant downtown. A few lost souls in the plaza or Lynch Park, have little or no impact. The only time I would advise you to stay away from downtown is at bar closing time on weekend nights. Hundreds of poor little inebriated college students staggering to their cars, with valiant warriors from GPD saving as many of them as they can, is not a pleasant sight.

This how a good many of the morality mongers who ask the commission to keep the meal limit are getting their money, directly or indirectly. They sell beer to college students.

Maybe we need a class on morality and compassion taught by junkies and hookers.

I will give the last word here to my old friend Bill Shakespeare:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

love, arupa