This is the big news story from the Williston Road Camp. Four large alligators came down Sweetwater Branch and are now crawling around amongst the tents, scaring people, dogs and cats. One of these alligators is aggressive. Two of them died last week (water quality?), but two are left. James Wands, our onsite Home Van volunteer in that camp (he lives there), has made numerous phone calls to the Florida Wild LIfe Commission, which is responsible for capturing and relocating alligators. In the past they have done this several times for the Williston Road Tent Village, but this time there has been no response. Budget cuts? They are managing to co-exist with the gators, but if anyone on this list has pull with the Wild LIfe Commission, maybe they could do some pulling.
The Home Van is about to celebrate its ninth birthday (on September 26). In looking back, it suddenly hit me that the levels of racism and homophobia in the homelesss community have diminished considerably over the years. In the beginning, although there were some interracial relationships and friendships, for the most part all the homeless camps were segregated and mean remarks about crackers and ____ were uncomfortably frequent. Homeless people who happened to be gay had a hard time of it. Although we expressed our disagreement with these isms, we had a conscious commitment to serving people without judging them and were able to make friends across the board. Now integrated encampments are common, and openly gay homeless people seem to have friends and being doing as well as anyone. It’s a good change.
One of the best books about ‘isms’ that I’ve ever read is Dr. Seuss’s book about the Star-bellied Sneetches. He captured two essential truths: (1) Everybody wants to feel that they are better than somebody else, and (2) Capitalists make a great deal of money exploiting this desire. (For anyone who is interested, Bayard Rustin, an African American philosopher who taught at Harvard, spoke eloquently on this subject. In his last speech before he died, which was broadcast on NPR, he said, basically, “Forget racism. It’s all about rich against poor.”)
Before I leave this topic, I want to share the story of Charles, one of our more hilarious clients, although he could be a major pain in the posterior also. Charles is now clean and sober, but in the early days he would often be drunk when we arrived at Lynch Park. He would go into long rants about “You gave all the good stuff to whose white people up at the downtown plaza.” He would go on and on. One night I got tired of it and said, “Charles you’re right. You’ve really nailed it. Tonight we served steak and lobster up at the plaza.” Charles got into a giant fit of the giggles and we didn’t have to listen to that sermon again.
This is a timely topic. I am glad to see fewer ‘isms’ in the homeless community because if they are ever going to become a political force in the community and work for their own liberation, they can’t waste their time fighting with each other. Nor can any of us afford that.
BOOKS AND WATER
August, thank you Heavenly Father!, is over and everyone has lived through it, including us, but we still have hot weather and will for awhile, so water donations help a lot. I’m also really low on paperback books. People love to read, so if you drop a few off, that would be great.
Love and blessings to all of you,
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, batteries, bug spray, duct tape, books 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/