As of November 2 the 130-person meal limit at the St. Francis House soup kitchen came to an end. It was replaced by requirements so harsh, so difficult to meet, and so humiliating and demeaning that St. Francis House is now serving lunch to between 70 and 90 people a day. As of this writing, in order to eat lunch at St. Francis House one must have a photo I.D. and a police clearance that must be renewed once-a-month. A police clearance is a warrants check. These warrants checks can be obtained from GPD between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. every day and on Sundays between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Under the new laws passed as a result of the Homeland Security Act, it has become a long and complicated nightmare for homeless people to obtain state of Florida I.D.s or even to obtain the documents, such as birth certificates, necessary to obtain a state I.D. Many homeless people do not have such I.D.s and have given up trying to get them. Theresa Lowe, Director of the Office on Homelessness, and others, are working to have other sorts of photo I.D.s deemed acceptable for getting a lunch at St,. Francis House. This will certainly help but it does not address the underlying issue of what has happened to our society that we treat poor people like criminals and are willing to deprive them of food, even if they are children, pregnant women, veterans, and elderly and disabled people (as many of them are).
THIS IS THE SOCIETY WE HAVE BECOME. Earlier this month I read that Senator Steve Oelirich is working to have free and reduced school lunch programs ended because they ‘breed dependence.’ Letters have been written to the Gainesville Sun in support of his unconscionable plan. One recent letter of support stated, “Children can get a meal just by showing up.” Maybe these little dead beats should drop out of school and get a job.
This week we learned the horrrific news that a former coach at Penn State University has been raping the children of the poor over a 13-year period while the head coach, the president of Penn State, and various other high officials stood by in silence. When this head coach was fired, a certain portion of the Penn State student body (enough to create a major riot and turn over a police van) rioted in support of Joe Paterno, the head coach. These students believe that football is more important than stopping a child rapist.
WHAT ARE WE TEACHING OUR CHILDREN? In our own town of Gainesville, City Commissioners, past and present (excepting the two most recently elected) have sent the message that the interests of money and property are more important that the right of poor people to eat lunch. Pat Fitzpatrick repeatedly went to City Commission meetings and showed a TV20 video of a pregnant woman being turned away from St. Francis House. Commissioners were given eye-witness testimony that hungry children were being turned away from St. Francis House. They sat on their hands and did nothing to end this atrocity, for two long years. Now they have created a situation where even fewer people are able to eat.
May God have mercy on all of us, and lead us on to a better path.
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, batteries, 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 to307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at