THE POLICE CLEARANCE SITUATION
As most of you know, it is now necessary to get a monthly police clearance to receive any services at St. Frances House – meals, showers, laundry, and to receive one’s mail. This is a deeply disturbing human rights violation, based on the totally fabricated illusion that the homeless community is rife with criminals and pedophiles. Nevertheless, it is what we are stuck with, and there is a whole team of people – the A Team – working to alleviate and ameliorate the situation as much as possible – Theresa Lowe at the Office on Homelessness, Jack Donovan of the Homeless Coalition, Bill Cervone at the State Attorney’s Office, Joe Jackson, pro bono lawyer to the homeless community, Holy Trinity’s Downtown Ministry (who help people get photo IDs, both in terms of money and navigating the bureaurcracy), and folks at GPD. There is work going on to help people clear warrants involving petty misdemeanors. The Alachua County Housing Authority is allowing people to receive mail at their building. They will accept any photo ID, even one that is out of date, and do not require police clearances. The homeless people themselves seem to be settling in to the new regime with patient endurance. This is a community of people who have endured tragedies and calamities in their lives that most of us cannot even imagine, and this is just one more thing.
CHANGES AT THE HOME VAN
For nine years and counting the Home Van went out twice a week. As of this past Thanksgiving we have reduced our driveouts to one day a week, the Thursday driveout. This was a difficult decision to make, but – due to advancing age and diminished resources – it was necessary. A church group from Chiefland has started coming to the plaza on Tuesdays and serving a meal. We overlapped with them for about three months. During those months we were giving people extra food to alleviate the 130-person meal limit. This also gave us an opportunity to see how committed the Chiefland group is. They came every single Tuesday – during rainstorms, on cold nights, after two jerks started a fight in the line, and just before Thanksgiving. They earned their ‘street creds’ as people who know what it takes.
In some ways the Thursday driveout has always been at the heart of what we do. We started out as a mission that went out to the woods where the people live. This changed the whole dynamic of delivering services. We weren’t standing behind a counter helping supplicants. We were guests in their homes, and we got to know who they are and how they live. We were able to intervene in crises – like someone who needed a trip to the pharmacy to get more insulin right at that moment. We became an emergency contact for people who needed immediate help. Just this past week we became aware of a very young homeless man who was in crisis with sickle cell anemia. Pat and I have been visiting him and bringing him the extra water he needs. This is our little slot and we will now be better able to do this work. In addition, we are going to be able to stretch our money further. Two years ago we lost our state funding to buy tents and since then have been almost totally reliant on donated tents. Now we will be able to buy a few tents each month ourselves. So, after the initial anguish we felt at making this cut back, we are seeing that it is for the best.
THE CHRISTMAS PARTY
As I mentioned last time, our Home Van Christmas party will be on Thursday, December 22 at 5:45 p.m. in the little parking lot on the east side of the Civil Courthouse, right down from the Bo Diddley Plaza and the Lunch Box Café. Freeman will be there in an old green Aerostar Ford van to accept Christmas stockings. It is also okay to pass out the Christmas stockings you bring yourselves. We always have an abundance of stockings so it isn’t ‘one to a customer.’ The East Side Jazz Band will be playing Christmas carols and – it is rumored – Santa Claus is coming with them to make a personal appearance! It will be dark in the parking lot, except for light from the plaza, and that is unfortunate. We are all bringing flashlights and it would be good if guests bring flashlights with them also. With the help of the Home Van Angels, both physical and metaphysical, we are going to do the best we can and have fun also.
Many blessings to all of you, now and always,
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 to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at http://homevan.blogspot.com/