I have received many emails from people who plan to come, bringing stockings and sometimes treats as well. The homeless folks have been asking about it, and are looking forward to it. It is wonderful that Gainesville has taken total ownership of this annual event. If Freeman and I ran away to join the carnival (unlikely), this party would go on and would be a terrific event. See you there!
NATIONAL HOMELESS PEOPLE’S MEMORIAL DAY
December 21 is National Homeless People’s Memorial Day, when all the homeless people who died on the streets or in the woods during the previous year, are honored and remembered. We used to celebrate it in Gainesville, but the last few years this event has fallen by the wayside. This year we are bringing it back. In the last week, we lost three members of our homeless community: Michael Johnson, Henry Lee Robinson, and Daniel Adkins. This year we will have a service to honor these friends, as well as all the people lost this year. December 21 was chosen by the National Homeless Coalition because it is the longest, darkest night of the year. Usually this service has been held downtown and only a few homeless people have attended. On such a long, dark, and often very cold night, homeless people go to bed early to stay warm. So this year we will have it on the grassy area on the edge of Tent City, where Henry and Michael lived. This will make it easy for their friends to be there. We will have a candlelight circle and hot chocolate and doughnuts afterwards. When we have the details worked out, I will let everybody know, since all of you are invited to join us.
THE MAGIC OF ONE-ON-ONE
When the Home Van was having major driveouts four or more times a month, the numbers rose to the point where we were doing very little one-on-one outreach except with a few people we knew from older and simpler times. It was a big loss. Now we are rediscovering the magic of working with people one at a time. It also opens up more volunteer opportunities. Even when all the regular volunteer slots are filled, like the soup ladler and the candle-giver, people can come along just to socialize with our folks. Simple friendship, conversation, is valuable in itself, and also can lead to opportunities to really help someone. Liz was speaking with a young woman who finally found a job, after months of searching, but did not have a pair of black shoes, which this job required. Liz got her a pair of shoes – simple problem, simple solution. In the absence of one-on-one contact, people can spiral downward for lack of a small piece of help at the right time.
One-on-one contacts occasionally help in a major way. A few weeks ago, Ellen Allen, the Good Neighbor Society, who devotes herself to individual outreach, discovered that “Cary,” an elderly homeless woman who had been convalescing at a local medical facility, had apparently disappeared off the face of the earth. The story of how we found Cary and what it took to get her back, is long and complicated, so I will just hit the high points here. Cary had been transferred to a group home in Ocala. Cary’s longtime partner and best friend, “Mark” wanted to talk to her and maybe even go up and visit, so various people tried to call Cary, but were given a runaround every time. I did an Internet search on the facility where Cary was living, and discovered that the owner/manager was up on charges for elder abuse, and had been in trouble with the law and with DCF on and off since 2000. Her most recent arrest was last July, with charges still pending. Ellen and I went up to Ocala to see Cary and, if need be, bring her home, and discovered that the house at the address of record, was empty. A neighbor told us that the Sheriff’s Department closed the facility down due to severe problems. We called the phone number again, first being disconnected and then being told that Cary had left two weeks ago to stay with relatives in Orlando. Cary has no relatives in Orlando. After a lot of help from a lot of people, including DCF, we got Cary back. She is with Mark again and is doing fairly well. In this situation, a potential tragedy was averted.
We are in the time of the midwinter Festivals of Light and Hope. May all of you be blessed!
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.