A SPECIAL THANK YOU
To Alachua County, and particularly to Candie Nixon, Marie Small and Tammy Carmichael who came up with 500 cans of bug spray for our homeless folks!
I hear they are continuing to write grants for this purpose. The reign of torture out in the woods is being alleviated. We are still accepting all other donations of bug spray because it’s going to be many months before the mosquitos go into their winter hibernation. It is also a bad year out there for ticks and chiggers.
This is a phrase I’ve never used or seen used. It came to mind when I realized that a homeless teenager who came to the van for services was the son of a woman I knew when she was a homeless teenager receiving services at St. Francis House. His mother is proud of the fact that she came up with a ‘real bed’ for his tent and that he is eating three meals a day. This is success in her world.
In the nineties much was made of the culture of welfare – two and three generations of families living in public housing and receiving welfare. As I recall, Newt Gingrich led the assault on generational welfare by severe cuts to programs that brought support to women and children.
The right way to get people off welfare is through education, job training, and empowerment classes (IMO), but our country used the “cut them off at the kneecaps” approach. I don’t know how much this contributed to the severe rise in homelessness in our country, but it surely is a part of the problem. The criminalization of homelessness might be seen as Phase 2 of our country’s war against the poor. A war that is becoming increasingly grim. The farm bill being considered in Congress involves cutting billions of dollars from the food stamp program, which is already insufficient.
There are many other factors. In the eighties when Ronald Reagan led the charge to close state mental hospitals, we were told that mentally ill people would go into halfway houses and from there be re-integrated into society. For the most part, that didn’t happen. I have heard our Sheriff say at County Commission meetings that the jail is not set up to be a mental health facility, but has been forced into that role.
I applaud our local law enforcement community, including some local judges, who are working hard to meet the challenge of mental illness among the poor and the homeless, through Drug Court, Mental Health Court and, in many cases, through simple kindness to those who have been abandoned by the larger society. This winter, for example, GPD, Officer Ernest Graham in particular, helped distribute mylar blankets during the cold months.
Other factors in the situation include the failure of government to maintain the minimum wage as a living wage; an insufficient stock of low-income housing, automation replacing many minimum-wage workers; the failure of SSI and SSDI to pay people enough to live on; the our-sourcing of jobs, skyrocketing medical costs. I see all of those causes operating.
So this is a big, big kettle of fish. Until there is a change of climate in this country, until Social Darwinism is replaced by compassion and by gratitude for all we have, and a willingness to share with others, we will continue to move in the direction of Generational Homelessness.
In our community many people have become involved in the struggle to alleviate the suffering of the poor and the homeless, and our city and county governments are working hard at making the One Stop Center into a reality. I have heard that this facility may start offering some services as soon as next October. This is a beginning.
We have a long way to go in this ever-changing landscape. Recently I realized that the Mayberry, RFD aspect of the Home Van is disappearing altogether. In the beginning we thought of our homeless friends as part of our extended family. We sat around their campfires. We knew them and treated them as our brothers and sisters in the woods. Joe Jackson took Bug Man Eric to a football game when Eric’s alma mater was playing the Gators. We participated in camp cleanups and helped people move from one location to another. Now we see terrible things – an ancient guy with a twisted leg hobbling up to the van to get a sandwich – we see him over a sea of faces and we don’t know who he is.
That hurts. Still, we must ‘keep on, keeping on.’ No pendulum swings forever in one direction.
The Home Van is in need of a backup van driver. This must be someone who knows how to drive a large vehicle – a 15-seater van - and who is available the second, third and fourth Thursdays of every month. The Home Van goes out Thursdays at 4:45 p.m. and returns between 6:30 and 7 p.m. The backup driver would need to be available when our regular van driver can’t make it. The backup van driver might sometimes be needed to pick up cases of water and take them out to wooded areas.
We also need more soup makers. Making 7 gallons of thick soup is a considerable undertaking, and we like to have enough people so that no one makes soup more often than once a month. In summer our cadre of soup makers becomes particularly thin. This month we don’t have a soup maker for June 20. We also need a soup maker for July 18 and August 22. If you would like to make soup for us, email me and I will connect you up with Liz McCulloch, our soup scheduler.
Save the homeless folks from soup made by Arupa - a vegetarian whose secret ingredient is number ten cans.
Love and peace to everyone!
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, bug spray,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.