THE CHRISTMAS PARTY
First, I want to thank all the people, the many churches and groups and individuals, who came to our Christmas party. Everyone got Christmas stockings and baked goods and oranges and fudge. I also want to apologize for the level of confusion and crowding. Clearly, we have outgrown the little parking lot and adjoining areas. There was supposed to be a church youth choir there singing carols. I fear they might have gotten discouraged and packed it in. I would like to think that next year there will be a wonderful Christmas party at the new homeless center – inside with light, warmth, a Christmas tree, food on tables. It has always bothered me that the homeless people are so incredibly grateful for these stockings, and look forward to them so much. By mid-November people are asking me, “Are we going to get Christmas stockings this year?” No one should be so happy for so little, in our society overflowing with comfort and endless stuff. But they are. In part because it means to them that there are people out in the housed community who care about them.
This winter we have had more tent donations than ever before in our 12 years of collecting tents. I can’t tell you how grateful I am! When some shivering, desperate person comes to my door wanting a tent – I have one! For the first time ever, this terrible month, I haven’t had to tell anyone that I don’t have a tent to give them! Your kindness, your willingness to spend some real money in these hard times – I don’t know what to say except God Bless You!! That’s what the homeless people almost always say when they receive a tent. I also need tarps, since they add a lot of rain-proofing to the tents. And MYLARS! More mylars. Usually the mylars I get in December last me the whole winter with a few leftover for next winter’s start up, but this year we’re running through them fast.
A warm up, followed by a hard rain soaking everyone’s blankets and clothing , an immediate plunge down into the twenties and thirties – this cycle over and over again – it doesn’t get any worse than that. Every year one of our local TV stations does a ‘feel good story’ about homeless people going into cold night shelter. THIS IS NOT THE STORY – the story is the many hundreds of people who aren’t in cold night shelter. The amount of cold night shelter available is only sufficient for a small fraction of our more than 2000 homeless citizens. Many hundreds of people are outside when the temperature goes into the twenties.
Pat goes downtown on cold nights to make sure everyone has an emergency blanket to wrap up in beneath their other blankets. Lately he has also been bringing food to the folks who sleep on the pavement downtown. By nine o’clock they are ravenously hungry. It takes a lot of calories to survive outside in winter. One night he couldn’t make it so Freeman and I went downtown. It was a night in the twenties and six people were sleeping on the sidewalk around the plaza. They were under piles of everything they owned and did not even look like people anymore. A casual passerby would have thought there were piles of garbage and black plastic on the sidewalk waiting for a morning pickup. Underneath each of these piles was a human being. A bit of face would peep out, and I would hear a voice saying, “Thank you, God bless you.”
Pope Francis is calling on the entire human family – Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists – everyone – to come together and take care of poor people. He is calling for a new era of love and sharing and compassion. This is what we need. Each of us can make this happen, working from wherever we are stationed in life. We are the only ones who can make this happen.
Love and blessings to everyone,
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.