“You know not what you’ve done.”
That lack of interest or concern for how the homeless might deal with the imminent closing of our tent community is difficult for me.
Imagine dangling off a cliff as the last stone holding you up slowly but surely disintegrates before your feet.
Imagine an hour glass slowly but surely seeping sand that will spell your certain doom.
A deadline of Thanksgiving hanging over the head of these people makes even me, a person with a home, edgy. My pulse quickens. My breath shortens. My muscles tighten.
These are real human beings. These are not dogs with no awareness. No human consciousness. No human understanding. These are real human beings.
And now the city is taking away the last thing that they found safety in.
There is a “memorandum of understanding” which is a document that has no legal binding. It’s just a pinky-promise that “will ensure that a housing option is offered to all current residents of the Encampment within 60 days.”
It’s hard not to get jaded as we yell into the wind for help and no one shows up.
Is that “memorandum of understanding” a word game that they will be able to turn on us come Thanksgiving day? Or is it just a non-binding statement that is also not well stated? Since we are making statements that have no legal meaning, it would be more comforting to have a statement like: “will ensure that housing will be provided regardless of income, criminal record or lack of identification.”
But it doesn’t matter. This is the house we live in today. A house built on a foundation being dug out from under us. We are now entirely at their whim. If our master says they will be nice to us we will respond with a resounding, “Yes sir! Thank you sir!”
I am 100% all in on getting these people into housing. I have a meeting with the Land Bank (the place that has hundreds of abandoned houses in Akron) and the Continuum of Care (the place that has millions of dollars to fix homelessness) on Friday and the coming Monday.
Perhaps if the city would not tear down all 300 houses this year, as they do every year, and only tear down 290 we could instantly get all these people into houses.
There is an important lesson I learned in business: You can either be right or you can fix the problem.
Play by the rules of the game you have been forced to play. Don’t grumble about how the rules aren’t fair. Just play the game.
Our charity has a four part plan moving forward:
- We likely will open our day center 24 hours / 7 days a week by Thanksgiving
- We are laser focused on acquiring as many houses as possible.
- We are going to need to acquire a shuttle to transport homeless people to appointments and their inevitable tent communities that will be scattered all over the city.
- We will become a type of Red Cross for illegal tent cities. We will be the triage / M.A.S.H. units for these people that are now forced to live illegally in the shadows as American refugees.
So we have a plan that I’m actually very excited about. It’s going to be harder and likely not as efficient as our first plan. But things being harder has never bothered me.
All that said: we need something very important from you:
We need friends. We need people to just come and hang out with us. We need people to come and just be with these people.
Counselors, ministers and priests would be wonderful.
But anyone that is willing to just be an open ear would be great.
They don’t need lectured. They don’t need pressed about anything like what they are going to do next.
They just maybe could use a friendly person.
And, if the mood strikes, maybe you could help as these people hopefully move into housing down the road. (Certainly no one has considered the logistics of transporting people and possessions into houses. These people live on less than $1 a day. They can’t afford a bus ticket.)
You should know that tensions are high right now. There is more yelling. There is more storming around. I have moved my main desk to the center of the day center. I will be physically present as much as I possibly can.
I haven’t seen any physical violence. And all of our structures of our security team and tri-council still exist.
This could be a tough time for some of these people. I’ve heard talks of suicide where before no one has ever talked about that with me.
If you are willing to come spend some time just sitting around that would be great. Make some friends. You might find it very satisfying. I know that it is the greatest work I have ever done in my life.
Maybe no one will talk to you. But maybe they will.
You are welcome to host a Bible study, a movie, a book reading. I don’t really care. You can host a box of donuts, for all I care. And you certainly don’t need to feel like you need to bring anything other than yourself.
Oh! And we have one more request: Please bring ground coffee. Tony says we’re out.
United we stand, divided we fall.