Always Take Sides

There is a guy that comes by dressed in slacks and a tucked in button down. He drives a tan sedan.
If ever there was a more stereotypical looking city “authority” I haven’t seen it.
He never talks to us. He just stands outside taking pictures.
He likes to come on trash day. We have a lot of trash out on the side of the street to be picked up that day. As the cold approaches our camp continues to be inundated with people desperate to get out of the woods. The trash that people normally throw on public lands where they hide their camps is now at our facility. We need more trash service.
Our porta potties are used so often they are filled to the maximum capacity. It’s difficult to even walk by them the stench is so strong. We need more porta potty service.
He also takes pictures of the playground across the street. A make-shift playground was created by a local civic group. It’s meant for kids. But the homeless use it more. There is an A-frame structure built on a wooden platform. People have now taken to using it as a structure for spending the night. I imagine he blames that use on us.
No one in city hall will come by to take a tour. I once begged the head of zoning to come by. His response was, “If your variance goes forward we my have to come out.” I suspect they prefer to dole out their judgement behind a desk dressed in a suit.
Only fire, EMS and police come by. They support us. They know what it’s truly like on the streets.
I feel like a case is being made against us by city hall.
They are going to put a case together to tell the public and city council why what we are doing is such a bad idea.
They are intellectuals. I’m sure their case will be thorough and compelling.
There is just one hole in their argument: Homeless people exist.
Homeless people live in our woods.
Homeless people live in doorways.
Homeless people live in dumpsters.
Homeless people live in garages and sheds.
Homeless people live all over our city.
They scavenge and hide like raccoons. Afraid of people. Afraid they are going to be seen and kicked off the spot they currently live on.
Every time they are kicked off of where they exist everything other than bare minimum survival comes to a crashing halt.
Forget about working on mental health issues.
Forget about working on addiction issues.
Forget about trying not to beat up your “old lady.”
Forget about leaving your “old man” even though he beats you daily.
It all stops. You now have to go find a new place to hide from the authorities while also trying to not run into another group of homeless people that want to hurt you and steal your stuff.
You don’t want homeless people to live in my backyard? Fine! Give me a building that the fire inspectors will consider safe and the building department will consider deemed OK for living.
I have a building right now I could move people into. But I can’t. I can’t move them inside, no matter how much they beg and how cold it gets. It’s not approved for people to live in.
Please make no mistake. I don’t want people to live in tents. I just can’t move them into the building I already own because I’m being watched so carefully. They would shut us down instantly.
The fire inspector saw one mattress in our building once. They said, and I have the written document if you don’t believe me: “All people must immediately discontinue the use of our building for sleeping over night.
So I play by the rules the rule makers have given me. People live in tents in our secluded back yard. The Fire Chief himself came and saw it and said he saw absolutely no fire issues whatsoever.
A tent community is what can be done.
A man came to us yesterday from spending a night in another shelter. He said to the director of that shelter that he would prefer to not to go to chapel before each meal and before bed. It didn’t adhere to his personal spiritual beliefs. The director said to him: “Then this program is not for you.”
Perhaps it’s fair to ask people to give up their relationship with God in order to get a meal and a place to sleep. But some people are stubborn and find their religious values important to their existence.
So those people come to us.
The shelters for women are often full this time of year. So they come to us.
People have been kicked out of other shelters. So they come to us.
People that work nights can’t get into those shelters because the doors close during their shift. So they come to us.
People that have serious mental health issues and can’t manage in a strict environment live alone in the woods. So they come to us.
We are not making up this need that we fill.
There is no other solution for these people.
We refuse to turn the other way as people rot in the woods with no support.
We will not stand by looking the other way as American citizens are forgotten and ignored.
We will take a stand for them.
We will be their voice.
We will take sides.
We side with the poor and weak and the wretched.
Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
We stand to save you.

5 Replies to “Always Take Sides”

  1. I have met Sage Lewis on two occasions at his facility. Sage is for real. He is genuine. He is open to suggestions to help the homeless. Suggestions and ideas to keep people warm or fed or ways to raise a dollar or two to make ends meet. I have met several residents of Akron’s tent city and have been humbled by their positive attitude, their hope for a better day. Go visit 15 Broad St. Ask anyone there to show you around. Go see the need. Then I urge you to take action.

  2. Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

  3. Another reason people come to this place is that in Summit county, there is no shelter that keeps couples together. I have ‘friends’ who are wealthy, own large homes, drive expensive cars. Not one offered help when I became homeless. Paul Hayes, who is homeless, gave me supplies that would seem trivial to those who have never done without, yet meant so much to me at that time that I cried tears of gratitude. These people are genuine and caring. They need help in helping others.

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