Submitted by Sister Grace Miller, Ryan Acuff, Tom Malthaner on Thu, 2014-09-18 23:17
Letter to the Community from the Three Arrested Protesting Monroe County's (NY) Homeless Policies on September 15, 2014
originally gathered from Ryan Acuff's facebook page.
Today Monroe County's government sunk to a new low in arresting advocates and constituents who were simply looking to work with government to solve one of the County's most grave and pressing issues—sheltering the street homeless before the winter.
How do we take a moment in time and not let it pass us by, but use it to be the tipping point to begin to dismantle racism? How can we focus on racism and not acknowledge the oppression, the classism, the simple uneven playing field that exists within our society? Plagued with these questions and more, I came to Ferguson,to seek understanding and to support in whatever small way possible, the people who struggle.
When I arrived, St. Louis looked like any other city I had been in. But, entering Ferguson, made me realize what a special community Ferguson really is.
The first place we made a beeline to is the street that Michael Brown was killed.
The first thing we saw was an incredible memorial laid out in the MIDDLE of the street. It has to be about 12 feet long and as we passed, people stood on the side with their arms raised in the air, hands balled in a fist. This simple and time worn symbol has meant power, but in the streets of Ferguson it had an additional meaning: “Hands up…Don’t shoot”
Another memorial on the side of the road stood no less that six feet wide with flowers, a basketball, signs, and all sorts of tributes to Michael Brown.. A huge cross, perhaps six feet high leaned against the building, a memory to a fallen youth that refuses to be forgotten. The cars respected the memorial in the middle of the street, honking their horns as they passed and being careful not to run over any part of the memorial, while at the same time, returning the salute that is additionally a sign of respect.
As we got out and took pictures of the memorials, a woman, walked up to me out of nowhere and simply hugged me. She welcomed me and spoke to me in despair over what had transpired in her community. Angie has been living in the same complex for twenty years. Her daughter is a teacher and they both were home the day Mike Brown was shot. They heard the bullets that ripped into his body and they felt the pain of loss.
Angie is angry. She is not the only one. The people standing in front of this memorial are not a part of any organization. I asked if they were taking “shifts” in manning the memorial. “No, you just come when you feel moved to do so, “ was the response. There seemed to be no real rhyme to their gathering, but they all had plenty of reason. These people are simply tired and expressing that they can’t take it anymore.
As she stood talking to me, two young people holding a sign, came up and sang “A change gonna come,” their beautiful voices touching something deep within me. They thanked me for coming to support them, when all I wanted to do is to thank them for receiving me in such a welcoming manner. Unashamed, they cried, they sang, they stood together gathering strength from one another. I could sense a front porch community that cares about each other and an underlying pride that they are no longer going to sit by the sidelines and take whatever injustice is dished out. When I asked, “What happens now,” The response I received was simple. “They better do something soon to hold that police officer accountable or things are really gonna jump off!”
Today was the first evening we were in Ferguson. Right now there is a moratorium on the protests for the next 14 days. But, the people I was able to talk to are probably not the ones that are part of engineering that moratorium. They were mothers, fathers, young people and old, who live in that community and are waiting and watching. I am glad to be waiting and watching with them….
(Guys we only were out there a little bit. After settling in and figuring out where we were staying, having a HUGE layover as we couldn’t get on the plane we were booked for, we got here a bit too late. No one really was as prepared for us. Actually, I don’t think any organization here was prepared for what happened. They are all going, “Oh, okay this is turning out to be national and all eyes are on us.” The organization, MORE, that used to be ACORN, I must take my hat off to. They seem to not be taking a lead, but identifying people who are the young leaders and actually training them. The woman I am staying with is a Saint. Beautiful home and she shares that what has her excited and opening up the doors to her home is all the youth that this has brought out. I hope this doesn’t become a blip in history because people might give up. When you put your all into something and nothing changes….well, don’t you have less hope that when you started? Anyway, love you all.)
Submitted by Tom Malthaner, Catholic Worker, St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality on Tue, 2014-09-16 12:15
LETTER TO D&C OPINION PAGE 8-26-14
THE CLOSING OF THE POLICE GARAGE TO THE HOMELESS
Last Thursday night Sister Grace, from the House of Mercy, Rob Benazzi , on staff at St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality, and myself, a Catholic Worker at St. Joseph’s House, stayed overnight at the Civic Center (police) Garage. The management told us that as long as we are paying customers we could stay as long as we want. My purpose in staying was to experience one night and get an idea of what homeless persons go through, understanding that some stay for weeks and months. In talking to some of the old-timers who have stayed in the garage, one mentioned he stayed in the late 70’s and another in the 80’s. So the homeless have been using the garage as a shelter for almost 40 years. Under Article 17 of the New York State Constitution, Monroe County has a legal obligation to care for the needy. I am appalled and ashamed that, for so many years, the County has looked the other way and allowed the police garage to be a shelter. I am ashamed that I didn’t say anything about this situation before now. Staying in the garage was nasty. I got about 3 ½ hours of sleep - on the cement floor with a sleeping bag under me as a cushion. It was warm and I was concerned about car exhaust fumes throughout the night. The maintenance man ran the power cleaner most of the night. It was very loud and reminded me of a miniature street cleaner . He would go outside several times a night to get fresh air to counteract the fumes and the dust, but we were stuck inside. Finally, there is no bathroom in the garage. In the meetings with Mapco, the company managing the garage, one of their complaints was the smell of urine and feces. We have suggested several times to put a porta-potty in the garage as a simple solution, but the management refused. So going to the bathroom for myself and Sr. Grace was an embarrassing experience. In sum, I thought the overnight experience was dreadful and would not suggest it even to my worst enemy. I think now of the” works of mercy”, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless… Is this how we should shelter our brothers and sisters who happen for whatever reason to become homeless?