two nights ago val got a call from a guy from a local church who told her that some homeless people [who had been evicted along with the ‘Occupy Philly’ people this week] had moved under a nearby bridge and would we the Simple Way be wanting to do anything about it – i chatted to him and got the details and told him i would try go that evening…
something more prioritised came up that evening and i wasn’t able to go, but first thing the next morning Val and i drove to go and find them and i went in to go and assess the situation and see what was happening…
and i met Paul.
Paul chatted to me for maybe half an hour to an hour [while my beautiful wife Val waited patiently in the car, not wanting to interrupt the man moment – she was originally going to go shop while i chatted but decided to wait which was cool] and it was just the raddest time. starting off by saying they didn’t really need anything [a mind blow for me with homeless people with my general experience back home] but that they had most of their needs met [there were about twenty tents under the bridge and they had access to running water in a nearby laundromat that didn’t lock up and people keep on coming by and supplying food and more] but at the end i was able to offer some bedrolls and jackets which the Simple Way has had donated and i took them through last nite.
Paul handed me this letter which he had written and was hoping to have posted in a local newspaper [i found it online fortunately so didn’t have to write it again so it definitely got posted somewhere] and gave me permission to share it with you and i think it is just excellent and felt so privileged to have spent time with him and Joe who i met last nite and Val and i are hopefully going back tomorrow to join them for a Quaker type service:
“We are not here protesting or to make a statement, We’re homeless. We are sick of being forced to exist alone, sick of being told that shelters, which are not tolerable living facilities for sober people, are an adequate alternative to being “allowed”, by the government, to work, live and share together to create for ourselves, with much less help and expense than the government can do anything, opportunities to provide for ourselves that which our troubled economy cannot.
Philadelphia has about 4,000 homeless people and 40,000 empty dwelling units, but, apparently, unless the wealthy can profit by our occupying these dwellings, they would rather see us alone, with our possessions if not stolen by regular criminals, ‘confiscated’ by police, since we have no place to store anything we can’t carry and are not allowed to congregate to watch one another’s belongings.
To have poverty forced upon us in the land of plenty, is no longer a viable solution, if in fact, it ever was.
I know how to grow food, build structures, build communities from the fragmented elements that current policy, make craftwork to supply cash for what it’s needed for, etc. My friends know how to do the things I don’t. Those who ‘have’ seem satisfied to make sure I don’t ‘have’ opportunity to gather to have a safe place to sleep, let alone organize to provide for our basic needs.
We need the use of at least one abandoned structure, if the law requires it to have water and electricity, the Obama administration provided $21 million dollars to help the homeless, this is a drop in the bucket.
We need an outdoor long term camping area, close enough to mass transit for us to meet medical, legal, pension and benefits and other needs, and large and separated enough to not disturb our neighbors and start to grow our own food and do art and craftwork, feed one another and see to one another’s daily needs.
In this sort of camp, people who get along can meet one another and we can help one another and be helped by those in the community who believe in, rather than merely preach, compassion, to get long term housing, use our varied skills to rehabilitate abandoned structures as we rehabilitate ourselves and work toward the caring, loving society that many believe we will make happen.
There are many caring people in Philadelphia, whose deeds as well as their words, demonstrate the belief that the present “crisis” is in fact and opportunity to create a land of “Liberty and Justice for All” rather than a land of “Just Us”.”