In Arizona, where temperatures soar and shelters are far past full, some homeless adults do the only thing you can do--wait for night to fall and temps to drop. Disabilities, mental and/or physical, keep many homeless adults prisoners of the streets.
Sometimes it seems that homeless kids' issues get pitted against homeless adults. Programs depending on federal assistance to serve homeless people must follow Washington's priority proclamations or not get funding. That's a strategy guaranteed to get the attention of beleaguered shelter operators. Right now, as it has been for the last 6 or 7 years, the feds say "chronic" homeless adults are NUMBER ONE!
One could wonder, do they really care that much about the long-term, most challenging to help adults who have lots of problems? That would be nice. That's probably not the case. In fact, scenes play out across the country where communities, often major metro areas, are taking some drastic steps against the long-term homeless adults. Take Seattle for instance....
In that rain-soaked, fairly wealthy and supposedly enlightened community, the mayor has shifted the city's stand on homeless people in encampments from a fairly tolerant position to a CLEAN SWEEP strategy, damn the cost to human dignity. City workers in haz-mat suits descend upon a "campground" and remove all the possessions of those who have little. Not remove them as in put in storage, but throw in dumpsters. The City, with a double-barreled media and legal campaign, supports this travesty by falsely demonizing homeless people, justifying the trashing of their meager "homes."
Real Change Newspaper is the Seattle version of Streetwise, the Chicago paper written and sold by Chicago's homeless vendors. RC led the recent protest against the sweeps. The best description is from RC Executive Director Tim Harris' justifiably profanity-laced blog, Apesma's Lament. You can compare his account with the local press.
Reading of this courageous stance against the sweeps, I could only think back to the days when I organized some lesser-contentious but still powerful demonstrations in Illinois. Or when we pulled together an event to honor the memory of homeless people who had died. It's electrifying to be among--and in solidarity with--people who have lost almost all shreds of their humanity, as far as material possessions go, who stand up for their brothers and sisters who have lost even more--their lives. Adults and children joined together for these events. No one had to choose.
I'm an avowed homeless kids' advocate. Does that make me care less for the adults? Not in your life! In fact, I'll go one step further. I made a modest donation to Real Change, organizers of this sleep-in. I challenge, or invite, or plead with readers to do the same. You may securely donate HERE.
Seems to me that by standing together we stand strong. That's what it's going to take to right the wrongs that have made homeless people--adults and/or children--the scapegoats for all the trash in this country.