G.A. Minutes 11-13-12
It’s a cold one tonight. Very few people are here as we begin but we start up the fire, put out the snacks and wait to see what happens. As soon as the fire gets going we are visited by many street people. They huddle around the fire, grateful for it’s warmth. Occupiers are rolling up also, within minutes all our chairs are full.
We quickly discuss business. The Occupier responsible for the LGBT movie at the Zinema plans on setting things up this week; we will do our move out of the Ballroom on Dec. 7th, Dr. Ringsred’s worker Jon has agreed to help us. The Occupier who received a trespassing ticket during the illegal eviction has his second court date on Nov. 30th. We agree he should continue to fight the charge, as it doesn’t make sense that a person could be charged with trespassing in a place he was legally entitled to inhabit.
The discourse then centers on the realities of being homeless. A man tells everybody of an area gas station that regularly puts the unsold food from the deli out by their dumpster. “Like clockwork”, he says, “1pm, 6pm and 1am”. Evidently, the gas station workers are humane, not paying attention to the hungry people waiting to eat.
A former camper turned Occupier says he’s been thrown out of CHUM again. The CHUM workers decided he smelled like alcohol. He says,” I didn’t have much to drink today and when I did drink, it was vodka. When confronted by the workers a homeless person has two choices. He can accept the worker’s arbitrary decision, go back onto the street and be banned from CHUM for one day. Should the person decide to challenge the substance abuse charge, the workers will give him a swab test. If the test is positive, the accused will be banned for two weeks. Many homeless people are alcoholics, they must ingest some alcohol every day to avoid becoming ill. They also spend a lot of cold nights on the street. The exile from CHUM is from California and knows nothing of Minnesota winters. He tells of his experience on the street the night before. “It’s impossible to get into any place that is warm. Everything is locked up. Somebody told me it was 5 degrees above zero. Your muscles and bones stiffen up, it’s terrible. I found a heating grate in a parking garage and slept there for about an hour but then cars started arriving and I had to leave. I feel bad about complaining though. I’ve traveled all over the country and never came across a place as good as CHUM. I’m really grateful for what they provide. It just seems like the workers target certain people and give them a hard time. You guys all know me, I’m a peaceful person.” As he speaks, a small bottle is being discretely passed around. An Occupier couple offers him a bed on their couch for the night. They’ve offered this before but he has declined as he prefers to be self-sufficient. Tonight he gladly accepts. The couple would offer him a permanent bed in their home but cannot as another homeless friend is staying with them.
A young healthy looking homeless man tells us he works by day as a delivery person for a large pharmaceutical chain. “They entrust me with over $100,000 worth of drugs but don’t pay me enough to afford a place to live.” Another very young but not so healthy looking man is also out on the street for the night. He has no coat, only a thin hoodie. An Occupier, who knows the street well, informs us that all the winter coats at the Damiono are now gone. An Occupier from out of town has a cheap hotel room and offers to share it.
Although men do most of the talking tonight, there are also women in our group. One is an older woman, a transplant from Mississippi. She has become a regular visitor; we think she has a small room somewhere in the neighborhood. We don’t ask personal questions, we wait for folks to speak as they wish. Another woman is new to us but not to the street. She is polite, friendly and very pleased to be given a free cigarette.
Some Occupiers and street people must leave in order to make curfew at CHUM. The shelter is packed to over flowing and they are among the chosen. For tonight, at least. The conversation turns to religion, everyone calmly and respectfully expresses their opinion. The older man, who lives in the neighborhood and has visited before, arrives. He doesn’t want to talk religion, he prefers politics. Specifically, the recent U.S. elections. “Aren’t you happy that Obama won? Maybe in his second term he’ll do lots of good things for the people.” We say that would be nice but we don’t really trust Obama. Most of us voted for Jill Stein. We want to explain that the real issue is the extreme failure of the world wide capitalist system. Our new older friend seems to find us puzzling but interesting. He seems to like us and we don’t want to overwhelm him. He stays awhile and then goes home to google Chris Hedges.
Although even more people are coming over to get warm, we are running out of firewood and nearing our curfew. We know that the Memorial is not a city park and the 10pm curfew might not even apply but our numbers are few, we can’t fight every battle, not yet. We know at 10:01 pm the DPD will swoop down on us and there will be drama. They haven’t bothered us all night though a few squads have passed by. We don’t think they have been busy elsewhere. We can’t see them but assume they are waiting. We say goodnight, street people go off in search of warmth. See you again Saturday?