G.A. Minutes 1-12-13

G.A. Minutes 1-12-13

We’re glad to be in from the cold again tonight. A bitter cold wave is just beginning. People without adequate shelter will be in danger of freezing to death and there are quite a few shelterless folks in Duluth.

We start off by taking a look at the movie American Autumn. The filmmaker has generously allowed us to download his movie and to show it free of charge. We’ll drop it off at the Zinema tomorrow and then begin to work on publicity. It’s a meaningful film and we hope a lot of people will be able to see it.

An Occupier tells a story. He arrived at the People’s Plaza yesterday around noon to wait for the Idle No More marchers to arrive. He needed to use a bathroom so ran across the street to the Tech Village. He found the bathrooms were locked so asked the security guard to let him in. The guard asked him which business in the Tech Village he was intending on visiting. When he told the guard he just needed to use a bathroom the guard refused to allow him, stating the bathrooms were on private property, for use of business people only. The Occupier returned to the Plaza. He was very uncomfortable and also very upset. “What is wrong with people?”, he said, “How can they deny another human being the use of a bathroom?” Another Occupier reminds him of a nearby restaurant that generally turns a blind eye to non-customers using their bathroom. So his problem is solved. It would not have been so easy if he had been an obviously homeless person. Lack of an available bathroom is a constant when one is homeless. We’ve had this conversation before. So what can we do about it?

The first thing we need to do is to look at the City of Duluth laws. We know that a lot of places that are actually public spaces are off limits for homeless folk. We need to find out exactly what is private space and what is public space. We’ll ask one of our friends in city government for advice.

We toss around other ideas, most of which are in the fantasy stage right now. How about establishing another homeless camp? Wouldn’t it be great to pass a city ordinance stating all fast food places had to pay for pickup of the trash generated when their customers throw the food packaging all around? Homeless people could be hired to pick up the fast food garbage. Unfortunately, homeless people who are receiving some type of meager government benefits might not want this job. The social services would be sure to deduct the money from the poor person’s benefits. Actual Welfare is available only to the rich.

Everyone agrees, there are two main reasons why public space is denied to those who need it most. 1.) Lack of compassion for fellow human beings. 2.) Insurance companies.

A few Occupiers have made a commitment to have dinner on a weekly basis with some of the members of an established homelessness advocacy group. We hope to form a closer relationship with them and perhaps develop some meaningful actions.

We finish out the evening by expressing our thoughts about the Idle No More march we participated in yesterday. The turnout was impressive and the march was noticed by many people. Most non-progressives are unaware of the issue; this march should start the conversation. An Occupier says she was asked by several pedestrians what INM was about. She had the pleasure of explaining our struggle for the life of the earth.

The conversation is winding down. Time to go home, rest and start another day. We’ll see what progress has been made when we meet here again next Tuesday.