G.A. Minutes 10-18-14
It’s kinda chilly tonight; probably 5 or 10 degrees above freezing. The sun goes down around 6:30 pm these days; it will get colder still once it’s dark.
Street folks start coming up as soon as they see our vehicles. It’s the time of year when homeless folks have to think seriously about how they will survive the winter. The CHUM center will fill way beyond capacity; it’s not a pleasant place to be but at least it’s warm.
Not all homeless people will be able to stay at the CHUM or any of the few additional shelters in the city. Some cannot survive the craziness of being packed in wall to wall with mostly mentally unstable people. Some are so mentally unstable that shelter staffs refuse them entry.
Whatever the circumstances, the first cold autumn breezes signal the start of grim reality for those in the northland without homes.
The DPD squads start buzzing around the Memorial before we even have the fire going. There are quite a few different cars. They’re not slowing down or even particularly looking at us but it seems they want to make their presence known.
The chairs fill up as soon as the flames flare up. It’s standing room only but we know very few our guests.
A young, gay couple is very impressed when they discover they’re sharing a campfire with Occupy Duluth. It’s not often we run across street folks who have even heard of Occupy.
An Occupier says he needs help getting an electric stove carried into his house. He’s talking about the stove we found for the Duluth Indian Center. It turns out the DIC won’t be able to use it as the cost of installing the proper electrical wiring is prohibitive. When no one responds, the Occupier says, “Well don’t all jump up at once”. Another Occupier answers, “Sure I’ll help you, just let me know when”. It will take several people to move the stove. It looks like it won’t get moved any time soon.
An Occupier tells about a movie called Disruption which he viewed recently at the U.U. church. He begins to describe what he saw but is interrupted by the loud talking of the rest of the folks.
Tonight the members of the circle are almost completely male. A woman of the neighborhood who spends much time cleaning and monitoring CJM throughout the week and 1 Occupier are the only females.
The street men have decided to hold a competition concerning who is the more streetwise and who has the most life experience. They are being quite loud about it. Soon bottles of alcohol are pulled out of coat pockets.
The Occupiers explain that they need folks to take their drinking and whatever else outside of the circle. No one is trying to tell anyone else what substances they are allowed but the Occupiers know how quickly blatant substance abuse will bring on the cops and how quickly some people’s behavior deteriorates when “anything goes”.
The neighborhood woman chastises everybody and things settle down; but not for long. A somewhat regular and sometimes aggressive man walks up to the fire, raises his hands and repeats a made-up Muslim prayer, ending with several loud grunts. Another man who joins us occasionally begins preaching his version of Christianity. Something to do with God loves all people and Obama is gay.
An Occupier says to the man’s girlfriend, “Do you have some way of shutting him up?”
The girlfriend responds, “No, but isn’t he just terrible? He very rarely drinks but when he does, this is what happens”.
Another man stumbles around and yells, “Jesus never existed and there is no God!” Others attempt to shout him down and the alcohol bottles start waving again.
One Occupier says to another, “This is all completely out of control. We need to shut it down”.
And that’s all she wrote. The Occupiers say nothing but begin packing up and dousing the fire.
An older neighborhood man who joins the circle frequently, calls out to the drunks in a tone that sounds like a little boy, “You ruined the party! You ruined the party!”
As they leave one of the Occupiers comments, “I hope this gets around. We are really laid back but even so, we won’t tolerate just anything”.