G.A. Minutes 4-18-15
It’s not springtime anymore, at least not tonight. According to the weather people, it will be cold and rainy with strong winds for at least the next week.
That’s o.k. as long as it doesn’t snow. The outdoors has been so unseasonably warm and dry this month that local gardeners are chomping at the bit to start planting.
We need some good rain first but it had just better not snow. Even the Great White North deserves a break once in a while.
It’s partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 40s and a strong wind swirling all over the place as we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.
Some of the regular street people are quickly walking by. They wave and ask if we’re going to be having a fire. We tell them yes we are and they yell back, “See you in a while”.
We are only a few as we set up and get the fire going. The big bundle of sage is blowing a cloud of smoke across the entire area and the wind makes the flames shoot up really high. An Occupier comments, “We’re gonna use a lot of wood tonight”.
Our spirits are high as we’ve been worried for the last day or so. The guy we refer to as the Spiritual Man was seriously stabbed on Thursday night. We can’t imagine how that could have happened as over the last year that he had attended our fires we observed nothing but peace, love and even a bit of wisdom emanate from this good man.
The main homeless outreach worker was also very concerned and was keeping us posted. Earlier this afternoon we received word it looked like he was going to survive.
The streets are devoid of people. There are not many cars either. We sit quietly, watching the flames leap.
Out of nowhere the old Ho Chunk Nation man appears. This is the first time we seen him since at least last summer and he looks a little worse for the wear. He appears to be rather drunk but that’s not unusual. He’s also talking about Jesus. That’s very unusual.
He looks even older than he did last time and he’s wearing shorts. He’s surprised that we remember him. We pull one of our best chairs up close to the fire and invite him to sit.
A young woman we’ve seen around in the past is standing on the corner. She appears troubled. She appears to be “working” but is getting absolutely no attention from anyone driving by.
The old man calls to her, inviting her to join us. It takes a while but eventually she comes over.
She tells the Ho Chunk man she’s been abandoned by her brother and sisters. She doesn’t know where she’s going to sleep tonight. In desperation she tried to find a customer and make a little money so she could get out of the cold.
As she’s telling her story, one of her sisters arrives. She says, “Damn! I thought you all had ditched me”. The sisters hug and her mood changes instantly. Just a misunderstanding.
A sense of insecurity is a constant companion for those who are forced to live on the street.
Another Occupier checks in. He’s carrying a bag full of potatoes, onions, butter, spices and tin foil.
We get to chopping and wrapping then throw a grate over the fire and start things cooking.
We already have coffee, apple juice, hard boiled eggs and cookies. Once the veggies are done we’re gonna have a whole meal.
As the smell of the food hits the air a few more Occupiers arrive. They are followed by a bunch of street people we are vaguely acquainted with.
Shortly after, the man who is always laughing and his girlfriend materialize. We last saw them when we were keeping the fire deep in the snow at the big Black Lives Matter rally.
At that time she was newly pregnant. He was trying to convince her to stop taking heavy drugs. She was telling him she didn’t know what he was talking about. She didn’t appear very happy.
Tonight she is visibly pregnant, friendly and happy.
The laughing man states, “Honey, we have lots of hot dogs at home. Let’s go get them”.
They leave and quickly reappear with a big sack of hot dogs. The first potato packets are done; we pull them off and start throwing on the hot dogs.
Suddenly there are at least a bazillion people in the Memorial. Some of us serve up the potatoes while others cook and pass out the dogs. Then more potato packets get cooked.
After a while absolutely all the food is gone. It looks like everyone got something to eat though.
Folks are standing around in groups, talking softly. Except for one young woman.
We don’t know her and she’s not really doing anything awful but she’s really loud. She’s stomping around and yelling “Community cleanup!” We don’t know why she’s doing that because she’s not cleaning anything up.
She pulls an Occupier aside and tells her, “I’m sorry to be drunk but I just can’t handle the stress of life and everything”. Then she goes back to yelling again.
One Occupier says to another, “We’d better start packing up. It’s very late, that young woman is gonna get everyone else all riled up, then lots of people will start getting loud and soon the cops will show up. There’s no point to that happening”.
The Occupiers start to clean up; many of the street folks help us. Soon everything is cleaner than it was when we arrived.
As we are cleaning an Occupier asks, “Are we going to meet here again on Tuesday?” Another Occupier answers, “I think it’ll be raining on Tuesday. We have lots to talk about so I think we should go to the Amazing Grace”.
The Ho Chunk man has a tent way out on the west end of town. We know he has just enough money to take the bus back to his tent. We help him out of his chair and wish him goodnight.
As he is walking off, the young woman puts her arm around him and tries to get him to walk with her. We hear a young man whisper to her, “Hurry up. It’s almost 10 o’clock”.
The Occupiers have been around the block a few times. We know the liquor store closes at 10 o’clock. We know the young woman will take the only 75 cents the old Ho Chunk man has to his name and the old man will end up passing out in a cold alley.
The young woman and her friend will quickly run to the liquor store and get enough alcohol to allow them to drink for another half hour or so.
An Occupier says to the Ho Chunk man, “Come on, I’ll give you a ride to the bus station”. And that is the end of that.
We say goodnight to each other and to the rest of the folks remaining at CJM.
We plan to meet at the Amazing Grace next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 4-18-15