G.A. Minutes 7-2-16
The gods of good fortune are finally with us again. The temperature is in the high 70s as we arrive at the People’s Plaza tonight. The sky is partly cloudy; a gentle breeze adds the finishing touch. Heavenly.
We think it’s about time. It’s been 3 weeks since we’ve been able to make a recreational fire. A few times we’ve had to take care of other obligations but mostly it’s been rain that has kept us out of the Plaza.
It seems like it has rained more than is usual for early summer this year. That’s probably a good thing but it would be nice if the rain would disperse its blessings on evenings that didn’t coincide with our meeting nights. Hmmm…..
As we roll up to unload all the stuff from our vehicles we find that Spiritual Man is sitting on a bench waiting for us. We exchange greetings and he comments “I was hoping you guys were gonna show up tonight”. He helps us with getting things set up. He’s been in attendance at so many of our fires these past few years that no one has to explain anything; he knows the routine.
The Fire Magician gets a small fire going; we don’t have to worry about keeping warm. Even so, a fire makes it easier for everyone to remain focused and calm.
Once we are settled, Spiritual Man asks, “So what have you been up to since I’ve last seen you?” An Occupier answers, “Well, we went to the Juneteenth Celebration a couple of Saturdays ago but mostly we’ve had to attend meetings with City officials, NGO types and church people. Our new mayor campaigned on making our city work for everyone.
“She talked really big about improving the lives of Duluth citizens who are in poverty. So now we’re attempting to hold her feet to the fire, remind her of her promises and ask what she’s actually gonna do.
“It’s very frustrating because most of the so called ‘Good Samaritans’ seem to live on another planet. The needs of many street people are right now, immediate needs but the people in power have never been homeless so they have no sense of urgency.
“They talk about eventually finding funding for their ideas, forming groups with catchy names to have more meetings, statistics blah, blah, blah. Most of them are being paid by the government or a foundation or something to do whatever it is that they actually do.
“I’m not sure Occupiers are gonna get anything concrete and positive from all these meetings. We mainly go so we can keep an eye on what they’re doing and to let them know we are watching.
“Some of the people who are immersed in all this stuff really hate Occupy but most seem sort of in awe of us. That is so stupid! At a meeting I was at a few days ago, someone said to me, in front of the entire group, ‘Wow, you’re really out in the actual street working with those people. You are truly a grassroots organizer.’
“I responded, ‘Well no, I’m not organizing anything. I just hang out with folks’. I don’t think anyone understood what I was trying to say.”
A middle aged Native man who has occasionally attended our fires crosses the street and comes over. He is accompanied by a woman we haven’t met and he’s carrying a big stuffed Papa Smurf toy.
We all look at him quizzically; he says, “I supposed you’ve noticed that the annual carnival rides and games company is in town. One of my buddies is working a game booth. We were down there earlier and he said to me, ‘Hey man, no one is coming to my booth. Why don’t you take a chance maybe that will encourage others to play?’
“So I spent $20 throwing balls at stacks of milk cans and I won this Papa Smurf”. He nods towards his woman friend and continues, “She’s not interested in having it so I don’t know what to do with it”. We all laugh. No one in the fire circle is particularly interested in taking it off his hands.
One of the Occupiers rides up on his bike. He’s brought lots of hotdogs and all the fixins. We throw a few logs on the fire so we can get some good coals for cooking them.
Spiritual Man inquires, “So when you guys go to all these meetings, what do the people talk about?” An Occupier replies, “Loaves N Fishes along with others have been working on writing a Homeless Bill of Rights to be brought before the City Council to be approved and made into a City Ordinance.
“If that ever actually happens it would insure that homeless folks have the right to rest, the right to use of bathroom facilities, the right to sleep and stuff like that. A City Ordinance would prevent the cops from hassling innocent homeless folks who are just trying to exist.
“We also keep pushing the need for more low income housing. So far, the mayor and the City Councilors tell us there are no funding sources available to create more low income housing. Developers aren’t interested in building low income housing because they don’t make much of a profit. The government isn’t doing much in that area these days either. It seems like a lot of people feel that we got the Steve O’Neil apartments last year so we shouldn’t be asking for more.
“The O’Neil apartments are great but we still have hundreds of people in this city that have nowhere to live. We’re just gonna keep pushing for more”.
The regular street guy who is mute arrives. He might be deaf too and can read lips. We’re not sure. We exchange mutual hand waves and he sits down.
The woman with the animal menagerie rides up on her bike. Our friend the city official and the Occupier who lives in Superior follow shortly. It’s a good thing too because the hotdogs are now cooked and ready to be eaten. Everyone chows down.
A young homeless couple who generally help out at the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sales stop in. They are both trying very hard to refrain from drinking. He has been sober for a whole month. She’s been sober for 2 weeks. He tells us that their main obstacle to staying sober is finding something to do with their time. We know this is a major problem for many street folks.
Many seagulls are up in the air and circling our fire; they’re hoping we will drop some food on the ground. An Occupier calls out to them, “Go away! You’re supposed to be out on the lake diving for fish”.
People in the circle start trying to make seagull calls; their attempts leave much to be desired. The woman with the animal menagerie gives it a try and she nails it. She sounds just like a seagull.
As per usual, it’s well past 9pm when we finally notice the time. Everyone helps to pack up and we say, “If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be back here on Tuesday.