G.A. Minutes 10-8-16
At this time of year the weather gets cooler each day. There are more yellow leaves this evening than there were at our last meeting four days ago. Tonight temperatures are in the mid-40s, the sky is partly cloudy and we can see the bright pink traces of the sunset over the tops of the buildings. A strong east wind has been blowing all day; it looks like it might be settling down a bit now.
We are at People’s Plaza again. We notice that all the big potted trees and all the benches have been moved to the back of the large space. It must have been done by hand because there are deep scratch marks across the brickwork.
We’re wearing our layered clothing upon arrival. We need to keep moving in order to be comfortable so we set everything up real quick.
An Occupier has brought a warm blanket with him in case anyone stuck outside for the night might need one. Another Occupier spots someone sleeping on one of the back benches. The person has no covers so she thinks they may be a good candidate for the blanket.
An Occupier couple rides up on their bikes. They’re wearing layers too. The multi-racial couple calls out to us as they come up the stairs; they’ve brought their same two friends along.
They’re all staying at the CHUM center while trying to refrain from drinking or doing drugs. That’s a hard thing to do seeing as many folks who stay at CHUM are regular users. They plan to make our fires a regular respite from the craziness of the street.
The couple has good news to report. They’ve finally been accepted for an apartment. It’s in a big public housing building; they don’t exactly know when they’ll be allowed to move in but the male has signed all the paperwork and passed all the tests. It won’t be long before they have a home again so of course, they’re very excited.
The Fire Magician gets the fire blazing and we pull our chairs up close. Sitting next to the roaring fire takes the chill off; everyone feels comfortable now.
The 40 something veteran homeless man who camps out year around sits down. He’s in a talkative mood tonight.
The city official cruises up. He tells us that today he attended the funeral of the young man who was found dead last week shortly after being refused hospital admission during a mental health crisis. Apparently the poor guy crawled up under a metal canapé over the train yard to get out of the wind. He fell off, hit his head and died. Bummer. We lose a lot of homeless folks every year to accidents related to not having a home.
The person sleeping on the back bench gets up and walks over. We see that it’s one of the chronically homeless men who have attended our fires over the years. He looks like he’s still pretty groggy; he quietly gets some coffee and sits down.
A group of middle class looking people come walking down the sidewalk along the freeway. They stop to look over the railing at us. As they leave, one of them comments, “Well it’s better than being at the CHUM center”.
The homeless folks help us carry some of the heavy benches back to the fire area where they belong. We have many people at our fire and everyone needs a seat.
Someone starts a conversation about the huge blizzard in Duluth on Halloween of 1992. Most everyone was living in the area then. We tell stories about our personal experiences during that time.
An Occupier who worked in healthcare talks about crawling on her stomach to the main road where she was picked up by the National Guard and driven to her workplace. When her shift was over, the police took her home on a snowmobile. She says, “That situation went on for 3 days. The Director of Nurses lived less than 3 blocks away from the facility but she didn’t show up during that whole time. My staff and I just ran the whole place without a problem. When the crisis was over and the Director came back, she bought us all a couple of Domino’s pizzas. Wow. A couple hundred bucks on our paychecks would have been more appropriate”.
A thin, familiar looking, middle aged woman appears. She asks us if we have seen her children. She says they are both in their early 30s. As we talk more we realize she is talking about the young veteran homeless man who attended our fires last spring. We really like him but haven’t seen him since then. We’ve heard that he’s addicted to some type of seriously dangerous drug.
The multi-racial couple believes they know where she might find her children at this time of night. The female of the couple offers to accompany the mother to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial area and help her find her kids. The male of the couple states, “If you’re going to CJMM, I’m going with you”. The female rolls her eyes and off they all go.
The male of the couple returns shortly. He takes his seat and tells us, “Me and my partner have been together for 3 years now. She used to be a heavy drinker and really wild but I’m helping her and she’s slowly getting herself together. We’ve been through a lot but we’ve managed to stay a couple.
“This apartment that we’re getting is actually in my name. She would never be able to rent an apartment on her own; she has a really bad rental history record. My record is clean. I really want to keep this apartment so I’ve told her there can be no drinking or partying in it. If she does that then she won’t be able to live with me. Right now, we’re living off my income only and I don’t want to mess that up”.
There is at least a 15 year age difference between the 2 partners. An Occupier attempts to reassure the male, “She will probably improve as she ages”. The male agrees.
The female of the couple returns. She remarks, “See, I told you that I’d come back. You don’t give me enough credit. I managed to connect the mother with her daughter. The daughter looked really messed up. Her mom seems really nice. I hope the daughter listens to her mother”.
A young rather bedraggled looking guy stands outside the circle. He needs to borrow someone’s phone so he can ask for a ride home. An Occupier loans him a phone. He calls his mom with a story that he got kicked off the bus. His mom starts yelling so he calls someone else. Eventually he finds someone who’s willing to come and pick him up.
After the bedraggled guy leaves, an Occupier informs us, “That’s the junkie guy who came to the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sale yesterday. He was asking for a free taco. I gave him a friendly lecture and then bought him one. I don’t think he even recognized me tonight”.
Homeless folks generally need to find a place to sleep fairly early. They need to wake up around 5 or 6pm in order to be out of sight before the job slaves arrive.
All the visitors have gone; it’s only Occupiers around the fire now. One of them talks about a meeting he will attend soon. He has several children who are still in school. The meeting will address the question of how to teach Native American studies within the school system.
The Occupier opines, “I hope they’re prepared to teach the real history. Like how they stole our land and murdered as many of us as they could”. Another Occupier adds, “I hope they teach about the boarding schools and about the physical and psychological torture that was inflicted on Native Americans and about the historical trauma and dysfunction that continues today”. The first Occupier states, “Well, I’m going to be at that meeting to let them hear what I have to say”.
An Occupier changes the subject, he says, “So what’s going on this week?” Another answers, “The official City celebration of Indigenous People’s Day is going to happen Monday, October 10th at 11am on the steps of City Hall. We need to have as many regular people as possible present. We don’t want the mayor and the rest of those City types to start thinking IPD is something that they thought up”. Also, the Sobriety Feast will be on Wednesday, October 12th6:30pm at the Central Hillside Community Center. Everyone is welcome to attend”.
The big clock strikes 9pm. That means it’s time to go. If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be back at People’s Plaza on Tuesday.