G.A. Minutes 11-20-18

G.A. Minutes 11-20-18

A couple of Occupiers and a couple of Anons arrive together for our meeting at Coney Island this evening. Last week the weather was cold; tonight the temperature is about the same. Last week a slight dusting of snow covered everything outdoors; tonight there are 3 or 4 inches of snow in place of the dusting. We suppose that’s good for the hunters and skiers but for us it just makes driving or walking up and down the side streets a death defying experience.

The next group of folks to roll up are the Stylish Native Woman and her partner, the veteran homeless guy with the deep voice and his girlfriend and the long time homeless woman known on the street as Fox. We think this is great because every year we tell all the homeless and/or street people where we’ll be during the winter months and invite them to join us. It appears that some have finally taken us up on our offer. We ask them if they’re hungry but all have just come from eating dinner at the Mission. We pour them cups of the very boring coffee that is a staple here at the restaurant.

An Occupier says to the Stylish Woman, “So if you’re just coming back from the Mission, I guess that means you’ve been allowed to go back in there?” The Stylish Woman replies, “Yes it does; we’ve also been allowed back into CHUM. This past week was so incredibly stressful and none of it made any sense. We had to sleep outside for almost a week which was close to impossible; it was just too cold to be able to sleep. One night, a woman with mental health issues, who is a regular at CHUM came in drunk. They threw her out in the street; I don’t understand how they can throw women out especially at night when they know the woman has nowhere else to go. We let her sleep with us that night, hoping she could at least get some body heat.

I don’t understand how they could throw me out, at my age with my health problems. They know me too; I never cause any problems but I imagine they don’t like it when I stand up for my partner when he’s being treated unjustly. Anyway, we tried to talk with the CHUM staff to find out why we’d been kicked out but we could not get an answer. Then one day KBJR 6 showed up with a bunch of cameras and were trying to interview the staff and the residents of CHUM. They were asking about the fact that once the temperatures fall below freezing, homeless shelters are supposed to let everyone in, at least for the night. The staff said to the cameras that yes, they did allow everyone to stay there when it was very cold. A staff member came and told us that we were going to be allowed to stay at CHUM again. When we asked the lead staff person why we had been kicked out in the first place he told us that someone had reported we were shooting heroin and smoking marijuana in the bathroom”.

We say, “WHAT!?!!” An Occupier opines, “I wouldn’t think you even know how to shoot heroin”. The Native Woman answers, “That’s true, I don’t”. Her partner adds, “I’ve seen it done and I suppose if I had ever wanted to do it I could have but since I had my fingers amputated last winter, I doubt I’d be able do it now”.

Another Occupier explains. “I’ve been watching the goings on at CHUM from a distance for 5 or 6 years now. While they are certainly to be commended for even trying to do what they do, I’ve seen that some of their workers don’t treat the clientele fairly. They will throw one person out for “bad behavior” while allowing another person to display the same behavior without suffering any consequence at all. Management seems to back all accusations by the staff no matter what; I think they need more thorough staff training or maybe to only hire staff who are decent human beings”.

We all laugh. An Anon remarks, “Do you think there’s a test for that?” An Occupier continues, “I know that they hire their workers from the people who have been residents of CHUM and then “gotten their lives together” so one would think those workers would still remember what being homeless was like”. An Anon hypothesizes, “Sometimes when a person, who has never had power before is given some power, they might not know how to handle it at first”.

The Stylish Woman tells us, “Yeah, that’s kinda how it is; one worker tells you one thing and another worker tells you the opposite”. We know that, like many others, the Stylish Native Woman and her partner fight for bare survival every. single. day.

The girlfriend of the man with the very deep voice reports, “In just 3 more days I’m getting my apartment! I can hardly wait!” We congratulate her while realizing that the girlfriend being given an apartment is going to bring changes to their relationship. For a variety of reasons, that we don’t know about and don’t really want to know about either, the Housing Authority is not gonna let Mr Deep Voice live with his girlfriend. Still, we hope everything works out well for them.

Ms Fox gets a phone call and calls out to everyone, “Does anybody have $3 they can loan me for a bit?” An Occupier gives her the money and Ms Fox says to her phone, “Call my sister and tell her that I’m on my way and I have $3”. Off she goes.

The city official rolls in. After settling in, he asks an Occupier, “Are you and others from the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition still planning on showing up at the Duluth Transit Authority’s board meeting this month?” The Occupier responds, “Yup, I haven’t figured out what I’m gonna say yet but I’m planning on being there”. The official man advises, “Remember, the DTA is not connected to city government, it’s a privately owned service”. The Occupier smiles, “Oh, I didn’t know that; it changes my perspective somewhat. It wasn’t looking like I was gonna have much time to do research before the meeting so thank you for that information”.

The city man comments to another Occupier, “Hey, thanks for coming to the first public recording session of my radio show, what did you think?” The Occupier replies, “There were a lot of good ideas put out there, I just wish it had been longer”. Another Occupier confides, “During the question and answer session I had a question but I didn’t ask it because I didn’t want to disrespect you or cause a ruckus”. The city man answers, “Wow, what was it that you wanted to ask?” The Occupier tells him, “Well, it would have gone something like this….. Given that the Duluth school system has been recently discovered to have taken considerable federal funds that were specifically intended to be given to schools of mainly low income students and giving most of these funds to schools of mainly high and middle-income students. And, given that this misappropriation of funds has been going on for a long time. Under the administration of the current school board, can we really have hope of implementing any of the excellent programs and goals spoken about here tonight?” The official man exclaims, “Oh, you definitely should have asked that question! That’s exactly the type of thing we want to hear from the general public. The Occupier laughs, “I’ll remember that next time”.

A few Water Protectors arrive; they’ve had a stressful day. Their dog got lost for almost 24 hours. The young canine had recently met a new friend who was older and had been around the woods a few times. They went off chasing a rabbit and then couldn’t quite remember where it was that they started from. The dogs were in the general vicinity and with the help of neighbors and looking all night and day the dogs were found just before the group was scheduled to come and hang with us. A WP reports, “The poor things were freezing, dehydrated and had to be carried at first. We were so relieved to find them”.

After everyone is settled, an Occupier inquires of a WP, “Do you know the story of Chief Buffalo and his treaty land that sits under most of what is now downtown Duluth?” The WP responds, “No I don’t. I’m not Anishinaabe but I’m always interested in good information”. The Occupier explains, “During the process of making the Treaty of 1854, Chief Buffalo was given the right to reserve a parcel of land from the ceded territories that he would like to keep for himself and for his choice of members who had done special service for the tribe. A large part of the land that he chose is where the City of Duluth is now situated. This is written right into the treaty in the section that establishes the other reservations in Minnesota and Wisconsin”. Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, there’s this thing called the Ethnographic Study. The Duluth Indigenous Commission received a grant and hired a way cool professor dude from UMD to interview the elders and search historical records. He made the Ethnographic Study; I could make you a copy. You would have enough reading to take up your spare time for months. It’s a very interesting, true story. It turns into a sordid tale after Chief Buffalo dies just before the War Between the States, and in the ensuing confusion, his white son-in-law claims and then fraudulently sells the land, even though the treaty specifically states that the Government will prevent these lands from ever being sold”.

The smokers go out for a smoke and while they are doing so, the rest of the crew comes out too. They are carrying everyone’s packs and other accouterments. One of the non-smokers reports, “They’ve started their winter hours; they now close at 8 pm”. We say, “Oh, we didn’t know that”. As everyone is fixin’ to leave, someone calls out, “Is anyone going to the DECC on Thursday?” She doesn’t get an answer. It seems folks still haven’t decided whether to sit quietly and eat turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing or to observe a day of mourning related to all the lies we’ve been told.

Anyway, we expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.