Sep 01 2005

Basin Street Blues

Posted by J. Craig Canada in church groups, cleanliness, shelter

Hurricane Katrina landed at Gulfport a couple of days ago. New Orleans is mostly underwater with the levees breaking and millions homeless. Biloxi and Mobile also were devastated.

The news reports 25,000 in a hot, stinking, superdome with no food or water…or anything. Dead people lying in the streets, and fury at the government that these people were left there with nothing.

I continue to sleep on church floors, with most of my day spent waiting for a place to sleep. My day ends at 1 pm…and from then till 7-8 in the morning, there’s not a whole lot I can do – without breaking the law. Camping is illegal in Santa Cruz, as well as covering using a blanket in public. Lately, getting up at 5 am to be at the Homeless Services (it’s NOT a shelter) to sit there for an hour to wait for them to open is particularly infuriating. And having to sit outside in the cold as the fog comes in…

…we can’t even play a game of cards indoors between 5pm and 10 pm (at the church) because someone will complain it’s too much noise.

I was woken an hour early this morning, and gave up trying to sleep at 4:30 am because this new person everyone seems to think looks like Mikey Rooney was packing their stuff up, and making enough noise to keep me awake. And another new person was snooring like a chain saw. So, I essentially woke up at 4 this morning to be ready to get on the bus at 6 to take us from the church to the Homesless Services (it’s NOT a shelter) where we must wait at least an hour for them to open the toilets, showers, and locker bay.

They don’t serve food for another hour, beginning FIVE MINUTES after the city bus leaves, which means unless you have a bicycle or walk it is 9 am before you can leave the Homeless Services (It’s NOT a shelter) center.

I spend most of my computer time playing Sim City. I can’t work on my geneology in this environment. Nor write.

In almost every way this is worse than being in jail. The complete and total lack of privacy….

…being constantly forced to associated with criminals, drug addicts and psychotics.

There are people that have been homeless for years, and while it is tragic and sad, they provide the core of a homeless commmunity, and a measure of safety and stability that would not be there otherwise. It appears to me the homeless here are about equal parts junkies, criminals, and mental problems. A small number, maybe 10% are people just down on their luck. But not only is this faction increasing rapidly in size, but also in the relative affluence of its constiuents.

Whoever heard of homeless people with cell phones and jobs? Well, it’s not that uncommon here, and it’s getting worse rapidly.

There will be a WAMMFest this weekend in San Lorenzo Park and hopefully I can meet some of the local activists, though I’m beginning to think there’s nothing I’m ever going to be able to do here.

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