The reason a comment section is often left blank is when it comes to describing tragedy, words fail
Can we be serious for once?
It’s difficult. This would be me writing the Gettysburg Address: Four score and seven years ago I was in high school. I’ve only scored four times since the Roaring Twenties. That was some numeration humor. You’re welcome.
The first time I ever wrote anything serious in Real Change, a rumor started that I’d died. When I showed up alive and well, people cried.
Yesterday the Seattle City Council had a hearing inviting public comments on Mayor Mike McGinn’s 2014 budget. Cards were circulated around the Real Change office, with spaces for written comments, to be signed and delivered to the city council at the hearing.
The cards called for support for the mayor’s budget to extend day and hygiene services, continue overnight shelter for men and women, fund shelter for families and preserve outreach to the mentally ill and homeless.
I signed the card but let the blank space for comments remain blank. I honestly couldn’t think of anything in that moment to put there except for a discourse on the teleportation of emus, or praise for metal zippers (much more satisfying than Velcro, I’m sure all agree) or a recipe for dog biscuits. I face such quandaries every day. I know such things are inappropriate, but sometimes I need a lot of time to clear my head.
I mean, really, what more can you say? That’s what goes through my mind in the first instant. Of course more shelter is needed, there are too many without it. Of course we need more day services and hygiene services. Existing day services and hygiene services are overcrowded. Who doesn’t know that by now? Who, aside from the pathologically ignorant, doesn’t know outreach to the mentally ill is crucial?
So then, after that first instant, come the thoughts of teleporting emus, zippers, and dog biscuit a la crema. This is why I don’t favor talking off the cuff in public. People like me should be allowed time to vegetate and ponder, for the sake of the world and everyone within range.
Well, I’ve done the vegetating and the pondering, and now I’m feeling ready to finish the card, now that the hearing has come and gone. Let’s see if I can stay serious from here on out.
People are dying out there. I don’t want to say throw money at them, but there is no way people are going to get off the streets unless we provide adequate shelter. The usual refrain of “what they really need is permanent housing” doesn’t fly if you are going to make them sleep out night after night until you get around to building it. People die out there, and if any one of them doesn’t die this very night, they lose a day of their lives to the stress and hardship.
It gets tiresome, year after year, having to educate people to these simple truths. I am constantly hearing this one: “Shelters are just Band-Aid solutions.” Band-Aids are just Band-Aid solutions. When someone is bleeding do you say, “I’m not giving you a Band-Aid for that; it would just be a Band-Aid solution?” I don’t want to ever hear that line again. We need permanent housing, and we need shelter until we get it. Both.
Last week another Real Change vendor died. I have lost track this year of the number of our vendors who have died. Most of them die of illnesses. Any one of them might have died when they did, even if they had not been previously homeless. But the numbers of deaths tell me that homelessness and lack of consistent health care and hygiene services have to be taken seriously as factors. We know that lives are shortened by these hardships.
I want to live in a city in which such suffering is not taken for granted. I’m tired of hearing that another of our vendors has died and realizing that I am not surprised. I’m supposed to be surprised.
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