I posted this on Facebook yesterday:
Sunshine was sleeping in her tent in Gresham. The night before, someone had tried to steal her and her camp-mates possessions to get them to move. Two days ago they decided to light her tent on fire.
Sunshine is now in the he hospital with severe burns.
I just met Sunshine last month. Nice, happy gal, like her name. She's probably okay. She got into a hospital with one of the best burn centers in the country. It's possible, but not likely, that a social worker at the hospital will go to bat for her and get her housing, or at least some help.
The response to this post was pretty strong. People were just shocked, stunned that this could happen to anyone. But the more the outrage grew, the more depressed I became.
Honestly, this is everyday stuff.
Every time we hear about a "homeless sweep" what that means is that a government agency steals the homeless folks possessions, and takes them to an undisclosed location, unavailable to get to by bus. To get their possessions back, the homeless person has to show their ID, which was probably taken with the rest of their possessions, so their items are gone. Now they have to somehow get a sleeping bag, a tent and a tarp or else they will be cold and wet that night. In threat of dying, because hypothermia can set in at 40 degrees. And you can't get into a hospital due to threat of hypothermia.
I don't know why I'm depressed. I mean, we are getting some kind of response, right?
Maybe I'm depressed because I've been carrying this horror upon a whole group of our society for so long, and just now people are waking up to it.
Maybe I'm depressed because I asked for money to help us get tarps and tents and sleeping bags, and just a very little trickled in. Sunshine will need a tent. And those who shared her tent. But so does Amber and Chuck and Jay and so many others. It's pouring down rain and getting colder every day.
Maybe I'm depressed because its so hard to watch my friends come to me, shaking in fear or in fury because of the injustices they have to face daily, from the police officer that gives an exclusion from his city to a disabled elderly woman and her son who assists her, to the neighbor who shouts threats at homeless people every day.
Maybe I'm depressed because the more than 20 years have come full circle. One of the earliest homeless men we met was Toby, who slept on a couch in a nearby park.One day some kids got into an argument with him because he stopped them from participating in something illegal in the park. So they came that night and while he was asleep, set his couch on fire. He ended up so severely burned that he is permanently in adult foster care. When I visited him, he couldn't walk, could barely speak, he couldn't feed himself. Setting homeless people on fire seems like the worst insult, the gravest sign of dehumanization. What happened to Sunshine reminds me of this.
But probably the real reason I'm depressed is because the response to the attack on Sunshine's camp is pretty weak. Lots of sympathy, lots of responses of horror. Some anger at the government or the police, although they had nothing to do with it. Some money so Sunshine can get herself another tent.
But the real response should be to meet a group of homeless people, find one you can relate to and feel safe around and move them into your house. This is the only way to prevent such tragedies, such horrors. The homeless are the most vulnerable population. African Americans are vulnerable, but African American homeless have it worse. The mentally ill are vulnerable, but the mentally ill on the street are a hundred percent more so. Transsexual folks are extremely vulnerable, but so much more on the street.
If the government actually helps, it will be a small amount and after a long time, and only if a new administration doesn't take the help away. We need to stop sucking the tit of a mother who isn't interested in giving. The only way to stop these daily tragedies is to take it in our hands to welcome one person into our homes, and help them out. It only takes some of us. Why can't it be us?
I know the issues: "We have a family. I'm a single woman and I don't feel safe." Then why don't you bring in a small family, or a single woman into your house whom you feel safe with? These excuses are simply the prejudices against the homeless coming out, the assumption that they all use drugs, that they are violent, that they are scary.
You know what's really scary? Sleeping in a thin tent to protect yourself from the rain, knowing that there is a policeman or a neighbor who hates you-- hates!-- and will do almost anything to get rid of you. This is the reality for millions tonight. You don't have to help millions. Just one.