Angels Among Us....
This post was originally written in March 2006 and posted on Watergate Summer, I was living in the heart of downtown Cleveland with my son in an urban loft that we rented. ( Months later after I wrote this, it would be foreclosed and I would be scrambling in the snow and ice to find a place to live).While living downtown I took photos of the homeless, listened to their stories and brought them sandwiches and water.They were my neighbors.While living downtown Mr.Bush would come to town and whiz through in his motorcades and the town would be sectioned off so he could travel fast and not have to see the pain down in the city. This week a study was released by Forbes Magazine, and it stated that Cleveland was at the top of the list for Dying Cities. And in the past two years the Downtown region has become more desolate and desperate. More than half of the Downtown Homeless here (approximately 10,000 of the 5.1 Million in this Country) are VETS from either the Gulf War or Iraq. They have PTSD, and yes, it is obvious. I read Poetryman's posts on Iraq and realized how the two problems are so interwoven, the War, it's Broken Shredded Victims coming home to Broken Cities that cannot care for them.
You came to Cleveland this week to give a speech at the City Club to the Elite and Well healed. No GOP Dignitaries arrived at the airport , or even introduced you at your Luncheon. You proceeded to drive the podium once again intoxicated with yourself. But you took a Intricate Route to your event so you would not have to see the Shredded Streets or the People of the Broken Hearted Inner City. You didn't take the time to see the Real People of Cleveland. The Real People were not standing with your handful of supporters. The Homeless and Disenfranchised of this City should not be blurred as you speed by in your motorcade. They have names and faces and stories. And your "Leadership" is killing them. In my mind they are not Invisible, they are Angels among us, teaching us what we need to Embrace and Remember, and hold dear as part of We The People.
I live in the heart of Downtown Cleveland. My Son wanted Urban, he wanted Gritty, he wanted to live in the Old Section of the City. We have lived here almost a year it as comfortable as old shoes now. Yet there are parts of it that still tug at my heart. Last summer I decided that I wanted to make a documentary about the Homeless Here. Supposedly there are 10,000 that live in downtown Cleveland, and maybe as many as 3000 of that Downtown Number are Homeless. Last summer I met a fair number of Homeless because I walk my dog 5 times a day. ( Earlier I wrote a post about Robert a homeless VET). But over time I have realized not all of them want to be filmed, if I can get them to talk and make eye contact, it is a gift. Over time I take the time to learn their stories.
I met Iris last summer. I met her because she was taping her glasses together. She is Jamacian and in her 50's. She has training as a nursing assistant. She is a mother and a grandmother. She has been on the streets since last June. She left an abusive drinking husband, " Very bad Man". She talks about him quietly, and with such dignity. She had to leave, she said he would kill her if she stayed. I have hardly seen her during the winter. But I saw her about a week ago, as the crocuses appeared. She sits on a bench in front of the University in the evenings. We spoke and she admitted that she is going to take the bus and go find her sister in Florida.. ( Since I have been here I have ended up giving money to people to leave, take a Bus Somewhere, Anywhere.)
I asked her is she had a place to go at nights. " I go where I can be safe. One of these nights I may join the Angels".
She states it so factually, there is not emotion , no tears.
So Mr.Bush I have to ask, why should this fine woman be on the Streets? Why should she suffer? Do you care that she is one of the Grate People that might freeze to death? When you left downtown Cleveland did you see people staking out the Grates downtown with their blankets and bags?
Mr.Bush,Did you see the Metal Men with their grocery carts driving about the city, peeling copper plating and spouts off buildings? Did you see their clothes, rags held together with rope and duct tape? Did you see their raw hands and bloody knuckles. Do you understand the desperation that makes them search dumpsters for Metal ?
JAMES & DENISE:
The Night you came I saw James and Denise in Front of the closest Pizza parlor. I have given them money , when I have it.
I feel guilty getting my small pizza on Fridays in front of them. I always feel guilty getting such a luxorious item in front of them. So I give them some dollars and I always get them muffins and drinks if I see them on my way in to pick up the Pizza.
They have been together for a long time. Denise has MS, and James is a VET with PTSD. I give them some money, but I can't give them a Home, or Shelter, and I can't get them off the Street. And it tugs at my heart that my street is FULL of Empty Buildings and yet people are sleeping on benches and under bushes and on the Grates.
(I have wondered if Mr.Bush thinks that they are only in Certain Cities, he should look out his window, and he would see they are everywhere, even by the White house.)
So Mr.Bush, do you have a conscience? Because you gave your delusional speech, but I know that you don't Know We The People.And I know that they are the Invisible and I worry that they are as Iris said Merely Angels Among us.
Maybe we need to remind Mr.Bush that This is Still Written on the Placard, a Poem by Emma Lazurus on Ellis Island that 13 Million people read as they arrived to these shores.To this day when we look at Lady Liberty, the Beautiful Statue that she is, these are the Words We All hear....
"Give us your Tired,
Your Poor, Huddled masses,
Yearning to breathe free.
The Wretched refuse teaming to your shore,
Send these the Homeless,
The Tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my Lamp beside the Golden Door."
Natalie Merchant sings "Break Your Heart"