Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Memorial For Our Brothers and Sisters At Potters Fields

If the people who are panhandling , or sleeping on subway grates, or wandering on public transit near you are inconvenient, meaningless, depressing and not fully people for you to relate to while they are alive...maybe in death their lives will become real?

Today was Chicago's 24th Annual Memorial Service for Indigent Persons buried in Potters Fields. Most major cities have annual memorial services for the lost homeless who are often buried by civil servants from municipal offices. If you don't want to pay respects to a homeless person by getting to know them, volunteering, or giving them money or food...consider going to their funeral service.

Gerald Blake Hankerson represented the Islamic community and gave a very good reading. I asked each of the speakers if they were going to post their work online, because they gave very moving eulogies and memorials. Mr. Hankerson said he would try next week.

From left to right, Keynote Address by Rev. Dr. Martha L. Scott, at The Euclid Avenue Methodist Church, Satchitananda Dasa (from Temple in Rogers Park)...I surprised him and his wife, in photo, by sharing some Sanskrit with them, knowing his name means "truth consciousness and bliss" translated to English.

Above is a photo of soloist Henry Pleas. He sang two songs and his voice is absolutely incredible. He sings at The Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church, in Oak Park.

I went with Jim and James from the Francescan Outreach Program.

The Memorial had many good speakers, and I was pretty much a wreck during Rev Martha Scott's speech. She listed some statistics among her thoughts...that 1/10th of the lost were Veterans, one third had been incarcerated at least once during their life, that homeless die about 20 years younger than the general average age of population, 1/10th had AIDS and/or Hepatitus, and there are over 600,000 homeless in the States.

In the United States, during the late 1970s, the deinstitutionalisation of patients from state psychiatric hospitals was a precipitating factor which seeded the homeless population, especially in urban areas such as New York City.
The Community Mental Health Act of 1963 was a pre-disposing factor in setting the stage for homelessness in the United States. Long term psychiatric patients were released from state hospitals into Single Room Occupancies and sent to community health centers for treatment and follow-up. It never quite worked out properly and this population largely was found living in the streets soon thereafter with no sustainable support system.

In 1980 federal dollars accounted for 22% of big city budgets, but by 1989 the same such aid composed only 6% of urban revenue (part of a larger 60% decrease in federal spending to support local governments). It is largely (although not exclusively) in these urban areas that homelessness became widespread and reached unprecedented numbers. Critics of President Ronald Reagan identify several main policy shifts as fundamental in the sharp rise of homelessness.
Most notable were cuts to federal low-income housing programs. In his first year of office, President Reagan halved the budget for public housing and Section 8 (the government's housing voucher subsidization program). Between the years of 1980 and 1989 HUD's budget authority was reduced from $74 billion to $19 billion. Such changes resulted in an inadequate supply of affordable housing to meet the growing demand of low-income populations. In 1970 there were 300,000 more low-cost rental units (6.5 million) than low-income renter households (6.2 million). By 1985 the number of low-cost units had fallen to 5.6 million, and the number of low-income renter households had grown to 8.9 million, a disparity of 3.3 million units
The 1980s also saw a continuing trend of deinstitutionalizing mental-health hospitals. It is believed that a large percentage of these released patients ended up in the homeless system.

The McKinney-Vento Act paved the way for service providers in the coming years. During the 1990s homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and other supportive services sprouted up in cities and towns across the nation. However, despite these efforts and the dramatic economic growth marked by this decade, homeless numbers remained stubbornly high. It became increasingly apparent that simply providing services to alleviate the symptoms of homelessness (i.e. shelter beds, hot meals, psychiatric counseling, etc.), although needed, were not successful at solving the root causes of homelessness. However, critics claim that Bill Clinton's 1996 welfare reforms increased the number of families entering homelessness. At any rate, policies set into motion in the 1980s were never adequately reversed during the Bush Senior or Clinton administrations; conditions, therefore, remained ripe for becoming homeless.

A READING OF THE NAMES was the foundation of today's annual memorial for Chicago's Indigent persons who had passed away this past year. Some of these people were Known only by God. If you click on the images below you will be able to read their names. How many homeless people in your town or neighborourhood do you know of their names? Why not go outside today and ask someone homeless their name? and give them a smile and a dollar. Make some sandwiches and take them to your main street and give them to a homeless person?

A reporter interviewed us briefly and he asked me "It was so depressing, is there any sense of hope?"

And I said, "You can't legislate people to become interested in each other, you can't force it. Hopefully, if every person had a shift in their spirit or philosophy and just helped one other person then maybe...but it has to be a personal journey and response. Hope isn't found in religion or politics, the only hope I see for any of this life is a personal response within our minds and philosophies."


Bloggerboy FFM said...

That was a deeply moving post Candy. Thanks.

Gardenia said...

This post left a feeling in my stomach like I had been kicked, and I think I needed "kicked."

Kicked to some kind of action of some sort.

I'll never forget a made for TV movie that starred Lucille Ball - a line from the movie "We are all two paychecks from the streets." I believe that is true for many of us. If nothing else, we should realize we are not above the person begging at the intersection.

Our agency employed "Workforce" women - the struggles I saw to keep themselves and kids off the streets was so sad - and even though they had beds, many kids were essentially on the streets because of being "latchkey" kids.

I think 600,000 might be a very, very low estimate. Since Ivan, Katrina, our city has been deluged with homeless. New Orleans and our city both have small "cities" of homeless. This is appalling in a country who is sending so much money OUT of the country.

A church offered to build a shelter on public land and run it for homeless shelter, feeding, and assistance to get back on their feet - and the city turned them down because of "mixing church and state." What a cop-out.

I wish the President was reading your post right now.

In the meantime, we need to find ways in which we can do something!

The dumping of the mentally ill into the streets was reprehensible - also I have seen placements into the elderly population - and mixing certain mental illnesses into the elderly population puts the elderlies at risk.

Then there is a turn-key system - go to jail for being a public nuisance - get out, get sick, be round lying on the sidewalk, go back to jail -

The hospitals make it clear they do not want the homeless because if they are very sick, they can't be released unless it is to someone or somewhere with proper shelter and food - - - it costs a lot of money to hire social workers to process the indigent...
This is a problem people prefer to not see.

Excellent post.

tweetey30 said...

You know on our way to see you at Applebee's we saw two men out with signs "will work for food". It hit home where we were compared to Green Bay. You dont see that here ever. Or not that we have noticed. Its sad when people have to live on street corners. but again some choose to do so. Anyway thanks for sharing this with us and hope you have a wonderful weekend.