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All of Us Are One

Are We Done?

Are We Done?
by Ronnie Barbett

I think it’s time for me and the others receiving vital services from those organizations “dealing with the homeless situation” to say a thank you for all your time and effort. I do believe that a lot is being done in this city by the powers-that-be and each one of you dedicated to the well-being of those most unfortunate than you. I do make mistakes and I sometimes listen to other people who say if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. Too easy to misinterpret what’s going on. It’s obviously a misunderstanding, this gap in services. In this season from March to November, I’m sure someone will explain it to me/to us in detail what it’s all about.

Does a gap in service mean that “homeless issues” are in limbo, no money available. no services for awhile so homeless people are left to survive and make forward progress on their own? Suppose we all give up for the summer and wait for when our concerns are positively voted on. We’ve been through this before. I’m referring to what is being canceled out, not the many programs that are on-going and year-round by those funded organizations already in place.

You know, there’s the housing organizations with no available housing and 120 people stuck on a waiting list. The Salvation Army, the YMCA, whose systems are constantly overflowed, or even the prestigious Porchlight mens’ shelter system with its strict rules and policies that will convince even the most neediest homeless person to reconsider even going into into its humiliating, unsafe, too small, understaffed facility, homeless people disappointed in what’s available at this moment in time are helpless…no, I take that back! The more experienced ones – you know, the ones that didn’t need a city organization’s assistance from being tired of “running around” – became street smart. By word of mouth, the homeless developed survival tactics of their own.
However, the city itself did not approve of homeless people and their ways of survival. Homeless people resorted to hanging on to the convenient locations for survival. They could bum cigarettes, leftover bus passes that were still good, panhandle (a big no-no in this city), and get whatever came their way. The UW students, tourists, and the locals passing by would see them. Our backpacks and other belongings were everywhere that the city made off-limits. Attacks against the homeless situation manifested itself with the attitude that “we are undesirable.” No trespassing signs appeared everywhere all over this city. Some of the best spots to sleep at night (out of the wind and the rain) became a no-no. “No public restrooms” signs started popping up at once people-friendly establishments. Police calls became common for petty disturbances caused by us. It became hard for any lawyer to figure out if discrimination, racial profiling and negative stereotyping were occurring. No one cared anyway or so it seems.

Some people realized what was going on in this city. Homelessness was a reality and it was escalating. Everyone one or two paychecks away from being homeless. Someone told me, I’m out-of-town to add Scott Walker to the equations, so why not. I don’t know really who’s to blame for so many homeless people sleeping at night around the square, off State Street, hiding around the James Madison Park, Law Park , Brittingham Park areas, and so on. By word of mouth, it is best to sleep near the park where water fountains and portable toilets are plentiful. How come there are no portable toilets around the square? I guess it’s because of the many bars, restaurants and businesses that are available, I don’t exactly know.

People don’t seem to realize that Madison is a very rich city to live in and suggesting that we, the homeless, go back where we belong is not the answer. The answer is to provide continuous services – jobs, housing, counseling – mixed with patience (putting up with our ways), understanding and perhaps a little compassion (you could be homeless next). Keeping us out on the streets is no answer. Help us get inside and on our feet, with a caring counselor to keep us going. I hear from some people experienced in the way that Madison operates that believe enough is being done from every angle. I know what you mean, don’t get me wrong. My point is this – ignore anything and everything mediocre that’s happening and focus on people first. When the issue of homelessness is minimized, then go ahead with your other projects of little worth, all it takes is a little more time and money. All organizational workers (working in a homeless related profession) that are tired, running out of good ideas, and/or believers that nothing else can be done…call the Wisconsin Department of Human Services and mention this old advertisement I saw:

“Moving Forward”
Caregiver Fatigue & Community Resources
Free UW Health Movement Disorders Series
3/12/13 at 6:30 PM
Crowne Plaza

Maybe the energy boost during a gap in services is what’s needed to better figure out out what to do with time.
The money must be found somewhere, and if it is hidden, remember people first. No insult intended. Just a suggestion.


About Operation Welcome Home

OWH is a group of homeless people in Madison, WI and their allies organizing around the root causes of homelessness- racism, poverty, and criminalization. We are fighting for housing, jobs, and an end to the criminalization of poverty.


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