Thursday, January 30, 2014

No Compassion In The Cold

                                -LARGE PHOTO BY MARK GIBSON/EDITS BY RUTH RADER-

[When asked what she thought of the Warming Place’s current practices, Rader said, “It’s true we’re not exactly mainstream members of the community, but we are all still human beings. And so I’m here, representing everybody, and I’m asking: How are we supposed to better ourselves if we don’t have access to a warm, safe place to sleep at night?]--From An Article In The Local Paper
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January 30, 2014: Mark Gibson strolled across the parking lot and snapped photos of me.
That was all fine and good...especially when he told me about when he spent some
days and nights living out of his car.

It is obvious that Mr. Gibson has the soul of a true photographer. I wonder how many people
initially realized that fact when he was batching it in his own vehicle?

Yeah, it's so easy to pack people up in a parcel of perception. But is our judgement about other
people always correct?

I know that some people have wings. But like angels, those wings aren't always visible to the
cynical eye. Those wings have the potential to carry people to many places in life.

It's sad when those precious wings are clipped by arrogance, skepticism, discrimination and
prejudice.

Yeah, that's such an absolute waste.

I sat on the picnic table by the Warming Space building, last night. The windows were dark...
the door was
locked and the pseudo-cheery "OPEN TONIGHT" Warming Space sign was nowhere to  be
seen.

But people were there: Some were young, some were old, some were tough and some were
mentally confused. They ran the gamut...just like folks in any group usually do.

But they all had one thing in common: THEY WERE ALL COLD!

As the evening grew later, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. One by one,
people walked up and rattled the handle on the Warming Space's locked door. And they all
asked one question: WHY IS THE WARMING SPACE CLOSED TONIGHT?

"Because" I answered, "Steve Schafroth doesn't care. His attitude is bent toward numbers
instead of our comfort-level and his crystal weather ball is flawed."

I asked Saint Schafroth, recently, to join some of us for a night outside...on the next night
that the Warming Space was closed. He declined.

We were so disappointed.

I spoke my peace at the City Council meeting, the other night. I am sure that everybody listened
to what I said.

And one of the Council members is doing his best to help me now. He really is.

But I want the whole City team to come down and talk my homies on the next night that the
Warming Space is closed. I want the City Council members to see and feel what it's like to shiver
in the cold and have nowhere to go.

I would like them to wrap-up in a damp blanket or walk the streets of this community...all night
long.

And I'd like Mark Gibson to take real, close-up and honest photographs of everybody...lots of them.
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January 25, 2014: AN OPEN LETTER OF RESPONSE TO THOSE WHO CHOOSE WHEN WE CAN COME IN FROM THE COLD:

I have something more to say and I am going to say it now...or write it, as this case requires.

I am proud to say that I have no understanding of your mindset. And now that others are beginning to learn what is really happening down at that building on 3rd Street...others most likely won't understand it, either. I am betting on that and I bet that I'm right.

You have never walked in our shoes. We have been  referred to as "those homeless people" and I am not surprised. Not at all.

It is so easy for you to regulate and leave us to shiver in our own skins...from darkness until the cold, gray dawn...for nights on end. You don't feel what we feel. But the cold that we feel is nothing compared to the deep freeze that your hearts are in, right now.

It made me warm-up fast when someone told me something different, last night. I trust that he means every word.

We are not in this to satisfy an ego, stroke an attitude or allow you to callously waste that $2,000 grant allotment that's arriving soon.

We want to be indoors and warm, safe and dry...every night...throughout the Winter months in this community. We will do without the cocoa, the coffee, the snacks, the blankets and even the cots, if we can just come inside and stay warm.

That is what we want.

Last Saturday, I spoke with a member of your own organization who told me, straight and clear, that the Warming Space already has money set aside to cover operational expenses for an uninterrupted 30 day span of time. This same man also said that a list of volunteers is already in place, from now until the Warming Space service closes down in March.

I believe him. I have no reason not to. After all, the man took it upon himself to give me his name and then he shook my hand.

I am looking forward to resolving this situation very soon. And I wish to remind you that this does not have so much to do with your organization not being "cold-hearted" as it does with doing what is right. Period.

I am more than willing to work as a volunteer, a clean-up person, provide snacks with money out of my own pocket or work in any other reasonable capacity in order to keep the Warming Space (or another, similar endeavor) open on a consistent basis until the end of the Winter.

Please consider this letter in the manner that it is intended...respectfully.

Sincerely,
Ruth Rader

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January 25, 2014: The Mayor and his wife came to see us all at the Warming Space, last night. Yes, the Space finally opened up and let us come in from out of the cold.

                                            -PHOTO OF MAYOR AND WORKERS BY
                                             RUTH RADER-

The Mayor walked over and looked at me...as I sat (with my hat still on) on my favorite chair.

He smiled and we talked.

The man is building a plan. I think he sees what the problem is and is working on solving it.

Meetings are already set-up for next week.

Will the people in charge of the Warming Space, keep it open until then?

Stay tuned.
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                                            -PHOTO AND EDITS BY RUTH RADER-

January 23, 2014:

BURN DOWN THE MISSION!

I got a response from the Mayor, yesterday.

["I was contacted by (someone) at the library. I agree that there appears to be a problem and I would be willing to meet with you and (someone) at the library so we can look at resources."]

And so we met and sat around a heavy wooden table, on the second floor of the library, yesterday. We sat beside a long wall of glass that features a panoramic sweep of the city. It seemed fitting that we held our discussion in full view of the community that is for and against sheltering those on the street, during the cold Winter months.

The Mayor declared that he is not "a back burner kind of guy." He said that he realizes how important the situation is and gave me the impression that he will move quickly to try and resolve this issue.

But "quickly", in Mr. Mayor's terms...may mean weeks.

Those of us who are enduring many cold nights outdoors...really can't wait that long.

The temperature is going to be at least 33 degrees tonight with a chilly dew point. That is not going to keep anyone, who has to sit outside for hours and hours, one bit warm.

I'm getting more disgusted with the two-faced, lying, phony people that are still trying to get me to accept their bent way of thinking.

I keep considering what one man said to me, during a recent phone conversation: "Well, we don't want anyone to freeze to death but we don't want them to be too comfortable, either."

That statement came from one of the people who decides, every day, if it is "too warm" outdoors for us to stay inside the Warming Space.

So what is left to do at this point?

WHAT, INDEED...
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I am including two versions of the same song here because one of the videos has not been configured for play on a mobile device.






["You tell me there's an angel in your tree.
Did he say he'd come to call on me?
For things are getting desperate in our home,
Living in the parish of the restless folks I know.

Everybody now, bring your family down to the riverside.
Look to the east to see where the fat stock hide.
Behind four walls of stone the rich man sleeps.
It's time we put the flame torch to their keep.

Burn down the mission,
If we're gonna stay alive.
Watch the black smoke fly to heaven,
See the red flame light the sky.

Burn down the mission,
Burn it down to stay alive.
It's our only chance of living,
Take all you need to live inside.

Deep in the woods the squirrels are out today.
My wife cried when they came to take me away.
But what more could I do just to keep her warm,
Than burn burn burn burn down the mission walls?

Everybody now, bring your family down to the riverside.
Look to the east to see where the fat stock hide.
Behind four walls of stone the rich man sleeps.
It's time we put the flame torch to their keep.

Burn down the mission,
If we're gonna stay alive."]--Lyrics by Bernie Taupin/
Recorded by Sir Elton John
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January 21, 2014: AN OPEN LETTER:

I am to the point where I think that nobody is left in this City to listen or care or change anything. I heard some ugly things today and not all of them came from homeless people like me. And that is very hard to take.

I wish that you could see this situation through my eyes. I wish that you could feel what I feel...then maybe you would help.

The bank sign read 33 degrees today when I headed up here to the library. The wind that circled around me was cold and it will be much colder later on today when I walk back down the hill, again.

Plus, I am asthmatic. And we are under an inversion alert, right now. Every night, people in the area burn wood and I totally understand that. However, during an inversion...the wood smoke, soot and particles just hang in the air and I am left to breathe them in all night long.

The only option that I have to stay inside...in a warm, safe and healthy environment...is the "Warming Space." That endeavor is sponsored by St. Vincent de Paul but it isn't being handled properly. That last sentence is an understatement.

It is Winter and in this City, it is cold EVERY NIGHT. But the people who make the decisions...often leave the "Warming Space" closed...because they feel that the temperature in the night air isn't cold enough.

So we who have nowhere else to go...we are left on the street.
I am a 58 year old woman and I would like to settle down in The Dalles....but my wish for a permanent home here will take some time to acquire.
In the meantime, I am at the sole mercy of some folks who close the "Warming Space" ... but never sit outside with us, all night.

I have contacted source after source in an effort to get some real help with this problem. Now I'm contacting you.

We are a motley crew and we are different from each other... but we all deserve a chance. I would like to discuss this problem with you.

On your Facebook page, you have included this description of this city: "A Community for Everyone."
And when I sit in my sleeping bag in the park tonight, I will ask myself..."Is it really that way?"
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UPDATE: [AIR QUALITY WARNING FROM THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE]:

DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT

A STRONG RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE WILL CONTINUE OVER THE INTERIOR
NORTHWEST. THUS THE STAGNANT PATTERN, WITH A STABLE AIR MASS
TRAPPING POLLUTANTS, WILL CONTINUE OVER PORTIONS OF THE AREA
THROUGH TONIGHT. ALSO FREEZING FOG REDUCING VISIBILITIES TO A
QUARTER MILE OR LESS IS AFFECTING PORTIONS OF THE AREA. A
FREEZING FOG ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT FOR NORTH CENTRAL OREGON, THE
SIMCOE HIGHLANDS, AND THE BLUE MOUNTAIN FOOTHILLS OF OREGON AND
WASHINGTON. AN AIR STAGNATION ADVISORY CONTINUES FOR THE AREAS
LISTED ABOVE. PLEASE REFER TO THE LATEST NWS HAZARD PRODUCT
PDXNPWPDT FOR MORE DETAILS ON THESE ADVISORIES.

DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...SUNDAY THROUGH FRIDAY

THE RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE WILL PERSIST OVER THE INTERIOR
NORTHWEST THROUGH NEXT WEEK. THUS STAGNANT AIR CONDITIONS WILL
CONTINUE THROUGH NEXT WEEK. AIRBORNE PARTICULATES WILL CONTINUE
TO ACCUMULATE DUE TO THESE CONDITIONS, WHICH WILL PRODUCE
INCREASINGLY DEGRADED AIR QUALITY. THE CURRENT AIR STAGNATION
ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT THROUGH THE WEEKEND INTO NEXT WEEK.
__________

Patchy
Freezing Fog
Low: 33 °F
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January 18, 2014: I waited all day to hear from someone...anyone...who gives a damn...and who actually cares about this situation. In the end, all I heard was silence. However, I have been tracking the weather and I am aware of just how bad the air quality is going to be in this area, tonight. And I am going to have a very difficult time breathing in the heavy concentration of wood smoke and other pollutants. I will be in a damp, foggy park with nothing but my gear and a sleeping bag.

That is not the way that I should spend the night, tonight. Not at all. Not me...or anybody else who has enough good sense to stay out of the cold night air.
And I want you, my readers, to know that it is very rough to trade shivering for trying to breathe through continuous, hard coughing.

I don't know if anyone will meander down to that park, tonight, either. The day is moving into Saturday night and I never like being in a park on that particular night of the week. Nor do I prefer to hitchhike on Saturday night.

A woman passed by me, this morning, and dropped some books into the library's return slot. Then she turned to me and said, "Well, you're here early."

I told her why.

She got mad and said that she was going to go and talk to someone about my (and the other homies) situation.

I haven't seen her since. But she sure sounded like she's made up her mind to say something to somebody.

I will make one last phone call later on this evening. It might get me to somewhere warm, safe and dry for the night. Or it might not.

But understand that this experience, tonight and beyond, will always be remembered as WRONG. There will never be another way to put it.

May God and His angels watch over me...and everyone else...tonight...and keep us safe until tomorrow morning.

[This post has been updated.]

                                           
-WARMING CENTER PHOTOS BY RUTH RADER-




                                            
UPDATE:

January 18, 2014: I met a woman at her office yesterday. She has decided to help me find permanent housing in this area. I am convinced that if anyone will help me get a new key, it will be her.

We talked for awhile and then I went back to the warming center and ate dinner. The woman that I had met earlier in the day, tracked me down there and asked me to sign some papers. I did. Then  we asked the woman who works there if the warming center would be open this weekend.

"Oh yes" the worker said.

She was wrong.

Last night, a man who originally planned to stay at the warming center, left and didn't return until after 11 o'clock. The doors to the warming center are locked at 9pm. He knows that.

But he banged on the door and demanded to come inside, anyway.

The volunteers refused to open the door.

So the man got mad and smashed the front door's window with a garbage can. The glass cracked into a splintered spiderweb and made a noise that woke me up out of my deep sleep.



At first I thought that the window had been shattered by a gunshot.

The volunteers called 911 and the cops were all over the place within minutes.

The police caught the guy and subsequently lodged him in the local jail.

So despite what that man did...HE WILL BE WARM AND SAFE TONIGHT.

I will not.

I have no way of contacting the woman that I saw yesterday. And it is she who promised me a motel room on any night that the warming center will be closed...until we are able to set me up in proper housing.

She thought that the warming center would be open this weekend. She was totally misinformed. And now I have no way to reach her.

And my situation isn't fair.

A guy who caused property damage will be okay tonight. The rest of us, who didn't anything wrong, will be literally left out in the cold.


UPDATE:

January 14, 2014: For the first time since January 7th, the warming center will open its doors to the people who have been struggling to keep warm for the past week. I am going to take as many photos and video as I am able to, tonight. And later on,  when we all close our eyes, we will lay on our cot and not...in an overgrown field by a railroad track, under a picnic table in a city park or in the back seat of a car.

We will be in the warming center, where we are supposed to be now and where we should have been, all along.

One of our group will not be at the warming center tonight because he's in jail. That's because he got so desperate this past week, that he deliberately got arrested...just so that he could get into a warmer place.

This post will continue to be updated.


-PHOTOS, EDITS AND VIDEOS BY RUTH RADER, JANUARY 2014-



The following videos will help explain what it is that I and other people in this area are going through, right now:











I am in a small city in northern Oregon, now. And I am facing a dilemma: I like this community and it provides meals and laundry and showers to the homeless (and to some who are fortunate enough to be off the street) during the Winter months.


-RUTH RADER WITH A WARMING SHELTER HELPER, CHRISTMAS NIGHT 2013-

I would like to remain here and then consider my housing options in the Spring. I am, in essence, trying to settle down permanently in Oregon. I think that is a good idea. But of course, it won't be an easy thing to do.

The organization that manages the homeless services in this city has a problem. Therefor, those of us who have no permanent residence here share that same problem. The building that opens its doors to the homeless on some Winter nights...leaves those doors closed on other nights.

And on the nights when the red flag is not displayed, outside of the building, every homeless person is left to fend for himself ...or herself, as the case may be.

As I type this out, I am doing it with the understanding that tonight is going to be one of  the nights when the building will remain closed. And I am going to have to find somewhere, outside, to spend the night.

It is January 9 now very chilly. Dark clouds are piling up across the sky. There is rain in the forecast that will eventually combine with a brisk, northern wind.  And sitting in the dark, in the park, does not seem like a very good choice for me.

But what other choice will I have?

The reason that the building stays open on some nights and not on others has (supposedly) something to do with the temperature, the wind and the chance of precipitation in the forecast.

However, other people have said that the organization that manages the building is locked between insurance (liability) and a city government that really doesn't want the building to become a full time shelter.

I don't know about all of  that. I just know that it will be cold outside, tonight...and so, most likely, will I.

It is my opinion (which is shared by others, both in and out of the homeless population) that if an organization and the community that it is in, offers warmth in the Winter...it should provide it on
every cold night...not just some nights.

Fair is fair. Anything else on a chilly Winter night (the temperature averages between 25F to 40F at night, during the Winter months) is just wrong. This area is by a large body of water and it has a tendency to get very damp and windy here, as well.

Does anybody want to share a hot cup of coffee with me around midnight, tonight?


2 comments:

Kelly in Ohio said...

So glad to see you back!

Anonymous said...

in the negatives here...interesting article from local news: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/54199970/ns/local_news-columbus_oh/#.UufP_RAo7cs