One correction to yesterday’s post. Frisbee Dave attended Michigan State, not Mississippi State. Apologies.
Pedaling my bicycle on Fleming street night before last, away from Duval Street, I passed by the bookstore and the doorway two places down where I used to sleep nights back in 2001, starting about January and running through April. Across the street now is a lap dance parlor. Four young women were sitting out front on chairs waiting on men to come have the young women dance on their laps and whatever else goes on during such soirees. I don’t know, not having ever had a lap dance for pay, although there were times in my younger days when they were pretty frequent for free. Anyway, I thought to myself that homeless people can’t sleep in that doorway any more, but young girls just across the street are soliciting in plain view sex for pay. I thought there is something really messed up about that.
Also on Fleming Street, received this today:
Dearest Sloan, I was on my way to the County Key West Library, 700 Fleming St, and I could find no PARKING @@@! Well I know the Key westers are such of a type, that this Isn’t a real concern for them. Now 5% of the County residents may not need PARKING !!! but the other 95% do, even me, and I’m in that group. later I notice at St Mary’s soup Kitchen for the Homeless has LOTS of PARKING, mostly UNUSED PARKING !!!, So why not switch locations? County LIBRARY with lots of PARKING on Flagler, Soup Kitchen with no Parking on Fleming St Great Election issue. Nick Anderson Big Coppit Key
The county library is owned by the county, not the city, so the city can’t move the library, nor would the library want to move, as it is located at the highest elevation in Key West, safest from rising water. The soup kitchen is owned by the Catholic Diocese in Miami, and based on what I have heard, will be sold to a developer eventually. I have never not been able to find parking on either Fleming or Southard Street, or on the nearby crossing streets. Key West residents in Old Town are acutely sensitive to the lack of parking there, Jimmy Weekly talks about that frequently at city commission meetings. He tired to get Old Town residential parking designated only for Old Town residents, meaning people from outside Key West could not park on Old Town Streets at all, except where there was city parking meters or pay stations for entire streets. There is no solution, other than more pay parking decks, which will not suit people living outside of Key West. Like, there is no solution to Key West’s homeless problem, other than a polar-axis shift, moving Key West to where Greenland now is. That would solve your and Key West’s parking problem, too. And all of the rest of Key West’s and your problems. And all of my problems.
Had dinner last night with someone who has been living at KOTS, the city’s homeless shelter, for 7 years. While living at KOTS, he wrote two books. One now is published. The other is being published. He got paid pretty good for the first book, which is about treating mold. He was part of the writing and development team for that book. The second book is a novel, which he also condensed into a novella, for both of which he has high hopes. He bought my dinner.
He is on the Board of Southern Assistance Homeless League (SHAL), at the request of Wendy Coles, who was its long time CEO. I was glad to hear SHAL has someone on its Board who actually knows about homelessness from having experienced it. He said occasionally someone staying at KOTS gets straightened out, it takes a long time, and moves out of KOTS into independent living. He told a few sad stories of people who stayed at KOTS, seemed to get straightened out, got their first pay check, spent it on their drug of choice, lost their job, were back at KOTS.
He he talked about getting a boat to live on. He earned a good wage for the mold book, and someone is making him a deal on a boat. He will pay Key West to moore the boat off of Wisteria Island. I asked if he will be allowed to vote? I said I asked, because a friend of mine who lives on a boat was told before the last election that she could not vote, because she lived in the county, not in the city. She was told this even though her boat was in dry dock in the city, and she was living on the boat, and had voted in many prior elections. I asked, how can the city charge people mooring rent by Wisteria Island, and not let them vote in city elections? The fellow said he did not know.
He said he has a rare form of schizophrenia, which manifests in acute mania. After many rough years, he was put on a pill, which overcame his symptoms pretty well, even though he still seems to me to be ever on the verge of mania. He said the pill causes his mind to function a whole lot better, but if he takes it before he is to play the piano, he cannot remember music he knows by heart. That’s the only apparent side effect, he said. The dosage has been increased twice since he was first put on the pill a few years ago. The dosage cannot be increased again. He said he used to be hugely successful financially. Then his father died, which tore him up. Then, the schizophrenia onset.
He has played the piano in Key West establishments for some time, but does not charge money for that. He says he feels he needs to do something for free, and he enjoys playing the piano for free. I heard him play last night at a place in Key West, before we had dinner. he plays beautifully. I hope the pill keeps working for him, even as I wonder if its effects will diminish and he will slide back toward where he was, which sounded terrible, the way he described it. He said he came to Key West some years ago, prepared to die here. He came from Birmingham, my hometown, where he had lived some years because relatives had moved there. We met shortly after he came to Key West, but it had been years since I had seen him, when I bumped into him a few days ago at Jack Flats sports bar on Duval Street.
The other day, someone from Birmingham told me my brother Major had huge debts and a huge life insurance policy, and after he killed himself, the insurance proceeds were used to pay off the huge debts, and his widow, his second wife, received the rest of the insurance proceeds. That was news to me. As was news that our father had cushioned Major, enabled him to continue his upscale lifestyle, until our father passed over, after which Major lost his cushion. I found that ironic; I was sleeping in doorways because I was unable to make it in my father’s world, and my father was cushioning Major, who could not make it in my father’s world. Karma blocks me from making it in my father’s world. Karma I sure would like to see lifted. Just as I’m sure the fellow I had dinner with last night would like to see his schizophrenia cured.
Psychiatry cannot cure schizophrenia, any more than psychiatry, Key West, SHAL, or anyone can cure homelessness. Only God can cure the fellow I had dinner with last night. Only God can lift my karma. Only God can cure what put Frisbee Dave on the street. Every now and then, God wakes up a homeless person, and he/she moves away from being homeless. I hope God is in charge of the pill that fellow is taking to treat his mania. I hope God keeps that pill working for that fellow.
I told the fellow last night, back when I slept in doorways, most homeless people had been homeless a while. Now, we have a new kind of homeless people, who only recently became homeless. I said, what the city should be doing is putting 90 percent of the effort and money into trying to help those people get back to living inside, independently. But what is happening instead is, the city is focused on getting the long-term homeless out of sight, out of sound – that’s what drives Mayor Cates and the city, not compassion, not wanting to help homeless people. That’s what is costing the Sheriff and the hospital so much money; Mayor Cates and the city’s drive to get homeless people out of sight and sound. The fellow said he had to agree, reluctantly.
I said a new bigger shelter might reduce the costs to the Sheriff and hosptial, but that would increase the costs to the city. The addicts will have to be detoxed there, instead of in the jail or the hospital. Then, there will be no way to make them stay there, or stay sober. They will go back to their habit. The fellow agreed, said there is a phenomenon of the first of the month disability or retirement check; the first week, they buy vodka; the second week, they buy beer. I said that has been going on since I came to Key West in late 2000, homeless.
I said, the city needs to keep KOTS, if not at its present location, then at a different location. Let the addicts used KOTS. The city needs a different shelter for people who are not addicts. The two groups should not be mingled. Furthmore, Florida Keys Outreach Coalition and Samuels House will not accept clients who have dirty urine. Those two help those who help themselves organizations do not provide detox services. Clients have to be clean to even get into those programs, and they have to remain clean. I said the city should be giving FKOC and Samuel’s house money to increase their residential capacity, to absorb sober graduates from the city’s homeless shelter. The fellow agreed.
He said KOTS is not a nice place to live. I said anyone loaded to the gills can get into KOTS, it happens all the time. He said it’s dirty. Even as he defended it and SHAL I asked what are the requirements for being on SHAL’s Board? He said there really is no requirement, other than wanting to be on the Board. I said every member of SHAL, which runs KOTS for the city, should spend a month sleeping at KOTS, so they will know what they are dealing with. I said I told Mayor Cates and the city commissioners the same thing. The fellow said that would be unfair to them. KOTS is not a good place to live.
He agreed, there is no affordable housing in Key West for graduates from KOTS, nor from a new, bigger shelter. Nor is their land on which to build affordable housing for graduates. Nor is their a way to stop the influx of new homeless into Key West from the mainland. Nor is there a way to deal with the very high addict relapse rate, 95 percent. I kept coming back to the city needs to focus on trying to save the new homeless, before they become old homeless; the people who very much want to get back inside and living independently. He seemed to have a hard time accepting that; he seemed to be focused on trying to save one, two or three of the homeless people Mayor Cates and the city want to keep out of sight and sound.
I told the fellow, with his mania, he needs to be very careful of falling into the rescue syndrome, which old-timers in AA and NA know can cause them real problems if they fall into it. I told him the rescue syndrome itself is an addiction. It is projection. In the people rescuers are trying so desperately to save, they see themselves, which drives them, because subconsciously they are trying to rescue themselves.
I told the fellow that he ought to write a book about his illness and homeless experiences, and his treatment and his books. He didn’t seem interested. He said he knows Frisbee Dave very well, featured in my post yesterday. He said it was too painful reading what Dave’s childhood friend wrote about him. Like me, the fellow from KOTS has multiple degrees (higher education). Unlike me, he is manic, driven, except when he is playing the piano. Unlike him, I’m just an asshole, who hangs out and absorbs what is going on around me, who sometimes can get pretty darn riled up.
Today, local TV host Jenna Stauffer is interviewing me about how I became homeless and perhaps homelessness and Key West’s attempts to be rid of it. Jenna told me yesterday that she wished she had known of goodmorningkeywest.com before recently, she enjoys reading it. Maybe she should go in for a psychiatric evaluation; it’s well known I am crazy.
Moving laterally, excerpts from today’s Key West Citizen – www.keysnews.com:
Voters’ decision prompts proposal Commissioner:
Tell Corps, D.C. of 74-26% result
BY GWEN FILOSA
City Commissioner Teri Johnston wants her colleagues to send word to the Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida’s congressional delegation of the “overwhelming opposition” to a channel-dredging impact study. “The City Commission does not want the (Corps of Engineers) to undertake or commission future studies to consider the concept of widening the Key West Main Ship Channel, regardless of potential funding sources,” the proposal reads. Released Thursday with the commission’s agenda, the proposal also says that the city “intends to pursue and enact further legislation to codify the intent and opposition expressed by Key West’s electorate.” Johnston’s proposed resolution comes a week after a ballot question asking for a Corps study was soundly defeated by a 3-to-1 margin — 4,531 voters said “no” while 1,630 voted “yes.” More voters, 6,161, weighed in on the referendum issue than any other contested race in the city-only election, which drew a 41 percent turnout. Commissioners will take up the matter at their 6 p.m., Wednesday meeting at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St.
“I’m delighted to see action on the city’s part,” said Elliot Baron, a Key West environmental activist for 20 years who now divides his time between Chapel Hill, N.C. and here. “I think the voters want to see some teeth.” Baron suggested the city go a step further and tell the Corps it is not willing to act as a local sponsor to such a dredging study. He also would like to see the commission seek a charter amendment requiring a super majority — a 5 to 2 vote rather than a simple majority of the seven leaders — to agree on any decisions to widen the ship channel. “If we pass a charter amendment that says a super majority is required, it would have to be the voters of Key West that would take it out of the charter,” Baron said. Commissioners need to also focus on the possibility of lower tourist revenue in the wake of the referendum’s defeat, said attorney Jennifer Hulse, on behalf of the chamber’s PAC. “The PAC respects the result of the referendum,” Hulse said Thursday. “We have no comment on Commissioner Johnston’s proposed resolution. However, we expect our commission to be proactive in seeking a replacement for the potential millions of dollars of lost revenue to the city and our local businesses. The commission must work diligently to prevent a tax hike on our working residents in light of the referendum.” Baron, who previously owned Mangia Mangia, still owns a home in Old Town. He said the city’s Washington, D.C., representatives need to know how strongly opposed the city’s voters were to a Corps study. “The Army Corps didn’t require a referendum,” said Baron. “That’s just how the city reached its decision. It’s really irrelevant to the Army Corps. The senators and our representatives should be fully aware of the overwhelming nature of the vote.”
While all of that rhetoric sounds good, none of it is legally binding on the city. I believe to change the charter will require another referendum and the approval of the State of Florida. What really puzzles me (maybe I should wink) is nobody from the anti-referendum camp, other than me, seems to be pushing for the city to actually deal with the real problem so succinctly summed up by Robin Lockwood, M.D., the President of the Chamber of Commerce, at a channel-widening study forum before the referendum was smashed. The real problem, all along, since the first cruise ship called on Key West decades ago, is the dirtiest, worst possible cruise ships are calling on Key West. Why are not Eliot Barron, Last Stand, Reef Relief, Key West the Newspaper, the Key West Citizen, the Keynoter, the city commissioners and mayor, and the general population of Key West calling for a ban of those cruise ships from Key West? Why, for that matter, is not Ed Swift calling for that ban? Ed’s company owns and operates conch trains and trolleys, which squire cruise ship passengers around Key West. Why is not a ban being called for across the board, when everyone in Key West knows the sea is what drives Key West’s economic engine; the sea is what brings the tourists to Key West, who spend the night and a lots of money. As the sea goes, Key West goes. Cruise ships are death to the sea. DeeVon Quirolo, co-founder of Reef Relief, proved that during the run-up to the referendum, yet her proof was not published by the Citizen nor by the Keynoter. It was published by Key West the Newspaper – www.thebluepaper.com - along with this.