Key West homeless memorial – Truly I tell you, Key West, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me

Jesus with leper

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I spaced out the homeless memorial yesterday, that, or I was supposed to be taking that nap when the memorial happened. I didn’t dream about missing the memorial.  Here’s the Key West Citizen report on the memorial service.

66 ‘souls’ laid to rest at cemetery service
County spent $63,190 for cremations, up from last year
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
gfilosa@keysnews.com
One by one, the names of 68 people who died impoverished or on the streets of the Florida Keys were read aloud by civic leaders Friday at the annual Homeless Person’s Memorial Day service held at the city cemetery.
“I ask forgiveness,” said the Rabbi Shiron Dudai, referring to the death toll being honored. “I’m certain we could have done better and we haven’t.”
More than 100 people gathered near the vault owned by the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC), made available for the cremated remains of the poor in Monroe County left unclaimed after death.
“They will be called by name today,” said the Rev. Steve Braddock, CEO and president of FKOC who helped lead the service. “What they had in common is that their lives were deeply impacted by the scourge of poverty.”
The county’s social services department released the 2013 “pauper list,” but only by the first name and first initial of the last name of each person the county agreed to cremate.
Monroe County has spent $63,190 so far this year on cremations for 66 men, women and infants. Each cremation costs $1,200, having risen from the prior cost of about $900. In 2012, the county cremated 51 spending $40,420, according to Sheryl Graham, director of county social services.
The 2013 impoverished death toll included three infants, all from the Lower Keys.
During Friday’s service, though, Braddock announced two additional names to the list, a man and a woman who died this month after the program had been printed.
Politicians and religious leaders alike took turns at the microphone saying that the nation isn’t doing enough for those who go without food, shelter and at times dignity.
“What you did for the least of them you did it unto me,” said Lt. Ethan Everts, command chaplain at Naval Air Station Key West, quoting the Biblical story in which God identifies with the poor, imprisoned and the sick.
To some, Everts said, the 68 souls being laid to rest at Key West Cemetery might seem the “least of these,” or worse.
“Some may take the idea or stereotype that they are less than human,” Everts said. “They are human, and we have an obligation to love them just the same.”
Friday’s service fell two days after city commissioners met to begin the process of selecting a new site to move the overnight homeless shelter, located next to the sheriff’s office on College Road.
Commissioners formed an informal consensus that the juvenile justice center building, next to the county jail on the same parcel as Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS), is the best location.
The meeting drew a number of Stock Island residents who don’t want the shelter next to their gated community at the golf course.
At this vault at the historic cemetery on Friday, though, the theme was to help one another no matter what.
Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard quoted Nelson Mandela and said everyone has a collective obligation to help end homelessness, while U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-South Fla., joined in a call of action.
“That begins not tomorrow or the day after tomorrow but the second we step foot from this cemetery,” said Bullard.
City Commissioners Lopez, Jimmy Weekley and Tony Yaniz attended, sitting behind the makeshift stage with others listed on the program: County Mayor Sylvia Murphy, who read a proclamation recognizing National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day; the Rev. Sarah Fowler, Ellen Booth Church; and the Rev. Randy Becker.
Commissioner Teri Johnston also attended, but chose a seat in the audience.
“May we all dedicate ourselves in the coming year to ending homelessness,” said J.T. Thompson, creator of the foundation that in 2000 began the campaign to make Key West’s motto “One Human Family.”
City Commissioner Clayton Lopez said, “If that’s true then we are our brother’s keeper,” before singing the gospel song “Lead Me, Guide Me,” a capallea.

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I did not see those ministers at the recent special city commission meeting called to select a new homeless shelter site. Much discussion about “managing homeless people” was had during that meeting. I wish those ministers had been there to express their concerns for how Key West treats homeless people. I wish those ministers had been there to beg for forgiveness for how they had not done enough to help homeless people. I look forward to the elected city officials who attended the memorial transferring their grief and remorse to doing all they can to help people who are new to being homeless, especially families new to being homeless. I look forward to them calling off their police, who make homeless people’s lives a living hell, on purpose, because that is what they are told to do by their city bosses.

In the Gospels is a passage where Jesus invites a man to follow him, and the man says okay, but first he needs to go attend a relative’s funeral, and Jesus says to the man:

“Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

In the Gospels is another passage, alluded to at yesterday’s homeless memorial service:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Here’s some of how my day went yesterday.
Erika FB
Erika Biddle posted a photo to your Facebook timeline.
a cool dude indeed xoe
Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity's photo.

I wrote maybe a week ago about a traveler I met near the cemetery after watching him be shaken down by a Key West police officer, who then kept coming back around in his cruiser as the traveler and I walked and talked and finally I was able to make arrangements for him to stay that night on the front porch of friends of mine. Below is some of the traveler’s and my email back and forth up through yesterday, after he asked if I knew anyone who needed someone to work for a day?

I replied:
I’m asking as people as I have a chance if they need any work done. Most of my friends fend for themselves. What kind of work can you do? I might be able to put something up in a daily post, see what might come back. Will help if anyone can reach your directly, your phone number?, email address? I have the latter.
(I’d already had sent him my phone number, but he never called me.)

He wrote:
Sloan,
The police are ruthless here. I was awoken by half a dozen this morning. They made me through some trash away. My number is ___-___-____. I am willing to do anything.

After more email back and forth without connecting in person at places I told him I would be for a while, after more not being called by him, after more not being able to reach him by phone, I wrote:

I just got back to where I stay. You have my phone number, however I’m turning my phone off for a while, to take a nap. I will try to remember to turn the ringer back on after I wake up. Writing is getting us nowhere. We need to talk, better face to face, but phone is better than writing.

Meanwhile, you said you are willing to do anything, I took that literally, without conditions. I need from you an email telling of your experiences with KW cops since you got to KW. I will publish the story without your name on it. I will put you on a Greyhound bus with a 1-way non-refundable ticket to anywhere in 48 states you wish to go, with some traveling money. After I have your story.

I imagine Miami would be a lot easier on you because they are under the oversight of a U.S. District Judge with respect all of that city’s homeless issues. They have to toe that judge’s line. So far, Key West toes its own line on homeless issues. Probably goes back to when the city was populated mostly by pirates, smugglers, drug runners, gun runners, rum runners, and ship wreckers.

This ain’t the mainland; lots of things are very different down here.

(nothing further, so far)

 
Todd German, of Key West, sent via FB:
Todd FB
 

Utah Is on Track to End Homelessness by 2015 With This One Simple Idea

Give them an apartment first, ask questions later.

Utah has reduced its rate of chronic homelessness by 78 percent over the past eight years, moving 2000 people off the street and putting the state on track to eradicate homelessness altogether by 2015. How’d they do it? The state is giving away apartments, no strings attached. In 2005, Utah calculated the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while the cost of providing an apartment and social worker would be $11,000. Each participant works with a caseworker to become self-sufficient, but if they fail, they still get to keep their apartment.

MORE: San Francisco’s homeless take free showers on a bus retrofitted with bathrooms [open link to see full article]

Other states are eager to emulate Utah’s results. Wyoming has seen its homeless population more than double in the past three years, and it only provides shelter for 26 percent of them, the lowest rate in the country. City officials in Casper, Wyoming, now plan to launch a pilot program using the methods of Utah’s Housing First program. There’s no telling how far the idea might go.

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Key West used to have public showers in FEMA vehicle parked next to the police station. I helped run those showers when I was in FKAA’s program in 2003. I later showered there daily and was darn glad for be able to do so. Then, parents of the adjacent middle school launched a lobby campaign against the showers and the City Commission had the showers removed from the police station parking lot. By then, KOTS was built. Homeless people could shower there and sleep there. Some homeless people refused to use KOTS, and I frankly did not blame them after staying 2 nights there myself in early 2005. One of the monitors was psychotic. He should have been fired after I reported him to FKOC, when by then was running KOTS for Key West. Some homeless people still refuse to use KOTS. Some simply cannot cope with being around other people in close quarters. Some don’t have bicycles and can’t get out there from Key West. Some are too drunk to get out there. Some simply prefer sleeping outside and playing hide and seek with Key West police.

I replied to Todd:

Sloan Bashinsky

Utah’s approach reminds me of Miami’s approach: spend gobs of money to house homeless and get them off the street. KW doesn’t have gobs of money to spend to house homeless, and I don’t see where the housing would be built if the gobs of money was available.

Had an unexpected dinner with Arnaud and Naja [who publish www.thebluepaper.com] tonight. Arnaud wanted me to explain homelessness as I saw it, so I did. He has some pretty good theories of how individual people can help a few homeless people who want to be helped, but I leave that for him to air out, since it’s his ideas and situation. I told him Key West’s homeless policy is simple: do all possible to get the dirt bag homeless people out of Key West. Helping homeless families, homeless single parents with children, not part of Key West’s homeless policy.

Arnaud, who is a French lawyer, said my idea for putting homeless arrested for open container and other homeless crimes in a homeless compound, with an armed guard on duty, for a day and that night, then letting them go the next morning, is not legal – no due process. I said, so put them in jail for a week or longer, at huge cost to the entire county taxpayer base? And load the hospital up with them, at a huge cost to the hospital? Screw due process. Yet, I think it would be lega, if they are arrested for breaking city ordinances and taken to a compound they could not leave until the next morning.

I said, when they are arrested, they are allowed to lock their bicycles to a tree or bike rack, and they and their possessions are taken to the compound. They are addicts, in a few hours, or less, they are getting uncomfortable. By next morning on release, they are really uncomfortable. They rush to get a drink or whatever other fix is their drug of choice. They rush on foot, or on a bus, because their bicycle is locked up somewhere else. They get arrested again for open container, go through the same ordeal.

They get arrested again for open container, go through the same ordeal. This is not nearly as fun as being put in jail and given drugs to help them detox. Then, on release, they get drunk and start it all over again. Maybe they get tired of that new 24 hour loopity loop. Maybe they decide to try to get off their drug and get their life turned around. Maybe they decide to leave the Key West area. I said, my hope is this tough love regimen will cause some of them to give up booze, which is killing them. Otherwise, most of them would be better off dead.

I don’t suppose the ACLU or National Association for Prevention of Homelessness League will care much for that approach. It remains to be seen if our mayor, city commissioners, police chief, sheriff and county commissioners and state of Florida are tough enough. They are wasting their breath talking about turning homeless people around. FKOC and Samuel’s House are already offering that option.

I say there is no way to turn homeless addicts around if they are using. Arnaud says almost everyone he knows is using illegal narcotics and they are making a living, getting by. May be, but they do not live on the street. They have not become dirt bags. They have not given up entirely on making it work for themselves in mainstream. Entirely different population.

I told Arnaud the city officials should have left things as they were, given the city loves having as many drunks around as possible, but since they were determined to get all homeless dirt bags out of the city, I offered the city the cheapest and most effective way to do it. In the end, the city will not be happy, but perhaps for a while the city will think it’s happy. Hell, this is only going to get worse. The US economy and foreign wars are breeding new homeless people. Key West is a destination resort for mainstream and homeless tourists. That’s not going to change.

Arnaud and Naja agreed with me, the city’s frenzied drive to rid itself of homeless people lay at the bottom of the Thanksgiving day killing of the mainland tourist, whom the arresting officer wrote on his report appeared to be living in his vehicle. I told Anaud the police are under orders to be as tough on homeless people as possible, and that cop viewed the soon to be dead tourist as homeless; otherwise, why make that comment in his report?

I said that tourist then dying underneath all of those police officers, Naja said 14 officers ended up at the beach where the tourist died, turned the Bill O’Reilly documentary slamming Key West into a molecule. Naja said 10,300 people on Facbeook saw last Friday’s Blue Paper issue breaking that story with the video the KWPD seems to be ignoring.

Naja asked why did I think the tourist’s body went missing for 2 weeks? I said because the KWPD and city wanted his body to go missing for 2 weeks. I said this will be a big issue in next year’s mayor campaign – “Mayor Cates, why didn’t you come out strong for a thorough investigation? Same question to you, Commissioner Yaniz.”

Naja and Arnaud are amazed that the Citizen and the Keynoter have not reported this incident well. I said tourists are huge for Key West, that’s why the Citizen and the Keynoter are not going after this story.

Naja and Arnaud said they are concerned for their safety. I said they ought to be concerned; people have been disappeared in Key West for upsetting the status quo, but perhaps 10,300 Facebook views of last week’s issue, and people forwarding same to other people, provide some insurance. If something happens to Naja and Arnaud, it will make what happened to the tourist into a molecule.

Very brave of them to take this one on. Yet, it was given to them to take on, they were given the video made by the bystander unbeknownst to the KW cops, who then made statements the video disputed. 14 officers involved. Imagine the difficulty getting all those stories straight, then they learn of the video.

(If you have not yet seen the video and Naja’s and Arnaud’s articles on the dead tourist, who was suspected of living in his van, see last Friday before last’s and this past Friday’s articles in www.thebluepaper. com. Here are the direct links to those two articles, the video is in the first article:

POLICE DENY RESPONSIBILITY IN DEATH OF TOURIST, THANKSGIVING DAY

THANKSGIVING DAY TRAGEDY: Increasing Doubts About What Really Happened To Charles Eimers

Wish the KW city officials were as concerned about how their police behaved in the Charles Eimers tragedy, as they were at yesterday’s homeless memorial.

——————————- 

Email back and forth yesterday with a childhood friend of the Key West homeless man Frisbee Dave:

Frisbee Dave 3

Dave’s friend wrote:

I don’t know how you do it Sloan. Going to the meetings about homelessness or I suppose just about any issue, you must have the patience of a saint. Just by reading your articles and the Citizen paper, I swear I would shoot my dog if he was as stupid as the people making comments. But that’s what makes the world go around I guess. Ciao

I wrote:

Used your’s in today’s, links just emailed out to you and others. In the KW post, I added a bit more to my last reply to you, which you might find interesting.

He wrote:

Is it possible to petition the court for a definition of lodging? Not to be funny but the mere act of driving means you are living in your car. Does 5 nights in a row means you are lodging? I was thinking along the lines of sleeping in a van for 5 nights and KOTS two. Is that allowed? If someone offers me a bed anytime I want, does that mean I have another place to stay and therefore am only sleeping in my van and not lodging? If I keep some of my stuff at another location, does it mean I’m not lodging? I think you get my drift. I’m not trying to get away with anything, I just want to know what the boundaries are. No more than any other law or ordinance. Thanks … .. Keep the angels happy 

I wrote:

I don’t have answers to your questions, which I suppose only local judges can answer on a case by case basis, unless one of them rules the ordinance unconstitutional for vagueness or for another reason. Your questions/scenarios, though, are what any judge should be asking him/herself, in my opinion, on the vagueness issue. City ordinances are rife with definitions, but not this city ordinance, and Hatman told Judge Miller that. I just wish Hatman

Hatman

had gone after the bigger con law issue: this van is his home, it is his only home, he cannot afford a “normal home”, he cannot afford to rent an apartment in Key West, the city has criminalized him for living in his home. What if the city criminalized me for living in a rented room in a private home? What if the city criminalized my landlady for living in her own home? Would the US and Florida Constitutions allow that? I doubt it. I am honing in on this con law issue because it is the real issue, which I don’t need the angels to tell me is so, yet they still tell me it so, one of them just happens to be a US District Judge Emeritus, so to speak, I once was his law clerk. Get his human name – Clarence W. Allgood. I’m taking your recommendation, I’m doing what I can to keep the angels happy. I can piddle with the more narrow con law issues, but the one I keep coming back around to is the one I am supposed to keep harping on, at least in Hatman’s case. He is hardly the only person in Key West living in a vehicle, who can not afford another kind of home. He is a proxy for the others, and if he prevails in his case, the city will have a hard time going after the others.

Sloan Bashinsky

keysmyhome@hotmail.com

There may be another grindershit post later today at www.goodmorningfloridakeys.com

About Sloan

Darn, that would take a while. Try the autobiographical pages in the header. Ditto for header menu pages at www.goodmorningbirmingham.com. Hatched and raised there, eventually I ran away from home. Here's a short list: Born 1942; male; single; accused of all sorts of imaginable and unimaginable things, perhaps some true. Live on Key West of Weird asteroid. Publish something most days on this website, been at that since July 2007. That's heaps of catch-up reading, probably not recommended.
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