This week I got word that "the church" across the street from where we have our dumpster located wants us to move it.
It's not on their land. It's across the street from them. But having to look at it apparently is too much for their sensibilities.
The problem with the dumpster is that people from the neighborhood often pick through it and throw stuff on the ground. Last week someone was apparently doing construction work and threw all of their old construction material in our dumpster. And what didn't fit they just threw on the ground.
We always clean it up. But this is an ongoing issue.
There is now only one "partner" left that deals with us anymore.
The Food Bank ended our relationship after "reading the article" about us closing. They never talked to me personally to learn more.
The Health Department immediately stopped doing their needle exchange and Narcan classes after they heard the fire department said we couldn't have homeless people in the building. Never mind that the sign the fire department posted on our door says very clearly we can have businesses in the building. Narcan classes, and a food pantry, would be very acceptable in that class of building.
Everyone has distanced themselves from us. The only organization that remains is Panera Bread. They are still letting us get day old bread on Friday mornings. But honestly, I suspect they would end our relationship if they knew our situation.
I've been told we are "too controversial."
And that says it all.
What if they might have to take some heat for being a partner with someone who clearly is seen as an enemy of the city of Akron?
It all comes down to money. We are in an era of late stage capitalism where we have been conditioned to become deathly afraid of losing money. "What if the city turns their sights on us for supporting the work Sage does?"
In the documentary created by Pressure Life Magazine, they show footage of the manager of the low income apartment building that is next to us telling city council that they have a "fiduciary responsibility" to protect "the long term viability of the community owner." You can watch that statement here if you want:
Do you know who the "community owner" of Annunciation Terrace is?
Bishop of Cleveland, Clarence G. Issenmann
They also own this place:
Visitation of Mary Parish, Annunciation Church.
They are "the church" that is upset with our dumpster and wants it moved. The way the buildings go are: my place at 15 Broad Street. Then the low income housing apartment building Annunciation Terrace and then the very next building is the church: Visitation of Mary Parish, Annunciation Church.
Do you know why I've never brought this up? Because we get grants from Catholic organizations. I was afraid that if I called out the church that those grants might dry up. It's a rational fear.
But then I just become like everybody else. Afraid of standing up because maybe I'll lose money.
I'm told the priest at Visitation of Mary Parish, Annunciation Church is "conservative." That's all I know of him. But I also know that they have had a strained relationship with us ever since we began our work with the homeless.
Of all the people that have difficulty with us, Visitation of Mary Parish, Annunciation Church is the one that hurts the most.
You see, I've become quite enamored by some Catholic teachers. Particularly, the Franciscan friar, Richard Rohr and the American Trappist monk Thomas Merton.
And, of course, someone who is a continual driver in spirit for me, the radical Catholic activist, Dorothy Day.
In the 1930s, Day worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker Movement, a pacifist movement that combines direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf.
Pope Francis included her in a short list of exemplary Americans, together with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thomas Merton, in his address before the United States Congress.
And while we're at it, let's not forget Pope Francis, himself. His major focus is the duty to help those who are poor and marginalized and have been neglected.
I am not a Catholic. But I often find myself turning to Catholics as guides for the work I do with homeless people.
And yet, I work next door to a Catholic that wants me to get rid of my dumpster I use to throw away garbage of homeless people. I work right next door to a Catholic whose apartment manager publicly states that he must maintain a "fiduciary responsibility" to protect "the long term viability of the community owner."
What am I to believe? The words of Catholics or the actions of Catholics?
Is the duty to help those who are poor and marginalized as Pope Francis tell us good just in theory and not in practice?
What greater test of faith could there be when God brings homeless people right next to your perish and you scorn them and their trash? What good is faith and the teachings of your religion if they take a back seat to your "fiduciary responsibility?
I've never met the priest of the church next door to me. But a woman from the church came by once and told me that "the homeless should put down the needle and get a job." Is that the message of true Catholicism?
Do they easily forget Mathew 25:40? 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.'
I have been an Atheist much longer than I ever had a relationship with God. Yet I feel like I understand the path of God better than the church sitting next to me.
What a missed opportunity this was for them.
But they are far from the only people who have lost their way?
The Health Department would rather stop giving out Narcan and clean needles instead of risking some potential scorn.
And the Food Bank...
I was at another church today. I sometimes pull their trailer to the Food Bank for them. I asked them if there was any way they could pickup some extra water from the Food Bank for me. Beverages literally reach the ceiling at the Food Bank. They would give me beverages by the skid load when we were a partner of theirs.
You see, I want water, in particular, because I work with a young prostitute who currently has E. coli because she bathes and drinks out of the river. She has no access to running water. She's not the only person, by far, who bathes and drinks out of that river. But she is the symbol in my mind of these Americans with no access to running water.
First this church said they have so much food that they don't think extra water would fit in their trailer I sometimes tow for them. I told them I could put it in the back of my truck when I drive their trailer for them to the Food Bank. They then asked, "Well, where are you going to put it once you get it?" I reminded them that I have a fully functional 14,000 square foot building. They told me, "We'll talk."
THE FUCKING ANSWER IS "YES! OF COURSE WE'LL GET YOU SOME WATER." YOU ARE A GODDAMN CHURCH!
What have we become in this world? What do we stand for? What does our life represent?
Is the "meaning" of our lives to just protect our money at all costs?
Do you know who mostly helps homeless people?
First and foremost, it begins with other homeless people. By far and with most consistency it is other homeless people that help homeless people.
The next people that help them are the people who have experienced great suffering.
I see former drug addicts. I see people who have lost their children to addiction. I see former homeless people. They are the ones I see mostly who help homeless people.
Do you know who I see the least? Middle class people living in their middle class neighborhoods. People that have the most, people that have the most to be grateful for, people that have suffered the least often are the people who also give the least.
They cower afraid in their antiseptic neighborhoods only ever associating with people that look exactly like them, act exactly like them and are in a class exactly like them.
We are losing our way in America. We are afraid of each other. We are angry at each other. We don't understand what it means to be part of a community. We obsess ourselves with protecting our things and protecting our money... at all costs.
We must right this ship. We must find our humanity. Otherwise we will become the enemy within. We will become the most dangerous force in our own lives. We will be our own demise.