Hidden In Plain View going viral – Key West and beyond

Distant in-law Ron, a developer in North Carolina who once vacationed frequently in Key West, replied to yesterday’s homeless people aren’t necessarily what they appear to be – Key West post:
Sloan, first, a Happy Thanksgiving to you. 
Question?   Do you think the “Hidden in Plain View” folks could do a slide show of the art  on some sort of DVD and sell them to folks like me to support the homeless folks  ?  If you stir that pot, and it works, put me down for 10.  If this is  as good as it sounds, it could be a hot item on the national scale.  Viral  for money.
Regards,  Ron K.
I posted Ron’s to Erika Biddle’s Facebook page.
Day before yesterday, Erika and I had a late lunch at Harpoon Harry’s in Key West. She told me of a fellow in Marathon, who had been homeless, who is bursting with ideas for helping homeless people. His first idea is to set up a repair shop outside a popular Key West business, Harpoon Harry’s for example, where homeless people with fix-it skills repair appliances, bicycles, clothing, etc. Key West people bring to them. I told Erika it is a terrific idea. Later that day, she sent this:
Erika Biddle shared a link.

here is an article in the NYT reporting about we talked about today…XOE
Amsterdam Tries to Change Culture With ‘Repair Cafes’
Amsterdam’s Repair Cafe encourages people to bring old items that they might have otherwise thrown out to have them restored by expert volunteers.

That night I dreamt of my younger daughter, the eye doctor, turning into Rudi Rozema, featured in yesterday’s  homeless people aren’t necessarily what they appear to be – Key West post. Rudi was adept at taking three or four discarded bicycles and ending up with two pretty good bicycles. He was pretty handy with tools in other ways, too. He was born in Holland, which didn’t seem coincidental after I had received the link from Erika yesterday. 
Amsterdam Journal

An Effort to Bury a Throwaway Culture One Repair at a Time

Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

Gathered around tables in what appeared to be delicate operations, participants tried to fix items that had been set for the trash.

Published: May 8, 2012
AMSTERDAM — An unemployed man, a retired pharmacist and an upholsterer took their stations, behind tables covered in red gingham. Screwdrivers and sewing machines stood at the ready. Coffee, tea and cookies circulated. Hilij Held, a neighbor, wheeled in a zebra-striped suitcase and extracted a well-used iron. “It doesn’t work anymore,” she said. “No steam.”       

Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

One man came in to have the charger for his laptop repaired.                           

Ms. Held had come to the right place. At Amsterdam’s first Repair Cafe, an event originally held in a theater’s foyer, then in a rented room in a former hotel and now in a community center a couple of times a month, people can bring in whatever they want to have repaired, at no cost, by volunteers who just like to fix things.       
Conceived of as a way to help people reduce waste, the Repair Cafe concept has taken off since its debut two and a half years ago. The Repair Cafe Foundation has raised about $525,000 through a grant from the Dutch government, support from foundations and small donations, all of which pay for staffing, marketing and even a Repair Cafe bus.       
Thirty groups have started Repair Cafes across the Netherlands, where neighbors pool their skills and labor for a few hours a month to mend holey clothing and revivify old coffee makers, broken lamps, vacuum cleaners and toasters, as well as at least one electric organ, a washing machine and an orange juice press.       
“In Europe, we throw out so many things,” said Martine Postma, a former journalist who came up with the concept after the birth of her second child led her to think more about the environment. “It’s a shame, because the things we throw away are usually not that broken. There are more and more people in the world, and we can’t keep handling things the way we do.       
“I had the feeling I wanted to do something, not just write about it,” she said. But she was troubled by the question: “How do you try to do this as a normal person in your daily life?”       
Inspired by a design exhibit about the creative, cultural and economic benefits of repairing and recycling, she decided that helping people fix things was a practical way to prevent unnecessary waste.        “Sustainability discussions are often about ideals, about what could be,” Ms. Postma said. “After a certain number of workshops on how to grow your own mushrooms, people get tired. This is very hands on, very concrete. It’s about doing something together, in the here and now.”        While the Netherlands puts less than 3 percent of its municipal waste into landfills, there is still room for improvement, according to Joop Atsma, the state secretary for infrastructure and the environment.      
“The Repair Cafe is an effective way to raise awareness that discarded objects are indeed still of value,” Mr. Atsma wrote in an e-mail.       
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Han van Kasteren, a professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology who works on waste issues. “The social effect alone is important. When you get people together to do something for the environment, you raise consciousness. And repairing a vacuum cleaner is a good feeling.”       
That was certainly true for the woman who brought her 40-year-old vacuum, bought when she was a newlywed, to a Tuesday night Repair Cafe. “I am very glad, very glad,” she said as John Zuidema, 70, sawed off the vacuum’s broken nozzle. “My husband died, and there are all these little things around the house that he used to fix.”       
To some, the project’s social benefits are as appealing as its ecological mission. “What’s interesting for us is that it creates new places for people to meet, not just live next to each other like strangers,” said Nina Tellegen, the director of the DOEN Foundation, which provided the Repair Cafe with a grant of more than $260,000 as part of its “social cohesion” program, initiated in the wake of the political murders of Pim Fortuyn, a politician, in 2002, and Theo van Gogh, a filmmaker, in 2004. “That it’s linked to sustainability makes it even more interesting.”       
Ms. Tellegen added that older people in particular find a niche at the Repair Cafe.       
“They have skills that have been lost,” she said. “We used to have a lot of people who worked with their hands, but our whole society has developed into something service-based.”       
Evelien H. Tonkens, a sociology professor at the University of Amsterdam, agreed. “It’s very much a sign of the times,” said Dr. Tonkens, who noted that the Repair Cafe’s anti-consumerist, anti-market, do-it-ourselves ethos is part of a more general movement in the Netherlands to improve everyday conditions through grass-roots social activism.
“It’s definitely not a business model,” Ms. Postma said. She added that because the Repair Cafe caters to people who find it too expensive to have their items fixed, it should not compete with existing repair shops.       
The Repair Cafe Foundation provides interested groups with information to help get them started, including lists of tools, tips for raising money and marketing materials. Ms. Postma has received inquiries from France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, South Africa and Australia.       
Tijn Noordenbos, a 62-year-old artist in Delft, started a Repair Cafe there four months ago.       
“I like to repair things,” he said, noting that the repair shops of his younger days had all but vanished. “Now, if something breaks, you take it back to the store and they say: ‘We’ll send it to the factory and it costs you 100 euros just to check out the problem. It’s better if you buy a new one.’ ”       
William McDonough, an architect, said, “What happened with planned obsolescence is that it became mindless — just throw it away and don’t think about it.” His “cradle to cradle” design philosophy, which posits that things should be built so that they can be taken apart and the raw materials reused (though not necessarily repaired ad nauseam), also inspired Ms. Postma.       
“The value of the Repair Cafe is that people are going back into a relationship with the material things around them,” Mr. McDonough said.       
Take, for example, Sigrid Deters’s black H&M miniskirt with a hole in it.       
“This cost 5 or 10 euros,” about $6.50 to $13, she said, adding that she had not mended it herself because she was too clumsy. “It’s a piece of nothing, you could throw it out and buy a new one. But if it were repaired, I would wear it.”       
Marjanne van der Rhee, a Repair Cafe volunteer who hands out data collection forms and keeps the volunteers fortified with coffee, said: “Different people come in. With some, you think, maybe they come because they’re poor. Others look well-off, but they are aware of environmental concerns. Some seem a little bit crazy.”       
Theo van den Akker, an accountant by day, had taken on the case of the nonsteaming iron. Wearing a T-shirt that read “Mr. Repair Café,” Mr. van den Akker removed the plastic casing, exposing a nest of multicolored wires.       
As he did, Ms. Held and Ms. van der Rhee discussed the traditional Surinamese head scarves that Ms. Held, who was born in Suriname, makes for a living.       
When Mr. van den Akker put the iron back together, two parts were left over — no matter, he said, they were probably not that important. He plugged the frayed cord into a socket. A green light went on. Rusty water poured out. Finally, it began to steam.
A few hours after our lunch the day before yesterday, Erika and other Key West people received awards at a City Commission meeting for their efforts to increase the city’s recycling rate and to get a mandatory recycling ordinance passed.
About 120 miles down at the end of coral atolls, Key West of all places needs to recycle as much as possible. Yet its recycling rate is low, and it pays mainland firms to truck all of its garbage and wastes to the mainland, to be incinerated or taken to landfills.
Perhaps repair shops could spring up all over Key West – there are empty storefronts where such could operate until needed for something else. Perhaps homeless people could be recruited to man these repair shops and get paid a modest fee, or donation, for their efforts.
When I ran for Mayor of Key West in 2007, I proposed the city hiring homeless people to dress like pirates and be litter cops patrolling the streets of Old Town and other areas where tourists go, politely asking tourists to pick up their cigarette butts, empty drink cups and other litter, under penalty of getting stuck with a plastic sword or shot with a plastic cap flintlock cap pistol, and if that fails to get results, write the litterbugs a ticket.
Right after I proposed that in a post, I was called and interviewed by a New York City nationally-syndicated radio show. Thereafter, I was interviewed by several radio stations around the continental US, and a station in Honolulu.
The radio show hosts thought it was creative way of getting some homeless people back to work, and it  would help stop littering, which is very heavy on Duval Street, and I thought it would be great publicity and a tourist attraction for Key West.
Meanwhile, perhaps some sidewalk business owners in Key West might be interested in having repair shops manned by homeless people set up outside their establishments, and perhaps some owners of empty store fronts might be similarly inclined. Perhaps this is something Key West Mayor Craig Cates and Southern Assistance Homeless League (SHAL) and/or Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC) might sponsor.
Further meanwhile, Dorothy Jane Dankel’s lovely letter to the editor, featured in yesterday’s homeless people aren’t necessarily what they appear to be – Key West post, is in The Key West Citizen today, and there are interesting homeless and other Thanksgiving articles starting on the front page – www.keysnews.com . Unless you are a regular subscriber, you usually have to pay 50 cents with a credit card to open the electronic edition.
On a somewhat more Little Torch Key front, some thoughts came into my mind yesterday …
Once upon a time, I did a lot of soul fishing with people from various walks of life, including the mental health profession and prison inmates.
What came to me was to offer to do free weekend soul-fishing workshops for homeless people and people who are not homeless. The “goal” would be for the participants to see that deep down inside they are really very much like, all part of God’s one human family.
The operating “theory” for the soul-fishing workshops would be this poem, which fell out of me about a week after I first went homeless, on Maui, in August 2000.
All fig leaves burn
All ugly seen
All pain loved
All truth beauty
All people one
All time now
The only entry requirement would be that participants be sober. Soul fishing does not go well under the influence of alcohol and other mind-altering drugs.
These names came to me as possible non-homeless volunteers for a kick-off group, which would meet for three hours Saturday morning, three hours Saturday afternoon, three hours Sunday morning, and three hours Sunday afternoon:
Mayor Craig Cates; County Commissioner and inkeeper Heather Carruthers, whose County District is entirely in Key West; City Commissioner Mark Rossi’s wife, who is a practicing psychiatrist; Father Steven Braddock, CEO of Florida Keys Outreach Coalition; Wendy Coles, outgoing Executive Director of Southern Assistance Homeless League; Ed Swift, of Historic Tours of America (conch trains, trolleys and amphibious ducks); Margaret Romero, citizen watchdog and recent mayor candidate; Bob Kelly, of the Truman Waterfront Advisory Committee; Jim Hendrick, adviser to developers; Christine Russell, citizen activist; Todd German, banker, Chairman of Hometown! PAC, member of The Citizen Editorial Board; Naja Girard, citizen activist, officer in Last Stand; Tom Milone, citizen watchdog and former city commission candidate; Teri Johnston, City Commissioner and building contractor.
No, I did not run this by any of them.
The workshops might be held in the County Commission meeting room in the Harvey Government Center. There would be no syllabus, no outline, other than to meet and talk and face what all comes up with an open mind and a brave heart.
A co-sponsor of the first workshop might be Erika Biddle, mainstream shamanka.
No, I didn’t run this by Erika, either. But maybe in female shaman ways she put me up to it.
Happy Thanksgiving 
Sloan Bashinsky

About Sloan

That's what this website is about, also goodmorningkeywest.com and goodmorningbirmingham.com. If you can't get a publisher to take on your wacky musing, you do it yourself.
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