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Yesterday morning at Harpoon Harry’s restaurant on Caroline Street, I talked with a dear Key West amiga who very much needs surgery for uterus problems. She may or may not have cancer. She does not have the money for the procedures, other than $4,000 from a fundraiser friends put on. She has been told the total cost, hospital, surgeon, etc, will be $40,000. The hospital and surgeon have indicated some price lowering is possible, but she will have to come up with a big chunk of it up front, and the rest put on time pay. I told her I was really pissed off to hear that! She has lost too much weight, and is still losing weight. She may die before they operate, because she cannot pay them! She said she felt the same way. She is hoping her parents, who live half-way round the world, can help her, although present New Zealand-US currency exchange rates are not favorable for her parents. This beautiful woman is really special to me, and, I imagine, to lots of people. After she went on her way, I wept. Then, I remembered a time when I would have written her a check for what she needed to get the surgery done ASAP. A gift. I am not able to do that now, and that really bothers me, too.
On Facebook later yesterday,
The last comment also replies to this Facebook post yesterday. Adrienne currently is on “vacation” out of the Keys.
and went in and ordered a to die for curried chicken salad sandwich on rye bread at the deli. A wonderful, inexpensive, filling meal, if you add all the trimmings – lettuce, tomato, onions. While waiting in the fast checkout line, I received a call from GS11, sometimes persecuted whistleblower.
He said he was worrying about his bills. I said I was not worried about the bills of someone who was trying to buy a private jet airplane he did not know how to fly, and he would have to hire a pilot to fly it for him, to take him to a meeting once a year. Everyone in the line, and the lady clerk, burst out laughing. I harassed GS11 some more, and the audience kept laughing. So I told him he ought not call me when I am in the check out line at Faustos.
GS11 said that place was run by one of the city commissioners, and was I going to do something to him while I was in there? I said I didn’t have my sniper rifle with me. GS11 said he had in mind something less drastic, our phone call had to be getting monitored by NSA, and now I had made him a terrorist suspect. I said I didn’t own a gun, and the only terrorist weapon I had was my mouth. And, by the way, the people listening in on this conversation now had all pissed in their pants and were lying on the floor laughing hysterically. Look what you went and caused.
GS11 said goodbye. I told the nice hysterical laughing lady clerk standing behind the counter that Jimmy Weekley (the city commissioner and former city mayor GS11 had wanted me to do something to, but not with a sniper rifle) didn’t tend to find my comments at city commission meetings nearly so funny. She remained hysterical. I paid and started walking toward the front door, hoping she and the others didn’t go into epileptic type seizures – I didn’t think I would be able to prevent more than one or two of them from biting their tongues in half.
Oh, did I forget to say there was a time when GS11 was homeless? And, that he is a Vietnam vet? And, that he later became a US Government contract worker? And, as he told it to me, that he fixed radars at Naval Air Station Key West, which were out of whack and posing a clear and present threat to anyone on the ground being killed by a defective radar misguided navy jet trying to land at Boca Chica air base?
And, did I also forget to say that back when Jim Weekley was mayor
and President George W. Bush was moving USA toward invading Iraq because it allegedly had weapons of mass destruction, a Resolution came before the City Commission, perhaps Jimmy sponsored it, I don’t remember, saying Key West opposed USA attacking Iraq without UN sanction and participation. Citizen comments were emotional and heated. The pro-invasion side was irate that the City Commission would even consider the issue. Three city commissioners voted against the Resolution, three voted in favor. When Jimmy voted last, in favor, he said he could not support another US war over oil, a reference to the previous war against Iraq led by George W. Bush’s father when he was President.
On the homeless front yesterday, sans pic, this sailed into my email account:
I hope you don’t mind if I pick your brain a little. I have recently been reading your articles , which I’ve enjoyed very much, and I get the feeling that you are a straight shooter and have a great insight about the homeless situation in Key West.
I will give you a brief background of where I am coming from and try not to take up much of your time. I am 50 years old and currently reside in Jacksonville . I am currently unemployed and have no money. For someone that wants to live in Key West, that is certainly not an ideal situation. I am an unskilled worker and could go to NC and make an OK living. From my point of view, I would be living somewhere I hate and it would seem I would just be putting in time till I die. So, I asked myself if I would rather be homeless in the Keys or take the latter. I keep choosing the Keys. I have never been homeless but am not under any illusion of what that can be like.
I have read your articles about KOTS and the outreach programs. Getting to the point. I can get a part time job working 3rd shift but not make enough for sustainable shelter. I have read where up to 40 percent of the homeless have some kind of employment. How do they do that? Do they stay and shower at the shelters? I look at craigslist ads for rooms and such but am always leery of those. Do you know of the good and bad of those ads? I will also add that I am a male and can handle myself but I consider myself passive. Is being homeless present a sense of constant danger?
I don’t want or need much. To me, less is more.
Thank you for your time and for any insights you might provide.
Hi, Mark – you are free to pick my brain.
If you have no money, I imagine Key West will be easier on you in the cooler months, than Jacksonville or North Carolina.
You can spend nights, for free, at KOTS on Stock Island, the next island up US 1 from Key West, if you get there before KOTS fills up each evening. Some KOTS users work, some do not. But if you are working 3rd shift, KOTS will not work for you, because it is a place to shower and sleep at night. Sleeping outside at night is prone to involve being hunted at night and rousted and threatened with jail by KW police. Right now, sleeping outside during the day on beaches and in parks is still allowed, but that might not continue. There are outdoor cold showers at Smathers Beach and Higgs Beach, which you are not supposed to use for bathing, but lots of people use them to rinse off, and some people use them for bathing. There are public toilets at both beaches, adjacent to the showers. There are showers and toilets under the Martin Luther King Center public swimming pool on Thomas Street in Bahama Village. The pool topside is Olympic size, nice, with wonderful ocean view. Some daytime hours there are restricted to special classes, other hours open to the public. Day time only. A soup kitchen on Flagler Ave. serves a full meal every day at 4 p.m. There are other places that serve a meal to homeless people once a week, maybe more often. Churches and the Salvation Army store often give clothing, blankets, etc. to homeless people, or the SA sells same really cheap.
Am not familiar with Craig’s list offerings. Seeing something for rent in person can be very different, as you probably know, from seeing it described online. If your intent is to come down here and get work and earn enough to perhaps share a room in a home with other people, and if you do not drink or use other narcotics, your best bet might be to apply for residence in Florida Keys Outreach Coalition’s entry level shelter on Patterson Avenue, not far from the VFW outpost on North Roosevelt Blvd. If you live by their rules, which require clean urine and helping keep the shelter clean and some cooking, and getting paying work, you might be able to stay in that program 6 months, perhaps longer, but I think there might be a problem with working nights, as they have a curfew, 10 p.m., as I recall. You also will have to attend recovery sessions modeled after the 12 Steps. I think FKOC is offering that in house now.
You write like an educated person, and if you are interested in different things, KW has much to offer. Museums which don’t cost anything. A good branch library. Lots of passing sights on Duval Street and, during evening, at Mallory Pier, where people gather to watch the sunset and watch and/or be wooed by street performers and musicians and sidewalk artists and food vendors. The population is multi-national, lots of residents are Cuban descent, lots are African descent, lots are English and Pirate descent. British, West and especially East Europeans, Asians. A few, ahem, rednecks. Lots of Conchs – natives, mostly viewed as white, but there are plenty of black Conchs, too. There is a VA facility for Veteran’s needing services, and a VFW and a Moose Lodge, and two Elk Lodges. You will not be able to do well panhandling, as that is seriously restricted, and unless you are a musician or artist and have a sidewalk business permit, you cannot ply those crafts in Key West without being confronted by the police. You very definitely will need a bicycle to get around, preferably with baskets for hauling stuff.
Much of the above you may have read in some of my older posts, some of it not.
As I have written quite a few times, the city mayor right now is trying to build a big homeless shelter on Stock Island, and if he gets it built, which is not for sure, it won’t surprise me if an attempt is made to try to force homeless people to stay in it all the time, until they agree to leave the area on a one-way Greyhound ticket, or they get work and can get into some kind of subsidized recovery program, such as FKOC, or one of the other KW subsidized recovery or disabled shelter programs, or the Key West Housing Authority, where you can stay for a portion of what you earn – based on need and ability to pay, but a pretty long waiting list to get into their housing. If you come down here and have some basic work skills, you might find a place where a room is swapped for rent, or part of the rent, in exchange for work. If you just want to come down here and be lazy, that, too, is possible at this time, thanks to KOTS.
Maybe more later.
A few more thoughts …
You do not say if you have a vehicle for transporting yourself down here. If so, you probably can leave it parked on streets not limited to residential parking only, and keep your belongings in it. If you have no vehicle, you should travel very light, as hauling stuff around is no fun, and hiding it somewhere is tantamount to it not being there when you come back for it. There are no lockers at KOTS for storing belongings. There are storage bins, which can be rented fairly inexpensively, perhaps $40 a month, on Stock Island is the only place I have heard.
Yes, being homeless can be filled with threatening situations, especially at night, if you are outside, from police, other homeless people, and sick mainstream people who like to hunt homeless people and harass or hurt them, or sometimes kill them. All of that is part of being homeless down here, where the local mainstream population is turning more and more against homeless people. The city creed, We Are All Members of One Human Family, is not viewed by many down here as including homeless people.
Your belongings will not be safe at KOTS, either. Never leave them unattended. Sleep with them beside you, tied to you is best. Keep your wallet in a pocket nobody can get into without waking you up. Be careful to avoid homeless people with open sores, which tend to be MRSA infections and are contagious by physical contact. MRSA is the terror of all homeless people down here. It nearly killed me a few times in 2003-2004. Only with angel help did I get over it, medicine was not able to rid me of it. All cuts, scrapes, scratches should be washed ASAP with soap and water, or splashed with table vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. You do not want to contract MRSA, ever. It’s rampant in the mainstream population, too, but you very seldom hear about it from the newspapers, and never from the Chamber of Commerce or the Tourist Development Council, nor from the city and county governments – bad for tourism. The water down here is alive with MRSA, as any local diver will attest.
Wow! What a thorough and helpful response. You are too kind.
I was just going to respond that I do have a car and thank you for addressing that.
Sorry to hear about your MRSA infections. I read your articles on that and it sounds horrible.
Since I have your ear, I will tell you about my attraction to the Keys. I have visited for a week before and it was just like it had been described to me. Live and let live. No rat race and I might get a different perspective going to the meetings you attend but it didn’t seem like a “look what I got” kind of place. When I walked Duvall street, it was true that I was walking slower by the end. What’s the rush. I never wore a watch in my life and I think most time related things are restrictive. I am the last one to judge anyone but it makes me laugh when I hear my buddy talk about his new 600 dollar coffee pot. I have a hard time thinking he enjoys his coffee more than I enjoy mine. lol. I really think 80 percent of jobs are busy work. Just done so someone can buy something they don’t need from another schmuck doing the same thing. But I digress. Each their own. Years ago, my buddy and I were going to publish a project and the lady doing it told us about her time in the Keys. She was fresh out of school and her job was to keep Mel Fisher out of trouble. She said if you could work 3 days to live 7, you were a success. I like that attitude but times change I guess.
Thanks for the insight on the shelters. Fortunately I don’t have any addictions. I almost feel like I am destined to work,help, or maybe just be with the homeless. If there is an empathy gene, I have it. I say you can tell a lot about a person with how they treat and think of the homeless. We are taught early on that the guy with a sign is a bum, loser, drunk, no good whatever instead of just being a guy with a sign. I might be wrong but I see different types of homelessness. Mental illness/addictions, dramatic event, or some people just don’t want to play by the rules of society. They don’t fit in. For the mayor or whomever to think they are somehow superior to a homeless citizen because their wallet is bigger really bothers me. Money never has been character.
Last question and I’ll let you go. Is there a plasma donation center on the island? I know they don’t liking taking people that are homeless but I figure there is a way around that.
Thanks again for the reply. You represent the Keys well.
Hi again, Mark -
Yes, they are always actively seeking blood donations down here, but I don’t know if they pay for donations, as far as I know, they don’t pay.
You could try sleeping in your car, keep changing locations and the police might not catch on. If they do catch on, they will start looking for your car at night to tell you you can’t be “camping” in it and to move on.
If you get a bicycle, you will need a good lock for it, and front and rear lights for night, about $100 fine for riding a bike at night without lights. Thorn guard tubes also advised; getting a flat in some remote place is a drag, unless you have a tube patch kit, bike tools and an air pump. $50 probably will get you a good used bike, figure that again, or a little more, for the tubes, lights, lock.
You are right about different kinds of homeless people. Sadly, the live and let live is not dominant down here, if you are homeless; and living in Key West has become a rat race for many people. I hear stories of people barely able to survive on two jobs, and of people even having three jobs. I hear of people sharing rooms different times of day with other people, timed around their work shifts. Rents very high down here.
But, if you have no demons driving you to be like everyone else, if you are okay having very little and roughing it, you might really like Key West, at least for a while. Some homeless people you will find interesting to get to know, some you will not care to spend time around. Car/van homeless people tend to be interesting.
If you stay clean, don’t smell bad, twice in the past two days I went into public places and was hit by the strong stench of old urine, the Senior Center outside hallway yesterday, the County Library today. You want to avoid being like that, and if you look okay, don’t cause trouble, you should get by okay. Hell, what do I know? You might end up running for mayor! As the renaissance candidate!
Back when I was homeless in Key West, Jimmy Weekley was the only elected city official who openly maintained that homeless people were part of Key West’s One Human Family. As far as I know, Jimmy still feels that way.