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Yesterday, I bumped into two of my favorite homeless people at different times. One is a man, the other a woman. It was wonderful catching up with them. I wish Mayor Craig Cates and the six city commissioners had been with me, to hear it all. Some of it might have caused them to hang down their head in shame over how their police behaved toward these two wonderful people, who, one of them told me, are not citizens of Key West, according to Commissioner Yaniz recently in the Key West Citizen. Both of them have lived in Key West for over 20 years, one of them used to work with Yaniz on something. As far as I know, neither of them ever caused anyone any trouble. They mind their own business, have many friends in Key West, are loved by many people in Key West, and I mean by mainstream people. I am reluctant to tell tell their heart-wrenching stories of police brutality, because the police who were involved, if they got wind of what I wrote, would know exactly who told it to me, and I fear for my friends’ welfare, if I name them.
However, I will tell a couple of the woman’s stories, which had nothing to do with the Key West police.
After being taken in by a Key West family, and given her own room and run of the premises, things seemed to be going well. Then, one night, she woke up to a loud commotion out in the back yard. She went out to see what was going on, and there was some kind of odd religious revival with which she was not familiar, and it scared her and she said it and went back into her room. The next morning, her man host knocked on her door loudly and when she came to the door and opened it, he told her she had to leave. She had no place to go, he knew that. But she had to leave anyway. So, she was homeless, again.
By and by, she found a situation in another couple’s home. The woman was ill and my friend became her nurse and keeper. They told her she would always have a place with them. The woman host had cancer, and as it progressed, she was unable to take care of herself, and my friend looked after her in all ways, including bathing her and cleaning her after she relieved herself. When there was talk of putting the woman in a facility, my friend said no, her patient should stay at home, she would take care of her. So the woman stayed at home and my friend took care of her. After two years, her patient died, and right away, the husband told my friend she had to leave, to get out, now. My friend said she had no place to go. The man said he knew that, but get out now. So she left, and was homeless again.
I wish everyone of my readers had been with me yesterday, when I got caught up with these two remarkable people, whose rich lives and deep experiences and senses of humor and wisdom flowed out of them like manna from heaven. The man is probably the most educated person I have ever known. You could sit him down in any conversation on just about anything, and in short order he would demonstrate just how educated he really is. Yet, he is content to be homeless, read all the books he still needs to read, mind his own business, and serve the homeless in his own way, every day, by helping others enable homeless people to eat and not starve.
When I asked each of them, facetiously, if they will be going to stay in the new homeless rehab shelter, if it ever gets built?, they snorted, laughed. No way in hell that’s going to happen. They will keep their heads down, like other homeless people do, who have been around a few or more years, and mostly stay off mainstream and its police’s radar, and live out their lives as some of the most interesting people in this part of God’s creation. More interesting than all but a few people I know, to be honest. The woman was featured in Erika Biddle’s homeless art and poetry exhibition, Hidden In Plain View, last year; the man was not. No way he wants that kind of exposure. He used to work for some esoteric US Government agency. He did things he cannot tell about.
Also yesterday, Todd German told me of having just left a Chamber of Commerce meeting, at which the hospital on Stock Island made a presentation (lamentation) about how much free service it provides to indigent people, homeless and non-homeless. But for that indigent service in 2003, I would have died from MRSA. As, imagine would have many Key West people. Back then, the city ran a free medical clinic, headed by retired physician Ian Garriques. It was located in the hospital. I believe Garrizues worked for nothing. I believe his two women helpers got paid. Later, the free clinic was moved to the de Poo building on Kennedy Drive. Later, the free clinic was closed. Then, the hospital emergency room started taking the full load of indigent patients.Todd said something has to be done about the cost of the hospital and the sheriff having to pay for the cost of housing and treating homeless people, I said, well, most of that cost is due to Key West arresting homeless people and taking them to the jail, which either keeps and treats them, or the Key West police just take homeless arrestees straight to the hospital, if they are really drunk or otherwise impaired. I said Key West is driving what the Sheriff and the hospital lament, and the Sheriff and the hospital can either go along with it, or stop going along with it. It’s up to them. It’s not the homeless people’s fault, in most cases, because it’s not them taking themselves to the jail or to the hospital. it’s Key West police doing that.Todd said the hospital is reluctant to quickly discharge homeless people, because if they come back in 30 days, the hospital gets a black mark on its record, I said that’s not what really bothers the hospital. What really bothers the hospital is a homeless person gets released too soon and dies, and the hospital gets sued for malpractice. I said Mayor Cates and his police put the hospital and the Sheriff in that position all the time.
In the Key West Citizen today, my interjected thoughts initalics:
Building a homeless shelter benefits all of us
Mayor Craig Cates
Citizens of Key West, I would like to clear the air on some misinformation about the homeless shelter I have been proposing. It’s not the mayor’s shelter. It is Key West’s shelter for the homeless. Anyone that has been in Key West since 2000 knows what it was like before KOTS overnight shelter was built. The homeless were camping in tents and cardboard huts on the boulevard, by the beach, in our parks and all over Key West. The police could not do anything about them because we did not have a shelter. So KOTS was built and we were able to move them from those locations.
Actually, it was in early 2004, after Key West ordered homeless people to stop camping in the mangroves, that they started camping in tents and cardboard huts on the boulevard across from Smathers Beach and on the city side of Higgs Beach. I was one of the homeless ordered out of the mangroves, and was told by Assistant City Manager John Jones to move my tent to the Bridle Path, across from Smathers Beach. That continued until KOTS was built later that year. KOTS was not nearly big enough to sleep all of Key West’s homeless. KOTS still is not nearly big enough.
When I ran as mayor the first time, I said I would address the homeless issue in
Key West and I have not wavered. I started a homeless committee and discussed issues and solutions. The meetings were open to the public and minutes were taken. The need to improve the homeless shelter to become more efficient and effective was noted.
I might have been the first person Mayor Cates asked to be on his homeless committee, in the fall of 2009. He asked me at his campaign victory party, right after thanking me for getting him elected without a runoff. I said, sure, I would be glad to be on his committee. Never heard from him again. Never was invited to attend any of his committee meetings. Same thing pretty much happened to Father Stephen Braddock, who heads up Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, which at that time was running KOTS for the city. Mayor Cates did not want Steve or me at his homeless committee meetings, even though we knew more about the subject, by far, than people who were on the committee.
The idea of the mobile unit came up also. SHAL received a grant to purchase the motorhome and the city helped fund its operational cost. Case workers are able to go to the homeless that would not come out of the encampments and help them get the services they need, such as getting identification so they can receive state and federal assistance and help them get in contact with family to return to their hometowns. We passed stricter camping ordinances, stricter rules to protect our parks and passed no-panhandling zones. But as much as we have done, we still have a huge issue.
Some of them might want to return to their hometowns and families, some of them definitely do not wan to do that. They ran away from their hometowns and families, and want nothing further to do with them. I told Mayor Cates back then that the motorhome would not solve the big issue. He had invited me to be on his homeless advisory committee, so I advised him about homeless issues without his asking for my advice.
Where we are today is KOTS has been challenged by a lawsuit that we may or
may not win. The facility is on the sheriff’s property, where they may or may not
renew our lease. The sheriff tells us what hours it can operate, from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. with no one allowed at the shelter during the day. So, everyone leaves and are on the streets all day looking for food, drinks and just hanging out all over town. Then they are fed on Flagler at the soup kitchen or take handouts throughout town. At the end of the day they try to make it back to KOTS that opens at 6 p.m. They must arrive before 9:30 p.m. or they are not allowed
in. Many just sleep wherever they can.
To be proactive and not wait until we are forced to leave the sheriff’s property with nowhere to go, I proposed a shelter on the city’s property at Easter Seals. We know the city needs at the bare minimum an overnight shelter.
The same lawyer, Bart Smith, who filed that lawsuit for Sunset Marina, represents the golf course community, and has threatened to file suit for that community, if Key West tries to put the new, bigger, 24-hour KOTS at the Easter Seals property. Recently, the golf course community Board of Directors wrote to Mayor Cates and the City Commission, saying don’t put the new shelter beside the golf course. Is Mayor Cates not listening to them? I remember him telling me the Sunset Marina lawsuit had no merit and the city would easily win it. I agree, the city needs a basic overnight shelter, which is a far cry from what Mayor Cates has been promoting, which is a 24-hour full-service homeless rehab shelter.
I proposed the city selling the property to the Monroe County Land Authority,
which collects sales tax in Key West to buy property for affordable housing. Then returning the property back to Key West with a deed restriction that it will always be used for affordable housing. What is more basic affordable housing
than whether you stay at the shelter or you’re homeless? Use the money from the sale to build the shelter with no money coming out of the city taxpayer’s pockets.
Huh? Don’t the county taxpayers fund the Monroe County Land Authority? Once again, get the county taxpayers to pay for Key West homeless policy? Does Mayor Cates truly believe it is the county taxpayers’ job to pay for his and Key West’s homeless policy, when Key West is a separate municipality, and when the county does not treat county homeless people the way Key West treats city homeless people?
When the shelter is no longer needed, another type of housing could be built
When the shelter is no longer needed? After a Category 5 hurricane removes every last person from Key West and Stock Island? After the Second Coming?
The purpose of the 24-hour shelter is they don’t have to leave in the morning to wander the streets all day.
Many of them will wander the streets anyway. It will be a lot easier for them to wander the streets, not having to carry all their belongings with them.
At the shelter, social services could come to them, they will have less chance to get sick so the hospital won’t have indigent care cost of $14 million that has been stated by the hospital, which we all end up paying for.
Many of them already are sick. Put them altogether in a compound, they will give infectious diseases to each other. The really sick ones will end up in the hospital anyway. Who will pay for the social services? County taxpayers? Non-profits funded by county, state, US taxpayers? Churches?
Instead of taking them to jail for the municipal ordinance offenses, we could
take them to the shelter. This would save our Police Department valuable time
because it takes about two hours to make an arrest. It would also save the sheriff the cost of incarceration, which is paid for by the city and county taxpayers.
Mayor Cates, you and your police are the reason the Sheriff and the hospital and the city and county taxpayers are paying for Key West’s homeless policy.
There will be an outside covered area if they are intoxicated and inside area like we have now at KOTS if they are not intoxicated and behave.
The soup kitchen has agreed to feed the homeless at the shelter and close the facility on Flagler. The idea is to feed them at the shelter so they have to come there and also not allow them to camp on the streets, but give them the option to go to the shelter or jail if they are breaking the law.
The law against living outside, sleeping outside. That’s the Pottinger case, which forced Key West to build KOTS, which was not nearly large enough to sleep all of Key West’s homeless, so the Pottinger case was not satisfied. If the new homeless shelter is large enough to sleep all of Key West’s homeless, not on any drawing board I have heard about, that will satisfy the Pottinger case. Such a shelter will have to be at least twice as big as what I have heard proposed for the Easter Seals property. At least 600 beds for homeless living outside and in vehicles.
If a person is in jail, the jail has the responsibility for their medical needs. The sheriff spent over $1 million for the homeless last year, but at the shelter we won’t have that responsibility. They have a location to keep their belongings when they try to find a job without having to carry everything they own on their back or hide it in the bushes. We will not allow them to sleep on the streets or live in the mangroves because we will have a location to take them 24 hours a day.
Not based on the size of the new shelter you currently propose. Double its size to 600 beds, and you might be able to sleep all of them at night and legally jail them, if they don’t go there to sleep.
We know that many homeless want the opportunity to get back on their feet but
we also know about 25 to 30 percent have addictions and mental issues that they may never overcome. The ones with the addictions will never get into some of the great programs for housing that the nonprofits provide.
Non-profits like Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, whom, via Father Stephen Braddock, you did not want on your homeless advisory committee. Non-profits which have nowhere close to the beds to accommodate the homeless leaving a city homeless shelter. Where are they going to live after they leave a city homeless shelter? Where are they going to live, if they never leave the city shelter? In the shelter? You don’t like KOTS now, and you are talking about building a much bigger KOTS?
Unfortunately, the community and police still have to deal with that percentage. Because Key West has enabled them in the past with our kindness and generosity, the problem continues and could increase.
About 90 percent of long-term homeless are addicts. Put them in a shelter, keep them there, they will go into the DTs and require medical intervention. After you dry them out, clean them up, you have to worry about relapse. Eventually, 95 percent of dried out addicts relapse, according to AA and NA old-timers.
I believe the shelter should be basic protection from the elements. I believe
we should have a committee decide what other amenities a shelter should have.
We must work together with Sheriff Ramsay, the hospital, the Monroe County
Health Department, the nonprofits and the County Commission to address this
issue, which is not just a Key West issue, it’s everyone’s issue. I Believe One Human Family is more than a bumper sticker.
Actually, Mayor Cates, what you believe is homeless people should not be seen or heard in Key West, and your homeless shelter, it is yours, nobody else in the city pushed for it, is your attempt to get homeless people out of sight and sound.
On the same front, sort of, received this yesterday from Peggy Butler, formerly of Key West, now living in West Palm Beach, where she can afford to live. In Key West, she probably would be homeless because of the high cost of housing here. I think this article below was in the Huffington Post, where I have seen prior writings by this man:
Obama and the Peace Prize – a different approach from a formerly homeless writer
Posted: 09/24/2013 1:39 pm
Ever since the Nobel Peace Prize Committee surprised the world by giving the 2009 award to newly elected U.S. President Barack Obama, the selection has evoked controversy.
Early on, objections were based on the claim that it was too early; that the president had not yet any accomplishment worthy of the honor. But soon, the main objection centered around the president’s role as a Commander In Chief who authorized a surge in U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, and was therefore thought to be escalating the war. And now, the possibility of a missile strike on Syria — even though it would be to prevent the use of chemical weapons — is being called into question.
The peace prize choice has been vociferously defended by the Norwegians who chose Barack Obama from among a record 205 nominees. The committee has said the selection was an endorsement of Obama’s stated policies, and as encouragement for what his “extraordinary efforts” could do.
And the committee’s decision is indeed a reflection of Alfred Nobel’s thinking when he established the Nobel Peace Prize more than a century ago as a reward for working toward peace.
Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama’s “extraordinary efforts” have ended one war, in Iraq, and will soon end another one — America’s longest — in Afghanistan. He has worked on solutions to volatile situations in Libya and now Syria without putting American boots on the ground. He has kept alive the possibility of peaceful solutions to confrontations with Iran and North Korea. He has proven to be a president intent on ending wars; not starting them.
And his “extraordinary efforts” have accomplished something else. They have kept us safer.
All but forgotten is the first of several bold moves made by Barack Obama that have made at least one place — the high seas — safer and more peaceful. In April, 2009 the waters of the Mediterranean and Middle East were home to pirate ships which posed a constant threat to international shipping interests
When the captain of an American cargo ship, Maersk Alabama, was taken hostage, President Obama authorized a daring rescue by U.S. Navy sharpshooters. Before that success, six ships had been seized for ransom by pirates. Since then — none.
President Obama authorized another, better-remembered military action that rid the world of Osama bin Laden, and he has overseen the decimation of al Qaeda leadership.
Through it all — as he works for peace, and to keep us safe — this president continues to endure criticism that he is weak and/or indecisive. Those claims are debunked by the record.
Barack Obama is justifying — through “extraordinary efforts” — the faith placed in him by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.
I wrote to Peggy:
I have met and have had some dealings with Bill Laney, and I read his book.
After reading what Bill wrote praising President Obama, I found myself wishing Bill, not I, had been told in his sleep in 2008, that Barack Obama had the potential to be the AntiChrist, and I wished even more that Bill had been the one who was not able to take shit for a month after Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.
What got that to let up was a nuclear poem that finally erupted out of me, pulverizing Obama. The poem was first aired, nearly spontaneously, at a Key West Poetry Guild monthly gathering, and then a few days later at the Gato pocket park off of Simonton Street, behind First State Bank, during a 24 hour poetry marathon. After that, I was able to shit again.
As far as I know, Bill Laney never returned to independent living. He continued to need subsidized quarters. As do I. Absent something unforeseen happening, in the Act of God category probably, I will never be able to live independent by my own efforts. Perhaps Bill will get there some day, perhaps he already got there. But, just my opinion, he has long ways to go in the peace dimension.
Obama’s long time minister and spiritual adviser, Jeremiah Wright, had USA pretty well sized up; he spoke his mind, which could not possibly have been news to Obama. All those years, Obama knew where Wright stood on America. All those years, Obama stuck by Wright, perhaps even revered him. Then, when Wright stated threatening Obama’s chances of getting elected, by preaching his mind about USA, Obama dumped Wright. Just like that, Wright was wrong, his words unacceptable.
I ain’t too sure God did not damn America long before Wright asked God to do that. For practicing human slavery in the face of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. For genocide against the Native Americans. For treating women like chattel property. For Vietnam. For the war in Iraq. For the war in Afghanistan. Or rather, I ain’t too sure America did not damn America, and God concurred.
When a country claims to be a chosen people, one nation, under God, in America’s case, it sets a far higher spiritual standard for itself than a country which does not claim God-ordination. It invites God to take a special interest in that country. It asks for tests other countries are not given, which do not claim to be favored by God.
When a US President accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, forget the idiots who awarded it to him, while carrying on the two idiotic, capitalistic wars of his predecessor, every American should stop breathing, wonder how that could possibly happen? Every American should wonder what kind of person would accept that Prize? Forget the idiots who awarded it to him, and the idiots who voted him into office the second time, after it was crystal clear that he was not a man of peace.
Just my opinion. The Norwegians awarded Obama the Prize because he was the first Black American President. If they had thought Obama was all that great, why didn’t they award him the prize before he got elected? Would they have awarded it to him if he had not been elected? Just my opinion. The Norwegians made their decision solely on the color of race, and not on merit. By contrast, M.L. King, Nelson Mandela, had merit.
Jeremiah Wright might have had merit, too. Did Wright put the ideas into Obama’s mind, which Obama later spoke, and based on that, the Norwegians gave Obama the Prize, instead of Wright?
No telling how many homeless people are veterans of US wars, maybe 20 percent of all homeless?Right after Peggy’s email, this came into my inbox from Glenn of Key West, who owns a home in the golf course community, which has objected to Mayor Cates putting his new homeless rehab shelter next to the golf course on Stock Island. Four city commissioners also objected to that location at a city commission meeting last week. Billy Wardlow, Mark Rossi, Clayton Lopez, Tony Yaniz.
“No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems — of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.” -Thomas Sowell
Also yesterday, from a north Georgia redneck amigo, who started out this life in Montgomery, Alabama, attended the University of Alabama, got married to a Birmingham socialite and spent time, therefore, in the elite Birmingham Country Club, where I matriculated in that former life. After that marriage went south, my friend migrated to Hotlanta, as Atlanta often is called, and from there he somehow managed to end up in north Georgia, where he then set out to perfect his redneckdom.
Along the way, he took a homeless man into his home, when that homeless man had no place to lay down his head at night, and he looked after that homeless many for many months, until that homeless man, who was me, had some reversals of fortune and was able to get his own place to lay down his head at night. We ran many rivers together, that north Georgia redneck and I. Many rivers.
He was the first person to read HEAVY WAIT: A Strange Tale,eventually published by PublishAmerica.com. He was able to read it, because he paid to have copies of the manuscript printed out and bound in a spiral binder. He shared it with other people. A novel written not by a former homeless person, but by a homeless person. I novel I kept telling people, including my redneck friend, was written by God. I was just the court reporter who took it down.
Dam Ishsky! You really look like a normal guy sitting at that bar, clean shaven. Are you sure you’re not at the Bham CC!
Quite sure. Just this afternoon, I pedaled my bicycle by a couple standing on a street corner looking at/puzzling over a Key West city map. I stopped and ask if they needed directions? They said they were looking for Simonton Street, where they had left their car in a parking lot. I said go through yon stop light, to the next crossing road, and that is Simonton. Then, I asked the woman, who had don’t most of the talking so far, “What part of the Land of Northern Aggression are you not from? She clearly was a southern girl. She said, from the Alabama part. I said, me, too. What part was she from? Oneonta. I said, almost up on Sand Mountain. I said, I was from Birmingham. The man asked, did I run away from Birmingham to live in Key West? I said, my father owned a home in Islamorada for nearly 40 years, and I spent a lot of time around there and that’s how I got to know the Keys. But after my family disowned me, I ran away to Key West, which I knew somewhat from visiting the place a few times. I said, I no longer cared for Islamorada, it had changed to much.
I told them to have breakfast at Harpoon Harry’s, and, since the man said they had just been in a bar, where the best bar was, the Green Parrot. But also, near Harpoon Harry’s was a another famous bar, Schooner Warf, where they might like to imbibe. I said, they could go there early, before breakfast at Harpoon Harry’s, and meet the Breakfast Club who gather every morning at 7 a.m. at Schooner Warf. One rule. No solid food. After that, they could go over to Harpoon Harry’s and get some solid food. Also the liquid kind, as Harpoon Harry’s is a full-service restaurant. I said I had breakfasted a couple of times at Schooner Warf, but no longer can drink, it makes me sick. It makes me sick?, the man asked. Yeah, in about an hour after having a drink, I feel terrible. It’s hell.
I asked them what people from a dry county were doing in bars? The man said Oneonta’s county, Blount, I think, is close to voting wet, only three wet counties remain in Alabama. I said, I bet the Baptist and the moonshiners get together to beat every going wet vote. I said, I once clerked for a federal district Judge named Clarence W. Allgood. Did they ever hear of him? A big YES. I said, Judge Allgood had a farm between Moody and Asheville, St. Claire County, adjacent to Blount, I think, and the moonshiners patrolled it for him to keep the poachers out, because he never put moonshiners in prison, because he was fond of moonshine himself! I pedaled off, pretty sure I was in Key West.
I think the last time I was in the Birmingham County Club was right after my father’s wake, a luncheon Major and his wife hosted for our family.
I imagine, were I sitting at a bar in the Birmingham Country Club, talking with people, it would not be all that terribly long before they left, or I left, perhaps escorted.
Nice photo of grandpa and grandson you sent a few days ago. Fortunately for grandson, he is prettier than grandpa.
IshskyDavis met my brother Major during the Vietnam war, when they were in basic training for the Alabama Air National Guard. Being in the Air National Guard saved them from being sent to Vietnam. George W. Bush got into the Montgomery Air National Guard about the same time, and that saved him from going to Vietnam. Unlike Major and Davis, Bush went AWOL from his Air National Guard unit and later was rewarded with being elected President of the United States of America. No telling how many thousands of homeless people G.W. Bush created with his wars and idiotic economic policies. What else could Barack Obama do, but try to one-up G.W. Bush? Someone told me yesterday, that they are trying to cut food stamps by $30 billion or so. I said to do what, give to the Navy, Army and Air Force. Yes, the person said.Sloan Bashinsky