homelessness, the church, the government [From: "Yael Grauer"]

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 24 Nov 1998 14:07:00 -0400


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FWD  CC Replies To: "Yael Grauer" <starlightdove@hotmail.com>

[Yael invites HPNer's comments on the post below,
sent Mon, 23 Nov 1998 to Food Not Bombs list.]


I've been spending a lot of time thinking about groups that try to
help the homeless that are decidedly less radical than Food Not Bombs
and rely on help from the US government and the church.

I have a real problem with these groups.

I was working for one of them...at a church that lets another
(government funded) group serve food and let people sleep one night a
week, and this was my experience...

I showed up around 7 PM and there was a huge line by the door.  My
friend and I kind of had to force our way through the crowd and work our
way inside so we could help with the food.  We finally get inside and
put on these plastic glove things and nametags and I get introduced to
many people in the kitchen.  One of the guys hangs out in Cleveland all
the time, and knows about Food Not Bombs, and lets me know, with a wink,
that they, too, sometimes bend the rules.

They give me a spot in line.  I get to ask people, "Would you like
some bread?" and stick it on their trays if they give me the okay.  Only
there's no place to put the bread and I don't know where they want it.
One of the men in line starts to grab a cinnamon bun and the womyn next
to me pulls the tray away from him and says, "i need to put that on a
plate for you".  You know why?  Because she doesn't want him to touch
the food.  She doesn't want him to touch it!  We're going to
give you food but you can't take it.  We have to serve you.  That's so
patronizing.

A little while later I decide to grab some food and sit at the
cafeteria-style tables.  The girl on the other side of me at the food
serving table, who is wearing a Jars of Clay t-shirt and a cross
necklace, tells me I can sit with her and her father if I'd like.  But I
thought the point of us eating with everybody else is for community, not
to sit with people we already know.  I decline and sit next to some
womyn who I had given bread to.  She asks me if I mind if she smokes and
then ignores me.  Then some men in the table ask me if I am there to
share my presence with all of them, or just the womyn (who is ignoring
me.)

I'm telling this story to illustrate the sense of division in this
group.  We're playing chess and cards and all these people keep asking
me what I'm doing there on a Friday night.  WHat am I supposed to say to
that?!  I can't say, "I love doing this!" like I did with fnb...

I decide to help out with the clothing distribution and go into a
closet-like room.  There is no door in front of it but there is a table
and the people at this one-night shelter are screamed at for leaning on
the table.  They are not supposed to look inside.  "This isn't a store
where you can just take what you want!"  some old womyn yells.  SHe
tells me that people are taking advantage of their good will, that they
should only take one or two things, that they should only ask for
clothing if they really need it.  SOme people have been standing there
for hours!  They might take these clothes and resellt hem!  She actually
believes this!

I run away again and play more cards, and some guy tries to convert me.
I tell him that I think the moon is a goddess and that I don't believe
in original sin, and then I wonder if I should feel guilty because I am
in a church basement...*sigh*

I'm at a loss as to what to do...I think it might come from the fact
that if I keep going back I won't be volunteering, I'll be working (even
though the money is coming from the government and not the shelter, and
it's my money anyway that the government has stolen from me)...but I
feel like I'd be part of the system...only I'm too far from any Food Not
Bombs and don't have the resources to start my own chapter here...any
insights?  I don't think I can really *change* the way this place
operates...

y

-Food Not Bombs List     fnb-l@tao.ca
-distributing food in opposition to violence
-archive: http://www.tao.ca/~fnbtor/fnb-l/
-active cities: http://webcom.com/peace
-send '(un)subscribe fnb-l'  to majordomo@tao.ca

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HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page
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FWD  CC Replies To: "Yael Grauer" <<starlightdove@hotmail.com>


<paraindent><param>right,left</param>[Yael invites HPNer's comments on
the post below,

sent Mon, 23 Nov 1998 to Food Not Bombs list.]

</paraindent>


I've been spending a lot of time thinking about groups that try to 

help the homeless that are decidedly less radical than Food Not Bombs 

and rely on help from the US government and the church.


I have a real problem with these groups.


I was working for one of them...at a church that lets another 

(government funded) group serve food and let people sleep one night a 

week, and this was my experience...


I showed up around 7 PM and there was a huge line by the door.  My 

friend and I kind of had to force our way through the crowd and work
our 

way inside so we could help with the food.  We finally get inside and 

put on these plastic glove things and nametags and I get introduced to


many people in the kitchen.  One of the guys hangs out in Cleveland all


the time, and knows about Food Not Bombs, and lets me know, with a
wink, 

that they, too, sometimes bend the rules.


They give me a spot in line.  I get to ask people, "Would you like 

some bread?" and stick it on their trays if they give me the okay. 
Only 

there's no place to put the bread and I don't know where they want it. 


One of the men in line starts to grab a cinnamon bun and the womyn next


to me pulls the tray away from him and says, "i need to put that on a 

plate for you".  You know why?  Because she doesn't want him to touch 

the food.  She doesn't want him to touch it!  We're going to 

give you food but you can't take it.  We have to serve you.  That's so


patronizing.


A little while later I decide to grab some food and sit at the 

cafeteria-style tables.  The girl on the other side of me at the food 

serving table, who is wearing a Jars of Clay t-shirt and a cross 

necklace, tells me I can sit with her and her father if I'd like.  But
I 

thought the point of us eating with everybody else is for community,
not 

to sit with people we already know.  I decline and sit next to some 

womyn who I had given bread to.  She asks me if I mind if she smokes
and 

then ignores me.  Then some men in the table ask me if I am there to 

share my presence with all of them, or just the womyn (who is ignoring


me.)  


I'm telling this story to illustrate the sense of division in this 

group.  We're playing chess and cards and all these people keep asking


me what I'm doing there on a Friday night.  WHat am I supposed to say
to 

that?!  I can't say, "I love doing this!" like I did with fnb...


I decide to help out with the clothing distribution and go into a 

closet-like room.  There is no door in front of it but there is a table


and the people at this one-night shelter are screamed at for leaning on


the table.  They are not supposed to look inside.  "This isn't a store


where you can just take what you want!"  some old womyn yells.  SHe 

tells me that people are taking advantage of their good will, that they


should only take one or two things, that they should only ask for 

clothing if they really need it.  SOme people have been standing there


for hours!  They might take these clothes and resellt hem!  She
actually 

believes this!


I run away again and play more cards, and some guy tries to convert me.
 

I tell him that I think the moon is a goddess and that I don't believe


in original sin, and then I wonder if I should feel guilty because I am


in a church basement...*sigh*


I'm at a loss as to what to do...I think it might come from the fact 

that if I keep going back I won't be volunteering, I'll be working
(even 

though the money is coming from the government and not the shelter, and


it's my money anyway that the government has stolen from me)...but I 

feel like I'd be part of the system...only I'm too far from any Food
Not 

Bombs and don't have the resources to start my own chapter here...any 

insights?  I don't think I can really *change* the way this place 

operates...


y


-Food Not Bombs List     fnb-l@tao.ca

-distributing food in opposition to violence

-archive: http://www.tao.ca/~fnbtor/fnb-l/

-active cities: http://webcom.com/peace

-send '(un)subscribe fnb-l'  to majordomo@tao.ca


END FORWARD

-

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

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