My afternoon started yesterday around 3:30 meeting John Shafer and the other volunteers from Chicago and Michiana 5 for the Homeless. We gathered and picked up quite a few bags they had prepared with some essential items and hit the streets. We stopped everywhere that we saw a person on the corner, sitting in a cubby hole and let them know that here’s a little bit of help. Also that we would be setting up a little later if they needed some winter clothing. Towards the end of our walking around the theme of the day started. This goes to show how little I actually know but the start of so you have any socks began.
As 5 o’clock approached we headed back to the park on State and Van Buren next to the Harold Washington Library. We met up with Raymond Lopez, the Democratic Committeeman from the 15th ward in Chicago. More on Ray later, but in addition to everything the Chicago and Michiana crew brought with them Ray also had a truckload of winter coats donated by people from his day job with Southwest Airlines.
After setting up three truckloads of clothing it didn’t take long for the people who needed it to start coming up. This was about the time that Ray said to a couple of us let’s go drive around for a few minutes looking for more people. At this point he has no clue who I am, thinking I’m just another volunteer. This is where the experience really started as we entered Lower Wacker Drive. While I’ve driven through there before I never really noticed the people living there. We pulled over and talked to everyone we came in contact with. I was astonished to see the people with all of their meager belongings who called it home. The biggest surprise came when Ray asked, “Where did everybody go?” Apparently the city has begun rounding people up and kicking them out or arresting them. The look of disgust that I saw on Ray’s face told me he isn’t your typical politician.
We weren’t gone that long, but when we returned to the park I was amazed to see there already wasn’t much left. By far the most often asked for item was socks followed by thermal underwear.
Then the time came that I had a moment to talk to Ray and some of the people still coming up for the items that were still left. Apparently there has been a huge crackdown on the homeless getting harassed and arrested by the city. I guess with the holidays among is if they get swept up and put in jail that no one will realize that the problem is still there. That and how bad the social services that so many tax dollars get spent on how ineffective they really are.
After we cleaned up I was invited to go eat with the other volunteers. It was definitely nice to get to be normal for a meal. Something I haven’t been able to experience for awhile. Also thanks to Ray for picking up the tab!
After dinner I was getting ready to walk back to the truck when Ray said I have to go that way anyway I’ll give you a ride. That turned in to sitting at Dunkin Donuts for a coffee and really talking about how I ended up in this situation and what I’m doing about it. I also brought up after seeing everything earlier how fortunate I am compared to some of the people we saw earlier.
We will be doing this again on December 21, if anyone would like to donate any items for distribution, make a monetary donation to Chicago and Michiana 5 for the homeless or just want to come help feel free to contact me through one of the various methods I post here and will get you in touch with the appropriate people.
Now for my typical self serving portion of the post:
So I may as well use this to start promoting myself. If anyone has any computer problems they need solved feel free to leave a comment here,
dm @chihomelessguy on twitter or
message on Facebook Chi Homelessguy. I guarantee the work and if you aren’t satisfied when I’m done you don’t pay. I’m also willing to work for much less than I should charge because of the circumstances I am in. Do you have an old laptop you aren’t using? I’ll barter my services for it.
If anyone reading this finds it in their heart they would like to help me, it can be done by http://www.gofundme.com/58fd60