What About Base Camp?
Stimulus Checks For Homeless Folks
Found Camera Lens
Bellingham Folk Festival All Weekend!
Radio Free Fl!p: I Bid You Goodnight
Let me begin by saying I was not there. So everything I say tonight is hearsay. Except the parts I saw and heard on video. But here is my understanding as of tonight.
Word was posted on social media that the city was planning a Sweep of the homeless encampment at City Hall. Sweeps generally involve workers coming in and taking everything homeless folks are unable to carry away. The rules say that valuables must be held for 60 days, and there is phone number homeless folks can call to get their belongings back. But that assumes the homeless folks have access to a phone, and transportation to wherever their stuff got taken. And that objects important to them personally have not been classified as garbage and thrown away. As I heard one outreach worker say at a council meeting, “We give them tents, and you throw them away.” Representation on social media made it sound like a full Sweep.
There is a current legal prohibition against clearing occupied sites – Sweeps – during the pandemic. A year ago there were already 700 homeless individuals in the Whatcom homeless census. This year that homeless census will not happen due to Covid concerns. But I can’t imagine there are not many more now.
Friday morning a fairly small group of protesters showed up and took angry and provocative action. They barricaded Lottie Street. They spray painted graffiti on City Hall. Long-term volunteers and local journalists got shoved, threatened, attacked and chased off site by protesters trying to keep from being filmed. There were attempts to destroy video equipment. A flag was torn down and defaced. City Hall was broken into. Chanting demanded the mayor come out. From the video I listened to, it would not have been at all safe for him to do so. Both City Hall and the library were evacuated. I haven’t been able to find anyone yet who witnessed any arrests. There may have been some, but I haven’t heard.
The protest was very loud, including banging on things and lots of yelling. Many of the homeless campers have PTSD and this was really hard on them.
At 9 PM barricades were still in place, but vehicles were gone. We don’t know if they’ll be back tomorrow. Comment from a long-time volunteer: I can tell you for sure all those folks in today’s videos are not sleeping outside on Lottie lawns.
None of our Soup Brigade cooks had any problem with delivery today despite the goings-on.
The City did not intend to shut down the whole site – just shift the campers who were creating fire risk with candles too close to the bushes next to City Hall, and one who had placed their tent blocking an employee exit. The encampment is also very hard on the workers in surrounding buildings. The smoke from fires gets right into the buildings and employees with asthma have trouble breathing. All workers are afraid their building will catch fire. Our compassion should also be directed to public servants just trying to do their jobs and members of the public trying to conduct essential business in the courthouse, city hall and library. Workers and homeless campers’ needs are not in conflict. Everyone’s lives will be better when we have housing.
Outreach volunteers worked all Thursday night with individual campers, assisting them to move or prepare to move, or listening to them about their intention not to move in some cases.
It could have been helpful if rather than posting an eviction notice, the City & Fire Dept did one-on-one outreach to campers who were endangering others. They report that they did so, but I have not been able to confirm this with volunteers on the ground. I’d love to know.
Using legal language turns out to have been upsetting for a lot of people. A careful reading of the signs that were posted made it clear to me that it wasn’t a full sweep. But less legalese would have made it much clearer and less upsetting to many people.
Some people have their own little “heroic” movie script they are playing out. And they want to use you as “extras.” (Comment from a friend)
They may just be generally pissed-off folks from elsewhere in the region, seeing an opportunity to be “righteously angry” without listening and learning, and without actually supporting the people they claim to be representing.
From a subscriber I have known for years, who is a person of color (very slightly edited for readability):
Around 2:30 some cars including a white Prius, a red Subaru and a grey SUV had blocked a lane of traffic near the Arch Of Reconciliation. There was group of young white people (more than half appeared to be women, but given their hostility I had no inclination to ask about pronouns) who were standing by the cars yelling at pedestrians for trying to read a sign that was part of their barricade. The groups we saw were all young people, all but one person was white, and they mostly appeared to be women. Given that they used a white Prius and red Subaru to block traffic in jeans and a hot pink jacket, I’d be shocked if they were Proud Boys in disguise — though they do seem to share a similar sense of white entitlement and comfort yelling at people.
One of the protesters was caught on video saying they were from Seattle. An old friend who has been a local activist for decades went down to see if he recognized any of the protesters and he did not.
Protesters used umbrellas to block videos, and to threaten people. This tactic has been seen elsewhere around our region.
I am heartbroken about the delays in getting our fellow citizens indoors and safe. At the same time, I am sympathetic to the fact that no elected officials, and no one else either, signed up to handle this pandemic when they ran for office. Local governments are not allowed to spend money they don’t have. Getting extra money is a long and involved process even when the need is urgent.
The City and County are legally required to sign contracts if they are handing resources to someone. And the principled and idealistic young folks running the food tent don’t believe in contracts or hierarchy. So negotiations between them are stuck.
At its core, government is what we do as a community that we are unable to do for ourselves as individuals – water, roads, fire, etc. A society which cannot or will not house its most vulnerable citizens has failed. We have not only failed locally, we have failed as a nation. I would expect FEMA to be able to help. Maybe the new administration will finally make some funds available.
HomesNOW.org has offered to create more managed tiny home villages. They have a record of success on the ground with SwiftHaven, Unity Village, and former villages like SafeHaven. They have their non-profit 501c3 status. It’s long past time for the City & County to sign with them and let them get to work.
I believe the most effective action we can take is for hundreds and thousands of us to write and phone local elected officials, being warmly supportive of them spending money, providing long-term land, signing contracts, and ordering tiny homes IMMEDIATELY so the company can get them built for delivery as soon as sites are prepared.
It doesn’t help to try to bully elected officials, or anyone else. If there are enough of us, the situation will shift. Gathering friends and speaking up clearly but calmly will create the safety net we need. Encourage your children to write too, to take action. Not to be frozen in fear. It will help them cope, and help us all.
None of us are safe till all of us are safe. When some people get abandoned, everyone knows in their heart of hearts that they could be next. This leaves us all frightened and isolated. And our children are watching.
There has been much less interference with donations when cooks back up and park on Grand Street above the library lawn. If you are signed up to cook in the next few days, please stay in good touch with me about the changing situation, and also check with me before you go to take food down. I will check in with volunteers on the ground to see what the situation is and where they want to meet you. Today they were meeting cooks by the front doors of the library, safely away from the action. Sign up for the MealTrain, and then talk with me about ingredients, cooking pans & individual containers. I have stuff. So far no one has signed up for either breakfast or lunch today.
WHAT ABOUT BASE CAMP?
Last year I first went to do homeless outreach at the beginning of the huge snow storm, with a pair of long-time volunteers. We took coats, gloves, hats, scarves, and hot food. And we pointed folks we met toward available shelters. I was shocked and horrified at the number of unsheltered folks who told me vehemently that they would freeze to death before they ever walked back in the door to the Mission. Feelings of humiliation seemed to be common among those folks. BaseCamp (and the other Mission shelters) seem to work well for many people, but are very definitely not for everyone. We need a range of solutions.
Clear evidence for this is the many campers who have chosen to stay in miserable conditions over Base Camp. Homeless folks tend to be pragmatic, so it’s probably a deliberate choice. City decision makers have been remarkably uncurious about this. It’s possible it was unworkable to create Base Camp by consulting with only providers and not also talking with the folks who refuse to use them.
Public meetings, especially now on Zoom, are not accessible to homeless folks, almost none of whom have phones or internet access. Making decisions about them as if they were a unit is convenient and efficient – unless it doesn’t work.
There is also a really weird lag here: Announcing the clearance of nearly a quarter of the camping space for a Friday, and announcing the re-opening of an emergency shelter for Sunday. With a snow storm predicted for Saturday. And freezing temperatures already tonight, with wind chill down into the low 20s. Now predicted to be followed by heavy rain Saturday night. Snow might actually be easier to stay warm in, if campers could get dry.
And now the City is encouraging those of us who have been providing support on the ground to stop, without providing viable support themselves. I hope we can continue to support our neighbors, and find ways to help them find long term homes again.
From Maggie Krostag in Skagit Valley: “I wish I could find a place to share recipes and quantities with people cooking for the meal train. I know when I helped a friend prepare food, it would have been easier to know what kind of quantities to buy, collect and prepare.” Passed on by Deb Valentine. Thank you!
STIMULUS CHECKS FOR HOMELESS FOLKS
This is about the prior stimulus but the requirements are likely to be similar:
FOUND CAMERA LENS
Found in Lorraine Ellis Court Park, cover for Canon camera lens.
2710 Williams St. I’ll tape to our front door. ~ Mary Gorsuch
BELLINGHAM FOLK FESTIVAL ALL WEEKEND!
January 22nd, 23rd and 24th
– Saturday all day: Wear a shirt, hoodie, hat, sticker, or something from a place that you’ve been, a band you love, or an event you attended. Oh the memories!
– Saturday 5pm: Hat party! What kind of hat? Wear that fancy one you never get a chance to take out of the house. Wear that reindeer antler headband you still haven’t put away. Can you get it on your head? It’s a hat.
8:30-9:15am PST – BFF Base Camp is open for business, coffee, questions, breakfast chat
9:15am-… PST – Workshops start and pretty much never end
12:00pm PST – 1:00pm PST – Màiri Chaimbeul + Adam and Lotta perform
over at the Concert Hall, it can also be streamed live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/quarantinehappyhourmusic/12:00pm -… PST – Workshops continue
5:00pm – 5:30pm PST – Hat Party Happy Hour! a.k.a. put something on your head time and have a bevie
5:30pm – 6:30pm PST – McKain Lakey + Sweater Weather perform over at the Concert Hall, it can also be streamed live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/quarantinehappyhourmusic/6:30pm – 10:00pm PST – More workshops, dance parties, AH! 👑
ALSO… If a room isn’t being used for something on the schedule, feel free to commandeer it.
RADIO FREE FL!P: I BID YOU GOODNIGHT
Joseph Spence & the Pinder Family: Joseph Spence was a Bahamian guitarist and vocalist. Raymond Pinder was Spence’s brother-in-law and fellow vocalist. Folklorist Sam Charters was the first to record Spence on his own back porch in 1958 and an album was released on the Folkways label in 1959.
Love/Fl!p 360-671-4511 2518 Cherry Street firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re willing to share your phone and address with me, personally, I would love that, and would not share it further without your express permission.
If you want to ask me to post something, just email me. If it’s urgent, phone. If it’s a real emergency, call 911.