Last week at the NEOCH staff meeting, our Executive Director passed out an attractive flyer encouraging staff and VISTA members to participate in the Homeless Blog on our web site. Because the flyer did not use Times New Roman font, I obliged.
On May 12, my cousin and I met a group of folks outside the West Side Market Café to participate in the 2007 River Sweep Event, which organizes volunteers in different neighborhoods to go out and pick up garbage. After suiting up with garbage bags, gloves, a t-shirt featuring frogs and instructions not to poke ourselves with hypodermic needles, we were off to perform community service and clean up the riverside.
Initially, I felt good about cleaning up the environment, until our clean-up crew happened upon a homeless camp. Then I felt invasive. There appeared to be at least two or three people who called this area home and slept under the bridge where our well-intentioned crew diligently cleaned. The individuals did not store many belongings there; visible items were cardboard beds, hotel sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, a toothbrush and two washrags hanging from a branch. My cousin and I also identified an area where two strategically placed wooden stumps may have been the sparse furnishings of a living room.
The residents weren’t the best housekeepers, and were not “home.” Volunteers threw away a fair share of glass bottles and other miscellaneous materials. I don’t know when the homeless individuals returned that evening if they were pleasantly surprised that someone had tidied up while they were out, or if we deemed their treasures as our trash and swept their belongings to the recycle bin?
This event could be another way to educate environmentalists about homelessness by distributing educational materials or hosting a Street Voices Speaker at Nautica Entertainment Complex where more than 100 volunteers gathered for a free lunch after the clean up.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.