Saturday, January 19, 2008

HOTHANDS FOR THE HOMELESS - ULTIMA THULE, NEW ORLEANS, LA

A few observations from my trip out today Ultima Thule to distribute HotHands and Mylar emergency blankets amongst the homeless:

There are more people.

How many of these new beds, blankets, bedrolls, and tents are from people who were staying around Duncan Plaza and were given temp hotel rooms at Christmas?

It seems as if a lot of people were not there because many were working, some are hustling, or just trying to get some food. Some may be staying at the shelters or families or friends temporarily for the next few days.

I meet amongst my planetary brothers and sisters, all types; from the mentally ill, mentally handicapped, the physically handicapped, the malevolent, the needy, the Iraqi vets new to the streets; the hustlers, prostitutes, junkies, chronic alcoholics, husbands and wives, the elderly, and those who are just plain down on their luck and poor. Also there are the chronically homeless and those who deliberately choose to live homeless who thought it would be warmer in New Orleans and some who want to be here for Mardi Gras.

There is way too much sensory and extrasensory information for me to process when I am under the bridge.

As I walk around, I don't feel the malevolent will harm me and I can feel who they are. When I walk around one particular group of men, I have found that the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention and I am briefly creeped out, but I just shout out "hand warmers, anyone need some handwarmers for the night?" And whatever it is that I am perceiving as a malevolent force seems to back away as someone new walks up to me for some handwarmers.

As I wrote in a previous posting, I think there are a few of the men who get physically too close, I think that they are emotionally/affectionately starved. Yet even so, I am challenged with my boundaries with a few of the men, there is one in particular who wishes to hug me and give me a kiss on the cheek, I feel okay with his agenda and his doing so and know that if I ever feel uncomfortable I can say so to him and he is cognizant and caring enough as a soul to honour my wishes; it is his friend who seems to take a liberty with me anew each time I see him, and he seems to think he can do the same as his friend. This man's agenda - not so good. Today I veered away as he was coming towards me and told him it smelt like he was hitting the "cocktails". Which I can understand why and still I make it pretty clear to those who are drunk who try to interact with me that I am not interested nor do I have the time, to interact with drunks.

Often, as I walk around the Homeless Pride of Ultima Thule, I don't have time to feel out the situation, there is too much stimuli around me, too many cars speeding by, on the highway above and on both sides of me. In the midst of this frenzied activity and reverberating sounds of moving vehicles is Ultima Thule.

There are those souls whom I meet in Ultima Thule who are just so happy to be seen and known they are cared for, and I give Jah thanks for these shared moments. I met a grandmother, mother and child, out there today, trying to get some money, trying to survive. The child seems to have it together more than the mother who seemed slightly mentally handicapped and the grandmother who seemed to be holding it all together and distracted and ?

There are way too many elderly people under the bridge.

There are way to many planetary brothers and sisters living exposed, without a tent.

Plenty of food and clothing.

People are bringing individual meals, hot meals. I even saw packages that had been left of King Cake.

When I was walking around today 2 Latin American women and a child, were giving out styrofoam containers of hot food out of the back of their pickup. I don't know if they were with a church group, if they were sent from a restuarant, or they were doing it on their own like me. Being New Orleans, it could be any of the three. I love it when I am priveleged to experience such moments on the streets of New Orleans.

Cool, someone has set up porta-potties for the homeless. Excellent humanitarian gesture. Bravo.
(note: I found out later that it was the The Coalition to Stop Demolition)

God, I almost broke down when I went across the highway to one camp, near the ramp. These guys leave the blankets and sheets on their exposed mattresses, neatly made. Hey, I am crying those tears now, revisiting my experience there. I left them all an emergency blanket and pair of HotHands by their pillows.

It was a small camp. 2 tents, 3 exposed mattress. The whole encampment, tidy, as organized as you can be living under a highway.

Little sister, that is my affectionate name for one woman I have met in Ultima Thule, (she is a grandmother), is getting help from CC, but she is afraid that they may be sending her to a neighborhood which has an apartment available in her price range, she lives on SSI and SS, which may be in a "drug" neighborhood. She is afraid of the crime and violence. She is also 2 years clean of of drugs and she is doing her best to stay that way; living in a tent under the bridge. I told her I would come earlier on Sunday and when I was done distributing, I would take her over to the place to check out the neighborhood for herself.

When I walked up to one group of men, one of the men said to his friend, "go ahead, tell her." He then looks at me and addresses me, "He has a poem for you." I stood in front of this beautiful being who was warming himself in front of a hibachi burning coals, on a chair in between 2 beds, one where someone was sleeping (he poked out his head and reached out for a pair of HotHands). I wish I had a memory that could remember peoples words without having to write them down. But I can't listen with my heart and remember with my mind. It was a rap style poem and it was a profound exposition of my heart, my personality and my soul. It was as if I was standing before a wise guru. My heart was so very touched, I bowed in honour to him with prayerful hands when he finished reciting.

There is an elderly man who lives at the end, he has a red chair which he sits on, watching people and life speed by, he has stories to tell. I can see his stories when I look in his eyes each time I briefly speak with him. He also has painful arthritis. He got double packages of HotHands tonight.

I wanted to give emergency blankets and a pair of HotHands to each exposed mattress I came upon but there are too many. I gave many of the emergency blankets to people who were staying warm under blankets on their exposed mattresses. At one tent, I met a husband and wife who remembered me from when I came during the last freeze. I was happy they remembered me and sad that they are still living under the bridge, it is hard for this couple, they seem to me to be really nice people having really difficult experiences.

Here is a planetary musing which has been looping in my consiciousnes for a few weeks now. An incident occured tonight which has now given me the platform I needed to share this particular musing with you dear readers. There is a man who lives under the bridge who in my opinion, is clearly mentally ill and he still has control over his mind and personality, sometimes. I perceive that he suffers from the type of mental illness that causes him to suddenly become very violent. I can see him sometimes, making a conscious effort, to contain this personality and behavior. At other times he lets it reign free. He believes that I am someone who did not follow through with a promise to him having to do with his feet, I believe. I can't change his mind on this nor help him with it.

After interacting with this particular being and feeling/perceiving the energies of psychotic rage just beneath the surface in him, I knew with clarity exactly what I wanted to share with you dear readers.

It is this: never forget, as I never do, that the places I choose to go and serve my planetary brothers and sisters can sometimes be very dangerous. And in a moment, someone may take my life or do some form of harm to your planetary sister.

What I wanted to say about this is that I hope that those who know me or are my readers, never ever, get angry if something happens to me. I understand the risks I am taking and I am prepared to leave this planet, in this way, if this is the will of the Universe. And, I'm not making any plans to leave this planet and I am not in charge of this part of my embodied destiny anyway. If my life ends whilst I am in service to my planetary brothers and sisters, or if I come to harm, remember my words, "I have consciously choosen to place myself in situations where those who were suffering were also exposed to violence and harm." You can qoute me! Peace, my planetary brothers and sisters, may we exist in peace with each other.

A man asked me for $7 to get his LA. ID and I answered quickly in a distracted manner, with my "I don't carry money when I come here". Only later when I had time to process this particular interaction, did it come to me that I could have told him about Covenant House on Rampart Street, I will look for him tomorrow. He got a little disgruntled with me because when I first encountered him, in the area that unsettles me, he seemed to be asking me for a lot all at once. As it was my first time meeting him, I have to remember even if I feel the type of energy he carries, (stealing, hustling, cheating), that in that moment, I must not to "react" to these energies and just give to him or others who carry these same energies, as many HotHands as they need. His feelings seemed to get hurt when another guy I know came up and asked for 7 pairs of HotHands for his buddies who were at work (where-ever, I do not judge or take inventories). I know him from before and know these guys do take care of each other and distribute them. Well, the guy who asked me for extra HotHands and money kinda sniffed at me when I offered him another pair of HotHands before leaving. He was right, I should have just given him 2 pairs when he first asked. I have so much to still learn. I hope he and the Universe will give me another chance on this valuable lesson in serving.

I went out with all of Cole's and Liza's donation of HotHands (40) and used 2 boxes (80) = 120 pairs of HotHands. The other 2 boxes came from the case from Lydia. I also used 21 mylar emergency blankets from Jeff Meyers and I have 29 left for tomorrow night. I could have used more tonight, I left half of the emergency blankets in the car for Sunday night which is supposed to be the coldest.

For Sunday January 20, I have 160 pairs of HotHands and 29 emergency blankets. I have 6 of the FootWarmups that Jeff sent out of the blue, via priority mail which arrived on Friday and 3 of the large HotHands singles, which I am going to give to the 2 elderly men with severe arthritis tomorrow. This is all inventory that I have left to distribute for now,

I hope that rumour is true about putting the homeless overnight in hotel rooms for the Martin Luther King, Jr. offical celebrations on Monday. It is going to be so cold tomorrow night and cold all day today.

I distributed @ 120 HotHands to @ 80 people. @ 40 people got double the amount as I felt they needed it or they asked. Especially the elderly and those who were sleeping on exposed mattresses or even worse, on the concrete.

I had more time to talk with those I met today as I left the house at 4:00. Sometimes, not all the time, I wish I had someone going out with me as it is hard to see what peoples needs are, be as present as I can, and set and reinforce boundaries with some of the men.

I mistook 1 of 3 indies of some sort who were doing interviews and photographing the homeless. I had asked if he wanted a pair of hand warmers. He looked at me briefly with disdain then ignored me. I said to him, "people have mistaken me for homeless under here, sorry."

This expereince leads me to the end of this posting with a bumper sticker I saw on the drive home tonight and another line of planetary musings which I have been processing for some months now.

The bumper sticker read "I BELIEVE IN NOTHING".

It reminded me of some the people I have met in New Orleans who come to volunteer or help in the rebuilding process, who seem to be incredibly disconnected from themselves and their hearts.

With some who are like this, their coldness is often abrupt and disconcerting and I wonder of their expereinces here, are they helping to melt this coldness and abrptness? With others, it sometimes takes me time to see that they are not really able to be in their hearts, that they are creating an illusion of being in their heart. Naively, I take it for granted, that if someone is volunteering, especially long term, then there has to be some level of heart connection. Yet there are those who have no heart connection, perhaps volunteering is the closest they may ever get to understanding what it might be like to live a life from their hearts.

Another group who I perceive to be disconnected from their hearts who are in New Orleans "helping," turn out to be in fact, psychologically disconnected. I am speaking of the sociopaths whom I have met in my work and in my meeting volunteers. I have been musing on how those who are often diagnosed (or not) as sociopaths could be in New Orleans "helping," for some months now. Recently, it dawned on me that that the sociopath and the anti-social personality folks, can't feel and they need dramatic expressions of emotionality or suffering to identify what emotionality or suffering might be like. There continues to be enough devastation and suffering in New Orleans to meet such a need. It continues to be surprising emotionally when I meet them or interact with them or with those with borderline expressions of aspd or sociopathy. I am surprised at their being able to be involved (as much as they can be for as long as they can tolerate it) in volunteering or helping the poor and the indigent.

It is funny how many have come to New Orleans to help who "BELIEVE IN NOTHING". And the irony isn't lost on me that some of the most faithful, trusting and BELIEVING, people I have ever met, seem to live under the bridge and in many of the more dangerous and devastated (still) neighborhoods of this beautiful city of New Orleans.

There's something about the spirits of New Orleans.

Lastly, on the drive home I saw groups of people waiting on St. Charles for the trolleys to take them to see Krewe de Viuex march in the Quarter tonight. I felt really bad for those waiting on the eastern side of Napoleon and St. Charles, for it is bitter cold and the next 3 trolleys coming towards them were packed with people sitting and standing to capacity. Yet for some reason when I saw one trolley filled like a can of sardines, a loud laugh burst forth from me. An odd reaction to anothers discomfort.

peace.


ULTIMA THULE - "Ultima Thule in medieval geographies may also denote any distant place located beyond the "borders of the known world." wiki

1 comment:

marie said...

Thank you, Planetary Sister, for your powerful witness of such ongoing suffering. It helps those of us who are further away to "stand with" all who suffer. Much love to you, Marie