Monday, July 23, 2007
REMEMBERING THE HOMELESS IN A COUNTY OF PLENTY
Speaking to a County Supervisor last February, 52-year-old man who was living in his wrecked van said, "Nobody set out to be in this position. It wasn't their hope and dream as children."
County officials estimate there are 1,700 people living in the hills, in cars and in other hideaways across Marin. And that figure all agree is low as many homeless avoid being counted.
In fact, Homeward Bound a chief provider of transitional and long-term housing and support services for homeless people in Marin County on its website says nearly 10 percent of Marin County residents are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless every year. And more than 6,000 people in Marin will find themselves homeless this year. They include 1,200 children, their parents, single adults, couples, people with mental-health disabilities, and the elderly.
"There are people who have been stuck up in that hill for 10 years," Joseph Taylor, a 54-year-old Navy veteran who lives in a makeshift cabin hidden in the hill above San Rafael's Andersen Drive told that same Supervisor.
Marin County is renowned for its natural beauty, liberal politics and affluence. According to the 2000 Census, Marin County has the highest per capita income in the country at $44,962.
Something is horribly wrong here...there...everywhere.
A few people (see photo) remembered that yesterday.
The following is from the Marin Independent Journal (California).
Paying tribute to Marin's homeless
Teacher Tom, Guitar John, Dirty Mike and Trooper were some of the names that resonated Sunday throughout the courtyard at St. Raphael's Church as people crowded around the parish's Tree of Life.
Nearly 100 people, including clergy from throughout the county, came together on a bright sunny day to remember the more than 125 people who have perished in the county without shelter and to raise awareness about the plight of those who live on the streets without a roof over their heads and struggle to carve out an existence day to day.
The Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy and the Rev. Paul Gaffney organized the 10th annual memorial silent procession, a four-block walk from Albert Park in downtown San Rafael that culminated at St. Raphael's Church with the reading of the names of Marin's deceased homeless.
In the final column of a program remembering those homeless who died on Marin streets in the last decade was the starkest remembrance of all, "unknown friend."
"Today we've come together to form a circle of life," Gaffney told the gathering at Albert Park before the procession got under way.
Gaffney then read a poem by Suzanne Walker. One touching passage was particularly poignant for the event.
"I want to shine a light on a corner of the world
like a small beacon in the night,
or a small circle of warmth in a storm."
Gaffney went on to say he was surprised by the outpouring of support for Marin's homeless.
"The turnout today is really awesome to me," he said. "I'm truly at a loss for words. It's beautiful that you all could come here and support each other. Now, let's do it."
And with that, the peaceful group headed slowly north along A Street, carrying placards and signs while bells tolled in unison with footsteps. One sign read, "Your courage will not go unforgotten."
Fairfax homeless resident Paul Karpowicz carried a photograph of his friend, Malcolm Jones, who according to the event's flier, died in 2005.
"I knew him for about eight years," said Karpowicz, who said he lives in a tent on a hill in Fairfax. "He was just a beautiful, sincere, caring person. He had this remarkable way of putting into words the feelings people had in their hearts. I recognize quite a number of names on this list."
According to a survey released this year by the Marin Continuum of Housing and Services, more than 1,200 people live on Marin streets without shelter. More than 70 percent were men and about two dozen were under the age of 18.
The Rev. Rick Slone of the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center said the homeless problem could be better addressed in there wasn't such a divide between the haves and the have-nots on the county and people could actually integrate their lives.
"That's really the missing piece," Slone said. "There's energy to mobilize and a lot of goodwill in this county, but there's still that barrier between those folks living on the streets and those not on the streets. We need to use events like this to enlighten awareness about the problem."
St. Raphael's pastor the Rev. Paul Rossi greeted the marchers on the steps of the rectory and offered prayers.
Various marchers took turns reading the names of the homeless who have died, a list numbering 126 who have been chronicled since 1995.
After the reading was completed, Gaffney asked if anyone in the crowd wanted to add any names and at least 10 additional homeless who have died were recognized by friends or family members.
After the procession, marchers gathered at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship at 809 B St. for music, art, poetry and refreshments.