This is a simple diary.

I wasn’t even going to do much writing today.  I have mostly completed next week’s newsletter and feel like recycled yak vomit.  But this is too important to ignore.

This is about a young person outside of a grocery store.  A young person of color.  Mustachioed and gaunt, and a young man who probably doesn’t vote because he clearly has no address.  Unless you count the overhang of a grocery store.

I was visiting my baby brother and mom watching some baseball Thursday when after lunch, I wanted some ice cream.  Mom didn’t have ice cream, however, she was willing to take us to the store to get it.  So off we go to a Fry’s grocer off of Southern in Tempe, AZ.  As my brother and I we were discussing flavors, we approached from the side of the building.

Lying there was the young fellow in a prone position as if injured.  Shoppers would turn the corner, look down, then step over him careful not to make contact.  Lying on the hot pavement the shoppers just kept stepping over him.

I called out to him without getting a response.  I started to feel my heart race.  I sought help, and found a worker to check on him or perhaps get help, but I did not couch it that way because the young man was African-American.  So the one thing I absolutely did not want was the person to be woken up by cops who had played too much Halo as children. and startled, reach for some candy and get shot.

The worker, a young woman of about 25, and white, looked at me as if I were from the moon.  “We get those all the time,” she said as if talking about mosquitoes at a picnic.  “Get what?” I asked.  “Those people.  They won’t go away.  We try to get rid of them but they keep coming back.”  I had to interrupt her to tell her two things-one is that you should not talk about human beings as if they are insects, even Republicans, (yes I said that-eliminationist language is a dark deep rabbit hole.)  Two, I explained he did nothing to upset me except I was concerned for his safety.

“He is fine,” she said.  All they do is sleep until they have to move on.  It is best not to give “them” anything so they go away.  At this point I was livid-”Is it store policy to dehumanize the less fortunate?”  She just rolled her eyes then lit a cigarette.  

I didn’t have any cash on me so I got a $5 from my mom to give to him.  I stood there and gently spoke until he groggily awoke.  He thanked me for the cash but he was clearly scared, then asked me where his water went.  He sat up and I pointed to it being behind him and he said “Man, usually they take it from me when its hot so I go away.”

“They” apparently meaning store employees, he explained they take his food or water from him so when he wakes up he is motivated to move along.  He goes on to say all stores do this to make them go away.  I could feel the heat of the pavement beneath my feet, as he rolled up his blanket and prepared to walk down the street, with a noticeable limp.  

You see I do what I do, between bouts of nausea and thunderclap headaches, yes, because it is how i am trying to earn and provide for my family, of course, I am not going to front.  But I could have written a newsletter on any subject.  No I chose this precisely because I don’t enjoy statistical analysis about how much things are improving, if I myself can’t, on a micro-level, illuminate dark corners of the world I stumble into.  I have to see it.

I have to see a person be levelled up with the help of society.  I have to see a child grow up to graduate.  I have to see housing go up to help the low income.  I have to watch the veteran recover from surgery.

Otherwise, it is just numbers, flotsam into the ether, cold comfort.  But some numbers, while not warming my heart, will chill me to the bone.  The chart below details, as of 2020, the any given time numbers of unsheltered persons in Maricopa County, AZ.

PIT-unsheltered-count_2014-2020.jpg

The Tempe number is 396, almost double from 2017, hmm-something happened in 2017, a power shift, anyone remember?  It is on the tip of my tongue.  Oh ya, a malevolent Tobe hooper horror character orange blob of a man took over the country, yes, I remember now.

The real world effect of it being 118 on Monday is that a good portion of that number, and the growing total below, is going to be at risk of potentially fatal exposure.

But is something being done about it?  Does anybody really know what time it is?

OAKLAND, Calif. — Insults like “financial parasites” and “bums” have been directed at them, not to mention rocks and pepper spray. Fences, potted plants and other barriers have been erected to keep them off sidewalks. Citizen patrols have been organized, vigilante style, to walk the streets and push them out.

California may pride itself on its commitment to tolerance and liberal values, but across the state, record levels of homelessness have spurred a backlash against those who live on the streets.

Gene Gorelik, a property developer in Oakland and an aggressive critic of the homeless, recently suggested luring the thousands of homeless people in the San Francisco Bay Area onto party buses stocked with alcohol and sending them on a one-way trip to Mexico. “Refugee camps in Syria are cleaner than this,” he said in an interview at a fast-food restaurant in Oakland that overlooks a homeless encampment.

But now here I have to be hopeful, and give credit where it is due.  While I don’t understand the attitudes of the store managers in Tempe, I am not going to say Kroger in general  (Parent of Fry’s) does nothing or as a matter of policy, condones the treatment.

Indeed here is a story of good being done by Kroger-

After many months of living out of her car that was parked in a Kroger grocery store’s lot, LaShenda Williams was feeling increasingly hopeless. Today, thanks to one attentive hiring manager, that supermarket has now welcomed her with a job and a fresh start..

And..

Melissa Eads, a corporate affairs manager for Kroger’s Nashville division, told TODAY that local community members and fellow employees donated furniture, household items, clothes and shoes to “help her get back on her feet.”

But despite the rare nugget of hope, we have a crisis of empathy in this country.  It isn’t just that we have systemic racism, it is that people want to deny it, and forbid the teaching against it.  It isn’t just that we have income inequality, it is that investors want to displace workers with robots.  It isn’t just that people struggle to afford healthcare, it is that they are blamed for their own sickness.

It isn’t just that we have homeless people in America.  It is that too many Americans view them as pestilence to be removed, not revitalized.  My sadness isn’t because of the problems, it is because these problems are viewed by too many Americans as an impediment to their beach house.

The shoppers just keep stepping over “them”, the employees just keep “discouraging” “them”, and I have built my life’s goal around trying to get this abrasive selfish populace to join me, and once and for all, stop treating them as them and instead, as “we.

I will do that until I die.  I will hold steady against headwinds of self-centeredness as long as I can keep the ship upright.  And I will welcome all that come in peace to my vessel.

I don’t know where the man went, or where he was going to get his next meal, or how he was going to stay out of the elements.  I just hope he finds some help.  I hope all of those in need do.  But I am trying to do, and get others to do, more than just hope.

Ice cream.  This all planted a seed in my heart because I wanted ice cream on a hot day.

You know it is a funny thing about ice cream.

One day we went to the store for some.

But what I saw caused my heart to melt first.

-ROC

Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)

We’ve all got time enough to cry

-Robert William Lamm

Hey friends my cancer fight has turned more serious and has forced me to urgently change careers!  And-huge news!  My newsletter is live! Sign up here to subscribe!  It publishes every Wednesday and will be full of original reporting, laughs, and fun!

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Love,

-ROC

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