Betty Field for Congress 2018
Dorchester Park

Dorchester Park

Dorchester Park on South Nevada is ‘home’ to many of our neighbors without a standard permanent address.  I spent the afternoon there, helping Cindy and Jeri distribute food as part of the Spreading Smiles and Sandwiches effort. The family atmosphere felt familiar, almost like the family picnics we have all enjoyed.  The difference was this wasn’t a picnic.  For those that call Dorchester Park home, this was everyday life.  Plastic forks, paper plates, the hard bench of a picnic table or the cold, damp ground is their daily dining room.

As I visited with this family, I witnessed great compassion, love, frustration, and hope.  One woman truly inspired me.  MJ, a 70-year-old woman, quietly ate her lunch at the end of the dirty table.  Others would stop to greet her as they took their food to their own spot in the dining room.  She offered each of them a genuine smile as they exchanged pleasantries or updates on other friends.  MJ was obviously the matriarch of the family. 

People finished eating and took their empty paper plates and plastic utensils to the already full trash cans. MJ picked up the large black garbage bag that was at her feet, put plastic shopping bags on her hands, and began picking up the trash that overflowed from the trash cans, setting aside any soda cans to be taken to a recycler.  As I helped her gather trash, we talked. 

MJ’s bed was a blanket on the concrete next to a building.  Everything she owned was on that blanket.  While we talked, she told me about the harassment she has suffered, she talked about the children that lived with their parents in the park and talked about her fear of the upcoming winter.  As we finished gathering trash, I asked her what she needed most. She said she needed a tarp.  A tarp.  With the rain we’ve been having, her ‘bed’ was always damp and her belongings were being damaged.  She didn’t place blame, didn’t complain, she quietly cleaned her home and tended her family.

A man I spoke with shared with me a unique idea and effort he was making in helping himself and others find work.  He had collected the names and previous occupations of others living on the streets.  Every day he would check Craigslist trying to find jobs matching those occupations and skills.  He hoped to convince businesses that implementing a ‘homeless preference’ when hiring would benefit not only the homeless, but the businesses and the community as well. He told me that finding employment was almost impossible because one of the first requirements on a job application is an address.  Again, there was no blame, no sense of entitlement, only the desire to find a way to better himself and others. 

The last man I spoke to wanted me to know that not every homeless person was a drug addict or a criminal.  Many had small incomes but not nearly enough to cover the rising rents here in Colorado Springs.  Low wages, the rising cost of rent, and inadequate availability of affordable housing have led to an increase in the number of our neighbors living on our streets.  In the last five years, the stock market has doubled and so has our homeless population.  Basing the health of our economy on the stock market only indicates the economic health of America’s wealthy. Only when America provides adequate affordable housing, a living wage, equal educational opportunities, and healthcare for all, can we claim a healthy national economy. 

Posted on 14 Aug 2017, 18:29 - Category: Life

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