Thursday, July 31, 2008
Flattened cardboard boxes and two pillows are somebody's bed right under a "No Trespassing" sign at a Park Avenue church. This alcove on one of the city's most historic churches has become a chronic target for squatters, despite efforts by members to encourage them to seek help. The church provides food at the end of each month, but has no means of giving shelter to the homeless in the neighborhood.
An interim minister is starting Friday and he will have to go no farther than the church grounds to witness one of the city's most intractable problems. Someone has hidden two shopping carts behind this holly bush and has strewn stinking food remnants and liquor bottles around. Squatters were recently kicked out of an unsecured office building nearby, but as we know from our experience on Block 832, they don't go far. Now church members will be left to clean up this mess.
The pastor of another nearby church believes a homeless alcoholic is living in the churchyard shrubbery. Across the street, someone put carpeting and a tarpaulin on top of a garage roof, apparently to sleep on. A woman was using the hose at a nearby lawyer's office to wash herself.
The Lot 7 al fresco drinkers were in full effect Wednesday, with six lined up on the curb when I came home from the public library. I'm told the drinking crew that used to meet behind Connolly's trash bin on Block 832 is back and when shooed, they just go across the street to a yard across from the YMCA.
If all this is happening around Park & Seventh, what else is going on in neighborhoods around the city? There are lots of resources to help these individuals, but resources come with rules. The dozen or so people with problems in this neighborhood do whatever they want, wherever they want. Public Works and property owners are left to clean up after them.
The Park Avenue church has as one of its principles to affirm and promote "the inherent worth and dignity of every person." If only these individuals could find that glimmer of human dignity within themselves, maybe they could accept a helping hand and move up from rock-bottom.