On the weekend of October 10-12 I attended the CCSJ immersion program UNITE. Although nothing truly shocked or surprised me, the weekend was still a constant reminder of the struggles that human beings face every single day. UNITE plunged the group into homelessness and gave us a different perspective on how some people spend their days. Many students and adults still don’t understand the vicious cycle that poverty embodies. Life is not as simple as it seems. One cannot just get a job and get themselves up on their feet, if life has thrown one an unexpected obstacle.
One major moment of our trip seems to stand out in my memory as I look back on the weekend. As we walked through the city of Baltimore, we were given the insider’s tour. We learned about all of the preventions that the city takes to annihilate homelessness. The problem is that the city is not really dealing with the issue; it is just moving homelessness to other areas. One major disturbance is the addition of bars to the middle of benches, to avert homeless people from lying down. This gives them no place to spend the night. The library has also spent $20,000 to install spikes on the front of the library, where there were original little niches where someone could potentially sit down. The spikes at first glance appear to be fancy decoration, but once learning about their true identity, it made me frustrated and mad. The city also spent $7,000 on a grate covering an area where people could keep warm during the winter, and when angry protestors destroyed the grate, the city blew another $7,000 on its repair. A dead body was found, in the later winter months, revealing how important the original heated ground played for those experiencing homelessness in the winter.
All of these precautions that the city has taken has aroused a strong passion in me. I hate the ignorance that some have on issues like poverty, but I know that it is my duty to educate those who are not educated on these topics. I am able to see things clearly, and it is not one’s fault if they were raised a certain way. Family values and morals stay strong, but educating someone on the opportunities of service is something I value. I cannot change someone’s predetermined notions, but maybe if I nudge someone in the direction of service they can break down their own stereotypes. I hated hearing all of they ways that the city is dealing with poverty. They are not being welcoming or helping the situation. This reminded me of Julia Alvarez’s Queens, 1963. “Mrs. Scott swept her walk as if it had been dirtied.”, this treatment of those who appear to be different is a reoccurring theme. The German girl in the community is looked down upon, but what makes her any different? Mrs. Scott acts as if she is better and feels the need to clean any area they she has trotted on. When I was in the city I noticed how people look at the homeless, and how cops monitor the parks to make sure they leave before nightfall. In Langston Hughes’ Theme for English B, there is also a similar theme. The writer of the paper believes he is different just because of the color of his skin. He is the only student of color in his class; therefore he believes that his paper needs to be dramatically different from the others. Obviously society has given him the right to think this way, but after submerging myself into culture that is supposed to be drastically different from mine, I see how similar we all are. The city of Baltimore is giving the homeless a reason to feel different and ashamed, but I think that when you stop and have a conversation with someone at Beans and Bread or Our Daily Bread, you can see that we all have similar values and ideas. Jeffrey Harrison’s Fork, also specifically reminded me of they way the city is dealing with issues of poverty and homelessness. The teacher is the city, because he is giving up on the narrator. He is not putting in the necessary effort, just like how the city is wasting money to solve stupid problems, and not dealing with the actual problem. Finally Lucille Clifton’s this morning (for the girls of eastern high school), reminded me of the hope that I learned to inspire in others during UNITE. Especially the last lines when Clifton uses the word survive three times. Although the issue of homelessness has not been properly dealt with, people are surviving everyday. Some even have smiles, on their face and feel blessed. I know this because I met them. They are real people, and they give me hope for my own life, but also in the city to correctly solve the issues that it is facing.