Monday, March 8, 2010

a post-olympic return to tent city

went to tent city today.

i hadn't been there for a while and wanted to see how things were doing post-olympics.

it certainly is a different place. A more sparse crowd populates the lot and the large swinging main gate was pinned shut. i entered through a much more modest door in the middle of the fence. 

i joined a group of homeless folk on chairs in a circle around a recently extinguished fire. it was about 11:30 am. 

i offered myself as appreciative of their work and they quickly got the gist that i was there to help out a bit.

everyone was pretty interested in water. one lady from missouri thought that another guy should get his feet washed with it. frank wanted a few bottles of it to drink. another guy suggested big drums full of water. a last guy was kinda more interested in a truck and delivering some irrigation piping and fittings. i listened to his plan to bring water from one of two adjacent buildings. he was also interested in a kiddies pool from walmart which he would turn into some kind of solar shower. all very reasonable ideas but not within, my immediate capabilities.

finally i said i could get water from the london drugs. someone seemed to get pissed off about the waste of the plastic bottles but even so, i thought it was practical to get those bottles.

frank volunteered to come with me which was great because together we would be able to bring back 2 cases instead of just one. 

inside the london drugs, we found the last two big cases of water and frank asked if i had enough for a chocolate bar for him  too. seeing as how he was willing to help me carry the water and also, was pleasant company. i agreed. he wanted one with lots of nuts so he got an o'henry and i grabbed a max of nuts and dried fruits.

on our way back he told me which small town he was from and confided that he was working on dealing with his crack thing. i agreed that a crack thing is a tough thing.

the water was well received. i sat down again and listened to their conversation. talking about their wet blankets and needing to get them washed. only some of them could hang over the fence in the sun. and they needed to be dried before they could be washed. they drank the water. they dried the water. they passed around the trail mix. a few more people came to the circle. one guy poitely introduced himself as jesus.

the fellow who had been talking about the irrigation was still thinking about his grand plans. he wanted to build a garden so that they could grow their food. he need a trailer to load up the concrete debris and he needed that irrigation tubing along with some fittings. definitely not copper fittings though, they would be stolen in a second. 

finally i left to head back to my office. i thought about the olympics, the impracticability of the collective vision these folks were desperate to create and how a little olympic success would be a spontaneous movement of citizen's acting with compassion to help real people overcome their problems large or small.

i left wondering if the next time i returned i might come with a full packs of smokes or perhaps better, a loaf of my sourdough bread with a jar of peanut butter. i probably also have a some extra jam somewhere too.


  1. Amazing post man!
    All that's missing is a little Woody Guthrie, so, here:
    Worried man blues

  2. Correct me if i'm wrong, but we don't have recycling fees for bottled water, in Qc.
    We're kinda late...

  3. in reading about the ideas the tent city inhabitants have, i couldn't help but thing of the reggio method of facilitating projects. i wonder what would happen if someone continued to ask questions,document their conversations & visions, encouraged them to flesh them out with drawings, models etc. and then fed it back to them. i feel that all communities can benefit from someone who plays an atelierista-type role, encouraging us to stay with a sense of the possible and clarify our thinking around what would have to happen to actualize our visions.