This town is for the dirty bums

It really was a remarkable day today. The Inauguration: A relief. I'm glad we turned a page on an incredibly ugly period, at least symbolically. The prayer felt in some ways like a flashback to religious imperialism, but the speech felt like a transition and a refreshing refocus on American ideals that are actually admirable. Ever the cynic, I'm hoping that we and our government live up to this inaugural speech better than we've lived up to past ones, and we are of course still in deep doodoo. The thing about this speech was that people watched it and listened to it. I have deep admiration for our president, which is something I've never felt before.

President Obama struck a nice balance between a call to governmental and personal responsibility, which was refreshing and which colored the second remarkable part of my day, which was visiting the Nickelsville homeless community with my friend Dustin Cross. This is a group of people who, a few months ago, took it upon themselves to help the city of Seattle out by building a home and a community for 100 people on a vacant lot. In response, Seattle bulldozed their homes and confiscated/destroyed their possessions. (They didn't have camping permits, you see.) They have moved their encampment 5 times in the last six months, and are currently set up in a church parking lot in Seattle's University district. Their vision is to establish a permanent location and set up transitional housing and community for 1000 of the 8000 people sleeping on Seattle's streets. These people exemplify grass-roots activism and personal responsibility in the absolute worst of American life situations. It is probably too much to ask of our city to exemplify governmental responsibility by not abusing and harassing them, and by providing them with something simple and available - space and permission to develop a safe living environment. They don't even want any change. If you aren't going to provide housing, is it too much to let people provide it for themselves? This is the start of Great Depression II. The government has no money. People have no money. Why make life without a house harder than it needs to be?

For a fun fact I learned from a Nickelsville-ite named Robert, the city mentions in the video above that they had shelter beds for all the residents whose possessions were being cleared out. Only 4 people took them up, and they were given beds for the night. However, while they were there, they saw that 4 people who had used the shelter beds the previous night were turned back out onto the street. Wonderful solution.

Dustin and friends are planning on starting a church and building transformative community with the folks in Seattle who live outside. Something like this. I'm inspired, and believe that this is the sort of Emerging Mission that the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia is employing me to encourage.

Deep doodoo. Personal Responsibility. Governmental Responsibility. Change we can believe in. Let's do it.


Anonymous said…
I've seen something like this transitional town in a parking lot, either in seattle or portland or maybe somewhere in CA. I dont recall. You very well could have posted the pictures/video, or I saw it on tv. Several wooden sheds, community water, vegetable gardens, etc. Some people had jobs, but everyone living there was involved with some aspect of maintaining the place.
Anonymous said…
thanks for the shout out bro. looking forward to connecting with you