Kruzan says advocates’ promotion of Fourth Street garage as shelter, other concerns led to crackdown
May 8, 2013
by Jon Blau and Laura Lane
Advocates for a low-barrier summer shelter joined a group of about 30 homeless people in the Fourth Street garage, nicknamed Garage Art, for three nights prior to police action that cleared the location Monday night. Five protesters, who lay on the floor of the garage in sleeping bags, were arrested by Bloomington police on preliminary charges of trespassing when they refused to move.
The city initially offered the group leeway, Kruzan said, because there was an expectation the garage would serve as a temporary sleeping site for homeless people. The tipping point for Kruzan came when group members began publicizing the use of the garage. Posts to Occupy Bloomington’s Facebook page advertised the city’s parking facility as the “Dream Garage,” and “homeless allies” offered movies, pizzas and popcorn to those who gathered there.
Monday morning, the city began getting increased complaints about conditions in the garage, including open containers of alcohol, individuals who were intoxicated and public urination.
Charis Heisey, one of the advocates arrested Monday, held up prior inaction by the police department as a victory.
“The cops came and left and stayed gone — yes, we WON and held the space,” Heisey wrote Saturday. “This is formerly unprecedented in Bloomington, and daresay it’s rare in the United States generally.”
Kruzan said organizers of the sheltering effort, in their attempts to pressure the city on a low-barrier option, have minimized attention to the city’s financial support for places such as Martha’s House, a shelter that does not allow clients to use drugs or alcohol. The city has resisted the idea of supplying resources to a so-called low-barrier shelter because of fears it could draw more homeless individuals who would not utilize services with rules.
“This kind of no-expectation shelter being sanctioned by this group harms the nature of the community, the businesses of downtown merchants, and, ultimately, the very people who are using these no-expectation shelters,” Kruzan said.
A.K. again: Well, I guess I’m part of the problem, since I helped “promote” the news about the garage shelter.
And part of me agrees with Kruzan. The part that really does still assume that every individual has free will, no matter how sunk into addiction, or even mental illness — and that at some point in this life or the next each of us wakes up and takes charge of our own destiny.
However, a comment by one of those who responded online to today’s H-T story, has this to say, swinging me once again, back the other way.
“Again, to so many on this thread, there are people using Interfaith shelters whom you see. But you don’t classify them as homeless in your mind, because their behaviors are appropriate and they’ve found a way to get a shower or sink bath. They could be waiting on you in a store or restaurant. Or sitting near you in the library while you look over at that “homeless” person a little further away. And you put them down every time you touch the keyboard, because you have not bothered to get to know them, to see the huge effort they put into daily life.
“I talked for a while with such a woman the other day. She’s well aware of all the stereotypes flying around Bloomington, how everyone holding those views has no idea they’re walking past someone who doesn’t know if she’ll sleep on a garage roof or in a tent next week. She’s well aware that many don’t want her to have a better shelter, that it’s inconvenient to their set of “facts.” She doesn’t seem to blame anyone, including herself. Fancy that, looking toward solutions instead of blame and simplistic assumptions.
“Is she supposed to get up in front of City Council and explain what everyone can easily know? Why do we have so many experts on the Interfaith shelters who have never been there for even two hours, have never met this woman or the others who would shake up their views? In no way do I want to deflect attention from the problematic street people in Bloomington, as they present problems that must be addressed. But why pretend this whole thing would be solved if they went away tomorrow? Clearly, given the nature of the comments, you all know better.”
AK: There is (the Mayor’s) multi-faceted Truth, and there the Compassion shown in this comment. Somehow we must absorb both Truth and Compassion and expand our minds and hearts enough to work with this situation creatively. Addicted and mentally ill folks will always be among us, and most likely their numbers increase, especially as the end-game of predatory capitalism continues to grind further down all but the 1%. Most of these human beings don’t have any regular place to lay their heads. Why? Many of them are not “civil” and not “safe.” There is no way, for example, that I would take a seriously addicted or mentally ill person into my home.
I wonder: how do aboriginal cultures work with those who are not civil or safe among them? Exile is one solution. But exile won’t work where there’s no where left to roam.
Note: This post is archived on the page Homeless in Bloomington.