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A Holiday Letter: 2020 vision

December 27, 2020 1 comment

As Christmas fades into New Years I’ve had the chance to read a lot of 2020 holiday letters. I have written a few on this blog in years past. It is nice to reflect on changes and update our family and friends and interested bystanders on what has occurred and how we’ve evolved. 2020 was a defining year for everyone, pretty much. It of course was for me which is why I haven’t blogged since May. To my new readers, my apologies and I’m glad you’ve stuck with me.

I went into the 2020s intent on having it be a rejuvenation year. I harnessed the holidays from the Yule Log to the New Years Day reflecting, letting go and thinking ahead. I was a little more focused on my own work in 4-A-Change. Welcome Home, the shelter for Veterans experiencing homelessness where I consult had been newly certified and we were doing good work improving operations, solidifying and preparing for growth. I had been working on domestic violence training with Tasca Tolson and we had a good training with a plan to grow that service.

I was also getting to do some respite care for my favorite 4-year-old. It was a great set up because it allowed me to stay in his life after me and his mom broke up. I was less engaged in public policy but doing my part. I had a bunch of other interesting one shot deals and mini adventures but I also had more time to reflect, drink coffee and follow and discuss events. And that quickly became very interesting as everyone knows.

Ominous stories of the corona virus and clear signals it was not going to be controlled and it would be a world changing event. Over coffee and the news and discussion with John we saw what was coming. A few stories had a big impact. A guy dying in L.A. on the streets from COVID. A guy who was homeless in Florida arrested for defying a stay at home order. Groups of activists on the West Coast moving homeless folks into foreclosed homes. We decided people wouldn’t die of COVID on the streets in CoMo. We set upon documentation of community spread, which would surely lead to a stat at home order as the time when we would have to act.

Four days prior, as it turns out, on a Saturday morning at 7:00 am I called the City Manager. Being on City Council has its priveleges. He had sent an email so I knew he was up and working. I explained my concerns and asked for a project manager to be identified to get an emergency shelter started so that unsheltered folks could have access to hand washing and shelter to be able to shelter in place.

He called me back and said no staff were available but the Social Services Director thought I had the background and wherewithal to organize such a project and I could do so as a citizen volunteer. John and I had been brainstorming more grass roots approaches so we shifted gears and I began to liaison with the Human Services Director as a volunteer project manager.

You can read more detailed accounts about what happened next here and in the media. In summary we went from concept to enrolling individuals in 4 days and sheltered 9 folks that night. It had been a whirlwind of constant organizing and brainstorming and then we were also operating a 30 person shelter. We put a lot into our first volunteer training and managed things as best we could.

I had phone issues and the emotional stress of immersive work with traumatized individuals amongst the emergence of the pandemic/lockdown and the tidal wave of need as hundreds of people in need of shelter reached out as well as hundreds and hundreds of offers of support and questions and suggestions. I have been blessed to have organized a lot of high energy engaging projects with heavy media interest but nothing like the CoMoCrisisShelter.

We lasted 10 days and served up to 30 people after a few days. We lost our funding, raised new money but ultimately were to disruptive to our hotel hosts and were asked to leave. We thought a hotel based shelter was too attractive and with the temporary collapse of most conventional social services we thought we needed a crisis center as a point of access.

We looked at sites and I made appeals and reached out to those who controlled suitable real estate. It was sad when some folks I considered friends stopped taking my calls. It was heartening when we got a great site with an enthusiastic commercial realtor.

Safe Camp was born and again you can read about what happened in detail here and in the paper. It was a beautiful experiment in Mutual Aid and we were asked to leave before we even unpacked. Four days we stayed and the community rained down support in food and needed items and our neighbors and my own city government looked for levers to get us to disperse.

As I sought sites for our Crisis Center I found a site and an offer to host a depression era style Car Camp for folks living in vehicles. I started project managing that mutual aid project while we looked for another site for a Safe Camp. A small Black church in the central city let us host a Safe Camp in their backyard. John pretty much ran that project with the participants.

At all of our projects we focused on using the crisis shelter as a platform to improve their lives. We were less interested in providing immediate shelter to get by in but providing shelter as a platform to live a life of greatness. We had lots of successes and folks got into permanent housing, reunited with family and did other good things.

We emphasized skill sharing and empowerment. CAR Camp turned out to be our longest project at 7 1/2 months. We struggled with the less helpful parts of homelessness culture and we had our ups and downs. I yelled more then I have in the rest of my life. The mutual aid concept was thoroughly tested and proved to be sound.

Through these events a lot occurred with me. Not for the first time and likely not for the last I took Parsifal’s Journey into Chapel Perilous. Stress, vicarious trauma, disrupted sleep, the highs and lows of immersive organizing with the most challenged individuals all in the context of an unprecedented global crisis with the risk of death all around is a sure recipe for an *awakening*.

I had revelatory experience and struggles with hypomania into mania that you might expect. It was disruptive and painful and fucked up and beautiful. More good then bad came out of it by a good margin and you can’t ask for more than that.

I came to see great significance in the Sweet Light. In the twilight of the Piscean Age and/or the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius we surely live in the Sweet Light with the possibility of gentle clarity if we open our eyes.

In 2020 I learned to acknowledge the Sweet Light and felt compelled to preach it some. And I did, first on Easter Sunday after a beautiful sunrise and then on Sundays and/or Saturdays. Outside, in a circle, at a time not based on the clocks of some but on the sun time of all.

We had some beautiful sharing, earnest prayer, a little tentative song, the mangling of scripture and thoughts about how we were loved and things could be better and how grateful we are and all the goodness given to us.

As I worked to manage the things I had wrought out of concern and hope and a touch of madness the spell passed, as it always does. Sanity returns, revelation goes cold and you move the world a little more slowly.

We wrapped up CAR Camp with a COVID exposure the day before move out. I was identified as a close contact and instructed to self quarantine. John stepped up and closed down CAR Camp and worked with the Health Department to see those who needed it got the facilities to isolate. We had one or two more positives but John stepped up mightily.

John has done so consistently and with excellence through the entire pandemic. The Crisis Shelter, 2 Safe Camps, ongoing homelessness outreach most often as a volunteer and providing tons of support for Room At The Inn (RATI) our inclement weather shelter program John has been an exemplar of humble effective service.

I am picking up a little outreach as he bottom lines transportation. I’m also cooking more and trying to make sure I get some exercise. I started playing an online game, Evony, as a time waster and destresser. I’ve enjoyed making friends online and reading less news and letting others try to save the world for awhile. I feel like I did my piece to help and put out everything I had. I was glad to do it. Met a lot of great folks and made some memories. I learned a lot and got a taste of what’s possible.

I’m looking forward to another season at home and wrapping up my City Council service. With things as they are I get to reflect about my public service as it wraps up. Not what I expected who usually wrings the last engagement out of a thing and reflect later.

I skipped a lot of minutia, weirdness and negativity that happened as well. One piece of it is someone went through my blog and pulled out clubs and beat me up with them publicly. That’s why I hid my blog when I went into politics. I lay out my sacred things here. Its public but I trade mostly on genuine disclosure and unfiltered thoughts, anecdotes and stories, poems and songs and musings on things I’m interested in. It bothered me more then it might and so I didn’t blog for the rest of the year.

The last 2 times my filter went down I’ve spent more energy trying to be wiser and kinder rather then bring it back. I still have a lot to learn about that but I’m going to take the journey. Share your thoughts and questions and whatnot in the comments if you like. If I get some feedback I’ll surely do this more often.

I hope your year has been an experience to learn from and you have more fond memories then you realize yet. I hope your new year is blessed and you get to experience it with open eyes and an open heart. For those who celebrate Happy Kwanzaa!