A Name with Dignity

How have Y’all been,

Sweets and I had taken a weekend trip out to Grand Rapids. The intent of the trip was to go out there and find work. We were there only two days and we got a call that I had a job offer in Lansing, so back on the bus we went back to Lansing. Those two days we spent out there taught us something. Just because we are homeless doesn’t mean we have to live without dignity. In the Heartside District of Grand Rapids there is not a single homeless person. In Grand Rapids they are call Community People. Now I know I use the term “homeless” quite a lot. That will be changing very soon, January 1st, 2019 to be exact, maybe sooner.

Now the fact of the name comes from an initiative organized by the different non-profits out there to make everyone equal. A Community Person is everyone; the guy on the street panhandling, the executive in the sky rise, the President of the United States, the nurse working twelve hour days in the ER so that we can see another day, police officers, school teachers, sanitation engineers, the convict out on parole, etc., etc., etc. When we heard this term for the first time we were a little confused but then again we had not heard it before. There is a shelter in Grand Rapids, in the Heartside District that has taken that name to heart and the volunteers there use it freely. A name that we can all be called that makes everyone equal and gives respect for being equal to everyone is a nice change.

I had stayed in the local men’s shelter, Mel Trotter, while Sweets stayed in the women’s shelter, Degage’. The volunteers at the men’s shelter made sure that no one was called homeless even though that is essentially what we were. They had Bible studies, employment classes, places to play checkers, even a pay phone. The women’s shelter to it so much further. They have a dining hall where anyone can eat for free though for a little money you can get a full meal just like at a local diner, they have an ID office – that helps people get legal documents, a barber shop, showers, laundry, lockers, a mail service, medical needs provided, clothing needs filled, housing vouchers with a free furniture service, they offer paper chits that are just as good as money inside their facilities for any of the services they offer that costs money. Another organization offers work program that allows for easy money to be made with a little dignity thrown in for good measure. This program has led to a few job offers.

The Heartside District has many many organizations that reach out to the Community People that call the district home. I challenge each of you to call yourselves and those around you Community People and stop segregation.

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Yours faithfully, Sweets & Elroy

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