Shelter from the storm

Text and pics by Rosalie Tirella

I am prepping my shack for the city’s July 4th celebration.  It’s super, stupid early – like most Woo civic festivities – TONIGHT. Grrrr!

20170630_115209-1

… My critters, always the cute, if sometimes unwilling, holiday props, are scooped into the silliness:

20170630_114825

Then I see …

20170630_115146

… a picture painted by “Joe,” an alcoholic, sometimes homeless guy, who was living in a Worcester flophouse the day he gave his painting to me a few years back. Very sweet and graciously. I said “thank you!!” and gave him a big hug and later mailed him a pretty thank you card. I think Joe was drunk when he painted his little masterpiece.

Joe was/is a creative guy! He paints on the cheapest canvas – cardboard he finds – and his pictures are usually pretty small in size – for economic reasons. The one shown above, now hanging on my bedroom wall, is the biggest he has: a foot by a foot and a half. He makes his own simple wood frames, too. He tries to sell his paintings – framed – for 10 and 20 bucks. Very affordable prices!

I don’t think Joe, who can get so drunk that he stumbles and slurs his sentences, has sold one of his paintings.

Even though they are all colorful and happy: paintings of animals – wild and domesticated. Paintings of city scapes and nature … sunsets. No one wanted to go up to his little gallery/studio in his room in the flophouse to check out his work. He had his paintings tastefully mounted on one of his room walls…waiting…

I thought of Joe when I took the photo of this homeless girl on Green Street the other day …

20170611_161108(1)-1

… a regular there, under the bridge.  Always with a book by her side – her armor. I drive down Green Street every day – often I see her reading her books. I think: a soulmate…a fellow lover of words.

I took  the photo in the middle of a heat wave. She, like the other young people who hang out peacefully under the Green Street bridge, was wilting in the heat.

I called my friend Dorrie M., a great friend to the homeless, to see what we could do to help.

Rose: Dorrie, does she have a place to shower and cool off?

Dorrie: Yeah, they do. All the kids there do…they’re fine.

Dorrie was not about to tell me where the secret showers were, she was not about to betray the kids’ trust.

I ended the call feeling reassured.

I often drive by “the girl reader” as I call her and wish there were FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE COURSES FOR HER and her friends offered in our new downtown. Boston has just made its public colleges FREE TO ALL BOSTON KIDS. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has made ALL PUBLIC COLLEGES IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK TUITION-FREE FOR ALL OF THE state’s young people. He is wise. He knows: the global economy demands it. And NYC and Boston and other big world class cities cannot have a two-tier society: the very poor/homeless and very rich.

Look at this pic I took, another Canal District photo:

20170616_131223

On Green Street. The man is sleeping on the hard concrete!!, next to a Mercedes-Benz!!

America🇺🇸😥

This guy tucked inside a Kelley Square doorway – it was raining buckets of rain! – told me or any one who cared to notice that he was a Celtics fan! I took his photo with that in mind. He made me sad, but I smiled at his New England sports mania!

20170627_143638

Worcester, we need to, begin thinking of the summer heat waves yet to come and how we as a community are going to help our homeless – folks often mentally ill, runaways from abusive situations, addicted souls… They don’t want to be stuck in some shelter. They want to feel free! Their American right – as long as they don’t hurt other people. These kids and adults are hard core – the ones who refuse shelter and, for the most part, have their communities in and of the streets. They have their own beats …their own special places…their schedules. They don’t mind living outdoors in the summer…

How to keep these folks hydrated and their body temps regulated in 90 plus degree humidity?

How to keep the old ones from dying on Worcester streets.

How to give them more DIGNITY.

I suggest, and city leaders are looking into this: a city run campground for the chronically homeless. A clean safe space with cots, showers, porto-potties, water, donated food…a few caring city social workers and a cop with a big heart. America is Trumpland now. It will only get meaner.

Governor Cuomo and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh are bulwarks against the Trump Storm. Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus and the Worcester City Council must be the shelter in the Woo storm for our homeless, our street kids, my “reader girl,” who most days looks so pretty sitting under the Green Street bridge reading her books…