Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Loaves & Fishes to be closed for NINE DAYS!

A sheet pinned to the bulletin board, in front of the Info kiosk in Friendship Park, informs us that Loaves & Fishes' Friendship Park will be closed for the FIRST NINE DAYS OF MAY.

A nine-day close of the park, and other reductions of service, represent an unconsionable denial of essential services for the homeless people of Sacramento. Citizens and businesses in Sacramento donate at an average of over $10,000 per day to Loaves & Fishes.

The notice tells us that coffee will be served to homeless people in the cul-de-sac in front of the park on Monday and Friday, and that men's showers will be available only on those two days in the span of time running from Saturday, May 1, through Sunday, May 9.

Mid-day meals, which Loaves & Fishes has historically served every day except Thanksgiving, will be served every day during the closure period.

Loaves & Fishes executives often describe their organization as one providing "survival services."  I think that's true.  I think they could do more, and would do more, if they were truly in touch with the importance of the org's work and the shaken, precarious lives that many homeless people lead.  But L&F, like many nonprofits I'm familiar with, doesn't really have to answer to anybody.  Its Board of Directors is monolithic and silent, and those who donate to Loaves & Fishes give with too much faith that funds will be spent carefully, delivering maximum bang for the buck.

For L&F to suddenly close for NINE STRAIGHT DAYS, as is the intention, will have these unfortunate effects:  Many homeless people who have precarious work will smell less good on-the-job and will be subject to losing their jobs, thanks to limited availability of showers and clothing exchanges.  Homeless people won't have early-morning or late-afternoon access to lockers they pay plenty of rent for and could be without toiletries and vital medication.  Day storage won't be available, so many homeless people won't be able to look for work or go to job interviews.  In addition, loss of at-the-park services will screw up homeless people's days in ways they cannot have prepared for.

Also, it makes no sense.  There is nothing that Loaves & Fishes can need to have done that requires a nine-day close of the Park and restriction of other services.  There are many who volunteer their time to L&F who can best help out on the weekends — to paint, remove winter-season plastic & heaters, thoroughly clean some areas, lay sod,  or provide plumbing services, etc.

Update:  A joke [or, what was intended as a joke (I don't know of anyone who thought it was funny)] has been removed from the end of this blogpost, because some people were offended and I agree that it was stupid. And, the post has been retitled to better reflect how seriously I take the error of Loaves & Fishes' park closing for nine straight day.  Another change or two has been made, as well.  I endlessly tinker.

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