Threats have real consequences
Death like that recounted in Julie Garcia’s post below is one sober and very final result of policies, othering attitudes, and the legal and physical threats leveled at people “not like us”. Julie Garcia is the force of nature behind Jewels Helping Hands (JHH). Julie, with a small staff, many of whom came from the camp itself, is the glue and voice of Camp Hope. The camp has unwillingly served as a lightning rod for City of Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward and (now) former Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich’s efforts to sweep the people experiencing homelessness as far out of sight as possible. Julie is the embodiment of the principles of Christianity I was taught as a youth, but which I lacked the strength to fully follow.
Julie Garcia on the deaths at Camp Hope
“No one ever should die alone, desperate, and hurt in a tent on the side of a freeway. No one ever. I can not accept this as ok.”
Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. Thank you to those tender souls who helped us feel supported.
We lost two friends yesterday. One lost his battle with cancer and the other chose to leave this world on his own terms.
Some things in life can not be unseen. Yesterday will forever be etched in my memory until it’s my time to join them.
My friend said his goodbyes to his friends and told them he loved them (we were lead to believe he was visiting family and they were as well). He told us he would be gone for two days so we wouldn’t check on him, he packed his valued items in a bag still laying next to him when he was found, he cleaned his tent, put on his new shoes and then hung himself in his tent, his home.
This man never left the camp. He was safe here. He felt safe. It was his home. He was kind and gentle. He loved the animals here. His smile was contagious. He was loved. His home was ending. His safety net vanishing. His already strained mental health was deteriorating due to his loss.
Today I am sad, devastated and angry. I am sad that I should have hugged him one more time. I am devastated that he isn’t here and I am angry at the policy that created the scenario that ended like this. It sparked a new fire. I can not accept that I live in a world where this is acceptable and accepted. I am even more determined to fix this, or die trying. If you aren’t in alignment with this please get out of my way.
Having a nice home, money, peacefulness that’s a conciliation prize and I am forever grateful for mercy and grace that allows for this. But at the end of the day, serving these folks is my moral obligation, it’s my rent for existence on this planet, my commanded path and responsibility. The other stuff is a bonus.
I know that God never said this was easy. He only said I wouldn’t endure it alone.
I can vouch for the not easy part. It’s brutal, really. I can only lean on him to help me endure and process. It will take time. But I know one thing for sure:
No one ever should die alone, desperate, and hurt in a tent on the side of a freeway. No one ever. I can not accept this as ok.
Show each other grace, you never know what storm someone is facing. What demon they are fighting and what choices they have. If you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.
May we all remember lives unnecessarily lost and May they be remembered and honored through our actions.
You both will be missed brothers, say Hi to Jay for me. And save me a place in line, I’ll see you again, someday.
Maurice Smith, the video documentarian of homelessness in our communityand another major force in guiding Camp Hope, filed his own lament. It was re-published (among other places) by RANGE Media last Wednesday, May 10. I urge you to click and read: Remembrances and reckonings at Camp Hope. Maurice’s piece offers more detail on the death of Mark, a former Camp Hope camper and one of the originals. Mark died the same day as Bigs, earlier this week.
Words and threats, othering, unkindnesses, and legal maneuvering all have real world consequences, far removed from sterile offices, board rooms, and court rooms from which they issue. There is a lesson here.
Keep to the high ground,