Salt Lake Marching and Chowder Club
Drive by 500 West on a cool fall evening and you will see the group of blanket covered figures. Come by on a summer afternoon you will see the blankets spread out on the grass, an endless picnic. A cold winter day you will
see the blanket bundled figures huddled on the sidewalk. Who are these people?
On an ordinary day along Rio Grande street there are the street level drug pushers asking "what you are buying?", the young men socializing with the young ladies, the couples sitting and talking to each other, drugs being used, items being bought and sold, money passed from hand to hand, people talking and talking.
The people of the Rio Grande Homeless
Community have a structure, with an established economic system, with money moving into and out of the area, a social system with rules of behavior, and a pecking order. There are prostitutes and pimps, newly released felons, there are gays and straights, and there are old men and old women. There are heavy drug users and recreational drug users. There are those with mental problems, with a few off their meds who are completely out of touch.
There is "homeless on homeless"crime, stealing from each other, assaults, assaults on homeless women. Most go unreported.
There is "homeless on the public "crime, which does get reported.
Who are these people?
Some have college degrees, others have an IQ of 60.
Some are alcoholic, some drink and do drugs socially, others neither drink nor do drugs. Some are good people, others are really bad, assaultive and predatory.
Some socialize, others are loners.
Some write letters and Emails to the Mayor's office,others are illiterate.
They are all poor.
When the homeless are asked "how are things along the Rio Grande?" the answer is usually "all right". When asked "how are things at the Road Home?" the answer may be that "it is bad, really bad".
As you talk to the homeless you will find a sense of apathy, a sense of acceptance(i.e. a lack of protest), a limited view of the future, each day being its own challenge for some here and now success, a desire to get out of the homeless situation but with little hope, a sense that things are not going to get any better.
You will also find that there is little idea of working together for a common good, (the notion of "the homeless helping the homeless.")
Their attitude toward the public is a mixture of fear, anger, and envy. At the same time the public is seen as the source of their goods and services and also a game to be worked.
They do not as a rule "snitch" to the police. The homeless rules are enforced within the community by the homeless themselves with strict compliance with the drug payment aspect.
Their acceptance of LGBTQ and those on the Sex Offender Registry roughly parallels the public. Those who have done jail time for minor offenses as well as those with felony convictions are considered as no big deal.
The police are the enemy, except that occasionally they are turned to for help in recovery of a stolen item. Otherwise it is more or less a cat and mouse game where the police try another control and the homeless react.
Is there, then, a Culture of Homelessness, where the homeless have a common world view that seems quite different from ours?
(JOHN, President of SLCMCC and 95 year-old retired M.D.):
I am 95 hrs old; time that I should tell the story of my two years experience with the Homeless of the Rio Grande Community.
I moved to Gateway May 2012. That summer I would see the homeless picnics on the grassy esplanade along 500 west.
With the cool autumn evenings the blank clad figures would be in a line on the sidewalk. With the cold weather they huddled against the walls on the Rio Grande.
Who are these people?
Some time in March 2015 I began using the TRAX Old Greek Town station. I would frequently meet and talk to the homeless of the Rio Grande area when going into the city.
An older man timidly asked me for a dollar.
He said he was schizophrenic. He also said he was on his meds and wasn't violent.
My first meeting with a homeless panhandler.
Later I answered an add in the Tribune asking for volunteers to work the Road Home.
I went to their orientation meeting with about 30 young collage men and two women.
Later, on some advice I walked down to the Rescue Mission at noon one day and walked in where they were serving lunch. When I asked about volunteering I was handed an apron. So started my three times a week volunteering, handing out bread or rolls for the noon meal.
Along the Rio Grande I see money changing hands, things bought and sold. On a hot day there is the guy with an ice cream chest on his bike with ice and soft drink cans. There are blankets spread on the sidewalk with the items for sale, canned goods, trinkets, packages of cookies. Drugs are bought and sold.
The Rio Grande has a functioning economy
I talked to a guy busy rolling spice into cigarettes. Tow dollars apiece. He also sells weed, five dollars each. Later down the block I mentioned the prices and was told they were twice what the locals would pay.
One day as I walked the Rio Grande I saw a heavy older lady in a wheel chair suddenly jump forward out of her wheel chair and hurry over to a young woman, upon whom she rained blows cursing all the time. The young woman finally broke free and escaped with apparent damage. Someone in the assembled crowd asked “what was all that about?” The older lady was owed $100
(LAUREN, Vice President of the Salt Lake Marching and Chowder Club and former Research Associate):
~ 8/1/2014. I needed some structure and wanted to help a cause. I started researching volunteer positions all over the place. The first place wherd ge I called that didn’t have a lengthy application process was the Salt Lake Mission. They gave me the address and told me to drop by. I went there one day at about 11: 15 and was introduced to a man named Tadd. After I had served meals to about 25 people, he told me to have a seat and have something to eat. I asked if I could eat with the people I had just served and he looked at me kind of funny. He said of course and I did. I was amazed at how many teenage boys were homeless. They made up about half of the people there. And they were dressed so nicely. I wondered, where are their mothers? I went back to do dishes and they opened the doors to the homeless people at noon. I was so stressed out that I didn’t realize that I had just served food to and eaten with 2 groups of volunteer teenagers and the "programmers" that stayed at the mission. One group of the boys had pride shirts and the other group were wearing arm bandanas that said “Mormon Mafia”. A man of about 65 who was dressed business causal asked me what the boys should be doing. I told him I had no idea and to ask Tadd what he needed help with. Then I began serving to the homeless. I can’t remember what I dished out.
That was my first day. It must have been a Tuesday or a Thursday because John wasn’t there. The next day I went to volunteer again. I asked Tadd what he wanted me to do and he said that I couldn’t volunteer again without a “chaperone”. I met this wonderful little old man and asked him if he could be my chaperone. He said yes and so it began. We volunteered every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for several weeks. He had mentioned that he was starting a “club” and asked me if I wanted to join. He said that he was the President, that it was a dollar to join the club and that there were 3 club members including himself. I felt kind of bad for him at first because I thought he must be very lonely. But as I got to know him, I realized that I was wrong. He surrounds himself with friends and family and has a very full, active life. John Shannon, retired MD. 92 years old at the time we started.
John told me that he had recently stopped driving and that he takes Trax to run his downtown errands. That’s where he began to meet many homeless people. He decided to try to help them. He lives next to the Gateway and said he became interested in getting people to “act better”. He said that there were millions of dollars being poured into an area that was basically a dump. He had the notion that if a place like this was going to change, “the homeless themselves would have to drive the change”. They already had more than enough services and resources. John explained his bottom up approach and it made a lot of sense.
John is a mighty dragon slayer. He made the commitment to help serve lunch and began walking the 3 miles 3 times a week to and from the mission. He walked right through the worst section in the city in between the Road Home and the Weigand Center. He told me that he would go up to the biggest meanest looking guys, tap them on the chest and ask them if they were “in charge”. He wanted to find a leader who would enforce rules like “don’t throw your garbage in the street”, “don’t do drugs right out in the open where children can see” and “get those blankets off of your heads”.He wanted to build a community.
I got to Same’ Sushi on Wednesday, 9/8/2015. There was a nice lady waiting at a table where a cosmopolitan had been set up for John. I learned from the soon to be Treasurer, Barbara, that this was the first meeting of the club. John showed up with homeless artist named Sherome (Nicknamed “Romey”). We went outside. He explained that he had asked Romey to be his bodyguard. Char came shortly after. They asked me to be the secretary of the “Salt Lake City Marching and Chowder Club” and I said sure. John would be President, Char would be the Vice President and Barbara would be the Treasurer.
“Dr. John”, Char and I would meet three times a week after volunteering at the mission – at first. Then it became almost every single day. The three of us became fast friends. Char is an amazing person who bends over backwards to help people in need.
The Rescue Mission is supported the Evangelicals and gets no public funding. The Mission serves three meals a day to who ever comes to the door. They also maintain a 100 bed shelter as well as a rehabilitation program. The program averages about 35 to 40 programers and lasts 13 months. Many enter the program as volunteers though others have been referred by a judge in lieu of jail time.
Tadd is a programer who runs the kitchen and does the cooking. He welcomed me and handed me an apron when I first arrived.
The programers, as I observed do not consider them selves anything like the homeless that they serve.
The rehab program is religious based with much talk of bible verses and Jesus. During my time at the Rescue Mission I got to know some programers quite well. I got to
call one young programer "Jesus Boy".
The lunch meal is served to any person lined up at the door at noon averaging about 75 people. On special occasions up to 150 meals have have been served.A young blond woman with two little blond girls came a number of times. Much fuss and fight deference was paid to them. A heavy Latino mother with three quiet sad eyed little children came to eat. Not much attention was paid to them.
Almost all the homeless would respond to "Hello" and thank me for the food I handed out. I saw the crates of food that the programers hauled in each day for preparation. It appeared the same as that you see in the super markets or restaurants.
The door was opened for the homeless for
lunch at 12 noon and finished at 12:30 after which the programers met in the chapel for a discussion group under the direction of Cassie Warner.
I was invited to one meeting. There wasn't much discussion as most of the programers seemed tired and bored.
When the group all passed through the line anyone could return for seconds while the food lasted. When all had been served I sometimes took napkins to the tables to encourage good table manners. Almost all the dinners seemed pleased to exchange pleasantries.
Cassie Warner is a tall lady with long greying hair combed down her back. She is Den Mother for the Rescue Mission's programmers, reassuring them when they get depressed, and tending to their daily spiritual needs. She is a true Christian lady.
Cassie and I talked about how to help each homeless person get a sense of self worth. A feeling that could help them with their struggle to rise out of the turmoil of the Rio Grande.
It was about this time that I began thinking about how instead of encouraging change in each individual, instead the whole Rio Grande Community should be encouraged to change.
Encourage them to begin to think of themselves as a Community in which they could take pride. Encourage them to become responsible.
Lauren showed up one noon to volunteer for serving lunch. She needed a chaperone so I became her Chaperone.
On first sight I thought her cute though a little on the heavy side. We became friends while passing out lunches to the homeless.
Some of the programmers as well as Cassie and Lauren were dismayed to find out that I walked through the Rio Grande coming to the Rescue Mission three times a week. So I asked Rommy, a big Afro American guy to be my body guard to reassure everyone. I never felt in need of protection and the only thing that Rommy protected me from was the car traffic when I crossed 200 South.
On walking through the Rio Grand I passed groups of Afro Americans, groups of Latinos, and Native Americans. In the beginning I was generally ignored except one time a young guy asked me if "I was buying or selling."
When I greeted one of the people on the street they, with rare exception, talked to me.
Some even seemed interested, asking me if I was a cop.
As the street became used to me I was able to have conversations particularly when I offered a cigarette or two.
Things weren't "too bad living on the Rio Grande except for a few bad apples on the block". "Yes I would like things better". "Things in the Road Home are really bad."
There is a small group of Native Americans that I would often see along the edge of Pioneer Park. The head of the group was a very heavy lady who sizing up the way I dressed called me "Silver Spoon". "Because I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, ,"she said. I called her "floats as lightly as a cloud".
We got along very well, when she was offered a cigarette she would removing two or three from the pack and pass the pack around to the others.
There were periods of time when that little group disappeared from the Rio Grande, returning to their reservation. Then they would returned from the poverty, drugs and alcohol of the reservation to the poverty, drugs and alcohol of the Rio Grande.
At our first Club meeting, we discussed the different organizations who took part in helping the homeless. We talked about the Evangelicals who run the Mission who houses “programmers”. Programmers are people who vow to get sober over a year long program when they turn their lives over to Jesus - It is helpful for some people. The mission also provides 3 meals a day for anyone who wants to join them. We discussed the Catholics who run the Weigand Center where there is a day program and St. Vincent’s where they provide meals and have overflow beds. We discussed the Mormons and their indirect contributions and the running of Deseret Industries.
We wanted to make the homeless’ voices heard which would include voting privileges. Char was later able to get some voting registration booths around the area.
I walked with John to the Weigand Center a few times and he would make conversation with people that were willing. He was well known. He passed out cigarettes and knew several people by name. He would ask everyone he talked to if they had “done anything good” that day. Most everyone would say that yes, they had. I never felt like I was in danger because as Char puts it, “the waters would part” when Dr. John came through.
I told John about my mental illness the first day I met him. I have schizoaffective disorder which is a disease where people have some schizophrenic symptoms and some bi-polar tendencies. I had some psychosis at the time I was serving at the mission. I thought I was pregnant after having a hysterectomy and being almost 50. That delusion lasted for about 3 years.
In addition to the mental illness, I have had problems with substance abuse when I was younger. On the street, you could see the desperate look in peoples’ eyes. I was reminded of the desperate times I had spent sifting through the carpet at 4:30 in the morning to try to find one more bump. These were times I wanted to die because I had gotten so low. The homeless don’t have carpet. Many are just waiting to die and the only thing that keeps them going is the quest for their next high.
It is virtually impossible for them to dig themselves out of homelessness Every day, they have to take the same steps (strict rules that are governed by the charities and the Road Home) to merely survive. And they do it in the extreme cold or heat with the danger of being raped or killed. They are expected to “pull up their bootstraps” and “become contributing members of society” with no help to overcome addiction, mental illness, etc. In my opinion, the hardest part is that they are expected to do it alone, or even more likely, with countless people ready and willing to kick them back down as soon as they start to climb up. Substance abuse and mental illnesses are hard enough to combat with the help from family and access to good medical care.
Many(if not most) of them need medication merely to reach a minimum baseline while still having to jump through the necessary hoops to meet survival needs. Everyone has a worst day. Only the worst day for a homeless person is every day while they are under constant scrutiny from the agencies that help them, the public, the police and their peers. It’s no wonder that they self-medicate. Frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t more deaths down there.
We had many discussions over the first month. Dr. John, Char and I were meeting 3-5 times a week. It must have cost Dr. John a fortune! The main thing we all agreed upon is that the homeless themselves needed to be involved with the solution. The change needed to come from within. We talked about ways to engage the homeless such as creative writing and art classes
Dr. John wanted the homeless to “act better”. He didn’t want to see people with blankets over their heads doing drugs in front of the public. Especially children. Our idea was to encourage the homeless to take responsibility as individuals. We wanted them to start to take care of themselves in order to take care of each other. There was a lot of debate about whether they could be considered a functioning community. The issues need to be contained and controlled so that the weak ones could be protected.
We wanted to work with law enforcement and various service providers as well as the homeless themselves. It was important to Dr. John to stress that we were not seen as another service provider. The homeless didn’t need more services. They needed to use existing resources and work together to spur change.
We were very successful in bringing in important people to the meetings at first. We got the Housing Coordinator, mayoral candidates and their representatives and police officers. As more and more homeless people came, the less the authorities would show up. After the election, people stopped talking about the conditions around the Rio Grande. The Christmas season was over and it was as though the people in the Rio Grande had been forgotten again.
Char was able to get some voter registration booths around the area and got flags for one of the dangerous cross walks. Dr. John started creative writing classes at the Weigand Center. Barbara (our treasurer), began teaching watercolor lessons at the mission. I gathered people around at the Weigand Center to listen to music with the homeless.
We did an initiative called “two roses”. John bought several dozen roses and we went around giving 2 roses to women down around the Rio Grande. We asked them to keep one for themselves and to give the other to someone “different” It went over pretty well and City Weekly interviewed me in regards to the club.
We invited anyone who wanted who wanted to come. Membership was one dollar. We didn’t get very many people, but we did get some. We all agreed that something had to change. People need a purpose and something productive to do so they will feel good for themselves.
(CHARLOTTE MATES, Previous Vice President of SLCMCC and Community Activist/ Advocate for Peace & justice)
Saturday, July 29, 2017
As I reflect back to December, 1988, I remember my personal plight to find stable employment as I completed my long sought after college degree (taking 1 class per quarter for 18 years). My employment at Hercules ended in March, 1988, following Challenger Shuttle disaster and two years of waiting for Reduction-In-Force to befall my 3 + years of employment.
I attended what I thought was to be a celebration cocktail party honoring my dear friend, Carolyn Schubach, for her leadership in raising money through Chili Affair for newly opened Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center. Little did I know that Suzanne Goldsmith would hold a business meeting in her living room.
First question, "Who knows how to get washers and dryers at cost?" Shelter is open; laundry is piling high; Health Department is likely to close us down. I raised my hand and my voice "Ask Nick Rose, President of Questar Gas, employees receive discount to buy their appliances at cost. Who will contact them? Again, my voice volunteered, "I will; I worked for Mountain Fuel Questar for 13+ years. Next question, "Who can we get to fill in for Patrick Poulin, Executive Director, while he goes on a well deserved vacation over Christmas with his wife?" Again, I raised my hand and volunteered. My unemployment ended the next week, I had two weeks of classwork to complete my BS, Christmas was three weeks away and I didn't have employment. I am single Mom with two children.
I was asked to report to Patrick Poulin, Executive Director of Travelers Aide Society for job interview at Greyhound Bus Terminal at 9:00 AM. He was in process of moving his office to 210 Rio Grande St. Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center located in newly renovated Westinghouse Warehouse Building. He hired me on the spot and I assisted him with move. From that point on, for next two years, I used every skill I had to provide assistance as Administrative Assistant and Volunteer Director at Travelers Aide.
Peoples hearts and wallets opened wide during that first Christmas as they thought of homeless people in our Salt Lake City. As I worked each day, I was so humbled to go home to my children and felt extremely blessed to be able to go to my refrigerator and provide a nutritious meal for my children in the safety of our comfortable home.
So many community members, groups, organizations, businesses came forward with gifts for those less fortunate.
I pondered reasons why homelessness existed. Patrick told me that some of the main reasons were: Reagan/Bush administrations had done away with Mental Health facilities so therefore, people had nowhere to go. All Americans were two paychecks away from losing their homes - the combination of a job loss and a medical emergency without a safety net of family or friends to take you in resulted in people forced to go onto streets or into shelters.
On Christmas Eve., I received a phone call from shelter staff saying furnace wasn't working. A newborn baby had just arrived into family shelter from hospital. I called heating contractor and proceeded to drive to shelter at 10PM. After all, this was a renovated building and some kinks were still being worked out. After a few hours he was able to restore heat.
Good nutritious meals were provided for daily and on holidays both at St. Vincent's soup kitchen (owned and operated by Catholic Community Services and staffed by churches and community groups).
Family shelter consisted of twenty families - all sizes and makeup. Santa Claus was good to children and their parents. With the help of Junior League Volunteers and community support, not many of the peoples needs went unmet except for their own house, stability for families, and jobs to sustain them..
On Christmas afternoon at 4:00 PM Santa Claus came to distribute donated gifts, I let him into staff lounge to change into and out of his suit AND then inspiration came to me - there are 350 homeless men without families to give them gifts of time or love, I asked Santa if perhaps he would have an extra hour to donn his suite again and help me distribute candy canes to Men's Shelter. He was humbled and pleased to oblige. Jim, Men's Shelter Staff Intake Employee, Santa and I proceeded with a box as big as refrigerator and gave each a choice whether they preferred a standard candy cane, a strip of small candy canes, a different colored candy cane, a quarter thick 8" long. Only one man refused to choose. To this day the look on his face and the hopelessness of his situation haunts me.
(NANCY FREEMAN, SLCMCC Secretary and former Road Home resident):
Memoirs Salt Lake Marching and Chowder Club 2016-17
Having met Bernie and Marita through Understanding Us , at the Salt Lake Main Library\u2019s Street
Tai Chi Club, Lauren, the newly appointed vice-president of SLM&C invited me to a meeting. I was
amused that we did not march or eat chowder most of the time , but genuinely enjoyed her company
and that of our mutual friend John Shannon, a retired M.D. Researching the origins of the club\u2019s
name I learned it was originally used by Richard Nixon. Gerald Ford and their lady companion who
together created a mandate to foster international peace. John indicated we were not affiliated and our
unwritten mission was to reduce poverty and homelessness along the Rio Grande. As I had joined
Lauren and John at Brian\u2019s Underprivileged Alliance meeting at the Wiegand Center, and felt our
discussions aired valid concerns, e.g. staff theft at the Road Home, rudeness on the part of Wiegand
staff from time to time, inedible meals at the St. Vincent Dining Hall , (turned out it was mostly too much
unrinsed soap on the trays, but the menus did improve as well) and a generally lethargic attitude on the
part of staff to fix the printer in the Wiegand\u2019s computer center, to name a few. We initially
hoped a few staff would be replaced, but were not focused enough to see this through, though Gloria
Redbear spoke confidently that none of the Road Home staff would be employed at the two or three
new shelters that were proposed by Mayor Biskupski and Council. My suggestion was that the current
desk and intake staff become enrolled in social work or addiction counselling if they wished to move to
the new facility. Our agenda shifted to
discussions on how to have staff improve performance and how we could network more .
This worked out to a degree. However, in spite of Lauren\u2019s and my efforts we never did see a
police officer at Tai Chi. We thought it would increase goodwill and help officers relieve stress. A conflict
arose over the ownership of a printer Gloria originally owned for The
Voice. It\u2019s publication was suspended while we regrouped to see it was typed in an effort to
increase its professionalism. Gloria did a great job getting stories out and writers got a little
remuneration.We trust she and Brian will resolve their conflict peacefully.
I tried to start a Women\u2019s Circle , with the hope of making our stay a little more pleasant at the
Road Home. Gloria Redbear and I chatted informally, no one else showed up. Dawn organized a team of
four who volunteered to clean black mold from the restroom floor. The same day I bought the cleaning
suppliestthey were stolen .I learned to put ideas into action more rapidly. John continued to suggest we
homeless help each other, police each other and become entrepreneurs together and this would
indirectly reduce homeless on homeless crime. Homeless helping homeless was the SLM&C wish.
We did eventually share some chowder at the Copper Canyon and a wonderful elk stew and some very
picturesque recipes turned up as wallpaper on the club computer.Hmmm, inspiration for future
gatherings. In restrospect perhaps we should have had a potluck in someone\u2019s home and made
our own chowder or created a cookbook. So much for over the shoulder thinking\u2026 I beleive it was
a cash shortage that thwarted our entreprenurial efforts as
sticky fingers were everywhere. Closing your eyes in the shower was a baaad idea.
Fall turned to winter and most enthusiastic compadre Sean. from the Northwest coast, and I inspired
Bernie and Marita to extend the goup\u2019s tai chi to include a ski outing. Sean missed out as there
was a criteria which had to be met, attendance both at tai chi and additional workshops. Seven of us did
and once again Lauren and I were thrown into each other's company, this time on the bunny hill at
Nordic Valley\u2019s downhill facility. Laren,Fred, Neil and I
continued on the playground. Garret and Tony joined as spectators but injuries got in the way of their
joining in. Sadly, we lost Tony later in the season, but happily the bonding in our clubs carried us
through. Hopefully Garret will become strong enough to tackle the bunny hill next season. Regular Tai
Chi seemed to speed heal more than one participant.
Sean, an injured marine from the northwest went MIA on us, but not until his enthusiasm for tai chi and
skiing rubbed off. Oon the bright side, by July sixteen participants had found full time work and one
returned to school and found part time work at. We hope to see everyone back at the next World Tai
Chi Day , as we shared stretches and celebrated the practice of good health with master Luu. You can
find his studio online. We did enjoy the rotation of leadership from time to time as Ian shared his time
and talents as a guest instructor.
Bernie\u2019s theory of movement creating momentum proved itself again and again. He, Marita and
members of Street Tai Chi became quite celebrity like filmed by professionals and amateurs alike.
As for marching, we spent far too much time searching for last years posters which were lost in
Host\u2019s move to an adjacent facility though I enjoyed the IRISH parade immensely. We spectators
jigged and cheered as numerous Irish wolfhounds walked the streets ; dogs and owners alike in sparkling
emerald green top hats. There were floats galore and much dancing and music. It ended with a huge
Scot in a kilt that no one would like to challenge in a log throwing contest. Only a marching tuba player
could compete with these acts for attention.
Paul Cato was a guest for a feweeks. He proposed a step up to type of rooming house but we
didn\u2019t succeed in obtaining a title or financing. Please see his memoirs. Brian may resume his
Alliance once he and Gloria iron out their differences in court.
John Shannon declared his resignation was final but a trip to new Yok revived his activist efforts after so
many council meetings a. Mayor Jackie Biskupski declared new plans every week or two, but the
constancy seemed to lie in the fact that two shelters should be built, several miles from the original and
separate the genders to minimize drug dealing and other illicit behaviours in front of the general public
and families should stick to Midland to shield small children from delinquent activities with the hope
that they would not be passed on from generation to generation.
Best wishes to the new executive in their efforts to liaison with empowered individuals who really
seemed to be focused on maintaining their positions though frequent updates were issued from the
mayor\u2019s office and public meetings were certainly well timed and attended. one participant like
our minutes and expressed interest in our developing an electronic newsletter.
As for future directions, perhaps networking to assist causes outside of our own would increase the kind
of networking John would like to see. How about Tai Chi for Texas?
I wish you all the best!
(ANDY CIER Member of SLCMCC and Award-winning marketing and communications executive):
One of my strongest memories was participating in the St. Patrick's Day parade. So many of the floats were fun, entertaining and a bit frivilous -- as they should have been. But when the crowd saw a group of people who were homeless and a group of homeless advocates, they were initially taken aback. After a second or two, though, they saw our smiles and read our signs, and realized we were bringing an important issue to the parade that had rarely been brought up (despite the fact that the parade route essentially ends at ground zero for Salt lake's homeless population).
Many people applauded our efforts and cheered support. I thought it was a "banner day" for the SLCMCC.
And best of all, we were marching!
"Leap, and the net will appear."
(BARBARA TAYLOR – former Treasurer of SLCMCC and former Public School Teacher and Family Therapist):
I taught two sessions of beginning watercolor painting at the Rescue Mission. I taught 6 weeks in the fall of 2014 and 6 weeks in the spring of 2015. The Rescue Mission used the classes as a reward for good behavior during the week. A few of the students said it was the best part of the week and it helped them escape from their problems.
(PAUL CATO – Seargent at Arms of SLCMCC and Road Home Resident)
I had a great experience with salt lake marching and chowder club. I think Dr. John Shannon had a great idea when he started it. We learn a lot from each other, by conversing about homeless issues down on the Rio Grande, we grow as people. My only wish is that i wanted to see members of the club have their visions carried out accomplished and made real. I wanted my vision of a hostel for the homeless, were the homeless could pay a small fee by the night for a safe and clean place to sleep and clean up, so that they could be more productive individuals to the community.
by: Paul Cato
Thanks for the opportunity
(BERNIE and MARITA HART, Founders of Understanding and Street Tai Chi Leaders):
The Salt Lake City Marching and Chowder Club first came to my attention in an article in The City
Weekly. Just the name was enough to get me curious.
At the time, I was searching for an organization that would consider new ways of dealing with people
experiencing homelessness. The article indicated they were exploring new ideas.
At the first meeting, I was impressed by the role John Shannon played. He had a unique approach to
bringing people together, both the homeless and advocates for the homeless and representatives of
local government. The lunches were interesting and usually attended by a half dozen people. Everyone
seemed to have a project that interested them( art, housing or just doing good).
Seemed to be something that even he could not quit describe. His dream seemed to involve
transforming the homeless community into “something better”. John, myself and everyone involved
shared the same goals of helping the homeless, but John’s wasn’t specific. His was more about
something he would like to have happen and he personally was searching for a way to accomplish what
he saw as missing in the homeless community; a sense of purpose or a sense of wanting something
better for not only themselves, but for the community as a whole.
John and I are very much alike. We are both dreamers.
The meetings were an opportunity to interact with members of the homeless community and see how
they responded to what I personally had the say about their life styles. Cato, Carl, Glory Red Bear and
LeRoy are people I spent time with and found very interesting.
The number of street folks attending meetings grew over time and as they grew the meetings became
less organized. There were a number of individuals dealing with mental health issues. This made
getting something done difficult. As the growth occurred, John helped fund a newspaper (something I
had always wanted to do), a writing group and homeless only group to run these programs. I think
John’s thinking was that if the homeless were going to have a major role in improving the community,
they would have to learn to deal with these efforts on their own.
The thinking was solid but I now feel that it was unrealistic to think that people dealing with fairly severe
mental health issues could organize….anything. I think John probably realizes this now. His kindness
and wishfulness were not enough is making a wonderful vision possible. The folks on the street are on
the street because they can’t deal with any structure that is not one they have self-created. It is what it
There was one other individual I met at the meetings who is still playing an important role in my work
with the homeless. Lauren Smith was John’s biggest fan and supporter. John is her hero. His
commitment and way of engaging on the street with the homeless made a lasting impression on her.
John, also, was a mentor for me.
SLCMCC provided an opportunity to talk about ideas and introduced me to public officials. It exposed
me to the idea that financial reward for “doing good” can have an important role in any program. The
many discussions led me to believe that nothing in existence was working effectively to help the
homeless and their community. This confirmation of what I already thought, put me in a place where I
felt comfortable exploring something that had never been done. In a way, it was an extension of what
John was trying to do…with one exception.
To do what John wanted to do, first I would have to deal with the numerous mental health issues that
dominated the homeless community.
John, yesterday I sat down with six members of the homeless community in Salt Lake and talked about
organizing a community service program for people with outstanding arrest warrants (Homeless Court).
The idea is to use regular participation in our Tai Chi as a base and to credit service hours to anyone who
makes an effort to aid a struggling member of the homeless community.
Chris just had surgery and is having trouble seeing. Martin has agreed to keep him safe while he travels
the block. Martin is coming off drugs and working to learn Tai Chi. Martin will receive community
service hours for helping Chris. Within a week he will have completed his hours and in the process made
If someone wants to learn to read and someone in the homeless community agrees to teach them…they
both get community service hours. This would apply to any situation where one person can benefit
from what another can give.
Another aspect of the program we are developing came from John.
If people are working with ideas they believe can help others. I feel the program could potentially
improve the lives of a large number of people, it is important to get people into the program. Getting
the homeless to commit to anything is a problem. John solution was to pay them to come.
We adopted this idea in our current program. Eleven months ago we started with one person. Two
weeks ago we had fifty-eight people at the Salt Lake City library in our program. They did not come at
different times or when they felt like it. They came together and did Tai Chi as a group. It is something
special to see.
We give them a coffee, a burrito and $2.00 and in return they participate in a “therapy program” for an
hour and a half, three days a week.
It is win/win and a lot of fun for everyone involved.
John, Marita and I recently left on a two week vacation. Four residents of The Roadhome kept the
program going while we were gone. The numbers remained constant.
Today we talked with someone interested in writing grants for us. We hope the grants will help pay the
leaders in the program for their commitment.
. And a little earlier this morning we talked with the homeless leaders in our program about starting a
ski program this winter.
Thank you, John.
Bernie and Marita Hart
Bill of Rights for the Homeless Community
The root cause of homelessness is poverty.
The Rio Grande Homeless Community is viewed by the public with apprehension, fear and loathing.
The Homeless Community is a bad place for the homeless.
Homeless crime on Homeless is pervasive and little reported.
In general the pubic tends to stereotype the Homeless, as drug addicts, mentally ill, and Incompetent.
The Homeless view the Public as not to be trusted, resentful, as a sources of goods and services, grateful.
The Salt Lake Marching and Chowder Club
believes that for any change in the Rio Grande Homeless Community the Homeless must be involved so that they can become
part of the solution.
***********************************The SLMCC for the past year and a half has tried tofind ways to encourage and persuade the Homeless Community to organize and assume responsibility for themselves and their community.
The Club met Tuesdays at a small Sushi place near the Rio Grande Station. Homeless were invited and came to lunch along with the public. The idea was to have a place where the public and the homeless could meet and talk. A sort of market place of ideas.
The exchange of ideas and talking became so loud, the crowd so large that the Salt Lake Marching and Chowder Club was ask to meet some place else.
The feeling of the Club members that besides thinking of new out of the box ideas the Club should become active. Barbara, an accomplished painter gave a series of painting lessons at the Rescue Mission, Lauren lead a singing group of the Homeless at the Weigand Center, Char got the city to put cross walk flags on 200 South. John set up a creative writing class.
We need to incentivize or reward good behavior in the homeless community. Take the clean team and the green team with volunteers that clean the streets and grow gardens. Need more opportunities like these. People need a purpose or something productive to do so they will feel good about themselves. Need mentoring and community involvement. People need something to belong to and people to belong with in order to have a sense of community. Like ethnic groups who come to America as refugees form communities. The old may remain as they are, but the children learn English, American customs, etc. And work it into the group. All we need is a shift towards civility (not to say all Americans are civil or that ethnic groups are not , but the fact is, many homeless are not civil). It is human nature to want to be part of something greater, such as school, team, church, club, etc. The homeless need to band together and squeeze out the "bad guys". I am not a fan of "Operation Rio Grande" because the officials are jailing mentally ill people and they are motivated by money, but I bet it has made the area safer for some victims at least in the short term.
Focus on maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses Have people do what they are good at and what they want to do. Everyone needs a role and a successful community takes many different roles. This is why having workshops such as art projects are only successful to a point. It helps them to come together but doesn't serve any purpose. To progress in a setting like that, the artist in the group should continue creating, the salesman in the group needs to market the artwork, the accountant in the group needs to manage the money, etc. With a goal, the people would naturally take on their correct roles. Some would lead, others would follow. Some would fail, but they could try again later. The poisonous people would make themselves known and would not succeed. They would be squeezed out and would go on to be thugs somewhere else. These are motivators. A buddy system. Band together to build something to make their lives better. Everyone needs something to do. Co volunteering. . Try to get them to integrate in society. Producers and consumers need to co-create a product or an outcome to make life better for the greater good. Need good ideas and habits that are self sustainable and keep rewards. People have to be given alternatives to getting high. Break the cycle of neglect and self defeating behaviors. Keeping people working for the common good. Need to be about specializing. Let people hone-in on their skill set. Then practice until they are good enough and can become experts.
Need a list of people willing to help and mentor one on one. It's hard to get out of homelessness with combinations of mental illness, drug addiction, poverty and lack of job opportunities. It would take hundreds of volunteers to make a difference but most of them could be the homeless themselves.
NATE ROCKWOOD (SLCMCC Member and University of Utah Student):
The Salt Lake Marching and Chowder Club opened my eyes up to the potential for individually inspired action within the "homeless community”. In many situations, the humans living without homes are looked at as an eyesore of society, and further suppressed. This population must have interactions with people outside of the same situation in order to implement effective policies and have their voice be heard. The Community Voice, amongst other projects, is a good example of the SLCMCC inspiring just that: action amongst the homeless to change their own scenario for the better.
KATHY SCOTT (Clinent Intake, Catholic Community Services):
Dear Lauren and Dr. John,
How I miss you folks! You and the Rio Grande Coalition and the SL Marching and Chowder Club brought hope and enthusiasm to our community and the Weigand Center. Your sense of inclusiveness and respect for all citizens made being around you and the group uplifting, indeed … inspiring. Many good ideas grew out of the coalition and club including the fine newsletter which gave voice to those willing to participate. It was a lot of fun to see clients working together to form a group under your guidance. Your encouragement resulted in most members overcoming their homelessness. Thank you for allowing me to be part of the group. I especially enjoyed our group conversations on the meaning of community and community identity.
(5 SPOT ARTICLE IN CITY WEEKLY)
Home for the Soul
A Salt Lake City club is devoted to helping the homeless—but not in ways you'd expect.
By Kylee Ehmann
⦁ Officers of the SLCM&CC include, from left to right, Charlotte Mates, vice president; "Dr. John" Shannon, founder; and Lauren Smith, secretary
As cold weather moves in, a heap of local agencies and volunteers are mobilizing to help the homeless. But the Salt Lake City Marching & Chowder Club takes a different approach to the problem. Bountiful resident Lauren Smith (above, right) is secretary for the homeless-outreach group, founded by 92-year-old "Dr. John" Shannon (above, center, along with club vice president, Charlotte Mates, left). Smith notes that "Dr. John" began his work after talking to homeless people on public transit. The group bypasses the clothing- and food-donation route in favor of working to uplift the spirits of homeless people, offering them small gifts and engaging them in discussions. The club is open to the public and meets Tuesdays noon-1:30 p.m. at Same Sushi (423 W. 300 South, No.150, SameSushi.com). Memberships cost $1. Read more at SLCMCC.org.
Why were you drawn to the Salt Lake City Marching & Chowder Club?
I was introduced to Dr. John at the Rescue Mission when I went there to volunteer. He is my "chaperone" while we help serve lunch. At 92 years old, he still walks to the mission three times a week and says hello to people near The Road Home and the Weigand Center. He invited me to the first club meeting, and I was honored to take on the role of secretary.
Rather than fundraising and providing for basic needs, your group focuses on raising the morale of those who are homeless. Why?
The top-down approach has been used to address homelessness for a long time, with only limited success. We believe that any lasting change must come from within.
Your group sponsored the Two Rose Initiative. How does it work?
We passed out roses to women in the homeless area. They were each given two roses with a little note. The note said to keep one rose and give the other to a stranger who was somehow different from them. We hoped to appeal to the women's maternal instincts, as it would lessen fear and help them relate to one another better. Then, that would wear off on others. The only way to begin to shift to a more peaceful atmosphere is by way of strength and love.
Describe an encounter since beginning this work that's pinged your emotions.
I hesitantly approached some teenagers who were exchanging money. I told them that I have a teenage son, and I would be heartbroken if I saw him down there. One boy said they were just selling clothes. As I was preparing for rejection and expecting to be told off, he reached out and gave me a huge hug. I told them to take care of each other. It doesn't get much better than that.
Many try to avoid encounters with people who are homeless. Why do you think this is?
It is just plain awkwardness. Most people are not malicious. The way to bridge the gap is to reach out to each other.
(MINUTES – first month)
Minutes of the Salt Lake City Marching Club 9/8/2015:
Voting – how do we help them get registered? They can use Road Home for address
Road Home ~800 people serviced – publicly funded - beds, daycare, meals, job placement
Other programs religion based:
Weigand & St. Vincents – Catholic
Rescue mission – evangelical, independent
Deseret Industries – LDS
Can we have a creative writing contest? Talk to Wesley Spry from slug magazine to see if they will publish
Pioneer Park Consortium – Uday Teki manager of creative work – can we get him involved in artwork project?
Salt Lake Marching and Chowder Club
End: 1:09 pm
Meeting commence: All said aye 2:16pm
Funds available: $5.00
Motion to appropriate $1.50 for flags, All said aye,
Slogan/Mission objective sheets were passed out to attendees
Role sheet passed out
John Shannon, President of SLCMCC
Charlotte Mates, Vice President of SLCMCC
Lauren Smith, Secretary of SLCMCC
Barbara Taylor, Treasurer of SLCMCC
Elizabeth Buehler, Homeless Services Coordinator of Salt Lake City
Catherine Birch, NAMI Representative in Davis County
City (County too?) currently working on 3 main housing issues:
1) “House 20” The 20 individuals who are in most need will be housed immediately
2) The “facilities commission”
3) 300 “permanent support housing units”, 50 of which are for single mothers
(program is 3 years out)
Salt Lake City:
2 drug squads employed, buyers and sellers under suspicion
350 bins to store belongings, 150 are occupied
Shopping cart roundups and petty crime enforcement in motion now
Construction is beginning for public restrooms to “Portland Loos” to discourage public defecation
Josh Sharman: employment representative
Police Chief over HOST program: Mark Brown:
Bureau is expanding their office, 8 new social workers are being hired
Officers: Brandi Palmer
County: “Collective Impact”
Helpful people (among many others):
Gina Lopez & Kathy Scott weigand center
Cassie at rescue missio
alt Lake City Marching and Chowder Club minutes from 9/22/2015
Meeting commence: All said aye 12:16pm
Minutes recorded by Lauren Smith
Attendees: John Shannon (President of SLCMCC), Char Mates (Vice President and Project Manager of SLCMCC), Lauren Smith (Secretary of SLCMCC), Maryann Martindale (representing Jackie Biscupski), Cree McNulty (representing Nate Salazar)
“Our goal is to enable the homeless to advocate for themselves by using existing public services to improve their community through empowerment”
Treasurer, Barbara Taylor has $3.50 left from membership dues
Mission objective sheets were passed out to attendees
Role sheet passed out
The name “Marching and Chowder” was chosen to keep the conversation light even though the “homeless” problem is a very serious problem.
We are concerned that problem will expand to other districts. There is a much bigger problem that just Rio Grande
People in the “homeless” community are starting to realize and acknowledge the problems. They are ready for a change.
2 main business matters:
1) Flags for 200 south & Rio Grande (to start, Mike Berry expected to sign for flags)
2) Advocate for the “homeless” to vote (they can use Road Home as their address)
Ballot box already at the Crossroads Urban Center, would like to place 5 more at
The Rescue Mission, 4th Street Clinic, Weigand Center, Road Home and HOST headquarters
Portland Loos near St. Vincent de Paul
Shalene Gee: County homeless coordinator
Char to contact Michael Berry from city
Char to ask organizations above about allowing ballot boxes (Can we ask the County to install silver boxes later?)
Meeting adjourned: none said nay1:16pm
Meeting Minutes from The Salt Lake City Marching and Chowder Club 9/29/2015 recorded by: Lauren Smith
President, John Shannon; email@example.com
Vice President, Charlotte Mates; firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary, Lauren Smith; email@example.com
Catherine Birch, NAMI Davis County; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rodney Morehead a "homeless" individual (801) 637-8279,
Voting boxes from county clerks office placed at:
1) Cross Road Urban Center
3) Weigand Center
Charlotte will check with Cassie at Rescue Mission to see if we can place one there.
Boxes will be picked up on October 10th and taken to County Clerk's office.
Flags to be positioned on the intersection of 200 South & Rio Grande
When Charlotte went to get the flags, the Street Department did not charge for them.
We will work with Jackie Biscupski and Nate Salazar about what the next step for the flags
Lauren's Report (acting as interim Treasurer)
On hand: $5.00
Excerpt from Pioneer Park Coalition literature:
"Move to a culture of transformation (versus the old culture of warehousing). Homeless individuals must be engaged and no longer enabled. Everybody within the service delivery system (e.g. general, public, media, elected politicians, appointed officials, board, staffs and volunteer's of service agencies and most importantly the homeless themselves) must embrace a culture of transformation. A culture that through the help of others homeless individuals can transform and integrate themselves back into society. For moral and fiscal reasons homeless must become unacceptable condition that is not tolerated in the USA".
We at The Salt Lake City Marching and Chowder Club view this opinion as a fantasy that will never be a reality. The "homeless" problem will never go away entirely. But the situation can definitely improve. The action that needs to be taken is to open up communication lines between law enforcement and government entities, service organizations, clergy, social workers and "homeless" individuals.
Jackie Biscupski's fund raiser 9/30/2015 6:00pm - 8:00pm
1100 East & 2200 South (Kimi's restaurant)
University of Utah Medicaid meeting 10/1/2015 6:00 pm
260 South Central Campus Drive
Our guest Rodney is a very spiritual man. He is on a mission to help people to get closer to Jesus Christ. He believes the only way to tackle the problem is for people to choose to go with God. John asked him if he needed anything from us and he said he only needed our prayers. I think that's pretty cool. Rodney also suggested the great idea of handing out T-shirts.
It is time to take action! The situation should no longer be treated like a hot potato. No more "tail tucking", everybody needs to get to work if this is to work!Type your paragraph here.
(FRED LORENZ - Former Secretary of SLCMCC and Rio Grande Homeless Coalition)
My name is Frederick Lorenz. I would like to begin by providing the reader with some brief
background information on who I am and why I ended up homeless in Salt Lake City in 2016. A number
of years ago, shortly after I recognized Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord and started to truly follow
Him, I began to develop an interest in working with the poor, homeless, substance abusers and ex-
offenders, all groups of people who, prior to my conversion to Christianity, had been foreign to me and
whom I avoided at all costs. Around this time, I was quite wealthy, working in a promising career as a
mathematician and computer scientist for the Department of Defense (DoD). Following Jesus’ example
of the Incarnation (in which God Himself came to Earth in human form as Jesus Christ in order to
experience all that we as humans experience), I decided to move into a low-income, high-crime
community, where I started and ran a self-financed benevolence ministry, performing many of the same
services offered by Catholic Community Services, the Road Home, and so on, just on a smaller scale. I
wanted to “get my hands dirty” so to speak, to learn about and get involved in these people’s lives, to
love and guide them and to help bear their burdens so that their lives could be materially altered for the
better. However, I soon found that we had difficulties forming deep relationships because our pasts,
our worldviews and our current situations (among other things) were so vastly different from one
another that it sometimes made relating to and understanding one another a real challenge. Sometime
later, I resigned from the DoD for religious reasons and went to seminary. From there, I left to live and
work overseas, first in Iraq (working with Christian, Yezidi and Muslim refugees coming out of ISIS-held
territories) and later in Nepal (working with Indian Dalits [better known as ‘untouchables’] who begged
on the streets of Kathmandu). I saw terrible suffering and poverty in both places. Upon returning
home, I began processing all that I had seen and heard. An overwhelming urge (which had been with
me for some time) to truly enter into and experience the world of those to whom I had been ministering
over these past several years overtook me, particularly those who had been homeless (I wanted to
identify with them and share in their sufferings in the hopes of better understanding them and thus
being better able to develop deep relationships with them). What was life truly like for them? Why did
they think and behave the way they did? What obstacles prevented them from “succeeding,” as we
“normal” people tend to define the word? All of these questions and more (and numerous spiritual
considerations as well) drove me to begin planning my descent into voluntary poverty and
homelessness. So, after doing some research, I decided to live on the streets of Salt Lake City (SLC), a
city where there was a large homeless population and that was far from anyone I knew. I hopped on an
Amtrak train in the early morning hours of 1 May 2016 in Ohio and arrived in SLC, Utah late at night on 2
May with nothing but a couple of bags and the clothes on my back.
My purpose in going to Salt Lake City was to be a homeless missionary to the homeless, to live
amongst the homeless on the streets 24/7/365, to identify with them, to share in their daily struggles, to
befriend them (hanging out, talking with and listening to them, etc), to love and encourage them and to
take their burdens upon me if possible so that they could be lifted up out of poverty. Being too proud to
beg for money, I financed my ministry work by getting a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant in
downtown SLC, Cannella’s Restaurant and Lounge [Ministry funds were primarily intended to be used
for such things as helping an ex-offender get his criminal record expunged, financing educational
opportunities such as helping someone get his GED or go to college/receive specialized vocational
training or to assist someone in starting a business]. For about the first month I was there, I camped out
in the mountains and walked into the Rio Grande St./500 West area during the day, returning to the
“safety” of the mountains to retire for the night (my campsite was about three miles away from the Rio
Grande St./500 West area, so I figured I wouldn’t be robbed, raped or murdered by some crazy
homeless person because they’d be too lazy to travel that far). [I spent most of June in an apartment
above Cannella’s (which was generously offered to me free-of- charge by my then boss, Joey Cannella),
while it was fixed up in preparation for the next tenant to move in; for the remaining 3+ months that I
was in SLC, I stayed at the Road Home.] It was not long after I arrived that I met and developed a
friendship with a homeless man named Carlos Mateo who was then a member of the Rio Grande
Homeless Coalition (RGHC). Towards the end of May, he introduced me to a man named John Shannon,
who had been advising the RGHC, and suggested I join the club. That was definitely a pivotal moment
during my time there. You know, I think it is interesting how God seems to bring certain people into our
lives. The conversations I would have with John and another fellow (Bernie Hart) would cause me to
begin thinking along some new lines. At that first meeting, John described to me the goal of the RGHC
(I’m not sure now, but the RGHC might have been in existence for perhaps two months or so before I
joined, starting sometime around St. Patrick’s Day). I recall it was something like this: the solution to the
trouble in the Rio Grande St./500 West area isn’t to apply external pressure (such as adding more police
officers or social workers) but to amass a sizable minority of homeless people who care enough about
what is going on to want to change the community as a whole from within. The idea, simple and
nebulous as it was, fascinated me. John lent me a book discussing the idea of community participation
(the involvement of people in a community in projects to solve their own problems) that challenged me
in a lot of ways. The idea was new to me. My immediate thought would have been that the proper
approach would be to gather together outside “experts” (police, social workers, politicians, academics,
community activists, etc) and have them develop and impose a solution on the homeless population.
But John helped me to see that the true experts on homelessness were the homeless themselves and that
a true, lasting solution must come from them (they must feel some sort of ownership in the proposed
solution in order for it to work).
By the time I joined the RGHC, the Guardians (another interesting, yet ill-defined idea) and The
Community Voice newsletter were already in existence. The Guardians (as I understood their duties)
was supposed to consist of homeless people going out amongst the people of the Rio Grande St./500
West area and performing acts of kindness, advertising/recruiting for our club, gathering reports on
incidents of crime occurring in the homeless community, reporting crimes to the police that the
Guardian had observed, providing information on available homeless services tailored to the need of the
person on the street whom the Guardian has come across (and perhaps even to take that person to the
location where the services were being offered) and so on. For some reason (probably, I suspect, lack of
clearness as to exactly what the duties of the Guardians were, a lack of suitably qualified members in
the club from whom to draw potential Guardians and a lack of a training program for potential
Guardians), this never took off, even given that is was a wonderful idea with so much potential (Gloria
Red Bear was the main [only?] person doing this sort of work; this fit her personality well and she did a
fine job doing it). The Community Voice newsletter gave a voice for homeless people to tell their story.
It was unclear to me who the target audience was for the newsletter (was it for non-homeless readers
or homeless people or both?). The articles got repetitive after a while (it is very good that I was never
editor of that newsletter, as I would have been rather severe on what articles I would have accepted)
and the newsletter seemed to lack a theme (if there was ever a theme besides “Here’s how I ended up
homeless” or “Homeless-on- homeless crime”, then I missed it). For instance, if the homeless
community were one of the intended targets of the newsletter (and I believe it was), it would have been
nice to have a newsletter devoted to “success stories” written by ex-homeless people who told us how
they came to be homeless (which seemed to be the majority of the articles we carried) but then told us
(in some detail) how they were able to escape from homelessness. After each story, we could have
included lists of services (names, addresses, phone numbers) that the people in the article used to
escape from homelessness (or similar services available now that someone could use to do the same
thing). Such articles would have provided hope for the homeless man or woman and might have offered
them a plan on how to secure freedom from homelessness. Or we could have had an issue devoted to
homeless ex-cons, describing resources available to them to find work and housing, clear their criminal
record, etc, with list of services specifically tailored to the ex-con’s needs. The newsletter was a
potentially powerful tool for recruiting for the RGHC, for helping the homeless man or woman on the
street escape from their circumstances and for informing the wider community on homeless issues from
a homeless point-of- view. Once John relinquished control of the newsletter to us homeless folks (which
is definitely what should have happened), it turned into a disaster. Lack of a capable editor was the
main reason I should think.
We had toyed with a few other ideas (The Bum Buddy Mentoring Program, The Homeless
Experience, Homeless Against Narcotics and Bum Theater) but they never developed beyond the talking
stage. The Bum Buddy Mentoring Program was supposed to offer one-on- one mentoring between an
ex-homeless person (or at least a homeless person that seemed to have his or her stuff somewhat
together) and a homeless person. The mentor was supposed to offer guidance, encouragement and
friendship, helping the homeless person escape from homelessness. The failure for this project rests
squarely upon my shoulders, as this was my pet project. I failed to develop guidelines demonstrating
how this would work in practice (what were the mentor’s duties, in concrete terms) and I failed to
develop a training program to train potential mentors. We ran into potential legal issues regarding The
Homeless Experience program, in which a homeless person would act as a guide for a non-homeless
person so that that person could experience life as a bum (although I did see that Mayor Ben McAdams
stole our idea: http://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2017/08/06/sl-co- mayor-ben- mcadams-posed- as-
a-homeless- person-for- 3-days- and-2- nights-heres- what-he- saw/#gallery-carousel- 1559761). Homeless
Against Narcotics was essentially Narcotics Anonymous run by homeless people who had recovered
from their addictions for homeless people still suffering from drug addictions. We purchased books and
chips for the group, but the two gentlemen that were to run the group lacked the time because of their
work schedules (and, after all, we want homeless people to be seeking work, so how can we fault them
for this). Finally, Bum Theater seemed to have no supporters (I originally suggested this idea because I
thought it might appeal to certain members of our club who had a flair for acting). The idea behind Bum
Theater was to put on live plays for the folks on 500 West (who were just sitting around there doing
nothing anyway) that taught some virtue(s) or offered a homeless person hope and a potential plan for
escaping homelessness (Act I might consist of someone descending into homelessness with whom the
audience could identify while Act II would show in detail how this person escaped his or her homeless
situation, thus offering a model for other homeless people to do the same).
During most of my time with the RGHC (and the SLC Marching and Chowder Club, although to
be honest, I am not quite sure what the difference was between the clubs), I served as the treasurer and
secretary. I also tried to codify club rules and regulations into written documents (I like when rules, job
responsibilities, etc are spelled out in precise, detailed language and with job responsibilities fully
enumerated-- -yeah, I’m weird like that). We purchased a domain name
(http://www.riograndehomelesscoalition.org) and developed a website (it no longer exists, having
expired this past summer). That was first time I ever developed a website and I believe it turned out
alright. It contained a list of homeless resources (very thorough I think, and we planned to add to it as
we discovered more information that could be useful to someone experiencing homelessness),
information about the RGHC, its goals and its programs and information about our club business,
including our financial books, meeting minutes and so on. We had also planned to file for 401(c)3 status
with the IRS (so that donations to our club would be tax deductible) but failed to finish writing the
bylaws (this was my fault, but in my defense, I was a bit overwhelmed with numerous other things going
on at that time). We had also looked into several possible business ideas. The main purpose for a
business was to make the club self-supporting instead of relying upon John’s continuous financial
contributions (and we had hoped to be able to hire some homeless people from the community to work
at our business, thus hopefully helping them to escape from homelessness). There was much discussion
in this area and little action. (By the way, in our defense, I think most of the much-talk- little-action was
due, not too laziness per se, but mostly to the fact that we had very few committed members in the club
at the time, so each of us had far more responsibilities to shoulder than we were reasonably able to
It seemed all along that the RGHC was rather fluid, an idea in the making. As time went on, we
steered away from the original ideal (at least as I understood it), focusing more on applying external
pressure on the community to force it to change [through political activism]. Not that there was
anything necessarily wrong with this. I could see how John and Bernie’s approach (which I called the
“top-down” approach) would bring quick relief to certain problems in the area (such as forcing the Road
Home to make improvements), however, I must admit, I still favored the so-called “bottom-up”
approach, which involved working with individuals or small groups in a mentoring relationship, helping
those folks to change and then having them go out and mentor other disciples (who would then go out
and mentor other disciples and so on), until the community begins to change from the inside out. I had
hoped to find a house or apartment for rent near the Rio Grande St./500 West area into which our club
could move and begin living out our lives together in community (as a family, as role models), modeling
for the wider homeless community our values and a better way of life (essentially, the idea was to
create a community within a community that offered something radically better than the prevailing
culture). I wrote a paper describing the idea and how it might be realized in practical terms [which I
hope will be included in this memoir]. However, it became clear that it was destined for failure before it
even got started, due to a lack of certain virtues in some club members that were crucial for community
cohesion. This is an idea that I have not given up on though, and I continue to think about it and refine
Towards the end of my time there, it was clear that the club was running into trouble and that
its demise was imminent unless lots of fresh blood could be pumped into it. There were several things
going against us. First, there were far too few members (the core group of homeless folks consisted of
Gloria Red Bear, Carlos Mateo, Brain Watson, Kristina Eckley, Leeroy Taito, Lydell Dennison, Richard
Sanders and myself). This meant that a massive load of work fell upon fewer shoulders, overwhelming
us all. As homeless people, our main duty is to find work and housing and escape from homelessness.
All the duties with the club began to overwhelm many of us and caused several people to fall away (for
instance, Leeroy Taito, Lydell Dennison and Richard Sanders began to meet with us less and less due to
their work schedules). As I focused more on my vision for where I wanted to see the club head towards,
I began picking up more and more hours at work (in order to save up for an apartment or house for our
club), which made it difficult to focus on completing the club bylaws, developing the mentoring
program, creating a club business and so on. Fewer members meant less diverse thoughts and ideas.
Our club did attempt at least one major recruitment effort and it failed miserably. Plans for a second
attempt never came to fruition. The homeless community itself seemed rather apathetic about our
cause. Our club was plagued by internal rivalries and pettiness, ruining trust and group cohesion (plus,
embarrassing outbursts in our meetings I’m sure turned off potential members from joining us).
Another consideration was that of too few qualified members in the club. The homeless community
isn’t exactly filled with top-notch candidates. Positions such as Guardian, mentor or treasurer (for
instance) require someone who is honest, trustworthy, of good moral character. I don’t mean to be
harsh, but the SLC homeless community had few of these sort of people. Good quality homeless people
will tend to disappear quickly, since they will find jobs and housing and move on with their lives. In a
related vein, given that we had few members in our club, we had certain members in positions for which
they were neither qualified nor gifted. Brian Watson, for instance, was a late comer to our club.
However, it was very clear to me that he was a natural born leader. Our club leadership at the time
failed to provide structure for our meetings and the meetings usually ended up disorganized and in
chaos. When an executive decision was made to depose the current leadership and install Brian as our
leader, the two leaders fell away from the club in protest (I suppose). This had the consequence (as it
did when any member left the club for any reason) of creating a greater burden upon all of us that
remained in the club as we picked up the responsibilities of those who left us. Given all this though, I
remain convinced to this day that if we had several dedicated club members on whom to redistribute
our workload and each member was working in a position that suited his or her gifts and talents, the
RGHC would likely have been a success.
I left SLC on 8 October to take a job up in Alaska working with my brother, whom I hadn’t seen
or spoken to in quite some time. It was a bittersweet moment. I was excited about a new chapter
opening up in my life, but at the same time, I felt that I was abandoning the work I had committed to do
in SLC with the RGHC. I have attempted to maintain the friendships I developed in SLC. I keep in pretty
regular contact with club members to see how their lives are turning out and to find out what is going
on in SLC in regards to the homeless situation. I have spent a fair amount of time reflecting on my time
in SLC, recalling the good things and trying to learn from the things that went wrong. I have quite a bit
to say about this, not all of which is relevant to this memoir and so it shall be omitted. I currently live in
Anchorage and continue to do work with the homeless here (albeit, in a more conventional manner than
when I was in SLC). In the coming months, Brian Watson may be moving here join me. I intend to apply
some of the lessons I learned from the RGHC in the work I am now doing.
Future vision for Rio Grande Homeless Coalition
In what follows, the author would like to present his vision for the future of the Rio
Grande Homeless Coalition.
Statement of the problem
The author’s view differs fundamentally from the approach that is currently being
pursued by the club. Presently, we are trying to deal primarily with homeless-on- homeless
crime, which is a symptom of the wider Rio Grande drug culture (which, the author contends,
has an even more fundamental cause, as we shall discover shortly), and we are making appeals
for help to people in positions of influence, such as politicians, the police, the Road Home
leadership, etc in order to bring about change. These people of influence can apply external
pressure on the community and seemingly create a mild change in people’s behavior in the short
term. So, for instance, a would-be thief might be deterred from committing a theft due to the
increased police presence. He refrains from performing his wicked deed not because he has
experienced a true heart change and sees stealing as fundamentally wrong, but because he fears
the consequences of his actions if he is caught.
The author believes that the root cause of all the problems being experienced in the Rio
Grande neighborhood stems from a heart problem in the population. The author spent nearly
twelve years of his life working for the Department of Defense (DoD). He started there right
around the time that the Iraq War was beginning in 2003. He desired to serve his country and
create change in the world, by helping to crush the Islamic menace. However, deep religious
convictions began to alter his view on the matter. He ended up resigning from the DoD in
September 2014, for two, religiously-based reasons, one of which he will now share with you.
The author saw that we could crush an enemy into submission, to make them act more or less
how we wished them to act, but it produced no real change in their hearts. Inwardly, they were
as much filled with hatred as ever (and, indeed, that hate spilled out in the form of new terrorist
groups like ISIS). In order to effect true change, a heart transformation must be initiated, and
such a thing cannot come about through pressure applied externally 1 . Let us go back to the
example of the would-be thief mentioned above, who would not steal an item only because he
fears the consequences of getting caught, yet, if circumstances were such that he could be certain
that he could steal the item and not get found out, then he would steal it. The author contends
that this man is no different fundamentally from a bolder thief that lacked that fear and that
actually stole the item in question. The would-be thief still suffers from a heart problem, the
same heart problem in fact as the actual thief; the would-be thief is a thief-at- heart. Similarly, a
man that would look upon another man’s wife and entertain lustful thoughts about her in his
1 The author contends that this can only truly come about when an individual experiences a
living, fruit-bearing relationship with Jesus Christ. The solution to the problems in the Middle
East is not more soldiers and bombs but more missionaries and Bibles. Likewise, the real
solution to the problems in the Rio Grande area is not more police and social workers, but also
more missionaries and Bibles. The people here suffer from a moral corruption of the heart. The
solution that the author presents in this paper is to perform a secularized approximation of the
work done in a man by the Holy Spirit.
mind but that would be too cowardly to actually engage in an adulterous relationship with the
woman (for whatever reason) is fundamentally the same as a bolder man that would engage in
the act; the would-be adulterer is an adulterer-at- heart. The thief (would-be or actual) does not
see stealing as fundamentally wrong nor does the adulterer (would-be or actual) see sexual
immorality as fundamentally immoral. One must not only behave morally in his words and
deeds (to see that certain things are simply evil and wrong and to eschew them), but think
morally/have a pure heart as well. This is the heart transformation that the author wishes to call
his fellow club members, and all of the Rio Grande Street, 500 West and Pioneer Park residents,
Background information on the proposed solution
The author would like to propose a solution to deal with the heart problem present in the
Rio Grande population, using the historical examples of the “Jesus model” and the “Patrick
model.” The “Jesus Model” is based off the ministry of Jesus, and primarily comes from Robert
Coleman’s work The Master Plan of Evangelism. In the aforementioned book, Coleman
presents how Jesus was able to effect the change that He did, using one-on- one and small group
mentoring. During Jesus’ entire 3.5 year ministry, He only had about 120 disciples (that being
roughly the number of disciples present in the upper room at the time of Pentecost). Of those,
He focused primarily on twelve of them, and of the twelve, He really concentrated on three of
them. After His death and resurrection, these men went out into all the world, turning it upside
down (by using the same techniques of mentoring and role modeling to teach, and live out by
example, Jesus’ revolutionary teachings) and creating the largest religion in the world today,
Christianity. Jesus neither appealed to the religious leaders of His time (who had influence over
the masses) in order to effect change nor did He appeal to the Roman authorities that ruled over
the land. Jesus, a homeless bum Himself 2 , gathered together a rag-tag group of men from various
strata of society, and they lived out life together in voluntary poverty, full community of goods,
etc. Jesus’ teachings, such as those presented in His longest recorded sermon (the Sermon on the
Mount), are as revolutionary today as they were in His time (the author challenges the reader to
slowly, carefully, attentively read through chapters 5, 6 and 7 in the Gospel of Matthew and see
if he or she is not amazed at such radical teachings).
The “Patrick model” is the method St. Patrick and his successors used to evangelize
Ireland. Before describing the method, the author will give a very brief summary of St. Patrick’s
amazing life (taken from David Bercot’s wonderful book Let Me Die in Ireland: The True Story
of Patrick). He was born around the year 385 AD in the Roman colony of Britain, in a village on
the western seashore. When Patrick was sixteen, a group of Irish raiders attacked and plundered
his village, making off with not only valuable treasures but also human beings (Patrick being one
of them). Upon arrival in Ireland, Patrick was sold as a slave and tended sheep for his master,
until, after six years of servitude, he was able to miraculously escape back to Britain. Patrick had
not been back in Britain long before God visited him in a dream and told him that He had chosen
him to take the Gospel message to the Irish people. Patrick’s parents thought their son had gone
2 You’ll notice that Jesus lived in the culture He was trying to change; He did not commute from
heaven to earth each morning to be with the people, but lived amongst them and all the pain and
sin we as humans experience each day.
crazy (Ireland at that time was a very dangerous place [not unlike Iraq today] and the Irish were
savage barbarians [like ISIS]) and the British Church was unsupportive of his calling. It took
Patrick 25 years before he returned to Ireland. He spent the remaining 30 years of his life there
preaching the Gospel message. By the time of his death in 461 AD, almost all of Ireland had
been converted to Christianity.
Whether the reader agrees with the tenets of Christianity or even likes the faith, one must
stand in awe of this example. The question then naturally arises as to how Patrick and his
successors (Columba, Aidan, etc) were able to effect such change on such a large scale.
Patrick’s solution (which is mainly derived from George Hunter’s short tome The Celtic Way of
Evangelism) involved setting up communities near the population he was trying to convert. In
those communities, the members would live out the teachings of the Bible in a communal form
of the faith (such as the early church did in Acts 2 and 4). Patrick and his people would interact
with the surrounding community and offer hospitality to the people. Receptive people would be
invited to live in the community and participate in common life, such as join in fellowship,
communal meals, work and so on. The visitors would spend time with mentors (which Patrick
called “soul friends”) and in small groups. The faith was more caught than taught.
Christianity practiced in community has been quite common throughout the history of the
Church and the author has studied the topic in some depth. The early church lived communally
(as described in Acts 2 and 4). The Roman Catholic Church has monasteries. There were also
groups like the Beguines and Beghards (1200’s-1500’s), lay people that lived out their lives
together in community. The Protestants had the Moravians. The Anabaptists have the Hutterites
and Bruderhof (the author has visited a colony belonging to the latter group); the Bruderhof have
a handbook describing their community that can be found at http://www.bruderhof.com/en/our-
faith/foundations. There were also various Christian sects, like the Shakers, that lived
communally. Many of these groups lived with all things in common. Some other groups, like
the Alleluia Covenant Community in Augusta, Georgia (which the author has visited), live semi-
communally. There is a group similar to ours, called the Catholic Workers, which lives together
in community, works at a community-owned business, publishes its own newsletter and works
with the poor and homeless (the interested reader is encouraged to read more about the life of
Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Workers). In addition, there have been many
successful secular communes. If the club is interested in pursuing the proposed solution offered
below, the author recommends we make a study of past and existing communes/communities
and even visit some communes/communities and have experts from those
communes/communities instruct us on how to make this work, how to avoid common pitfalls
and how to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably arise when living life together in
The proposed solution
The author proposes to create a community within a community (near the Rio Grande
Street, 500 West and Pioneer Park areas) that offers something radically better than the
prevailing culture. The author calls on his fellow club members to live out our lives together in
community, as a family, as role models, embodying the message we commend to the population.
We will model our values (such as Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount) and a better
way of life for the wider homeless community, putting good practical and spiritual habits and
virtues into practice. Individually and collectively, we shall work on character development,
practicing love, patience, mercy, forgiveness, peacemaking (non-violent conflict resolution),
humility, gratitude, trustworthiness, self-discipline, diligence (good work ethic), giving, sharing,
kindness and other virtues. Do we wish the broader community to be more loving? Let us first
demonstrate that (genuine, pure, unselfish, unconditional) love amongst ourselves, within our
own “family.” Do we wish that more homeless would actively seek after work opportunities?
We must ask ourselves, is every able-bodied man and woman in our club working or actively
seeking work? If not, why not and how can we overcome the obstacle(s) keeping them from
finding suitable employment? Do we wish to see more homeless pursue opportunities for further
education? We must ask ourselves, is there anyone in our club that has failed to finish high
school? If so, do they have their GED? If not, why not and how can we assist that person or
persons in securing their GED? Has anyone in our club started college but failed to finish it or
has someone never started college yet desired to but did not for some reason? How might we
persuade and assist them to return to, or begin, college and successfully complete a degree
program? Does someone in our club lack job skills? How can we persuade and assist them to
develop the necessary skills (which could include seeking and securing specialized vocational
training or certifications) in order to find good, satisfying work? Am I prepared to offer material
aid to fellow club members, or to give my own free time in doing chores and work assigned to
them, so that they can achieve these goals, even though I will not personally directly benefit from
the transaction? Do we despise the drugs, drunkenness, law-breaking, violence, sexual
immorality, etc of the broader homeless community? Then let us not engage in any of these
practices ourselves. Do we wish that the homeless would have a plan and purpose for life? We
must ask ourselves, do I have such a plan? What are my goals (short, intermediate and long
term) that will help me reach where I’d like to be and are the decisions I am making right now
leading me in the direction I want to go? Do I have a purpose in life, not just as an individual,
but as a collective body? If I could write my obituary, what would I like it to say, about me and
our club, about what we have done to help our homeless brothers and sisters? (What do I want
my and our legacy to be?) Do I actually view my fellow club members as my family, as
members of one body in which when one member mourns, all of us mourn, and in which when
one member rejoices, all other members rejoice with him or her as well? Am I prepared to love
them unconditionally, to make personal sacrifices for the greater good of the family? Am I
prepared to adopt the mentality of a servant and to serve my fellow club members? Am I
prepared to view each and every member of my family as more important than myself and to
view their needs as at least as important, if not more so, than my own? Am I prepared to set
aside my own will, wants and desires for the greater good of the community? Am I prepared to
offer mutual aid to my fellow family members, in the form of material, emotional and spiritual
support, encouragement and teaching? Am I prepared to preserve and deepen my relationship
with each member of my family no matter what? Do I truly believe that relationships are the
most important things in life? Am I prepared to forgive each and every wrong that someone
does to me (since I know that everyone, including myself, has shortcomings and character
defects) and am I humbly willing to admit my mistakes and seek forgiveness from someone else
whom I have offended and to offer restitution for the damage I have caused? Am I prepared to
humbly receive both counsel and rebukes from my fellow family members, to earnestly consider
what has been said to me and to make changes in my life as a result? In short, we need to model
the change in our own lives that we wish to see in others. 3
The family would live in shared housing and the community would be formed around a
community-owned business, in which the members of the community would work. The business
would also be used to employ felons, substance abusers that are currently in or seeking
treatment, etc (basically people who would have a difficult time finding employment elsewhere),
offering them love, encouragement, fair, livable pay, job skills training and work experience.
The community economics would be either fully communal (everything in common, meaning
that members contribute 100% of their income/assets to the community upon joining; guests do
not have such a requirement) or semi-communal (members contribute a certain percentage of
their income, say 25%, to a collective fund that will be used to, say, pay community bills such as
rent and utilities, fund the education of a family member or bless someone in the community,
among other things; again, guests do not have such a requirement) 4 .
In order to effect change in the broader community, we will practice hospitality, inviting
members of the outside (primarily our homeless brothers and sisters, but perhaps also non-
homeless people, especially if they have some valuable skill to contribute to our community) to
visit and temporarily stay in our community, to temporarily join our family (if, after some
suitably long period of time, the visitor wishes to fully join our community, we as a group can
discuss the matter and put them on a probationary membership). The visitor becomes part of our
family, and joins us in working at the community-owned business (do we still allow members to
have outside jobs?), doing chores around the house, sharing in communal meals and attending
small group meetings. The visitor would have a mentor assigned to him or her upon their
entering our community (a male mentor will be assigned to a male visitor and a female mentor
will be assigned to a female visitor). These are the keys to changing the wider community. The
visitor will come to see something radically different and better from what he or she has been
used to from life in the broader community. The mentor will act as an instructor to the visitor, as
a guide for the visitor while he or she is in the community, as a father or mother figure and friend
that is there to listen and offer advice and encouragement, to answer questions about the
community, etc. Moreover, the community-owned business will employ outsiders, which will
expose them to our community. Furthermore, the Guardians will act as our “missionaries” and
“ambassadors” to the broader homeless community, performing loving acts and offering kind,
encouraging words to whomever they meet. The Guardians will also share about our community
and our life together and will seek out people that might potentially be interested in visiting and
3 The author highly recommends that the reader check out Celestine Chua’s website
http://personalexcellence.co/. She is a (secular?) life coach that has written a number of
interesting articles related to character development, self-knowledge, etc, that the author feels
would be a valuable exercise for the reader to go through on his or her own (or as a small group):
http://personalexcellence.co/blog/101-ways- to-be- a-better- person/
4 The author is willing to admit that he is a Christian communist and believes in this idea so much
that he is willing to put his money where his mouth is, donating 100% of his income and assets
to the group’s collective fund even if we decide to be semi-communal. If we did decide to be
fully communal, we can apply for 501(d) status (Apostolic Association) with the IRS.
staying at our community. Finally, our newsletter will not only continue to carry stories
produced by the homeless for the homeless, but it will also share stories about our life together.
Change will occur at a slower pace than the current approach, but it will produce real
heart transformations. The club could also consider a hybrid approach (combining this approach
with the one we are currently using).
Only a couple of the homeless showed up for the Creative Writing class. The brief items that were written told stories of what life was like in the Rio Grande Community.
Here was a group of people who had no voice in the decision make process that directly effected them. Many had stories to be told.
The Creative Writing class quickly became the office for the "Community Voice A Biweekly Publication By and For the Rio Grande Homeless Community." Vol 1 No 1 was published April 4,2016. The Editor: Gloria Red Bear. Supported by The Salt Lake Marching Club.
It was to "Provide a Voice for the Homeless"
(Insert first issue of the Voice)
Gloria Red Bear editor of the "Community Voice" collected written accounts from the homeless of the Rio Community. The writers were paid $5 for each article.The Salt Lake Marching and Chowder Club supported this program.
Many of the articles were legibly and easy to read, others not so well. In the first issue dated, April 4, 2016 the last article was written by a blind woman. It took time and effort to read this "cry from the heart".
Early on it was decided that there would no rewrites of the articles, they were to appear as written except for an offensive words which would be blacked out.
There were 10 twice a month issues of the "Voice". There was little evidence that anyone read the hard copy. There was an Email list of about 150 sent. There was little evidence that was read.