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Art, Apples, and Safety Concerns

By       Message Jennifer Hathaway     Permalink
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Promoted from comment to article by Amanda Lang, OEN Managing Editor

I'm an artist who spent many years painting on the street- in upstate New York and in NYC- among other places, in Grand Central Terminal. One of the things that happens when you plunk yourself down in one place for hours and hours is that you get to meet all the people passing by, including the people who live "on the street". It's an education I highly recommend.

One winter I was very kindly accomodated by the GCT Supervisor in an unused balcony over the escalators, where I worked on a series of paintings of that interior landscape. Usually a contingent of four or five homeless guys would show up within an hour and sit a short distance behind me, watching me work, chatting, and soaking up the free heat [it was winter]. Then after an hour or so, the guards making their rounds would come along and roust them, telling them to move along. The homeless guys would wander off, and the guards would hang out and watch for an hour or so, and then move on themselves. Then the homeless guys would come back, napping and watching my progress.

Being human with these people teaches one many things, not least of which is how to be human with yourself.

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The corporate systems are going away, and we're going to see more people falling through the nets in every social stratus. It's important to recreate the systems now in order to prevent widespread suffering [ok, dead horsebeating session over].

It's important to realize that when they shut down the big mental hospitals in New York state, most of the inmates were simply turned out into the street. These people soon became part of the criminal system instead- behaviors that put them into the mental hospital now put them into jail, where they were frequently victimized, and then back out onto the street again. When Guiliani "cleaned up" New York, he did it by sending people out- the kids in the lockdown school where I worked in Hudson NY all came from Flatbush and the Bronx, the homeless folks were all shipped to Camp LaGuardia [google for more on that little disaster]. Guiliani is nothing but a master of NIMBY. The problems didn't go away.

With our returning veterans faring no better at the hands of the VA, the economy as we've known it in freefall, and our broken healthcare "system" [which it's not], we must keep these bureaucratic non-solutions firmly in mind and figure out ways to both care for and empower those who need help, ending the cycles that create hopelessness [and homelessness].

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There is of course a danger in dealing with individuals who are unbalanced and under severe stress, fearful for their own survival. Unfortunately that aspect of the situation is stressed over and over again on the nightly "news". People need to make sure that they're safe when dealing with that unpredictable element, as we've all been taught. But simultaneously, doesn't the danger and unpredictability increase with the levels of hopelessness and fear that those who are suffering experience? When a person gets to the point of desperation, they're far more likely to do something stupid than when they feel they have options.

Whenever I went painting down in GCT that winter, I brought a bag lunch with extra apples, bread, and cheese. When my "fans" showed up, I'd casually pull out my bag and start nibbling on an apple- and then ask, "want some? I brought too much", and pass the extras around.

We had some nice [albeit short] picnics, there in the balcony.

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Mother of two adult children, freelance artist with fine works in private collections in 20 US states, 7 European countries, Africa, China, and Japan, concerned citizen of the US. Overreaching corporate controls of food, housing, clothing, (more...)
 

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