Category Archives: people

Meeting with Police Chief Fruitful

Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn and Zone Commander Marty Ferrell met with Oldtimer and with homeless advocate Jeff Straka, both of Macland Presbyterian Church,  today on neutral ground, the Atlanta Bread Company.

Left to right:  Commander Marty Ferrell, Chief of Police Dan Flynn,  Jeff Straka

(photo by Oldtimer, not shown)

The hour long meeting over coffee was very fruitful, with both sides coming away feeling quite good about the progress made in reducing the tension over the homeless situation.   The chief seemed very interested in addressing the homeless problems in a caring and proactive manner and not only listened to what we had to say, but offered suggestions of his own that did not involve harsh treatment of the homeless.

I offered the chief details of the shelter shortage for emergency shelter, tansitional and supportive housing and he was a bit taken aback as to how needful this area is for more homeless support.   I also gave him talleys from 211 call records that showed there were more than 2000 calls last year seeking shelter and transitional housing in our community.  Jeff gave him a book to read on homeless and he agreed to read it. 

He agreed that the recent homeless sweeps were the result of perhaps only 3 or 4 individuals that had been involved in serious criminal activity along with a more visible presence of the homeless in recent months.   All of that raised the level of complaints to the point that they felt they had to take action, but that the vast majority of the affected homeless were not involved in criminal activity, but just caught in the middle.  

He assured us that the police would not in the future make any general comments about the homeless that might cast them in a bad light, or lump them into the same category as those causing the problems.    He realizes the need for treatment for substance abuse and mental illness among the homeless, but does not have a solution for it.

We all agreed that criminals that may be hiding among the homeless should be rooted out and dealt with.  The Chief did say that they would concentrate on solving specific crimes involving the homeless and resolving specific complaints and not target those who merely happen to be homeless.  He assured us that his officers will show compassion to those that are not otherwise breaking the law.   He asked Jeff and I to call him or Commander Ferrell anytime we felt that the police had mistreated the homeless and they would investigate it.

The police will still have to respond to complaints, but did accept our suggestion that homeless advocates be alerted prior to any future sweeps and allow advocates to accompany them and collect tents and personal belongings and transport them to storage for the affected homeless to pick up rather than haul it to the dump.  I had suggested that we would look into how we might implement it.

He proposed a possible program similar to one in Savannah where he had been chief before coming to Marietta, one in which a person or team assigned by the police would be proactive in case work for the homeless that they encounter as the result of complaints (where no criminal activity is involved).  The caseworker would help locate needed services for the homeless rather than just run them off or put them in jail overnight.  He suggested that such a program would pursue stronger punishment for the ones that commit more serious offences and more leniency for those merely complained about that not involved in criminal activity.  He suggested that such a program might help many get off the streets.

Jeff proposed that our chuch establish an educational forum on the homeless for the community at large, including service providers, other churches, police and homeless within the community to address these problems.  The chief said they would attend as long as they were productive and not “shouting matches,” something we would not have allowed anyway.  Jeff is looking into bringing guests from other cities that have successfully addresed these problems.

I suggested a particular job program for the homeless that would require some cooperation from the police and the chief seemed very receptive but did not think they could help fund it.  More on that later if we can get it off the ground.

Jeff in his special shirt 

Oldtimer 

    

Pictures of Homeless Friends

Some of our homeless friends, most of whom have been mentioned in  previous posts, agreed to have their pictures posted in this space.   It was a great leap for Mark, who had come out to have breakfast with Scott and Carolyn this morning.   Someone had woke him up and he was a bit annoyed about “being bossed around” but ate ravenously of the food offered.  Every time he finished something, Scott was shoving another bowl or cup of coffee into his hand. Eggs, grits, muffins, coffee.  

Mark turns out to be a very good conversationalist once he gets to know you, but a lot of things turn out to be “a long story” that he won’t go into.  Mark is still a little nervous and has not given me permission to share anything but general information, but we talked for almost two hours.   If he had not been pushed into getting breakfast with us, “important people might have come by and taken him home”, but he really was ravenous.  He was a bit afraid he would miss them.   He doesn’t like people telling him what to do, has a couple of “angels” from the Church of God that regularly visit him trying to get him to seek help.   Mark said he has been homeless maybe 1 or 2 years.  I don’t really think he knows.

He says the police have made him move three times in the past week.  They’ve taken his stuff but left him behind, or when he was out of stuff, simply told him to go somewhere else.   So he moves around, but always nearby.   Some of the other homeless affectionately call him “Moses” but they all help look after him.  Mark wears a short ponytail in his beard and says he another in the back, but he did not show it.

Mark does not understand why those that don’t bother anybody can’t just be left alone, but he claims Scott as a friend who has “known me a long time,” and seems to be coming out of his shell with the extra attention.

Below are some pictures.  There were other homeless there, but some don’t want to be pictured.  One said he didn’t want his family to know.  “I’m not supposed to be here” meaning homeless.  They think he is working somewhere else, I believe. 

Scott            Steve              Guy             Mark              Steve W.

Scott provided the food and shirts (hanging on fence).  The gentleman on the far right is the same Steve that was featured in the video in my last post, “Marietta Homeless Steve Talks about Mark,”  the same Mark standing next to him.   Everything Mark is wearing is recently donated. 

Guy has been homeless only 3 weeks.   I liked him immediately.   Actually I liked them all immediately!   The sign says “This walkway is provided by Cobb EMC for access to the MUST/Urban Action Facilities.  (Travel at own risk)”  The sidewalk is not on the road right-of-way, but the homeless get rousted out anyway.

I was asked by Steve (with the cup) to thank Cobb EMC for the use of the paved walkway and for the access they have granted.  He recognizes the public service Cobb EMC has done here.   Steve has a 2 year and a 4 year education in N.C. and often gives legal advice.  He is writing a “coffee table” book and has written several letters to the local news editor, none published.

Major

Major was in the earlier video also, but was seen only briefly. The bible in his pocket goes wherever he goes.

Guy with Elizabeth

Both are homeless.  Elizabeth was named after Elizabeth Inn.  Mark calls her his cat, but in truth, I think she is loved by all the homeless in the area.

 

Al, our Poet

Al is a homeless veteran, still waiting for his papers, but they are in route.  The donated cap is Navy, but he was actually Army.   This picture was taken last week at our church.

Oldtimer

 

Marietta Homeless Steve Talks About Mark

Steve is one of the recently evicted Homeless.  Below is a video of him talking about Mark, the mentally ill homeless man behind the mound of dirt (see the earlier account about Mark here). The conversation took place in a dinner meeting at Macland Presbyterian Church along with two other homeless evictees and members of the church.  The video was made Wednesday, January 30, 2008.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR7UnZ-LYX8] 

(video by Oldtimer – which explains the quality)

Here is a fairly close transcript in case you have some trouble hearing it.  Comments in (_) are mine:

Steve:

Mark…. you know… Mark.  Mark’s a good guy. Mark’s an educated guy.  Mark is a guy that is losing his mind.  His wife brought him over on 41 (nearby highway), dropped him off about four, four and a half years ago.  And he’s still sitting there, waiting on her and his kids to come back and pick him up.   Mark goes months and months and months without a shower.  Mark’s a good guy… you know? 

Well they made him move off that, his mound where he’d stayed four and a half months, you know right there by the fence by MUST.  Well, he had no where to go, so he moved down the walkway (by EMC?).  Today, he had a bed and bunch of blankets, pillows and everything, and he was just laying there just waiting on his wife to come back and get him.

Today the Marietta City and I don’t know who else it was, came and left him there and took all his blankets and left him there with no no warmth at all.  

So, if something doesn’t happen to him tonight, it might be the night of the next Dominic, you know.  He don’t have nothing except a coat and toboggan for cover.

A few minutes later Steve was saying he was going by there later that night and take him something (inaudible) to help him.  As I mentioned in the earlier post, other homeless people had been bringing Mark blankets, clothes and sack lunches and leaving them for him.   The compassion of the homeless is infinitely greater than that of the city that proudly touts “The All-American City” Award in 2006 from the National Civic League, and a “City of Excellence” in 2002 among others in vaious years.

Way to go!  Take the blankets right off a mentally ill man and just leave him there to possibly freeze to death!

Vietnam Veteran Loses Arm for Second Time

Teresa Yonkers of the Florida VA Team  aka Soldier’s Angels asked for me to help put out the following alert copied from their website:

(Click picture for video)

Vietnam Veteran Mitch Robertson and his wife Vickie left their home in Montebello, Virginia for their vacation in Destin, Florida. On their way they stopped in Gaffney, South Carolina at a hotel for the night. When they woke up their vacation had turned bad.

Mitch and Vickie went out to their car and found that someone had broken in and stolen their bags. In one of those bags was a Prosthetic Arm that helped give Mitch his freedom.

Mitch had lost his entire left arm when his helicopter crashed in Vietnam. The prosthetic arm that was stolen is a bionic model that was made specifically for Mitch. Mitch not only has lost his arm but is also slowly dying from Agent Orange. The new bionic arm gave him hope that his remaining years would be easier and that it would give him the freedom to do things he hasn’t done in 38 years.

Mitch put out a plea saying that who ever broke into his vehicle can keep his suitcase full of clothes and even the electronics that he had in there for his boat but please give him back his arm.

Our own Lori Tucker, SouthEast Regional Manager for the VA Team contacted Mitch and Vickie today. Lori asked Vickie what can Soldiers’ Angels do to help. Vickie’s response: For right now please just help us get the word out.

So to help this Veteran get his freedom back I’m posting this.

Here is some information on how to spot the bag:

-The arm is in a black and yellow duffell bag
-MHC Prosthetics is written on the bag
-the charger in the bag has the phone number of the company who made the arm

Link to Video   (from Channel 7)

(or click picture above)

Any one in the Gaffney, South Carolina area should be on the lookout and with ears wide open.  It is not likely the thief will try to pawn it or to sell it, but it is likely they will keep it around for the novelty of it and word will get around, so if you hear something from your kids or neighbors about someone with an extra arm or showing one off, or if you find one discarded somewhere, or it is donated somewhere, please call the direct number to the manufacturer 1- (540)-292-1165  (number is on the charger) or contact me through my blog or contact the Florida Angels througth their website and also the local police and give them this story.  If you have a blog of your own, consider posting this story there also!

Oldtimer