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71 years old and Freezing Cold ...... Now Dead

On the front page of the Tribune an article caught my eye (Tuesday 12-4-06 edition)
It had a warm fuzzy story about an elderly lady who was homeless and had recently died on a bench downtown. My observation is "It is cold and a bench downtown is no place for an elderly lady to live and even worse its no place to die"
No matter how you write the story ....the point is shameful
Read about this tragedy and my comment on my "HOMELESS BLOG" here:
 http://joe-anybody.blogspot.com/

This case of a lady who is old enough to be my Grandmother died on a cold Trimet Bus Stop bench on November 29 2006.

We see the warm and fuzzy article on the front page of the "Tribune"

My question is

"WHY ARE 71 YEAR OLD LADIES LIVING AND DIEING ON BUS BENCHES?"

Indy Readers think about this and what "you" can do to change the ugly side of this aspect. I don't care how fluffy the article in the paper was.....its fricken COLD OUTSIDE ...and any and all elderly ladies need to be -->warm<-- not..... frozen stiff on a sidewalk bench.

What the hell is wrong with society to watch this transpire over the last four years into this tragedy as we sit in our warm houses reading fluffy stories of desperation and despair?

A memorial is being held for Anita Floyd on Wednesday 12-6-06 at the bench she called home (SW 6th and Alder)

homepage: homepage: http://www.joe-anybody.com


Time? 05.Dec.2006 18:20

gk

What time is the memorial? This is shameful.

Time waits for no one 05.Dec.2006 18:29

Joe A

2 pm

Thank you Joe 05.Dec.2006 18:58

wonder

I had just finished reading the Tribune article when I saw your posting. Thank you for picking this up and running with it. What, indeed, is wrong when old ladies (or old men, children, middle aged persons...etc) are left out in the cold in the dead of winter? I remember the nameless man in New York who died outside clinging to two pats of butter and half of a walnut, no doubt his planned breakfast. Just today, while walking in Portland, I heard a soft voice and turned to see yet another old woman, dressed in a red threadbare coat, asking if I had any change. I gave her what I had, but wondered if she was also going to spend her night outside. What could I do but give her my change and hope for the best. It seems so very empty, doesn't it?

Anita 05.Dec.2006 19:12

her presence will be missed...

but I would rather have NEVER met her, if it meant that she had a home.
I can still hear her voice in my head asking for change, or joking about this or that with her regular smokers. She seemed like a very sweet lady, and it just breaks my heart that shit like this happens in the first place... I will see you at 2.

Oh My God. 05.Dec.2006 19:54

CatWoman

Oh My God. I'm so sad to hear this.

I met Anita some time back. I wrote this story about her three years ago, after some stupid little power-mad petty bureaucrat at Tullys 86'd her from the shop:  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/08/270425.shtml
I'm still mad about that. But I'm madder still that I have not been by her little bench for so long, and that I would not even have realized that she was gone if Joe had not reported it here.

Many of us had worried after her safety -- she often had bruises and black eyes, and sometimes broken bones, and I believed (and still believe) that she was being abused. She had stories about falling into doorknobs and tripping over cats once too often to suit me, but there seemed to be nothing I could do. Many of us tried, on many occasions, to help her with that, but she steadfastly refused to acknowledge that any domestic violence was going on, or to accept any help in that regard. She once told me that a police officer had stopped to talk with her for a long time about that, and that he seemed worried and did not believe her stories either. He had tried to get her some help, but she had refused. I do not know who that officer was, but it was very heartening to me to hear of a police officer who actually cared what happened to a homeless woman in this city, rather than harassing and hounding them off the streets in the name of "progress," as is usually the case with Portland's "finest." (Wouldn't it be nice if the PPB gave out medals for things like that, rather than just for shooting people.)

When she broke her hip a few years back, I was really concerned when she disappeared from the streets for awhile. Back then, I walked by her little bench every day. So her absence was a tangible void. Lots of us were worried about her. When she reappeared, with first a walker, and then a cane, she again had worrisome stories about how she had fallen. I talked to her about a women's shelter, but she insisted she was fine. Man, I wish I had done more. It seemed like there was just nothing any of us could do. In retrospect, there is always more one could have done.

Anita was as sweet as any grandmother. (Though I never would have believed she was 71. She looked younger.) I think the first time I ever met her, I was in some demonstration or other, and as I stopped to catch my breath for a moment on 6th and Alder, she smiled and told me my shoe was untied. She didn't want me to fall. Something about her was so absolutely sweet and non-judgemental. After that, I started walking past her every day, and I looked forward to our meetings. One year, I gave her a scarf for Christmas. She always had a warm smile and kind words and little stories, and I sometimes sat with her on her bench when I had time. But alas, I did not take the time that I should have for that. I can be such an anti-social person sometimes. I forget to seek out the company of those who could use a friend. And I guess I forget that sometimes, I could use a friend too. Shit. I had stopped going by her bench some time back, when my walk to work took a different route, and I rarely saw her these days. I wish I had taken the time to go by more often.

We Are The Hollow Men 05.Dec.2006 20:57

pockets full of straw

I saw her returning home, late at night, many times. I would say a little prayer and wonder, too, how can this be.

The system is broke and is completely and utterly to blame. A society that celebrates and promotes obscene wealth and values ostentatious displays as proof that you matter, you count, you are important, you are somebody is the sad source. The better people, the ones who think, act, believe they are better by virtue of their mostly unearned wealth, this is on them.

What is high will be brought low
as what is low
will later be brought high.

All energy must be conserved. You cannot have extreme wealth without severe, old-lady-freezing-to-death-on-a-bus-bench poverty.

Or, to refer to their bible, Revelation, the Harlot of Babylon is thriving here in America. Her greed, insatiable hunger, appetite for more, for no reason other than to have more and more, means others will have less and less, and suffer for their hollow, hungry ghost existence.

Coming home tonight, there was a parking lot on Broadway--cars backed up far as you can see. I'm a ped'crossing Broadway at Pine with the light. One of the better people, a women driving her shiny, new yellow sports car, is turning onto Broadway...into the parking lot, and just can't wait for me to get across the street. You know the routine, as pedestrians we must always fear for our lives. SoI'm playing that cat and mouse, forward, stop, forward, stop, looking at her enraged, impatient eyes as I decide to risk it, and proceed to the curb, making her wait...to turn into the Broadway parking lot.

As I ambled up Broadway and easily passed by her, now parked in the parking lot, I gave her my ardent sentiment, the middle finger, down to the ground.

Anita died homeless so you can try, to no avail, to race around in your shiny new yellow sports car, like an underripe banana, and sneer at pedestrians who dare to cross your path, and not stop in the middle of the street, so you can drive your fabulous new car without interruption.

Honestly, at times like this I am ashamed of this country and its people. There is no poverty. There is no scarcity. There is no hunger. All are a lie. There is plenty, abundance, more than enough for everyone. It's just that there are many who insist on taking far more than everyone else at any cost.

So because tis the season, a paper owned by a publisher who participates loudly in the Christian Right, who has made his bread and better, and inherited his wealth, from exploiting the Oregon Earth for private profit, takes a minute to care about Anita. Little Bobby Junior, your rehearsed minute of Christian compassion, you wear like a corsage to make you look good at the holiday parties, where you broker more ways to avoid cleaning up the mess you made at Ross Island, is just more straw spilling out of your filthy-with-greed pockets.

At least back in the days of the robber barons and giant, monopoly industrialists, we had some true philanthropists: Carnegie, Mellon et. al. Now we have idiot Christian soldiers like Bobby Pamplin, and his vanity child newspaper, who are only occasionally concerned with striking a pose that makes them look like they care. Then it's back to business as usual, while their God-on-a-stick forgives their every excess.

Earth to Pamplin: Here is the metaphor you missed in your bible-as-historical (hysterical)fact...The vertical post of that cross represents man, spanning the mud to the stars, animal to transcendent. The horizontal post symbolizes the sacrifice of that self on the plane of compassion, eternally parallel to the earth, neither rising high above, nor sinking into the low.

And if your God rings dead and hollow this time of year, it's because you
killed him.

Anita did not die for your sins.

She just wanted a chance to live, be housed, fed, warm, and dare we say loved. That's all. But apparently, that is far too much for the society of the better people to accommodate. And there is no amount of wealth that can hide how hollow you are.

take time 05.Dec.2006 22:13

in your life to give

"What could I do but give her my change and hope for the best. It seems so very empty, doesn't it?"

my response is not meant as a criticism to you...just as food for thought

the next time anyone sees an "elderly" man or woman out in the cold and asking for spare change or the like, stop in your tracks and engage that person in conversation. Take time in your life to get to know them. Dementia and Alzheimer's may be present. You can be late to an appointment. Errands can wait. There is nothing more important than reaching out.

Imagine if you very old and homeless and you started slipping into one of these states, you wouldn't really be aware of it. As you continued to slip into those mental states, would you know how to "get off the streets"?

Encourage them to accompany you to someplace warm for tea or hot cider. You may end up being the link that could get them into a temporary living space while outreach organizations worked on getting a permanent placement for them.

Thanks to the original poster for bringing the announcement of Anna's services.
She died alone and cold, tossed aside by our culture like litter on the side of the road. Embrace her at the memorial service and give her spirit a long loving touch.

Her name was Anita 05.Dec.2006 23:13

--

not Anna. No offense intended, but it seems you didn't even pay attention to her name in these posts. Do you stop when you're late to your job or appointment every time you see someone who looks like they have chronic, complex problems?

Well meaning advice for sure. but useful? debatable.

Anita did not have dementia or alzheimers 06.Dec.2006 06:36

.

Thanks, "take time", but as far as I could see, she did not suffer from these conditions. She had her pride. And many of us stopped to see that she was all right. She would have been better, of course, in a world where an old woman doesn't need to beg on a street corner for the few pennies people felt they could spare.

Capitalism really, really sucks.

why do you think some of us are fighting? 06.Dec.2006 10:43

amilcar

joe, she could have been your grand mother and she could have been my mother, i have seen and met so many stories of this kind that i could make you cry for an entire week, that's why we struggle an fight to change a world where this can happen, and if we get destroyed by sadness or sorrow we'll loose and fall in paralyzed and useless despair, then in respect an memory of anita and others we must go on the fight and change this world for real that our kids don't know such inhuman lives and stories, in France it happens everyday and newspapers don't even mention it anymore, the cruelty and barbarity of this world has gone really far then we must get organized and fight back, and study to understand how this can have happened, that humanity come to that point of inhumanity. Study and fight, non-violently if you take my advice.

Listen to Circle A Radio Tonight 06.Dec.2006 11:35

Darby circlearadio@gmail.com

Circle A Radio will be airing a program on the homeless situation in Portland (especially as it relates to women), why it's so fucking fucked up, and what we can do as individuals. In my humble opinion, we need to stop looking up at agencies, government organizations, social services, etc. to help the homeless because they simply aren't. Only after we stop waiting for people with power to do the work, then blaming them when they fail us, will we see any progress.

The show will air tonight (Wednesday) at 6pm on KBOO 90.7 fm.
Please listen if you're interested in some background information.


Stepping Up in a Capitalist World 06.Dec.2006 12:38

Joe Anybody iam@joe-anybody.com

Thanks to "ALL" who have commented and for the compassion that I have read by those who knew Anita (and those who didn't) and were concerned for her. I didn't know her but my heart feels her pain and her love.

Thanks Darby for the heads up on the Circle A program tonight I will listen in!

"amilcar" your points are well taken and your advise is "encouraging and motivational"

My initial outrage was the complacency and acceptance of this sad situation.

My hope is that by people being concerned and making efforts to rectify the disservices. For I believe that we as a community that cares, can step up and prevent and or help in the future, by our desire and awareness.

I don't have any simple answers but I feel that by communicating and by sharing the information and concerns ...the issues can get attention, and then results.
I am willing and am trying to make changes and yet, feel quit helpless as to a perfect resolution or catch-all to help stem this, but I think that if people care ...we can make this a better world.
There is many ways that a person can be effective in helping this social issue, TAKE ACTION, Step Up!


Ideas turn into actions ...."we can make changes"
If we step into the arena and put positive energy into the equation.
I think people (society) need to be encouraged and informed, and then willing to get up and do something.

In this issue ....it is caring for the homeless elderly, providing hope to the hopeless, and making solutions happen with our ideas and energy. As the "Take Time" post mentions ...taking time and treating the homeless as humans, from little things like conversation to including them into your life, by stopping and caring ..... all is positive and recommended and is small parts of fixing the bigger picture.

Anita Encouraged Others To Love & Share 06.Dec.2006 15:26

Joe Anybody

Here are two pictures from the memorial:

I asked her son what could people do to help the homeless from her mother's perspective
He said,
"We needed blankets the most"
and
"Mom mentioned there needs to be more blankets for the homeless" he said there was one point when we had to share the only blanket. They did have a rather home recently.
They all had come up from California about four years ago and had spent quite a bit of time homeless and trying to survive.

Anita's son told a couple touching stories on how much his mom loved people and life.
Others there told very similar stories of her positive attitude and encouraging ways.
Even when she was inside in a home Anita liked to go downtown and visit the people she had befriended.

On a side note a homeless young woman was there who had befriended Anita and her sons. She had mentioned that "blankets were really needed for the homeless AND that some people are allergic to wool so consider that aspect when trying to help with giving blankets"
She, by the way, mentioned she had just found housing that morning!
She called Anita "Grandma"

A few people read touching poems, one was shared by a friend who said it was a favorite of Anita's
And one lady brought a brand-new jacket for Anita when she had seen the Paramedics were responding to her, had to cut off her jacket to help her.

There were also flowers and a coffee for Anita on the bench ... she called home

Maybe around 50 people showed up.
And the message I left with ....was ... ..

Smile at people
Listen to others
Encourage others
Support each other with love
Flowers For Anita
Flowers For Anita
Anita's Brother
Anita's Brother

Seeds of change 06.Dec.2006 16:30

passerby

I used to talk to Anita briefly on my way to and from the office and slip her a dollar whenever I could. Another friend of mine did the same and even rebuked me when she saw my "Tullys" bagel bag one day... when Tully's had been giving Anita a bad time for a while. I didn't go back to Tully's until I learned from Anita that they had softened up. Anita was unfailingly nice, and her calm, smiling demeanor softened each day. I always saw that she had friends; her bench was popular.

The news of Anita's passing reached me via one of our company's executives. I work in one of the buildings on 6th and alder, and our firm works in the mental health and human services field. Ever since I started working here, around 3 years ago, people here would check in with Anita and with each other regarding her welfare, always as respectfully and inobtrusively as possible. It's a capitalist for-profit company, and it bears, as do we, some co-efficient of blame in a world where people beg for change. But, I've always felt good about the fact that the people i work with care. The executive-type i was talking to said that the president of a sister company went to visit Anita in the hospital and relayed greetings from us... and observed that Anita had her place in this world, that she was someone, someone we'll miss seeing and talking to. All the faces that came together at the memorial, a crowd which included our two "top execs," looked like they valued and understood the compact of the living: that we'll care about each other even if we can't always make everything right; we'll try; we'll care; we recogize each other. We have a place outside position, standing, commerce, etc.

I know it's not everything, but the genuine sadness at her leaving and joy in the knowing of Anita ... the coming together ... those faces ... those people ... this understanding... Even if it's not a sheltering tree, there are seeds.

ps: the guy who sits outside rite-aid w/his dog needs heavy socks... he listed the normal social svc agencies i'd think of to check and said there's kind of a shortage... and he said the pair of socks he's wearing are starting to get smelly. i looked in rite-aid, but there are no heavy socks there. i'll look elsewhere but thought i'd put out the "heavy, clean socks would help too" word.
from above
from above
the milieu
the milieu
One of Anita's favorite songs
One of Anita's favorite songs

We need to be more loving, and we need to fix the system too 06.Dec.2006 20:02

Jody Paulson

I didn't know Anita (I'm not from Portland) but I see dozens of people living on the streets every day in San Francisco. I know quite a few of them as I used to live in a homeless shelter. Some of them are very beautiful people on the inside, and they let that inner beauty shine much more than many wealthy people I've known.

In response to what "pockets full of straw" wrote: "You cannot have extreme wealth without severe, old-lady-freezing-to-death-on-a-bus-bench poverty" I want you all to take a look at this obscenity shown at this website: the distribution of wealth in the United States.  http://www.lcurve.org/

Portland City Commissoner of Homeless and Housing Possibly moving on...? 06.Dec.2006 23:37

T.Teater

I have repeatedly testify'd at Portland City CouncilRE; Homeless shelters and emergencey shelters,and as recently as 3 weeks ago on the reopening of Salvation Army Womens Shelter Harbor lights by Nov 22nd.
It may be that it was filled up immediatly...however no one should have to die on the Streets of Portland.

Commissioner Randy Lenorad is the Public Safty Commissioner he is whom you contact RE this and Commissioner Sten is the homeless Housing advocate.
There are City Hall rumors that Sten maybe taking a New Job at A Housing Non Profit....and Mayor Potter will have to appiont a Person to take his seat.
You folks need in my opinion to get someone into that postion that carries as much energy and concern about the Homeless as Commissioner Sten and his staff puts into it and then 50 % more !!!

I am unavailible since Dec 2nd, until Dec 11th, so I missed what happen or what the Back story is on all this huge Posting.

My condolences to this Family, I know that Mayor Potter is looking for a venue to serve as a "Daywatch type of Shelter for the Homeless" and an oversite non profit to run it, there is possible money to start it up to run it.
Contact Erik Sten....and sign up to talk at City Council Meetings on Wednesdays at the auditor's office on the 1st floor,by the 4th street entrance.

from Emmanuel 07.Dec.2006 09:53

sheila

Emmanuel says:

If you would see the true greatness in each other, there would never, ever be homelessness.

wish I'd known Anita 07.Dec.2006 12:12

sara

I didn't know Anita, but was drawn to the memorial by the story and comments here. I saw tears and smiles and heard stories of kindness and encouragement and person to person love and caring. I didn't hear anything about a system that not only doesn't prevent homelessness but rather, in this case, seems to idealize it. A kind woman gives encouragement to one and all from her bus bench. Everyone knows and loves her. She is usually homeless and often battered. Then she dies on her bench. Somehow the homelessness and the battering seem to have been lost. They were not dealt with in her life or in her death. Even here, only Catwoman wrote about the abuse. Love and kindness is good. Shelter and safety sustain life. Anita deserved all of this, and Justice. Let's hope the City of Portland, inspired by the love and kindness of an old lady who died on a bus bench and by the people who cared for her, will finally create a just society where shelter and safety are guaranteed to everyone. Hope is not enough, of course. We will have to speak up. We will have to demonstrate.

A poem about Anita written by my wife 07.Dec.2006 20:28

Thoughtful Poet

Ah-nita (warm place to sleep)

The bench was cold
and she was old
I'm told

Bag of crackers
can of cheeses
Max clacks on tracks while
she freezes.

Give her a home please.

Warm and dry
We didnt even try
She sleeps on a pillow bench
In the sky.
Don't cry.

just thoughts 08.Dec.2006 09:15

another old woman

Anita's death has caused many of us to look at the system and to see the problems which are huge. As an old woman, though, I also see that Anita had many friends and knew that people cared about her. What a marvelous community. I know that she felt the warmth of those who stopped to check on her or to pass the time of day. That is a wonderful gift that we can all give to one another. Take heart! As we continue to work for social issues, remember that the basic gift to give is time and a smile. It is as simple as that.

All those who wander are not lost 08.Dec.2006 17:24

bla bla

Home-less, or free of the chains of this capatalistic, androcentric, oligarchy. I will dance the funky chicken the day Bush or one of his cronies dies on the street of the elements. One day we will have the power and we will see Republicans die on the street, and we will rejoice.

We could all help 08.Dec.2006 20:02

annon

I knew Anita but not well. I like a lot of the posters had walked by her now and then. We all could have done something to help her and people like her. Giving her 5 bucks, half our lunch etc is not enough. I know she had difficulties but how many of us could have taken her home. How many of us could provide a spare bedroom in our house. Bush and company are not going to change but we can. There are plenty of homeless people left. Why not give someone a real hand rather than type about what a shame this whole thing is. We can make a difference but lamenting about the problem won't change it. Shame on our system....but mostly, SHAME ON US!!!!

The problem is how we measure progress 08.Dec.2006 20:18

Don Robertson donaldwrobertson@yahoo.com

The moral imperative of life is to live a life that detracts not at all from the lives available to those who will follow us into this world.

If Kant had been able to give us that, we would be reaping the benefits of it today for it is the fountain of human truth.

By the time the Humanists kick into gear it is too late.


Don Robertson, The American Philosopher
Limestone, Maine

An Illustrated Philosophy Primer for Young Readers
 http://www.geocities.com/donaldwrobertson/index.html

Janie in a Window
Janie in a Window

thank you Annon 08.Dec.2006 22:35

for your post

"I know she had difficulties but how many of us could have taken her home."

Have to agree about lamenting about "the System". What is it within us from taking that one particular action of offering our own homes? What do we fear?
In the lamenting, we remove ourselves from responsibility.

Some choose to live without a home but I find it almost impossible to believe that in freezing weather they would turn down shelter, even temporarily. We all need to find a deeper compassion.

While we often rely on social service agencies to seek out the homeless in extreme weather, there is nothing stopping us from forming neighborhood groups as winter sets in and take the action of seeking them out ourselves. Identifying households that would receive someone, creating a call-list when extra supplies are needed, such as blankets, cold weather clothing and food or transportation. Organizing several people that would perform a nightly foot, bike or car patrol in areas the homeless might be on wretched nights and offer shelter. An afternoon patrol could also be formed to try and reach these people before night comes. Telephoning shelters and offering them a contact number if they reach capacity.

In the Northwest we experience freezing weather but not in abundance or weeks duration. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with on the community level, not just governmental or social services level.

The very next time the temperature drops go straight to a mirror and say out loud
"The responsibility lies right here".

Just as an aside 09.Dec.2006 14:34

Horrified

From Thursday's Boregonian:

"The Oregon State Medical Examiner has ruled that a man whose body was discovered Tuesday near the railroad tracks at Northeast 181st Avenue and Sandy Boulevard might accidentally have set himself on fire.

Information at the scene suggested that the man, a transient, had a fire going to keep warm and accidentally caught fire, said Sgt. Brian Schmautz, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau.

The man has been identified, but the medical examiner's office is withholding his name until notifying his family."

So a poor man can die while trying to keep warm, and all it rates is a little blurb at the back of the Metro section, Sans a name? This is the same day, of course when all the world's attention was focused on poor James Kim, lost in the woods on a family outing when he got lost. No one wants to take away any attention from this family and their loss, but where is the OUTRAGE over no name Mc Crispy, or Anita? What a great country!

I liked this idea 09.Dec.2006 22:02

gr@cer

"Telephoning shelters and offering them a contact number if they reach capacity."

annon 10.Dec.2006 10:34

we can all help

Calling a shelter and providing our number to call in case they are full is a great idea. I have some knowledge about the ins and outs of shelters in Portland. Most, if not all shelters do not allow animals (Dogs) to spend the night. A person with mental health issues and few problem solving skills will have to choose between freezing to death or their dog. Some shelters don't allow people who are under the influence (totally) to stay either. Perhaps providing a temp home to the animal so someone can sleep inside. This enables someone who is afraid to allow a person in their home the opportunity to help. Also, a person who normally sleeps outside could spend time in a garage with a space heater. This also allows a person to help without fear of having a stranger in the house. We can all do a lot more than writing poems, taking photos of a bench, giving 5 bucks to make ourselves feel better, having a memorial service while numerous people are in the same situation blocks away. etc. Let's all do something other that yack and feel sorry for the people!!!

Late comer 10.Dec.2006 22:57

...

Wow, this makes me really sad. I worked a block from her bench for four years, exchanging pleasantries nearly every day, occasionally having a little conversation. She was a sweet one, indeed. Her often poor condition was always a concern, and I often noted that she seemed especially uncomfortable around certain other denizens of that intersection, but I never did get her to open up at all. Perhaps that's a reflection of her generation (71?!), which sometimes seems so reticent to speak of its own needs and problems. Maybe it was the cynicism that can come to you when your marginalized for so long.

RIP, Anita.