I’ve started picking up garbage at “The Field,” a big, disorganized encampment downtown (at Airport Way S & S Royal Brougham Way). The Field is unofficial, a place where people landed after the City closed down “The Jungle.” It’s what’s known as a “low-barrier” encampment, meaning that the people who live there may be doing drugs, or may have profound mental illness or other serious problems. They are not always capable of taking care of themselves or others, and one result is that trash accumulates in piles within the camp.
The City provides two dumpsters at the edge of the camp, and empties them every day of the week except Sunday. The problem is that trash does not get moved from within the camp to where the City can pick it up. Several volunteers, myself included, have spent some time collecting trash into bags and moving it to the dumpster or the street. We are currently in discussion with the City to work out the kinks so that all the collected garbage can be picked up.
There are important reasons to pick up this garbage, beyond the obvious benefits to cleanliness and health. Piles of trash in a place where people live create an atmosphere of chaos, where what is needed is calm and focus. Garbage in the living areas and walkways sends a constant message that no one cares about the place or the people in it. By tending to the place, we tend to the people; we show them that someone does indeed care about them.
This is a very simple project; no thinking is required. The garbage does not belong where it is, so it must be moved. It’s much less stressful than politics!
If you’d like to join me, please watch the Twitter feed (right column of the home page) for dates. Please get some work gloves (leather, or water-proof latex) and some heavy-duty footwear to walk in mud. If you have a snow shovel and a leaf rake (to collect debris from the ground), please bring those. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.