By Eric Thompson-Bey
A big Homeless Town Hall meeting was planned for Oct 29 but then Hurricane Sandy came to town, so the meeting had to be rescheduled.
I heard a few homeless people would be going to the Wilson Building on Nov. 1 to talk to city leaders. I decided to go, because they said there would be food.
My mission was to eat. But once I got there it was an experience for me.
I was amazed at how beautiful the Wilson Building was, with the old city council pictures and all. I’d only been there once before; for an emergency shelter back in the 1990s. It didn’t look like it looks now. Now it is beautiful.
There were maybe half a dozen people there to speak for the homeless. All except two of us are homeless right now. Eric Sheptock, from SHARC (Shelter, Housing and Respectful Change) put in a lot of work to set the town hall meeting up. I was amazed at how it was organized.
First we went to Councilman Jim Graham’s office. We had a conference room reserved next to his office. As we got there a few more advocates showed up. They told us the food would be on the way. We started with pastries. It was between 10 and 11 o’clock.
We had introductions. When it got to my turn I said my name was Eric Thompson-Bey and I was there to find out what was really going on.
Afterwards, Eric Sheptock passed out a list of demands called “the Homeless Town Hall DC Council List of Demands.” At the top of the list was restoring the $7 million for homeless services.
After he passed out the demands, Eric said we would take the demands to each council member and the mayor. We went to Jack Evans office and I was amazed to see him face to face and to shake his hand. He was friendly. He and Eric talked briefly about taking our demands to the council. The council was taking a break. So Mr. Evans took us straight to the front of the big council meeting room, with a long desk for all the members.
City Council members Jim Graham, Michael Brown and chairman Phil Mendelson were all there. Eric did most of the talking as far as the list of demands. I was amazed at how much he knew about the budget and about the laws for the homeless. Mr. Brown seemed like he was supportive of us. Mr. Mendelson too. What impressed me was that they were willing to let Eric talk. And they listened.
I was just sitting back and enjoying the moment. After that, we wanted to give the mayor a list of our demands. So we went to the sixth floor to the mayor’s office. When we got there there was a police officer there. He spoke to Eric and said that there was a process we had to go through. He was very polite. While we were speaking to him, another officer came out and gave us instructions on how to set up a meeting with the mayor. He was real polite too. He was very nice. He took our list of demands. He said he would make sure the mayor gets them.
He sent us to another office where we could set up an appointment to meet the Mayor.
The woman we spoke with said it’s alright to set up an appointment but that it won’t be anytime soon. They didn’t give us a date.
After we left that office, we went back to our conference room by Mr. Graham’s office we ate more pastries and sandwiches. We had a discussion about what was accomplished. Everybody felt good that we got to go straight in before the council. Eric said they’d never been able to do that before.
One more thing I liked that Eric did, he gave everybody a copy of the form he filled out for the appointment with the mayor. We had the room until 2 p.m. At 10 minutes ’til two we started cleaning up. We left the room as we found it. Nice and neat.
That was an experience for me. That was good.
Eric Sheptock reminded everybody of another SHARC meeting this Monday coming up at 1 o’clock.
It’s at the CCNV drop in. I’m going to try to make it.