I am sitting on a bench in Garfield Park as I write this. It’s quiet, and beautiful. Black metal arches line the middle of the park for a good two blocks. Trees surround both sides of the brick walkway, so you can hear the birds singing and the bustle of the city life and cars linger in the background. The tress provide enough shade and breeze to make your stay in the park last longer. There’s nothing to this park, just trees, benches and bushes. And it’s peaceful.
And as I am sitting here, in my head I’m running through my time here in Cincinnati thus far, writing down notes and thoughts in my Bloomingdale’s notebook. Food, oh lots of food I’ve eaten! And I still have a few more meals to go…. Another thing that has been quietly emerging as a theme of my trip, are my interactions with the homeless in the city. Now I’m from Denver, CO where there is no shortage of homeless people (I hope that didn’t come off as insensitive..), but I don’t interact with them much, especially now living in Parker. But here, I’ve had a few interactions that just brought my heart alive again, reminding me that my soul loves to help people. It satisfies me. Saturday evening, after my dinner at Kaze, I was walking back to my hotel when I passed a homeless man standing outside a donut shop with a sign asking for money. Now, for whatever reason there was a donut shop still open at 8:00 at night! And it was packed!!!
As I passed this homeless man, I had the urge to turn back around. I asked him if he wanted a donut. His name was Eugene. He said he would rather get something to drink. He was very surprised and grateful when I offered him both. We stood in line at the donut shop and talked. He was so careful about what he picked out, making sure he didn’t spend too much money. I didn’t care about that. I said he could have 2 donuts if he wanted but he said one would be just fine.
I left Eugene feeling happy that I helped him, but guilty at the same time. Why do I have so much when thousands of others don’t ? Yes, I’m very aware of the homeless people who just use money to buy alcohol or drugs, or the theories out there that they are too lazy to work or that they make more money begging on the street than some people do working a 9 to 5 job. But a lot of homeless people are veterans, especially here in Cincinnati. And it bothers me that veterans are homeless. And it should bother you too.
The next day, I found myself walking through a farmer’s market at Fountain Square, totally unintentional! I was walking to the art museum when I stumbled upon it. Walking through, I couldn’t help but notice the line on the sidewalk leading to a table with boxes of pizza. The people behind the table were serving a slice of pizza and a bottled drink to each person that approached the table. Those people, I quickly learned were homeless.
The organization behind this is called Mazlow’s Army, founded by Samuel Landis, who had been homeless in Cincinnati for 20 years, and his wife, Susan, who had also been homeless in KY for a time. So this project for them hits very close to home and you could say is motivated by their experiences. What started as providing a handful of personal items such as socks, deodorant and other hygiene products, water etc. to a few people on the street, has emerged into providing several hundred homeless people with a slice of pizza, from a pizza place Cincinnati is known for, La Rosa’s. According to Samuel, they go through 500-600 slices of pizza in the hour they serve the homeless. They are out at Fountain Square every Sunday from 1 to 2 pm. They are very passionate about what they are doing, and by just listening to them talk to the people they serve, they are very well liked and appreciated in the homeless community. Most of them knew the Landis’ by their first name. They have set up a program to help the homeless begin to find their way out of it, by providing lists of resources for food, jobs, and places to sleep. They gave me a pamphlet that they give to the homeless as a resource for them. It is a basic needs guide, filled with the local resources that are available to them in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. Things like daily and weekly labor, a list of soup kitchens, places to get a shower, clothes or haircut, detox and treatment resources, healthcare and homeless shelters. There are even resources for them to get groceries. I was extremely moved by what these 2 people were doing in this city, as they aren’t just feeding people on Sunday afternoons for an hour, they are actually trying to help them get back on their feet. And they said they are hoping to make their way out to Denver within the next 2 years. Denver has a lot of resources of their own, but like Cincinnati, our homeless population is growing. There are over 8000 homeless people in Cincinnati right now. And Samuel was telling me that Ohio/Kentucky is considered to be ground zero for drug using and dealing, which makes quite the hurdle for a lot of homeless people to jump through.
The last interaction I want to mention, happened outside the coffee shop I went to for lunch today, the Coffee Emporium. He was standing outside of the entrance, selling the city’s homeless newspaper, Street Vibes. He asked if I wanted to buy the paper, and I told him I didn’t have any money. It was a very awkward exchange because the truth was, I did have money, but I didn’t have any singles and the paper was only $2. As I walked away from him, I reached into my wallet and grabbed my last $20, turned around and gave it to him, while telling him I didn’t want any change. He thanked me gratefully, and began to follow me down the sidewalk. He grabbed my attention, thanking me again and we began to walk the next two or three blocks together, him doing most of the talking. He was a very kind man, and I enjoyed meeting him.
Sometimes it can be hard to say no to someone asking you for money, it can also be hard to say yes because you really don’t know what’s going on in that person’s life or if they really do need the money. I get that, I have had those feelings many, many times. So giving your time and/or money to people or organizations is usually a gut-call. If you are at all motivated to help the homeless in your community or live in Cincinnati, reach out to the Landis’ or look up their organization by clicking the link provided above. Every little bit helps, and you really can make someone’s day better by buying them a donut. 😊
Thanks for the read…
Untill next time…