Opinion: Community steps up where others fall short | PostIndependent.com

Opinion: Community steps up where others fall short

Robyn Parker
Free Press Opinion Columnist

One day a couple of years ago, I was driving on Broadway, crossing the Colorado River, when I saw a jumbled mountain of people’s belongings near the bridge. There were blankets, tents, coolers and clothing piled so high and wide that I imagine tossing every single thing from my house and garage into the street would create a similar display.

Since the City of Grand Junction completed that and several other forced evacuations of homeless camps and posted signs all over town reminding drivers not to give money to panhandlers, numbers of homeless people really do seem to have diminished.

Even so, as much as we may want to believe that with that bit of nudging everyone found a career and a home, we only have to open our eyes a bit wider to see that Grand Junction has a serious problem.

With the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, it’s clear that Republican senators and representatives are committed once again to pandering to special-interest groups while avoiding the real issues of their constituents.

The bill Colorado Senator Ray Scott just introduced to reduce renewable energy standards is so absurd that they’re talking about it several states away. The Tribune in California’s San Luis Obispo County included a comment Scott made in reference to our current law, which mandates 30 percent renewable energy for large utility companies by 2020. “Look at the price of energy right now. If we have such an abundance of energy, there’s really absolutely no reason to go to that extreme.”

Matters of mercury emissions, greenhouse gases and the Grand Valley’s polluted inversion aside, whatever happened to the logic of conservation? Why are conservatives so opposed to leaving anything useful behind for the next generation?

Colorado Republicans have already introduced bills to eliminate background checks for gun sales and to legalize large capacity ammunition magazines, allowing magazines bigger than 15 rounds.

Also back on the table despite being defeated three times by voters and last year by the House Judiciary Committee is another personhood bill, which would deny women the right to make personal decisions about our bodies and to access common forms of birth control.

Newly elected State Representatives from Mesa County, Yeulin Willett and Dan Thurlow, seem to be lying low now but campaigned on platforms of deregulating everything they can think of, the energy industry in particular. The only exception, of course, is women’s private body parts, which they insist absolutely must be regulated.

In response to our elected officials who are busy wasting time and resources while Grand Junction residents are neglected and dying, community members are taking charge and making a tremendous difference for some of our neediest neighbors.

One such example is a group of friends from the Badwater Flats Collective who gathered five years ago with a mission of “Housing first, no more deaths” and “solidarity, not charity.” In response to the deaths of an estimated 15 homeless people in the Grand Valley that winter, they organized night patrols to provide people on the streets with warm clothing and hot food and drinks.

Since then, a handful of volunteers have diligently scoured the alleys and secret camping spots every night when temperatures fall below 20 degrees. They connect with as many as four or five people on those nights. With the help of these devoted volunteers, wintertime deaths among our homeless population have dropped almost to zero.

On Sunday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m., the Badwater Flats Collective is hosting a Rock 4 Sox Benefit to collect supplies for night patrols to share with people sleeping on the street. They ask for socks, gloves, hats, blankets, and anything else for a person to keep warm outside.

Volunteers agreed that socks are the most valuable donation because “Socks are the most important thing to help a person feel human and clean.”

The group needs more help with night patrols but offers more comfortable volunteer opportunities, too. For more information about the benefit or to make a donation or volunteer, please call the Badwater Flats Collective at 970-245-3720.

A fourth generation Coloradan, Free Press columnist Robyn Parker is the former host of the progressive community radio show, Grand Valley Live. She is a stay-at-home mom, active community volunteer and board member for local environmental and social justice organizations. Robyn may be reached at gjrobyn@gmail.com.

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