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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

They're Homeless!

They’re homeless! Two young women and three children. Quiet, serious women, I am feeding them at QUEST since Friday. And this is a heavy, heavy realization. My heart stopped, I said out loud to myself, “They are homeless.” “Oh my god, they are homeless.” One little girl, so quiet, head buried in her dinner plate, rambunctious and spunky eight-year-old boy, and the third child just a baby really. It is one thing to talk about homelessness, it’s another thing to come right up to it face to face on a chilly blustery day. It hit me like a ton of bricks when the quiet small woman asked me if I knew of an apartment that D.S.S. would accept. I was stunned speechless. Homeless, just like you and me, doesn’t look different, doesn't act different, just ordinary people. Now I really know what “there but for the grace of God go I,” truly means.

People are all excited and jabbering on and on about Schenectady’s being the eleventh most-violent small city in the nation, yelling about downtown, taxes, property evaluation etc., and standing right here is this small quiet family who is homeless. Meetings and more meetings and even more meetings and going nowhere. I was on a committee about 10 years ago which was supposed to end homelessness in this city in five years, well the five years were up and we met at Proctors, gave and listened to speeches, shook hands and all went home. That's right went home to our nice apartments or houses and end of story, end of meetings.

And then I was on a project to create community policing in this city. Just another pointless exercise. We met twice a month for two hours. Then we had a huge event at S.C.C.C. and the Troy Police Chief came, and the Albany Police Chief and an Assistant Police Chief came, and the Police Chief from Rochester came, and they all had community policing in their respective cities, and all their officers volunteered except for one noticeable rude man, who came 45 minutes late and said he was too busy to talk with the chiefs afterwards, our chief was too busy to even shake hands with the man who came all the way from Rochester. Well, we still have no community policing and needless to say those community meetings stopped dead. There’s truth in another saying, “Those who met, meet, those who do, do.”

So now all these meetings will spring up, and the main object will be to protect downtown. Some smart ass comment which came out on W.R.G.B. comment page was “What did they do cover Hamilton Hill?” And of course, the stats did. Last I noticed the Hill was part of this town, as is Mount Pleasant, and Central State, and etc. etc.

A few days have gone by since I mentioned eleventh most-violent small city in the nation, and I was wrong. What really happened was this: NOTHING, thats right, nothing at all. Albany Business Review, mentioned the crime and poverty as the last line in a story about the Galesi’s and their new project, Mohawk Harbor (yes it’s Galesi again, Schenectady has turned that man into a billionaire.)

Last sentence said, “In other ways, the same problems remain, including high taxes, abandoned homes and violent crime in neighborhoods...”

Now I quote from comments, “Read the last sentence however- is that necessary?” How does that contribute to the conversation?


“The last sentence, it doesn’t contribute. And it is precisely that kind of dialogue, that continues to contribute to an unwanted perception.”

When do we grow up? When do we acknowledge that yes there are problems, quite a few folk are now worrying about the Gerling Street area. Boarded up and abandoned homes and stores. Graffiti and the beginnings of urban decay. And they are calling on our city government to pay attention before things go too far. But the head in the sand people don’t see this as a complete city. All of us, a community, not just downtown. Not just a four-block Disney World.

I met a women on Grove Place two days ago, and she is organizing the neighborhood to clean up the streets. Saturday, clean-up party, kids included. And heres another little story about Grove Place, there is so much lead in the soil, from pollution, that the kids can’t play on or sit in the dirt in their own yard. Her two-year-old got lead poisoning from the dirt in his own yard. She puts down blankets and sheets for the kids to play on when they go outside. The landlord doesn’t seem to know how the lead got there, puhleeze, and where is city code?

The house next door to us now has old couch cushions and clothes on the back porch and the downstairs door is busted, so people can have full access to the inside. This is not like the squatters in New York who take over an empty building and fix it up so it’s really livable.

This is like the drug dealers and pimps and prostitutes of Schenectady who deal in sex and drugs right next door to a kids program. Two nuns, from the order of St. Joseph who help out at QUEST and who discovered the open door, wrote a letter to the mayor, begging him to use some of the demolition grant to take down this building. To this day, they never got a response. But then again nice people don’t mention this is public places.

Dear Spring
Will you please hurry with your preparations?
We are freezing up north as you procrastinate
Like a rich lady with too many gorgeous outfits
To choose from,spending hours in front of
A mirror, trying them on and unable to decide,

While we trudge to the mailbox through wind
And snow, extract our unwilling fingers
From a glove to check if there’s a letter
From you, or just a bitty postcard, saying:
I’m leaving Carolina today, hurrying your way
With my new wardrobe of flowers and birds.

The tease! I bet she starts and forgets one of her
Hand-painted silk fans and has to go back,
While we stamp our feet and wipe our noses here,
Worrying the wood for the stove is running out,
The snow on the roof will bring the house down.
—Charles Simic

And that is just what that old tease Spring did, came and then sat down and took a nap.

But the BIRDS, my yard is full of migrating birds, using the heated bird bath eating at the feeders , squabbling like, well like birds or young children. The robins right now are picking their mate and having huge territorial disputes.

The skunks are up and out and so are the possums and the bunnies. I have noticed that our fat squirrels and puffy faced chipmunks are burying the peanuts and turning up their noses at the bread and cereal, so it’s time to cut back. The suet will stay out for a while yet, but no-one will touch the carrots. Spoiled little beggars.

I put my anti-gravity deck chair out on the deck, pushing it a little but I go out and sit under a blanket and watch the snow melt.

It is time to bury Zoe. And I hate to think of her buried in the mud and muck. I have buried many animals over the years, and to my sad eyes they always appear to be sleeping. Not dead but asleep. Perfect little models of cats and dogs. I miss her so, we have just emptied the last little bit of litter from her kitty litter pan. And there is a big hole in my bathroom where her toilet was. I will always remember her little paws sliding under the door, trying to open it to get in my bedroom. And the way she played soccer with her small purple mouse, zinging it off the walls, and furniture, as she ran joyously in pursuit. Bonnie lassie that she was. Her picture is on my phone and I visit her daily. And I still feel her presence in the mornings. And I still talk aloud to her. If any animal could come back I just know it would be her.

To all the Merry Fools
Be who you are
and say what you feel
because those who mind
don’t matter
and those matter don’t
—Dr. Seuss

And then there is this tiny tidbit. The college football player on full scholarship, teaching himself to read by reading Dr. Seuss, with a flashlight late at night. Embarrassed and ashamed that at 20 years of age he is functionally illiterate.

This is for all of us, men, women and children.

Domestic Violence strikes one woman in four and claims a life in the United States every six hours. And yes, there is violence that is domestic in your city. Schenectady has a higher than average percentage of Domestic Violence than the norm. This is one of the F.B.I. stats that earned us the eleventh spot for most violent small city in the nation. This is not garbage, this is not sensationalism this is the truth. A year ago a woman died on Grove Place, killed by an estranged husband violating his Order of Protection. Yet it came and passed and no one in this violent city remembered HER. Dead and gone, just another statistic. Another wasted life.

Now here is yet another list of stats.

Social Progress Imperative Index

Livability in 132 countries
U.S. out of 132 countries we came in 16th
New Zealand-No. 1
Switzerland-No. 2
Netherlands- No. 3
Canada- No. 7*

We excel in access to advanced education- but the rest- read em and weep. Note one of the reasons for our showing is simply because our economic and military strengths do not translate into well being for the average citizen. We have done more in investing in drones than in children.

70th in health
69th in ecosystem sustainability
39th in basic education
34th in access to water
31st in personal safety
23rd in access to cellphones and the internet (surprised?)
One American in 5 has no internet access.

And just in case you think this list was compiled by a bleeding heart liberal do-gooder, Michael Porter, Brainchild of Michael F. Porter-Republican, Harvard Business Professor, took two years developing this index and is the oversight person.

This is not on April or May or June-fools day; this is real. He goes on to say that opportunity of shared opportunity and prosperity has stunted our Social Progress which in turn sinks our Social Justice and fairness, which in turn disrupts economy and fiscal growth.

And oh yes, those of you who cry too much welfare in Schenectady, how much businesses welfare in businesses in this city? And what about the bloated salaries of those in charge. How much in give back business individual business and C.E.O. return to the city in areas of dire need and poverty? Who gives what? Where are the stats? And who do they give it to? Inquiring minds really want to know.

Talking here about Tyquan, 14 going on 15. Ty—you are doing it, turning into the best in my world. Caring, giving, honest, and full of responsible love. Is it because you came from poverty, and the Hill, if so maybe all those corporate fools may need to spend some time with you, and find out what real humanity looks like. Hey guys, sometimes it’s not about the money. Sometimes it’s about personal responsibility and, oh yes, love.

One Race, The Human Race
We are Family
We are one.

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