This Sunday, October 4th CARTS will be relocating after their recent eviction from Queens Manor. Although this never would have been our decision, we understand the ongoing tension between local business, neighbours and the inner city marginalized community. It would be nice to be able to wave a magic wand and keep joyous harmony in the Queens Street area. But, the dynamics and relationships are far more complex.
Just as the Capitol 6 parking lot is etched in the memory of CARTS, now the Queens Manor Parking lot is the same. But, the beautiful thing is, as volunteers we all have different memories. Because so many of the memories are built on relationships. It's that sacred soul-space where initially we were strangers to one another, and with time we became friends. Some of us have gotten together with one another during the week for coffee, or a burger. Some have week after week visited a friend in jail. We have seen friends die from health related issues, addiction and suicide.
I'm sure by now most have heard about our eviction from the parking lot of Queens Manor. It kind of came out of no where like a lightning strike. Up to a couple of Sundays ago we had heard nothing. In the five or more years that we have visited the space we had the occasional grumbling from the gentleman that owned the building beside Queens Manor. But certainly we had not heard of any complaints from Victoria Cool Aid Society which manages Queens Manor. Then ttwo Sundays ago we heard of complaints from Joanne who works at the desk in Queens Manor, from Jordans Interiors who occupy the corner across the street. Then the next day we recieved an email from Coretta Peets from Victoria Cool Aid Society Housing...
My name is Coretta and I am a Housing Coordinator for the Victoria Cool Aid Society. First of all, I want to thank you for all your good service around Victoria. I know that many of our residents look forward to seeing you each week.
A few years ago when we first opened the building at 710 Queens, our Housing Management Team decided to invite you to have 710 Queens be one of your stops. Unfortunately, we are now getting a lot of complaints about folks hanging around who don't live in the building, and the amount of debris left when it is over. We do send out one of our residents to clean up, but it is getting a little beyond our ability to manage.
It is true that we do like to keep our buildings low profile in the neighbourhood. In addition to it helping us be a good neighbour, we also count on our reputation as managing buildings for hard to house folks in a way that respects the community they are in. Given our current situation, I would like to respectfully request that the Sunday eveningCARTS take 710 Queens off of their route.
Victoria Cool Aid Society
I don't think the garbage in the parking lot from CARTS was an issue, as most volunteers can attest to. We tried to be diligent in cleaning up after our stay. One can assume its the tension that has always existed in the city, the friction between poverty and local business. It's easy to get polarized and just see it from a perspective of the marginalized. Both occupy the same neighborhood and some how have to work together. Easier said than done.
Over the past week and a half I have had numerous conversations with both the manger of Jordans Interiors, and Victoria Cool Aid Society. I had great hope that we might have been able to reach some kind of compromise, and worked together so that CARTS could continue in the parking lot at Queens Manor. With Jordans Interiors have a huge investment in the neighborhood they were not willing to move in their decision, and I'm sure it was also effected the Victoria Cool Aid decision. So Sunday, September 27th will be CARTS last visit to the parking lot.
I cannot make Victoria Cool Aid Society out to be the bad guy, they still continue to try and help us out with a location, although not in the area of Queens Manor. **** more to follow ***
I have also been talking to Alan Lingwood, enterm CEO of The Mustard Seed. The hope is that we could use the parking lot of the Mustard Seed and the Food Bank. Alan was having a board meeting today to address our request. But as of yet, I haven't heard back. I am a little skeptical that it might happen because of what has happened in the area for the past year or so. People might recall how busy the area was a couple of years ago when the Mustard Seed was serving meals on the weekend, had drop in during the day, giving out clothing, they are no longer doing any of these out reach other than the occasional family meal. Now, mainly an inner city church and food bank. Also, the needle exchange van was in the area. So, it all most seems there is an intentional purging of the area, to keep it as social housing and eliminating any risky influence.
So we will wait to hear what the Mustard Seed response will be. From the paragraph above *** more to follow ***. Coretta Peets from Victoria Cool Aid Society has offered this as an option.
A couple of things Cool Aid will still be taking forward:
· If you think that your services could use another stop in the city, we would like to offer our Downtown Community Centre courtyard for your use. I know this isn’t in the same neighbourhood, but it is next to the site of our seasonal shelter that will be opening in November. As well, we anticipate that the Our Place seasonal shelter will be close by. It’s a space with plantings, a tent for when it rains, and a gazebo.
· We are bringing forward at the meeting that we as a community should find a place together that will work for CARTS to be. You should not have to leave the community as a whole.
So this is a possibility that does offer CARTS some options; we could merge into one central location and maybe spend a couple of ours giving more opportunity to engage the marginalized in the inner city. It would eliminate the problems we've had of moving in Centennial Square when events are being held. And, certainly there is no risk of facing another eviction here. The thing that really as to be taken to account is will we loose contact with the folks from Queens Manor.
The last possible location is on Princess Street in the area of where the needle excahnge van used to be. Notably there is hardly any business on the street, there is a huge fenced in vacant lot on one side of the street. The likelihood of people congregating in this area after we leave would be very slim. The downside is it is very exposed in bad weather. Klaas and Alice our dear friends from Crofton that come down every week have 3 canopy-type tents that are easy to put us that would cover an area of about 30'. This will certainly mean more work for an already slim cast of volunteers.
So that's where were at to date. It's not all bad news. I have also talked to two youth group leaders from The Christian Reformed Church, and Christ Community Church that have expressed interest in joining CARTS on Sunday.
Again, thanks for you patience in reading this lengthy email. But, most of all I thank each one of you for your interest in CARTS, for volunteering, for your support, and for your prayers.
Stay tuned, our last Sunday as Queens Manor is this Sunday...so there will be some etched in stone details coming soon.
In the radical, scandalous unending Love, and redemptive imagination of Jesus,
Blessings Ron Cole ( enterm president CARTS )
Over the years CARTS was like the gospels vividly coming to life before my very eyes. It was if the same spirit that brooded over the beginning of creation, and the beginning of the new creation at the resurrection gently turns the pages of the redemptive life of Jesus. The annual CARTS BBQ's were like that. You imagine the radical scandalous servant running wild into the inner city with the King's invitations. Right by The Empress to the back alleys, gutters, skid row rooming houses, the woods. To every broken place of the neighbourhood he ran, dragging behind him the broken and unloved; the addicts, mentally ill, the poor. Bringing everyone to the parking lot, seeing His table full. The King smiled, happily. ( my paraphrase of the parable of the party, from Luke in the Message )
Our dear friends at Queens Manor have changed each one of us for the better...in each one of you, we have found Jesus in a deeper sense of loving truth.
" I was hungry and you gave me food. What ever you did for the least of these you did to me."
"If your brother is hungry, you feed him. You don't meet him at the door and say, "Go be thou filled," or "Wait for a few weeks, and you'll get a welfare check." You sit him down and feed him. And so that's how the soup kitchen started."
Dorothy Day ( 1971 )
As hope for our continued presence in the Queens Manor parking lot, feeding and cultivating friendships with the marginalized community was snuffed out today, the board met to plan ahead. As with all goodbyes we shared stories, stories that have moved us, that have changed us all. Because behind every reaching hand for a sandwich, a banana, or a pair of socks is a life filled with broken stories. There is something profoundly sacred to listen to someone share the heart wrenching details of thier life. It's easy to offer a trite piece of biblical scripture like candy to make the moment seem some what sweeter. They've had lots of candy thrown at them.
Simply, they just want some one to listen. So you listen, and you hold it like the sacred gift it is. You may offer prayer, hoping the same spirit that resurrected new life on easter morning, will simply whisper humble words of hope through you. Or you will simply embrace this sacred moment in silence.
C.A.R.T.S has never been simply about the food. We remember when we were evicted from the Capitol 6 parking lot. Trying to reorganize, and plan ahead from that eviction at the same time with the bank account kind of looking like " Old Mother Hubbards Cupboard." It was kind of empty. But as we talked, and planned about what was important, and what we would take to the streets. Over, and over again, volunteers affirmed it was the human connection. It was the relationship we were nurturing with the marginalized inner city community. No matter how little we had to take out, we would still go.
So this Sunday is going to be tough for many volunteers, and the inner city community. Most of this marginalized community know we have to leave because we're being evicted. Last week as people moved through the line it was the steady chorus, like some mournful chant, " Where will you go ?", "Where will we find you?"
We won't abandon this relationship we've developed over five years or more. Because every Sunday, we see and hear something. It's that voice, and face of the God-man who moved into the neighbourhood, pitching his tent on the broken landscape of humanity.
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ And that voice of Love that haunts the human soul will say: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.
As I told Victoria Cool Aid Society we will vacate the parking lot. But, we won't vacate the neighbourhood
In the image below, is a piece of memory we looked at this evening from Queens Manor. Its actual written on one piece of card board, but, I couldn't get it all in one shot. You have to love the humor. We we're given second prize, but, if you read the caption beside the ribbon cross, " those who are last, shall be first." Thank you Michael and Dean for this precious gift.
After five or more years of feeding our marginalized friends at the Queens Manor parking lot, C.A.R.T.S. has been officially evicted by Victoria Cool Aid Society. I have asked Alan Rycroft of Victoria Cool Aid Society to write a statement articulating the reasons for this action. This way there is no misinterpretation of what was said verbally by myself. I will post his statement tomorrow.
This Sunday, September 27th will be our last visit to Queens Manor. It will truly be a sad day.
It is a strange profound paradox that every Sunday our second stop of feeding the marginalized in the inner city is beside the Mayor's office, and above us, the council chambers for the city of Victoria. It is the paradox of the power to make change, and the powerless. In between, the transformative space of who influences who.
One really gets a sense, that this is the transformative space Jesus lived in. The space between power, and the powerless. He tried to close the gap, pulling heaven to earth...and earth to heaven. Every Sunday for the past five years or more I have deeply felt this tension. How do we do our part in the redemptive space of pulling the power and powerless together to where there is somekind of solidarity between the two.
C.A.R.T.S. finds itself in a very interesting space. Although, our recent eviction from the parking lot at Queen's Manor has similarities to when we were evicted from the Capitol Six parking lot this is profoundly different. Here we are being evicted by Victoria Cool Aid Society . An agency that houses the poor and marginalized in Victoria. They are not alone in this process though. Across the street, are Jordans Interiors, a very high end interior furnishings store.
But in the rub of business, and poverty there is always bound to be a certain amount of friction. One hopes it just isn't enough friction to start a fire. Ironically, C.A.R.T.S was feeding marginalized folks in this area before Queens Manor, and Jordans Interiors moved in. It happened to be an area of the city we felt was in need. So it became our first stop on our route through the inner city.
So here we are again caught in this transformative space of power, of who influences who. We can only assume that the biggest broker in this power struggle is Jordans Interiors. We acknowledge the difficulty that it must be for any business in this area of the city. It is the rub of poverty and affluence, of keeping up appearances. It's affluent customers coming into a high end furniture store having to witness the face of addiction. mental illness, disability and poverty.
The accusation, or the charge against C.A.R.T.S is that we are contributing to the increased presence of undesireable people in the area. I have tried to convey that C.A.R.T.S. is there fro roughly an hour on Sunday afternoon. And, yes, we acknowledge there would be an increase of people at that time, because, well...hungry people like to be fed. And, yes, some people do linger around tanking to us, and to their friends. But, to draw the conclusion that C.A.R.T.S contributes to the increase in activity for the other 6 days, and 23 hours a week is a stretch.
Again, we realize that Jordans Interiors is a business, with employees and a bottom end of trying to make money. But, the bigger question, " is there any possible way of the 3 parties involved C.A.R.T.S., Victoria Cool Aid Society and Jordans Interiors working together towards a resolution where people could still be fed?"
This is that transformative space between those who have power and the powerless where we can try to something redemptive. I pray there is a will to do something in a cooperative spirit that works with poverty not trying to sweep it off the street, moving it somewhere else.
Back to the start, the paradox of Centennial Square, besides the Mayor's office and under the city's council chambers. Friday, we'll meet with the Mayor and others, to share our story and the recent events of Queens Manor Parking Lot. We'll seek the wisdom fo those in power, sharing C.A.R.T.S stories of navigating poverty in the inner city. We are not looking to come out as winners. We are just looking for solidarity, where we all work together for the well being and betterment of those in our society.
Empathy allows is to see the connections between us, making strangers less strange, foreigners less foreign. When we adopt other people’s perspectives, we do more than step into their shoes - we use their eyes, we borrow their skin, we feel their hearts beating within us, we lose ourselves and enter into their world, as if we were them. I emphasize those words once again because they are so critically important and so often misunderstood. With empathy, we do not step into others’ experience to see it with our eyes - empathy demands that we see it with their eyes. Through that experience we are fundamentally changed. Empathy, changes how we see, how we live...and how we believe. We find Jesus, and it's where he finds us.
This just in from the good folks at Victoria Cool Aid Society (https://www.facebook.com/VicCoolAid?fref=ts)
Everyone at Victoria Cool Aid Society wants the important CARTS mission to continue despite the fact that some neighbours and tenants are challenged by the additional people it attracts to the location. We are hoping that a more suitable location can be found where fewer will be negatively impacted. The Cool Aid housing team is looking at various possible solutions to bring before CARTS for discussion and decision. Please be patient while we consider some other options. – your friends and partners at the Victoria Cool Aid Society.
Everyone keep hoping and praying.
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