Moab Solutions started working with the homeless population in August 2008. Because many of them were camping in a variety of places around our parkway system, we started a project there that ended up lasting five years. During those years, we got to know the homeless and marginally housed population and tried to find out how they ended up where they were and how we could help them help themselves. During that time we got everybody into housing, rehab, medical treatment, or reunited with family. Sadly, we sat with one man, Bill Thompson, as he died. He was the first to go to the free Salvation Army rehab in Denver. While there, he found out he had inoperable liver cancer. He came back to Moab where he was able to die with dignity, reunited with his children, after a six-year estrangement.
We didn’t do this work alone. The community wanted to pitch in and they did, in a big way. Regular church dinners with non-judgmental parishioners helped many of the homeless decide to try to get help and treatment. People knit hats and donated clothing, made regular lunches, and eventually hired many of the men, who, if sober, worked for the Quiet Lawn Care Company, doing hand weeding and other maintenance under a working supervisor. Some worked with me at the recycle center when we had the Wednesday Morning Recycle Club.
In the meantime, we got the entire parkway cleaned up, all the recyclables recycled, and all the litter placed in trash cans. We took regular walks on the parkway, (after the completion of our five-year project), to check for newly deposited trash and recycling, and to look for potential problems. Solving problems quickly is key to success. Unfortunately, during the last year or so, I have only been able to do occasional cleanups. I aim to change that though.
Like Sena, I had a run-in with law enforcement. Mine was planned too. I met with Chief Jim Winder and am looking forward to working with him and his department to return the parkway to a safe and healthy place to enjoy, while showing respect for our fellow community members who may need help so that they can make changes and realize their potential. Bad behavior and violence however, should never be promoted or tolerated.
If you would like to learn more about becoming a Friend of the Parkway, a project we started in 2004, (we encourage groups or individuals to adopt small areas of the parkway and keep them free of trash and recycling), please visit our website: moab-solutions.org.