Aug 252010

Homelessness in our communities

By Jeff Gross

(Editor’s note: This article is part two of Jeff’s series based on his work with and for people experiencing homelessness in Lexington. In his last piece, he introduced the Catholic Action Center and the Street Voice Council.)

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, I was sitting in Phoenix Park, near the downtown public library at the corner of Limestone and Main. I counted 27 people in the park, most of whom were sitting on benches and carrying on private conversations. Two police officers on bicycles talked to each other and watched the park. All-in-all, the park was a clean and quiet environment. Despite its tranquil atmosphere this particular Wednesday, Phoenix Park is an often-contested space in the heart of Lexington.

Photo by Hilary Brown

Phoenix Park with daytime residents. Photo by Hilary Brown.

The homeless and marginally homed, the vast majority of people who inhabit the park on an average workday, see it as a space for community, a safe place where they can get together to make it through the day.

For some downtown business owners, though, these park users are seen as a threat to business.

In the public discussion over the character and purpose of the park, the problem has been that the voices of the homeless and marginally homed have been the most muted in the struggle over the park’s future. Yet, these are the people the most personally affected by decisions made about Phoenix Park. Continue reading »