Thursday, February 02, 2006

No Homeless at the Super Bowl

Super Bowl XL is only days away and 100,000 visitors, 3,000 journalists and tens of millions of TV viewers will soon watch the Steelers and the Seahawks compete. Detroit spent years preparing for this day; $100 million has been invested in businesses, apartments and street improvements, and somewhere around 60 businesses have relocated or opened downtown in the last three years. The city is banking on this event to boost their image and the local economy. Based on the experience of previous host cities, Super Bowl visitors could spend as much as $180 million. The total economic impact could top $300 million.

The hospitality industry is pulling out all the stops to accommodate a star-studded roster of celebrities, international dignitaries and corporate executives. Tulips jetted in from Holland. Chickens stuffed into ducks stuffed into turkeys. King crabs with 3-foot leg spans. Case upon case of Cristal champagne. The challenge to show off Detroit as a world-class city brimming with luxury and high-class amenities has vendors and party planners trucking in the finest champagnes, the choicest cuts of beef, the freshest and largest seafood.

In the midst of all this celebration and hoopla, there is one group of people visitors and viewers will not see on Sunday - the homeless. With the city's encouragement, a local homeless shelter is offering a three-day "party" over Super Bowl weekend that will provide food and a big-screen TV. Other shelters across the city also plan to expand, both by adding beds and by staying open 24 hours a day during Super Bowl week. In all, the Super Bowl likely will cost homeless service providers as much as $100,000. The NFL won't help foot the bill.

I understand why Detroit officials want to present a spit-shined image to the world, but the homeless are being treated shamefully. Officials want to hide them away temporarily, not help them, which is what they need the most. "These people are not concerned with sports," said Charles Costa, who has worked with Detroit's homeless people for more than 30 years. "They have real problems -- mental problems, drinking problems, some are alcoholics or drug addicts."

Local columnist Mitch Albom had a few words to say about the homeless too.
...the Super Bowl is the world's largest moveable feast, and you shouldn't feast without at least acknowledging -- and, hopefully, helping -- those who will never make it to your table...

But a Super Bowl isn't every day. And with the money that is circulating in our town this week -- game tickets selling for thousands, parties rumored to cost millions -- well, it's a waste of this column not to make at least one appeal on behalf of those who aren't going anywhere near Super Bowl XL...

I don't know about you, but knowing someone is eating from a garbage can this week -- while we are feasting on steak and lobster a few miles away -- doesn't sit well with me.

It is not a knock on Detroit. Detroit does as good a job as any big city. Every Super Bowl host faces this dilemma. But we have a chance to do something about it -- both Detroiters and our welcome guests. We can raise money -- we already have raised more than $57,000 in a week -- and boost our homeless services -- for numerous shelters and organizations -- beyond one fantastic football weekend.

If you can give something -- and yes, it is tax deductible -- here is a phone number: 313-993-4700. Here is a Web address: Here is an address for checks: Detroit Rescue, Mission/S.A.Y. Detroit, 150 Stimson, Detroit 48201

This appeal for help is great, but will people's extra efforts end almost as soon as the game does? And where is the NFL in all of this? They just agreed to kick in $20 million to repair the Hurricane-battered Superdome in time for the Saints' games next season. Couldn't they spare a million or two to help the homeless?

We call ourselves a Christian nation, yet we try to hide the poor because they offend our sensibilities while we feast and party. In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus admonished a Pharisee who threw a party and only invited people who were likely to reciprocate, people who could enhance his status, or people he felt he could impress. Jesus tells the host not to invite his friends, brothers, relatives or rich neighbors when he gives a dinner party, instead he should invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.

We have it backwards in this country. Instead of hiding our poor and homeless, they should get front row seats to the game, and the assurance that once the party is over we won't turn our backs on them.


Kvatch said...

I wish there was something to add to you excellent post, but sadly you've covered it well. Nice job.

OK just have to resort to snarky...

"Tulips," are the city fathers insane? Why waste money on a flower that will freeze in Detroits winter weather...immediately! I've lived in Mpls., and I know cold. Detroit is cold in winter. Sheeesh! ;-)

expatbrian said...

Thoughtful post. It does disturb me when the homeless are hidden away in order to make the city appear more appealing and so as to not offend visitors sensibilities. To me, the first step in helping to solve this type of problem is to "make" people see how the homeless live first hand. Offending some sensibilities would probably spur some action.
Giving them free seats at the Sup? Nah, like your quote said, sports is not important. Spend that money on medicine, treatment, clothing and shelter.

abi said...

I don't know if the poor offend our sensibilities as much as they remind us that we are not the great Christian nation that we like to think we are.

Great post...

Kathy said...

kvatch, we've actually had balmy weather in the Detroit area for the past month so the tulips may not freeze immediately!!

Expat and Abi, thanks for the thoughtful feedback.

thehomelessguy said...

Nice post - I'll be linking it.

Morgan W. Brown said...

Compelling post Kathy. Well said.

Will be blogging a mention and link to it on the Annual Homelessness Marathon blog shortly.

By the way, speaking of that blog as well as your references to Jesus Christ and those who call this a Christian nation, if you have not already come across it yet, you might want to check a blog post I recently blogged of the illustration by Deb Hoeffner: Homeless Christ.

Tragically enough, the truth of the matter is that this nation worships the almighty dollar as well as those who make the most of them no matter the cost or consequence and, it shows in lasting ways large and small.

What takes place with and during such events as the Super Bowls are mere ghastly symptoms of this, which is part as well as examples of the nations spiritual and moral decay at various levels from the top layers and levels down, whether it be with those in government or the actual powers to be who control or in a place to manipulate everything and everyone to make a profit.

Meanwhile others suffer and are swept out of the way as yet another Titantic lumbers on at top speed into the cold, dark murky night amid waters filled with huge unknowns, either oblivious or deliberately indifferent concerning any potential dangers lurking ahead; including, of course, for its poor housed deep within the lower decks whose fate is to remain forgotten and perish as a result.

Kathy said...

Homelessguy, thank you for the link. I was reading your blog and your personal story is compelling, and also a great source of information and comfort for people faced with homelessness. I'm pressed for time this weekend, but I will link to your blog soon.

God Bless.

Kathy said...

Morgan, thank you for the link and also for pointing me to the Annual Homelessness Marathon blog. My time is limited today, so I only had a few minutes to spend reading, but I plan on linking to it soon.

I agree with you 100% that our nation worships the almighty dollar. There's nothing wrong with making money or having money, but its the way we use money that is important. Our government is particularly egregious in the way it spends money on those people or corporations who have much materially at the expense of the poor.

Anyway, it's nice to know that people like you speak up for the poor. They need our voices.

God Bless.

historymike said...

A view of homelessness in the middle of the Rust Belt.

Michael said...

Nice post, and very right on.
I heard that the SAY Detroit program raised $310,000, and it was divided among a handful of Detroit agencies for the homeless. All that raised in less than two weeks.

I heard it on Mitch Albom's afternoon program, but haven't found any news reports yet.

Kathy said...

Michael, Albom has a column in the Freep today that says somewhere around $150,000 was raised - enough to keep the DRM open till spring and help out some other shelters too. I think the response was great.

Arthur Quiller Couch said...

How much money is enough for a man? People are never secure enough to GIVE, know what I mean? They're always afraid that if they do give, there won't be enough left for all their desires.
Except Bill Gates, perhaps. Have to admire that man.
Good to hear that you can still inspire people to give.