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: www.DRMM.org. 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.