Occupy Phoenix: As Long as it Takes - Amy McMullen
I insist that you read the whole thing.
A volunteer medic’s observations of Occupy Phoenix
I’m standing behind my table with a bright “Medical Station” banner taped to the front of it. On this table I’ve laid out plastic bins filled with donated vitamins, over-the-counter remedies, high energy snacks, powdered Gatorade, hand sanitizer, disposable toothbrushes and sun screen. Behind me are plastic tote containers overflowing with bandages, medical gloves, personal hygiene items, tape, and various other supplies. Someone has donated a canopy to protect us from the sun and rain and we have several folding chairs, a pair of crutches and even a wheelchair at our disposal.
A young man approaches and asks for some vitamins and Gatorade. I give them both to him. He asks me if there’s any charge, I shake my head. He talks for a while about his life and why he is here and then moves on to wave his sign at traffic on Washington Avenue. His sign says “I am the 99%”
At some point I looked around and realized that while this movement started out as a broad representation of our diverse population, those who have stuck around through thick and thin are predominately homeless.
The man who is our night medic is one example. He’s a medical assistant who lost his job after a dangerous and debilitating autoimmune disease made it impossible to work. He’s been on the street for quite a while now, waiting through the months-long process (and uncertainty) of getting his disability approved. He tells me that the homeless shelter run by the county in Phoenix is a horrible place where drugs and violence abound and only a few showers are allowed per day for over three hundred men. He is fortunate he has been able to get medical care through a free clinic near the shelter and even though it takes him an entire day of waiting in line to get his multiple medications refilled, he’s grateful since he’d be dead without them. When he heard about the Occupy Phoenix movement he and several of his homeless buddies came straight to the plaza to join in.
Photo: Robert Haasch