I volunteer for Consider The Homeless! which provides hot meals, clothing & other necessities to about 100+ homeless men and women in downtown Berkeley. Society has turned its back on most of these people and it is very hard to witness such callousness. On a recent Thursday an incident happened that I haven't been able to forget about.
I was co-piloting and serving the hot meal with Barbara Brust (Bb), the founder of this desperately needed organization. As we were approaching five homeless men and women sitting on a corner on Shattuck Ave., we saw that a police officer was standing near them with his hand on his belt where his gun was and ordering these folks to move away. We watched for a few minutes from our station wagon and heard questions and answers being exchanged.
The homeless kept asking, "Where should we go?"
I couldn't hear the officer's reply but it seemed like he just wanted them to get off the streets and go somewhere where they couldn't be seen. And then the voices started rising and the situation became tenser. One of the homeless men started saying in a loud voice,
“Hey man I’m from Berkeley. I was born in Berkeley. My mother grew up in Berkeley. Where should I go? I don’t have any place to go but here.”
By now he was visibly upset and looked like he was about to start crying.
At this point Bb got out of the car and asked the police officer if we could feed these guys. When the group of homeless people saw Bb, whom they all know, everything calmed down and they became completely cooperative.
The police officer, upon seeing Bb and the effect that she was having on the group of homeless folk, also seemed to calm down and he said,
“Okay. Go ahead.”
She called to me telling me it was ok to start giving them some soup. I did so, and noticed she was walking to her friend that was close to tears. They hugged and she walked him over to me to get something to eat.
The officer watched from his patrol car as we served our friends a hot meal and offered soothing words… and within a minute or two he drove off. *
I was incredibly impressed by the way Bb handled this potentially difficult and escalating situation. Her compassion has no bounds and it inspires me a great deal. It also brings out the best in these people who have so very little. They love and respect her. She is a flicker of light in their challenging lives and they look forward to seeing her and her helpers every Thursday and Sunday night, come rain or shine. It doesn't take much to treat every person you meet as a human being, no matter what their standing in life, and Bb does it so graciously.
~ Written by Mamood Moktari
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