Monday, January 31, 2011

Joanna and Asian rice/veggie soup

Sandwich board lists city busses
connecting with Nickelsville
T.J. was at the entrance, all dolled up in a very beautiful and colorful outfit of velvet skirts, scarves and make up.  When asked what's the outfit destination, she said that is how she copes with bouts of depression - dresses up wildly, so 'I don't do anything crazy or stupid instead'.

Jarvis was about to leave for a food bank, and that said Joanna  - the other kitchen coordinator - will help me in the kitchen until he is back.  Joanna happens to be a mother of the little girl LeAnn, so we talked about the family housing situation - not as good as it seemed: there is a program that would put the family into a hotel, until subsidized apartment comes along, BUT the parents are not married.  Apparently, in our crazy society having a 4 year old daughter does not create family, but marriage paper does.  Joanna's post office exam is on February 1st - she expects to pass it, as she passed one previously in California.  Andy, LeAnn father, is about to take a class on big truck driving.

While we were in the kitchen, a call came to Joanna to deal with donation of a refrigerator; she dispatched several man to bring it in, and mused that now a team has to be called to clean it before placing it in the spare kitchen.

Jarvis came back from the food bank - lot of goodies, but no salad stuff except some green onion today - healthy but perishable vegetables are really hard to come by in donations; Jarvis chopped the onion and we garnished the rice/veggie soup with it.   We chatted some more while chopping: Jarvis grew up in Illinois, then spent 4 years in the navy, 'seeing the world' - most of it several times and crossing the equator about 8 times.   I asked about the book he was telling me about the other day: 'Before the Mayflower' grew out of a series of articles Bennett published in Ebony magazine in 1962, regarding "the trials and triumphs of a group of Americans whose roots in the American soil are deeper than the roots of the Puritans who arrived on the celebrated Mayflower a year after a 'Dutch man of war' deposited twenty Negroes at Jamestown." Bennett's history is infused with a desire to set the record straight about black contributions to the Americas and about the powerful Africans of antiquity.
link here.
Old fire station - present Nickelsville location

Later Jarvis introduced me to Monte, visiting Nickelsville from Tent City3, link here.  Monte mentioned that he was married for 10 years, never planned to become homeless, but since becoming one, he now thinks it's his true path - studying participatory democracy while organizing the tent cities.  Monte mentioned that soon he is planning to go to the other parts of the country to learn and share about their organizing experiences, as Tent City3  recently had visitors fro North Carolina (I believe) for the same purpose.

From this week's Nickelsville email alert: This week the King County Homeless Count took place.  Our count at Nickelsville was 92 people, including 26 women, one child and 16 veterans of military service.  Overall the count was slightly down, even though there are more homeless people now than ever.  That is because public spaces - especially those controlled by the Washington State Department of Transportation - are being swept more and more often, forcing more and more of us into isolated, secret, and dangerous areas that are hard for counters to find.

The soup:  rice and veggies (onion, ginger, carrots, cabbage, celery, yellow squash, frozen red peppers) in a chicken bouillon, and seasoned with  sesame oil, tamari sauce, hot chili flakes, chopped cilantro, green onion and garlic.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jarvis & Peanut Soup

Jarvis is a new kitchen manager, he has everything neatly segregated: salad perishables in the coolers, hardy veggies in the other -less used - therefore cooler kitchen.  He was able to pull out everything we needed with no time wasted.  Some of the plastic bags were hand-labeled 'soup lady' (that's me) -  a soup planning at work...

There is no real need for soup making anymore, because people of Nickelsville  enjoy cooking themselves + HAVE a kitchen;  it's more like a social nowadays - I get to visit with friends and find out what's new;  and if we spend time making food it's just a good old fashioned way of spending time in a friendly manner.  True, we are trying to make fairly healthy food, as lots of stuff donated is mostly cans and  food boxes - not always healthy...

But being able to exchange hugs with Richard (he and I know each other 2.5 years now), getting to know Jarvis, catching up with Jeremy and Andrea, seeing adorable 4 y.o. LeAnn and finding out what's new in life of her family (they are waiting for housing news next week; mom is still planning on next post office exam - I found that out from dad, who was on the guard duty) or simply bumping into ever-happy, always-cooking Mike or his wife Tracy who looks you in the eye with the most concerned smile, or seeing people walking the dogs out - well, soup is just a nice diversion from it all.

Many people keep commenting that they appreciate soups being vegetarian. It wasn't always like this:  when Nickelsville was on the church parking lot I often went out of my way to add meat or sausage, for animal protein and fat would make staying outside through the cold nights easier.  Without much planning soups became meatless as soon as Nickelsville moved to the fire station; it crossed my mind a few times that perhaps meat could be added, but won't bother - apparently lots of people crave vegetarian meals. Also noticed that the soups end up less spicy/hot nowadays - another change from the days when spicy/hot was desired  to raise the body heat.

Jarvis and I cooked West African Peanut soup - seems a favorite of Nickelsville, so it kinda became a Monday Soup, while Thursday is turning out  into the 'review of the week soup' - whatever we find needing processing into soup.  Jarvis was curious what makes it West African, and pointed out that West Africa grows peanuts and sweet potatoes - which we used;   he also wondered if it could be enhanced with meat or fish - probably so: chicken from the start or shrimp on the end.

Carolyn showed up in the kitchen about the time Jarvis needed a break and the change of hands was amazingly seamless:  one minute  Jarvis chops the veg and we chat about an interesting book he read (I still need to get the tittle), I turn away for a moment to stir the soup only to find Carolyn where Jarvis left,  we now talk about her years studying literature at NYU - all without stopping the process of soup making. Looks like Nickelsville community figured out  a way of communicating and functioning way more efficient than many other groups in of our society...

We made a salad for a good measure as well - all the ingredients were on the house, so shame to waste it.  Just as we were worrying how to dress it , Jeremy swings by:  'Oh, but we DO have several salad dressings, here': ' he goes to the cupboard and produces 'Newman's Own' balsamic as well as Thai dressing - of course: he was a kitchen/food manager a when Nickelsville moved in the fire station and organized the cupboards then - he knows where he put the stuff.

While Carolyn and I are trying the soup for final seasoning somebody stops by the sink and complains:  'who made all that mess here, without washing?'...  Sorry, it was me, and  I'll clean it up shortly, I said, but Jarvis and Mike showed up instantly: don't worry, we will take care of this.  What a kitchen to be in!:)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lentil soup

Had only chance to stop once this week in Nickelsville and cook lentil soup with Glinda.  Glinda arrived a few days ago from Tent City 3 which is set outside, on the church parking lot; she said she really appreciates not being cold anymore and already made friends in Nickelsville.

The kitchen was unusually veggie-rich with donations the day we cooked, so after we started the soup with onion, carrots, celery and 2 pounds of dry lentils we chopped and added sweet potatoes, cabbage, turnip greens and red peppers.  On the end we seasoned it with dry chicken powder, curry, thyme and garam masala and garlic granules.  While I was washing cilantro for garnish Glinda asked what else needs to be done; I said 'maybe chop the lemons in half' and she gave me a funny, clearly startled look while saying somewhat worryingly: : 'can you repeat that?'  It turned out she heard it as 'chop the lentils in half'.  After a few laughs we finished the soup with fresh chopped cilantro and lemon juice.

Nickelsville definitely thrives in the new location - people are  milling around happy and polite, some sit at the tables playing games or reading papers with a cup of coffee.  The general atmosphere is that of a happy club and not a tent city - having a roof and access to kitchen is definitely a plus in this life!:)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thursday: West African Peanut Soup

Stopped on Thursday and met  adorable 4 year old LeeAnn, who arrived from California with her parents a couple of days ago. Mother said they drove all the way here looking for jobs, and someone downtown told them about Nickelsville, which is preferable to shelter because the family can stay together.  Mother found out about the post office job openings and will be pursuing required certificate to obtain it; father is doing temporary jobs looking for something more permanent.  Nickelodeans are very warm toward the child who seem to be adjusting well to suddenly having 90 family members.

The mayor McGinn's visit last Saturday is still talked about - how nice it was of him to visit with his his wife, one of his children a several city employees.  Several weeks ago I finally stumbled upon Nickelsville E-mail Alert Group and signed up (you can do it, too) and this is what I found in my email after thie visit:
[...] It was a great visit, the first ever from a Mayor!  He was gracious,thoughtful, attentive, funny, and he didn't even complain about the coffee.  Please thank him for treating us with such courtesy and respect.
As expressed to Mayor McGinn, one of our next goals here at Nickelsville is the development of prototype Small Simple Sturdy Sleeping Structures for our permanent site.  This generates a “Structure Wish List” of 8x4 ½ sheets of plywood, approximately 150 2x4's, 3/4” screws, rope and tarps. [...]

Indian fried bread
Richard is doing better with his cold;  he and I made peanut soup to complement the evening meal: Mike had a huge roast going in the oven and was prepping potatoes, while T.J. was about to start frying Lakota bread - she made it from scratch and we laughed she will be standing over the stove for two hours to process the entire batch of dough she made earlier.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

No soup today, either. BEING CREATIVE time!

We here at Nickelsville,  appreciate the generosity and warmth of community members stopping by and wishing us well.  We certainly want to build a community here.
We appreciate being here and will do our best to be good citizens.  It is very nice that you welcome us with open arms.
Three donors stopped by in the last hour: I asked each donor if they want to be acknowledged, and every one of them said that thanking them in person is enough for them.
            - Paul, on guard duty Tuesday, January 11, 2011, Nickelsville

I stopped by to see how Richard is with his cold.  Much better, he said.  While at it I said that maybe the soup cooking is the thing of the past:  with 2 kitchens and roof over their head in the old  fire station and professional cooks galore, well maybe the soup meme could retire:  it's not the same when Nickelsville is NOT at the parking lot with no kitchen,  and the hot soup is the only comfort for many less industrious members. Nowadays Mike and Will, and other great cooks create wondrous dinners with pineapple slices over the baked beef.  um.  Who needs soup anymore?

Perhaps we should think about being more creative now?  Nickelsville contributing to the blog now, maybe? There is so much great, creative energy there:  Falcon making dream catchers, Mike giving me a tour of the creative members - poets and writers, Richard applauding the idea.  A talk about depression while being homeless, too.  NOBODY was born to be homeless one day. It just happens.

I think we spent merely 15 minutes talking about the new directions for Nickelsville,  waking up the creative gene, and I was almost at the door to leave, when Paul stopped me: 'Hey, I actually have something to say on the blog, and here it is'. LOOK ABOVE.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No soup today

Today the people in Nickelsville still had leftover food after the holidays and Mike was again at the stove with one of his great cooking creations, so I was free to just visit and chat and we agreed that tomorrow is a better day for soup.

Miss Priss has a new outfit, but wants
a kiss more than to show the skirt
Richard was on the guard duty, slightly under the weather, as he has cold and no cold medicine...  I talked with him, Falcon and Gypsy about  how their holiday season went and the general way Nickelsville is run; also played with one of the resident dogs.

 The Christmas season passed rather uneventful  and the neighbors donated quite a bit of food:  there was a nearby church which cooked one holiday dinner, eaten on the tables, Thai restaurant  brought a tasty meal one evening and various private individuals were dropping turkeys and other holiday food.

The capacity of the place is 100, but with the people's stuff spread around in all corners they keep around 90; about 60 f them are men, the rest are women. Keeping below capacity also allows them to respond to emergencies, should somebody need a warm place on a cold night.  Nickelsville can, but nowadays rarely admits children, although some 3 weeks ago a mother with a 6 month old baby-boy stayed in for about a week, until thanks to concerted help of various friends and a nearby church she moved to a more appropriate housing.

Roughly a dozen people come each week asking for admission.  They might be offered a one night stay - Nickelsville's rule is not to leave people out in the cold - and are admitted after reading and signing the rules (17 of them, quite strict, I'll do a separate post on the rules sometimes).
Miss Priss loooves Gypsy (check her new outfit)

 If the newcomer wants to stay and there is a place for him/her, a more in-depth intake follows:
•  the person has to have a photo ID (Nickelsville helps with that by explaining how to get it and directing to a church that issues vouchers to pay for the process)
• the person's name is run by the sex offender's list (sex offenders are not allowed)
- if they are children involved CPS is notified (to make sure that the child is not in their custody or that a parent is not running away with a child from authorities)
• the prospective Nickelodeon (as they like to call themselves) is educated about the goals and mission of  Nickelsville, and sign a page-long statement describing it ('You are expected to participate in the governance of Nickelsville - because it's real participatory democracy and will fall apart if you don't!').
• Read and initialize all of the 17 rules and sign at the bottom of the page that you are staying here at your own sole risk, and 'will hold the City of Seattle harmless from any claim [...] with respect to the condition of the facilities [...]'

Slightly off the subject:  today I visited the websites of our elected city officials for something totally unrelated and discovered that Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata is quite sympathetic to the issues facing our homeless brothers and sisters: his webpage is quite prominently displaying 'Song of Tent City' - a blog of a poet/artist A K Mimi Allin of Tent City 3.  Bravo Nick Licata!

And to end with a national news on the plight of the homeless,  I can't  forget about Ted Williams:  a few days ago a resident of a tent near a highway in Columbus, Ohio; today a velvety baritone of Kraft and other offers are coming...  Not the way a civilized society should resolve the issue of homelessness ('celebrity homeless' - a new low for our broken societal system), but best of luck Ted!  May you never be homeless or hungry again!:
- article about Ted here
- YouTube video of Ted here