This event was organized by Riverbank Neighbors members and organizers working under the group name, Beyond Today.
by John Bachtell Jan 27, 2004
About 35 community residents and children bearing candles gathered January 24 by the bridge not far from the North Branch of the Chicago River in Raymond Greenwald’s memory and to express outrage that his death had occurred.
Chicago-Raymond Greenwald, a homeless man, froze to death here under a footbridge in River West Park on January 18. His body was discovered by a group of 14 year olds out playing in the snow.
About 35 community residents and children bearing candles gathered January 24 by the bridge not far from the North Branch of the Chicago River in Greenwald’s memory and to express outrage that his death had occurred.
“This homeless man is a victim of misplaced federal priorities. President Bush wants to go to Mars, yet we have people hungry and homeless here,” declared Julie Peterson, a leader of Beyond Today, the neighborhood peace group that organized the vigil. “We have spent billions on war in Iraq when our cities and states are in fiscal crisis and cannot afford basic services.”
The costofwar.com Website estimates that $98 billion has already been spent on the Iraq war which could have paid for construction of nearly one million new affordable housing units.
One of the youth, who discovered the body, Brent Childers, 14, said Greenwald’s death was “not right. They are spending money on different things and not spending enough on the homeless.” Another one of the youth said the city should be building shelters instead of more condos.
Julie Dworkin of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless noted that Greenwald was not the only homeless person who had died this winter from the cold. Another man died during the same week when Chicago was hit by snow and sub zero temperatures. He had been living in an abandoned car when his space heater caught fire. Altogether eight people have died from the winter cold.
“The Bush administration cuts taxes to the rich while it cuts emergency homeless assistance when the need is growing,” said Dworkin. “Mayor Daley and Gov. Blagojevich have all pledged to end homelessness and we must continue to struggle to make sure they fulfill their promises.”
Greenwald’s death came on the heels of the US Conference of Mayors damning report, which showed hunger and homelessness on the rise despite claims by the Bush administration of an economic recovery. The annual Hunger and Homelessness survey noted that requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 17 percent over 2002, and emergency shelter assistance increased by 13 percent.
The survey also noted cities are being overwhelmed by hunger and homelessness in the face of severe budget crises, which limits their ability to provide emergency assistance. A record 84 percent of cities had to turn away people from homeless shelters because of lack of space. This was up 38 percent over 2002 and the largest in seven years. Sixty-one percent of people requesting emergency food assistance in the cities surveyed held jobs.
The report also revealed the crass indifference of the Bush administration when it comes to families and children. Fifty-nine percent of those requesting emergency food assistance were members of families with children.
Peterson ended the vigil by urging mass voter registration in anticipation of the 2004 elections and the election of candidates who would address the crisis.
reprinted from Chicago Indymedia and People’s Weekly World.