Georgia said about the Midnight Mission where she served
Thanksgiving brunch to near and homeless occupants of LA’s Skid Row.
After Outreach Nurse Laura LaCroix was done checking patients living under a bridge,
she met with another of her many patients without homes in a downtown Allentown
Pennsylvania Dunkin’ Donuts when he mentioned that a buddy was lying in agony
in the nearby woods. “You should check on him,” said Pappy, “But don’t worry,
I put him on a tarp, so if he dies, you can just roll him into a hole.**”
Twenty years ago, I volunteered to sweep out Queer Urban Ministry
Food Pantry/ Clothes Closet after they were hit hard by torrential rains.
One morning a person who couldn’t breath was carried in by fellow workers
doing a day job chopping down then burning weeds which turned out to be poison oak.
Realizing their colleague must have been allergic to the smoke particles, I rushed to my car,
got a black bag containing an epinephrine syringe and injected the man to save his life.
That was the end of my anonymous layman’s role, and the beginning of establishing a clinic.
It was in a not-small field where the most socially competent gathered for coffee plus muffins
and the less mentally healthy hung back behind trees in the periphery
where I would visit and offer medical care if they or their friends gave me the signal
it was okay to proceed -- the most disabled never showed at all.
None of above were willing to go through a spiffy new homeless center’s security gate
and screening requiring ID to sit in a small waiting room before eventually being ushered
into a brightly lit tinier exam room -- some MDs were upset by my primitive street medicine
but for a decade I persevered, rationalizing no need to make the perfect the enemy of the good.
Gerard Sarnat has been nominated for Pushcarts and won prizes and is widely published including by Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and in Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, MiPOesias, Brooklyn Review, and LAReview. KADDISH FOR COUNTRY was selected for pamphlet distribution on Inauguration Day nationwide. “Amber Of Memory” was the single poem chosen for his 50th Harvard reunion Dylan symposium. Collections: Homeless Chronicles (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), Melting the Ice King (2016). Gerry’s a physician who’s built/staffed homeless clinics, a Stanford professor/healthcare CEO who’s been married since 1969 with three kids plus four grandkids and more on the way. www.gerardsarnat.com.