Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 3...

I have been at CASS for three Fridays now... At first I was nervous, not only for safety, but just what I would find there. But now a few weeks later, I see through different eyes. There is so much going on in one space. I am starting to feel comfortable. There is a community here. People say hi, they want to know what you are doing. They look out for one another, they support each other and the truth is (on the surface at least) this situation is no different then you would find anywhere. There are humans and humanity here.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Teaching and Learning

Today was our first knit and crochet workshop with the ladies of W.O.W. (Women of Wealth). As you might have read, last Friday, we met Tilllie (with 3 "L"s) who organizes women residents at the HSC to come together for support and resources. We agreed to begin lessons in knitting and crochet for the W.O.W. group. Myself, my daughter Meghan, Cattryn, Susan and Ellen served as today's teachers (and learners). In all, there were about 10 W.O.W. women in this workshop.

In my group, I was teaching (and learning how to teach) knitting - starting with casting-on. Eager to learn (and unwittingly, teaching) were Kimberly, LeAnne, and May.  This is the most difficult step in learning how to knit, and there were equal parts of frustration and success! Before we knew it, our time was up, and although we wanted to let the ladies take the yarn and needles for practicing, for some, it wasn't feasible. Seems the needles might be construed as weapons for those on campus that are in the Level One sleeping room*. So, we need to work on that situation because practice is pretty essential to establishing your own hand movement memory for knitting.

We'll be back though, and I hope that they'll be back. They will be establishing their hand movement memories, and we'll be establishing memories of these women that I suspect we will keep forever.

*At CASS, there are 3 levels of nightly shelter. In Level One, it is first come, first serve after 4:00 pm. - and out by 7:00 am the next morning - no beds are reserved. All these beds are bunk beds arranged in rows in a large, non-private room. If a resident decides to participate in "the system", they are assessed and given a program to follow that is designed to help them to self-sufficiency. Once in the program, they are eligible for Level Two shelter, which is another room divided by low partitions - two beds to each cubicle. These beds are reserved, but if you don't show by 8:00 pm, you lose your Level Two bed. Continuing on and reaching certain program goals, residents can become eligible for Level Three shelter which consists of the same partitions as Level Two, but in a different room and with only one bed per partition, a desk and a lamp. From there, successful participants leave the HSC and the hope is that they are on the road to self-sufficiency.  

Hats on 11/26

Made by Ann

Made by Ellen (small)

Made by Ellen (medium)

Made by Ellen (large)

Made by Ellen

Made by Cattryn

Made by Susan

Made by JT

Made by Sarah

Meghan made 2 hats for today also, but she always likes to include hers in her posts. Wow - hard to keep up with all the hats being made and given to our friends at the HSC!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day After Thanksgiving: A Family Affair

I invited my brother and his daughter Sarah -- visiting from Iowa -- to join me for my second visit to CASS. Sarah had learned how to crochet from some family friends. She started working with some beautiful blue yarn and quickly finished her first hat as I finished my second.

It was a beautiful day and the three of us enjoyed sitting in the sun together as we worked and talked to one of the residents, a young man who had approached our table and seemed happy to talk. He was waiting for his check so he could buy a bus ticket and return to the Pacific Northwest, where he had lived before he decided to seek adventure in Arizona. With some encouragement from us, he found a bright red hat for himself among the tree branches where Ann had placed the finished hats. It matched his red jacket. I hoped it would help him find his way safely home.

The warm sunshine and the repetition of the stitches conferred a sense of calm and order. With relative ease, many small stitches bring forth a piece of fiber, creating both form and function from a length of yarn. Quite a feeling of accomplishment and wonder!

As we left the campus, we admired the handiwork of the other women in the 13Fridays group, most of whom have taken on more complicated patterns -- but we weren't sorry we chose the easy route of a single crochet stitch and single color.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hats on 11/19

 From top to bottom:

Charlie's hat,

Elisa's hat,
Recipient unknown, made on site by Cattryn,
Pink hat for Maria's daughter, guarded by Cattryn's dog before making it's way to the HSC!

And Meghan already posted her hat (below, entitled "my second friday . . ."), which went to Maria for herself - Maria called it a reverse Charlie Brown hat.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tilllie with 3 "L"s - W.O.W. !!

Like I said, it was a busy day on November 19th.

Front and center, meet Tilllie, (with 3 "L"s)!

As we sat knitting, a young woman came over and took 2 hats - one was a beautiful bright pink hat, (made by Cattryn who you saw in the last post), and one was black with a striking green/yellow stripe, (made by my daughter Meghan). This woman told us her name was Maria and that she was taking a hat for her daughter (the pink one), and one for herself. She talked with pride about her daughter - about how she is going to school and making good choices for herself. So, I asked her if she might like to learn how to knit or crochet. She got very excited at that prospect, but told me that I needed to talk to Tilllie! So, not knowing who that was, I was led over for "a meeting".

Seems that 2 years ago, Tilllie was once a resident here at the HSC, but part of her plan to self-sufficiency was to join Americorps - like the Peace Corps, but the work is done here in the U.S. This led her to form a women's support group here at the HSC called Women of Wealth - W.O.W.!! They meet every Friday from 9:00 - 11:00 am. (We go to the HSC, every Friday from 9:00 - 1:00 , you can see the coincidence forming, right?)

Well, the mere mention of the possibility of teaching knitting or crochet to "her girls" had her singing "Halleluiah, and I don't care who knows it!" I explained our project and that we planned to be here through the end of January, and that, well, we were committed to coming to knit hats, but . . . . . To that, she replied, "Well, I'll just bring the women outside next Friday for a lesson!"

So, I guess, next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving - we'll be teaching some new ladies how to knit and crochet - says Tilllie, (with 3 "L"s).

Charlie and Elisa

Last Friday, November 19th was a busy day at the HSC. We met a number of people, and I was joined by 4 other 13 Friday knitters!

Meet Charlie and Elisa, 2 lucky recipients of our hats. (Elisa lucked out, that was really a nice hat, just sayin'.) Charlie stayed for sometime and talked, and talked. He had a very positive outlook on things, but a guarded one too. At his age, he has seen it all, and he still lives on the street. He didn't share his history with us, but he did share that he's "seen a lot of miracles, a lot of miracles happen". I hope we see him again.

 And here is Elisa. She was happy to get her hat. She came around early and got a hat that matched the, uh, colorfulness of her outfit. Elisa didn't have much to say, but she was happy for me to take her picture.

Later, I looked across the yard. Elisa was napping, and you can see two knitters, Cattryn and Susan, working away and carrying on their own visit. I don't know the gentleman's name to whom they are talking, but he is a familiar face, and the knitting is a familiar scene for him. He claims his mom taught him as a kid. He likes to hang around us knitters.

Back to Elisa, I'm going to be honest, I was worried about her losing that hat!! But I kept my eye on her as the day wore on. When she awoke for lunch, she bent down, picked it up and put it back on. It's officially her hat now.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

my second friday...

this is the second hat that I knitted. I started it the first Friday at CASS, it took me all week to finish it. It seemed to me that JT had it right with the crochet so the second Friday I came with a hook instead of needles. This week I will have two hats to give.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

JT's Hat for Marilyn

Here is the hat that JT gave to Marilyn. She had spent about 1 1/2 hours before coming down, and about 1 1/2 hours on site. Settled - crochet is faster!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Settling In -- My First Friday, November 12

A couple of days before, I called my mother, a veteran crochet artist. She gave me instructions over the phone on how to start a chain and crochet a simple hat. VERY simple. This was all I wanted to tackle, since I hadn't crocheted since I was a child. I felt grateful I could ask my mother for advice and count on her support. I thought about her and wished every person who faces homelessness could have the foundation of love and resourcefulness she gave to her own children. I wanted to crochet some of that into every stitch of my hat and have it magically strengthen those who most need that strength.

With these thoughts in my mind, I packed my bag and drove downtown toward CASS for my first Friday in the project. I was happy I could join Ann on the inaugural day! As I approached, people spilled out of the gates and milled about on the streets a couple of blocks from the campus. I was apprehensive; this was a new experience for me and I wondered what it would bring.

I pulled into the parking space adjacent to the large grassy commons. Only later did it become apparent the grass was artificial turf -- considering the high foot-traffic in the area, a very good idea.

I found my way to a reception desk. Nearby, a high-spirited resident in a blond wig broke into song and danced an impromptu jig. Just the first instance of the self-expression I would witness as the morning progressed. After checking out the dental clinic, started by my friend Dr. Kris Volcheck, I located Ann and her daughter Meghan, spoke for a few minutes, then found a perch outside and began to crochet.

Solitary for awhile, I was content to sit in the sun and observe as I worked. Conversations around me gradually revealed facets of this place. Cigarettes and food were central themes. Two fellows discussed the merits of a certain brand of tobacco they'd received in a research study. "Too dry," said one. The other confided that he hides his "rollies" (new term to me: hand-rolled cigarettes) in a Cheetos bag to fend off requests that he share. "Hey, man, all I got is Cheetos," he would say.

A toothless older woman wearing slacks and a pink jacket sashayed briskly by on platform shoes, swinging a yellow handbag. Upon request, she loaned a younger woman $1.50, saying, "Don't worry about it, baby girl." Her language was less civilized a few minutes later, when she shouted out to no one in particular, "HEY, YOU A _ _ HOLES!" I kept my eyes on my handiwork, but she became harder to ignore when she plopped down on the bench immediately in front of me and let out a loud, proud belch. A couple of other individuals asserted themselves in similar style over the next couple of hours.

Soon, a young man with a boom box walked up and set down the boom box, stretching and yawning in the sun as he removed his T-shirt. Older men sitting nearby complained about his loud rap music and exposed flesh and wagered it wouldn't be long before the guard showed up; sure enough, security arrived a few seconds later, advising the offender to put his shirt back on. Security was never far away, and everyone knows it, which I found comforting.

Between cigarettes, a couple of the men on nearby benches weighed in on my handiwork. One said I should stop soon, or the piece would be too long for a hat and more like a purse. Together, we decided when the length was right. After two hours (not counting the hour and a half I'd put in the night before, per Mom's instructions), I had finished my first hat.

As I began my second hat, Joe struck up a conversation. He explained he had become homeless nine months ago, after losing his job as a cement-truck driver. His daughter lives in north Phoenix with his two grandchildren. He hasn't seen her for awhile. "It's not a good place for her to visit," he said, even though his daughter works as a nurse at a downtown hospital not far away. When it was time for lunch, Joe wandered off, leaving me to contemplate his story and wonder about the missing pieces.

A cheerful woman circulated through the crowd, announcing that Andre House would be serving Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. No one seemed to question the breakfast timing, although I had heard plenty of other grousing about the food normally served on campus. Seemed to be no shortage of bags of commercial snack foods; one guy was hoarding a nice stash in his backpack; I watched as he took inventory.

I gave my first hat -- a black one, flecked with bits of confetti color -- to Marilyn, who was there with her husband. The two of them were sitting on a bench off to the side, talking softly to each other. This was their second day at CASS. They told me how hard it had been to leave their apartment, and now, to be separated at night -- he in the men's facility, she in the women's. Their landlord had kindly let them slide on the rent for a couple of months after they both lost their jobs. They said their downward spiral had started with his on-the-job injury, and had gotten worse when construction dried up; no jobs, especially for an older iron worker. She had worked for a call center that had been closed down for fraud after employee paychecks were written on a bad account and bounced.

Marilyn was thrilled with the hat. Especially when she found out my mother's name is Marilyn, too, and that their birthdays -- Marilyn's, her husband's and my mother's -- are all in February. I hope when Marilyn wears the hat she'll feel some of the strength of my mother.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

my first day...

when i agreed to bring my knitting needles to knit some hats... i didn't think much of where i would be and what the impact would be. knowing the idea was to have hats to give to those that would be facing the winter outdoors and the fact that i have not picked up a set of knitting needle in almost a year (i am ashamed), i knew that i needed to build up my "stock" before i showed up for the first of the 13-fridays, and so i was able to show up my first day with one completed hat.

pretty basic...
in my preparation to my time at CASS i reached out to my circle for some advice about my time at CASS... the response back was not so positive. i went into the project with the idea of doing "good" and quickly was reminded of the reality of people seeking the services of organizations like CASS. this was not for the faint of heart... so morning of i was sort of on edge about this project... but the commit was there.
9 am: i arrived at CASS for the first time. the truth is in the best situations i don't do well meeting people. this was going to be hard.

(Disclosure: Ann Morton is my mother. i am here because she asked me to be, and like she supports me on all my projects i am here to support her, not that i don't believe in why we are here, but this is not where i would naturally be.)

My mom sat with me (for a while). We took the opportunity to catch up... talk about the project. after a while a man named David sat down to talk with us. it was obvious that at first he thought he were new to the campus... as residents. he asked us how much we were selling the hats for, when we said they were free his response was, "why would you put so much time into something and not charge for it.." that would become my first truth of the day. no matter how bad i think that my situation is, i still have the time and the resources to sit for a time to knit a hat for someone else for free. i am not concerned with time and cost. and although that is something that can make me feel good, it is also a reality check.

so while I talked with David, drawing knowledge from him about how the residents see the facility... trying to figure out how a person gets here, i was thinking about how we can turn idle hands into something productive..

over all my first day good.. i will be back.

peace (out)


3 Women

On November 12th, my experience was much quieter than my first two visits. I sat with my daughter Meghan for a couple of hours, then got up to sit across the courtyard. Although I didn't really speak to anyone, any further than to say hi, a curious collection of women started to come within my space. Was this my own imagined delusion? Could be, but for the next couple of hours, 3 women would come and sit, lay or stand near me, then move away, then come back, move away, and come back again.

One of these young women was named Mary. I only know this because I heard someone call her that when he bummed a cigarette off her. She was so tall! She had impressive facial features and towered over almost everyone on the campus - male or female. I said, "Hi," and she said, "Hi," and that was all we said to each other. She was thinking in another world than me, occasionally laughing, but there was a savvy to her demeanor that I will probably never understand.

None of these 3 young women were in a position this day to have a conversation with me. Perhaps, for them, they've learned to converse in a completely different way. I'd like to think that their motion toward me, then away, then back again . . . and again was their way of communicating that just for awhile, they had found a safe and curious place to pass the time - just like me.

2 for Company

For the first official group day of this project, I had the company of my daughter, Meghan - who's hat she had completed ahead of time and brought with her was the FIRST hat to be given away! My long-time colleague JT joined us too. JT crocheted her hat, finished it and almost finished a second hat by the end of the day!

Here's JT crocheting away.

I'm sure you will be hearing from both Meghan and JT on this blog soon about their experiences on their first visit with the 13 Fridays project.

It was a good day!

David's Hat

On Friday, November 12th, I had finished this hat to take down for gifting at the HSC. I'll be honest, last week I took 2 hats down, and set them at my feet, and got so involved with James, no one else came around to look at the hats. I was beginning to think that maybe these just weren't anything people wanted.

But today, we set the hats up on the base of a lamp post, a little bit away from where we were sitting, and during the course of the 4 hours we were there, all the hats were taken!

This hat went to "David", who ended up hanging around chatting off and on throughout the day. You might hear more about David from my daughter, Meghan - who joined me, along with a long-time colleague, JT for the first official group day of the 13 Fridays project.

Here's Meghan with one of the hats in the foreground - this one was the last to go, but sure enough, by the end of the day, it found an owner.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The First Two Hats

Here are the first two hats I've made. All you knitters (and crocheters) out there - I'd love to have a shot like this of every hat or scarf we make in the course of this project!

To date, in 5 days of the project being distributed, I have 28 of you who have contacted me and have received the Participants packets!

Looking forward to seeing a few of you on Friday, November 12th. 

A Willing Learner

Today was Saturday, November 6th, 2010. I know, it's supposed to be Friday, but it seems that the 5th Anniversary of the Human Services Campus (HSC) occurred on Friday, November 5th and I was asked not to have our visits officially begin on that day because of the chaotic situation. So, to stay on track, I made a solo visit on Saturday the 6th.

This is actually my second solo trip, and just like the first one, the visit started out peacefully enough. I find my seat, I settled in with my backpack and all my knitting supplies. Today, I arrived with 2 hats done and set them out in front of me by my feet. I had been knitting for about 15-20 min. when a tall man came up and said, "Did you make those?" I said, "Yes, do you want one?" Well, what he said was he wanted to learn how to make one! I had an extra #8 circular needle and some extra yarn, so I proceeded to begin the lesson - starting with casting on 24 stitches. He was amazing - better than I was when I first started! He picked up quickly how to cast on (only he pulled way too tight!), and we moved right into the basic knit stitch.  I teased him about being too tense - chiding him to loosen up, and he joked that it must be a male control issue!

He was excited to be learning - we had a good time, he was smart and funny, and it was good. He told me his name was James. But then, about 2 rows in and about an hour later, the light conversation darkened. I don't know what triggered it, but the reason why this man is here became painfully evident. His interesting insights became heavy-duty conspiracy theories. He saw himself as highly enlightened, able to "see" things that no one else could understand. There was a thread of truth to his claims, but his beliefs were beyond the functional norm. Our lesson stopped, he lost focus. He told me about his mom and sister in NYC - how deluded they were, how they had been poisoned. He couldn't find the light-hearted self that he had been an hour earlier, and I certainly could not bring him back either.  We talked for another 45 minutes, and I began to wonder how I could move on. I was uneasy.

In the end, I had to get up - saying I had to use the restroom. I picked up the needles, knitting and the small ball of yarn he had long since put down. I told him to practice, and that I would see how he was doing next Friday.

I felt drained, so after being on campus for about 2 hr 45 min., exhausted by MY lesson of the day, I walked to my car and I left. I felt like a coward.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Participant Packages to the First 15

Yesterday was a fun day, because I got lots of response to my initial Call to Knitters. 15 participant packets were sent out with loads of information on how to participate. Now - countdown to November 12th, our first day on-site as an organized group. Hoping the momentum builds!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

At the Beginning!

Today, after many weeks of prep and research, I hit the send button, and in doing so, distributed the call for the project to a wide variety of interested parties - knitters, artists and supporters. I immediately got a number of responses. I'm excited to see how this project progresses - what each participant will learn about themselves and another part of their community, one that may be new to them. I know it was an experience for me on my first visit, and I can't wait to hear from each and everyone who makes this visit.