In the words of the Leonard Cohen song, "It's come to this, oh yes, it's come to this."
First, I thank you all for your participation in this conversation. I thank you for your comments and your interest. In particular I thank the Park Slope Civic Council for their desire to be part of a solution, and I thank Rabbi Andy Bachman and Congregation Beth Elohim for their offering to support us and assist us. ("Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.")
Second, now that this conversation has started, it needs to keep developing. If Park Slope was just voted the best neighborhood in NYC, then why shouldn't homeless people want to live here too? A truly diverse community needs to embrace its FULL diversity. Old First wants to be part of the continuing conversation, especially with Beth Elohim and the Civic Council.
Third, because this is a developing story, let me update you on the weekend. There are some new facts on the ground. On Sunday afternoon, the cops were called in twice by neighbors. I have to say the cops were great.
As left the church on Sunday evening, I found a steel bar the guys were keeping as a weapon. On Monday morning I learned that the men had been urinating in front of nursery school children and into their play-yard. On Monday evening a deacon confirmed to me that the men had exposed themselves in front of children while urinating.
Yesterday Frank showed me his face, very badly bruised. He told me had fallen, but I don't believe him. His face tells a different story. This morning I removed a blanket with blood stains on it.
"It's come to this, oh yes, it's come to this." (I guess I always expected it would come to this.)
I have been denying them permission to sleep on our grounds since last July, but I found it impossible to enforce. As of this morning, the Commander of Precinct 78 agreed with me that the police would enforce it.
The story isn't over. What's going to happen next, I don't know. But now that the community seems to have woken up I want it to stay involved. The men were sleeping and hanging out at Old First because Old First is public space for the community, and because, like anyone, they want a short commute, and they work on Seventh Avenue.
So please don't give them money. Give them food. Address them by name. Robert, Will, and Frank.
It's not over for us with them either at Old First. We have three deacons who will work on this with me. We'll get back to you.
Meanwhile, you might check the Brooklyn Paper for a story this weekend.