Thursday, November 20, 2014

Congratulations to my favorite, homeless, Homeless Advocate!!!

Tuesday morning at City Hall, the Washington DC Council honored my friend, Mr. Eric Jonathan Sheptock, enacting ceremonial Bill 200283, which proclaimed December 31 -- "Eric Sheptock Day" (you can read the text of the bill at the link).

Last Thursday evening, Eric sent me this:
November 18th: DC Council to Honor My homeless Advocacy (and I THOUGHT Others' Work Too)


I received word on October 20th that the DC Council would honor the work of myself and possibly other advocates as well. I received the date for the event earlier today. It will take place on Tuesday, November 18th, though I haven't been given a time.

DC Council sessions generally begin around 10 AM, sometimes at 11. I'll publish the exact time when I have it. You are invited. I'll be sure to put in a plug for other advocates.

I've begun to go to work on the Bowser administration:
My initial reaction was a swelling sense of pride deep in my heart (I've had that feeling often since I met and interviewed him for a class paper I was writing while working on my M.A. in Journalism back in 2009).  I emailed him back about an hour later saying:
Congratulations!!! Be careful though, Man.  Folk like them tend to think they can massage activists into silence with honors! Keep your eyes open and your head up!

He emailed me back to say he'd call me in about 45 minutes and he did. We talked for an hour, catching up on current events and talking about his upcoming big day.  It was wonderful!  I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I am so proud of this young man!  He's not only been talking the talk for as long as I've known him, he's definitely been walking the walk (not too many people I can say that about these days!).

On Monday he sent me this email:

On November 18th, 2014 in the DC Council chamber I will be recognized for my 8.5 and counting years of homeless advocacy. They will declare December 31st, 2014 to be Eric Jonathan Sheptock Day. Councilman Jim Graham's office just called for a list of my closest associates. I gave about a dozen names that might include YOU. It would be great if YOU were there. I've attached my speech and a copy of the resolution which you'll also find here: Washington D.C. CER20-0283 | 2013-2014 | 20th Council.
He was excited, and two hours later, I replied:
If I could afford to make the 9-hour drive tonight so I could be there in the morning, you know, or ought to know that I would. As a matter of fact, I sat down and took a look at my finances after our telephone call the other day to see if I could surprise you, but I realized I couldn't make it work because I'm driving down to Florida this weekend to spend the week with my husband — we're celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary on Nov. 28th (gotta honor that long damned time together, Man)!!

Like I've told you many times before — I am so-o-o-o damned proud of you Eric!! From our first meeting at Cosi's near the library, UP UNTIL TODAY -- you have been the man you said you were!!!! I am so grateful to have been able to call you my friend. I enjoyed meeting your friends in the park that day (How's "Better Believe Steve doing?), I felt privileged when we all went to see "The Soloist" because I was with people who really, really knew the life Jamie Foxx was trying to portray.

I know that little laptop is probably long-dead by now, but I hope it lasted long enough to keep you pecking away at this wonderfully, meaningful work to which you are committed. While I've always been a homeless advocate, I've never been as activist an advocate as you! Knowing you my Brother, has enriched my life wa-a-a-y more than you will ever know and for that, I thank you.

Have a great day tomorrow Eric, you deserve it! But, remember what I said, "Be careful, Man. Folk like them tend to think they can massage activists into silence with honors! Keep your eyes open and your head up!" -- and of course — KEEP GIVIN' 'EM HELL!!

Take care of yourself,

P.S. Great speech! Would you mind if I posted it along with the text of the resolution (I'll post the resolution today and update the post with your speech after the event is over)? Please let me know. I think it's important that more people than those in DC recognize not only the work, but the kind of man you are.

He responded:
Feel free to post my speech -- written and video. I'll send you the latter soon.

I'm using the laptop you bought me right now. it's 4 years and 2 months old. I've had to do major non-invasive work on it at times (clean out files, remove viruses etc.); but, it's still working.

happy anniversary! My parents did 41 years until he passed in 2000. I'm sure you'll surpass the number in 8 years.
I wouldn't trouble you to come for this event. I haven't forgotten that you said you'd drop what you're doing and catch a plane to DC if something revolutionary jumped off in a big way. I WILL call you for THAT.

Better Believe Steve is having mobility issues and is in an unstable housing situation right now. He's often in pain due to lower back and leg issues. he's still advocating though. He uses a walker now. I'll tell him you asked about him.

Through coincidence...err Divine providence, this event occurs at 9 AM and then some of its participants will enter Shitty..City Hall for my ceremony and legislation that is before the council concerning affordable housing. It's gonna be a great day!!!
I'm late in posting both (due to some dental work from which today, I've recovered), but I replied:
Thanks Eric. I'll post the resolution tonight. Damn, I'm glad it's still working!! I tell you Man, that was the best investment I ever made given what you've done with it! Again, Man -- I'm very proud of you. I s-o-o-o look forward to your work with this "new/old administration!"

Thanks for the happy anniversary wish! When we began, 34 years of longevity would've seemed a long time. But now, given your parents' 41 years and his parents' over 60 years before his father passed last year, I think, as my Grandmama used to say, "God willin' and the creek don't rise!" -- we'll get there!

"I wouldn't trouble you to come for this event. I haven't forgotten that you said you'd drop what you're doing and catch a plane to DC if something revolutionary jumped off in a big way. I WILL call you for THAT."

If I could've, I would've, but I'm glad you understand. And yes, particularly since I'm closer in SC now than I was in Texas, I will certainly answer THAT call! Hate to hear about Steve. Isn't he an Air Force Vet? Couldn't he get PSH from some of those gazillion dollars the Changeling proposed in his FY 2010 budget proposal for housing and homeless programs? {smdh} Yes, please do tell him I asked about him.

Divine providence — at least you'll have a larger audience! Yes, my friend, it IS gonna be a great day! Enjoy and savor it, then — get back to work!!!

Take care,
He replied about Steve's situation and then continued:
...PSH it is just another waiting list for housing, though it's shorter than at the Housing Authority. If they determine his condition is not as bad as someone else's, he moves down the list. That said, I know he's on some housing list but don't know if it's PSH.

DC has come up with a combined assessment for all of the housing lists. That makes applying easier but doesn't necessarily get you housed sooner. I'm not sure if Steve has done this consolidated assessment which is only a few months old called the VI-SPDAT (Vulnerability Index something, something something Assessment Tool)."
With that, I took my ass to bed -- fully planning to post all this the day before it happened. But as I said earlier, the tooth slayed me. I'm feeling better now -- and there's no way I wouldn't pay homage to this man who never, ever gives up -- "Homeless Advocate, thy name is Eric Sheptock!"

Here's his speech:

Eric Jonathan Sheptock – Advocacy Award Acceptance Speech for Nov. 18th, 2014

First of all, I'd like to thank you for this award. It's nice to know that my work hasn't gone unnoticed, though I've been involved in at least a couple of Facebook debates as to whether or not my virtually unpaid advocacy qualifies as work. But I can't say that it's a thankless job; as, many homeless people have stooped me in hallways or on the sidewalk to tell me how much they appreciate what I do sometimes three or four of DC's nearly 9,000 homeless people per day.

I stand on the shoulders of Mitch Snyder and others who worked with him. I'd also like to recognize the dozens of other current day advocates for the rights of the homeless, for living-wage jobs, for affordable housing and for the many other human rights which this city claimed to support on December 10th, 2008. Some of them hearken back to the days of Mitch Snyder and the Reagan Revolution.

While congratulating all advocates – myself and others -- for having an unwavering commitment to ensuring that all people have all of their basic human necessities, you should take pause to recognize what may very well be the grimmest reality of our time – that in this land of plenty there are those who go without.

No worries; for the other advocates and I will continue to fight the good fight as we transition into the Bowser administration. After 15 months in office, Fenty committed to and oversaw the housing of the most vulnerable homeless singles. After 38 months in office, Gray committed to and drew up a plan for providing better shelter to homeless families. I hope that by the time Ms. Bowser has been mayor for six months we'll have a plan for connecting able-bodied homeless adults to living-wage jobs and affordable housing which they can pay for without subsidies.

So, while I appreciate this award and the recognition from the DC Council, the work of the advocates is far from over. We actually have about time-and-a-half as many homeless people now as we had when the Inter-agency Council on Homelessness first met in June 2006 and probably twice as many as we had in 2004 when we adopted a 10-year plan to end homelessness by next month (December 2014). Needless to say, I don't have any faith in 10-year plans.

My commitment to real solutions is proven in part by the fact that I've already attempted to connect with the Bowser transition team so as to offer guidance on how to actually DECREASE homelessness in the city. In January we need to hit the ground running – especially if the weather is anything like it is today.

Thank you.

While I do believe the new administration is trying to get out in front of Eric's relentlessness by stroking him (they've no idea with whom they're dealing!)  -- I must say again, I'm so damned proud and privileged to call him -- "FRIEND."

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