By Leslee Kulba- It was a Sunday morning, and the car wasn’t starting. Dufus is no stranger to cars that won’t work, so she took off on the five-mile walk to church. Dufus likes to walk, and in the summer, the morning glories are, well, glorious.
The only thing Dufus doesn’t like is the time crunch and a small section where homeless people hang out. It isn’t that Dufus doesn’t realize that there, by the grace of God and friends, she would also be. Dufus has always had an irrational fear of intoxicated people. Way back when she was in college, Dufus, a TA with access, would sleep in the physics storage room on weekends to avoid drunken behavior.
This time, Dufus was almost out of the weeds, when somebody appeared. She was mad. She gave Dufus her name and defied her to put it in the newspaper. We’ll just call her JB.
She had just come out of a neighborhood and was livid. She spends a lot of time in the underprivileged communities, and she had to vent. Dufus was late for church, but she knew if she hurried, she would hear a story of how a bishop somewhere showed up late and tattered to a welfare meeting because he had met somebody in need.
She would then open the hymnal to sing, “A Poor Wayfaring Man in Grief.” In her mind, Dufus was hearing Toni Braxton in that beautiful movie, ###Twist of Faith###, saying, “Don’t you Matthew 25 me!”
Dufus had to hear JB out. JB complained about the homeless camps, the piles of clothing on the ground. As one who loves to walk the dog in the woods, Dufus is quite familiar with those. Just about any stray forest path will lead to one. Some are quite elaborate. Dufus recalled getting nauseous years ago as she heard a member of the APD laugh at a pile of confiscations.
Is it our policy to arrest and seize all worldly possessions from those with almost nothing because they don’t have enough to afford rent?
JB continued to rage about sanitation. There was “s##t” on the sidewalk. It evidently wasn’t an isolated incident. With all the bond money the city has, surely they have something to spend on sanitation. “The city needs to get a porta-potty in there and take responsibility for hauling it! Every week!” Dufus tried to explain the city was more interested in giving neighborhoods signs and gateways to foster identity, but JB knew.
Litter was a problem. JB woke Dufus up to at all the litter where they were standing. Dufus recalled a day when she was less jaded and enjoyed pitching in with Adopt-a-Highways or neighborhood cleanups. With the exception of one jar of home-canned produce, the refuse was always the same – cans and bottles, candy and chip wrappers, cigarette butts, hair weaves – all screamed of a big empty inside seeking instant gratification.
Once Dufus tried to help with a Rotarian effort to get a community garden going. She returned with the project leader the next week to find the neighborhood had a full new carpet of litter. The only difference was the NC Education Lottery had launched and ticket stubs had been added to the mix.
That was before syringes started to show up. Dufus had just passed one, and it reminded her why she doesn’t like to walk the dog in West Asheville anymore. It set Dufus of on a reverie of Asheville, a mecca for tourists that is so awful citizens have to shoot up to cope. An obviously large number of residents stoned, tourists are supposed to get beer buzzes – it reminded Dufus of Bele Chere. People walked one way and then another holding a beer cup. “Is that all there is?” asked Dufus.
Dufus calls the orange-capped syringe the state flower; but JB had more day-to-day, life-and-death concerns.
She said the city is not stopping nonprofits from handing out free needles, but the people with the needles are throwing them, uncapped, on the ground. She didn’t want one of her grandbabies stepping on one.
As it turns out, the Steady Collective, which distributes free needles, just conducted its fourth roadside needle pickup.
What was worse, though, was people with the Joneses don’t care if a needle has been used. JB said people pick up littered needles to shoot up. She told of one instance when somebody did that and six hours later was covered in a rash. Then, there’s just plain drug abuse.
JB said one time she saw a young lady lying on the ground. Her purse and phone were about six feet away. JB kicked her foot to see if she was alive.
People, she said, were living on the edge and taking no responsibility for their own health and safety.