Thursday, October 19, 2006

A little too late for Reggie

Here's an example of treacly liberal guilt assuaging that I received in the email from my state senator, Smilin' Jack Hatch.
I have agreed to raise money for the Iowa Homeless Youth Centers and the Des Moines Area Religious Council by sleeping out on Nov. 10 at the Drake Stadium. You can make a contribution of any amount directly to the Iowa Homeless Youth Center, a community-based program of Youth and Shelter Services, Inc., by going to their Web site at and clicking on “Sponsor Participant” on the menu on the left side of the page and type in my name.

This sleep out is named for a homeless man, Reggie Kelsey, a constituent of mine, who was forced to leave the state sponsored foster care program at age 18. Reggie Kelsey was a young man who “aged out” of the foster care system in 2001, and within three and a half months died in the Des Moines River.

Reggie had an endearing personality but functioned at a third-grade level and suffered from hallucinations and depression. He worried about how he would survive on his own. After being kicked out of his foster care placement, Reggie bounced from one shelter to another and occasionally camped outside while working with Iowa Homeless Youth Centers’ street outreach staff and others to try to qualify for federal disability payments.

As a result of Reggie’s death, Youth & Shelter Services, Inc., led the effort to develop the Iowa Aftercare Services Network to provide services to those aging out of foster care. The Legislature embraced this program by appropriating new dollars to cover a monthly stipend and additional services for these kids. It is now referred to as the PAL (Preparation for Adult Living) program.

Reggie’s Place Coffee Shop-- and now Reggie’s Sleep Out-- were named in honor of Reggie and Youth and Shelter’s Services’ commitment to prevent another tragedy. This is a worthwhile program and if you are able, contribute or spread the word, but mostly, understand that this is the reason government exists: to help our citizens, neighbors and friends when everything else has failed.
Note that Smilin' Jack says that the late Mr. Kelsey was a constituent of his. The kid was eighteen when he met his tragic demise and so I doubt if he ever had to chance to vote for Smilin' Jack. In fact Reggie probably didn't even know who Smilin' Jack was. The poor young man was barely competent to live on his own. But no one, least of all Smilin' Jack, gave a shit about the kid until after he died. Reggie was too retarded to enlist in the military, I'm sure that is an option presented to all kids like him when they "age out" of the state's foster care system, or even hold down a job flipping burgers.

So now, on Reggie's corpse, Des Moines' weepy liberal community will:Sleep in a box, puptent (no stakes) or sleeping bag(undoubtedly the finest, most expensive subzero-temperature-rated sleeping bags) at the new Drake University Stadium. There will be food available(better that what's for dinner down at the shelter, I'll bet), entertainment(will it be the same rousing songs that the homeless sing to one another in one of Des Moines' many hobo jungles?) and even a box decorating contest!(I wonder how Reggie would have decorated his "box"? Perhaps with pictures of Smilin' Jack. ) All in all it looks to be an evening of bourgeois sentimentality at its worst.

No comments: