Business vs. Shelter

Liz Richardson is a junior at Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois. The story she wrote for WWFF11 explored the way that local businesses feel about COSAC homeless shelter.

Photo by Phil Sunkel

In Chicago’s middle-class suburbia, “sugarcoated” is a lifestyle, not a word. The world I come from is nothing but marzipan. Most arguments start and end over neighbors’ fences, if they ever move past the “write an angry anonymous letter” stage.

While looking for a bit of adventure during Will Write For Food, I was tasked with finding out how the town of Hollywood, Florida, honestly feels about COSAC homeless shelter. The answers I received angered, inspired, and shocked me.

The first stop was Rosie’s Gourmet Italian Ices across the street from the shelter. The owner, Sean Cononie, said that they “hated” the shelter. I thought that was hyperbole, or at least an empty threat. Boy was I wrong.

Within seconds of locating the owner of the store and saying the word “homeless,” I was listening to a tirade of Mel Gibson proportions. The owner said that the homeless were terrible, that they ruin his business, that the shelter was an eyesore to the community, and worse. He said that the homeless went “up and down the street like the walking dead.” That quote was the most passionately horrible thing I’d heard in years—and it became the best thing about my story.

While his words sounded harsh to me, I’ll admit I don’t live here. I don’t know what goes on day-to-day. I’m personally of the “live and let live” school of thought. I was born into the “you can’t say that, you’ll get arrested,” state of mind. The candor that came out of that conversation shook me up.

But the honesty was not all bad. I connected better with Mickey O’Keefe, a young employee of The Shop, a skateboard store located next door to the shelter. The store sold skating merchandise and peddled a laid-back atmosphere. Mickey answered all of my questions about the homeless residents calmly, while watching a skating competition. He told us, in Zen fashion, “not too many problems happen [but there are] a few bad apples.” His view of the shelter and residents was much happier.

There’s nothing that shakes people out of monotony like honest opinions. That’s how it worked for me, at least. A lot of people entered WWFF for the thrill. I came to get out of my comfort zone. This story alone dragged me out of my padded bubble of protection, and I couldn’t be happier.

– Liz Richardson, Moraine Community College

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