Hank Wentz

By Hank Wentz

An African American and European American were in a heated debate over the color of Jesus’ skin when a Native American overheard them.

“Jesus is black because He is born in the Middle East under hot sun making your skin dark, your hair curly, with dark eyes,” said the African American. The European American shouted back, “He is White because the King James Bible had a picture of Him with blonde hair and blue eyes.” The Native American said, “Follow me, I will show you,” as he enters the door he just left with the owner screaming at him, “Jesus Christ, thought I just ran you out!”

This is how subtle White supremacy is, and unfortunately, so many Alaskan Natives are dysfunctional and being left behind. Cultural PTSD is a real thing. Symbolically, Christ is in each of us, but He came down for the broken and oppressed, not for the modern Pharisee afraid of losing position, power, authority, or money.

I attended the Anchorage Assembly meeting on homelessness at the Mayor’s office on Wednesday. The faces of the homeless have changed since I was a Brother Francis Shelter supervisor in the early 80’s. They say there are 1,100 current homeless in the Anchorage community, but I will be generous saying it is twice as many, and as much as four times that estimate.

The meeting lasted 90 minutes and the room filled quickly. The agenda included Point in Time update, Coalition to End Homelessness update, clean up and abatement strategies, committee discussion, and audience participation. Usually there is only enough time for two people to share and talk from the audience. We ended on a high note, as I was the last to speak for three minutes.

I am used to narcissistic people, and I am European American, but I am ALASKAN NATIVE, born and raised, and I know double standards with hypocrisy. The Native dividends and Permanent Fund is the “Blood of My Ancestor.”

I obtained a list of “14 Demands” circulated around the crowd. He has a right as a tax payer, and citizen. On this list he compares Anchorage to Seattle, but the homeless problem there is totally different. He only sees a problem, but homelessness is a national problem and it trickles down from the Oval Office policies, which are influenced by corporate America. A fear tactic. Several of his “DEMANDS” are invasion of privacy issues, which the ACLU would love to pick apart. Several other of these demands have merit. But his list is like someone who goes to church to be seen on Sunday, and sins again on Monday. An explanation for 100 daily Bean’s Cafe volunteers is easy, and the volunteer list is filled before any client gets in, except for seniors and the handicapped — even in winter time — and it takes a small army to serve meals, dishes, clean up inside and out, and who knows what else? Reporting monthly muni calls makes sense, but you cannot monitor everywhere all the time around the property.

Anchorage will be known by how it treats those who cannot help themselves, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. They did not have this passion to help the homeless 35 years ago when I was a shelter supervisor, and if something is not done now, it will escalate. How do you help the homeless? Seventy-eight percent of Bean’s clients are Native, so do you really want be known as a “bully” picking on those who cannot help themselves? We are scared of white people; cultural PTSD is real — ask the Jews.

A question was asked, “Why don’t people stay in shelters?” Because of racism, profiling, addiction, mental health, privacy, and poverty. I don’t like giving up my freedom. Help them become productive members of society instead of condemning them; they are the “untouchables,” and you treat them like that. Unwanted, distasteful, looking down on them with your superiority. No wonder they are scared — more scared of you than you are of them.

I admit, some deserve to be locked up, but 20% of the population cause 80% of the problem. What about the 80% that are trying? What about all those uncounted? Help them become productive members of society.

Being blessed to be the last speaker, this is what I shared for three minutes. I thanked the MOA for being so compassionate and caring about the homeless. Don’t be scared of them, and know many suffer from mental health issues, like most of the homeless Native. Transition takes time, but things are getting put in place. One doesn’t merely snap fingers and “poof” the problem is gone. We have been colonized for 150 years, and our DNA does not have thousands of years of built up alcohol experience in our genes. Mine is only 100 years of exposure — traumatic exposure.

Nancy Burke, Lisa Saunders, and other city leaders are doing one hell of a job. I do not see eye-to-eye with them on every issue, and sometimes there is no transparency, but big deal — we can work with that. For now, they are the right people at the right time, with the right skills, right experience, and they earn every nickel they get putting up with an irate public, and broken people. It is real easy to point out mistakes and woulda, coulda, shoulda, instead of looking at what is going well.

I get it, you have “earned” and deserve your safety, but don’t, too, the broken Natives who make up the bulk of the homelessness? You tell us to get “over it,” but how does the Jew get “over it?” They haven’t, and I dang sure will stand up being a voice for the voiceless. I even deal with homeless sleeping in my apartment hallways, people using substances, domestic violence, and I keep a Bowie knife for my protection.

We do need a centralized location for abated campers, but honestly, a tent city in Native culture is banishment, punishment, exclusion, degrading, demoralizing. I get it if they are already camping, but the sanitation is hard, self-policing is difficult, safety is a concern, and not a winter time solution.

I mentioned building another shelter at an assembly meeting earlier this year.

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