Comment and analysis on all things Charlotte

Homeless Blog Post Spooks Creative Loafing?

What started out yesterday as an interesting blog post on Charlotte’s homeless situation disappeared for a bit, only to be re-posted today with a softer, less jarring close and a lot of interesting dialog excised.

Yesterday CL blogger Brittney Cason rolled with My weekend in Uptown, with the homeless … and heroin?, an interesting and I thought informative snapshot of the homeless in Uptown.

Moreover, the 830 word post by the alt-weekly’s nitelife gal Cason could not possibly be mistaken for an indepth exploration of homelessness, drug addiction, or associated social pathologies. It was just one honest, if bleak, account of a culture clash between a would-be volunteer and their target population.

A little too honest, evidently, for someone at CL or local homeless advocates. Cason’s post disappeared for a good bit of yesterday only to re-appear in a decidedly altered form today. Check out the original here and here.

Gone is what one assumes was Cason’s honest reaction to the situation she encountered, replaced by scrubbed up politically correct pablum. To wit, with orignal language emphasized:

…Let’s just say this community is highly populated — there are a lot more people living in Uptown than you think. And by living, I mean sleeping on the streets.

I ventured down Phifer looking for the group I was joining, who was standing out of sight in a nearby parking lot. So, I walked along the wall alone, immersing myself into this tight-knit subculture of society living like refugees of our society. They were staring me down like an uninvited house guest that just walked into their residence … because essentially I just had. Let’s just say that I’ll probably never check out The Wall’s nightlife, as I would be scared for my life — because even in broad daylight I felt my fight or flight mechanism activate. …

…Let’s just say this community is highly populated — there are a lot more people living in Uptown than you think. That being said, they are our neighbors … and to them I shall be neighborly.

As I walked down Phifer, people were staring me down like an uninvited house guest who just walked into their residence … because essentially I just had. But all it took was a smile for them to roll out the welcome mat for me.

Big difference eh? Not only is Cason’s fear excised by the new account, so is a very interesting exchange with that smiling woman.

But this girl who looked to be about my age walked up to me, greeting me with a welcoming smile.

“Hey,” she said, “weren’t you at the detox thing?”

Well, I sometimes go get foot detox treatments at Dr. Haas Wellness Center, which I figured she was talking about — assuming she was in his office and I just didn’t remember thus recognize her. And I didn’t want to be rude, so …

“Yeah! Good to see you.”

“What happened to your baby?” she asked.

“Huh?”

“Weren’t you about to have a baby … did they take it?”

“Huh?” (continued) Is she high I wondered? I pointed to my stomach and explained, “You must have me mistaken because there’s no baby-making going on in here.”

“Oh,” she said. “You look just like my friend from the detox center off Randolph?”

Well, perhaps she was high … Awkward!

The confused, but sweet girl realized that I was out of place, and like a homeless man looking for change, I was an out-of-my-element home owner looking for directions.

“Are you with those people giving out food,” she asked, pointing in the direction of the parking lot where I saw them standing through the trees. Yessssss….

That conversation has been totally stricken from the record. Why, I have no idea. It is not obviously offensive, unless we are to assume that Cason should not have thought that a homeless person who thought she knew Cason from a detox clinic might be high. Surely no editor or homeless advocate thought that, right?

The rest of the changes make you wonder, however.

The first person I handed a bowl of soup to hugged me, but not the second. She responded with, “You got some cornbread?” When I apologized for not having any, she responded with, “You ain’t got no cornbread … you don’t even have crackers. What about a drink? Can you go get me a drink?”

Never thought I’d meet an ungrateful homeless person …

Meanwhile, I had to hand-select the girl to donate my old coats to … the only one my coats would not be too small for. It’s safe to say the homeless community is well fed. Or quite the contrary actually — because it’s cheaper to eat crap than it is to eat healthy after all. Some of them even turned down my offer of homemade healthy soup — which made me feel a little bit better about the fact the homeless person who lives in the bus stop in front of my condo rejected my homemade leftovers.

Determined to make sure everyone there was fed — well, with an actually healthy meal — I ventured to the far end of the wall where there were no other volunteers. Next thing I know, I had made some new friends: a woman in a wheelchair being pushed by a man who not long ago had a home and a
career, but after a lay-off and repossession, can’t even get a lease approved to rent a place. I also met a guy who looked a little like Usher (well, Usher that hasn’t gone to the barber shop in a while) who got more excited than a preadolescent on Viagra when I told him so.

OK, still honest if with some typically misplaced pop culture and sex talk to keep the sex chat advertisers happy, but still nothing offensive. You’d think. New version:

While most of them were grateful for the homemade, healthy and hearty soup we were passing out, one woman … not so much. “You got some cornbread?” she asked. When I apologized for not having any, she responded with, “You ain’t got no cornbread … you don’t even have crackers. I don’t want that.” It made me feel a little bit better about the fact that the person who lives in the bus stop in front of my condo rejected my own homemade leftovers.

I did end up making some new friends at The Wall. I met a man who not long ago had a home and a career, but after a layoff and repossession, can’t even get a lease approved to rent a place. I also met a guy who was once homeless and now just comes out there to The Wall to check on and encourage his friends. The homeless community is a tight-knit sub-culture of society, that though forced to live like refugees, live like a family in their shared home. I was actually envious of the fact that so many of them are able to maintain a positive attitude despite their dire situation. They seemed more happy than helpless.

Wow. I’d have to wonder if the same person wrote these accounts they are so different. How you get from a little annoyed at the rejection of your offers of help to “envious” of these “happy” folk escapes me. It is a total and complete, 180-degree ideological scrub job. In fact, it reads like a press release from a local homeless shelter. But there is more.

And then I turned my head right as a woman was retrieving a needle from her bra — which immediately drew my eye. She saw me unintentionally making a universal “wtf” face.

I tried to look away and pretend I didn’t see anything, but it was too late.

“I get high honey,” she said with a blend of pride and shame in her attitude.

“Is this where the witness gets murdered?” I wondered with worry. “To each its own,” I replied … I am not about to give her a lecture or pass judgment.

“Well, I just didn’t want to do it in front of you if you don’t,” she said.

Well that was awfully polite of her, I guess.

“You’re not going to call the cops on me are you?” she asked.

“No… but I will get you a bowl of soup,” I used as an out.

When I came back with the soup, she proceeded to tell me that she is due in court for a drug offense and has twin 13-year old boys somewhere. Say no to drugs kids…just say no to drugs.

Hey, like I said, this struck me as a totally honest account of an interaction between a relatively affluent Urban hipster out to do a good deed between bar crawls and the folks she is trying to help. A little clumsy, maybe shocking, but in the end, very humanizing and — again — honest. Just a little blog post documentary, no solutions or spin. Just our world as it exists today. But check out the propaganda that replaced it:

A moment came, however, that I wish I could have avoided. A woman retrieved a needle from her bra just as I was turning my attention to her direction. Shit … she saw me see her. Busted.

“I get high honey,” she said with a blend of pride and shame in her attitude.

Is this where the witness gets murdered, I wondered with worry. “To each its own,” I replied … who am I to pass judgment?

“Well, I just didn’t want to do it in front of you if you don’t,” she said.

Well, that was awfully polite of her.

“You’re not going to call the cops on me, are you?” she asked.

“No … but I will get you a bowl of soup.”

When I came back with the soup she proceeded to tell me that she was due in court for a drug offense and has twin 13-year-old boys somewhere. I felt compelled to give her a hug; I thought she could use one. Cason-Point: Say no to drugs, kids … give hugs not drugs.

But regardless if they’re homeless because of the economy or because of drugs … they still don’t have a home to go to over the holidays — or at all. Granted, we all can’t just go out buying homes for people – but we can donate food, coats and our time … which you could go do yourself next Saturday. ‘Tis the season after all!

Holy crap! Cason — or someone — transformed her docu-post into a sermon! In any journalistic endeavor this transformation would be highly questionable. But for a supposed alt-weekly, an outlet that in theory goes against the accepted norms and probes for the actual ugly truth of life, Charlotte’s urban life in particular, this change is a firing offense. For someone. Or perhaps it is a quitting offense for Cason. I do not know the particulars of how the post came to be taken down and re-written in such an Orwellian fashion.

Clearly the professional and adult response to whatever fire-storm Cason’s original account set off would be to write a new post on them, explain the rationale for the original, maybe apologize, maybe not, engage in a back forth with the detractors etc. You know, journalism.

But professional and adult will never again be two words used in connection with regard to Charlotte’s CL franchise — except in reference to its pages and pages of sex service ads.

Hat tip: Keeping Up With the Belks

8 Responses to “Homeless Blog Post Spooks Creative Loafing?”

  • Nov
    24
    2009

    Wow! For an publication evidently headed for the shitter anyway, why the cautious editing, especially after the fact?!

    Regardless, the original is a pretty petty and disgustingly judgemental account. Look no further than , “I wondered with worry. “To each its own,” I replied … who am I to pass judgment?”

    She asks who she is to pass judgment after spending an entire column judging the homeless. Weak.

  • Nov
    24
    2009

    Don’t get me wrong — the original had a good bit of tone-deaf snark in it. But that struck me as honest and real. Fine to slam that, maybe even to apologize for and regret those elements. But to completely re-write it to say you are at war with Eastasia? Really a mortal sin.

  • Nov
    24
    2009

    I wonder if Brittney Cason didn’t make some of her story up and when the editors got wind, rewrote some of it to save face.

  • Nov
    24
    2009

    Face it , Charlotte is bursting at the seams with drug addicts of every kind. I have worked with and have experienced first hand what drug addicts say any think. It all sounded real to me.

    Never ever forget the three rules of drug addict behavior.
    1- You cannot do enough for a drug addict.
    2-There is never enough money to satisfy a drug addict.
    3- A drug addict has a excuse for everything wrong in their life.

    CREATIVE LOAFING or should that be CREATIVE WRITING.

  • Nov
    25
    2009

    Jeff. You’d better edit your post. The White House announced we’re at War with Eurasia. East Asia buys our worthless bonds.

  • Nov
    25
    2009

    That’s a fair point howie, but if that were the case, you’d generally get a editor’s note to that effect.

  • Nov
    30
    2009

    Shortly after posting her blog, Brittney Cason took the post down so she could make revisions and re-state some of her sentiments and opinions. This was not a “Orwellian” decision or something that was done via management, editors or anything else. This was a request from the writer. She wrote the original blog, wasn’t happy with it, took it down, edited it herself and re-posted it. Simple as that.

    I think you’re trying to make a mountain out of a molehill… Surely there are bigger “conspiracies” to tackle. Anyone figure out who shot JFK yet?

  • Nov
    30
    2009

    “Clearly the professional and adult response…would be to write a new post on them, explain the rationale for the original, maybe apologize, maybe not, engage in a back forth with the detractors etc. You know, journalism.”

    I chalk this up to bad journalism, but with a passable twist: No one knows what the future holds for journalism. Twenty years ago, this type of thing would have never happened because it wouldn’t have gotten past the layers of editors before it went to print. With online stuff, everything is so instant that it’s hard to know the rules: They are murky to everyone.

    That said, I agree with Jeff that nothing should have been posted until it was exactly the way you wanted it. For a publishing company, this should have been priority one, especially something as touchy as a first person account of dealing with homeless people.

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