Joe Scalfani’s motorized wheel chair went off the cliff right before the big sweep. What happened was Fidel was trying to help Joe after thieves had taken Joe’s shoes and backpack while he was sleeping under the eaves of the park restroom. When Joe woke up, his stuff was gone and his chair was low on power.
Fidel, who had a small tent, told Joe he could stay near the tent and Fidel would watch out for him. Joe thought it was a good idea, so a big guy called “Ogre” helped push the chair over to Fidel’s camp.
After Ogre left, Joe spotted a good-looking cigarette butt on the ground near the chair. When he leaned over to grab the butt, he fell forward out of the chair because he wasn’t used to the slight incline of the slope near Fidel’s tent. Next thing Joe knew, the chair was rolling down the incline near the cliff above the Beard Brook Park creek.
Joe tried to stop the chair with his legs, but the heavy thing just kept rolling. Before Joe could call for help, the chair had gone over the cliff. It bounced off a couple of boulders and came to rest twenty feet below.
Joe was helpless without his chair, and bruised from the ordeal, so someone called an ambulance and Joe went away for a while.
It wasn’t long after that the cops came with the tractor and trucks. They had notified people there would be a sweep the previous week, but most had ignored the warning.
The homeless people were told to get anything they wanted to keep into the parking lot. Everything else would be scooped up and dumped into the trucks. The big problem was with those few people who had set up large tents and accumulated huge piles of trash. They had a lot of stuff to move and complained loudly and profanely to one another as they lugged their belongings away.
Many of the homeless people who stayed in the park during the day were happy to see the trash go. Like most everyone, they disliked trash for all the obvious reasons—it’s unsightly, unsanitary, and attracts vermin. In the case of the homeless, trash has the added disadvantage of attracting unwanted attention.
So even though it was a hassle to carry their stuff to the parking lot, many were hoping the tent dwellers might move on after the roust. That prospect seemed promising as some of the tent people discussed setting up camp in another park. A few even started hauling their belongings away in shopping carts and bike trailers.
Meanwhile, the cops were issuing citations for illegal camping, dogs in the park without leashes, and sundry other violations. The citations were a source of amusement for several reasons, not the least of which there was zero chance they would ever be paid.
Shortly after the ruckus, daytime users drifted back into the park, which was now much cleaner. One man who frequents the park called his brother, who owned a pick-up truck. With help from a few others, they were able to pull Joe’s chair up the steep embankment just before Joe returned from the hospital. The chair was ok except that the backrest was a little bent.
Two days later, most everyone was back in the park, but the tent dwellers hadn’t set their tents back up—not yet, anyway. A few had commandeered the place under the bathroom eaves where Joe had been robbed and were already strewing trash around.
No one knew just when the cops would be back, and no one seemed to care too much. As far as the homeless are concerned, rousts are like wet weather—one more thing they have to live with.