About the fact that there is a liquor store nearby the Main Street location, a point made by Stodola and several in the audience: Dr. McClain said that if she had her druthers, no, she wouldn’t operate a clinic by liquor store. But the fact is that there are liquor stores everywhere, and noted that there is an AA chapter near the location. She became emotional when she said that veterans help each other. “It touches your heart. If they see somebody in need crossing the street [to buy liquor] they will grab their arm” and keep them away.
Frank Smith, an Army veteran who served in Germany, talked to the group about how the clinic had helped him with a substance abuse problem, worked with him to get into school, helped him work out fine repayments and so forth. He said he’d been clean since April and was saving his earnings.
But a doctor in the audience said she’d had experience treating veterans with psychiatric problems and had been bitten, urinated on, had feces thrown at her and had been purposely been stuck with needles by such patients. Allowing a clinic that treats such patients in the Quapaw Quarter neighborhood was an “unnecessary risk.”
Joe Fox, who owns Community Bakery across I-630 from the old Cook Jeep facility, said he’s dealt with the homeless for years and said he’d like the VA clinic to stay open during business hours so that when he has to ask a customer to leave, they can go to the clinic.
Along with safety concerns, economic ones were raised as well. One woman said she’d been looking at property on Main for a small business but was no longer, thanks to the announcement of the clinic.
In his remarks, Stodola said the city would be glad to work with the VA to find another place; he said the fact that the VA hadn’t planned to open until 2013 meant there was time to continue a search for a new place.
But Dr. Estella Morris, who heads up the VA’s homeless program, said the VA had been trying for years to find new space for the clinic and had run into opposition from the city every time. That’s why VA hospital administrators directed the clinic to go the formal route this time: To put out advertisements in the newspaper seeking proposals from interested property owners. (Two were made; the other proposal, from the owners of the Donaghey Building, was rejected). Stodola, criticized for not being on top of the VA’s move, griped that “An RFP is not the same as going out and finding a location” with the city’s knowledge. Dr. Margie Scott, VA chief of staff, apologized to Stodola for not meeting with him about the RFP.
I put the emphasis on some of the parts that jumped out at me. This is of course all about the homeless vet center that Mayor Mark Stodola and a few other powers that be in Little Rock have been working against. Stodola claims he’s been kept in the dark about the matter which Max Brantley points out is either a total lie or is a sign that the good mayor isn’t doing his job as information on this was available to city officials for quite some time. Stodola seems to think that the fact that this center would be near a liquor store is a problem, never mind the fact that this is a center that would help treat substance abuse and that there’s an A.A. center nearby. You know, treating alcoholics is kind of the point with these things, or part of it at least.
But let’s be honest with ourselves here. This isn’t about moving the clinic. This isn’t about worries that homeless vets who gave everything for their country and then got treated like yesterdays garbage by the same people whose freedoms they defended might drown their sorrows in booze. (Wouldn’t you?) It’s about something much worse. Mayor Stodola has been pitiful on issues of poverty and homelessness in Little Rock. The homeless, you see, are bad for business, and that’s what Stodola has always been about-business. And these folks that showed up wringing their hands over these god awful veterans who are going to ruin the neighborhood? To them I say please move to another country because you are all a disgrace to this one. These people ya’ll are so afraid of signed up to protect you over seas and lost their homes, their work, their families, their health, and their minds because they were willing to go through hell and back for these people overseas and then they come home and find those same people are going to treat them like shit. Seriously, the people that are up in arms in this should really get the hell out of America and move to Iran…and take Mayor Stodola with them.
Oh, and kudos to Brantley and the folks at the Arkansas Times. At least someone in Little Rock is standing up for veterans in need.