Monday, March 23, 2015

At the memorial service for Donna Harris


[A makeshift memorial for Donna Harris on Avenue A earlier this month]

Village Voice reporter Emily Mathis attended the memorial for Donna Harris Saturday night at Maryhouse on East Third Street.

Harris, a homeless resident of Avenue A/Tompkins Square Park these past five years, died on March 2. She was 52. The Voice reported that Harris, an addict who was mentally unstable, died in Harlem as-of-yet-unknown causes.

In total, some 50 people stopped by the Maryhouse to pay their respects, including family members.

Her daughter, Grace Harris, said her mother's drugs of choice were Oxycontin and, she suspects in later years, heroin. The younger Harris had been estranged from her mother for about a year.

Also from the article

[H]er death has clearly hit a nerve, symbolizing not just the plight of the city's homeless population, but also the real estate restructuring — and consequential class restructuring — of the East Village. "You have these buildings where families used to pay $500, now single people are paying $5,000," [Maryhouse worker Felton] Davis said.

"There have been a few cynical comments, people who were like, 'please, what is this,'" he continues. "I think that people that are moving into this neighborhood, and paying top dollar — it irks them that there are people leftover from when this was working class families and poor people. And they have to walk by them in the park. And people are dirty, and they're coming here to eat. There's a class of the super-rich that are bothered by that. They think that anything that isn't spiffy is affecting property values."

Read the whole article here.

Previously on EV Grieve:
RIP Donna Harris

About the memorial for Donna Harris Saturday at Maryhouse

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just terribly sad. It takes just a little bit of bad luck and this could be any of us or any of the people we love.

Felton said...

Another homeless woman in the neighborhood, a curly-haired Marine Corp veteran, who often sat on the benches outside The Bean on 2nd Avenue, died on Saturday morning. The grim reaper is not giving us a lot of time to reflect and mourn. I hope that her family can be located, and that the story of her life is not lost.

Anonymous said...

Is that a box of cereal?

Anonymous said...

"The younger Harris had been estranged from her mother for about a year." Gee wonder if she ever required something in the parental realm of things. Junkie's care about nothing but themselves hurt and destroy everything around them. I bet she was getting SS Disability check and SNAP using it for dope and living on the street sorry you trash your life tough sh*t I reserve my compassion for the child in St.Judes hospital with stage four cancer not someone who tossed their own life away.

Anonymous said...

Regular Mother Theresa at 4:42... sheesh...

Anonymous said...

4:42 has a point, so why get so holier than thou about it? no one put a gun to donna's head and told her to fuck up her life with drugs and be a shitty parent. she did this for 5 years. and according to the article was pretty nasty. so why the hell is she being romanticized?

why all the hand wringing and bleating NOW? the usual lit candles and "memorials", all the self-absorbed reflections on how donna made people "think". whatever.

and hey, did any of you who claim to have known her or just said "hi" to her, bother finding out how you could have helped in a tangible way? and help her want to help herself? nah, you just want to ponder about LIFE and how this sight affected YOU. and say i saw her in the park, i really know homeless people in the east village.

so typically, let's just say fuck the rich. fuck the changing east village. and you can all go home now.

imo our city taxes pay for loads of services for people to get their life together, and it isn't easy but people have kicked drugs before gone out and gotten jobs and re-entered society. she could have done that for her child's sake, but chose not to. SHE FUCKED up her life and as the article says, wanted no pity.

and that's fine with me.

Anonymous said...

Yet another dead person who the majority of people ignored while she was alive and then jumped on the bandwagon when she died.

For the record, I am from the UK and when I stopped to talk to her, she was rude and told me to fuck off back to Britain. How charming considering I was offering to buy her food and drink when all she wanted was money for drugs.

Now tomorrow, everyone posting can go back to ignoring every other druggie on the corner giving them dirty looks when they walk past before a quick attention seeking change of heart the second the drugs kill the person.

Anonymous said...

Oh STFU about this dead woman. You have no clue as to how she wound up like she wound up or her living situation. Btw you have to have a physical address to receive checks, stupid, and I doubt she had one nor would someone risk jail time defrauding the government by letting her use one.

Drug addiction is an illness, not a choice. I honestly don't think this woman decided one day to be a junkie.

Take your holier than thou shit somewhere else and real classy bringing St.Jude's kids into it.

Anonymous said...

If you don't realize that addiction and homelessness (and stage four cancer, for that matter) can happen to anyone, you have a lot to learn about life.

Anonymous said...

Yawn same old same old what did YOU do for her when she was alive? I am certain she much appreciates me offering her food and drink while alive and then calling her rude when dead (which she was every time I spoke to her) than someone who ignored her when she was alive and then stuck up for her when she was dead. Please, it is just typical of some of the people who post here.

I can comment on this because it's my job in the UK to help these people and believe me, it is not all poor helpless person stuck there through circumstances. For every 1 stuck there by debt or being thrown out by the partner, there are hundreds who were thrown out for violence, drugs, rape and so forth. Those desperate to get off the streets often typically do. Help is available and for many, they don't want to help. Much like people on welfare/benefits simply don't want to get out of bed on a cold wet Monday to go to work.

Now take your holier than thou pretentious I-love-to-help-the-homeless attitude and actually practice what you preach. You won't though, you'll ignore EVERY other homeless person like you did Donna when she was alive and the only time you'll ever give them the time of the day is when they are dead and you can be a keyboard warrior sitting in a warm comfy chair while they continue starve to death out there. Until you're out there helping them, you are no better than everyone else who ignores them irrespective of your pitiful bleating once they die.

Anonymous said...

Drug addiction is a choice not an illness. The consumption of the first drug that leads down the slippery slope is a choice.

Bill

Benny from Da Bronx said...

To all the cruel crass dumbasses criticizing the tragic death of this poor homeless woman, why are you ignoring the thousands of high and drunk Bros who invade the neighborhood every single night making all our lives miserable? Sounds like someone has a mommy problem to me. Go read Vice's Hey Frat Bros, Stop Being Dumbasses and tell me that drunk Bros aren't the real problem around here. Or maybe that mirror is too hard to look into?

Anonymous said...

The people who call drug addiction an illness typically haven't taken drugs before or their pity stems from them seeing a friend/family member on drugs and thinking wow that person never chose to be there, it must be an illness.

Drugs aren't a illness, they are a choice. Take heroin, I like many others have done stupid things when younger and yes, it can suck you in but even the VERY first time, you get a hint of the draw and addiction it can offer you. That first ever hit takes days to get out of your system but YOU make the choice.

Other drugs like cocaine, LSD, meths, ecstasy, seriously these drugs are childs play compared to the damage from heroin yet the fact is, they remain a choice.

You choose to take drugs. You choose to go for the second hit and get addicted. Unless someone is born into a drug-addict world, there is no excuse for it.

So when you see a person you know or love on drugs, don't go awww you poor thing. Tell them it is a choice. Because eventually they'll be stealing from you to fund that habit anyway selling your wedding ring or family heirloom for a couple of dollars.

Anonymous said...

Someone comparing drunken students partying to drug addiction.... oh my. Looks like someone with a pipe and slippers needs an early night... in the city that never sleeps of all places....

Students that will be running the country in the future.... not being rude to tourists and turning down food because she wants money for drugs instead....

Jocelyn Kelly said...

It seems like many people commenting on here are making broad-based statements about that which they do not completely understand. Those who have been directly impacted by addiction can surely speak to the fact that the details surrounding each individual's road to addiction is different.

For example, the Village Voice article states that Donna's unfortunate road to addiction began with Oxycodone. Which, of course, is a readily prescribed pain killer. Seems like those making over-reaching negative comments on here failed to realize that many times, a drug properly prescribed due to medical necessity can lead to addiction just as easily, if not more so, then "choosing" to take that second hit (as some have alluded to, above).

I could go on - however, the point of my post here is just to perhaps shed some light on the fact that many of the negative comments on this thread seem to come from a place which lacks understanding of the particular circumstances surrounding Donna's situation. Moreover, for many of us, Donna's death was indeed a loss. If you personally do not feel a loss here, feel blessed. It does not make much sense to speak in such a negative light about something which you claim has no effect on you - simply continue scrolling to the next article.

Anonymous said...

Feeling a loss is fine. If you knew her of course, or you tried to help her of course. My sincerest condolences to you in your time of mourning.

What isn't fine is people who ignored her, were rude to her, people who referred to her as scum and such now coming on here acting like they knew her.

This reminds me of the time Lady Diana died. People queued for hours to sign a book yet left their own grandparents to rot in a nursing home and never visited them. The same people who before she died called her an attention seeking slut.

It is amazing what death can do to people. Equally amazing how people can hate the alive and suddenly love the dead.

Scooby said...

The intense callousness and overwhelming lack of connection between people is glaringly obvious in the comments. Regardless of her choices or compulsions, a human being died who was (in theory) part of a community and people are just slinging shit all over the place about whatever their own personal agenda is instead of looking at the death of someone. If you have nothing good to say - don't say anything was really good advice for behavior in years past. Now it's all about me me me. Step outside yourselves people and look at what is going on. It's not only YOU.
"Without people you're nothing" said a wise, wise man. And that has been put on display in the comments here is why this neighborhood (and world) is how it is...

Anonymous said...

Addiction can in some cases be a choice but in most cases it is not. Either way blaming the victim is in bad taste and shows how much the EV has changed when homeless people, poor people in the projects and even rent stabilized tenants receive this kind of anger from privileged know-it-alls who couldn't tell their ass from their elbow even if you shoved their arm half way up their asses. Here are the facts:

Addiction is due 50 percent to genetic predisposition and 50 percent to poor coping skills. This has been confirmed by numerous studies. One study looked at 861 identical twin pairs and 653 fraternal (non-identical) twin pairs. When one identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin had a high probability of being addicted. But when one non-identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin did not necessarily have an addiction. Based on the differences between the identical and non-identical twins, the study showed 50-60% of addiction is due to genetic factors. Those numbers have been confirmed by other studies.

The children of addicts are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction. One study looked at 231 people who were diagnosed with drug or alcohol addiction, and compared them to 61 people who did not have an addiction. Then it looked at the first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, or children) of those people. It discovered that if a parent has a drug or alcohol addiction, the child had an 8 times greater chance of developing an addiction.

Anonymous said...

What did you do for Donna, Scooby? Just curious. Did YOU "step outside" yourself.

A lot of sanctimonious people here who did fuck all for this woman when she was alive.

The poster from the UK seems to have a background working with people with drug addictions and he/she told some sad but real truths rather than quote statistics and textbook shit,

Anonymous said...

There are services available but you have to want to get off the street. There are plenty of city and private shelter beds for women. The women you see on the street tend to have serious mental illness and addiction issues. Not to nitpick but an earlier commenter mentioned checks and a mailing address. Cash and food stamp benefits are put on EBT cards as they are no more paper checks. There are dozens of churches that accept mail for the homeless. The coalition for the homeless accepts mail for clients. There are 170 food pantries/soup kitchens in Manhattan. One can get clothes, showers, haircuts, glasses. There are shelter beds and missions. There are so many resources available. But you have to want to get your life together. If you want to there is help available. Nobody is starving to death. If they ask for money its too get drunk or high. Period. Many of these folks have no desire to change. Its easy to blame people and say they are heartless. Not easy to somehow convince a mentally ill junkie to get into a shelter and rehab. If law enforcement gets involved they are harassing the homeless. And they cant be forced into shelter or rehab. Its a complicated situation. I feel.for her and her family. Please stop the blame game.

Anonymous said...

Finally decided to get real. Kudos, thank you!

Scooby said...

Anonymous 3:47 - I never met this particular person. I have met others and certainly have stepped outside myself in numerous ways.

My comment wasn't about me at all - it is about all the comments and lack of empathy, compassion, sense and humanity in them. THAT is the point...

Anonymous said...

A person got addicted to smack and died homeless on the street. Nothing tragic about that! All her fault!!

OK, right on, whatever you say, Romney...

But can you chill on the negative vibes please? I'm concerned it's going to affect my property value.

ShutUpHooker said...

I wish a name was required to post a comment .. all this anonyMOUSE shit is getting tiresome, and lazy.
Just get a profile thats separate from your real identity if you are worried about being made fun of your kids, art or large collection of intricately carved wood dildos.

Anonymous said...

@12:45 you think you're witty?

whatever.

anyway, you're just as anonyMOUSE with your silly moniker which is really lame. i mean who are you to tell anyone how to post here?

please stop being so judgmental of people who have different opinions than you. try practicing a bit of tolerance, it might do you some good and you wouldn't sound so angry.

the guy/gal who said their dad was a cop made a valid point.

that is all.