Homeless people who have made their way into Zuccotti Park among Occupy Wall Street protesters have been a topic of conversation in recent weeks. In late October, protesters worried their make-shift kitchen could not accommodate everyone from the movement, as well as homeless people who gravitated into the park because they were hungry.
Now, Occupy Wall Street protesters plan to address what they call this humanitarian issue. The group Parents for Occupy Wall Street announced a partnership with as many as 20 social workers who will visit Zuccotti Park to provide an assessment on Sunday to understand the needs of individuals. One of the goals, organizers said, is deflecting the stigma attached to the very word "homeless."
"I take issue with the fact that that terminology is a blanketed statement," said social worker Meagan "Star" Bond, who explained that many people in Zuccotti Park consider themselves homeless, including runaways or people who have lost their homes to foreclosure.
Bond, a social worker who also supports the movement, said Sunday's assessment will include a questionnaire to help identify issues like mental illness or substance abuse. From there, Bond said the group of social workers might provide counseling, referrals or case management to address individual needs.
"We are capable of taking care of our own. We are there to supplement and provide to those in need and we will not turn anyone away," Bond said. "They are just as much a part of the 99 percent as anyone else."
When asked whether she would notify police if she encountered an underage child who had run away from home, Bond said she and the other professionally trained social workers will handle each potential situation "legally and legitimately."
The group Parents for Occupy Wall Street first formed in early October when it encouraged parents to experience the protest by bringing their children to Zuccotti Park for a family sleep-over. Organizer Kirby Desmarais said more family sleep-overs will be planned in the future.