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This week's cover story, "Shelter War" looks at the story behind a curious nonprofit called the Pioneer Park Coalition and the influence it's sought to wield over city, county and state policymakers regarding the downtown homeless.
Curious if only because it must be one of the very few Salt Lake City nonprofits, along with Fourth Street Clinic, to ever be named in a rap song.
Rio Grande is written and performed by Ryan "Poet" Parker. It's obvious from the narrative he spins that he knows life at the shelter and its surrounding streets very well. That's because not only has he experienced homelessness himself, but he also works at the Road Home. However, the views he expresses in his song are entirely his own.
His song evokes both homelessness and the challenges to keep on with the struggle to find a way forward and ultimately away from the streets.
His brief critique of the coalition runs as follows:
"Operation diversion good or bad? Hell if I know / Better than Pioneer Park Coalitions gentrified condos / Can't cover up a problem with something shiny and new"
Here's the song's video shot, of course, down on Rio Grande.
The lyrics in their entirety:
"6am its time to wake up
Got a new 24 and ready to test my luck
Gather your belongings and ya gotta be quick
You leave anything behind they'll throw away you _____
And I know sometimes I casually run my lip
But why that young buck tattooed staff member have to trip?
But whatever man today I'm not focusing on the negative
Let bygones be bygones today I'm gonna let it live
I gotta wicked cough better hit up 4th street clinic
Pass then Hondo's on the corner cause the dope game I ain't with it
Looking for a job at the library been a hell of a minute
And I need a couple cigarettes yeah I panhandle a little bit
Need to build a resume right at the Weigand center
Walk over to St Vinnie's make sure to get some dinner
Today I defied the odds so I know it must be true
Despite your public opinion I got more living to do. Word!
Travel to a forgotten land
Located on Rio Grande
People work and try to survive
30 years on salt lake city's Westside
Doors are locked and cars never stop
Yelling one time as they Rollin down the block
Maybe help you understand
Welcome to life on Rio Grande
7am punch the clock and start to check in
Walk in to shift change the staff are already tripping
Gotta move past all the bitchin and the petty competition
Gotta unify our efforts we all on the same mission
But this job is far from easy lot of times I get to stressing
People walk up to the desk I got no answer to their questions
I lash out with that aggression than fa thru a depression
Parker better count yo blessings humility's a great lesson
But its hard moving forward in the quick sand feeling stuck
Feeling like you a maid for a job that congress won't clean up
You can't live in the past only live in the moment
These are real human beings not a campaign slogan
We still gotta suit up even when times are hardest
Find John got sober and Jane got her apartment
So remember while the media and wealthy are disparaging
Helping people find a home is a message that's worth carrying
Let me kick a message thru the record while your hearing it
The struggle down on Rio grande is frankly quite serious
Gotta step up to the problem homeboy and stop fearing it
It's gonna take a village homie point blank period
Stop living in denial ignorance is so astounding
Want to give people jobs but no affordable housing
When you cut grants from people where you think they end up?
Time to start working with us and stop working against us
Now its more than just addicts and people who lack wealth
Halls are filled with senior citizens and wicked mental health
Its time we all unite and rise up for the betterment
Take care of our disabled and do right by our veterans
Operation diversion good or bad? Hell if I know
Better than Pioneer Park Coalitions gentrified condos
Can't cover up a problem with something shiny and new
Now if you don't mind homie step aside cause we got work to do, Peace!"