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  Category: Articles » Society & News » Article

Former Governor, now Secretary of Health and Human Services, Visits a Homeless Camp

By Leslie Reynolds-Benns

By Leslie Reynolds-Benns, PhD,

We're looking in on a funeral for a homeless man, Churck, that is being held at the site of his camp on the banks of the Jordan River, in Salt Lake County, Utah. The scattering of attendees are reminiscing about Chuck and the time that Utah's Governor visited.

"Chuck was my friend. I'd known him for about two years," began Ed Snoddy, the driver of Homeless Outreach Van, at the funeral of a homeless man, down by the river where Chuck had lived for years. "I enjoyed his honesty with life. He was doing what he wanted to do, and I'm sure he's doing what he wants to do, now." He recounted some memories of Chuck teaching the Governor how to fish. [Mike Leavitt, Utah's Governor from 1992-2003 when he was called by President Bush to head up the Environmental Protection Agency and later the Health and Human Services.] "He wasn't aware that it was the governor," quipped Ed, to the small audience's laughter.

"I've known Chuck for about four and a half years, now," said Pamela Atkinson, a longtime advocate for the homeless, who had arranged this event, hoping to get publicity on the Governor's promise to be there. "He and Lucy, [Chuck's dog]. He reminded me that they came as a package." She paused to reflect and then continued: "What I loved about Chuck was his openness and frankness. What you saw you got. He didn't play games, and he didn't mince words. You knew exactly where you stood with him, what he needed, and what he thought about things. I loved the twinkle in his eye. I loved his sense of humor. Even when he was in the hospital and very sick, he still kept his sense of humor."

Pamela spoke about arranging to bring the governor to the river camps. She asked Chuck if she could bring a friend around to visit.

"Sure, if you bring me some good cookies," Chuck responded.

She did, and when the governor got there, he said, "Hi Chuck, I'm Mike. I'm a friend of Pamela's."

Within a short time, Chuck was teaching this new friend to fish. To him, he was just a friend of Pamela's called Mike. According to Pamela, the Governor even visited Chuck when he was in the hospital, a couple of weeks after his surgery. "What many of us have found in life is: Everybody is equal," said Pamela. "Nobody is better than anybody else. The only difference is that we have different roles to play in life. Chuck had his role. I have my role. And the Governor has his role. You all have your roles. Chuck respected that." Pamela, ever trying to bring homelessness into public view and therefore to get media attention, mentioned that the governor wanted to come to the memorial service, because he really enjoyed Chuck. "He had to meet with the legislative leadership this morning," she mentioned. "Some urgent things up there, so I understood that." But, I'm sure she was disappointed by the loss of her guaranteed media draw. That I understood.

Chuck's time in the hospital was evidently hard for him, because he didn't like to be confined, but he did feel treated with dignity. "You know they make me feel like I'm a normal human being, not just a homeless person," he commented to Pamela.

"And the one consolation I have is that I know that I'm going to see him, again, in the next life," concluded Pamela to the small assembled audience. "He's up there, now. His spirit is with us, and he knows what we are doing to honor him, today."

Excerpted from Street People,
About the Author
Leslie Reynolds-Benns, PhD, author of one of the most important books on the planet, right now, Confession is Good for MORE than the Soul. Professional speaker, trainer, workshop leader, community activist and wedding officiant. Sign up for a FR+E+E 4-part mini e-course - CREATING YOUR OWN REALITY, which is an introduction to GETTING RID OF PSYCHIC CLUTTER - at

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