Two local community groups hosted a meditation event at Civic Space Park on Friday afternoon in an attempt to dispel stereotypes about the homeless population who frequent it.
The group meditation comes on the heels of Arizona State University Student Ira Sanchez being mistaken for a homeless person last week and told not to lay down in the park. Stacey Champion, community activist and head of Champion PR, held the event along with Sutra Studios.
The meditation exercise was led by Rebecca Fritz, owner of Sutra Studios. She said the meditation was a visualization technique aimed at fighting stereotypes the participants may have about strangers they see.
“We can create the visualizations around anything,” Fritz said. “This one was around acceptance and tolerance, and the technique that we used was an imagery where we imagined ourselves in such a way that we can recognize the similarities between yourself and everyone else.”
Champion said she was warned by a security guard at the park prior to the start of the meditation.
“[The security guard] said you need to be very careful because not everyone in this park is as they appear, so you need to be careful and keep your things close and your children close,” Champion said. “And as somebody who has been bringing their kids to this park since it first opened, I think it’s that attitude of fear which is why we’re here and why I asked Rebecca to come and do this today.”
Fritz walked around the participants under the shade of a tree, guiding them with advice on what to do with their body and minds.
“When you can live in the commonality we all share, you can let go of fear and judgement, recognizing that there’s no place for that within ourselves” Fritz told the meditators. “And so therefore, no place for that toward anyone else.”
Champion said another focus of the event was to show the importance of everyone’s enjoyment of public spaces without disturbance.
“These are public spaces and public is public, not just for potentially wealthy white people,” Champion said. “Everyone should have the ability to lay in the grass and close their eyes and meditate in the afternoon in a public park.”
Immediately following the event a park security guard approached Don Maier, a homeless man who recently traveled from Nevada to Phoenix, and told him to stay awake.
“He just said that I had to sit up and stay alert so that he could tell that I was alive basically,” Maier said.
Maier, who turned 71 on Thursday, said he became homeless within the previous three days because his social security check is no longer enough for him to pay rent. He said he is on a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) waiting list for housing in the Westward Ho. He said he was told by Westward Ho staff that his wait would be close to four months.
Maier said he received even worse treatment when he was homeless in Nevada.
“One cop in Carson City actually kicked me. He said, ‘Hey, wake up and get out of here!’” Maier said.
Maier said he is a former design engineer, and while he is only becoming used to getting homeless, it’s been difficult for him to adjust to the way people treat him now.
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