You see a lot of pieces on this site about the sleazy manipulations of 1 percenters, numbing abuses of human rights by governments and the daily struggles of the poor. But the whole world hasn’t gone to hell in a handbasket.

For instance, in San Francisco on Friday, more than 11,000 people have signed on to take part in an elaborate ploy to let an ailing 5-year-old boy named Miles pretend that he’s Batman. And in Olympia, Wash., an unusual coalition of people and organizations is finishing up construction of a permanent “Quixote Village” to house the homeless in real shelters — a collection of small newly built cabins that grew out of collective action against local homeless policies.

The San Francisco Chronicle has the details on the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s plan to give Miles, who is battling leukemia, a remarkable day.

Along with a grownup Batman sidekick, Miles will get a call from the police chief and jump into his very own Batmobile to defend the city against some of his fiercest foes — including the Riddler and Penguin.

Make-A-Wish Bay Area describes the plot line of the day:

After rescuing a damsel in distress from the cable car tracks in Nob Hill, and capturing the Riddler in the act of robbing a downtown vault, Batman will eat his lunch at the Burger Bar in San Francisco — directly above Union Square. While at Burger Bar, he will get a call on his batphone to go to the window — where he will look down and see a huge group of volunteers jumping up and down asking for Batman’s help. Why?

Because the Penguin will be kidnapping a famous Gotham City mascot! The getaway car will be visible on Union Square (a convertible so that everyone can see what is happening), and the chase will be on!

After catching the Penguin, Batman will make his final stop at City Hall, where the Mayor and the Police Chief of Gotham City will thank him and give him the key to the city. We plan on having hundreds of volunteers and donors collected to cheer and thank our Batman!

Patricia Wilson, the foundation’s executive director, hoped to get some buy-in from local residents. She got an entire Gotham City. From the SFGate blog:

“I thought I could do it on a scale that a 5-year-old would appreciate,” said Wilson, whose foundation specializes in granting wishes to children with serious diseases. “But apparently, it’s on a scale now that the nation appreciates.

“I’ve never seen anything go viral like this, with the outpouring of support from across the world,” she said.

Suhr said so many people want to help out that officials have had to turn away some volunteers.

“My butcher at the grocery store was asking what he could do, the police commissioners was asking what they could do,” he said. ”Everywhere I go, the only thing people want to talk about is Batkid. I was just at a meeting with the attorney general, and Kamala Harris said, ‘Tell me about Batkid!’”

In Olympia, the good deeds are more than a day’s fantasy, and as heartwarming as the Batkid might be, the project in Washington will have much longer impact on the lives of deeply impoverished people, and marks an admirable level of cooperation among church groups, local government and neighbors. As the Unitarian Universalists report on their website:

Their story starts in 2007 when the city of Olympia was about to roust a group of homeless people from their tent city on city property. The OUUC governing board decided on the spur of the moment to host the homeless on church property.

Since then the tent city, called Camp Quixote II (the original site was Camp Quixote), has moved among several congregations of different faiths, staying for three months at a time. That was a workable solution, but almost from the beginning, some members of the camp—and some homeless advocates—expressed a longing for a permanent home. Advocates formed a nonprofit called Panza, in honor of Don Quixote’s sidekick, to support the camp. It included representatives from OUUC and other congregations, as well as the homeless community.

Panza went to work on a more permanent solution. A year ago it approached the city and won permission to create a permanent community for the homeless on an industrial site. This summer 30 tiny one-room “cottages,” which will have electricity and heat, but no running water, began going up, along with a community center which will have bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities, a kitchen, and meeting rooms. By Christmas, if everything goes off on schedule, all of the homeless in Camp Quixote II will have permanently folded their tents and moved in to what is being called Quixote Village.

The project draws funding from a range of sources, evidencing the gains that can be made through collective action. According to the Olympian newspaper:

Construction costs are estimated at $1.68 million. Funding came from a combination of government grants and private donations. Major donors include the state ($1.55 million), federal Housing and Urban Development dollars distributed by the county ($604,002), and county-distributed Home Consortium dollars ($170,000). The Nisqually Indian Tribe also gave $40,000, and the Chehalis Tribe gave $7,000.

Enough money is in hand for construction, but the camp will still be reaching out to others for operating costs, estimated at $240,000 per year, Ransom said.

The camp will lease the county land for $1 per year; it’s a 40-year commitment.

—Posted by Scott Martelle



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