Mother Teresa was the Janet Matzen of Calcutta

(The above photo is of Janet on May Day 20015 feeding a group of 50 people in front of the state capital, still wearing that warm smile for all the homeless and hungry.)
 
Janet Matezen was a 54 year old working mom. She had recently lost her job at a local market where she worked as a meat cutter. Like many of the middle class, Janet was also struggling to make ends meet. It was October 2011, Occupy of Denver made camp in Denver’s Civic Center Park. Their number began to grow daily as word of the movement spread via the media. Janet had never been a protester or even been to a rally such as Occupy, but she was curious. She decided one day that she would drive to the park to see what it was all about.

When I first saw Janet in the park, she looked like any other mother from any city in America. She was average with one difference, she always had a warm smile. She began to talk with the others there in the park, and the more she heard their stories the more shocked she became at the conditions many there were living under. She never spoke of her own problems. Janet’s struggles seemed to fade as she listen to their stories. After all, she had a home and food for her table.

I believe the old adage “I use to feel sorry for myself because I had no shoes, and then I met a man who had no feet” best describes Janet’s experience there with Occupy in Denver’s Civic Center Park.

In the past four years, Janet has transformed herself into an advocate and champion of the homeless and hungry of Denver. Whenever the city council is considering new legislation such as the Anti Camping Ban, Janet is always there to lend her voice in defense of the poor and homeless.

When the Colorado House of Representatives were recently considering a bill of rights for the homeless, Janet was present at every stage of the hearings.

When the homeless are arrested for falling asleep in the park, she is always there to help, even if it’s only to be with them in court.

One spring day in 2012, I interviewed Janet in the city park; one of the questions I ask her was; “Did she have any fears of the people there in the park” her reply surprised me, she said “Oh no! I know they would protect me, it’s the police that I’m afraid of.” I did not miss the irony of her answer; to think that a 54 year old mother in the park would be more afraid of the police than the homeless.

I could only conclude, that Janet, after witnessing so much of the violence by the police against the homeless knew who in truth would serve and protect her.

Janet has also had her small victories, besides feeding the homeless, as reported in the “Popular Resistance”

**STAFF NOTE: Planned protests at Palm Restaurants are cancelled today.**

DENVER, CO. (October 18, 2013) – The Boycott the Urban Camping Ban Coalition is pleased to announce that The Palm Restaurant has officially withdrawn support for Denver’s Urban Camping Ban Ordinance passed in May 2012.

On May 6, 2012, Occupy Denver held their first Boycott in protest of the Urban Camping Ban at Snooze A.M. Eatery.1 It was attended by not just members of Occupy Denver, but activists from Denver and surrounding areas who were concerned about the treatment of their fellow human beings, the homeless. The “Urban Camping” Ban Ordinance was passed by the Denver City Council on May 14, 2012, at which time an ongoing weekly protest lead by Janet Matzen and Occupy Denver began at Snooze A.M. Eatery and later attracted coalition partners. On April 5, 2013, Snooze issued a statement reversing their position in support of the Ban.

On April 26, 2013, the Boycott was moved to The Palm Restaurant Denver and a weekly Friday night boycott began. Despite concerted efforts by the Denver City Council through the Denver Police Department to quash Boycotters’ Constitutional rights to free speech and protest, the protest continued strongly and garnered International support.

Today, we are pleased to announce that The Palm Restaurant, who we truly believe cares for the plight of the homeless, announced they no longer support the “Urban Camping” Ban Ordinance. We thank The Palm Restaurant for standing with the homeless and calling for the repeal of the “Urban Camping” Ban in Denver.
Once again, we urge all businesses and organizations in Denver to review the Denver Homeless Out Loud Report on the implementation and impacts the Ban has had and call for its repeal.

I’ve often been amazed that Janet can be in so many places doing so many different things and all for the benefit of the homeless and poor. Most recently you will find Janet, every Friday in front of the Tattered Cover book store where she continues to protest the anti camping while at the same time feeding the hungry and homeless of Denver.

We often hear the word “Grassroots” but I never saw in action as I’ve seen it with Janet. She gives real meaning to the phrase “Grassroots Activist” with her compassion for others.

Suzanna Arundhati Roy spoke so eloquently when she said: “And so it is, in the quiet breathing of Janet, I see that possible world.”

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