CAHOOTS’s most recognized year ever continues. When Black Lives Matter-related protests were at their peak during 2020, national media outlets looked to the White Bird Clinic program as an alternative to policing — ranging from spots on CNN to The Atlantic. But now the program has received the patented comical news treatment by Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Jan. 25 — and Eugene Weekly makes a little cameo.
Like Daily Show correspondents before him (such as Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Samantha Bee), Roy Wood Jr. blends the show’s trademark straight-faced news personality with comedic timing while interviewing CAHOOTS’ Program Coordinator Ebony Morgan and former Operations Coordinator Tim Black.
Morgan was voted by EW readers for the 2020 Best Of issue as Best Health care worker and CAHOOTS, aka Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets, won best nonprofit and service for the homeless. And during the interview, Morgan had the cover of that issue in the frame of her computer’s camera.
CAHOOTS (aka Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets) has been around for 30 years — or as Wood puts it, “The Fresh Prince hadn’t even left for Bel Air yet.” Wood learns in the segment that CAHOOTS staff don’t carry pepper spray, guns or even ninja stars.
Morgan then ran down a typical call and how CAHOOTS staff responds to people in crisis. She said staff have snacks, tents, clean clothes and more in the van.
“You had me at snacks,” Wood interjected. “I’m a 40-year old man, and I’ll get in the van for some snacks.”
Wood also talked to Morgan and Black about de-escalation tactics — or as he described it, “just being chill.”
Black said he needs to be engaged with the person and demonstrate that he cares about them “to work through this crisis together.”
But Wood said that CAHOOTS has responded a lot to “Karens,” an online term for predominantly white women who often freak out about people of color being in public like grilling or walking.
“We do encounter situations where folks call in because of racist motivations or because they have a bias against different socio-economic circumstances,” Black said. “In those situations, I think there are two things we have to recognize: What it was that triggered that person to make that call?”
“And then two, slap the shit out of that person,” Wood interrupted.
Black laughed, saying that’s not a CAHOOTS strategy and instead they present an opportunity to confront the caller’s white fragility.
Using city of Eugene budget figures, Wood shows how CAHOOTS and their vans filled with snacks, clean clothes and care save money. Comparing the Eugene police budget of $90 million, he says CAHOOTS costs taxpayers $2.1 million — but responds to nearly 20 percent of the calls. Returning to these budget numbers at the end of the segment, Wood posed the question we’ve all asked in Eugene: If this is what they could do with $2 million, imagine what they could do with $90 million?