most of you cringe when you think of the homeless camping and the problems of sanitation, cleanliness or safety that comes with it. all of us dread that moment when a homeless person asks for spare change, a cigarette or something else most of us take for granted. we turn away or look down at the sidewalk when we see someone approaching who might be homeless. god forbid we might have to say good morning or say no when they ask for something. women still get that moment of fear when a homeless person passes them while they are parked or sitting at a red light and you can still hear the sound of car locks clicking at that moment.
some compassionate souls still give spare change, small brown bags with a sandwich and granola bar inside to the homeless at places where they gather during the day. these same people feel a twinge of guilt or sadness when they read or hear about a homeless person dying during the nite. we somehow hope to ease our guilt or lighten our sadness by doing these small acts of kindness, telling ourselves that we are helping them. many of us still utter the phrase, "but for the grace of god go i", at those moments.
it's not our problem though, right? the homeless are not our responsibility. it's someone elses, somewhere....somehow. someone other than us will help them. someone else will feed them. house them or save them from dying during a cold winter's nite. it's the city government's responsibility to take care of the homeless. or maybe it's the federal government. the churches will take care of them. the mission will provide for them. someone will.....someone else. we have too much to worry about. what's for dinner. what movie will i watch tonite? i wonder if i should go shopping saturday? should i buy that new dress or suit? we have too many other things to worry about. besides, it's too difficult and too emotionally draining to think about or deal with the homeless. we don't have the time or the will to worry about or consider the cancer called homelessness that is eating our city up piece by piece, person by person and child by child. we are too busy with today to worry about tomorrow and what effect this will have on our next generatiion.
we need solutions besides the mission, the food pantries, the friendship house or well intended people walking thru parks or down the street handing or brown paper bags. we need solutions that go beyond giving the very basic survival level of food, shelter and clothing. we need more in wilmington than small, temporary solutions and relief for the men, women and children experiencing the hardships of homelessness. we need more than churches providing meals once daily or weekly. we need more than handouts and charity. we need real solutions.
this is a huge problem in our city. it's larger than you may realize. the homeless constitute a larger population than you realize. it's more than just the people who walk the streets. it's more than the occasional panhandler you encouter. it's larger than the men who stay at the mission or the women who sleep at the salvation army or other local organization's shelters across the city.
so what can you do? i don't know. what can you do? that is a question you have to ask yourselves. that is a question we should and must ask our social service agencies, our homeless agencies and our city governments. it's a question we can no longer afford not to ask and a question we should and must demand an answer to. we, as a city, cannot possibly claim to be concerned about our citizens, our neighbors or the overall welfare of our community if we do not ask this question and demand an answer from everyone.
why, after all these years and all the millions of dollars spent do we still have the homeless with us. why, with a city that has so many churches, such a large social service network, such an expansive array of churches and philanthropic network do we still have homeless children in our community and our schools? why do we still have homeless men and women with no roof over their head? why do men and women still die in our streets, alone and forgotten?
what can we do? we can we afford not to do?
see you around town