it's the man who was once a respected attorney in this area. you can see him walking down the street every day to a destination that only he knows. he always wears a suit. sometimes it's coordinated, sometimes it's not. at times it's out of season, but it's always a suit. he suffers from dementia along with mild paranoia. his steps are slower now and he walks haltingly and with a shuffle more than a walk due to a series of mini strokes. he walks every day whether it's raining or snowing. you can see him often sitting in front of extreme pizza downtown. if you speak to him, he will speak back. if you smile, he will return the smile. you can have a conversation, sort of, with him, but just don't touch him. he'll react, forcefully. he doesn't realize he may not make it thru another winter. but he's there, every day. he's become abit iconic at the places he visits frequently. he likes rite aid because he can buy files and folders there for cases that are coming up, in his world. the menswear store where he buys a new suit every month know him. the corner store he buys butterscotch and peppermint candy all know him. some of the homeless know him well also. this man is good at his core even now and gives money away frequently to those who take advantage of him and some take the opportunity too willingly.
the homeless are the women who sleep on the stoop of the bus station at nite because they have no other place to go. their allotted number of days at the very few places for single women to find shelter has expired, so they gather here to find some semblance of safety in numbers in a city that is known for its violent nites. they are harrassed on a regular basis by a mentally unstable man who verbally abuses them. he has physically assaulted some and threatened the others. they fear this man and have called the police on numerous occasions to no avail. the man returns nitely to terrorize these women. the police respond at times only to take no action against this man that is a very real danger to these women. other times they have become annoyed and didn't respond. one nite the response may come too late to save one of these women.
it's the mentally ill walking the streets late at nite. they are there on the deserted streets regularly. they are a headline or tragedy waiting to happen. just as gary perkins, a mentally ill homeless man who has recently been charged with murdering his girlfriend went unnoticed until it was too late, so do these men and women. they have stopped taking their medication, are uncared for or are off the grid when it comes to outreach or mental health services. but they are there. they will appear out of a sidestreet, from a shadow of a doorway or will be walking down the street at three in morning. sometimes they are just there behind you like a ghost from nowhere. the chances are sooner or later we will be forced to come to know who they are there and briefly become familiar with their name. once again we will become all too familiar with the consequences of not proactively dealing with this difficult situation and seeking out the mentally ill for treatment or other options.
the woman with the two year old child that is present every day at edr dining halls or the mission in the evening, that's the homeless in our city. her child is intelligent, aware and happy. she sleeps where she can and where she feels safe at nite. but in the daylight hours she is there. you can see her if you take the time. she cares for and keeps a very close eye on her child. they are homeless. both seem healthy and happy. seem.
the homeless in our city are the 110 men who leave the mission every morning at 5:30 am after having spent the nite there. each are individuals with individual reasons for being homeless. each has a predetermined path to follow, each has their own unique yet common set of circumstances. each is homeless. you can see them every day if you take the time. most will return again for another nite of respite, after another day of being homeless. you can see them daily, rain. sleet, snow, heat or cold...they are out there. if you looked you could become familiar with their faces, their eyes, their gait.
it's also the young couple you can see walking down market street daily. if you look close enough you would realize they are homeless. he carries a backpack constantly and they walk quickly. she is still a very pretty young woman, for now. they are on the way to find their next bundle of heroin. they are on that downward spiral that most heroin addicts are on, they just haven't reached the critical burn stage yet. they're both personable, and make an attractive couple at first glance. but like anyone who uses heroin it is just a matter of time. the clock is ticking. they are are homeless also.
yes, the homeless are also the stereotypical alcoholics who drink when they can and where they can. they often sleep however they can. these are the ones you complain about, avoid and have disdain for. these should also not be ignored and should not diminish our willingness to help. it could be us. no matter how vehemently or forcefully we may deny that fact, it could be. no matter how indignantly we proclaim we never could or would end up like that, we could. but by the grace of god go we...you should believe that, it holds true.
there are approximately 250 street homeless in this city. there are another 100 or so sleeping in various places nitely. there are approximately 400 more in programs or rehab facilities who are one incident or one day away from being homeless. there are another 40-50 campers in this area. these numbers are not from collected data or an official report accompanied by explanations or reasons or clinical, sterile information. i'm not sure what the "official" homeless count is in this city. these are numbers based on experience, interaction and awareness of who the homeless are and where they are. these are the ones i have seen and know of. you should know them too. it is your city.
there are some homeless people you won't see anymore. you may have seen them at one time or another, glanced in their direction, thought momentarily and then went about your daily business. you won't get another chance. they are the ones that didn't make it. they died homeless, here, in wilmington. as just as sure as guns take away too many young lives in this city, so does homelessness cut short the lives of these. some died quietly on a park bench. some died of addiction related illnesses or overdoses. some died younger than they should have due to the daily struggles and hardships of being homeless. some just gave up. you won't see them unless you visit the potters field in this county where people who noone claimed even after they died end up being buried. they're forgotten now except in a passing memory by those who came to know them. all ages, sizes, colors and types. they're there.
who are the homeless in our city? that's an important question. it cuts right to the core of who we are as a city and a community. i think we should all take time to stop and ask. it's not difficult. but after we ask that question i think we should then ask the one that is hard and takes alittle more consideration. what can we do to help? then the most important question that we alll should be asking, how can i continue to not help? perhaps if we ask that question then we can begin to formulate a real answer to ending homelessness here in wilmington. but first we must admit to ourselves that the homeless walk by and among us every day. we must take the time to see them, individually. we must ask who are these homeless people. we must ask...why. i've seen a sign that says...wilmington, a place to somebody. we should change that to...wilmington, a place to be somebody extraordinary. then we should strive to achieve that.
who are the homeless is an important thing to know. but i think the most telling questions of all are, if we don't help, if we continue to allow homelessness in our city...who and what are we? what have we become? we do we want to be?
see you around town
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