Yeah, I know.
Everyone who is not homeless knows exactly why those people who live in the woods do so.
They’re drunks. Or junkies. Or both. They’re criminals. Or going to be.
They see ‘em, you know, sleeping on the benches on the Morristown Green early in the morning, the fifth wrapped in a crumbled brown bag they copped at the local liquor store, or a 40 that spilled under the bench and maybe the glass broke and some child will come along later and cut themselves.
There oughta be a law.
Drank their way out of a job, maybe into jail and out again, and by living on the street it simply allows themselves a way to self-medicate without having to adhere to the social niceties while sitting on a bench and scaring the tourists.
Somebody should do something.
Well, someone is doing something.
More than 50 representatives from non-profit agencies, housing providers, government, hospitals, health clinics, food pantries and others were on hand Friday at St. Elizabeth’s College to continue planning on ways to end homelessness in 10 years in Morris County.
A dream, scoffers will say.
Yes, a moving target, but not impossible.
It starts with analyzing the reasons families become homeless, talking to individuals who are homeless and matching them to programs that that can end that condition.
Start with this: Drinking might not make you homeless, but homelessness makes you drink.
That was a result from a Mercer County study that was discussed Friday.
Investigators were told by homeless persons that they began to drink more after they became homeless.
Drinking was a defense against homelessness.
Against the loneliness, the cold, the separation, the helplessness.
How do they know this?
Thirty percent of the homeless persons who got off the street stopped drinking.
Humans respond at times to extreme conditions in extreme manners.
In Morris County they have found that a little conversation, a new coat and a cup of coffee can go along way to matching people with needs to those who can provide a solution.
So while they gathered Friday to find a way to end homelessness in 10 years, they actually have been doing it for years.
Family Promise and Homeless Solutions start the move with emergency shelters that can lead to more permanent housing; Morris Habitat for Humanity and Headquarters Development division of Homeless Solutions and the several local housing authorities build housing; Community Hope, NewBridge Services, and the Rose House provide programs and housing for veterans, developmentally disabled, mentally ill, and other special needs populations; local hospitals and the Zufall Clinic provide medical care; and agencies like county government and the United Way of Northern New Jersey provide some funding and leadership programs to continue the push forward.
They were told Friday there are 315 adults and 51 children living in emergency housing in Morris County as of March 31.
That is 315 adults and 51 children too many.
You know who was not there Friday?
Now the good folks at St. Elizabeth’s on Friday are nice, polite people: social workers, medical personnel, teachers, managers, and they would urge you to get involved and maybe make a donation, help support the effort for a solution.
They’re too nice about it.
They are used to speaking with themselves and business and community leaders in calm polite terms; they project earnestness through calm and reason.
I’m not a social worker.
I’m a writer and I could care less whether you get offended by what I write,
There are times when I want to offend you.
And this is one of those times.
We measure the success of our society and community by how strongly we reach out to those in need. And there is no time that this outreach is needed more.
We have a new generation of politicians who are unable to remember that this county struggles together to solve its problems. We do not throw people off the bus for political expediency.
We have the money to find better solutions to the pressing issues we face. We just do not have the politicians with the courage to act.
So what you are going to do is get off your fat, well, couch, and volunteer at the soup kitchen, buy an extra pack of toilet paper and diapers and drop them off at the food pantry.
You’re going to call up Habitat and volunteer your services at their next home built or call the United Way and take a mentoring class; or march in the AIDS walk, or join a watershed association river clean up.
You’re going to get out and join those who fight this fight every day.
You’re going to put down the mirror and stop congratulating yourself on being so wonderful.
They’re out there: The people in need and those willing to help.
They were called recently the “liberal heart-throb people.”
Oooh. Those people.
Yeah, I know.
Michael Stephen Daigle
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