10.18.2007

Homeless

I read that Reno has one of the worst records for helping their homeless population. That makes sense to me; Reno is sort of this reckless place, attracting with promises of riches and turning around and taking all that you have. They are trying to change things, but it’s an uphill battle. Their new plan is to ship them out. If a homeless person wants to go somewhere else, the police contact someone at the other end who promises to take care of them and then the city pays for them to leave.

One of the blogs that I read every day is 4th Street Blues by Andrew, a schizophrenic who spent a few years on the streets and now struggles to stay sober. I try to understand how he feels in his circumstances.

When I was at the Kate Wolf Festival earlier this year, I listened to Utah Phillips talking about the homeless in his hometown, Grass Valley, CA. He said that 80 percent of them are locals, from that area. When you’re down, you tend to go back to where you know. He estimates 800 people live in the hills around the town. His organization knows where all the camps are and they’ve visited them there on their own turf.

This group built a help center with showers, washing machines, computers. They have a bus that drives around to the camps to pick them up. They have to have an alcohol test before they can get on the bus. All of the churches in the area agree to cook meals for them, but here’s the catch: the church members have to sit down and share the meal with them. This means that the church members must look them in the eye and have a conversation. No dropping the food off and running away. I’m sure this tests their Christian souls, but it means a real connection is formed. Later when they run into each other in town, they are more inclined to be understanding and helpful.

What a wonderful, humane way of addressing the issue. Most of these people have real mental and physical problems that caused their homelessness. They need some compassion and understanding, not a quarter.

1 comment:

Nessie Noodle said...

very interesting post today... Reno does have an interesting way of dealing with our transient population- and your right, the promise of striking it rich are strong. I think the hardest part for me, because I work for the school district is the fact that there are kiddos who are homeless and that the school is the safest and most stable part of their world.
really makes you stop and give gratitude for what it is we have, no?
have a beautiful, grateful weekend...