Almost 1500 people in my city are homeless, according to a yearly census taken by the local safety net agencies.
I have to say that I am astounded that the number is so low, given the economic environment and the limited resources for the mentally ill. Given that the weather is so brutal this winter, a majority of those folks were in shelters, but a substantial number are still living under bridges, on river banks, anywhere they can find or make shelter.
The article I read in the Post Gazette mentioned that there is a push to end homelessness for veterans by 2015, and for all people by 2020. That there are still homeless veterans here in 2014 is a terrible stain. I’ve heard about a group that goes out to offer medical care to the homeless of Pittsburgh in the places where they live, started by a doctor at Mercy back in the 90’s. They not only help people where they are, they help connect them to services to get them out of those situations. I’m a little ashamed that I hadn’t heard of them sooner, and I mean to get in touch and find out if there is anything I can be doing to help.
When we were recently in Philadelphia, we stayed in a Days Inn in Center City that was perfectly nice given its economy pricing. When we logged on to a travel website to recommend it to others, we were stunned to find it near the bottom of the list for hotels in Philly. The main complaint of people who had stayed there was that it was on the same block as a long-standing Catholic agency that provided food, shelter, clothing, and other support to homeless men. Some comments suggested that the hotel should have disclosed the nearness of “those people” to guests when they called to book rooms. Really? Really?
I was so incensed. Poverty doesn’t go away just because you ignore it. If there wasn’t a place for people to go for aid, maybe they would end up desperate enough to consider crime. People should be grateful to know that there are resources that folks in trouble can turn to, rather than frustrated at having to see anything that disrupts their fantasy worlds. They can’t imagine that they, or anyone they love, could ever be in need, and they believe in a world where justice always prevails so that if someone is on the bottom, it is because they deserve to be. If only.
We were on our way out of town, on a tight schedule, but we did manage to give a tiny donation as we headed to the train station. A little thank you to the City of Brotherly Love for its graciousness to travelers like ourselves, and for inspiring me to look around my own City to see what I can do to help.