175. A Case In Point

  Sometime there are news articles that surface regarding homelessness that prove how difficult it is for some communities to do the right thing for our homeless citizens. When you read these articles it just affirms what both the homeless and homeless advocates know to be the truth: until communities put the welfare of the homeless at the forefront of their agendas there will always be a reason to keep homelessness  on the back burner of social priorities.  

Here is such a case that took place in Enfield Connecticut. People for People, a nonprofit housing organization, is seeking a permit to turn a former school into apartments for the homeless and people at risk for homelessness. This organization is appying for a $2 million grant from the state to turn the former school into apartments.

John Tait, president of People for People, said the purpose of the planned housing is to give homeless people and those at risk of homelessness, such as teenagers aging out of the foster care system, an opportunity to “rebuild lives and become productive members of the community.”

85 percent success rate

So far so good. This community is actively seeking a solution  to reduce homelessness by providing reasonable housing. The 85 success rate of such efforts speaks volumes. Give folks a helping hand out of homelessness and 85 percent of them will prosper. This is much better odds than doing nothing. The success rate is obtained through careful of screening of recipients for such services. In summary ,People to People want to do everything possible to not only provide affordable housing but also to assure that anyone who is granted access to this housing has all the cards stacked in their favor for successful re-entry into the community.

Tait said sex offenders and people convicted of major crimes wouldn’t be allowed to live in the building. The property would also have security measures such as on site cameras and key-card access that would allow the property manager to monitor residents as they come and go.

Although there were many supporters of this project for Enfield, Connecticut there were also those who voiced their concern over this plan to assist those in need. And with these opponents come some of the prevailing misconceptions of homeless. Take for example this comment:

Deputy Mayor Ken Nelson Jr., who said he was at the meeting as a private citizen. “How much would the $2 million buy for food or oil for people in need? Let’s try to get back to the Enfield of yesterday, and I ask you to follow the book. I don’t believe this fits into the plan for Thompsonville.”

Granted ,$2 million is a good sum of money. But here’s the thing- food alone doesn’t cure the problem of homelessness and those that are homeless don’t have any means to keep warm during the winter months so oil is a moot point. What people don’t “get ” about homelessness is that it takes more than food to get people back into the community and off the streets. While it’s great to be nostlagic about turning the clock back to “the Enfield” of yesterday, the statistics of today show that we have at a minimum of 3.5 million homeless citizens this year with the number of homeless growing with the challenges of inflation and unemployment. Gone are the days when homelessness isn’t an urgent social issue that all communities must address in 2008. The key to reducing homelessness is through communities providing affordable housing & employment for those who wish to return to the mainstream of life. And certainly when opportunities present to aid in this effort, communities should strongly support efforts to reduce the number of homeless citizens.

More revealing are the reader comments to this article ranging from the concern about drug traffic & crime, to the opinion that this effort does nothing to revitalize the existing neighborhood. The opponents of this housing project not once consider that this project would help  real men,woman and children off the streets which in my opinion trumps the pettiness of  such a lack of compassion. To assume that all homeless citizens are drug users or that they are criminals looking for an easy way off the streets simply doesn’t ring true with the current demographics of our homeless population. Homelessness knows no boundaries in our current economic climate.

Luckily,there are those in every community that recognize the moral issue of homelessness. You can’t place a price on the morality of a communtity. I hope the town of Enfield decides that proceeding with these apartments is the moral obligation of their community.

 Rev. John Morgan of the Enfield United Methodist Church asked the commission, “How do you place a value on a human life? This is a moral issue as well as a zoning issue.”


1 Response to “175. A Case In Point”

  1. September 9, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    I find it repulsive how many municipalities there are who talk so much about the need to address finding solutions to homelessness in their communities yet, when a clear solution presents itself, the elected leadership balks at the opportunity to follow through. And, this is usually due to one or two “cry babies” in the community who are “concerned” that placing a homeless shelter, or housing for the homeless will somehow “ruin” the area.

    Shame on the elected leadership of Enfield for not having the moral wherewithal to do the right thing in lieu of doing the “popular” thing.

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