Pink towtruck goes to North Dakota | Main | Asunder

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Springfield's homeless

Dave Bakke has an article in today's paper with some statistics about the homeless people who recently died in our city (Homelessness a serious issue). Since the SJR opened up its articles for comments, I would guess homelessness in Springfield has been the most commented on topic of all. The suggestions all sound alike to me: Ridiculous and futile. So, instead of trying to be heard above the din of arguers in the article, I decided to post my thoughts here.

Each one of our homeless people is an individual. And as individuals, each one has their own individual set of problems. And, like Dave ends each of his columns, "everybody has a story," so do the homeless.

Almost buried in the article is one statistic, that if someone would take the time to examine, would see that the broad solutions bandied about, aren't going to work for the homeless problem as a whole.

February 2004 - Walter Yates, 77, died in the car in which he lived of natural causes or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Like one of the commenters from the article, I too knew Walter Yates. I believe it was 1999 when I met him. That means he lived for five years in his car. Amazing.

There was nothing happy or quirky about Walter, but he did have a story. Basically, he had owned his own home on the east side of Springfield. The home was in such bad shape, the city condemned it and had it leveled. By the time I met him, his mission was to get some compensation from the city for tearing down his house. Unfortunately, that was not happening.

A vacant lot on the east side of town is worth maybe a thousand dollars. But, unless one of the neighbors wants to buy it, it just sits there. He did have his Social Security, clothes, and his car (a big old brown four door thing that burned oil). Since his monthly check was too little to afford a rental plus life's other necessities, he chose to live in his car. I think he said he had a son, but I guess he wasn't able to help. I'm not sure.

So many of the commentariat in the SJR articles offer solutions like, get a job, go to a homeless shelter, put 'em in jail, etc., etc., etc. None of these would have worked for Walter. He was a proud, independent black man who once owned his own home. He didn't belong in a shelter, and especially not jail. And, at age 70, getting the kind of job that could support him was not an option.

So, I believe we should quit looking for solutions for the homeless as a group. One person, one solution. And, let them be involved in their own solution (destiny). Anything less than that makes us the ones with the problem. That's my thought. Not complicated.

Posted by Marie at July 15, 2007 5:48 PM


Hear Hear! or Here Here! whichever it is. :-)


Posted by: Z at July 27, 2007 4:08 PM