The Invisible People Of Our Community... The Homeless
With the exception of NetWorks Cooperative Ministry remaining open to serve our community including our homeless neighbors, there was nothing online suggesting emergency assistance to an invisible group. Even though many feed homeless persons from time to time, there is still a sense of invisibility on the part of a majority. For months, many have been concerned about the growing number of homeless persons in our communities voicing the need to be proactive instead of reactive. Months later cities across the United States are scrambling to deal with homelessness as the vicious Covid-19 rapidly spread across our nation. Our homeless communities are at a higher risk than the average household because of lack of necessities.
They do not have shelter or running water. Emergency handwashing stations have been set up in Atlanta and across cities in the nation but is that enough? Homeless persons, like many Americans, do not have access to health care; therefore, where do they go when they are sick? Most will stay on the streets where they belong before they enter a hospital emergency room. They have been distanced from society for the longest while, now with social distancing, they are even further distanced. In serving our homeless neighbors, many have learned that sometimes one only needs a human touch. That is why persons involved with homeless persons offer hugs and handshakes.
Having to remain quarantined has been difficult for the average person. People are facing loneliness as well as withdrawal syndromes as they are unable to be physically around loved ones. Can one imagine what the average homeless person is experiencing during this social distancing? There was an article in the NY Times about a young medical student visiting homeless persons in Berkeley, California. He could not look them in the eyes without a touch; therefore, he shook everyone hands and used sanitizers to protect them from himself just in case he is an unknown carrier.
Our homeless community is always in survival mode. Survival meaning if they find a meal and a quiet place to rest their heads uninterrupted then that is a good day. Their least concern is about coronavirus and hygiene at this time yet they are at risk like every other citizen. The difference is, we have a choice, we can self-quarantine, they do not have such options. At the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, Governor Newsom, of California, secured 393 hotel rooms in Oakland for homeless persons, and he was looking for more.
It is obvious that our nation is in a crisis and we may not have answers to all the questions. It is obvious that our nation has always been in a crisis with homelessness. Many of our homeless are mental health patients displaced after state run mental health institutions closed their doors; however, many are educated persons who fell on hard luck. And after all this Covid-19 is settled, we will have some more persons joining our homeless community for the first time. With cost of living on the rise and paychecks remaining stagnant, homelessness is inevitable. The questions are: what are we going to do to avoid more people becoming homeless? Are our homeless neighbors going to remain invisible to the rest of us? Are we going to be proactive or reactive? Can life go back to normal after this? The biggest takeaway from all this is that diseases do not respect persons because we are all vulnerable regardless of our economic status, religion, ethnicity, or social status.
From a heart that cries for our homeless community.