It is clear the homeless need help and providing housing is the first step, but services designed to end their homelessness need to be aggressively offered, as people who cannot help themselves need to be helped vigorously.
Part of the problem, particularly among the chronic homeless who camp in the Parkway (two died there recently) and obtain food and other basics from homeless advocates in the Richards Boulevard area, is that local public leadership remains conflicted about the need for being aggressive, often preferring to leave the decision about being helped to those who need help, even after they have exhibited a clear incapacity to help themselves.
Sometimes an intervention is necessary to save a life.
The homeless deserve shelter and our help
By Joan Burke - Special to The Bee
Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, January 27, 2008
When I began volunteering at Maryhouse, the daytime drop-in center for homeless women and children, the sheer number of women who turned to Loaves & Fishes for help was stunning. Single mothers, women so paranoid they were afraid to come for breakfast lest we poison them, street women, young runaways, older displaced homemakers, women whose strength was inspiring, women so fragile I feared for their survival.
Maryhouse welcomed 586 women in 1987, my first year as a volunteer. Today, it serves more than 2,000 women a year. And the barriers they face are overwhelming: homelessness, childhood abuse and neglect, domestic violence, addiction, early pregnancy, interrupted education, poverty. As we sat down individually with each woman, we reassured her to take things one step at a time and that Maryhouse would always be there to help them.
In 15 years of working at Maryhouse I realized that homeless women were wonderful, imperfect human beings just like the rest of us, and that if you were able to help one of these women in desperate need, she would be immensely grateful and empowered.