Gerri, a guest at Interfaith Sanctuary, presented this powerful message at their recent groundbreaking event. We were so moved by her words that we are sharing them here (with her permission):
“The news is soul crushing these days. It keeps me in a perpetual circle of despair…and my life. My life has been blown right up over health issues…health issues whilst being poor. The ultimate crime. How much worse can it get?
For 1000’s of us, possibly millions, across this nation, we’re living that last sentence. Our numbers are rising…and our inner cities are failing to keep up with the demand.
As tent cities pop up, overnight…all across this nation, we respond with distaste, disgust and policing. We tear them down over and over…removing the only barrier between a human being and the cold, frigid winter. Somewhere, in our recent history, we’ve lost our collective compassion.
Isn’t it obvious…this drastic, careless response isn’t working?
Our cities are villain-izing our most vulnerable citizens. Citizens that fought in wars, served your coffee, constructed your garments, booked your vacations, schooled your children, nursed your sick…birthed your neighbors.
We come from all walks of life.
I hear alot of hypothesis and conjecture on just who inhabits these shelters…and who is worthy of help. I hear a whole lot about dependency issues and mental illness. I even had a woman tell me to my face that we will ruin neighborhoods and destroy businesses by our mere presence.
Gosh, if I had that kind of power, I’d wizard myself right out of this situation and aboard a yacht…where I’d be served cheesecake by an endless supply of cabana men. Lol
All joking aside, I think the people of Boise deserve to hear some hard truths. We do have folks with dependency problems…and I’m going to propose a couple of thoughts for you to chew on.
Point 1-Why is there a drug problem in the US? What would cause someone to run from their demons to the point of upending their life? The one thing I have learned, from many conversations, is that…there is always an underlying cause. Usually a painful one.
Point 2- Regardless of WHY someone ends up dependent on substances…are they so undeserving of a second chance? Is there a cap on our compassion?
Here’s the shocker. Folks with dependency issues only make up 30-35 percent of the homeless population. I found this stat a few months ago…and I was shocked. That means the rest of us are just folk and family that have been priced right out of a home. People dependent on SSI, stagnant wages and disability. People that are diseased and dying…that had to make the hard choice of keeping a roof over their head or paying for those lifesaving medications.
Families where only one can work…because childcare has gotten so expensive, it altogether canceled out a second income.
People like me who have serious health issues…and nowhere to go. No savings. Can’t work…and can’t seem to stop fighting with disability. After five years of back and forth, I’ve just now gotten a lawyer to take my case.
It’s easy to dump us all into one category, deem us disposable, but the scary thing is…we aren’t just one scenario. And we are only the first wave. More is on the way.
The face of the homeless community is changing. No longer are we just individuals on the fringe, we’re your co-workers, your neighbors, your fellow church goers…your family.
As long as wages stay stagnant…rent, utilities, and food skyrocket…and employers can push you out in this right to work state when your body and mind can no longer compete with someone in their 20s, this crisis will continue to escalate. Leaving senior citizens, veterans, families, the mentally and physically disabled…SOMEONE YOU KNOW, with no alternative but to seek refuge in a place like the Sanctuary.
Thank goodness Interfaith has the foresight to see the changing needs of it’s community and fought, tooth and nail, to see it to it’s fruition. With no agenda but to serve the people within it’s community, they move forward with original and well thought out answers to the problems and strife we deal with on a daily basis.
When no one else was paying attention, they listened, they heard….and they’re meeting that challenge head on.
Being homeless has been the hardest job I’ve ever known…and I used to load trailers for UPS, so that’s saying something. I’m a tough ol broad…but was incapable of understanding just how much work it takes to be out here with zero income.
With all these new inclusions built into the new shelter, it’s clear they’ve been taking notes and figured them into the design to make our lives easier. So we can devote more time into digging ourself out of the hole we find ourselves in, and less time hauling laundry, finding somewhere cool in the summer and warm in the winter, finding money, finding food and the most elusive…a public restroom.
On behalf of everyone you help, thank you for seeing us invisible people. Thank you for evaluating every individual circumstance and meeting that need. Thank you for your compassion and dogged determination…and personally, thank you for seeing me as a deserving human being.
You can get lost out here in every way a person can get lost…it feels good to be seen.”