German Lopez is a writer for The Morning, The New York Times’s flagship daily newsletter, where he covers major world events and how they affect people. On July 15th he wrote about the “Homeless in America” and how the homelessness crisis is getting worse. “Shelters across the U.S. are reporting a surge in people looking for help, with wait lists doubling or tripling in recent months. The number of homeless people outside of shelters is also probably rising, experts say. Some of them live in encampments, which have popped up in parks and other public spaces in major cities from Washington, D.C., to Seattle since the pandemic began.” Here in Pierce County we’ve been seeing the problem with only baby steps taken. The solution to the problem is not to run tent encampments away. Where does any sane person think these homeless people will go once they are run out of their flimsy homes. How will they stay cool and hydrate in the summer and warm and dry in the winter?
My friend, Richard has been visiting the encampments and talking with the people of all ages and searching for solutions. He would like to open up neighborhood discussion groups for concerned people who are also looking for solutions.
On New Year’s Day 2022, Shared Housing Services of Pierce County merged with Associated Ministries. They are working on home sharing programs that can connect both adults and young people experiencing homelessness. Richard has been working with Tracy Peacock at St. Vinnies and Tacoma Rotary #8 in distributing warm blankets, hand warmers, and other essentials that often come in handy when camping or just trying to get by. Shared Housing Services and new ideas from our neighbors might just be the magic we need to help hundreds of people who are just trying to survive from day to day.
David Vance, a friend reveals a true story about his father and mother. “Some years ago, as my parents grew elderly it became apparent that they were going to need increasing care. We wanted to keep them in their own home as long as possible. Dad had to spend some time in a skilled nursing care facility, but it was not a setting that he enjoyed. We were eventually able to move Dad home and provide care with the help of home health care visiting nursing assistants. When Mom passed away it meant that Dad would be alone in the home except for the visits from the home health care staff. We heard about Shared Housing Services and contacted them. They were able to arrange for a woman to move into the home and help Dad, who was pretty much bed ridden by this time. The woman had been living in her car in a rest stop off of I-5. Shared Housing Services interviewed and screened her background. We were happy to be able to provide a home for this woman. She provided meals for Dad and cleaned the home, while the home health care staff provided his nursing care. In return she got free housing and food provided. Eventually her health declined and we needed to get another woman to help out. Shared Housing Services interviewed and screened another woman. This woman was also dealing with homelessness in her life. She worked out well and stayed with Dad until he passed away. She became close to the family. At Dad’s memorial service she walked down the aisle with the family and we maintained contact for many years afterward. We have since recommended Share Housing Services many times. It is a valuable asset in our community.”
The homeless problem keeps multiplying upwards and not shrinking. German Lopez explains, “The crisis means more people do not know where they will sleep tonight. Living in the streets, people are exposed to more crime, violence and bad weather, including extreme heat. They can lose their job in the chaos of homelessness, and they often struggle to find another one without access to the internet or a mailing address.”
Would you like to become part of the solution? People need help and we think our neighbors can be part of the answer to the predicament. If we can’t find the answer, we are in for even worse problems. “There’s a certain posture that you take when you are homeless. You lose your dignity.” – Ivan Perez in Los Angeles after moving from his tent to a home.
Will you become part of the answer? Please, respond and connect with the people next door. They might want to help, too.