It's 20 degrees outside right now. It's still dark and I suspect in many homes people are trying to squeeze in those last moments of sleep before they have to get up. In many apartments getting up will mean leaving a warm bed and padding across a very cold apartment and then turning up the space heater so the living room or kitchen will heat up to toastier temperatures.
Throughout the city coffee is brewing and people are jumping into hot showers.
But what if you're homeless?
Five local churches are ready to begin a patchwork solution to provide shelter for Fall River's homeless. Starting Sunday the churches will take turns, providing overflow shelter services. Is it enough? Starting SUNDAY. It's 20 degrees outside where would you spend the night if the shelters were full? The other night as we prepared for blizzard-like conditions where did the city's homeless go?
The Salvation Army used to provide overflow shelter services until tougher regulations made that impossible. Regulations to improve safety seem like a good thing but there seems to be a lack of common sense when such regulations work to keep you safer from the RISK of fire versus the near certainty of freezing to death. Thankfully Representative David Sullivan took up the cause and was able to get some flexibility in the regulations. Why was he the only member of the local delegation to do so? On the city-side Councilor Eric Poulin worked with Sullivan and The Rev. Donald Mier of the First Baptist Church to come up the rotating church plan. Eric has brought up the issue of the city's homeless before. In fact I recall trading some emails with him on the subject as far back as 2007. So it's great to see Councilor Poulin focusing on issues that he has in the past campaigned on. But why isn't it on anyone Else's radar?
In November of 2008 the Herald News ran an article that basically said there were enough beds to handle the needs of the city's homeless but an increase could overtax the various agencies that provide shelter services. In January 2009 I blogged about this and stated that the agencies were already crying that there was an increase. What happened? What's been done? By the end of 2009 I was pointing out that I wasn't aware of any long term plans to deal with the issue and as it turns out up in Boston regulations were being put into place to make the problem worse not better.
Over the last several years there is no doubt we have seen clear visible signs of a homeless population in our city. It's appalling that another Winter is upon us and we still haven't come up with a long term plan to address this, the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.